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