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the whole of their faith, but with respect to the particular fact of our Lord's resurrection ; — the proof they had of it was full and absolute: Jesus in his wellknown person stands alive before them; and to believe, when they saw him alive, that he who had been dead was then living, could be nothing more meritorious than to believe that he was dead when they saw the body laid in the grave. I desire not to be misunderstood. There may

be much merit in the diligence, the candour, and sincerity with which a man enquires and investigates ; there may be merit in the conduct he pursues in consequence of particular convictions. In the conduct of the apostles, there was much merit, under the conviction they at last attained of our Lord's resurrection, - in their zeal to diffuse his doctrines, — in their firmness in attesting his triumph over the grave, in defiance of the utmost rigour of persecution, — such merit as shall be rewarded with unfading crowns of glory: But in the mere act of believing a fact evidenced by the senses, or a proposition legitimately proved, of whatever kind, there can be none.

But here arises that most interesting question, Since there is confessedly no merit in that act of belief which is the result of ocular conviction, what is the merit of that faith which hath no such foundation,

- which “ believes that which it hath not seen,” that our Saviour should so emphatically pronounce it blessed ?

I trust that I shall evince, by God's assistance, that this blessing to the faithful standeth sure. But this great subject may well demand a separate discourse.

SERMON XLII.

John, xx. 29.

Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast be

lieved : Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.

The propriety of the reproof addressed in these words to the apostle hath been already shown. It was not his fault that he did not believe before he was convinced; but that he had hastily set a resolution of unbelief, without attending to a proof which, however inferior to the evidence of sense, might have given him conviction.

It hath been shown besides, that a faith which is the result of the immediate testimony of the senses must be altogether destitute, as our Saviour intimates, of moral merit. Hence arises this interesting question, the last in my original division of the subject, which I now purpose to discuss, Since there is no merit in believing upon ocular conviction, what is the merit of that faith which hath not that foundation ? Is it that it is taken up upon slighter grounds ? Is this possible in the nature of things, that the imperfection of the proof should enhance the merit of belief? Will it not follow, if this principle be once admitted, that where there is the least of proof there will be the most of this merit; and that the faith which is the most valuable in the sight of God is that which hath the least support and countenance from the understanding ? - a proposition which the adversaries of our holy religion would much rejoice that its professors should affirm.

To clear these difficulties, I know no readier way, than to enquire on what grounds their faith for the most part is likely to be built, who believe, as all Christians do who at this day believe the Gospel, without the evidence of their senses. From this enquiry, I hope to make appear both the certainty and the merit of our faith, - its certainty, as resting on a foundation no less firm, though far less compulsive, than the evidence of sense itself; its merit, as a mixed act of the understanding and of the will - of the understanding, deducing its conclusions from the surest premises - of the will, submitting itself to the best of motives. Our faith therefore will appear to be an act in which the moral qualities of the mind are no less active than its reasoning faculties; and upon this account, it may claim a moral merit of which the involuntary assent of understanding present to sense or to necessary proof must ever be divested.

What then is the ground upon which the faith of the generality of Christians in the present ages is built, who all believe what they have not seen ? - I say, of the generality of Christians ; for whatever it may be which gives faith its merit in the sight of God, it is surely to be looked for not in any thing peculiar to the faith of the learned, but in the common faith of the plain illiterate believer. What then is the ground of his conviction? Is it the historical evidence of the facts recorded in the gospels ? Per

haps no facts of an equal antiquity may boast an historical evidence equally complete ; and without some degree of this evidence there could be no faith : yet it is but a branch of the proof, and, if I mistake not, far from the most considerable part ; for the whole of this evidence lies open but to a small proportion of the Christian world : it is such as many true believers, many whose names are written in the book of life, have neither the leisure nor the light to scrutinize so as to receive from this alone a sufficient conviction : in the degree in which it may be supposed to strike the generality of believers, it seems to be that which may rather finish a proof begun in other principles than make by itself an entire demonstration.

What then is that which, in connection with that portion of the historical evidence which common men may be supposed to perceive, affords to them a rational ground of conviction ? Is it the completion of prophecy? This itself must have its proof from history. To those who live when the things predicted come to pass, the original delivery of the prophecy is a matter to be proved by historical evidence: to those who live after the things predicted are come to pass, both the delivery of the prophecy and the events in which it is supposed to be verified are points of history; and moreover, by the figured language of prophecy, the evidence which it affords is of all the most removed from popular apprehension. What then is the great foundation of proof to those who are little read in history, and are ill qualified to decypher prophecy, and compare it with the records of mankind ? Plainly this, which the learned and the ignorant may equally comprehend, - the intrinsic excellence of the doctrine, and the purity of the precept ; — a doctrine which conveys to the rudest understanding just and exalted notions of the Divine perfections; exacts a worship purged of all hypocrisy and superstition, the most adapted to the nature of him who offers, the most worthy, if ought may be worthy, of the Being that accepts it; prescribes the most rational duties, — things intrinsically the best, and the most conducive to private and to public good ; proposes rewards adequate to the vast desires and capacities of the rational soul ; promises mercy to infirmity, without indulgence to vice; holds out pardon to the penitent offender, in that particular way which secures to a frail imperfect race the blessings of a mild government, and secures to the majesty of the Universal Governor all the useful ends of punishment; and builds this scheme of redemption on a history of man and Providence, — of man's original corruption, and the various interpositions of Providence for his gradual recovery, — which clears up many perplexing questions concerning the origin of evil, the unequal distribution of present happiness and misery, and the disadvantages on the side of virtue in this constitution of things, which seem inexplicable upon any other principles.

This excellence of the Christian doctrine considered in itself, as without it no external evidence of revelation could be sufficient, so it gives to those who are qualified to perceive it that internal probability to the whole scheme, that the external evidence, in that proportion of it in which it may be supposed to be understood by common 'men, may be well allowed to complete the proof. This, I am persuaded, is the consideration that chiefly weighs with those who are quite unable to collect and unite for themselves the

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