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Mark xv. 42. was the preparation, that is, the day before the Jerusalem.
and faculties which now enable them to think, act, and reason. If the soul be immortal, its properties and powers must be immortal also. The man continues the same, both in the present and future stages of his existence, so long as the same consciousness, memory, and powers are united (6).
The doctrine of the resurrection of the body is one of the most important in the inspired volume, and as such a visible demonstration of its truth has been vouchsafed to us in the Patriarchal, the Levitical, and Christian dispensations. The resurrection of the body of Christ is an earnest of our own resurrection, and shews us in what form we shall arise from the dead : for we are assured that we shall be like unto him. As the second Adam rose from the dead with a real body, so shall he also “ cause the fashion of our body of humiliation to be made like unto his body of glory, according to the energy of his power, subduing all things to himself(c).” The resurrection shews to us the manner in which we shall be clothed with a body, which shall be suited to the invisible world. It has completed the chain of evidence which convinces us of our immortality, It demonstrates, by an undeniable fact, the certainty of our future existence, and the unjustifiable folly of those who live in this stage of their being without preparation for the next. It is the one indissoluble link which unites heaven and earth.
In proportion to the importance of this fundamental doctrine has ever been the discussion respecting its evidence and truth. Various objections have been at various times adduced, for the purpose of impugning the truth of the different accounts of the resurrection given by the Evangelists. These may be all classed under the separate heads of—difficulties arising from the conciseness and studied brevity of the Evangelists—from the accounts of the angels, whether they were the same or different from the terms used by the Evangelists to denote the respective times, when the several parties who attended at an early hour at the sepulchre set out, or arrived there—and likewise the difficulty which arises from the description of the tomb. These objections will be discussed in the notes to this chapter, which has been arranged after a most careful and repeated investigation of the several plans of harmonies, proposed by the principal writers on the subject. It may, however, be necessary to premise, with respect to the first principal difficulties now mentioned, that the Evangelists wrote without any intention of giving a harmonized narrative of all the occurrences which took place on the morning of the resurrection. Each mentions more particularly the circumstances which he considered most important to be known by those whom he addressed; and, in most instances, one seems to supply what the other had omitted.
(6) I have not thought it necessary to allude here to the curious questions which have been agitated, respecting the nature of the body of Adam before he fell; and whether we shall rise from the dead in the same form, or whether the resurrection body will be surrounded with a glory, such as clothed the form of the man who is represented by Ezekiel as appearing between the Cherubim. See on these points, Lord Barrington's Essay on the Dispensations, 1732, p. 11, note. (c) Horsley's four Sermons on the Resurrection, p. 219,
there came a rich man of Arimathæa,
Matt. xxvii. 57.
The intention of St. Matthew was, to counteract the impression produced by the falsehoods of the High Priests, and the keepers of the sepulchre. St. Mark notices those things of which St. Peter, under whose inspection his Gospel was written, must have been an eye-witness: and St. Luke takes up the narrative of events on the day of the resurrection where St. Matthew left off, and introduces another party, who came later to the sepulchre; and adds some things which took place on that day, which St. Matthew had omitted. John added some events in which himself had been more especially concerned, and which he had witnessed.
The second difficulty, the appearances of the angels, has been considered as the most important, but without just reason. We are unacquainted even with the laws of animal life ; we know of some facts, and deduce some inferences, but of the laws of life we still remain ignorant. It ought not therefore to excite surprise that we cannot comprehend the laws of angelic life. These beings might have become visible or invisible at pleasure; or they might at pleasure have altered their appearance. The same angel spirit who assumed a terrible countenance to overawe the guards, might have put on a mild and tranquil aspect when he addressed the women. Other angels might have been attending, though they were invisible while their companions spoke: and though a short time only elapsed between the arrival of the second party, and the departure of the first, no difficulty can be justly drawn from the inquiry, whether it was the same angel or another? The general conclusion, however, is, that the angels of St. Matthew and St. Mark were different. The angel mentioned by Matthew xxviii. 1. sate in the porch of the tomb, and had assumed a terrible appearance to overawe the guard ; but the angel, Mark xvi. 5. was another within side the sepulchre, in the inner apartment. The two angels spoken of by John, xx. 11. were seen some short time after those mentioned by Matthew and Mark, (Matt. xxviii. 1. and Mark xvi. 5.) but whether they were the same, or different, cannot possibly be ascertained. Neither can it be determined whether the angels who manifested themselves to the second party of women, recorded by St. Luke xxiv. 4. were the same or different. They are represented as appearing like lightning, with a raiment white as snow-as young men clothed in long white garments, the appointed guardians of the crucified body of their Lord, and the happy spectators of his glorious and triumphant victory over death, and the powers of darkness.
The third difficulty, respecting the time, will be discussed in the notes to the seventh section.
The fourth difficulty is local, and has arisen from want of sufficient attention to the particular structure of the holy sepulchre ; which consisted of two parts, the porch, or anti-chamber, from which a narrow passage led into the inner vault, or tomb, where the body was deposited. Matthew critically distinguishes rápos, "the tomb," from uvnjelov, " the sepulchre," in general. The other Évangelists use uvõua, and uvnueñov indiscriminately (d). This difficulty will be more particularly considered in the notes to the twelfth section.
In reply, however, to all the general objections which have been made to the
(d) See Schleusner, Cranfield, and Townson's notes.
Lukexxiii.5i. a city of the Jews :
minor circumstances here alluded to, we may assert, with the utmost boldness and confidence, that we have abundant and every requisite evidence, to convince us of the truth and certainty of the fact, of the resurrection of the body of Christ. It would be impossible to enumerate the many writers who have illustrated this subject, and demonstrated the certainty of the fact. The last (e) who has discussed it has considered the various proofs, as they may be derived,
Ist, From the propbecies of Jesus, that at a certain time he was to rise from the dead.
2d, From the fact that at this precise time his body was, by the confession of all who had access to know, not to be found in the sepulchre in which it had been laid, although the most effectual precaution had been taken to prevent its removal.
3d, From the positive testimony of the disciples, that after this time they fre. quently saw him, conversed with him, and received from him those instructions upon which they acted in publishing his Gospel.
4th, From the success which attended their preaching, founded upon the alleged fact that he had actually risen.
All of which arguments are considered at great length, in an admirable and forcible manner. Mr. Horne (f) too has summed up the collective evidence in support of this great event, with his usual perspicuity. “ If we peruse,” he observes, “the history of that event with care, we must conclude either that Christ arose, or that his disciples stole his body away. The more we consider the latter alternative, the more impossible it appears. Every time, indeed, that our Saviour attempted to perform a miracle, he risked his credit on its accomplishment: bad he failed in one instance, that would have blasted his reputation for ever. The same remark is applicable to his predictions : had any one of them failed, that great character which he had to support, would have received an indelible stain. Of all his predictions, there is not one on which he and his disciples laid greater stress, than on that of his resurrection. So frequently, indeed, had Jesus Christ publicly foretold that he would rise again on the third day, that they who caused him to be put to death, were acquainted with this prediction; and, being in power, used every possible means to prevent its accomplishment, or any imposition on the public.
After the crucifixion and death of Christ, the Chief Priests applied to Pilate, the Roman Governor, for a watch, and sealed the sepulchre in which the body was deposited. By this guard of Roman soldiers was the tomb watched; and on the resurrection of Christ, they went and related it to the Chief Priests, who bribed them with money, promising to secure their persons from danger, and charged them to affirm that Christ's disciples stole his body away while they were sleeping, (Matt. xxxiii.4, 11-15.) This flight of the soldiers, their declaration to the high priests and elders, the subsequent conduct of the latter, the detection and publication of their collusion with the soldiers by the apostles, and the silence of the Jews on that subject, who never attempted to refute or contra
(e) Cooke's View of the Evidence of the Resurrection. to the Critical Study, &c. vol. i. p. 595, &c. &c.
Matt. xxvii. 57.
dict the declarations of Christ's disciples; are all strong evidences of the reality and truth of his resurrection. A few additional considerations will suffice to show the falsehood of the assertion made by the chief priests.
On the one hand, the terror of the timid disciples, who were afraid to be seen, and the paucity of their number; on the other hand, the authority of Pilate and of the Sanhedrim, the great danger attending such an enterprise as the stealing of Christ's body, the impossibility of succeeding in such an attempt, both from the number of armed men who guarded the tomb, and also from the lightness of the night, it being the time of full moon, at the great annual festival, when the city was full of people, and many probably passed the whole night (as Jesus and his disciples had done) in the open air, the sepulchre also being so near the city as to be inclosed within the walls; all these circumstances combine to render such an imposture as that, which was palmed upon the Jews, utterly unworthy of credit. For, in the first place, is it probable that so many men as composed the guard would all fall asleep in the open air at once ? 2. Is it at all probable that a Roman guard should be found off their watch, much less asleep, when, according to the Roman military laws, it was instant death to be found in such a state? 3. Could they be so soundly asleep as not to awake with all the noise which must necessarily be made by removing the great stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, and taking away the body? 4. Is it at all likely that these timid disciples could have had sufficient time to do all this, without being perceived by any person ? How could soldiers, armed, and on guard, suffer themselves to be over-reached by a few timorous people ? 5. “ Either,” says Augustine, “they were asleep or awake: if they were awake, why should they suffer the body to be taken away? If asleep, how could they know that the disciples took it away? How dare they then depose that it was stolen ?" From the testimony of the enemies of Christianity, therefore, the resurrection of Christ may be fully proved.
Further, the conduct of the priests and elders towards the soldiers evidently implies a conviction that our Saviour was actually risen. They were now certain that he was not in the tomb. If there had been any suspicion that his disciples were in possession of the dead body, these rulers, for their own credit, would instantly have imprisoned them, and used means to recover it, which would have quashed the report of his resurrection for ever. There can be no doubt, therefore, of their conviction that he was actually risen from the dead. If Jesus had appeared to the priests and rulers, it could have served no good purpose, as they were already convinced of the fact, but would not acknowledge it to the people. Supposing that his appearance to them, after his resurrection, would have changed their minds, and induced them publicly to confess the truth, the testimony of the priests and rulers would have been very suspicious to posterity; it would have been said that they were influenced by some political motive. Besides, this would have weakened the testimony of the disciples ; for the men who bribed the soldiers could secretly have bribed them; therefore the support of the priests and rulers would have rendered the declaration of the chosen witnesses suspicious. Their inveterate opposition to the cause, and violent persecution of the Christians, remove all suspicion of priestcraft and political design. If the disciples had agreed to impose upon the world in this affair, common sense Mark xv. 42 an honourable counsellor,
would have directed them, first to spread the report that our Lord was risen from the grave, and then to employ an individual, whom they could trust, to personate him, and to appear before the multitude in such a manner and at such times as would not endanger a discovery: as our Lord never appeared to the multitude after his resurrection, this removed all suspicion that the disciples had contrived a scheme for deceiving the people.
These considerations show that our Saviour's appearance, after he rose from the dead, only to a competent number of witnesses, who were intimately acquainted with him before his decease, is a circumstance highly calculated to establish the truth of his resurrection to posterity.
The character of the apostles also proves the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; and there are nine considerations which give their evidence sufficient weight, viz.
1. The condition of these witnesses. They were not men of power, riches, eloquence, or credit, to impose upon the world. They were poor, and mean, and despised: they were also incredulous of the fact itself. It is evident, that though our Saviour foretold his resurrection, yet after his death the disciples did not expect it, and therefore were with difficulty convinced of its reality. But as it was a subject of the highest importance to them and to the world, they obtained the fullest satisfaction of its truth. Intimately acquainted with his person after his resurrection, they felt his body, frequently examined his person, renewed the private conversations which he had with them before his decease, and enjoyed such an intimacy with him, as removed the possibility of their being deceived. . 2. The number of these witnesses. This was more than sufficient to establish any fact. When St. Paul published a defence of our Lord's resurrection, he declared to the world that Jesus appeared to five hundred witnesses at one time ; and he appealed to a number of them, who were then alive, for the truth of his assertion. Could all those men agree voluntarily to maintain a vile falsehood, not only altogether unprofitable, but also such as involved them in certain dishonour, poverty, persecution, and death? According to their own principles, either as Jews or Christians, if this testimony, to which they adhered to the last moment of their lives, had been false, they exposed themselves to eternal misery. Under such circumstances, these men could not have persevered in maintaining a false testimony, unless God had wrought a miracle in human nature to enable impostors to deceive the world.
3. The facts, which they themselves avow : not suppositions, distant events, or events related by others, but real facts, which they have beheld with their own eyes. “That....which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of Life....declare we unto you." (1 John i. 1. 3.)
4. Observe the tribunals before which they gave evidence. The members of these tribunals were Jews and heathens, philosophers and rabbies, courtiers and Jawyers. If they had been impostors, the fraud would certainly have been discovered.
5. The place in which they bore testimony.—It was not at a distance where it