Endowed with Righteousness

From “A Homily of the Resurrection of our Savior Jesus Christ for Easter Day,” Second Book of Homilies (1563)

It pleased our Savior not straightway to withdraw himself from the bodily presence and sight of his disciples, but he chose forty days wherein he would declare to them by manifold and strong arguments and tokens that he had conquered death, and that he was truly risen again to life…

First, he sent his angels to the sepulcher, who did show to certain women the empty grave, saving that the burial linen remained there, and by these signs were these women fully instructed that he was risen again, and so did they testify to it openly. After this Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, and after that to certain other women, and straight afterward he appeared to Peter, then to the two disciples who were going to Emmaus. He appeared to the disciples also, as “they were gathered together for fear of the Jews, the doors shut.” At another time he was seen at the sea of Tiberias by Peter and Thomas and of other disciples when they were fishing. He was seen by more than five hundred brethren in the mount of Galilee, where Jesus appointed them to be, by his angel, when he said, “behold, he shall go before you into Galilee; there shall you see him as he has said to you.” After this he appeared to James, and last of all he was visibly seen by all the apostles at such time as he was taken up into heaven. Thus, at sundry times he showed himself after he was risen again…

And in these revelations sometimes he showed them his hands, his feet, his side, and bade them touch him, that they should not think he was a ghost or spirit. Sometimes he also did eat with them, but ever he was talking with them of the everlasting kingdom of God… You see good Christian people how necessary this article of our faith is, seeking it was proved by Christ himself by such evident reasons and tokens by so long a time. Now, as our savior was diligent for our comfort and instruction to declare it, so let us be ready in our belief to receive it to our comfort and instruction…

His death took away sin and malediction, his death was the ransom of them both, his death destroyed death and overcame the devil… His death destroyed hell with all the damnation thereof. Thus, death is swallowed up by Christ’s victory, thus is hell spoiled forever. If any one doubt this victory, let Christ’s glorious resurrection declare him the thing. If death could not keep Christ under his dominion and power, but that he rose again, it is manifest that death’s power was overcome. If death is conquered, then it follows that sin is conquered, as death was the appointed wage of sin. If death and sin are vanquished, then is the devil’s tyranny vanquished, for the devil had the power of death, was the author and brewer of sin, and the ruler of hell. If Christ had the victory of them all by the power of his death and openly proved it by his most victorious and valiant resurrection, as it was not possibly for his great might to be subdued by them, and then this is true, Christ “died for our sins and rose again for our justification.”

This mighty conquest of his resurrection was not only signified before by diverse figures in the Old Testament – Samson when he slew the lion, out of whose mouth came sweetness and honey; David when he delivered the lamb from the lion’s mouth, and when he overcame and slew the great giant Goliath; Jonah who was swallowed by the whale and cast up again on land to live – but also most clearly prophesied by the prophets of the Old Testament and confirmed in the New Testament by the apostles. “He has spoiled,” St. Paul says, “rule and power” and all the dominion of our spiritual enemies; “he has made a show of them openly and has triumphed over them in his own person.”

This is the mighty power of the Lord in whom we trust. By his death has he wrought for us the victory, and by his resurrection has he purchased everlasting life and righteousness for us. It was not enough for him to deliver us from sin by his death, except by his resurrection we are endowed with righteousness… He paid the ransom of sin that it should not be laid to our charge. He destroyed the devil and all his tyranny, and openly triumphed over him, and took away from him all his captives, and has raised and set them with himself among the heavenly citizens above.

As the Jews did eat their lamb and kept their feast in remembrance of their deliverance out of Egypt, let us keep the Easter feast in thankful remembrance of Christ’s benefits which he has plentifully wrought for us by his resurrection and passing to his Father, whereby we are delivered from the captivity and thralldom of our enemies. Let us in like manner pass over the affections of our old conversation that we may be delivered form the bondage thereof and rise with Christ.

The two Books of Homilies (1547 & 1563) were written to teach the reformed doctrine of the Church of England in local congregations, and were originally appointed to be read out during worship by parish priests, few of whom originally had licenses to preach. The Second Book of Homilies was mostly the work of Bishop John Jewel of Salisbury (1522-1571), a noted polemical theologian, who wrote the first major defense of the Church of England’s structure and worship. 


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