« السابقةمتابعة »
The twelve cakes of show bread represented the signs of the Zodiac, and the twelve months of the year. But they said, that the most holy place had been set apart for God: that the Propitiatory was his throne, that the cherubim were his chariot.*
may be filled with all the fullness of God?" Eph. iii. 18, 19.
Ah! let us beware, my beloved brethren, that we deceive not ourselves as to this; after so many distinguished tokens of the grace of God, we are going to become the most wretched, or the happiest, of all creatures. Our condition admits not of mediocrity. The two interesting extremes present themselves to
of mercy. We are going to prove all that is mild and gentle in the peace of God, or all that is tremendous in his indignation: and that blood which we have seen poured out, must be upon our heads either to attract, or to repel, the thunder.
On this principle, the veil, which separated the holy place from the Holy of Holies, was an image of the obstacles which interposed between the creature and the heavenly habita-view-the extreme of justice, and the extreme tion, in which God resides. This veil is rent asunder at the death of Jesus Christ; these obstacles are removed; access into the abode of the blessed is open to us: and this is the spirit of the ceremonial observance prescribed in the Levitical worship: "Into the second went the high priest alone, once every year, not without blood," says St. Paul in his epistle to the Hebrews; "The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: but Christ being come, a high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, by his own blood, entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us," Heb. ix. 7, &c.
Death, then, has nothing, henceforward, formidable to the Christian. In the tomb of Jesus Christ are dissipated all the terrors which the tomb of nature presents. In the tomb of nature, O sinner, thou beholdest thy frailty, thy subjection to the bondage of corruption: in the tomb of Jesus Christ thou beholdest thy strength and thy deliverance. In the tomb of nature the punishment of sin stares thee in the face: in the tomb of Jesus Christ thou findest the expiation of it. From the tomb of nature thou hearest the dreadful sentence pronounced against all the posterity of Adam: "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," Gen. iii. 19: but from the tomb of Jesus Christ issue those accents of consolation: "I am the resurrection, and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live," John xi. 25. In the tomb of nature thou readest this universal, this irrevocable doom written: "It is appointed unto men once to die," Heb. ix. 27; but in the tomb of Jesus Christ, thy tongue is loosed into this triumphant song of praise: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? Thanks be to God who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ," 1 Cor. xv. 55. 57.
All that now remains is to conclude with a few reflections by way of recapitulation. My brethren, for some weeks past, there have been traced before your eyes the successive particulars of the passion and death of the Saviour of the world. You have seen him betrayed, apprehended, arraigned, condemned, and expiring under the most shameful, and the most cruel of all punishments.
Do you comprehend all that is sublime in these truths? Do you feel, in all its extent, the value of these benefits? Have you, at least, made the attempt to take the dimensions of the love of God, and "to comprehend with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height: and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that you *Consult Joseph. Antiq. lib. iii, cap. 5, and Phil. de Vita Mosis, lib. iii. p. 667, &c.
"His blood be upon us, and on our children," Matt. xxvii. 25. This was the imprecation of those barbarous Jews, who with importunity demanded the death of Jesus Christ, and glutted themselves with his sufferings. But it was, in a far different sense, the interior voice of those believing souls, who entered into the design of God, who, by faith, sprinkled themselves with this blood, which was to form the bond of union between heaven and earth.
"His blood be on us, and on our children." This is the voice which now resounds from ear to ear, and which must be accomplished on this assembly, in one sense or another. Yes, this blood shall be upon you, in vengeance and malediction, as it was upon ungrateful Jerusalem, in your families to trouble their peace, in your plans to defeat them, in your establishments to sap them to the foundation, in your consciences to harrow them up, in your deathbed to darken it with horror and despair, and through all the periods of eternity, demanding the expiation of the crime, of having trampled under foot the blood of the Son of God, and of having crucified afresh the Lord of glory. Or it will be upon you, yes, this blood will be upon you, to strengthen you under all your infirmities, to preserve you in the hour of temptation, to console you under the pressure of calamity, to speak peace to the troubled con science, to support you in dying agony, to render your death blessed, and eternity triumphant.
I dwell for a moment on these last ideas, and under an illusion of charity, I apply them to all those who compose my audience. Happy they, to whom they are applicable of a truth! To have been attentive to the history of the sufferings and death of the Saviour of the world, which, for some time past, has been the great subject of our address, to have traced it through all its successive circumstances, to have felt the necessity, and to have penetrated into the design of the whole; to have applied to ourselves the lessons which it inculcates, the consolations which it supplies, the hope which it inspires; to deduce, from those grand objects, consequences affecting the conduct of life, tending to promote sanctity of manners, superiority to the world, love to God so rich in mercy, desire of possessing that in perfection, of which displays so astonishing, convey ideas so sublime
After that, to come next Lord's day to the table of Jesus Christ, with the understanding convinced, the heart overflowing, the soul
penetrated: to discern, in the bread and the wine of which we are to partake, the symbols of that death, whose memorial the church is celebrating: to promise unto God, over those august pledges of his love, to render to him love for love, and life for life: to expand the heart in such emotions; to communicate in such a disposition, and to wait for death under such impressions-these are the loftiest objects which man can propose to his meditation. This is the highest point of perfection which we are capable of attaining, in the course of this mortal pilgrimage. This is the purest delight that we can taste in this valley of tears.
I trust, my dearly beloved brethren, that these sublime objects shall not have been presented to you in vain. I trust that so many exhortations will not fall to the ground totally without success. I trust that these first emotions, which it is impossible to withhold from an expiring Saviour, will not be "as the early cloud, and as the morning dew," Hos. vi. 4; which appear for a moment, and are dissipated in a moment. I trust they will henceforward engage your heart, your mind, your whole life, and that they will accompany you to the bed of death. I trust, that when this awful period comes, instead of that mortal reluctance, instead of those insupportable forebodings which unrepented guilt inspires, the image of Jesus Christ crucified, present to your eyes; what do I say, of Jesus Christ crucified? of Jesus Christ raised from the dead, glorious, sitting at the right hand of his Father; of Jesus Christ, presenting continually before his eyes the value of that blood which he shed for the salvation of the human race; of Jesus Christ extending his arms to receive your departing spirit, that he may bind it up "in the bundle of life:" I trust that this image will dispel all the terrors of death, and thus prepare you to pass from the dispensation of grace, to the dispensation of glory.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
STRANGE is the condition in which Providence has placed the Christian. He is ever walking in the midst of darkness and obscurity. He placed between two periods of gloominess; between the cloudy night of the past, and the still darker night of futurity. Does he wish to ascertain the truths which are the object of his faith? They are founded on facts; and in order to be assured of those facts, he must force his way backward, through more than eighteen hundred centuries: he must dig truth and falsehood out of the rubbish of tradition; out of the captious systems of the enemies of Christianity; nay, sometimes out of the pious frauds, on which an indiscreet zeal has attempted to establish it.
hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen," Heb. xi. 1. Now, it is to such obscurity, it is to such darkness, that a man is called to sacrifice all that the human mind is taught to consider as the greatest reality and certainty, I mean the decisions of reason, and the felicities of a present world. What a situation! What a strange situation!
If he wishes to ascertain the reality of that blessedness which is the object of his hope, he must plunge himself, in quest of it, into periods which do not as yet subsist. He must "walk by faith and not by sight," 2 Cor. v. 7, he must depart, as Abraham did, and leave "his kindred and his father's house, without knowing, precisely, whither he goes," Heb. xi. 8. It is necessary that his persuasion, if I may so express myself, should form a new creation of things, which have no real existence as to him; or, to use the expression of St. Paul, his In the dispensation of grace, you have be-"faith" must be "the substance of things held the Son of God invested with "the form of a servant;" in the dispensation of glory, you shall behold him arrayed in all splendour and magnificence. In the dispensation of grace, you have beheld the King of kings attended by an humble train of disciples of but mean appearance: in the dispensation of glory, you shall behold him accompanied by the heavenly hosts, legions of angels and archangels, of the cherubim and of the seraphim. In the dispensation of grace, you have beheld Jesus Christ expiring ignominiously upon the cross: in the dispensation of glory, you shall behold him in the clouds of heaven, judging the quick and the dead. In the dispensation of grace, you have heard the lips of your Saviour thus speak-flesh, that he suffered, that he died, that he rose ing peace to your soul: "Son, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee:" in the dispensation of glory, you shall hear this decision from his mouth; "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," Matt. xxv. 34. May God of his infinite mercy grant it! To him be honour and glory now and for ever. Amen.
But be it as it may, we, this day, place ourselves, my brethren, between these two dark clouds; between the night of the past, and the night of futurity. In what are the duties of this day to terminate? What is the language suitable to the day which is now passing? I believe: I hope. I believe that the Word was made
again: this is the night of the past. I hope that, in virtue of this incarnation, of these sufferings, of this resurrection, "an entrance shall be ministered unto me abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. i. 11, and that I shall partake in the felicity of the ever blessed God: this is the night of futurity. I believe, and to
that belief I immolate all the ideas of my intellect, all the systems of my reason. I hope, and to those hopes I immolate all the attractives of sensual appetite, all the charms of the visible creation: and were "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them," Matt. iv. 8, to be put in my offer, on the condition that I should renounce my hopes, I would consider the former "but dung," Phil. iii. 8, and cleave to the latter as the only real and solid good. Who is there among you, my brethren, who feels himself capable of this effort of mind! I acknowledge him to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ. He may rest assured that he shall be received as a worthy partaker at that mysterious table, which sovereign wisdom is once more, this day, furnishing before our eyes. But he may likewise rest assured, that his felicity, veiled, invisible as it is, shall remain more firm and unshaken, than all those things which are the idols of the children of this world. To meditation on this interesting subject I devote the present discourse, to which you cannot apply an attention too profound.
The occasion of the words of our text it would be unnecessary to indicate. Which of my hearers can be such a novice in the gospel history as to be ignorant of it? Thomas was not present with the other apostles, when Jesus Christ appeared unto them, after he had left the tomb. His absence produced incredulity. He refuses to yield to the united testimony of the whole apostolic college. He solemnly protests that there is but one way to convince him of the certainty of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, namely, to produce him alive. "No," says he, "except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe," John xx. 25. Jesus Christ is pleased to adapt his condescension to the weakness of this disciple, and to gratify a pretension so arrogant and rash: he appears to Thomas, and says to him: "Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing," ver. 27. Thomas is drawn different ways; by the shame of having disbelieved, and the joy which he felt in being convinced by the testimony of his own senses, and exclaims, "My Lord and my God!" upon this Jesus Christ addresses him in the words of the text: "Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
You perceive from the occasion on which the words were spoken, that they point, in the first instance, to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We shall take care, accordingly, not to lose sight of this object. Nevertheless, as the proposition of our blessed Lord is general, we shall take it in all its generality: and shall discourse to you of that obscure faith which reverts to periods long since passed, and looks forward into periods hidden in a remote futurity. The nature of obscure faith; the excellency of obscure faith: this is the simple division of my present discourse. Or, to convey a still clearer idea of my design, under the first head, I shall endeavour to unfold the ambiguity of that expression; to believe without having seen:" in the second, I shall evince the
truth of this proposition; "blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
I. Let us, in the first place, endeavour to explain the nature of obscure faith: or, as we have announced the subject of this first branch of our discourse, let us attempt to unfold the ambiguity of the expression, "Thomas, because thou hast seen, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." By obscure faith we here mean, that which is founded, not on what a man has seen with his own eyes, not on what he has discovered to be true by the powers of his own reason, but on testimony worthy of credit.
Let this definition be carefully remarked: and let this be constantly kept in sight, that though the faith of which we are speaking, has not a certainty resting on the evidence of the senses, or on the conclusions of right reason, it has a certainty perfect in its kind, that which rests on a testimony worthy of credit. Take care, therefore, not to confound an obscure faith with a fluctuating, unsettled, illfounded faith. They are two things perfectly distinct, and it is impossible to distinguish them too carefully. The obscurity of which we are going to treat, is by no means incompatible with evidence."
In order to comprehend it fully, it is necessary to distinguish two species of evidence: evidence of the object, and evidence of testimony. We call evidence of the object, that which rests, as I have said, either on the deposition of the senses, or on the discernment of sound reason. I believe that you are now assembled within the walls of this church: I believe it, because I see it is so. The evidence which I have on this subject, is that species of evidence which I have denominated evidence of the object, and which is founded on the deposition of the senses. In like manner, I believe that so long as you remain within these walls, you are not in your own habitations. The evidence which I have to support this belief, is still that which I have denominated evidence of the object, namely, that which is founded on the light of my own reason, whereby I am assured, in a manner which leaves me not the liberty of so much as doubting, that so long as you remain within this temple, you cannot possibly be in any other place.
But if there be evidence of object, there is likewise evidence of testimony. I believe there is a vast region on the globe, called the kingdom of Persia. I have evidence to support this belief: not the evidence of object, but the evidence of testimony. I believe that there is such a kingdom, though I have not seen it with my own eyes: but there is such a cloud of witnesses, of undoubted credit, who assure me of it, that the evidence of testimony supplies the evidence of object. In like manner, I believe that a vessel of such or such a construction; and of so many tons burden, requires such a depth of water. I believe this, not because my reason has by its own powers made the discovery, for I never made mechanism of this kind my study; but the unanimous deposition of all who understand the art of ship-building, gives me full assurance of the fact, fills the place of my own intimate perception, and the evidence of testimony supplies the evidence of object.
Having thus explained our meaning, when we say that faith is obscure, when we say that the Christian believes what he sees not, we do not by this understand that he believes in what is destitute of proof, we only mean that he believes the truth of facts, of which he has not been an eye-witness, that he believes in truths which he could not have discovered by his own reason, and that he hopes for a felicity of which he has not a distinct idea: but he believes those facts, on the unanimous testimony of a great number of witnesses, who could not possibly have acted in concert to deceive him: he believes those truths on an infallible testimony: he hopes on that same testimony, namely, on the word of God himself. In all these things, the evidence of testimony supplies the evidence of object.
ture on mankind: 2. The number of those witnesses, amounting to more than five hundred: 3. The nature of the facts which are the subject of their evidence, things in which it was impossible they should deceive themselves, things which they had seen, heard, and perceived in the most sensible and palpable manner: 4. The uniformity of their testimony, which in no one instance ever contradicted itself: 5. The judges before whom their evidence was given; judges expert in the art of involving cheats in self-contradiction, but who never could detect any, in the witnesses of whom we are speaking: 6. The place where their testimony was published; for had the apostles gone and published the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, in regions remote from that where the fact could be completely sifted, they might have fallen under suspicion; but they attest it to the face of the whole city of Jeru
was published, respecting which the same reasoning applies which does to the circumstance of place: 8. The motives by which those witnesses were actuated, and which could be no other but the satisfying of their own consciences, as, so far from having a temporal interest to promote, by the publication of this event, every temporal interest pressed in the opposite direction.
That it is of this kind of faith, we are to understand these words in our text, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believ-salem itself: 7. The time when this testimony ed," the occasion on which they were pronounced permits us not to doubt. Of what was Jesus Christ speaking to Thomas? Of his own resurrection. Who are the persons he had in view, whom Providence was afterward to call to believe, without having seen? Those who could not possibly be the eye-witnesses of that resurrection. But were the persons, who should be called to believe the doctrine of the resurrection, to believe it without satisfying reasons of its truth and certainty? By no means. Call to your recollection, a part of what we submitted to your consideration, on this subject, upon another occasion. We have in confirmation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1. Presumptions. 2. Proofs. 3. De
I. The circumstances of the death of the Saviour, and of his burial, furnish us with presumptions on this subject. Jesus Christ died: his body was deposited in the tomb; but a few days afterward it was not to be found there. We thence presume that Jesus Christ is risen again. If Jesus Christ be not risen, his body must have been conveyed away: but how is it possible to maintain such an assertion? To whom shall we impute such conveyance? Not surely to his enemies. Could they be suspected of a design to contribute to his glory, by giving currency to the report of his resurrection? It can as little be imputed to his disciples. They had no inclination to do so: for how could men so notoriously timid, have formed an enterprise so daring and dangerous, and that in favour of a man (I go on the supposition that Jesus Christ did not rise again,) who had thus abused their credulity? But had their inclination been ever so strong, was it in their power either to surprise or to discomfit a guard forewarned of the design? These I call presumptions.
But we have, likewise, of this truth, demonstrations properly so called. With these we are furnished in the miraculous gifts communicated to those who attest it; of which we cannot entertain any doubt, without taxing with extravagance three sorts of persons equally clear of all ground of suspicion on such an occasion: 1. The apostles, who gave the history of those miracles, and relate in a manner the best adapted to expose imposture, on the supposition of their having been impostors: 2. Their enemies, who in their writings against them, have not denied that they wrought miracies, but that these miracles were a proof of the truth of their doctrine: 3. Finally, their proselytes, who had the greatest imaginable interest in examining whether it were true that the apostles wrought miracles, who had all possible opportunities of ascertaining the fact, and who sacrificed their property, their reputation, their life, for a religion entirely resting on this truth-The apostles work miracles. These we call so many demonstrations.
This recapitulation sufficiently instructs us, that we are not called upon to believe an event so very extraordinary, as if it were destitute of proof: on the contrary, we believe it on proofs clear, cogent, and decisive. When, therefore, Jesus Christ says, "Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed," he means not to say, that it is blessed to believe things destitute of evidence: he speaks only of things which have not the evidence of object, but which have that of testimony.
II. The testimony of the apostles furnishes us with proofs of the resurrection. This testimony possesses no less than eight distinct Let us pursue this thought a little farther. characters, which raise it beyond the reach of The idea which we have suggested of obscure all suspicion: 1. The nature of the witnesses, faith, distinguishes it from three kinds of conwho had neither the credit, nor the riches, nor viction, which are but too frequently conthe eloquence necessary to practise an impos-founded with it: the faith extorted by tyranny;
The reader is referred to the sermon on The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, of Mr. Robinson's Selection.
the faith generated in the brain of the enthusiast; and the faith of the superstitious.
1. The faith of which we speak, must be
recommended by an air of probability. One of the marks which distinguish false zeal from true, is, that this last, I mean true zeal, sacrifices its own glory to that of religion, and is infinitely better pleased to acknowledge its own error, than to spread the slightest cloud over that pure and genial light in which religion is arrayed. A man, on the contrary, who is actuated by a false zeal, sacrifices with
carefully distinguished from the faith which is extorted by tyranny. We do not here understand that which violence would attempt to produce by the terror of punishment. Never did racks, gibbets, and stakes, produce in the soul, any thing like conviction in favour of a religion which pretended to establish itself by arguments so odious and detestable. But there is a tyranny of a different kind, which has produced believers not a few. By dint of at-out hesitation, the glory of religion to his own: testing fictions, men have forced them into credit: by dint of insolent pretensions to infallibility, the simple have sometimes been prevailed upon to admit it: and the simple generally constitute the bulk of mankind.
We denominate that the faith extorted by tyranny, which is yielded to the insolent decisions of a doctor, who gives himself out as infallible, without proving it; or to fabulous legends, unsupported by any respectable testimony. How, under the pretext that I am bound to believe facts, which I may never have seen with my own eyes, am I laid under an obligation to swallow every thing that a legendary is pleased to tell me? How, under the pretext that I am bound to believe truths which are above the reach of my reason, am I laid under an obligation to believe every thing proposed to me by a man, who may be practising upon my credulity? And upon my refusing to believe on such a foundation, shall I be taxed with being incredulous like Thomas, and with saying as he did, "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe!"
If you would have me believe the facts which you propose, produce me the proofs which support them, if not as complete as those which assure me of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, at least, such as are somewhat of a similar nature; and if you wish I should consider you as infallible, like the apostles, produce me proofs of your infallibility, equivalent to those which the apostles produced of theirs. But if on examining such pretended facts, I discover that they are fictions merely; if on examining the foundation upon which your infallibility rests, I find that the men who gave themselves out for infallible, while they lay claim to the infallibility of the apostles, are undermining the doctrine of the apostles, I shall not reckon myself obliged to pay the slightest deference to their decisions. The faith which these decisions attempt to produce, will be faith extorted by tyranny, and which will have no relation whatever to that faith which Jesus Christ expects from his disciples, and which is, in truth, obscure, but nevertheless, well founded; which is destitute indeed, of the evidence of object, but which is ever accompanied with the evidence of testimony.
and maintains, at the expense of truth itself, the errors which he has advanced.
This has been found to be the case with certain eminent names, on the subject of our present discussion. The vehemence of the controversies which have been carried on, respecting the operation of the Holy Spirit on the souls of believers, has frequently carried some of the disputants farther than they themselves intended. In the heat of argumentation they have asserted, that the action of the Holy Spirit, which operates in the faithful, is carried so far as to give them a degree of faith, superior to the reasons which they have for believing. When pressed by their adversaries, they ought to have acknowledged this to be one of the propositions which one is tempted to advance in the warmth of dispute, and which candour, without hesitation, is disposed to retract, after the heat is subsided. But this were a sacrifice too great for self-love to make: it is deemed better that religion should suffer from the intemperate zeal of the sophist, than that the sophist should correct his hasty position, by the illumination of religion.
Thus, in order to support one absurdity, a still greater absurdity has been advanced. It has been maintained, not only that the following proposition is true, namely, The impulse of the Holy Spirit gives us a faith superior to the reasons which we have for believing; but this is absolutely necessary; for, it has been alleged, that the Christian religion being destitute of proofs which enforce assent, all those who should refuse to believe what is destitute of this kind of proof, must, in so doing, refuse to believe the Christian religion.
God forbid that we should attempt to defend with weapons so empoisoned, the truths of religion! It was not thus that they were defended by Jesus Christ and his apostles. They called on men to believe, but they at the same time, adduced proof of what they wished to be received as the object of faith. The Spirit of God undoubtedly, operates on the soul of every one who implores his assistance, but it is by making them feel the force of the proofs, not by convincing them of what it is impossible to prove. And who could be condemned for not having believed, were Christianity destitute of sufficient proof? would not the infidel be warranted in alleging: "I am not to blame, if 2. In the second place, the faith, of which I withhold my assent to such a proposition: I we are treating, must be distinguished from do not feel that impulse which engages one to that of the enthusiast; I mean that of certain believe what cannot be proved?" But the noChristians, who found the reasons which in- tion which we have given of faith, confounds duce them to believe, entirely on such and every one who refuses to believe. We say, such impulses, which they pretend to be the with Jesus Christ of the unbelievers of his time: operation of the Spirit of God: impulses des-"This is the condemnation, that light is come titute of illumination, and which determine the person thus agitated, to yield his assent to a proposition unsupported by proof, or, at most,
into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil," John iii. 19.