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OUR LORD CHRIST BURIED.
“And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre."—Aots xiii. 29.
THE way in which our text was fulfilled is described by the Evangelists. Let us read their record from St. Matt. xxvii. 57-66, and St. John xix. 31–42.
Last Sabbath evening, following the order of the words in the fourth Article of our Creed, we were witnesses of our Lord's death. We are now to attend his funeral and burial ; such a funeral as never was since graves were first digged, or tombs first cut out of the rocks, nor ever will be again till tombs and graves are no more. The Evangelists tell us of the preparation made for the funeral, both as to the body of our Lord and as to the tomb to receive it. And then they tell us who were the bearers of the sacred body, and their attendants, and as to how the funeral was conducted. The funeral was public, solemn, and decent. There was no pomp or empty show ; no hypocrisy in tears or outcries; no hired mourners; but there were melting hearts and flowing eyes over his tomb. There was deep, unutterable feeling in the breasts of those who laid Jesus in Joseph's tomb.
THE FULNESS OF OUR CREED.
In many of the ancient Creeds, the two particulars, “buried,” and “descended into hell," are joined together as one Article ; or else the latter phrase, “He descended into hell," was wholly omitted ; or, if inserted, was regarded as the substance of the former, and stood in its room. But, for quite sufficient reasons, I prefer the whole Article as we have it : “Suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried." It is necessary for us now, however, to consider these two particulars separately. “He descended into hell,” according to Bishop Pearson, belongs to the fifth Article of the Creed, and should be taken together with the words, “third day He rose again from the dead."
One purpose, at least, is secured by the use of all these words: “Buried ; He descended into hell :"-namely, we have a wonderful fulness, distinctness, and security for every thing mentioned in the Scriptures concerning our Lord's person and sufferings, concerning his arrest, arraignment, and treatment by Pilate and Herod, and of his conduct on the cross, his actual death and burial, and how He was employed while his body lay in the tomb: all these particulars are comprehended in the scope of the Article professed as a part of our faith; and when we remember how many spurious gospels were afloat in the early ages of the Church, and how many crude notions were in the minds of philosophic Gentile converts, we are not at all surprised that the ancient formulas of the Faith of the Church should be so full and particular about so many of the incidents of our Lord's last hours, and burial and resurrection. Our Creed specially makes mention of our Lord's burial to oppose the erroneous views of Simon Magus and the Docetæ, or Phantasiasts, as they were called, who denied the reality of our Lord's human nature, and said that He had no true body, and did not therefore really suffer, but only seemed to do so; that all the history is unreal-a mere appearance. We know that such errors began even in the lifetime of the Apostles themselves, as we learn from 1 John iv. 1-3: “ Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is of God : and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."
In the previous discourses, I have attempted to prove that the DIVINITY and the HUMANITY of our Lord were not confused or mingled, but each perfect in its own nature, and so remained, and is so still, and yet constituting one person forever; and that the perfect humanity of our Lord consisted of “a true body and a reasonable soul,” and that his dying was, like the death of Adam or of St. Paul, the separation of his “reasonable soul” from his “true body;"—that the death of the Son of God did not consist in His Divinity freeing itself from and leaving his humanity, but in the dissolution of his soul from his body. And from this it follows, that his burial was the sepulture of his dead body, according to the custom of his countrymen at the time.
The reality of our Lord's death is clearly demonstrated by the actual commitment of his body to the grave, and is acknowledged by the Apostles in their discourses and epistles. St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xv., declares that the burial of our Lord was one among the other great Articles of our
THE REALITY OF CHRIST'S BURIAL.
holy religion, which he was accustomed to preach as a matter of faith. His words here are so remarkable, I beg you will especially notice them. Please to read with me from 1 Cor. chapter xv., beginning with the first verse, and onward to the end of the fourth verse :
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand :
2. * By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in yain.
3. “For I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.
4. “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
In maintaining the proposition of this Article of our Creed, that Christ was buried, I desire to call your attention:
To the fact that the burial of Jesus of Nazareth, crucified under Pontius Pilate, was in exact fulfilment of the Holy Scriptures concerning the Messiah. This will be sufficiently proven from two things : First, that according to Jewish prophecies and types, the promised Messiah was to be buried ; and, secondly, according to our sacred records, Jesus was buried precisely in the way the long promised Messiah was to be buried, and therefore our Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Christ of God, the Saviour of sinners. These points are after Pearson's manner.
I. The Jewish Messiah was to be buried.
As kindness to the aged and unfortunate distinguishes Christianity from Paganism, so does the respect shown in the burial of the pious dead. It was urged by the Emperor Julian the Apostate, that one of the great inducements held out to the heathen to turn Christians was the care that would be taken of them at death, and the funeral solemnities with which they would be honored. It is true the early Christians not only showed becoming honor at their funerals to their dead, because the majority of them at first were Jews, and as such they had been carefully educated in such a custom ; but also, perhaps, as a mark of peculiar affection to the faithful, as one with them in Christ, and in the hope of the resurrection of the dead. As the Gospel in India changes the funeral pile of the widow into decent mourning, so Christianity taught the heathen from the beginning to bury the dead, while remembering their virtues, in hope of life and immortality. Thus we read that when Ananias died, though he died for his sin, yet they “wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.” And when Stephen was stoned, “devout men carried him to his burial, and made great lamentation over him ;” and when Dorcas died, “they washed her, and laid her in an upper chamber,"' to get her ready for her burial. Burying the body is moreover eminently proper among Christians with respect to their bodies, which are “temples of the Holy Ghost," and are purchased by Christ as well as their souls. The bodies of believers are therefore at the resurrection to be made like unto his own glorious body. Surely, then, it is becoming for them to be laid in the wardrobe of the grave with such solemnity and propriety as if we expected them to come forth at last to an immortal and glorious life.