Page images


proclaimed it to the apostles. These must be unbiassed judges of what they saw. of the disciples alone was the next witness of this surprising but joyful event. Soon were the eleven favored with the sight of their risen Lord, which in most cases would be considered a sufficient number to authenticate any fact whatever. St. Paul's account is, "that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve. After that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James, then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time." In this account we find he was seen of above five hundred at once, and by a number of others besides, which to every reasonable man is a sufficient number to authenticate any fact, that can be relied on by human tes


Finding evidence in favor of the candor and honesty of the historians, that relate the resurrection of Jesus, finding that beyond a doubt his resurrection was of such a nature, that men by their senses could judge whether it was true; and finding a satisfactory number of witnesses, we will attend to the fourth and last statement of our subject, that in relating the resurrection they either exercised the part of enthusiasts or impostors ; or else, they were true and honest men.

Perhaps the most plausible objection, that

infidelity can suggest against the christian sys. tem, is that its first promulgators were enthusiasts; and on this undoubtedly rest the minds of most, who discredit the resurrection of Jesus. Enthusiasm truly divests a person of reason, and will work the mind into almost any shape that can be imagined. There is hardly any thing of the marvellous so repugnant to reason, but what an enthusiast may believe it, nor any thing so crossing to the common feelings of humanity, but what they can voluntarily consent to suffer it. 'The good zeal of Abraham, the father of the faithful, never consented to a more crossing privation, than was actually suffered by the enthusiasm of those who sacrificed their living children to a Moloch of heated brass. No zeal of the present or past ages to prosecute any civil or religious purpose seems to exceed the zeal of the ancient Scribes and Pharisees, who compassed sea and land to make one proselyte, which was said to be made two fold more the child of hell than themselves. By reason of enthusiasm many undoubtedly have suffered martyrdom in a cause which they did not understand. And there have been many martyrs besides those who have suffered for the christian faith. Enthusiasm seldom discards the name of reason, but is always as far from it as it is from the truth, and the faith that is founded on good evidence.

On the subject of the apostles' testimony, we trust we shall be able to show many marks

of true faith that enthusiasm never in any cause embraced. At a time when men expect to be strenuously opposed and persecuted to death for propagating a system contrary to the common faith, they do not become enthusiasts, unless instigated by subtle and designing men, who calculate to act the part of impostors. No one can suppose that a person would work himself up into a faith of that which is not true, to which his knowledge never was propagated, and become an enthusiast by the bare suggestions of his own mind. We now go on the supposition, that he is honestly deceived, whenever he is wrong. Now should it be stated that the apostles were ignorant men, and of course suitable characters to be worked into an enthusiastic zeal for their master by his constant instructions, and easy to believe any thing marvellous concerning him; it is replied that however true this may be, when they followed him, there was enough to cure them of this mental derangement, before an opportunity called them to witness his resurrection.

It is worthy of observation that the fire of enthusiasm, once checked and destroyed by complete frustration, seldom or never arises with the same persons in the same cause, unless by the force of new testimony and strength, from an unthought of quarter. When Jesus was crucified, instead of its being according to the expectation of his disciples, they were completely disconcerted and frustrated in every

calculation concerning him. Notwithstanding he frequently told them of his death and resurrection, Peter said, "Far be it from thee, Lord: This shall not be unto thee." Being so disappointed, as honest men, the disciples would never have engaged again in his service, had there not been a renewed manifestation of divine power. None of their former prejudices in his favor would be likely to stimulate them to a renewed devotedness to him, whose power proved weakness, and whose wisdom failed in the sight of all men. These prejudices would rather serve to sink him the lower in their esteem; for they would think he was not equal to the confidence they once had in him. As honest men, there is hardly a shadow of evidence remains to believe, they could again engage in his cause, under such circumstances, without the artful insinuations of others, should we grant they possessed an enthusiastic spirit when they followed him. If Jesus arose not from the dead, he could not have stimulated them to bear record of his resurrection by the fire of a heated imagination, after they gave up all for lost; for he was not with them. The Jews could not have done this, had they been disposed, unless they had continued faithful with them. There would then be a multitude of chances against, where there would be one in favor of their success in renewing a zeal that was once destroyed in the same cause, under the then existing circumstances.

admitting it possible, which we do not, who, among the Jews or Gentiles, would support such enthusiastic folly, as to make them believe Jesus arose from the dead when he did not? The Jews well knew that such a trick would do more to build, than all they had done to destroy him.

We are able to vindicate the reasonable and candid conduct of the apostles, as we trust, from the reason and salutary effects of their doctrine, and the propriety of their walk in life. Enthusiasm always runs to some excess or other, in the habits of human life. We shall therefore, be able in some good degree to determine from the doctrine and lives of the apostles whether they were governed by cool reason or fiery enthusiasm. There is an instance of St. Paul's appeal to Agrippa that is worthy of notice, in the following language: "For the king knoweth of these things," speaking of the resurrection of Jesus, "before whom also I speak freely: for I am persuaded that none of these things are hidden from him; for this thing was not done in a corner." Here St. Paul states to the king, that he must have been made acquainted with the account of Christ's resurrection, and urges it on a principle, that if true, must establish his character in the eyes of the king and all who heard him, but if false, must be one of the most barefaced impostures that ever was undertaken. These things not being done in a corner, was a very good reason for believing

« PreviousContinue »