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Spirit and full ecclesiastical powers were conferred on the Apostles before the ascension.
Do we accept all these incongruities as revelation, recording the utterance of an omniscient Being conscious that the Christianity of futurity would condemn unbaptized babes to eternal fire, consign monotheists to the stake, and claim universal dominion over the reason and conscience of Humanity, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth ? Or, are we not rather reading the blundering efforts of credulous Piety sustaining a constructive resurrection through the current traditions of the second century?
Paul, or whoever may have written the First Epistle to the Corinthians, further complicates the story of the resurrection by affirming that Jesus was first seen by Peter, then by the twelve apostles, afterwards by five hundred brethren at once, the majority of whom were then living, and finally by Paul himself, who, in thus classing the vision on the road to Damascus with antecedent appearances of Jesus, assigns to all the character of impalpable phantoms.?
Is it on inspired authority that Peter is thus substituted for Mary; or is this merely Pauline rejection of the important position held by woman in the drama of the Resurrection? But what shall we say of the writer who considered that if Jesus be not risen from the dead, his followers are the most miserable of mankind, and yet neglected to preserve for posterity the names and attested evidence of the surviving majority of the five hundred witnesses ?
To what source do we, therefore, trace the legend
1 John xx.
2 Cor. xv. 5-8,
of the Resurrection ? The fourth Evangelist records that on the first day of the week, while it was yet dark, Mary Magdalene visited the sepulchre alone, saw the stone rolled away, and hastened to inform Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been removed. The two Apostles ran to the tomb, saw that the body was not there, and returned home without further inquiry. But Mary remained weeping at the tomb, and saw an apparition of Jesus.
The bereaved convulsionnaire, distracted by the appalling horror of a felon’s death inflicted on her dear Lord and Master, went forth with the dawn to visit the sepulchre, in that condition of nervous tension which evokes mere phantoms in all the semblance of reality. What, therefore, more natural than that she should see an apparition of Jesus, and that her excited report of the marvellous vision originated belief in the Resurrection of the Messiah, around which subsequently clustered the unattested legends, accepted as authentic by the evangelical compilers of the second century?
The details of the Messianic apparition are further amplified in the Gospel of John by a conversation between Jesus and Mary, so irreconcilable with Divinity or Humanity as to disclose the presence of legendary fiction. If Jesus had appeared as an omnipresent God, could he have exclaimed-Touch me not ; for I have not yet ascended to my Father,'—as if it were obligatory on Divinity to undergo some form of ceremonial purification in heaven, before touching the hand of Mary? If he spoke as the Son of Man, could he have thus repulsed his most faithful and devoted disciple? And if Mary had suddenly passed from despair to joy
fulness, could she have gone forth from the presence of her beloved Lord, without one more word than Rabboni—Master ?
Primitive Christianity, therefore, rests on faith in the Resurrection, attested by nothing more than hearsay evidence.
And if the Messianic age had been postponed till the nineteenth century, men, who now mistake inherited superstition for rational conviction, would reject with absolute incredulity a Messiah said to have privately risen from the dead, according to the statements of his immediate followers.
Evangelists tell us that the Resurrection was carefully concealed from all but the most intimate friends of Jesus ; on what possible grounds could he, therefore, have denied the proofs of immortality to the millions whose salvation depends on the truth of the miracle? Orthodoxy answers that thus our faith is tested by inscrutable wisdom. But this pious formula is equally applicable to the Eucharistic miracle, the Assumption of Mary, and the Trinitarian mystery. Who, therefore, shall determine the limits of faith, when we have parted with the evidence of our senses, the results of experience, and the conclusions of reason ?
In harmony with poetic justice, we would, doubtless, all rejoice at the restoration to life of this noble victim of superstition and intolerance. But, in the absence of a single shred of rational proof, to place against the overwhelming evidence of the ages, that the dead return no more, the fiction of Messianic resurrection is but an illusory dream ; and it remains for us to deplore the irreparable loss sustained by mankind through the premature death of the Son of Man, which robs us of the higher wisdom to which he would have attained under the refining influence of maturer years. His brief career, depicted in no attested annals, has become the nucleus of protean systems, identifying his name with the follies, superstitions, and barbarism of the ages;
but it has been reserved for this century of vaunted intelligence to witness the dishonour of his memory in the modern craze of martial evangelists, inviting men to join in the spiritual orgies of hysterical fanaticism through the vulgar attractions of flaunting banners and sacrilegious drums, whose sound might well recall the Son of Man to earth to denounce this tumultuous parody of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Had Peter, James, or John proposed to attract the congregation of the Mount with brazen trumpets, with what scathing wrath would not Jesus have rejected the mere thought of inviting candidates for the Kingdom of Heaven by the vulgar attractions immemorially associated with the cultus of heathen gods! And could he have foreseen, as he preached repentance and forgiveness on the Mount, that future generations would witness' converts ' hastening to the sound of martial music, to relate their experiences' to men, instead of whispering their sins to God, Jesus would have doubtless added the following exhortation to his discourse :- Take heed that ye do not confess your sins before men, to be
1 Extract from the Times,' September 22, 1882:- A brass band accompanied the songs of the Army. Besides brass instruments, all diversities of stringed and other instruments served to swell the volume of sound. There were cymbals, tambourines, concertinas, and "bones.” Among the incidents of the evening was the spirited rendering of a song descriptive of the army as the “ Lord's Brigade," with the motto “ blood and fire.” The vocalist, who had been an acrobat, jumped as he sang.'
heard by them : otherwise ye have no forgiveness from your Father which is in heaven. Therefore, when thou wouldst confess thy transgressions, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men; but enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, confess thy faults to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret will grant thee forgiveness.'
But the Son of Man believed too firmly in his second advent within a generation to anticipate future forms of human error; and all which he has left unsaid has given free scope to the fanciful creations of erratic piety, passing beyond the school of Galilee into the realms of superstition and fanaticism.