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that the apostles began to preach on the feast of Pentecost, that is fifty days after Christ's resurrection.
Mr. P. intimates, that our Lord appointed the meeting in Galilee on the very evening of his resurrection; and he says, that' Luke tells a story (concerning the disciples at Emmaus) 'which totally invalidates 'the account of his going to the mountain in Galilee.' But does not every attentive and candid man perceive, that the apostles might stay a week or ten days at Jerusalem, where Christ might repeatedly meet them in a private room: that then they might journey into Galilee, and meet him with numbers of those who had formerly known him: and that afterwards, returning to Jerusalem, they might witness his ascension?
He next objects to the 'skulking privacy of our 'Lord's appearance, in the recess of a mountain, or * in a shut up house in Jerusalem.'* The preposition, however, which the evangelist uses, in respect of the mountain in Galilee, is exactly the same with which he introduces the sermon on the mount. "He went '• up into a mountain.''—A situation similar to that. from which he addressed an immense multitude, could not be a skulking privacy, or the recess of a mountain.
The Galileans, among whom our Lord had principally lived, were the most proper witnesses of his resurrection: and it cannot reasonably be questioned, but that on this occasion he was seen of five hundred brethren at once; when, probably by reason of the dis
*P. ii. p. 79.
tance, some still doubted, till further evidence convinced them. The inhabitants of Jerusalem were less capable of recognizing his person: yet they saw what may be considered as equivalent, in thefdescent of the Holy Ghost on the apostles, and the subsequent effects.
Important reasons may be assigned, why a competent number of witnesses should be selected to testify our Lord's resurrection, while God himself confirmed their testimony by miracles; rather than that he should shew himself to the rulers and people of the Jews. Had he done this, and had the scribes, elders, and priests, persisted in rejecting him; the testimony of the apostles would have laboured under many additional disadvantages, among other nations, and with future ages. Had they unanimously embraced the gospel, the whole would have the appearance of a scheme for aggrandizing the nation. In either case the evidence to us could not have been at all augmented: for we should have had only the testimony of the individuals who recorded those events; and these would at least have been as liable to objections and cavils as they now are.
Mr. P. remarks, 'that Paul only says five hundred 'saw Christ at once, and that the five hundred do not * say it for themselves.'* Was it then to be expected that these five hundred persons should write as many books, to declare they saw the risen Saviour? If they had, we should have been five hundred times as much
perplexed, as we now are, in order to determine whether they were genuine or not! But Paul, by appealing to about three hundred living witnesses at once, put it into the power of his enemies to disprove his confident assertion, had it not been true: and as it has never been contradicted, it is equivalent to the testimony of multitudes. Mr. P. however, aware that Paul's testimony is very important, endeavours to set him aside: for he says, 'his evidence is like that of a 'man, who comes into a court of justice to swear,
* that what he hath sworn, before is false. A man may
* often see reason, and he has always too a right, of
* changing his opinion; but this liberty docs not ex'tend to matters of fact.' A man, it is true, has no power to change matters of fact; but surely he has , liberty to change his opinion concerning them!
Paul, by crediting the gospel, which he once hated, altered his opinion concerning matters of fact: and when he attested what he had before denied; he only declared himself convinced, that Jesus was risen, and that christianity was true.
Should Mr. P. thus change his opinion concerning the gospel, and publickly avow his conviction of its truth; men of sober mind would think him an unexceptionable witness in the cause: especially, if he fully laid before the world, those arguments by which he had been convinced of his mistake, and unreservedly took shame to himself for his former groundless and violent enmity to the cause of God.
Mr. P. says, ' the story of Jesus Christ appearing 'after he was dead, is the story of an apparition.'. If by a miraculous power he entered the room, not without opening the door, but without its being opened fir him; and if be disappeared or ceased to be seen by the discipies, though on other occasions they saw and handled that very body which had been crucified, and those hands and feet, and that side, which had been pierced: what proof do these circumstances afiord that it was an apparition? Must a risen body be subject exactly to the same things, as our dymg bodies are? May not God exert his power as he sees good? The risen Saviour ate and drank to prove that be was truly a living man: but this does not prove that he needed meat and drink.—The reality of the apostles' mission, did not at all rest on the Jews seeing Christ ascend; but on the miracles, which they were enabled to work before the people, after the descent of the Holy Ghost: yet the consistent united testimony of eleven unexceptionable witnesses, to words spoken in a celler, or actions done upon a mountain, is evidence in pubiick, sufficient to prove any thing which is not impossible; but if a man will not believe, till there be no possibility of denial or dispute, the light of eternity alone can convince him. There is proof enough of our Lord's ascension, to satisfy reason, to satisfy reasonable men: and the only wise God did not ask counsel either of ancient or modern sadducees, what kind and degree of evidence it was proper for him to afford.
Mr. P. alludes on this occasion to the ascent of a balloon.* Now I would ask any reasonable man, whether he doubts the fact of men having ascended
into the air by means of a balloon, because he never Saw it? The evidence given, that it hath been done, satisfies my mind as completely, as if I had witnessed the scene: and I am as sure of it, as to all practical purposes.
I agree with Mr. P. that it is impossible to unite inspiration and contradiction. But I affirm, with a confidence equal to his, that he has not proved, and that he cannot prove, a single contradiction upon the evangelists.
It is observable, that Mr. P. cannot find any avowed opposer of christianity, previous to A. D. 400, who denied the gospels to be authentick histories. The fact is, that Celsns in the second century, Porphyry in the third, and Julian in the fourth, admitted it, and argued against the christians on other principles. Mr. P. is therefore welcome to Faustus as a coadjutor in this undertaking: for he came too late to disprove by mere assertion what both friends and enemies had agreed in for nearly four hundred years.* Faustus was a Manichean; he contended that Matthew did not write the gospel which bears his name, because he is always mentioned in the third person; and he has been generally treated as a very ignorant, or a very dishonest, man for this attempt. Mr. P. is also welcome to all the help that forged gosples can give him: tor forgery always implies the existence of the thing counterfeited, and commonly its excellency likewise. And the hereticks who at t/ie commencement of Christianity, rejected as false all the jYew Testament, at least testified that the book then existed,
• P. ii. p. 84, 85.