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served in our histories, which destroy this comparison entirely. It was not one person, but many, who saw him; they saw him not only separately, but together; not only by night, but by day; not at a distance, but near; not once, but several times; they not only saw him, but touched him, conversed with him, ate with him, examined his person, to satisfy their doubts. These particulars are decisive; but they stand, I do admit, upon the credit of our records. I would answer, therefore, the insinuation of enthusiasm, by a circumstance which arises out of the nature of the thing, and the reality of which must be confessed by all, who allow, what I believe is not denied, that the resurrection of Christ, whether true or false, was asserted by his disciples from the beginning; and that circumstance is the non-production of the dead body. It is related in the history, what indeed the story of the resurrection necessarily implies, that the corpse was missing out of the sepulchre: it is related also in the history, that the Jews reported that the followers of Christ had stolen it away." And this account, though loaded with great improbabilities, such as the situation of the disciples, their fears for their own safety at the time, the unlikelihood of their expecting to succeed, the difficulty of actual success, and the inevitable consequence of detection and failure, was nevertheless the most credible account that could be given of the matter. But it proceeds entirely upon the supposition of fraud, as all the old objections did. What account can be given of the body, upon the supposition of enthusiasm ? It is impossible our Lord's followers could believe that he was risen from the dead, if bis corpse was lying before them. No enthusiasm ever reached to such a pitch of extravagancy as that: a spirit may be an illusion, à body is a real thing; an object of sense, in which there can be no mistake. All accounts of spectres leave the body in the grave. And, although the body of Christ might be removed by fraud, and for the purposes of fraud,
* " And this saying," St. Matthew writes, " is commonly reported amongst the Jews until this day." (xxviii. 15.) The evangelist may be thought good authority as to this point, even by those who do rot admit his evidence in every other point and this point is sufficient to prove that the body was missing.
It has also been rightly, I think, observed by Dr. Townsend, (Dis. upon the Res. p. 126 ) that the story of the guards carried collusion upon the face of it:-** His disciples came by night and stole him away while we slept. Men in their circuinstances would not have made such an acknowledgement of their negligence without previous assurare ces of protection and impunity.
+ Especially at the full moon, the city full of people, many probably passing the whole night, as Jeslis and his disciples had done, in the open air, the sepnichre so near the city as to be now enclosed within the walls." Priceley on the Resur. p. 24.
any such intention, and by sincere but deladed. men, which is the representation of the apostolic character we are now examining, no such attempt could be made. The presence and the absence of the dead body are alike inconsistent with the hypothesis of enthusiasm ; for if present, it must have cured their enthusiasm at once; if absent, fraud, not enthusiasm, must have carried it away.
But further, if we admit upon the current testimony of all the histories so much of the account as states that the religion of Jesus was set up at Jerusalem, and set up with asserting, in the very 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 St. Matthew, that the Jews were advertised of the expectation of Christ's followers, and that they had taken due precaution 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 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.
CHAP. IX. 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 5 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 num. ber 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 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 held, 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." 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 were before 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 the belief in his mission, united amongst themselves, ::?d 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 fourths chapter of the Acts, that soon after this, 6 the number of the men,” i. e. of the society openly professing their belief in Christ, 66 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 Jewish council is recorded Acts iv. 34. appears to have been of this description; perhaps Nicodemus, and perhaps also Joseph of Arimathea. This class of men, their character, and
* Acts ii. 1. Ib. ii. 41. Verse 4.
• Acts 1. 5.
their rank, are likewise pointed out by St. John, in the twelfth chapter of his gospel, “ nevertheless, among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue : for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” Persons such as these, might admit the miracles of Christ, without being immediately convinced that they were under obligation to make a public profession of Christianity, at the risk of all that was dear to them in life, and even of life itself.*
Christianity, however, proceeded to increase in Jerusalem by a progress equally rapid with its first success; for, in the next chaptert of our history, we read that “ believers were the more added to the Lord, multitudes both of men and women.” And this enlargement of the new society appears in the first verse of the succeeding chapter, wherein we are told, that, “ when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglect. ed; and, afterwards in the same chapter it is declared expressly, that “the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly, and that a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith."
This I call the first period in the propagation of Christianity. It commences with the ascension of Christ; and extends, as may be collected from incidental notes of time, to something more than one year after that event. During which term, the preaching of Christianity, so far as our documents inform us, was confined to the single city of Jerusalem. And how did it succeed there? The first assembly which we meet with of Christ's disciples, and that a few days after his removal from the world, consisted of - one hundred and twenty." About a week after this,
*"Besides those who professed, and those who rejected and opposed Christianity, there were in all probability, multitudes between both, neither perfect Christians, nor yet unbelievers. They had a favorable opinion of the gospel, but worldly considerations nade them inwilling to own it. There were many circumstances which inclined them to think that Christianity was a divine revelation, but there were many inconveniencies which attended the open profession of it; and they could not find in theniselves courage enough to bear them, to disoblige their friends and family, to ruin their fortunes, to lose their reputation, their liberty, and their life, for the sake of the new religion. Cherefore they were willing to hope, if they endeavoured to observe the great precepts of morality, which Christ had represented as the principal part, the sum and substance of religion; if they thoughi honorably of the gospel, ir they offered no injury to the Christians, if they did them all the services tbat the y could safely perform, they were willing to hope that Gol would accept this, and that he would excuse and forgive the rest.". Jortin's Dis. on the Christ. Rel. p. 91. ed. 4. + Ib. y. 14. Ib. vi. 1. Vide Pearson's Antiq. l. xviii. c. 7. Benson's Hist, of
Cbrist, book I. p. 148.
6 three thousand were added” in one day; and the number of Christians, publicly baptized, and publicly associating together, were very soon increased to a five thousand.” 66 Multitudes both of men and women continued to be added;" " disciples multiplied greatly,” and “many of the Jewish priesthood, as well as others, became obedient to the faith ;” and this within a space of less than two years from the commencement of the institution.
By reason of a persecution raised against the church at Jerusalem, the converts were driven from that city, and dispersed throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria.* Wherever they came, they brought their religion with them;
for our historian informs us, that, “ they that were scattered abroad, went every where preaching the word.” The effect of this preaching comes afterwards to be noticed, where the historian is led, in the course of his narrative, to observe, that then (i. e. about three yearst posterior to this)“ the churches had rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the confort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." This was the work of the second period, which comprises about four years.
Hitherto the preaching of the gospel had been confined to Jews, to Jewish proselytes, and to Samaritans. And I cannot forbear from setting down in this place, an observation of Mr. Bryant's, which appears to me to be perfectly well founded :-" The Jews still remain, but how seldom is it that we can make a single proselyte! There is reason to think, that there were more converted by the apostles in one day, than have since been won over in the last thousand years."
It was not yet known to the apostles, that they were at liberty to propose the religion to mankind at large. That “mystery,” as St. Paul calls it,|| and as it then was, was revealed to Peter by an especial miracle. It appears to have been** about seven years after Christ's ascension, that the gospel was preached to the Gentiles of Cesarea. A year after this, a great multitude of Gentiles were converted at Antioch in Syria. The expressions employed by the historian are these—a great number believed and turned to the Lord;” “much people was added to the Lord;" “ the apostles Barnabas and Paul taught much • Ib. viii. 1.
| Benson, L. 1. p. 207, Biyant on the truth of the Christian Religion, p. 112. Ephes. jïi. 3-6 ** Kenson, b. II. p. 236.
+ Ver. 4.