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can see, and hear, and feel, as well as the other, unless the senses have been impaired. All Christians believe Christ rose from the dead, and this faith originates from the testimony of the apostles. Let us then consider
1st. The original witnesses of the fact, that Christ rose from the dead. The special appointed witnesses of this fact were twelve men. This number was kept up, for when one was chose in place of Judas, the object is thus expressed-" to be a witness with us of his resurrection," Acts 1: 22. To constitute one an apostle, it was necessary to have seen Jesus Christ after his resurrection. Hence Paul in vindication of his apostleship says, 1 Cor. 9: 1, "have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord?" And the grand object of our Lord's appearing to Saul, Acts 26: 16, was to make him, "a minister and witness of his resurrection." None of the apostles were self constituted witnesses but expressly appointed. Our Lord's last words on earth and addressed to his apostles were "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth," Acts 1: 8, 9. comp. Matt. 28: 19, 20.
That these witnesses constantly testified that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, is not disputed by any man. The question is, was their characters such as to entitle them to credit? Certainly; for what part of their character can be assailed to discredit their testimony? Is it their natural capacity? But what Jew or deist ever seriously thought, that our Lord selected twelve ideots, or persons devoid of natural capacity to be witnesses of his resurrection? Men of ordinary minds were just as fit to be witnesses of this fact as persons of the greatest natural talents. Is it their education which is assailed? But pray,
what extraordinary education was required to judge of a fact, where the bodily senses alone were necessary? Does any man require a liberal education to see, hear and feel? We never heard it alleged, that the apostles were either blind, or deaf, or impaired in any of their senses. Well, is it their poverty and want of distinction in society, which discredits their testimony? What rational man ever thought that it was necessary for a man to be rich, and elevated, to give testimony to a fact, which any man whose bodily senses were not impaired, was as capable of judg ing of as the highest in society? Are the morals of the apostles impeached? But who can impeach the morals of those men with the least show of truth? Is it not rather to be suspected, that the severity of their morals is a reason why many reject their testimony? Many deists are even candid enough to own that Christ and his apostles were excellent moralists. Is it then their veracity and integrity which are called in question? But who, pray, ever detected one of those men in a single falsehood, or even offered to expose them as liars and deceivers in regard to their testimony? They were plain, honest men, unimpeached even by their enemies of such crimes, or of having any such designs.
All the apostles were uniform and explicit in testifying that Christ had risen from the dead, and persevered in it to the last, in face of all opposition. There was no doubt or hesitancy in any one of them as to the fact. Neither promises, nor threatenings, nor death itself, could make them waver. Nothing said or done to them, created a single suspicion in their minds, that they were deceived themselves or were attempting to deceive others. Nor do we find that their enemies confronted them with contrary testimony, or attempted to detect their imposing such a falsehood on the public. Though it was perceived
their testimony implicated the whole Jewish nation in the blackest guilt, and all ranks were solicitous to suppress it, they found it impossible. The fact is, they were unable to disprove their testimony, and as to the miracles they wrought in confirmation of it, they were never suspected to be false, but were admitted as true even by their enemies.
To say the apostles were enthusiasts will not do, for no men ever appeared freer from enthusiasm in their preaching and in all their proceedings. Nothing like rant or cant appears either in their matter or manner. No noise, or violence, or heat is discernible about them. On the contrary, they are calm, deliberate, rational, and self-possessed in all they say and do. They discover the fullest and deepest conviction of the truth of their testimony, and its importance to the world; but avoid ostentation, or extraordinary effort to excite astonishment in others. No bitterness is shown to any who rejected it, nor do they retaliate upon their persecutors. They show no desire to proselyte a single individual to their cause, but by the conviction of truth. They delivered their testimony, offered evidence of its truth, and left it to produce its effect, without the least apprehension of being detected in either fraud or falsehood. They appeal to facts in presence of their enemies, which none of them could disprove, Acts 2: 22. It would be much more rational to call them madmen than enthusiasts, for enthusiasts have the use of their bodily senses. If deranged they might fancy Jesus had risen from the dead, but if sane, and had stolen his body from the tomb, they must have been conscious that they were liars and deceivers. Paul allows that if Christ was not risen, the apostles were "false witnesses of God." It is contended, and justly, that men are governed by motives. What motives, then could induce the
apostles to deceive others? No man will assert, that they could either have the approbation of God, or their own consciences to lie or deceive. Worldly gain they neither sought nor obtained, and even popularity and praise of men were denied them. It is impossible to point out any advantage they gained in this world, and how could they expect a reward in the life to come for being liars and deceivers? If shame, reproach, worldly privations, bonds and death may be called a reward, of this they had abundance. But they persisted in their testimony until death, and some of them sealed it with their blood. No one of them turned traitor, divulged the fraud, and exposed all the rest concerned in it. If the apostles were liars, in testifying that Christ rose from the dead, let this be proved; for it is a law in all civilized society, that a man be considered innocent until he is proved guilty.
But the place where, and the time when, they began giving their testimony, confirms its truth. They began at Jerusalem, the very place where they declared Jesus had risen from the dead. Had the apostles gone to some remote province of the Roman empire, and began declaring that Christ rose from the dead at Jerusalem, this would have afforded room to suspect imposition. But they commence in the capital of Judea, where the fact they alleged happened; and in the most public manner proclaim it; yea, appeal to their enemies, whose honor and interest were deeply concerned to refute it, if they were able. But was this ever done? Or was it ever attempted, except by persecution? This, all will allow, can never convince men's understandings. Had the apostles wished to get up a new religion, founded in falsehood, not a spot could have been better selected to begin, where such a scheme would have been crushed at its commencement. Here every
thing was unfavorable for the success of such a proj. ect. Civil and ecclesiastical power, religious prejudice, public opinion, and even popular rage, were all against them. A few days before all these were combined in effecting the death of their master. And what could they expect, in coming forward to announce that he had risen from the dead, and implicating the whole Jewish nation as his murderers? They were worse than madmen to make such an attempt, unless persuaded of the fact they announced, yea, possessed fortitude more than human to do it notwithstanding this persuasion.
But the manner in which the apostles bore witness to Christ's resurrection also deserves notice. It is said, Acts 4: 33, "and with great power gave the apostles witness of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all." This they did in the most open manner; in the temple and all public places where the people resorted; in the presence of thousands, whether friends or foes; and in opposition to all the threatenings of civil and ecclesiastical rulers to the contrary. The rulers of the people were vexed and cut to the heart at their testimony, and doubted what would be the result if they were allowed to proceed. They commanded them not to teach in the name of Jesus. They threatened them to desist, but all to no purpose, Acts 4: 2, and 5: 28. They sent them to prison, but this was also vain; and the final advice of Gamaliel was refrain from these men and let them alone; for if this counsel, or this work be of men, it will come to naught: but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it: lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." But in spite of all that could be done to oppose them, the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and even a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith, Acts 6: 7.