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which his disciples have considered as the strongest ar, gument against our Lord's resurrection. they, he really rose from the dead, to have shewed him. self to his enemies as well to his friends, would have put the truth of his resurrection beyond all doubt, than which nothing could be more necessary to the cause of Christianity; and therefore, the supposition of his having confined his appearances, after his resurrection to a few select friends, renders the affair extremely suspicious and unworthy of credit.'
This argument, however plausible it may appear at first sight, is destitute of the least force ;- because it may be demonstrated, that if Jesus had shewed himself to his enemies, and to all the people in general, these appearances, instead of putting the truth of his resurrection beyond all doubt, would have weakened the evidence of it, at least in after ages; and, conse. quently, have been of infinite prejudice to mankind for upon the supposition that our blessed Saviour had shewed himself openly, one of these two things must necessarily have happened ; either his enemics, submitting to the evidence of their senses, would have believed his resurrection, or, resisting that evidence, they would reject it altogether. We shall begin with taking the latter into consideration,
Its very evident, that those enemies of the great Redeemer of mankind, who resisted the evidence of their senses, or who, though really convinced, would not acknowledge their conviction, must have justified their disbelief by affirming that the person who appeared to them as risen from the dead, was not JESUS whom the Roman governor had crucified, but an impostor who personated him. On any other foundation their infidelity would have been ridiculous and absurd; but, if the unbelieving Jews, by our Lord's appearing personally to them, would have been laid under a necessity of denying the reality of his resurrection, even though persuaded of it in their own minds, the evidence of fact
could have gained nothing by such public appearances; because the generality of the Jews were not capable of pa-sing a judgment upon the falsehood which Christ's enemies must have made use of to support their denial of his resurrection, being unacquainted with JESUS, they could not certainly tell whether he was really the person whom the Romans had crucified. His apostles, disciples, and acquaintance, who, by their long attendance on him, knew his stature, shape, air, voice, and manner, were the only proper persons by whose determination the point in dispute could be decided; consequently, if our Lord had appeared to all the people, if any considerable number of his enemies had continued in their infidelity, the whole stress of the evidence of his resurrection must have rested on the evidence of the very persons who according to the plan pitched upon by Providence, bear witness to it now, and upon whose testimony the world has believed it: so that instead of gaining an additional evidence by the proposed method of shewing Jesus publicly to all the people, we should have had nothing to trust but the testimony of his disciples, and that clogged with the incumbrance that his resurrection was denied by many to whom he appeared, and who were not convinced by the testimony of their senses.
In the second place, it may be supposed that in case our blessed Saviour had shewed himself publicly, the whole nation of the Jews must have believed, and that future generations would thus have had the fullest evidence of the truth of his resurrection, beyond all possibility of a doubt.
However, this will not appear to be the case, if we consider, that the greatest part of our Lord's enemies having not given themselves the trouble of attending him often, cannot be supposed to have been so well acquainted with his person as to know him with certainty; for which reason, though he had shewed himself to them, even their belief of his resurrection must, in a great
measure, have depended on the testimony of his disci. ples and friends: if so, it is not very probable that his appearing publicly would have had any great effect on the Jews, to persuade them to embrace a crucified Messiah. It is far more reasonable to believe, that they would have rejected the whole, and continued in their infidelity, unless a divine power interposed to remove the veil from their hearts.
In order to give the argument all the force the De. ists can desire, let us further suppose, that, in consequence of our blessed Saviour's appearing to all the people of the Jews, the nation in general would have been convinced of the truth of his resurrection, and become his disciples; what advantage would the cause of Christianity have reaped from such effects of our Lord's public appearance? Would the evidence of his resurrection, have become thereby the more unquestionable? or would the modern infidels have been the better disposed to believe in this crucified Jesus? By no means: for we do not find that men of this class are at all the more ready to believe the miracles of Moses in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the Wilderness, because the whole nation were witnesses of them. The truth is, had our blessed Redeemer persuaded all the people of the Jews, by appearing personally to them, the objections against his resurrection would have been ten times more numer. ous and forcible than they are at present; for would not the whole have been called a state-trick, a Jewish fable, a mere political contrivance, to patch up their broken credit, after they had so long talked of a Messiah, who was to come at that time? Besides, we should certainly have been told, that the government being engaged in the plot, a fraud of this kind might have easily been carried on, especially as the people in general would eagerly fall in with it; because it was so exactly adapted to their prejudices, and because the few who had sagacity enough to detect the fraud, could have no opportunity of examining into it; or, if they
did examine and detect the fraud, would not have dared to make any discovery of it, in opposition to the whole weight of the state: so that they would let it pass quietly, without once calling it in question.
The resurrection of our great Redeemer universally believed amongst the Jews, and published to the world by the unanimous voice of the nation would, to say the truth, have been liable to an infinite number of objections, which are all effectually cut off by the method made choice of by the wisdom of Providence; for as the people in general, and the rulers in particular, continued in their infidelity, the persons concerned in this supposed fraud, must have carried it on under the greatest disadvantages. The reason is, that instead of making many friends to assist them, which a fraud of this kind requires, all men were their enemies, and interested to discover the cheat. The Jewish rulers, in particular gaye all possible encouragement to make the strictest scrutiny into the fact, and into all its circumstances; and many doubtless, zealously made the inquiry with the utmost exactness. The apostles who preached the resurrection, exposed themselves to the fiercest resentment of the men in power; because the resurrection of our great Redeemer cast the greatest reflection upon those who had put him to death. It should also be remembered, that if the generality of the nation had not continued in their unbelief, the apostles, who preached the resurrection, would not have suffered these persecutions, which in every country were raised against them, chiefly by the Jews; and consequently one of the strongest arguments for the truth of their testimony would have been wanting : whereas, by their having been persecuted to death for their preaching the resurrection of their great Master, they fully demonstrated how sincerely they believed the great fact which they preached, in continual jeopardy of their lives, notwithstanding the virulent malice, and restless persecution of their enemies.
We have thus endeavored to answer, in the plainest and most satisfactory manner, the principal objection made by the Deists against the truth of our blessed Saviour's resurrection ; and shall conclude this chapter with a few reflections on the life of the blessed JESUS; a life the greatest and best that was ever led by man, or was ever the subject of any history since the universe was called from its original chaos, by the powerful word of the Almighty, which spake it into being.
As the human character of the blessed JESUS results from the accounts given of him by the evangelists (for they have not formally drawn it up) so it is entirely different from that of all other men whatsoever ; for whereas they have selfish passions, deeply rooted in their breasts, and are influenced by them in almost every thing they do, Jesus was so entirely free from them, that the most severe scrutiny cannot furnish one single action in the whole course of his life wherein he consulted his own interest only: no, he was influenced by very different motives; the present happiness and eternal welfare of sinners regulated his conduct; and while others followed their respective occupations, Jesus had no other business than that of promoting the happiness of the sons of men; nor did he wait till he was solicited to extend his benevolent hand to the distressed; he went about doing good, and always accounted it more blessed to give than to receive ; resembling God rather than man, in every act of his life.
Persons of the most exalted faculties are apt to be elated with success and applause, or dejected by censure and disappointments: but the blessed Jesus was never elevated by the one, nor depressed by the other ; he was never more courageous than when he met with the greatest opposition and cruel treatment, nor more humble than when the sons of men worshipped at his feet. He came into the world inspired with the grandest purpose that ever was formed, that of saving from