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I might enlarge on the history of our provocations, affronts, and injuries; all which God foresaw out of his own infinite wisdom and yet, notwithstanding all, his good-will prevailed to send Jesus Christ, who he knew would be scorned and rejected by them to whom he was sent.
4. I might be large in illustrating this good-will of God, in sending Jesus Christ into the world, as drawn from those many great benefits, of which, by Christ's coming, we are made partakers.
Should I instance in temporal things, that would be an abatement to this love of God to us, and the purchase of Christ, whereby we receive pardon of sin, reconciliation of our persons, acceptation with God, sanctification, adoption, hope of glory here, and possession of glory hereafter all, in and through Jesus Christ.
But I shall not insist upon these, but proceed to make some short APPLICATION.
You have heard somewhat, though infinitely short, of the good-will of God, in sending Jesus Christ into the world: do not you believe it to be true? why else do you solemnize this as a day of joy? Well, then, beware that you do not frustrate God's good-will towards you, in giving Christ to you, by your debaucheries and profaneness on this good day, which you celebrate as a memorial of that great gift. Believe it, and it is sad to consider, as Christ's birth hath been the cause of the salvation of many a soul; so, it may be feared, that Christmas hath been the damnation of many a soul: what through rioting, drunkenness, revelling, gaming, and such like excesses, the Name of Christ hath been greatly dishonoured, under a pretence of honouring his Birth. I have heard a story of a Turkish ambassador, long residing in one of the greatest courts in Christendom: when he returned home to his master, he was by him examined, what customs the Christians observe: he made this answer; That, for Twelve Days in the year, all the Christians ran mad: his observation was but too true, and too much to the disparagement of the Christian Religion. And we may well question, whether there be not more wickedness committed in many places these Twelve Days, than in the other Twelve Months after. What, Sirs, do you think that Christ came into the world only to give you an occasion to eat unto gluttony,
and to drink unto drunkenness? are not these some of the sins, which he came into the world to destroy? and will you make his coming into the world to patronize them? Observe, then, a day; but take the Apostle's direction: He, that observeth a day, let him observe it to the Lord: it is his rule, to observe it with a holy heart, with spiritual meditation, with heavenly affections. This is the only way to reap the benefit of God's good-will, in sending Christ into the world; and this is the only way to ascribe glory to God, for his good-will towards men.
RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
PREACHED ON EASTER-DAY, FROM ACTS ii. 24.
WHOM GOD HATH RAISED UP, HAVING LOOSED THE PAINS OF DEATH BECAUSE IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE THAT HE SHOULD BE HOLDEN OF IT.
CHRISTIAN Religion is founded upon such mysterious and supernatural truths, and the principles of it are so paradoxical to the received opinions of mankind, that the greatest persecution, which it ever found in the world, was not so much from fire and sword, racks and tortures, the evident cruelties of the first opposers of it, as from the magisterial dictates of partial and corrupt reason.
The philosophers, whom Tertullian calls the Patrons of Heretics, have established two peremptory maxims; utterly re pugnant unto what the Scripture reveals to us, both concerning our happiness and comfort. The one is, Ex nihilo, nihil habetur: "Out of nothing, nothing can be made:" directly levelled against the creation of the world. And the other is, A privatione ad habitum non datur regressus : "There is no restoration of the same being, after a total corruption and dissolution of it:" which still continues a great prejudice against the resurrection of our bodies; and which the Oracles of Reason have so much troubled the world with, that, whatsoever seemed in the least contradictory to it, they judged contradictory to common sense, and exploded as ridiculous and impossible.
Under these great disadvantages the Christian Religion laboured: whilst it not only owned the creation of the world out
of nothing, formerly described by Moses; but more clearly and openly attested the resurrection of the dead, which before was not either so clearly known, or so clearly proved: for these doctrines were held so absurd by the great sophisters of the world; whose minds were too deeply tinctured with contrary notions, that they looked upon the Christian Religion as a design rather to destroy reason, than to save the soul: accounting it a very absurd thing to believe in a Crucified Saviour, as being a person weak and impotent; or the future resurrection, as being a thing utterly impossible.
We find the Apostle to the Corinthians, 1 Cor. i. 23, complaining that the Greeks, who were then the great masters of wisdom and learning, esteemed a Crucified Christ foolishness : and thought those men little befriended by reason, who would depend for life upon one that lost his own; and who would venture to take off the shamefulness of the cross, or to silence those scoffs that were cast upon those, for their credulity, who affirm the wonderful resurrection of a dead Saviour, and his glorious triumph over death and the grave. For this seemed to them no other than to solve an absurdity by an impossibility; and to make reason more suspicious, in that they judged the fundamentals of reason must be overthrown, to make the fundamentals of Christianity any way tolerable or possible. Wherefore we find, that, even at Athens, that great concourse of wits, where all the sects of philosophers made their common retreat; yet when St. Paul preached unto them Jesus and the Resurrection, this doctrine seemed so absurd and foolish to them, and so contrary to all principles of right reason, that they forgot that civility which usually is found in men of inquisitive spirits, and brake out into open reproaches and revilings: What will this babbler say?.....because he preached unto them Jesus and the Resurrection: Acts xvii. 18.
No doubt, they wanted not very specious arguments to urge against the resurrection of the body.
As, first, the impossibility of a re-collection of the dispersed particles of men, resolved into their elements, and scattered by the four winds of heaven: though it might be very well retorted on the Epicureans, who disputed with St. Paul against the Resurrection, that it was not so unlikely a thing that there might be a re-union of the scattered parts of the same man, as that there should be a fortuitous concourse of atoms at the first
making of the world: yet this objection overbore and prevailed with Heathens, so that when they burnt the bodies of Christians, they cast their ashes into the rivers, to confute their hopes of ever being raised again; from whence they should be carried away into an unknown ocean, and there be made the sport of winds and waves. But, what our Saviour says upon the same occasion to the Sadducees, may be said unto these men: Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God: Mat. xxii. 29: for, unless their parts could be scattered beyond the reach of Omnipotency; unless they could be ground so small, as to escape the knowledge and care of God, who ordereth and rangeth every mote that plays up and down in the sunbeams; this dispersion of the body proves not the impossibility of their union, because the power and providence of God will gather up every dust, and rally them together again, into the same place and order as now they are.
Another argument against the resurrection of the body, may be from the various changes, which dead bodies undergo: being, first, turned into earth; that, again, turned into grass and herbs; that, becoming nourishment for other men or beasts; that nourishment again passing into their substance; making a kind of transmigration of bodies, as Pythagoras would have that there was of souls: which is very evident in the case of Anthropomorphites, and Men-Eaters, who have, of several parts of other men's bodies, compounded their own. And so the same question may be demanded, which the Sadducees asked our Saviour, concerning the seven brethren who married the same woman, whose wife of the seven she should be at the Resurrection: so, here, those parts, which belonged to so many men, to which of them belong they in the Resurrection, without detriment to the rest? Here the same answer occurs, which Christ gave them, Mat. xxii. 29. Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God; who is the best judge of property; and can resolve all those parts, by which any nourishment hath been received by any other creatures, unto their own proper bodies again.
And thus it appears, that these arguments against the resurrection of the body amount not to prove the impossibility of the effect; but only the supernatural almighty power of the efficient. Wherefore, granting the Resurrection impossible, according to the original course of natural things; yet, when an