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“ Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day.” (Luke xxiv. 46.)
THESE words were spoken to the disciples of the Saviour on the day of his resurrection. Jesus joined himself to them as they were assembled on the evening of that day, and were receiving the account of his journeying with two of his disciples to Emmaus, . and was made known to them in breaking of bread, and said unto them,“ Peace be unto you. But they were affrighted,” etc. (Verses, 37 – 44.) And having directed their attention to what was written of himself in Moses, in the prophets, and in the Psalms,
then opened he their understandings, etc. Then opened he their understandings, (when they could more readily see and receive their meaning --and when it became necessary that they should understand them for their own comfort and the world's instruction,) and taught them that as it was thus written, it behoved him thus to suffer and rise again the third day. Observe then
I. That it was necessary that he should thus suffer as it had been written of him. Not
(1.) To confirm his doctrine.
Some of the prophets and apostles suffered no martyrdom, who nevertheless sufficiently confirmed their doctrine. And other prophets, as Enoch and Elijah, did not die at all, yet they fully confirmed their doctrine: there could therefore be no need that Christ should die for this purpose.
But(2.) It was necessary that he should suffer that he might be a sacrifice for sin. So Daniel : “He was cut off, but not for himself; it was to finish transgression, to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity.” So Isaiah, “ The Lord laid on him,”etc. “He shall bear their iniquities,” etc. “If it be possible, let this cup,” etc. But it was not possible ; for without shedding of blood is no remission. The papists
offer an unbloody sacrifice; can such a sacrifice obtain remission for us? They offer Christ; but Christ offered himself.
(3.) There was no natural necessity that Christ should suffer.
He had not sinned, and therefore was not liable to suffer for any sin of his own. But there was a moral necessity for his suffering, or the world must have perished; the necessity of his suffering, therefore, sprang from his love. (John iii, 16, 17.) But there was—
(4.) A necessity for his suffering that the word might be fulfilled, for thus it was written. It was foretold that he would suffer, as the prediction was to be part of the external evidence of divine revelation; and having been predicted, it was necessary that the prediction should be verified.
If it was necessary that Christ should suffer for sin, it is equally necessary that we should have faith in the efficacy of his sufferings; we must not merely believe the fact, but trust in the merit of it. This merit must be appropriated, or afflicted consciences cannot be relieved. Observe
II. There was an equal necessity why he should rise the third day. There
(1.) Was no necessity that he should rise to confirm his doctrine; for if it were so, then the doctrine of the prophets and apostles remains unconfirmed to this day, as they are not risen. Nor in that case would his own doctrine have been obligatory prior to his resurrection; though he said before this that the Jews had no cloak for their sin, that is, in rejecting his doctrine. "The works that I do, bear testimony of me.” “ If ye believe not me, believe the works.'
(2.) It was necessary that he should rise to complete his priestly work. He was to appear before God with his own blood: he was to make intercession for the people: and he was to bless them.
(3.) It was necessary that he should rise to take the reins of government, or the control of all beings and things, good and bad, into his hands, for the purpose of bringing his many sons to glory.
(4.) It was necessary that he should rise to dispense the Spirit to his followers. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come.”
(5.) It was requisite that he should rise as the first fruits of those that sleep in him. If he had not risen, neither had we, for he is to raise us. 66 This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him,” etc.
66 As in Adam all die,” etc. He is placed instead of Adam at the head of our race.
(6.) It was necessary that he should rise the third day. Had he risen sooner, it might have been said that he did not die, and so could not rise again. And had he lain longer in the grave than was necessary to prove the reality of his death, disrespect had been shown to his meritorious offering. And had he not risen on the third day, what had become of the truth of that prophecy, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption ?” In agreement with this prediction he rose the third day. The Jews deny this; so do our infidels; but how ? and with what consistency ?
(7.) On the Socinian scheme, his resurrection was not necessary to the completion of his work as priest, for his death completed it. Had he lain in the grave until now, no disrespect had been shown to his sacrifice; as, according to that scheme, he offered
Neither was it necessary that he should rise to give the Holy Ghost, as there was no Holy Ghost to give.
The late Mr. Belsham said of the Saviour, we know not where he is, or what he is doing : and in saying so, we doubt not he uttered the sentiments of his brethren; they can do very well without him, for any use they make of him.
But what can you do without him ? If he is not
risen, all gospel preaching is vain, and your believing is vain.
Ye are yet in your sins
Is he not risen ? then what is said of his being risen as the first fruits of them that sleep in him, and of his being able to raise you and appointed to do it, is all an airy, empty, delusive dream.
If you know not where he is, and what he is doing, then must your case be one of doubt, anxiety, and fear. But such is not your case.
But if you know where he is, and what he is doing, and what he will do; see to it that you live by his work, that you live in conformity to your profession, obligation, and interests.
“ What do ye more than others ?” (Matt. v. 47.)
Jesus having now entered upon his ministry, went about all Galilee teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and disease among the people. The consequence was, his fame spread through all Syria, and they brought to him their sick, their lunatics, their paralytics, and possessed persons, and he healed them. On these accounts great multitudes followed him, and seeing them, he went up into a mountain for convenience, took his seat, as a teacher, and then proceeded to address the people. His disciples being nearest to him, he directed this inimitable discourse to them,
and through them to the multitudes. ObserveI. That though this sermon was in an especial manner directed to his immediate disciples, yet is it applicable to and obligatory on all christians of whatever time or place.
The law, which it freed from all the false glosses put on it, and which it so fully and impressively expounded, was not only intended as an instrument of conviction, but as a rule of conduct for men to walk by.
(2.) The drift of this discourse was not to teach the disciples their need of faith in order to salvation, for they were believers already; no, nor yet to teach the doctrine of justification by works, for that would have been to contradict Genesis xv. 6, and many other places. Nor was it to teach the way of justification at all, as the disciples were already justified. But
(3.) It was designed to teach the only way in which we can manifest our justification, and demonstrate the reality and perfection of our renovation; and that is, by walking continually in the practice of those works that are pre-eminently pure and good.
It was especially designed to furnish a rule of action which should in all cases be easy of application, and productive of the greatest amount of good to man, whether in solitude or social life. In short, it was intended to teach and train us to that course of godly living which shall best accord with the light, the purity, the benevolence, and the glory, of the christian covenant.
And considering what God has done for all those on whose behalf, and for whose benefit he has ordained, set up, and established the christian dispensation; he is entitled to look for a prompt and most affectionate improvement of his loving-kindness to mankind.
But, alas! the greater part, yea, the far greater part of men are anything but what they should be. Let it, however, be observed,
II. That God expects his people to act a very different part.
“What do ye more than others ?" If they do not more, and are not widely different from others, they furnish no proof to others that they are the genuine disciples of the Saviour.
And unless they very much surpass others in all things pertaining to religion and to life, they have but little that can certify an enlightened and tender conscience, that they do indeed belong to the family of God.
Do we not know more, much more of the divine will, and of that which is good in his sight than any of the