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The resurrection gruity, and benevolence. of Jesus is not to us an object of sight, but a subject of faith. We are, therefore, dependent for its truth, on the honesty and skill of faithful witnesses; and as these witnesses live not in our age, we are again dependent on the genuineness and faithful transmitting: of the histories that contain the account which those witnesses testified. These considerations open to us, that it is needful, in the pursuance of this subject, to consider the following statements:
1st. Many circumstances render it evident, that our histories of this event are substantially correct, and were written in the apostolic age.
2d. The resurrection of Jesus was of such · a nature, that the original witnesses were able to judge whether it was true or false.
3d. There was a sufficient number to authenticate the relation.
4th. In relating the resurrection they either exercised the part of enthusiasts or impostors ; or else they were true and honest men.
Respecting the first of these statements, let us first attend to the manner in which the Evangelists would have us understand, they give the histo y of Christ. St. Luke informs us in his fisrt chapter, 1st, 2d, and 3d verses, in the following manner; "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they de
livered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had . perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus." We find, St. Luke here does not state, that an infallible inspiration dictated the language of his history, but he wrote as one, "having had perfect understanding from the very first," as the transactions were delivered by those "which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word." No person can reasonably suppose this account of the Evangelist's incredible; for he pretends to nothing remarkable or unusual, respecting his receiving the history, and writing it; yet he assures us as one that is interested in what he wrote, that he was acquainted with his subject.
St. John says; "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands haye handled, of the word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, whichwas with the Father, and was manifested unto us ;) that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may: have fellowship with us; and truly our fel lowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ," 4 John i. 1, 2, 3. This testimony of St. John's well accords with St.
Luke's. It plainly shows they wrote as eye and ear witnesses of what they saw and heard; or from the mouths of those that were. We need not expect inspiration would be given to write history,because it was not needed. Superfluous gifts we do not find lavishly bestowed upon any, whether prophets or apostles.
Perhaps this concession may be thought to destroy all confidence in the writings of the Evangelists, as inspired truth. But if I read a text of scripture by my learning, does this destroy the inspiration of the text, because I do not read by inspiration? It is easily seen it does not. When we account a person sufficiently acquainted with letters to be able to read well, can we not place full confidence in his ability to read, without the aid of divine inspiration? If we can, then no such inspiration in this case is needed. If Jesus be the Son of God in whom he was well pleased; if he came down from heaven not to do his own will, but the will of him that sent him, it rationally follows that his doctrine and preaching was and is infallibly true. Nor have we reason to doubt the truth of the account we have of his life and doctrine, if we can feel persuaded, it was given by faithful witnesses, though this account be but human testimony, or divine testimony by human witnesses. We yield a full assent to the testimony of human witnesses, in the most important cases of temppral concern. From the force of such testi-
mony, the murderer is sentenced to execution, and accordingly shut out from all human society by death. Long periods of imprisonment many suffer for their crimes, who are condemned, solely by the force of human testimony. In such cases where the testimony is clear, our minds fully assent to the evidence. Now shall we make an exception in religion only, and say, the best of human testimony is doubtful? To disbelieve, in this case, we must believe what, in a great degree, is the most improbable; we must be extremely credulous for fear of being imposed upon in matters of faith. And this is true in all cases, when our faith turns on the side of improbability.
But if any doubt remains, whether the disciples would be able to remember all the transactions which they have recorded, it is to be recollected, our Lord promised them, that the Comforter which is the holy Ghost, which the Father would send in his name, would teach them all things, and bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever he said unto them,
Respecting the integrity of the witnesses of Jesus' resurrection, we will attend in another place. We will now notice the marks of evidence that the histories of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, were written in the apostolic age, and not since fabricated by impostors. If this cannot be decided to our satisfaction, it will be in vain to pursue our subject any
further; for the greater part of the evidence , lies in historic accounts. On this subject I quote the following. from Paley's Evidences of Christianity, page 74 and 75 :
"We are able to produce a great number of ancient manuscripts, found in many differ. ent countries, and in countries widely distant from each other; all of them anterior to the art of printing, some certainly seven or eight hundred years old, and some which have been preserved probably above a thousand years.* We have also many ancient versions of these books, and some of them into languages which are not,at present, nor for many ages, have been spoken in any part of the world. The exist ence of these manuscripts and versions, proves that the scriptures were not the production of any modern contrivance. It does away also the uncertainty which hangs over such publi cations as the works, real or pretended, of Ossian and Rowley, in which the editors are challenged to produce their manuscript, and to show where they obtained their copies, The number of manuscripts, far exceeding those of any other book, and their wide dispersion, affords an argument, in some measure, to the senses, that the scriptures anciently, in like manner as at this day, were more read and sought after than any other books, and that in many different countries. The greatest part of spurious Christian writings
* The Alexandrian manuscript, now in the king's library, was written probably in the fourth or fifth century,