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"...The church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth."
I Timothy 3:15
R. B. Manly
From The Baptist Pulpit, 1850
The expression of Luke, that "with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus," (Acts 4:33) may refer to their earnestness. This was produced by a sense of the importance and certainty of the fact to which they testified. If the views comprehended in the New Testament scheme of truths connected with the resurrection of Jesus be correct, where, among all possible stimulants, can anything be found so suited to rouse and engage the slumbering energies of the mind?
Nothing more elevated, more sublime and important can ever be conceived of; and if energy depend on truth and certainty that which animated and sustained their testimony is of the highest degree. To be convinced of this, let us for a moment take a view of the circumstances in which they were placed with regard to this fact.
They had known the Saviour intimately for three years, and had had their attention particularly turned to the identity of his person by a thousand touching circumstances and wonderful events, so that it seems impossible they could mistake another for him. They saw him apprehended from among them, and never lost sight of him until his body was deposited in the sepulchre. They saw him expire, and observed the soldiers omit to break his legs under the conviction he was already dead. And if this had not been sufficient to convince them, yet when they saw the blood and water issue from his wounded side (an evidence that the pericardium had been pierced), no doubt could then have been harbored that he really was dead.
The sepulchre in which the body was laid, they knew had been closed and sealed, and guarded by a strong detachment of Roman soldiers, selected for the express purpose of preventing the disappearance of the body. After the third day it could not be produced.
They certainly knew that they had not taken it away, and with equal certainty almost, must they have known that neither the guard, nor the priests, nor any of his enemies would take it away; since this would have manifestly tended to prove that doctrine to be true which they were laboring to prove an imposture. They saw that the only account of the event, besides their own, carried in it its own refutation; and that within eight years it could be openly published and recorded as perjury, and the authors pointed out in the very place of their residence, no man contradicting.
Their own account, they must have felt, was not made up of romantic anticipations, and the welcome illusions of excited imaginations, but was forced upon them after the event by evidence which they could not resist. That they did not expect him to rise is evident from preparations made at great expense to embalm the body, and the unaffected astonishment and unbelief excited by the first reports of his resurrection.
Every motive of temporal interest combined to make them wish those reports untrue. They were, therefore, prepared to question all testimony and none but such as should be absolutely unquestionable would establish their faith. Accordingly, it is wonderful to observe from how many sources testimony came to their relief. The sense of sight furnished its aid. They saw he was not in the tomb—and he was afterwards seen by different individuals of their number on as many as ten several occasions, sometimes in Jerusalem or its neighborhood, and sometimes in Galilee; some of them saw him eat in their presence, wearing all the distinct marks of his identical body.
They heard him speak, knew his voice, and followed him from Jerusalem to Bethany, listening to his instructions just before his ascension. They touched him—putting their fingers into the nail-prints, holding his feet, and worshipping him. Their faith was also assisted by testimony. They saw a vision of angels who said that he was alive, and by memory, for they afterwards called to mind that he had often told them he would die and on the third day rise again. To these we may add their frequent intercourse and conversations with him, during forty days on various subjects which had mutually interested them before his death.
Under these circumstances how could they, how could we, avoid saying that it was by many infallible signs he showed himself alive after his passion? How could they have spoken otherwise than earnestly, and "with great power?"