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would, therefore, be earnestly desirous of discovering his person, and of determining whether it were living or inanimate. Yet it bas never been pretended, from the period of his resurrection to the present day, that they succeeded in making any discovery of this nature. All who acknowledged his authority, and they were numerous from the Jews in the first instance (though not in such bodies as to indicate, that it proceeded from that blind enthusiasm in favour of a Messiah, for which their national character has been so long distinguished), regarded him as a sovereign who had been withdrawn from the ordinary state of humanity, and had passed into the celestial state. He was, therefore, according to every fact that can be deduced from all descriptions of men, withdrawn from observation at the moment of his resurrection-an event which they would not have credited without much inquiry or powerful evidence; and, contrary as it was to the ideas and wishes of those especially who were prepared to acknowledge him as the Messiah, he was admitted to bave been, from that period, translated to the world of invisible spirits.
Though the Jewish people in general, never saw Jesus from the period of his interment, yet they well knew that he had been put to death, and his body as effectually secured in the sepulcbre, as human power and prudence could render it. They must soon have become acquainted with the fact, that these precautions had proved unavailing--that the body had disappeared, and the force and vigilance of the guards been completely frustrated: so that they had not only failed in their resistance, but were unable to give any account of the mode of his disappearance. As this extraordinary circumstance must have stimulated the inquiries of the people, for the purpose of obtaining satisfaction as to a result in which their past conduct was strongly implicated, and on which their eager expectations, with respect to his pretensions as the Messiah, depended, so from that day to the present; there never has appeared any other conclusion from those inquiries, than that the body was withdrawn from all human cognizance. A conclusion so singular, under circumstances in which the body or person of Jesus was, from various motives, so peculiarly in request by all parties, in which its disappearance was so unexpected, and in one point of view or another so disappointing to all, could only liave proceeded from reality.
The body of Jesus had disappeared in a miraculous manner; it was absolutely withdrawn from all the powers of mortal inspection. The angelic appearances, recorded as having been alike unexpectedly exhibited at the sepulchre, furnish the clue for its explication. They came from the invisible state, in order to receive him into it; and from the period of his resurrection, and not before, he became "a quickening spirit," and the associate of beings of a celestial order.
The fact we are considering, viz. the transition of the body of Jesus, ás identified with his person, from inanimation to an invisible and immortal state, was no less at variance with the opinions of the Gentiles, than of the Jews. If they had any belief of a future conscious existence, it was founded not on the renovated life, but the death of man-not on bis bodily translation to an immortal state, but on a supposed separate existence of a vital principle: while his body, regarded as a mere clog or impediment to its active energies, the prison of the soul, was left to perish for ever. It could, therefore, only be by the force of palpable evidence, that such a doctrine would make progress among them. They would have the less inducement to give a serious attention to the representation, when the person who was asserted to have undergone this transition, was of low origin-distinguished by none of those martial achievements to which they appropriated the name of virtue, and by none of those splendid literary attainments which “immortalized” the names of some of their writers, but who terminated his career in this life, by a most ignominious death as a malefactor, with the concurrence of the Gentile authorities, and those of his own nation. And it must have added not a little to their incredulity, and their disposition to oppose the account, that this crucified Jew was not only said to have undergone this transition of his whole person to an immortal state, but to be invisibly exercising the authority of a sovereign, who should finally triumph over all human authorities, and establish a universal empire; being the appointed “King of kings, and Lord of lords, "-"the Lord both of the living and the dead.” Such pretensions, unaccompanied by evidence which could not be gainsayed nor resisted, would draw down upon the disciples the marked ridicule and contempt of the Gentiles in general.
Now, miracles enabling timid and illiterate men, who had no previous notions concerning such an event to announce it with extraordinary courage and address, and even with Auency, in languages which they had never learned, * must have been admirably calculated to summon the general attention to their statement. In every instance in which so wonderful a miraculous influence could be ascertained, it could hardly fail of producing a conviction of the truth of the fact it was employed to announce and authenticate. At least, it is not possible to conceive of a miracle more calculated to bespeak the attention of men to the other miraculous proofs wbich the disciples of Jesus professed to perform. Miracles consisting in the removal of every malady to which the human frame is subjected,+ and in occasionally restoring the vital powers after they had been suspended;£ in some instances producing parts|| and functions which had never before existed;s and, on a few extraordinary occasions, withdrawing life or some of its faculties, q all wrought expressly in the name of Jesus, were no less adapted to evince his authority over the bodies and lives of men, and to show that the divine favour is exerted in bealing, preserving, and restoring the bodily powers, and that their destruction is a mark of the divine displeasure. These were sensible means of bringing home to the judgment and feelings of men, the conclusion that their whole persons are under the care and blessing of the Almighty; that the framer of our bodies is no other than the father of our spirits, who has rendered their vigour and enjoyments mutual. The copious effusion of spiritual gifts was a species of miracle peculiarly suited to confirm the same principles. This would manifest that the same power, which
gave soundness to the bodies, purified and exalted the spirits of men, and by their united influence gave anticipations of a period when both their bodies and spirits should be renewed—when all the evils appertaining to the former should be removed; and in consonance with the elevated character of the latter, should lose their “vile"! properties, and become "glorified" and immortal.
The actual performance of such miracles, must have powerfully operated in the establishment of the great
* As we read at length, Acts ii. . " + Acts v. 156 xiv. 3. ut
I Acts ix. 36–42. 1 Luke has not particularized this in his brief narrative, but see Matt. xv. 31.- Wakefield's translation.
ŞMatt. xiv. 8—10. T Acts v. 1-11. xii, 11.,
principles they were wrought to confirm. Being all per formed expressly in the name of Jesus who was crucified, and who escaped from his sepulchre in 'opposition to the force, and eluding the vigilance of the Roman soldiers; they were so many proofs that his removal and disappear. ance were the result of a divine interposition, and that his whole person was translated to an invisible state, in which he was invested with all that authority which was ascribed to him. They were not only suited to prove a divine interposition in his favour, but that particular kind of interposition by which he had uudergone this glorious transformation of every power, both corporeal and mental. And, together with it, they are particularly adapted to establish the general position, of a similar event to be extended to all his followers, and ultimately to the whole human race.
It is manifest that the profession to perform miracles so palpable to the senses, and which must have furnished such abundant opportunities for examination, had it not been founded in reality, would in all probability have effected the speedy overthrow of his pretensions. Had the illiterate Galileans professed to declare fluently in languages which they had never learned, a doctrine so odious and incredible to all parties to whom it was addressed, as that of the elevation to invisible and supreme authority, of the man, in whose crucifixion there had been so general a concurrence,
how ineffectual must have been the attempt how certainly must it have drawn upon them the ridicule and contempt it would in that case have deserved! The same remark equally applies to the case of the man well known in Jerusalem to have been lame from his birth;* and in general to all those miracles, by the reality of which alone these plain men were enabled to maintain their stand against the power, the malice, and acuteness of their enemies. Alike impossible must it have been for the Apostle Paul—whose epistles sufficiently evince that he determined to adhere strictly to the doctrine of the crucified Jesus, as the anointed of God, having been raised from death and elevated to celestial authority-to have gained credence to it among Gentiles, had the numerous miraculous powers, to which he appeals,t as existing in the societies
* Acts üi. 2. t See particularly 1 Cor. xii. 4—11; and 28, 29. Gal, üi. 5. And Eph. iv. 11, 12
and persons to whom he wrote, had no foundation but in imagination or pretence. Nothing but the reality of powers of healing-powers of speaking in unknown tongues, and of explaining ancient prophecies applicable to the Messiah and the progress of his doctrine, can account for the admission of these facts by the numerous bodies of Gentiles to whom his epistles are addressed, and in attestation of a doctrine which by their prejudices and interests they were so strongly inclined to disbelieve and oppose.
That the Christian religion did originate from Jesus who was crucified, and after making considerable progress among the Jews, and from the spot in which he suffered an ignominous death by the public authorities; and that it soon afterwards made great progress at Rome, and in many
cities and districts of the Roman empire, is evinced by the concurring testimony of both its friends and its enemies;* who also concur in testifying that its adherents were exposed to severe punishments by the ruling authorities; the Jews, as a nation, maintaining their enmity against it, and the Roman powers endeavouring to crush it by a series of cruel persecutions; notwithstanding which, it continued to spread without any other means than the power of its evidences and the influence of its spirit, till in the third century from its introduction, it was embraced by the Roman Emperor, probably from mingled motives of conviction and of policy, and thus, in the language of an adversary, “the banners of the cross were erected on the ruins of the capitol.” A doctrine which enjoins, on the authority of a crucified “ Jewish peasant,” that its votaries should “not resist evil, but overcome evil with good;" by their persisting to act on this principle, in the assured expectation, that, like their master, they should as the
* Tacitus Ann. Lib. xv. chap. 24, attests the spread of Christianity to Rome, shortly after the execution of Christ by Pilate, as a criminal; and the cruel persecution of Christians by Nero. Juvenal, in his 4th Şat. describes their sufferings in corresponding terms. Suetonius expressly mentions the same event, which happened about A. D. 64. Pliny, in his letter to Trajan, A.D. 107, testifies its spread, not in "cities only, but in the lesser towns and the open country; that the temples were almost forsaken," although he had succeeded, by the terrors of death, in causing them to be somewhat “more frequented.' The subsequent progress of this religion, the persecutions of Domitian, Decius, and Dioclesian, and the success of Constantine in maintaining his authority unopposed by any heathen competitor, after the last most cruel attempt to extirpate, Christianity, are facts of notoriety.