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that they understood, to come into a new world, wherein they were perfect strangers, and to preach a new gospel, with which all men were unacquainted: and they preached it, not to the wise, the mighty, or the noble, who, when converted, might have forwarded its reception by their influence; but to the foolish, weak, and base, who were able to do nothing for its advantage, but by living according to the rules, and dying for the truth of it. As they had no help from the powers of this world, civil or military, so had they all the opposition that was possible; which they withstood and baffled : they sowed the good seed of the word under the very feet of the Roman, magistrates and soldiers, who, though they trod it down, and rooted it up, yet could not destroy it so far, but that still it sprang out again, and yielded a fruitful and glorious harvest. The inference from hence is plain and indubitable; that a divine power and virtue certainly went along with it, to supply what was wanting to it upon other accounts, and that its increase must necds have been supernatural and miraculous. 1
THE SAME SUBJECT. The establishment of the Christian religion among men, is the greatest of all miracles. In spite of all the power of Rome; in spite of all the passions, interest, and prejudices of so many nations ; so many philosopliers; so many different religions; twelve poor fishermen, without art, without eloquence, without power, publish and spread their doctrine throughout the world. In spite of a persecution for three centuries, which seemed every moment ready to extinguish it; in spite of continued and innumerable martyrdoms of persons of all conditions, sexes, and countries; the truth in the end triumphs over errour, pursuant to the predictions both of the old and new law. Let any one show some other religion, which has the same marks of a divine protection. • A powerful conqueror may establish, by his arms, the belief of a religion, which flatters the sensuality of nien; a wise legislator may gain himself attention and respect by the usefulness of his laws; a sect in credit, and supported by the civil power, may abuse the credulity of the people: all this is possible ; but what could victorious, learned, and superstitious nations see, to induce them -80 readily to Jesus Christ, who promised them nothing in this world but persecutions and sufferings; who proposed to them the practice of a morality, to which all their darling passions must be sacrificed? Is not the conversion of the world to such a religion, without miracles, a greater and more credible one, than even the greatest of those which some refuse to believe?
TRUTH OF THE RESURRECTION. LET us consider the single miracle of Christ's resurrection. Jesus had frequently mentioned it before his death; and the thing was so far in general credited, that the sepulchre was sealed, and an armed guard appointed to watch it. We may well suppose, therefore, that his favourers would naturally, upon this occasion, reason thus : Jesus hath now put his pretensions upon a fair issue. He hath told us, he will arise from the dead on the third day :-here then let us suspend our judgment, and wait the result. Three days will determine whether he be an impostor, or the real Messiah.' It is very natural to suppose, that the favourers of Jesus would reason, after his death, in a manner like this: and it is beyond credibility, that any of them would have continued his disciples, had they found him falsifying in this point. But we know they did continue his disciples after this. We know also, that many proselytes, convinced by this very event, embraced the Christian religion. We have all the reason in the world, therefore, to believe that they were fully satisfied. His miracles were to them a sufficient proof of his pretensions. All candid men would have acquieseed, as they did ; and in their belief we have a very strong foundation for our own. Let us proceed then to matter of fact.
That the body was dead, and safely lodged in the tomb, and afterwards conveyed out of it, was agreed on, both by those who opposed, and by those who favoured the resurrection. In the circumstances of the latter fact, they differ widely.
The disciples tell their story-a very plain and simple one that, scarce expecting the event, not. withstanding their master had himself foretold it, they were surprised with an account that the body was gone that they found afterwards, to their great astonishment, that their master was again alive
that they had been several times with him; and
appealed for the truth of what they said to great numbers, who, as well as themselves, had seen him after his resurrection. .
The chief priests, on the other side, declared the whole to be a forgery; asserting, that the plain matter of fact was, the disciples came by night, and stole the body away, while the soldiers slept.
Such a tale, unsupported by evidence, would be listened to in no court of justice. It has not even the air of probability. Can it be supposed, that the disciples, who had fled with terrour when they might have rescued their master's life, would venture in the face of an armed guard, to carry off his dead body? Or is it more probable, that they found the whole guard asleep; when we know, that the vigilance of sentinels is secured by the strictest discipline ?-Besides, what advantage could arise from such an attempt? If they miscarried, it was certain ruin, both to them and their cause. If they succeeded, it is difficult to say what use they could make of their success. Unless they could have produced their dead body alive, the second errour would be worse than the first. Their master's prophecy of his own resurrection was an unhappy circumstance; yet still it was wrapped in a veil of obscurity. But if his disciples endeavoured to prove its conipletion, it was their business to look well to the event. A detection would be such a comment upon their master's text as would never be forgotten.- When a cause depends on falsehood, every body knows, the less it is moved the better.
This was the case of the other side. Obscurity
there was wanted. If the chief priests had any proof, why did they not produce it?. Why were not the disciples taken up, and examiued upon the fact? They never absconded. Why were they not judicially tried? Why was not the trial made public? And why were not authentic memorials of the fraud handed down to posterity ; as authentic memorials were of the fact, recorded at the very time and place, where it happened? Christianity never wanted enemies to propagate its disparagement. But nothing of this kind was done. No proof was attempted-except indeed the testimony of men asleep. The disciples were never question ed upon the fact; and the chief priests rested satisfied with spreading an inconsistent rumour among the people, impressed merely by their own authority.
Whatever records of heathen origin remain, evince the truth of the resurrection. One is very remarkable. Pontius Pilate sent the emperor Tiberius a relation of the death and resurrection of Christ; which were recorded at Rome, as usual, among other provincial matters. This intelligence made so great an impression, it seenis, upon the emperor, that he referred it to the sepate, whether Jesus Christ of Judea should not be taken into the number of the Roman gods.---Our belief of this fact is chiefly founded upon the testimony of Justin Martyr and Tertullian, two learned leathens, in the age succeeding Christ, who became Christians from this very evidence, among others, in favour of Christianity. In their apologies*, still
*Just Mart. Apol, ad Anton. P.-Terlal. Apol. cap. 15. VOL. I.