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SERM. things ; for neither can he bring death upon himself, if he XXIX. would, nor bestow eternity on mortals, nor recall the dead to
life: but it is no wonder, that he, who thought the soul quite to perish by death, should conceive the restitution thereof impossible ; although even supposing that, his opinion was not reasonable ; for even any thing, how corruptible foever by diffolution of its ingredients, or alteration of its temperament, may, by recollecting and rejoining those ingredients, or by reestablishing the causes of such a temperament, be restored, (as a house whose materials are dispersed may be reedified, or as a liquor by a new fermentation may be revived ;) which to effect may not be deemed hard to him that made the whole world : how
ever to such as him we may say, as our Saviour did to the Jer. xxxii. Sadducees, Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the Matt. xxii. power of God. Especially to those who acknowledge the
immortality of the soul, or its permanence in a separate state, and who admit the truth of the ancient histories among the Jews, it is not only most evidently possible, but very credible, that God upon any considerable oc
casion should perform it: with such St. Paul might well Acts xxvi. thus expostulate; What? doth it seem incredible to you,
that God should raise the dead ? to you that have such previous notions and persuasions about God's omnipo,
tency ; (such as the prophet Jeremiah expresseth when he Jer. xxxii. faith, Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and 2ch. vit. the earth by thy great power and stretched-out arm, and
there is nothing too hard for thee :) to you who avow God Job xlii. 2.
.. to be the Father of Spirits, who formeth the spirit of man Num. xvi. within him, and that when wan dieth, his Spirit returneth 22. xxvii.
" to God who gave it: to you who believe that our souls are Isa. Ivii. 16. *P"
11a fpiritual substances, like unto angels, fubfisting after death, Eccles. xii. and destined to future rewards : to you, in fine, who may
in your holy records find so many experiments of this
power exerted by God in his Prophets; such as that of 1 Kings Elias's restoring the widow of Sarepta's son; of Elisha xvii. 21.
Kines iv, raising the son of the Shunamite ; that of the dead man 35. xii. 21. reviving when his body touched the Prophet's bones : to
you therefore this fact cannot be in itself incredible ; nor
16. Zech. x
indeed can it, for the reason suggested, to any man reason- SERM. ably seem impossible.
XXIX. 2. Nor was it apparently in its design unworthy of God, or inconsistent with his holy will : for the ends thereof (such as were pretended by the attesters of it) were, as very great and important, so most good and reasonable ; it aimed at no sight or trifling matter, but such as in appearance highly concerned the glory of God, and conduced to the welfare of mankind; it professing itself to be a credential of the greatest embassy that ever came down from heaven to men, importing the complete revelation of God's will and procurement of salvation to the world; and did therefore in that respect well become the wisdom and goodness of God to use it. It pretended to confirm a doctrine containing most true and worthy representations of God, the best that could be ; declaring most gracious intentions in God of mercy and kindness toward men; no less proper for him than grateful and needful for us; prescribing most excellent rules and patterns of life, (wherein the most genuine piety and virtue, most exact justice and hearty charity, most strict purity and fobriety are prescribed,) yielding the most effectual helps to the practice of all goodness, and tendering the best encouragement thereto; and upon this account therefore also most worthy of God. So that indeed God could not be conceived to perform such a miracle to better purpose, than for promoting the designs it pretendeth, being so very great, and so very good: it could not be improper for the Divine power to be thus exerted in favour of a religion fo apt to promote his glory, and to procure our benefit.
If it be said, that it is absurd or improbable, that God should choose to perform this miracle upon a person of this sort ; one so mean and obscure in the state of his life, fo wretched and infamous for the manner of his death; that God rather should have chosen for the interpreter of his mind, and minister of his purposes, a personage more illustrious in rank, and clear in repute; I answer, first, that our shallow fancy is a bad and incompetent judge of what
SERM. is reasonable or absurd, convenient or unfit, in such cases, XXIX. touching the counsels of God; who seeth not as man feeth; Sam. xvi. whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, nor ways as our
ways; whose folly is wiser than men, (that is, whose counIfa. lv. 8. xl. 13. fels, however seeming strange to our dim apprehensions, 2 Cor. i. 25. do yet far excel the results of our best wisdom;) before Luke xvi. whom, whatever is high among men is abominable; with 1 Cor. v. 13. whom the wisdom of this world is folly; whose judgments Rom. xi. are unjearchable, and his ways are past finding out ; as the (Pr. xcii. 5. holy Scriptures teach us; and as good reason, considering xxxvi: 7.) the vast distance between God and us, muft acknowledge : Job xi. 7.
so that no such appearance of incongruity can bottom a good exception against this, or any such matter, otherwise well attested. I say farther, that God's choice herein, being weighed by a pure and well disposed mind, will appear upon many accounts full of admirable reason and
wisdom; all the divine economy concerning our Lord, 1 Cor. ii. 6, being rightly apprehended, will soon appear wisdom to the Matt.xi. 19. perfect, and will be jufiified by the children of wisdom; as
that wherein God's transcendent goodness, and perfect juftice, and glorious power are with greatest advantage displayed; whereby the hearts of men are most sweetly comforted under their sense of sin and fear of misery, their minds are most clearly instructed in the ways of duty and happiness, their affections are most strongly excited and encouraged to the practice of all goodness : to such purposes (for causes which, were it now seasonable, we could produce) our Saviour's low condition and hard circumstances did admirably serve; and therefore upon that score it could not be unlikely, that God should raise him from the dead.
3. But neither (which is the most considerable point) is the testimony asserting this fact anywise defective or insufficient, but hath all the conditions imaginably requisite to the most entire aflurance of any such matter. The defeet in the testimony, if any be, must arise from weakness or from wilfulness in the witnesses, (their want of knowledge, or mistake, their want of honesty, or their unfaitha fulness,) or from some circumstances belonging to their
i. 22. X. 39.
persons, or their testimony, able to invalidate their attesta- SERM. tion; but none of these things can with reason be sup- XXIX. posed; they were in all respects more than competently qualified to attest, and all considerable circumstances do affift in confirming their attestation; as by weighing the considerations following may appear.
1. As for their number, it was not one or two persons, (although one or two ordinarily do suffice for decision of the greatest cases among men,) but many who conspired in asserting it. He was (saith St. Paul, one who was con- 1 Cor. xv. versant with these witnesses, who, of a zealous adversary 5, 6. and fierce persecutor of this testimony, did become an earnest avoucher thereof) seen of Cephas, then of the twelve : after, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present. And, This Jesus, say the twelve Apostles, hath God raised Acts ii. 14, up, whereof all we are witnesses: twelve there were who:. . 32.. principally were designed, and did take it for their especial" duty to attest this matter, beside many others, who in their order were able and ready.to do it.
2. These witnesses were no strangers to Jesus, but perfons by long conversation most familiarly acquainted with him; who had (as it is said, and as it was notorious) been John xv.27. with him from the beginning, who went out and in with Acts i. 21, him all the time (that is, for three years' space) from his baptism to his afcenfon.
3. They did aver themselves to be aútórias Toũ nóyou, or Luke i. 2. attrxóes, eye or ear-witnesses of the matter, as fully informed about it as senses could make them ; We cannot Acts iv. 20 lut speak what we have heard and seen : What we did see i John i. 1. with our eyes, and what our hands did handle of the word of life, that we report unto you ; so St. John (the beloved disciple, who constantly attended on his dear Master) expresseth his testimony: and, We have not followed cun- 2 Pet. i. 16. ningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty ; fo St. Peter affirmeth concerning the manner of their testifying these matters. They did, I
SERM. say, hear and see him, and that with all advantage possible or XXIX. needful, not once or twice, not in passing, or at distance,
not in way of glimpse or rumour; but often, for a good
time, thoroughly; many days conversing and interchangActs 1. 41. ing discourses with him; who, as St. Peter in the name
of the rest faith, did eat and drink with him after that he Aets i. 3. rose from the dead : and, To whom, as St. Luke, their com
panion, from their mouth in our text faith, also he fewed himself alive after his passon by many infallible proofs,
veing seen of them forty days, and Speaking of the things A&s xiii. pertaining to the kingdom of God: and, He was, faith
St.Paul, another familiar of theirs, seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are his witnesses to the people. And two of these witnesses, St. John and St. Matthew, are in writings extant relaters of passages occurring in their conversation with him, very many, very sensible as can be
4. We may also consider, that the chief of these witnesses, the Apostles themselves, were at first (as St. Luke of them and from them confesseth) so far from being easy or credulous in regard to this matter, that, hearing it from others, who before had seen our Lord risen, they took it
for a trifle, or a fiction, and gave no credence thereto: Luke xxiv, their words, faith the text, épolmo ay wos años, did seem to
them (a toy, or) an idle tale, and they believed them not. xxviii. 17. Yea, some of them would hardly confide in their own
eyes, nor would yield assent unto the fact appearing to them, until, by letting them touch him, and shewing them the marks of his crucifixion remaining on his body, he
demonstrated himself to be the very same person who had Luke xxiv. lived with them and died before them; They were terri33;41;, fied and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit
and while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, &c. are words in the history.
5. Upon these grounds, as they professed, they did, without any mincing, hesitancy, or reservation, in the most
full, clear, downright, and peremptory manner, with firm AAs iv. 31, confidence and alacrity, concurrently aver the fact; They
33. xiv. 3.