« AnteriorContinuar »
he was dead, he did rise; and not only so, but he arose at the very time, which he had previously assigned for his resurrection. This is an unequivocal proof of design, and one, which indicated more than mere power in the being, who planned and executed it; for it shews fidelity to his purpose, and familiarity with the person raised, and by verifying his words on this most remarkable occasion gives credibility to them on others. We must therefore believe, that Jesus knew God, and was one with him.
Thus clearly does the establihsment of Christ's history prove the being of a God: and, if we were to rest that truth upon this single argument, it would be sufficient to satisfy any candid mind; nor would even sophistry find it easy to shake it without loosening at the same time all the principles of useful reasoning, and sapping the foundations of society, which is held together by the credibility of human testimony.
It may perhaps seem, that the very fact, upon which the whole of this argument is founded, is assumed without proof: for, though
it should be granted, that the existence and character of Christ may be proved from the existence of the documents, the fact of his resurrection is not to be so summarily established, being too important to be admitted on slight evidence, and having in fact been frequently denied.
We must therefore advert to the proofs of this fact a little more at large. It might indeed be thought sufficient to observe, that it is itself the main truth, which gives value to the whole evangelical narrative; that it is that fact, which is continually appealed to in it, as the truth, to which the writers of it most challenged inquiry and claimed assent; and that consequently, when we further consider their unimpeachable lives, their extraordinary labours, and the awful deaths, which most of them underwent in attestation of it, it is unreasonable to except from their evidence that particular fact, of which they were eye-witnesses, and on which they themselves ground the motive of all their conduct.
But the proofs of our Lord's resurrection do not rest here. If we admit only the main
outline of our Saviour's history, or of any other Jewish narrative, it cannot be doubted, that a festival was at that time ordinarily kept by the Jews, called the passover; nor can it, without overthrowing the whole credit of human testimony, be denied, that this festival was annually observed in honour of a signal deliverance, said to have been experienced by their ancestors in Egypt, when the first-born of all the Egyptians were miraculously slain in one night, while yet of the children of Israel there perished not one. Now the annual celebration of this festival is so circumstanced, that, if admitted, it proves the fact, which it commemorates for the scriptures assert, that the festival was instituted not only in honour, but at the very time of the important deliverance in question, and that it was then appointed to be annually observed by all succeeding generations. This assertion, therefore, must be either true or false. If true, it is an evident authentication of the miracle, because at the period, when it is supposed to have happened, it would have been manifestly impossible to obtain a celebration of it, unless it had actually
occurred, and been known to those, who were to observe it. If false, it would have been equally impossible to procure the first celebration of it afterwards, since for that purpose nothing less would have been necessary than to persuade a whole people, that they had been annually in the habit of keeping a festival, which they had never kept before, of obeying a law, which had never been promulgated, and of commemorating a fact, which they did not believe and consequently the festival must either have been instituted and observed from the very period of the great deliverance it records, or it could never have been observed at all.
The same thing may be said concerning the resurrection of Jesus. Two sacraments were instituted at the very date of its occurrence for the purpose of preserving it in continual remembrance: and we have abundant evidence from an unbroken succession of writers, that these sacraments have been yearly, monthly, weekly, or even daily observed from that day to the present; nor indeed could this practice ever have prevailed, had
it not begun with the era of the fact itself. No one could be persuaded a year or two later than that era to keep a sacrament, which pretends to have been contemporary with the fact it commemorates, if the sacrament had never been observed, or the fact never heard of before. In short, these festivals, the passover and the christian sacraments, are, as it were, recurring proofs of the facts, to which they refer, and give an evidence to the two miracles, the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, such as no other fact ever received; and by so doing they establish, independently of the arguments before adduced, the existence of a power, superior to the power of nature.
But, when we have once ascertained the truth of the evangelical history, proofs multiply upon us, and we are in the situation of the astronomer, to whom the same view, which discovers one star, of which he was in search, renders a thousand others visible. Our lord, Jesus, predicted his own death and resurrection. But he declared also, that he was himself predicted of by others, and indeed by a succession