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1. We learn, from the preceding history, what little foundation there is for the insinuation which has been thrown out by unbelievers, against the story of the resurrection of Christ, and revived by a late popular writer, that it was founded upon one of those delusions which have often prevailed respecting good men unjustly put to death, that their spirits or ghosts had been seen by their friends after their death: for we find that the apostles themselves suspected that the appearance of their master was nothing more than a shade, or a ghost, but were convinced, from the most satisfactory evidence, from seeing, handling and conversing with him, and from his eating in their presence, that their apprehensions were wholly without foundation. Besides, although this appearance of Jesus to his disciples was in the night-time, ali the rest, and they are six or seven in number, were in the day-time, when such phantoms are not supposed to make their appearance, and when men may easily satisfy themselves respecting the truth or falsehood of what attracts the notice of their senses: and whether Christ appeared to his disciples by night or by day, he spent sufficient time in their company to enable them to recover from the effects of surprise or terror, and to remove any doubts which might arise with respect to the reality of his appearance. Those who can suppose that eleven men, who believed that they saw, felt and handled a man, only saw, felt and handled a ghost, must distrust the evidence of sense, and are not to be satisfied with any proofs that God or man can produce.
2. After the example of the apostles, let us be continually praising and blessing God for the gospel of Christ. From it we derive the best views of the divine nature and government; a clear knowledge of our
duty in the present world, and, what renders its value inconceivably great, the hope of a happy immortality. The apostles saw reason to praise God incessantly for such a blessing, when it was first revealed to them, and the happy effects of it had not yet been seen. But we have lived to see the scheme completely unfolded, and to observe its beneficial consequences in reforming and comforting mankind; we have, therefore, additional reason for gratitude and praise, and shall be wholly inexcusable if we neglect so obvious and necessary a duty.
I have now gone, in the way of exposition, through the two gospels of Matthew and Luke; selecting, however, from the latter only such passages as differ or vary from the former; and I have the same observation to make at the close of Luke's gospel which I took occasion to offer at the end of Matthew, that this evangelist uniformly represents Jesus as a man, inspired by God, and acting by a commission from him, and that in neither of these books does there appear the smallest intimation of the deity of Christ, or of his being a great pre-existent spirit, inhabiting a human body. Yet it must be remembered that each of these gospels was supposed, both by the person who wrote it, and by those by whom it was received, to contain every thing of much importance relating to the Messiah. The gospel of Mark may likewise be included in this observation: for it bears so strong a resemblance to the other two, that some have supposed that Mark was an abridgment of Matthew, and others that it was an abridgment of Matthew and Luke together. There are, however, in him variations from both, which lead me to think that he wrote his gospel from independent evidence: but with respect to the person of Christ he entirely agrees with them. It becomes those, therefore, who maintain the doctrines to which I have referred, to consider what the importance of
such truths can be, which three out of four, at least, of the evangelists must be acknowledged to have passed over in silence; and if not important, what a strong presumption there will be that they are no part of christianity; for if a man could answer every purpose of a divine messenger, as these three evangelists appear plainly to have thought, by always representing Christ as such, it appears highly improbable that God should work so stupendous a miracle as appearing in the world in a human form, or sending a superangelic being into a human body. I am induced to make these observations, more particularly at this time, because we are about to enter upon an evangelist who is supposed to contain a clear account of these doc trines, which the other three had omitted, and to conceive such an idea of their importance as to begin his gospel with a declaration of one or the other of them. If we recollect the silence of the others, we shall see reason to suspect that the language of the fourth has been mistaken, or at least shall be led to examine it with caution.
JOHN, the writer of this gospel, was one of the twelve persons whom Christ chose to be his constant attendants, during his public ministry, in order that after his death they might give a true and faithful report of what they heard and saw. As he was also one of the three whom Jesus selected from the rest, to accompany him upon particular occasions, we learn hence what opinion our Lord entertained of his fidelity, and how well qualified he must have been for becoming the historian of his life. In the fourth chapter of the Acts, the thirteenth verse, we find John and Peter noticed by the Council, or Sanhedrim, as unlearned and ignorant men, or, more properly, illiterate and private persons: for such is the meaning of the term which we render ignorant in this place. This account corresponds very well with what we learn of John from other sources: for he, with his brother James, was a fisherman, and the stile in which he writes, when he uses his own language, is remarkable for plainness and simplicity, and he is only figurative and hard to be understood when recording that of Christ. But this account very ill accords with the opinion of those who suppose that he begins his gospel with an allusion to the language of heathen philosophers, whose writings he had probably never read. His primary object in writing his gospel, he himself declares, when he says, xx. 31, "These are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that, believing, ye might have life through