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4th. That Christ's resurrection may be disputed on the ground that his body was stole from the iomb. On this ground and on no other is it disputed by the Jews. If any space of time elapsed, between the burial of the body and the placing of the guards at the tomb, this was the period they ought to have alleged in which it was stole. But such an idea does not appear to have occurred to them, and shows that there was no ground for such a supposition. Had they alleged such a thing, they would have made themselves a laughing stock to the public, and to all posterity. What! place a guard of Roman soldiers to watch an empty tomb! What! give them a dead body in charge, yea, seal the stone for security, yet not see that the body was there! There was no ground here for asserting that the body was stole, hence their account is thus stated. 6 Now when they were going, behold some of the watch came into the city, and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And 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 while 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.” Matt. 28: 11-13. No deist can accuse Christ's disciples of telling a lie about this, for this story is still reported by the Jews until our day.
1st. The soldiers are instructed to say—“his disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept.” This charge against the disciples is general; no one of them is particularly accused, nor is any attempt made to prove it. But how came the disciples to know the soldiers would sleep on their
post; when they would go to sleep; how long they would continue in it, or that they would all sleep at the same time? Again, if the soldiers were asleep, how could they know who stole the body? If they were not asleep, why did they suffer any one to steal it? Let it be admitted they did sleep, and found the body gone when they awoke; they might suppose it stole by the disciples, but of this they could not be certain, for it might be true that Jesus had risen from the dead. This every candid man will allow. The story bears on its face the marks of falsehood and absurdity. If it served for the moment to circulate among the unthinking multitude, no sensible man could either urge it or defend it. Hence in all the opposition of the Jews, afterwards to Christianity, this story is never brought forward in refutation of Christ's resurrection. It is so grossly absurd, that the most unprincipled soldier required large money" to be concerned in it. They were too simple, honest-hearted men to invent it, for it appears they related the simple facts of the case. It required wiser heads than theirs to fabricate such a story; and before they would be concerned in its circulation, a large bribe and a pledge of personal security must be given them.
2d. But let us examine if it was possible for the disciples to steal the body; yea, if things were not so ordered in divine providence, as to preclude such a suspicion. It is but reasonable to suppose, that Jesus had a grave assigned him in common with the two malefactors crucified with him. But it was so ordered, that his body was laid in Joseph's tomb; and thus he made his grave “ with the wicked and with the rich in his death," Isai. 53: 9. comp. Matt. 27: 57–66. Mark 15: 42-47. Luke 23: 50-56. John 19: 38, 42. It was never denied by the Jews, that Jesus' body was laid in Joseph's tomb, and it is
admitted in their own story, that it was not found there on the third day. What then became of it ? Were the circumstances favorable to facilitate the disciples' stealing the body? The very reverse of this was the case, for 1st. The tomb was not in some obscure place in the country. No, it was in a garden nigh at hand, and in the place where Jesus was crucified. It was under the eye of the Jews, and their rulers were all alive to prevent such an imposition. See the History. 2d. Jesus' body was laid in Joseph's own new tomb wherein never man before was laid. Luke 23: 53. No other person therefore could arise from this tomb but Jesus. 3d. The tomb was hewn out of a rock. If the body was stole, the disciples must have entered by the door; for allowing the soldiers to have been asleep, it is absurd to suppose they could have dug through the rock without awaking them. How they could even enter the tomb by the door without this, is hardly supposable, for the women said among themselves-- Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepul. chre? For it was very great." If the body was stole, it was most likely done by the female disciples. They saw it deposited in the tomb, Luke 23: 55. Mark 27: 55, 56, and they were the first found at the sepulchre on the first day of the week. The timidity of their sex however forbids this, for is it at all probable, that a few females in face of a Ro. man guard, during the darkness of night, should undertake to steal a dead body from a tomb? This was even too much for the Jews to affirm, hence their charge is general, without naming the sex or the individuals. Who then among the
male disciples had courage enough to undertake such an enterprise ? Not surely Peter, for a short time before he had with oaths affirmed_"I know not the man." Peter even rebuked Jesus when he announced, that he should
suffer death at Jerusalem. Nor did any of the disciples understand what Jesus meant by rising from the dead. In the garden they all forsook him and fled. Nor does it appear a single disciple expected his resurrection, far less adopt measures about a pretended one. On the contrary, many circumstan. ces might be noticed, showing, that they had no such event in contemplation. They were slow of heart to believe his resurrection when it was announced to them, and nothing but occular demonstration would satisfy Thomas of its truth. Their state of mind respecting this may be seen, Luke 24, and in other passages. 4th. If the disciples came by night and stole the body, it was after the Jews had done all in their power to prevent it. It has been seen from Matt. 27: 63–66, that Pilate was applied to for a guard to watch the sepulcbre, and the stone was sealed for security. This was the very worst policy the Jews could have adopted, for the very precautions they adopted to guard against all imposition, proclaims the falsehood and absurdity of iheir own report. Had they left the disciples to their own course with the body, plausible ground would then have been laid for asserting they had stole it, and were imposing on the world by preaching that Jesus had risen from the dead. But as the case now stands, their story is left without the shadow of a foundation. It never was denied by the Jews, that they adopted such precautions to prevent imposition. No, their story not only admits that soldiers were placed at the tomb, but that they had slept there; and it was while they were asleep the disciples came and stole the body away. Such are all the possible grounds on which the resurrection of Jesus Christ can be disputed. We are unable to devise any other, and surely no Christian need be under the slightest apprehension, that the foundation of his faith and hope shall ever be swept away by them.
2d. Consider the evidence of the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The fact we are about to investigate, is not, did Jesus Christ raise himself from the dead? This the apostles never asserted, but constantly affirmed that God raised him from the dead.
If he was the Supreme God he must have raised himself. Yea, if the doctrine of disembodied spirits be true, why could not Christ's disembodied spirit have raised his body from death, allowing the power by which he raised others was derived, unless all this power ceased at his death ? Christ always declared bis dependance on God for life, and all he possessed. Nor is the question we are to discuss-ihat the apostles or any other persons saw Jesus rise from the dead. To establish the fact of Lazarus' resurrection, it was not necessary that any person should see him rise. Those who knew Laz. arus before, were certain he was dead, and seeing him after he rose, were just as certain of the fact as those who stood by the tomb and saw him obey the call_6 Lazarus come forth." So in respect to the resurrection of Jesus.
The fact, the simple fact we are about to consider is--did Jesus Christ rise from the dead or did he not ? This fact is alleged to have taken place nearly two thousand years ago.
The evidence of it must be ascertained in the same way as any other historical fact, which took place at the same distance of time. The fact was of such a nature, that any ordinary man was just as capable of judging concerning it, as the wisest philosopher. A philosopher, in doubtful cases, might be more competent to judge than a fisherman if a person was actually dead; but allowing both the same opportunities of satisfying their senses, concerning one with whom they had been acquainted, who had died and come to life again, the latter is just as competent a judge as the former. The one