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The Power of Christ Risen.

by Isaac Williams

from Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays and Holy Days

throughout the Year, Vol. I. Advent to Tuesday in Whitsun Week

Rivingtons, London, 1875.


First part of Sermon XXXIV. for Easter Day.

Col. iii. 1—7.  St. John xx.  120.

If ye then be men with CHRIST, seek those things which are above,

where 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 earthly things.


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 in glory.


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.


Mortify, therefore, 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. i. 8.]


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 day...


(for the second part, on the Gospel.)