|« Prev||SECT. VI. The resurrection of Christ proved from…||Next »|
SECT. VI. The resurrection of Christ proved from credible testimony.
CHRIST’S coming to life again in a wonderful manner, after his crucifixion, death, and burial, affords us no less strong an argument for those miracles that were done by Lim. For the Christians of all times and places assert this not only for a truth, but as the principal foundation of their faith: which could not be, unless they, who first taught the Christian faith, had fully persuaded their hearers that the thing did conic to pass. Now, they could nut fully persuade men of any judgment of ibis, unless they affirmed themselves to be eye-witnesess of it; for, without such an affirmation, no man in his senses would have believed them, especially at that time, when such a belief was attended with so many evils and dangers. That this was affirmed by them with great constancy, their own books, and the books of others,209209 Even of Celsus, who wrote against the Christians. See Origen, book ii. tell us; nay, it appears from those books, that they appealed to five hundred witnesses, who saw Jesus after he was risen from the dead.210210 Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 6. He says, some of them were dead at that time, but their children and friends were alive, who might be hearkened to, and testify what they had heard. But the greater part of them were alive when Paul wrote this, This appearance was in a mountain in Galilee. Now, it is not usual for those that speak untruths to appeal to so many witnesses. 86Nor is it possible so many men should agree to bear a false testimony. And if there had been no other witnesses but those twelve known first propagators of the Christian doctrine, it had been sufficient. Nobody has any ill design for nothing. They could not hope for any honour, from saying what was not true, because all the honours were in the power of the heathens and Jews, by whom they were reproached and contemptuously treated: nor for riches, because, on the contrary, this profession was often attended with the loss of their goods, if they had any; and if it had been otherwise, yet the gospel could not have been taught by them, but with the neglect of their temporal goods. Nor could any other advantages of this life provoke them to speak a falsity, when the very preaching of the gospel exposed them to hardship, to hunger and thirst, to stripes and imprisonment. Fame, amongst themselves only. was not so great, that for the sake thereof, men of upright intentions, whose lives and tenets were free from pride and ambition, should undergo so many evils. Nor had they any ground to hope that their opinion, which was so repugnant to nature, (which is wholly bent upon its own advantages), and to the authority which every where governed, could make so great a progress, but from a divine promise. Further, they could not promise to themselves that this fame, whatever it was, would be lasting; because (God on purpose concealing his intention in this matter from them) they expected that the end of the whole world was just at hand, as is plain from their own writings, and those of the Christians that came after them.211211 See 1 Thess. iv. 15,16. 1 Cor. xv. 52. Tertullian, of having but one wife: “Now the time is very short.” Jerom to Gerontias; “What is that to us, upon whom the ends of the world are come?” It remains, therefore, that they must be said to have uttered a falsity, for the sake of defending their religion; which, if we consider the thing aright, can never be said of them; for either they believed from their heart that their religion was true, or they did not believe it. If they had not believed it to have been the best, they would never have chosen it from all 87other religions, which were more safe and honourable. Nay, though they believed it to be true, they would not have made profession of it, unless they had believed such a profession necessary; especially when they could easily foresee, and they quickly learnt by experience, that such a profession would be attended with the death of a vast number; and they would have been guilty of the highest wickedness, to have given such occasion, without a just reason. If they believed their religion to be true, nay, that it was the best, and ought to be professed by all means, and this after the death of their Master; it was impossible this should be, if their Master’s promise concerning his resurrection had failed them; for this had been sufficient to any man, in his senses, to have overthrown that belief which he had before entertained.212212 Chrysostom handles this argument at large, upon 1 Cor. i. towards this end. Again, all religion, but particularly the Christian religion, forbids lying and false witness, especially in divine matters:213213 Matt. xii. 36. John viii. 44, 45. Eph. iv. 25. Rom. ix. 1. 2 Cor. vii. 14. xi. 31. Gal. i. 20. Col. iii. 9. 1 Tim. i. 10. and ii. 7. Jam. iii. 14. Matt. xxii. 16. Mark xii. 14. Luke xx. 21. John xiv. 16. Eph. v. 9. and elsewhere. they could not therefore be moved to tell a lie out of love to religion, especially such a religion. To all which may be added, that they were men who led such a life as was not blamed even by their adversaries;214214 Even Celsus. Sec Origen, book i. and who had no objection made against them, but only their simplicity, the nature of which is the most distant that can be from forging a lie. And there was none of them who did not undergo even the most grievous things for their profession of the resurrection of Jesus. Many of them endured the most exquisite death for this testimony. Now, suppose it possible, that any man in his wits could undergo such things for an opinion he had entertained in his mind; yet for a falsity, and which is known to be a falsity, that not only one man, but very many, should be willing to endure such hardships, is a thing plainly incredible. And that they were not mad, 88both their lives and their writings sufficiently testify. What has been said of these first, the same may also be said of Paul, who openly declared that he saw Christ reigning in heaven,215215 1 Cor. xv. 8. 2 Cor. xii. 4. Add to this what Luke the disciple of Paul writes, Acts ix. 4, 5, 6. and xxii. 6, 7, 8. and he did not want the learning of the Jews, but had great prospect of honour, if he had trod in the paths of his fathers.216216 Acts xxii. 3. There were two Gamaliels famous amongst the Hebrews on account of their learning. Paul was the disciple of one of them, who was very skilful, not only in the law, but also in those things that were delivered by the doctors. See Epiphanius. But, on the contrary, he thought it. his duty, for this profession, to expose himself to the hatred of his relations; and to undertake difficult, dangerous, and troublesome, voyages all over the world, and at last to suffer an ignominious death.
|« Prev||SECT. VI. The resurrection of Christ proved from…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version