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THE BLESSEDNESS OF BELIEVING, WITHOUT
JOHN XX. 29.
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me thou hast
believed : blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have be. lieved.
TRANGE is the condition in which Providence
has placed the Christian. He is ever walking in the midst of darkness and obscurity. He is 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.
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 this 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 faith must be the substance of things 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 !
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 flesh, that he suffered, that he died, that he rose 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 our 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 necessary 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 trust 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: Tho nas, 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 past, 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 endeavor 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.
1. Let us, in the first place, endeavor 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 hath 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, ill-founded 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 circumference of these walls: I believe it, because I see it
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 the circumference of 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 evi