Obrazy na stronie

been the true servants, the real worshippers of God, or he never had any upon the earth. Now then the question recurs, who has established in the world this excellent and pure worship of Christians ? Is God himself the author of it; or did some shameful impostors give currency to it by falsehood and lies ? If what the gospel tells us of the resurrection of Jesus Christ be true, the case is decided : it is God himself who has introduced the Christian religion. If what the gospel tells us of this resurrection be a fable, we must say that some ignorant unenlightened fishermen have caused the most holy of all religions to be received in the world ; that it is to the fraud and imposture of these uninstructed men that God is indebted for it, if he has ever been served in a manner worthy of him. Is not this reflection alone sufficient to show that every suspicion against the fidelity of the apostles is improbable?

3. But if this is evident from considering the doctrine that these witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ would confirm by their testimony, it is no less evident from considering in themselves these witnesses and the witness which they give.

To accuse these witnesses of fraud, we must not only say that they have lied, but that they have lied for nothing, and without hoping for any benefit from it. Who can believe this? Who can suppose that they would utter a falsehood which was at once most criminal and most dangerous; which brought down upon them the greatest miseries, and exposed them to a shameful death? What could these persons seek in inventing and uttering so strange a fable ? This was not the way to arrive at honours, to amass riches, to procure the pleasures and enjoyments of this world. On the contrary, it was necessary


them to forego all these advantages, and 'expose themselves to the contempt of the world, to severe persecutions, to a thousand woes and miseries. What object could they possibly have in asserting that Christ was risen, if he still was in the tomb ?

Another reason which proves that it is against all probability to suspect the faithfulness of those who testify the resurrection of Jesus, is this : by forming such a suspicion we suppose that these witnesses attested a most criminal and most dangerous falsehood, not with a design to obtain any profit or glory for themselves, but in favour of another, in favour of a dead person, in favour of a dead person who had horribly deceived them for many years. The apostles attached themselves to Jesus Christ because they supposed him the Messiah promised to the people of God. They had quitted all to follow him. They had experienced with him many afflictions, had suffered the contempt of the world, reproach, and poverty. They hoped to be richly recompensed for this in the kingdom of this Messiah which they expected. When Jesus Christ died upon the cross, they were afflicted and terrified. There was, however, still one resource. Jesus Christ had promised that he should rise again the third day; but if that had not happened, we may easily imagine what would have been the sentiments of these apostles. They would have been convinced that this Jesus whom they had so long followed, for whom they had forsaken all, was but an impostor, who had amused them with vain hopes, who had deceived them in a shameful manner, who had exposed them to the contempt and hatred of the world, who had cast them into poverty and the extremity of misery. Could the memory of such a man be dear to them? Who can believe that for his sake they would have invented the most dangerous of all falsehoods, and that they would have maintained this falsehood with so much constancy in the midst of the greatest afflictions which they had to experience and to apprehend because of it? Is there in this supposition the least probability ?

I add a third reason which proves that it is entirely improbable that these witnesses of the resurrection attempted to deceive the world ; it is this: none of them could hope that their fraud would succeed, if their report had been fraudulent. It was a strange design to make the world believe, that a criminal who died upon the cross, and was buried, had recovered his life three days afterwards. The apostles must have felt every moment that they did not possess talents to persuade the world of a thing so incredible, and to conduct an enterprise so danger

But besides, none of them could confide in the others, who must necessarily be of the plot; and as no interest connected them together, each of them must every moment be apprehensive that he would be betrayed by some one of his companions who might either be gained or frightened. And certainly if such people as the apostles had been a company of impostors, it would have been a real miracle if so many powerful enemies of Christianity, who held in their hands punishments and rewards, had found no means to destroy a plot so miserably concerted. What would have been more easy than to seduce one of these people by promises or benefits, to intimidate another by threats and violence, and even to constrain some of them by torments to confess the truth?

[ocr errors]

These observations clearly prove, that any suspicion of an intention in the apostles to deceive is not only without foundation, but is besides contrary to all probability. But even supposing that a suspicion could be formed against them with some foundation and some probability, these reflections that we are about to add would entirely destroy it.

If we had a presumption sufficiently strong against the fidelity of a witness, would it not be sufficient to destroy this presumption, if this witness showed all the world by an irreproachable life, by an exemplary piety, by a constant holiness, that he was not a man capable of giving false witness ? Would it not be sufficient, if besides, this witness should suffer with much constancy the greatest afflictions, the most dreadful torments, to support his testimony ; if finally he should seal this witness with his blood ? Now this is what the witnesses of the resurrection of Christ have done.

They have first supported their testimony by a holy life and an exemplary piety. We may be assured of this by the testimony even of their enemies, who have confessed that their morals were irreproachable. We may be assured of it by reading their writings, which every where breathe sincerity, charity, humility, renunciation of the world, love to God and a zeal for his glory. We may be assured of it by considering with what warmth they press their holy morality; what a fervent desire and holy anxiety they have for the conversion and sanctification of all men ; if we reflect with what boldness they tell their hearers to be followers of them, as they also are followers of Christ. We may be assured of this piety of the apostles, by the wonderful efficacy of their preaching, by the astonishing number of conversions under their ministry; which would have been impossible had not their preaching been accompanied with extraordinary holiness of life. We may be assured of it by the testimony of their disciples, whose writings we still possess, who like their teachers were holy men, and who suffered martyrdom for the truths which they learned of these apostolic martyrs. Is it possible to suspect such men of a fraud, as impious as theirs would have been, if they themselves had invented what they testified of the resurrection of Christ?

But if the witnesses of this resurrection have proved their sincerity by the holiness of their lives, they have proved it still more clearly by what they suffered to support the truth of their testimony. I know that martyrdom is not a decisive proof of the truth of the doctrines which the martyr maintains, and that it is possible for a man to suffer martyrdom for a false doctrine: but at least martyrdom is a certain proof of the sincerity of him who suffers it : I believe even that it is the strongest proof which can be given. We may take a falsehood for a truth; we may be so convinced of it as to suffer great torments for this pretended truth: but it is incredible that we should suffer the severest tortures for a falsehood which we know in our conscience to be a falsehood. But nevertheless, we must say that this was done by the apostles, if they were impostors. I have not time, my brethren, to show you


great number and the severity of the torments to which the first preachers of the gospel and their immediate successors were exposed. I will only remark, that they suffered these persecutions voluntarily, and because of the testimony which they gave to Christ. They foresaw all that they would have to encounter

« PoprzedniaDalej »