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fore our eyes.
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 iny 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 be
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 bim 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 bither 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 froin 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 endeavour to unfold the ambiguity of that expression; to believe without having secn : 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 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 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 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 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 never 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 burthen, 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 believeth what he seeth not, we do not by this understand that he believeth in what is destitute of proof, we only mean that he believeth the truth of facts of which he has not been an eye witness, that he believeth 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.
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 believed, the occasion on which they were pronounced perınits 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 afterwards 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 considVOI, VI,