Page images

by some of the Anabaptists, which was associated with a further error as to the nature of the risen body, practically amounting to a denial of the existence of the humanity of Christ since the resurrection. This error is described and condemned in the following passage from the Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum which illustrates the meaning and shows the intention of this article.

"Circa duplicem Christi naturam perniciosus est et varius error: ex quibus alii sunt ex Arianorum secta, Christum ita ponentes hominem ut Deum negent. Alii eum sic Deum judicant ut hominem non agnoscant, et de corpore nugantur de coelo divinitus assumpto, et in virginis uterum lapso, quod tanquam in transitu per Mariam quasi per canalem aut fistulam præterfluxerit. Quidam verbum in carnis naturam conversum asserunt, quam, quamprimum a morte in cælum fuit recepta, rursus volunt in naturam divinam reversam et absorptam esse. Quorum illi delirium imitantur, qui corpori Christi tam latos fines dant, ut illo credant aut omnes locos simul, aut innumeros obsideri. Quod si confiteremur, humanam e Christo naturam eximeremus. Quemadmodum enim Dei natura sibi hoc assumit, ut per omnia permeet, sic humanæ semper illud attributum est, ut certis locorum finibus circumscripta sit. Quidam corpus ipsum sæpe dicunt, et subinde factum esse. Qui errores omnes Sacrarum Scripturarum authoritate sic corrigendi sunt, ut Christus meliore natura Deus sempiternus accipiatur, et quidem æqualis sit Dei Patris; humana vero corpus habeat ex tempore factum, neque sæpius quam semel, neque ex alia materia quam ex Mariæ virginis vera et sola substantia ac quemadmodum reliqua humana corpora suis loci finibus circumscriptum.”

This extract—and particularly the portion of it in italics—makes it quite clear that when this Article was

* Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, "De Hæres.” ch.6

[ocr errors]

first drawn up there was much erroneous teaching on the nature of our Lord's humanity, and that there was in some quarters an inclination to deny that after the resurrection it continued to be in any sense true human nature. Hence the need for this Article asserting not only that Christ truly arose, but also that He took again His body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith He ascended,etc."

The three principal subjects which require consideration are the following :

1. The resurrection of Christ.

2. The ascension and session (at the right hand of the Father)

3. The return to judgment.

I. The Resurrection of Christ. The Article is concerned with this simply as an historical fact. Questions, therefore, of its significance, its bearing upon our Lord's claims, its position as the central fact round which other doctrines group themselves, its witness to our acceptance with God, its revelation of the unseen world and our relation to it—important as all these are— do not directly come before us here. The points to be considered in connection with the statements of the Article are two

(a) The evidence for the fact of the resurrection; and (6) The nature of the resurrection body.

(a) The evidence for the fact of the resurrection. In the forefront must always be placed the witness of S. Paul. His epistles were all-or nearly all—written some time before the gospel narratives were committed to writing. Doubts have, it is true, been freely cast

Reference may be made on all these subjects to Westcott's Gospel of the Resurrection, or Milligan's Lectures on the Resurrection,

is our

on the genuineness of some of them. But all except the most sceptical of critics will admit that First and Second Corinthians, Romans and Galatians, were written between the years A.D. 52 and 60, by the apostle whose name they bear. And these epistles alone are amply sufficient to prove not merely that the fact of the resurrection was believed in by the whole Church at the time when they were written, but that the belief in it grew up at the time of the alleged event, on the spot, and that the Church was immediately reconstructed on the basis of the resurrection. The most striking passage of all is that in 1 Cor. xv., where S. Paul enumerates the appearances of the risen Jesus, and stakes everything on the truth of the resurrection. “If Christ be not risen, then preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ." from this the belief is bound up with the apostle's whole life, and underlies his whole teaching. There is scarcely an epistle in which he does not allude to it. “ The literal fact of the resurrection is the implied and acknowledged groundwork of the apostle's teaching.”1 S. Paul's conversion is generally dated A.D. 35 or 36. The crucifixion probably took place in A.D. 30. Thus we see from the witness of S. Paul that, within six years of the alleged event, the belief in it was universally held by Christians, for the witness of his epistles is of such a character as entirely to exclude the notion that the belief can have grown up or come to be widely accepted after his conversion. The belief is thus pushed back to an earlier date, which leaves no time for the gradual growth of legend or myth.

But apart Next to the witness of the Apostle of the Gentiles may be placed that of the Apostle of the Circumcision. S. Peter's First Epistle begins with the doctrine of "the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pet. i. 3), which is referred to as a known and acknowledged fact again in ch. i. 21 and iii. 21.

1 Westcott, The Gospel of the Resurrection, p. 105, The only epistles of S. Paul in which there is no direct reference to the resurrection are Second Thessalonians, Titus, and Philemon.

Reference may also be made to the early preaching of the apostles as preserved in the Acts of the Apostles. The tendency of modern criticism is on the whole to confirm more and more S. Luke's accuracy as an historian, and we cannot doubt that in these early chapters we have a faithful representation of the history of the first days of the Christian Church, and of the character of the apostolic preaching. We find, then, not only that Matthias was elected at S. Peter's suggestion, in the place of the traitor Judas, to be "a witness of the resurrection" (Acts i. 22), but that the literal fact of the resurrection occupies the foremost position in S. Peter's own speeches on the day of Pentecost (ii. 24– 36); in Solomon's Porch (üi. 15; cf. iv. 33); before the Council (v. 30); and in the house of Cornelius (x. 40).

The evidence, thus summarised, is independent of that in the Gospels. Much, if not all of it, would still remain, even if they could be shown to be comparatively late compilations. But the fact that there is such a wealth of testimony to the truth of the resurrection affords a striking confirmation of the veracity of the evangelists' accounts of it. The fact is, of course, stated by all four evangelists. On some details their narratives may be hard to harmonise, but on the main fact their witness is clear and precise, and leaves no room for doubt that they at least believed the resurrection as a true and literal fact. “ Indeed,” says Bishop Westcott,“ taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no single historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it."

One minor point deserves a brief notice before leaving the subject of the witness of Scripture to the resurrection. It will be observed that the Article asserts that "Christ did truly arise." It is sometimes stated that this is not the way in which the fact is represented in Scripture, as there the action is ascribed to the Father, who is said to have raised Christ from the dead. Certainly, it is true that in the vast majority of instances the Father is spoken of as the agent, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ is regarded as an awakening effected by His power (see Acts ü. 15, iv. 10, v. 30, x. 40; Rom. iv. 24, viii. 11, etc.). But there are other passages in which it is spoken of definitely as a rising again on the part of the Son. In S. John ii. 19 our Lord Himself says distinctly" of the temple of His body” “I will raise it up," while in x. 18 He expressly asserts His right not only to "lay down ” His life, but to “ take it again.” And if He could thus claim the action as His own, it will surely be felt that no further justification is required for the use of the active voice arise" in this Article as in the creeds of the Church.3

(6) The nature of the resurrection body.The state* The Gospel of the Resurrection, p. 133. Fuller consideration of the evidence of the resurrection is not attempted here, because it seems to belong more properly to the subject of Christian evidences. For a careful statement of it, and a criticism of the theory of visions, reference may be made to Row's Bampton Lectures. vi. and vii.

Of. Westcott on S. John ii. 22. 8 In the Western Creeds the word used is always resurrexit. those of the East it is as regularly dvaotávta. 'Eyelpeolas, the passive, is the word more commonly used in Scripture, but draorîvai and åréoth occur in S. Mark viii. 31, ix. 9, xvi. 9; S. Luke xxiv. 7, 46 ; S. John xx. 9; Acts x. 41, xvii. 3; 1 Thess. iv. 14.


« PreviousContinue »