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place in which he had been buried, and a few days after he had been buried, his resurrection out of the grave, it is evident that, if his body could have been found, the Jews would have produced it, as the shortest and completest answer possible to the whole story. The attempt of the apostles could not have survived this refutation a moment. If we also admit, upon the authority of Saint Matthew, that the Jews were advertised of the expectation of Christ's followers, and that they had taken due précaution in consequence of this notice, and that the body was in marked and public custody, the observation receives more force still. For, notwithstanding their precaution, and although thus prepared and forewarned; when the story of the resurrection of Christ came forth, as it immediately did; when it was publicly asserted by his disciples, and made the ground and basis of their preaching in his name, and collecting followers to his religion, the Jews had not the body to produce: but were obliged to meet the testimony of the apostles by an answer,
not containing indeed any impossibility in
itself, but absolutely inconsistent with the ; supposition of their integrity; that is, in
other words, inconsistent with the supposition which would resolve their conduct into enthusiasm.
The propagation of Christianity.
In this argument, the first consideration is the fact; in what degree, within what time, and to what extent, Christianity actually was propagated.
The accounts of the matter, which can be collected from our books, are as follow: A few days after Christ's disappearance out of the world, we find an assembly of disciples at Jerusalem, to the number of about one hundred and twenty *,” which hundred and twenty were, probably, a little association of believers, met together, not merely as believers in Christ, but as personally connected with the apostles, and with one another. Whatever was the number of believers then in Jerusalem, we have no reason to be surprised that so small a company should assemble: for there is no proof, that the followers of Christ were yet formed into a society; that the society was reduced into any
* Acts, i. 15.
order; that it was at this time even understood that a new religion (in the sense which that term conveys to us) was to be set up
in the world, or how the professors of that religion were to be distinguished from the rest of mankind. The death of Christ had left, we may suppose, the generality of his disciples in great doubt, both as to what they were to do, and concerning what was to follow.
This meeting was holden, as we have already said, a few days after Christ's ascension: for, ten days after that event was the day of Pentecost, when, as our history relates *, upon a signal display of Divine agency attending the persons of the apostles, there were added to the society" about three thousand souls t." But here, it is not, I think, to be taken, that these three thousand were all converted by this single miracle; but rather that many, who before
* Acts, ii, 1,
+ Acts, ii. 41,
were believers in Christ, became now professors of Christianity; that is to say,
when they found that a religion was to be established, a society formed and set up in the name of Christ, governed by his laws, avowing their belief in his mission, united amongst themselves, and separated from the rest of the world, by visible distinctions ; in pursuance of their former conviction, and by virtue of what they had heard and seen and known of Christ's history, they publicly became members of it.
We read in the fourth chapter* of the Acts, that, soon after this, “ the number of the men,” i. e. the society openly professing their belief in Christ, “was about five thousand.” So that here is an increase of two thousand within a very short time. And it is probable that there were many, both now and afterwards, who, although they believed in Christ, did not think it necessary to join themselves to this society; or who waited to see what was likely to become of it. Gamaliel, whose advice to the
* Verse 4.