Benjamin Franklin (1812-1878)
“To whom he showed himself alive, after his sufferings, by many infallible proofs” (Act 1:4)
The evangelist Luke, author of the book styled Acts of Apostles, made the statement just read, and now selected as a text for a discourse on the Divine Authority of the Bible. It is a fundamental statement, when properly considered. It is not simply that Jesus was shown to his apostles after his sufferings, nor that he was shown to them alive, but he showed himself to them alive. Nor is it all, that he showed himself to them alive, nor that he did this by proof, nor that he did it by proofs, nor that he did it by any proofs, but he showed himself alive by many infallible proofs. The apostles not only saw the Lord, and saw him alive, but he showed himself to them alive; and gave them proof, and not only proof, but proofs; not only proofs, but more, many proofs; and even more than that, many infallible proofs, that he was the Lord himself. This grand statement is fundamental; involving the great issue between the believers in the Bible and unbelievers; the friends of the Bible and the enemies. It involves the foundation of the entire revelation from God to man. If this statement is true, the Bible is true and from God, and all the consequences follow, whether we understand them or not. With this statement the Bible stands or falls; and with it stands or falls our faith and our hope of all beyond this life.
If Jesus showed himself alive after his sufferings by many infallible proofs, he rose from the dead. On his resurrection from the dead, the entire question turns. An impostor could not have raised himself from the dead. God would not have raised an impostor, and thus aided him in palming off an imposition on the world. If Jesus rose, God raised him. If God raised him, he is Divine. If he is Divine, all he ever said is true. This is the foundation of the entire matter of revelation. He said he was with the Father before time began; that the Father loved him before the foundation of the world; before the founding of kosmos, or the material world.
“Before Abraham was, I am,” said he. He said he came down from heaven. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, the First and the Last; the Bright and Morning Star, the Root and Offspring of David. I am He who was dead, and am alive; and behold, I live forever and ever. I am He who was, and who is, and who is to come, the Omnipotent.
He was before all things, and by him all things consist. It was by him and for him the universe was made. He is the express image of the invisible God and the brightness of the Father’s glory. In him dwells all the fullness of the Deity bodily. The apostles say, He knew all things. He came before the world as no other teacher ever did, declaring, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.” “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me.”
There is no account of his having been educated, or having any opportunities, in continuous association with the wise, the learned, and the great. On the contrary, he was evidently brought up in comparative obscurity. Yet, on coming forth from this obscurity, to the position of a public instructor, the very first time he opened his lips, and on every subsequent occasion, he showed that he knew all about man, what was in him, even to his very thoughts; that he knew the Scriptures thoroughly; the patriarchs, the prophets, and the entire history of man, from the creation down to his time. He was never deceived nor disappointed by any man, nor set of men, but saw through them and all their designs; knew and frequently foretold the results that would follow. From the day he entered his public ministry till he ascended to heaven, it is clear that he saw all things in advance, comprehended all that was coming, and that even his enemies were blindly following the programme he had marked out for them, without seeming to know that they were confirming his claims as a prophet, and proving that he could see the future as clearly as the past (The Gospel Preacher, Vol. 1, 1869, Cincinnati, Ohio, Franklin & Rice Publishers, p. 8).