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reads the heart, saw in His servant Thomas something that was better than his rash words ; He gave to him that evidence which he required, but He so gave it as to shew both to him and to the Church in all ages, that it had been better for him not to have asked or received that evidence: that it had been better for him to have received the truth on the witness of others.
By demanding evidence other than what God had vouchsafed to him, by choosing “sight” rather than “faith," St. Thomas lost a higher blessing, to which he might otherwise have attained. “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Few of us, possibly, but at one time or other of our lives have had the wish pass through our minds that we had lived in our Lord's days, had seen His miracles, and those of His apostles; had heard His teaching, and that of His apostles. At times, when our faith seems weak, or when doubts are raised which we cannot solve, or when hard questions of doctrine are discussed, such would seem to be almost an instinctive wish.—Now, of course, we all allow that what God has ordered for us, is better than what we could order for ourselves; that He knows best in what state of life, in what country, in what age, it were best for us to be born and live ;-but do we realize, and bear in mind, that there is a sense in which they “who have not seen” are more blessed (if only they believe) than they who have seen;
that, if they truly believe in Christ and obey Him, the lot of the men of this day is therein blessed, that “they have not seen and yet have believed.”
And (even where, by God's grace, the evil babit of this day, to doubt and question, has not extended to the great saving truths of the Gospel, those articles of the Christian faith, without a belief in which we cannot be Christians) still how much does this unhappy temper and spirit keep from us: how many high and holy truths, which Almighty God proposes to faith, and which faith alone can apprehend! The frame of mind (which men have been taught to think safe and wise) is far other than what befits weak, and fallen, and sinful, and ignorant creatures, listening for the voice of their Creator, that they may hear it and obey it. Men seem to think that probable evidence, such as guides them in every-day life, has nothing to do in religion ; men are every day obliged to believe things which they cannot be sure are true; to do things which they cannot be sure are for their interest: i. e. men are obliged to "walk by faith not by sight” in the things of this world : or else they must believe
and do nothing; and yet men refuse to receive the same kind of evidence, to walk by the same rule, in the things of religion : i.e. in the things of Almighty God, eternity, heaven, hell, the world of spirits. Whereas, even in the things of this life, they have no choice but to believe many things which they cannot see, they refuse to do so in the things of another life. We know that there are evil and reprobate men who deny the very being and providence of Almighty God because they see Him not ; “ The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Again there are others who deny the “Holy, Blessed, and Glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God," because, as they say, it is against their reason ; and so men, rather than believe too much, fall into the sin of blaspheming their God and Saviour. But I do not wish to speak of these any further than by way of warning. The spirit in such men is but the spirit of this age, the spirit of unbelief, in its worst form; and the spirit of this age has entered into the Church, and into the hearts and thoughts of us all, far more, I fear, than we are any of us aware: men think it enough answer to make to any doctrine (however sacred), that it may be untrue. The apostolical succession of ministers in the Church may have failed in the course of ages : therefore
(say such men) the doctrine is not true; such is the conclusion which the spirit of the age draws.
. They who have been baptized in infancy grow up, to all outward appearance, the same as those who have not been baptized; therefore (say such men) there is no inward and spiritual grace in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism: and the language which even serious persons allow themselves to use of the other blessed Sacrament is even yet more painfully irreverent. God, by His grace, may keep them from carrying out these principles to their full and fatal issue : yet surely it is not to be said from how many great and holy truths they thus cut themselves off; great and holy truths which are revealed to faith, and are the reward of faith. When persons, judging from what they see, or what they think agreeable to reason, go on to deny or question the plain words of our Saviour Christ, the plain teaching of His Church from the beginning, surely they need to be reminded, if not of the great danger which they incur, yet of the blessedness which they thus lose. “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed : blessed are they which have not seen, and yet have believed."
JOHN HENRY PARKER, OXFORD AND LONDON.
Sermons for the Christian Seasons.
ST. STEPHEN'S DAY.
Acts vii. 59, 60. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon
God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
There follow upon Christmas-day three festivals, that of St. Stephen, that of St. John the apostle and evangelist, and that of the holy Innocents; wherein, it is thought, the Church commemorates the three kinds of martyrdom : that in will and in deed, as was the martyrdom of St. Stephen, where persons are willing to suffer death for the sake of Christ, and do actually suffer it: that in will, but not in deed, as was -the martyrdom of St. John, where persons are willing to suffer, prepared to follow their Lord to death, but are not called by God to do so : that in deed but not in will, as was the martyrdom of the holy Innocents, where persons are actually put to death, but from their being in