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soldiers to report that the body of Jesus Christ was stoleri out of the grave by bis disciples. Now, this was a home charge on the Jews, and shows them to be the most degen. crate wretches, that they would stick at nothing to carry on their designs, even the most abominable piece of forgery. and bribery. Nay, their priests and rulers would be guilty of this villany, to tamper with soldiers in this manner. Well, if these chief priests and fathers of Israel bad been unjustly calumniated in this manner, it might have been expected that they would have exerted themselves in some extraordinary manner to clear themselves of this aspersion, and that the whole nation would have been in a tumult about it: For they would see that their religion, as well as their credit, was at stake; as this account of their proceedings was like to be published through the world, and transmitted to the latest posterity. Now, surely one would think the Christians would have been solemnly called to account for this provoking piece of bistory, and challenged to make it good, and that with the greatest zeal and con
Well, but there is nothing like this, the Jews content themselves with private whispers, to set the story about, which the bribed soldiers had reported, and make no resentment of the charge. From all which we may warrantably conclude, that they were conscious to themselves of the truth of the charge, and knew that they had bribed the soldiers to make the report; and consequently that they knew Christ was risen, otherwise they had not bribed the soldiers.
13. Although the disciples of Christ had been so wicked as to have contrived the stealing away the body of Jesus, it was impossible for them to have accomplished it. The Jews were uncommonly intent and watchful about this event; for they came to Pilate, and told him, that Jesus had foretold, while alive, that he would rise again the third day; and it was proper that a guard should be set upon the sepulchre till that day was over, lest his disciples should come and steal him away, and say, that he was risen, and so the latter error would be worse thau the first. They were sufficiently aware of the consequences of this event, that it would overturn their religion, and establish Christianity, and therefore they take all necessary precautions ; and this was ordered by God's wise providence for ascertaining the truth of the event.
14. The coined story of carrying off the body of Jesus, while the guard slept, is so very gross, that it will scarce bear a telling. For if the disciples did this while the soldiers slept, how could the trick be known ? Did the disciples tell it themselves, or were the guard conscious of what passed in their sleep? Were not their senses locked up during their sleep?
15. If the disciples had been concerned in so vile a piece of imposture, with what courage or confidence could they have entered on their ministry, and preached salvation in Christ's name ? Could they have ever hoped for any countenance from heaven, or for assistance from the Spirit to work miracles, while they were propagating a notorious cheat. They might have expected that both heaven and earth would be engaged against them in every step of their undertaking, and so would have dropped their design of propagating the Christian faith. But being perfectly assured of the truth of Christ's resurrection, and of all they preached, they undertook and went through their work with that indefatigable zeal and industry, with that life and spirit far transcending all that ever was known in human nature before, that no storms nor difficulties, dangers nor deaths, could in the least shake them; yea, they were animated the more by the greatest of trials and persecutions.
For confirming the truth of the witnesses' testimony con. cerning our Lord's resurrection, consider the horrid and intolerable absurdities that would follow on questioning or denying the truth of it.
1. A deist, who denies it, must believe that a despicable company of wilful impostors and deceivers, men of a hated nation and religion, without power or force, without learn. ing or experience, without wit or policy, should be able to run down all wit, learning, power and policy of the world; and-by preaching a most despised, incredible, and seemingly ridiculous doctrine, directly contrary to all the worldly interests and humours of men, and to their religions and customs, yea, and to their reason and philosophy too, should propagate the belief of it far and wide through the earth, so that there was scarce a nation in the whole compass
of the globe, but what in whole or in part received this fiction, as the most sacred truth of God, and accordingly laid the
whole stress of their salvation upon it! Or if deists will suppose that the apostles and their companions were a company of brain-sick enthusiasts, or of lunatics and madmen; ihen they must own that such pitiful weak persons did argue with so much art and force, as to overpower all the learning and wisdom of the world : That all the sages, philosophers, and statesmen, who embraced Christianity in great numbers, as well as the poor and illiterate, were convinced and persuaded by mere enthusiasm ; that they mistook downright raving for the strongest reason, and a chain of incoherent falsities for bright and evident demonstrations of truth!
2. The deists must believe that, twelve poor fishermen were not only able to coinpass that vast design of making the world stoop to the laws they imposed : but also that they laid their plots so deep, that the effects of it should be permanent and lasting, and no succeeeding age or generation ever be able to fathoin it, and show where the cheat lay. Strange! that a company of illiterate men outdid the profoundest wisdom and sagacity of mankind, and concerted matters so artfully, that none of all the penetrating wits of the world should, for so many centuries, after the strictest examination, find it possible to discover the least failure or flaw in the contrivance.
3. They must believe that these persons absolutely divested themselves of all regard to their own preservation or happiness; that they despised all the comforts and enjoyments of life, and ventured upon poverty and misery, upon torments, upon death, yea, upon damnation itself in the next world, and all for nothing but the propagating of a cheat, which is most absurd to suppose.
4. They must believe that these very persons, who but a few hours before had so little spirit and courage left them, that they forsook their master in his extremity, and durst not own themselves his disciples, nor show themselves openly for fear of the Jews, should all of a sudden grow so resolute, as to venture on that bold and hazardous undertaking, of forcing the sepulchre, and carrying off his body; and that they effectuated the design without being challenged by one of the guard.
5. They must believe that these timorous men would, in an enterprise that required so much expedition and dis
patch, spend so much of their time in divesting a dead body of its burial-clothes, and wrap them up by themselves; and not rather choose to carry off all together in haste, lest the next minute the guard might wake and come upon them.
6. They must believe that a set of the greatest cheats that ever the world saw, did, notwithstanding, furnish mankind with the most exact systein of morality that ever was, and lay the best foundations and scheme for the peace and happiness of the world, that could be laid! That the vilest hypocrites would spend all their time, and lives too, in indefatigable labours to make other men upright and sincere, and denounce damnation against lying, dissimulation, &c. That the system they compiled of religion was a standing comment of their own shame; and that all their sermons and writings were but so many satires and lain poons upon themselves.
Object. Christ's resurrection is attested only by his own friends and disciples. Why did he not converse as publicly with men as he did before? Why did he not appear to the chief priests and elders of the Jews, to have convinced them of the truth of this fact?
Ans. 1. We are not to prescribe rules to the Divine Majesty; all his works are done in infinite wisdom, and he is not obliged to account to us for his actings : he himself knows best what makes inost for his own glory and the happiness of his creatures.
2. It was not to a few that Christ appeared, but to the twelve apostles, to the seventy disciples; yea, to five hundred brethren at once, to whom he gave the most convincing proofs of his resurrection.
3. It was a sufficient demonstration to the Jews of Christ's resurrection, Pilate's securing the sepulchre with a guard of soldiers, and Christ's body not being found therein. They might have been assured that a handful of timorous men would never adventure on stealing it: and they had a sufficient confirmation from the soldiers, who came into the city, and showed to the chief priests all the things that were done, viz. the earthquake, angel's descent, &c. Matt. xxviii. 11.
4. Christ had given sufficient proof of his divine mission to the Jews before, by the miracles he wrought, which they blasphemously opposed, and maliciously prosecuted him to death as a traitor; and therefore because of their malice and obstinacy, they were unworthy of such a privilege as his conversing with them.
5. Though he had appeared to them, these malicious men would not have acknowledged him to be the person that was crucified, but would have alleged he was an impostor, set up by the Christians to personate the true Jesus, and been more enraged against his followers than ever.
6. Though Christ had risen and appeared in such a manner, yet deists would have quarrelled the testimony of witnesses the same way they do now, saying, “ How should we believe the report of others, and credit what we see pot with our own eyes," &c. Christ's miracles were as publicly transacted as could have been desired; all men, and the greatest enemies, were allowed to witness them; yet deists now treat them as mere forgeries, and so would they have done Christ's appearing even to the whole Jewish sanhedrim.
Improvement. From the resurrection of Christ, we may infer, that death is fairly overcome, and swallowed up in victory. Christ went into the very den of this dragon, and foiled it. Now, though it retains its dart, yet it hath left its sting in Christ's side, so that the believer may triumph, as 1 Cor. xv. 55, 56, 57. “O death where is thy sting! o grave where is thy victory! The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law : But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” The true believer need not have any slavish fear of death, though it frighten, yet it cannot hurt him. 2. Let believers dis. pose and employ their bodies, as those who know-what is prepared for them at their resurrection. 3. Let us all secure to ourselves an interest in Christ and his blessed resurrection. 'Tis this hope that supports under all the troubles of this life.