« PreviousContinue »
raculous power, by entering the room notwithstanding they had fastened the doors. It is possible that our LORD might cause the door to open without noise, and unperceived by his disciples, who were engaged in earnest discourse, and they might not know of his entrance till they beheld him standing in the midst. His unexpected appearance amazed and terrified them exceed. ingly; and many suspected, that they saw only a spirit, or a phantom of the imagination. To satisfy their doubts and convince them that he had a real body, our LORD invited them to handle and examine him. To give them the 'most satisfactory proof that he had the same body that was nailed to the cross, he shewed them his hands and feet, which still retained the marks of the nails; and for their further conviction he ate in their presence. So much compassion did our LORD shew for their infirmity, and so much care did he take, that not even a shadow of a doubt should remain in their minds, upon a point of the utmost importance to the business he came about! Then gently upbraiding them with their hardness of heart, in being so unwilling to admit the testimony of those who declared that they had seen him, whose veracity they had no reason to doubt, he assured them of his gracious forgiveness, and of his intention of sending them to preach the Gospel; to qualify them for which, it was necessary they should be inspired by the HOLY SPIRIT.
It is observable, that our LORD breathed on his Apostles, as a token that the HOLY SPIRIT was to be conveyed to them through him; and in consequence of this their understandings were opened, so that they were able to comprehend those parts of the scriptures which had been hitherto dark and obscure: and they now clearly perceived, by the marks and characters of the MESSIAH
MESSIAH to which he constantly referred them, that it was agreeable to the design of GOD that the MESSIAHI should suffer death, and rise again the third day; that repentance, and faith in CHRIST, were the terms on which redemption from sin was offered to mankind; and that it was their peculiar business, as his Apostles or Ambassadors, to make these conditions known to people of all nations, as they were chosen witnesses selected for this very purpose.
THE INCREDULITY OF THOMAS-THE LORD
From John, Chap. xx.
BUT Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when JESUS came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the LORD. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
And after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came JESUS, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands: and reach hither thy and, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing.
And Thomas answered and said unto him,
JESUS saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
ANNOTATIONS AND REFLECTIONS.
From our LORD's reproof of Thomas, implied in the words, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed, it is evident, that our LORD thought his disciples had sufficient cause to believe him to be risen from the dead, even before he shewed himself to them; and we have reason to think St. John did so.
As our LORD had declared he should rise from the dead the third day, they might, from the first report that the body was missing, have concluded that he was risen; the sight of the napkin and winding sheet laid in such order, shewed that there must have been a resurrection; for who that should steal a body, would stay to take off such a quantity of linen and fold it up? They could not suppose, that either friends or enemies would have proceeded in this manner. The rolling away of the stone, was another proof that a miracle had been wrought; for had it been done by human force they would have heard of it, as many people must have been concerned in it; and for what purpose but the resurrection, should such an event have happened? The prodigies which had attended our LORD's death, gave reason to expect that the same Divine power would deliver him from the grave. that angels had acquainted them JESUS was risen, ought to have gained credit, as it accorded with our LORD's own predictions, and those of the ancient prophets.
The information of the women,
That they might not suppose that JESUS was taken into heaven as Enoch and Elijah were, they were acquainted by Mary Magdalene that she had seen the LORD,
who assured her, that he was not yet ascended to the FATHER; and he at the same time desired her to remind them of a conversation, which he had with them the night before he was betrayed, in which he assured them, that he should go to the FATHER; and that in consequence of his doing so, the COMFORTER Would come unto them. They were soon after informed by the other women, that they had not only seen the LORD, but touched him, and that he bid them tell his brethren that he would go before them into Galilee: nothing therefore was wanting to satisfy all their scruples, but to see him themselves; and till they did so, they resolved to suspend their belief, and treated all these visions as so idle tales.
As it was necessary the Apostles should have the fullest conviction of the resurrection, that they might convince others, our LORD at length vouchsafed to give them the very evidence they desired; having first prepared them for it by the report of Peter, and the two disciples to whom he previously appeared; but they now doubted the testimony of their own senses, and supposed that they beheld a spirit. Our LORD soon convinced them of their mistake, by submitting his body to be handled by them; and as a farther proof of his being alive, he ate before them: and having given them every sensible demonstration of the reality of his resurrection, he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and then left them for eight days, that they might deliberately apply themselves to the examination of them, in order to root out their mistaken prejudices, and establish a well-grounded rational faith in their stead, which was particularly necessary for those who were to be witnesses of all these things to the world.
As Thomas was one of those who were selected to
bear testimony to the circumstances of our LORD's life, death, and resurrection, it was proper that he should have an equal knowledge of them with the rest; which was granted him in such a manner, as to prove beyond dispute, that JESUS was risen, not only with the same body, but possessed of the same divine knowledge of the hearts of men, which he had repeatedly taught them to attribute to the GODHEAD dwelling in him. Thomas made an ample profession of faith, and acknowledged the BEING he beheld not only as his LORD, but his GOD; and no longer desired to put his fingers in the print of the nails, &c. for he found sufficient proofs of the resurrection without doing so.
From the example of Thomas we learn, that it is our duty, if doubts arise in our mind, to examine all the evidence which is afforded us of divine truths, and not to prescribe to Gov, in respect to particulars, which we think necessary to prove them. Had Thomas fully considered what the other apostles told him, he might, from their accounts, have been thoroughly convinced, that JESUS was risen from the dead: and even at this distance of time, every Christian, who will give their writings a fair and candid examination, may obtain perfect satisfaction from them.
"That the Apostles and Evangelists were authors of those Scriptures, which are now received under their names, we have the concurrent attestation of all the earliest writers of the church, deduced by uninterrupted traditions from the very times of the Apostles *."
If the precepts and examples of JESUS CHRIST and his Apostles, were to be the rules by which all those
* The reader is here rected, by the author I copy from, to read Prefatory Discourses of Dr Whitby's Annotations on the Gospels, Acts, &c. Also L'Abadie de la Religion Chrétienne, tom. ii.