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one of them published to the world, that the chief priests and elders of the Jews bribed the Roman soldiers to report that the body of Christ was stolen by his disciples while the guards were asleep. Why did they not refute the statements of the Apostles and disciples of our Lord? Had these not been facts, this might easily have been accomplished. But is it not plain that the rulers believed the truth of the resurrection of Jesus? If not, why did they offer bribes, and invent an absurd, an incredible story to conceal it? And if their conduct on this subject had been misrepresented, why did they remain under the charge imputed to them—that of falsehood, forgery, and bribery?
Secondly, those who reject the evidences of the resurrection of Jesus, must themselves possess a most astonishing and extraordinary degree of credulity.— The infidel charges the christian with being credulous; but he is himself infinitely worse so than the believer. For the rejection of the belief of Jesus Christ implies a credulity in many moral impossibilities. The man who does not believe the resurrection of Jesus, must believe that a few poor fishermen, without power or learning, were able to deceive the wise and the learned of the world by an imposition which no wisdom or sagacity has been able to discover. He must believe, that a few timid disciples of Jesus, who were filled with terror and distress at the time of his crucifixion, suddenly formed the design of conquering a body of Roman soldiers, and of carrying off the body of their crucified master. He must believe, that the men, who formed a code of morality never equalled, and who denounced the punishment of everlasting misery against all liars, and others who might live and die in sinful practices, were themselves the most desperate imposters, and that upon their own principles they consigned themselves to eternal perdition. He must believe, that these imposters have kindled in the breast of millions of their fellow creatures a flame of earnest desire to love and serve God. He must suppose that they died to bear testimony to a pretended fact, which they did not believe, and that they often left the world in transports of joy, under the pretence that they were going into the presence of their risen Lord, who was ascended into heaven to receive them to himself, and to crown them with glory, honour, and immortality. And, finally, he must believe that the conversion of the thousands and tens of thousands from sin to holiness, which takes place in the present age, as it has in all past ages of Christianity, is produced by a principle which never has and never can produce any such effects, namely, that of moral persuasion, instead of the influence of the Holy Spirit, who was promised by Christ to be sent to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, and to remain with his church till the end of time.
Enough has been said to amplify the arguments of the Apostle; "that if Christ be not risen, there is no resurrection of the dead; and that then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain, ye are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept."
There is another kind of testimony which has not yet been noticed, which may be denominated the internal evidence of the Saviour's resurrection. This proof does not depend on the arguments and evidence that have hitherto been mentioned; but it is a testimony arising in the minds of those who have found the gospel to be the power of God to their salvation. "He that believeth hath the witness in himself." They know that the doctrine which awakened their conscience, convinced their understanding, delivered from the power and dominion of sin, brought them into a state of peace with God, and their own conscience, and filled them with the hope of eternal life, must be true. They are sure that the Lord has risen indeed, because they are made "partakers of the power of his resurrection." They have been born again, made new creatures in Christ, and walk in newness of life; and they are convinced that these effects never could have been produced except by the agency and influence of that Holy Spirit, which the Lord Jesus, both before and after his resurrection, promised to send, to convince, teach, enlighten, sanctify, and comfort his people.
The other heads of my discourse, in relation to the circumstances connected with the resurrection of Jesus, and the ends to be effected by it, must be deferred to a future opportunity.—Let us now proceed to the conclusion of the first part of the subject.
Enough has been said, it is presumed, to prove by incontestable evidence, by undoubted facts, and legitimate inferences, that Jesus rose from the dead. What then are the deductions and consequences of the fact? Is Christ indeed risen? Then have we a sufficient demonstration that he was the promised Messiah, "a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of his people Israel:"—then have we a clear proof that the atonement he made for sin is accepted. that divine justice is satisfied, and that nothing more is required for the expiation of the guilt of all those who repent and believe the gospel. Did Christ rise from the dead 1 Then has he overcome death and the grave, and will make all his people partakers of his victory. Yes, dear brethren, all you who believe in, and love him, shall participate in his honour and glory. O hear his triumphant and consoling language, and rejoice—" I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die eternally." The head is risen, the members must naturally follow:— they shall rise likewise, see him as he is, be made like him, and dwell with him in mansions of glory. "He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out her dead."
But what will be the state of those who believe not the resurrection of Jesus, and who consequently reject him as the Saviour? They also will be raised by his mighty power. But, alas! they will come forth from their graves "to the resurrection of damnation." Are there any at this time in the presence of God who have not fled for refuge to the risen and ascended Saviour. Oh! "how shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation?" May the God of mercy prevent you from suffering that dreadful doom which must be the portion of all who die in unbelief and impenitence. May the Holy Spirit incline you to embrace the gracious invitations of the Saviour by the call of the gospel trumpet, lest you should be awakened by the trumpet of the last day, and rise "to shame and everlasting contempt."