« AnteriorContinuar »
And I had the satisfaction of learning from a number of my hearers, that they had never heard of Dr. Eames, until that evening; although he lived, died, and was buried in their city. Thus it appears to me to be proved beyond all contradiction, that Christ Jesus actually rose from the dead. And this fact being true, it will necessarily follow, that the Chris
ulous in your esteem, is truly a plan of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness; worthy of the acceptation of all mankind.
great andlearned Dr. Priestly, in his sermom on | accordingly on the day, vast numbers flocked the resurrection of Christ (which I would high- to the place where this man was buried, and ly recommend to your perusal) observes, that waited to see him rise, but in vain, for he rose we have much more evidence of that great not. The consequence of which was, that event, than of any other that ever took place. the sect immediately fell into contempt, and For it was not only made so plain to the first came to nothing, and Dr. Eames was soon witnesses of it, that they could not be de- forgotten; so that I suppose few of you ever ceived themselves, but their characters, and heard of his name. And this would certainly the persecutions they were exposed to and have been the case with Jesus and his resuffered on account of their testimony, forbids ligion, if he had not truly have risen from the every idea or possibility of their being impos- dead." tors. The fact was as fully investigated for nearly three hundred years as it was possible it should be, while it was fresh; and the opposers of it had all the possible power, policy, malice, and every advantage to have the falsehood of it detected; which, if it could have been done, would certainly have been done then; and which detection would immediately have ruined the cause of Christian system, which is so little, weak, and ridictianity forever. But instead of this being the case, the long and severe trial ended in the conviction of the greater part of the inhabitants of the vast Roman empire, and their This subject is the more important, because free and hearty acknowledgment of the truth this is the turning point between Deists and of the fact, contrary to all their most invete- Christians; here we divide: for if the doctrine rate prejudices. This is no inconsiderable of Christ's resurrection can be overthrown, argumentin favour of the certainty of this im- then is Christianity a fable; but if it be fairly portant event; for what, but the amazing pow-proved, then the Christian system can be easier of truth, could possibly have wrought so ly maintained against Deism. Here I am great an effect. willing to rest the merits of the cause, being For my own part, I think that the existence | fully persuaded that the ground is good. of Christianity in the world is a full and infallible proof that Jesus rose from the dead; which if he had not done, we should scarce ever have heard of him; and his religion could not have existed a year, nor scarcely a week; for the whole depended on his rising from the dead, according to his predictions so SIR-What you have advanced in your frequently delivered to his disciples. For book against the ascension of our Saviour had he failed in that point, none would have Jesus Christ, appeared to me on reading, so ever trusted in him, nor propagated his doc-weak, vague, inconclusive, and so little to trine in the world; and I am confident that we at this distance of time should never have heard of him.
I had an opportunity when in London, of illustrating this, by an example worthy of notice. One evening I thus addressed my audience:
To prove that you could never have heard of Jesus, if he had not actually risen from the dead, according to his predictions, I wil! mention an affair that happened in your own city, and since the beginning of the present century.
"There was a new sect arose about that time, who prophesied and declared that their religion would spread over the whole world in a short time; and in proof of these assertions, gave this sign, that Dr. Eames, one of their brethren, who was buried on the 25th of December, should on the 25th of the next May, five months from the time of his burial, between the hours of twelve and six in the afternoon, rise from the dead, burst open his grave, and walk home to his house publicly through the streets of London. And this prediction they published beforehand, as a sign, to which they invited the attention of the people; and they said, 'If this wonder takes place, of which we are fully assured, it will be certainly known that we are the Lord's people.''
I am, Sir, Yours, &c.
the purpose, that I thought at first not to take any notice of it: but lest any should imagine from my not noticing it, that what you had written upon that subject was unanswerable, I concluded upon second thoughts to make some observations upon that important fact.
You, disregarding all facts that do not suit your hypothesis, though ever so well attested, undertake to represent the resurrection and ascension as 'fictions, told with the "most wretched contrivance," so as to "exceed every thing that went before." But as I have already proved the resurrection to be certainly true, there is but little difficulty in proving the ascention also.
You suppose the resurrection and ascension of Jesus not to be true, because all the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not see him arise, and behold him ascend. You say, "the resurrection and ascension, supposing them to have taken place, admitted of public and ocular demonstration, like that of the ascension of a balloon, or the sun at noon-day, to all Jerusalem at the least. A thing which every body is required to believe, requires that the proof and evidence of it should be equal to all, and universal; and as the publie visibility of this last related act was the only evidence that could give sanction to the former part, the whole of it falls to the ground, because the
evidence never was given. Instead of this, a small number of persons, not more than eight or nine, are introduced as proxies for the whole world, to say, they saw it, and all the rest of the world are called upon to believe it." Thus you write, and further declare, that you will not believe without ocular and manual demonstration yourself, &c. How unreasonable and impossible is this. Would you have Christ to be continually dying, rising, and ascending, before the eyes of every individual, in order that all should have equal evidence of these great facts? Is there no possibi.ity of evidence being so authenticated, and facts so proved, as may warrant the safe ty of believing them, even to those who in the nature of things could not have seen them with their own eyes? If not, human nature is in a most deplorable situation indeed! The death, resurection, and ascension of Christ, could happen but once, and therefore but a small part of the human race could see those facts with their own eyes; and if all the people alive at once were to see them, they must be proxies for other generations; some must of necessity give credit to them from the reports of others. And therefore a few honest, upright men, being eye-witnesses of a fact, are as capable of authenticating that fact, and their evidence is as valid, as though millions had beheld it with them.
There was a reason why Jerusalem as a city was not allowed to behold Christ after his resurrection, and to see him ascend: for the inhabitants of that unhappy city had, by their rejection of him and his doctrine, moved him to say, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." Matt. xxiii. 37-39. Luke xiii. 34, 35. Now if the whole city had seen him after his resurrection, and beheld him ascend, this prophecy of our Saviour would have been null, void, and of none effect; and then you would have had some real ground for objection against Christianity; whereas now it doth not appear that you have any, but what you frame out of your own heart. It was therefore of a million times more consequence that our Lord's words should be all fulfilled, than that you or I should have had our humour pleased, or all Jerusalem should be gratified with that sight, of which the inhabitants in general had rendered themselves unworthy, by their wilfully rejecting the highest moral and even miraculous evidence of the Messiah's mission.
these were witnesses of Christ's resurrection, and by them, great proof was given to the citizens in general of the reality of the fact. And as for Christ himself, he remained on earth forty days after his resurrection, and shewed himself many times to his disciples and followers, and at one time to more than five hundred at once; which surely were enough in all reason to authenticate any fact. And when he was going to ascend, he assembled his followers at Jerusalem, and commanded them not to depart from the city till they received the Holy Ghost in a miraculous manner, which should inspire them with the gift of tongues, &c. and which would testify that he had entered heaven, and be as full a proof to all that should see this sign, that he had actually ascended, as though they had seen him go up with their own eyes, if not more so. After he had discoursed with them in a friendly manner for some time, he led them out of the city as far as to Bethany or the mount of Olives, which is near two miles distant, on the cast of Jerusalem; this was doubtless early in the morning, (as he rose early in the morning from the grave) while the inhabitants of great cities are generally in their beds, locked up in sleep. And if any of them were up, as they had not the least intimation of what was going forward, it is not in the least probable that they should turn their attention towards the mount of Olives, but on the contrary it is likely they would attend to their business; as the earliest risers in cities are generally the most industrious. When Christ had led his disciples as far as this favoured place, to which he shall descend when he comes again, (see Zech. xiv. 4, 5,) "he lifted up his hands and blessed them; and it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and a cloud received him ont of their sight, and he was carried up into heaven. And while they looked steadfastly towards heaven as he went up, behold, two men (or angels in the form of men) stood by them in white apparel; who also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." See St. Luke xxiv. 50, 51. Acts i. 4-11.
After beholding this glorious sight, on a beautiful morning in the month of May, the disciples of our Lord returned to Jerusalem, to wait for the fulfilment of the promise, the gift of the Holy Ghost. How many the company consisted of that beheld him ascend, we are not positively told; but as if on pur pose to censure your scoffing sneer of a small number of persons, not more than eight or nine, introduced as proxies for the whole world, to say they saw it; &c., the sacred historian informs But though Christ himself was not seen by us, that "the number of the names together the inhabitants of Jerusalem in general, after were about an hundred and twenty." Acts i. the resurrection, yet St. Matthew informs us 15. These all having beheld their Lord asin his gospel, that "the graves were opened; cend, agreed to continue daily together, prayand many bodies of the saints which slept ing for his promise, spending the time in pray arose, and came out of the graves after his er and other religious exercises. Probably resurrection, and went into the holy city, (by many more saw him ascend, but all these which is meant Jerusalem) and appeared un- certainly, because they continued together, to many." Chap. xxvii 52, 53. So that all · waiting for the accomplishment of what Christ
had promised them at the time of his ascension.
How different this story appears to me from what it does to you? To you, it appears in vain to attempt to palliate or disguise this matter. To me it appears so evidently true and reasonable, as to stand in no need of any palliation whatever. To you, the story as far as relates to the supernatural part, has every mark of fraud and imposition stamped upon the face of it. To me, it appears to have every mark of truth that could be desired. I think, and I trust I can prove it to be a true story, and it is evidently told in a very artless, natural
[lible proof of its truth is yet behind; I mean
On the feast of Pentecost, which was fifty days from the Sabbath that was in the seven days of the feast of unleavened bread, and consequently ten days after our Saviour's ascension, as the disciples were all with one accord in one place, "suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting, and there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." Acts ii. 1-4.
Jesus is related to have predicted his sufferings and resurrection beforehand, at various times, that the scene might become common and familiar to his disciples. Then his Here was a miracle as great and wonderful death is set forth in the most particular manner, with a vast variety of circumstances, in as the ascension of Christ, and which fully which a great number of prophecies written proved that fact; and this was evident to the many hundreds of years before were exactly senses, not only of those who were the immeaccomplished. His burial is then related diate subjects of it, but to all the nation of the with the peculiar circumstances attending it. Jews, then assembled to keep the feast of The guards placed at the door of the sepul- Pentecost. Here was no possibility of decepchre, and for what purpose, at whose request, tion or imposture; the Jews that assembled and by whose order. Then follows the his- upon this occasion, had been many of them tory of the resurrection of Jesus, with many born and brought up among all the nations then infallible proofs of the same. Many inter- known, and perfectly understood the several views between Christ and his disciples, and languages of the world, and therefore could several conversations upon the subject are set certainly tell whether the apostles spoke them down. Ten or eleven distinct appearances with propriety; which if they did, the miracle of Christ are recorded. Forty days he is said was as evident as the sun shining in his to have remained on earth, to instruct and con- strength at noon-day, and was as plainly the firm his disciples, and fully to satisfy them of immediate work of God, as the creation of the the reality of his resurrection. During this world itself. For that a number of ignorant, time there seems to have been one general illiterate Galileans, the least improved of any meeting of all his followers and friends, to the of the Jews, should at once be capable of number of about five hundred; which it is speaking fluently and correctly all the different tongues spoken by the most polished, as probable was held by appointment, upon a mountain in Galilee, and was notified before- well as rudest nations, which they could not "He goeth have learned in many hundreds of years, must hand, soon after his resurrection: before you into Galilee; there shall ye see have been as impossible for them to do with him, as he said unto you." St. Mark xvi. 7. out the highest inspiration, as to create anThen after various other interviews, with other universe, and fill it with inhabitants. some of his disciples, a general gathering of And this amazing wonder being fully shewn them that took place at Jerusalem, for the in the presence of all the inhabitants of Jerusapurpose of beholding his ascension; there he lem, and many thousands of Jews out of all conversed with them freely, gave them his nations, was a proof of Christ's ascension, last instructions, promised them the gift of the far more full and satisfactory, than if they spirit in a miraculous manner; ordered them had all seen him go up with their own eyes. to abide at Jerusalem till that sign was fulfill-There can be no room here for debating, to ed; then he led them out of the city to the what extent the laws of nature, and the pow mount of Olives, and arriving at its summit, ers of nature and art could possibly go; for probably before the rising of the sun, he lifted every person of common sense must know, up his hands, and gave them a parting bless-that for ignorant men in a moment to learn to ing; in the action of which he was parted speak all languages, is absolutely naturally from them, and ascended a little way in their impossible, unless by immediate inspiration. open view; but in a short time, a cloud re- And this event took place, not in an obscure ceived him out of their sight, and they saw corner of the world, but in the famous city of him no more. Then bowing their knees, they Jerusalem; not in a private conventicle, but worshipped him, being now fully convinced in the public temple, the place of general reof his glorious character; then returning with sort; not only before a few persons, but in great joy to Jerusalem, about an hundred and the sight and hearing of many thousands; not twenty of them continued daily together, wait-only before an ignorant rabble, but in the ing for the descent of the Holy Ghost. Now presence of the most devout, learned, and ju what is there in all this, that has the least appearance of fraud or imposition? I never heard a story in all my life, told more naturally, or in which all the parts better corresponded with each other. But the great and infal
dicious of the nation of the Jews, gathered out of all nations under heaven: not in the night, but in the morning of a public feast day. And this miracle of the gift of tongues, was not only a sign for a day, but lasted many years;
whereby it became as publicly and univer-1 sally notorious as any thing could be.And it not only came upon the apostles themselves, but in general upon the first converts to Christianity; not among the Jews only, but the Gentiles also.
This plain state of facts, not only infallibly proves the ascension of Christ to be certain, as this sign took place in confirmation thereof, which it could not if it had not been true; but being open, and in the presence of all, and continuing so long, seemed to give almost precisely, that general evidence which you seem to require. For here was a fact continued for a long time, before many nations and people, in proof of Christ's ascension into heaven; which was itself as great a miracle, and for the extent of it far greater, and capable of being more abundantly investigated, than the ascension itself could be.
If you had considered this matter with any proper attention, you might have spared yourself the labour of asking, and the mortification of betraying your amazing ignorance of the subject on which you have written, in asking, "But how was Jesus Christ to make any thing known to all nations? He could speak but one language, which was Hebrew; and there are in the world several hundred languages. Scarce any two nations speak the same language, or understand each other; and as to translations, every man who knows any thing of languages, knows that it is impossible to translate from one language into another, not only without losing a great part of the original, but frequently of mistaking the sense. It is always necessary, that the means that are to accomplish any end, be equal to the accomplishment of that end, or the end cannot be accomplished. It is in this that the difference between finite and infinite power and wisdom discovers itself. Man frequently fails in accomplishing his end, from a natural inability of power to the purpose, and frequently from the want of wisdom to apply power properly. But it is impossible for infinite wisdom to fail as man faileth. The means it useth are always equal to the end."
Thus you write, as though you never read of the gift of tongues, that greatest and most evident miracle that was ever exhibited: and which was a mean fully adequate to the great purposes of making known the truth to all nations, without the difficulty or uncertainty of translations, mistakes or misapprehensions. But how came you, my friend, to suppose that Christ himself could only speak one language, which was Hebrew? The Hebrew language, as far as I can learn, was never spoken at all by the common people as a living language, after the Babylonish captivity; but Syriac, and even Greek was more generally used. But whatever was the language or languages, spoken at that time, our Saviour excelled, both in manner and matter, all the orators of his age and nation.
"The people were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the Scribes." Matt. vii. 28, 29.
"The common people heard him gladly." Mark xii. 37.
The officers that were sent to take him, were so charmed with his language and sentiments, that they came without him, and being asked by their rulers, "why have ye not brought him?" returned this short but pertinent answer, never man spake like this man." John vii. 45, 46.
And when he once spake in Nazareth, “all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth." Luke iv. 22.
And at another time, those who heard him, exclaimed, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" John vii. 15.
You seem to take great pleasure in making Jesus appear mean and contemptible upon every occasion. His images, according to your ideas of him, were low, his style mean; he could speak but one language; and you even go so far as to say, And the probability is, that he could not write; though St. John, who was rather better acquanted with him than you are, informs us on a certain occasion, that he "stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground." John viii. 6, 8; which makes it to me more than probable that he could write.
The apostles and first Christians being qualified by having the gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles in the name of Jesus, were well prepared to teach all nations, and to be witnesses of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, both in Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. The astonishing miracle of curing a man of above forty years old, that was lame from his mother's womb, and had never walked, and who was laid daily at the beautiful gate of the temple, to ask alms of the people, by which his face was become familiar to the whole nation, was so notorious, that even the Sadducees, the infidels of that age, the rulers of the people, said in conference among themselves, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle has been done by them is manifest unto all them that dwell at Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it but that it spread no farther among the people, let us straightly threaten them, that they speak to no man in this name." Acts iv. 16, 17.
These great events, the gift of tongues, and the power of working miracles, were worthy of the infinite wisdom, power, and goodness of God, and they accomplished the great design of God; for the first day, three thousand souls were added to the Christian society, and soon after the number was about five thousand; and in a short time, we read, "And the word of God increased; and the number of disciples were multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith." See Acts ii. 41, 47; iv. 4, 21; v. 14; vi. 7; xi. 31: xxi. 20. Thus many thousands of those same Jews who had been witnesses of Christ's sufferings on the cross, within a few weeks after, came to be professors of his religion; which event could not have happened, unless the evidences of his resurrection and ascension had been the most powerful that could have been desired.
I have before proved that Christ arose; if he arose, he also ascended, for he is not now on the earth; though I, and many others expect him soon to return again. The ascension was a thing that the senses of men could judge of; it took place in the sight of at least an hundred and twenty of his followers; the Holy Ghost descended in a perceptible, visible, miraculous manner, and inspired them with the gift of tongues, and gave them the power of working miracles; and these things happened in such a way as to give the fullest evidence | of the truth of the fact. I am sure that I need not add any more upon so plain a subject. I am, Sir, Yours, &c.
its amazing uses are described as no Deist of the present age would describe them. Much more advantage is here stated to result from the study of the law, testimony, statutes, commandment, and judgments of the Lord, than from the study of the great book of creation; by these the soul is converted, the simple is made wise, the heart is made to rejoice, the eyes are enlightened, none of which great effects are ascribed to beholding the works of creation. Wherefore the choice you have made of this Psalm is very much against you, especially as you have so boldly declared, that there was not the least allusion therein to any other book but that of the creation. But the public, after reading this specimen, will be able to judge for themselves, what credit is due to a writer who undertakes to investigate theology, without having even a Bible in his possession, and appears to be so ignorant of its contents.
SIR,-You have been a little unfortunate in your choice of the 19th Psalm, as a pure How could you ever get that strage and piece of Deism, in which you declare that mistaken idea into your head, that there is there is not the least allusion to any other scarely the least allusion to the works of God, book, but the great book of the creation; except in some chapters of Job, and the 19th for the fact, unfortunately for your cause, is, Psalm, when the scriptures so much abound that though there is in this elegant composi- with them, that if I should transcribe them all, tion, at the beginning of it, a charming allu-I should fill a volume, and be obliged to write sion to the great book of creation, yet the lat-out more than a thousand verses? But howter part of it is taken up in recommending that book of revelation, the law of the Lord, which you declare is more like the word of a demon than of God, and that there is scarcely any thing in it, which does not merit hatred or contempt. You will soon perceive that the writer of that ancient piece of Deism, thought very differently from you; but as you remember not the prose, and keep no Bible, I willed and judicious astronomers. transcribe a part of it for your perusal, and that all may see how totally unfit you are to write against a book, the contents of which you are so little aquainted with.
ever your assertions may go down with the ignorant, who have never spent much time in reading the Bible, they appear to all who are acqainted with the sacred pages, just as false, ignorant, and absurd, as an assertion, that there was not above twenty stars in all the sky, and that none of those could possibly be bigger than eggs, would to the most learn
I shall here proceed to quote a few, out of vast numbers of passages, where the works of creation are mentioned and celebrated:
Psalm xix. 1-11. "The heavens declare Psalm viii. 1, 3–9: “O Lord, our Lord, how the glory of God, and the firmament sheweth excellent is thy name in all the earth! thou his handy-work. Day unto day uttereth hast set thy glory above the heavens. When speech and night unto night sheweth know- I consider thy heavens, the work of thy finledge. There is no speech nor language gers; the moon and stars which thou hast orwhere their voice is not heard. Their line is dained: what is man, that thou art mindful gone out through all the earth, and their words of him? and the son of man, that thou visitto the end of the world. In them hath he set est him? For thou madest him a little lower a tabernacle for the sun; which is as a bride- than the angels, and hast crowned him with groom coming out of his chamber, and re- glory and honour. Thou madest him to have joiceth as a strong man to run a race. His dominion over the work of thy hands; thou going forth is from the end of heaven, and his hast put all things under his feet; all sheep circuit unto the ends of it: and there is no- and oxen; yea, and the beasts of the field; thing hid from the heat thereof." Thus far the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and David, who was the writer of this Psalm, al-whatsoever passeth through the paths of the ludes to the great book of creation: but he immediately adds, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judg Psalm xxxiii. 4-9. "For the word of the ments of the Lord are true and righteous alto- Lord is right, and all his works are done in gether. More to be desired are they than truth. He loveth righteousness and judg gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also ment; the earth is full of the goodness of the than honey, and the honey-comb. Moreover, Lord. By the word of the Lord were the by them is thy servant warned; and in keep-heavens made, and all the host of them with ing of them there is great reward." Here is the breath of his mouth. He gathereth the much said in favour of the law of God; and waters of the sea together as an heap: he
sea. O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth."
Psalm xxiv. 1, 2. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods."