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Evangelists; but these have been frequently reconciled by the critics, and especially in that excellent work of West on the resurrection of Christ, and in M'Knight's Harmony of the Gospels. Nay, from the seeming inconsistency, it may be inferred, to the advantage of the Evangelists, that they did not write in concert; which doubtless they would and must have done had they endeavored to impose upon the world "a cunningly devised fable." But truth, like honesty, oftentimes neglects appearances. Hypocrisy and imposture are always guarded.
§ 6. The perseverance of the disciples in their testimony, to the end, is a very striking proof that they believed the resurrection of Jesus to be a fact. In general, the more wicked a traitor is, the more he trembles, alters, and confesses at the approach of death. Having betrayed, for his own interest, the law of his country, the interests of society, the confidence of his prince, and the credit of religion, he betrays the companion of his imposture, the accomplices of his crimes. Here, on the contrary, the apostles persist in their testimony till death, and sign the truths they have published with the last drop of their blood. What Christian ever contradicted himself? What Christian ever impeached his accomplices? What Christian ever discovered this pretended imposture?
Hence, it is evident, my dear Benjamin, that the apostles believed the truth and reality of the resurrection of Christ; and hence the apostle Peter, who was one of the witnesses, appeals to the church in behalf of himself and the rest of his brethren, where he says, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of his majesty." 2 Pet. 2: 16.
§7. I am perfectly aware, my dear Benjamin, that it may be said, "Granted the apostles believed what they testified, yet they may have been mistaken." Doubtless many may have died as martyrs to their peculiar opinions and senti
ments, and yet they were mistaken. But this could not have been the case with regard to the subject in hand. The apostles could not be mistaken. This will evidently appear, if we consider, that,
It was a matter of fact, and not of mere opinion. Their judgment was guided and informed by the exercise of their senses. They had the same "infallible proofs" of Christ's being alive after his sufferings and death, as they had of his being alive before it. They saw him, saw the particular marks of identity in his person and countenance, in his hands, feet, and side, which had been pierced at the cross. And Thomas, who had refused to believe it, except he put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side, had that farther satisfaction, unreasonable as it was, granted him, and the effect was, that he exclaimed, My Lord and my God!" Farther, they saw him also eat; they heard him speak, and were by him commanded to handle him, and see that he was flesh and bones. The evidence was so clear and convincing, that the apostles were emboldened to preach this doctrine in opposition to all contradictions and hardships. "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." St. Luke informs us, that what he wrote he "had a perfect understanding of from the very first." And the apostle John says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life; that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you." That profound reasoner, Mr. Saurine, speaking of the facts, says, "Had they been metaphysical reasons, depending on a chain of principles and consequences; had they been periods of chronology, depending on long and difficult calculations; had they been distant events, which could only have been known by the relation of others, their reasonings might have been suspected; but they are facts which are in question; facts which the witnesses declared they had seen with their own
eyes, at divers places, and at several times. Had they seen Jesus Christ? Had they touched him? Had they sat at the table and eaten with him? All these are questions of facts; it is impossible they could be deceived in them."
§ 8. It was not an individual, or a few, who said that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. The imagination of one might have been so wrought upon, by a desire of seeing Jesus again, that he might have fancied he had actually seen him; but when he was seen by a number of pious women, by Peter, by the disciples in the way to Emmaus, by the ten apostles, and again afterwards when Thomas was with them, and, lastly, by more than five hundred brethren, what possible room is there left for doubt or suspicion? And as they were many in number, so also they saw him often, as is evident from the statement in the first paragraphs of the preceding letter.
§ 9. The incredulity of the apostles is another proof that they were not deceived. Had they been persons forward and credulous, then we might have cause to suspect what they said, their testimony might have been looked upon as the product of a fond precipitancy, and not of sober reason and conviction. But they were far otherwise. Notwithstanding the repeated promises of our Lord, that he would rise again from the dead, yet when they were told that he had actually risen, "their words seemed to them as idle tales," and they believed them not; they looked upon the story which the women had told, as a mere scheme, or as the delusion of a disordered imagination. The two disciples, in the way to Emmaus, acknowledged that the news brought by the women, of the resurrection of Christ, was rather a matter of astonishment and perplexity to them, than welcome news. Hence the Lord Jesus reproved their unbelief, saying, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" and having opened their eyes, so that they knew him, they immediately went up to Jerusalem to the apostles, and told them that the Lord had risen indeed,
and had appeared to them, but "they believed them not;" "whilst they were yet speaking, Jesus himself appeared in the midst of them, and said, Peace be unto you; but they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit." To dispel their fears, and remove their doubts, Jesus came forward and spake to them, and showed them his hands and feet, desiring them to handle him, and be convinced, by the united report of their senses, that it was he. Thus, you perceive, my dear Benjamin, that the apostles would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even after they had received the testimony of the pious women, and of Peter, and of the two disciples that came from Emmaus, and even after they themselves had seen Jesus standing in the midst of them, until they had actually looked attentively to his hands and feet; nay, although they began to rejoice and be glad, yet their minds were still wavering and full of doubts. Jesus, therefore, knowing their thoughts, called for meat, and did eat with them, to prove more fully the certain truth of his resurrection from the dead, and the reality of his presence with them on this occasion.
10. Yet after all these ocular and sensible demonstrations of the reality of the resurrection of Christ, something more was necessary to remove from their minds the deep rooted prejudices against the sufferings and death of the Messiah, and their worldly expectation of an earthly kingdom; therefore the Lord Jesus "breathed" on them, and said "reccive ye the Holy Ghost." The effect of this spiri tual illumination was, that by perceiving the agreeableness of the things which had befallen him with the ancient prophecies respecting Messiah, their minds were quieted, and perfectly satisfied, respecting the necessity of his sufferings, as well as the reality of his resurrection. Thus the credu lity of the apostles is overruled for the confirmation of our faith; that they were not deceived in preaching the resurrection of Christ.
11. In addition to what has been said, I cannot but no
tice the conduct of St. Thomas, overruled by the condescension of our Lord, as another proof of the validity of his resurrection; it is thus recorded and needs no comment.— "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came; the other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord; but he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. Then after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you. Then said he unto Thomas, reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said. unto him, My Lord and My God; Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed, blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed."
§ 12. Now, my dear Benjamin, we have seen and examined the testimonies of holy angels, of pious women, of inveterate enemies, and of disinterested and honest men, and I trust you will be convinced that the "Lord is risen indeed." But such is the importance of the subject, (as will be shown,) that although I have already detained you so long, I must beg your attention for a few moments longer to the testimony of God himself; for if we receive the witness of men, surely the witness of God is greater. For God, who is truth himself, will never set the seal of his omnipotence to a lie. Our Lord had promised to his disciples the Holy Spirit, who should be to them a comforter, and with respect to himself, an advocate to plead his cause and defend his innocence: this promise was partially fulfilled, on the very day of his resurrection, (as has been shown in the preceding §.) "he breathed on his disciples, and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost." And after his ascension on the day of Pentecost, he bestowed the Holy Ghost more plentifully;