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Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007


PHIL. iii. 10.

"That I may know Him, and the power of His Resurrection."

"THE Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon!" [1] [St. Luke xxiv. 34.] That was the whisper, the exclamation, which passed from mouth to mouth among the astonished disciples during the long hours of the first Easter Day. That He who had been crucified and laid in the grave had actually burst the bonds of death, and was again abroad, visibly moving in the world of living men, was the astonishment, the joy, the triumph of His first followers. First one and another, and then groups of friends, and then large bodies of men, were admitted to see this Conqueror of the Grave, to listen to Him, to speak with Him, to satisfy themselves by hearing, and sight, and touch, that the day of Calvary had not for them really closed in a night of unrelieved darkness,--that a brighter morning had indeed dawned upon the earth.

"That I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection." That was the aspiration of the apostle of the Gentiles, some thirty years later, breathed forth from his prison in Rome. In St. Paul's mind there was not the shadow of a doubt as to the fact of the Resurrection. When he wrote these words, the Resurrection was still some twenty-five years or so nearer to him, in point of time, than the Battle of Waterloo is to us Englishmen of to-day; and he had been pondering over it, if we except some two rears at most, during the whole of the interval that had elapsed. Apart from the incidents of his Conversion, St. Paul had heard all about the Resurrection from a huge circle of men whom he could implicitly trust; and his unquestioning belief in it is the necessary key to the chief efforts and enthusiasms of his later life. But he had not done with it, because he was [3/4] certain of its historical truth: he would fair grasp more and more perfectly what he calls its "power." Hence the passionate aspiration, "That I may know Him, and the power of His Resurrection."

What is the sense of this word "power"? There is no room for mistake as to its general import. By the power of a fact we mean the bearing, the consequences, as distinct from the existence of the fact; we mean the inferences which may be drawn from it, or the influence which it will naturally exert. Apart from its "power," a mere fact, looked at in its barren isolation, is an uninteresting thing; and, in truth, there are no facts altogether without power of some kind in God's universe. That so many thousand human beings have assembled in honour of our Lord, beneath the dome of this Cathedral Church on this Easter night, is a statistical fact, which, could it be ascertained, would have no particular interest; if it were not that, linked to that fact, is the idea of its vast, its complete, and, for all but One Being, its unascertainable power. So many intelligences enlightened by the truth of Christ, so many hearts warmed by the love of Christ, so many wills braced by the grace of Christ, and, alas! it must be added, so many souls brought face to face with grace and truth, yet without spiritual benefit, and therefore most assuredly not without spiritual loss;--this is the power of the fact before us, not the less certain because its precise measure cannot be taken, not the less interesting because its import reaches far beyond the present moment--beyond the confines of time, to the distant horizons of eternity. And St. Paul's meaning in the text is that, so far as he may, he would, in respect of a far more momentous fact, measure at least some departments of its power, and make some progress in discoveries which man can never exhaust. The power of the Resurrection!--Let us endeavour with the Apostle to consider it this evening, in some few, at least, of its several elements, and with a view, if it may be, to some practical effect upon our inward and outward lives.


The power of the Resurrection, then, is to be seen first of all in a Christian's thought. It is the fundamental fact which satisfies him of the absolute truth of the Religion of Christ.

When, after their Master's Ascension into heaven, the Apostles went forth to convert the world to His Gospel, what was the most prominent topic in their sermons? Every child [4/5] who has read the Acts of the Apostles will at once answer, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the burden of the first sermon that Apostle ever preached, of St. Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. David had foretold how Christ should rise; Jesus, Who claimed to be Christ, had risen just as David had foretold; "whereof," adds the Apostle, speaking, for himself and his brethren "we all are all witnesses." [1] [Acts ii. 24-32.] This is the main point of the explanation which the same Apostle made to the crowd of people who had watched the healing of the lame man at the Beautiful Gate of the temple. If it was not the voice of the Apostle but the name of Jesus which had made the lame man strong; this was because, although Jesus had been crucified, He had also been raised from the dead: the Apostles were there to witness it. [2] [Acts iii. 15.] The statement was deliberately repeated by St. Peter before the court which afterwards sat to try the Apostles; [3] [Acts iv. 10.] and the Sadducees, who mainly composed it, are said to have been particularly irritated because the Apostles preached through Jesus the Resurrection from the dead. [4] [Acts iv. 2.] When, after their imprisonment and deliverance, the Apostles were again brought before the Sanhedrim the answer was still the same. "We ought to obey God rather than men; the God of our fathers raised up Jesus Whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. . . . . We are His witnesses of these things." [5] [Acts v. 29-32.] The private instructions of the Apostles corresponded with their public teaching: the main point in St. Peter's address to the household of Cornelius is this;--"Him Whom they slew and hanged on a tree, God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly, . . . even to us who did eat and drink with Him after He rose from the dead." [6] [Acts x. 40, 41.] Indeed, when the historian of the Acts would describe the substance of the earliest Christian preaching, he states that "with great power gave the Apostles witness of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus." [7] [Acts iv. 33.]

Nor was it otherwise in the popular teaching of that other great Apostle, who is to the later, what St. Peter is to the earlier history of the Acts. St. Paul had not seen our risen Lord while he was on earth; although at and after his conversion he had evidence that Jesus was living and ruling both on earth and in heaven. St. Paul hands on the witness to the Resurrection almost in the words of St. Peter. Preaching in the Jews' synagogue of the Pisidian Antioch, he first observes that the Jews had unintentionally fulfilled the prophecies in desiring Pilate that Jesus should be slain. [5/6] Then he adds that God raised Jesus from the dead; that Jesus was seen many days of them which came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who were still His witnesses to the people; and that it was by raising up Jesus God had fulfilled His great promises to the fathers of Israel. [1] [Acts xiii. 30-37.] Preaching to a crowd of more or less educated Pagans from the steps of the Aeropagus in Athens, St. Paul insists that God's dealings with men in time past and His present mercies to them all pointed to a coming judgment; while God had shown Who was to be the judge, by raising Him from the dead. [2] [Acts xvii. 29-31.] The Resurrection was so prominent in St. Paul's teaching at Athens, that the heathen audience imagined the Greek word for it to be the name of a new divinity. [3] [Acts xvii. 18.] And, if we omit other illustrations, the climax of St. Paul's defence before Agrippa represents it as only the natural end of the Jewish prophecies, "that Christ should suffer and that He should be the first that should rise from the dead." [4] [Acts xxvi. 23.] Indeed, St. Paul summarizes his teaching in writing to the Corinthians:--"I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received; how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." [5] [1 Cor. xv. 3, 4.]

Now here, first, it is abundantly clear that the Apostles felt certain of their facts. They did not merely whisper in assemblies of the faithful that Jesus was risen, as a private topic of comfort for Christian souls; they carried their bold assertion of the Resurrection before tribunals, which were filled by their keen, bitter, and contemptuous enemies, and challenged them to gainsay it if they could. If, after the fashion of modern times, the ruling Sadducees had appointed a scientific commission to investigate the matter, nobody would have been better pleased than the Apostles. They had nothing to lose, they had everything to gain, by a thorough searching inquiry. It has been said of political revolutions, that they are not to be made with rose water; and it is certainly true of great religious changes, that, if you do not effect them, as Mahomet, for instance, effected his, by material force, you must have some strictly impregnable facts at your disposal. And if the Apostles had believed the Resurrection to be, let us say, only probable and not really certain; if they had felt the ground of hard fact on which they stood to be giving way, ever so little, under their feet; they never could have braced themselves to defy all the intellect, and learning, and wealth, and social and political power, and undisguised hostility and [6/7] vengeance, which at the very outset of their work, they saw, in serried ranks, marshalled against them. They must have flinched from that terrible encounter unless they had been sure of their main and sustaining fact; and we may be very certain that they looked hard at it--again and again--as was natural to men who had staked everything upon its being certain. And as they looked at it, their own memories, and the memories of those around them, only testified to its irresistible reality. It was a fact about which they felt and knew that there was no room for mistake or collusion; they had done what the experimentalist philosophers of our own day are for ever bidding us do; they had trusted their senses. They had for themselves seen the Risen Jesus, they had listened to Him, they had touched Hun, they had eaten with Him; they had seen Him again and again, and under circumstances the most various; they had questioned their own impressions, and they had been reassured; they had seen Him in the city and they had seen Him at the lake side; they had seen Him in Jerusalem, in Galilee, and again at Jerusalem: five hundred persons had seen Him at once, of whom more than one-half were still living thirty years after the event. [1] [1 Cor. xv. 6.] If one person might be entranced, or hallucinated, or mistaken, all these could not be so simultaneously; if collusion was possible between two or three, it was impossible in a multitude. "We have not followed," one of them wrote in after years, "cunningly devised fables;" [2] [2 Pet. i. 16. St Peter here refers more especially, although not exclusively, to the Transfiguration.] "we cannot," they said a few weeks after the event--"we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." [3] [Acts. iv. 20.] They trusted their senses sufficiently to believe One who revealed to them a world higher and greater than the world of sense; and in doing this, certainly, they could say with the Psalmist, that He had "set their feet upon the rock, and ordered their goings, and had put a new song in their mouth, even a thanksgiving unto our God." [4] [Ps. xl. 2, 3.]

Certainly, since then, many have been the endeavours to prove them wrong. Men have talked of a conspiracy to deceive the world, alien to the character and beyond the capacity of a company of Jewish peasants. It has been hinted that Jesus did not really die, in spite of the verdict which modern medical science has deliberately passed upon the pathology of the Crucifixion. It has been suggested that the Apostles confused the spiritual Resurrection of an idea with the bodily [7/8] Resurrection of its Author. But a confusion of thought which may seem natural to the transcendentalized brain of a modern, would never have occurred in that of a Jew nineteen centuries ago, for the simple reason that its very materials did not exist. It has been whispered that, after all, some hallucination, some delusion, half physical, half mental, some suggestion of fancy and affection combined, some unsubstantial vision which partial disciples saw in a trance having their eyes open, some spectral product, in the first instance, of the over-excited, almost diseased brain of Mary Magdalen, must have generated this belief in the Resurrection of Jesus. And yet, as we have seen, an ignis fatuus like this, made up of poetry, of sentiment, of fable, of every thing but hard evidence of truth, could never have supplied the moral momentum with which the Apostles breasted a hostile world. [1] [Footnote: see next paragraph.] Much too has been said of discrepancies between the Gospel accounts of the Resurrection; while in reality such discrepancies only correspond to the differences of statement which are natural to writers, describing the same event from different points of view, or following distinct yet equally trustworthy sources of information. It is impossible for the unbelieving critics to lay their fingers upon that which alone would serve their purpose in this matter; that is to say, upon one case of absolute and necessary contradiction between the narratives.

[(1) Footnote from above: The late Dean of St. Paul's has left words on record which ought to have been quoted in this connection:--"Every attempt," he says, "to resolve it [the Resurrection] into a natural event, a delusion, or hallucination in the minds of the disciples, the eye-witnesses, and death-defying witnesses to its truth (I have read many such essays), or, with Spinoza, to treat it as all allegory or figure of speech, is, to me, a signal failure. It must be accepted as the keystone, for such it is, and seal to the great Christian doctrine of a future life, as a historical fact, or rejected as a baseless fiction."--Milman, Hist. of Jews, I., Pref. to 3d edit., p. vi.]

Then the ground has been shifted; and it has been argued that, whatever evidence may be apparently producible, the Resurrection cannot be true, for independent reasons. It does not become the Creator, they think, to innovate in this way upon the usual rules of His work, and thus to substitute what they call caprice for law. But how can you decide that a miracle is caprice; that it is any thing more than the deliberate and foreordained suspension of a lower law by the intervention of a higher one; in the case before us, of the lower and temporary law of dissolution by the higher and eternal Law of Life? How can you be clear that thus to intervene does not become God; if He be a Moral Governor of this world; and if there are vast moral reasons for His thus intervening in it? Ah! if you say, He cannot thus intervene, I [8/9] understand you. You mean then, that, having created a universe, made up of matter regulated by force, He has abdicated in favour of the work of His hands; that the real matter-of-fact disposer of life and death is a power, or series of powers, which you name Nature; and that the Author of nature has been dismissed, with even exaggerated respect, to a very distant heaven, where He is well out of the way of your theories and of your apprehensions. But you are too sensible to suppose that still to give to this impotent abstraction, which you have banished beyond the precincts of practical life, the sacred name of God, really bridges over the chasm between us. If there be a God in the sense of Scripture, and in the sense of the human heart, He can at least do what He wills with His own; if there be not, it is better not to perplex the discussion by a fruitless equivocation. But then, no such miracle as the Resurrection has fallen within the range of your experience. So it was with the ancient Greeks, who learnt that some Phnician sailors, coasting around the south of Africa, had reached a point where at noonday their shadows turned the wrong way. [1] [Herod. iv. 42.] When listening to this statement, the father of history was himself entirely incredulous; but every child now knows that the Phnician navigators must have crossed the equator. Whether you can explain a fact or not, at least respect it; respect it until you can disprove it. Equatorial Africa was inaccessible to all but the most adventurous of ancient explorers; but the real evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not out of the reach of any intelligent man. And I say that the Resurrection is a fact; attested by various and converging evidence; defying the action of the critical solvents which unbelief applies to it; and, let me add, reigning in the thought of every thinking Christian, as a vast evidential power.

Obviously the Apostles felt that, for the purpose of propagating the religion of Jesus Christ, the certain fact of His Resurrection from the grave was of the greatest possible practical value. For Jewish prophecy, as the Jews themselves understood it, pointed to a Messiah who would be put to death, and would rise from the grave. Our Lord, too, had been asked for a sign which might convince His countrymen that His mission was from God. He did not approve of the temper which prompted the demand, yet He pointed to the prophet Jonah; Jonah's sojourn in and deliverance from the belly of the sea fish would correspond to His own burial in and resurrection from the grave. [2] [S. Matt. xii. 38-40.] More explicitly still, at the outset of the last journey to Jerusalem, He [9/10] foretold His Death and Resurrection. [1] [S. Luke xviii. 33.] Thus His whole credit was staked upon this issue; and when, in the event, he did rise from the dead, His Resurrection was not merely a thing intrinsically wonderful; it was the fulfilment of a condition to which the Messiah was predestined by prophecy and to Which Jesus was bound by personal assurances, which He had volunteered both to His disciples and to the world.

Now, in order to do justice to the evidential power of Christ's Resurrection, which the Apostles felt themselves, and communicated to others with such astounding results; let us think of some holy and venerable friend, better far than the best whom we have ever known in life. Let us suppose that he could address us in this way;-- "I am shortly going to die; but after I am dead, and you have closed my eyes, and laid me in my coffin, and carried me to my grave, I shall, on a given day, burst upwards from my tomb, and appear among you; I shall appear, not once only, not only for a moment, but, again and again, to talk, and walk, and eat, and hold with you all the endearing converse of bygone years. And if I have ever told you anything that you have thought hard or strange about truth and duty, about the character of God, about the nature and destiny of the soul; nay, if I have gone beyond this, and have spoken of myself and of my relationship to God and to mankind, and of my coming empire over the souls of men in ages yet future; the warrant and justification of all this will be plain to you when I do really rise from my grave; you will be satisfied then, if not before, that I am entitled to speak as I have spoken to you."

Well, my brethren, I will not attempt to say how we should receive a prediction of this kind; I will only say that it would require the most spotless of lives, the most penetrating of spiritual intelligences in the speaker, and perhaps a great deal besides, to make us even patient under it,-- patient enough to wait for its verification. But let us suppose that it is verified; that our friend does die; that there is no room for mistake about his death; that he is duly buried; and that then when all seems over, and in our thoughts as in reality the tomb has closed over his body, he actually does return to life, that he introduces himself to us, one by one, as we can hear to see him, and becomes to us all, and more than all, that he was in past years--before he leaves us again for good. Yet this was in substance what happened to the Apostles. This their extraordinary experience was the tremendous force which made a few peasants and teachers, selected from the lower and middle classes of a remote [10/11] province, feel themselves equal to nothing less than the moral and intellectual conquest of the world. For them the Resurrection warranted the truth of Christ's mission, the truth of Christianity. All that Christ had said, all that he had promised and foretold, was raised by it to the high level of undisputed certainty. With the mighty power of such a miracle so certified, impelling and sustaining them, they went forward, they could not but go forward, to win the attention, the acquiescence, the faith of men in the truths which it attested. What became of them personally, it mattered not. If they succeeded, it would be in the strength of the Risen Jesus. If they failed, the Mighty Risen one would yet succeed. There it was, ever before them, the imperious, the invigorating fact that He had broken forth from His grave as He said He would; and it only remained for them, as it remains for us at this hour, to do justice to the evidential power of His Resurrection.

There is a disposition abroad now-a-days to treat doubts of the truth of the Christian Religion as anything but a misfortune, as even an interesting form of intellectual vigour. Accordingly a popular poet assures us that

There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds. [1] [Tennyson.]

If it be meant that an earnest man who has lost his way amid the difficulties of controversy may have a keener sense of the Unseen Whom he seeks but has not found, than the careless adherent of a creed who has never thought seriously either of its meaning or of its grounds, then the words may pass muster. But if their true drift is to compare the average doubter with the average believer, or the earnest doubter with the earnest believer, and to imply that there is a balance of the great moral qualities of faith on the side of doubt, then it is a simple duty to meet this poet's "believe me" with a flat contradiction. To be tender towards doubters is one thing; to glorify and canonize doubt is quite another. If faith is, spiritually speaking, health, then doubt is certainly disease; for doubt is the solvent which persistently breaks up faith and destroys it. And unless you would enter the ward of a fever or a consumptive hospital, and airily congratulate the patients who lie there on their weariness and their pain, do not be guilty of the heartlessness and the folly of treating doubts of the truth of Christianity as a matter of congratulation or of credit to those who entertain them. It were surely better, if sceptics will allow it, to surround them as you would surround the sick and the suffering with all the care of an active charity. And then, if the root of the doubt be not moral; if the doubter have not [11/12] moral reasons for wishing the Creed to be untrue; guide his steps to the grave of Jesus Christ on Easter Morning. There, beyond question, he plants his foot firmly on the rock of history. There, beyond question also, he stands face to face with the traces of a well attested and stupendous miracle:--

Reason and Faith at once set out
To search the Saviour's tomb;
Faith faster runs, but waits without,
As fearing to presume,
Till Reason enter in, and trace
Christ's relics round the holy place--
"Here lay His limbs, and here His Sacred Head,
And who was by, to make His new-forsaken bed?" [1] ["Christian Year," St. Thomas Day.]

After all, what is this but to ask a man to put himself in the position of the Apostles of Christ when the power of the Resurrection first dawned upon them?

Certainly, if on that sacred ground, and in view of that evidence, the Resurrection could be denied; we cannot disguise the consequence. For the Resurrection is not merely the great certificate of Christianity; it is a main and an indispensable part of its substance. The Apostles do not countenance the notion that you can throw the Resurrection of Christ into the background, or even deny it outright, and still be a Christian; that you can make an extract of so many of the precepts and of so much of the history of Jesus Christ, and pronounce that extract to be the really important and vital element in the New Testament, and then throw all that requires belief in the preternatural to the winds. Such a "Christianity" as this would have been no Christianity at all in the judgment of St. Paul. St. Paul maintains the Resurrection of Christ to be so bound up with Christianity, that to deny it is not simply to cut its most important incident right out of the heart of the Christian Creed; but that it is to part with Christianity as a whole. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain." [2] [1 Cor. xv. 14.] "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins; then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished." [3] [1 Cor. xv. 17, 18.] Deny the Resurrection, and Christianity collapses altogether, as certainly as does an arch when its keystone is removed; and in place of the Conqueror of Death and the Redeemer of Souls, there remains only a Jewish rabbi, whose story has been curiously encrusted with legend, and some of whose sayings are still undoubtedly entitled to attention.

But conversely, admit the Resurrection, and you must confess the Creed. In admitting the truth of the Resurrection, [12/13] you make an admission which, if you are a thinking man, must govern, colour, impregnate your whole thought, must make faith intellectually easy, and doubt unwelcome. For the resurrection guarantees the absolute truth of Christ's Teaching and Mission; it converts His Death into the transient preliminary of an eternal triumph; it leads on to the Ascension and the Perpetual Intercession in heaven; it is the warrant that He will come to judgment. To admit the Resurrection, and then to be perpetually fretting with the real results of your admission; by explaining away Christ's lesser miracles, or by grudging their authority to His Apostles, or by questioning the power of prayer and the reality of Providence, or by depreciating the Sacraments which Christ has instituted to sustain the higher life of men, or by denying the truth of those Old Testament Scriptures to which He has set the seal of His Personal witness;--this is to be guilty of mental inconsistency, as well as of irreligious hardihood; it is to have granted the greater and then to raise a difficulty about granting the less. The only question for a believing Christian is, what is, and what is not warranted, immediately or through necessary inference, by His authority, Who was "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness by the Resurrection from the dead." [1] [Rom. i. 4.] When that question is settled, controversy ought to be at an end; it ought to have been ended by the evidential power of Christ's Resurrection.


But it is in the conduct of the Christian, in his moral and spiritual life, that the power of the Resurrection may chiefly be felt. This was the main scope of the Apostle's prayer. He had no doubt about the truth of the Gospel. But to know the Risen Christ in his own heart and will,--this was a field wherein boundless improvement was possible, even for St. Paul; it was a field of improvement moreover, in which, on this side the grave, perfect satisfaction was unattainable.

What, then, are the necessary conditions of an effective moral power, of a power which shall stimulate and control, feeling, resolution, action? There are, I apprehend, two main conditions which must be satisfied by any such power; and which are satisfied, and that amply, by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Human life, my brethren, looked at on its practical side is made up of two things; it is a long alternation of action with endurance. We are all of us doing something, even if [13/14] we are reduced to the degradation of killing time; we all of us have, or shall have something, perhaps much, to suffer before we die. And what is the first necessity of every agent and of every sufferer, but an end--some end--to look forward to; an end to be compassed by action; an end to be reached by endurance and when endurance is over? What is the second, but an experience, or, at least, an assurance of assistance and support; of assistance in efforts to which our strength is unequal, of support under trials by which our weakness might he crushed?

And Christian life corresponds to human life in that it also, very especially is made up of action and of suffering. A Christian acts and suffers, not because he cannot help doing so, but with his whole heart, and upon a principle. He transfigures the necessities of ordinary human life into opportunities or acts of virtue; but then, if he attempts more, he also needs more than other men, a more definite and a higher aim, a more present and sustaining aid. For a Christian is in his way a soldier, an artist, a statesman; although, in the first instance and pre-eminently, his battlefield, his canvas, his political arena, are bounded by the precincts and history of his own soul and life. But what is the position of a general, who has no plan of campaign, embodying the hope of ultimate victory, or who can place no dependence on his troops? What is the case of an artist who has no ideal before his mind's eye, which he purposes to realize in stone or on canvas, or who is utterly unable to command the materials which will enable him to work out his ideal, if he has one? What must be in store for a statesman, who can see or shape no future for his country, or who at least has not at his disposal the influence or the skill which might enable him to secure it? Do not these illustrations suggest pictures of wholesale demoralization, impotence, failure, collapse? Depend upon it, that if you would be, each within himself, the true soldier, the true artist, the true statesman; if you would beat down and imprison the brute that is in you; if you would trace on the inner sanctuaries of feeling and of motive the moral beauties of a noble and unselfish life; if you would carry out, on the humblest of scales or on the greatest, works of benevolence, works of real utility and of substantial good; then you, too, need power in both its forms; you need the power of encouragement afforded by the sight of a definite end or purpose, and the power of support giving you at least good hope of attaining it.

Now the Resurrection of Jesus Christ satisfies these conditions, and I will add that it does so on a magnificent scale.

[15] 1. In the first place, it opens out before the eye of the soul its one adequate aim in all action and in all endurance; that is to say, an union of the whole man with God, extending through the vast perspectives of a boundless Eternity.

It may be asked whether the doctrine of the immortality of the soul would not supply this want just as well? And the answer must be that it certainly would not do so.

a. First of all, there is the practical difficulty of procuring general acceptance for it. Of course Revelation teaches that the soul is immortal; but then Revelation teaches with at least equal clearness the Resurrection of the body. If her authority is good for anything, we may not listen to her teaching on the one point, while we turn a deaf ear to her on the other.

But it is also abundantly notorious, that as there were in the ancient pagan world, so now there are men, who, never having heard of, or denying the Resurrection of the body, would ground the immortality of the soul altogether and immediately on a basis of reason. And their leading arguments appear to be really reducible to two. First, there is the metaphysical doctrine, that the soul, as being a simple, uncompounded substance, cannot be dissolved at the dissolution of the body; an argument stated by Plato, [1] [Plat. Phæd.] and nobly worked out in Christian times by Fénélon. [2] [Lettres sur la Métaphysique, Lett. ii. c. 2.] Next, there is far stronger moral argument, which insists with such truth and power upon the tremendous disproportion existing in this present life between our several deserts on the one hand, and the rewards and punishments which we meet with on the other. It may perhaps even be said, without irreverent daring, that the Almighty Moral Governor of such a world as this owes a future life to His creatures as a debt of justice; as a means of redressing the visible wrongs of virtue, and of rebuking the ostentatious triumphs of vice. No thoughtful man will disparage the force of these arguments; they are the natural allies of the Christian Creed. The first goes to establish the permanence of the substance of the soul after death; the second the permanence of its distinct personality. Yet strong as they are, they are not such arguments as would carry conviction to the millions of mankind. To appreciate the one, a man must have enjoyed a certain sort of mental culture; to do justice to the extraordinary strength of the other, his own moral sense of right must be clear and strong. If not merely a few refined thinkers, but all of us, you and I, the multitudes of men, are to believe with all our hearts in a future life; if we are to live for it; if we are to feel its power as an anticipation shaping and controlling, day by day, [15/16] thoughts and words and acts; then something more is needed, something that shall rivet and complete these anticipations of reason, if it might be, by an appeal to experience

b. Besides this, reason will not always stop short at the point which is required for the purpose in question. If reason proves anything, she appears to insist on something more than the immortality of the soul.

The arguments which would render the destiny of the soul so entirely independent of that of the body are not altogether true, it must be admitted, to the facts of human nature. It is said that of late years our highest medical science has established more and more clearly the traces of a correspondence between thought and matter, between the several faculties of the mind and the several folds and crevices of the brain. And this consideration has been largely supposed to show that the soul has no real existence, that it is a mere phosphoric exhalation from matter; in other words, it is taken to prove the truth of materialism. But nothing, as I apprehend, has as yet been found by our anatomists in any brain, which can account in any degree whatever for the fact of consciousness,--that power of reflecting on and taking the measure of its own existence, which attests the presence of an immaterial spirit. And therefore, the more you demonstrate in other respects this sensitive and exact correspondence between matter and mind; the more certainly do you establish, not the perishableness of the soul, but the presumptive immortality of the body. Your demonstration goes to show, with some of the earliest of the Christian Fathers, [1] [This is particularly insisted on by Athenagoras, De Res. and Tertull. Res. Carn. c. 16.] that the immortal personality of man would be permanently impaired if his body could rest for ever in the grave; that the immortality of the soul, if it is to be the immortality of an unchanged person, implies also the immortality of that body, which has been so intimately associated with the soul's life of resolution and feeling and passion; that the temporary divorce which takes place at death, the few years of dishonour and decay which are covered by the coffin and the grave, must needs give place to a future, in which man in his unmutilated completeness again will live--live for ever in the regions of some endless life.

g. And, even if it were true that the immortality of the soul, without implying anything as to the body, could be brought home by sheer reason to the convictions of the whole of the human race; still this conviction of the reason, if unaided, would not supply what we need in the presence of death. In times of sorrow the senses and the imagination take the lead, [16/17] and bid reason, when she is unassisted by faith, fall into the rear. The eye of sense rests day after day upon the increasing ravages of disease; it rests at length upon the pallor, the chill, the disfigurement, the corruption of death. It scans with something like despair the expressionless corpse which but yesterday was the home and instrument of a living spirit. And when all that can meet the eye of sense is at length hidden from sight, the imagination will wander after the funeral hearse; it will hover around the precincts of the tomb; it will even penetrate beneath the soil of the churchyard, beneath the arches of the vault, beneath the boards of the coffin; and it will sit there in its dark agony, tracing from stage to stage the fell work of corruption as it breaks up what was but yesterday so animated and beautiful into the loathsome forms of decomposing matter. You may say that this is morbid, but you are yourself in high spirits and good health; and the answer to you is, that what you deem morbid, is often, at times of great anguish, not other than exquisitely human. Reason may still cherish her abstract arguments for immortality; she may push them to the very verge of the Christian creed itself but reason cannot hold her own against the energetic agony of imagination and sense, when these would inflict upon the soul their profound despondency. "It cannot be," they whisper, "that there is really a future; it cannot but be that matter, not mind, is really ruler of this universe; contact with death shatters the phantom of immortality--that phantom which is but the creation of human self-love." So whisper, not reason, but imagination and sense, to the afflicted mourner; and something is wanted which shall meet the senses and the imagination on their own ground, by visibly reversing that spectacle of death which so painfully depresses them; something is wanted which shall emancipate reason, even in the darkest hours of sorrow, from the empire of these lower faculties, and shall roll back the stone from the door of yon sepulchre of the best hopes of man.

That something was supplied on the early morning of Easter Day. After preaching to the spirits in prison, [1] [1 St. Pet. iii. 19.] the Human Soul of Jesus Christ, surrounded, we may be sure, by a multitude of adoring spirits, moved upwards from the home of the ancient dead, and paused by the wounded Side of the Holy Body; and then the dark cavern was illuminated by a flash of light, and the massive rock which closed the entrance rolled lightly away, and the soldiers whom Jewish suspicion had set to watch, were terrified into silence. And as He passed forth, with silent resistless force, from His open grave, first [17/18] to instruct His disciples how to build His Church, and then to ascend in glory to His Throne above, what was the lesson which by His very action He taught, or rather which He still teaches, to the generations of men?

"Some few of you," He might seem to say, "know the real meaning of your destiny on the authority of God; multitudes of you do not even suspect it; others have conjectured it but only to question their conjectures. Henceforth let that future life, which has hitherto been for you an unsuspected or a disputed truth, be raised at once in your convictions to the rank of a certainty, absolute and indisputable. If heretofore anticipations of the last hour have seemed to poison all the brightness of your existence; if you have looked upon the grave as a conqueror, before whom all that is strongest and most buoyant among men must bend at last in humiliation and sorrow; here is death robbed of its sting, and the grave baulked of its victory, by a triumph visible to your senses. For 'I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore and have the keys of hell and of death.' [1] [Rev. i. 18.] Lift up your heads; look beyond the narrow bounds of sense and time which hedge in your existence here; strain your eyes if perchance you may catch sight of the illimitable horizons of the Eternal World. 'I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.'" [2] [St. John xi. 25, 26. Order for the Burial of the Dead.]

It was thus that the Resurrection of Christ spoke to the souls of the first Christians. For they knew that the power of the Resurrection was not to be confined to the Rising Redeemer. Apostles wrote that "God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise us up by His own power;" [3] [1 Cor. vi. 14.] that "He who raised up the Lord Jesus, shall raise us up also by Jesus;" [4] [2 Cor. iv. 14.] that "them which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him;" [5] [1 Thess. iv. 14.] that "now is Christ risen from the dead and become the first-fruits of them that slept, for since by man carne death by man came also the Resurrection of the dead: for as in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order; Christ the first-fruits, afterwards they that are Christ's at His coming. Then cometh the end----" [6] [1 Cor. xv. 20-24.]

And thus a new power has entered into human life; the vast power of sincere belief in a future state. "God has begotten us again into a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible [18/19] and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven.'' [1] [1 Pet. i. 3, 4.] Every true Christian deeply and habitually feels that this life is an insignificant preface to the next; that it is the shadow which precedes the substance, but upon which the attainment of the substance depends; that the longest term of years is but a halt on the brink of the Eternal World--that world of awful, unchangeable realities. On such a subject as this, sincere belief is a tremendous power; it is a power which can invigorate will, and purify affection, and check the fire of passion, and quicken into life the languor of despair. Such a power cannot but elevate the whole aim and scope of life; it must forbid petty aims and indulgences; it must bid each one of us, in success and in failure, in great things and in small; in private and in public, ever forget the present in the future, and remember what is "the hope of our calling" in Jesus Christ, "and what," if we will, our share in "the riches of the glory of His inheritance among the saints." [2] [Eph. i. 18.]

[2. [3] [The paragraphs within brackets are essential to the plan of the sermon. But it was necessary almost entirely to omit them, owing to the difficulty of speaking with rapidity in so large a church as the Cathedral.] But the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, also satisfies the second condition of an effective moral power; it assures to us the continuous presence of help from on high. To have revealed a future life to us in our unaided weakness would have been to abandon us to despair; but, as it is; the revelation of our eternal home is also the assurance of our being enabled, if we are willing, to secure it.

Ask yourselves, my brethren, if Jesus Christ had died, but had not risen from the dead, what would be your moral relationship to him at the present moment?

When a great author, a great artist, a great conqueror, a Newton, a Wren, a Wellington, passes away; he leaves his work, his ideas, his reputation behind him, and through them, if you like the metaphor, being dead he yet speaketh. But his actual personality has ceased to have any appreciable relations to us. He still exists, we know, somewhere in God's universe, waiting and watching for the awful judgment. Yet to us for the time being, and so far as we know, he is himself as if he were not; he only touches us through the monuments of his activity which are left in this visible world, from which he has himself departed. And there are some who, not altogether rejecting the Christian Name, think even thus of the Lord Jesus; they speak of Him as of a Teacher, who in His day left upon the world a mark, which has hitherto proved to be ineffaceable; but they also deem Him to be one with [19/20] whom they have no relations, distinct in kind from those which bind them to any of the highest among the deceased benefactors of the human race.

Now, faith in Christ's Resurrection summarily puts an end to this manner of thinking about the Life of Jesus; as if it belonged only to a distant past; or as if it belonged to the present, only through influences which have come down to us along the stream of history. The Risen Jesus lives, not through the past merely, but in the present; not for Himself only, but for us; not by a metaphor, but in reality. Although he has ascended up on high, and cherubim and seraphim, and all the orders of the heavenly intelligences prostrate themselves before His Throne in the rapture of an incessant adoration; yet He is now as close to His own as He was of old in the days of His Flesh; nay, rather He is closer far than for His first disciples was as yet possible. The eye of sense sees Him not; but He still guides, teaches, blesses, strengthens, supports, in fulfilment of His Own parting Promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." This would be an imaginative reverie, if it were not for the Resurrection; the Resurrection links it with, rivets it to, the historical reality. If Christ's Body was sown in corruption it is raised in incorruption; if it was sown in weakness it is raised in power; if it was sown a natural body it is raised a spiritual body. But the Body, Which is raised, is the Body Which was sown. Our Lord therefore is present among us now, not less truly than in Palestine of old; but the conditions of His Presence are different. Even during the Forty Days His Presence was governed by other laws than those of space and matter. He passes through the closed doors; He appears and as suddenly He vanishes; He presents Himself at the moment when men deem Him altogether out of reach. Those Forty Days were an education for the centuries of Christendom; they form a transitional period between the days when Christ was seen and touched by sense, and the days when He is seen and touched by faith.

And thus, while Christ died for our sins, He rose again for our justification. [1] [Rom. ii. 25.] This is no false or barren antithesis; the Resurrection did what the Passion had left undone. On Calvary was wrought the great work of universal Redemption, Reconciliation, Pardon; on Calvary the Father beholds mankind represented in His Divine Son, made obedient unto death, and He turns towards the fallen race in mercy and loving-kindness with His best gifts of righteousness and peace. But if His bounty is to be brought home to souls, one by one, something more was needed; not merely [20/21] a triumph which should reveal the true value of the Passion, but a dispensation which should be the channel of its blessings to mankind. Of such a dispensation the Resurrection was the first and most necessary step; it was the natural antecedent, if we may speak thus, of the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of the foundation and mission of the Universal Church. Thus the Resurrection presents Christ as a living power in Christendom; and at this moment, like our predecessors, we are "ambassadors for Christ, as though Christ did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." [1] [2 Cor. v. 20.]

Yes, Christ indeed is here, and His presence is power; it is the "power that worketh in us." Although centuries have passed since He died and rose; His death and Resurrection are at this moment living forces in Christian humanity. We, like the Apostle, must "be crucified with Christ." [2] [Gal. ii. 20.] And His Resurrection has virtue in the souls of men; that "like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." [3] [Rom. vi. 4.] It supplies us with power to act, with power to resist and to endure; the power not of self-reliance, but of child-like dependence; not the power which springs from ignorance of danger, but the power which can accurately estimate the strength of our unseen Friend. Our risen Lord is our Light and our salvation, whom, then, should we fear; He vouchsafes to be the strength of our life; of whom, then, should we be afraid?] [4] [Psalm xxvii. 1.]

Not many days ago an eminent historian was addressing a Scotch university, and he is reported to have used these remarkable words: "From the great houses in the city of London to the village grocer, the commercial life of England has been saturated with fraud. So deep has it gone, that a strictly honest tradesman can hardly hold his ground against competition. You can no longer trust that any article that you buy is the thing that it pretends to be. We have false weights, false measures, cheating . . . everywhere." [5] [Dr. Froude's Address at his installation as Rector of the University of St. Andrews.--The Times, March 4, 1869.] Now I do not venture to endorse that indictment against the commercial life of England; but, supposing it to be true, or what is more probable, only very partially true, I ask, Where is the remedy? Not, I will venture to say, in a teaching which shall make it a point of honour to ignore if it do not deny God, Christ, eternity, the Redeeming Blood, the means of [21/22] grace,--all, in short, that cannot now be reached by touch, or sight, or smell; and then shall insist vehemently but exclusively upon the practical advantages of honesty in this present world. No doubt honesty is the best policy even here; but that consideration alone will not make a man honest, when private advantage, great and immediate, is, in his opinion, to be won by dishonour. No, if you would make men honest, or pure, or in any way noble, tell them of the true dignity of their being. Open before their eyes the vast prospects of the eternity which awaits them; that kingdom into which can enter nothing that defileth or maketh a lie, yet into which they may enter if they will; tell them, though you incur the sarcasms of unbelief, of the presence and grace of Christ and of the Holy Ghost, of the "exceeding greatness of God's power to usward who believe, according to the working of His Mighty Power, which He wrought in Christ when He raised Him from the dead." [1] [Eph. i. 19, 20.] In short, make them feel the greatness of their destiny, and their capacity for enjoying it; and they will shrink from all that is unworthy of their hopes, both because it is really worth their while to do so, and still more from a chivalrous sense of what is due to a Crucified and Risen Lord.


The Power of the Resurrection! We live in a day when men ask for positive grounds of thought and action; and the power before us is the power, not of a sentiment, but of a fact. A sentiment has its day, if it be only a sentiment; the phases of mere feeling which pass rapidly over the generations of men are like the forms of the clouds above our heads, beautiful but evanescent. But a fact, such as the Resurrection, remains like the sun in the heavens, which, though it may be deemed a commonplace and uninteresting thing by a race of barbarians, is the daily study and wonder of your astronomers. It remains, through days or years of neglect, to claim at the last that vast homage of the mind and heart of man which rightfully belongs to it; to make itself felt in thought and practice; to control our dealings with each other, to define our relationship to God. Thus, while it hallows the things of time, it unveils and warrants the glories of eternity; and at the least it loses nought of its surpassing interest as the years flow on, and we ourselves draw nearer to that mysterious world, whither so many loved ones already have preceded us. For, more than any other truth in the Christian creed, it bids us wait and work, trustfully, patiently,

[23] Till with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which we have loved long since, and lost awhile.

O Thou Who art indeed risen from the dead, Eternal Jesus, build up, invigorate the faith of this people, at the door of Thy empty sepulchre; open our earthbound eyes to the mighty world wherein Thou and Thou alone art King; and then crucify us, if need be, to the things of time, that with Thee and by Thee, both here and hereafter, we may indeed know the true, the resistless power of Thy glorious Resurrection.

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