The Baptist Pillar © Brandon Bible Baptist Church 1992-Present www.baptistpillar.com
"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
From Sermons on Various Subjects, 1837
“He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matt. 28:6)
The chief design of all the providences of God recorded in the Old Testament was to prepare the way and open the door for the appearance of the Redeemer upon earth. The Lord often suffered his church to be in great distress, and allowed often a long rope to the enemy to boast of their wise schemes in trampling his cause in the world. At the commencement of an engagement, victory often seemed to be on the enemy's side; but when the field was cleared of the smoke and mist, the God of Israel was always above them. If Jehovah suffers his people to be besieged between Piahiroth and Baalsephon, he will miraculously raise the siege, by dividing the Red Sea with a rod, that the children of Israel might go through the midst of the sea on dry ground, and the waters a wall unto them on their right hand and on their left.
If he will suffer a host of armed men to come to arrest the Prophet Elisha, he will send thousands of horses and flaming chariots, so that the mountains are covered with them; the enemies are struck with blindness, and they are taken prisoners by the Prophet. If the great and powerful Goliath of Gath is suffered to come between the two armies, roaring like a lion, until the rocks echo with his voice, God will raise up the stripling David, with his five stones, to conquer him, and take off his head. If the true worshippers of the living God are suffered to be cast into the fiery furnace, and the lion's den, to gratify pride and vain glory, the Lord was above them; for he quenched the violence of the fire, and the mouths of the lions he stopped.
But when the Messiah was slain and buried, the enemies boasted more than ever in their crafty schemes; and of all the hard engagements of redemption, this was the hardest of them all; but wherein the enemies prided-the most, he was above them; for he completely defeated their most sanguine expectation. If there were none of the friends of Jesus on earth that had courage sufficient to preach his resurrection on the morning he rose from the dead, a preacher came from the heavenly world, to publish the joyful and all important truth, He is not here, for he is risen.
We would call your serious attention to consider:
I. The all important truth delivered by this heavenly preacher.
II. His majestic and glorious appearance; yet his tender, mild mode of address to his hearers.
I. Let us attend to the important doctrine contained in the text.
The preacher was the angel, the doctrine he delivered wits the resurrection of Christ. The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, seven times swifter than lightning, straight on the new grave in Joseph's garden, calling upon no one for the key, but in a moment rolled off the stone, and sat upon it, and made it his pulpit, from whence he preached the doctrine of the resurrection to the women.
We are not informed which of the angels he was, whether he was Gabriel or not, the Ambassador between the court of heaven and the church on earth. After the Messiah, the great Ambassador of the covenant came down and ascended up to heaven, and the Holy Spirit assumed the office of a Messenger between heaven and earth, the ministration of angels has not been so conspicuous since.
His doctrine was the resurrection of the Son of God.
Pointing to the grave he said—he is not here—he is risen—he is gone from this cave victoriously. The moment he turned in the grave when he awoke, and began taking off his shroud, or grave dress, the sound of the earthquake was heard in the heaven of heavens.
It appears from the records of the evangelist Luke that two angels in shining garments appeared unto the women, who were so perplexed about the stone being rolled away, and the body of the Lord Jesus not found. The angels said to the women:
“Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen; remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words.” (Luke 24:5-8)
Here is the testimony of two credible witnesses; a sufficient number to attest the truth declared; who testified nothing, but what they had personally seen and known to be the truth, and delivered it in a plain simple language that it could not be misunderstood.
While the women went to inform their brethren, the disciples of Jesus, of what they had heard and seen;—behold, some of the watchmen came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done,—and what was done ?— What can be the testimony of these enemies of Christ respecting his resurrection? That an angel, whose countenance was like lightning, and his garments white as snow, descended from heaven, and rolled the stone front the door, and sat upon it; and terrified them so that they became as dead men.
To confirm the above testimonies Jesus Christ appeared unto many after his resurrection, who are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem. How he was slain and hanged on a tree, and how God raised him up the third day, and shewed him openly; not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to the disciples, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead; whom he commanded to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead.
“To them he showed himself alive often after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” (Acts 1:3) Here we may observe, that he appeared to them that knew him best, to their full satisfaction, that the Lord was risen indeed. And he not only appeared to the apostles, but to more than five hundred brethren at once. (1 Cor. 15:6)
We have an account of his appearing at ten or eleven different times, so that those who had seen him had sufficient opportunities to know assuredly it was Jesus of Nazareth that was crucified by the Jews, was the very identical person that appeared so many times unto them. He conversed with them repeatedly, and brought to their recollection what he had said unto them before his death; he showed them his hands and feet, commanding them to examine and feel him. It was therefore with great power the apostles gave witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
In a few weeks after the resurrection of our adorable Saviour, the testimony of the Apostles respecting it was cordially received, and firmly believed by many thousands, not in any desert part of the world, but in Jerusalem where he had been crucified.
The Holy Spirit also is a witness of his resurrection. So that our faith in this doctrine is founded on a divine foundation. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. (1 John 5:9) And the Apostles went forth and preached every where, the Lord working with them and confirming the word with signs following. (Mark 16:20) How nobly the Apostle Peter argued on this subject when he said to the Jews:
“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles, and wonders, and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” (Acts 2:22-24)
Divine power was evidently manifested in the resurrection of Christ from the dead; the apostle calls it the exceeding greatness of his power.
The resurrection of the Redeemer is sometimes attributed to the Father, who as the Lawgiver had arrested and imprisoned him as the surety of poor sinners, wherein he manifested his hatred to sin, and his love to them. In writing to the Galatians, Paul calls himself an apostle, (not of men neither by man,) but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead. (Gal. 1:1) And in writing to the Romans he says, that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. (Rom. 6:4) The God of peace opened the prison door for him to come forth, proving thereby that the sinner's debt was cancelled, divine justice satisfied, and the law of God honored.
The resurrection of Christ is also attributed to the Son himself, and that in reference to the merits of his sacrifice—the blood of the everlasting covenant; and in reference to the power he possessed to lay down his life and take it again. (John 10:18)
And sometimes it is attributed to the Holy Spirit. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. (Rom. 1:4)
As the Lord of life and death, Jesus took a full possession of the whole territory of death. He destroyed him who had the power of death, and snatched his iron rod from his hand. He crossed the Dead Sea, opened the gates of death,—and made an open passage through the cape of death to the Pacific Ocean on the other side, till the tops of the beautiful mountains of immortality are to be seen through the spying glass of the Gospel,—which the wise men of this world ever failed in contriving a glass, by which they could spy out the borders of the land of promise.
The resurrection of Christ was the life of his people and of his cause in the world at that time. All the disciples had hung their harps on the willows, by the rivers of Belial which had overflown all the meadows of Christianity. When Jesus arose from the dead, the tops of the hills are discovered and the meadows coming in sight, and his cause again encircled by the bow of the covenant. How it must have cheered the drooping spirits, and dried up the flowing tears of the weeping disciples; to see their beloved Lord alive again from the dead, and to hear his gracious words, while yet in sight of Calvary and the new grave, "Peace be unto you," (John 20:26) "Because I live ye shall live also." (John 14:19)
Christ rose from the dead with such heavenly Majesty and glory that terrified his enemies. Alexander the Great and Caesar terrified many men, and demolished many strong and fortified cities, but they could not shake the earth with all their power and grandeur; but the Son of God was above them. He shook the earth to its foundations in dying, and in rising again from the grave his language in the earthquake was — “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isa. 45:22). It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain; (Isa. 40:22) and all the inhabitants thereof, Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, are as grasshoppers before him.
It is he that bringeth princes to nothing, and maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Their stock shall not take root in the earth; and he shall also blow upon them, all the powers of men and devils, and the whirlwind shall take them away as stubble. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things that bringeth out their host by number. He calleth them all by names, (Ps. 147:4) like the leader of an army calling them to the parade, by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power not one faileth.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is an infallible proof of the truth and reality of the Christian religion. Pilate wrote the title of Christ in three languages on the cross — and many have written well on the truth of the Scriptures, and the reality of Christianity; but the writings of the invisible hand of the eternal power in raising up Jesus from the dead decides the controversy forever, and affords an ample and sure foundation for the faith and hope of all. If anyone asks, whether the Christian religion is from heaven or from men, or from hell, let him go to the new grave of Joseph of Arimathea, and behold the founder of Christianity, rising from the tomb the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Let him see the writings written there, by the finger of God, such as no one else in heaven, or earth, or hell could write, but himself. Caiaphas' feast of joy is turned to mourning, lamentation and woe; and the true Christian is fully persuaded of the safety of his condition, while by faith, he is eating the flesh, and drinking the blood from the true sacrifice, and living, not to himself, but to God. The almighty power that can raise the dead is engaged on his behalf; the eternal God his refuge; the God manifested in the flesh—the Founder of Christianity the foundation of his hope. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. (John 11:25)
Let us pity the poor deist, despise his weak reasoning and vain philosophy, and direct him to the death, the burial, and the resurrection of the judge of the world, before whose tribunal he must soon appear! Upon these three pillars the Christian religion is founded, and all that is necessary to make a man happy, to elevate him to the highest point of dignity, and to enable him to meet death without fear, may be fully derived from the above excellent, all important and well authenticated facts.
If Christ is not risen from the dead, Christianity must unavoidably fall; but if Christ is risen indeed, the Christian religion is of God. This is the ground on which the apostle Paul stood when he was disputing with the Greeks, the Epicureans and the Stoics, the Areopagus, the Athenians and the Dogmatists of Corinth:
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For 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.” (1 Cor. 15:1-4)
The fact was then proved—thousands believed, and even the Sadducees could not deny it. Even the enemies of Christ and Christianity are sometimes constrained to speak the truth. “I find no fault in this man,” was the testimony of Pilate. (Luke 23:4) “Have thou nothing to do with that just man,” said the Governor's wife. (Matt. 27:19) Herod, upon the most mature deliberation of the subject, thought that there was nothing in him worthy of death. “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood,” was the language of Judas. (Matt. 27:4)
Pilate writing to Tiberius, the Emperor of Rome, said, that Jesus being raised from the dead, many believed him to be God. The Senators of Rome, upon this testimony, expressed no doubt of his being risen from the dead; the question with them was, whether he should be admitted as one of the gods of Rome, which was overruled by divine providence, for he that is higher than the heavens, brighter in glory, and greater in power and majesty than all the heavenly mansions, and all their illustrious inhabitants, was not to be compared with the dumb idols of the Roman Empire.
The resurrection of the Son of God is, not only an infallible proof of the truth of Christianity — a sure and true testimony that the gospel is from heaven — and that he that believeth it, shall never be confounded — but it is represented as being powerful — it is the exceeding greatness of his power to us ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead. This is like a river overflowing the banks of language.
Let us examine the subject more minutely. Where can we see the exceeding greatness of his power? Is it in the creation of the world, in fixing the seven stars and Orion, in the strength of the Behemoth, or in the power of the Leviathan? No. Is it in drowning Pharaoh and his host, in pulling down Nebuchadnezzar like Lucifer from the political firmament? No, no; but it is that power which he wrought in Christ, when? In healing the sick and casting out devils? No, it was when he raised him from the dead, and set him on his own right hand in heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come, and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church. (Eph. 1:22)
Also the resurrection of Christ has a powerful effect on the resurrection of the souls of men from the death of trespasses and sins. It is the same power that raised Christ from the dead that quickeneth them; and the life which is given them is of the same nature, as the life which Christ had laid down and taken up again.—The life of faith by which the saints live, is a spring of water that flows from the resurrection, and shall never dry; or a spark that descended from the sun of the resurrection that can never be quenched.
Finally we might observe that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus has an effect on the resurrection of the bodies of the saints, as the same power that raised him will raise them. Thy dead men shall live together with my dead body shall they arise. Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust, for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead. The bodies of the saints shall raise on the likeness of their head. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44) “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…Death is swallowed up in victory,” (1 Cor. 15:53, 54) and the saints exclaiming, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victor? But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:55, 57)
Ever since the fall in Eden mankind are born to die. They eat and drink, sleep and awake out of sleep to die. Death is before us; it stands between us and happiness. The Son of God created the world to die therein; he was born in Bethlehem to die on Calvary; he was made tinder the law that he should be bound to die; and he lived thirty three years without sin that he might die for the sins of men. But on the morning of the resurrection, he went before death, and left the monster behind him. “I that was dead and am alive” is the chorus today. All that believe in him, shall triumph over death in the morning of the general resurrection, and leave it at an infinite distance behind them, and it shall never, no, never be able to overtake them.
The spiritual operations on the minds of the saints sometimes run on ahead before death. We believe, love and hope to live. We eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man. We attend to the means of grace, as praying, sing praises, and follow the Lamb to live. Though we have not left the death of the body behind us as yet. We look forward with some degree of confidence to that happy period when we shall put on immortality when we also, like our glorious head, shall go before and leave death far behind us, never to fear falling into the hands of the tyrant any more.
I recollect reading in the works of Flavel something like the following: "That the souls of the saints in heaven have a strong inclination to be united to their bodies that they left behind them in the world, on the face of the waters of death, and that they are anxiously expecting their arrival with the tide of the resurrection, to meet them in the harbour of immortality."
Our vile bodies shall be changed and fashioned like the glorious body of Christ. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) While in this world the motions of sin are working in our members, but in the resurrection the whole spirit, soul and body shall be blameless at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the seeds of afflictions and death shall be left behind in the grave.
Moses shall no longer be slow of speech, Jacob no longer lame, Job and Lazarus shall be troubled no longer with sore boils, and Timothy shall complain no more of a weak stomach. The glory of the body of Christ is far above our present conceptions, but we know that when he was transfigured on Mount Tabor, that his face shined like the sun in its meridian brightness, and that such was the excellent glory then manifested, that his raiment was white as the light; and those that awake to everlasting life shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.
I recollect that I promised to notice:
II. The majestic and glorious appearance of the angel; yet his tender and affectionate mode of address to his Wearers. But we must hasten to conclude.
The day on which the angel preached his sermon was the third day—the first day of the week,—the most notable of all the days of the earth,—the day on which the second Adam appeared with the keys of hell and of death, the feast day of the Jubilee of the redeemed. The stone that was on our Saviour's grave was the angel's pulpit, from which he preached the resurrection to few pious women of Galilee. How astonishing! The angel making death's castle door his throne or seat of honor, to preach to the daughters of Salem.
The preacher's garment was white as snow, and his countenance like the lightning which terrified the watchmen so that they fell to the ground, and became us dead men. This was the first preacher after the battle of Calvary, but the preacher with the white raiment and lightning countenance had to preach only once, and that to a few women. Peter, the fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, was the preacher in the great assembly on the Day of Pentecost, when men of sixteen languages were hearing, and five thousand of them converted to God.
The angel, though clad with heavenly majesty and glory, was yet very meek and affectionate in his address to the women. Having delivered the doctrine of the resurrection, Fear not, says the heavenly messenger,—fear not to-day, for I know that ye are seeking Jesus.— If you only knew the importance of the work that was completely finished today, you would neither fear the world, death, nor the grave. This is the most joyful day that Jesus hath seen since he was born in Bethlehem. He realizes this day fulness of joy. Let hell and its allied powers tremble; the Jubilee of Jesus and his friends has commenced today.
The angel calls our blessed Redeemer, “Jesus, which was crucified.” (Matt. 28:5) Men generally receive their titles from some exploits they have made. Why did not the angel pay, ye are seeking Jesus who created the world?—who dwelt in the fiery bush?—and gave the law to the children of Israel on Sinai?—that would have been true.—But Jesus' character is higher in the estimation of angels on account of what he has done on the cross than all the works of Creation and Providence, for the angels are ever looking with the greatest astonishment, and most profound reverence upon the wonders of the cross.
Who would not pity those men who call themselves Philosophers, who take a vast deal more delight to dig in the lead mines opened by Plato and others, than in searching for imperishable gold, invaluable pearls, and precious stones, which Prophets and Apostles, and millions more have sought arid found, that would make them also eternally rich.
The angel said, “Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” (Matt. 28:6) Who is this Lord? The God of Israel himself, whose majestic train filled the temple,—who was born of a virgin,—laid in a manger.—immersed in Jordan, —and who was buried in Joseph's new grave,—but is risen today for the justification of sinners. Go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead, and behold he goeth before you into Galilee; and then shall ye see him, lo! I have told you. (Matt. 28:7)
My hearers, listen for a moment! Hear this; go quickly!—the King's business requires haste. You that know the Lord make haste, go quickly,—and tell to sinners round what a dear Saviour you have found; tell them that you have found the Messiah, the true and promised Messiah, to whom Moses and the Prophets bear record, which is being interpreted the Christ, the anointed of the Father; the way, the truth and the life; the only saviour of lost, and perishing sinners; who died on the cross for our sins, and is risen again for our justification. Sinners, the religion of Christ requires haste. Do you ever intend to repent of your sins, and believe in the Lord Jesus, to deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow the Lord through evil and good report?
O, do not halt between two opinions! Procrastination is dangerous. Go quickly to Jesus—believe in him—trust in him—and rely upon him, and his righteousness alone, as the ground of your acceptance before God.
Time swiftly glides away, and you will soon be swallowed up in eternity. May the Lord have mercy upon you, and stir you up, and raise you out of that state of carelessness; and grant you faith-and repentance, that you might repent and believe the gospel. It is my delight to invite you to Christ, but I feel more pleasure and more confidence to pray God on your behalf. I have begged of you, I have entreated for the sake of everything that is valuable, and I have compelled you by all the arguments that I could find, and you are yet in your sins.
You are eating sin like bread, and drinking iniquity like water---you are holding fast deceit, and refuse to let it go. You are travelling the downward road to hell as fast as time can carry you. But I have not yet given you up in despair, for though I cannot succeed in persuading you to flee from the wrath to come, yet I am resolved to persevere in prayer to God for you, while I have breath. It is my fixed determination by the assistance of divine grace to pray for you; and who can tell, that although I cannot prevail with you, but I might prevail with God, to have mercy on your souls, and make you wise unto salvation, while the day of grace lasteth, for now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation; if you will hear his voice harden not your hearts as in the provocation. (Heb. 3:15)
Come guilty souls and flee away.
To Christ and heal your wounds:
This is the welcome gospel day,
Wherein free grace abounds.