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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 surmise that they are prepared with a made-up story, 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 friends. His confining his appearances to his friends and followers is, as they would intimate, suspicious. Now what were Christ's reasons for refusing 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 abused every other proof he had given in evidence of the resurrection, and might be designed for the instruction, comfort, and support of his followers, to whom it was necessary (for they
could not stir a step without it), rather than for the conviction of the unbelieving Jews, inhabitants of Jerusalem, who had abundant evidence before, if they would have attended to it. And then, whether this was the reason, or whatever was the reason, it proves the sincerity and candour of the four evangelists, who have given the history. They would have said that Christ appeared to the Jews; and, had they thought themselves at liberty to have carved the story as they pleased, in order to make it plausible and probable, no doubt they would have said so. The objection that would be made to their present accounts was obvious; and nothing but a strict adherence to truth, and disposition to relate them honestly as they were, whether they made for them or against them, would have induced them to lay themselves open to their objection. Forgeries of all kinds take care to guard against objection; and we are apt to overdo it with cautious exactness.
With respect to the resurrection itself, as I have collected it briefly out of the four evangelists, you will observe, in the first place, that Christ had publicly foretold his own resurrection at the precise time of it-the third day from his death. This he would not have done, had any imposition been intended, because it was giving the public notice to be upon their guard, and look to themselves that they were not imposed upon. It had also this effect; for they did accordingly take such precautions as they thought most secure. Then, foretelling of his resurrection
must likewise have ruined his cause for ever, if it had not actually come to pass.
Not very many years ago, there appeared in this country a set of bold and wild enthusiasts called French prophets. They found means to draw after them a considerable party, till at length they had the confidence to give out that one of their teachers should, at a certain time and place, publicly rise from the dead. The time and place being thus known beforehand, many of all sorts attended. What was the effect? No resurrection being actually accomplished, they and their prophecies were blasted together. And the same thing must have happened to Christ and his followers, had he had not actually risen; for the two cases are in this respect pretty parallel.
Another way of considering this history is this. I think it manifest that the body of Jesus was missing out of the sepulchre. Thus much may be taken for granted, not merely on the credit of the Gospels, but from the nature of the transaction. It is certain, and allowed by all, that the followers of Christ did, after his death, fully preach and assert that he was risen from the dead, and this they did at Jerusalem. Now if the Jews had the dead body of Jesus to produce, while his disciples were preaching that he was risen from the dead, how ready and complete a refutation would it have been of all their pretensions! It must have exposed them in a moment to the derision and scorn of all who heard them.
This being so, we may be very sure that the Jews had not the body forthcoming, as there cannot be a doubt but they would have made this use of it if they could have found it. Allowing, then, the body to be missing, the next question seems to be, whether it was stolen away, as the Jews pretended, by his disciples, or miraculously raised out of the. sepulchre, as we maintain. The Jewish story, if you attend to it, is charged with numerous absurdities and improbability. The watch gave out that, while they slept, the disciples stole the body. This watch were Roman soldiers, remarkable for their military discipline and strictness. For a Roman soldier to sleep upon his post was punished, we know, with death. Is it credible, that they should sleep-all of them at this particular time-the third day after his death of all other times? The story carries improbability upon the face of it. Nor is it more likely that the disciples of Christ, dispirited and discouraged by their master's fate, should think of such an attempt as stealing away the body-an attempt likely to be soon detected, and which, if detected, was sure to ruin and confound them for ever. Could they expect to find the guards asleep? Could they hope to escape the vigilance of those who were to answer for it with their lives? Now by the same rule that the Jewish story of the body's being stolen is improbable, the apostles' account of its being raised from the dead is probable, because missing out of the sepulchre it certainly was; and if it could not
be conveyed away by actual means, it must have been removed by a miracle. I thought this circumstance fit to be attended to in confirmation of the apostles' testimony; though, to say the truth, the testimony of the apostles to the resurrection of Christ needs neither this nor any other circumstance to confirm it; for where men lay down their lives, as many of them did, in support of an assertion which they must know whether it was true or false, it was an unaccountable piece of misplaced incredulity not to believe.
In reading the New Testament, especially the Acts of the Apostles, you must have observed what a great stress the apostles in their preaching laid upon the fact of the resurrection: more, by much, than upon any other miracle Christ wrought, or indeed than all. When they chose a successor in the place of Judas, it was to be one, as St. Peter says, to be witness with him of his resurrection. This also was what Peter rested upon in his first and second discourse to the Jews, and in his preaching to Cornelius; and there is reason to believe that it was what he bore with him, and laid the main stress upon, wherever he went.
In like manner, Paul, at Antioch and Athens, and some other places, delivers long discourses to the people, of which, however, the resurrection of Christ was the burthen and substance; and that this was his custom, may be collected from what he writes to the Corinthians. "I delivered unto you first of all