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in their testimony. Why then did they not discover some fraud or falsehood in the apostles, who boldly and publickly declared that they had actually seen and conversed with Christ after his resurrection ? No reason can be given for this, but that what they said was true, and could not be disproved, by those who could and would have disproved it, had it been false. If the enemies of Christ had only discovered any deception in the testimony of the apostles, they would have discovered Christ to have been an impostor, and justified themselves in putting him to death; and at the same time, defeated the evil design of his followers, and crushed the gospel at its birth. If the declaration of the apostles concerning the resurrection of Christ had been a falsehood, it must have been detected in the time of it, and as it was not, and could not be detected then, we must conclude that it was true, and that Christ was certainly raised from the dead, according to the scriptures.
3. The Jewish nation were convinced, that Christ was really raised from the dead. Though they were extremely loth to believe his resurrection, and took unlawful means to conceal the evidence of it, bribing the soldiers, who guarded the sepulchre, to say that his disciples came and stole his body while they slept, yet the true testimony of the apostles completely discredited the story of the soldiers. And when the supreme court of the nation apprehended the apostles themselves, and examined them critically concerning what they had publickly declared, with respect to the resurrection of Christ, they maintained the truth of the fact, and no threatnings could deter them from continuing to preach the same doctrine. I will read the large and particular account of this legal process, which we have in the chapter following the text. Peter and John spake unto the people, the priests and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day. Howbeit, many of them who heard the word believed : and the number of the men was about five thousand. And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and their elders, and the scribes, and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kin, dred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, by what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised
66 And as his name.
from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other ; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. Now, when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled ; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them, is manifest to all that dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them that they speak henceforth to no man in
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all, nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, whether it be right in the sight of God, to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding nothing how they might punish them.” This was the highest ecclesiastical council in the state. It was held at Jerusalem, where Christ had just been crucified and buried. It was called for the sole purpose of examining the apostle's testimony in respect to the resurrection of Christ, a testimony which had been instrumental, the day before, of converting five thousand men. The examination was very deliberate and very strict, as well as very publick. When it was finished, the council conferred together, and frankly acknowledged, that they could find no falsehood, nor deception, nor any thing else in the apostles, for which they could condemn them. Accordingly, they determined only to command them not to preach any more, lest their testimony concerning the resurrection of Christ should be more extensively spread and believed among the people. As this council, who examined the apostles themselves, were constrained to believe, that their testimony concerning Christ's resurrrection was true; so their belief of the fact, is tantamount to the belief of all the rest of the nation. And if the first men in the Jewish nation, who were best acquainted with Christ, who were the most prejudiced against him, and who were the most reluctant to believe the testimony of the apostles concerning his resurrection, were constrained to believe it, we may well believe it. That evidence, which convinced the Jewish council of the truth of Christ's resurrection, and converted five thousand men to the faith of the gospel, ought to be completely satisfactory to us, at this day. It must be added,
4. That there could have been no deception in respect to Christ's resurrection, appears from the known circumstances of the case. The Jews took so much care and precaution to prevent deception, that had the apostles or any of the friends of Christ been ever so much disposed to palm 'a cheat upon the world, they could not have done it. Matthew, giving an account of Christ's death and burial, in the 27th chapter of his gospel, says, “ Now the next day that followed the day
of preparation, the chief priests and pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again. Command therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto
, the people, he is risen from the dead: so the last errour shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, ye have a watch: go your way, make it sure as you can. So they went and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watch.” This seems to have been the most prudent and effectual method that could be devised, to prevent the disciples, or any of the friends of Christ, from coming and taking away his body in a clandestine manner, and to ascertain whether he actually rose from the dead, or not. There is, therefore, no ground to suspect, that there was any fraud or deception in the case. The whole story of the bribed soldiers is in its own nature inconsistent and absurd. It is not credible, that the disciples should go to the sepulchre, and not perceive the guard that was set there. It is not credible, that if the guard were awake, that they should attempt to take away the body of Christ. It is not credible, that if they saw all the guard asleep, and did attempt to roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and to take away the body of Christ, that they could have effected their purpose, without waking the guard. And it is still more incredible, that the guard should have known, that they did come and take away his body while they were asleep. The whole affair of Christ's burial was so conducted by his friends and enemies, as to preclude the possibility of his body's being taken away in a clandestine
manner. Joseph, of Arimathea laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of a rock: and at the same time, rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre. Besides, when Christ actually rose, “ Behold there was a great earthquake : for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door of the sepulchre, and sat upon it. His counte
nance was like lightning, and his raiment as white as
And for fear of him the keepers did shake and become as dead men. And the angel said unto Mary Magdalene and
the other Mary, who had come to see the sepulchre, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. He is not here: for he is risen as he said : come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead. Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken council, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, say ye, his disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governour's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” Such are the allowed circumstances of Christ's burial and resurrection, and under such circumstances, was it possible that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary; or that the disciples to whom they told what they had seen and heard at the sepulchre; or that Joseph of Arimathea; or that the chief priests and elders, to whom their own guard told the truth at first, should have been deceived, as to Christ's resurrection? They all undoubtedly believed the apostles, who were eye witnesses of his resurrection, and who testified, at the risk of their lives, that they saw him alive after his death. And we know, that their testimony concerning this infinitely important event, was believed by three thousand converts to christianity on one day, and by five thousand on the next day; and by millions since, in the course of more than seventeen hundred years. According to all the principles of human nature, the apostles spoke the truth, and if we may believe any human testimony, or moral evidence, we may safely believe, that God rais, ed Christ from the dead.