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3. Finally, the notion which we have given | tion, was going, henceforward, to cease. Jeof faith, distinguishes it from that of the super- sus Christ was shortly to leave the world: a stitious. To believe, in the view of doing cloud was soon to receive him out of the sight honour to religion, a doctrine weakly proved, of the inhabitants of this earth: “ The heavens whatever may be the origin of that doctrine, must now receive him, until the times of the is to have a superstitious faith. Under this restitution of all things,” Acts iii. 21 The description may be ranked what has been de-angels had declared to the apostles, as they nominated “faith extorted by tyranny, and stood rapt in astonishment at beholding their faith generated in the brain of the enthusiast.” beloved Master disappear: “This same Jesus, But we have, under this particular, a different which is taken up from you into heaven, shall kind of superstition in view. To believe a so come, in like manner as ye have seen him truth completely proved, but without having go into heaven," Acts i. 11. The disposition examined the proofs which support it, is to of Thomas's mind, therefore, was going hence have the faith of superstition. A truth of which forth, to become universally fatal. Every one I perceive not the proofs, is no truth with re- who should say with him, "except I shall see spect to me. What renders my disposition of in his hands the print of the nails, and put my soul acceptable in the sight of God, when I finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my receive what he is pleased to reveal to me, is hand into his side, I will not believe," must my reception of it as an intelligent being, after, die and perish in unbelief. There was to be, having weighed the motives which induced me henceforward, no other way but this, of believe to give it welcome; after having discovered, ing without having seen, no other means of on putting them in the balance with the oppo- arriving at a participation in the felicity of besite motives, that the first had greatly the pre- lievers: “ Thomas, because thou hast seen me, ponderancy over the others. But to believe a thou hast believed: blessed are they that have truth with precipitation, to believe it without not seen, and yet have believed." knowledge, is mere superstition. If it should This commentary contains much good sense. determine you to declare yourself on the side It does not, however, seem to me to have exof truth, it must be entirely by chance, and, hausted the whole meaning of Jesus Christ. which may, to-morrow, plunge you into error, God is supremely good: nothing appeared to as it induces you, to-day, to embrace the truth. him too dear for the salvation of the human
Obscure faith, then, is not a persuasion un- race: he has made choice of means the best supported by proof, it is, in truth, destitute of adapted to the execution of this great work. the proofs which constitute the evidence of ob- If he has made choice of means the best adaptject; but not of those which constitute the evi-ed to the salvation of the human race, he has dence of testimony, as was from the beginning likewise made choice of the properest method affirmed, and which it was necessary oftener of enabling us to avail ourselves of the apthan once to repeat.
pointed means, and that method is obscure faith. Why so? This is the point which we
must attempt to elucidate: and some time ago, SERMON LXXIV.
you will please to recollect, we undertook this task. For when that difficulty was urged
against us, which unbelievers make the subOBSCURE FAITH;
ject of their triumph, “ Wherefore did not JeOR,
sus Christ show himself alive after his passion, THE BLESSEDNESS OF BELIEVING, this reply, that the gift of working miracles
to his judges, to his executioners?” We made WITHOUT HAVING SEEN.
bestowed on the apostles, and on the first PART II.
Christians, constituted a proof more irresistible
of his resurrection, than if he had shown himJOHN XX. 29.
self then, nay, than if he were still to show
bimself risen at this day. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast
It might be retorted upon us, “That these seen me thou hast believed: blessed are they that two proofs, that of miracles performed by his have not seen, and yet have believed.
disciples, and that of his personal manifestaWe have endeavoured to explain the na- tion, were not incompatible with each other ture of obscure faith: and now proceed, as was Jesus Christ might first have shown himself proposed,
alive after his resurrection; here would have I). To point out the excellency of this ob- been one kind of proof: he might afterward, scure faith. After having attempted to unfold upon his ascension, have sent the Holy Spirit the ambiguity the expression in my text, to his apostles; this would have constituted a "to believe without having seen,” we must second kind of proof. These two kinds of endeavour to evince the truth of it, by demon-proof united, would have placed the truth of strating this proposition, announced by our his resurrection far beyond the reach of all susblessed Lord, Blessed are they who have not picion. Wherefore did he not employ them? seen, and yet have believed.”
Wherefore did he not give to a truth of his These words admit of a very simple, and religion so interesting, and of such capital imvery natural commentary, which we shall first portance, every species of proof of which it is produce, in order to explain them. The point susceptible?" "To this we still reply, that obin question is the resurrection of the Lord Je- scure faith was a method far more proper to sus: Thomas is to be convinced of the certain conduct us to salvation than a clear faith, ty of it, by nothing short of the testimony of founded on the testimony of the senses, or on his own eyes: this mode of producing convic- the personal discoveries of the believer him
self: “Blessed are they that have not seen, | facts on which the great truths of religion and yet have believed.”
rest, as the building on its foundation; to that' A principle which we have, on other occa- obscure faith, which penetrates into the darksions, laid down, will justify this reply. God ness of futurity, there to discover the blessedhas placed us in this world, as in a place of ness which religion proposes to us as the object probation and sacrifice. It is his will that the of hope. manner in which we correspond to this view 1. Let us apply the principle laid down, to of his Providence, should determine our ever- that obscure faith, which discerns, in the darklasting destiny. Let us try clearly to explain ness of the past, those facts on which the great this principle, before we apply it to the subject truths of religion rest. There is more dilliin hand.
culty in attaining a discernment of the truth In strictness of speech, God will not pro- through the darkness of the past, than in beportion the celestial felicity, which he reserves holding the object with a man's own eyes. It for us, to the exertions which we make to at- is adınitted. Had Jesus Christ appeared alive tain it. Did God observe the rules of an exact to his judges and executioners, atier his resurdistribution in this respect, there is not a single rection: were he to appear to us, at this day, person in the world, who durst flatter himself as risen from the dead, we should have much with being a partaker in that felicity: because less difficulty in believing the certainty of an there is no one, I speak of even the greatest event on which the whole Christian religion
I saints, who does all that he ought, and all that hinges. It is admitted. There would be he might do, towards the attainment of it. no occasion, in order to attain the convicMuch more, supposing us to have done all tion of it, to employ extensive reading, to conthat we could, and all that we ought to do, to sult doctors, to surmount the trouble of probe admitted to a participation in this blessed- fuund meditation, to suspend pleasure, to inness, our utmost efforts never could bear any terrupt business. It is admitted. But the very proportion to it. We must still say of every thing which constitutes your objection furnishes thing we undertake in order to salvation, what me with a reply. The trouble which you must St. Paul says of the most cruel sufferings of take, before you can acquire conviction of the the martyrs: “They are not worthy to be com- resurrection of the Saviour of the world, the pared with the glory which shall be revealed extensive reading that is necessary, the consulin us,” Rom. viii. 18. The most extravagant tation of learned men, those efforts of profound thought, accordingly, that ever could find its meditation which you must employ, that sus. way into the mind of man, is that of the per- pension of your pleasures, that interruption of sons who maintain the possibility of meriting your worldly business—all, all enter into the heaven by their good works, nay, the pos- plan of your salvation: it is the will of God sibility of a man's meriting the kingdom of that you should exert yourselves diligently for heaven for others, after having earned it for the attaininent of it. himself.
Let us suppose the case of two Christians: But though there is not a proportion of ri- the first shall be St. Thomas; the second a gorous justice, between the heavenly felicity, Christian of our own days. Let us suppose and the efforts which we make to attain it, both the two equally convinced of the resurthere is a proportion of equity and of establish-rection of the Saviour of the world; but acment. Permit me to explain what I mean by quiring their conviction in two different ways: these words: God will not save mankind unless Thomas convinced by the testimony of his they exert themselves to obtain salvation.-senses; the modern Christian, by the attentive Had it been his will to extend indiscriminating examination of the proofs which establish the favour, he had only to open, without reserva- truth of it: Whether of these two Christians, tion, the path to heaven; he had only to exert according to your judgment, expresses the the supreme power, which he possesses over greater love of the truth? Whether of these our souls, to infuse into them virtue and illumi- iwo Christians makes the greatest sacrifice in nation, and to put us in possession of a felicity order to arrive at the knowledge of it? The already completely acquired, without subject- one has only to open his eyes, the other must ing us to the necessity of employing indefatiga- enter on a course of deep and serious reflection. ble and unintermitting efforts, in order to our The one hus only to reach forth his hand, to acquiring it. But his views respecting man are touch the print of the wounds of Jesus Christ; altogether different from this. Hence it is the other must exert all the powers of his mind, that he is pleased to represent the life of a in sifting the proofs, on which the doctrine is Christian, as a narrow path, in which he must established. The one expects that the Saviour walk; as a race which he must run; as a task should present himself to him, and say, " Be which he must perform; as a warfare which he not faithless but believing,” John xx. 27. The has to accomplish. For this reason it is, that other goes forth seeking after the Lord Jesus, salvation is represented to us, as a victory to through the darkness in which he is pleased to be won, as a prize to be gained, as a kingdom involve hiinself. Is it not evident that this which can be iaken only by the violent. God, last expresses incomparably greater love for the then, has placed us in this world, as in a place truth, and offers up to it greater sacrifices than of probation and sacrifice: it is his sovereign the first? This last, then corresponds better to good pleasure, that the manner in which we the idea of probation and sacrifice, to which correspond to his gracious views, shall decide we are called, during the time which, by the our everlasting destination.
will of God, we are destined to pass in this Let us apply this principle to the subject world. Blessed therefore, with respect to the under discussion; to that obscure faith, which obscurity of the past, “ blessed is he who has discerns, in the darkness of the past, those I not seen, and yet has believed.”
2. The same principle is applicable to what tion, obey: I will depart, without delay, for the
But how great is the magnanimity of the there is nothing which inspires so much horror,
world with despotic sway: than to rule over A Christian, a man actuated by that obscure the nations, which look up to their sovereigns faith, whose excellency we are endeavouring / as to so many divinities; nevertheless, were a to unfold, surmounts all these difficulties. I competition to be established between a throne, see neither the God who has given me the pro- | a crown, and the blessedness of the heavenly mises of an eternal felicity: nor that eternal feli- i world, I would "esteem the reproach of Christ city which he has promised me. This God con- greater riches than the treasures in Egypt:" I ceals himself from my view. I must go from would “choose rather to suffer affliction with principle to principle, and from one conclusion the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures to another, in order to attain full assurance that of sin for a season,” Heb. xi. 25. he is. I find still much greater difficulty in ac- There is nothing to which my nature is more quiring the knowledge of what he is, than in reluctant, than the suffering of violent pain, rising up to a persuasion of his existence. The The idea of the rack, of being burnt at a stake, very idea of an infinite Being confounds and makes me shudder. I am convulsed all over overwhelms me. If I have only a very imper-at sight of a fellow-creature exposed to torture fect idea of the God who has promised me eter- of this kind. What would it be, were I mynal felicity, I know still less wherein that felicity self called to endure them? Nevertheless, the consists.
lofty ideas I have conceived of a felicity which I am told of a "spiritual body,” i Cor. xv. I have not seen, will elevate even me, above 44: a body glorious, incorruptible: I am told the feelings of sense and nature: I will mount of unknown faculties; of an unknown state; a scaffold; I will extend myself upon the pile of an unknown economy: I am told of "new which is to reduce me to ashes: I will surrenheavens and a new earth;" I am promised the der my body to the executioners to be mangled; society of certain spirits, with whom I have and amidst all these torments, I will still cry never enjoyed any kind of intercourse; I am out with triumph, "I reckon that the sufferings told of a place entirely different from that of this present time are not worthy to be comwhich I now inhabit: and when I would repre- pared with the glory which shall be revealed sent to myself that felicity under ideas of the in us," Rom. viii. 18, " for our light affliction, pleasures of sense, under ideas of worldly which is but for a moment, worketh for us a magnificence, I am told that this felicity has far more exceeding and eternal weight of glono resemblance to any of these things. Ne- ry,” 2 Cor. iv. 17. “Blessed be the Lord, my vertheless, on the word of this God, of whom strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and I have a knowledge, so very imperfect, but my fingers to fight,” Ps. cxliv. 1. whose existence and perfections are so certain, I ask, my brethren, does not a man in such I am ready to sacrifice every thing, for a feli- circumstances, correspond incomparably better city of which I have a still more imperfect to the idea of probation and sacrifice, than the knowledge than I have of the God who has person who should behold with his own eyes, promised it to me.
the eternal recompense of reward which God There is nothing more delightful to me, than has prepared for his children? The proposition to live in the bosom of my country and kin- of our blessed Lord, therefore, is verified with dred: my native air has in it something conge- regard to periods still future, as with regard to nial to my constitution; nevertheless, were periods already past. The vocation of the God to call me as he did Abraham: were he Christian, then, is to pierce through all those to say to me in the words which he addressed clouds, in which God has been pleased to ento that patriarch; “Get thee out of thy coun- velop the religion of Jesus Christ: the vocatry and from thy kindred, and from thy father's tion of the Christian is to pierce through the house,” Gen. xii. 1. I will, without hesita-l obscurity of the past, and the obscurity of the
future; it is to make study to supply the want thee, and thee only. Accept the dedication of experience, and hope the want of yision. which I now make. Bear with the weakness The felicity of the Christian depends on the in which it is made: approve the sincerity with manner in which he corresponds to his high which I this day come to break off the revocation: "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, maining attachments which fetter me down thou hast believed: blessed are they that have to the world; and to bind closer those of my not seen, and yet have believed." This was communion with thee, the only worthy object the point to be demonstrated.
of love and desire." It highly concerns us, my brethren, to fulfil How blessed shall we be, my beloved bre this twofold engagement, and thus to attain at thren, in thus penetrating through the obscurilength, supreme felicity, in the way which it ty of the past! “Blessed are they who have has pleased God to trace for us. Let us, not seen, and yet have believed.”'
1. Pierce through the obscurity of the past. 2. But let us likewise penetrate through Let us learn to make study supply the want the darkness of futurity. Let hope supply to of experience. Let us diligently apply our- us the want of possession. How shall it, henceselves to acquire the knowledge of our religion, forward, be possible for us to entertain suspicion by seeking after assurance of the truth of those against the faithfulness of God's promises. Be facts, on which it is established. Of these, the hold on that table what God is capable of doresurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the chief: ing in our behalf. Behold by what miracles for “if Christ be not risen, then is our preach- of love-0 miracles of the love of God, we ing vain, and your faith is also yain, want language to express thee, as we want ye are yet in your sins," 1 Cor. xv. 14. 17. ideas to conceive thee! but behold on that But thanks be to God, this fact, of such capi- table, behold by what miracles of love he has tal importance, is supported by proofs which prevailed to make us the rich present of his it is impossible for any reasonable man to resist. own Son, to expose him, for our sakes, to all
But it requires a considerable degree of at that series of suffering which has been the subtention, of serious recollection, to study these ject of our meditation during the weeks which with advantage. To this study there must, of commemorate the passion. necessity, be sacrificed some worldly employ- Is it possible for us to believe that a God so ment, some party of pleasure: a man must gracious and so compassionate could have cresometimes retire into his closet, and get the ated us to render us for ever miserable? Is it better of that languor which deep thought, and possible to believe that a God so great, and so close reading naturally produce. But, o how munificent should limit his bounty towards us, nobly is he rewarded for all his labour, by the to the good things granted us here below, to copious harvest which it yields! What delight that air which we breathe, to the light which in discovering that God has proportioned the illuminates this world, to the aliments which weight of the proofs by which his religion is sustain these bodies. Nay, is it possible for us supported, to the importance of each of its to believe that he should permit us to remain parts! What consolation to see that this truth, long in this world, exposed to so many public * Jesus Christ is risen,” this truth which gives and private calamities; to war, to famine, to us the assurance that God has accepted the mortality, to the pestilence, to sickness, to sacrifice of his Son, that the work of our salva- death? Away with suspicions so injurious to tion is accomplished, that access to the throne the goodness of our God. “He that spared of grace is opened to us, that the disorders in- not his own Son, but delivered him up for troduced by sin are repaired! What consola- us all, how shall he not with him also freely tion to see that a truth of such bigh importance give us all things” Rom. viii. 32. Let us inis so completely ascertained, and that so many dulge ourselves in feasting on the deliciousness presumptions, so many proofs, so many demon- of this hope: let us not destroy the relish of it, strations concur in establishing it!
by wallowing in the pleasures of sense: let us What satisfaction is it, thus to transport our habituate ourselves to pursue happiness in a selves, in thought, into the apostolic ages, there conviction of the felicity prepared for us in to contemplate the wonders of redemption! another world. For this is the effect which study produces, of This hope, it is true, replenished as it is those exquisitely conclusive and irresistible with such unspeakable sweetness, is not withproofs which demonstrate the truth of this out a mixture of bitterness. It is a hard thing great event: it transports us into the apostolic to be enabled to form such transporting ideas ages; it enables us to behold with the mind's of a felicity placed still so far beyond our reach. eye what we cannot bebold with the eyes of “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick,” Prov. the body. After having thus torn up incredu- xiii. 12. But we shall not be suffered to lanlity by the roots, with what an ecstacy of holy guish long. “For yet a little while, and he delight may the Christian approach the table that shall come will come, and will not tarry," of the Lord, with full conviction of soul, and Heb. x. 37. Yet a few short moments more, say to him with Thomas: “ My Lord and my and our great deliverer, Death, will come to God.” The heart-affecting persuasion I have our relief. Let us not stand aghast at his apof what thy love has done for me, elevates, proach. It is not becoming in Christians, who penetrates, overwhelins me. It will render cannot attain the perfection of happiness till easy to me the most painful proofs which it after death, to be still afraid of dying. Let us, may please thee to prescribe to my gratitude. on the contrary, anticipate the hour of death, “My Lord and my God, my Lord and my by the exercise of a holy ardour and zeal. Let God, I regret all the time I have devoted to us look for it with submissive impatience: the world and its pleasures: henceforward 1" Having a desire to depart, and to be with will think of thee, and thee only: I will live to Christ, which is far better,” Phil. i. 23, than
any thing we can possibly enjoy in this valley | wish you attentively to listen to the declara-
and“ raised up,” together with him: and that
as Jesus Christ, when raised up from the dead,
was received into heaven, and “seated on his
our spiritual resurrection, are admitted to a THE BELIEVER EXALTED TOGETHER participation of the same glory. Let us view WITH JESUS CHRIST.
these two texts in their connexion, in order to
idea: God, as we read in the conclusion of the
preceding chapter, the “God of our Lord EPHESIANS ii. 4–6.
Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, has displayed
what is the greatness of his power to us-ward God who is rich in mercy, for his great love where who believe, according to the working of his
with he loved us, even when we were dead in mighty power; which he wrought in Christ, sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by when he raised him from the dead, and set him grace ye are saved,) and hath raised us up to at his own right hand in the heavenly places, gether, and made us sit together in heavenly ... and put all things under his feet.” And places in Christ Jesus.
in the words of the text, “God who is rich in On studying the history of the lives of those mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved eminent saints of God, whose memory Scrip- us, even when we were dead in sins, hath ture has transmitted to us, we can with diffi- quickened us together with Christ (by grace culty refrain from deploring the extreme dif- ye are saved,) and hath raised us up together, ference which God has been pleased to make and made us sit together in heavenly places in between their privileges and ours. Nay, we Christ Jesus,” Eph. ii. 4–6. are sometimes disposed to flatter ourselves, This proposition, I acknowledge, seems to that if these privileges had been equal, our at present something hyperbolical, which it is not tainments in virtue might have made a nearer easy to reconcile
to the strictness of truth: but approach to those which have rendered them the difficulties which prevent our comprehendso respectable in the church. Who would not ing it, do not so much affect the understanding sarmount the difficulties of the most painful as the heart. It would be much more intellicareer, if he were to enjoy, like Moses, inti- gible, were the love of the creature less premate communications with Deity; if his eyes dominant in us, and did it less encroach upon were strengthened to behold that awful ma- the feelings necessary to our perception of a jesty which God displayed on mount Sinai? truth, which is almost altogether a truth of Who could retain the slightest shadow of in- feeling. We should accordingly, have been credulity, and who would not be animated to cautious how we ventured to treat such a subcarry the gospel of Christ to the uttermostject, at our ordinary seasons of devotion; but, boundaries of the globe, had he, like Thomas, on this day, we believe all things possible to seen the Lord Jesus after his resurrection; had your pious affections. We believe that there Jesus Christ said to him, as he said to that can be nothing too tender, nothing too highly apostle: “Reach hither thy finger, and be- superior to sense, on a solemnity," when it is hold my hands: and reach hither thy hand, and to be presumed, that, with the apostles, you thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but are “looking steadfastly towards heaven," afbelieving,” John xx. 27. Who could remain ter an ascending Saviour, that you are followstill swallowed up of the world, had he seen, ing him with heart and mind, and saying, with the three disciples, Jesus Christ transfi- “Draw us, Lord, we will run after thee." gured on the holy mount; or had he been, Before we enter farther into our subject, with St. Paul, “caught up into the third hea- there are a few advices which we would beg ven, and heard unspeakable words, which it is leave to suggest, which may predispose you not lawful for a man to utter?” 2 Cor. xii. 2.4 more clearly to comprehend it.
I have no intention, my brethren, to inquire 1. Learn to distinguish the degrees of that how far this conception may be illusory, and how far it may be founded in truth: but I
* Ascension Day.