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Mankind: which are Tasks pretty nearly equal to one another.
Thirdly, A Third Topick which the Christians X\ argue upon, is, The Demonstrable Conviction, which the Jewijh Nation lay under at that time, that Jesus Christ was really risen again.
The Consequence of this Argument lies here, viz.- That if a Body of People, who were the Murderers of Jesus Christ, and the avow'd Enemies of his Religion •, who had so many Reasons to wish be might not rise again so many Interests concern'd to engage them to hinder Mankind, from believing that he was risen again: And lastly, Who had all Advantages in their hands, that could be desir'd, to inform and assure themselves, whether he was risen again or no; If these Persons gave plain proofs, of their being convicted of the Truth of Christ'*s Resurrection; the rest of Mankind ca'n have no rational pretence, for the least Doubt or Scruple about it. And the Reason is, because no part of Mankind besides, can ever possibly have either the Motives or the Advantages, for inquring into the matter, that the Jewijh Nation had. Therefore, their Conviction, is a just Argument to us.
NO W 'tis easy to shew, upon plain and obvious Principles, That the Jews were infaHibly convinced of the Resurrection of Christ.
In order to this, I suppose it will be granted, That when two Parties of Men stand at the highest degree of Opposition to each other, if the one asserts and publishes a Matter of Fall, which is of the highest Moments and absolutely destructive of the Interests of the other, and is not so palpably false, as to carry the plain Marks of Spite and Revenge, or study d Slander and Scandal along with it', that then, if that other Party, vpon whom this Charge is made, does not in as solemn and publick manner refute that Charge, or do something in their own Vindication; which in the Judgments of Persons, not biafs'd or prejudiced either way, shall bear some proportion to the Attack made vpon them: That then (I fay) they tacitly acknowledg the Truth of what the accusing Party aliedg against them, and so by Consequence give up the Cause.
For the reason of this, I refer to what is discours'd at the latter end of PROP. II.
Now the Cafe lies here: The Writers of the Gospel-Hi story, did in express Terras publish to the World, That the Jews bribed the Soldiers to report, that the Body of Jesus Christ was stolen
This was a home Charge; and such as, if true, fhew'd the Jews to be the most degenerate Wretches under Heaven.
For. here they trampled upon all the Obligations of Conscience and Religion, and set them
selves to fight against Truth, and even against God himself, that they might carry on their . Prejudices against Jeftu Christ., and the New Religion instituted by him.
Now for the Evangelists to record it in their History (and that, but a very little Time too, after Christ's Death) that the Jews were guilty of this horrid and abominable piece of Forgery and Bribery; to tell the World, that they acted so foul and so sordid a part, as to tamper with the Soldiers, and put them upon spreading about a thing, which they knew in their own Hearts to be a notorious Lye: This was to paint them out to the World, in the very worst Colours that Men could be painted in, and expos'd the Cause they maintain'd, as desperate and forlorn to the last degree.
Now that this Charge was neither so evidently false, as to carry its own refutation along with it, nor yet the Effect of Spleen and Revenge, because the Jews had crucify'd Jesus Christ; will be apparent to all People, that will but use their Understandings as they ought to do, in looking over the Circumstances of the Cafe, and the Jewst Management upon this Occasion.
The thing, as recorded by the Historian Matthew, was thus.
The Watch who were set to guard the Sepulcher of Christ, being terrify'd by the awful appearance of an Angel of God, and the Earthquake which attended his Descent from Heaven; come into the City, and, tell the Chief Priests, what things had passed. Upon this, a Council was immediately call'd, and finding themselves under a pressing Necessity of stopping these Soldiers Mouths, they resolv'd to try the Power of Mony for that purpose; the
U 4 reason reason of which, in all probability, was because those Men were Romans: For otherwise, 'tis no Breach of Charity to suppose, that that Assembly could have made bold with the Law of Moses, in a Cafe of Extremity, and found other Ways to dispose of Men, that were like to tell dangerous Truth, if they could have ventur'd the Civil Consequences of so doing.
However, they propos'd the Reward to then), and told them what they were to do for it: Say ye, his £>isciples came by Night, and stole him away, while we flept. Very odd Directions to be jgiven, by a Council of poctors, and Heads of the People! Sure they must be under some terrible Consternation, and their Wits perfectly confus'd, io put a parcel of Men upon giving the World a formal Account, of what was done, while fhey were fast afleep! But if this Advice of theirs was wife, that which folldw'd next was every whit as honest and pious: And if this come tt the Govcrnour s Ears, we will persuade him, and secure you: That is, do you tell the Lye roundly, and we will justify you in it, and back what you fay •, so that the Governour, if he should enquire, shall be effectually cheated and abus'd, and you come to no manner of Damage. And this (as the Historian tells us) did the Business. The Men thus tempted, and thus sec us'd from Danger, yielded not only tp copceal the Truth, but also to set about a contrary Story: They took the Mony, and did as they were taught:, ivlor was it any wonder, that People of their Professipn should be charm'd with a large Bribe., especially being wheedled by an Assembly of grave and learned Men; who would say a thousand things to them (and it being in their own Defence, to be sure they did ) to work off the Apprehensions
they had conceiv'd, upon the surprizing things they saw at the Sepulcher.
This is the Account of the Matter: And therefore the next thing to be enquir'd into, is, What J>efence the Jews wads, against this heavy Charge.
Any indifferent Person, that should hear the Case, would conclude no less, than that the whole Nation (a People that prided themselves in Character, so much as they did) should have been in a Tumult upon it: At least, that the Chief jPriests and Fathers of Israel, lhould have exerted themselves after some very extraordinary manner, to clear themselves of this Asper? lion •, being the Persons who suffer'd most deeply by it.
And certainly, there were very valuable Reasons for their so doing. For, besides that their Cause and Religion lay at stake, and this Account of their Proceedings was sure to be published thro the World, and transmitted even to the latest Posterity; the Party which made this Assault upon them, was too considerable to be despised, and not couoted worthy of an Answer; tho at the same time, neither their Principles, nor their Circumstances in the World, were such, as could strike their Adversaries with any dread or fear of them j. so that they should forbear doing themselves Justice upon that score.
One would expect therefore to have heard* that the Christians were solemnly eall'd to an Account, for this provoking piece of History: That they were chaUeng'd to make it good, with all that Zeal and Concern, which injur'd Innocence, in a People of such Resentments as the Jews were, would naturally have inspir'd i4 That Eerfoas and Records were appeal'd to and