IT is what is called an axiomatic truth, that there never was an effect without a cause. It is settled among men of reason, that there never can be an effect without a cause. There may be, and often are, effects where we can not see the cause, or determine what it is, but there is, nevertheless, a cause. There is nothing like examining matters of fact in determining what the truth is. We should be careful and see that our facts are real facts, and not merely assumed, but when examined, not facts at all. When we have real facts we may reason from them, and reach conclusions with certainty.
Is it, then, a real fact that the religion of Christ did bring thousands into its fold as soon as it was fully unfolded, and that it moved forward with most triumphant march, in defiance of Judaism, on the one hand, and Paganism, on the other, till it spread throughout the Roman Empire, and raised up 6,000,000 of Christians in that Empire alone, by the close of the first century, or in about sixty-five years after the apostles commenced under their last commission? This, or what is substantially the same as this, is as certainly a fact as well sustained and as fully confirmed by all the history that bears on it at all, as any fact stated in history known to us. It is uncontradicted by any authority, admitted by the most able infidels that have written, and both Paine and Gibbon have tried to account for it. It may be received and treated as a most stubborn fact, a reality that can not be questioned with any show of reason. We shall regard it as so nearly a universally admitted fact, that it may be taken for granted, relied upon and reasoned from as a settled thing.
It must be kept in mind, too, that the apostles did not wait till the matters they laid before the people became stale, and of no interest to the people, and till their opponents were indifferent, and ceased to care anything about it. But they commenced soon, while the matters were all fresh in the minds of the people, and while all the means were at hand for a refutation of their pretenses, if such means existed, and while a disposition was still in the hearts of the people to refute their pretensions and put them down. The witnesses abounded all around them, who know all about many of the things bearing upon their claims, and certainly willing to testify anything they could to defeat their work.
Nor did the apostles go to some other place first to tell of the wonderful things they had seen and heard, but stood up in Jerusalem, in open day, and in the presence of the very people who had the fullest opportunity of any people in the world to know whether they told the truth or not. It was there the Lord was crucified; it was there they said he rose; and there they said they saw him ascend up into heaven; it was in the midst of the people there that the great matters had transpired connected with their wonderful theme.
This has nothing of the appearance of imposture about it; beginning, as they did, while the matters were all fresh in the minds of the people, and among the very people where the transactions occurred connected with their work and mission. They did not build upon wonders that had occurred at some remote period, and in some other country; but wonders that had occurred, and were still occurring, in their midst--things that the people saw and heard. The people knew whether Jesus fed five thousand in their midst by a miracle or not. They did not have to take it on trust. They knew whether he raised the dead, gave sight to the blind, speech to the dumb, and hearing to the deaf. They knew whether there was "a great earthquake" when he died; whether darkness covered over the whole land; whether the rocks were rent and the vail split in two from the top to the bottom. These were matters of personal observation, and not limited to a few, but done openly in the broad blaze of daylight, and in the presence of the promiscuous multitude, as if to challenge the most vigorous investigation and searching criticism. This was most certainly the highest order of procedure. There was nothing hidden--nothing covered up--but all was most bold and open.
The main matter for investigation, that which lay at the foundation of everything, was no subtle, mystical, and speculative thing, about which there was nothing tangible, intelligible and credible; nor something so intricate that it could not be decided upon without the utmost stretch of intelligence, but a matter most clear, intelligible and credible; an affirmative proposition concerning which any man can come to a conclusion, make up his mind and decide as readily as any jury ever did, in the clearest case that ever came into court. It leaves the mind in a settled, decided and well-established condition. Not so the man who has no faith--the unbeliever, the skeptic. He has nothing decided, nothing settled, nothing on which to rely. His creed runs backward, and consists in what he does not believe. There is nothing in what a man does not believe to lean the soul on, living or dying, in this world or the world to come. Denying what other people believe has nothing in it to rest on, to settle the mind or heart on, in life or in death, in time or eternity. There is no light in mere negative ground, in a mere denial of the Bible, a mere denial of Christ or the gospel. A man might deny the Lord and the Bible, and be a very ignorant man. There is nothing in mere denials of any sort on which to rest the mind or heart.
The mere man of unbelief has nothing, defends nothing and maintains nothing; he builds nothing, stands upon nothing, and advocates nothing; he has nothing for himself or anybody else. He is out in an open sea of confusion, without chart or compass. It is all dark beneath him, and above him, and all round him. It is all dark in the past and in the future. He can tell you nothing about whence he came, nor whither he is going. True, he has no God to fear; but he also has no God to love, to trust in or save him! He has no hell to dread; but, then, he has no heaven to hope for, no eternal happiness in anticipation, no house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; no new heavens and new earth in prospect; and if he boast that he has no fear of death, he also has no hope in view of a world to come. How different from all this is the man of faith! Faith reaches back to the beginning of time, to the creation of man, and all along the history of the human race, down to the present, and looks away into the future; into the new heaven and the new earth; into the holy city, New Jerusalem, where they need no light of any lamp, or even the sun, for the Lord God and the Lamb are the light; where there shall be no more sorrowing, nor sighing, nor sickness, nor pain, nor death; where our hearts shall never ache again.
What, then, is the great affirmative proposition, lying at the bottom of all faith, and hope, and everlasting consolation? What, then, is the great truth of all truth, that is under all and supports all? It is the truth concerning the Christ, the Anointed of the Father, full of grace and truth; that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. It is not that he is anointed. Aaron was anointed, David was anointed, and so were many others; but Jesus is THE CHRIST, or THE ANOINTED, in a sense above all others. He is not simply Son of God, or a Son--there were many sons of God--but he is above all these; he is THE SON. But this is not all; he is not only the Son of God, but of THE LIVING GOD. There were lords many, and gods many; but THE LIVING GOD is above all, and through all, and in all. This proposition concerning Christ is one of the most complete propositions ever uttered, and has the definite article inserted in three of the most important places in it possible. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God. All rests on this. This is the central idea of the Bible. It is the center of attraction in the spiritual system, as the sun is of the solar system, and everything else revolves round this.
If Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, the whole Bible is true; for then he knew all things; knew what was from God and what was not--and whatever he indorsed is divine. The Almighty Father indorsed Jesus at his baptism, and introduced him to Israel, in the following words: "Thou art my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased." The Father indorsed him again in the holy mountain of transfiguration: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am pleased: hear you him." That this is the foundation of the New Institution is evident from the following conversation. The Lord said to the apostles, "Who do you say that I, the Son of Man, am?" Peter responded, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." The Lord replied, "Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it to you, but my Father who is in heaven: and you are Peter, and on this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." This grand statement, that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God, is the foundation truth of the whole system. This is in purport the same as the statement of Paul: "I, as a wise master-builder, have laid the foundation, and other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
This all turns on one question: Did he rise from the dead? If he rose from the dead, God raised him. An impostor could not have raised himself from the dead, and God would not have raised him. The logic runs thus: If he rose, God raised him; if God raised him, he is all he claimed to be, for God would not have raised an impostor, and aided him in palming off an imposition on the world. If he was what he claimed to be, he knew all things. He could not have erred for the lack of knowledge. He was infinite in goodness, and could not have intentionally deceived us. All he said was true. He knew all about Moses and the prophets, and quoted them as the word of God, and as the language of the Spirit of God. This indorsed the Old Testament. He called and sent the apostles, and indorsed them by wonderful displays of supernatural power in connection with their work. The law and the prophets, the Old Institution and the New, rest on him.
Paul says: "If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved: for with the heart man believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation." Did Jesus rise? This is the matter now to be considered.
The first testimony to be taken is that given by his own chosen witnesses. Peter says, "God showed him openly; not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is he who was ordained of God the Judge of the living and of the dead."--Acts x. 40-42. Peter says, "We are his 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." These, being his own select witnesses, must be heard, and their testimony considered first. We are not going into any minute examination of the case, but simply to look at it in a plain practical way.
The witnesses were sufficient in number. No reason could demand more than twelve.
They were entirely competent. They were men of plain common sense. They had been with Jesus much of the time for about three and a half years, ate with him, drank with him, talked with him, heard him, saw him, and handled him. They claim to have seen him repeatedly, to have talked over the events of their previous travels and work; their previous conversations and public acts. These interviews were at intervals, and mainly in daylight, where they had every opportunity to identify him. They claim that he went out with them to Mount Olivet, in open day, and ascended up out of their sight. The matters to which they were to testify were all the plainest matters of fact. Some forty days elapsed, during which they had these repeated interviews with him. Between these interviews they had time and opportunity to talk over the matter, to refresh each other's memories.
We see no way of throwing the testimony of these men into doubt, unless on one of two grounds: 1. To show that they might have been mistaken; been deceived in the matters about which they testify. 2. To show that they might have been dishonest men. If they could have been mistaken in the matters concerning which they testify, and been deceived, it involves the whole in doubt. If they might have been dishonest men, it involves the whole matter in doubt. But if they could not have been mistaken, or been deceived; and could not have been dishonest men, it is impossible to involve their testimony in doubt. It remains invulnerable. We need spend but a very few minutes on these two points.
Could they have been mistaken, been deceived, thought the things they testified were true, when they were not? Could twelve men have been mistaken about identifying a person with whom they had been most intimately acquainted, and with whom they had associated the greater part of their time, both publicly and privately, for three and a half years, and who had only been absent a few days, and then met him repeatedly, in open day, had extended interviews, talked over their previous conversations, travels and works? Could twelve men have been mistaken, and thought they saw him ascend to heaven in open day, been deceived by it; actually thought they saw him ascend into heaven, when they did not? If they could have been mistaken about all this, and thought they saw it all, when they did not, and when nothing of the kind occurred, then there is an end of all certainly in testimony. But this is only the beginning. They claimed that he gave them power to heal all manner of diseases, and even to raise the dead, and that they did these things. They knew whether they healed all manner of diseases or not; whether they raised the dead or not. There was no mistaking about these matters. If they did not do these things they knew it. If they did not do these things, there was not an honest man among them. They knew they did not--they could not, then, have been mistaken and been deceived.
Could they have been dishonest? This scarcely needs more than to be asked, to satisfy all that they must have been sincere. They all testify the same thing. They were all together, and testified the same things at the start, or on Pentecost, and were tried for that testimony the balance of their lives. They were tried in every way that could be invented to induce them to recant, but not a man of them could ever be induced to recant. One fell at one time, and another at another time, till the last one, save one, fell a martyr for that testimony. Some of them suffered many long years, and repeated and most harassing tortures were inflicted on them. But every man stood firm till the last. Not a man recanted. They gave the highest evidence in the power of man to give of honesty and sincerity. No reasonable man can believe that twelve men can give testimony, in a matter where they could have no personal interest, if their testimony was false, stand to that testimony, as some of them did, nearly or quite sixty years, and die for it, as they all did except John, when they knew all the time it was not true! Human credulity can not receive such an unreasonable thing as this! They could not have been dishonest.
We are compelled, then, to admit that they could not have been deceived in the matter in hand--about the resurrection of our Lord from the dead. They positively know whether he did rise or not. They could not have been dishonest men. They gave the highest evidence in the power of man to give of honesty. They were honest, and what they testified was true. The Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, rose from the dead, and brought life and immortality to light. If there is anything coming within the grasp of the human mind, that man can rest on without a doubt, it is that Jesus rose from the dead--that he is all that he claimed to be.
Some man may say that he would believe if nature would testify--that he would listen to the voice of nature. Is it right certain that nature has not testified--that the voice of nature has not been brought to bear upon the matter in the only way in which it was possible? Let us turn our eyes to the crucifixion, and view the scene that occurred there, and see if nature did not testify in favor of the Lord. What occurred when Jesus died? Was nature quiet? Was nature still? By no means! There was a great earthquake. Let no man doubt whether this actually occurred. Remember, a great earthquake is an event that does not pass out of the memories of the people in a short space of time, nor in one generation. When Matthew wrote his report concerning Christ, and it appeared in Palestine, there were thousands living that knew whether there was a great earthquake when Jesus died, and to have refuted this statement would have been to overthrow the testimony of one of the professed witnesses of Jesus. If the statement had been false, nothing would have been easier than to have proved it to have been false. But, instead of proving it to be false, not even a denial is found on the records of the times, nor all expression of any doubt of the actual occurrence of the "great earthquake."
But this is not all. When Jesus died, darkness spread over the whole land, from the sixth to the ninth hour, or from twelve till three o'clock. This, too, was an event that would not have passed out of the memories of the people of that generation, nor would it have passed out of their records and traditions for many generations. Every one that lived till the report made by Matthew appeared, was a witness to testify in reference to the darkness. If the statement about it was false, more than half the population knew it was false, and would have been living witnesses by whom to prove it false. But did any man prove it false? Instead of this, no man tried to prove it false. We have no account of any man calling it in question, or even doubting it. No such thought appears to have come into the mind of any man.
But there is more yet in this matter. Matthew states that the rocks were rent when Jesus died. If this statement had been false, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to have proved it, for the rocks would have still testified. As Hugh Miller would have expressed it, they would have found "the testimony in the rocks." But no man went to the rocks to find testimony against the statement of the witness of Jesus. The reason is obvious. "The testimony of the rocks" was there, but it was on the other side--favorable to the witnesses of Jesus. Nobody denied the statement about the rending rocks, or the splitting of the vail in two. Indeed, nobody of any note denied any part of the statement. It comes down through the ages uncontradicted. There was, then, a great earthquake when Jesus died. Darkness did spread over the whole land, from the sixth to the ninth hour, the rocks were rent, and the vail in the temple was split in two from the top to the bottom. This was action of inanimate matter, convulsion in nature, when Jesus died, or connected with his death. No wonder the Centurion said, "Certainly this man was the son of a god." He did not mean the Son of God, or know anything about him; but he saw that this was above nature, and ascribed it to a god, evidently meaning only a Pagan god. But, viewing the matter in the true light, it was the testimony of nature in favor of our Lord. It was by him and for him that God made the universe, and all things were under him. The man who rejects Jesus has to reject the voice of nature, when addressed to his reason in the most convincing manner.
Angels of God testified concerning Jesus. The upper world appeared to be in motion, and on the alert from before the birth of Jesus till after his ascension into heaven. The angels appeared to be ever on the way to him and from him, as the wonderful messengers of Jehovah. When the Lord was born the heavenly hosts appeared to the shepherds as they minded their flocks, and shouted, "We bring you, good news of great joy to all people. To you, this day, in the city of David, a Savior is born, Christ the Lord." There was no worldly attraction to draw the mind of any human being to the birth of the lowly Jesus, or to give the idea that anything great or extraordinary had occurred, demanding the attention of the nations of the earth. But the angels that appeared at his birth saw and proclaimed "good news of great joy to all people." These mighty messengers of Jehovah saw far beyond what was in the view of man, away down far into the ages, that the "good news of great joy" was "for all people." This shows that God was in that testimony, looking down through the long centuries to the generations to come, and announcing the "good news to all people."
Eighteen centuries have fled, and far into the nineteenth, and the "good news of great joy to all people" is still what it was then, and has been all the time, "good news of great joy to all people." A Savior, Christ the Lord, was born, has lived, died, was buried, rose again, has gone into heaven, and lives forever and ever. His name is now above every name. He is Head over all things to the Church. In him all fullness dwells.
But angels testified of him on the morning of his resurrection. When the women came to the tomb to embalm his body, an angel had come and rolled back the stone from the entrance. The women advanced in fear, and, looking in, saw that the body of Jesus was gone. They took the angel for a man, and inquired of him, "Sir, have you removed the body of Jesus?" The angel knew all about it, and testified, "He is not here; he is risen from the dead, as he told you he would, and goes before you into Galilee. Hasten and tell his disciples." Here, again, is the explicit testimony of an angel of God.
Angels testified in his behalf when he ascended up into heaven. In open day he took the disciples out "to the Mount Olivet, on the first day of the week," and about midday he imparted to them his last benediction, and, in their presence, ascended up into heaven. As they stood gazing up after him, angels appeared and said, "Galileans, why stand you here, gazing up into heaven? That same Jesus who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen him go into heaven."--See Acts i. 11. This testimony of the angels was given in the presence of the disciples. They saw the angels, and heard their testimony.
The man who will not believe on our Lord sets aside not only the testimony of the angels here referred to, but the testimony of angels as connected with the mission of our Lord in numerous instances that can not be mentioned here.
Paul says, "The Holy Spirit also is a witness." The testimony of the Spirit of God confirms the mission of the Lord. It is a fearful thing for a man to despise the testimony of the Spirit of God, to refuse to accredit it or respect it. When the Lord ascended from his baptism, and stood on the bank of the Jordan, he appeared in his person only as a man, and there was no comeliness that we should desire him. There was not a worldly attraction around him, nor in him. But the Spirit of God, in a visible form, descended as a dove and rested on him. What was the meaning of that? John says, "I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize said: He on whom you shall see the Holy Spirit descending and remaining, he is he"--that is, he is the Messiah. The Holy Spirit, then, in descending and remaining on him, was testifying to John the Immerser that he was the Messiah.
Paul says that no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God, in the prophets and in the apostles, testified concerning Christ. The Spirit also testified in the wonderful display of miraculous power in the apostles and the prophets. The man who will not believe on Christ sets aside all this testimony of the Holy Spirit, despises and discredits it. This is certainly a most fearful thing. Such unreasonable persistence against testimony can but land any man in ruin.
The Lord was made a witness in his own case. The high priest swore him, put him upon oath, and he testified under oath. The high priest said, "I adjure thee, by the living God; tell me, art thou a king?" The Lord answered affirmatively. "He witnessed a good confession," or testified to a good confession before Pilate, and laid down his life for his testimony. This was the highest order of testimony--the sworn testimony of the Lord himself. He testified at sun dry times, and in various forms, during the three and a half years of his personal ministry, and then closed the whole up by a solemn oath before Pilate. The man who will not believe on him sets aside all his works, which he said testified of him; his clear statements; and, finally, his solemn statement confirmed by an oath, and for which be most deliberately laid down his life, despises and repudiates it. Can the man who will do this expert anything short of utter ruin?
But we must summon one more witness, and we can rise no higher and go no further. The Almighty Father of heaven and earth is a witness. He made a promise to Abraham, and that, by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation he confirmed that promise by an oath. The two immutable things are the oath and promise of God. This, then, is the testimony of God, in his promise, confirmed by an oath. As we have seen, in a previous part of this discourse, the Jehovah gave his testimony concerning Jesus, when he ascended from the waters of Jordan: "Thou art my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased." Then, again, in the mountain of transfiguration, the Father testified, "This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased: hear you him." When he was coronated, the Jehovah, the Infinite One, crowned him Lord of all; and as he could swear by no greater, he lifted his hand to heaven, and swore by his own great name, that he should reign till every knee should bow, and every tongue confess to the glory of God, the Father.
All the testimony given by all. the prophets, and all the apostles, all the miracles, the wonderful. surroundings of our Lord, were really the testimony of God confirming the divine mission of his Son, the Lord from heaven.
What, then, but the utmost perversity and persistence could lead any man who considers this testimony at all, to reject and utterly disregard it? And what can a man expect who will set aside the testimony of the twelve chosen witnesses of our Lord, who knew positively whether they told the truth in the matters of their testimony concerning Christ, and who gave the highest evidence possible for men to give of honesty and integrity? What can men expect who will not consider the wonderful convulsions of nature; of inanimate matter, when the Lord died; but will treat the whole as nothing--a matter of no consequence--despise and reject it? What can await a man who will not regard the wonderful testimony of angels, given under the most solemn and awful circumstances; who will not listen to the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the testimony of the Lord, given under oath, and the testimony of the Almighty Father himself, given at different times and confirmed by his oath?
The wonderful and overwhelming transactions here referred to were done openly, in the midst of the people, and some of them in the presence of vast multitudes, and were of such a nature that they could but have called the attention of the people. They could not have passed unnoticed, or without the most careful scrutiny, investigation and criticism. They could not have occurred without having been on the lips of the people, and constant matters of conversation. Many of the main transactions were matters that the people could have been in no doubt about. They knew whether they occurred or not, as well as they knew whether the sun rose and set. Look at a few cases. The resurrection of Lazarus was an open transaction. It occurred in open day. There was no programme marked out. No one but Jesus knew what was about to be done. It was in the presence of a promiscuous company, of such people as pleased to come together. It was a tangible matter. The people knew whether Lazarus had been dead four days; they knew whether he rose or not. He remained there where many could see him, and where any could know all the facts about his resurrection. There was no possibility of making the impression generally, that he rose; making the belief general, that he rose, and having it spoken of by the masses as a fact, and nobody calling it in question, denying it, or doubting it, in the midst of the people where it was said to have occurred, if it never did occur. Such an idea is an outrage on all reason. If Lazarus had not risen, the people could and would have confronted the statement by calling for Lazarus--to see him! But the truth is many of them did see him, and there was no doubt in the community about his rising. Nobody called it in question. Many believed on the Lord in view of the transaction.
The transactions connected with the birth of Christ, his ministry, his death, his resurrection and ascension, in the main, were so open, exposed in some instances to the gaze of such vast multitudes, of such various character, and many of them known to so many people, that they spoke of them as facts, realities; wonderful, awful and sublime realities; and nobody denied their reality. When all this is considered, the wonder is not that so many believed on him, but that there were any that did not believe on him. The testimony God gave of his Son was so various, in many instances, so overwhelming, and so open to the people at large, that it is astonishing that any man should have been found who would not believe on the. Savior of the world.
But then we must bear in mind that many men will not reflect; that they will not go out of the groove in which they have been running; see, or hear, or know anything outside of their little circle, where they have been revolving all their lives. Anything outside of that is not worth knowing or listening to. There are men in our midst who are indifferent to certain things, and never consider them at all. They are not, in any sense, witnesses; for they have given no attention. A man can be no judge in any matter that he never heard, a juror in no case where he never heard the testimony, never considered it, or tried to understand it. There were men, in the time of the apostles, stolid, heartless and apathetic; indifferent, unfeeling, and of no conscience. Those regarded the mere incidental references to these great matters that frequently fell on their ears, as coming from fanaticism, and worthy of no thought.
We must not forget that vast numbers of men were overwhelmed in schemes of government, power, honor and wealth, as they are now; and that their minds were so engrossed with their pursuits that they never turned aside to take one sober thought about the ground of any new doctrine, but simply held a kind of indefinite and traditional idea of religion that they had received in their childhood. Then, again, there have been the great masses who were devotees to pride, fashion and worldly display. These are never arrested by any reason, or anything else, till some calamity falls on them, or judgment overtakes them, and compels them to stop in their wild and thoughtless career. These were all too much blinded by their folly, and influenced by their passions, to give any attention to the new teaching of Christ and the apostles. They pressed right on in their wild and thoughtless pursuits, without ever turning aside to consider anything about the new order of things taking position among them. There were also, and have been ever since, the lovers of folly and of fun, the "lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God," that never think nor care what is right or wrong. They are the thoughtless, the empty-minded and light-hearted. They care not who was crucified, nor who rose from the dead; who ascended to heaven, nor who was crowned Lord of all. They know not, and care not, who were martyred, or who martyred them. They are simply gathered into the general whirl, and are whirling in it, without any thought about the out-come or the landing-place.
The classes now enumerated comprise a large element in the world, and did at the time of the founding of the New Institution, on whom the evidences of the divinity of our Lord made no impression. They knew nothing of his pure and holy teaching--that it was a miracle in itself; in that it was all perfect, pure and holy--absolutely such. In this it differed from all others. They taught some good things, but, at the same time, taught some things that were not good--some things that were bad. All that Jesus taught was not only good, but perfect, pure and holy. There was no exception.
The classes of whom we speak know nothing of the perfection or the life of Jesus--that, unlike all other teachers, he practiced what he taught. His practice was as perfect, pure and holy as his teaching. His practice was not only good in some things, but in everything, without an infraction. This was miraculous. No man ever gave us a perfect practice. The Lord rose above humanity, and gave the world a perfect practice. The teaching of all the wise men, and the best the world has ever produced, was imperfect; had some things in it not pure and good--and then, they did not practice what they taught. They fell short in both the teaching and practice, and proved themselves to be imperfect. Jesus was perfect in both the teaching and practice. But these wonderful matters were hid to the thoughtless multitudes of which we are speaking. They knew nothing of them, and they had no influence on them. We need not wonder that they were not converted.
The classes of which we are speaking never stopped to think of the wonderful things of which they incidentally heard, no doubt, many times; nor of the bearing these things had on the claims of Christ; or even what his claims were. Nor do they now. They are the inconsiderate. They never consider anything outside of their little circle, Unless it should be something interfering with some of their schemes. Then they only consider how to oppose it, because it comes in their way; nor are they very scrupulous about the means of doing this. They regarded what they heard, or even anything that came under their personal observation, as they did an earthquake, a hurricane, or pestilence--as wonderful, and only worthy of mention because it was wonderful, and not because of its connection with Christ, or the apostles, or the New Institution. They saw no meaning in it. So these vast multitudes, that in a kind of wholesale way admit that all the wonderful things that occurred in founding the New Institution, did actually occur. It has never come into their minds to doubt this; but they have not thought enough, nor have they connection enough in their minds to associate those things with our Lord, his apostles, and the introduction of the better covenant upon better promises.
We must, also, take into the account the fact that the Jews' religion was from God; and there was a large class of priests that had their living, as a class, in that religion, and its abrogation swept away these priesthoods and their livings. They would be slow to receive a new religion that would do this. Then, this new religion struck down the membership of the whole professing religious world, declaring to them all alike that they must be born again, born from above, born of God, or they could not enjoy the kingdom of God. Then it struck down all the Pagan altars, priests and temples, and destroyed the craft of numerous men who had their means of wealth in manufacturing shrines for Pagan institutions, temples and gods. All this fell to the ground where the religion of Christ prevailed. This was evident to all in a short time after the religion of Christ was introduced. Then, the question at the opening of this discourse comes to us with wonderful force: What induced such vast multitudes to accept it? They must have had reasons of the greatest weight, and of the clearest import, to have led to such a result. We have taken a rapid glance at the situation; the cause that produced such an effect, and we have seen that it is not strange that the result was what it was; that it is not strange that such vast multitudes came to the Savior, but it is strange that all did not come.
I We simply now have time for a few words of recapitulation in conclusion.
We have seen that our Lord had his own twelve chosen witnesses, whom he had with him for about three and a half years, who were his most intimate companions and acquaintances but who, at his crucifixion and death became disheartened and discouraged, and supposed all was lost; gave all up and returned to their former avocation of fishing for a livelihood, and gave up all as lost; but the Lord appeared to them repeatedly, under different circumstances, talked with them, ate with them, drank with them, gave them the fullest opportunity to identify him; and, after thus appearing to them at intervals, during a space of some forty days, in the open day, he ascended in their presence into heaven. We have soon that these twelve men could not have been mistaken about the matters concerning which they testify. They knew whether they testified the truth or not. They could not have been dishonest. They gave the highest evidence in the power of men to give, of honesty and integrity. If, then, they could not have been dishonest, nor have been mistaken, their testimony is conclusive. The Lord rose from the dead. This settles the whole question. If he rose, God raised him; if God raised him, he was all he claimed to be. He is the supreme, the absolute authority. This the people had before them. They were not moved by blind vagaries and generalities, but by most clear and intelligible matter of fact, brought to their understandings.
The wonderful transactions at the crucifixion, the darkness the great earthquake, the splitting of the vail and rending of the rocks, were in the presence of the multitude, in open day, and fresh in the minds of those who first became obedient to the faith. They were not things purporting to have transpired at a distance, or as Paul said to Agrippa, "Not done in a corner," but openly, and the people who first yielded to the gospel knew whether they occurred or not, of their own personal observation, without taking the report of any man. Those present on Pentecost knew whether there was a sound from heaven as a rushing mighty wind; whether there were soon to sit on each of them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and whether they heard them speak in their own tongue. These were matters not reported to them, but matters of personal observation, so that Peter could refer to them as "the things they saw and heard."
The testimony of angels, to the shepherds, at the resurrection and the ascension, was accredited by the people generally. The testimony of the Spirit, at the Lord's baptism, was open to the people. The testimony of the Lord, under oath, was open before the people; and the crowning testimony of all, that of the Almighty Father, at the Jordan, and in the mountain of transfiguration, rises to a climax, and puts the man who will not believe on Christ beyond the roach of all evidence, and the pale of all reason. These were some of the wonderful transactions that led to the belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. This belief showed its mighty power in shaking down Judaism, on the one hand, and Paganism, on the other; in toppling the Pagan gods, altars, priests and temples to the ground, and planting itself on the ruins. It has also shown its divine power in withstanding all Paganism, Judaism, and Infidelity, for the past eighteen centuries. God is in it!