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midst: well might' they think, thou couldst not thus be there, if thou wert not the God of spirits. There might seem more scruple of thy reality than of thy power; and therefore, after thy wonted greeting, thou shewest them thy hands and thy feet, stamped with the impressions of thy late sufferings. Thy respiration shall argue the truth of thy life. Thou breathest on them as a man, thou givest them thy Spirit as a God; and as God and man thou sendest them on the great errand of thy gospel.
All the mists of their doubts are now dispelled, the sun breaks out clear. “ They were glad when they had seen the Lord.” Had they known thee for no other than a mere man, this re-appearance could not but have affrighted them, since till now by thine almighty power this was never done, that the long-since dead rose out of their graves, and appeared unto many: but when they recounted the miraculous works that thou hadst done, and thought of Lazarus so lately raised, thine approved Deity gave them confidence, and thy presence joy.
We cannot but be losers by our absence from holy assemblies. Where wert thou, 0 Thomas, when the rest of that sacred family were met together? Had thy fear put thee to so long a flight, that as yet thou wert not returned to thy fellows? or didst thou suffer other occasions to detain thee from this happiness ? Now, for the time, thou missedst that divine breath which so comfortably inspired the rest; now thou art suffered to fall into that weak distrust which thy presence had prevented. They told thee,“ We have seen the Lord;" was not this enough? would no eyes serve thee but thine own? were thy ears to no use for thy faith? " Except I 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.” Suspicious man! who is the worse for that? whose is the loss if thou believe not? is there no certainty but in thine own senses? why were not so many and so holy eyes and tongues as credible as thine own hands and eyes ? how little wert thou yet acquainted with the ways of faith! “ Faith comes by hearing ;” these are the tongues that must win the whole world to an assent, and dost thou the first man detrect to yield ? Why was that word so hard to pass ? Had not that thy divine Master foretold thee with the rest that he must be crucified, and the third day rise again? Is any thing related to be done, but that which was fore-promised ? any thing beyond the sphere of divine omnipotence? Go then, and please thyself in thine over-wise incredulity, while thy fellows are happy in believing.
It is a whole week that Thomas rests in this sullen unbelief; in all which time, doubtless, bis ears were beaten with the many constant assertions of the holy women, the first witnesses of the resurrection, as also, of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, whose hearts, burning within them, had set their tongues on fire, in a zealous relation of those happy occurrences, with the assured reports of the rising and reappearance of many saints, in attendance of the Lord and Giver of life: yet still he struggles with his own distrust, and stiffly suspends his belief to that truth, whereof he cannot deny himself enough convinced. As all bodies are not equally apt to be wrought upon by the same inedicine, so are not all souls by the same means of faith ; one is refractory, while others are pliable. O Saviour, how justly mightst thou have left this man to his own pertinacy! whom could he have thanked, if he had perished in his unbelief? But, thou good Shepherd of Israel, that couldst be content to leave the ninety and nine, to go fetch one stray in the wilderness, how careful wert thou to reduce this straggler 10 his fellows! Right so were thy disciples reassembled, such was the season, the place the same, so were the doors shut up, when that unbelieving disciple being now present with the rest, thou so camest in, so stoodst in the midst, so shewedst thy hands and feet, and singling out thy incredulous client, invitest his eyes to see, and his fingers to handle thine hands, and his hand to be thrust into thy side, that he might not be faithless, but faithful. : Blessed Jesu, how thou pitiest the errors and infirmities of thy servants; even when we are froward in our misconceits, and worthy of nothing but desertion, how thou followest us, and overtakest us with mercy; and, in thine abundant compassion, wilt reclaim and save us, when either we meant not, or would not? By how much more unworthy those eyes
and hands were to see and touch that imniortal and glorious body, by so much more wonderful was thy goodness, in condescending to satisfy that curious infidelity. Neither do I hear thee so much as to chide that weak obstinacy. It was not long since thou didst sharply take up the two disciples that walked to Emmaus; “O fools, and slow of heart, to believe all that the prophets have spoken!" but this was under the disguise of an unknown traveller upon the way, when they were alone: now thou speakst with thine own tongue, before all thy disciples; instead of rebuking, thou only exhortest ; " Be not faithless, but faithful.”
Behold, thy mercy no less than thy power, hath melted the congealed heart of thy unbelieving follower; " Then
Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord, and my God.” I do not hear, that when it came to the issue, Thomas employed his hands in this trial : his eyes were now sufficient assurance; the sense of his Master's omniscience, in this particular challenge of bim, spared, perhaps, the labour of a further disquisition. And now how happily was that doubt bestowed, which brought forth so faithful a confession, “My Lord, my God!"
I hear not such a word from those that believed. It was well for us, it was well for thee, O Thomas, that thou distrustedst, else neither had the world received so perfect an evidence of that resurrection whereon all our salvation dependeth, neither hadst thou yielded so pregnant and divine an astipulation to thy blessed Saviour. Now thou dost not only profess his resurrection, but his Godhead too, and thy happy interest in both. And now, if they be blessed that have not seen, and yet believed ; blessed art thou also, that, having seen, hast thus believed: and blessed be thou, o God, who knowest how to make advantage of the infirmities of thy chosen, for the promoting of their salvatiou, the confirmation of thy church, the glory of thine own nanie, Amen.
The Ascension. It stood not with thy purpose, O Saviour, to ascend immediately from thy grave into heaven ; thou meantst to take the earth in thy way, not for a sudden passage, but for a leisurely conversation. Upon thine Easter-day thou spakest of thine ascension ; but thou wouldst have forty days interposed. Hadst thou merely respected thine own glory, thou hadst instantly changed thy grave for thy Paradise ; for so much the sooner hadst thou been possessed of thy Father's joy.
We would not continue in a dungeon, when we might be in a palace: but thou, who for our sakes vouchsafedst to descend from heaven to earth, wouldst now, in the upshot, have a gracious regard to us in thy return.
Thy death had troubled the hearts of many disciples, who thought that condition too mean to be compatible with the glory of the Messiah: and thoughts of diffidence were apt to seize upon the holiest breasts. So long, therefore, wouldst thou hold footing upon earth, till the world were fully convinced of the infallible evidences of thy resurrection; of all which time thou only canst give an account. It was not for flesh and blood to trace the ways of immortality; neither was our frail, corruptible, sinful nature, a meet companion for thy now glorified humanity : the glorious angels of heaven were now thy fittest attendants. But yet, how oft did it please thee graciously to impart thyself this while unto men : and not only to appear unto thy disciples, but to renew unto them the familiar forms of thy wonted conversation, in conferring, walking, eating with them! And now, when thou drewst near to thy last parting, thou who hadst many times shewed thyself before to thy several disciples, thoughtst meet to assemble them all together, for an universal valediction.
Who can be too rigorous in censuring the ignorances of well-meaning Christians, when he sees the domestic followers of Christ, even after the resurrection, mistake the main end of his coming in the flesh? “Lord, wilt thou, at this time, restore again the kingdom to Israel?” They saw their Master now out of the reach of all Jewish envy; they saw his power illimited and irresistible; they saw him stay so long upon earth, that they inight imagine he meant to fix his abode there; and what should he do there but reign? and wherefore should they be now assembled, but for the choice and distribution of offices, and for the ordering of that affairs of the state which was now to be vindicated ? O weak thoughts of well-instructed disciples ! What should an heavenly body do in an earthly throne? How should a spiritual life be employed in secular care? How poor a business is the temporal kingdom of Israel for the King of heaven? And even yet, O blessed Saviour, I do not hear thee sharply control this erroneous conceit of thy mistaken followers ; thy mild correction insists rather upon the time, than the misconceived substance of that restauration. It was thy gracious purpose, that thy Spirit should by degrees rectify their judgments, and illuminate them with thy divine truths; in the mean time, it was sufficient to raise up their hearts to an expectation of that Holy Ghost, which should shortly lead them into all needful and requisite verities. And now, with a gracious promise of that spirit of thine, with a careful charge renewed unto thy disciples for the promulgation of thy gospel
, with an heavenly benediction of all thine acclaiming attendance, thou takest leave of earth;
When he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up, and a cloud received him out of their sight.”
O happy parting, fit for the Saviour of mankind, answerable to that divine conversation, to that succeeding glory! O blessed Jesu, let me so far imitate thee, as to depart hence with a blessing in my mouth; let my soul, when it is stepping over the threshold of heaven, leave behind it a legacy of peace and happiness.
It was from the mount of Olives that thou tookst thy, rise into heaven. Thou mightst have ascended from the valley; all the globe of earth was alike to thee: but, since thou wert to mount upward, thou wouldst take so much advantage as that stair of ground would afford thee; thou wouldst not use the help of a miracle in that wherein nature offered her ordinary service. What difficulty had it been for thee to have stayed up from the very centre of earth? But, since thou hadst made hills so much nearer unto heaven, thou wouldst not neglect the benefit of thy own creation. Where we have common helps, we may not depend upon supernatural provisions; we may not strain the divine Providence to the supply of our negligence, or the humouring of our presumption. Thou, that couldst always have walked on the sea, wouldst walk so but once, when thou wantedst shipping: thou, to whom the highest mountains were but valleys, wouldst walk up to an hill, to ascend thence into heaven. O God, teach me to bless thee for means, when I have them, and to trust thee for means, when I have them not; yea, to trust to thee without means, when I have no hope of them.
What hill was this thou chosest, but the mount of Olives? thy pulpit, shall I call it, or thine oratory ? the place from whence thou hadst wont to shower down thine heavenly doctrine upon the hearers; the place whence thou hadst wont to send up thy prayers unto thy heavenly Father ; the place that shared with the temple for both: in the day-time thou wert