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from such an attempt? If they miscarried, of the Roman gods ?-Our belief of this it was certain ruin, both to them and their fact is chiefly founded upon the testimony cause. If they succeeded, it is difficult to of Justin Martyr, and Tertullian, two say what use they could make of their suc- learned heathens, in the age succeeding
Unless they could have produced Christ, who became Christians from this their dead body alive, the second error very evidence, among others, in favour of would be worse than the first. Their mas- Christianity. In their apologies*, still ter's prophecy of his own resurrection was extant, one of which was made to the se. an unhappy circumstance; yet still it was nate of Rome, the other to a Roman gowrapped in a veil of obscurity. But if his vernor, they both appeal to these records disciples endeavoured to prove its com- of Pontius Pilate, as then generally known; pletion, it was their business to look well which we cannot conceive-such able apoto the event. A detection would be such logists would have done, if no such rea comment upon their master's text as cords ever had existedt. would never be forgotten-When a cause Having seen what was of old objected depends on falsehood, every body knows, to the resurrection of Christ, it may be the less it is moved the better.
also to see the objections of modern This was the case of the other side. disbelievers. Obscurity there was wanted. If the chief And, first, we have the stale objection, priests had any proof, why did they not that nothing is more common among the produce it? Why were not the disciples propagators of every new religion, than taken up and examined upon the fact? to delude their ignorant proselytes with They never absconded. Why were they idle stories. What a variety of inconsistnot judicially tried? Why was not the ent tales did the votaries of heathenism trial made public? and why were not au- believe! What absurdities are adopted thentic memorials of the fraud handed into the Mahometan creed! To what down to posterity; as authentic memo- strange facts do the vulgar papists give rials were of the fact, recorded at the very credit! And can we suppose better of time and place, where it happened? the resurrection of Christ, than that it was Christianity never wanted enemies to pro- one of those pious frauds, intended merely pagate its disparagement. But nothing to impose upon the people, and advance of this kind was done. No proof was at the credit of the new sect? tempted-except indeed the testimony of This is just as easily said, as that his men asleep. The disciples were never disciples stole him away, while the guard questioned upon the fact; and the chief slept. Both are assertions without proof. priests rested satisfied with spreading an Others have objected Christ's partial inconsistent rumour among the people, discovery of himself, after his resurrecimpressed merely by their own autho- tion. If he had boldly shewn himself to rity.
the chief priests; or publicly to all the Whatever records of heathen origin re- people; we might have had a more ramain, evince the truth of the resurrection. tional foundation for our belief. But as One is very remarkable. Pontius Pilate he had only for his witnesses, upon this sent the emperor Tiberius a relation of the occasion, a few of his chosen companions, death and resurrection of Christ; wbich the thing has certainly a more secret apwere recorded at Rome, as usual, among pearance than might be wished. other provincial matters. This intelli- This insinuation is founded upon a pasgence made so great an impression, it sage in the Acts of the Apostles, in which seems, upon the emperor, that he referred it is said, that “God shewed him openly, it to the senate, whether Jesus Christ of not to all the people, but'unto witnesses Judea should not be taken into the number chosen before of God.” The question is,
* Just. Mart. Apol. ad Anton. P.-Tertull. Apol. cap. 15.
+ The Acts of Pilate, as they are called, are often treated with contempt; for no reason, that I know. I never met with any thing against them of more authority than a sneer. Probable they certainly were; and a bare probability, when nothing opposes it, has its weight. But here the probability is strengthened by no small degree of positive evidence; which, if the reader wishes to see collected in one point of view, I refer him to the article of “Christ's suffering under Pontius Pilate,” in Bishop Pearson's Exposition of the Creed.
Among other authorities, that of the learned commentator on Eusebius, is worth remarking: “ Puere genuina Pilati acta; ad quæ provocabant primi Christiani, tanquam ad certissima fidei monumenta."
What is meant by witnesses chosen before there can surely be no reasonable cause of of God? Certainly nothing more than offence at his appearing, besides these, 10 persons expressly, and by particular desig- a few of his chosen companions, who atnation, intended to be the witnesses of this tended by express appointment, as perevent, Others might see him if they sons designed to record the event. pleased : but these were not the people, to In fact, if the same method be pursued whom God shewed him openly: this par- in this inquiry, which is usual in all others, ticular designation was confined to the the evidence of these chosen companions “ chosen witnesses." --And is there any is all that is necessary. Here are twelve thing more in this, than we see daily in all men produced in general three or four legal proceedings ! Does not every body men are thought sufficient) on whose eviwish to have the fact, about which he is dence the fact depends. Are they com. concerned, authenticated by indubitable petent witnesses? Have they those marks records; or by living testimony, if it can about them which characterize men of inbe had | Do we not procure the hands of tegrity? Can they be challenged on any witnesses, appointed to this purpose, in all one ground of rational exception ? If not, our deeds and writings ? Let us not, their evidence is as strictly legel, as full, however, answer the objection by an ar- and as satisfactory, as any reasonable man bitrary explanation of the text ; but let us can require. But in this great cause, we compare this explanation with the matter see the evidence is carried still farther. of fact,
Here are five hundred persons waiting On the morning of the resurrection, the without, ready to add their testimony, if apostles, who ran to the sepulchre to make any one should require it, to what has themselves acquainted with wbat they had already been more than legally proved. heard, received a message from their mas- So that the argument even addresses itself ter, enjoining them to meet him in Galilee, to that absurd distinction, which we often It does not appear, that this message was find in the cavils of infidelity, between rem conveyed with any secrecy; it is rather certam and rem certissimam. probable it wasnot; and that the diseiples Upon the whole, then, we may affirm told it to as many as they met. The wo. boldly, that this great event of the resurinea, it is expressly said, told it “ to the rection of Christ is founded
evidence eleven, and all the rest." Who the rest equal to the importance of it. If we exwere does not appear: but it is plain, from pect still more, our answer is upon record : the sequel, that the thing was generally “ If ye believe not Moses and the proknown; and that as many as chose either phets,” God's ordinary means of salvation, to satisfy their faith, or gratify their curio. * neither will ye be persuaded, though one
. sity, repaired for that purpose to Galilee. rose from the dead." There must be And thus we find St. Peter making a dis- bounds in all humanevidence; and he who tinction between the voluntary and the will believe nothing, unless he have every chosen witnesses--between those “who possible mode of proof, must be an infidel had companied with the apostles all the in almost every transaction of life. With time that the Lord Jesus went in and out such persons there is no reasoning. They among them, from his baptism till his as- who are not satisfied because Christ did cension,” and those who were ordained not appear in open parade at Jerusalem; to be the witnesses of his resurrection*." would farther have asked, if he had ap
St. Paul goes farther, and in express peered in the manner they expected, why words tells us, “ that Christ was seent did he not appear to every nation upon after his resurrection of above five bun- earth ? Or, perhaps, why he did not shew dred brethren at once;" and it is pro
himself to every
individual ! bable, from the expression, " at once," To these objections may be added a that be was seen, at different times, by scruple, taken from a passage many more.
ture, in which it is said, that “Christ If then Christ thus appeared in Galilee should lie three days and three nights in to as many as chose to see him ; or even the heart of the earth :” whereas, in fact, if he appeared only to five hundred people, he only lay two nights, one whole day, of whom St. Paul tells us the greatest part and a part of two others. were still alive, when he wrote this epistle, But no figure in speech is more com
* Acts, i. 21.
+ 1. Cor. xv.
mon than that of putting a part for the for a guide, we should hereafter be acwhole. In the Hebrew language, perhaps countable for its abuse: and the poets, this license is more admissible than in who were the prophets of early days, and any other. A day and a night complete durst deliver those truths under the veil of one whole day: and as our Saviour lay in fable, which the philosopher kept more to the ground a part of every one of these himself, give us many traits of the popular three portions of time, he might be said, belief on this subject t. But the gospel by an easy liberty of speech, to have lain alone threw a full light upon this awful the whole.
Gilpin. truth. § 103. Creed continued-Christ's Ascen- riosity of human nature, ever delighting
In examining this great article, the cusion-Belief in the Holy Ghost.
to explore unbeaten regions, hath often We believe farther that Christ“ been tempted beyond its limits, into fruitcended into heaven, and sitteth on the less inquiries; scrutinizing the time of right hand of God.”
this event; and settling, with vain preciChrist's ascension into heaven rests on sion, the circumstances of it, All curithe same kind of proof, as his resurrec- osity of this kind is idle at least, if not tion. Both of them are events, which the presumptuous. When the Almighty hath apostles were “ ordained to witness.” But thrown a veil over any part of his dispenthough their testimony in this case, as welisation, it is the folly of man to endeavour as in the resurrection, is certainly the most to draw it aside. legal, and authentic proof, and fully suffi
Let us then leave all fruitless inquiries cient for any reasonable man; yet this about this great event; and employ our does not exclude the voluntary testimony thoughts chiefly upon such circumstances of others. It is evident that the apostles of it as most concern us-Let us animate were not the sole eye-witnesses of this our hopes with the soothing reflection, that event: for when St. Peter called together we have our sentence, in a manner, in our the first assembly of the church to choose a own power, that the same gracious gossuccessor to Judas Iscariot, he tells them, pel which directs our lives, shall direct the they must necessarily choose one, out of judgment we receive that the same grathose men who had been witnesses of all cious person shall be our judge, who died that Christ did, from his baptism,“ till for our sins--and that his goodness, we his ascension :" and we find, there were are assured, will still operate towards us ; in that meeting an hundred and twenty and make the kindest allowances for all persons, thus qualified.
our infirmities. Be it however as it will, if this article But lest our hopes should be too buoyshould rest on a less formal proof, than the ant, let us consider, on the other hand, what resurrection, it is of no great consequence :
an awful detail against us will then appear. for if the resurrection be fully proved, no- The subject of that grand inquiry will be body caa well deny the ascension. If the all our transgressions of known duty-all testimony of the evangelists be allowed to our omissions of knowing better-our seprove the one ; their word may be taken cret intentions—our indulged evil thoughts to establish the other.
- the bad motives which often accompany With regard to “ the right hand of our most plausible actions--and we are God,” it is a scriptural expression used told, even our idle words.—“He that hath merely in conformity to our gross concep- ears to hear, let him hear." -_- Then shall it tions; and it is not intended to imply any be known, whether we have answered the distinction of parts, but merely the idea great ends of life?—Whether we have of pre-eminence.
made this world subservient to a better? We believe farther, that “Christ shall Whether we have prepared ourselves for a come to judge the quick and the dead." state of happiness in heaven, by endeavour
This article contains the most serious ing to communicate happiness to our feltruth that ever was revealed to mankind, low-creatures upon earth? Whether we In part it was an article of the heathen have restrained our appetites, and passions; creed. To unenlightened nature it seemed and reduced them within the bounds of probable, that, as we had reason given us reason and religion ? Or, whether we have
See Acts, i. 15.
+ See particularly the 6th Book of Virgil's Æn.
given ourselves up to pleasure, gain, or let us be diligent, that we may be found ambition; and formed such attachments of him in peace, without spot, and blame. to this world, as fit us for nothing else; less; that each of us may receive that and leave us no hopes either of gaining, blessed sentence, Well done, thou good or of enjoying a better? It will be happy and faithful servant: thou hast been faithfor us, if, on all these heads of inquiry, we ful over a little, enter thou into the joy of can answer without dismay-Worldly dis- thy Lord.” tinctions, we know, will then be of no avail. We believe, farther, in “the Holy The proudest of them will be then con- Ghost;" that is, we believe every thing founded. “ Naked came we into the which the Scriptures tell us of the Holy world; and naked must we return.” We Spirit of God. We inquire not into the can carry nothing beyond the grave, but nature of its union with the Godhead. our virtues, and our vices.
We take it for granted, that the Father, I shall conclude what hath been said on the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have some the last judgment with a collection of pase kind of union, and some kind of distincsages on this head from Scripture ; where tion; because both this union and this disonly our ideas of it can be obtained. And tinction are plainly pointed out in Scripthough most of these passages are figu- ture; but how they exist we inquire not; rative; yet as figures are intended to illus- concluding here, as in other points of diftrate realities, and are indeed the only ficulty, that if a clearer information had illustrations of which this subject is capa. been necessary, it would have been afforded. ble, we may take it for granted, that these With regard to the operations of the figurative expressions are intended to con- Holy Spirit of God, (besides which, little vey a just idea of the truth. With a
more on this head is revealed) we believe, view to make the more impression upon that it directed the apostles, and enabled you, I shall place these passages in a re- them to propagate the gospel--and that it gular series, though collected from various will assist all good men in the conscienparts.
tious discharge of a pious life. " The Lord himself shall descend from The Scripture doctrine with regard to heaven with his holy angels.—The trumpet the assistance we receive from the Holy shall sound; and all that are in the grave Spirit of God (which is the most essential shall hear his voice, and come forth — part of this article) is briefly this : Then shall he sit upon the throne of his Our best endeavours are insufficient, glory; and all nations shall be gathered We are unprofitable servants, after all; before him—the books shall be opened; and cannot please God, unless sanctified, and men shall be judged according to their and assisted by the Holy Spirit. Hence works.—They who have sinned without the life of a good man hath been somelaw, shall perish (that is, be judged) with times called a standing miracle ; someout law; and they who have sioned in the thing beyond the common course of nalaw, shall be judged by the law.-Unto ture. To attain any degree of goodness, whomsoever much is given, of him shall we must be supernaturally assisted. be much required. Then sball he say to At the same time we are assured of this them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed, assistance, if we strive to obtain it by ferinherit the kingdom prepared for you. vent prayer, and a pious life. If we trust And to them on his left, Depart from me, in ourselves, we shall fail. If we trust in ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared God without doing all we can ourselves, we for the devil and his angels.—Then shall shall fail likewise. And if we continue the righteous shine forth in the presence of obstinate in our perverseness, we may at their Father; while the wicked shall go length totally incapacitate ourselves from into everlasting punishment: there shall being the temples of the Holy Ghost. be wailing and gnashing of teeth.-- What And indeed what is there in all this, manner of persons ought we then to be in which common life does not daily illusall holy conversation, and godliness? look. trate? Is any thing more common, than ing for, and hastening unto, the day of our for the intellect of one man to assist that Lord; when the Heavens being on fire, of another? Is not the whole scheme of shall be dissolved, and the elements shall education an infusion of knowledge and melt with fervent heat.—Wherefore, be- virtue not our own ? Is it not evident too loved, seeing that we look for such things, that nothing of this kind can be commu
nicated without application on the part of call no particular society of Christians a the learner? Are not the efforts of the holy catholic church; but believe, that teacher in a manner necessarily propor- all true and sincere Christians, of whatever tioned to this application? If the learner communion, or particular opinion, shall becomes languid in his pursuits, are not be the objects of God's mercy. The pathe endeavours of the teacher of course triarchal covenant was confined to a few. discouraged ? And will they not at length The Jewish church stood also on a very wholly fail, if it be found in the end they narrow basis. But the Christian church, answer no purpose !—In a manner ana- we believe, is truly catholic: its gracious logous to this, the Holy Spirit of God offers are made to all mankind; and God co-operates with the endeavours of man. through Christ will take out of every naOur endeavours are necessary to obtain tion such as shall be saved. God's assistance: and the more earnestly
The “communion of saints," is an exthese endeavours are exerted, the measure pression equally obscure: and whatever of his grace will of course be greater. might have been the original meaning of But on the other d, if these endea- it, it certainly does not resolve itself into vours languish, the assistance of Heaven a very obvious one to us. If we say we will lessen in proportion; and if we be- mean by it, that good Christians living have with obstinate perverseness, it will together on earth, should exercise all of by degrees wholly fail. It will not al- fices of charity among themselves, no one ways strive with man; but will leave him will contradict the article; but many pera melancholy prey to his own vicious in- haps may ask, Why is it made an article clipations.
of faith? It relates not so much to faith, As to the manner in which this spiritual as to practice: and the ten commandassistance is conveyed, we make no in- ments might just as well be introduced as quiry. We can as little comprehend it, articles of our belief. as we can the action of our souls upon our
To this I can only suggest, that it may bodies. We are sensible, that our souls have a place among the articles of our do act upon our bodies; and it is a belief creed, as a test of our enlarged ideas of equally consonant to reason, that the divine Christianity, and as opposed to the narrowinfluence may act upon our souls. The mindedness of some Christians, who haradvocate for natural religion need not be bour very uncharitable opinions against reminded, that among the heathens a di- all who are not of their own church; and
a vine influence was a received opinion. The scruple not to show their opinions by unpriests of every oracle were supposed to be charitable actions. The papists, particuinspired by their gods; and the heroes of larly, deny salvation to any but those of antiquity were universally believed to act their own communion, and persecute under the influence of a supernatural assist those of other persuasions where they ance; by which it was conceived they bave the power. In opposition to this, performed actions beyond human power.-- we profess our belief of the great Chris
This shews, at least, that there is nothing tian law of charity. We believe we ought in this doctrine repugnant to reason.
to think charitably of good Christians of Gilpin. all denominations; and ought to practise
a free and unrestrained communion of § 104. Creed continued— The Holy Ca
charitable offices towards them. tholic Church, &c.
In this light the second part of the arWe believe, further, in the "holy ca- ticle depends upon the first. By the “ holy tholic church," and the “ communion of catholic church," we mean all sincere saints.”
Christians, of whatever church, or peculia“ I believe in the holy catholic church,” rity of opinion; and by “the communion is certainly a very obscure expression to a of saints,” a kind and charitable behaProtestant; as it is very capable of a viour towards them. popish construction, implying our trust in Though it is probable this was not the the infallibility of the church ; whereas we original meaning of the article, yet as the attribute infallibility to no church upon reformers of the liturgy did not think it earth. The most obvious sense, therefore, proper to make an alteration, we are led in which it can be considered as a protes- to seek such a sense as appears most contant article of our belief, is this, that we sistent with scripture. We are assured,