Walter Scott On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1823)


C H R I S T I A N   B A P T I S T.


      Style no man on earth your Father; for he alone is your Father who is in heaven: and all ye are brethren. Assume not the title of Rabbi; for ye have only One Teacher; neither assume the title of Leader; for ye have only One Leader--The Messiah.

      PHILIP, No. II., on teaching the christian religion, not having come to hand, we will insert an article written by him on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This article furnishes us with an argument in proof of the fact, which we have never seen noticed by any writer on this most important of all the facts recorded by the four evangelists. The whole machina evangelica turns on this pivot, or the whole christian religion rests upon this fact. If Christ be not risen from the dead, the preaching of Christ and the faith of christians are in vain. No historic fact was ever so well proved as this, and no fact was ever pregnant with such marvellous and exhilarating consequences. It is not only the highest proof of the truth of all Messiah's pretensions; it is not only a pledge to us of the divine acceptance of the atonement of the Redeemer; but, it is to us the surest earnest, and most convincing demonstration of the hope of christians, viz. a glorious resurrection to eternal life. The objects of the christian's hope are the grandest and most exalted in the whole range of human conception. A new heaven [21] and a new earth; a new body, spiritual, incorruptible, and immortal; a society transcendently pure, entertaining, and exalted; transporting joys, unmingled with sorrow, and increasing bliss, unalloyed with doubt, or fear, or pain, constitute the glorious hopes of every true disciple of Christ; which, when reduced to a unit, consist in being made like the Son of God. This glorious hope immediately germinates or springs from the fact, that the Lord is risen indeed. This article, then, will be, not only edifying, but ineffably cheering, to every one that has this hope in him.

      As this argument was derived from no other source than an intimate acquaintance with the four evangelists, it will form a new incentive to those who presume to read the New Testament, without the spectacles of any system before their eyes, and will furnish a new proof of the entertainment, edification, assurance, and comfort to be obtained from a diligent, humble, and persevering perusal of the blissful volume. Oh! that all who acknowledge it to be the volume of salvation, the word of the living God, would read it! and, conscious of their need of that wisdom which comes from above, would ask of God, who gives liberally and upbraids not!


      RESPECTING Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish nation seems to have been divided into two principal parties--that which favored, and that which rejected his pretensions. That the views of his scheme too, entertained by both, were not almost, but altogether political, we have all the reason, I think, in the world, to believe. The opposition party regarded the whole as a political cabal, and its abettors as reformers of the state. Radicals, whose ultimate objects were to put down the prevailing party; to abandon allegiance to the Romans; to assert the independence of the Jewish nation; and, under the conduct of Jesus as their general, or, as his own party would have it, their king, to maintain it sword in hand. This is the only view that accords with the warlike spirit of the times, the popular belief respecting Messiah's reign and kingdom, and with what we read in the four evangelists. Now, it was to check the spirit of that enterprize that the leaders of the opposite party voted the destruction of Jesus, who was looked upon by the great men as the life's blood of this conspiracy. From the moment when Caiphas delivered his sentiments on the grand question, "what was to be done for the safety of the state!" the death of Jesus was eagerly desired by them all. These princes, preferring rank and honor with their present inglorious ease under foreign masters, to the distant and uncertain advantages of a noble and magnanimous declaration of the nation's independence--these lordlings, conceived power and pomp to be the chief good and the only thing worthy of ambition. They conceived that to form the object of the Lord's ambition also, and endeavored by mean arts to draw from him this secret. The views of his followers were nothing different in kind from those of his opposers; they were equally worldly end political; and both parties, contemplating the destinies of the Lord Jesus under this mistaken and degraded point of view, it is not wonderful that his resurrection from the dead should be an event equally distant from the expectations of all. Both parties, too, seem to have considered his decease as an unequivocal refutation of his pretensions--as an event which at once reflected the greatest discredit on the party, anti great apparent ponderosity and importance to those who had slain him, and who, during the whole of his public ministry, had steadily persisted in rejecting and disproving his pretensions. Had the Lord then not appeared to some of his followers on that day on which he arose, the dispute of the two parties would not have been whether he had risen from the dead, but only which of them had stolen the body from the sepulchre. This is evident from the easy assent which the two disciples gave to the hasty suggestions of Mary Magdalene. They believed that the opposite faction had stolen the body; John alleging for it as a reason, that the disciples knew not yet that he must rise from the dead. The anticipation of such an event was equally foreign from the conceptions of his murderers, who barricaded the tomb, and sealed it with the seal of the state, not to prevent his resurrection, but, as they themselves said, to prevent his followers from taking the body by stealth. I think too, that the rulers really and sincerely believed his followers to have taken away the body, and that, in the first instance, they regarded the wonders told them by the soldiers, of earthquakes and angels, to be nothing more than cunningly devised fables, trumped up by his disciples for the safety of the guards, who, as they believed, had permitted them (the disciples) undisturbedly, perhaps for a sum of money, to bear away the body in the dark. But their bribing the soldiers again, may seem to contradict this opinion. Well then, suppose, for argument's sake, that the rulers did believe the reports of the guards, viz. that the Lord had risen. If they did, then they must have believed that he would also immediately appear among them again in person, to assert the reality of his claims, and maintain the certainty of the confession, for which he had been put to death; for of his ascent into heaven they had no conceptions. If they believed him to be risen, to have said that his disciples had stolen him, would have been a miserable invention, and nowise suited to the exigency of the case. Such an invention would never have counterbalanced one single well attested appearance of the Lord; and we have seen that they, having no just notions of his reign and kingdom, would have expected to see him again in person, if so be they believed the reports of the soldiers. After all, if the Pharisees expected him to rise, why did they put him to death? The rulers, then, believed the guards to be telling a falsehood, and they bribed them to report what the Pharisees themselves conceived to be the true state of the case. As the opposing faction all along regarded the enterprize as a political one, they foresaw that if once its abettors should get the dead body into their possession, they might make it the instrument of greater mischief to the nation than it had been when alive. They foresaw that one of the reformers might personate their former leader, exhibit himself at a distance, and set up for Messiah on the grounds of having risen from the dead. Such an evidence they foresaw would be altogether irresistible; the Jews would flock to his standard, and the cause would derive accessions from all quarters of the land--such accessions, too, as nothing but the arm of the imperial government would be able to break or dissolve. If once the Romans had engaged in the quarrel, their rulers would have seen a realization of all their former fears. The temple and the city, they foresaw, would ultimately have become the grand bone of contention, and this whole enterprize, or, as they called it, last [22] error, issue in consequences more fatal to their place and nation than the first, under the conduct of Jesus of Nazareth. All these forebodings of the rulers seem to have arisen out of what the Lord said or dropt concerning his resurrection. The Pharisees then suspected his followers of having stolen the body, and his followers, with the exception of those who saw him on the first day, seem to have suspected the Pharisees or rulers; a circumstance which in itself indeed proves that neither party had done it; for if either party had stolen the body it never could have conscientiously blamed the other, as we have seen it did; if the rulers had it, the disciples would not have dared to say that it was alive; and if the disciples had it under their control, and said it was alive, they would have embraced the first opportunity of exhibiting him in order to refute the calumny of the rulers, who said the body wee in the possession of the party, but it was not alive. These things show us, at all events, that on the first day the body was not where it had been originally laid, and where both parties hoped to find it; they show us that both parties agree in this, viz. that the body was missing from the sepulchre, and now there seems to be only two possible ways of accounting for its departure. Seeing, then, it was not removed by any of the parties concerned, it must either have been taken off by some unconcerned party, or have departed itself; which last opinion, indeed, is the more probable of the two; for to suppose that any unconcerned party would endanger themselves, or bribe the guards for a dead person, about whose fate they had been altogether unconcerned whilst alive, would be nonsense. But to suppose that there was any unconcerned party in the capital where Jesus was crucified, would argue great ignorance of the spirit of the times. He was not stolen by any party, either concerned or unconcerned about his fate; and the only conclusion remaining is, that the body departed itself, that "the Lord Jesus has arisen indeed." He has also ascended up on high; he led captivity captive, and has given gifts to men, who have announced to us by the Holy Spirit, the things which are given to us by God without any cause.


[CB 21-23]


      Walter Scott's untitled essay on the resurrection of Jesus Christ and Alexander Campbell's introductory remarks were first published in The Christian Baptist, Vol. I, No. 3, October 6, 1823. The electronic version of the introduction and essay has been transcribed from the College Press (1983) reprint of The Christian Baptist, ed. Alexander Campbell (Cincinnati: D. S. Burnet, 1835), pp. 21-23. PHILIP is identified in Burnet's Table of Contents (p.ix) as the pseudonym of Walter Scott.

      Pagination has been represented by placing the page number in brackets following the last complete word on the printed page. I have let stand variations and inconsistencies of the author's (or editor's) use of italics, capitalization, punctuation, and spelling in the essay.

      Addenda and corrigenda are earnestly solicited.

Ernie Stefanik
373 Wilson Street
Derry, PA 15627-9770

Created 12 September 1997.

Walter Scott On the Resurrection of Jesus Christ (1823)

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