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The Resurrection:
A Declaration of Our Lord's Divinity

by Harry P. Liddon (1829-1890)
"Who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh ; and declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead..."
                                            óRom. 1:3-4
Preached at St. Paul's, on Easter Day, April 6, 1890. 

A GREAT festival of the Christian Church like Easter appears to have one drawback attending it, from 
which days of less importance are comparatively free. It offers us so much to think about, that, unless we try to make some one of the lessons which it teaches our own, it may pass us by without leaving us any the wiser or better for taking part in it. 

The rays of truth which flash forth from a fact like the Resurrection of our Lord are so many and so bright that, if we do not fix our minds upon some one of them, and do what we may to understand its importance, we may only be dazzled into bewilderment by the splendid whole, and may carry away with us nothing that afterwards will shape our thoughts or influence our lives. And here St. Paul comes to our assistance by suggesting at the beginning of his greatest Epistle a point which may well engage our earnest attention, namely, the bearing of the Resurrection on the Divinity of our Lord. Among other things, the Resurrection, he tells us, did this : it threw a special light on the higher Nature of Jesus Christ. He was declared to be the 
Son of God with power by the Resurrection from the dead. 

Now, let us note for a moment that in the text St. Paul, summarily describing the contents of the Gospel, says that it was wholly concerned with Jesus Christ our Lord, and with two facts about Him more especially. The first fact : that He was really man, with a human body and a human soul This was clear from His being a member of a particular and well-known Jewish family. According to the flesh that is, in respect of His human nature He was born of the seed of David. The second fact: that, although man, He was more than man. According to the Spirit of holiness that is, in respect of His higher and superhuman Nature, He was declared to be the Son of God. The phrase, "according to the Spirit of holiness," in the second clause, corresponds to and contrasts with the phrase, " according to the flesh," in the first. And as the flesh in this passage certainly means human nature, and not, as often, the corrupt or animalized principle in human nature, so the Spirit of holiness means, not the Third Person in the Godhead, Who sanctifies us, but the higher or Divine Nature of Christ, somewhat vaguely described and set over against His human nature. For this less common use of the word " spirit," we have a warrant in at least two other passages * of the New Testament. 

The resulting sense is that, as our Lord was seen to be truly man by the fact of His birth of the family of David, so the true character and import of His higher Nature became apparent when He rose from the dead. 

Here, then, is opened to us a subject of the highest interest on this the greatest of Christian festivals, when 
the Church throughout the world stands in spirit around the empty sepulchre proclaiming that Christ is risen from the dead. For here we are taught by the Apostle to think of the Resurrection, not only as the reversal of the humiliation and defeat which preceded it, not only as the certificate of the mission of the greatest Teacher of religion to mankind, but as something more: as a declaration, or more precisely a definition, of what in respect of His superhuman Nature Christ our Lord really was and is. The Resurrection was not only a wonder, it was an instruction ; it was a means of making it plain to all who had eyes to see that He Who rose was much more than the first of prophets or apostles that He was not less than the Only-Begotten Son of God, Who had shared God s throne and His Nature from all eternity. 

I.  That which the Apostle s words may first of all suggest to us is the importance of events. He attributes to a 
single event the power of setting forth a great truth, just as though the event were a book or a speaker. Christ, he says, was declared to be the Son of God by the Resurrection from the dead. Undoubtedly, brethren, events are for God what language is for man they are the means whereby God reveals His Mind and Will. Events are the language of God, written on the pages of human history, whether it be the history of a man or of a family, or of a nation, or of the world. Just as God s eternal power and Godhead are, according to the Apostle, 1 clearly understood by a reverent study of the things that are made of the Book of Nature, so the judgments which are formed in the Divine Mind on men, families, and nations are discoverable in the book of human history, since they are written in the language of events. This, of course, will appear an unreasonable statement to those who imagine that all that happens to mankind birth and death, sickness and health, good and bad seasons, national prosperity and national decline are the result of blind forces, existing why we know not, and wherefore we know not, but which have, it seems, somehow given us existence only that, like the seaweed that is tossed this way and that on the surf of the waves, we men may illustrate their relentless power and our own abject helplessness. But it will not appear unreasonable to any man who really believes in a living God in a God Whose rules of working are not His masters, nor yet powers which, after owing to Him their being, have escaped from His control, but only the free manifestation by Himself of that order which is the rule of His Life, Who Himself is everywhere present, every where and incessantly Intelligent and at work, so that by Him the hairs of our head are numbered, and without Him not a sparrow falls to the ground. To believe in a living God is to believe that events which He brings about or permits are a declaration of His Mind; but whether the 
characters in which His Mind is declared are always legible by man, or by all men, is quite another question. 

Some times, indeed, they are written in a familiar alphabet; their meaning is so clear that all men may read it. All who believe that the world is ruled by a Moral God understand what was meant by the fall of Babylon, or the capture of Rome by Alaric, or the close of the career of Napoleon. Sometimes they are written in characters as wholly unintelligible to all living men as were the Egyptian hieroglyphics half a century ago, though they may be read by the high Intelligences around the Throne in heaven, or hereafter, for all that we know, by highly endowed men on earth; and in the book of history there is much writing of this kind, which eludes the efforts of man s inquisitive and constant gaze. But sometimes, also, the meaning of God s writing in events is hidden from the mass of men at first sight, but becomes plain to them when the key to its interpretation has been given them by a competent instructor; like the Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, traced on the wall of the banqueting chamber of the Eastern monarch, the sense of which was plain when a Daniel had been summoned to decipher it. Of such handwriting as this, too, history is full ; but we must not linger on it, since we have to fix our attention on one great sample of it on a particular event, the Resurrection of our Lord. 

Now, that a strictly supernatural occurrence such as the Resurrection would have a special meaning, or several meanings, is surely an obvious supposition ; the odd thing would be, if such an event could occur without any purpose or meaning at all. And St. Paul tells us what, in his inspired judgment, that meaning was ; it was to declare that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. 

Endeavour, my brethren, to think what sort of impression would be created in your minds if, after following to the grave one whom you had dearly loved for many years, and after listening to the last office of the Church, and watching the sod as it was thrown in upon the coffin, you should see that same friend or relative enter your room, with the old aspect, the well-known figure and expression, the accustomed voice, remaining just long enough to assure you that he was here again, and then passing swiftly away to comfort and encourage some other mourner. And yet this is what did happen in substance to Mary Magdalene and the holy women, and Peter and James, and the two disciples and the ten, on the day of our Lord s rising from the dead. Such an event could not but be of great significance. Even if the risen one should not utter a word, the mere appearance of such a visitor would be pregnant with meaning ; it would declare a great deal that at first we should find it hard to put into words about the unseen world and this, about life and death, about the ways of 
God, about the destiny of man. 

You will allow this and much more. But why, you may ask, should our Lord s Resurrection have the higher 
and particular effect of declaring Him to be the Son of God? Others, you may urge, had visited the realms of 
death, and returned to life, who were not declared by this awful experience to be Divine : we need not travel 
beyond the bounds of the Gospel History in order to meet with the widow s son at Nain, and Lazarus of Bethany. Certainly in their cases restoration to life was a signal mark of the Divine favour ; but it left them as it found them, only members of the human family, and still subject to the law of death. What was it in our Lord s case which invested His Resurrection with this declaratory or defining force which the Apostle ascribes to it? 

The answer is, first of all, that the Resurrection of our Lord was a verification of the proof which He had offered of His own claim. 

The Jewish doctors had understood the words in the psalm addressed to Messiah, "Thou art My Son : this day have I begotten Thee," not only of His being before all worlds, as it is understood in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but also of His rising from the dead ; and in this sense it is employed by St. Paul in that wonderful appeal to the Jewish conscience which he made in the Synagogue of Antioch in Pisidia. And therefore, our Lord, knowing what was involved in the claim to be Messiah, foretold His Resurrection certainly on six, probably on more occasions: and it was in this fulfilment of His own prediction a prediction based upon the deeper sense of the ancient Scriptures that St. Paul recognized a declaration of the Divine Sonship of Christ. The Resurrection was an intervention of the Almighty Father in behalf of His Well-beloved Son; it was an assertion by the Son of His real relation with the Father; it was a proof that the uncertainties of the future and the laws of the physical world were alike subject to His supreme control ; it was an event, in the manner of its accomplishment, so altogether exceptional and striking that the Apostle s appeal to it as declaratory of our Lord s Divinity is, if the expression might be allowed, only natural. Christ Himself had summoned the widow s son to rise from the bier, and Lazarus to issue from the recesses of the tomb; but no form of majesty or power stood by His grave, no voice of authority was heard to speak when before the dawn His human Soul, returning from the regions of the dead, reunited itself with the holy Body that lay in the sepulchre, and passed forth into the world of living men. The manner of His Resurrection was a declaration that He Who had died and was buried was the Son of God. 

But further, in our Lord s case the Resurrection did not stand alone. It is abstractedly conceivable that the 
foolish or the bad might be raised from the dead by super human power: one day, we Christians know, they will be, in order to give an account of the things done in the body. In our Lord s case Resurrection from the dead was combined with absolute holiness and wisdom, with words such as never man spake, with a life which none who witnessed it could convince of sin, in short, with a manifestation of truth and goodness which had never before been given to mankind. The Resurrection was the fitting complement to the Life and Teaching of our Lord; it confirmed the anticipations which that life and teaching naturally raised; it was the countersign in the sphere of physical being to a judgment which had already been formed in the sphere of instructed conscience. Had our Lord lived and taught, and then rotted in His grave, even His life would have died away in time from the memories of men ; had He risen it is an impossible supposition without such a life and teaching, His Resurrection would have been a blank wonder, appealing only to the imagination, and saying nothing to the sense of right and truth. As it is, it proclaims to all the world what disciples, like Peter at Caesarea Philippi, had owned before at their Master s feet ; it proclaims that He Who was crucified, dead, and buried, is the Son of God, declared to be such by His Resurrection from the dead. 

II. But the Apostle says that this declaration of the Divine Sonship of Christ, which was made by His Resurrection, was made with power. The Resurrection did not hesitatingly suggest that our Lord might possibly be the Son of God; it amounted, when taken together with the life and character and teaching of our Lord, to a demonstration, irresistible and overwhelming at least, for the Apostle himself that our Lord was the Son of God. 

I say for the Apostle himself, because, looking at the whole connection of the passage, it is scarcely open to 
doubt that the expression " with power " points first of all to a personal experience. 

Saul of Tarsus, at that time an active young Rabbi in Jerusalem, strongly attached to the cause of the Pharisaic party, was not one of the privileged company to whom the Risen Redeemer showed Himself during the Great 
Forty Days. As an unconverted Jew, he would have looked at the Person and work of Jesus through an 
atmosphere discoloured by false reports and by implacable controversial passion. For Saul the Eabbi, Jesus was only a teacher who had learnt the trick of winning access to the popular ear, and had established for himself in the minds of the uneducated many the character and authority of a prophet; a teacher, moreover, whose influence was directed against that of the representatives of the established order of things in Jerusalem, and who had only met with his deserts when he was put to a cruel death by the Roman authorities. 
The tragedy, no doubt, he would have said at the time, would be a nine days wonde ; and then other persons and subjects of interest would come to the front, and all would be forgotten. Nor would this judgment have been disturbed by the rumours which may have reached his ear, that there had been one or more apparitions of Jesus after His death; Saul's robust scepticism would have whispered to itself that rumours of this sort were only to be expected among the credulous and disappointed followers whom Jesus had misled, and were not deserving of serious consideration.  And so he would have gone on his way in his bitter sincerity, even going so far as to place himself at the disposal of the persecuting party which filled the highest places in the Jewish priesthood, and to take a foremost part in the cruelties by which it was hoped to stamp out the very name of the infant Church. 

And then came the journey to Damascus, and that scene among the low hills of the desert some eight miles or so from the city gate, which was to change the foremost persecutor of Christ into the most devoted of His Apostles. And what was it which that scene brought home with irresistible power to the mind of Saul of Tarsus? Many truths, no doubt, but this pre-eminently, that Jesus, of Whom he had dreamt as stricken and silenced for ever in the stillness and corruption of the tomb, was alive, and was ruling men and events 
from the clouds of heaven. And how and since what date this had come to be Saul would have learnt from Ananias of Damascus, and still more when he went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and could cross-question first one Apostle and then another, James and Thomas and the penitent and radiant Magdalene, and the two disciples of the walk to Emmaus, and as many as he would, while in Galilee on the road, of those five hundred who had seen the Risen Lord on a single occasion. Of the great fact there was evidence enough and to spare, if only there was a mind open to receive it; and when the fact that Jesus Who was crucified had thus risen from the dead the third day was established in the mind of Paul as a certainty beyond all discussion, how inevitably would it have changed his way of looking at all else about Jesus! 

It was, then, Jesus, and not himself or his instructors, Who held the key to the true sense of the ancient Scriptures; it was the teaching of Jesus, and not that of the Rabbinical Schools, which followed on in the direct line of Moses and the Prophets. Those miracles of Jesus at which, with other Pharisees, he had, no doubt, scoffed, were only what might be expected in the heir of the Messianic prophecies, and this crowning wonder of all, which Jesus had predicted as designed to follow on His Death, lifted yet further the veil that hung before the eyes of the astonished and humbled Rabbi, and showed that He Who could thus make the past and the present alike minister to His glory; He Who could rule at once in the conscience of man, and mould at pleasure the forces of nature; He Who could lie as a corpse in the darkness of the grave, and then, speaking from the 
heavens, could bend into utter submission the mind and will of His stoutest adversary ; must be indeed of more than human stature, must be indeed Divine. To St. Paul the Resurrection was a revelation of the Son of God with power. 

If to St. Paul, much more, we may well think, to those who saw the Risen Lord once and again saw Him, conversed with Him, ate with Him, touched Him. Such, certainly, was the effect on that Apostle, who was, it might seem, naturally of a sceptical turn of mind, although, as the Collect says, for the greater confirmation of the Faith he was doubtful of Christ s Resurrection. What was Thomas s exclamation when our Lord offered His Hands and His Side to the inquisitive touch of His Apostle? "My Lord and my God!" Those five sacred Wounds in the Risen Body were a revelation, not of Christ s manhood only, but of His Deity, since they proclaimed the veiled power which had conquered death. 

And so it has been ever since. The Resurrection has been felt to be the fact which, beyond all others, proclaims Christ as the Son of God with power. When Judas went his way, the important requisite in his successor was that he was to be a witness to the Resurrection. The Resurrection was the burden of all the recorded preaching of the earliest Church; the Gospel which it preached was a Gospel of the Resurrection whether in the mouth of Peter, or Stephen, or Paul, it was the same. And at this moment, all who think seriously about the matter know that the Resurrection is the point at which the Creed, which carries us to the heights of heaven, is most securely embedded in the soil of earth, most thoroughly capable of asserting a place for its Divine and living Subject in the history of our race. Disprove the Resurrection, and Christianity fades away into the air as a graceful but discredited illusion: but while it lasts it does its work as at the first; more than any other event, it proclaims Christ to be the Son of God with power in millions of Christian souls. 

It is said, I know, that a wonder of this kind, however calculated to impress the mind of bygone generations, is 
not likely to weigh powerfully with our own, and on the ground that we of to-day are less struck by suspensions of natural law than by the unvarying order of nature. Every age, no doubt, has its fashions, in the world of thought and literature no less than in the world of manners and dress; and if we survey a sufficient range of time we shall see that these fashions in thought are many of them not less liable to have their day and be discarded than are others. Nor need a man be a prophet in order to predict that the fashion which professes to attach less importance to a proved fact which suspends natural law, whether by the intervention of a higher law or otherwise, than to the general course and regularity of nature will not last. Of course, if a man says that no such suspension of natural law, no miracle, is possible, the question is a different and in a sense a more important one; but I am thinking of people who say that they deny neither the possibility nor the occurrence of miracle, and yet point with satisfaction to the fashionable temper of the time, which does not think highly of the importance of miracle. Such a fashion, I say, will pass, if only because it is out of harmony with the average common sense of human nature. 

When does a fellow-man arrest our attention? Is it when he is acting as is his wont, or when he is acting in some manner which we did not anticipate excelling himself, as we say, or falling below himself; a good man, as we thought, letting his mouth speak wickedness, or being partaker with an adulteress; or a bad man, as we held him, rising to the heights of generosity or self-sacrifice; a wise man committing himself for a moment to some startling folly; or a foolish man uttering some opinion, the value of which commands the respect of the wise?  And when the Ruler of the Universe suspends for a moment His wonted rule of working by such a miracle as raising the dead, the importance of His act will not be disposed of by a passing mood of thought, which, fresh from laboratories and observatories, thinks more of law than of suspensions of law. No; our Lord's Resurrection is an occurrence which will declare to our children, as it has declared to our forefathers, the Divine Sonship of Jesus, and it will do this, as it has done it hitherto, with power. We know what death is ; we have known, most of us, at some moment in our lives, what we would have given to be able to break its chain when wound round those we have loved; and in the light or memory of this experience we may own the true Majesty of Him Who liveth and was dead, and behold, He is alive for evermore. and has the keys of hell and of death. 

III.  But there is another sense in which the Resurrection from the dead is a declaration with power that Jesus is the Son of God.  No one can read St. Paul s Epistles without observing that he constantly speaks of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, not only as events in the life of Jesus on earth, but as spiritual transactions which take place in the Christian soul or character. 1. He bids Christians crucify the flesh, with the affections and lusts. 2. He says of Himself, " I am crucified with Christ." 3.  Addressing his readers at Ephesus, he quotes a Christian hymn of the earliest age: Awake, thou that sleepest, And arise from the dead, And Christ shall give thee light." 4.  He exclaims in this in the Epistle to the Colossians, "If ye, then, be risen with Christ, seek those things that are above." 5. It is true that this language of St. Paul is more particularly connected with the entrance of new converts into the Christian Church by baptism. Conversion had involved a crucifixion of the old corrupt nature ; and then, as the convert was dipped beneath the baptismal waters and raised again by the minister of the Sacrament, he was, in St. Paul s words, "buried with Christ in baptism, and raised again to newness of life."  

Is it nothing that a soul should lie in the grave of sin, and then, touched by a mighty inspiring Force bidding it 
arise and live, should pass forth to a new life of freedom and purity? So it has been sometimes in youth, some 
times in middle life, sometimes in declining years, almost within sight of death, with men of the most opposite 
characters, in the most various positions, whose experiences of sin and its miseries had been as unlike as possible. So it was in one age with Augustine, at once a man of cultivation and a libertine, whom one verse of an Epistle of St. Paul s made a saint and a teacher of the Church. So it was with the profligate Earl of Rochester, in the days of the Restoration. So, in our own to cite instances only in another land with the popular French atheist, Taxil, who devoted years to propagating blasphemies against his Creator and Redeemer; or with Littre, the polished man of letters, from whose mental atmosphere, almost until the last hour had come, God was shut out by a false philosophy. For each of these the profligate young philosopher, the debauched courtier, the atheistic lecturer, the refined but godless man of letters God had His purpose and His hour of mercy, and each accepted it. 

You may, some of you must, have known men, the bearers of less famous names, or living in private life, who 
have been subjects, too, of a spiritual resurrection. We may see dead souls joined to bodies of great activity and vigour, aye, and to minds of high intelligence and force; but not on that account the less dead. Such a soul lies in the grave of sin; it is blind, deaf, dumb, motionless, cold, putrid; it sees not the works of God in providence and life, His mercies, His judgments; it hears not the warnings of God in His Word, His Church, His incessant appeals to conscience; it speaks not to God in prayer; it has neither the clear-sightedness nor the heart to pray; it stirs not one single power or faculty in the way of obedience; it is cold so cold as to strike into any that touch it a deadly chill; aye, and like Lazarus, it is be come putrid, so long has it lain in its grave. And when such a soul hears the voice of the Son of God; when its eyes open to behold His justice and His love; when it opens its ears to listen to His warnings and His promises, opens its mouth to pray and to praise Him as the Author and Redeemer and Sanctifier of its new life; when such a soul exchanges its corruption for purity, its coldness for the glow of warm affections, bursts the bondages of habit which are wrapped around it in its grave, and passes forth through the barriers that would fain detain it into light and freedom ; when men around behold this, and note, further, how in such a soul love takes the place of hatred, and joy of sullen discon 
tent, and peace of the restlessness of a bad conscience, and long-suffering of an impatience that knew no bounds, and gentleness and meekness of fierce self-assertion, and faith of a distrust alike of man and God, and temperance of a chaos of insurgent passions ; when they see the man who dwelt yesterday among the graves of lust sitting today among the pure, clothed and in his right mind; and ask Who has done it ? Who has thus changed that which offers to His Will a much more stubborn resistance than the dust of a buried corpse or the stone which closes the mouth of a sepulchre? It is clear what must be the answer. Who but He Who, at the grave at Bethany, announcing himself as the Resurrection and the Life, did bid Lazarus come forth from his tomb, and Whose own Resurrection is not merely an outward fact to mould our thoughts, but an inward power to transform wills and characters ? 

When the old Christians whom Saul of Tarsus had so cruelly wronged beheld his converted life, his clear intel 
ligence, his warm affections, his free and strong will all placed at the service of the Saviour Whom he had persecuted, what did they do?  St. Paul himself shall answer: "They glorified God in me."  And when in the Church of our day a soul rises from the death of sin to the life of righteousness, there goes forth, be sure of it, into hundreds or thousands of consciences around, a proclamation of the Divine Power of the Son of God. 

God grant that this Easter the Heart of the Risen and glorified Jesus may be gladdened by many such a moral 
resurrection; and that we who witness or who experience it may know more and more surely, to our endless peace, Who He is and what He can do. 

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