Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

ambitious, and' from the pursuit of riches, which engrosses the attention of the covetous, the Christian finds a divine pleasure in tracing, through every page of the history of the world, so far as that history is recorded, the accom• plishment of a series of prophecies, on which no ambiguity rests, and to the perception of which nothing more is required than not to shut his eyes. “Prophecies seem to carry, with them,” says Dr, Jortin, “surer marks of proceeding from God, than miracles. For spirits, good or evil, may by their own natural strength, and without God's immediate assistance, perform things surpassing human abilities, (which to men are miracles, unless God restrain them; but it seems altogether beyond the power of a created, finite, limited being, to look into futurity, and to survey the actions and behaviour of free agents, who, as yet, are unborn. This is an act which probably implies a power equal to creation and preservation, and to the upholding of the universal system, and therefore must be the gift of God.”* On this subject the reader may consult Bishop Newton's Dissertations on the Prophecies, Bishop Sherlock's Use and Intent of Prophecy, Bishop Hurd's Sermons on the Prophecies, and Mr. G. Stanley Taber's masterly work.

The resurrection of our Saviour from the dead, consti. tutes one great evidence of the truth of Christianity. For the truth of our Lord's resurrection, we have the testimony of his eleven Apostles, who had, for years before been the witnesses of his miracles, and had lived in the habits of the most endearing intimacy with him, before his death. They were, with respect both to their number and capa

• Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 1, p. 73.

city, competent witnesses. Eleven persons, of the most unexceptionable character, are seldom to be found in a court of justice, to give barıonious evidence; and in so simple a manner, as to exclude every suspicion of collusion, even in those trials which implicate the lives and properties of men. In almost all trials of this kind, there is something of contradictory evidence thrown into the opposite scale, which requires that the balance be held with a steady hand, and viewed with a watchful

eye,

that the decision may follow that side of the beam which preponderates. But here, there is no opposite evidence. The capacity of the Apostles to judge, whether or not the person who appeared to them, who ate and drank, and entered into the most familiar discourse with them, was that Jesus, who, for years before his crucifixion, had led them out and in, cannot possibly be doubted; especially when we reflect, that his appearances to them during forty days, were frequent, not only in the retirement of a room, but in the face of day, and under the canopy of the sky. When he pronounced upon them his parting benediction, at the Mount of Olives, at least an hundred and nine Christian brethren were present, besides the eleven Apostles, the witnesses at once of his resurrection and ascen. sion. The Apostle Paul aflirms, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, (xv.) that our Lord was seen by above five hundred brethren at one time, the greater part of whom were then living witnesses of the fact. This he affirmed, at a time when all the particulars of the evidence were familiar to the whole Church, and open to the examination of the Jews, its implacable enemies. But the Jewish priests and rulers durst not look the evidence in the face, when they were challenged to scrutinize it.

If the disciples of our Saviour were competent witness

[ocr errors]

es, they were also free from every bias of partiality. They had no other interest in the testimony they gave, than that which arose from their love of truth. Stripes, bonds, imprisonment, and death, they were informed by their Sa. viour, were likely to be all the rewards, which men would give them, for attesting his resurrection and preaching his Gospel.

Yet the prospect of these sufferings could not make them shrink from the evidence they gave, nor induce them to smother it in any point of view. To the last hour of their lives, they continued steadfastly to adhere to their original testimony.

The truth of their testimony naturally identifies itself with the miracles which his Apostles wrought. Let us for a moment suppose, that they were mistaken; let us suppose that some phantom or shade had imposed upon these honest and well-meaning men, and by personating their Master, had deceived them, while death kept him under its seal. How then shall we be able to account for the miracles which they wrought? That they wrought many such mighty works, every record of Christianity shows; and the enemies of the Gospel never disputed, but always confessed the fact. During one whole age at least, miraculous powers resided in the Church. But the Apostles always testified that it was neither by their own power nor holiness, that they performed these wonderful works. They ascribed them all to the power, and they did them all in the name, of Jesus. Shall we then say that a dead man, or the pronouncing of the name of a dead man, effected these signs and wonders? This is a supposition too absurd to be admitted for a moment; and yet there is but one other supposition that can account for these incontrovertible facts, and that is, the Resurrection of the Redeemer, in whose name, and by

2 F

VOL. I.

whose power, they did them all. Admit their doctrine, that Jesus rose again from the dead, and received all power in heaven and in earth, and you have a cause adequate to the effects which were produced. Reject their testimony, and you keep the effects; but must for ever despair to find a sufficient cause for them.

Some have been pleased to argue, that the evidence of our Saviour's Resurrection should have been submitted to the examination of the Jews who crucified him, by his appearing openly to them, as well as to his disciples. But it must be remembered, that the Jews had resisted the evidence of a miracle, performed by our Saviour, a few days before his death, equally great, and equally tending to establish his claim to be acknowledged as the Messiah. They had seen Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead, they had acknowledged the miracle, and yet they consulted not only to put our Lord to death for working the miracle, but Lazarus also for being the subject of it. They were hardened in wickedness, and all the effect that could have been expected from a sight of our Saviour, would have been a new resolution to put him to death.

The miraculous propagation of the Gospel is another evidence of the truth of Christianity. The first difficulty the Gospel had to overcome, existed in the prejudices and sentiments of those men who were afterwards its members. During the whole of our Saviour's personal ministry, they were warmly attached to the project of a temporal kingdom, which the whole of their nation had formed for the Messiah. Even after his resurrection, their schemes of worldly power seem to have maintained the strongest hold of their minds. “Lord wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” was a question, which

they unanimously put to their Master, a little before his ascension. Those who are well acquainted with human nature, will find it impossible to give a rational account of the revolution which took place in their minds, without admitting the miraculous effusion of the Holy Ghost upon them, on the day of Pentecost. Man does not easily drop those habits of thinking which he has formed, nor lay aside those prejudices which have grown with his strength, and entwined themselves around every avenue that leads to his mind : and when such a radical change takes place, it can, in the ordinary course of things, be effected only by a slow and gradual process. But not only the eleven Apostles, but the whole multitude of believers in Christ, (for the prejudice in favour of a worldly kingdom was common to them all) from the day of Pentecost, to the day of their death, were completely emancipated from the illusive phantoms of worldly splendour, and contented to take up their cross and follow their Lord.

When the Apostles of Christ were prepared to preach his spiritual kingdom, how little prepared was the body of their countrymen to receive that doctrine! All of them had imbibed the notion of a temporal kingdom, and expected a Messiah who should rescue them from the Ro. man yoke, and extend his sceptre over the neighbouring nations. To such men, the doctrine of the cross must have appeared to be foolishness, as it came into immediate collision with every idea they had been accustomed to cherish. The leading men of the Jewish nation had not only opposed and persecuted Jesus while he lived, but had procured his condemnation, by stirring up the multitude clamorously to demand it of the Governor. When the Gospel was preached to them, it charged the body of

« AnteriorContinuar »