« PreviousContinue »
if they had been enemies, and unconverted by the miraculous resurrection of Christ, this would have been much better; and he ought to have appeared especially to the magistrates and the Jews: that they did not own him as the Messiah, was owing to his not appearing to them after his resurrection.” Resur. of Jesus Consid. p. 73.
This objection, my dear Benjamin, has been thought by the enemies of the cross unanswerable. Let us examine it. Our modern infidels say, that “if the apostles had been enemies, and converted by the miraculous resurrection of Christ, this would have been much better." I wonder whether these objectors have ever read the history of Saul of Tarsus; (for no doubt many have these objections against the Bible at the tip of the tongue, who have never read the precious book itself; but have gathered their objections from the writings of a Paine, Hume, or Voltaire ;) was not this great champion of the Christian religion an open enemy of Christ and his followers ? did he not verily think he was doing God service by persecuting the saints ? and was he not converted by seeing Christ after his resurrection ? And did not he most zealously preach and defend this fact before Jews and Gentiles, and before the priests and sanhedrim, &c. ? Again, upon what authority do these men, who are so cautious to believe nothing but upon unexceptionable evidence, assert " that the Jews did not own him as Messiah, because he did not appear to them after his resurrection? Did the Jews in Christ's time make such an objection ? Did they assign this as the reason for not belier. ing the Gospel, when preached by the apostles? Or do our people, at this day, reject Christ because he appeared only to his friends ? No such thing; you know better, my dear Benjamin; the same cause which led them to cry, crucify him, crucify him, led them to reject him after bis resurrection, and keeps our people still in unbelief. What this cause is, has been stated in former letters, viz. that he did not answer their worldly and carnal expectations, by
delivering them from the galling yoke of the Romans, and raising them in authority over all nations, and leading them on to the accumulation of riches, the enjoyment of pleasure, and so forth. Further, that Epicurean Celsus would not have been satisfied if Christ had not appeared also literally “ to all the people.” Now, does he mean to all the people in Jerusalem ? or in Judea ? or in all the world! But suppose he means the former only, all the people in Jerusalem: how was this to be effected? When and where were they to be collected; by what authority, and by what means was the immense multitude to be gathered together? A thousand other difficulties might be sug. gested, with respect to carrying into effect the measure proposed by these profound philosophers. But suppose all that has been required by Celsus and his unbelieving brethren had been done—that Christ had appeared to the priests, the pharisees, and sanhedrim-how do they know this would have removed the deep-rooted prejudice, and led them to believe that Jesus was risen indeed ? May we not rather adopt the manner of reasoning of our father Abraham ? " If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe if one rose from the dead.” Did not some of the watch come into the city and show unto the chief priests all that was done ? and did they believe their testimony ? Or when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, did they appoint a committee to investigate the matter? did they express any doubt upon the subject ? did they manifest any desire to have any further evidence of the reality of Christ's resurrection ? No such thing. But they adopted the foul measure of bribing the soldiers to tell a lie, saying, “Say ye, his disciples came and stole him away while we slept; and if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you." Now, my dear Benjamin, this awful charge against the priests, senate, and rulers, was published by the evange lists at the very time and scene of the transaction; if it had not been true, why did they not publicly contradict it? Why did they not punish the authors of so heinous a libel, if such it had been? To return to our subject: suppose that Christ had appeared to "all the people," how could they have been assured that it was the same identical person that had been crucified ? Must not the faith of most of them have rested on the evidence of the priests, sanhedrims, and pharisees ? And is it not more rational to believe that these inveterate enemies of Christ, who had rejected him merely out of malice, because they “ would not have this man to reign over them," and who, by now confessing 'him to be the Christ, would have laid themselves open to the charge of having crucified the Lord of glory, and brought upon themselves the indignation of the people? I say, is it not more rational to believe that such persons, under such circumstances, would rather have hardened their hearts and shut their eyes against the clearest evidence, by adopting the objection of some of our modern in. fidels, saying, “ This is not the identical Jesus; the marks in his hands, and feet, and sides have been made by his disciples to carry on the deception; or he was not quite dead when taken from the cross; or, if it is the same person, and he was really dead, and has actually risen, yet this was not effected by the power of God, but his disciples wrought it by the power of the devil, as he himself performed his miractes? Nay, what security have these objectors that the malicious priests would not have accused both Christ and his apostles of being in league with Beelzebub, the prince of devils, and therefore tried to crucify him again? But let us again suppose, my dear Benjamin, that Christ Jesus had appeared to all, as Celsus and the modern infidels demand ; and suppose they had actually believed the truth of his resurrection, how do these objectors know that it would have been “better for the propagation of the Gospel in after-ages ?" Would succeeding ages have had better and more convincing evidence than those which we have in the New
Testament? How could they have known that all Jerusalem and Judea had known of a surety that Christ had risen from the dead, but by some written document, and a succession of preachers or believers of the Gospel, or by both; and would that have satisfied our infidel friends ? Or would they not probably have objected, “ How do we know that these documents are authentic, whether they have not been corrupted, and so forth ; whether the whole story is not 'a cunningly devised fable,' a mere production of priestcraft ?" Besides, my dear Benjamin, let it be well remembered that the religion of Jesus does not consist merely in the one article of the resurrection of Christ from the dead; but that all that Jesus Christ did, and taught, and suffered, was to be published to the world by eye-witnesses, well qualified for the arduous and all-important work. The gracious and benevolent design of the Son of God, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, as well as to be the glory of his people Israel, could not have been effected in the manner proposed by infidels; for neither the priests, the sanhedrim, the pharisees, and all the people of Jerusalem together, although they had believed the history and fact of the resurrection of Christ, were well qualified for the task ; for they had neither heard all that Jesus taught from the beginning, nor seen all the miracles that he had wrought; nor had they the power to confirm what they knew and believed by miracle; and above all, they needed the illumi. nation and influence of the Holy Spirit. The plan, there. fore, adopted by our blessed Jesus, was the best and most effectual.
It was briefly this “As soon as he commenced his ministry he chose twelve persons, to be almost his constant com. panions, in order to be witnesses to the sanctity of his life, to the miracles he wrought, and to the instructions he gave. And as his resurrection from the dead was one of those miraculous events that was intended, among many other reasons, to be the evidence of his divine mission; so he chose to make his apostles witnesses thereot; gave them a spiritual understanding, to understand the Scriptures ; instructed them for forty days from the time of his resurrection till the time of his ascension into heaven, in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; and on the day of Pentecost he sent forth the Holy Spirit, in a more copious manner, to qualify them to preach the Gospel in foreign languages, which they had never known before; and to confirm their doctrines by miracles. Hence, when the Gospel was first preached by Peter, in the house of Cornelius, he
says, in the beginning of his sermon, “ The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ; (he is Lord of all;) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of.Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power : who went about doing good, and healing all that were possessed 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; him they slew, and hanged upon a tree; him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not unto all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink vith him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he who is ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead." Acts, 10 : 36-42.
8 2. I will now endeavor, my beloved Benjamin, to point out to you the important truth taught by the resurrection of Christ. First-It proves the reality of his being the Son of God. The apostle says that Christ, by his resurrection, was declared to be the Son of God; Rom. 1:4; for in reading the history of Christ, you will observe that the priests and rulers of our people tried, in a variety of ways, to find a cause to justify themselves in putting him to death, but could not find any; at last, Jesus being abjured by the