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were equally public. Hence the matter was brought to a regular issue: and the entire question, whether he was or was not the Messiah, hung suspended on the naked fact, whether he did or did not rise again on the third day.
What then happened, when the fated third day arrived ? It is natural to expect, if the Gospel were an imposture, that the dead body of Christ would have been produced and triumphantly exhibited, to the entire conviction of every rational inquirer, and to the utter confusion of his now confessedly deluded followers. This was the obvious course for the high-priests and the Pharisees to take: and indeed all the precautions, to which they had previously resorted, plainly enough shewed that they meant to take this course. Did they then take it ? Nothing of the sort. Notwithstanding the guard of Roman soldiers which had been set to watch the sepulchre and to prevent the possibility of any fraud on the part of the disciples, the body was missing and could not be produced. Such was the fact: and the problem was, how this fact was to be satisfactorily accounted for.
The story told by the Jewish rulers was, that the disciples of Christ came by night, and stole away the body while the soldiers slept : and their statement was corroborated by the declaration of the soldiers themselves.
This mode of accounting for the disappearance of the dead body seems, at first, not a little plausible : but, if examined somewhat more closely, it is by no means, unattended with serious difficulties. The soldiers well knew for what purpose they had been stationed; for no less extraordinary a purpose, than to see, whether a dead man would be restored to life and would come forth from the sepulchre in which he had been laid. Hence, when we consider the ordinary workings of superstition in regard to a reappearance of the dead, and when we duly weigh the thrilling curiosity which the duty imposed upon the soldiers could not but excite, we must of necessity think it rather incredible, that not merely a single individual of the guard, careless and incurious, should have dropped asleep, but that the whole company with one accord should have been seized with this unaccountable and most inopportune somnolency. Nor is this the only difficulty. The sepulchre was not a mere grave dug in soft and yielding mould, which might easily be opened without any unusual noise : but it was hewn out in a rock, and was secured by a great stone with which its mouth was carefully closed. Such being the case, it is clear, that the disciples could not steal the body without rolling away the stone; and it is equally clear, that they could not roll away the stone without producing a very considerable noise. Yet so sound and deep was the sleep of the Roman soldiers, one and all, if we may credit the Jewish account of the matter,
that not a single person awoke, though the rumbling of a huge stone violently put in motion was sounding full in their ears, and though the trampling bustle of removing a dead body was going on in their very presence. The story now begins to look somewhat suspicious and incredible : for the reception of it involves facts, which are enough to stagger even the most determined belief. But another unaccountable circumstance yet remains behind. The severity of Roman discipline is well known : death was the punishment of the centinel, who slept upon guard : yet not one of these most culpably negligent soldiers was animadverted upon. That Pilate and the Jewish rulers would be alike provoked at the disappointment which they had experi, enced through the careless drowsiness of the watch, cannot for a moment be doubted : whence it can be as little doubted, that they would be eager and prompt to wreak their vengeance upon the culprits. Not one of them, however, received the least punishment: instead of their lives being forfeited, they were seen at large just as if they had committed no military offence whatsoever. And now let any person, accustomed to weigh legal evidence, put these several circumstances together; and then
whether the Jewish story doos not wear fraud and suspicion upon its very face. So ill does it hang together, that it would not, I am persuaded, for a single moment be admitted in any court of law, as affording sufficient ground to build a decision upon.
Such was the Jewish mode of accounting for a fact, in the truth of which all parties were agreed; the fact of the disappearance of the dead body: let us next attend to the Christian mode.
Jesus, as it was universally known, had foretold that he would rise again on the third day: on this third day his dead body was not to be found : and his lately terrified and scattered disciples now came boldly forward ; and declared, that he had actually risen from the dead, and had thus accomplished his own prophecy. Their declaration rested upon the alleged circumstance, that they themselves had repeatedly seen him and conversed with him and even eaten with him and handled him : and so fully did they seem impressed with the truth of their testimony, that from this time all their courage returned, and they boldly preached him as the promised Messiah on the express ground of his resurrection. Nor was the assertion made scantily and hesitatingly. On all occasions, and without the least reserve, was the alleged fact brought forward, from the very first, with the utmost degree of prominence, and as the very corner stone of their whole system *.
Here, therefore, we must make our choice be
* See Acts ïi. 22--36. iii. 12–18. iv. 5-12. v. 27-32. X. 36-43. xiii. 23-41. xvii. 31. xxvi, 6-8. i Corinth. xv. 3—20,
tween the two accounts of the matter, respectively given by the Jewish rulers and the disciples of Christ. If we prefer that, which is given by the Jewish rulers; we must be content to take it with all its accompanying difficulties : if wę adopt that, which is given by the disciples of Christ; we must acknowledge, that Christ himself rose from the dead, and by consequence that the Gospel is a revelation from heaven.
Now, even as the argument is here stated, I am inclined to think, on the ordinary principles of legal evidence, that an adoption of the account given by the Jewish rulers would evince a higher degree of credulity than an adoption of the account given by the disciples of Christ : but, in truth, the argument has not hitherto been stated in its full force. As yet, I have merely given the testimony of the disciples, in opposition to the badly cohering testimony of the Jewish rulers : I have said nothing as to the grounds and reasons, on which the testimony of the disciples is rendered credible and worthy of our acceptation. On this point I will readily allow, that the testimony of interested witnesses is to be received with caution: and the disciples may doubtless, in some sort, be called interested witnesses ; because the whole success of the project, in which they had embarked, depended upon the alleged fact of the resurrection of their master. Why then are we to believe the disciples on their own naked testimony, when their