« PreviousContinue »
the dead. This is a day to be had in everlasting remembrance; a day which was first observed by the Apostles, and shall continue to be the yearly festival of our Lord's resurrection, as Sunday is the weekly, to the end of the world. They began together, and shall end together, or rather shall pass into the endless festival of a joyful eternity, in raptures of praise to the Lamb that was slain, and is alive again, and liveth and reigneth for
"I beheld," says St. John, "and I heard the voice of many Angels round about the throne, and the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" (Rev. v. 11, 12, 13). With Angels, therefore, and Archangels, and all the company of heaven above, the Church below unites her voice, to praise and magnify her Redeemer, Who by His glorious victory reconciled all things in heaven and earth.
"This day," says St. Chrysostom," is a day of rejoicing on earth, and it is a festival also in heaFor if the conversion of one sinner gives the Angels joy, how much more exalted must the rejoicings be, when the whole is rescued from the
tyranny of the devil? This," he adds, "is the beloved and saving festival, the foundation of our peace, the end of our differences, the destruction of death, the ruin of the devil; and now the Church was able to say, O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" Many and great are the titles of honour which antiquity has stamped upon this day. It is called by the early writers, "the paschal joy, the bright and glorious day of Christ's rising from the dead, the noblest of the Christian solemnities, the holy and venerable day that brought life into the world, the queen of feasts, the greatest of all festivals, the highest of all Sundays, the day in which salvation was given to the world," with other like terms of distinction.
The whole office appointed by the Church is fitted to celebrate this great blessing which has brought life out of death, and raises the devout soul into the highest strains of holy gladness, praise, and thanksgiving. At the same time, amidst our eucharistic joys and exaltations, the Church is careful to press upon our hearts the duty and necessity of conforming to our Saviour's death by dying to sin, and to His resurrection by rising with Him to righteousness. And thus the ancient Fathers exhorted their hearers to improve the mystery which they commemorated. "Christ is risen from the dead," says St. Gregory Nazianzen; "rise ye with Him. Christ has resumed His body; return to the state of happiness which you had forfeited. Christ has left the grave; break the bonds of your sins. The gates of hell are broken; death is conquered; the old Adam is
destroyed, and the new Adam formed; be ye made new creatures in Christ."
This is the temper of mind with which our Church, as did the ancient Church, requires us to celebrate the triumphant festival of Christ's resurrection. He, by His glorious victory, has completely conquered the devil, sin, and death, and delivered us from our ghostly enemies, who are infinitely more to be feared than were Pharaoh and his army; but it is that we may serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life. To this purpose we pray in the Collect, that the good desires which His grace has put into our minds may produce good effects in our life and practice; and this again is strongly urged upon us by the second Morning Lesson and the Epistle, which refer to the holy sacrament of Baptism, and shew us how it both signifies and works a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness.
The history of the Passover, in the morning, leads us as a type directly to Christ, the pure and spotless Lamb, crucified and slain for us, and our redemption from sin and unrighteousness. He has fulfilled and abolished the Jewish Passover, and, in place of it, has instituted and commanded the life-giving memorial of all that He did and suffered, in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. When He instituted it, He gave Himself to die for us, and He left it to His Church, thereby to shew forth His death and plead His merits for pardon, grace, and glory, till He shall come again to the general resurrection and final judgment.
We must celebrate and keep this blessed mys
tery, the Christian sacrifice and Christian feast, by spiritually applying and performing the directions which were given with regard to the Jewish. We must thoroughly purge out the old leaven of malice and wickedness, and in sincerity and truth, with humility and meekness, eat the heavenly bread; having been first cleansed by Baptism, the Christian circumcision, and having by the bitter herbs of repentance corrected our daily errors. Our loins must be girded about, by restraining and mortifying all inordinate affections; our feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace; with staves in our hands, as travelling pilgrims, who must ward off and watch against fleshly lusts which war against the soul: and we must not linger, but eat in haste, to hold on our way from Egypt, delivered from the bondage of corruption, and advancing with all speed in the way of holiness, to the promised land of heavenly rest and happiness.
The blood of Christ has opened to us a way into the heavenly sanctuary, and He has appointed ministers and sacraments to conduct us thither, being Himself the eternal unchangeable Highpriest over the house of God. Therefore let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water; having kept our baptismal purity undefiled, or having been cleansed from any stains, less or greater, by sincere repentance, in proportion to the guilt.
So St. Peter comforts the sorrowful and penitent heart, stung with the sharp sense of sin, in
the second Evening Lesson, in which we find him now undaunted in the profession of his Lord; for on the very day of His resurrection, his gracious Lord appeared to him, healed his broken heart, and inspired him with holy zeal to publish the fulfilment and certain truth of the triumph over death which had been before foretold. That early in the morning He rose from the grave and overcame the power of the enemy, as Pharaoh and his forces were once drowned in the Red Sea.
When we read in the First Lesson of that miraculous overthrow, and find in it a type of the overthrow of sin and deliverance from bondage, we are reminded of that passage in the prophecy of Micah, "According to the days of thy coming out of the land of Egypt, will I shew unto him marvellous things." Then, after making mention of the subduing of nations of enemies, the most marvellous of all deliverances follows in the address of praise to the Divine Deliverer, God our Saviour: "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He retaineth not His anger for ever, because He delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, He will have compassion upon us, and Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which Thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old." This is the real mercy and truth, pardon and deliverance from the punishment and power of sin, which the Church