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of; such as those who made that famous uproar, SERM. crying out, Great is Diana of the Ephesians: it seemed to thwart the common maxims of poli- Acts xix. cy, and dictates of worldly prudence; it could not but appear, to men prepossessed with admiration of secular wealth, power, and glory, a story most ridiculously extravagant, that so pitiful and wretched a person, as Jesus seemed in the eye of the world to have been, should in this miraculous way be declared the Son of God and Lord of all things, author of life and salvation to all men, sovereign object of all worship and obedience: such a story therefore it was not likely that any men in their senses should conspire to forge, should offer to obtrude on the world, so uncapable of it, so averse from embracing it; and being such, it were strange that by a general repulse it should not presently be stifled and quelled".
11. One would indeed think that this report, had it been false, might easily have been disproved and quashed they who were mightily concerned, and Acts v. 28. as eagerly disposed to confute it, wanted no means of doing it they were not surprised in the matter; but were forewarned of it, and did forebode it coming; they were not drowsy or neglectful, but very apprehensive, careful and cautious in preventing it, that it should not be produced, or, being so, that it might be defeated; for to this purpose they caused Matt. xxvii.
· Εἰ γὰρ καὶ τῶν πραγμάτων ἐκβεβηκότων — ὅμως εἰσί τινες μετὰ τοσαῦτα τεκμήρια, καὶ τῆς οἰκουμένης, ὡς εἰπεῖν, ἁπάσης τὴν μαρτυρίαν, οἱ δια πιστοῦσι τοῖς γεγενημένοις, καὶ πολλοὶ οὕτως ἀβασανίστως καὶ ἀνεξετάστως, τις ἂν παρὰ τὴν ἀρχὴν μήτε πράγματα θεασάμενος, μήτε ματυρίας ἀξιοπίστους τούτων ἔχων ταύτην ἂν τὴν πίστιν ἐδέξατο ψυχῇ. Chrys. tom. v. Or. 64.
Τίς οὕτως ἐμεμήνει τῶν ταῦτα ἀκουόντων ὡς ψιλοῖς ῥήμασι πιστεῦσαι περὶ πραγμάτων τοιούτων; Ibid.
18. v. 28.
SERM. the sepulchre of our Lord to be sealed up, and guardXXIX. ed by soldiers; that being masters of his body, they might by exhibiting it disprove any report that should be made about his resurrection: they had full opportunity of examining the matter to the bottom; it being fresh, and presently divulged after its being reported done; they having also all the power and authority on their side, in furtherance of the discussion of the business: we may accordingly suppose them very zealous, diligent, and active in thoroughly sifting it, and striving to detect the falsehood thereActs iv. 17, in: they did so certainly; and thereto they added strict prohibitions, fierce menaces, and bloody persecutions toward the suppression thereof; yet could they not with all their industry confute it, nor by all their fury quell it: Why? because it was not confutable; because truth, prosecuted with vigorous integrity and constancy, or rather supported by divine protection and blessing, is invincible. Put case there were now the like fact by so many people reported done within these two months, wherein the church and state were in like manner exceedingly concerned, and should therefore employ all their power and care to discover the truth, one would think it impossible, that, were it an imposture, it should escape detection, and being soon, with the general satisfaction of men, quite blown away and exploded this is the fate of all falsehood, standing merely upon its own legs, and not propped by worldly power; but truth, as in the present case, is able to subsist by its own strength, especially Heaven being concerned to aid it.
f Οὐδεμιᾶς γὰρ δεῖται βοηθείας ἡ τῆς ἀληθείας ἰσχὺς, ἀλλὰ κἂν μυρίους ἔχῃ τοὺς σβεννύντας αὐτὴν, οὐ μόνον οὐκ ἀφανίζεται, ἀλλὰ καὶ δι ̓ αὐτῶν
12. As also this testimony had no power to sus- SERM. tain it, so it used no sleight to convey itself into the persuasions of men; it did not creep in dark corners, it did not grow by clandestine whispers; it craved 1 Thess. v. no blind faith of men: but with a barefaced confidence it openly proclaimed itself, appealing to the common sense of men, and provoking the world to examine it; daring all adversaries here to confront it, defying all the powers beneath to withstand it; claiming only the patronage of heaven to maintain it.
13. Furthermore, the thing itself, had it been counterfeit, was in all probability apt to fall of itself; the witnesses clashing together, or relenting for their crime. That advice of Gamaliel had much reason in it; Refrain, said he, from those men, and Acts v. 38. let them alone; for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought; Kataλvlýσetα, it will of itself be dissolved or destroyed: for how indeed could it be, that among so many confederates in a juggle, not one, either checked by conscience, or daunted by hazards, or wearied and worn out by sufferings, should flinch and fall off, so as to detect the plot, disavow his fault, and retire from persecution, but that each one should persist steadfast in so high a strain of vile dissimulation? If one had fallen off, he had certainly spoiled all the plot, opened all men's eyes, and prevented the faith of any one person to the story: and what cement could firmly combine such a pack of men to God, and to all the world, that they should continue invincibly stiff in their faith to one another, and constantly true to so τῶν ἐπηρεάζειν ἐπιχειρούντων φαιδροτέρα καὶ ὑψηλοτέρα ἄνεισι, &c. Chrys. tom. v. Or. 64.
SERM. vain a design, good to no man, worst to themselves? XXIX. that, I say, twelve such persons, every one for a long time, during their whole life, should persevere immoveable in so extravagant a resolution of lying, so as by no regrets or dissatisfactions from within, no threats, no perils, no troubles or pains from without, to be ever driven out of it, but should die with it in their mouths, yea, rejoice and glory in dying for it; should dying carry it into the presence of God, and dare with it to appear at his judgment, is exceedingly strange and incredible: it must therefore surely be truth alone that could set them on this design, and could uphold them steady in it; so unanimous a consent, so clear a confidence, so firm a resolution, so insuperable a constancy and patience, nothing but a sense of truth could inspire men with, nothing but a perfectly good conscience could sustain. Possible it is, that in matters of speculation and subtilty men upon slender grounds may be peremptorily opinionative, and desperately pertinacious; (this experience sheweth :) but in a matter of this nature, (a matter of plain fact and gross sense,) none can well be imagined (none especially so qualified, in such circumstances, to such purposes can be imagined) to be so wretchedly stupid, or desperately obstinate.
14. He then who doubts of the sincerity of these witnesses, or rejects their testimony as incredible, must instead of it admit of divers stranger incredibilities; refusing his faith to one fact, devious from the natural course of things, but very feasible to God; he must thence allow it to many others, repugnant to the nature of man, and to the course of human things; performed without God, yea against him.
Is it credible, that persons otherwise through all SERM. their lives strictly blameless and rigidly virtuous, (even in the more heavenly parts of goodness, in humanity, meekness, peaceableness, humility, and patience,) should, against clearest dictates of conscience, peremptorily and perseveringly commit so palpable villainy, as to broach and propagate such an imposture; that they, all whose demeanours and discourses evidently did tend to the advancement of God's glory, and promoting goodness, should so in their hearts utterly defy God and detest goodness; or that persons in a strain incomparably solemn and serious should so plainly teach, so strongly press, so otherwise uniformly practise highest good-will and beneficence toward all men, while they were with all their mind and might striving to gull and abuse men? Is it conceivable, that men, otherwise in all their actions so wise and well advised, (able to manage and to perform so great matters,) should so zealously drive on a most vain and senseless project, with more unwearied industry labouring to maintain and disperse a lie, than any men beside did ever strive in behalf of truth? Is it not marvellous, that men in all respects so impotent, without any arms or aids, should adventure on so high an enterprise, should with so happy success achieve it; that naked weakness should boldly assault, and thoroughly overpower, the greatest might; pure simplicity should contest with and baffle sharpest wit, subtlest policy, and deepest learning; that rude speech (void of strength or ornament) should effectually persuade an uncouth and unpleasant tale, against all the finest and strongest rhetoric in the world? Is it not strange, that a crew of vile and base persons should so inse