Obrazy na stronie

my bre

at once : Jesus Christ promised this appearance to the women, Go into Galilee, and tell thren, that they shall see me there, Matt. xxviii. 10. St. Luke tells us in the first chapter of Acts, that the church consisted of about an hundred and twenty members; this was the church at Jérusalem : but the greatest part of the five hundred, of whom St. Paul speaks, were of Galilee, where Jesus Christ had preached his gospel, and where these converts abode after his resurrection. The apostle subjoins, after that he was seen of James ; this appearance is not related by the evangelists : but St. Paul knew it by tradition.*

St. Jerom writes, that in a Hebrew gospel, attributed to St. Matthew, called The gospel of the Nazarenes, it was said, Jesus Christ appeared to St. James ; that, this apostle having made a vow neither to eat nor drink till Jesus should rise from the dead, the divine Saviour took bread and broke it, took wine and poured it out, and said to him, Eat and drink, for the son of man is risen from the dead.t St. Paul yet adds further, Then he was seen of all the

* Two of our Lord's apostles were named James. The elder of the two, brother of John, was put to death by Herod, Acts xii. 2. The other, who was first cousin to Jesus Christ, was called the less, the younger probably, and lived many years after. It is not certain which of the two St. Paul means. It he mean the first, he had the account of the appearing of the Lord to him, probably, as Mr. Saurin says, by tradition : If the last, it is likely, he had it from James himself; for him he saw at Jerusalem, Gal. i. 19. and he was living in the year 57, when St. Paul wrote this first epistle to the Corinthians.

+ The gospel, of which Mr. Saurin, after St. Jerom, speaks, is now lost. It was probably one of those mangled, interpolated, copies of the true gospel of St. Matthew, which, through the avidity of the lower sort of people to know the history of Jesus Christ, had been transcribed, and debased, and was handed about the world. I call it mangled ; because some parts of the true gospel were omitted. I call it interpolated ; because some things were added from other gospels, as the history of the woman caught in adultery, from St. John : Euseb. Eccl. hist. lib. iii. cap. 39. and others from report, as the above passage relative to James, &c. This book was written


apostles ; and, last of all, of me also, as of one born out of due time. So numerous were the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ ! from this fact we derive a second argument ; for had the witnesses been few, it might have been said, that the base design of deceiving the whole church was formed by one, and propagated by a few more; or that some one had fancied he saw Jesus Christ : but when St. Paul, when the rest of the apostles, when five hundred brethren attest the truth of the fact; what room remains for suspicion and doubt?

3. Observe the facts themselves, which they avow, had they been metaphysical reasonings, depending on a chain of principles and consequences ; had they been periods of chronology, depending on long and difficult calculations ; had they been distant events, which could only have been known by the relations of others; their reasonings might have been suspected : But they are facts, which are in question, facts, which, the witnesses declared, they had seen with their own eyes at divers places, and at several times. Had they seen Jesus Christ ? Had they touched him? Had they sitten at table, and eaten with him? Had they conversed with him? All these are questions of fact : it was impossible they could be deceived in them. needs be people of different capacities and tempers, the witty and the dull, the timid and the bold;, it is very strange, that such a numerous body as this should maintain an unity of evidence. This, however, is the case of our witnesses. What christian ever contradicted himself? What christian ever impeached his accomplices ? What christian ever discovered this pretended imposture ?

4. Remark the agreement of their evidence, They all unanimously deposed, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It is very extraordinary, that a gang of five hundred impostors, (I speak the language of infidels) a company, in which there must in Syriac, with Hebrew characters, St. Jerom translated it into Greek, and Latin, and divers of the fathers quote it, as Hegesippus, Euseb. E., H. lib. iv. 22. Ignatius Ep. and Smyrnenses, Edit Userii, p. 112. Clement of Alexandria, Stromat. lib. ii. p. 278, Edit. Lugdun. 1616. Origèn, St. Jerum, &c. It went by the names of the gospel according to St. Matthew, the gospel according to the Hebrews, the gospel of the twelve apostles, the gospel of the Nazarepes, See Luke i. 1, 2.

5. Observe the tribunals, before which they gave evidence, and the innumerable multitude of people by whom their testimony was examined, by Jews and Heathens, by philosophers and Rabbies, and by an infinite number of people, who went annually to Jerusalem : For, my brethren, Providence, so ordered these circumstances, that the testimony of the apostles might be unsuspected. Providence continued Jerusalem forty years after the resurrection of our Lord, that all the Jews, in the world might examine the evidence concerning it, and obtain authentic proof of the truth of christianity. I repeat it again, then, the apostles maintained the resurrection of Jesus Christ before Jews, before Pagans, before philosophers, before Rabbies, before courtiers, before lawyers, before people expert in examining, and in cross-examining witnesses, in order to lead them into self-contradiction. Had the apostles, borne their testimony in consequence of a pre-concerted plot between themselves, is it not morally certain that, as they were examined before such different and capable men, some one would have discovered the pretended fraud ?

6. Consider the place, in which the apostles bore their testimony. Had they published the resurrection of the Saviour of the world in distant countries, beyond mountains and seas, it might have been supposed, that distance of place, rendering it extremely difficult for their hearers to obtain exact in

formation, had facilitated the establishment of the error: But the apostles preached in Jerusalem, in the synagogues, in the pretorium; they unfolded and displayed the banners of their master's cross, and set up tokens of his victory, on the very spot on which the infamous instrument of his sufferings has been set up.

7. Observe the time of this testimony. Had the apostles first published this resurrection several years after the epocha which they assigned for it ; unbelief might have availed itself of the delay : but three days after the death of Jesus Christ, they said, he was risen again, and they re-echoed their testimony in a singular manner at Penticost, when Jerusalem expected the spread of the report, and endeavored to prevent it ; while the eyes of their enemies were yet sparkling with rage and madness; and while Calvary was yet dyed with the blood they had spilt there. Do impostors take such measures ? would not they have waited till the fury of the Jews had been appeased, till judges and public officers, had been changed, and till people had been less attentive to their depositions !

8. Consider, lastly, the motives, which induced the apostles to publish the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Survey the face of the world, examine all the impostures, that are practiced in society. Falshood, imposition, treachery, perjury, abound in society. To every different trade and profession some peculiar deceptions belong. However, all mankind have one design in deceiving, they all deceive for their own interest. Their interests are infinitely diversified : but it is interest, however, that always animates all deceivers. There is one interest of pride, another of pleasure, a third of profit. In the case before us the nature of things is subverted, and all our notions of the human heart con

tradicted. It must be pre-supposed, that, whereas other men generally sacrifice the interest of their salvation to their temporal interest, the apostles, on the contrary, sacrificed their temporal interest without any inducement from the interest of salvation itself. Suppose they had been craftily led, during the life of Jesus Christ, into the expectation of some temporal advantages, how came it to pass, that, after they saw their hopes blasted, and themselves threatened with the most rigorous punishments, they did not redeem their lives by confessing the imposture ? In general, the more wicked a traitor is, the more he trembles, alters and confesses, at the approach of death. Having betrayed, for his own interest, the laws of his country, the interests of society, the confidence of his prince, and the credit of religion, he betrays the companions of his imposture, the accomplices of his crimes. Here, on the contrary, the apostles persist in their testimony till death, and sign the truths they have published with the last drops of their blood. These are our arguments.

We proceed now to our demonstrations, that is, to the miracles, with which the apostles sealed the truth of their testimony. Imagine these venerable men addressing their adversaries on the day of the christian pentecost in this language. “ You “ refuse to believe us on our depositions ; five hun« dred of us, you think, are enthusiasts, all in“ fected with the same malady, who have carried “ our absurdity so far as to imagine that we have

seen a man, whom we have not seen ; eaten “ with a man, with whom we have not eaten; “ conversed with a man, with whom we have not

conversed : or perhaps you think us impostors,

or take us for madmen, who intend to suffer “ ourselves to be imprisoned, and tortured, and

2 D


« PoprzedniaDalej »