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« his seed should possess the land of Canaan," was a thing future, distant, and invisible.
In like manner Christ's miracles were visible to those who lived at that time, and were present when they were performed. But his divine commission and authority, the thing to be proved by them, was not visible. Nor was the heavenly life, which he promised, visible to the men of that time, but only the evidences of it, his mighty works.
Of such things the disciples themselves had not a sight. It was only the evidence of them that was visible. After all that they had seen in Christ, the disciples, as well as others, were to exercise a faith of invisible things.
Thomas, and the other disciples, had the evidence of their senses, that Jesus, their Master, was alive again, after his crucifixion. But the heavenly state, the future happiness of good men, the general judgment, the things to be proved by his resurrection, were still distant and invisible; not objects of sense, but assented to by faith only.
The difference therefore between the disciples of Christ, and others, who see not his miracles, is this. The disciples, and many others at that time, had visible and sensible proofs or evidences of invisible things. But still the heavenly state and future retributions were invisible to them, and objects of faith. Others, who live not at the time of the revelation of the divine will, but after it, and after the ceasing of extraordinary works, and miraculous operations, neither see the heavenly state, nor the external evidences of it. But they receive upon testimony the evidences that had been set before others. Upon that testimony they believe the resurrection of Jesus Cbrist, and the miracles wrought by himself, and by others in his name. And they admit them to be sufficient evidences of a life to come, and the recompences of it.
For showing the reasonableness of this conduct of Divine Providence, in not giving to all the highest kind of evidence, it may be observed, that there seem to be but three several ways supposable for a revelation to be made by God to mankind, concerning the obligation of duty, and the recompences of it.
For, if over and above the light, which may be attained in the exercise of our natural powers and faculties, God is graciously pleased to vouchsafe a revelation to men; in order to make it general, it must be one of these three ways, first, by a particular revelation of himself to every man in every age. Or, secondly, by affording a revelation in
, every age, and in every country, to some few, or a certain number
of persons, endowed by him with a power of performing extraordinary works before other men, sufficient to satisfy them, that the doctrine, taught by those persons, is from heaven and the will of God. Which all ought to receive, and conform to, as the rule of life, and to rely upon, as the ground and measure of their hopes and expectations concerning future recompences. Or, thirdly, God may send some messenger of high character and authority, who shall communicate his will to the men of some one age and country; and by many miracles give full proof, that what he delivers is with authority from heaven. And then they, who have received this revelation from the divine messenger, shall communicate it to others; who, having received it upon good evidence, shall be bound, not only to conform to it themselves, but also to deliver and transmit it to others; both the revelation itself, and the evidences of its divine original ; that it may be handed down from age to age, as the rule of action, and the ground of comfort and hope to all.
This is very much the method, which we suppose God to have taken in the revelation by Moses, and by Jesus Christ, his well-beloved Son, our Lord and Saviour.
And it is not difficult to perceive, that the other two methods, before mentioned, would be attended with many inconveniences, and very much break in upon the established order of things in this present world. Nor would they, in all probability, be more effectual than the method which God appears to have taken.
II. The next thing to be shown is, that an evidence below that of sight may be a sufficient ground of belief and action.
And it is plain that it is so, because in many cases men act upon it. And the evidence, which we still have of the revelation made by Jesus Christ, is a sufficient reason for receiving it as a true revelation. For the account of it contained in the New Testament is delivered with all possible marks of simplicity and integrity. That revelation was received by a great number of persons from the beginning. It has been confirmed by great and remarkable effects, and the vast alteration which has been thereby made in the false notions and sentiments, and evil practices and customs, of mankind. And from that time to this there have been many in the world, in every age, who have made an open profession of this doctrine; great numbers of whom have borne their testimony to it by patiently enduring all kinds of sufferings on account of it. And the resurrection of Jesus has been celebrated on the first day of the week in all the ages
of christianity. And his death, and all the wonders of his ministry, have been frequently remembered and rehearsed in the assemblies of his followers,
Though therefore we have not the evidence of sight, we have a sufficient evidence of the resurrection of Christ; and, consequently, of all the religious truths which were to be confirmed by it; and by this evidence we may, and ought to be guided and influenced.
Ill. The third thing is the blessedness of those who believe, though they have not the evidence of sense, or the highest evidence of all.
The meaning of our Lord seems to be, that they are more blessed than they who believe only upon the evidence of sight. “ Jesus saith unto him: Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed. Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”
The reason is this. Such do in this respect show a greater love of truth, than they who yield only to the evidence of sight. They who have only the evidence of testimony, and that testimony conveyed through several successions of witnesses, have need to use more attention and care than they who have before them the evidence of sight.
They who out of love for truth, and a desire of the knowledge of religious principles, carefully examine the lesser kind of evidence, and the several branches of it, till they arrive at a full conviction of the truths attested, show a very good and laudable disposition.
They likewise manifest a humble and teachable temper in submitting to the will of God, and acknowledging the wisdom of this disposal ; who has appointed visible and
1 supernatural evidences of invisible things in that way, which is best adapted to the established order of nature, and so as may least break in upon the settled course of things.
Moreover they may be said to have a nobler faith, who, upon an evidence, sure and satisfactory indeed, but below that of sight, are induced to be faithful to God, and practise self-denial in those many occasions in which it is necessary in the present state of things.
I may add farther, that they “ who have not seen, and yet have believed,” will have a faith in more truths than they who yield only to the evidence of sight; for we may know of many more things by hearing and reading than have been done before us. Certainly there may be good evidence of many remarkable works of God, and of many eminent acts of goodness, patience, meekness, integrity of our fellowcreatures beside those which we have seen with our own eyes, done in distant parts, and in past ages. And, if upon due examination, we are persuaded of them, we may be thereby much confirmed in the belief of the truth of the invisible things of the heavenly state. And we may be established in the practice of virtue; and may be animated and strengthened in the christian course, much more than we should be if we disbelieved every thing which we have not seen with our eyes.
APPLICATION. IV. I now proceed to mention some observations suitable to the subject.
1. We are led to observe in this history, one of the many instances of plainness, simplicity, and integrity, which do so much recommend the gospels to our belief and reception.
The apostle and evangelist John, who wrote this gospel, we may be assured had a respect to truth in his history; or he had not inserted this account of Thomas's unbelief; for though it is far from being honourable to that disciple, St. John has related it plainly. But it is a particular that may tend to satisfy us of the truth of our Lord's resurrection, in that there was such full proof given of it again and again to the disciples; so as to convince them all of it, though they had for a while been under great doubts and prejudices; therefore St. John has inserted this account that we might believe. As he says ver. 30, 31, “ And many other things truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples which are not written in this book. But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.
2. From this text may be inferred the great necessity, and many advantages, of serious and impartial inquiry and examination into the grounds and evidences of the principles of religion.
For it has not been at all my intention in this discourse, concerning the reasonableness of believing without the highest degree of evidence, to persuade any to believe without ground, or without sufficient evidence; por does the text lead to any such thing, but quite the contrary. Thomas is not reproved for not believing, whilst he had 'no ground to believe; but because he had resisted very cogent evidence.
And the conduct of Providence in not affording to all the evidence of sight should put men upon examining and considering, with care and diligence, that evidence which is proposed to them. It was the duty of those who lived in our Saviour's time, before whom his miracles were wrought. There was, even then, a necessity of this. There were
several branches of the evidence of his authority, and the truth of his doctrine. 'All which were to be carefully attended to, and impartially weighed. He himself referred them to these evidences. He directed them to consider the reasonableness of his doctrine, and its agreement with the writings of Moses and the prophets; to consider the testimony of John, and the greatness of his own works. John viii. 45, 46.
It is as needful, or more needful for us now to inquire and examine. We should be at the pains of observing the many proofs there are in the New Testament of the certainty of a Providence, a future judgment, and a life to come. We should, as we have opportunity, consider what evidence there is, that the books of the New Testament are the writings of the apostles and evangelists of Christ, to whom the mind of God was revealed. We may do well to observe the marks of simplicity, veracity, and integrity, which there are in the historical parts of the New Testament; and also how reasonable, how perfect, how heavenly the whole doctrine of the evangelical scriptures, and, consequently, how worthy of God.
This examination is a duty incumbent upon all, that they may gain such a knowledge and rational conviction of the truths of religion, as shall be sufficient for their own satisfaction.
And for some others, who have more opportunities, and better abilities, it may be incumbent upon them, so far to inquire into the grounds and evidences of the principles of religion, as to be able to propound them to other men, and assist them in their searches after truth.
3. Which brings me to another observation upon this text and context, in the third place, that it may be our duty, of some at least, to propose and recommend the evidences of the principles of religion frequently, and with great plain
Though some are greatly prejudiced, and hard to be convinced of some things that appear to us very reasonable and well founded; yet if they have but sincerity of mind, they should not be abandoned as obstinate, and incapable of conviction,
We have a strange instance of the force of prejudice in Thomas a disciple of Jesus, and unquestionably a sincerely
a good and upright man. He had beard all that Christ had before said of his dying, and rising again from the dead. He had also been assured by the other disciples that they had seen the Lord since his crucifixion. They whom he