Brothers, I can tell you with confidence that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.
facts of the Resurrection, as having come within their own personal knowledge. But they also argued from Scripture, that the Lord's resurrection was the natural and necessary completion of Messiah's earthly mission. In the above passage is given the first specimen of such argumentation; and it should be carefully noted that it is fitted to Eastern rather than to Western modes of thought. The late Dr. Robert Vaughan says, "The Oriental intellect is not logical. Its faculty is to a high degree intuitive; it reasons, but it rarely does so formally. It passes to its conclusions with a subtle celerity, resembling what we see in women, much more than by those scientific processes which are familiar to our Western habits of thought." The audience which Peter at this time addressed was composed of devout, God-fearing Jews, who were attending the feast, and it was therefore especially appropriate that his argument should be based upon the Scriptures, and take Scripture form. "The passage which he first quotes is taken from Psalm 16:8-11, and he argues that it could not be of himself that the psalmist there spake, for they had evidence that the words could not be truly said of him; but that, having regard to God's promise, he spake of him who was to be born from his line, as identified with himself." The second quotation is from Psalm 110., and is taken to suggest that David went down to the grave, and "slept with his fathers;" and the allusion to ascension and place at Jehovah's right hand could not possibly apply to him, but must refer to his "greater Son," of whose resurrection and ascension the apostles gave their witness. The argument may be followed through its several stages.
I. DAVID PLAINLY SPEAKS OF THE RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION OF SOME ONE. He does not deal, in these psalms, in vague generalities and pious sentiment. He was a prophet, and under Divine inspiration, and speaks with distinctness and definiteness. We must seek for the person to whom he refers.
II. HE COULD NOT MEAN HIMSELF, This, indeed, would be the first thought of the reader of his words, but it will not bear examination. The expressions are too large to be satisfied in the experience of any mere man. And, if taken literally, as they should be, they cannot be applied to David himself. They must refer to some great one who has no earthly sepulcher, because, though he died, he rose, and no tomb holds his body. But David's sepulcher was then recognized, and all regarded him as awaiting the general resurrection of the just.
III. HE MUST HAVE REFERRED TO MESSIAH. It must have been a prophetic utterance. And the Messianic character of both these psalms has been generally admitted by the Jews; so that Peter's proof-texts would not be disputed by his audience as unsuitable. The only difficulty would be the identification of Messiah. To this point he leads the argument.
IV. DAVID'S WORDS FIT THE FACTS WHICH THE APOSTLES WITNESSED CONCERNING JESUS OF NAZARETH. He only had been thus raised after death to the spiritual and incorruptible life. He only had passed, after resurrection, into the eternal world without another experience of death. He alone met the conditions of the psalmist, and therefore he must be the promised Messiah. The other cases of resurrection narrated in Old and New Testament Scriptures should be examined, and the points of contrast between them and our Lord's case should be carefully noted; especially the most marked peculiarity in our Lord's case, that ascension followed resurrection, whereas all other raised persons died a second time. If, then, Jesus be the Christ, the Messiah, to him our "knees should bow, and our tongue confess." - R.T.
Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David.
I. THAT DAVID COULD NOT HAVE SAID OF HIMSELF THE WORDS HERE QUOTED, For this he states the threefold reason, that David had died, that he had been buried, and that his tomb was still shown. No one had ever heard of his returning to life; his soul was still in the kingdom of the dead, and his flesh must long since have returned to dust. Yet he had spoken the truth in the words quoted. Then those words must refer to some other than himself. To whom could they refer? For an answer to this question Peter asks his hearers to consider —
II. THAT DAVID WAS WONT TO THINK AND SPEAK OF THE MESSIAH. God had sworn to David, and told him concerning the Messiah —
1. That He would be His descendant. The descent could be traced to the Lord's mother, who was now present.
2. That He would succeed him on the throne of Israel. David's line was to be restored and completed in Christ, though the disobedience of his posterity caused the kingdom to pass to another family for a time.
3. That He would die. This is assumed in the apostle's quotation, and must be included in the meaning of David's words. And therefore —
4. That He would rise from the dead. For the prophecy points to a sitting on the throne of David which should follow the death and the resurrection of the Messiah. All these things had been foretold by David, with conscious reference to the promises of the covenant. We need not suppose that he saw the full meaning of what he said; but that which he said of himself, and which exceeded what was true concerning himself, was proper in allusion to Christ, and ultimately found its explanation in the events of His course. And Peter takes this position without apology. What is his reason for so acting? It is —
III. THAT EVENTS WELL KNOWN HAD FULFILLED THE PROPHECY OF DAVID. The most striking event of the series is put forward in confirmation of the whole, and the vouchers for it are produced. "This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses." They knew who "this Jesus" was, and what was His descent. They knew that He had died but a few weeks before at Jerusalem, and had been buried. Probably all the disciples now present had seen Him after His resurrection. All the mixed multitude now present were witnesses that His resurrection was affirmed by His friends, and that His enemies could not otherwise account for the disappearance of His body. They were all, therefore, God's witnesses. The inevitable conclusion was that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah; and this conclusion involved His kingship and His succession to David. This last was the only point yet remaining to be proved. We admire the precision and steady progress of this argument. Conclusion: Let us pause here and reflect on Peter's way of disposing of rationalism. Those whom he addressed followed reason and judged by appearances. He met them by an appeal to facts. Whatever reason might have said beforehand, David, under Divine direction, had recorded certain predictions, and those predictions had been fulfilled. "Let God be true, and every man a liar." How else can the rationalism of this day be dealt with?
1. The character of Christ as sketched beforehand in prophecy is presented in the Gospels.
2. The course of Christianity as foretold by the Lord and His apostles has been witnessed thus far through the ages.
3. The promises made to those who repent and believe are clearly fulfilled from day to day. And in the character of Christ, the fulfilment of prophecy, and the Christian life, with its blessed fellowship with God and power of virtuous conduct, there are unanswerable "evidences" for Christianity.
This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses1 Corinthians 15:3-8), and it seems as complete as can well be conceived. The Epistle was written within the generation which followed the resurrection. The majority of the witnesses were alive when it was written. There is no question of the moral honesty of the testimony. This thing, remember, was not done in a corner. There was a powerful national party at Jerusalem whose very existence was staked on proving it a fiction. Any flaw in the harness, any weak link in the chain, keen eyes would have hunted out and exposed. But there is not a trace anywhere of an answer to the apostle's precis of testimony; not a hint that this argument on the resurrection had been answered by denying it as a fact. The witnesses are ample in number, character, and opportunity of knowledge, and their testimony is that of men who had not the faintest idea that there was any one who could raise a valid doubt on the subject anywhere about the world. This leads me to the features of the evidence.
I. Surely the most prominent thing which strikes one about it is its PERFECT SIMPLICITY AND NATURALNESS. Pascal notes "the naturalness (naivete) with which Jesus Christ speaks of the things of God and of eternity." With the same naturalness do the apostles speak of the resurrection. In the account of the meeting at the sea of Tiberias (John 21.), the naturalness of their communion with the risen Saviour is the wonderful thing. Transcendently wonderful, as it was, they write about it quite as simply and naturally as about the Sermon on the Mount, or the journey to Jerusalem; and instead of spending all their strength on parading the evidence of it, they are more reticent and more artless about it than about many another far less momentous fact in the history of our Lord. The manner in which the resurrection brought itself at once so perfectly into the natural order of the disciples' lives, is to me an absolute proof that they knew they were dealing with a simple though profound and far-reaching fact. They write as if the restoration of their Lord to them, when they had once grasped the fact, was the most natural thing in the world. The only key to this is its truth.
II. It is entirely the evidence of DISCIPLES, of those who had a deep personal interest in establishing the resurrection as a truth. Understand what the word "interest" means. The notion of a company of interested followers of Christ, conspiring for their own purposes to palm this tale upon the world, is abandoned on all hands as utterly inadequate. These were true men, whatever else they might be. The witnesses had the deepest interest in the truth of the resurrection, but it would have been quite worthless to them except as truth. They had nothing to gain but everything to lose by the proclamation, except in as far as the power of the resurrection as a fact lay behind it. They were the best of all possible witnesses; witnesses whose supreme interest is truth. We can, however, well imagine evidence of a different character, which we are tempted to think would have at once forced conviction home on every rational mind. If it had been proved, say to the full satisfaction of the Roman procurator, after a review of all the evidence for and against it, that would have immediately established it as an unquestionable fact in history, and the whole world would have been filled with wonder and adoration. But the actual evidence is a striking contrast to this. It made no attempt to impose itself as a fact forced by the overwhelming weight of evidence on an unwilling world. Like the Incarnation, it was to be a power, and not a portent. In this, too, the kingdom of heaven came not with observation; its mission was to open minds and believing hearts alone. The spirit which seeks a sign, and the faith which is nourished on a sign, are alike worthless in that spiritual order which the Lord came to establish. The spirit which is turned to God, by the word and the work of the Saviour, is inestimably precious in His sight, and is a power in His kingdom of heaven. The Lord put deliberately from Him through life the homage which He might have won, and the power which He might have wielded, by portents and splendours; and obeying the Divine necessity to trust to the truth alone, He put them from Him also in death and in resurrection. "My kingdom is not of this world," He said through all — birth, life, death, and resurrection. The fact, then, that the evidence is entirely of the kind described, the evidence of disciples, of men in spiritual fellowship with it, and on whose lips and in whose lives it would be not a portent but a power, is in entire and beautiful harmony with the whole spirit and method of the Divine dispensations, and lies in the true line of the spiritual culture and development of mankind.
III. Granting, then, that the evidence must be that of spiritual witnesses to a fact whose whole virtue was spiritual, can anything be more EXPLICIT AND COMPLETE than the testimony which they bear? We have not the witness of a single, possibly hysterical, or fanatical, follower. The evidence was offered again and again to individuals, to companies, to a great crowd of disciples, with opportunities of tactical satisfaction, leaving actually nothing to be desired. Words were spoken and are recorded which none but the risen Man could have uttered. And the demonstration is crowned by the actual effect of the resurrection', in the instant and complete transformation which it accomplished in the lives of the witnesses. We cannot read John 21. and Acts 2. without the conviction that some such fact as the resurrection is absolutely needed to account for the contrast in the narratives. The disciples were not in a mood even to think about inventing such a fact. They accepted the decease as a death-blow to their hopes. Nothing was further from their thoughts than to lead a movement which would reconstruct and save society. And yet, in a few days, the work is in vigorous progress. As by the touch of some mighty creative Hand, these men are re-made. They are preaching the resurrection with a power which is to shake the whole structure of society, and they are kindling hearts like flame, in the very city where the events were transacted. Peter, heart-broken, going back bravely to his fisherman's toils — Peter, standing out as an incomparable teacher and leader of men, founding a Church which at this day is the strongest institution upon earth — Peter the disciple, who denied his Master, Peter the apostle, who won for Him the homage and worship of mankind — what links the two but the fact of the resurrection; the fact that a risen and reigning Christ was behind him, lending heaven's own force to every action, and heaven's own emphasis to every word? And what happened to them, through the resurrection, happened to the world. It began to work instantly as a tremendous force in organising and uplifting human society. It is said of a city, "There was great joy in that city when these evangelists came to it." It is the feature everywhere. Joy, strength, hope, vital activity, all by which men and societies grow, sprang up like willows by the watercourses, wherever the sound of that gospel of the resurrection was heard. For nearly two thousand years that order has been strengthening its foundations and widening its circuit, and its unquestioned, unquestionable basis has been and is the resurrection and reign of the risen Lord. And this you ask me to believe is an imposture or a delusion! Well, I may believe it when I am driven to believe that everything is imposture or illusion; that I am illusion; that the great world around me and the great heaven above me is illusion; that all which man holds noble and beautiful, all that he thinks worth living for, worth dying for, is illusion; and that a mocking demon is the master, the ruler, and the tormentor of the world. Till then I believe and preach Jesus and the Resurrection.
(J. Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
I. THE CHURCH IS THE WITNESSING BODY; IT PROVES CHRIST'S CASE.
1. Before God the Father. It manifests His glory by justifying His method of redemption; it bears witness before God that He has not sent His Son in vain.
2. In the face of men. It is to convince, so that even an unbelieving world may believe that the Father sent the Son.
II. IN ACCOMPLISHING THIS CONVERSION OF THE WORLD, THE CHURCH HAS TO PROVE AND TESTIFY.
1. That Christ is alive and at work to-day on earth, and that He can be found of them that believe, and manifest Himself to those that love Him.
2. That He is so by virtue of the deed done once for all at Calvary.
III. WHAT PROOFS CAN THE CHURCH OFFER FOR THESE POINTS?
1. Its own actual life. Its one prevailing and unanswerable proof is, "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."
2. This personal life of Christ in His Church verifies and certifies to the world the reality of His life, death, and resurrection. The fact that the man at the Beautiful Gate has this perfect soundness — this makes it certain that God did send His Son Christ Jesus to be a Prince of Life. And therefore the living Church bears a book about with it, the gospel book, the witness of those who beheld, tasted, handled the Word of Life. "This book," the body of Christ, declares "is true, and we know that these apostles spoke true; we are here to prove it, in that we have tasted the present power of that Word whose story they saw and recorded."
3. And again, the body carries with it the apostolic rite, the act commanded by the dying Christ to be done for ever as a memorial and a witness until His coming again.
IV. BY BELIEVING IN A BODY, A CHURCH, OUR FAITH LAYS UPON US RESPONSIBILITIES. It gives US a call; it sets us each a task. And is not this just what our religion most lacks? There is so little sense of purpose in our religious life. Religion is a comfortable habit, a refreshment in weariness, a solace and security in the face of death. Yes, but is it the one thing that gives us a living reason for being alive? Is it that which sets us on an aim worthy and enkindling, for which it is well worth while to live? Does it come to us as something which lays upon us a service of delightful freedom under the eye of a Master who waits ever to say, "Well done, well done, thou faithful servant"? Is not this exactly what we lack? If Christ established a Church, this means that every member has, by believing, a definite, an urgent, a glad and proud task set before him. That task is to witness; and do you doubt whether you have any call to witness for Christ? For what is this witness? It is the evidence you can give by active personal union with your Lord, now alive at God's right hand, of the authority of the gospel record and of the gospel Eucharist. And is there no one, then, who needs that evidence from you?
1. Can you find no one near you who is struggling with doubt and perplexity as he reads that gospel story? It is your witness and your evidence that alone can recover him his footing.
2. Is there no one who looks out upon the scenery of this bewildered earth and who can see nothing but confused suffering and unjust penalties; who can but cry out his bitter protest, "Is God indeed to be found there? Is there a Divine Judge of all the earth? Where are the signs of His love?" What if your witness were ready at hand? — if you could but whisper, "I know that the love of God has been manifested to all who believe Christ Jesus, every one that so believeth hath the witness in him"?
3. Or you may find yourself standing by one whom some strong sin has fast bound in misery and iron. Now is your time to speak, to cry to him, to deliver your testimony — "My brother, you may be free, for Christ is not dead — He is risen; He the great breaker of bonds, He is strong as of old to set free the captives." Conclusion: It is for us to be sure that we know, by blessed experience, that Christ was manifested to take away our sins; and that is the message that you have to carry on your lips — "We know that it is true." It would be a miserable thing to find yourself standing over some brother, with your human heart indeed yearning to help him, and yet to find yourself speechless and impotent just because you had never taken the trouble to learn, when you had time, the happy lesson which would enable you to say to him the one word that. can now save him.
(Canon Scott Holland.)
(T. L. Claughton, M. A.)
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