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wealth, power, and glory, a story most ridiculously extra- SERM. Vagant, that so pitiful and wretched a person, as Jesus XXIX. seemed in the eye of the world to have been, should in' this miraculous way be declared the Son of God and Lord of all things, author of life and salvation to all men, sovereign object of all worship and obedience: such a story therefore it was not likely that any men in their fenses should conspire to forge, should offer to obtrude on the world, so uncapable of it, so averse from embracing it; and being such, it were strange that by a general repulse it should not presently be stifled and quelledc.
11. One would indeed think that this report, had it been false, might easily have been disproved and quaslied: they who were mightily concerned, and as eagerly dis- Acts v. as. posed to confute it, wanted no means of doing it: they were not surprised in the matter; but were forewarned of it, and did forebode it coming; they were not drowsy or neglectful, but very apprehensive, careful and cautious in preventing it, that it should not be produced, or, being so, that it might be defeated; for to this purpose they Matt. «vii. caused the sepulchre of our Lord to be sealed up, and64, guarded by soldiers; that being masters of his body, they might by exhibiting it disprove any report that should be made about his resurrection: they had full opportunity of examining the matter to the bottom; it being fresh, and presently divulged after its being reported done; they having also all the power and authority on their fide, in furtherance of the discussion of the business: we may accordingly suppose them very zealous, diligent, and active in thoroughly sifting it, and striving to detect the falsehood therein: they did so certainly; and thereto they Acts iv. ] j added strict prohibitions, fierce menaces, and bloody per- 18- v- a8.
SERM. seditions toward the suppression thereof; yet could they XXIX. not by all their industry confute it, nor by all their fury ~ ~ quell it: Why? because it was not confutable; because truth, prosecuted with vigorous integrity and constancy, or rather supported by divine protection and blessing, is invincible. Put cafe there were now the like fact by so many people reported done within these two months, wherein the Church and State were in like manner exceedingly concerned, and sliould therefore employ all their power and care to discover the truth, one would think it impossible, that, were it an imposture, it sliould escape dete£tion, and being soon, with the general satisfaction of men, quite blown away and exploded: this is the fate of all falsehood, standing merely upon its own legs, and not propped by worldly power; but truth, as in the present case, is able to subsist by its own strength, especially heaven being concerned to aid itf.
12. As also this testimony had no power to sustain it, so it used no sleight to convey itself into the persuasions of men; it did not creep in dark corners, it did not grow by
1 Thess. v. clandestine whispers; it craved no blind faith of men: but with a barefaced confidence it openly proclaimed itself, appealing to the common sense of men, and provoking the world to examine it; daring all adversaries here to confront it, defying all the powers beneath to withstand it; claiming only the patronage of heaven to maintain it.
13. Farthermore, the thing itself, had it been counterfeit, was in all probability apt to fall of itself; the witnesses clashing together, or relenting for their crime. That adAct* v. 3g. vice of Gamaliel had much reason in it; Refrain, said he,
from those men, and let them alone ; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; xotTctkudiptTcti, it will of itself be dissolved or destroyed: for how indeed could it be, that among so many confederates in a juggle, not one, either checked by conscience, or daunted by hazards, or wearied and worn out by sufferings, sliould
#*lvvtfvr«r aiurnty fit ftivn Hk %Qmtl£tTMtf O\\/.ol xeti 2/ ttUT*t TM» ivti£i*gut in%u~ ftirrtn faii(>Ti(x xoti i\f«iXtri(a iiuri, &c. Chrys. torn. Y. Or. 64.
flinch and fall off, so as to detect the plot, disavow his SERM. fault, and retire from persecution, but that each one XXIX. should persist steadfast in so high a strain of vile dislimula- ~" tkm? If one had fallen off, he had certainly spoiled all the plot, opened all men's eyes, and prevented the faith of any one person to the story: and what cement could firmly combine such a pack of men to God, and to all the world, that they should continue invincibly stiff in their faith to one another, and constantly true to so vain a design, good to no man, worst to themselves? that, I fay, twelve such persons, every one for a long time, during their whole life, should persevere immoveable in so extravagant a resolution of lying, so as by no regrets or dissatisfactions from within, no threats, no perils, no troubles or pains from without, to be ever driven out of it, but stiould die with it in their mouths, yea, rejoice and glory in dying for it; stiould dying carry it into the presence of God, and dare with it to appear at his judgment, is exceedingly strange and incredible: it must therefore surely be truth alone that could set them on this design, and could uphold them steady in it; so unanimous a consent, so clear a confidence, so firm a resolution, so insuperable a constancy and patience, nothing but a sense of truth could inspire men with, nothing but a perfectly good conscience could sustain. Possible it is, that in matters of speculation and subtilty men upon (lender grounds may be peremptorily opinionative, and desperately pertinacious; (this experience slieweth:) but in a matter of this nature, (a matter of plain fact and gross sense,) none can well be imagined (none especially so qualified, in such circumstances, to such purposes can be imagined) to be so wretchedly stupid, or desperately obstinate.
14. He then who doubts of the sincerity of these wit- Aug. de nesses, or rejects their testimony as incredible, must instead j'*xx"' of it admit of divers stranger incredibilities; refusing his faith to one fact, devious from the natural course of things, but very feasible to God; he must thence allow it to many others, repugnant to the nature of man, and to the course of human things; performed without God, yea
SERM. against him. Is it credible, that persons otherwise through XXIX. all their lives strictly blameless and rigidly virtuous, (even in the more heavenly parts of goodness, in humanity, meekness, peaceableness, humility, and patience,) (hould, against clearest dictates of conscience, peremptorily and perseveringly commit so palpable villany, as to broach and propagate such an imposture; that they, all whose demeanours and discourses evidently did tend to the advancement of God's glory, and promoting goodness, should so in their hearts utterly defy God and detest goodness; or that persons in a strain incomparably solemn and serious should so plainly teach, so strongly press, so otherwise uniformly practise highest good-will and beneficence toward all men, while they were with all their mind and might striving to gull and abuse men? Is it conceivable, that men, otherwise in all their actions so wise and well advised, (able to manage and to perform so great matters,) should so zealously drive on a most vain and senseless project, with more unwearied industry labouring to maintain and disperse a lie, than any men beside did ever strive in behalf of truth? Ib it not marvellous, that men in all respects so impotent, without any arms or aids, should adventure on so high an enterprise, should with so happy success achieve it; that naked weakness should boldly assault, and thoroughly overpower, the greatest might; pure simplicity sliould contest with and baffle stiarpest wit, subtlest policy, and deepest learning; that rude speech (void of strength or ornament) should effectually persuade an uncouth and unpleasant tale, against all the finest and strongest rhetoric in the world? Is it not strange, that a crew of vile and base persons should so inseparably be linked together with no other hands, than deceit and dishonesty; no truth, no virtue, no common interest helping to combine or contain them together? Is it to be believed, that men of sense sliould gratis, for no considerable end or advantage, voluntarily embrace and patiently endure all that is distasteful to human nature, freely exposing themselves, they knew not why, only for the fake of a story, to the fury of earth and
flames of hell; eagerly sacrificing their fortunes, credits, SERM. lives, and souls themselves, to the ghost of a forlorn XXIX. wretch and infamous caitiff? is it not, in sine, prodigious, that so implausible a falsehood upon all greatest disadvantages should encounter, vanquish, and triumph over truth? These are incredibilities indeed, able to choke any man's faith: yet he that rejects this testimony must swallow and digest them, together with others like them of as hard concoction.
15. To these things we may add, that God himself did signally countenance and ratify this testimony; not only by conferring on the avowers thereof extraordinary graces, (invincible courage, irresistible wisdom, indefatigable industry, inflexible constancy and patience; admirable self-denial, meekness, charity, temperance, and all virtues in an eminent degree,) not only farther by a wonderful success and blessing bestowed upon their endeavours; but by enduing them with supernatural gifts, and enabling them to perform miraculous works openly and frequently; So thai by the hands of the Apoflles many hQu ii. 43. wonders and signs were done among the people, the Lord^'TM^*TM^ giving testimony unto the word of his grace, and granting figns and wonders to be done by their hands; so that with^&* 'T-33great power gave the Apoflles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all; (that b, there was a great appearance of the divine favour toward them, and of the divine operation in and by them.) Yielding which kind of attestation was the ancient and usual method of God in authorizing his messengers, and approving the declaration of his mind by them, (the seal, as it were, put to the letters credential from heaven;) nor could God afford more convincing signs than these of his approbation to any person or design: that God did thus nmnfocprnpelv attest, as the Apostle to the Hebrews speak- Heb. ii. A< eth, together with these witnesses, if the apostolical history (bearing in it all the characters of a simple, faithful, and upright narration) did not relate; yet the effect of this testimony, so speedily and easily prevailing every where, would render it highly probable, since in likelihood, no