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ACTS XIII. 29, 30, 31.
And when they had fulfilled all that was wri written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre: but God raised him from the dead; and he was seen many days of them which came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are wi nesses unto this people.
THE resurrection of Jesus Christ was on this wise. He had frequently, during the course of his ministry, foretold his own resurrection on the third day from his death-sometimes in parables, sometimes in plain terms. In parables, as when, pointing to his body, he said to the Jews, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again," and upon another occasion, No sign shall be given, you but the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.", of mod At other times he foretold the
Grimes he foretold the same thing in direct terms: "While they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, the son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men, and they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again." And at various other times he declared thus to his disciples.,.
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The Jews, who had come to the knowledge of this declaration, did not, I suppose, give any credit to it, but thought that it might put it into the heads of his disciples to attempt the stealing of his body out of the grave,
in order to give colour to the report that he was risen as he had foretold. With this story the chief priests and pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “Sir, we remember that that deceiver said whilst he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again ; command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him away, and say unto the people, he is risen from the dead.” Pilate, upon this application, which probably he judged a very unnecessary caution, ordered them to close up and seal the door of the sepulchre, and place a guard to watch it.
With respect to the apostles and disciples themselves, they hardly seem to have known what to make of it. They scarcely believed or understood our Lord when he had talked of rising from the dead. The truth is, they retained to the last the notion which both they and all the Jews held, that the true Christ, when he appeared, would set up an empire upon earth, and make the Jews the masters of the world. Now when, by his death, they saw an end put to all such expeetations, they were totally at a loss what to think. “ We trusted,” said one, then in a sort of despair of the cause, “that it had been he who should have redeemed Israel ;" that is, from the bondage their country was then in to the Roman people.
Yet these despairing reflections were mixed with some kind of confused notion that all was not yet over. “Besides all this,” said the same disciple, “ to-day is the third day
these things were done;" which
shows that they bore in mind something that he had said of his rising the third day. In this situation of the affair, the Jews feared nothing but that His disciples should steal the body. His disciples, disheartened and perplexed-at a loss what to do, or what they were to look for next-in this disposition, I say, of all parties, mark what came to pass. Some women, early in the morning as of this day, went to the sepulchre with no other intention than to embalm the body with some spices they had prepared, when, to their astonishment and surprise, they found the guards fallen down in fright, the sepulchre open, the body gone, and the clothes it was wrapped in left in their place. They ran back, as was natural, to give his disciples (this strange account. Peter and John, the two first they met with, hastened instantly to the sepulchre, and in the mean time, Jesus himself appeared to them:first to the women, then to two of the disciples, then to the eleven apostles all together; afterwards, upon different occasions, to the' apostles and other disciples on the evening of the fourth day after his resurrection; and upon one occasion, as St. Paul relates, "to five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part," says he, "remain to this present," i. e. are still living. In one of these appearances he upbraided them, as well he might, for their unbelief and hardness of heart, in' not believing those who made the report of his resurrection, and had first seen him after he was risent: On another occasion he bade them handle his body, that they might be convinced it was not, as they had suspected, á spirit which they saw; for a spirit hath enot," says he, "flesh and bones as ye see me haved At other times he was still more circumstantial. Thomas, one of the apostles, happened, it seems, to be absent when he first
appeared to the; disciples assembled together; and though they all assured him they had seen the Lord, so incredulous was he, that he declared, unless he saw him himself, and not only saw him, but also felt and examined the very marks of the wounds which were given him upon the cross, he would not be convinced. It pleased Christ, for the satisfaction of those who came after, to indulge Thomas in this demand; and when he appeared unto them at their next meeting, he called Thomas to him: "Reach hither," says he, "thy finger, and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing."
You need not be told that, after forty days, during which time he occasionally appeared to his disciples, he was, in the sight of the eleven apostles (for the twelfth was Judas the traitor), lifted up into heaven, and the clouds received him out of their sight. It will be proper to return and take notice of the conduct of the Jews upon this occasion. The watch, which they had placed to guard the sepulchre, came into the city and showed to the chief priests the things that were done. "When they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, saying, say ye, his disciples came by night and stole him away; and if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him and secure you." So they took the money, and did as they were taught; "and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews," says Matthew, "unto this day."
Now there are some marks of truth in this relation, which, though both obvious and considerable, may perhaps escape you, if you have not heard them mentioned.
There are, you will perceive, if you read the narra
tive, some variations in the accounts of the evangelists, principally arising from one history relating one circumstance, and another, another when, in truth, both circumstances took place. For example Christ appeared dat many odifferent times. St. Matthew relates what passeds at onel appearance, St. Lukedat another, St. John at a third and so it must needs happen that their relations will be different, though not at all contradictory. But what, after all, do these variations, or, if you will, inconsistencies, prove? Why, they prove to demonstration, that the writers of the Gospel did not combine or lay their heads together to fill up a story for the public, but that each wrote according to his memory, information, and judgement, without any scheme or contrivance amongst themselves to make their stories tally and correspond. There are always variations, and often contradictions, where witnesses are without communication and independent of one another; and if there be not, it conveys a strong sarmise that they are prepared with a made-up story, 1 constructed and connected amongst themselves beforehand. It is not said, you may likewise remember, that Christ appeared after his resurrection to any but his own disciples. Unbelievers, Jews especially, lay hold of this circumstance.He ought (for so they speak) to have appeared openly to the Jews to enemies as well as wwfriends. His confining his appearances to his friends and followers is as they would intimate, suspicious. Now what were Christ's reasons for defusing his appearance to the unbelieving Jews we may not know. It is just like inquiring why he did not come down from the cross when they called upon him to do so. It might be fitting to withhold this last proof from those who had so shamefully and obstinately resisted and