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An Examination of Bishop Pearson’s Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed

(Continued from page 89.)

The first case which is adduced is the circumcision of a child, which is performed when only six days have passed between the <<129>>birth and the circumcision, alluding to the circumstance of the day on which the child is born, and the day on which the commandment is performed, both being reckoned in the eighth day prescribed; then the courses of the priests in the service of the temple, and the space between Passover and Sebuoth, next the Greek names of intermittent fevers,—to prove that it was customary to include the day on which it commenced and the day on which it ended in the number of days in any given period spoken of. But the good Bishop’s ingenuity cannot avail him, for in all these instances days are only spoken of. In the prediction of Jesus it says three days and three nights, therefore the prediction was not fulfilled.

Of the proofs of the resurrection, which the Bishop assures us was “attested by human, angelic, and Divine testimony,” the fact is related differently by the several Evangelists, and until they can reconcile them, or point out which is correct, we need not trouble ourselves to discuss it, but simply deny it. Matthew says that when Jesus appeared to the “pious women,” they held him by the feet and worshipped. When he met the eleven in Gallilee, they worshipped, but “some doubted.” (Matt. 27:17.) Christians may well excuse the Jews for not believing an account written so long ago, and of which the author is uncertain, if some of those who were present saw and were spoken to doubted.”

Matthew, alluding to the charge made by the Jews of the disciples having stolen away the body says, “and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews to this day;” and this charge is very credible, if indeed the body was missing; but it would seem more probable that the body was interred along with the two other malefactors, and no more thought of by the Jews until the report was raised of his resurrection. The circumstance as related by the evangelist is open to very great suspicion. The body is said to have been begged by Joseph of Arimathea, and granted to him by Pilate; it was wrapped in a clean linen cloth, laid in his tomb, and a great stone rolled to the door of the sepulchre, then Joseph departed. Meanwhile Mary Magdalen and the other Mary were sitting over against the sepulchre. The next day the  chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate, and represented that Jesus having declared that <<130>>he would rise again on the third day, requested a guard might be set on the sepulchre until the third day, lest the disciples should steal away the body and say he had risen. They then set a watch, and sealed the stone at the door. Supposing all this to be true, there is a lapse of many hours, including the dark hours of night, during which the sepulchre was unwatched, and there was not anything to prevent the disciples from stealing away the body. It was of the utmost importance to them that the body should not be found. The credit of their master was involved in the accomplishment of his promised resurrection. The influence they exercised over the converts would be destroyed by the failure of the condition on which Jesus had staked his character of Messiah. No reasonable person can be satisfied with the proofs offered of the body having been supernaturally removed when there were such opportunities, and such a strong motive for its being removed by natural means.

In note e the Bishop says: “The obligation of the day, which was then the Sabbath, as it were, died, and was buried with our Lord, and revived again on the day of resurrection, to which its sanctity was transferred.” The idea of Saturday being buried on Friday and rising again on Sunday, is certainly very amusing, and it would be interesting to learn the condition of the world in the interval between the two days during the time that the Saturday was dead and buried, and we may ask whether the death of the Saturday does not affect the calculation of the three days which is said to have elapsed between late on Friday and early on Sunday. It is true the assertion is qualified by “as it were;” but then how or to what does the figure apply. By the proviso, the Bishop allows that the case from which he argues did not exist. Then it is averred that the defunct Saturday revived on the following day, Sunday, on which the resurrection took place, and the sanctity of the Sabbath was transferred, from which it would appear that the same day was both Saturday and Sunday. We must conclude that one of the other days of the week stepped in and acted pro tempore during the demise of the Saturday, for we cannot suppose that space of time to have been annihilated, and on the revival of the Saturday there must have been a complete dislocation of the other days of the week, to <<131>>allow it to resume its place where we now find it, between Friday and Sunday. We might suppose the transaction to be only a figure of speech; but we must believe the Bishop to be in earnest when he accounts by it for the transfer of sanctity to Sunday. Perhaps it did not occur to him that the primitive Christians kept both days, the Saturday as being the day of rest commanded by God, and the Sunday in commemoration of the resurrection which took place, as they were taught, on that day. This continued until about the year 321, when the observance of the Saturday as a day of rest was abolished, thus abrogating one of the Ten Commandments; for although Christians, in some measure, keep the Sunday as a day of rest, it is not lawful for a man to change the day appointed by God at his will and pleasure. If one commandment may be changed and altered, why not the others?

The next article teaches the ascension. On this subject, there is but one note in which reference is made to the words attributed to Jesus on different occasions. He told Nicodemus, “No man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from heaven, the Son of man which is in heaven.” This sentence is very obscure, and does not appear to allude to or predict the resurrection, merely saying, No man hath ascended to heaven but he who came down therefrom, which can only refer to an ascension which had taken place, and by the “Son of man which is in heaven,” intimating that the being who was speaking was also in heaven. This is in conformity with the omnipresence which is attributed to him, but if he is omnipresent how can he be said to remove from one locality to another, to ascend or to descend; this is related by John 3:13, almost at the beginning of his history; in the sequel, 20:17, he tells Mary not to touch him, as lie had not yet ascended to his Father. This is contradictory to his former declaration, the Son of Man which is in heaven, and disclaims ubiquity.

The Bishop tries to reconcile these two speeches, saying, “A metaphorical ascent has been ascribed to Christ in respect to his more heavenly state and condition obtained after his resurrection, the alteration made in his body and the glorious qualities he was invested with.” Here, in speaking of a divinity, he states that after the resurrection he was more <<132>>heavenly; that a change was then made in his body, and he was invested with glorious qualities. Was this the effect of his descent into hell? What class of minds did the Bishop think he was writing for? The next passage, “And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” In the exposition of his faith, the Bishop, contrary to his usual practice, did not speak of the Eternal Son of God, but of Jesus Christ; this frequent change in the name or title of the object spoken of, answers a twofold purpose: if what is asserted is incompatible with the divinity, we are told it refers to the humanity; if what is related cannot be predicated of the humanity, it is referred to the divinity, thereby entailing a double trouble on the opponent to prove that the dogma cannot be true, either in relation to the divinity or to the humanity. By the Bishop’s explanation of what he believes by the words “And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty,” we find, that Jesus Christ, ascending into the highest heaven after all the troubles and sufferings endured here, did rest in everlasting happiness. Now, we have been informed before, that the compound Jesus Christ consisted of two natures, the Eternal Son of God, and the mortal Jesus, the Son of Mary. We have also seen it asserted that the divine nature did not and could not suffer here; therefore, it must be the human nature (which alone suffered), that the Bishop believed ascended into heaven and rested in everlasting happiness. In the next paragraph he says, he “did take up a perpetual habitation there, and sit down upon the throne of God;” this cannot be applied to the humanity, but to the divinity. The two quotations are applied to one subject—Jesus Christ in his twofold state of God and man; but the first does not apply to the God, nor the second to the man. The God did not suffer on earth, nor does the man sit on the throne of God.

(To be continued.)