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cified. “ And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth. And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. And there was Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary sitting over against the sepulchre. Now the next day that followed the day of the preparation” (by which must be understood the sabbath, the seventh day of the week) “ the chief priests and pharisees," or some of them, a deputation from the council, “ came together to Pilate, saying ; Sir, we remember, that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command, therefore, that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest bis disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead. So the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them; Ye have a watch. Go your way, make it as sure as you can. So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone, and setting a watch.” The guard would prevent violence. And the seal would be a security against any fraud of the soldiers, in confederacy with the disciples, if that could have been suspected.
Then at the beginning of the twenty-eighth chapter, “ In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold,” a short time before their arrival, there was, or had been,“ a great earthquake. For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came, and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow. And for fear of him the keepers, the guards, " did shake, and became as dead men. And the angel answered, and said unto the women; Fear not ye. For I know, that ye seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. For he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly, and tell his disciples, that he is risen from the dead
-And as they went to tell his disciples, behold Jesus met them, saying ; All hail. And they came, and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. Then said Jesus unto them; Be not afraid. 'Go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee. And there shall they see me.
Now when they were going, behold some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all things that were done."
By this account it appears that our Saviour's resurrection, and the preparations for it, were gradual.
“ There was a
great earthquake; an angel descended from heaven, and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as
For fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” Now, at this instant, or soon after, the blessed Jesus arose, and came out of the tomb. Whether the guards saw the Lord come out of the sepulchre, and pass by them, is not altogether certain. The evangelist's expressions are strong. " For fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men.” It seems that they fainted, or fell into a swoon. If our Lord came out at that instant, they did not see him. But if they were recovered before he came out, and they saw him, they might be still under such an awe, as to let him pass leisurely and unmolested. For the first sight of a man returned to life, who had been dead and crucified, would be exceeding surprising. And the late earthquake, and the majestic appearance of the angel, still in view, who also, as may be supposed, showed our Lord marks of subjection and reverence, as he passed, might make such impressions, as would restrain rudeness and violence.
If they did not see our Lord come out of the tomb, and pass by them; when they had recovered themselves from their fright, and looked round them, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, and that the body was gone, and they could make no doubt that the person whom they were set to guard was come to life.
From the order of the evangelist's narration we also perceive, that our Lord had been raised to life some while bem fore the soldiers came to the Jewish high priests. When the body was gone, undoubtedly they had no farther business at the sepulchre. But it might require some time to recover themselves from the consternation they had been in; and before they went off they would look well about them, After which, as it seems, they retired to some house and rested themselves, and endeavoured to settle the account which they should carry to those who had employed them. Nor could they know how to find the chief priests so early in the morning. When they had access unto them, “ they shewed unto them all the things that had been done" that is, they told them that' whilst they were watching at the
* If it should be asked, how could the evangelist be assured of all this, and be able to relate these things so distinctly: I should answer, that the solution is very obvious. Some of the apostles, or other disciples of Jesus; had this account from the soldiers themselves, or others to whom they had related it. There was an interval of several hours between the opening the sepulchre and
sepulchre at such an hour, there was a great earthquake,
that they saw a certain being resembling human shape, • clothed in a garment, uncommonly wbite, his countenance • exceeding bright and shining, who with amazing swiftness • descended from heaven, and that at the sight of bim they were seized with great consternation. He rolled away the stone, and opened the sepulchre. The body was gone, • and the man was certainly alive again.'
For vindicating themselves they added : • They did not • believe any others would have behaved better. "Who but • ' must have been in pain for their lives, when the earth • trembled under them and around them ? and when there appeared some god, or celestial being, from whose counte
nance issued flashes of lightning ? If the body was gone, • they could not help it. They were set to guard against
the deceit and violence of men. But they were not able • to contend with beings of a superior order.'
This was a disagreeable story to the bigh priests; and very unfortunately for their cause, the soldiers had not come directly to them; they had stayed by the way, and the high priests were justly apprehensive, that the account now brought to them, had been already divulged to others.
In so perplexing an emergency these chief priests thought it best to convene the whole sanhedrim. So it follows: “ And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel,” or deliberated and consulted what to do, “ they gave large money to the soldiers, saying, Say ye, His disciples came and stole him away whilst we slept. 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 until this day."
The summary remarks of a judicious writer upon this history are to this purpose. * The priests and pharisees
. must be thought a strange stupid sort of creatures, if they * did not examine where the apostles were all night; beside
many other particulars, which might have been a thread our Lord's resurrection, and their coming to the Jewish rulers. In that space they had much discourse among themselves about the things which had happened, and which had caused them so great surprise. And they had related them to several. It is also very observable, that the whole band did not attend upon the chief priests, but a part only. Matt. xxviii. 11, “Some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done." Nor is it needful to suppose that the soldiers, who had been bribed by the Jewish council, were strictly obedient to their orders, and never said any thing
but what they had been taught, when they knew otherwise. b Burnet upon the Articles, p. 64.
to lead them into strict inquiries, unless it was because • they believed the report that the watch had brought them . of Christ's rising again. When they had this certain • reason to believe it, and yet resolved to oppose it; the * only thing they could do, was to seem to neglect the mat• ter, and only to decry it in general as an imposture, with
out going into particulars. Which certainly they would • not have done, if they themselves had not been too sure of • the truth of it.'
“ His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept.”
I propose to show the falsehood and improbability of this report.
And then I shall add some observations upon this history of the evangelist.
Concerning the first, it may be thought, that I am about to take needless pains, the saying being so very absurd. And indeed, it is well that it deserves little regard, and that it
appears so to us, after having carefully attended to the evidence of our Saviour's resurrection. But as
“ this saying was commonly reported among the Jews,” it may be worth the while to show in some particulars, how unlikely it is, and that it could not be then much regarded by any, but such as were very weak, or very much prejudiced.
1. It is very unlikely thato a guard of Roman soldiers should sleep upon duty.
For the Roman discipline was extremely strict. Such a thing would be improbable among any people, especially among the Romans. And for certain, they who set them here gave them a strict charge to be vigilant. Nor was there any long or tedious service required of them. The whole season of their attendance could not, at the utmost, much exceed four and twenty hours. The sabbath was begun when they were placed at the sepulchre. And soon after the sabbath was over, the body which they were to take care of, was gone, and they came down into the city to let the high priests and Jewish rulers know what had happened.
2. The absurdity of this report is manifest from itself.
For men cannot say what is done when they are asleep. If the disciples had attempted to take the body away, and they knew it, they must have been awake, and could and would have prevented it. If they were asleep, they de served to be punished. But they could not make any
· Et quis credet, tot milites, vigiliis perpetuis assuetos, circumfusos sepulchro, in re tanti momenti, summæque expectationis- -jacuisse omnes quasi lethargo sepultos ? Pol. Syn.
credible report of what was done whilst they were in that condition. If the body was carried off whilst they were asleep, they could not say by whom it was done. Whatever happened at that time must have been altogether unknown to them.
3. If the guard of soldiers had fallen asleep as they were watching at the sepulchre, they must have awaked if any attempt had been made to steal away the body.
For the body had been laid in a new tomb hewn out in a rock. And a large stone was laid at the door of it. And after that the Jewish high priests had seen it securely fastened. It was impossible, in an ordinary way, that the sepulchre should be opened, and the body in it taken thence, without a good deal of noise, which must have awakened such as were near.
4. The remaining of the burial clothes affords proof that the body was not removed by friends or other men.
The women, who had been at the sepulchre, came to the disciples, and told them what they had seen. Luke xxiv. 12, " Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself. He beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves.” The meaning of the original word, I think, is this: · He saw nothing but the linen clothes lying:'. Or, ' he saw the linen clothes only lying on the ground.'
This is more particularly related by St. John, xx. 1-8, who gives an account of his own and Peter's going together to the sepulchre. “ Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. So they ran both together. "And the other disciple did outrun Þeter, and came first to the sepulchre. And he stooping down, and looking in, saw the linen clothes lying. Yet went he not in. Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, and the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre. And he saw, and believed.”
This circumstance is a proof that the body was not stolen away by the disciples, or other friends, nor by common robbers, nor by any other persons. Whoever came upon such a design, would have been in a hurry, and would have executed their design with all possible expedition; whereas here are marks of leisure and composure.
5. It is not conceivable, that the stealing away, or the clan