« AnteriorContinuar »
«ing to the perfection of man's nature,' * reuniting the same soul to the fame body which was buried, and fo rose the fame man according to the testimony of sufficient and credible witnesses, thoroughly informed concerning the fact. These witnesses were the pious women, who, thinking with sweet spices to have anointed him dead, found hiin risen. The apostles, who conversed with him frequently after his resurrection, were satisfied he had a real body, by his eating and drinking with them. And one of them searched the holes that the nails had made in his hands, and thrust his hands into his side. All the other disciples testified the same, to whom he also appeared, even to five hundred brethren at one time. Then he was seen of James ; appeared to Stephen at his martyrdom, and to St. Paul at his conversion in his way to Damascus. And the veracity of these witnefles cannot be doubted of; because the doctrine they taught forbad all falfhood upon pain of damnation : Again, the Tealing the truth of this fact with their blood is a sufficient evidence of their veracity.
Whoever looks into the preaching of the apostles will find the resurrection was the great article they insisted on. · And St. Paul knew the weight of this article, and the necesfity of teaching it, when he said, If Christ be not risen, our faith is vain. I am sensible it is common for men to die for false opinions; but even in those cases their suffering is an evidence of their fincerity, and it would be very hard to charge men, who die for the doctrine they profess, with insincerity in the profession; mistaken they may be, but every mistaken man is not a cheat. Now if we do but allow the suffering of the apostles to prove their sincerity, which no man can well disallow, and consider that they died for the truth of a matter of fact, which they had seen themselves, we shall perceive the objections usually broughtagainst this articleof our faith will quickly vanish. In doctrines and matters of opinion men miftake perpetually; and it is no reason for me to take *up with another man's opinion, because I am persuaded he is sincere in it: but when a man reports to me an uncommon FACT, yet such a one as in its own nature is a plain object of
sense, • See the 4th Arricle of Religion.
fenfe, if I believe him not, my suspicion does not arise from the inability of human senfes to judge in the case, but from à doubt of the fincerity of the reporter: in such cases therefore there wants nothing to be proved, but only the fincerity of the reporter ; and since voluntary suffering for the truth is at least a proof of fincerity, the sufferings of the apostles for the truth of the resurrection is a full and unexceptionable proof. I am sensible there are many instances of men's suffering and dying in an obstinate denial of the truth of facts plainly proved; but then, when criminals persist in denying their crimes, they often do it, and there is reason to suspect they do it always, in hopes of a pardon or reprieve. But what are such instances to the present purpose ? All such men suffer against their will, and for their crimes; and their obstinacy is built on the hope of escaping, by moving the compassion of the government, or the spectators. Seeing then that the apostles died in asserting the truth of Christ's resurrection, it was always in their power to quit their evidence and save their lives: even their bittereft enemies the le more of them than to be silent: But that, it spread no farther among the people, let us straitly threaten them that they Speak henceforth to no man in this name, Acts iv. 17. Did not we strictly command you, that you should not teach in this name? And bebold, ye bave filled Yerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us, Acts v. 28. Others have denied facts, or asserted facts, in hopes of saving their lives, when they wereunder sentence of death; but these men attested a fact at the expence of their lives, which they might have saved by denying the truth; so that between criminals dying and denying plain facts, and the apostles dying for their testimony, there is this material difference; criminals deny the truth in hopes of faving their lives, but the apostles willingly parted with their lives rather than deny the truth. But to return. And have we not the testimony of his very enemies to bear witness of this great truth? those soldiers that watched at the sepulchré, and pretended to keep his body from the hands of the apofties, felt the earth trembling under them, and saw the countenance of an angel like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; they who upon this sight did shake, and became as dead men, while he whom they kept became alive: even some of these came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that Tepified by were done, when Christ rose from the dead. And angels. the angels, that heavenly host, which brought the glad tidings of his birth to the shepherds, bore evidence to the truth thereof. One came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Two, in white, sitting one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain, said unto the women, Why seek ye the living among the dead? he is not here, but is risen, Luke xxiv. 5. And • The reason why he only appeared to his followers, and not
to the Jewish nation is, because it was only of nepeared ceffity, that those, who were to be the first pubto his disci- lishers of the gospel, should have the utmost eviples. dence and satisfaction concerning the truth and reality of Christ's resurrection; for, by the same reason that he was obliged to have appeared to the Jewish nation, it might be pleaded, that the whole Roman empire ought to have had the like manifestation, and that he should have Shewn himself to the unbelieving in all succeeding ages.
It was necessary Christ should rise from the dead, to thew the debt, he died for, was discharged; and that his satisface tion was accepted in heaven. If Christ be not risen, ye are yet in your sins. Besides, he rose to prove himself to be the Messiah, and to evidence the truth and divinity of his docTo prove bis trine, which he had injoined to be observed by all divinity. men. He had appealed to it as a sign of his being a true prophet, and therefore, by the way of trial, which God prescribed the Jews, viz. the accomplishment of predictions, he had appeared to be a false prophet, had he failed therein; for, if Christ be not risen, your faith is vain. God having raised our Saviour from the dead, after he was condemned and put to death for calling himself the Son of God, is a demonstration, that he really was the Son of God; and, if he was the Son of God, the doctrine he taught was truth from God, and is our guide to heaven.
Again, the resurrection of Christ is an argument of our resurrection ; because, by his rising from the dead, guts
", Toprove the he became the first fruits of them that fept; by resurrection this is secured our resurrection to eternal life, that of our bodies he, who hath promised to raise us up, did raise himself from the dead.
V. In the fixth Article of our christian faith we profess to believe that Jesus afcended into heaven, and fit- The afcenfi. teth at the right-hand of God, the Father almighty; on of Cbrift. for the same Jesus, who by his own power rose again for our justification, having for the space of forty days confirmed the truth of his resurrection, by appearing several times to his disciples, discoursing with them, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God, finished his course upon earth with blessing his disciples; for while he was bleffing them, and they beheld and looked stedfastly towards heaven, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their fight : and behold, Jesus being ascended up into the highest heavens, two angels appeared unto the disciples with the comfortable promise, that as Jesus was taken from them into heaven, fo he should in a glorious manner return again to judge the world. And all this was done for the confirmation of the certainty and reality of this great mystery of our faith. Here was need of eye-witnesses, which was not nee cessary in the act of his resurrection; because what- Why in the ever was a proof of his life after death was a demon- fight of his stration of his resurrection : but the apostles not disciples. being able to see him, when in heaven, it was necessary they should be eye-witnesses of his act of ascending, that lo they might be able to bear their testimony thereto. Besides, before the apostles saw our Saviour ascend, he had told them whither he was going, and what power and dignity would be conferred upon him; and, as an evidence of his exaltation on the right-hand of God, had promised to send down the Holy Ghost upon them in a sensible manner; so that they afterwards receiving the wonderful effects of his being there, had abundant evidence of his exaltation, namely, his aicention into the heaven of heavens, the presence of God, where his human nature is feated far above all angels and
arch-angels, all principalities and powers, even at the righthand of God the Father. Therefore, .
Since this our Lord's ascension is of that great advantage And not of to mankind, it may and has been asked, Why he the Jerus. did not ascend in the sight of the Jews, that they, who had been deceived before at the time of his crucifixion, might have received a conviction of their error? To which it is answered, that it was only absolutely necessary that they who were to preach the gospel should have the utmost evidence of those matters of fact they testified. God's design was to bring the world to falvation by the exercise of faith, which is an actof affent upon the testimony of another, which is inconsistent with sight. Moreover, it is to be doubted whether they who ascribed our Saviour's miracles to the power of the devil, and suborned the soldiers to say upon his resurrection, that his disciples stole him away, would not have called his ascension, if they had seen it, a phantasm and vain apparition of the spirit of some corrupt man. Or, let the reason be what it will, God appointed it so to be: it is not the business of the creature to ask the Creator his reasons for such and such acts of his omnipotency.
SUNDAY IV. Part II. VI. Christ, being now seated at the right-hand of God, is Of his office become a perpetual patron and advocate in our in heaven. behalf, to plead our cause, to follicit our concernments, to represent our wants, and to offer up our prayers and requests to God, by virtue of his meritorious facrifice, which he offered upon the cross for the sins of the whole world. And this his sitting at the right-hand of God is exprelly foretold in these words, The Lord said unto my Lord, fit thou on my right-hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool. And we are assured by the holy penmen, that our Jesus is actually there; for one tells us, that he was received up into heaven, and fitteth at the right-hand of God; and another records, that God raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right-hand in heavenly places. But such scripture phrases are not to be taken in a strict and proper, but in a figurative sense, as spoken in condescension to our