Page images

of this miraculous attestation which God gave to our Saviour, viz. by raising him from the dead; which being a matter of fact, independent from all necessary causes, is capable of no other proof to those who were not eyewitnesses of it, but only that of credible testimony. Thus that Julius Cæsar was

. killed in the senate house, is a matter of fact, the truth of which is acknowledged by all the world, and that man would be accounted little better than mad that should make the least doubt of it; and yet we have no other way of proving this, but only by the concurrent testimony of credible historians, which being as great an evidence as the matter is capable of, is as much as any reasonable man can require to induce him to believe it. For although testimony be the only evidence by which matters of fact can be proved; yet it is such an evidence as hath force enough in it to induce any reasonable man to believe its proposals : and there are ten thousand things which we do as firmly assent to upon the evidence of testimony, as to any propositions upon the evidence of mathematical demonstration. If therefore the resurrection of our Saviour be but sufficiently attested, that is as good an argument of the truth of it as the nature of the thing will bear; and when it is made but as apparent that a thing is, as it could possibly be if it really were, there is no farther proof of it can be reasonably expected; and if, notwithstanding this, men will not believe, it is impossible that any reason should convince them. But in this testimony of our Saviour's resurrection there is as much evidence and credibility as there can be in any testimony whatso

For to give a testimony of the utmost force



of credibility, six things are required. First, That they that give it should be certainly informed of the truth of what they do attest. Secondly, That

. there should be a concurrence of a sufficient number of witnesses. Thirdly, That there should be no visible reason to suspect their truth and integrity. Fourthly, That there should be no apparent motive to induce them to give false witness. Fifthly, That they give some great security for the truth of what they say. And sixthly, That they also produce some certain sign or token of the reality of their testimony. And when all these circumstances do concur in a testimony, they render it as highly credible as it is possible for a testimony to be. Now in that testimony which we have of our Saviour's resurrection, there was, as I shall shew in the particulars, a full concurrence of them all. For,

1. They who testified it were certainly informed whether it were true or no; for they declare that they were eye and ear-witnesses of it, Acts iii. 15. and relate at large the familiar conversation they had with him after his resurrection, Acts x. 41. and they tell the story of it with so many circumstances, that it is impossible they should be deceived. For at his resurrection they find the stone rolled away from the mouth of his sepulchre, and nobody therein, although it was guarded by soldiers; so that it was impossible for any body to steal him away: and that it was his own body wherein he arose, and no aerial phantasm, evidently appears by what he did to convince St. Thomas, who would not believe, unless he might put his hand into the hole of his side, and see the print of the nails that pierced his hands, to which our Saviour readily condescended : and so

far were the apostles from being over credulous, that when he appeared to them after his resurrection, it is said, that they suspected him to be a spirit, or walking ghost; and to convince them of their mistake, he was fain to appeal to the judgment of their senses : Handle me, and see, saith he; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have, Luke xxiv. 39. and afterwards, more fully to satisfy their yet scrupulous minds, he eat and drank in the midst of them, ver. 43. Now the more suspicious and incredulous they were at first, the greater evidence it is that they were throughly informed of what they testified; that there was an undeniable evidence in the thing, else how could it have satisfied such scrupulous and incredulous persons; and that they were far from being willing to be abused themselves, or from having any design to abuse the world. And that their outward sense was not imposed upon by the strength of their imagination is evident, in that he conversed with them forty days together; which was too long a time for their senses to mistake an image of their fancies for a reality. For how is it conceivable, that so many persons as pretended to see him after his resurrection should for forty days together imagine that they saw him, heard him, eat and drank with him, when in reality all this scene of things was nothing but a dream or spectre of their own fancies ? that their fancies should create and represent a person to them frequently appearing to them, preaching and instructing them, giving out commissions, and administering holy ordinances to them ? that their fancies should draw them out to the mount of Olives after a spectre, that was visible no where but upon the stage of their own imagina

[blocks in formation]


tions, and there represent it carried up into heaven on a cloud ? Surely, if they were in their wits, it was impossible for them to believe such a train of things to be real, had they been only the images of their fancies. And yet that they were in their wits is as apparent as the sun, both from their unanimous consent in the relation of the fact, with all its circumstances, and from those wise and sober writings which they left behind them, which abound with excellent morals, solid and coherent reasonings, strong and powerful persuasions, without the least intermixture either of flat impertinence or ranting enthusiasm : which is a plain demonstration, that they were certainly informed concerning the matter of fact which they testified, whether it were true or false.

2. Another circumstance requisite to render a testimony highly credible, is the concurrence of several witnesses; of which we have a remarkable instance, in this testimony of our Saviour's resurrection. For if to those five hundred brethren and upwards, who, as St. Paul tells us, saw our Saviour after he was risen, 1 Cor. xv. 6. you add the congregation of the disciples he appeared to, when he baffled the infidelity of St. Thomas, together with those great assemblies that saw him in the mount of Galilee, and upon mount Olivet, from whence he ascended; it is not improbable, but that there were some thousands of persons that saw him after his resurrection, among all whom we find the most exact agreement both in the matter and circumstances of what they did attest, which, had it not been true, must have been morally impossible. For how could so vast a number of men have so punctually agreed in the same story, had it been a lie? especially when they were

so narrowly sifted, so craftily examined and crossexamined, as doubtless these men were, (or at least would have been, had there been any just ground to suspect them,) by the Jewish magistrates, who were all of them professed enemies to our Saviour and his doctrine. For had their testimony been forged, it is not imaginable how they should foresee what questions the magistrates would propose to them; nor consequently, how they should agree what answers to return to their several interrogatories: so that when they came to be examined, they must of necessity have thwarted and contradicted one another, at least in some circumstances of time or place, or the like, by which means the whole forgery must have soon been unravelled, and the credit of it for ever dashed out of countenance. But that no such thing ever happened is evident by the credit which their testimony found, even among those who had the best opportunities of examining whether it were true or false ; for the truth of Christ's doctrine depending upon the truth of this story of his resurrection, there can be no doubt but the Jewish magistrates, whose interest made them enemies to Christ, would not have been wanting, had they thought it feasible, to try all ways to disprove the truth of it; and if they did not, no other reason can be given of it, but only this, that the truth of the thing was so notorious, that it would have been ridiculous for them to attempt the disproving it; but if they did, it had been a very easy matter for them, had it been a lie, to have detected it. For the number of the witnesses being so great, and the Jews having every day opportunity of conversing with them, they might have easily trapped them in their

« PreviousContinue »