Page images

a good deal upon the evidence we possess of the genuineness, or rather, perhaps, of the antiquity, credit, and reception of the books. Upon the subject of the resurrection, no such discussion is necessary, because no such doubt can be entertained. The only points, which can enter into our confideration, are, whether the apostles knowingly published a falsehood, or whether they were themselves deceived; whether either of these fuppofi-. tions be possible. The first, I think, is pretty generally given up. The nature of the undertaking, and of the men; the extreme unlikelihood that such men should engage in such a measure as a scheme; their personal toils and dangers and sufferings in the cause; their appropriation of their whole time to the object ; the warm and seemingly unaffected zeal and earneftness with which they profess their sincerity, exempt their memory from the suspicion of imposture. The folution more deserving of notice, is that which would resolve the conduct of the apostles into enthusiasm; which would class the evidence of Christ's resurrection with


the numerous stories that are extant of the apparitions of dead men. There are circumstances in the narrative, as it is preserved in our histories, which destroy this comparison entirely. It was not one person, but many, who saw him; they saw himi not only separately, but together, not only by night but by day, not at a distance but near, not once but several times ; they not only saw him, but touched him, conversed with him, ate with him, examined his

perfon to satisfy their doubts. These particulars are decisive: but they stand, I do admit, upon the credit of our records. I would answer, therefore, the insinuation of enthufiasm, by a circumstance which arises out of the nature of the thing; and the reality of which must be confeffed by all who allow, what I believe is not denied, that the resurrection of Christ, whether true or false, was asserted by his disciples from the beginning: and that circumstance is, the nonproduction of the dead body. It is related in the history, what indeed the story of the resurrection necessarily implies, that the


corpse was missing out of the fepulchre : it is related also in the history, that the Jews reported that the followers of Christ had stolen it away *. And this account, though loaded with great improbabilities, such as the situation of the disciples, their fears for their own safety at the time, the unlikelihood of their expecting to succeed, the difficulty of actual success up, and the inevitable

*“ And this saying,” St. Matthew writes, “is commonly reported amongst the Jews until this day." : (xxvili. 15.) The evangelist may be thought good au

thority as to this point, even by those who do not admit his evidence in every other point: and this point is sufficient to prove that the body was missing.

It has also been rightly, I think, observed by Dr. Townshend (Dis. upon the Res.p. 1.6.), that the story of the guards carried collusion upon the face of it: « His disciples came by night, and stole him away, while we slept." Men in their circumstances would not have made fuch an acknowledgement of their negligence, without previous assurances of protection and impunity.

+" Especially at the full moon, the city full of people, many probably passing the whole night, as Jesus and his disciples had done, in the open air, the sepulchre so near the city as to be now inclosed within the walls.” Prieitley, on the Resur. p. 24.


But it pro

[ocr errors]

confequence of detection and failure, was,
nevertheless, the most credible account that
could be given of the matter.
ceeds entirely upon the supposition of fraud,
as all the old objections did. What account
can be given of the body, upon the suppo-
fition of enthusiasm ? It is impoflible our
Lord's followers could believe that he was
risen from the dead, if his corpse was lying
before them. No enthusiafin ever reached
to such a pitch of extravagancy as that: a
fpirit may be an illusion; a body is a real
thing, an object of sense, in which there
can be no mistake. -All accounts of spectres
leave the body in the grave. And, although
the body of Christ might be removed by
fraud, and for the purposes of fraud, yet,

any such intention, and by fincere but deluded men, which is the representation of the apostolic character we are now cxamining, no such aitempt could be made. The presence and the absence of the dead body are alike inconsistent with the hypothesis of enthusiasm : for, if present, it must have cured their enthusiasm at once; if ab


sent, fraud, not enthusiasm, must have car

ried it away.

But further, if we admit, upon the concurrent testimony of all the histories, so much of the account as states that the religion of Jesus was set up at Jerusalem, and set up

with asserting, in the very place in which he had been buried, and a few days. after he had been buried, his resurrection out of the grave, it is evident that, if his body could have been found, the Jews would have produced it, as the shortest and completest answer possible to the whole story. The attempt of the apostles could not have survived this refutation a moment. also admit, upon the authority of St. Matthew, that the Jews were advertised of the expectation of Christ's followers, and that they had taken due precaution in consequence of this notice, and that the body was in marked and public custody, the observa-, tion receives more force still. For, notwithstanding their precaution, and although thus prepared and forewarned; when the story

if we

« PreviousContinue »