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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.


Second part of Sermon XXXIV. for Easter Day.

Col. iii. 1—7.  St. John xx.  120.

for the first part, on the Epistle.

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.


...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.


The first day of the week; the first day was it indeed of the new creation, “the day which the Lord hath made;” the first of the days of Heaven; the day of the everlasting Light, though it be yet dark.  The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark; unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre.  She sought while “it was yet dark.”  How full of significancy, how much of faithful penitential love is contained in these words!  She sought “when it was yet dark.”  What encouragement to ourselves sounds in the words!  She sought, and “Thou, Lord, hast never failed them that seek Thee.”  [Ps. ix. 10]  “I sought Him, but I found Him not;” but love is kindled the more by seeking; and because she sought while it was yet dark, as soon as it was light she found.  Who is he “that walketh in darkness, and hath no light?  let him trust in the Lord, and stay upon his God.”  [Isa. l. 10.]  We also have to seek, and our best seeking is but as it were in the dark; but if we “see the stone taken away,” and the sepulchre open, it is enough; for Him we have to seek elsewhere where He is to be found, which is at the Right Hand of God.  It is enough for us below that the sepulchre is open and the stone gone.  Worthy is she, the first to find, who first seeketh.  “O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee.”  [Ps. lxiii. 1.]  To seek early is to have a double title to a blessing.  And she that had “seven devils “ hath known the depths of our mother Eve’s inheritance of woe; “all Thy waves and storms are gone over me;” [Ps. xlii. 9.] and when one deep calleth unto another, where the lowest depth is found, the deep of His mercy answereth first of all to the deep of our misery.


Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid Him.  He that was slain by a death so miserable hath been thought unworthy of the rich man’s sepulchre, and taken out from thence, and cast forth I know not whence.  Desolation and misery could go no further than this: for she knew not as yet that the tide was already turned, and the overflowing seas of man’s malice had come to their height, and were now to be driven back for ever.  She knew it not, and therefore was endurance in this most perfected; and greater the joy that came in this bereavement.  The heaviness which endureth for a night was yet upon her, for it was yet dark; and she knew not as yet the joy that cometh with the morning. [Ps. xxx. 5.]  She cameshe came earlyshe came while yet darkshe came and found notand fearing still sought—and her fears but kindled more her zeal; “she runneth,” as first to bear tidings of that which for four thousand years creation had been listening to hear—that the stone was rolled away; “she runneth,” for speed is well needed to keep alive the torch which is to kindle the world; which must first awaken Apostles, and guide them on their way while it was yet dark.


Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre.  So they ran both together; and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre; and he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in.  The disciple whom Jesus loved “did outrun Peter;” not that his love for his Lord was greater, as St. Augustin would say; yet faith was stirred by hope, and hope added wings to zeal; and hopeful faith does perhaps precede the love which is weighed down by penitential sorrow.  In him who lay on Jesus’ breast, and who stood by His Cross in death, there may have been with love, greater knowledge of the Divine power which his Master had, even in death.  Or more lively recollection of His oft-repeated declarations, which they understood not, of His rising again.  Or may be that, setting aside spiritual significancy, it was but youth and age balanced together, each in turn to prevail; the one preceding by the way, the other by entering in.  Yet the “entering not in” was as of wisdom that feeds on contemplation, and seeks not evidence of sense.  “Stooping down and looking in he saw,” but he entered not.  All is expressive; humility that stoops to look in, and reverential awe that stands aloof, are the parts of wisdom.  While in St. Peter, that pastoral love to which it is given to feed the flock, is more bold in search, to investigate the evidences of truth.  Thus both are alike, both running together; one follows for a time and then precedes.


Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie; and the napkin that was about His head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.  These were no signs of indecent haste and irreverence, as in those who from hostile motives would disinter and dishonour the dead; but of Him Who hath implanted in our nature the feelings of reverential regard for the poor clothings of mortality.  Nay, far more; it speaks of that awful veneration for holy things, which touched and handled with extreme care and circumspection the Ark of God, and all that pertained to the sanctuary.


Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed.  For as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.  That is, “he saw” those evidences of Christ risen, “and believed.”  The light of Divine grace within his heart giving him eyes to read these tokens aright; “the Father of lights” within was revealing His Son and “the power of His Resurrection” to one who had kept so close to Him in “the fellowship of His sufferings;” and who already seemed to have died with Him in that keener martyrdom, which love supplied, when “the sword pierced through” his “own soul,” as, together with the Virgin Mother, he watched his Lord’s dying agonies.


Then the disciples, it is added, went away again unto their own home; leaving the faithful Mary there at the tomb.  In the dusk of the evening, in the twilight of the morning, she is there; if she departs, it is but on the same sacred errand and inquiry of love, and again to return.  She, out of whom went seven devils, hath well known what it is to find, and what it is to lose; and shall soon know what it is so to find as never to lose again her Deliverer.


And here we may observe what has probably occurred to us as remarkable in the selection of this passage for the Gospel of Easter Day; that there is no mention in it of Christ risen, no evidence beyond that of the open grave, no appearance of our, Lord stated in it, not even the Angel’s declaration that Christ is risen; but the great end and object of it is contained in this which is stated of the beloved disciple, from whose Gospel it is taken, that “he saw and believed though he had “not seen.”  It is the greater blessing, declared by our Lord Himself, and apparently with a reference to this very circumstance of St. John, “Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed.”  It is, moreover, the duty and crown especially held out to ourselves, that we believe in Him while withdrawn from sight.  It connects together the Epistle and the Gospel.  For the Epistle exhorts, us to believe in Him though we see Him not, so as to be risen together with Him; and the Gospel shows us how Divine love is ready to do this, even from the very first, and while as yet they knew not the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.


“The absence of the Lord,” says, St. Augustin, “is not absence: have faith and He is with thee, Whom thou seest not.”  And the history of this great and glorious day itself will supply us with every form and variety of faith, in which He is found by those that seek Him.  He was found this day by St. John through faith which needed not sight; in that purity of heart which hath the vision of God; He was found by St. Peter, the chief of Apostles, and the chief of penitents; He was found in the assembling together of the Church and the Apostolic company, the doors being closed; He was found and known in the breaking of bread; He was also found, and first seen by her who first sought Him, early and in the dark, by Mary Magdalene, by the loving, earnestly-seeking, mourning sinner, the returning daughter of Eve.  She first saw “the bright and Morning Star,” and she wears for ever the crown of this great day.  And what if on this day in all these ways we seek Him; ere the rise of the morning, in the setting of the sun, with loving penitence, with contemplative wisdom, in Apostolic fellowship, in the assemblage of the faithful, and in the breaking of bread.