Power of Christ Risen.
by Isaac Williams
from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and
throughout the Year,
Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun
Rivingtons, London, 1875.
First part of
Sermon XXXIV. for Easter Day.
Col. iii. 1—7.
St. John xx. 1—20.
If ye then
be men with CHRIST, seek those things which are above,
CHRIST sitteth on the right hand of GOD.—COL. iii. 1.
SOME good men among
the Heathen recommend us to live a divine and heavenly life here on earth;
and beautiful indeed were the sounds of such wisdom in a forlorn world; but,
after all, they were but like sweet strains heard in a desert, as fair and
bright clouds which drop no rain. There was no strength in advice so wise
and good to lift up our poor fallen nature. But how different is it on this
day to us, when it comes clothed in the language of the Epistle, and
supported by the facts which the Gospel discloses; when it comes to us in
the majesty and power of Heaven, and the full revelation of the Incarnate
Word, God made man. It constrains, it lifts up, it moulds into the living
Body of Christ risen, every one that is worthy to stand. For the Gospel
says, Christ is risen; the Epistle, Ye also are risen together with Him.
On this day we are taken out of ourselves, and set on high, made new
creatures in the second Adam. He “hath set my feet upon a rock, and ordered
my goings. He hath put a new song in my mouth.” [Ps. xl. 2.]
The Old Testament
Lessons tell us what this day is in type; the Psalms what it is in prophecy;
the Gospel what it is in history; but the Epistle for this Sunday, what it
is in doctrine and precept, to be fulfilled in ourselves, without which,
type, and prophecy, and history, will avail us not.
If ye then be risen
with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the
right hand of God.
We all naturally’ seek
“the things which are above;” we seek to rise to wealth, power, and sitting
at ease; but such desires are powerless and frustrate, because we seek not
high enough; not to Heaven itself, but to something above us in these lower
regions of sin, to the Prince of the power of the air, who raiseth up that
he may cast down. We seek not to those heights where Christ sitteth in
almighty power of Godhead to raise us up to Himself. We naturally seek
rest; the soul of man always seeks rest, but that rest is only to be found
“where Christ sitteth;” we seek honour, but where shall we find it
except “on the right hand of God?” we seek power, but where shall we obtain
it but with Him to Whom on this day “all power is given in Heaven and in
earth”? [St. Matt. xxviii. 18.]
And here observe, in
these words of the Epistle, how all is of Christ: If risen with Christ,
here is strict union with Him in His Resurrection. And the things we are to
seek are not only those “which are above,” but where Christ sitteth;
literally, “where Christ is, being seated,” or sitting, “on the right hand
of God.” All is in, Him, is of Him, is with Him.
Set your affection,
adds the Apostle, on things above, not on things on the earth. First
seek the things above; that is, let your actions be directed towards them;
and then “set your affection,” or “mind,” let your desires and thoughts be
there also; first let your treasure be there, and then let your heart
follow. To this, moreover, the warning is added, “not on things on the
earth,” for the heart and affections cannot be in two places at once; in the
same degree that they are in Heaven, must they be withdrawn from earth and
For ye are dead, and
your life is hid with Christ in God.
Here again all is Christ: Ye are dead as to things below, where
Christ was rejected and crucified, and ye have a life in God, a life
not now apparent, but hidden, and that life with Christ, hid with
Him: that is, hidden as He is hidden, out of sight, withdrawn for awhile
from view, but existing in power and efficacy. That life is hid together
with Him, nay, more intimate still, He is Himself that life; for it is
added, When Christ, Who is our life, shall appear, “shall be
manifested;” then shall ye also appear, “be manifested,” with Him
The life, therefore,
which a Christian must have, the life which he bears about with him, is a
hidden life; but his dying daily, his deadness to the world, this is to be
manifest to those around him here below; as the crucifixion of Christ was
indeed seen by all, but His rising again was hidden and in secret; and His
risen Body moved as it were in secret, and was rarely seen, and that only by
the faithful, not by the world.
The Resurrection of
our Lord, like His Transfiguration on the Mount, set forth the regeneration
of the body, as it is to be hereafter when changed and glorified; and to
this life therefore the regenerate soul is in Christ even now to aspire, and
to live above the world in that blessed hope.
“He was crucified,”
says St. Augustin, “that He might show on the cross the dying of the old
man; He rose again, that He might show by His life the newness of life that
must be in us.” [Par. Brev.] And another Latin Bishop: “The Resurrection
of the Lord was not the end, but the changing of the flesh. That body which
before could be crucified, was now become incapable of suffering; that was
become immortal which was before made subject to death; that was become
incorruptible which before could endure wounds. Let, then, the people of
God acknowledge that they are in Christ a new creation. Let no one fall
back again into that state from whence he hath risen.” [St. Leo, Par. Brev.]
And observe how St.
Paul ever makes us one with our risen Lord; as if His Resurrection and our
own were but one resurrection. “The first Adam was made a living soul; the
last Adam a quickening spirit.” “The first man is of the earth, earthy; the
second Man is the Lord from Heaven.” And hence follows, “as is the earthy,
such are they also that are earthy.” [1 Cor. xv. 47, 48.] The first life,
as earthy and of the earth, has objects seen and perishable; the second, as
heavenly and of Heaven, has objects unseen and eternal, which shall appear
with the Lord when He appears from Heaven.
proceeds the same Apostle in the Epistle for to-day, your members which are
upon the earth, parts of the old man with the desires arising thence, and
fruitful in sin; such as fornication, and more generally
uncleanness, inordinate affection; literally, “passion,” such affection
as guides rather than is guided by the conscience; evil concupiscence,
the “lusting after evil things;” [1 Cor. x. 6.] and then he mentions the
most powerful and subtle of them all, and covetousness, which is
idolatry. It is “idolatry,” for it rests and leans on earthly
substance, as the soul should upon God only, and has all the deceivable
power and witchcraft of idol worship. The judgments on idolatry, and on the
nations given to it, by the command of God, were but the signs of His wrath
on these sins, however men may deceive themselves. In allusion to which the
Apostle adds, For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the
children of disobedience. [see also in the Epistle for Lent 2]
But all on this great
day, this day of days, speaks of deliverance; and with this our, subject
terminates: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
Such is this brief and
sweet Epistle for Easter Day, which contains so beautiful an epitome of the
Divine life hid in God; a life which bears about indeed “in the body the
dying of the Lord Jesus,” and is known by signs of mortification; even as
our Lord’s risen and glorified Body bore still, and was known and recognized
by the marks of the wounds by which He died. Thus must the Bride yet for
awhile fast and mourn in the absence of our Lord, while still clothed with
this body of corruption; but purified by those sorrows, and partaking of His
cup and of His Baptism, she obtains more and more eyes to behold Him, “Whom
having not seen” she loves; “in Whom, though now” she 'see Him not, yet
believing,” she rejoices “with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” [1 Pet.
And now let us
open that “bundle of myrrh,” [Song of Sol. i. 13, et cetera.] full of
sweetness though it savour of the grave; which hath combined with it the
balm of immortality, and speaks of “love strong as death;” which comes of
“faith out of a pure heart,” with the sweet “frankincense,” or the breath of
early morn, which while it is “yet dark” sees “the day break, and the
shadows flee away.” Let us, I say; now open the short Gospel for this
(for the second part, on the Gospel.)