« AnteriorContinuar »
several times promised them, while he lived ought in all reason to be allowed, to proceed and conversed with them. Thus their zeal by measures quite different from ours; and for their Lord's honour might cause them accordingly, that he might not think fit to strongly to desire, and that desire as strongly vouchsafe the Jews the highest evidence of incline them to believe, his resurrection. So, Christ's resurrection, which it was capable of, I say, some argue.
who had rejected such high evidence of the To which I answer, that as the objection like nature before ; but rather judged it enough before this represented the disciples in this for him to afford them such evidence of it, as whole business as persons extremely weak, so was in itself sufficient to convince them, and this would represent them as equally wicked; consequently to render their disbelief thereof the former, as men wretchedly deceived, and irrational and inexcusable ; besides that the this latter, as designing to deceive others; and highest evidence of an object proposed to be that by a vile, fraudulent intrigue, contrived believed, may not consist with such a worth and carried on by them, both for their master's and merit in the said belief, as may fit it for a and their own reputation ; an intrigue so reward ; as our Saviour's words to Thomas in very fraudulent, that the known, unblemished the text manifestly import. From all which, simplicity, integrity, and veracity of the I think we may, upon solid grounds, conclude, persons concerned, and so remarkable through- that the foregoing objection (how plausible out the whole course of their lives, makes it soever it may seem at first) argues nothing morally impossible, and consequently incredi- against the belief of our Saviour's resurrection. ble, that persons of such a character should But, ever be guilty of so foul a practice and so base 8. It is moreover objected, that there is no a collusion. And no more needs be said for small disagreement found in the main report their vindication from so impudent a calumny. about our Saviour's resurrection; as, that
some of his disciples relate him to have ap7. Whereas it is suggested, that nothing peared in one form, or shape, and some in could be so powerful and effectual a means to another, whereas one man naturally can be cause and propagate a belief of Christ's resur allowed but one form and shape : and withal, rection, as to have shewn himself, after he that he came in to his disciples while the doors was risen, to the Scribes and Pharisees, and were shut; which seems wholly inconsistent the unbelieveing Jews, openly in the temple with the essential dimensions of a human or the market-place, which yet he did not; I body, which cannot possibly pass through answer, that supposing that Christ, after be crevices or key holes ; the nature of quantity was risen, had appeared so publicly amongst making such a penetration confessedly imposthe Jews, as the objection here requires, no sible. doubt they would have offered to lay violent To which I answer, according to the second hands upon him, as they had before designed preliminary consideration above laid down by to kill Lazarus, and that for the same reason. us, that the bare measures of nature, after so In which case, had our Saviour vanished out many miracles done by our Saviour on the of their sight and bands, (as questionless he one side, and attested and owned by the Jews, would have done, and as he had once or twice as surpassing all power, merely natural, on the done from the eyes of his own disciples,) what other, ought by no means to be a rule for us would the Jews have concluded from hence, to proceed by in the present case. And therebut that they had seen a ghost, a spectre, or fore, to give the objection its full force and apparition ? And what conviction would that advantage, supposing it urged by some Jew have wrought in them? Why, none at all, against the truth of Christ's resurrection, may but that their senses had been abused, and we not hereupon ask the said Jew this plain imposed upon by some magical illusion. And question ? Were the Jews eye-witnesses of what good effect could this have had upon the miracles and supernatural works done by their minds, for the bringing them to a belief, our Saviour, or were they not? The latter that Christ was truly risen? and much less cannot possibly be said, there being hardly a that he was tlie Messias? which yet was the man in Jerusalem who had not personally grand doctrine to be proved by the resurrec seen some of them done. And if the former tion, and of which he had given them abun- be granted, upon what ground of reason could dant proof before, by raising Lazarus and those Jews deny, but that he, who acted by others from the dead; which yet we find had such a supernatural power in some things, no such effect upon the generality of them at might as well do the same in others ? Or all. This to me seems as clear reason, and as pretend, that he who had raised Lazarus from natural consequence, as the mind of man, in the dead might not, if he pleased, present himsuch a case, can well be determined by. And self in different shapes and forms; whether no doubt, Almighty God foresaw this, and it were by differently qualifying his own many more such consequences, which our body, as the object then offered to be seen, or short reason can neither reach nor pierce into; by differently disposing the visage faculty and forasmuch as his ways and counsels may, and / organs of sight, in such as were to see it?
(as we read he actually did to two of his dis the Jews, should all of them (and those no
been much more liberal in scourging their And thus, I hope, I have at length backs, than they were in oiling their hands. thoroughly examined and gone over all or To all which may be added, the utter unsuitmost of those plausible arguments, which are ableness of the season (as a foreign divine ob
may be brought for the justification of this serves) for such a night-work; it being then doubting disciple's backwardness in believing at the time of the full moon, when in those his master's resurrection; and trust, that I eastern countries the night was almost as have given sufficient and satisfactory answers bright as the day; and withal at the time of the to them all. But as for that objection, or passover, when Jerusalem, not able to accomrather senseless lie, invented and made use of modate so vast a multitude from all parts reby the Jews, (as the evangelists record,) of sorting thither upon so solemn an occasion, Christ's body being stolen and conveyed away great companies of them (no doubt) were by his disciples in the night, while the soldiers walking all night about the fields and other (set to guard it) slept ; it is attended with so adjacent places ; which must needs have made many improbabilities and absurdities, and it next to impossible (if not absolutely so) for those not more directly contrary to reason the disciples (had they got the body of our than to common sense and experience, that Saviour into their hands) to have carried it off it hardly deserves a serious confutation. without discovery. All which considerations,
For can any man of sense imagine that the together with many more incident to this soldiers, set to watch the sepulchre, and that matter, render this Jewish story not more with so strict and severe an injunction of care false and foolish, than romantic and increand vigilance from the priests and rulers of | dible. And accordingly, as such I dismiss it.
Nevertheless, not to rest here, but having be upon such as are certain ; and not only so, thus answered and removed whatsoever could but in all matters necessary to be believed, with any colour, or so much as shadow of (such as our Saviour's resurrection, and other reason, be brought for an objection against divine truths,) it must and ought to be suffithis great article of our Saviour's resurrection, cient. And the reason of this manifestly is, we shall now pass to such arguments as may
that if we might be bound to assent to a thing positively prove the same ; and in order to it, neither evident nor certain, we might some shall premise this observation; namely, that time or other, and in some cases, be bound to to constitute, or render an act of assent pro believe or assent to falsehoods as well as truths; perly an act of faith, this condition is abso which God never requires, as by no means Îutely necessary ; to wit, that the ground, obliging us to the belief of any thing, but upon which the said assent proceeds, be some
where there is much more reason for our thing not evident in itself. And indeed so believing than our not believing it; that benecessary a condition is this, that without it
ing, as I conceive, sufficient to warrant the faith would not be formally distinguished rationality of a man's proceeding in what he from knowledge ; knowledge (properly speak believes ; especially if it be necessary, that ing) being an assent to a thing evidently and either the affirmative or the negative be beimmediately apprehended by us, either in lieved by him. And for this cause the apostle itself, its causes, properties, or effects. And commands us, (1 Pet. iii. 15,)." to be always upon this, and this account only, assent is ready to give a reason of the hope that is in properly said to be evident. But now, where us :" and the same holds equally in faith too, such an evidence is not to be had, (as in both of them resting upon the same bottom. things not falling under our personal, im For neither Saint Peter nor Saint Paul ever mediate cognizance, it is not,) then there can enjoin belief merely for believing's sake; be no other way of assenting to any such though still they are far enough from requirthing, or proposition, but from the testimony ing us to give a reason of the things we believe, of some one or more, who may be rationally (for that, I own, a Christian must not always presumed to know it themselves; but then pretend to,) but to give a reason of his belief such an assent is (as we have shewn) by no of the said things. This every Christian may means evident, or scientifical, as not being and must; for still his belief ought to be founded in our own but in another's know rational. ledge of the thing assented to by us. Where, Thus far therefore have we gone, having for our clearer uuderstanding of this whole proved, that although the resurrection of our matter, we ought carefully to distinguish be Saviour be a thing in itself inevident to us tween these three terms, evidence, certainty, now, and not shewing itself at such a distance and firmness of assent. As to the first of which, of time by any light either inherent in it, or to wit, evidence: a thing is said to be evi- personally and immediately perceivable by deut, when there is an immediate perception our senses or understandings; yet being proof the object itself assented to, by an act of posed to our belief upon certain and sufficient our sense or reason apprehending it. And in grounds, it ought, according to the measure of the next place, as for certainty of assent; the said certainties, to be believed and asthat is, when a thing is so assented to, that sented to by us. So that it remains now for although it be not in itself evident, yet that us to demonstrate, that the ground or reason, there is a sufficient ground for such an assent, upon which we are to believe our Saviour's and no rational or just ground to doubt of it; resurrection, is certain, and by consequence as where a thing is affirmed or attested, either sufficient. And accordingly I shall state the by God bimself, or by some person or persons belief of it upon these two arguments; comwhose credit is unquestionable. And thirdly mon, I confess, but never the less forcible for and lastly, firmness of assent consists in an being so. exclusion of all actual doubting about the 1. The constant, uniform affirmation and thing assented to; I say actual doubting, word of those, who have transmitted the relawhether there be a sufficient reason against tion of it down to posterity. For this being such doubting, or no; forasmuch as men may merely a matter of fact, (the thing in dispute be every wbit as confident in a false, un being, whether Christ rose from the dead or grounded belief, as in a well-grounded and no,) is by no means knowable by us, who live true. Now the difference between these terms at so great a distance from the time when it thus explained must, as I noted before, be came to pass, but by one of these two ways, very carefully attended to, or it must needs pamely, either, 1st, by immediate divine reveoccasion great blunder and confusion in any lation; or, 2d, by human testimony or tradidiscourse of this nature. And accordingly, to tion. As to the first of which, it is not apply the formentioned terms to our present nowdays, by any of the sober professors of purpose, we are to observe, that although our Christianity, so much as pretendeil to ; nor, if assent to matters of faith be not upon grounds it were, ought such pretences to be allowed in themselves evident, yet it may nevertheless of. And therefore we must fetch it from the
other way, to wit, tradition ; to the rendering darling pleasures, profits, and accommodations : of which certain, and beyond all just exception of life, and voluntarily expose themselves to credible, these two conditions are required : scorn, tortures, persecutions, and even death
1. That the persons, who made it, and from itself, only to propagate a story, which they whom it originally came, had sufficient means themselves kuew to be a lie, and that an aband opportunities to know, and to be informed surd, insipid, incredible lie, (if a lie at all,) of the truth of what they reported to the this certainly was a thing unnatural, and world. And,
morally impossible. For can any may, not 2. That they were of that unquestionable abandoned by the native sense of inan, bring sincerity, as truly and impartially to report himself to be in love with a gibbet, or enathings as they knew them, and no otherwise. moured with a rack? Can these tortures, Now, for the
which are even able to make a man abjure tlie First of these two conditions, namely, that truth, allure him to own and assert, and even the reporters had sufficient opportuvity to die for a lic? Wherefore, there being 10 know the things reported by them, this is imaginable objection against the disciples? undeniable ; forasmuch as they personally sincerity and veracity, (which was the other conversed with Christ, and were eye and ear qualification of a competent witness menwitnesses of all that was done by him, or tioned by us,) it follows, that their testimony happened to him, as it is in the First Epistle of concerning our Saviour's resurrection is to be Saint John, (i. 1. 3.) “ That which we have accepted and believed as true, certain, and heard, which we have seen with our eyes, unexceptionable. And so much for the first which we have looked upon, and our hands argument. But, have handled, declare we unto you.” Aud 2. The other argument shall be taken from surely, if knowledge might make a man a those miraculous works by which the apostles competent witness, there is none for evidence, confirmed the testimony of their words. He as well as certainty, superior to that of sense: who affirms a thing, and to prove the truth of and if the judgment of any one sense rightly it does a miracle, brings God as a voucher of disposed be hardly or dever deceived, surely the truth of what he says. And therefore, he the united judgment of them all together must who shall affirm that the apostles proclaimed needs upon the same terms pass for infallible, to the world things false, must affirm also, if any thing amongst us poor mortals may or that they did all those miracles by their own ought to be accounted so. But,
or the devil's power ; or if they did them by Second, As for the other forementioned con God's, then that God lent the exercise of his dition of a competent witness, namely, that he power to impostors, to confirm and ratify the be a person of such unquestionable sincerity, as publication of a lie, for the beguiling and deto report the naked truth of what he knows. ceiving of mankind, and that in a matter of This, with respect to the apostles in the the highest and most important concern to present case, appears in a great measure from them that can possibly be. Which is so the meanness of their parts, abilities, and blasphemous for any one to assert, and so education, naturally disposing men to plain impossible for God to do, that the very ness and simplicity; and simplicity has ever thought of it is intolerable. yet been accounted one good step to sincerity. So that now the only thing remaining for They were poor, mean fishermen, called in our full conviction is, to shew that there is Acts iv. 13. ιδιώται και αγράμματοι, in plain sufficient reason to persuade men that such terms, persons wholly illiterate, and unac iniracles were really done by the apostles, to quainted with the politic fetches of the world, confirm the doctrines delivered by them. And and utterly unfit to conceive, and more unfit for this we are to bear the only proof which to manage any farther design, than only to things of this nature are capable of; to wit, deceive and circumvent the contemptible in the voice of general, long continued, and un, habitants of the watery region. And could interrupted antiquity, that is to say, the united such men, (think we,) newly coming from testimony of so many nations, for so many their fishermen's cottages, and from mending ages successively, all jointly agreeing in one their nets, cutertain so great a thougbt, as to and the same report about this matter; wbich put an imposture upon the whole world, and report, if it were untrue, must needs have to overturn the Jewish laws, and the gentile been framed by combination and compact philosophy, with a new religion of their own amongst themselves. But that so many inventing? It is not so much as credible, and nations of such various tempers, such different much less probable.
interests, and such distant situations from one But besides, admitting these persons to have another, should be able all to meet and combeen as subtile and deeply knowing, as they bine together, to abuse and deceive the world were in truth shallow and ignorant, yet still with a falsehood, is upon all the rules and they were men, and consequently of the same priuciples of human reasoning incredible. passions and desires with other men; and And yet, on the other side, that this could be being so, that they should relinquish all the done without such a previous combinatiou, is
still more incredible ; and consequently, that In fine, if I have brought the point hitherto neither the one nor the other ought to be disputed of, so far as to make it appear that reckoned in the number of those things which there are greater and stronger arguments for we account possibilities. And now all that the belief of our Saviour's resurrection, than has been disputed by us hitherto, with refe for the doubting of it, (as I hope I have effecrence to the apostles and disciples, as to their tually done,) I conceive this to be sufficient in believing and preaching Christ's resurrection reason to strip men of all justification of their to the world, may be naturally drawn from, unbelief of the same, and consequently to and as naturally resolved into these following answer all the great ends of practical religion, couclusions :
the prime business and concern of mankind 1. That no man of common sense or reason in this world. Albeit it must be still conundertakes any action considerable, but for fessed, (as we have noted from Calvin before,) the obtaining to himself some good, or the that there are several passages relating to this serving some interest thereby, either in this whole matter, neither so demonstrative, nor world or in the next.
yet so demonstrable, as might be wished. 2. That our Saviour's disciples, though they Nevertheless, since it has pleased Almighty bore no character for political knowledge or God to take this and no other method in this depth of learning, yet shewed themselves, in great transaction, I think it the greatest the whole course of their behaviour, men of height of human wisdom, and the highest sense and reason, as well as integrity.
commendation that can be given of it, to 3. That being such, and so to be considered, acquiesce in what the divine wisdom has achad they known Christ's resurrection to have tually thought the most fit in this affair to been a falsehood, they would never have make use of. preached it to the world, to the certain bring And now to close up the whole discourse; ing upon themselves thereby the extremity of with what can we conclude it better, than misery and persecution in this life, and a just with a due encomium of the superlative excondemnation from Almighty God in that to cellency of that mighty grace, which could
and did enable the disciples so firmly to 4. That had the resurrection of our Saviour believe, and so undauntedly to own and attest been indeed false and fabulous, his disciples
their belief of their blessed master's resurreccould not but have known it to be so.
tion ? and that in defiance of the utmost disTo which I shall add the
couragements, which the power, malice, and 5th, That in things proposed to our belief, barbarity of the bitterest enemies could either a man safely may, and rationally ought to threaten or encounter human nature with. yield his assent to that, which he finds sup And to advance the worth of this faith, if ported with better and stronger arguments possible, yet higher, we are to know, that it (though short of a demonstration) than any consists not (as has been hinted already) in a that he sees producible against it.
bare act of assent or credence, founded in the From all which it follows, that our Saviour's determining evidence of the object, but resurrection having been attested by persons attended also with a full choice and approbaso unexceptionably qualified for that purpose, tion of the will, for that otherwise it could whether we cousider the opportunities they not be an act properly free; nor consequently had of knowing thoroughly the things testified valuable (and much less meritorious) in the by them, or their known sincerity and vera esteem of God or man. And therefore some city in reporting what they knew, as likewise of the ablest of the schoolmen resolve faith, the miraculous works done by them, in con not into a bare credence, or act of the underfirmation of what they delivered, and all this standing only, but also into a pious disposition brought down to us by unanimous, undis of the will, preventing, disposing, and, as it puted tradition ; and moreover, since such were, bending the former, to close in with tradition has greater ground for its belief, than such propositions, as bring with them a the discourse of any man's particular reason suitableness as well as truth; and it is not to can suggest for its disbelief, (universal tradi- be doubted, but inclination gives a powerful tion being less subject to error and fallacy stroke and turn towards credence, or asseut. than such discourses or argumentations can So that while truth claims and commands the pretend to be ;) and lastly, since it is a mani same, and suitableness only draws and allures fest absurdity in reasoning, to reject or dis it, yet in the issue this obtains it as effectually believe that, which a man has more ground as even truth itself. Not that I affirm, or and reason to believe than to disbelieve; I judge, that in strictness of reason this onglit conclude that the doctrine of the apostles con to be so, but that through the infirmity of cerning our Saviour's resurrection ought, upon reason it is but too manifest, that very often the strictest terms of reasoning, to be believed (if not generally) it falls out to be so. and assented to, as a most certain, irrefragable, In the meantime we may here see and and incontestable truth ; which I take to be admire the commanding, and (I had almost the grand conclusion to be proved by us. said) the meritorious excellency of faith :