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his resurrection to various persons, and at various times.
The first was to Mary Magdalen alone *.
The second, to her in company with several other women, as we have just seent.
The third to Peter.
The fourth, to the two disciples going to Emmaus §. The fifth to the apostles in Jerusalem, when they were assembled with the doors shut on the first day of the week; at which time he showed them his hands and his feet, pierced with the nails; and did eat before them.
The sixth, to the apostles a second time, as they sat at meat, when he satisfied the doubts of the incredulous Thomas, by making him thrust his hand into his side ¶.
The seventh, to Peter and several of his disciples at the lake of Tiberias, when he also ate with them **.
The eighth, and last, was to above five hundred brethren at oncett.
There are no less than eight distinct appearances of our Lord to his disciples, after his resurrection, recorded by the sacred historians. And can we believe that all those different persons could be deceived in these appearances of one, whose countenance, figure, voice, and manner they had for so long a time been perfectly well acquainted with; and who now, not merely presented himself to their view transiently and silently, but ate, and drank, and conversed with them, and suffered them to touch and examine him thoroughly; that they might be convinced by all their senses, that it was truly their beloved Master, and not a spirit that conversed with them. In all this surely it is impossible that there could be any delusion or imposition. Was it then a tale invented by the disciples to impose upon others? Why they should do this it is not easy to conceive; because it would have been an imposition, not only on others, but on themselves. It would have been an attempt to persuade themselves that their Master was risen, when he really was not; from whence no possible benefit could arise to them, but, on the contrary, grief, disappointment, and mortification in the extreme. But besides this, the nar
* Mark xvi, 9. Luke xxiv, 18. John xx, 26.
+ 1 Cor. xv, 5.
Matt. xxviii, 9.
++ 1 Cor. xv, 6.
ratives themselves of this great event bear upon the very face of them the strongest marks of reality and truth. They describe, in so natural a manner, the various emotions of the disciples on their first hearing of our Lord's resurrection, that no one, who is acquainted with the genuine workings of the human mind, can possibly suspect any thing like fraud in the case. When the women were first told by the angels that Christ was risen, and were ordered to tell the disciples, they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy*; with joy at the unexpected good news they had just heard; and with fear, not only from the sight of the angel, but lest the glad tidings he had told them should not prove true. They therefore "trembled, and were amazed, and ran to bring the disciples word; neither said they any thing to any man, for they were afraid t." And when they told these things to the apostles, their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not‡. When, Jesus himself appeared to the apostles at Jerusalem, they were terrified and affrighted, and thought they had seen a spirit; and they believed not for joy, and wondered §. When he appeared again unto the eleven as they sat at meat, they were so incredulous that he upbraided them with their unbelief, and Thomas would not be convinced without thrusting his hand into his side. This certainly was not the behaviour of men who were fabricating an artful story to impose upon the world, but of men who were themselves astonished and overpowered with an event, which they did not in the least expect, and which it was with the utmost difficulty they could be brought to believe.
The account, therefore, of the resurrection given by the evangelists may safely be relied upon as true.
It may however be said, that this account is the representation of friends, of those who were interested in asserting the reality of a resurrection; but that there is probably another story told by the opposite party, by the Jews and the Romans, which may set the matter in a very different point of view; and that before we can judge fairly of the question, we must hear what these have to say upon it as well as the evangelists. This is certainly very proper and reasonable. There is, we acknowledge, another account given by the Jews, re
Matt. xxviii, 8.
+ Mark xvi, 8.
Luke xxiv, 11. ¶John xx, 27.
specting the resurrection of Christ; and, to show the perfect fairness and impartiality of the sacred historians, and how little they wish to shrink from the severest investigation of the truth, they themselves tell us what this opposite story was. In the eleventh verse of this chapter, St. Matthew informs us, "that as the women were going to tell the disciples that Jesus was risen, 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.'
This, then, is the statement of our adversaries, produced in opposition to that of the evangelists, which the latter simply relate without any observation upon it, without condescending to make the slightest answer to it, but leaving every man to judge of it for himself. And this, indeed, they might safely do; for it is a fabrication too gross and too palpable to impose on any man of common sense. If any person can bring himself to believe, that sixty Roman soldiers should be all sleeping at the same time on guard; that they should be able to tell what was done in their sleep; that they should have the boldness to confess that they slept upon their post, when they knew the punishment of such an offence to be death; and that the disciples should be so devoid of all common sense as to steal away a dead body, which could not be of the smallest use to them, and, instead of proving a resurrection, was a standing proof against it; if any man, I say, can prevail on himself to listen for a moment to such absurdities as these, he may then give credit to the tale of the soldiers; but otherwise must treat it, as it truly deserves, with the most sovereign contempt.
This senseless forgery, then, being set aside, and the body of Jesus being gone, and yet never having been produced by the Jews or Romans, there remains only the alternative of a real resurrection.
But besides the positive proofs of this fact which have been here stated, there is a presumptive one, of the most
forcible nature, to which I have never yet seen any answer, and am of opinion that none can be given. The proof I allude to is that which is drawn from the sudden and astonishing change, which took place in the language and the conduct of the apostles, immediately after the period when they affirmed that Jesus had risen from the dead. From being, as we have seen, timorous and dejected, and discouraged at the death of their Master, they suddenly became courageous, undaunted, and intrepid; and they boldly preached that very Jesus, whom before they had deserted in his greatest distress. This observation will apply, in some degree, to all the apostles, but with regard to St. Peter, more particularly, it holds with peculiar force.
One of the most prominent features in the character of St. Peter (a character most admirably pourtrayed by the evangelist), is timidity of disposition. We see it in the terror that seized him when he was walking on the sea; we see it in his deserting his Divine Master when he was apprehended; then turning back to follow him, but following at a distance; not daring to go into the council-chamber when he was examined, but staying in the outer court with the servants; and at length, when he was challenged as one of his disciples, denying three times, with the most dreadful oaths and imprecations, that he knew any thing of him, or had the slightest connection with him.
This is the point of view in which St. Peter presents himself to us, just before our Lord's crucifixion.
Turn now to the fourth chapter of the Acts, and see what his language then was, after Jesus had actually been put to death.
He and John, having healed the lame man whom they found sitting at the gate of the temple, were apprehended, and thrown into prison, and the next day were called upon to answer for their conduct before the high priest, and the other chief rulers of the Jews. And upon being questioned by what power and by what name they had performed this miraculous cure, Peter answered them in these resolute terms: "Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, if we be this day examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole, be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from
the dead, even by him doth this man stand before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved *." And when, soon after this, Peter and John were straitly threatened, and commanded not to speak at all or teach in the name of Jesus, they answered and said unto them, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you, rather than unto God, judge ye: for we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard +."
What, now, is this that we hear? Is this the man who, but a short time before, had shamefully renounced his Divine Master, and declared, with the utmost vehemence and passion, that he was utterly unknown to him? And does this same man now, after the crucifixion of his Lord, and when he himself was a prisoner, and had reason to expect a similar fate, does this man boldly tell those, in whose power he was, that by the name of this very Jesus he had healed the lame man? Does he dare to reprove them with having crucified the Lord of life? Does he dare to tell them that God had raised him from the dead; that there was no other name under heaven by which they could be saved; and that, in defiance of all their interdictions and all their menaces, he must and would still continue to speak what he had seen and heard?
In what manner shall we account for this sudden and astonishing alteration in the language of St. Peter. There is, I will venture to assert, no other possible way of accounting for it, but from that very circumstance which St. Peter himself mentions in his speech to the high priest; namely," that he whom they had crucified was, by the almighty power of God, raised from the dead ‡." It was this change in the condition of his Divine Master which produced a correspondent change in the character and conduct of St. Peter. It was this miracle of our Lord's resurrection which could alone have produced the almost equally astonishing miracle of St. Peter's complete transformation. Had Jesus never risen from the dead, as he had repeatedly promised to do, he would have been a deceiver and an impostor; and that St. Peter, knowing this, should openly and boldly profess him→
Acts iv, 8-12.
† Acts iv, 18, 20.
+ Acts iv, 10,