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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 recompenses. 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. The 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 prac-tises 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 remem-bered 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.
III. 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 shew 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 this 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 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 discourse 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 fellow-creatures, 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
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: nor 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 plainness.
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 good and upright man. He had heard 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 well knew, whose honesty he had no ground to suspect, whose prejudices too had prevailed greatly, say to him: "We have seen the Lord." Here are ten witnesses concerning a point about which they could not be easily deceived. And very probably, some others, who had seen Christ separately, told him the same thing. Nevertheless, he did not believe them. Nor would he believe, he said, unless he should himself see and touch the marks of his crucifixion. Thus acted this person, because of some prejudices, too much favoured and indulged. Nevertheless Jesus did not give him up to his unbelief. But he comes again among his disciples, and at a time when Thomas was with them. He shows himself to him, speaks to him, and discovers the strange and positive demand that he had made for his satisfaction.
In like manner, may some others, good and sincere men, reject a sufficient evidence of some truths, on account of prejudices, which have been long and deeply rooted in their minds.
When this is the case, though they should withhold their assent to the first representation of the evidences of some truth; it may not be always reasonable to give them up. It may be fit to take some other opportunity to repeat the evidence or to set it before them in a different light, or to add new and farther proofs if they can be had. It is a kind and generous work, to carry men on from truth to truth, and bring them to a persuasion of every truth, conducive to the enlargement of their minds, and the increase and perfection of their virtue.
Thomas was a Jew and a good man, and believed the general articles of religion. But our Lord does not leave him there. For his own benefit, and the benefit of others, he affords him evidences of his resurrection, till he is convinced: that thereby he might have farther evidences of a future state, and be acquainted with all the inducements to virtue, and steadiness therein, which would flow from a belief of his resurrection: and might be also able to recommend them to others.
You know how St. Paul solemnly exhorts Timothy. "Preach the word," says he, "be instant in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine," 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2.
4. We may infer from the declaration of our Lord in the text, that the Divine Being in his acceptance of men, and in the recompenses he bestows upon them, has a respect to their several circumstances, and their suitable improvements.
It is a general maxim, mentioned by our Lord. Luke xii. 48. "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. And to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
The doctrine of the text is to the like purpose. Our Lord pronounceth a special blessing upon such as have not seen, and yet have believed. He that did not see, has not all the same inducements to believe that Thomas had, who saw Christ after his resurrection. In this respect he excels Thomas, who believed upon the evidence of sight, and not before.
If then any one, with less and fewer advantages, attain to an equal degree of faith and virtue with him who has more and greater advantages, he is more commendable, and will be more blessed than the other.
It was very fit that all the apostles of Jesus should have the highest evidence; that they might give the best satisfaction to others concerning his resurrection, and that they might all be eminent examples of zeal, patience and fortitude.
And yet he who with less advantages equals them in zeal, patience and fortitude, may be reckoned to exceed and excel them. We hereby see how difficult it must be to answer that question: "Who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven," Matt. xviii. 1; a question which the disciples put to our Saviour, when their notions of that kingdom were too worldly and sensual. The question is still very difficult, though our ideas are enlarged: nor can we say, "who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven;" or whence that person shall come: Whether from among those who lived in the time of our Saviour, who heard the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth, and saw the wonderful works that he did; and thereby were filled with a lively faith in God, and in the Son of God, and were excited to labour, and endure hard things for his name's sake. Whether I say,
he shall be one of those who "have seen, and therefore believed;" or whether he will be one of those "who have not seen, and yet have believed." Whether he may be one who lives in latter times, and by serious and humble inquiry and consideration arrives at a faith of equal strength and activity with those of the more early ages of the gospel, and labours, and suffers, and dies as they did.
Or, whether he shall come from among those, who under the obscurer revelations of the divine will, before the coming of Christ, arrived at eminence in all virtue and holiness.
Or, finally, whether he shall come from some of the dark places of the earth, where scarcely one ray of divine revelation has reached: and be a person, who under the greatest disadvantages for religious knowledge, arrived at some considerable justness of sentiments concerning God, and the way of serving him, and has been there an example of virtue to the men among whom he lived; who had sought, and found, and acknowledged the one God, Creator of the universe, and under great discouragements recommended the worship of God, and the practice of virtue."
But though we cannot say who will be the greatest, we know, that "whoever hears Christ's sayings, and doth them," Matt. v. 19; whoever sincerely "keeps the commandments of God, shall be great in the kingdom of heaven," ch. vii. 24. And we know what are the virtues, and what the works which are in high esteem with the Saviour and Judge of the world: "feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and such as are in prison" (especially when it is for a good cause) and other like offices of benevolence to our fellow-creatures in this state of trial.
Upon the whole, then, let us cherish and improve a faith of invisible things, by serious and impartial consideration; and attending to the evidence which God has given us: which, though not the highest, is very cogent and sufficient. And let us be concerned to shew our faith by works suited to the doctrine of Christ, which we have received, and all the advantages which we enjoy.
JESUS THE SON OF MAN.
And he said unto the disciples: The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and ye shall not see it. Luke. xvii. 22.
THE words of the text are owing to an inquiry concerning the time of the manifestation of the kingdom of the Messiah; accompanied, it is likely, with indications of their prevailing prejudice concerning its worldly nature. Ver. 20. "And when he was demanded of the pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come; he answered them, and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:" or with the outward pomp and splendour, visible in earthly kingdoms, exciting wonder and surprise, attracting the eyes, and pleasing the passions of carnal and worldly people.
Ver. 21. "Neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there for the kingdom of God is within you." Neither will it come after the manner of worldly kingdoms, set up by a great leader, to whose standard all should be invited to resort, to put themselves under his protection, in order to join in advancing it, and share in its emoluments and advantages. "For behold the kingdom of God," though you are not pleased to regard it, and the signs of it are such as you disdain to
a Whoever places the true moral worth and excellence where it ought to be placed, I mean, not in the soundness of the head, but in the soundness of the heart, will easily discern, how possible it is for one professor, that is furnished with the scantiest stock of knowledge, to be a far better, worthier and more amiable character in life, than another who is possessed of the greatest. And if God, in the great day of tribulation, will render to every one according to his work; for the same
reason it is not impossible, after all our boasted advantages in point of knowledge, but that a man, cast upon the most barbarous and illiterate part of the globe, may come off with more applause at that impartial tribunal, than our Clarkes, Newtons, or any other the most distinguished characters, whether of the philosophic, religious, or civil kind.' Dr. J. N. Scott. Serm, xx. vol. ii. p. 416, 417.
observe, is within you, or among you. It is already begun to be set up, the kingdom of the Messiah is come, the doctrine of it is preached, the rules, and the rewards and privileges of it are published. And it is received by some, who even press into it, and are the willing subjects of it and rejoice in and shall partake of all its blessings and privileges.
So the kingdom of God was then among them: but not literally within the persons to whom Christ was speaking, as some have thought. For if our Lord be supposed to speak directly to the pharisees, or of them, this kingdom was not within them. It had not gained power in their minds, nor been received and acknowledged by them.
Ver. 22-25. "And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it. And when they shall say unto you, See here, or see there" [looking for the appearance of the Messiah] "go not after them, nor follow them for as the lightning that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven, so shall also the Son of man be in this day:" his kingdom will prevail on a sudden, and his doctrine will make a swift and amazing progress in a very short time, beyond expectation, and without the ordinary methods made use of in advancing worldly designs and interests. "But first he must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation." So is the context.
In considering the words of this text there offer to us three several subjects of inquiry. 1. How are we to understand that character, the Son of man? 2. Who are the persons here spoken to, and said to be the disciples? 3. What our Lord says to them, or the design of this warning and prediction: "Ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it."
I. The first subject of inquiry is, how we ought to understand that character, the Son of man? And as it is frequently used by our Lord in speaking of himself, we may be desirous to determine the meaning of it. But here, as in many other cases, where certainty would be desirable, it is not a little difficult to find what shall be decisive.
Son of man is often in scripture equivalent to man. Job xxxv. 8. "Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man." Ps. viii. 4. "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?" And Prov. viii. 4, says Wisdom: "Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men :" or to all men in general, and of every rank, to whom my instructions will be useful, Isa. li. 12. « I, even I am he, which comforteth thee. Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man, that shall die, and of the son of man, which shall be made as grass?" And in like manner in many other places. See particularly Jer. xlix. 18, 33; ch. 1. 40; li. 43. This then is one common, obvious meaning of son of man. It is the same as man.
Some think that the son of man, when used by our Saviour, denotes his high dignity, or a man of distinction and eminence, and is equivalent to Messiah, or the Christ: and that he hereby intends to signify, that he is the great person spoken of by the prophets, who was to come for the benefit of mankind. And indeed in Dan. vii. 13, 14, is this remarkable prophecy: "I saw in the night visions. And behold, one like unto the son of man," or like to a son of man, "came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom, that all people and nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." And our Lord is supposed to allude to this prophecy upon a very memorable occasion: when being before the high priest, he adjured him, saying: "Tell us, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him : Thou hast said. Nevertheless I say unto you: Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Matt. xxvi. 63, 64. See also Mark xiv. 61, 62.
The Son of man, then, when used by our Saviour in speaking of himself, may denote his great character, the promised Messiah. This sense I do not absolutely reject, and it may be embraced by those to whom it approves itself.
Nevertheless there are some exceptions to be made against its being equivalent to Messiah, and against its being what our Lord intends thereby.
It seems to me, that the forecited text from Daniel is not a sufficient foundation for this opinion. The phrase is no where used in Daniel, but in the place just taken notice of, and in a Illud eos pav recte vertitur in medio vestri. Conf. Matt. xxi. 43. Grot. in loc. 2 с