« PreviousContinue »
The evidences of the truth of the Chriftian
2 COR. iv. 3, 4.
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are loft: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, left the light of the glorious gospel of Chrift, who is the image of God, fhould fhine unto them.
、 The fourth fermon on this text.
HAVE been confidering the evidence which thofe who lived in our Saviour's time had of his divine authority, from the power of working miracles, with which he was endued.
The miracles which concern our Saviour, I reduced to three heads; thofe of his life; thofe wrought at his death; and the great miracle of his refurrection from the dead, together with thofe two that were confequent upon it; his vifible afcenfion into heaven, and his fending the Holy Ghost.
As to the refurrection of our Saviour, I have produced the teftimonies for it, and have added fome confiderations that may give ftrength and advantage to that teftimony; and fhall now proceed to take notice of the most confiderable exceptions that may be made against it. And all the exceptions that can be brought against it, that are of any moment, and that I know of, are these three; that tradition of the Jews, that he was stolen out of the grave; or that he was not really dead; or that his appearance was an illufion from evil fpirits. The firit of thefe is ancient, and was the invention of the Jews, and denies the VOL. X. A
integrity of the witneffes of his refurrection, making them deceivers: The two laft fuppofe the fidelity of the witneffes, but fay, they were deceived, either as to his death, or as to his appearance afterward: and thefe have been fince invented by atheistical fpirits. I fhall briefly answer them, and firft in general, I fay these two things:
1. That they who deny this, have this disadvantage, that they are to prove a negative, which is never capable of that evidence, which an affirmation is.
2. These exceptions look very like envy, for they do not concur to make up one ftrong objection against the testimony of Chrift's refurrection; but each of them contradicts the other, and is inconfiftent with them: For if the tradition of the Jews be true, that he was ftolen out of the grave after that he was dead and buried, and that the story of his appearing to them was a forgery, then the two latter exceptions are falfe, and fo of the reft; fo that these exceptions look very like the falfe witneffes that were fuborned against Chrift, that they do not agree together. But to the objections themfelves, I anfwer,
Firft, The tradition of the Jews; that his body was stolen out of the fepulchre, and all that which is related afterwards of his appearing to his difciples, and converfing with them, and afcending into heaven, was a forgery and imposture.
Anfw. 1. We have early notice given of this in the history of the gofpel, Matth. xxviii. 11. that when the chief priests heard that his body was gone out of the grave, they confulted together, and hired the foldiers to fay that the difciples came by night, and whilft they were afleep, ftole him away. Obferve what it was that the foldiers were to teftify, that whilft they were afleep, the difciples came and ftole away his body. Very credible perfons, that were to give teftimony of what they faw done, whilft they were afleep! A man had need be hired with a great fum to give fuch a teftimony, fo ridiculous and it feems the Pharifees looked upon the governor as very fimple, that would be fo eafily perfuaded of fo unlikely a thing.
2. It should feem it was not believed by themfelves; for Jofephus, a knowing and learned, man of that nation and religion, who lived immediately after that time, fpeaks pofitively in the 18th Book of his Antiquities, that Chrift was crucified, and "appeared to his difciples the third day, rifing from "the dead;" and he speaks not a word of the forgery, which had been much for the credit of his nation and religion.
3. If we compare the fidelity of the perfons on both fides; the witneffes of Chrift's refurrection cannot be fufpected of any worldly intereft or defign, but the Priests and Pharifees were concerned, both in reputation and intereft, to blaft this miracle as much as they could; because if it should be entertained, both their religion would be endangered, and they would be looked upon as murderers of him whofe holiness and innocency was attefted by fuch a miracle.
4. If this exception had been true, it had been eafy to have discovered the impofture, and undeceived the people; the gofpel would have fallen and funk in a fhort time. Nothing but truth could have born up and prevailed against fo much oppofition. If this had been the work of men, and an impofture, it would have come to nought; but it was truth, and of God, and therefore it could not be overthrown.
Secondly, That he was not dead when he was put into the grave, that he was but in a swoon or deliquium, and fo might rife again without a miracle.
Anfw. 1. We may reasonably suppose, that the malice of the Jews took care to kill him. Besides, the circumstances of the ftory do fufficiently evidence it. Upon the piercing of his fide, water and blood came out; which was an evidence that his heart was pierced. And after his body was exhaufted of its blood, there could be no return to life again. But it seems the foldiers were fatisfied in the thing, who, when they came to break his bones, fpared him, because they faw that he was already dead.
2. If he was not dead, yet how should he rife again? It was a pitiful fecuring of the grave, and a little great ftone that was rolled upon it, if a weak and wounded, and fpent man, after fo much pain, and the expence of fo much blood, could roll it away.
3. Suppofe he did rife, what became of him afterwards? How came we to have no particulars of what became of him? If thofe which the ftory gives us be true, that after forty days he was taken up into heaven, we need not doubt of his refurrection, for this is as miraculous as that.
Thirdly, The third and laft exception is as unreasonable as any, which grants that he did feem to appear to the difciples, but they were impofed upon by the illufion of evil fpirits.
Anfw. 1. That which may be an evafion in any cafe, is to be admitted in no cafe. This exception fuppofeth as much evidence for his refurrection, as this or any other thing is capable of; and yet would make it an illufion but this denies all certainty; for if we may be deceived when we have the greateft affurance of a thing that our fenfes can give us then we may not only queftion the refurrection of Christ, but every thing else.
2. If we believe the providence of God, we cannot think it to be fo little vigilant, as that honest and well-meaning perfons fhould be continually expofed to the infolence and cheats of evil fpirits, and in a matter of the greatest concernment fhould be ever liable to be deceived, and cannot help it.
Having thus confidered our Saviour's refurrection, and answered the objections against it, I proceed to thofe two miracles which followed his refurrection; namely, his afcenfion into heaven; and his fending the Holy Ghost upon the Apoftles and primitive Chriftians in fuch miraculous powers and gifts.
Firft, His afcenfion into heaven. And of this the difciples of our Saviour were also eye-witneffes. So St. Luke tells us, Acts i. 4. 9. And when they were affembled together, and Chrift among them after his refurrection, and when he had given them in charge
what he would have them to do, as they looked on, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their fight. What more vifible demonftration could there be, that this man was fent of God, than that after he had preached the doctrine which he came to deliver to the world, and confirmed it by fo many miracles, and God has given fo great an atteftation to him, by raifing him up from the dead; I fay, what more visible demonftration that he came from God, than to fee him taken up into heaven, after he had finished the work for which God fent him into the world?
Secondly, The fending of the Holy Ghost upon the Apoftles and primitive Chriftians in fuch miraculous powers and gifts, whereby they were enabled to fpeak divers languages, in order to the more expedite publifhing of the gospel to the world, to heal difeafes, and to raise the dead, to foretel things to come, and (which was common with the Apostles and all Chriftians for fome ages) they had a power of cafting out devils, by adjuring them in the name of Christ. Now what could be a clearer evidence that he came from God, and was returned to him, than the conferring of fuch miraculous powers and gifts upon men, after he was afcended into heaven, as a teftimony that he was invefted in his royalty, having a power conferred upon him to difpenfe thofe gifts to
But of the afcenfion* of our Saviour, and the extraordinary gifts of the Holy Ghoft, † having upon other occafions difcourfed at large, I fhall need to add no more here; only,,before I conclude this head, I fhall briefly mention the chief of thofe objections, which thefe miracles which were wrought by our Saviour, and on his behalf, are liable to, and endea. vour to return a fatisfactory answer to them. And there are two objections against his miracles in ge-neral. First, That he wrought them by the power of the Devil..
Secondly, The other objection is taken from that
* Sermon 1961 † Ser. 197, 198, 199. And Ser. 229, 2303