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3dly. The Sanhedrim believed the resurrection of Christ.
In the 4th of the Acts, we are informed, that the Sanhedrim had the Apostles brought before them for preaching, in the name of Christ, the doctrines of Christianity; and for affirming, that Christ was risen from the dead. Had they believed, that the Apostles stole away the body of Christ, they would now certainly have charged them with this gross fraud; this direct rebellion against the Roman and Jewish Governments; and, unless they could have cleared themselves of the crime, would have punished them for it with, at least, due severity. Such punishment would not only have been just; but it had now become necessary for the Sanhedrim to inflict it, in order to save their own reputation. They had originated the story; and were now under the strongest inducements to support it. Yet they did not even mention the subject; but contented themselves with commanding them to preach no more in the name of Christ.
In Acts 5th, we are told, that the whole body of the Apostles were brought before them again; for continuing to preach, in opposition to this command. On this occasion also, they kept a profound silence concerning the theft, which they had originally attributed to the Apostles; but charged them with disobedience to their former injunctions. In this charge are contained the following remarkable words : Did we not straitly command you, that ye should not teach in this name? and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon
To bring the blood of one person upon another is phraseology, frequently used in the Bible. In fifteen * different instances, in which we find it there, it has but a single meaning : viz. to bring the guilt of contributing to the death of a person, or the guilt of murder, upon another person. When it is said, His blood shall be upon his own head; it is clearly intended, that the guilt of his death shall be upon himself. When, therefore, the Sanhedrim accuse the Apostles of attempting to bring the blood of Christ upon them; they accuse them of an intention to bring upon them the guilt of shedding his blood: this being the only meaning of such phraseology in the Scriptures.
* Lev. xx. 9, 11, 13, 16, 27. 8. 1 Kings ii. 37. Jer. li. 35. Acts xviii. 6.
Deut. xix. 10. xxii, 8. 2 Sam. i. 16. xvi.
Should any doubt remain in the mind of any man, concerning this interpretation; it may be settled, I think, beyond all question, by recurring to another passage, to which, hitherto, I have not alluded. In Matthew xxvii. 24, 25, we are told, that, when Pilate saw, that he could prevail nothing towards releasing Christ, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude : saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person ; see ye to it: and that then, all the people answered, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. The meaning of the phraseology in this passage cannot be mistaken: and it is altogether probable, that the declaration of the Sanhedrim, being made, so soon after this imprecation, to the Apostles, so deeply interested in the subject, and on an occasion, which so naturally called it up to view, the Sanhedrim referred to it directly.
But if Christ was not raised from the dead; he was a false prophet; an impostor ; and, of course, a Blasphemer: because he asserted himself to be the Messiah; the Son of God. Such a blasphemer the law of God condemned to death. The Sanhe drim were the very persons, to whom the business of trying, and condemning him was committed by that law, and whose duty it was to accomplish his death. If, therefore, his body was not raised from the dead ; there was no guilt in shedding his blood, but the mere performance of a plain duty. His blood, that is, the guilt of shedding it, could not possibly rest on the Sanhedrim; nor, to use their language, be brought upon them by the Apostles, nor by any others. All this the Sanhedrim perfectly knew : and therefore, had they not believed him to have risen from the dead, they could never have used this phraseology.
It is further to be observed, that, on both these occasions, the Apostles boldly declared to the Sanhedrim, in the most explicit terms, that Christ was raised from the dead. Yet the Sanhedrim not only did not charge them with the crime of having stolen his body, but did not contradict, nor even comment on, the declaration. This could not possibly have happened through inattention. Both the Sanhedrim, and the Apostles, completely knew, that the resurrection of Christ was the point, on which his cause, and their opposition to it, entirely turned. It was the great and serious controversy between the contending parties; and yet, though directly asserted to their faces by the Apostles, the Sanhedrim did not even utter a syllable on the subject.
Had they believed their own story, they would either bave punished the Apostles with death, as rebels against the Jewish and Roman governments; or confined them, as lunatics, in a bedlam.
IV. Christ was raised from the dead, because the Apostles converted mankind to his religion.
The Apostles, from the beginning to the end, published the story of Christ's resurrection, as the proof of his mission, and doctrines; and as the foundation, on which rested their own commission, and the truth of the religion, which they taught. To prove the reality of his resurrection, they publicly declared, that he had invested them with the power of working miracles on all occasions; and openly asserted, that they were possessed of this power. Here, then, the cause was fairly at issue between them and mankind. If they wrought miracles, in proof of this story; the story was true of course ; because, as I observed in a preceding discourse, none, but God, can work a miracle; and God cannot support a falsehood.
That this was the real profession of the Apostles is unitedly testified, without one dissenting voice, by all antiquity; Heathen, Jewish, and Christian. It is, therefore, certainly true.
If the Apostles, after having made this profession, did not work miracles; they were convicted of falsehood in a moment. Their cause fell at once: for they had rested it wholly on this single fact. The weakest man would see, at a glance, that they were cheats, and liars; and could never place the least confidence in any of their declarations. They could not, therefore. have made a single convert.
But they did convert a great part of the civilized, and not a small part of the savage, world. They, therefore, certainly wrought miracles, in the manner, which they professed, as proof of the reality of Christ's resurrection. The resurrection of Christ was of course real. God set to it his own seal; and placed it beyond every reasonable doubt.
That the Apostles wrought miracles, in great numbers, is completely proved, also, by the united testimony of Heathen, Jews, and Christians. All these classes of men were deeply interested to deny this fact, if it could with any pretence be denied. The Heathen and Jews would certainly have denied it; because they wished to prevent as far as possible, other Heathen and other Jews from embracing Christianity; and because, if they could have supported the denial, they would have stopped the growth of that religion in its infancy. Christians would have denied it, that is, such as became Christians in consequence of a belief in these miracles under any illusion, which could have been practised on them, because they would certainly have detected the cheat; and must have strongly resented the villany, by which it had been played off upon themselves. I say these things, admitting the supposition, that the imposture might succeed for a time. But, to my own view, such success must plainly have been impossible.
All these persons have, however, agreed in asserting, that the Apostles wrought miracles. The Jews and Heathen attributed them to magic. Christians, under the influence of their conviction, that miracles were thus wrought, hazarded, and yielded, every enjoyment of life, and very often life itself.
We have now, if I do not mistake, come to the clear and certain conclusion ; that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God. But if Christ was raised from the dead; it follows by irresistible consequence, that he was approved of God; and of course that he was the Son of God, and the promised Messiah ; sent from Heaven to communicate the Divine will to mankind concerning their duty and salvation. The religion, which he taught, is in all its parts Divine truth; the will of our Maker; and the sum, and substance, of all our interest and duty. Of course, it cannot be rejected without infinite hazard; it cannot be embraced without complete assurance of infinite gain : the favour of God in this world, and cternal life in the world to come. VOL II.
AMIABLENESS OF CHRIST
PUBLISHING THE GOSPEL TO MANKIND.
Isaiah lii. 7.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth
good tidings; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good ; that publisheth salvation ; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.
In a long series of discourses I have investigated, minutely, the Character and Mediation of Christ; and have considered his Divine and human nature ; his Offices, as a Prophet, Priest, and King; his Miracles; and his Resurrection. I shall now close this great and interesting subject of Theology by attempting to exhibit, summarily, the Excellency and Amiableness of Christ, as manifested in his interference on the behalf of mankind.
In the text, the prophet Isaiah presents to us the advent of a Messenger of good tidings to mankind. This Messenger is represented as announcing to the world good, or happiness, at large; as publishing peace, salvation, and the glorious news, that the God, wio reigns universally, is the God of Zion. His appearance is exhibited by the Prophet as filling his own mind with astonishment, and ecstasy. Nothing could more forcibly convey to us the prophet's rapturous sense of the importance of these tidings, or