"The faith of a true Christian is the same as that of Moses and the Prophets."
Letter 1. Introduction
My beloved Brother Benjamin,
Jehovah, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Angel of the covenant, having preserved me in my journey, and brought me safely back to my family, I now, agreeably to my promise in my last letter, resume with pleasure our correspondence, in a second series of letters, on some of the most important and interesting subjects respecting the Messiah.
Having in the former series considered the predictions which relate to Messiah's state of humiliation, and their accomplishment in the birth, life, sufferings, death and burial of Jesus Christ, I propose to consider, in the first part of this series of letters, those predictions which relate to his state of exaltation.
1. In the sufferings and death of Christ, we have seen the Sun of Righteousness setting in great darkness, and all nature in mourning; but we shall now see him rising and shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day, to go down no more. What is said respecting every believer, is perfectly true respecting Jesus Christ: "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart. For his anger endureth but a moment: in his favor is life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psa 97:11, 30:5, 126:6). The same volume of inspiration which foretold his sufferings unto death, also announced his exaltation unto eternal glory. Hence, when the two disciples that went down to Emmaus, on the morning of Christ's resurrection, had told him the cause of their sadness, viz. their disappointment in Jesus of Nazareth, who, they trusted, would have redeemed Israel, but had been crucified; and that it is now reported that he was risen again, Jesus said unto them, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:25-27). The one was as necessary to our salvation as the other. The former was the sure foundation, and the latter the glorious superstructure.
His sufferings were necessary for the expiation of our sins, and his exaltation was necessary for the application of the merits of his death. "For it became him for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10). As it was necessary for him to reconcile us by his death, so it was necessary for him to reinstate us in happiness by his life (Rom 5:10). Reconciliation is ascribed to his death; salvation to his life in glory. He could not have been a Savior without being a sacrifice; he could not have applied that salvation without being a King; he was to descend from heaven clothed with our infirmities, to suffer for our crimes; he was to ascend to heaven invested with immortality, to present our persons before God, and prepare a glory for every believer.
Christ's state of humiliation we have already considered, and now I invite your attention to his state of exaltation.
But before we consider its different steps or parts, it may not be improper to make a few observations to explain its nature.
2. As Christ's state of humiliation respected his two natures, the divine and the human, so also his exaltation has respect to both. With respect to his divine nature:
Not that an addition was made to his intrinsical glory, for his deity was never deprived of any essential glory; nor could that be advanced, because it being infinite, was not capable of any higher degree, and was above all change. The subsistence and properties of that nature, which always remain the same, are incapable of abasement and elevation. We may as well conceive of a diminution of the essence of God, as a decrease of his essential glory. But there was a manifestation of his divine nature. Whilst Christ dwelt or tabernacled in the flesh, his divine nature wanted that reputation which was due to it from man; and in this respect Christ is said "to have made himself of no reputation," or emptied himself, as the word Ekenose signifies (Phil 2:7). He that was sovereign became subject, as the seed of the woman, to the law of nature; subject as an Israelite to the law of Moses; subject as a man, and our surety, to the penal infirmities belonging to the human nature, as weariness, hunger, thirst, death. And as the divine nature seemed to be humbled, in being obscured under the veil of our flesh, so it is glorified in breaking out with the most resplendent rays in the Son. As he was humbled under the form of a servant, so he was exalted by appearing in the form of God. In the same sense that we say Christ as God was humbled, in the same sense we may say Christ as God was glorified; but it is certain that Christ, who was equal in regard of his deity with the Father, did humble himself to the form of a servant (Phil 2:7,8). As the divine nature may be said to be humbled by suffering an eclipse, so it may be said to be glorified by emerging out of it; as the sun may in a sort be said to enter into a glory, or reassume its glory, when it scatters a dark cloud which involved it, and strikes its warm and clear beams through the air, there is nothing here of a glory added to the sun, but a glory exerted by the sun, which before lay in obscurity under a thick mist; and when God is said to be glorified by men, we must not conceive any addition of intrinsic glory to God, but an acknowledgment of that glory he displays in his works of creation, providence, and redemption. So the exaltation of Christ was not a conferring of a new glory upon the divine nature, but the outshining of it in the sacred vessel of his humanity, and the surmounting of those mists wherewith before it had been clouded.
3. With respect to his human nature, it was a real and intrinsical exaltation into glory. There was a glory conferred upon his humanity, by the grace of union with the second person in the blessed Trinity at his incarnation; and there was a glory bestowed upon it by the communication of unmatchable perfections to his soul, a fullness of the Spirit, a spotless sanctification, and an infallible knowledge of God, and of those truths he was to reveal. But now his humanity did ascend up where his person was before, and our nature was carried up to sit with him in the same court where he had been glorious before in his deity. That nature wherein the person of the Son of God was made lower than the angels, was crowned with glory and honor (Heb 2:7). That nature wherein he was raised up, was set at God's right hand in heavenly places (Eph 1:20); and in that nature, as well as in the divine, the person of the Son of God had a sovereign authority granted to him. Thus the humanity was glorified above all the reach of any human understanding. The glory of the saints is not to be fathomed by the conceptions of men, much less the glory of Christ, the exemplar of all the glory they are to have. Again, as the humanity of Christ consisted of two parts, body and soul, so his exaltation respects both.
4. His body was changed into a spiritual nature, in opposition to infirm flesh. The natural bodies of the saints shall at the resurrection be changed into spiritual (1 Cor 15:42-44); much more is the body of Christ in glory so changed, since it is the pattern according to which the bodies of the saints shall be copied and fashioned (Phil 3:21).
The body of Christ became immortal. He lives and shall live for evermore (Rev 1:18). That body was not dissolved to dust by the power of the grave, and cannot sink into nothing in the glories of heaven. The union of the Godhead to it preserved it here, and the perpetual confirmation of that union preserves it for ever above. His body lives an endless life; death shall never more lay hands on it; he has no more sufferings to endure, or satisfaction to make to the demands of law. Men and devils cannot touch him in his person, though they do in his mystical body. If the righteous are to shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father (Matt 13:43), the Head of the righteous shines with a splendor above that of the sun, for he hath a glory upon his body, not only from the glory of his soul, (as the saints shall have,) but from the glory of his divinity in conjunction with it.
5. The exaltation of Christ has respect to his soul, as well as his body. That soul which was sorrowful even unto death, was filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory. David being a prophet, spake of the Messiah when he said, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life; in thy presence is fullness of joy, at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore" (Psa 16:10,11). This is the language of Christ, triumphing in consideration of his exaltation, and taking pleasure in the fruits of his sufferings; "Thou wilt show me the path of life." God has now opened the way to paradise, which was stopped up by a flaming sword, and made the path plain by admitting into heaven the Head of the believing world. This was part of the joy of the soul of Christ; he hath now a fullness of joy, a satisfying delight, instead of an over-whelming sorrow; a fullness of joy, (not only some sparks and drops as he had now and then in his debased condition,) and that in the presence of his Father. His soul is fed and nourished with a perpetual vision of God, in whose face he beholds no more frowns, no more designs of treating him as a servant, but finds smiles that shall give a perpetual succession of joys to him, and fill his soul with fresh and pure flames; pleasures they are, pleasantness in comparison whereof the greatest joys in this life are anguish and horror. His soul has joys without mixture, pleasures without number, a fullness without want, a constancy without interruption, a perpetuity without end.
O my beloved brother Benjamin, if I could but communicate to you some of that joy and felicity which fills my soul at the contemplation of that glory which shall be revealed in those who are regenerated by the Spirit of God, and adopted into his family! For although ''it doth not yet appear what we shall be, yet we know that when he shall appeal we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2). To be like unto the Son of God! What tongue can express, what pen can describe, or what heart conceive the holiness, and the purity of body and soul, the perfection of knowledge, the height of love, and the complete satisfaction to be realized through the never-ending ages of eternity! May you and I, my dear Benjamin, be now conformed to the image of God's dear Son, that "when Christ who is our life shall appear, we also may appear with him in glory" (Col 3:4). To return to our subject.
6. The exaltation respects the person of Christ also. His divine nature being glorified in a manifestation, and a new manner of manifestation of it; and his human nature being glorified by an accession of new qualities to it, his person then was glorified. As his person was the prime subject of humiliation, in taking upon him the form of a servant, so it was the prime subject of exaltation and glory. In regard of his person, he is glorified, as in regard of his person he was humbled; the same person that was rich became poor (2 Cor 8:9). He that was rich, and he that was poor, was one and the same person. Although riches and poverty were distinct conditions, and divinity and humanity were distinct natures, yet they were the conditions, and they were the natures of one and the same person, who is both rich and poor in regard of different states, as well as immortal and mortal, existing from eternity, and born in time, in regard of different natures; eternal as God, and born as man, the person that was crucified was the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8).
7. The exaltation of Christ is in respect of his being mediator.
The glory to which Christ was advanced was not the essential glory of God, for that he always possessed, and it is inseparable from his divine nature. As being God, he had all the prerogatives of God; but it was a mediatory glory conferred upon his person, as the first-born of every creature; such a glory as the humanity, dignified by the divine nature's assumption of it, was capable of. The humanity being a creature, was not capable of a divine and uncreated glory; the glory Christ hath as God, is the same with the glory of the Father; but the glory Christ hath as a mediator, is peculiar to him as a person consisting of a divine and a human nature; therefore it is his glory (Luke 24:26), in a way of peculiarity belonging to him as a sufferer; for the divine nature was not capable of an addition of glory, nor the human nature capable of the infinite perfections of the divine. In regard of his essential glory, he was the Son begotten: in regard of his mediatory glory, he was the heir appointed (Heb 1:2). He is appointed heir, in order after his sufferings, as he was appointed mediator, in order to his sufferings (Heb 3:2). As he was mediator by a voluntary designation, so he was heir by a voluntary donation. His glory was given to him upon condition of suffering, and conferred upon him after his sufferings; but he was from eternity the Lord of glory, and Son of God by a natural generation; the one belonged to him by birth, the mediatory by office; the one natural to his person, the other is the reward of his sufferings. Philippians 2:8, 9, "Wherefore, God hath exalted him," viz, because of his obedience to death. In the essential glory, he is one with the Father; in his mediatory glory, he is lower than the Father, as being his deputy and substitute; his essential glory is absolute, his mediatory glory is delegated; "judgment is committed to him" (John 5:22). The essential glory is altogether free, and hath no obligation upon it: the mediatory hath a charge annexed to it, (for he is ascended far above the heavens, that he may fill all things, Eph 4:10,) an office of priesthood to intercede, and a royal office to gather and govern those that are given to him by his Father. His essential glory he would have enjoyed if he had never undertaken to be our ransom; yet, without his sufferings for us, he had never had the glorious title of the Redeemer of the world. God would have been essentially glorious in himself if he had never created a world, but he had not then been so manifest under the title of Creator. Hence, though Christ, in regard of his divine nature, was equal with his Father (Phil 2:6), yet in the state of mediator and surety for man, his Father was greater than he (John 14:28); and in this state he was capable of a gift and glory from the Father, as from one that was superior to him in that condition; as it hath been recorded in history, that a king equal, nay, superior to another prince, hath put himself under the ensigns of that prince inferior to him, and received his pay; as he puts himself in such a military state, he is inferior to that prince he serves as his general; and what military honor may be conferred upon him for his valor and service, it is an honor distinct from that royal dignity he had before, as a sovereign in his own territories; so is this name given to Christ above every name (Phil 2:9), i. e. a glory surpassing that of all creatures, the potentates of the earth, or the seraphims of heaven; which was a distinct glory from that which he had as one with the Father, before his incarnation and sufferings, and which he had possessed if he had never suffered; but this glory mentioned by the apostle was given him upon his sufferings. It was therefore a mediatory glory, whereby the authority of God was conferred upon him, not absolutely and formally, as though he were then made God, but as to the exercise of it as mediator in the human nature, which he had so obediently subjected to the cross, for the glory of the Father, and the good of the creature.
8. The exaltation of Christ as mediator, includes in it a power over all creatures, for it was such a name as was "above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, and that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil 2:10,11). He had the same power committed to him which the Father hath; his throne is the highest, being the same with that whereon the Father sat (Rev 3:21), a throne of government and dominion. His commission is extensive; a power as large as the confines of heaven and earth, Matthew 28:18: "All power is given me, both in heaven and earth." A power over hell is also put into the patent, Revelation 1:18, and "have the keys of hell and death." He had a right to the power by the promise of his Father: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief, when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin; he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death; and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sins of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa 53:10,12). The solemn investiture was not given him till his ascension. God put the sceptre in his hands, when he used that form of words, Psalm 110:1: "Sit thou at my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool." At his resurrection he was stript of his servile garb, at his ascension he put on his royal robes, on his session at the right hand of God he was crowned, and began the exercise of his royal dignity. He has all power over all the treasure and all the inhabitants of heaven, and all things on the earth, "for there is nothing left that is not put under him" (Heb 2:8). He hath a name above every name in the earth, no person was ever so famous, none was ever adored by so many worshipers, none worshiped with so much fervency, none ever had so many lives sacrificed for his glory, and the acknowledgment of his mediation and person. His glory hath extended one time or the other over the whole world. 'Tis a power that hath given check to the power of kings, and silenced the reason of philosophers; it hath put to flight the armies of hell, and been celebrated by the songs of angels; no name was ever so glorious, no power ever so great.
Having made these preliminary observations, I will in my next letter consider the different steps or parts of the Messiah's exaltation. Farewell.
Letter 2: Resurrection of the Messiah
My dear Benjamin,
Agreeably to promise, I will now invite your attention to the different steps or parts of the exaltation of the Messiah; they may be divided into his resurrection from the dead; his ascension into heaven; his intercession as a priest; his reign as King, and his coming to judgment.
We commence with the first of these subjects, viz: The resurrection of the Messiah.
1. That the Messiah was to rise from the dead on the third day, was typified in sundry instances. Isaac rescued from the jaws of death, on the third day from the time Abraham had the order to sacrifice his son, and from which time he was looked upon by him as a dead man; Joseph being taken from prison and promoted to the court of Pharaoh; David, after being hunted by Saul like a partridge, raised to the throne of Israel; Jonah raised again the third day from the belly of the fish; the scape goat let go into the wilderness, when the other taken with it was slain; and the living bird let loose after having been dipped in the blood of the bird that had been slain; very fitly represented the resurrection of the Messiah, after his painful and ignominious death. Dr. Pierson considers the sheaf of the first fruits on the second day of the feast of unleavened bread, as a type of the resurrection of the Messiah, who rose on that very day, and became the first fruits of them that sleep (Lev 23:10-12). Says he,"Under the Levitical law all the fruits of the earth in the land of Canaan were profane, none might eat of them till they were consecrated, and that was done in the feast of the first fruits. One sheaf was taken out of the field and brought to the priest, who lifted it up as it were in the name of all the rest, waving it before the Lord, and it was accepted of them, so that all the sheaves of the field were holy from the acceptation of that; for 'If the first fruits be holy, the lump also is holy' (Rom 11:16). And this was always done the day after the Sabbath, that is the paschal solemnity after which the fullness of the harvest followed; by which thus much was foretold and represented, that as the sheaf was lifted up and waved, and the lamb was offered on that day by the priest to God, so the promised Messiah, that immaculate lamb which was to die, that priest which, dying, was to offer up himself to God, was upon this day to be lifted up and raised from the dead, or rather to shake, and lift up and present himself to God so as to be accepted for us, that so our dust might be sanctified, our corruption hallowed, our mortality consecrated to eternity."(1) 1. On the creed 259.But this all-important event has also been predicted in several passages of Scripture.
2. In Psalm 2d, verse 7th, it is said, ''I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, thou art my son; this day have I begotten thee." That this Psalm relates to the Messiah, is acknowledged by our Rabbins (see Part 2, Letter 1, Section 4.)(2) 2. With respect to this verse in particular, see Zohar in numb, fol. 82, 2. Tal. Succah, fol. 52, 1, Maim, in Tract. Sanhed, c. 10. What is said in this Psalm is not applicable to David or any other mere creature. Neither David, nor Solomon, nor any other ever had the promise of possessing "the heathen for his inheritance or the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." To give that reverence, adoration, and worship required; to exercise that trust and confidence in any other but the Messiah, would be idolatry. Besides, as the Apostle justly observes, "to which of the angels, said God, at any time, thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee?" (Heb 1:5). Hence, the same apostle, in the midst of the synagogue, applies it to the resurrection of Christ, saying, "We declare unto you glad tidings, how that the promise which was made unto the fathers, God has fulfilled the same unto us, their children, in that he has raised up Jesus again; as it is also written in the second psalm; thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee" (Acts 13:32,33).
3. Another prediction of the resurrection of the Messiah is in Psalm 16:10, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption." The plain meaning of the words is, that the person spoken of was to rise from the dead without seeing corruption. The word nephesh, translated soul, more frequently relates to the mere body (Lev 19:28, 20:6,25, 21:1); and the word sheol, translated hell, signifies frequently the grave (Gen 42:38; Isa 38:18); i. e. thou wilt not leave my body in the grave. But had the Psalmist stopped here, it would have been applicable to all mankind, for none shall be left in the grave; the next clause, therefore, explains the former, viz, for thou wilt not suffer thine holy one to see corruption. The wav conjunction, translated neither, is frequently explanatory (see Part 2, Letter 5, Section 5). Hence it is said in Medresh Tehilkim,"The moth and worm shall have no power over him."The learned Dr. Kennicot translates it,"For thou wilt not abandon my life to the grave."It is evident, therefore, that David did not speak of himself, for he died, was buried, and saw corruption. Hence, said the apostle, "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the Patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption" (Acts 2:29-31). From the whole tenor of the Psalm, it appears to relate to the Messiah as expressing his abhorrence of the general idolatry of mankind, and his own zeal for the honor of Jehovah; with the full assurance of his being raised from the dead before his body should be corrupted in the grave. Hence, the inspired apostles, Peter and Paul, apply it to Jesus Christ to prove his resurrection from the dead, as I shall show hereafter.
4. I proceed to another prediction in Psalm 118:22, 23, "The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone of the corner, this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes." Kimchi says some of our Rabbins ascribe the whole of this Psalm to the Messiah.(3) 3. The 22d verse is expressly applied to him in Zohar. Exo fol. 93, 3. Tickcone Zohar. correct, 5 fol. 15:2. Yarchi in Mica, 5:2. The Lord Jesus Christ applied these verses to himself (Matt 21:42), and the apostle Peter applies them to him (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7). Nor did the Jews in their time object to the application; yea, the common people that attended Christ when he rode into Jerusalem, and the children in the temple, took their Hosannah from this Psalm (vv 25,26; Matt 21:9,15). The Messiah is often compared to a stone for strength and duration, as a foundation, in the temple of the living God. Hear the words of the Lord, "Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold I lay in Zion for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa 28:16). The Targum interprets this passage of a great King; but Yarchi, of the King Messiah(4) 4. See also Tal. Bab. Sanhed. fol. 38a.; and it is applied to Jesus Christ by the apostle (Rom 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6). He is that "stone cut out of the mountain without hands" (Dan 2:45). Him the builders refused. The High Priests, Scribes, Lawyers, and Pharisees, who professed to build up the people in knowledge and righteousness, and in the knowledge and faith of the true Messiah, rejected Jesus as the Christ, and refused him as the Messiah, the Savior, and Redeemer, and set him at naught; but to their great mortification, agreeably to this prediction, he rose again from the dead, and became the head-stone of the corner which unites angels and men, Jews and Gentiles, saints above and below, saints in all ages and places. "This is the Lord's doing," and blessed be his holy name.
5. Isaiah 26:19, may probably be considered as another prediction of the resurrection of the Messiah. "Thy dead men shall live; together with my dead body shall they arise: awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead." The passage is understood of a literal resurrection from the dead, both by Jewish and Christian interpreters.(5) 5. See Meade's work, p. 713. Sanhed, fol. 90b. Kethuboth, 111a. Mid. Cohel. 62:3. Remarkable are the words of Elias Levite.(6) 6. In his Tish. 109. He saith,"The word nevelah is never used in Scripture but of the carcass of a beast or fowl that is dead; and never of a man that is dead, but of him that dies an unnatural death, excepting this place, which speaks of the resurrection of the dead; and I greatly wonder that the prophet should call the bodies of the pure righteous ones a carcass; no doubt there is a reason for it known to the wise men and cabalists, which I am ignorant of."Had R. Elias compared this passage with Daniel 9:26, where Messiah is said to die an unnatural death, the death of a criminal, to be cut off, he might have found a solution to his mystery. To return: the person speaking appears to be the Messiah, from the character of him in the context, who is the Lord Jehovah, in whom is everlasting strength (v 4); the desire, the expectation of his people (vv 8,9), who ordains peace for them, and works all their works in them (v 12); and has sole dominion over them (v 13). Hence, at the time of the resurrection of the Messiah's dead body from the grave, others were to arise with him, which was fulfilled at the resurrection of Jesus Christ: "The graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints that slept arose and came out of the graves after his resurrection" (Matt 27:52,53). Now, it is worthy of observation that, although these saints arose from the dead at the crucifixion of Christ, yet they did not leave their graves till after the resurrection of Jesus. Hence, saith the apostle, Christ is risen from the dead and become the first fruits of them that slept (1 Cor 15:20).
6. The apostle Paul, in proving the resurrection of Jesus, produces the following passage: "I will give you the sure mercies of David" (Acts 13:34). That the Messiah is here intended, is evident from his name David, which is frequently given to him (see Jer 30:9; Eze 34:23,24; Hosea 3:5), as also from his several offices, "given for a witness to the people, as a leader and commander" (Isa 55:4), which words as well as the former are, by Aben Ezra and Kimchi, understood of the Messiah. Now, by the "sure mercies of David," are to be understood the blessings of the everlasting covenant, which the Messiah by his death and resurrection was to procure; but had he only died and not risen from the dead, these blessings had not been ratified or made sure. Therefore, when God promises his people that he will give them the sure mercies of David, or of the Messiah, he promises that the Messiah shall not only die to procure mercies for them, but that he shall rise again from the dead to make those mercies sure to them.
7. Permit me, my dear Benjamin, to mention but one passage more from the prophets, which many have considered not only as a prediction of Messiah's resurrection from the dead, but also as pointing out the exact period he was to remain under the power of death. You will probably anticipate that I allude to Hosea 6:2: "After two days will he revive us; in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight." This passage is applied to the resurrection and to the Messiah, by R. Moses Haddarshan,(7) 7. In Gen. 22:4. Ber. Rab. and the Targum says,"After two days he will revive us; he will revive us in the days of consolation which are to come."Now, what else can he mean by the days of consolation, but the days of Messiah, who is the only consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25). Nor are these words applicable in their literal sense to any one but to the resurrection of the Messiah, and they have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as shall be shown hereafter.
8. Having shown from the Old Testament that the resurrection of the Messiah was both typified and predicted, I will now refer to the predictions delivered by Jesus himself concerning his resurrection from the dead; and the design of our Lord in delivering these and other predictions is stated in these words. Having spoken of the treachery of Judas, he adds, "Now I tell you before it come, that when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am" (John 13:19).
When Jesus had driven out of the temple the buyers and sellers, the Jews asked for a sign, to prove his authority for such conduct; "Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When, therefore, he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them: and they believed the Scriptures, and the word which Jesus had said" (John 2:18-22). On a similar occasion, Jesus answered and said unto them, "an evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the Prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matt 12:39,40). And on another occasion he said, "Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father" (John 10:17,18). In these different passages our Lord predicted his own resurrection. And it appears that the Priests and Pharisees both knew and understood the meaning of these sayings, for as soon as Christ was dead, they went to Pilate, saying, "Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, 'After three days I will rise again'" (Matt 27:62,63).
9. I will name but one prediction more, recorded by the Evangelist Luke, chapter 18:31-34, "Then he took with him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated and spitted on; and they shall scourge him and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things; and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken." Hence, immediately after the resurrection of Christ, the angel said to the women who came to embalm the body of Jesus, "he is not here, but risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again" (Luke 24:6,7). And the Lord Jesus Christ himself, on the very day of his resurrection, met the apostles, and after having given them visible proofs of being risen from the dead, reminded them of these predictions, saying, "these are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:44-46).
10. Against these predictions of the Lord Jesus it has been objected, "that the throat of the whale is so narrow as not to admit the body of a man." Let the objectors read the Scriptures in the original, and they will not meet with a whale in the book of Jonah: nothing is said of a whale either in the original or in the translation; and in the New Testament, the word Ketas signifies any great fish. The next objection is that our Lord was not much more than one day in the grave, for he was buried at the close of Friday and rose early on the first day of the week. You are too well acquainted, my dear Benjamin, with the custom of our people in computing time, to lay any stress on this objection. You well know that a part of a day is considered as much as a day and night or twenty-four hours. A male child is to be circumcised when eight days old. Now, if a child is born at the last hour of the day, nay, an hour before sun-set, that hour is considered the first day. Six days and one hour after that the child may be circumcised, and is said to be eight days old, though in reality only six days and two hours. Hence, as Christ was buried before sun-set on Friday, and lay in the grave the whole of the Sabbath, if he rose but one hour after the Sabbath was ended, every Jew would call that three days and three nights, though in reality but twenty-six hours.
In my next letter, I hope to prove the reality of Christ's resurrection. Now may the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Farewell.
Letter 3. The Subject Continued
My dear Benjamin,
Having- proved in my last letter, that the resurrection of the Messiah was both typified and predicted, I will now show their fulfillment in Jesus Christ. As the resurrection of Jesus Christ is an event the most important, so likewise it is related most minutely and most circumstantially by the four Evangelists, and is established upon the best evidences possible.
1. I will endeavor to give you a distinct account of the appearances of our Lord, from the time of his resurrection from the dead until his ascension into heaven, in their regular order.
"In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, to see the sepulchre. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for the angel of the Lord had descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white like snow; and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men" (Matt 28:1-4). Probably the earthquake frightened the two women that had come to the sepulchre at the close of the Sabbath; but the next morning very early they came again, "bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them" (Luke 24:1). And as they were going along, "they said among themselves, who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? for it was very great. And when they looked they saw that the stone was rolled away, and they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus" (Luke 24:2,3; Mark 16:3-6). "Then one of the women ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, they have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and went to the sepulchre" (John 20:2,3). Whilst this was doing, the women, who had remained about the sepulchre, entering in a second time, "saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment. And they were affrighted. And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is not here, for he is risen, as he said; Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (Mark 16:5,6); upon this invitation of the angel, they went into the sepulchre, and there they saw two other angels, who said unto them, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen; remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, saying, the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And go quickly and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and behold he goeth before you into Galilee, there shall ye see him; lo, I have told you. And they remembered his words, and returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven. And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not" (Luke 24:5-11; Matt 28:2-10). In the meanwhile Peter and John had gone to the sepulchre, and Peter went in first, and saw the linen clothes lie; and the napkin that was about his head not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. ''Then went in that other disciple which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw and believed. For as yet they knew not the Scriptures, that he must rise again from the dead. Then his disciples went away again to their own home. But Mary stood without at the sepulchre, weeping. And as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? she saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. (Christ's first appearance.) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou hast borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary; she turneth herself and saith unto him, Rabboni, which is to say. Master. Jesus said unto her, go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God" (John 20:81-7). Now, as the company of women who had carried the news of having seen an angel who had told them that Jesus had risen from the dead, were returning, "Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshiped him. Then said Jesus unto them, be not afraid; go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me" (Christ's second appearance) (Matt 28:9,10).
2. The woman, thus ordered by Jesus himself to carry the tidings of his resurrection into the city, went no further in quest of Peter, but being now charged with a more important message, turned back immediately to publish the glad tidings of having seen the Lord.
"Now, when they were going, behold some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all things that were done; and when they had assembled with the Elders, and taken counsel, they gave large sums (i. e. great bribes) unto the soldiers, saying, say ye, his disciples came by night and stole him away while ye slept. And if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade Him, and secure you; so they took the money and did as they were taught. And this saying is commonly reported amongst the Jews until this day" (Matt 28:11-15).
During this time, as is supposed, the Lord appeared to Peter, according to 1 Corinthians 15:5; which is his third appearance.
After this Jesus met the two disciples in the way to Emmaus. This is his fourth appearance on the day of his resurrection. This interesting and important meeting and conversation which took place, is narrated by the Evangelist Luke 24:13-29.
On the evening of the same day, Jesus appeared to the apostles and others, Thomas being absent. This is the fifth appearance, and is thus related. "The same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see, for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet, and his side. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honey comb. And he took it and did eat before them. But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didimus, i. e. the twin, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe" (John 20:19-25; Luke 24:37-43).
And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.
3. The sixth appearance of our Lord took place when all the apostles were together, and Thomas with them. And Jesus said to Thomas, "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said, My Lord and my God. Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 27:29).
Next, our Lord appeared to his disciples, the seventh time, at the sea of Tiberias; John 21:1-25;
and afterwards the eighth time to five hundred of the brethren in Galilee (1 Cor 15:6). The ninth appearance was to James, as we are informed by the apostle Paul (1 Cor 15:7); and lastly he appeared to the apostles, and in their presence ascended into heaven.
After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he himself. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved saith unto Peter, It is the Lord. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat unto him, (for he was naked,) and did cast himself into the sea. And the other disciples came in a little ship; (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits,) dragging the net with fishes. As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread. Jesus saith unto them, Bring of the fish which ye have now caught. Simon Peter went up, and drew the net to land full of great fishes, an hundred and fifty and three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. Jesus saith unto them, Come and dine. And none of the disciples durst ask him, Who art thou? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then cometh, and taketh bread, and giveth them, and fish likewise. This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.
Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee? Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren, that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, He shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
4. Thus, my dear Benjamin, I have endeavoured to give you, in as brief a manner as possible, an account of the ten different appearances of our Lord and Savior in the order in which they seem to have taken place; but it is more than probable that he did appear more frequently, for we are expressly told by the Evangelist Luke, "that he showed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God" (Acts 1:3). And the Evangelist John says: "many other signs did Jesus truly in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and believing, ye might have life through his name" (20:30,31). We shall now proceed to examine the subject.
5. That Jesus Christ died on the cross, that he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea; that his tomb was sealed with the seal of the High Priest; that it was guarded by a band of Roman soldiers; and that the body of Jesus was not found in the tomb early on the first day of the week, is believed by our people as well as by Christians. The only question of dispute is what became of the body of Jesus? It must either have been taken away, or it must have risen from the dead. If it was taken away, it must have been done either by the enemies of Jesus or by his friends. The enemies surely would not do it; for this is the very thing they were anxious to prevent, and therefore procured a guard to watch the tomb, lest his disciples should come and take away the body, and say he had risen. And as the enemies would not do it, so the friends could not, even if they had been inclined to do so. For consider, dear Benjamin, their cowardly spirit. They had frequent demonstrations of the almighty power of their Master, who but spake to the raging waves, and there was a great calm; and gave but the word of command, and legions of devils trembled and obeyed. What then had they to fear? Yet when they saw but a few men approaching the Garden of Gethsemane, all fled and forsook Christ except Peter; and he, the most zealous, denied his Lord and Master thrice, and swore and cursed that he knew not the man. Now, is it credible that men of such timorous dispositions, and so few in number, would attempt to approach the tomb and take away the dead body, when they knew that a band of soldiers, not less than fifty in number, were placed there for the purpose of preventing the body from being taken away But supposing the temper and disposition of the disciples to have been the reverse of what they were, bold, enterprizing, cunning impostors, and capable of making so hazardous an attempt; can it also be supposed that a company of Roman soldiers, trained up under the strictest discipline, and placed there but a few hours before night, should be all asleep at the same time, and sleep so soundly and so long as not to be awakened, either by the rolling away of the stone, which must have been very large to cover the whole tomb, or by the carrying off the body. Besides, what evidence have we that the disciples took away the body? None hath ever been offered, except that of a part of the soldiers; who said, that whilst they were asleep the disciples came and stole away the body. How ridiculous the story! If they were asleep, how could they know what became of the body, whether it arose or was taken away? And if taken away, how did they know that the disciples did it? We should think it almost incredible that any one in his right senses would believe such an ill-contrived, self-refuting story. Would any people or jury receive the testimony of such a set of men, who deposed, that one night, while they were fast asleep, they saw the accused break open his neighbor's stable and steal his horse? And yet, my dear Benjamin, you well know that this most idle, inconsistent, and improbable story, which rests wholly and solely on the testimony of the soldiers, is still believed by our people, whilst they deny the resurrection of Christ, which is established by evidence superior to any other fact that has been proved to the satisfaction of all. Let us then carefully and most scrupulously examine the following testimony in favor of the resurrection of Christ.
6. a. We have the testimony of angels. The apparition of angels was very common under the Old Testament, whereby God used to attest and verify to man the truth and reality of things. From the preceding statement, it appears that at first one angel from heaven came and removed the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre, and sat upon it, and spoke to the women as they were entering into the sepulchre, and bade them be of good cheer, for Christ was risen, and shewed them the place where the Lord lay, void of Christ's body. After the women went out, two other angels met them, and confirmed what the first had said. "They appeared," said the Evangelist, "in shining white garments"; but these could not be more clear than their testimony is true. "He is not here, for he is risen."
7. b. We notice the testimony of the soldiers. Because the testimony of an adversary is in most cases thought of greater validity, we have not only friends but even enemies of Christ to confirm the truth of his resurrection. For "behold some of the watch came into the city and showed unto the chief priests all the things that were done" (Matt 28:11), i. e. gave them an account of the earthquake, and of the vision of the angel that rolled away the stone, and of the empty sepulchre.
Nor is it unlikely that the soldiers told many of the things that had happened before they were bribed by the high priest. Thus, whilst the priests proposed to prevent our Lord's resurrection from being palmed upon the world, resolving no doubt to show his body publicly after the third day as an impostor, they put the truth of Christ's resurrection beyond all question, by furnishing a number of unexceptionable witnesses to it, whose testimony they themselves could not refuse.
8. c. The testimony of the pious women deserves our next consideration. These having gone to the sepulchre with the spices they had prepared, found the stone rolled away, and saw angels, who declared the good news that Jesus had risen from the dead, and commissioned them to go and tell the apostles of it, and to direct them to go to Galilee, where Jesus had appointed to meet them. Accordingly, they hastened to obey the heavenly command, and behold Jesus himself met them, bid them "All hail," and confirmed the commission they had received. Thus they were well qualified to testify of the resurrection of Christ upon sensible and sure evidence, having heard it with their own ears from the lips of holy angels; and seen the Lord Jesus himself with their own eyes. Here we may see, my dear Benjamin, the truth of God's word, "them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Sam 2:30). These pious women first saw the Lord after his resurrection, and were made as it were apostles to the apostles. This was an honour put upon them, and a recompense for their constant affectionate adherence to him at the cross and in the grave, and a rebuke to the disciples who forsook him. Still God chooseth the weak things of the world to confound the mighty; and puts the treasure not only into earthen vessels, but here into the weaker vessels. In my next letter we shall examine the testimony of the apostles. Farewell.
Letter 4. Continuation of the Subject.
My dear Benjamin,
1. d. I will now call your attention to the testimonies of the apostles.
That they preached the resurrection of Christ, is not denied by any. It was one great part of their office to testify of the resurrection of Christ. On this account Peter urged the necessity of electing another apostle in the place of Judas (Acts 1:21,22), and he made it a prominent part of his sermon to Cornelius and his household, saying "We are witnesses of all things which he said both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they slew, and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day and showed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead" (Acts 10:39-41). See also Acts 3:15, 4:2, 33, 13:31, 15:18, 17:30, 32.
Now, the apostles must either have believed the resurrection of Christ to be a fact, or they must have conspired to act the part of deceivers, to impose upon the world by asserting to be fact what they knew to be false. That the latter could not be the case, is evident,
2. a. From their character. They were men of God, of unspotted character, unblemished honesty and integrity. Men of that sort would neither tell a lie, nor sanction it.
When Ananias and Sapphira attempted to impose upon the apostles by telling a lie, Peter told them that their punishment was death, which immediately took place. In all their writings, the apostles enforced the duty of speaking truth upon all occasions, and enforced the duty by the considerations of a judgment day. In Ephesians 4:25, the apostle commands that, "putting away lying, they speak every man truth with his neighbor." And again in Colossians 3:9, "Lie not one to another." Nay, it is very evident that they considered it sinful for any man to lie, even out of zeal for the glory of God. For says the apostle, "If the truth of God has more abounded through my lie unto his glory, why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say). Let us do evil that good may come? whose damnation is just" (Rom 3:7,8).
Now, that any men, who firmly believed that God would punish them for speaking an untruth, though for the advancement of a good cause, should, at the hazard of their lives, and without a prospect of gain or advantage, make assertions, which at the same time they knew to be false; should, for instance, affirm that they saw and conversed with Jesus Christ after his resurrection, knowing or believing that he was not risen from the dead, and expect to be judged hereafter by that very same Jesus, is too impossible to gain credit.
The motives of their actions show the excellency of their character. The motives by which wicked men are actuated they detested. "Gold and silver they had none"; the honours and pleasures of the world they renounced; poverty, reproach, sufferings and martyrdom they expected and met with; and all this, because they preached the resurrection of Jesus. Nothing else but an attachment to their Lord and Master, through evil as well as good report, could be their motive. Besides, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, instead of feeling such an attachment to him, as to constrain them to do and suffer all things in honor of him, we should have expected that his disciples would have publicly declared him to have been an impostor and deceiver, because he had so often declared, that after three days he would rise again.
3. b. That they were no impostors, appears from their mode and manner of procedure. Had they published the resurrection of Christ first in distant countries, after the lapse of so many years, it might have been supposed that distance of place and time, rendering it exceedingly difficult for their hearers to obtain exact information, had facilitated the establishment of error, and concealed deception. But the apostles, agreeably to instruction received from their Lord and Master, "to commence at Jerusalem," preached first the resurrection on the day of Pentecost, in that city, in the public synagogues, in the very place where the Savior had been condemned and executed, had died, and been buried, and his tomb guarded by a band of soldiers, who declared that the body was not found in the grave on the first day of the week. Now, my dear Benjamin, would impostors have acted thus? Suppose that a set of men had determined to deceive and impose upon the public a report that a certain well-known person who had been executed in the city of New York, and publicly buried, had a few days afterwards risen again from the grave, and had appeared repeatedly to different public characters, to whom he was well known, and with whom he had conversed, ate, and drank, would they commence to circulate this report within a few days after the fact is said to have taken place, in the city of New York, in the most public places, where it was within the power of all to inquire of the persons to whom he is said to have appeared, and to examine, and re-examine, all the circumstances of the case; or would they not rather go to a remote part of the country, where it was not in the power of the people to contradict the report, and where, however strange and incredible it might appear to some, yet it would find credit with many, for want of evidence to the contrary. Besides,
4. c. The apostles preached the resurrection of Christ before such persons as were perfectly qualified to detect the imposture, if such had been the case. Their testimony was examined by Jews and heathens, by philosophers and rabbins, and by an infinite number of people who went annually to Jerusalem. Saith the great Mr. Saurine,"For, my brethren, Providence so ordered these circumstances that the testimony of the apostles might not be suspected. Providence continued Jerusalem forty years after the resurrection of our Lord, that all the Jews in the world might examine the evidence concerning it, and obtain authentic proof of the truth of Christianity. I repeat it again, then, the apostles maintained the resurrection of Jesus Christ before Jews, before Pagans, before philosophers, before rabbins, before courtiers, before lawyers, before people expert in examining and cross-examining witnesses, in order to lead them into self-contradiction. Had the apostles borne testimony in consequence of a preconcerted plot between themselves, is it not morally certain, that as they were examined before such different and capable men, someone would have discovered the pretended fraud?"5. d. Another proof that the apostles believed the resurrection of Christ as a fact, arises from the harmony of their testimony. They all unanimously deposed that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It is very extraordinary, that a gang of five hundred impostors, (I speak the language of infidels,) a company in which there must needs be people of different capacities and tempers, the witty and the dull, the timid and the bold; it is very strange that such a numerous body as this should maintain an unity of evidence. This, however, is the case of our witnesses. It is indeed acknowledged that there are appearances of inconsistency in the history of the resurrection of Christ, given by the four Evangelists; but these have been frequently reconciled by the critics, and especially in that excellent work of West on the resurrection of Christ, and in M'Knight's Harmony of the Gospels. Nay, from the seeming inconsistency, it may be inferred, to the advantage of the Evangelists, that they did not write in concert; which doubtless they would and must have done had they endeavored to impose upon the world "a cunningly devised fable." But truth, like honesty, oftentimes neglects appearances. Hypocrisy and imposture are always guarded.
6. e. The perseverance of the disciples in their testimony, to the end, is a very striking proof that they believed the resurrection of Jesus to be a fact. In general, the more wicked a traitor is, the more he trembles, alters, and confesses at the approach of death. Having betrayed, for his own interest, the law of his country, the interests of society, the confidence of his prince, and the credit of religion, he betrays the companion of his imposture, the accomplices of his crimes. Here, on the contrary, the apostles persist in their testimony till death, and sign the truths they have published with the last drop of their blood. What Christian ever contradicted himself? What Christian ever impeached his accomplices? What Christian ever discovered this pretended imposture?
Hence, it is evident, my dear Benjamin, that the apostles believed the truth and reality of the resurrection of Christ; and hence the apostle Peter, who was one of the witnesses, appeals to the church in behalf of himself and the rest of his brethren, where he says, "We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eye witnesses of his majesty" (2 Peter 1:16).
7. I am perfectly aware, my dear Benjamin, that it may be said, "Granted the apostles believed what they testified, yet they may have been mistaken." Doubtless many may have died as martyrs to their peculiar opinions and sentiments, and yet they were mistaken. But this could not have been the case with regard to the subject in hand. The apostles could not be mistaken. This will evidently appear, if we consider, that,
a. It was a matter of fact, and not of mere opinion. Their judgment was guided and informed by the exercise of their senses. They had the same "infallible proofs" of Christ's being alive after his sufferings and death, as they had of his being alive before it. They saw him, saw the particular marks of identity in his person and countenance, in his hands, feet, and side, which had been pierced at the cross. And Thomas, who had refused to believe it, except he put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side, had that farther satisfaction, unreasonable as it was, granted, him, and the effect was, that he exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Farther, they saw him also eat; they heard him speak, and were by him commanded to handle him, and see that he was flesh and bones. The evidence was so clear and convincing, that the apostles were emboldened to preach this doctrine in opposition to all contradictions and hardships. "We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard" (Acts 4:20). St. Luke informs us, that what he wrote he "had a perfect understanding of from the very first" (1:3). And the apostle John says, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of life; that which we have seen and heard, declare we unto you" (1 John 1:1,3). That profound reasoner, Mr. Saurine, speaking of the facts, says."Had they been metaphysical reasons, depending on a chain of principles and consequences; had they been periods of chronology, depending on long and difficult calculations; had they been distant events, which could only have been known by the relation of others, their reasonings might have been suspected; but they are facts which are in question; facts which the witnesses declared they had seen with their own eyes, at divers places, and at several times. Had they seen Jesus Christ? Had they touched him? Had they sat at the table and eaten with him? All these are questions of facts; it is impossible they could be deceived in them."8. b. It was not an individual, or a few, who said that they saw Jesus risen from the dead. The imagination of one might have been so wrought upon, by a desire of seeing Jesus again, that he might have fancied he had actually seen him; but when he was seen by a number of pious women, by Peter, by the disciples in the way to Emmaus, by the ten apostles, and again afterwards when Thomas was with them, and, lastly, by more than five hundred brethren, what possible room is there left for doubt or suspicion? And as they were many in number, so also they saw him often, as is evident from the statement in the first paragraphs of the preceding letter.
9. c. The incredulity of the apostles is another proof that they were not deceived. Had they been persons forward and credulous, then we might have cause to suspect what they said, their testimony might have been looked upon as the product of a fond precipitancy, and not of sober reason and conviction. But they were far otherwise. Notwithstanding the repeated promises of our Lord, that he would rise again from the dead, yet when they were told that he had actually risen, "their words seemed to them as idle tales," and they believed them not (Luke 24:11); they looked upon the story which the women had told, as a mere scheme, or as the delusion of a disordered imagination. The two disciples, in the way to Emmaus, acknowledged that the news brought by the women, of the resurrection of Christ, was rather a matter of astonishment and perplexity to them, than welcome news. Hence the Lord Jesus reproved their unbelief, saying, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" (Luke 24:25) and having opened their eyes, so that they knew him, they immediately went up to Jerusalem to the apostles, and told them that the Lord had risen indeed, and had appeared to them, but "they believed them not" (Luke 24:11); "whilst they were yet speaking, Jesus himself appeared in the midst of them, and said, Peace be unto you; but they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit" (Luke 24:36,17). To dispel their fears, and remove their doubts, Jesus came forward and spake to them, and showed them his hands and feet, desiring them to handle him, and be convinced, by the united report of their senses, that it was he. Thus, you perceive, my dear Benjamin, that the apostles would not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even after they had received the testimony of the pious women, and of Peter, and of the two disciples that came from Emmaus, and even after they themselves had seen Jesus standing in the midst of them, until they had actually looked attentively to his hands and feet; nay, although they began to rejoice and be glad, yet their minds were still wavering and full of doubts. Jesus, therefore, knowing their thoughts, called for meat, and did eat with them, to prove more fully the certain truth of his resurrection from the dead, and the reality of his presence with them on this occasion.
10. d. Yet after all these ocular and sensible demonstrations of the reality of the resurrection of Christ, something more was necessary to remove from their minds the deep rooted prejudices against the sufferings and death of the Messiah; and their worldly expectation of an earthly kingdom; therefore the Lord Jesus "breathed" on them, and said "receive ye the Holy Ghost" (John 20:22). The effect of this spiritual illumination was, that by perceiving the agreeableness of the things which had befallen him with the ancient prophecies respecting Messiah, their minds were quieted, and perfectly satisfied, respecting the necessity of his sufferings, as well as the reality of his resurrection. Thus the credulity of the apostles is overruled for the confirmation of our faith; that they were not deceived in preaching the resurrection of Christ.
11. In addition to what has been said, I cannot but notice the conduct of St. Thomas, overruled by the condescension of our Lord, as another proof of the validity of his resurrection; it is thus recorded and needs no comment."But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came; the other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord; but he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger in the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. Then after eight days, again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: Then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst and said, Peace be unto you. Then said he unto Thomas, reach hither thy finger and behold my hands, and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him. My Lord and My God; Jesus said unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed, blessed are they which have not seen,and yet have believed."
12. Now, my dear Benjamin, we have seen and examined the testimonies of holy angels, of pious women, of inveterate enemies, and of disinterested and honest men, and I trust you will be convinced that the "Lord is risen indeed." But such is the importance of the subject, (as will be shown,) that although I have already detained you so long, I must beg your attention for a few moments longer to the testimony of God himself; for if we receive the witness of men, surely the witness of God is greater. For God, who is truth himself, will never set the seal of his omnipotence to a lie. Our Lord had promised to his disciples the Holy Spirit, who should be to them a comforter, and with respect to himself, an advocate to plead his cause and defend his innocence: this promise was partially fulfilled, on the very day of his resurrection, (as has been shown in the preceding section,) "he breathed on his disciples, and said, receive ye the Holy Ghost." And after his ascension on the day of Pentecost, he bestowed the Holy Ghost more plentifully; enabling the apostles to speak to the multitude in different languages, which they had never known before. And when the people were not able to account for these strange things, the apostle Peter pointed out to them the true cause, saying, "This Jesus has God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses; therefore, being at the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he has shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so also is the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him" (Acts 2:32,33,36, 5:32). Thus the Holy Ghost confirmed the doctrine of the resurrection of Christ, preached by the apostles, by furnishing them with miraculous power, both to be exercised by them and to be communicated to others.
13. The great and pious Mr. Saurine, speaking of this part of the subject, says,"Imagine these venerable men, addressing their adversaries on the day of the Christian Pentecost, in this language: You refuse to believe us on our depositions; five hundred of us you think are enthusiasts, all infected with the same malady, who have carried our absurdities so far as to imagine we have seen a man whom we have not seen; eaten with a man with whom we have not eaten; conversed with a man with whom we have not conversed; or perhaps you think us impostors, or take us for madmen, who intend to suffer ourselves to be imprisoned and tortured, and crucified, for the sake of enjoying the pleasure of deceiving mankind, by prevailing upon them to believe a fanciful resurrection: you think we are so stupid as to act a part so extravagant; but bring your sick; present your demoniacs; fetch hither your dead; confront us with Medes, Partheans, Elamites; let Cappadocia, Pontius, and Egypt, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, let all the nations and people send us some of their inhabitants; we will restore hearing to the deaf and light to the blind; we will make the lame walk; we will cast out devils, and raise the dead. We, we little publicans, we illiterate men, we tent makers, we fishermen, we will discourse with all the people of the world in their own languages. We will explain prophecies, illuminate the most obstruse predictions, develop the most sublime mysteries, teach you notions of God, precepts for the conduct of life, plans of morality and religion more extensive, more sublime, and more advantageous, than those of your priests and philosophers; yea, than Moses himself. We will do more still. We will communicate these gifts to you, the word of wisdom, the word of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, the works of miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, divers kinds of tongues (1 Cor 12:8). All these shall be communicated to you by our ministry. All these things the apostles professed, all these proofs they gave of the resurrection of Christ. 'This Jesus has God raised up; and he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.'14. From what has been stated on this subject, I trust, my dear Benjamin, it is abundantly evident that we have no reason to doubt the truth of the resurrection of Christ. There is no history, there is no matter of fact which we yet believe firmly, that is established upon evidence half as good. Whoever, therefore, disbelieves it, does it not for want of evidence and sufficient motives of belief, but from a faulty principle and culpable neglect; and such person will find the truth of those words addressed to those who wanted to see a sign from heaven: "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given to it but the sign of the prophet Jonas; for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is here" (Matt 12:39-41). The remainder of this important subject I shall consider in my next letter. And may I myself, and my dear Benjamin, not only believe, but experimentally "know the power of the resurrection of Christ." Amen. Farewell.
"Collect all these proofs together, consider them, in one point of view, and see how many extravagant suppositions must be advanced, if the resurrection of our Saviour be denied. It must be supposed that the guards, who had been particularly cautioned by their officers, sat down to sleep, and that however, they deserve credit when they said the body of Jesus Christ was stolen; it must be supposed that men who had been imposed on in the most odious and cruel manner in the world, hazarded their dearest enjoyments for the glory of an impostor. It must be supposed that ignorant and illiterate men, who had neither reputation, fortune, or eloquence, possessed the art of fascinating the eyes of all the church. It must be supposed, either that five hundred persons were all deprived of their senses at one time; or that they were deceived in the plainest matter of fact; or that this multitude of false witnesses had found out the secret of not contradicting themselves or one another, and being always uniform in their testimony. It must be supposed that the most expert courts of judicature could not find out a shadow of contradiction in palpable imposture. It must be supposed that the apostles, sensible men in other cases, chose precisely those places which were the most unfavorable to their views. It must be supposed that millions madly suffered imprisonment, tortures, and crucifixion, to spread an illusion. It must be supposed that ten thousand miracles were wrought in favor of a falsehood, or all these facts must be denied; and then it must be supposed, that the apostles were idiots, that the enemies of Christianity were idiots, and that all the primitive Christians were idiots. The arguments that persuade us of the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, are so clear and so conclusive that if any difficulty remains, it arises from the brightness of the evidence itself. Yes, I declare, if any thing has shaken my confidence in it, it has arisen from this consideration. I could not conceive how a truth attested by so many irreproachable witnesses, and confirmed by so many notorious miracles, should not make more proselytes; how it could possibly be, that all the Jews, and all the heathens, did not yield to this evidence. But this difficulty ought not to weaken our faith; in the folly of mankind its solution lies. Men are capable of any thing to gratify their passions, and to defend their prejudices; the unbelief of the Jews and the heathen is not more wonderful than a hundred other phenomena, which, were we not to behold them every day, would equally alarm us. The ancient unbelief is not more wonderful than yours, Protestants. You profess to believe there is a judgment and a hell, and to know that misers, adulterers, and drunkards, must suffer everlasting punishment there; and although you cannot be ignorant of your being in this fatal list, yet you are as careless about futurity as if you had read your names in the book of life, and had not reason to doubt of your salvation."Christ the Lord is risen to day!
Sons of men and angels say:
Raise your joys and triumphs high!
Sing, ye heav'ns—and earth, reply.
Love's redeeming work is done
Fought the fight, the battle won:
Lo! the sun's eclipse is o'er;
Lo! he sets in blood no more.
Letter 5. Importance of Christ's Resurrection
Having shown that the resurrection of the Messiah was both typified and predicted, and that Jesus Christ did actually rise from the dead; I will now answer but one question or objection relative to this subject, and then show its importance and happy effects.
1. It is asked, "why did not Christ appear to his enemies as well as to his friends?" This might well be considered a question of presumption and blasphemy. "O man, who art thou that repliest against God?" (Rom 9:20). But is it not a common thing for men to find fault with God's work of creation and providence? and why should it be thought strange to hear them find fault with God's dispensations of grace? It is reported by creditable historians, that Alphonsus, one of the kings of Castile, greatly blamed the dispositions of the frame of nature, and blasphemously said he could have advised the Creator better in adjusting the frame of nature, had he been present at the creation of the world. I will now give you the question in their own words. Celsus, an Epicurean philosopher, who wrote against the Christian religion when in its infancy, says,"If Christ would have in reality his divine power to appear, he ought to have shown himself to his enemies, to his judge, and absolutely to all the people; had he done so, infidelity would have been eradicated, and every one would have believed his own eyes."(8) 8. Orig. Cont. Cel. L. 2, S. 63, p. 434.The same objection has been urged by modern philosophers, who have asked,"Why should the credit of the fact depend on the testimony of the apostles alone; that if they had been enemies, and unconverted by the miraculous resurrection of Christ, this would have been much better: and he ought to have appeared especially to the magistrates and the Jews: that they did not own him as the Messiah, was owing to his not appearing to them after his resurrection."(9) 9. Resur. of Jesus Consid. p. 73.This objection, my dear Benjamin, has been thought by the enemies of the cross unanswerable. Let us examine it. Our modern infidels say, that "if the apostles had been enemies, and converted by the miraculous resurrection of Christ, this would have been much better." I wonder whether these objectors have ever read the history of Saul of Tarsus; (for no doubt many have these objections against the Bible at the lip of the tongue, who have never read the precious book itself; but have gathered their objections from the writings of a Paine, Hume, or Voltaire;) was not this great champion of the Christian religion an open enemy of Christ and his followers? did he not verily think he was doing God service by persecuting the saints? and was he not converted by seeing Christ after his resurrection? And did not he most zealously preach and defend this fact before Jews and Gentiles, and before the priests and sanhedrim, &c.? Again, upon what authority do these men, who are so cautious to believe nothing but upon unexceptionable evidence, assert that the Jews did not own him as Messiah, because he did not appear to them after his resurrection? Did the Jews in Christ's time make such an objection? Did they assign this as the reason for not believing the Gospel, when preached by the apostles? Or do our people, at this day, reject Christ because he appeared only to his friends? No such thing; you know better, my dear Benjamin; the same cause which led them to cry, crucify him, crucify him, led them to reject him after his resurrection, and keeps our people still in unbelief. What this cause is, has been stated in former letters, viz. that he did not answer their worldly and carnal expectations, by delivering them from the galling yoke of the Romans, and raising them in authority over all nations, and leading them on to the accumulation of riches, the enjoyment of pleasure, and so forth. Further, that Epicurean Celsus would not have been satisfied if Christ had not appeared also literally "to all the people." Now, does he mean to all the people in Jerusalem? or in Judea? or in all the world? But suppose he means the former only, all the people in Jerusalem: how was this to be effected? When and where were they to be collected; by what authority, and by what means was the immense multitude to be gathered together? A thousand other difficulties might be suggested, with respect to carrying into effect the measure proposed by these profound philosophers. But suppose all that has been required by Celsus and his unbelieving brethren had been donethat Christ had appeared to the priests, the pharisees, and sanhedrimhow do they know this would have removed the deep-rooted prejudice, and led them to believe that Jesus was risen, indeed? May we not rather adopt the manner of reasoning of our father Abraham? "If they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would they believe if one rose from the dead" (Luke 16:31). Did not some of the watch come into the city and show unto the chief priests all that was done? and did they believe their testimony? Or when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, did they appoint a committee to investigate the matter? did they express any doubt upon the subject? did they manifest any desire to have any further evidence of the reality of Christ's resurrection? No such thing. But they adopted the foul measure of bribing the soldiers to tell a lie, saying, "Say ye, his disciples came and stole him away while we slept; and if this come to the governor's ears, we will persuade him, and secure you" (Matt 28:13,14). Now, my dear Benjamin, this awful charge against the priests, senate, and rulers, was published by the evangelists at the very time and scene of the transaction; if it had not been true, why did they not publicly contradict it? Why did they not punish the authors of so heinous a libel, if such it had been? To return to our subject: suppose that Christ had appeared to "all the people," how could they have been assured that it was the same identical person that had been crucified? Must not the faith of most of them have rested on the evidence of the priests, sanhedrims, and pharisees? And is it not more rational to believe that these inveterate enemies of Christ, who had rejected him merely out of malice, because they "would not have this man to reign over them" (Luke 19:14), and who, by now confessing him to be the Christ, would have laid themselves open to the charge of having crucified the Lord of glory, and brought upon themselves the indignation of the people? I say, is it not more rational to believe that such persons, under such circumstances, would rather have hardened their hearts and shut their eyes against the clearest evidence, by adopting the objection of some of our modern infidels, saying, "This is not the identical Jesus; the marks in his hands, and feet, and sides have been made by his disciples to carry on the deception; or he was not quite dead when taken from the cross; or, if it is the same person, and he was really dead, and has actually risen, yet this was not effected by the power of God, but his disciples wrought it by the power of the devil, as he himself performed his miracles? Nay, what security have these objectors that the malicious priests would not have accused both Christ and his apostles of being in league with Beelzebub, the prince of devils, and therefore tried to crucify him again? But let us again suppose, my dear Benjamin, that Christ Jesus had appeared to all, as Celsus and the modern infidels demand; and suppose they had actually believed the truth of his resurrection, how do these objectors know that it would have been "better for the propagation of the Gospel in after-ages?" Would succeeding ages have had better and more convincing evidence than those which we have in the New Testament? How could they have known that all Jerusalem and Judea had known of a surety that Christ had risen from the dead, but by some written document, and a succession of preachers or believers of the Gospel, or by both; and would that have satisfied our infidel friends? Or would they not probably have objected, "How do we know that these documents are authentic, whether they have not been corrupted, and so forth; whether the whole story is not 'a cunningly devised fable,' a mere production of priestcraft?" Besides, my dear Benjamin, let it be well remembered that the religion of Jesus does not consist merely in the one article of the resurrection of Christ from the dead; but that all that Jesus Christ did, and taught, and suffered, was to be published to the world by eye-witnesses, well qualified for the arduous and all-important work. The gracious and benevolent design of the Son of God, to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, as well as to be the glory of his people Israel, could not have been effected in the manner proposed by infidels; for neither the priests, the sanhedrim, the pharisees, and all the people of Jerusalem together, although they had believed the history and fact of the resurrection of Christ, were well qualified for the task; for they had neither heard all that Jesus taught from the beginning, nor seen all the miracles that he had wrought; nor had they the power to confirm what they knew and believed by miracle; and above all, they needed the illumination and influence of the Holy Spirit. The plan, therefore, adopted by our blessed Jesus, was the best and most effectual.
It was briefly this: "As soon as he commenced his ministry he chose twelve persons, to be almost his constant companions, in order to be witnesses to the sanctity of his life, to the miracles he wrought, and to the instructions he gave. And as his resurrection from the dead was one of those miraculous events that was intended, among many other reasons, to be the evidence of his divine mission; so he chose to make his apostles witnesses thereof; gave them a spiritual understanding, to understand the Scriptures; instructed them for forty days from the time of his resurrection till the time of his ascension into heaven, in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God; and on the day of Pentecost he sent forth the Holy Spirit, in a more copious manner, to qualify them to preach the Gospel in foreign languages, which they had never known before; and to confirm their doctrines by miracles. Hence, when the Gospel was first preached by Peter, in the house of Cornelius, he says, in the beginning of Ins sermon, "The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ; (he is Lord of all;) that word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost, and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were possessed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did, both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem: him they slew, and hanged upon a tree: him God raised up the third day, and showed him openly; not unto all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he who is ordained of God to be the judge of quick and dead" (Acts 10:36-42).
2. I will now endeavor, my beloved Benjamin, to point out to you the important truth taught by the resurrection of Christ. FirstIt proves the reality of his being the Son of God. The apostle says that Christ, by his resurrection, was declared to be the Son of God (Rom 1:4); for in reading the history of Christ, you will observe that the priests and rulers of our people tried, in a variety of ways, to find a cause to justify themselves in putting him to death, but could not find any; at last, Jesus being abjured by the high priest, by the living God, to tell whether he was the Son of God, and having answered in the affirmative, they condemned him for blasphemy, because he had said he was the Son of God. "Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He has spoken blasphemy, what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death" (Matt 26:65,66). Hence, when Christ was hanging on the cross, they derided and mocked him, saying, "He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him; for he said, I am the Son of God" (Matt 27:43). Now, this being the crime which was charged upon him, and for which he was crucified and put to death. God, by raising him from the dead, gave evidence that he was no blasphemer, but the Son of God. Hence, said the apostle, he was justified by the spirit (1 Tim 3:16). The Spirit gave testimony to him at his baptism, and by the mighty works done by him in his life time; but he was most eminently and remarkably justified by the Holy Spirit, by his resurrection from the dead. God hereby bearing him witness that he was unjustly condemned, and that he assumed nothing to himself but what of right did belong to him, when he said he was the Son of God. For how could a man that was condemned to die for calling himself the Son of God, be more remarkably vindicated and more clearly proved to be so, than by being raised from the dead by the power of God? For it is not conceivable that God should put forth an almighty power to raise him, and thereby authorize his usurpation, if by robbery he had assumed that glorious title. It was upon this evidence Thomas adored him as his Lord and God.
3. In the next place I would observe, that the resurrection of Jesus Christ proved to a demonstration that he was the promised Messiah. Hence, when the Jews asked of him a sign, he referred them to his resurrection (John 2:18,19; Matt 18:38,39). Had Christ been an impostor, the apostles instead of saying "it was impossible that he should be holden in death" (Acts 2:24), would rather have said, it was impossible for him to escape; for neither could he have raised himself nor would God have raised him. Mahomed promised to rise after four days, but his followers were obliged to bury him. None of the false Christs, though there have been many, have risen again. You remember, my dear Benjamin, I have mentioned in a former letter the case of him who called himself Bar Cochar, the son of a star, giving himself out to be the Messiah, and promised to rise again; but as he did not perform his promise, his followers called him Bar Cosbi, i. e. the son of a lie. In like manner, if Jesus had not risen from the dead, I should not hesitate to call him an impostor and deceiver. For I have already shown that it was typified and predicted that the Messiah should not see corruption, but rise again on the third day; and Jesus himself had repeatedly foretold his resurrection. Hence you perceive the great importance of this article of our holy religion. Therefore said the apostle "This is the word of faith which we speak, that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God has raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom 10:8,9). For he that believeth that Jesus rose from the dead, does believe the other articles of religion which are well confirmed by this. He that believeth that Jesus is risen, does at the same time believe him to be the Christ, and consequently, that his precepts are divine, that his promises are certain, and his power and authority uncontrollable.
4. The resurrection of Christ is a satisfactory proof that his death was an acceptable sacrifice to God his Father, and regarded by him as a propitiation for the sins of the world. It not only shows that Christ finished all he had engaged to do, and paid every farthing of debt, but that the Father had accepted of it. His law is magnified, justice satisfied, and the prisoner released, Had Christ not been liberated from the prison of the grave, we could have had no evidence that our debt was discharged. But his resurrection clearly proved that he had satisfied the demands of law and justice, and affords us a ground of assured hope and triumphant exaltation (Rom 4:20, 8:34). In his death, Christ suffered as a malefactor, and did undertake the guilt of our sins; but by his resurrection, he was justified, i. e. declared to the world that he had shaken off all that guilt, and left it, as it were, in the grave, with his grave-clothes.
5. Observe again, my dear Benjamin, that the resurrection of Christ shows the possibility of a general resurrection; is an assurance to the people of God of the certainty of their rising from the dead; and is the glorious pattern, as well as the sure pledge, of what kind their resurrection shall be. That God is able to raise the dead, sound reason and philosophy will not deny. But if it were doubtful, one certain and evident instance of it will be sufficient to answer all objections; since facts are irresistible evidences of the truth and certainty of things. By the resurrection of Christ, therefore, God has in a most satisfactory manner demonstrated the possibility of the thing, and given us an assurance that all believers shall rise too. Hence, saith the apostle, "Christ has risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept; as the first man was of the earth, earthy; so the second man was the Lord from heaven" (1 Cor 15:20,47,48), not of an earthly nature, but a heavenly original; and "as the earthy man was, such also are those that are earthy," of the same frail materials with him from whom they are derived; so also, "as is the heavenly man, such also art those which are heavenly," the state of their bodies shall be of a heavenly form and constitution like his. "As we have the image of the earthy," have been subject to the infirmities of this frail earthly body, "so shall we bear also the image of the heavenly," be transformed and fashioned in our bodies "like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able to subdue all things to himself" (1 Cor 15:20,47-49; Phil 3:21). As our blessed Lord rose to an immortal life, and his body was transformed into a very glorious state and appearance, to fit him for that heavenly world where he now resides; so we know that "when Christ who is our life shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (Col 3:4; 1 John 3:2), and be in our bodies transformed into "the same image, from glory to glory" (2 Cor 3:18). Believers know and feel, and may you, my dear Benjamin, know it too, that they have passed from death unto life, and are united to their Savior by a living faith, as really as the members are to the body, and the body to the head; and is it conceivable that he should leave any of his saints, the members of his body, under the power of death? If Moses, the deliverer of our fathers from the tyranny of Pharaoh, would not suffer any thing, not an hoof "to remain in the house of bondage," will our great Redeemer be less perfect in his work? shall our last enemy always retain his spoils, our bodies, in the grave? This would greatly reflect on his love, his power, and faithfulness. His promise is, "I live, and ye shall live also" (John 14:19). Oh, my dear brother, how consoling and supporting is the thought of a risen and a living Savior, under all the afflictions and troubles, perils and uncertainties of the present life, and in the nearest view and approach of death! Believers in Christ may say, as the sea we traverse may have its storms, but he calms them, and speaks them into peace. We may sometimes be uncertain where to direct our course; but if that heavenly pilot steer our bark, we shall not wander wide of the place we aim at. Dangers may encompass, but his power can protect us. Enemies may distress us, but through him that strengthens us, we shall become superior to them. The risen and exalted Jesus is a compassionate and "merciful High Priest, ready to save to the uttermost," and, by office and inclination, ready to succor us in every time of need. O, my beloved Benjamin, may you have a ''good hope through grace," may Christ be precious to thy soul, "as he is to all them that believe." Then, whatever are thy burdens and afflictions of life, whatever thy cares, anxieties, and sorrows, you need not sink under them. Better things wait for thee. The scene here, however uncomfortable, shall soon pass away. Death, which is the curse of bad men, shall be thy blessing; and what is the commencement of their misery, shall be to thee the beginning of endless peace and happiness. Remember that Jesus, though crucified and slain, lives at the right hand of God. May you, my beloved brother, be able to join in the doxology of the apostle to the circumcision, saying, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to his abundant mercy, has begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undented, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you who are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:3-5).
6. Having already detained you so long, I will make but one observation more, viz. The resurrection of our blessed Lord is a powerful motive to imitate him in purity of heart and universal holiness of conversation, and to walk before God in all newness of life. The remembrance of this great event should put us in mind of the obligation we are under to separate ourselves from the corruption of the world; to subdue our sinful passions, and to forsake our former sins; to "yield ourselves to God, as those who are alive from the dead" (Rom 6:13); to do the things that are acceptable to him; to live a spiritual and divine life; and as "risen with Christ, to seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God; and to set our affections on things which are above, and not on things on the earth; that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we may also appear with him in glory" (Col 3:1-4). The same direction the apostle gives to the church at Rome, saying, "Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ, were baptized into his death? Therefore, we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also shall walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom 6:3-6). On this passage the pious and learned Dr. John Edwards, a Pedo-baptist, has the following remark:"In the fourth verse we have a most appropriate and elegant similitude, which is to this effect: The immersion or plunging into the water, which was then used in baptism, represents to us the death and burial of Christ; and by this symbol is also signified, that those who were baptized, and, as it were, buried under the water, undertook to die unto sin, and to all carnal inclinations; for that is to be buried with Christ, and to be baptized into his death. And then on the other hand, the coming out of the baptismal water represents unto us the resurrection of Christ; and also that we ought to rise unto righteousness, and a holy and godly life. The similitude and analogy are exact, and therefore made use of by the apostle in other places (Col 2:12). Christ's resurrection is an hieroglyphic of our spiritual rising out of the grave of sin; it is a fit emblem of our rising to newness of life."Having, at considerable length, shown that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures, I propose, by divine permission, to show next, that Christ hath also ascended up into heaven, according to the Scriptures. Farewell.
|Next Letter||Table of Contents|
This book is original to this site.
This book has been edited.
Copyright © 2006 JCR