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THE ANGELIC ANNUNCIATION.
The great morning—The early visit—The angelic annunciation.-I.
Proof of the resurrection. The empty tomb :-The dilemma: The evidence complete. II. The importance of the resurrection. It set God's seal to the Messiahship of Christ :-It declared him to be Divine :-It opened the dark valley-Its connection with justification, regeneration, holiness, and comfort to the sorrowing—The light cast on the believer's grave from the place where the Lord lay.
“ Hark! the herald angels say,
Christ the Lord is risen to-day,
Let the glorious tidings ily." "And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye : for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples, that he is risen from the dead, and behold he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him ; lo I have told you.”—Matt. xxviii. 5—7.
THERE is a slight apparent discrepancy in the different accounts given of the visit of the women to the sepulchre. John xx. 1, says that Mary Magdalene came "early, while it was yet dark," or more literally, “there being yet darkness," i. e. before all the darkness had disappeared. Mark xvi. 2, states that “very early in the morning—they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun."
The discrepancy here is only apparent. The facts of the case doubtless were that although it had only begun to dawn when they left their homes in the city, yet having some distance to walk before reaching the sepulcbre, and the twilight in Palestine being then but short, they did not reach the grave until sunrise. The one set of statements refers to the time of leaving home, the other to the time of arrival at the tomb, and they in no wise conflict. That these unprotected women should have ventured forth at such an hour, not knowing the perils they might encounter, and not even knowing who should roll away the great stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, was a signal illustration of the vehemence of their love to the Saviour. And in this instance, as is ever the case in the path of duty, the blessed instinct of love was wiser than the cold surmisings of logic, and the lions in the way that little faith always sees, were found to be chained or removed. They reached the grave unmolested, and found to their astonishment, the stone rolled away, and a being of unearthly splendour sitting upon it, awaiting their approach. The angel gave them the first annunciation of the fact that the Lord was risen, according to the promise.
The angelic annunciation of the resurrection contains two statements, I., The Proof, II., The Importance of this event.
I. The Proof of the Resurrection of Christ.-"I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said. Come see the place where the Lord lay."
The angel states the question to the women precisely as it is presented to the world at large. He announces a fact, and then gives the only rational explanation that can be given of this fact. The fact is, that the sepulchre was empty: the explanation is, that Christ arose from the dead.
The undoubted fact is, that the sepulchre was empty on the third day. “Come see the place where the Lord lay." How was it emptied ? That the dead body was placed there on Friday evening, and the grave guarded by a watch of Roman soldiers, was undeniable, and equally so, that the body was now gone. If it had not been, the body could have been produced, and Christianity been crushed in its bud.
How then was it removed? But two explanations were ever offered worthy of consideration. The one is that of the Pharisees, that the disciples stole it away while the guard slept. This is incredible and absurd. The penalty for sleeping on watch, to a Roman soldier, was death; and when the watch was not protracted, but only for two nights, it would have been unlikely that even one guard would sleep, but incredible that the whole band should sleep, and that so soundly, that the removal of the stone and carrying away of the body did not awake them. Moreover, if asleep, they could not know. what became of the body, and could not say that it was not risen.
But still more incredible is it, that the scattered and affrighted disciples should make so daring and dangerous an attempt. It was bright moonlight, when such an effort would be peculiarly hazardous, even by the most courageous men, and inconceivable by men so deeply discouraged and defeated. They did not even believe that he was to rise from the dead, much less feel that they must secure that resurrection. They had no motive for doing so, for if Christ did not rise, he had deceived them most cruelly, in the most momentous interest of life, had decoyed them from their trades, robbed them of their religion, and left them to the scorn and hate of their own nation. There was no motive to induce them to attempt to fulfil a prediction that they did not believe, and secure an event which they did not expect. Hence, this explanation is absurd and incredible in the last degree.
The only other is that presented by the angels to the women, by them to the disciples, and by them to us; and that is, that he arose from the dead according to his promise. The recording witnesses of this fact state that they saw him, heard him, touched him, and had every possible proof that the body before them was the same that died on the cross. At least ten interviews with him are recorded, not by night only, but in the broad daylight, and before at least five hundred spectators. In attestation of this testimony, they suffered every kind of loss, torture, and calumny, and even death itself. They had no motive to maintain a falsehood from this life, where its only reward was suffering; and none from the life to come, where all liars have their part in the burning lake. Hence their testimony was true, and the records of human history may be challenged to furnish a statement, thus attested, that was not true. If there be, where is it?
The fact that all the Jews did not believe this, 80 far from weakening its truth, rather strengthens it. Had they all believed it, that belief might have been ascribed to their credulous desire for a Messiah, that made them dupes of a story that fell in with their wishes, and that was not sifted as it would have been, had there been the crossquestioning of scepticism. The fact that so many refused to admit it proves that its evidence was examined with the utmost keenness; the fact that so many believed it on the spot, and died for that belief, shows that the evidence was unanswerable. Hence we are sure that had there been any way to disprove the resurrection of Christ, or to explain away the testimony of the hundreds who