BY F. W. FARRAR, D.D.
The power of his resurrection.—Philippians 3:10.
There is no sublimer fact in the spiritual history of man than his steady, unwavering belief in his own immortality. Encompassed on every side by darkness, he yet proclaims in every age his unalterable conviction that there is light beyond. Tossed always by storm, and often lost in blinding mists, he yet believes that he is steering straight for that haven which eye has never seen. Faced by the spectre of death, he still perseveres in the certainty that life is all and that death is naught; and when the soul seems to perish he holds that it does but pass, with the wings of the dove, to life and spring and heaven's bloom and the bosom of his God.
I. We may loose the silver cord and break the golden bowl: man will still believe that God is lor him. Take him into the churchyard, wrinkled with its green mounds, and ask with scorn, "Are all these who lie here immortal?" and he will say, "They are." Stoop in the sepulchre and take a handful of dust, and ask, "Was this immortal?" and he will answer with his indomitable "Yes." It is all the more sublime because of the obtrusive violence and tremendous volume of the facts by which it is confronted. Nature and experience and the oblivion of the grave seem to laugh it to scorn. Man lives amid a universe of death. The very ground we tread on is full of the dust of death, of the material particles which have been used by living organisms since the time of Adam; dead genera, dead species, dead generations, dead empires, dead races. As far as outward facts are concerned, as we walk by sight only and not by faith, death seems to be the sole universal despot, and the prodigy of life to be ended with the greater worm. The great and the small, the rich and the poor, are there; servant and master are mingled in undistinguishing death. We know very well that the same fate awaits us, and awaits us soon. The dead are the more in number, and long before another Easter has come round many of us who now sit here will have joined that greater number. Day by day brings us nearer on the downward slope to the rolling waters of that prodigious tide which has swallowed up our fathers. Thinner that curtain of darkness than a spider's web through which day by day, year by year, one by one, we all shall pass, and each one of us shall pass alone. And how strange, how oppressive, how awful, how unbroken is the silence of all these unnumbered dead! From the other side of the curtain not one gleam of light, not one syllable of sound, from all these millions has ever come. The wise man enters the darkness, but out of it he cannot speak even the three words to us which we would barter for all his wisdom. Dante has nothing more henceforth to tell us, nor Shakespeare, nor Milton; childhood and innocence can whisper from it no syllable of consolation to the breaking hearts of father or mother. And generation after generation the children of men, wise and unwise, innocent and guilty, believe in their immortality with a faith insensibly sublime.
II. How is this? It is partly because there is something in man far above the evidence of his senses. What the lips of silent death cannot or will not reveal to him, that God whispers into his soul; and therefore he believes insensibly that death is the semblance, and that life is the reality, even if the mind sinks into dotage and the body into dust. Among nations unenlightened by special revelation this belief has faded into vague hope, and a life of sin does more by far than anything else to weaken and destroy it; but to us who are Christians, to all who are the true children of the Kingdom, God hath in these last days spoken by His Son, and given to us in Him, not a fond expectation, but a sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life. It is Christ alone who in the highest sense has brought life and immortality to light. The tomb is dark no longer; the message of Easter has made it luminous, it is bright henceforth with angel presences; we have learned by fellowship with His suffering to know Christ and the power of His Resurrection.
That Resurrection is the central fact of all Christianity. To the Christian it needs no further proof; as certainly as we live, as certainly as we shall die, so certainly we believe that Christ rose and that with Him we too shall rise.
III. But we must never forget that as the Resurrection is not an isolated, so it is not a secondary fact.—The apostles, the early witnesses of the Church of God, put it in the very forefront of their testimony. By the stupendous importance of its meaning, it stands side by side with the Creation. That was the victory of Omnipotence over nothingness; this is the victory of Omnipotence over dissolution. Both are parts of the same divine universal work of love, the redemption of mankind. There are some, there are many, in these days who would fain persuade us that Christianity would still be Christianity if we gave up altogether the supernatural. It is a delusion, as St. Paul told us nearly nineteen centuries ago. If no living Christ issued forth from the garden-sepulcher, that becomes the grave not of man only, but of a religion, with all the hopes based upon it, and all the splendid enthusiasms which it has inspired. "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God";—you see how little St. Paul evades the full brunt of the issue—" we are found false witnesses of God because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ." If the dead are not raised, if Christ be not raised, then your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins, ye have not then been redeemed; "then they also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope, we are of all men most miserable." St. Paul confesses that if we give up the resurrection we give up everything with it.