« НазадПродовжити »
them did stand to it to the last, which is a thing utterly inconceivable, upon a supposition that they were cheats ; for such always seek to impose on others, not themselves, and never fail, in cases like this, to detect and betray one another. Their Master had been crucified, their friend and fellow-disciple stoned to death in their sight, and the spirit of persecution was growing warmer and warmer both in the Jews and Romans; yet not one of them ever entertained a single thought of deserting the cause they had espoused. Now let common sense judge whether this is not, morally speaking, an impossibility, supposing them to have known their Master to be an impostor, and his resurrection a figment.
To all this there is but one objection that seems to deserve our consideration. The adversaries of Christianity ask, Why did not Christ appear, after his resurrection, to the unbelieving Jews, particularly to the high-priest and sanhedrim? Why were his own disciples singled out to be his witnesses, and not his enemies, whose conviction must have weighed more with posterity than that of his disciples, who were ignorant, prejudiced in his favour, and persons of too little importance or esteem to evidence so great and so extraordinary a fact?
In answer to this, it must be observed, that the enemies of Christ, and the unbelieving Jews, had abundant evidence of his mission and resurrection. As to his mission, they saw him do and suffer all the prophecies had foretold of him. And, as to his resurrection, what farther evidence did they want of that, than was actually given them? Did he not tell them, he would rise again the third day? Had they not his person in their power? Did they not pursue him till it was impossible to doubt of his death; and use the most unsurmountable precautions to prevent the stealing away his body? And when, nevertheless, they had not his body to produce, how could they question the reality of his resurrection ? They had, in short, evidence of this great event, sufficient for their own conviction, had they not been the most blind and perverse of mankind. All farther evidence must have been thrown away on such men, both in respect to their conviction, and that of others through them.
As to the attestation of this fact to the world, it required
two qualifications in the witnesses, knowledge and integrity: In both respects, the disciples of our Lord were the fittest witnesses. They could see, hear, feel, as well as men of higher note, and greater learning. They had received the instructions, and seen the other miracles, of their Master, which were to be attested as well as this. When one was to be elected into the place of Judas, this was the qualification judged necessary to the candidate : 'Of these men,' saith St. Peter, that have accompanied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection. This apostle, in like manner, shews elsewhere the propriety of the same qualification: God apointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did 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 shewed him openly, not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.
The disciples of Christ were also infinitely better fitted, in point of integrity, than his adversaries, to attest his resurrection. One artless honest witness, staking his life on his testimony, was more capable of evidencing such a fact, than a hundred cunning, designing, and wordly-minded men could be. No instance of folly and madness could equal that of Christ, in putting the proof of his mission on his resurrection, in case he had not been sure he should rise again ; excepting that of his disciples, in attesting this resurrection, supposing the fact to have been in their judgment at all doubtful. But such was the nature of the fact, that it was impossible they should have any doubt concerning it. They must have had the highest certainty, either that their Master did, or did not, rise again. If they knew he did not, what was the nature and end of their evidence? Why, its nature consisted in evidencing a lie; and its end was misery and death, to be suffered for a known impostor. This proves beyond all question, that their evidence was the evi
dence of honest men. We believe two witnesses, on their oaths; but would not the testimony of one sober and rational man, on his blood, weigh more with us than a hundred oaths ?
Had our Saviour appeared to the unbelieving Jews after he rose from the dead, it must have been either in order to their conversion, or, through their conviction, to the higher attestation of his resurrection..
As to their conversion, which would have been an act of grace and mercy from God, Christ did not appear to them, because they were excluded from this favour already by their own pride, obstinacy, and malice; and by the just curse of God, whose Son had already pronounced them guilty of the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost, for ascribing his other miracles to the power of the devil. Besides, they who were so blinded as not to be convinced by the former miracles, or so ill-hearted as to stifle their conviction, and persecute to death the worker of them, had Christ appeared to them after his death, would have ascribed this miracle also to Beelzebub. Undoubtedly they would have attempted to crucify him afresh; in which case, he must either have suffered a second death, which was contrary to all reason, or vanished out of their hands, which would have given them an occasion to say, they saw nothing but a phantom or apparition, and to call that phantom an evil spirit. In sober earnest, did such men as these deserve higher means of faith than we do? Or was it a fit thing. that they should be forced to believe? It is true, our Saviour appeared, after his resurrection, to St. Paul, at that time his bitterest enemy; and, by so doing, forced his faith. But here the case was quite different. St. Paul opposed Christianity, like an honest man, from a strong persuasion, that it was an imposture; and as, in this, he acted sincerely, according to his conscience, and could not be converted without a special miracle, our blessed Lord vouchsafed it to him, not so much for his own sake, as to make him a glorious instrument for the conversion of thousands.
As St. Paul acted an upright part before his conversion, he was a fit person to be employed in the service of the good cause he had opposed; and accordingly,when his conscience
became Christian, it was, to the full, as warm and active as formerly, when it was altogether Jewish.
But was this to have been expected from the high-priest, the members of the sanhedrim, or the Pharisees, those masters of dissimulation, those monsters of cruelty, those worldly-minded wretches, whose consciences lay in their hearts, and whose hearts were wholly given up to wealth and ambition? No; such persons were very unfit to become martyrs to a self-denying religion, which they had already engaged against by an act of murder. From men of this stamp nothing was to be expected but a Alat denial of what they had seen, in case Christ had appeared to them. This would have put the evidence for the resurrection on a more doubtful footing, than trusting it to the disciples alone did. Besides, a truth may be evaded, and the belief of it enfeebled, by explaining it away, and giving it a suspicious turn, much better than by a flat denial. For example; in the present case, had Christ appeared to the high-priest and Pharisees, they might, and probably would have said, they saw something that looked like him, in their opinion, either an empty delusion, or some one who resembled Christ in his person and countenance a little; but that it could not have been he, because, when they went to lay hands on him, he fled, or vanished out of their sight: for one of the two he must have done, or else suffered himself to be seized, and treated as before. Besides, many of them did not so much as know his face; and others that did, would probably have dissembled ignorance thereof.
But that we may not only, by probable conjectures, suppose what these men would have done had Christ appeared to them after his resurrection, we have a full proof in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, which demonstrates what I have been saying. Although they knew the prophets had foretold the resurrection of the Messiah; although they knew Christ had fulfilled all the other prophecies concerning the Messiah; although they were sensible he had wrought such miracles as were alone sufficient to prove his mission from God; yet when the soldiers who had been set to guard his tomb, and who had been terrified, while on their duty, with the earthquake, and the vision of an angel, had given
them a full account of all the things that were done in relation to the fact of his resurrection; instead of being made proselytes by this extraordinary evidence, or being led thereby to inquire farther into the matter, they bribed the soldiers to say his disciples had stolen him away while they slept.' Now let any man of common sense tell us whether these men were either deserving of higher proof than they had already received, or capable of receiving it; whether they were either likely to have been made witnesses of the fact, had Christ shewn himself to them after his resurrection; or, in case they had been gained, whether they had been fit witnesses to attest such a truth? Would they have gone about through the world to preach Christ? Would they have forsaken all their pomp and wealth, to follow a persecuted cause? Would they have sealed their testimony with their blood ? No; this cause required honest and faithful witnesses; but these men were altogether false and treacherous. This cause required witnesses who were ' zealous of good works,' and willing to suffer the utmost severities for it; but these men were more disposed to exercise the most inhuman cruelties for a bad cause, than to suffer the least inconveniency or loss for the best cause in the world.
Had Christ appeared to these men, either they would have continued in their unbelief, which would have greatly hurt the cause of Christianity, because it would have furnished such as had an aversion to the faith of a Christian with a pretence to say, his appearances satisfied none but his own ignorant and bigoted disciples; or they would have suffered themselves to be convinced, and have declared for Christianity. Now it is a question worth considering, whether this, which was the best that could have been expected, would have served the cause of Christianity, or not. For my part, I am clear in it, that it would have done infinite mischief to it. Had these men, together with Pontius Pilate, and the Romans who were on the spot, become evidences for the resurrection, either they must have converted all the rest of the Jews and Romans, or only some of them. Had they converted them all, we, in these later ages, would have suspected the whole of Christianity as a political contrivance, cooked up and vouched for by these artful statesmen, to take the place of Paganism, which was then losing