place is recorded, that is, whenever he first opens the great affair of Christianity to strangers (and not where he is addressing those who have been before: instructed), the great argument of his discourse is the resurrection; and therefore we are authorised to: conclude in those other places where his speeches are not particularly given, that to preach the Gospel, to preach Jesus, to preach the word,-which they are said to have done wherever they came, meant the advancing of the great fact of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the decisive proof which they considered it as affording of a general resurrection at the last day. It was in perfect conformity, therefore, with Saint Paul's practice, as well as with that of the rest of the apostles, that he reminds the Corinthians of his having declared to them this doctrine first of all. His ministry amongst them began with it; as not only the most important, but the corner-stone and foundation of all the rest.

But secondly, the apostle tells the Corinthians that he had delivered to them what he himself had received, Saint Paul's knowledge of the Gospel came to him in a manner perfectly peculiar. "I neither," says he, in his epistle to the Galatians, "received it of man, neither was I taught it but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

[ocr errors]

It does not, I think, appear that Saint Paul, like the other apostles, knew Christ during his lifetime, or that he had ever seen him. The necessary information concerning this great transaction was im


parted to him by inspiration, at the time probably that he was miraculously converted. He was assured that it was not an illusion which played upon his fancy, because he was assured of a real public external miracle, which accompanied the reception of this knowledge.

But whatever certainty a divine communication might convey to himself, he was very sensible that it was not the most direct and satisfactory proof to others of a matter of fact, which was capable of being attested by the evidence of men's senses. He therefore does not rest the point upon the communication which he had received, but appeals to what was less questionable by others-the testimony of those who had conversed with Jesus after his resurrection, in the ordinary and natural way of human perception. His account of the matter is very full and circum stantial:-" He was seen of Cephas (which was the name, you remember, that Christ had given to Peter), then of the twelve; after that he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that he was seen of James, then of all the apostles." These words are very memorable.A fairer, a more public or candid appeal to the evidence of a fact was never made. Not content with saying in general terms, that he was seen of many; that he was seen of his disciples; he gives the names of two eminent brethren who saw him-men both perfectly well known by reputation, at least, and to many, it

[ocr errors]

is probable, personally known in the several churches of Christians and not only so, but men living at the time. He names Peter; to whose history and character they could be no strangers. He mentions James; at that time presiding over the church in Jerusalem. He names the twelve; all well known, by fame, at least, and report, to every Christian convert and then he refers to "above five hundred brethren who saw him at one time, of whom the greater part remain unto this present ;" that is, were upon the spot, being witnesses of the fact at the time the epistle was written. He proceeds, in the last place, with great humility to state his own personal assurance of the same fact, by telling them, that not then, indeed, but some time afterwards-Christ was seen of him also. He alludes, no doubt, to Christ's appearing to him at his conversion, upon his road to Damascus. Accounting, as he well might, the ocular manifestation of Christ raised from the dead as one of the greatest favours that could be vouchsafed, he observes, that whilst all the other apostles were indulged with this satisfaction during Christ's abode upon earth, it was not granted to him until some considerable time afterwards.

This difference, he acknowledges, was no more than just and due; inasmuch as he had rendered himself unworthy of the name and character of an apostle; not simply by being an unbeliever in Christ's word, but by going about with a furious and mistaken zeal to persecute all who called upon his name;

"last of all, he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time, who am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."

. What is necessary to remark concerning the separate clauses of the text is in a little compass. Saint Paul says that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures. The Scriptures here meant were the prophecies of the Old Testament, which describe the future history of Christ. One of these, amongst many which are more indirect, speaks the circumstance of Christ dying for our sins so plainly, that Saint Paul probably had it now in his thoughts"He was wounded for our transgression, he was bruised for our iniquity; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." This you read in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, written seven hundred years before Christ appeared.

Our apostle proceeds: " and that he was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scrip tures." The circumstance of his burial is particularly noticed in the same prophecy; which gave occasion probably to Saint Paul's mention of it in this place." He made," saith Isaiah, "his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death." The more important fact of his resurrection is both set forth by necessary implication in Isaiah's prophecy; for he says of Christ, "when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days ;" and was also un

derstood by the apostles to be represented by those words of the sixteenth Psalm, in which David, speaking as they interpreted it, in the person of the Mes siah, says, "Thou shalt not leave my soul in hell, nor wilt thou suffer thy holy one to see corruption." -The apostle then, in order to establish the reality of Christ's resurrection, enumerates several of his appearances after it. And in comparing this account with the other accounts of Christ's appearance given in the Gospels, we are carefully to remember that none of them undertook or intended to describe all the occasions or all the instances in which Christ awas seen. Christ appeared on various occasions and one history relates what passed upon one occasion, and another what passed upon a different occasion. This produces, as might be expected, considerable variation in the accounts, yet without contradiction or inconsistency. He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve." This exactly agrees with Luke's narrative Then the eleven were gathered toget ther, saying the Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon." After this, Saint Paul tells us, 6 he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once." This number is not specified in any of the Gospelsnevertheless, there is nothing to hinder us from supposing this number might be present at some of the appearances recorded in these Gospels. It is generally supposed to have been at his solemn predicted appearance upon the mountain in Galilee! One circumstance is common to all the different

« VorigeDoorgaan »