« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the Roman and Jewish Governments; and, unless they could have cleared themselves of the crime, would have punished them for it with, at least, due severity. Such punishment would not only have been just; but it had now become necessary for the Sanhedrim to inflict it, in order to save their own reputation. They had originated the story; and were now under the strongest inducements to support it. Yet they did not even mention the subject; but contented themselves with commanding them to preach no more in the name of Christ.
In Acts 5th, we are told, that the whole body of the Apostles were brought before them again ; for continuing to preach, in opposition to this command. On this occasion also, they kept a profound silence concerning the theft, which they had originally attributed to the Apostles; but charged them with disobedience to their former injunctions. In this charge are contained the folowing remarkable words : Did we not straitly command you, that
should not teach in this name? and behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon
To bring the blood of one person upon another is phraseology, frequently used in the Bible. In fifteen* different instances, in which we find it there, it has but a single meaning : viz. to bring the guilt of contributing to the death of a person, or the guilt of murder, upon another person. When it is said, His blood shall be upon his own head; it is clearly intended, that the guilt of his death shall be upon himself. When, therefore, the Sanhedrim accuse the Apostles of attempting to bring the blood of Christ upon them; they accuse them of an intention to bring upon them the guilt of shedding his blood: this being the only meaning of such phrascology in the Scriptures.
Should any doubt remain in the mind of any man concerning this interpretation ; it may be settled, I think, beyond all question, by recurring to another passage, to which, hitherto, I have not alluded. In Matthew xxvii. 24, 25, we are told, that, when Pilate saw, that he could prevail nothing towards releasing Christ, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude : saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person ; see ye to it: and that then, all the people answered, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. The meaning of the phraseology in this passage cannot be mistaken: and it is altogether probable, that the declaration of the Sanhedrim, being made, so soon after this imprecation, to the Apostles, so deeply interested in the subject, and on an occasion, which so naturally called it up to view, the Sanhedrim referred to it directly.
But if Christ was not raised from the dead; he was a false prophet; an impostor; and, of course, a Blasphemer : because he
* Lev. XX. 9, 11, 13, 16, 27. Deut. xix. 10. xxii. 8. 2 Sam. i. 16. xvi. 3. I Kings ii. 37. Jer. li. 35. Ezek. xviii. 13. xxxiii. 5. Matt. xxiii. 35. Acts xviii. 6
asserted himself to be the Messiah ; the Son of God. Such a blasphemer the law of God condemned to death. The Sanhedrim were the very persons, to whom the business of trying, and condemning him, was committed by that law, and whose duty it was to accomplish his death. If, therefore, his body was not raised from the dead; there was no guilt in shedding his blood, but the mere performance of a plain duty. His blood, that is, the guilt of shedding it, could not possibly rest on the Sanhedrim ; nor, to use their language, be brought upon them by the Apostles, nor by any others. All this the Sanhedrim perfectly knew: and therefore, had they not believed him to have risen from the dead, they could never have used this phraseology:
It is further to be observed, that, on both these occasions, the Apostles boldly declared to the Sanhedrim, in the most explicit terms, that Christ was raised from the dead. Yet the Sanhedrim not only did not charge them with the crime of having stolen his body, but did not contradict, nor even comment on, the declaration. This could not possibly have happened through inattention. Both the Sanhedrim, and the Apostles, completely knew, that the resurrection of Christ was the point, on which his cause, and their opposition to it, entirely turned. It was the great and serious controversy between the contending parties; and yet, though directly asserted to their faces by the Apostles, the Sanhedrim did not even utter a syllable on the subject.
Had they believed their own story, they would either have pun. ished the Apostles with death, as rebels against the Jewish and Roman governments; or confined them, as lunatics, in a bedlam.
IV. Christ was raised from the dead, because the Apostles conderted mankind to his religion.
The Apostles, from the beginning to the end, published the story of Christ's resurrection, as the proof of his mission, and doctrines; and as the foundation, on which rested their own commission, and the truth of the religion, which they taught. To prove the reality of his resurrection, they publicly declared, that he had invested them with the power of working miracles, on all occasions ; and openly asserted, that they were possessed of this power. Here, then, the cause was fairly at issue between them and mankind. If they wrought miracles, in proof of this story; the story was true of course; because, as I observed in a preceding discourse, none, but God, can work a miracle ; and God cannúi support a falsehood.
That this was the real profession of the Apostles, is unitedly testified, without one dissenting voice, by all antiquity ; Heather, Jewish, and Christian. It is therefore, certainly true.
If the Apostles, after having made this profession, did not work miracles; they were convicted of falsehood in a moment. Their cause fell at once: for they had rested it wholly on this single fact. The weakest man would see at a glance, that they were
cheats, and liars; and could never place the least confidence in any of their declarations. They could not, therefore, have made a single convert.
But they did convert a great part of the civilized, and not a small part of the savage, world. They, therefore, certainly wrought miracles, in the manner which they professed, as proof of the reality of Christ's resurrection. The resurrection of Christ was of course real. God set to it his own seal; and placed it beyond every reasonable doubt.
That the Apostles wrought miracles, in great numbers, is completely proved, also, by the united testimony of Heathen, Jews, and Christians. All these classes of men were deeply interested to deny this fact, if it could with any pretence be denied. The Heathen and Jews would certainly have denied it; because they wished to prevent, as far as possible, other Heathen and other Jews from embracing Christianity; and because, if they could have supported the denial, they would have stopped the growth of that religion in its infancy. Christians would have denied it, that is, such as became Christians in consequence of a belief in these miracles under any illusion, which could have been practised on them, because they would certainly have detected the cheat; and must have strongly resented the villany, by which it had been played off upon themselves. I say these things, admitting the supposition, that the imposture might succeed for a time. But, to my own view, such success must plainly have been impossible.
All these persons have, however, agreed in asserting that the Apostles wrought miracles. The Jews and Heathen attributed them to magic. Christians, under the influence of their conviction, that miracles were thus wrought, hazarded, and yielded, every enjoy ment of life, and very often life itself.
We have now, if I do not mistake, come to the clear and certain conclusion, that Christ was raised from the dead by the power of God. But if Christ was raised from the dead; it follows by irresistible consequence, that he was approved of God; and of course that he was the Son of God, and the promised Messiah ; sent from Heaven to communicate the Divine will to mankind concerning their duty and salvation. The religion which he taught, is in all its parts Divine truth; the will of our Maker; and the sum, and substance, of all our interest and duty. Of course, it cannot be rejected without infinite hazard; it cannot be embraced without complete assurance of infinite gain: the favour of God in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.
AMIABLENESS OF CHRIST IN PUBLISHING THE GOSPEL TO MAN
Igatah lii. 7.—How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth
good tidings ; that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good ; that publisheth salvation ; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth.
IN a long series of discourses I have investigated, minutely, the Character and Mediation of Christ; and have considered his Divine and human nature; his Offices, as a Prophet, Priest, and King; his Miracles; and his Resurrection. I shall now close this great and interesting subject of Theology by attempting to exhibit
, summarily, the Excellency and Amiableness of Christ, as manifested in his interference on the behalf of mankind.
In the text, the prophet Isaiah presents to us the advent of a Messenger of good tidings to mankind. This Messenger is represented as announcing to the world good, or happiness, at large; as publishing peace, salvation, and the glorious news, that the God, who reigns universally, is the God of Zion. His appearance is exhibited by the Prophet as filling his own mind with astonishment and ecstasy. Nothing could more forcibly convey to us the prophet's rapturous sense of the importance of these tidings, or his exalted views of the messenger who brought them, than the manner, in which he dwells on these subjects, in the repeated and fervid exclamations of the text. When the soul becomes the seat of strong emotions, and especially when it is agitated by strong alternations of wonder and joy; it usually finds language, in every form of phraseology, too feeble to give full vent to its feelings, or to convey them to others with such force, as to satisfy the demands either of the imagination or the passions. When we ourselves feel, we wish others to feel; and when our emotions become peculiarly ardent, we are prone to fear, that the corresponding emotions of others will be less vivid than we desire. The mind, in this case, seizes the most forcible language within its reach; and, conscious that even this language halts behind its own fervours, naturally seeks to increase the impressions, by reiterating them in new and more animated phraseology. From this source were derived the exclamations of the text; peculiarly suited to the mind of Isaiah ; whose imagination was not only more sublime, but on all occasions more ready to glow, than that of any other writer. Št. Paul applies this text to the Ministers of the Gospel
generally; and perhaps more especially to the first Ministers. This ap
plication teaches us, decisively, that the Gospel, the meaning of which word you know is merely good tidings, is the subject of the annunciation in the text; and that Ministers of the Gospel, at large, are, in a loose and general sense, included in the purport of these exclamations. The prophet, however, speaks of one Messenger only; and this Messenger is the person, who publishes the Gospel to mankind. The Lord Jesus Christ is undoubtedly the Messenger, here intended; by whose voice the Gospel was originally communicated to the world. The Prophet, who, beyond any other writer, embodies all his thoughts, and holds them out to the view of the eye, exhibits this divine herald as advancing over the mountains surrounding the city of Jerusalem, and as proclaiming joyful news to its inhabitants. The reader is transported to the spot ; sees this illustrious person approach; hears him proclaim the tidings, which he comes to announce; and unites with the prophet, and his exulting countrymen, in their joyful exclama tions.
The only characteristical circumstance, on which the prophet rests in the text, is the beauty which adorned the person of ihis glorious Messenger. How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings! To the consideration of this subject I propose to devote the following discourse.
In the discussion of it I shall consider,
I. The Persons to whom these tidings were published, were the children of Apostate Adam.
It will be useful to the design which I have proposed, to consider both their character and their circumstances.
Their character, like that of their progenitor, was formed of Apostacy. Every man, who searches his own bosom, or examines the conduct of his own life, is presented with irresistible evidence, that he is a sinner. Let him form whatever rule of life he is pleased to prescribe, by which his duty to himself, to his fellow-men, and to God, ought, even in his own view, to be regulated ; and he will find himself, in innumerable instances, a transgressor of that rule. The Heathen Philosophers anciently, and the Infidels of modern times, have formed such rules. Weigh them in their own balances, and they will invariably be found wanting. Lax, licentious, and even monstrous, as the laws are which they have proposed for the regulation of their own moral conduct, they still have not obeyed them; and will, if tried by them, be certainly condemned. How much more defective do they appear, when examined by the dictates of a sober and enlightened conscience! How far more defective, when tried by the perfect law of God! Searched by this law, it will be uniformly found, and every man, faithfully