Page images
[ocr errors]

whom he has raised from spiritual death. "I am the resurrection and the life."

21. Passing from the Old to the New Testament, we meet with still more remarkable events distinguishing the first day of the week. Let us first call to mind the unparalleled event of that which was properly the last seventh-day sabbath. Our Lord, we are aware from history, was crucified on the sixth day of the week, which was on this year the first day of unleavened bread. It was, therefore, a day of partial, not of total, rest, in which no servile work was to be done, though the ordinary routine of business was not suspended. As the following day was the sabbath, and that a high day, because it was in the week of unleavened bread, the body of Jesus was taken down from the cross on the sixth day, wrapped in the linen clothes which Joseph of Arimathea had purchased, and hastily laid in his new tomb before sunset, that the sabbath might not be needlessly broken. And so, during all that live-long Jewish sabbathday the Lord of life lay under the power of death. That was the only full day during which his body was imprisoned in the tomb.

It is manifest that this day was no longer fitted to be the day of rest, of peace, of joy, of blessed memory, or of liberty. The Lord of life and glory now lay shrouded in the death and dishonor of the grave. This day is henceforth only a day of unrest, of darkness, of mourning, of terror, and of constraint. And it is to be observed that the event that has now taken place is at least co-ordinate in importance with that which occurred on the first seventh day. Then God rested from the work of the six days' creation, of which the crowning achievement was the creation of man. Now, the Son of God, by whom all things were created, that are in heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers, has fallen under the power of death, as a propitiation for the sins of the whole world of fallen man. Beyond all question, the latter is as great, if not a greater, event than the former.

Whatever the former did to glorify the day, the latter has done to cover it with dishonor. This is obviously a sufficient reason for the change of the day of rest. And, in point of fact, the seventh-day sabbath was now abrogated.

22. We come now to the morrow after the sabbath, the first day of the week. Early in the morning the women, who had been the constant attendants of Jesus, were at the sepulchre to perform the last rites of friendship to the deceased, which had been deferred on account of the sabbath. "And, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear ye not; for I know that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; for HE IS RISEN." Mary Magdalene, after bearing the first message which brought Peter and John to the sepulchre, returned and lingered, weeping, and at length looked into the tomb and found it empty. On turning back disconsolate, she "saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. He said unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? Whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary," in his wonted tone, and she recognized the Lord. "Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." He now made his immediate appearance before his Father, and was "accepted" for his people.

Here we are to bear in mind that this was the morrow after the sabbath in the passover week (Lev. xxiii. 11), on which the wave-sheaf was presented to the Lord. The wavesheaf was the token of life. Now, on this same day, Jesus,

the beloved Son of God, has risen from the grave of death to the resurrection of life, and presented himself to the Lord, by whom he has been accepted for his people. We ask, What is the import of this great act? Here is the Father accepting, and the Son accepted, for the chosen people. Is not this event commensurate in magnitude with the resting of God after the work of creation? Is not the redemption of man parallel in grandeur with the creation of man? Is not the glory of grace "the glory that excelleth" all the glory of power, wisdom, and goodness? Is not the day of the resurrection of the second Adam greater than the day of the creation of the first? Is not this day worthy to be the new sabbath of rest, when the seventh day has become a day of gloom?

23. Another first day of the week now comes before us, of equal significance with the day of resurrection. This is the day of pentecost. We have already seen that the feast of weeks was on the morrow after the seventh sabbath from the sabbath in the passover week; and, as the seven weeks amount to forty-nine days, this morrow is the fiftieth day, that is, the pentecost. Hence the pentecost was always on the first day of the week. On this day the apostles were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing, mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Before this the disciples were weak, ignorant, unlearned, wavering, and contentious. Peter denied the Lord thrice, and when their Master was seized as a criminal, they all forsook him and fled. But now they are brave, enlightened, mighty in the scriptures, resolute, preachers of the word, speaking in the tongues of all who heard them the wonderful works of God; and Peter -the hasty, rash, impetuous, inconstant Peter- preaches the first sermon, on which three thousand believed and were

baptized, and "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."


Now, let us mark what this means. Jesus, having shown himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of the apostles forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, while they beheld, was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight. He had said: "The Comforter will come unto you. ..... And when he is come he will convince the world,. ... Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more." He is now gone to his Father, and they see him no more, which is a proof that he had finished his work; since, otherwise, he would have been sent back to finish it, and they would have seen him once more. He now furnishes a still more striking proof that he has been accepted and endowed with all power in heaven and in earth. For, according to his promise, he sends the Comforter from heaven on the day of pentecost to give life and power to the assembled apostles for the evangelization of the world.

This was the day on which the two wave-loaves were presented to the Lord. And after he had completed the demonstration of his resurrection, and conveyed his last instructions to his apostles, Jesus ascended finally into heaven. And now, after the short interval of a week, the great High-Priest, being also the Lamb of God and the bread of life, by his all-prevalent intercession has obtained and sent down the Holy Spirit to be the Quickener and Comforter of the apostles and of the church of the latter ages. He is thus the holder and dispenser of a twofold life. He now adds the life of regeneration to the life of redemption. And hence he is fitly represented by the two loaves of wheaten flour, denoting the completeness of that life of salvation which is contained in him. By the preaching of the inspired apostle the Holy Ghost begets faith in Jesus Christ and repentance toward God, the two fruits of the new birth, in thousands of anxious souls. Being united by faith in the

risen Saviour, they are justified and adopted in him, and so made partakers at the same time of the inward principle and the outward right of eternal life.

The regenerating work of the Holy Ghost, in baptizing the apostles with fire, and adding daily to the church such as should be saved, is a manifestation of divine power equal in importance with the propitiation for sin effected by the death and resurrection of Christ. And thus the first day of the week was signalized by the resurrection of the Son of God and by the descent of the Holy Ghost. The atonement and the new birth are two of the three essential parts of salvation, due to the second and third Persons of the Godhead. Hence the first day of the week is eminently and exclusively fitted to be the new sabbath of rest.

24. Let us now turn our attention to the practice of the apostles regarding the first day of the week. The ten met together on the evening of the first day, when Jesus, having that morning risen from the dead, stood in the midst of them, and said: "Peace be unto you." Again, after eight days, that is, on the next first day of the week, they were again assembled, and Thomas with them; and Jesus stood in the midst of them, as before, and said: "Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God." It is not improbable, from the expressions, "Being assembled together," and "When they were come together," that the day of the ascension was the first day of the week, especially as in this case there would be precisely forty days between the resurrection and the ascension (Acts i. 2, 3, 6). If so, there would be a curious significance in the verse: "Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath-day's journey." But we do not press this. On the day of pentecost, however, which was the first day of the week, they were all, again, with one accord in one place. And on this occasion the

« PreviousContinue »