Page images
[ocr errors]

were done, that is, gave them an account of the earthquake, the vision, the rolling away of the stone. Moreover, they assured them that Jesus was actually risen from the dead. The chicf priests, having received this report, called the whole senate together, and consuited among themselves what they were to do. The deliberations, however, of the meeting were not kept secret. They were reported to the disciples, perhaps by Joseph and Nicodemus, two members of ihe council, who were our Lord's friends. That the soldiers informed the priests of Christ's resurrection cannot be doubted by any one who considers the measure which they took after deliberating upon the affair. [12.] And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money (i. e. a great bribe) unto the soldiers, [13.] saying. say ye his disciples cámc by night and stole him away while we slept. It is true, Mark xvi. 9, is generally interpreted in such a manner, as to make us think the soldiers did not see Jesus arise. Yet, if I mistake not, that interpretation is without foundation. Mark's words are, Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene Our Lord's first appearance, therefore, after his resurrection, was to Mary. This might be said consistently enough with the soldiers seeing him arise : for that was no appearance after his resurrection; it was his resurrection itself. In the mean time, though the soldiers did not see him rise, they were able to bear witness unto his resurrection. The storm, the earthquake, and the vision, that accompanied this astonishing event, had driven them away from the sepulchre. Impelled, therefore, by their fears and the weather, they would take shelter in the first house they could find : and as they fled away about the time that Jesus aruse, they would probably sleep till morning. Or, though the terror they were in bindered them from sleeping, they would stay nevertheless, having no inclination to go out in such a stormy night, especially as they knew that the gates of the city were shut, and that they could not have access to the chief priests at so unseasonable an hour. When the day advanced, and their fears were a little abated, we may suppose they began to deliberate among themselves what they were to do. They had been placed at the sepulchre to see if Jesus would arise according to his prediction, and to prevent any fraud, by which his resurrection might be imposed upon the world. Wherefore, if they did not see him arise, they could not but be curious to know whether he was really risen, as the terrible things they had been witnesses to the preceding evening seemed to presage ; and, for this purpose, they might go straightway to the sepulchre in the morning ; but not finding the body, they concluded, with reason, that Jesus was risen, and went to tell the priests this strange news. Thus the soldiers were qualified to bear witness uuto the resurrectiou of Jesus, although they did not see him arise; and their testimony is unquestionablc, being the testimony of enemies. Accordingly, the priests did not offer to contradict them, as they would certainly have done had it been in their power. But by an obstinacy almost incredible, rooted in their pride, they stiftly resisted what their own mind told them was true ; and, to save their reputation, bribed the soldiers to tell every where, that while they slept in the night, his disciples came and stole him away. The priests, certainly, could not but foresee what judgment reasonable persons would form of this report. At best, it was nothing but the soldiers' owa conjecture, who by their own confession, being asleep when the thing happened, could tell no more of the matter than other people, or, if they pretend to more, it wag absurd; for how could they know what was doing, and by whom, while they were asleep? or, knowing it, why did they not awake and preveni it? Rut the absurdity of this lie was so glaring, that it is a wonder the priests did not rather hire the soldiers to say the disciples made them so drunk, that they fell into a dead

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

sleep ; this, at least, would have rendered it probable that they stole him away. But even this form of the lie was obnoxious to insuperable objections ; for though a single person or two may be seduced to betray their trust, a great nuniber are not so easily drawn astray. Among such a number of men as the watch consisted of, some will always be found tinctured with a sense of duty. Moreover, the Numerousness of the guard prevented the priests froin turning the falsehood into any other sha pe. The soldiers could not, with any probability say that the disciples took the body from them by force ; for though a handful of people may be so overpowered by a multitude, that they cannot possibly make any resistance, a number of people well armed, may tight a superior force; and though they should overcone, still there will be visible proofs of the attack that was made upon them ; lives will be lost, or, at least, wounds received. In the case of the guards at the sepulchre, nothing of this kind was to be seen, whereby it could be made appear that they were attacked ; and therefore, an assault from the disciples could not be pretended. Nor would the soldiers be prevailed with to spread a report which demonstrated them to have been arrant cowards. In short, the disciples' stealing away the body while the guards slept, absurd as it might seem to persons of discernment, was the best colour the priests could put on this affair. Unluckily, however, for the cause of infidelity, it was only some of the watch who came to the chief priests to be tutored, the rest had gone to their garrison, where, no doubt, they told their comrades what had happened : and even those who came to the high-priest had tarried hy the way. Part of the night was spent in the house where they had taken shelter, and to the people of that house they had told the true matter of fact. None can doubt this, who attends to the nature and operation of human passions. Nor would they be silent as they passed through the streets, if they chanced to meet any of their acquaintance; far less would they conceal the matter in the high-priest's palace, while they waited to be called in. It does not appear that the soldiers, either on the score of conscience, or on account of the palpable falsehood of the story they were to propagate, refused the bribe that was offered them by the chief priests. Their love of money, as is common with wicked men, pushed them on headlong. They did not mind the improbability of a numerous guard of soldiers all fast' asleep at once, nor the horrid iniquity of the lie. And though they had been greatly confounded with the vision of angels, the panic was by this time worn off. Besides, they did not consider the vision as connected with morality; or, if they did, the priests would endeavour to persuade them that it was nothing real, but the mere effect of their own imagination, terrified by seeing one rise from the dead. The only objection made by the soldiers to the proposal of the priests was, that, by publishing such a story, they acknowledged the grossest neglect of duty ; for which, if the story reached the governor's ears, he would punish them severely. But to make them easy on this head, the priests promised to give such a representation of the matter to Pilate, that no harm should befal them. This only obstacle, therefore, being removed, the soldiers did as they were desired. They told every where the lie which the priests had put into their mouth ; a lie the most impudent and barefaced that could be contrived, but which the senate was anxious to have propagated, because they hoped it would be swallowed by many without examination ; nor were they deceived in their expectation ; for, improbable as the story was, it gained general credit among the enemies of Jesus, and was currently reported at the time Matthew wrote his gospel. [Mat. xxviii. 14.] It is evident, that, as matters stood, the day must have been pretty far advanced before the soldiers could come into the city. And, therefore, though they filed from the sepulcbre about eleven of twelve o'clock te

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

preceding night, we have a better reason for their coming so late in the morning as is affirmed by Matthew, that if we suppose that Jesus arose when the women went out in a body to the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.

" The company of women having tarried awhile with Jesus on the road, by the time that they got back to the apostles, not only Peter and John, but the other disciples were returned from the sepulchre. Perhaps Mary Magdalene, likewise, was come; for she might easily pass by the women if she travelled in another road. Resides, it is natural to think that she would make all the haste possible, especially as Jesus, for this very purpose, had not permitted her to embrace his knees, as was observed above. Or we may suppose that Mary Magdalene overtook the women on the road, and brought them up with her after spending a little time in relating to one another what they had seen. It is not material, however, which of the came first, only arriving about the same time, they confirmed each other's accorints. [John xxviii, 18.] Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples (Mark, as they mourned and wept) that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her. But if the things which the women formerly told concerning the vision of angels appeared, in the eyes of the disconsolate disciples, as idle tales, what they now said was reckoned much more so. (Mark xvi. 11.] And they, when they heard that he was alive, and had been seen of ler, believed not. Only Peter, to whom they repeated the angel's message, because he had been absent when they first came with it, was disposed, by his sanguine temper, to give a little more credit to their words than the rest seem to have done : for, in hearing that the heavenly beings had named him in particular as one to whom the news should be told, he was much elated with the honour they had done bim. And though he was but just come from the sepulchre, he thought proper to go thither a second time, hoping, perhaps, to see Jesus, or, at least, the angel who had distinguished him by making mention of his name. [Luke xxiv. 12.] Then arose Peter and ran unto the sepulchre ; and, stooping down, ke beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.'

Luke relates Peter's second visit immediately after the account which he has given of the women's first report. But it does not follow from hence that this visit was made immediately after that report, or in consequence thereof, as those who are acquainted with the manner of writing peculiar to the evangelists very well know. 'Peter, indeed, made a visit to the sepulchre in consequence of Mary Magdalene's first information concerning the body being taken away, the history of which John bas given. But it was different from this : 1. Because he then had heard of nothing but the taking away of the body: whereas, now the women had told him of the vision of angels, which said that Jesus was risen. 2. Because, at the visit mentioned by Jobn, he went down into the sepulchre and searched it ; whereas, at this, he only looked in, knowing that if the angels had boen visible, they would have appeared immediately. And as for the body, he had fully satisfied his curiosity at the first visit, and was confirmed iu the belief of its being away, by seeing the clothes in the same situation as before. 3. Because, in returning from this second visit, he is represented as wondering at that which was come to pass ; a circumstance which might more naturally be expected to happen now than formerly. The reason is, when he made the first visit, he had no thought of the resurrection, and so considered the taking away of the body only as an ordinary occurrence ; but now that the womeil had told him of their having seen angels, who assured them that Jesus was alive, be viewed the absence of the body, and the posture of the clothes, in quite a different light, and was struck with wouder. Our Lord's appearance to Peier, mentioner!

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

1 Cor. xv. 5, may have happened as he was returning froin the scpulchre this second time; for we are certain that the favour was vouchsafed to him on the day of the resurrection. See Luke xxiv, 33, 3+.

The same day on which Jesus arose, one of his disciples, named Cleophas, or Alpheus, the husband of Mary who was sister to our Lord's mother, and who, in the bistory of his resurrection, is called Mary the mother of James, was travelling to Emmaus, a village about seven miles distant from Jerusalem, in company with another disciple, whose name is not mentioned ; and who, for that reason, is, by some, supa posed to have been Luke himself. The two were in the utmost dejection on account of their Master's death, insomuch that their grief appeared visible in their coulltenances. [Luke xxiv. 17.] Moreover, as they went along, they talked of the things that sat heaviest on their spirits. (Luke xxiv. 13, 14, 15.] And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmans, which was froin Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that while they communed together, and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. He overtook them as coming himself from Jerusalem, see verse 18. Probably, the disciples had just left the city when Jesus came up with them ; for, on any other supposition, he could not have had time to deliver all the things which the evangelist tells us he spake to them, see verse 27. It seems, he shewed to them himself immediately after he left the company of women, 16.] Put their eyes were holden that they should not know him. They were held by his miraculous power ; or they mistook him by reason of his appearing to then in au unusual dress. Mark seems to intimate this circumstance in the account which he gives of the matter. [Mark xvi. 12.] After that he appeared in another form unto two of them as they walked and went into the country Or the phrase in Luke, according to the force of the Hebrew idiom, may denote the effect without any intimation of the cause at all. By the alteration which Jesus could easily make in the tone of his voice while speaking ; and, by his new dress, be might be concealed from them, especially as they still believed he was dead, and had no expectation of his resurrection. Besides, their thoughts were so swallowed up in the depth of their grief, that as they took little notice of any thing without them, so they did not narrowly examine the features of their fellow traveller. Jesus, therefore, spake to them in the character of a stranger, making free, as travellers might do with one another, to ask what the subject of their conversation was, and why they looked so sad. [Luke xxiv. 17.) And he said unto them, what manner of communications are these That ye have to one another as ye walk, and are sad ? (18.] And one of theni, whose name was Cleophas, answering, said unto him, art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast thou not known the things which are come to pass there in these days ? Cleophas was surprized that any one who had come from Jerusalem should have been ignorant of the extraordinary things which had lately happened there. [19.] And he said unto them, what things . And they said unto hini, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. [20.) And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and kave crucified him. Having, thus given an account of Christ's character, miracles, and sufferings, Cleophas was so ingenuous as to acknowledge they once believed him to be the deliverer of Israel, and, in that faith, had been his disciples ; but that they began now to think themselves mistaken, because he had been dead three days. [21.7 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Isracl; and beside all this, to-day is the third day since these things were done. Cleophas added, that so women of their acquaintance, who had been that morning at the sepulchre, astonieb:d

them with the news of his resurrection, affirming that they had seen a vision of angels, which told them he was alive. It seems, his companion and he had left the city before any of the women came with the news of Christ's personal appearance.

The smallest attention will shew that Cleophas and his companion do not here speak of Mary Magdalene's second information given after she had seen the angels'; because Jesus bimself having appeared to her before she stirred from the spot, it is by no means probable that she would tell the lesser, and omit the greater event. Neither do they speak of the information which the company of women, Mary Magdalene's companions, gave the apostles after they had seen Jesus ; because they, in like manner, must have related that much rather than any thing else. But the report of which they speak was either made by a company of women different from that in which Mary the mother of James and Salome were, who saw Jesus as they went to tell his disciples concerning the vision of angels, or it was made by that company before they saw the Lord. That it was not made by any company different from that in which Mary and Salome were, is certain ; because Luke says expressly, that Mary, Salome, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and the rest, concurred in giving it. [chap. xxiv. 10.] Wherefore, it must have been the report which Mary Magdalene made alone, after having been with the women at the sepulchre the first time, and which they confirmed before they saw the Lord. According to this account of the matter, indeed, the report which Mary Magdalene made alone is not distinguished from that of her companions, Mary, Salome, and Joanna : yet there seems to be a hint given of it in the first clause of th: verse under consideration : for the words, and when they found not his body, may refer to Mary Magdalene's first information, as the subsequent words, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels, describe the information given by her companions. In the mean time, though it should be allowed that Mary Magdalene's report is not distinguished from that of her companions, either by Luke, in his history of the resurrection, or by the disciples going to Emmaus, it will not follow that her report was made at the same time with theirs, or that the evangelist meant to say so : for though they were distinct in point of tiige, they might fitly be joined together for four reasons: 1. Because the persons who made them had gone out in one company to the sepulchre. 2. Because they were made soon after each other. 3. Because the subject of both was the same. Mary Magdalene first brought word that the stone was rolled back, that the door was open, and the body gone. The other women came immediately after her, and told the same things ; adding, that they had seen a vision of angels, wbich affirmed that Jesus was alive. 4. In telling their story to this supposed stranger, the two disciples would think it needless to make the distiuction more particularly. But if the disciples, in their accounts of these reports, joined then together for the reasons mentioned, the evangelist Luke might, for the same reasons, speak of them as one, in his history of Christ's resurrection, agreeably to the brevity which he has studied throughout the whole of his work.

[Luke xxiv. 24.] And certain of them which were with us, went to the scpulchre, aurld found it even so as the women had said ; buit him they saw not.

When the women who had been at the sepulchre told us that they had seen angels, who assured them that Jesns was risen, some of our number went thither in great haste, hoping to see these angels, as the women told them they were in the sepulchre when they came away. On their arrival, they found it even as the women had said ; for they were favoured with a sight of the angels, but had vot the pleasure of seeing Jesus.”

This is generally understood of the journey which Peter and John made to the sepulchre immediately after Mary Magdalene's first report ; but with what truth inay be questioned. The reason is, at that journey, Peter and John had lieard nothing

« PreviousContinue »