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and immediately afterwards five thousand Jews embrace the gospel.
But the most remarkable miracle of all is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Peruse the history with care; and you must conclude either that he rose, or that his disciples stole the body away. The last, the more it is considered the more improbable it appears. Jesus had declared, that he would rise again on the third day. The heads of the Jewish nation knew this, and determined to prevent any force or craft being employed by his followers to take the body from the tomb, and then pretend that he was risen. A stone is rolled to the mouth of the sepulchre—a seal is fixed upon it, and a guard of Roman soldiers set. Will the timid disciples, who ran away when their Master was seized, now attack a band of armed men; or could they hope to carry off the body secretly? What is more improbable ? Besides, if they had reason to think their Master had deceived them, and filled their minds with false expectations—instead of running any risk to get the body into their possession, they would rather have renounced all connexion with him for ever. Had they even stolen away the body as was said, that would have entirely cooled the ardour of their affection, and have banished the enthusiasm of love from their breast, never to return. But their future lives, by the ardent fervour of their affectionate zeal, still more strongly confute the supposition,
It is evident the body is gone. The apostles describe the resurrection of their Master; and assert that he appeared to them on the very day he rose, and frequently afterwards. Read the soldiers' account, Matt. xxviii. Observe the conduct of the rulers. Why do they not order the apostles to be seized? Why do they not command the soldiers to be punished? Why do they not bring the whole to a juridical determination? Why is this neglect in men, who had been so anxious to have a guard placed on the sepulchre? On the supposition of the resurrection of Jesus, the whole is natural and easy; on a supposition that the disciples came and stole the body away, every thing is inexplicable. In short, the more attentively every miracle is examined, the stronger evidence it will be found to contain. Will it be said, "The apostles had the writing of their own story, and the telling of their own tale?” But does not the success of the gospel plainly show, that their account could not be contradicted nor disproved? In fact, what contradiction of this miracle do the writings of the adversaries of the gospel contain ? what proof that the resurrection of Jesus did not take place ?*
The silence of Josephus on the subject, and of Philo, and of the ear
Lay these things together, and let them be duly weighed; it is impossible but that they must have weight with a considerate mind. The miracles of Christ and his apostles were published all around, as soon as they were performed. They were committed to the page of history in the same age, in the same country, and for the inspection of the same people among whom they were wrought. They were likewise immediately acted upon both by friends and foes. Had there been any deception, it was easy to discover it—and soon discovered it must have been, because the most important consequences depended on the discovery. Here is evidence of a superior kind, and the world can produce nothing like it. The stories of miracles recorded several hundreds of years after they were performed, and at a distance from the scene of action, such as those of Pythagoras, and Apollonius of Tyana, and in Livy's history, will not bear a comparison—are unworthy of attention for a moment—and have not even probable evidence in their support. Some have expressed themselves lightly concerning miracles, as if it were an easy thing to lay claim to them, and success were not difficult-but they did not derive these sentiments from the history of mankind. Where a system is established, its votaries may pretend to miracles in order to support its influence; and being surrounded by those who are as much attached to it as themselves, they may succeed in the imposture. But produce an instance in the page of history, of persons introducing a new religion which was in direct opposition to all those already established, and offering miracles as the evidence that the religion was from God? Here, after Moses, Christianity stands alone; and the world does not present another example of the kind. However much any might have been disposed to make the trial, they felt the difficulty, and shrunk back. The apostles of Christ advance boldly to the field. Multitudes see the miracles, embrace the gospel, change not only their sentiments, but their habits and their conduct—and suffer death on its account. Its enemies have left nothing on record, that has the shadow of an argument against its truth, or of an objection to its divine authority. liest writers, after the publication of the gospel, is a very singular circumstance, and gives reason to conclude that they could not deny the reality of the miracles of Christ, and durst not attempt the refutation of the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles, nor the vindication of the rulers and priests from the charges of black and complicated guilt, which were brought against them by the followers of Jesus.
OF THE EVIDENCE FOR THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
ARISING FROM PROPHECY.
Whether miracles or prophecies furnish the strongest evidence for the truth of revelation, it may not be easy to determine. Each has its advantages. Miracles, at the time they are wrought, carry deep conviction of the power of God displayed in favour of the truth. We frequently perceive this effect in the spectators, when Christ gave sight to the blind, and health to the diseased; they were astonished, they were amazed, they glorified God. On the other hand, the fulfilment of prophecy which has been pregnant with the event for ages, and at last, travails in birth, and brings forth, must strike every observer with equal force, though in a different way; and manifests the divine foreknowledge and wisdom bearing witness that the religion, which it was designed to confirm, is from God. When the two are united, what stronger external evidencc can we conceive?
That the Gospel can boast of its miracles has been shown; it has prophecies likewise to bring forward in support of its claims; and not merely one or two insulated predictions, but a vast body, connected in its parts, stretching through scores of centuries, and calling our attention to the most striking and prominent features of particular events. “But there have been many impostures in this way,” the enemy of the gospel objects. It is granted; but what does it prove? If a person declares that an event has taken place which never took place, is it a proof that no declaration concerning any event which is past is worthy of credit? It is just the same with respect to events which are to come. Besides, false pretences to a thing furnish a strong presumption that there are somewhere just claims; there would be no counterfeit, were there no sterling money Let the subject of prophecy be candidly weighed.
The Character of the Prophets.
The men whom God has employed as instruments in providence for accomplishing his designs, by changes among the nations of the earth, have often been the vilest of human kind. But when he has commissioned persons to act as his servants in revealing his will, and calling sinners to repentance and subjection, they have always been, both like himself and their commission, wise and holy men. Such, on examination, will the character of the prophets, both of the Old Testament and of the New, be found. If writings (and the description is confined to such as wrote a portion of these hallowed volumes) can furnish evidence of the intellectual and moral qualities of the authors, the palm of eminent wisdom and goodness must be given them. There is a superiority to evil principles and selfish ends. That they did not exercise the office for gain is evident from the nature of their predictions. These were very often such as to be calculated to procure injuries instead of benefits; and a prison and death instead of a life of ease and affluence. They did not, like the false prophets, flatter nobles and princes, and prophesy smooth things to soothe their passions, and confirm them in their ways; but frankly told the plain truth, when they knew it would be disagreeable in the extreme, and would endanger their own safety. Fame was not their object; they never sought it: and we seldom find them in courts, or among the great, but to tell unpalatable truths. They had not the spirit of the world, nor did they view the scenes they exhibit with worldly eyes. Insensible to the charms of greatness, power, and earthly joys, they regard every object which is presented before them, only as it has respect to God, and man's subjection to him; for the honour of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the highest happiness of men, are evidently the objects which bear sway within their hearts, and govern their conduct: they have occasion to mention all kinds of persons and things, and to represent all kinds of events; but it is easy to perceive that they are affected with them only as they are connected with the grand system of the divine government, and as hindering or advancing the moral improvement of mankind.
The Nature, Minuteness, and Extent of Prophecy.
THERE have been many instances of men foretelling events; and according to their conjecture they took place: this has been sometimes the effect of accident, sometimes of superior sagacity. Hence the opposers of Christianity have been ready to consider the prophecies in no higher light. But a little attention will discover an immense difference. A naked event may be frequently foreseen, as the effect of an existing operating cause. But the prophets record events with a considerable degree of minuteness: circumstances are appended; the persons, the cause, the effect, the manner, the time, the place, make a part of the prediction. This wholly alters the case; and it is ten thousand to one, if the man who conjectured aright as to the mere event, would have succeeded, had these formed a part of his narrative.
The things predicted are likewise of such a nature as to bid defiance to human conjecture. Some of them were novel in their kind, some uncommon, many improbable; not a few the very reverse of what might be expected to take place; and some, as the resurrection and ascension of Christ and the
pouring out of his Spirit, were supernatural. Many of the events were of so contingent, and some of so improbable a nature, that the foresight of them exceeds the greatest human sagacity. It belongs to God alone, and to those whom he inspires.
The extensive range of prophecy raises it still higher above the
powers of man. Were but a few events predicted, and were they comprised within a small space, and were they unconnected with each other, the evidence would be less strong. The heathen oracles had no system. An insulated event now and then took place according to the response; but there was no important object in view-no whole of which these formed a part. How different is the scene before us! The number of events is exceedingly great. The space of time which they eceupy is immense; they stretch through some thousand years. As to place, they spread over the face of the whole earth, as the scene of fulfilment. Instead of an unconnected mass, there is a regular chain of events, related to and connected with each other, and forming one grand whole. In short, prophecy forms a succinct previous history of the destinies of the human race; it notes down with distinctness the most memorable eras; and