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of these facts be expressly allowed, by the persons who thought themselves most concerned to prevent the genuine consequences which might be deduced from them; and there were, originally, no other disputes about them, than to what sufficient cause they were to be imputed. 9. If, again, the witnesses from whom we have these facts were many in number, all of them unanimous in the substance of their evidence, and all, as may be collected from their whole conduct, men of such unquestionable good sense as secured them against all delusion in themselves; if they were men who evinced the sincerity of their own conviction, by acting under the uniform influence of the extraordinary works to which they bore witness, in direct contradiction to all their former prejudices and most favoured notions; in direct contradiction, also, to every flattering prospect of worldly honour, profit, or advantage (as was remarkably exemplified in the case of St. Paul); and when they could not but be previously assured that “ bonds and afflictions awaited them 25," that
; ignominy, persecution, misery, and even death itself, most probably would attend the constant and invariable perseverance in their testimony. 10. If these witnesses, in order that their evidence might have the greater weight with a doubting world (each nation being already in possession of an established religion), were themselves enabled to perform such extraordinary works as testified the clear and indisputable interposition of a divine power in favour of their veracity; and, after having experienced the severest afflictions, vexations, and torments, at length laid down their lives in confirmation of the truth of the facts asserted by them. 11. If great multitudes of the contemporaries of these witnesses, men of almost all nations, tempers, professions, and scales of intellect, were persuaded by them that these facts were really performed in the manner related, and gave the strongest testimony which it was in their power to give of the firmness and active tendency of their belief, by immediately breaking through all their previous attachments and connections of interest or friendship, and acting in express contradiction to them. 12. If concurring testimony, carried to a sufficient extent, and especially of this kind, be in its nature really irresistible; and if successive testimony, under the circumstances of the case before us, rather increase than diminish in credibility. 13. If ceremonies and institutions were grounded upon the miraculous facts, and have been uninterruptedly observed in all the successive periods of time, from the date of the facts in commemoration of which they were established. 14. If we have all the proof wbich the severest rules of criticism can require, that no alterations have been made in the original writings and records left us by these witnesses in any material article of their evidence since their first publication, either through accident or design ; but that they have been transmitted to us in all their genuine purity, as they were left by their authors. In such a situation of things, where so great a variety of circumstances, where, indeed, all imaginable circumstances, mutually concur to confirm, strengthen, and support each other's evidence; without a single argument on the other side, but what arises merely from the extraordinary nature of the facts, and the admission of which inevitably leads to consequences at least as extraordinary as those our opponents are inclined to reject; may not they be justly accused of an unreasonable incredulity who refuse their assent to them? And will not such incredulity be as dangerous as it is ridiculous? If facts, attested in so clear, decisive, and unexceptionable a manner, and delivered down to posterity with so many conspiring signs and monuments of truth, are, nevertheless, not to be believed : it is, I think, impossible for the united wisdom of mankind to point out any evidence of historical events which will justify a wise and cautious man in accrediting them. Where there is the strongest assurance of the occurrence of any particular series of miraculous facts, which we are capable of acquiring, according to the present frame of our nature, and the state of things in the world; to reject these miracles after all, and the religion in attestation of which they were wrought, and to pretend to exculpate ourselves for not believing them, upon the bare suspicion of a possibility that they may be false, is, instead of being an indication of freedom from shackles, and erectness and greatness of mind, a monstrous contradiction to the principles of common sense, and the universal practice of mankind. That you and I, my friend, may be preserved from such a preposterous and dangerous absurdity, is the fervent wish of,
25 Acts, xx. 23.
On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. SEVERAL of the facts recorded in the Christian Scriptures have this to distinguish them from others, that they are intimately connected with doctrines ; so intimately, indeed, that the doctrine grows out of the fact, and that, consequently, the denial of the fact causes the annihilation of the doctrine, and prevents the springing forth of those happy effects which the doctrine is calculated to produce. Thus the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact; our resurrection is a doctrine founded upon that fact. The denial of one requires the renunciation of the other. “If,” says Paul, “there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: and if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain!.” And again, “If we believe that Jesus Christ died, and rose again, even so, them also which sleep in Jesus, will God bring with him?” Thus also, the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven is a fact; his return from thence to judge the world is a dependent doctrine. Thus spake the angels 11 Cor. xv. 13, 14.
2 1 Thes, iv. 14.
to the disciples at the ascension of our Lord: "Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven 3." “ Shall come to be admired in his saints, and to be glorified in all them that believe4.”
Hence, since the most exalted hopes of a Christian, the most animating doctrines of his religion, have for the basis, the fact of the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ; it is requisite that his faith in that fact be firmly “rooted and grounded." And, happily, the general evidences in confirmation of so important an event flow from various and satisfactory sources. As from the predictions of Jesus Christ, that at a certain time he should raise himself from the dead. From the fact that, at this precise time, his body was not to be found in the sepulchre, although the most effectual precautions had been taken to prevent its removal. From the positive testimony of many, that after this time they saw him, conversed with bim, the most incredulous touched and felt him, to remove their doubts, and all received from him those instructions on which they acted in promulgating his Gospel. From the clumsy and self-destructive story invented by the Jews in contradiction of this fact". And from the success which attended the preaching and declaring that he was “crucified and raised from the dead.”
It is not my intention to enlarge upon these various sources of evidence; but merely, assuming (as I may now, I trust, fairly do) the genuineness of the first four books of the New Testament, to describe, briefly, the leading circumstances of Christ's resurrection, and several appearances previous to his ascension; and then to adduce a few general, though, I hope, unanswerable arguments, in favour of this extraordinary event.
3 Acts, i. 11.
4 2 Thes. i. 10. It may also be observed that so indissoluble is the connection between one fact and another revealed to us in the New Testament, that the admission of one, by necessity involves the admission of the rest. Thus, by proving the resurrection of our Lord, you establish,-1. His death and burial. 2. The occasion and benefits of his death. 3. His promise of the Spirit. 4. His ascension (for, if he did not ascend, what became of him?) 5. His ever living in heaven. 6. The objects which he there incessantly carries on.
This suggests an important train of argument, at which I now merely glance, and leave it to be pursued by others.
5 Matt, xxviii, 13, 11.
The circumstances of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the subsequent appearances, as they may be collected from the accounts of the several Evangelists, have been related, with slight variations, by different authors. The order I shall adopt appears to me as free from objection, and as little exposed to the cavils of unbelievers, as any I have met with. To render this history the more perspicuous, it may be proper to begin with reminding you, that, when Jesus Christ was led to be crucified, a great company of his friends and acquaintance followed, bewailing and lamenting him 6. Among the rest was his own mother, who, with two more of her name, and the apostle John, stood so near him, that he could speak to them. While he was nailed to the cross, he consigned his mother to John's care, it appearing that she was then a widow. This beloved disciple, probably, took her immediately to his own home, before the three hours' supernatural darkness?, that she might not be there to see him expiring. But the other two women continued there still, as well as many more who stood farther off. When the darkness was over, and our Lord had yielded up his spirit, they were there still; and all of them attended till he was buried. It should seem, also, that the two Marys 9 waited later than the rest, till all was over, and he was laid in the sepulchrel. A considerable company of the women seem to have agreed to embalm their Lord's
6 Lake, xxiii. 27.
7 John, xix. 25—27. 8 Matt. xxvii. 55, 56. Mark, xv. 40, 41. Luke, xxii. 49, 55.
9 Namely, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the wife of Cleopas, and mother of Matthew, James, Simon, and Jude.
10 Matt. xxvii. 01. Mark, xv. 47.