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THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST.
ACTS iii. 15.
And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead,
whereof we are witnesses. Peter made this declaration upon a very peculiar occasion. As he and John were going into the temple to pray, a man lame from his birth saw them and asked an alms. “ Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, silver and gold I have none, but such as I have, give I thee : In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The man instantly leaps up, walks into the temple and praises God. The spectators were filled with wonder and amazement. And when Peter saw it, he turned and said, “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this ? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk ? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers hath glorified his son Jesus, whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go. But ye denied the holy one, and the just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead, whereof we are witnesses."
The subject, which now lies before us, is the resurrection of Christ. And in treating upon it, I propose,
1. To inquire whether it were impossible for God to raise Christ from the dead ;
II. To inquire what sort of evidence of this truth we ought to expect; and,
III. To exhibit the evidence there is, that God did raise him from the dead.
1. We are to inquire whether it were impossible, that God should raise Christ from the dead. Some have thought it incredible, that God should raise the dead, and were it impossible, it would be incredible. God can do every thing that is possible, but nothing that is impossible. It is impossible, that God should cause a thing to exist and not to exist at the same time; and it was equally impossible, that God should cause Christ to be both dead and alive at the same time. These are natural impossibilities, not because they are above the power of God to effect, but because they are contradictions and absurdities, which no power can effect. But we can see no absurdity or impossibility in raising a dead man to life : for, it is undoubtedly as easy to divine power to restore the union between the soul and the body after it has been dissolved, as to establish such an union at first. So that there does not appear any more absurdity or impossibility in God's restoring the union between Christ's human body and human soul after it had been dissolved by death, than in establishing that union at first. And as there was no natural, so there was no moral impossibility in his raising Christ from the dead. That is morally impossible with God, which is inconsistent with any part of his moral character. It is morally impossible, that he should do any thing, which is contrary to his justice, veracity, or immutable purpose. But it does not appear to have been contrary to his justice, veracity, or any immutable purpose, to raise Christ from the dead, whom he had promised that he should not see corruption. And since the resurrection of Christ was neither above the power, nor inconsistent with the moral character of God to effect, there is no absurdity in believing, upon proper evidence, that he did raise him from the dead. And supposing this was the case, let us inquire,
II. What sort of evidence we ought to expect in proof of it. Those who deny divine Revelation say, that we cannot have either occular nor demonstrative evidence of Christ's resurrection; and as to moral evidence, that is very uncertain and precarious. It is readily conceded, that we are not to expect to find either occular, or demonstrative evidence of Christ's rising from the dead, yet we may justly expect to find such clear and conclusive moral evidence of the fact, as is sufficient to satisfy every impartial and candid mind.
Moral evidence is that, which we receive from writings and verbal testimony, and which is founded upon the known connection between moral causes and effects. And though it does not amount to strict demonstration, yet, in many cases, it arises to that certainty, which carries full and irresistible conviction to the mind. We have no occular, or demonstrative evidence, that our ancestors came from Europe; but we have such clear moral evidence of it, that we cannot seriously disbelieve it. For we cannot suppose, that all the European and American historians should have been deceived, or have united to deceive others upon 50 plain a subject as the first settlernent of the civilized inhabitants of this country. It is as natural and habitual to mankind in general, to write and speak the truth, when they have
no temptation to the contrary, as it is to write and speak at all. Accordingly we find, that all nations agree in admitting human writings and human testimony, as satisfactory evidence, in all their secular concerns of a publick or private nature. Written records and verbal testimony are deemed sufficient evidence to establish any truth, or fact, before any civil court or human tribunal. Indeed to deny the validity of such moral evidence would throw the world into confusion, and burst all the bands of civil society. But if we admit moral evidence to be satisfactory in all other important cases, why should we not admit it to be equally satisfactory, in respect to the resurrection of Christ? As a past event, it requires and adinits of no other kind of evidence. It only remains, therefore,
III. To exhibit the clear and full moral evidence we have, that Christ was actually raised from the dead. And,
1. The witnesses, who testified the truth of this important fact, are in every respect worthy of entire credit. Peter declares in the text, that he and the other apostles were witnesses of Christ's resurrection. And it must be allowed, that they were men, whose characters and qualifications for witnesses, render them worthy to be believed. They were possessed of a clear discernment and sound judgment. They were capable of perceiving and relating the truth upon this subject in a plain, intelligible, and consistent manner. Besides this, they had been personally and intimately acquainted with Christ several years before his death. They had heard him speak in private and in publick. They had seen him work miracles. And they had often critically observed his general deportment, his personal appearance, and every feature of his face. They were, therefore, perfectly capable of determining, when he appeared to them after his resurrection, whether he had the same voice, the same figure, and the same countenance, that he had before his death. He was with them forty days after his passion, and ate, and drank with them, and allowed them to satisfy themselves of the truth and reality of his resurrection, in the most sensible and palpable manner. They were all slow of heart to believe, that he was risen from the grave, and especially Thomas one of the twelve, to whom he condescended to say, “ Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side ; and be 'not faithless, but believing." And from a full conviction of the truth of his resurrection, he was constrained to cry, “ My Lord, and my God!” The apostles having such perfect personal knowledge of Christ's resurrection, were not afraid to publish the important truth, in the most solemn and publick manner. Peter boldly declares
before a large concourse of people, that he had cured the impotent man in the name of Christ, whom God had raised from the dead. And all the apostles whereever they went, always preached the doctrine of Christ's resurrection, though at the risk of losing every thing most valuable in life, and even life itself
. They were, therefore, both competent and faithful witnesses. They exhibited every mark of truth and honesty. They all spoke the same things, and their number served to strengthen and corroborate their testimony. Or if that should be scrupled, the apostle tells us, Christ was seen after his resurrection, by above five hundred brethren at once. Would not the testimony of such witnesses be deemed sufficient to support any cause before any human tribunal ? If we ought to place full faith in any human testimony, we ought to place full faith in the united and consistent testimony of the apostles in favour of the resurrection of Christ. For,
2. If they had used any deception in their testimony, they must have been detected in the time of it. They gave their testimony when and where, if there had been any fraud in the case, it might have been most easily and fully discovered. It was within a few days after Christ's resurrection, that Peter and John publickly declared the fact, at Jerusalem and in the tem! ple, where Christ had taught, wrought miracles, and had been personally known for several years, and where he had just been crucified and buried. His enemies remembered what they had said, and done respecting his doctrines, his miracles, and his crucifixion. They remembered, that he professed to be the promised Messiah and king of the Jews; that he had foretold his death and resurrection; and that they had requested and obtained liberty of Pilate, to take the best possible precaution against any deception that might be used respecting his rising from the dead. They had time, opportunity, authority, and every motive, to call the apostles to account, and to punish them severely, if they could discover any fraud or falsehood