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• 'wards left no Means untried to put a stop
Til IV t0 li anc* to discredit it, were not able * 'either to prevent it, or to suppress or confute it, is because the Witnesses of the Resurrection testified nothing but the Truth; and Truth can never be confuted, but will always, however it may be contradicted, remain invincible, and cannot by the most violent Opposition be convicted of Falshood.
The Jewish Rulers had the dead Body of Jesus committed to their keeping, and they themselves set a Band of Romans to guard it, that it might not be convey'd away. Why then did they not produce it, to the Confusion of those who pretended that he was risen? They certainly would have done this, had the Body been still in their Possession. They must therefore grant, and they do grant, that the Body was missing out of the Sepulchre on the third Day, tho' the Sepulchre was hewn out of a Rock, and secur'd by a great Stone seal'd with their own Seal, and guarded by a strong Watch placed there by themselves. How favourable Vsturable so important a Concession even —, of Enemies is to the Testimony of the J5f Rj« Apostles, any indifferent Person may east-, ' J . ly discern. It might justly be expected, that they who guarded the Sepulchre should in a satisfactory manner account for the removal of the Body. But they never gave any tolerable account of this • never any but such as is not only to the last degree improbable, but big with Inconsistency, which sufficiently demonstrates the Falshood of it. All that they ever had to fay was, That the Disciples came by Night and stole away thc*Body while the Soldiers slept.
But how very unlikely is it that the Disciples, who had so lately deserted their Master while he was living, should all of a sudden grow so resolute as to attempt to rescue him when dead out of the Hands of threescore Roman Soldiers. Could they hope to overpower such a Force, if they found them waking; or could they reasonably expect to find them all sleeping at once? It is incredible, especially consi.der.ing the. strictness
of the Roman Discipline, that out of such
,,» ._-" a Number of Roman Soldiers upon Duty «_' _1 there should not be one awake. Or supposing they had been all asleep, yet in all likelyhood the execution of this Attempt, the opening the Sepulchre, and the removal of the Body must have awaked some, at least one out of sixty, in which case the Plot of the Apostles would have been defeated. Moreover, if the Soldiers were all asleep, as they pretended, how could they know that the Disciples stole away the Body of Jesus? For tpght they could tell to the contrary, he might be rais'd to Life again, as the Disciples, who saw him, when they were awake, affirm'd. How worthy Acceptation are the Depositions of such Persons, who bear Testimony to what was done when, as they themselves confess, they were asleep? In the beginning of this Discourse I observ'd, that Knowledge and Integrity are the necessary Qualifications requir'd in a credible "Witness; Knowledge of the Facts which he testifies, and Integrity to declare what
he he knows, and nothing more. Thesed
Soldiers may from their own Confession rjrR,^
be proved to have neither of these Qua- '_i
lisications. For they profess to testify, what they could not possibly know; what happen'd when, as they pretend, they were asleep. Surely our Unbelievers have either no Eyes or no Forehead, when they affirm and stand to it, That these Soldiers who testify what was done while they flept, are more credible Witnesses than the Apostles, who declared what they saw and heard and felt for forty Days together. And yet these are the Men who will not be impos'd upon by idle Tales and Fables; who will not take any thing upon Trust; but require Demonstration e're they yield their Assent, and laugh at others for believing upon slight and insufficient Grounds. But how high a Value soever these Men may let upon so absurd an Evidence, it appears that their Predecessors in Infidelity, the High Priests themselves, had but a mean Opinion of it, and thought it no sufficient Foxindation for any judicial ProI 2 ceedings. ceedings. For the Apostles were never
1, '. - - -.'. V
II r TV ^° mucn as queftion'd on this account. _./ They were punish'd for Teaching in the Name of Jesus, but never for stealing away his Body 5 as they certainly would have been, could any such Villany have been prov'd upon them. And it is- very plain that the Soldiers, if they really were asleep, could not consistently testify more than this, That the Body of Jesus was in the Grave before they slept, and was gone when they awak'd; which, as I before observ*d, since it allows that the Body tho* guarded was missing on the third Day, and could not be produc'd by those who had the Charge of it, is so far from overthrowing, that it confirms the Testimony of the Disciples.
This Evidence of the Soldiers, which convicts itself of Falshood, is yet all there is on the Side of Infidelity. The Enemies of Christianity have never pretended, nor do now pretend to produce any other Testimony.
I Shall only further observe, that the Evidence of our Lord's Resurrection