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deluded enthusiasts. If the resurrection of Jesus was not a truth, they must have feigned a history of it, knowing it to be false. For the apostles were so far from yielding easily to the belief of the resurrection of their Master, that they would not only not believe Mary Magdalene, and the other woman who told them of it, but they would not upon this matter believe one another. They required the most satisfactory evidence, that of their senses, for its truth. They required to see and hear him. And one of them was totally averse to belief, till as well as seeing the print of the nails in his hands, he should thrust his hand into his side. In this matter there could be no delusion. Let us suppose, that some persons should tell us, that a friend, with whom they had been so intimate as to be almost daily in his company for three years or more, had gone for some little time into another part of the country, and that he had returned from thence. Let us suppose, that they were to tell us, that they had seen him after his return several times, and that they all knew him to be their well known friend. If they all were to declare that they had seen him eat and drink after his return, that they had conversed with him upon several subjects, and that upon some of them having doubled the affirmation of others that they had seen him, he had shewn them some marks upon his body by which he was particularly distinguished from others, must not every one conclude that all these witnesses must have known if they had seen their friend or not, that they must have known whether they spake the truth or a falsehood?
But I will forbearI am ashamed in so clear a case to say any more than that I can maintain it to be an absolute impossibility, that the apostles were deceived in regard to the resurrection of their master, that is, that they were deluded enthusiasts. It is as absolute an impossibility, as that any thing can at the same time exist and not exist. I suppose the greater part of those who deny the resurrection of Jesus will conceive that the apostles were impostors, that is, that they pretended to have seen their master alive several days after his crucifixion, when they knew they had not seen him. I shall therefore quit this part of the argument, and prove that it is morally impossible (that is, improbable in the highest degree) that they were impostors; which is the first kind of evidence à circumstance of this nature admits.
It will easily be granted, that when a person invents and propagates a falsehood, he hopes, provided he is not a fool or madman, that it will by some means or other contribute to his advantage or pleasure. To invent and propagate a falsehood, where the inventor is himself assured, that it will bring him to ruin, imprisonment, infamy, a cruel death, must indicate folly or madness in the extreme. The apostles knew that the severest persecution would follow their publishing to the world the resurrection of their Master. There can be no ground whatever for urging, that they might have expected some worldly advantages from the propagation of the gospel. They knew that Peter and John, soon after they had divulged their Master's resurrection, were threatened by a council* of the Jews, that they sheuld speak no more in his name. They had a little while after seen one of their brethrent stoned for avowing his zeal for their Master; and they knew soon after Herod began to persecute them for preaching in his name, that he for this killed James the brother of John, and imprisoned Peter.
* Acts iv. 17.
Acts xii. 2, 3, 4.
They were told by their Master, that they were to look forward to persecution and death, for preaching the gospel. “ They shall deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you."* They shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons.”+ " If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you." I
They shall put you out of the synagogues : yea, the time cometh that whosoever killeth
will think that he doeth God service."|| Moreover the apostles themselves declared that they looked forward to persecution and death. St. Paul says, (and he, though not one of the first apostles, was an eye witness of his Master's resurrection, and in this may be looked upon as the mouth of his brethren) “ The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying, that bonds and afflictions abide me."$ And again, “ For I think that God hath sent forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed unto death. For we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men. Even to this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and are buffeted, and have
* Matthew xxiv. 9.
John xv. 20.
no certain dwelling place; and labour, working with our hands; being reviled, we bless; being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the earth, and are the off-scouring of all things unto this day.”+ It is impossible therefore that the apostles could have invented and have propagated the story of the resurrection of their Master, without being fools or madmen, and for their not being such I appeal to the living evidence of their writings. To impute either folly or madness to them, would prove him who made the imputation to be possessed of no sound understanding. For they in their writings give every sign of a sober and a clear niind. Their style and their doctrine are evidently grave, serious, and simple. And the worst enemies of Christianity have been compelled, though reluctantly, to acknowledge the excellence of its morality. And I think a very strong argument may be urged in favour of the apostles having known that what they asserted was a truth, from their bearing with chearfulness and joy this persecution, which it is too certain to be denied or doubted, that they expected to combat. It is said in Acts,*
f 1 Corinthians iv. 9. * Acts v. 40, 41.