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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the Chrief-Priefts ; and had been afraid of their
indirect way of threatning him (at Jefus's Tryal)
to reprefent him at Rome, as being no Friend to S K j h.
Cafar. There is not the leaft reafon therefore X1X - Ia<
to fufpect that the Souldiers were allowed to
connive at fuch a fraud as ftealing away the body
of Jefus. And it is no lefs^nprobable that any
of them mou'd be bribed into fuch treachery.
But if one or two of them were fuppofed ca-
pable of being corrupted, it is the unlikelyeft
thing imaginable that they mou'd All confent to
a Fraud that might coft them their life. They
who might take a fecret bribe, would not trult
their reputation and life with one another.

T. The Evangelift tells us that the Souldiers Mat< X3tv ; a ;
were bribed by the Chief-Priefts, and if they n ij.
were corrupted by them ; it is as likely they
might be nrft bribed by the Difciples to let
them Heal the body away* .


j Cor.


334 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. AT. I proved before, both from the Character
sW**^ and Conduct of the Apoftlcs, that they were in
all refpects incapable of fuch wickednefs. Nor
had they any money to bribe the Guards with :
Mat. xxviii. anc j f ar } e f s f uc h a i ar g e quantity as the Chief-
Priefts gave them, to calumniate the Apoftles.
See Luk. They were as poor as their Mafter : and lived
Aal'iii 6. as ^ e ^ u P on tne Charity of others. Befides
' there is a great difference betwixt prevailing with
the Souldiers to tell a lye in common Difcourfe ;
and bribing them to be falfe to their Truft, when
they were upon duty. Their telling a lye to
pleafe the Chief- Priefts was attended with no
immediate danger: And they might be the more
eafily tempted to do that, becaufe they knew
they were as much at liberty to tell the truth of
Jefus's refurrection to fome ; as to fpeak falfely
to others. But they^cou'd not be bribed to be-
tray their truft, without hazarding their life.
And the more there were of them, the greater
was the danger of a difcovery. Tho* common
Souldiers are not very conscientious in their
Morals , they feem to have fome fenfe of Ho-
nour when ported upon duty : Or at leaft they
are kept honefb by the fear of Death, or Dif-
grace. So that they being bribed to tell a lye
in common Difcourfe, does not prove that they
might equally be corrupted to be unfaithful to
their Truft. Incleed no thing can be more in-
credible than that all the Guards fhou'd be cor-
rupted : or that the Apoftles mould attempt to
do it.

M. Their fraud might have been effeftually
carry'd on, without fuppofing that the Soul-
diers were bribed ; or that they connived at it.
The account that the Jews give of the matter
is probable enough, that the Difciples carry 'd off
the body of Jefas, while the Guards were afleep.

K This

our SAVIOUR'S Miracles.

N. This is all the Evidence you have to offer SECT, vt,
for proving the Fraud? you talk of; the teili-
mony of men, who if they had really been afleep
(as is pretended,) cou'd neither hear nor fee any
thing of the matter in queftion. But that the Soul-
diers who gave this fenfelefs kind of Evidence,
were bribed to conceal the real truth of Chrift's
refurrection, which they teftify'd to the Chief-
Priefts i and to tell a ridiculous lye in order to
amufe the Common- people, appears plainly
from the teftimony of St. Matthew*, who wou'd
never have recorded any thing of this heinous
Charge againft himfelf, and the other Apoftles,
if there had been any colour, or poffibility of
Truth in it. If the Souldiers had really been
guilty of fuch a grofs offence as falling afleep,
when they were upon duty; they durft not have
owned it : for they muft have expected to be
put to death for their unfaithfulnefs.

M. The Evangelift affures us they did own Mat.
it : that they took the money which the Chief- iy *
Priefts gave them. And if they did as they
were taught, they muft have own'd themferves
guilty of neglecting their duty.

N. If they had own'd this to Pilate ; nay if
they had not given him fufficient proof of their
having honeftly difcharged their Truft, they
muft have fuffer'd the rigour of military Difci-
pline, which inflicts death upon Guards that are
unfaithful. To pleafe the Chief-Priefts, whofe
rage, and malice Pilate feems to have dreaded,
he might connive at the fouldiers taking money
of them to amufe the populace, by telling the
inconfiftent ftory of the Difciples ftealing away
the body of Jejus, while the Guards flept. But
he would not have fuffered the fouldiers to do
this, if he had not, upon the ftricteft inquiry,
been as well allured as the Chief-priefts were,


336 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. of the Earthquake, the, appearance of the An-
_ and other miraculous circumftances of the
refurrection ; and been fully fatisfy'd that the
guards had faithfully difcharged their duty.

M. They might have really flept, and havci
own'd it, notwithftanding the feverity of the
martial Law : becaufe they might perhaps de-
pend upon the Intereft and Influence that the Chief-Priefts had with Pilate. For, Matthew

P- " fays they promifed the Souldiers to fecure them,
by procuring them the Governor's pardon and
favour, in cafe he mould hear of their owning
that they fell afleep, while they were upon

TV. Such a grofs offence as a Souldier's fleep-
ing while he is pofled upon duty is unpardon-
able at all times. The guards cou'd not hope
for any favour in fuch a cafe. The Martial
Law was moft feverely executed among the
Romans; efpecially when Souldiers neglected
their duty in a tributary Country j where the
people were ready, (and were always expected)
to revolt: which was the cafe of the Jews, after

Aaxii. they were conquer'd by the Romans. When

6 "~~"" 11 ' Peter who was miraculoufly delivered out of a
Prifon guarded by Souldiers, who watcht be-
fore the prifon-door ; Hero d examin'd the Guards :
and tho they had neither flept, nor any-way
tranfgrefs't their duty : yet becaufe he thought
it was impoflible for Peter to efcape, without

vu. i8 19. their knowing of it, he order'd them to be put
to death ; upon fuch flrong fufpicions of their

ch.jcvi. unfaithfulnefs. And when Paul and Silas in
prifon, with their feet faflen'd in the flocks,
were fmging praifes to God ; at midnight an
Earthquake ihook the foundations of the pri-
fon : all the doors were opened ; and the fetters
of the prifoners were loofed. When the Keeper


our S A viou tis Miracles. 3 3 f

of the prifon awoke, and faw the doors open, SECT. VI.
he drew his Sword, and was going to kill him- ^^VN^
felf ; thinking that the prifoncrs were fled. He
knew that their efcaping wou'd have coft him
his life -, feeing it wou'd have been imputed to
his unfaithfulnefs, or neglect : and therefore he
rather chofe to difpatch himfelf immediately,
than fuffer the difgrace of a publick execution.
But Paul called to him, and hinder'd him from
killing himfelf, afluring him that the prifoners
were all fafe. Thefe two inftances are fufficient
to ihow how feverely the neglect, or unfaith-
fulnefs of guards was punifh't among the Ro-
mans: and how improbable it is that the Soul-
diers, who were fet to watch the fepulchre
of JefuSi fliou'd all fall afleep. The thing is
in itfelf quite incredible. Such a grofs inftance
of neglect as a Souldier's fleeping when pofted
upon Duty, is fcarce ever heard of. If they
had no fenfe of Honour, or of the publick
Safety, (which often depends upon the fidelity
and vigilance of Guards) the very fear of Death
is enough to keep them awake. And fmce
Centinels are always relieved in a few hours,
and know not how foon they may be feen by
fome perfon or other, they can never be under
any temptation to fleep , nor in the leaft dan-
ger of giving way to droufinefs. Their life is
at ftake every moment : And the fenfe of that
is fufficient to make them fteddily watchful.
Befides, in the prefent cafe the number of the
Guards was an additional Security both as to
their vigilance, and honefty.

M. It is uncertain of what number the Difc. 6. p.
Watch confided. Wbitby fays they were fixty: 19>
but he has no reafon nor authority for it. See-
ing they were only defigned to guard againft
fraud, three or four were fufficient. And it is
Z noc

3 j 8 /? Conference upon

SECT. VI. not at all improbable that fo few Souldiefs
VXW^ fhou'd be faft afleep, fo early in the morning
when the clandeftin work was done.

N. Seeing Pilate gave the Chief-priefts leave
to chufe, or lake 9 what guard they pleafed, (for
Matxxvii. this feems to be the meaning of 'i%tTc xaufaJ/v,)
ff *' we may be fare they took fuch a number of

Souldiers as wou'd be an effectual Security
both againil fraud, and force. And fmce this
Security muft increafe in proportion to the
number of the Guards, we cannot fuppofe they
were fewer than twenty. But allowing there
were only half that number i it was morally
impoflible that they mou'd all fall afleep at
once. A fenfe of their duty, and of their dan-
ger in neglecting it, wou'd make them watchful.
Their diicourfe and mirth muft have help't to
keep them awake. And if any one of them
had been inclined to fleep, the reft wou'd have
hinder'd it.

ttfc. 6. p. M After keeping fuch a gaudy day as the
Feaft of the Paflbver, which like the Feftivals
of other nations was celebrated with excefs ; we
may be fure that Foot-Souldiers, upon the boun-
ty of one or other, did not want, nor wou'd
they fcruple to take, their fill ; which like an
Opiat lock't up their Senfes for that night :
when the Difciples being aware of the lucky
opportunity, carry'd off the body of Jefus

N. The Pafibver's being a gaudy day was
the very reafon why Guards were obliged (and
expected by their Officers) to be more watch-
ful than ordinary. The City was then crowded
x. xxiir. w i cn Jewijh Strangers from all quarters ; who
14 .17. by the Law of Mofes were obliged to come up
i6 eut ' : ' and celebrate their three great Feftivals at Je-
J-faf 1 "' 'fofaii> On thefe occafions no doubt the


our SA v i o u RS Miracles. 3 3 9

Guards were evcry-where reinforced ; and their SECT.VIV
Officers as well as the Souldiers were doubly ^V"^
active and vigilant. For if ever any Infujrec-
tion cou'd be attempted, one of thofe Feafts
was the proper time for it. The whole force
of the Jewifh people was then collected at Je-
rufalem. And they had there an opportunity
to concert their meafures, and to rebel againlt
the Romans, with a fairer profpect offuccefs than
at any other time. Every guard therefore muft
have been fure that they wou'd be often vifited
by their refpective Officers, efpecially in the
Night ; which was the moft likely and favour-
able time for an Infurrection. And no thing
can be more incredible than that the Guard at
Cbrift's fepulchre, even fuppofing (what the
Rabbi imagines without any fhadow of reafon)
that there were only four Centinels placed
there, mould all fall afleep at once. Univerfal
experience mows that there is the odds of at
leall a million to one againft any one Souldi^
er's fleeping when placed upon Duty. And the
incredibility of fuch an accident's happening to
all the Guards fet at the fepulchre, increafes in
a far greater proportion, than the number of
Souldiers fuppofed to be polled upon guard
there. They cou'd not but know that taking
their fill muft have proved as fatal to them as
the ftrongeft Opiat : and that the leaft breach,
or neglect, of their duty, at fuch a critical and
dangerous juncture as the Pajfiver, wou'd be
punifh't with the utrnoft rigour.

M. I fee no abfurdity in fuppofirtg that theoifc. t.f.
Difciples themfelves might contrive to intoxi- 20> *fc
cate the Guards. Herodotus tells a ftory of a
dead body's being ftolen away by fuch an Ar-
tifice. And I don't think the Difciples of
Jefus either fo fooliih, or fo confcientious as
Z 2 noc

34 A Conference upon

SECT. VI. not to take the hint, and enterprize the like

Vv>-' fraud.

N. This is a very pleafant conceit ! Your
Friend fancy's that ignorant Fifhermen might
take a hint of Fraud from Herodotus : and that
the mod illiterate people of Galilee might be
thorowly acquainted with the politeft Authors
of Greece ! He might as well fuppofe that they
had learned all the Languages in which they
afterwards preach't , and only pretended to be
illiterate, that they might make a Miracle of
their being able to preach in ftrange Tongues,
as foon as they were endued with the Gifts of
the Holy-Spirit. It is furprizing that one who
has fo much wit, and fuch a knack at demon-
flration as Mr. W^ mould let his Rabbi fall
into fuch Unaccountable blunders and abfurditys.
To their repeated Charge of Fraud, I have faid
enough already. The Gofpels written by two
of the Apoftles, mow that they were ftrictly
fincere. And if you will allow them likewife
to have had common-fenfe , they cou'd not
poffibly be either fo weak, or fo wicked, as to
devyfe a Fraud that no man in his right wits
can believe to be practicable.

fxfc.e.p. M. It has been a conftant objection of the

** Jews againft the refurrection of Jefus* that he

did not appear perfonally afterwards to the
Chief-priefts, to Pilate, and his Crucifyers and
Infulters, to upbraid them with their infidelity
and ill treatment of him. I cannot but think
he wou'd have done fo, if he had really rifen
from the dead : and that he ought in reafon to

Ib. p. a;. h ave tnus appeared publickly, for the convic-
tion and converfion of unbelievers. His not
doing fo, is a confirmation that he did not truly
rile to life j but that his Body was ftolen away :
otherwiie he wou'd have waited in the fepul-
i chrc

our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 341

chre for the coming of the Sealers of the Stone, SECT. VI.
and their regular opening of it ; to the convic- **xW
tion of all there prefent ; and the confirmation
of the Faith of all Ages and Nations fmce.

N. I anfwered all this fully before, when I
{bowed you that fmce Jejus cou'd not be fup-
pofed to know any thing of the fealing of the
fepulchre ; or of the Chief-priefts' defigningto
fee it open'd ; it was abfurd to expeft that he
ihou'd wait for them : that if he had known
their defign, it wou'd have been highly impru-
dent for him, after the State of his humiliation,
or Suffering, was ended, to leave himfelf any
more at their mercy : that it was inconfiftent
with the Wifdom, Majefty and Authority of
God to raife up Jefus, at the precife hour, and
in the very manner, that the Chief-priefts pre-
fcribed ; and inconfiftent with the Honour and
Dignity to which Jejus was then raifed, to wait
their leifure ; or to appear perfonally to Pilate?
or the Chief-priefts. And it was altogether un-
necefiary too feeing his refurredtion was fully
notify'd, and proved to them, by the teftimony
of the Apoftles.

M. Wou'd you have had the Jews of old i>ifc. vi. p
(or will Infidels now) take the Word of the 23>
Apoftles for the refurredlion of Jefus, when
they knew and experienced them to be grand
cheats, not only in dealing away his dead
body ; but in the known impofture of Laza-
rus's refurre&ion. When Deceivers will not
be Lyars j nor Thieves, difiemblers of the
Fact they are accufed of ; I will own Jefus's
riling again to have been made manifeft enough
to the Chief-priefts.

N. Such poor thin Sophiftry as this was ne-
ver offer'd to the World before, under the ntmc
of Argument, and Demonftration. You fay
Z 3 tne

34* A Conference upon

SECT. VI. the Difciples were not to be believed, when
VYV they teftify'd the refurre&ion of Jf/us, becaufe
the Chief-priefts had experienced them to be
grand Cheats: and the proof of their being
grand Cheats is, that they flole away the body
of Jefus -, and were concern'd in the known im-
pofture of Lazarus's rcfurreftion ! The Chief-
priefts might fay this, but they could not pof-
fibly believe it. They only faid fo to amufe
and deceive the people : and Infidels are weak
enough ftill to repeat the fame fenfelefs incre-
dible calumny ; without being able to offer the
leaft proof of it ; or to make it appear fo
much as pojjible that the Apoftles mou'd devyfe
or attempt fuch a Fraud as ftealing the body
of Jefus. That fuppofition appears monftroufly
abfurd at firft fight. None but madmen cou'd
devyfe fuch a project ; none but the wickedefl
of men cou'd give into it. The Apoftles were
neither mad, nor wicked. And if they cou'd
poflibly have devyfed and attempted fuch 7 a
fraud, it was really impracticable ; and muft
certainly have been difcover'd. But I have faid
enough on this point. The refurrection of Je-
fus was not only teftify'd by the Apoftles j but
was confirmed by the Souldiers who told ajl
Mac xxviii. tn i n g s to tne Chief-priefts , and cou'd not but
i j. ' ' own that when they felt the Earthquake that
happen'd, and faw the Angel roll the Stone from
y er . 4. the Sepulchre, they Jhook for fear and became as
dead men. As to the fufpicion of any Fraud
in the raifing of Lazarus > nothing can be more
abfurd than the Rabbi's offering that, as a rea-
fon for the Chief-priefts' disbelieving the tefti-
mony of the Apoftles concerning the refur-
reftion of Jefus. When we examin'd the Cafe
of Lazarus, I fully proved that an impofture
there was morally impoffible. The Apoftles
j had

our SA v i o u RS Miracles.

had no more concern in that Tranfaction than SECT. VI.
the other Spectators. Jefus and his Difciples VxW
had been abfentfrom Bethany about two months,
and at leaft fifty miles diftant, when Lazarus
dyed, and was bury'd.

M. If there had not been a known impofture^'^-^yi
in that pretended refurrection, the Evangelift* 3 '
wou'd never have implicitly catted it fo.
* N. Your Friend falls into endlefs blunders
and inconfiftencys. If St. Matthew had known,
or fufpected, any thing of Fraud in the raifing
of Lazarus^ he wou'd not have called it fo,
either plainly, or implicitly. While he was
endeavouring to aggrandize the fame of Jefus
for a worker of Miracles^ wou'd he have given
the lealt hint, or implicit intimation, that one
of his chief Miracles was but a cheat ? But
where does Matthew implicitly call it fo ? If
WA.CWJJ, in the pafTage pointed at, fignify'd an
impofture (which I Ihewed before it does not ;) Secp . 5 , ff .
why is it to be apply'd to the refurredlion of
Lazarus, more than to any other of CbriJPs
Miracles? and if that refurrection had been
meant ; is the Evangel ift anfwerable for the
folly and malice of the Ghief-priefts ? The
Word zErAotvjj is ufed by them': Matthew only re-
peats their words. And to fay that the Evan-
gelift implicitly calls the refurrection of Lazarus
a known impofture , is fuch a grofs inftance of
falfhood and prevarication as one cou'd not ex-
pect from any man that pretended to common
fenfe or honefty. Initead of playing with fuch
an ambiguous word as srAav>7, to fliow his
skill in criticifm, the Rabbi Ihou'd have kept
to arAav-, which wou'd have fitted him better ;
becaufe it always fignifys a Deceiver ', or Impoftor.
It is ufed on the very fame occafion, by the
Chief-priefts, in their fpeech to Pilate ; and,
Z 4 withouE

$ 44 -d Conference upon

VI. without any hint, or implicit intimation, is ma-
1 nifeilly apply'd by them to Jefus. Whence,
according to the Rabbi's new Logick, he might
have inferr'd not only that Jefus was a known
Impoftor \ but that the Evangel: ft plainly calls
him fo. And then the Jew might have apply'd
that general character of an Imfpftor, to the
cafe of Lazarus, or to whatever purpofe he
pleafed. After fuch a demonjlration of Jefus's
being a deceiver, the Rabbi's implicit admirers
probably wou'd not have difcover'd who is the
real Deceiver , nor where the bare] aced impofture
lay : whether in the Faft we are examining ;
or in his arguing upon it. An uncommon
height of aflurance (which a Deceiver always
hasj wou'd have hinder'd them from any far-
ther inquiry into the Subject. He" needed only
Pif c . 6. p. to have faid that a " rcfurrection both of La-
16. zarus and of Jefus was pretended, to the delu-

. 17. " fion if pofiible of all mankind ; (and to the
" amazement of every one that can think
freely j) in which Jefus and his Apoftles have
" been more fuccefsful than cou'd be imagined,
" upon a project that had fo little fenfe or rea-
*' fon, fo little colour of truth or artifice in
" the contrivance and execution of it. " I'm
verily perfwaded, Sir, that the Argument I
have now mention'd, wou'd have appear'd to
every-one who can think freely, as ftrong and
convincing as that which the Rabbi has urged
about the breaking of the Seals ; and have
been as fatisfactory to his greateft admirers.

T". Mr, TV, you chufe rather to animadvert
feverely upon 'a flip in reafoning, or an inac-
curate exprefiionj than to inlarge upon points
of greater importance. You have offer'd but
little to juftify Jefus's not appearing to Pilate
and the Chief-priefts 3 as he ought to have


our SAVIOUR'* Miracles. 345

done, for the conviction and converting of un- SECT. VI,

N. The undoubted Miracles that Jefus
wrought before his death, convinced and con-
verted many unbelievers. And it cou'd not be
expected that thofe who refilled fuch power-
ful Evidence as he then gave of his divine Mif-
fion, wou'd have been in the lead influenced by
his appearing perfonally to the Chief-priefts,
after his refurrection. If he had appeared to
them in the moft publick manner , and had
afcended into Heaven, in their prefence ; there
is no reafon to think that this wou'd have ef-
fectually convinced them of his being the Mef-
fiah. They wou'd have pretended that there
was fome magical Enchantment in the cafe:'
that the Form he appeared in was not fubftan-
tial fiefh and blood ; but an airy phantom that
vanilh't out of their fight. And if they had
ftill continued incredulous, or pretended to be
fo ; and had deny'd the truth of his refurrec-
tion ; this wou'd have fome what leflen'd the
credibility and influence of the Apoftles' tefti-
mony ; among thofe at leaft who might have
chofen rather to depend on the Judgment and
Evidence of the Chief-priefts. And then Infi-
dels wou'd have faid, that there muft have been
fome impofture, or illufion, in Jefus's appearing
to the Chief-priefts : for, that if it had been
real, no "People cou'd poflibly be fo bigot- D'
" ted, byafs't, and prejudiced, as not to have 4 '
" been wrought upon by fuch a manifeft Mi-
" racle."

M. It Jefus had appeared to the Chief-priefts
as he did to his Difciples, in fuch a Form as
that they cou'd not know him, they cou'd not
have been fure that he was the fame perfon
whom they crucify'd ; and then we might rca-


'^ Conference upon

SJECT. VI. fonably expect that they wou'd disbelieve his
^W* refurredtion, and the reality of his appearing^
(or at leaft doubt of it,) as the Difciples them-
1 elves did.

N. The Apoftles wou'd not believe that Je-
fus was rifen from the dead, till they faw him
themfelves. When he firft appear'd to them,
they were affrighted, and fancy'd that they faw
fome gboft. And when he mowed them his
hands and his feet ; they hardly believed their*
own fenfes, fo tranfported were they with Joy
and Wonder. But when he difcourfed much,
and ate with them, and gave them infallible
froofs of his refurredion, their doubts and dif-
belief ceafed. Their backwardnefs to believe
it at firlt mowed that they were far from being
credulous, or eafily impofed on. And it hap-
pen'd providentially to prove the occafion of
their having more unqueftionable Proofs of the
reality of Jefus's body, and his appearing to
them, than cou'd have been given them, if they
had readily believed his refurreclion. They
had at the fame time the concurring evidence
s ee , job. i. of all their Senfes to aflfure them of it. Had
* they been forward to believe, it wou'd have

furnim't Infidels with a better handle fqr ca-
villing at the proofs of Cbrift's refurrection than
they have now. If the Apoftles had under-
ftood the Scriptures, and his repeated predic-
- tion that he fhou'd rife again on the third day :
if they had depended upon it, and been ready
to believe the firft report of Jefus's being rifen,
without the leaft diffidence , , you wou'd have
faid that their Faith was the effect of their
ftrong prepofleflions, and warm hopes : that
their eager expectation of Cbrift's rifmg again
made them creduloufly believe the icUe tales
that the women told them j and afterwards to


our SAVIOUR'S Miracles.


dream, in the day-time, of Appearances which SECT. VI,'

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 25 of 31)