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with the wretched, thin, transparent artifices of modern dissimulation ? with eyes turned up in prayer to God, but swelling with spite and
SERMON LII. envy towards meu? with a purity above mortal pitch, professed (or rather proclaimer) THE CERTAINTY OF OUR SAVIOUR'S in worils, without so much as common
RESURRECTION. honesty seen in actions ? with reformation so loudly and speciously pretended, but nothing “ Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, but sacrilege and rapine practised?
thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and This was the just and true character of the yet have believed. "-Jonn, xx. 29. blessed times of forty-one; and one would think it a great pity, that the same cheat Christ, the great Sun of righteousness and should pass upon the same nation twice. For Saviour of the world, having by a glorious nothing but the utter subversion of church rising, after a red and a bloody setting, proand state was driven at by Satan and his claimed his deity to men and angels, and by instruments, in that was then done ; and lies, a complete triuinplı over the two grani oaths, and armies (raised in the strength of enemies of mankind, sin and death, set up both) were the means by which they effected the everlasting gospel in the room of all false it. In short, the nation was to be blindfolled, religions, has now, as it were, changed the in order to its being buffeted ; and Samson to Persian superstition into the Christian devohave his eyes put out, before he could be tion; and, without the least approach to the made fool enough to kill himself for company. | idolatry of the fornier, made it henceforth the All grant, that the acts of the understanding duty, of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, to should, in order of nature, lead and go before worship the rising sun. the acts of the will ; and accordingly Satan is But as the sun does not display his rising to always so much a philosopher as to know, all parts of the world together, nor to the that there is no debauching the one, but by same region shews his whole light at the same first deluding the other.
instant; but by weaker glimmerings at the It is indeed no small degree of impudence, first, gradually ascends to clearer and clearer (as common as it is,) for men to dare to own discoveries, and at length beams it forth with pretences contrary to what they actually and a full diffusion; so Christ here discovered visibly practise ; and yet, to shew how much himself after his rising, not to all his apostles “the world is made for the bold,” (as the at once, nor to any of them with the same saying is,) this has been the constant course evidence at first, but by several ascending of it, with an unfailing success attending it. instances and arguments; till in the end he For as long as knaves will pretend, and fools shone out in his full meridian, and made the believe, (as it is seldom but they keep pace proof of his resurrection complete in his aswith one another,) the devil's interest is sure cension. to be served by both. And therefore if, after Thomas we have one of the last in this all this long scene of fallacy and imposture, chorus, resolving to tie his understanding close (so infinitely dishonourable to
to his senses ; to believe no farther than he nature,) we would effectually obviate the could see, nor to venture himself but where same for the future, let us, in God's name, he could feel his way. He would not, it and in the first place, resolve once with our seems, take a miracle upon hearsay, nor selves to act as rational creatures ; that is to resolve his creed into report, nor, in a word, say, let us carry an open, steady, and impar see with any eyes but his own. No; he must tial eye upon what men do, in spite of any trace the print of the nails, follow the spear thing which they shall or can say. And in | into our Saviour's side, till' he even touched the next place, let us, as Christiaus, encounter the miracle, and felt the article of the resurour grand enemy the tempter with these two rection. best of weapons put into our hands by the But as in the too inquisitive beholder, who great Captain of our salvation, watchfulness is not content to behold the suu by reflection, and prayer : and if, by these blessed means, but by a direct intuition of his glorious body, God shall discover and lay open to us his de- there comes such a light, as at the same time lusions, we may thank ourselves, if we fall by both informs and chastises the over-curious his temptations.
eye; so Christ here, in his discovering himself To which God, the great Fountain and to this doubting apostle, condescends indeed Father of light, who alone can scatter all to convince him in his own way; but so, that those mists and defeat those stratagems which while he complies with his infirmity, he also the prince of darkness has hitherto blinded upbraids his infidelity; humouring his patient, and abused the world by, be rendered and but not sparing his distemper : and yet all ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, this with so gentle a hand, and such an allay majesty, and dominion, both now and for of sweetness, that the reproof is only collateral evermore, Amen.
or consequential, not directly reproaching him
for his unbelief, but iinplicitly reflecting upon materials ; neither has the world yet, as to it, by commending the belief of others : matter of fact, ever seen any example thereof; nothing in the mean time sharp or corrosive nor, as to the theory of the same, does the dropping from his healing lips, even in passing reason of man well comprehend how it can such a reprehension upon his disciple. He be done. So that the belief of this must only shews him his blind side in an opposite needs have been exceedingly more difficult instance, and so leaves him to read his own than that of the former. case in an antithesis, and to shame himself by Which observations having been thus prea coinparison.
mised, I shall now proceed to close them all Now, inasmuch as the distinguishing emi with something more direct to the main subnency of the blessing so emphatically here ject of the text, our blessed Saviour's resurpronounced by our Saviour upon a faith or rection : touching which, though (as it has assent springing not from sight, but a much been already noted) his short continuance higher principle, must needs import a peculiar under death fully rescued his sacred body excellency of the said faith ; for its surmount from all putrefaction, and consequently rening all those high difficulties and impediments dered his resurrection a thing of much easier attending it, though still with a sufficient speculation, and liable to fewer objections, as reason to found it upon : (for that Christ well as attended with lesser difficulties, than never rewards any thing with a blessing, but the resurrection of men's bodies, after a total so far as it is a duty; nor makes any thing a dissolution of them, can be imagined to be : duty, but what is highly rational :) this, I nevertheless, it being a thing so confessedly say, is most certain. But then, as for those above all the powers of nature, and so much various and different objects which a genuine an exception from the common lot of morfaith ought to come up to the belief of, we tality, it could not but offer itself to the must not think that the same strength, as to apprehensions of bare reason under great the kind or degree of it, will be able to match disadvantages of credibility ; especially when them all ; for even the particular resurrection the arguments brought from particular attesof our Saviour, and that general one of all tations were to encounter the prejudice of a men at the last day, will be found to stand general experience ; nothing being more cerupon very different bottoms; the many diffi- tain than that men commonly do not so much culties, if not also paradoxes, allegeable against believe or judge of things as they really are, the resurrection of a body, after a total disso but as they use to be : custom for the most lution thereof, being infinitely greater and part passing for the world's demonstration, harder to be accounted for, than any that cau and men rarely extending their belief beyond be brought against the resurrection of a body the compass of what they observe; so that never yet dissolved, but only once again bare authority urged against or beside the united to the soul, which it had belonged to report of sense, may sometimes and in some before.
cases control, yet it seldom convinces the Besides which, there have, as to this latter judgment; and though possibly, meeting sort of resurrection from the dead, been seve with a modest temper, it may in some cases ral instances of persons so raised again, both impose silence, yet it very rarely and hardly before and in our Saviour's time. And in procures assent. truth, as to the very notion of the thing itself, And probably Thomas's reason, arguing there appears not the least contradiction in it from the common topics of the world, might to any known principle of reason : no, nor suggest to his unbelief such kind of doubts yet (which is more) does there seem any and objections about his master's resurrection greater difficulty to conceive how God should as these. “Jesus of Nazareth was put to death remand a departed soul into its former body, upon the cross, and being dead, was laid and while remaining entire and undissolved, than sealed up in his sepulchre, strictly watched that after he had formed a body for Adam, he with a guard of soldiers. But I am told, and should presently breathe into it (so formed), required to believe, that notwithstanding all “a living soul," as we read in the second of this he is risen, and is indeed alive. Now Genesis.
surely things suitable to the stated course of So that Saint Paul's question (Acts, xxvi. nature should be believed before such as are 8,) proceeded upon very obvious, as well as quite beside it; and for a dead man to return great reason. “Why," says he, “should it be to life is preternatural ; but that those who thought a thing incredible with you, that God report this may be mistaken, is very natural should raise the dead ?” pointing therein, no and usual. Dead I saw him; but that he is doubt, only to the latter sort of resurrection, risen, I only hear : in what I see with my specified in the person of our Saviour, and eyes, I cannot easily be deceived; but in which alone he was at that time discoursing of. wbat I only hear, I may, and often am.
But, on the contrary, if we consider that "Noither ca bare report of itself be a other sort of resurrection of a body raised sufficient reason of belief; because things after an utter dissolution of it into its first confessedly false have been as confidently
reported; nor is any thing, though never so jections may be fully answered and fairly strange and odd, ever almost told of, but accounted for, by the respective solutions soinebody or other is as positively vouched to which shall be liere given of them and applied have seen it. Besides that the united testi to them : and in order to this, I shall lay mony of all ages and places will not gain down these preliminary considerations. credence against one particular experiment of 1. That the truth of a proposition being sense ; and what then can the particular re oncesufficiently and duly proved, no objections port of a few conclude agaiust the general ex afterwards brought against it can invalidate perience of so many people and nations, who or disprove the truth of the said proposition; had never seen any thing like it?
and consequently, that a man is obliged to “ Moreover, as the reporters were but few, believe the same, though several objections so they were generally looked upon as per should be so produced against it, which he is sons of little depth and great simplicity, and by no means able to answer. such qualifications too frequently render men 2. That our Saviour, having done so many very credulous: they were also frighted and miraculous works in the sight of his enemies, disturbed, and therefore the more likely to beyond all possibility of doubt concerning mistake ; and might likewise be very desirous, them, as to matter of fact, ought not, even by both for their master's honour and their own his enemies themselves, who had been witcredit, that he should make good his word and nesses of the said works, (upon the strictest promise of rising from the dead by an actual terms of reason,) to be looked upon in this resurrection; and upon that account (as great dispute about his resurrection, as a person desire naturally disposes to a belief of the confined to or acting by the bare measures of thing desired) they might be so much the nature ; and consequently, that all arguments proner to believe that he actually did so. against it, taken from these measures, (they But, above all, why did he not, after he was themselves being judges,) are to be rejected, risen, shew himself to the Sanhedrim, to the as inconclusive and impertinent. Scribes and Pharisees, and to the unbelieving 3. That God intended not the gospel (of Jews, openly in the temple or in the market which most things relating to the person and place? For this doubtless would have been works of our Saviour, no less than his doc. a much more effectual way of convincing the trines, make an integral part) should be reJews, than the bare testimony of his own dis ceieved by mankind upon the evidence of ciples, which might be liable to many, and demonstration, but by the rational assent of those very plausible exceptions, (with the faith. Jews at least,) since nothing commonly more 4. That this faith ought to be so far under detracts from the credibility of a report, than the influence of the will, as thereby to render the credulity of the reporter.
it an act of choice, and consequently free; “ Besides all which, there appears also and on that account fit for a reward. something of inconsistency in the main re 5. That in order to its being so, not all port; for that some report him to have possibility, but only all just reason of doubting, appeared in one shape, and some in another : ought to be excluded by it, and reckoued in. whereas truth uses to be uniform, and one consistent with it. And, man naturally should have but one shape ; 6. And lastly, That such an irresistible, all agreeing, that in the telling of any story, overpowering evidence of the object, as is variety (especially as to the chief subject of it) conveyed to the mind by clear and immediate is ever suspicious.”
sight, is not well consistent with such a These and the like objections, I say, might freedom of the act of faith as we are now be, and no doubt actually were made, both speaking of; forasmuch as it determines the by Thomas himself, and several others, against mind to an assent naturally beyond its power the resurrection of our blessed Saviour; aud to withhold or deny, let men object or prehow little weight soever we may allow them tei what they will to the contrary. in point of strict argument, they have so These considerations, I say, or some of much however of plausibility and verisimili them, duly applied, will account for every tude in them, as may well warrant that re thing which is or may be objected against mark of Calvin upon this subject. Namely, the resurrection of our Saviour. And accor
“ That Christ, in manifesting his resurrec dingly, in answer to the first of the foregoing tion to the world, proceeded after a very objections, to wit, That things, according to different way from what mere human sense the common stated course of nature, ought to or reason would probably have suggested or be believed before such as are beside it; and looked for in such a case.” Nevertheless I that it is beside, as well as above the course do not much question but the foregoing ob of nature, for a dead man to return to life;
but that those, on the contrary, who report Quamquam aliter quam carnis nostræ sensus expeteret, re
such strange things, may be deceived in what surrectionem suam Christus patefecit; hæc tamen quæ illi pla
they report, is very natural and usual. cuit ratio, nobis quoque optima videri debet. Calv. in Harm. Erangelistarum, p. 373.
To this I say, that although I readily grant
this latter proposition to be true; yet the ing or denying something concerning them former, upon which the objection chiefly Thus in the present case, Thomas, on the one bears, I cannot allow to be universally so, but side, had seen his Lord dead, and buried, with only cæteris paribus ; that is to say, supposing his own eyes; and on the other, heard that the ground of the arguments on both sides to he was risen from the dead, from the mouth of be equal ; and that for this reason, that it is several known witnesses unanimously affirmnot always the bare difference of nature, in ing it: in which argument the point turns the things or objects proposed to our belief, not upon this, that the sight represents and which is the cause that one of thein should be reports its object more surely than the hearbelieved by us rather than another ; but it is ing, but upon the qualifications of the witthe disparity of the grounds and motives, nesses attesting what had passed concerning upon which the said things are to be believed, the objects of either. And this being so which must determine our belief in such a much more advantageous, in point of credi
It must be confessed, that for a man bility, on the disciples' side than on Thomas's, to be mistaken, or judge wrong of a thing, is bad there really been an inconsistency bebut too natural to mankind; and that on the tween both their testimonies, that of the other side, for a man to rise from the dead, is disciples ought in reason to have outweighed both beside and above nature. Nevertheless, and took place of his. But to render his unin some cases and instances, there may be belief so much the more inexcusable, there greater reason to believe this latter, (as strange was no inconsistency at all between what had and preternatural as it is,) than, in certain been affirmed by Thomas himself, and what cases, to believe some other events, though was afterwards testified by his fellow disciples. perfectly natural. As, for instance, that For as Thomas was an ocular witness of Lazarus being dead, and laid in the grave, Christ's death and burial, so were the other should continue there till he rotted to dust, disciples of his resurrection, having actually was a thing in all respects according to the seen him after he was risen. And as he had course of nature; and, on the contrary, that he no cause to doubt of their veracity in what should rise from thence, after he had lain they told bim, so neither had he any reason there four days, was thing as much above to doubt of the credibility of the thing told and beside it; and yet for all this, there was by them. Forasmuch as 'l'homas himself had a great deal more reason for the belief of this, seen three instances of persons raised from than of the other; forasmuch as this was the dead by our Saviour, during the time of undeniably attested by a multitude of eye his converse with him. All which must witnesses, who beheld this great work, and needs, upon the strictest terms of reason, renneither could be deceived themselves, nor der his unbelief and doubting of our Saviour's have any the least purpose of deceiving own resurrection (so unquestionably attested) others, in what they reported. Nor did the utterly indefensible. But to proceed, Jews at all except against what was told 3. It being above objected also, that several thein concerning Lazarus, upon any of those reports, found at last to be confessedly false, two forementioned accounts, but fully and have yet for some time been as confidently firmly believed what they had heard, and vouched for true, as this now before us was that with such an absolute assurance, that or could be; and moreover, that there is they took up designs of killing Lazarus him- hardly any report so false, strange, and self, to prevent people's flocking after him, unusual, but that some have been as posiand being converted by the sight of him ; tively affirmed by others to have been eyewhich, had they believed him still dead, was witnesses of the same. surely such a method of dealing with him, as In answer to which, all this must be common sense and reason would never have granted to be extremely true, but withal thought of. But,
nothing to the purpose, since if it proves any 2. Whereas the next objection represents thing, it must prove a great deal too much, Thomas pleading, as a reason of his present namely, That there is no credit to be rationunbelief, that he saw our Saviour dead and ally given to any thing that we hear, how buried, but only hears that he is risen ; and credible soever in itself. For certain it is, that he can hardly be deceived in what he that many, even the grossest falsehoods, have sees, but in what he hears he easily may. been reported, received, and actually believed
I answer, that as to the simple apprehen as true; and many stories certainly true have sions of these two senses, one takes in its (for a considerable time at least) been absorespective object by as sure a perception as lutely rejected as false : and if this must pass the other, though perhaps not so quick nor for a sufficient reason to deny, or so much as so refined. But the mistake in either of these to suspect and question every thing else reis not from any failure in the bare simple ported to us to be so likewise, then farewell perception of its proper object, but from the all rational belief, credit, and certainty, as judgment passed by the understanding faculty being hereby quite sent packing out of the upou the said perceptions, in wrongly affirm world. But,
4. It is yet farther argued, that as the perfectly as it did before. It is disputed, I united testimony and report of all places and know, in natural philosophy, whether the ages will not gain credence against so much sense being duly qualified, and the object as as one particular experiment of sense ; so, duly proposed, and the medium fitted to both, much less can the particular report of a few the sense can be deceived in the apprehensiou persons couclude any thing against the uni- of its object; and it is generally held in the versal experience of all.
negative. But supposing that the sense To this I answer, that the account given by might be deceived, this would make nothing those few disciples, of our Saviour's resurrec- against us in the present case ; forasmuch as tion, was so far from being contrary to the natural fallibility may very well consist with universal experience and sense of mankind, actual certainty ; nothing being more true, especially those of the Jewish church and than that as a man is capable of being misnation, that the Old Testament, as well as taken, so on the contrary he is often times the New, has several examples upon record, actually not mistaken ; and whosoever is not of persons who had been raised from the dead; mistaken, is, as to that particular act, and which being so well known to the Jews, might with reference to that particular object, truly justly pass rather for so many proofs and and properly certain. And this was the very confirmations of the credibility of our Savi case of the disciples affirming Christ's resurour's resurrection, than that our Saviour's rection, from a full conviction of their siglit resurrection, after such preceding instances of and other senses ; a conviction too strong and so like a nature, should be supposed to carry sure to admit of any reason sufficient to overany thing in it contradictory to the common bear it. For as to the foregoing objection, from sense and opinion of the world Besides all the greatness of the fear, then supposed to which, those words of Herod, upon his hear have been upon them, we liave shewn the ing of the miracles of Christ, seem here weakness or rather nullity of that already ; very observable : " It is John,” says he, and not only so, but the very proceedings of “whom I beheaded ; he is risen from the the Jews themselves give us an irrefragable dead," &c.
confutation of the same. For if a report, These words, I say, so readily uttered by coming from persons under an extreme fear, him, without any previous demur, or strain ought upon that score to lose all credibility, of thought, could not but shew, that the re surely this should, on a very eminent and surrection from the dead, of some particular peculiaroccasion, have took place in the guards persons, even as to this life, was no such set by Pilate to watch Christ's sepulchre ; strange, unheard of notion with him and who (as we read in Matth. xxviii. 4) were the rest of the Jews, but that they were so seized with such an amazing, dispiriting fear, far at least acquainted with it, as to account “that they shook, and became as dead meu. it neither impossible nor incredible. But, Nevertheless the priests (no fools, though
5. It is again alleged, for the invalidating somethivg else) looked upon them as very of the report made by the disciples concerning credible witnesses of what they had seen, and our Saviour, that the fright and disturbance afterwards related to them : and consequently they were under, upon our Saviour's cruci- judged their testimony, if contrary, like to fixion, and the rage expressed by the Jews prove so disadvantageous to their design, that against his disciples, as well as against him- they thought they could not bribe them too self, might naturally enough bring upon them high, nor buy their silence at too dear a rate; such a confusion of thought and aptness to wbich, had they thought that all that was mistake, as might very well lessen the cer told them was but idle tales, and founded only tainty, and consequently take off much of the in a panic, unaccountable consternation, no credit of the testimony.
doubt, they would never have done at such a To which I answer, that fears or frights do | price. For Jews, of all men, are not wont to not so operate upon the outward senses, as to part with their money for nothing, or an idle supersede or hinder them in their first and tale, which was no more. simple apprehensions of their respective ob- 6. Some again argue, that since Christ had jects, which are also naturally the clearest so expressly and openly beforehand declared and most impartial. I grant, indeed, that and foretold his resurrection from the dead, fear, and some other passions, may so divert that his adversaries, as well as his followers, the steadiness and intention of the intellectual had took particular notice thereof; no doubt judging faculty for some time, that it cannot his disciples thereupon could not but be highpresently form so exact a judgment upon the ly concerned, that their master should make objects tendered to it by the senses, as other- good that his word and promise in the face of wise it might do. But still this is only an the world : and accordingly (as great desire interruption of the acts, rather than any naturally disposes to facility of belief) they disablement of the faculty ; which, as soon as might be apt to persuade themselves, that the the present passion is over, comes to debate event had indeed answered the prediction ; and judge of all objects presented to it, as and that he was now actually risen, as he had