« ÎnapoiContinuă »
city and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done," i. e. gave them an account of the earthquake, and of the vision of the angel that rolled away the stone, and of the empty sepulchre.
Nor is it unlikely that the soldiers told many of the things that had happened before they were bribed by the high priest. Thus, whilst the priests proposed to prevent our Lord's resurrection from being palmed upon the world, resolving no doubt to show his body publicly after the third day as an impostor, they put the truth of Christ's resurrection beyond all question, by furnishing a number of unexceptionable witnesses to it, whose testimony they themselves could not refuse.
§ 8. Thirdly, The testimony of the pious women deserves our next consideration.
These having gone to the sepulchre with the spices they had prepared, found the stone rolled away, and saw angels, who declared the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead, and commissioned them to go and tell the apostles of it, and to direct them to go to Galilee, where Jesus had appointed to meet them. Accordingly, they hastened to obey the heavenly command, and behold Jesus himself met them, bid them "All hail," and confirmed the commission they had received. Thus they were well qualified to testify of the resurrection of Christ upon sensible and sure evidence, having heard it with their own ears from the lips of holy angels; and seen the Lord Jesus himself with their own eyes. Here we may see, my dear Benjamin, the truth of God's word, "them that honor me I will honor, and they that dispise me shall be lightly esteemed." 1 Saml. 2: 30. These pious women first saw the Lord after his resurrection, and were made as it were apostles to the apostles. This was an honour put upon them, and a recompense for their constant affectionate adherence to him at the cross and in the grave, and a rebuke to the disciples who forsook him
Still God chooseth the weak things of the world
to confound the mighty; and puts the treasure not only into earthen vessels, but here into the weaker vessels. In my next letter we shall examine the testimony of the apostles. Farewell.
CONTINUATION OF THE SUBJECT.
My dear Benjamin,
1. Fourthly. I will now call your attention to the testimonies of the apostles.
That they preached the resurrection of Christ, is not denied by any. It was one great part of their office to testify of the resurrection of Christ. On this account Peter urged the necessity of electing another apostle in the place of Judas, Acts, 1:21, 22, and he made it a prominent part of his sermon to Cornelius and his household, saying "We are witnesses of all things which he said both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they slew, and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead." Acts, 10:39-41. See also Acts, 1:22. 3:15. 4:2, 33. 17:30, 32. 13: 31. 15:18.
Now, the apostles must either have believed the resurrection of Christ to be a fact, or they must have conspired to act the part of deceivers, to impose upon the world by asserting to be fact what they knew to be false. That the latter could not be the case, is evident,
2. From their character. They were men of God, of unspotted character, unblemished honesty and integrity.
Men of that sort would neither tell a lie, nor sanction it. When Ananias and Sapphira attempted to impose upon the apostles by telling a lie, Peter told them that their punishment was death, which immediately took place. In all their writings, the apostles enforced the duty of speaking truth upon all occasions, and enforced the duty by the considerations of a judgment day. In Eph. 4; 25, the apostle commands that, "putting away lying, they speak every man truth with his neighbor." And again in Col. 3:9, "Lie not one to another." Nay, it is very evident that they considered it sinful for any man to lie, even out of zeal for the glory of God. For says the apostle, "If the truth of God has more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil that good may come? whose damnation is just." Rom. 3: 7, 8.
Now, that any men, who firmly believed that God would punish them for speaking an untruth, though for the advancement of a good cause, should, at the hazard of their lives, and without a prospect of gain or advantage, make assertions, which at the same time they knew to be false; should, for instance, affirm that they saw and conversed with Jesus Christ after his resurrection, knowing or believ ing that he was not risen from the dead, and expect to be judged hereafter by that very same Jesus, is too impossible to gain credit.
The motives of their actions show the excellency of their character. The motives by which wicked men are actuated they detested. "Gold and silver they had none;" the honours and pleasures of the world they renounced; poverty, reproach, sufferings and martyrdom they expected and met with; and all this, because they preached the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing else but an attachment to their Lord and Master, through evil as well as good report, could be their motive. Besides, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, in
stead of feeling such an attachment to him, as to constrain them to do and suffer all things in honor of him, we should have expected that his disciples would have publicly declared him to have been an impostor and deceiver, because he had so often declared, that after three days he would rise again.
§ 3. That they were no impostors, appears from their mode and manner of procedure. Had they published the resurrection of Christ first in distant countries, after the lapse of so many years, it might have been supposed that distance of place and time, rendering it exceedingly difficult for their hearers to obtain exact information, had facilitated the establishment of error, and concealed deception. But the apostles, agreeably to instruction received from their Lord and Master, "to commence at Jerusalem," preached first the resurrection on the day of Pentecost, in that city, in the public synagogues, in the very place where the Savior had been condemned and executed, had died, and been buried, and his tomb guarded by a band of soldiers, who declared that the body was not found in the grave on the first day of the week. Now, my dear Benjamin, would impos tors have acted thus? Suppose that a set of men had determined to deceive and impose upon the public a report that a certain well-known person who had been executed in the city of New-York, and publicly buried, had a few days afterwards risen again from the grave, and had appeared repeatedly to different public characters, to whom he was well known, and with whom he had conversed, ate, and drank, would they commence to circulate this report within a few days after the fact is said to have taken place, in the city of New-York, in the most public places, where it was within the power of all to inquire of the persons to whom he is said to have appeared, and to examine, and re-examine, all the circumstances of the case; or would they not rather go to a remote part of the country, where it was not in the power of the people to contradict the report, and where,
however strange and incredible it might appear to some, yet it would find credit with many, for want of evidence to the contrary. Besides,
4. The apostles preached the resurrection of Christ before such persons as were perfectly qualified to detect the imposture, if such had been the case. Their testimony was examined by Jews and heathens, by philosophers and rabbins, and by an infinite number of people who went annually to Jerusalem. "For, my brethren," saith the great Mr. Saurine, "Providence so ordered these circumstances that the testimony of the apostles might not be suspected. Providence continued Jerusalem forty years after the resurrection of our Lord, that all the Jews in the world might examine the evidence concerning it, and obtain authentic proof of the truth of Christianity. I repeat it again, then, the apostles maintained the resurrection of Jesus Christ before Jews, before Pagans, before philosophers, before rabbins, before courtiers, before lawyers, before people expert in examining and cross-examining witnesses, in order to lead them into self-contradiction. Had the apostles borne testimony in consequence of a preconcerted plot between themselves, is it not morally certain, that as they were examined before such different and capable men, some one would have discovered the pretended fraud?"
§ 5. Another proof that the apostles believed the resurrection of Christ as a fact, arises from the harmony of their testimony. They all unanimously deposed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It is very extraordinary, that a gang of five hundred impostors, (I speak the language of infidels,) a company in which there must needs be people of different capacities and tempers, the witty and the dull, the timid and the bold; it is very strange that such a numerous body as this should maintain an unity of evidence. This, however, is the case of our witnesses. It is indeed acknowledged that there are appearances of inconsistency in the history of the resurrection of Christ, given by the four