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perienced imagined they had seen their prey taken out of their hands by a preternatural power, and that they afterwards affirmed all this in order to justify themselves.
The most singular circumstance is the conduct of the priests, who believed in earnest the relation of the guards, and consequently gave credit to a miracle strong enough to convince them of the power of Jesus. But far from being moved by the prodigy, which they thus believed, they gave money to the soldiers to engage them to tell, not the incident as it occurred, but that the disciples of Jesus came by night to take away the body of their master. On the other hand, the guards, who must have been more dead than alive through terror at the spectacle they had witnessed, accepted money for publishing a falschood : a conduct for which the angel of the Lord might very properly have punished them. Far, however, from dreading punishment, these soldiers for a sum of money consented to betray their consciences. But could the Jewish priests, however base we may suppose them, be silly enough to imagine that these men, after having witnessed so terrible a miracle, would be very faithful in preserving the secret? It must have been an insignificant miracle indeed which could make no impression either on the soldiers who had seen it, or on the priests who believed it on the relation of these soldiers. If the priests were convinced of the reality of the miracle, was it not natural that they should recognise Jesus for the Messiah, and that they should unite with him in labouring to deliver their country from the yoke of idolaters?
On this occasion indeed, the angel of the Lord
seems to have bungled the affair, by so terrifying the soldiers that they fled without having time to see Jesus rising from the dead, whose resurrection, however, was the object of all this pompous preparation. Very far from allowing it to be seen by any one, this awk. ward angel chased away the guards who ought to have been the witnesses of the mighty wonder.
It appears in fact, that the transaction of Jesus' resurrection was seen by nobody. His disciples did not see it; the soldiers, who guarded his tomb, did not see it; and the priests and Jews did not hold this fact to be so memorable as some persons who beheld no part of it. It was only after his resurrection that Jesus shewed himself. But to whom did he shew himself? To disciples interested in saying that he was risen again; to women, who to the same interest joined also weak minds and ardent imaginations, disposed to form phantoms and chimeras.
These remarks will enable us to judge of all the pretended appearances of Jesus after his resurrection. Besides, the evangelists are not unanimous as to these appearances. St. Matthew relates, that Jesus shewed himself to Mary Magdalane and the other Mary; while St. John makes mention of Mary Magdalane singly. St. Matthew tells us, that Jesus shewed himself to the two Marys on the road whilst returning from the sepulchre on purpose to apprise the disciples of what they had seen. St. John informs us, that Mary Magdalane, after visiting the sepulchre, went and carried the news to the disciples, and thereafter returned to this same sepulchre, where she beheld Jesus in the company of angels. St. Matthew affirms, that the two Marys embraced the feet of Jesus. St. John says,
Jesus forbade Magdalane to touch him. St. Matthew informs us, that Jesus bade the two Marys tell his disciples that he was going into Galilee. St. John says, Jesus ordered Mary to acquaint his disciples, that he was going to his Father; that is, to heaven. — But it is more singular still, that, according to St. Mark, the disciples themselves were not inclined to credit the apparition of Christ to Magdalane; agreeably to St. Luke, they treated all that she told them of angels as reveries. According to St. John, Magdalane herself did not at first believe that she had seen her adorable lover, whom she took for the gardener*.
There is no greater certainty in the apparition of Jesus to St. Peter and St. John. These two apostles went to the sepulchre, but they did not find their dear master. According to St. John, he himself saw neither Jesus nor the angels. From St. Luke it appears, that these apostles arrived after the angels were gone; and from St. John, before the angels had arrived. The witnesses are indeed very little unanimous as to these angels, who seem to have been seen only by the good ladies, whom they charged to announce to the disciples the resurrection of Jesus. St. Matthew makes mention of one angel only, whom St. Mark calls a young man. St. John affirms that there were two.
It is said, that Jesus shewed himself again to two disciples of Emaus called Simon and Cleophas; but they did not recognise him, though they had lived familiarly with him. They proceeded a long while in his company without suspecting who he was --a cir
St. John, xx.
St. Luke, xxiv. 11.
* St. Matt. xxviii. St. Mark, xvi.
cumstance which, undoubtedly, evinced a very strange failure of memory. It is true, St. Luke tells us that their eyes were as if shut. Is it not very singular that Jesus should shew himself in order not to be known again? They however recognised him afterwards; but immediately dreading, as it would seem, to be seen too nearly, the phantom disappeared. The two disciples went immediately and announced the news to their brethren assembled at Jerusalem, where Jesus arrived fully as soon as they.
St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke, agree in telling us, that when the disciples were informed of the resurrection of Jesus, they saw him for the first and last time. But the author of the Acts of the Apostles, St. John, and St. Paul, contradict this assertion, for they speak of several other appearances which afterwards occurred. St. Matthew and St. Mark inform us, that the disciples received orders to go and join Jesus in Galilee; but St. Luke and the author of the Acts (i. e. the same St. Luke) says, that the disciples were ordered not to go out of Jerusalem. With respect to this last apparition, St. Matthew places it on a moun. tain in Galilee, where Jesus had fixed the rendezvous for the evening of the day of his resurrection; whilst St. Luke informs us that it was at Jerusalem, and tells us, that immediately thereafter Christ ascended into heaven, and disappeared for ever. Yet the author of the Acts of the Apostles is not of this opinion; he inaintains, against himself, that Jesus tarried still forty days with his disciples in order to instruct them.
There still remain to be considered two appearances of Jesus to his apostles, the one at which Thomas was not present, and refused to believe those who assured him of their having seen their master, and the other when Thomas recognised his master, who shewed him his wounds. To render one of these apparitions more marvellous, they assure us, that Jesus was seen in the midst of his disciples, whilst the doors were shut. But this will not appear surprising to those who know that Christ, after his resurrection, had an immaterial or incorporeal body, which consequently could make itself a passage through the smallest orifices. His disciples took him for a spirit : yet this spirit had wounds, was palpable, and took food. But perhaps all this was only chimerical, and those apparitions mere illusions of sense. Indeed, how could the apostles be assured of the reality of what they saw? A being who has the power of changing the course of nature, can destroy all the rules by which we judge of certainty: and on this supposition the apostles could never be certain of having seen Christ after his resurrection.
St. John speaks of several appearances of Jesus to his disciples, of which no mention is made by the other evangelists : hence we see that his testimony destroys theirs, or that theirs destroy his. As to the apparitions of Jesus which St. Paul mentions, he was not a witness of them, and knew them only by hearsay; we find him accordingly speaking of them in a manner very little exact. He says, for example, that Jesus shewed bimself “ to the twelve,” while it is evident, that, by the death of Judas, the apostolic college was reduced to eleven. We are surprised to see these inaccuracies in an inspired author; they may render suspicious what he likewise says of the apparition of Jesus to five hundred of the brethren at once*. As to him,
* 1 Cor. xv. 6.