William Stevenson.

A conference upon the miracles of our Blessed Savior : wherein all the objections against them proposed in Mr. Woolston's six Discourses, and several other greater difficulties, are fully stated and considered ... online

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elfe that they did or defign'd, after his death ?
Whatever others may believe, the Rabbi, and
you cannot fuppofe that he knew any thing that
was tranfacted betwixt his death, and his refur-
rection. So that to talk of his being obliged to
wait in the Sepulchre till the Chief-priefts fhou'd
come and be prefent at his rifing to life, is juft
fuch another blunder as the confcquence that
Mr. W. drew from the Rabbi's criticifm.

M. I did not think that an orthodox Divine
cou'd doubt whether Jefus knew that the Chief-
priefts feal'd his Sepulchre, and defign'd to be
prefent at the opening of it. Don't you believe
that Jefus is an omnilcient divine Perfon ? If he
knew all things , he knew what was done after
his death, as well as if he had been ftill alive.

N. The queftion at prefent is not what I be-
lieve , nor whether Jefus be fo united to Al-
mighty God, as that he may in virtue of that
union, be properly called God, or one Being
with the Father: but whether you can confift-
ently argue upon any fuppofition or conceflion
made by Chriftians, in order to prove 'or efta-
blifh a Confequence that is the very reverfe of
fuch a conceflion. If you fuppofe Jefus to be
omnifcient, and a divine Being, you cannot at
the fame time deny him to be a good and a righ-
teous perfon.

M. Whatever my opinion of Jefus may be,
you muft allow me to argue ad homlnem. If
you grant him to be at all times omnifcient, or
a truly divine perfon , I may argue upon this
conceffion, without being obliged to fuppofe


SAVIOU tis Miracles. j i t

the truth of it-, or to admit the Confequences SECT. vf>
that neceflarily flow from it. The queilion then ^
is, whether you grant that Je/us was omnifcient,-
or knew whatever was done on earth, during the
intermediate ftate betwixt his death, and his re-
furre&iori. I thought that his omnifcience had
been reckon'd a fundamental point of orthodoxy
N. We mull diftingutfli betwixt the plain, ne^
ceffary, undoubted doctrines of the chrillian Re-
ligion, that are exprefsty contained in Scripture ;
and the many intricate, needlefs, and fometimed
doubtful confequences that are drawn from fuch,
Scripture-truths: Of which Confequences thefe-
Veral Creeds, Articles, and Confeffwm of different
Churches are generally compofed. Every Chri-
ftian will readily believe whatever he finds to be
plainly and exprefly contain'd in the Word of
God : and other Points ought not to be impofed
upon the Confciences of any. Propofidons and
Confequences fairly drawn from Scripture-truths j
will always be received by thofe who perceive:
and own them to be juft, clear, and neceffary
Confequences : but they ought not to be impofed
on fuch as doubt of them. Such Confequences,
ftridly fpeaking, cannot be points of Faith 9
tho they were inforced by the higheft human
Authority : they are rather points of reafon and
logick. And tho they are fometimes enjoyn'd of
impofed as terms of" communion, and Articles
of Peace , they ought never to be impofed under
pain of damnation \ but only under the peril of
inconfiftency and felf-contradiftion. He who re-
jects, or doubts of an immediate neceflary Con-
fequence drawn from a plain Scripture-Propofi-
tion, argues ill : but I mail not for that reafon
pronounce him a Heretick * if he believe every
thing that was exprefsly taught by drift and his
Apoilles. Nor will I cenfure him for chufing ra-
Y thcr

312 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. ther to reft his Faith upon the unerring Word
God, than upon the critical {kill and reafon-
ing of fallible Men. And I claim the fame li-
berty of judging for myfelf, that I allow to o-
thers. Suppofing now I fhou'd afiert that the
perfonal Union betwixt the one God> and the
Man Chrift Jefus, was fuperfeded during his paf-
fion, or death at leaft ; there cou'd be no he-
refy in fuch an Aflertion. It account's better than
any other notion , for that puzzling exclama-
tion of Jefus upon the Crofs j " My God^ my
" God, why haft thou forfaken me?" Now
fince this Suppofition does not contradict any
Scripture-truth, or necefiary point pf chriftian
doctrine} I may fafely deny that the Soul of
Jejus, in its feparate State, knew any tiling of
the Chief- priefts' fealing his Sepulchre ; or their
defigning to be prefent at the opening of it.
And therefore I flill infift upon it, that the Rob-
bi's argument about the breaking of the feals is
a mere blunder. And fince Jefus was at liberty
to come out of the Sepulchre as foon as his life
was reftored ; it is abfurd to fuppofe that the
breaking of the feals, ("which in that cafe was
unavoidable,) cou'd be any Proof, (or indeed
raife the leaft fufpicion^ of Fraud.

M. When the Chief-priefts feal'd the Stone,
they intended to be prefent, on the day appoint-
ed, at the opening of the Sepulchre ; not doubt-
ing what no-body cou'd queftion, but Jefus
wou'd wait, their coming , and arile to life, if
he cou'd, in the fight of themfelves, and of a
vaft concourfe of people that were fure to attend
on them, to behold the miracle.

N. If the Chief-priefts were fo foolifh as to
think that Almighty God ought to have com-
ply'd with their extravagant expectations ; and
10 raife Jefus to life at the jprccife time that they

our SA v i o u R'J Miracles. 3 1 5

required -, or that Jefus wou'd wait their leifure, SECT. VL
and ftay in the Sepulchre after he was reftor'd
to life ; they were grofsly miftakcn. Since Je~
Jus cou'd not be fuppofed to' know of their feal-
ing the Stone, or their defigning to be prefent
at the opening of the Sepulchre ; it was abfurd
in them to imagin that he ftiou'dhzvevouchfafed
fucb a kind of refurreftion as the Rabbi talks of,
in accommodation to the fe ding of the Stone. And
if he were fuppofed to have all their tranfactions
betwixt his death and his refurrection, revealed
to him afterwards ; (which there is no reafon to
believe,) they cou'd not expect that he wou'd
comply with their infolent demands, and wait
in the Sepulchre like a Prifoner, till they fhou'd
give him leave to come out.

M. Tho he might not be ftrictly obliged to
gratify their defires ; it might be reafonable in
them to expect that he wou'd. But he was fo
far from doing this, that his Body was gone be- * 4 '
times in the morning ; before the Chief-priefts
cou'd be out of their beds : and a barefaced in-
fringement of the feals was made againft the laws
of Honour and Honefty. If there had been a
real refurrection, the Sealers of the Stone wou'd ib.
have been the openers of the Sepulchre. Where-
fore elfe was the Stone fealed?

N. It cou'd only bedefign'd for an After-game:
to ferve as a Pretence for cavilling at the truth
of the Refurrection ; and for charging the
Difciples with fraud in Healing the body of Je-
fus away. The Chief-priefts cou'd not reafon-
ably doubt of his rifing again. Or if fome of
them queftion'd it j they cou'd not defign the
Seals for a bar againft omnipotence * nor expect
to confine Almighty God to their will and mea-
fures, as to the time, and manner of raifmg Je-
fus from the dead, "When the Rabbi fays that
Y 2 the

3 14 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. the breaking of the Seals was again/I the Laws
1 of Honour and Honeffy ; he doth not confider a-
gainft whom this bla'fphemous Charge is made.
Was the fealing of the Sepulchre to be a check
upon the Almighty ? Was he to be confined to
thofe meafures that the Chief-priefts prefcribed
to him ? Or was Jefus obliged to rife to life ex-
actly at the hour and time that they appointed ?
One wou'd think fuch affertions too bold and im-
pious for a Jew, or any Infidel. If the Chief-
priefts meant the fealing of the Sepulchre as a
declaration made beforehand that they wou'd not
believe the refurrection of Jefus t unlefs God
wou'd once more put him in their power, and
leave him at their mercy, after he fhou'd be rai-
fed ; this is a requeft full as extravagant and
foolifh as their declaring they wou'd own him to
be the Mejfiab, if he wou'd come down from
the Crofs. They had juft as much reafon to ex-
pect this, as that Jefus fhou'd be kept in the fe-
pulchre, till they ihou'd come to facrifice him a
fecond time ; which in all probability wou'd
have been the effect of his waiting for the com-
ing of the Chief-priefts to fee the fepulchre

M. It Jefus had appear'd to them alive at the
opening of the Sepulchre, he wou'd have been
fo far from running the hazard of being mur-
der'd, that his prefence muft have ftruck them
all with an awful terror and aftonifhment ; and
have convinced them, and the whole nation,
that he was truly the Mejfiah, or the Son of God.

N. Had he ftayed in the fepulchre till the
Chief-priefts came to open it i it wou'd have
been eafy for one of their Officers to ftrangle
him, or knock him down fecretly ; and then to
{how his dead body to the people as a proof of
his being an Impoftor. Or if they had noc


our S A v i o u R'J Miracles. 325

murder'd him in the fepulchre, they might have SECT. VI'
pretended that tho he was crucify 'd, yet he did V
not truly dye ; but only fainted, and afterwards
recovered his Senfes, as others do after fwooning,
without any Miracle : And therefore they wou'd
have infilled upon his being more certainly put
to death ; that there might be intire fatisfaction
given to the world, as to the reality of his re-
furrection. Or, feeing his great lofs of blood
.during his fufferings and crucifixion, and the
inconceiveable agony and pain he endured, cou'd
not but feme what alter the features of his Face,
and the aire of his Countenance ; the Priefts,
upon this remarkable alteration in his Afpect,
might have pretended that he was not the fame
Perfon who was crucifyed ; but fome Impoftor
that perfonated him to deceive the People. And
they might have made this apprehenfion, or dif-
truft, a pretence to juftify their murdering him
again, either immediately by the rage and vio-
lence of the mob ; or under the appearance and
colour of Authority and Law. The obftinate
unbelief, malice, and unjuft Conduct of the
Chief-priefts and Pharifees towards Jefus, before
his death, fhowed evidently, that if they had
feen him after his refurrection i the fame Spite,
Bigotry, and inveterate Prejudices agamft him
would have continued; and have ftill render'd
them incapable of conviction. Seeing they im-
puted all the aftonifhing Miracles he wrought
in his lifetime to a confederacy with Devils;
and were not convinced even by his raifmg La-
zarus from the dead ; it could not be expected
that their feeing Jefus himfelf after his rifmg a-
jgain, wou'd have had greater influence upon
fheir minds. It wou'd probably have had the
pffects I mention'd before ; and have led them
Y t Q

3**> A Conference upon

SECT. VI. to murder him either in the fepulchre; or under
&***** the Forms of Law, as they did before.

ST. But if Jefas had been miraculoufly raifed
from the dead, he mull have been arm*d with
Omnipotence -, and therefore cou'd eafily have
either refifted, or efcapsd, the rage of his Ene-
mys : fo that he cou'd have no reafon to fear
the utmoft efforts of malice and violence.

TV. Do you fancy that after his refur reel ion
his body was invulnerable ? Or can you think it
reafonable that he fhou'd either work miracles
for forty days together, to avoid the rage of his
implacable Enemys , or elfe be continually ex-
pofed to their malicious fury ? Neither of thefe
cou'd be expected. Miracles were not to be
wrought without neceffity ; and never when
common prudence, and ufmg the natural means
of felf-prefervation, wou'd do as well. He had
given repeated and unqueftionable Proofs of his
divine Miffion- To have wrought more mira-
cles in hopes of convincing the Chief-priefts,
wou'd only have render'd them dill more inex
cufeable i and have heighten'd their guilt and
condemnation. By avoiding their malice there-
fore, Jefus not only confulted his own fafety j
but did an act of mercy and kindnefs to them.
Wifdom too required this conduct. They who
had refifted the powerful evidence of fo many
publick undoubted miracles as Jefus wrought
for their conviction, cou'd not delerve to fee
new wonders ; efpecially in fuch inftances, and
fuch a manner, as they required 1 . It was incon-
fiftent with the Honour, Authority and Wif-
dom, of Almighty God, to gratify fuch obfti-
nate wicked people in their infolent demands.
Mst.xxv'.i. When Jefus was upon the Crofs, " the Chief-
t' - 43- priefts 3 with the Scribes and Elders, mock't

" him 5

our S A v i o u R 's Miracles. 327

him ; and faid, he faved others, himfelf he SECT. VI.
" cannot fave. If he be the King of Ifrael [or
" the Mejfiab~\ let him now tome down from
" the crofs, and we will believe him. He truft-
" ed in God: let Him deliver him now, if He
" like (or * approve of) him : for he faid I am
" the Son of God." The Rabbi had as much
reafon to call this an implicit Covenant betwixt
God, and- the Chief-priefts ; as to fuppofe one 1
betwixt them and the Apoftles; who had no
more concern in the refurreclion of Jefus, than
the Pharifees. He might urge that the Al-
mighty's confent was reafonably to be prefum'd.
Affixing Jefus to the Crofs with nails, anfwer'd
to their affixing their feals to the Sepulchre.
The condition of the fuppofed Covenant was ex-
preQy mention'd. If Jefus was the Son of God,
or the Meffiah, he was to come down from the 4?.
Crofs : for that if God approved of him and his
conduct, he wou'd now deliver him, and then
they wou'd believe in him. But if he did not
come down from the crofs, but became fubject
to a State of mortality i then he was to be ac-
counted an Impoftor. This demand of the
Chief-priefts was full as reafonable, as that Je-
fus fhou'd, after his refurrection, be again left to
their mercy. Their fealing the Stone cou'd be
intended for no other purpofe but for cavilling
againft the Miracle of his refurrection, (which
they had all the reafon in.tne world to expect ,)
and for calumniating the Apoftles. The Chief-
priefts cou'd fcarce be fo impioufly bold, as to
defy omnipotence to refcue Jefus out of their
hands. And yet his being rejcued from them,

* This feems plainly to be the meaning of $& in this
place. In the fame fen(e it is us?d by St,/W, in Rom. vii.
15, 16,19,29,

328 A Conference upon

SSCT. VI. was as necefiary as his refurreftlon itfelf. He
V^Y^y was to dye no more ; but to afcend into Heaven,
His ftate of Humiliation and Suffering was over.
And it was highly unreafonable to expect that
he wou'd any more put himfelf in their power.
r'fc.. P> : , jVf. But the body of Jefus was gone from the
Sepulchre early on Sunday morning ; which was
the day before that fignifyed and predicted for
his refurre&ion. This looks as if the Difciples
had been afraid of trufting Je/us's body its ful).
time in the grave j becaufe of the greater diffi-
culty to carry It off afterwards.

N. People of all nations reckon a part of a
day or a year, for a whole one. So that fince
x Jefus dyed on Friday, Sunday muft certainly be
the third day ; on which he faid he fhou'd rife
again. The two Difciples he met with on the
lAk-xxiv, very day of his refurrection, faid that it was
**" then the third day fince his death. And we can-

not doubt but they knew the ufual way of rec-
koning days in their own Country. They were
Jews -, and in no other fenfe the difciples of Jefus t
than his frequent hearers and followers were.
T.i9-*i. They look't upon him as a -Prophet mighty in
word and deed> before God, and all the people^
2nd trufted that it had leen he which Jhoiid have
redeemed Ifrael. As for your infmuation that
the Apoftleswpu'd not leave Jefus's body its full
time in the grave; it mult now appear as
groundlefs and abfurd as your reafon for char-
ging them with this Fraud. Jefus rofc exaflly
on the third day, according to his prediction.
J-Ie cpu'd not avoid breaking the Seals when he
came out of the Sepulchre, He knew nothing
of its being feal'd. And if he had , he wou'd
not have regarded it. As to the, precife time,
pr hour of his rifing, he had no choice. The
Almighty raifed him up early in the morning,
4 becaufe

cur S A v i o u R'J Miracles. 319

becaufe it was contrary to Juftice, Order, and SECT. VI;
Wifdom, that Jefvs fhou'd be left any more to VxYV'
the cruel rage and malice of his Enemys. His
refurrection was by his own prophecy fixt and
determin'd to the third day : but the Chief-priefts*
fealing the Sepulchre, cou'd not confine nor li-
mit omnipotent wifdom to fuch an hour of the
day, as they thought proper.

M. If there were any doubt concerning Je-
y#j's meaning, when he faid he fhou'd rife again
on the third day ; it muft be determin'd by his
declaring that he was to be three days and three ifax..\\\.^
flights in the heart of the earth.

N. Since this doubtful exprefiion was but
once ufed, it is reafonable to explain it by the
repeated declarations that Jefus made of his ri-
ling again on the third day. A natural or com-
pleat day includes both day and night ; and a
broken day, which is but a part of each* or of
either i is by general cuftom reckon'd for fuch a
compleat or natural day. Now Jefus having
dyed on Friday about three o'clock afternoon ;
the frft day ended, and the fecond* (being the
f>abbafh-day) began, according to the jewifh com.-
putation , at Sunfetting the fame evening. The
third day began in the evening of our Saturday,
juft when the jewifh Sabbath ended. And fee-
ing Jefus did not rife till the Sunday morning
fter j it is evident that he rofe upon the third
day. NOW it appears from what the Chief-
priefh faid to Pilate, that rifing on the third day Mat.wvii.
was the fame thing as rifing after (or within) three ^/J[ H
days. $f by the third day they underflood the ?i.
fourth ; or pretended to underftand the words of Johlii< j9 '
Jefus jn r.hat lenfe, that they might have a pre-
tence for cavilling about the time of his refur-
fe&lon ; we cannot anfwer for their wilful mif-
fajie. Bup it is highly probable that by the third

j^o A Conference upon

SECT. VI. day they meant what we, and others, do. How-
"CXW^ ever, Jefus certainly knew histown meaning beft.
Now he told his Apoftles on the fame day that
r tyrl, he rofe, " thus it behoved the Mejfiah to fuffer,
i>uk.xxiv. an d to rife from the dead, the third day" His
swver.!, true meaning appears plainly enough : and the
& 7 correfponding event puts it beyond all difpute.

M. The body of Jefus was carry'd off in the
dark; and was never feen any more by the
Jews. This with the clandeftine breaking of
the fsals, gives juft caufe to fufpecl fome fraud
in the cafe. The queftion then is, whether Je-
fus was really raifed to life, as you affirm ; or if
his Body was ftolen away, as the Jews pretend.
The Evidence that you offer for proving the re-
furrection of Jefus, is the teftimony of the A-
poftles ; who fay that they faw him alive, and
convers'd with him often after he rofe from the
dead. But their evidence is juftly exceptionable.
For if there was any fraud in the cafe, as there
is good reafon to fufpect ; the Apoftles are the
Perfons that mufl have been guilty of it : fo
that no regard can be had to their teftimony.
When in anfwer to the Rabbi's argument drawn
from the fecret breaking of the feals of the fe-
pulchrej you affirm that God rais'd up Jefus
early in the morning, and that the breaking of
the feals was unavoidable, you plainly beg the
queftion ; and fuppofe the truth of Jejus's refur-
rection, which is the very point in debate be-
tween us.

N. We do not fuppofe the truth of this im-
portant Fact, but offer the moft convincing
Proofs of it i viz. the teftimony not only of
the A^oftles^ whofe integrity is unqueftionable 5,
(as I have already mown, and mail more fully
tuk. xxiv. demonftrate afterwards j) but of the Angels who
*-* 8 - declared to the women that Jefus rofe from the
I dead i

our SAV i o u R'$ Miracles. 5^1

deadj of the Women themfelves who faw him SECT. VI-
after his refurre&ion, and Jpake with him, and ^ v ^-*
held him by the feet: and of the SouMiers who!?"'
watch't the fepulchre , but being frighten'd by Joh -** '*
the Angels, the Earthquake, and other mira-M.t. xxViit;
culous Circumftances of Cbrift's refurredlion ; 2 *~ 4 '
went and declared all thefe things to the Chief- Ver>Ir>
priefts. Befides all this, we have the teftimony
of five hundred perf9ns to whom Jefus appear'd
at one time, after his refurredion ; as St. ^^
allures us. Now in oppofition to this unexcep-
tionable Evidence (by which the teftimony of
the Apoftles is fo fully confirm'd,) the Jew ad-
vances nothing but a bold incredible afiertion,
that the Apoftles ftole the body of Jefus : which
he repeats twenty ways, without any evidence,
or colour of proof, to fupport it. This is a
plain mameful begging of the queftion. I have
fully fhown that fuch a fuppofition is not only
contrary to the character of the Apoftles ; but
in itfelf abfurd, and inconfiftent : that Jefus's
rifing earlyer on the third day than the Chief-
priefts expected, was highly reafonable and ne-
ceflary : that he neither knew of the Sepulchre's
being feaPd ; nor was obliged to regard it : that
he cou'd not chufe the precife time or hour of
his rifing from the dead, on the third day : and
that feeing Almighty God thought fit to r^ife
him to life early in the morning ; he then came
out of the Sepulchre, and cou'd not avoid break-
ing the Seals of it. Let me now add, that your
charging the Apoftles with fraud on this occa-
fion, as if they had ftole away the body of Je-
fus, is the more groundlefs and abfurd ; becaufe
feeing the Sepulchre was guarded by fouldiers,
the fraud of which you fufpeft the Apoftles was
feally impracticable.

* ^ Conference upon

VI. Af. If it was impofiible to evade the Guards
the fepulchre, then there was a real Refur-
is. c> '' rection: but if there was a bare pojfibility of e-
vading them, then your Remark is of no force.

JV. I know not whether the Rabbi means,
that, if there was a bare fqflibilily of evading
the Guards ; then there can be no proof given
of a real Refurreftion : Or, that if there was a
bare poflibility of the fouldiers' deeping, or
their being bribed ; then *their being placed at
the fepulchre cou'd be no fecurity againft Fraud.
But each of thefe affertions is fo manifeftly falfe,
that I need not attempt to prove them fo. Tho
it was not abfolutely impofifible, for the Apoftles
to evade the Guards ; it is altogether incredible
that they fhoud.

Difc.6. p. M. Tho the Roman fouldiers were as faithful
** as any of their Profeflion ; it is well known that

fuch people are as fubjecl: to bribery and corrup-
tion as others. Or if their faithfulnefs to their
truft was untainted ; it is not unlikely that their
Officers, by the direction of Pilate, (who found
his account in the diffractions of the Jews,)
might give them the hint to wink hard at the
Apoftles' committing fuch a fraud as ftealingthe
body of Jefus.

JV". How far the fouldiers were from hav-
ing had any hint or encouragement given them
by Pilate^ or from their Officers, to favour Je-
//j, or his Apoftles, in any refpeft, appears
plainly enough from their behaviour towards
him during his Tryal, and his Crucifixion. As
joh.xix. i. for Pilate himfelf, he ordered Jefus to be fcourg-
ed, before he deliver'd him to be crucify'd ;
Luk.xxiii. tho he own'd, at the fame time, that he found no
K MV. f au ^ in b'w. And by his Orders probably, (or
vi,. 19 . his permiffion atleaft) the Souldiers then pre-
fent platted a Crown of Thorns* and put it on

our SAV i o u R'J Miracles. 3 j 3

Jefufs lead. Nay they were not content with SECT.VL
infulting him themfelves ; but called together the **^v*~*
whole Band: who likewife mock't him, andjpat
upon him , fmote him on the head -, and treated
him with the utmoft fpite and contempt. When
he was upon the Crofs, they renewed their moc- Luk.x
kery and infults : and after he was dead, one of joh. xi
them pierced his fide with a fpear , as if he had 33f 34 *
been afraid that Jefus was not truly dead -, and
refolved to prevent all poffibility of miflake.
"When Jofeph of Arimathea came to Pilate^ and Mark *
beg'd the body of Jefus, in order to bury it, 44
Pilate would not grant that requeft till he called
the Centurion, and inquired whether Jefus had
been any while dead. And when he was fure of
that, he gave Jofeph leave to carry away the
Corpfe. This very cautious behaviour of Pilate,'
and the barbarous cruelty of fj Souldiers, looks SeeMar
as if he had intended to ingratiate himfelf with xxvii. 17.

Online LibraryWilliam StevensonA conference upon the miracles of our Blessed Savior : wherein all the objections against them proposed in Mr. Woolston's six Discourses, and several other greater difficulties, are fully stated and considered ... → online text (page 24 of 31)