And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:…
There is no article of the Christian faith more necessary to be embraced, more undeniably to be proved than that of Christ's resurrection. But our modern unbelievers have been at the woeful pains to furnish the world with arguments against this fundamental article of the Christian faith, the overturning of which they too well know would be no less than the entire extirpation of all religion. Happy had it been, say they, for the Christian cause in general if the proof of Christ's resurrection had been made a little more public. For whatever may be said in apology for St. Thomas's incredulity, it cannot be doubted but that, had our Lord appeared personally to the high priests and rulers after He was risen, made an open entry into Jerusalem, and frequented the temple and other places of public concourse, that every eye might see Him, He would have given the world fuller satisfaction than in remitting us to the testimony of His apostles, who were all His own creatures, and consequently evidences against whom we may make a just exception. But let us answer this vain objection, and see whether the privacy of Christ's resurrection was not more agreeable to the majesty of the Almighty, and also no less convincing to those who were in any tolerable disposition to be satisfied.
1. And there is no one will deny but upon the certainty of Christ's resurrection lies all the stress of the Christian religion, and likewise that all necessary means of convincing the world of the truth, and confirming them in the reality of it, were highly expedient; but then it should be remembered that Christ now, after His resurrection, was not to condescend to any action beneath the majesty of His Divine nature, which He had then more fully assumed. And, besides, of all men living, none ever had, or could render themselves more unworthy of this extraordinary, I had almost said unnecessary, way of conviction than the unbelieving Jews and chief priests. Another thing let me observe to you. They had long rejected all the evidence our Saviour had given them, and when they could not directly deny the truth of any of the miracles He wrought, they rather chose to impute them to the assistance of darkness; and can it with any justice be urged that such men should again be favoured with such a visitation, especially after His summoning Lazarus from the grave, which was so far from removing their prejudice that they after even waxed more inveterate against Him.
2. Again, let us suppose that our Lord had made His personal appearance before the high priests and rulers after He was risen, yet, if you remember, how little they were moved and affected with the relation of the centurion at His death, and with that of the soldiers at His resurrection, with the shock the whole frame of nature felt, and when everything else was moved, except themselves, can you imagine they would immediately have been convinced, and worshipped what they so lately had scoffed and crucified.
3. Suppose, then, He had made this public entrance, and they had been convinced of His Divinity, what sort of creatures must we conceive them to have been, able to sustain themselves under this shock? Something more inhuman than we can imagine them. Could flesh and blood behold the glorified Son of the Most High, whom just before it had arraigned, condemned, and executed, and live? The more of majesty and terror He had appeared in, the greater, and more insupportable, must have been their dread, and the more of love and compassion the greater and more abundant their confusion.
4. Now the method which our Saviour took, and the account the Scriptures give us of it, was neither attended with any of these inconveniencies, which would otherwise have happened, nor any ways defective to procure our assent. He neither exposed Himself to fresh insults nor laid the Jews under a necessity on the one hand of adding still to their sin by denying Him in His glorified Person, nor endangered their lives on the other by exhibiting to their view the reproach that a late crucified, but then eternally crowned Jesus, would have been to them. As to that expression used by our modern unbeliever, wherein he calls the apostles creatures of our Saviour, and consequently evidences against whom exception might justly be taken, I say it is unfair and ungenerous. Every circumstance proves they actually were as St. Peter, in the words of my text, styles them, "Witnesses chosen before of God," and they not only called themselves so, but likewise were enabled to confirm the same by undeniable demonstrations of such power as could only be given them by Him whose witnesses they were.
(S. Eccles, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: