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of the doctrine of futurity, as to raise a person from the dead, on purpose clearly to evince the posibility and certainty of a future resurrection to life eternal; and then, as it were, to let it rest there, without taking all proper care to have this fact rendered as publick and notorious, as evident and certain as the nature of the thing would admit, and as the great importance of the case obviously required, but let it remain in the perplexed uncertain state as above; this is such a conduct as is not easily to be accounted for, and were it found in human affairs, the practitioner would certainly be impeached for acting below his character as a wise man, in using means so very disproportionate to the end proposed to be obtained by them. As Christ, after his resurrection, appeared but to a few friends only; so those whom he didappear to have left no testimonies upon record with regard to this fact (except St. Peter and the historians; )and therefore, with respect to posterity, they are no witnesses at all. The historians, indeed, say, that Christ, after his resurrection, appeared several times to several persons ; but then it does not appear that those persons themselves have made any such declarations; and therefore, the
weight of this evidence rests wholly upon the authority of those historians, who (as some learned men fay) did not put their names to their histories ; and therefore, it must be a little zinccrtain whether those
inccrtain books were written by the persons whose names are now fixed to them. To say, that the witnefles of Christ's resurrection constantly gave testimony concerning this fact, wliilst they were alive ; and likewise laid down their lives to maintain it, tho' they left no testimony upon record concerning it; this, perhaps, is building without a foundation, and averring what may not be clearly made out. St. Peter, in his first epistle, supposes the fact of Christ's resurrection to have taken place, but does not charge himself with the proof of it; and in his discourse with the Jews, Asts ii. he makes himself and the brethren to have been witnesses of that fact; but then, that St. Peter delivered such a discourse to the Fews, rests only, and wholly on the authority of one single nameless Historian, the author being unknown ; which circumstance, in any other case, would be looked upon as weakning it's credit. All these things being put together, one or other of these conclusions,
I think, will follow from them; either, first, that the resurrection of Christ was not dengned clearly to evince the possibility and certainty of a resurrection to life eternal or if that was the design, then, fecondly, it was not wisely conducted to answer that end; or if it was wisely directed to answer that purpose, then, thirdly, it is a very lame account of that affair which has been transmitted to us; and whether it be one, or another of these, the subject, in our present view of it, is greatly perplexed, and is thereby sendered the more uncertain with respect to us. If it should be said, that whatever difficulties may attend this subject; yet it is a certain truth that Christ did really rise from the dead. Upon which I observe, that if this point is to be taken for granted, without being brought to a fair trial; then there is nothing farther to be said upon the question. Besides, the present question is not whether Christ did really rise from the dead? But only, whether the evidence beld forth to us yields proper proof that he did ? Or rather, the question is, whether the resurrection of Christ is so clearly and fully proved, as to render it a proper foundation to build the doctrine of futurity upon ? Or,
in other words, whether it is so fully proved, as thereby clearly to evince both the posibility and certainty of a resurrection to life eternal?
PERHAPS, it may be further urged, that St. Paul has given a much larger and fuller account of this matter. I Cor. XV.
But then, the question is, whether St. Paul's account strengthens, or weakens the cause it is brought to support? Of which I fear it is the latter, rather than the former. The fupernumerary witnesses mentioned by St. Paul, or those who are over and above the witnesses mentioned by the several historians who professedly undertook to give an account of the resurrection of Christ, are St. Paul himself, and above five hundred brethren, to whom Christ appeared at one time, of which those to whom he had appeared at other times might, or might not be a part; but then, as St. Paul is filent as to that point, therefore, they may all be considered as other evidences, and that is making the most of the account. As to St. Paul, it does not appear that he had ever feen, or had any personal knowledge of Jesus Chrift, either before his death, or after his resur, rection; I mean, in those forty days in which
he is supposed to have remained upon earth after his resurrection, and before his ascenfion into heaven. And tho', when St. Paul was travelling from Jerusalem to Damascus, he heard a voice, saying, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me, I am Jefus whom thout persecutest ; yet it does not appear that he saw the person who fpake, but rather the contrary; because, when a great light from heaven shone round about him, he fell to the earth, and was struck blind by that light, and therefore, probably, saw the person of no man. Indeed, St. Paul faith of himself, 2 Cor. xii. 2. that he was caught up into the third heaven ; but then, whether the third heaven into which St. Paul was caught, be that same heaven or place where Christ is seated on God's right hand, St. Paul has not informed us; and if it was, it is quite uncertain whether he saw Christ's body, or not, because it was quite uncertain to him whether he was in the body, or out of the body, when he was there ; and if the latter was the case, then, as he had left his bodily eyes behind him, so he could not possibly have seen Christ's body with them, and therefore, could not therefrom be a proper evidence of the truth and certainty of Christ's resurrection. St. Paul has also informed us, Afts xxii. 17. that, B b 2