Page images
PDF
EPUB

I. That they were competent judges of what they asserted, is evident,

1. From their numbers. The eye-witnesses, of this fact, were many. He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve ; after that be was seen of five hundred brethren at once ; after that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all, he was feen of me also *. Thus Paul wrote when multitudes who lived at the time, were still living, and would readily have contradicted him, if he had declared an untruth. Five hundred concurring witnesses are sufficient to establish the credit of a fact, which they all faw with their own eyes, if their word. may be depended upon. We can be certain of things which we never saw, no otherwise, than by the testimony of others. And certainty may be attained in this way. For though some persons would appropriate the word demonstration to mathematical evidence, yet moral evidence may be, in many cases, equally conclusive, and compel assent, with equal force. I am so fully satisfied by the report of others, that there are such cities

* 1 Cor. xv. 5–8.

as

as Paris or Rome, though I never faw them, that I am no more able seriously to question their existence, than I am to doubt the truth of a proposition in Euclid, which I have feen demonstrated.

2. From the nature of the fact, in which it was not possible that so many persons, could be mistaken or deceived. Some of them faw him, not once only, but frequently. His appearance to others, was attended with peculiar striking circumstances and effects. His disciples seem not to have expected his resurrection, though he had often foretold it, previous to his sufferings. Nor did they hastily credit the women who first saw him, in their way from the sepulchre. Thomas refused to believe the report of all his brethren, to whom our Lord had shewn himself. He would fee for himself; he required more than ocular proof; for he said, Except I put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his fide, I will not believe *. It is no wonder, that when these proofs were offered him, he fully yielded to conviction, and with gratitude and joy, addressed his risen Saviour, in the * John xx. 25.

language language of adoration and love, My Lord, and my God! But his former conduct shewed that he was not credulous, nor disposed to receive the report as a truth, however desirable, withour fufficient evidence.

II. As they were competent judges, so they were upright and faithful witnesses. There is no more room to suspect that they had a design to deceive others, than that they were mistaken or deceived themselves. For

1. If we judge of them by their writings, we must, at least, allow them to have been well-meaning men. They profess to aim at promoting the knowledge and honour of the true God, and thereby to promote the morality and happiness of mankind. Their conduct was uniformly consistent with their profession, and their doctrines and precepts, were evidently suited, to answer their design. The penmen of the New Testament were, confeffediy, men in private life, most of them destitute of literature, and engaged in low occupations, till they became the disciples of Jefus. Is it probable, that men, who Speak so honourably of God, who inculcate, upon their fellow-creatures, such an entire devotedness to his will and service, thould

be

be impostors themselves ? Is it at all credible, that a few men, in an obscure fituation, should form a consistent and well concerted plan, sufficient to withstand and overcome the prejucices, habits, and customs, both of Jews and Heathens; to institute a new religion; and, without the assistance of interest or arms, to spread it rapidly and successfully, in a few years, throughout the greatest part of the Roman empire? Or is it possible, that such men could, at their first effort, exhibit a scheme of theology and morality, so vastly superior to the united endeavours of the philosophers of all ages ? A learned man in France, attempted to prove (for what will not learned men attempt?) that most of the Latin poems, which are attributed to those whom we call the Classic writers, and particularly the Æneid of Virgil, were not the production of the authors whose names they bear, but gross forgeries, fabricated by monks, in the dark ages of ignorance, and successfully obtruded upon the world as genuine, till he arose to detect the imposture. He gained but few profelytes to his absurd paradox. Yet, to suppose that men who could only express their own dull VOL. II.

senti

xatiments, in barbarous Latin, were capable of writing with the fire and elegance of Virgil, when they undertook to impose upon the world; or to affirm that the Principia of Sir Isaac Newton, was in reality written by an ignorant plow-man, and only sent abroad under the fanation of a celebrated name; cannot be more repugnant to true taste, found judgment, and common sense, than to imagine, that the Evangelists and Apostles, were, from their own resources, capable of writing such a book as the New Testament. The whole of which must stand or fall with the doctrine of our Lord's resurrection.

2. But farther, They could not possibly propose any advantage to themselves, in their endeavours to propagate the Christian religion, if they had not been assured, that the crucified Jesus, whom they preached, was risen from the dead, and had taken pofsession of his kingdom. Knowing whom they had believed, filled with a constraining fenfe of his love, and depending upon his promise and power, to support them, in the service to which had called them, they were neither ashamed, nor afraid, to proclaim his gospel, and to invite and enjoin sinners every

where

« PreviousContinue »