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Joseph, we are told, was a rich man, and an honourable counsellor*.

Now the next day that followed the day of the preparation (that is, on the Saturday), the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, saying, “ Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, after three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night and steal him


and people, he is risen from the dead; so the last error shall be worse than the first. Pilate said unto them, Ye have a watch, go your way, make it as sure as ye can.

So they went, and made the sepulchre sure, sealing the stone and setting a watcht."

Here we see the chief priests using every possible precaution to prevent a fraud. For this

purpose they went to Pilate to beg for a guard, immediately after our Lord was buried. It is indeed here said that they went the next day that followed the day of the prea paration, the day on which Jesus was crucified.

* Matth. xxvii. 57. Mark, XV. 43:

+ Matth. xxvii. 62-66. VOL. II.




This looks, at the first view, as if the sepulchre had remained one whole night without a guard. But this was not so.

The chief priests went to Pilate as soon as the sun was set on Friday, the day of the preparation and crucifixion; for then began the following day, or Saturday; as the Jews always began to reckon their day from the preceding evening. They had a guard therefore as soon as they possibly could, after the body was deposited in the sepulchre: and one cannot help admiring the wisdom of Providence in so disposing events, that the extreme anxiety of these men, to prevent collusion, should be the means of adding the testimony of sixty unexceptionable witnesses (the number of the Roman soldiers on guard) to the truth of the resurrection, and of establishing the reality of it beyond all power of contradiction. It is only necessary to add on this head, that the circumstance of sealing the stone was a precaution of which several instances occur in ancient times, particularly in the prophecy of Daniel, where we read, that when Daniel was thrown into the den of lions, a stone was brought and laid upon the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his


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lords, that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel *

The chief priests, having taken these precautions; waited probably with no small impatience for the third day after the crucifixion, when Jesus had foretold that he should rise again, but when, they made no doubt that they should find the body in the sepulchre; and convict him of deceit and imposture.

On the other liand, it might naturally be imagined that the disciples, after having received from their Lord repeated assurances that he would rise on the third day from the dead, would anxiously look for the arrival of that day, with a certain confidence that these promises would be fulfilled, and that they should see their beloved Master rescued from the grave,

and restored to life. But this seems to have been by no means the real state of their minds. It does not appear that they entertained any hopes of Jesus' resurrection. Shocked and confounded, and dismayed at finding him condemned to the ignominious death of the cross, they forgot every thing he had said to them respecting his * Daniel, vi, 17.

rising again. When therefore he was led to punishment, they all forsook him, and fled. Most of them seem to have kept themselves concealed during the whole time of Jesus' being in the grave, and to have given themselves up to sorrow and despair. They had not even the courage or the curiosity to go to the sepulchre on the third day, to see whether the promised event had taken place or not. When two of them going to Emmaus met Jesus, their conversation plainly shewed that they were disappointed in their expectations, “ We trusted (said they) that it had been he which should have delivered Israel *;" and when the women who had been at the sepulchre told the apostles that Jesus was risen, “ their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them noti."

The women, it is true, came to the sepulchre early in the morning of the third day ; but they came to embalm the dead body, and of course not with the hope of seeing a living one.

So far then is perfectly clear, that the disciples were not at all disposed to be over-cre* Luke, xxiv. 21. + Lake, xxiv, 11.


dulous on this occasion. Their prejudices and prepossessions lay the contrary way; and nothing but the most irresistible evidence would be able to convince them of a fact, which they appeared to think in the highest degree improbable.

Let us now then see what this evidence of the resurrection was. In the beginning of the 28th chapter, on which we are now entering, St. Matthew informs us, “ that in the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn towards the first day of the week, that is, according to our way of reckoning, very early on the Sunday morning: (our Lord having been crucified on the Friday) came Mary Magdalen, and the other Mary, the mother of James and Joses, to see the sepulchre; and, as we learn from the other evangelists, they brought with them the spices they had purchased to embalm the body of Jesus. And behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sate upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white

And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. And the X 3


as snow.

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