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right hand of the Majesty on high.
on high. “He goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see Him, as He said unto you.”
Two remarks arise from this. One has been expressed by St. Paul in writing to the Thessalonians, and offers a comfortable thought to those whose friends have been removed from this world (1 Thess. iv. 13). “I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” Number not the living among the dead. Those for whom we weep are still living : they have entered upon an immortal and a blessed existence: they are not lying in the grave; they are risen to their Saviour and their God. Grieve not that they should " depart and be with Christ.”
2. But there is a spiritual, as well as a bodily resurrection : and in that sense the words, Why seek ye the living among the dead ? ought to apply to the Christian in this present world. The apostle so applies them; and speaks of Christians as already “risen;" “ risen with Christ.” Christ was not like the children of men. Their bodies perish ; his could not perish in the grave. So, too, the Christian is not like other men, whose thoughts are fixed upon the earth ; who are dead to God, dead to the concerns of the soul, But the Christian is “alive unto God, through Jesus Christ.” He must not be sought among the dead; he must not be found among the dead ; he must not be found in the ways and haunts of sinners; he must not be sought among those who have none of the life of God within them ; but among those whose “conversation is in heaven.” If Christ had not risen, it had been evidence that He was not the Son of God. And
if the Christian does not rise above the cares,
3 Mark xvi. 7.
and desires, and pursuits, and pleasures of this present evil world, it is proof that he is not what he calls himself; he must still be reckoned among the dead.
That therefore which the angels affirmed of Christ, is also, in its measure, true of those who believe in Christ. They are not here, but are risen. Their body, indeed, is still in this world: but their better part, the soul, is risen above it, and is dwelling in heaven with their Lord and Saviour. There are their affections set : thither they mount above the trifling cares and more trifling amusements of the present life: there their treasure is; and where their treasure is, there will their hearts be also.
Let none rest satisfied, until their consciences and their lives bear witness that this is, in some tolerable degree, a description of themselves.
UNBELIEF OF THOMAS. -BLESSEDNESS OF BELIEVERS.
JOHN XX, 29. 31.
29. “ Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou
hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have
believed.” A PROOF of Christ's resurrection, of his resurrection in the same body which had died, was here given to Thomas, which banished every doubt. But it is a proof which others can never see.
And he was allowed to require it, and it was granted him, to confirm the faith and increase the comfort of future Christians. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed.
It was needful that the Lord should be seen in the form of man by those who were to bear witness concerning him. It was needful that some should be able
to say, like St. John, “ The Word was made flesh, and we beheld his glory.” We saw his miracles, and we heard his discourses.
So again, after his resurrection, He was seen not by the apostles only, but " by above five hundred brethren at once. They saw,
and because they saw, believed. But He could not possibly be seen by those who were hereafter to become his disciples, and have life through his name.
These must believe in Him “ through their word :" that is, on the report of those who had lived with Him in the flesh, and witnessed his death and his ascension.
Looking forward to these, the Lord declares to his incredulous apostle, Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. Like those to whom St. Peter wrote, and of whom he speaks, after mentioning the name of Christ : “ whom not having seen, ye love ; and in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.”
Our Lord has left to these, and such as these, the comfort of knowing that they were in his mind, and graciously thought of, from the moment when the salvation wrought by Him was about to be published to the world. He pronounces them BLESSED. consider why.
They are at peace with God. Being justified by faith, they have peace with God through Jesus Christ. And without this there is no peace. The desire of it first led them to the Redeemer. The desire of it first brought them to apply to Him, and completed in their own persons the covenant of their baptism. And this they possess and enjoy : it is not a blessing for which they are to wait till some future time: of which they are to have no present sense or knowledge; they are not to linger in hope that the favour of God, his acceptance of their persons, his forgiveness of their sins, will be made over to them at some distant day :
11 Cor. xv. 5.
but it is already theirs; and their privilege is, in the language of the Liturgy, “ being cleansed from their sins, to serve God with a quiet mind.”
This is the foundation of their blessedness. They are blessed, also, because they are delivered from “the dominion of sin," delivered from this present evil world, " and enabled through the Spirit working in them to subdue the lusts of the flesh.” They are blessed, also, because they have secured to themselves, as they pass through this weary wilderness, a shepherd full of kindness, full of care, and full of power. They have the confidence expressed by St. Paul, “ My God shall supply all your need." They have the assurance which was granted to him, “My grace is sufficient for thee."
In all this there is as much of blessedness, as the present life is capable of receiving.
Still it is our present life : and it is life in a fallen world. The sinfulness which adheres to the heart, even after the power of sin is broken, still interrupts and disturbs its peace.
And the many wants, the many afflictions which exist, and from which the children of God are not exempted, often make us confess and feel, that here is not our hope : that the blessedness promised to the Christian is something which cannot be found below : that he must set his affections on things above, and look there, at God's right hand, for the fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.
And this is the real cause, why the Lord here so solemnly pronounces those blessed who believe : because theirs is the kingdom prepared of God for the righteous; because theirs are the good things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive." We grievously undervalue this : our spirits, tied and bound by this present world, are unable to think of it as it deserves. But our Lord knew, well and fully knew, the nature, and the reality, and the extent of that happiness. He had a complete acquaintance with the things laid up at God's right
hand for them that love Him : and therefore he says, Blessed are they that have believed, because they shall possess those joys. At the moment, they may not feel themselves blessed. But He to whom the future is present ; He to whom what shall be is as if it were, He sees beyond their trials, their labours, and their sorrows, and anticipates the end. He knew, for example, that his apostles should suffer all that makes this life grievous ; imprisonment, the scourge, reproach, hunger, cold, and nakedness. Yet He said, “ Blessed are ye; for great is your reward in heaven.” He knew that his followers would often groan heavily in spirit, being burthened with the sense of their inward corruptions and rebellious desires. Yet He said, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit.” He knew that many of those whom God would hereafter give Him, would languish in poverty, would be oppressed by sickness and by pain. Yet he said, “ Blessed are ye that weep now, for ye
The case may be compared to what took place at the death of the first martyr, Stephen. Those who stood by, and saw him stretched along the ground, bleeding, and bruised, and maimed, and gasping for breath, might pity him, as if brought to the lowest state of human wretchedness. But what was his real feeling and condition ? “Behold,” he exclaims, “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.” And so the Lord Jesus. He is well aware that grief and trial and tribulation are the lot of
of his own people. But He sees also the heavens opened, and the earth receding :-earth receding, with all its load of sin and misery; and the heavens opening with all the glory which is to be revealed :--and therefore He says, Blessed are they that have believed ; for there shall be a performance of those things which were spoken of the Lord.
These are the thoughts which may animate the
2 Acts vii. 56.