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herence till the day of Pentecost. For just at the moment of Christ's ascension, ten days only before that festival, they asked him, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?'
They did not and could not believe that he would die. After he had predicted his death at five or six different times in as plain language as can be used, St. John informs us, that • they understood not that saying,' and that it was hidden from them.' Peter also, when Christ had uttered a prediction of this nature, understanding the meaning of the prediction, took upon himself the office of rebuking his Master, and said, • Be it far from thee, Lord; this shall not be unto thee.'
Nor do they appear to have believed that he would live again. They plainly disbelieved all the testimonies of his resurrection, except that of their own eyes and ears ; and regarded the accounts of their companions, whom on all other eccasions they esteemed persons of unstained veracity, “as idle tales.' It may seem strange that, believing as they did implicitly the declarations and messiahship of their Master, they should not believe that he would rise again, after his various prophecies concerning that event. But we are to remember that his death had violated all their prejudices, blasted all their fond hopes, and buried them in gloom and despondency. The Jews customarily, whenever passages of Scripture admitted of no interpretation accordant with their established opinions, resolved the difficulty, or rather removed it, by pronouncing the passage to be mysterious. The apostles in all probability bad recourse to the same expedient to reconcile the predictions of Christ with that train of facts whose future existence they believed, and chose rather not to understand the true import of his predictions, plain as it was, than to admit an interpretation of them, which opposed all their riveted opinions. At the same time, melancholy as were their circumstances and their feelings, they were ill fitted for the business of commenting on the predictions of Christ, and seem not to have made even an attempt to gain the conviction which would so effectually have relieved their distresses. When, therefore they had evidence of his resurrection sufficient to convince any reasonable person, they still disbelieved, and were hardly brought to admit the testimony of their own eyes and ears. After various reports of bis resurrection from those who had seen
him, reports so satisfactory, that Christ himself afterward. upbraided them with their unbelief, and hardness of heart,' because they had not believed them who had seen him after he was risen; Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and said, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. He then said unto them, Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts ? Behold my hands and my feet; that it is I myself. Handle me, and see : for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet.' You are to remember, that the print of the nails,' by which he was fastened to the cross, was still perfectly visible both in his hands and feet. These were, therefore, appealed to by Christ, because they thus furnished evidence that it was he himself,' which no man would counterfeit. Still they believed not for joy, and wondered.' To remove this doubt, which, like most that preceded it, was the result of feeling, and not of judgment, he farther said to them,
In answer to this inquiry, “they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.' At the end of this process only did they entirely believe that he was risen from the dead.
From this story, written after they had all in the fullest manner realized his resurrection, and therefore intendod severely to censure their own unbelief; from this story, written in a manner so perfectly artless and natural, and with circumstances of such nice discrimination as the writer could not have invented, and on both these accounts carrying with it the clearest evidence of its truth, we have the strongest proof that the apostles were slow of heart to believe' the resurrection of Christ. Their assent was reluctant, and gradual; such as is always yielded to evidence which contradicts prejudices strongly imbibed.
I have observed, that the story of St. Luke is written in a manner perfectly artless and natural, and with circumstances of such nice discrimination as the writer could not have devised. It is extremely natural to the human mind in a state of despondency, either not to believe at all, or to believe with extremo difficulty, those things which would remove its despondency. The good in question seems too great to
be realized, and therefore too improbable even to be hoped. The apostles for this reason disbelieved at first; and for the same reason continued their disbelief after Christ stood in the midst of them, and discovered himself to their eyes and ears. A strong and mixed emotion of pleasure and surprise partially overwhelmed their reason, and prolonged their doubts, in spite of the clearest evidence. Never was the nature of man exhibited with more exactness, or with nicer discrimination, than in this remarkable declaration, · They believed not for joy, and wondered.'
From these observations it is, if I mistake not, unanswerably evident, that the prejudices of the apostles were all directed against the resurrection of Christ, and that they were not inclined to admit this fact by any bias in its favour.
3. The apostles had suficient means and opportunities of judging whether Christ was raised from the dead.
He appeared to some or other of them, or their companions, eleven times, distinctly recorded in the Scriptures. He appeared to Mary Magdalene; to her companions with her; to Peter ; to the disciples going to Emmaus; to James; to the ten apostles, Thomas not being present; to the eleven, Thomas being present; to the apostles again at the sea of Tiberias ; to above five hundred brethren at once ; to the apostles before, and during, his ascension; and finally to St. Paul in his way to Damascus. Beside these instances, he appeared several times afterwards to St. Paul; and, as St. Luke informs us, ' showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs; being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.' It ought to be particularly remembered, that in nine of the instances mentioned above, he appeared to the apostles themselves; in several instances to many, or all, of them; and once to more than five hundred disciples together. Should we then admit such an illusion of the senses as infidels sometimes contend for to be possible, and mankind to be capable of being deceived by it in such degrees as they urge; still the improbability must, even according to their own principles, be very great, that two persons should, at the same time, experience exactly the same illusion concerning the same object, and concerning so many circumstances attending it. Of a fact of this kind bistory furnishes no record, and conversation no testimony. All the extraordinary and inexplicable things actually testified, in which such illusions may be supposed to have taken place, have invariably existed, if they existed at * all, to the view of one person only. No instance can be mentioned in which two unexceptionable witnesses have testified to the same illusion, at the same time, concerning the same thing. Far more improbable is it that three persons should thus experience the same illusion. When we raise this number to eleven, the improbability becomes incalculable ; and when to five hundred, it transcends all limit.
The improbability is also enhanced without measure, by the repetition of this fact in so many instances, to so many persons, together with all the circumstances by which it was attended. But when we remember, that Christ not only appeared, but ate, drank, walked, and conversed with them, at so many different times, through forty days, and declared to them a great number of divine truths concerning the kingdom of God, the improbability ceases, and is changed into an impossibility. The apostles and their companions had here all the evidence that Christ was living, which they had of the life of each other; all the evidence which we have, that those around us with whom we have daily intercourse are alive. If, then, the apostles could be deceived with respect to the fact that Christ was living, they could, with the same ease, be equally deceived with respect to the life of each other. With the same ease can we be equally deceived in our belief, that men whom we see daily, with whom we converse, and with whom we act, are living men. A stranger who has visited us, continued with us forty days, conversed with us, and united with us in eating, drinking, and the serious business of life, must, on the same grounds, be denied or doubted to be a living man; and supposed to be a spectre, a phantom of the imagination, an illusion of the senses, or an inhabitant of a dream. To this length the principles carry us, on which alone we can deny that the apostles had perfect evidence that Christ was alive after his death. He who can admit these principles, has renounced the evidence of his senses; and ought from motives of consistency, to believe a man to be a post, as readily as to believe bim to be a man,
RESURRECTION OF CHRIST.
AND KILLED THE PRINCE OF LIFE, WHOM GOD HATH RAISED FROM THE DEAD: WHEREOF WE ARE WITNESSES.
ACTS III, 15.
In the preceding Discourse I observed, that in this passage
I. That they had killed the Prince of Life:
III. That the apostle himself, and his companions, were witnesses of these facts.
The first of these assertions, I observed, had been scarcely controverted, and therefore needed no discussion from me. To establish the second, I remarked, was indispensable to a System of Christian Theology, as being the great point on which such a system must depend ; and therefore proposed it as the immediate object of that Discourse. The evidence of its truth, I further observed, was chiefly furnished by the apostles and their companions. This evidence, therefore, I proposed to state, and to show, that it was a proper and unexceptionable object of reliance for the truth of the important fact declared in the text.
In pursuance of this design I observed, that if Christ was not raised from the dead, the apostles were either themselves deceived, or have of design deceived others. That they themselves were not deceived, I endeavoured to prove in that Discourse, and shall now attempt to show,