Sidor som bilder

dence of the object, namely, that which is founded on the light of my own reason, whereby I am assured, in a manner which leaves me not the liberty of so much as doubting, that so long as you remain within this temple, you cannot possibly be in any other place.

But if there be evidence of object, there is like. wise evidence of testimony. I believe there is a vast region on the globe, called the kingdom of Persia. I have evidence to support this belief: not the evidence of object, but the evidence of testimony. I believe that there is such a kingdom, though I have never seen it with my own eyes : but there is such a cloud of witnesses, of undoubted credit, who assure me of it, that the evidence of testimony supplies the evidence of object. In like manner, I believe that a vessel of such or such a construction, and of so many tons burthen, requires such a depth of water. I believe this, not because my reason has by its own powers made the discovery, for I never made mechanism of this kind my study; but the unanimous deposition of all who understand the art of ship-building, gives me full assurance of the fact, fills the place of my own intimate perception, and the evidence of testimony supplies the evidence of object.

Having thus explained our meaning, when we say that faith is obscure, when we say that the Christian believeth what he seeth not, we do not, by this, understand that he believeth in what is destitute of proof: we only mean that he believeth the truth of facts of which he has not been an eye witness : that he believeth in truths which he could not have discovered by his own reason, and that he hopes for a felicity of which he has not a distinct idea : but he believes those facts, on the unanimous testimony of a great number of witnesses, who could not possibly have acted in concert to deceive him : he believes those truths on an infallible testimony: he hopes, on that same testimony, namely, on the word of God himself. In all these things, the evidence of testimony supplies the evidence of object.

That it is of this kind of faith, we are to understand these words in our text, Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed, the occasion on which they were pronounced permits us not to doubt. Of what was Jesus Christ speaking to Thomas? Of his own resurrection. Who are the persons he had in view, whom Providence was afterwards to call to believe without having seen? Those who could not possibly be the eye witnesses of that resurrection. But were the persons who should be called to believe the doctrine of the resurrection, to believe it without satisfying reasons of its truth and certainty? By no means. Call to your recollection a part of what we submitted to your consideration on this subject, on another occasion. * We have, in confirmation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1. Presumptions. 2. Proofs, and, 3. Demonstrations.

1. The circumstances of the death of the Sa. viour, and of his burial, furnish us with presumptions on this subject. Jesus Christ died : his body was deposited in the tomb; but a few days afterwards was not to be found there. We thence presume that Jesus Christ is risen again. If Jesus Christ be not risen, his body must have been conveyed away: but how is it possible to maintain such an assertion ? To whom shall we impute such

* The reader is referred to the sermon on The Resurrection of Jesus Christ, page 199, &c. of Sermon VIII. Vol. II. of Mr. Robinson's selection.

conveyance ? Not surely to his enemies. Could they be suspected of a design to contribute to his glory, by giving currency to the report of his resurrection? It can as little be imputed to his disciples. They had no inclination to do so. For how could men, so notoriously timid, have formed an enterprize su daring and dangerous, and that in favor of a man, (I go on the supposition that Jesus Christ did not rise again) who had thus abused their credulity? But had their inclination been ever so strong, was it in their power either to surprize or to discomfit a guard forewarned of the design? These I call presumptions.

2. The testimony of the apostles furnishes with proofs of the resurrection. This testimony possesses no less than eight distinct characters, which raise it beyond the reach of all suspicion : i, The nature of the witnesses, who had neither the credid, nor the riches, nor the eloquence necessary to practice an imposture on mankind : ii, The number of those witnesses, amounting to more than five hundred : iii, The nature of the facts which are the subject of their evidence, things in which it was impossible they should deceive themselves, things which they had seen, heard, and perceived in the most sensible and palpable manner : iv, The uniformity of their testimony, which in no one instance ever contradicted itself: v, The judges before whom their evidence was given ; judges expert in the art of involving cheats in self-contradiction, but who never could detect any in the witnesses of whom we are speaking: vi, The place where their testimony was published; for had the apostles gone and published the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, in regions remote from that where the fact could be completely sifted, they might have fallen under suspicion ; but they attest it to the face of the whole city of Jerusalem itself: vii, The time when this testimony was published, respecting which the same reasoning applies which does to the circumstance of place: viii, The motives by which those witnesses were actuated, and which could be no other but the satisfying of their own consciences, as so far from having a temporal interest to promote, by the publication of this event, every temporal interest pressed in the opposite direction.

3. But we have likewise, of this truth, demonstrations properly so called. With these we are furnished in the miraculous gifts communicated to those who attest it: of which we cannot entertain any doubt, without taxing with extravagance three sorts of persons, equally clear of all ground of suspicion on such an occasion : i, The apostles, who give the history of those miracles, and who relate in a manner the best adapted to expose imposture, on the supposition of their having been impostors : ii, Their enemies, who in their writings against them, have not denied that they wrought miracles, but that these miracles were a proof of the truth of their doctrine : iii, Finally, their proselytes, who had the greatest imaginable interest in examining whether it was true that the apostles wrought miracles, who had all possible opportunities of ascertaining the fact, and who sacrificed their property, their reputation, their life, for a religion entirely resting on this truth, The apostles work miracles. These we call so many demonstrations.

This recapitulation sufficiently instructs us, that we are not called upon to believe an event so very extraordinary, as if it were destitute of proof: on the contrary, we believe it on proofs clear, cogent, and decisive. When, therefore, Jesus Christ saith, Blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have

believed, he means not to say, that it is blessed to believe things destitute of evidence: he speaks only of things which have not the evidence of object, but which have that of testimony.

Let us pursue this thought a little farther. The idea which we have suggested of obscure faith, distinguishes it from three kinds of conviction, which are but too frequently confounded with it: the faith extorted by tyranny; the faith generated in the brain of the enthusiast; and the faith of the superstitious.

(1) The faith of which we speak, must be carefully distinguished from the faith which is extorted by tyranny. We do not here understand that which violence would attempt to produce by the terror of punishment. Never did racks, gibbets, and stakes produce, in the soul, any thing like conviction in favor of a religion, which pretended to establish itself by arguments so odious and detestable. But there is a tyranny of a different kind, which has produced believers not a few. By dint of attesting fictions, men have forced themselves into credit: by dint of insolent pretentions, to infallibility, the simple have sometimes been prevailed upon to admit it: and the simple generally constitute the bulk of mankind.

We denominate that the faith extorted by tyranny, which is yielded to the insolent decisions of a doctor, who gives himself out as infallible, without proving it; or to fabulous legends, unsupported by any respectable testimony. How, under the pretext that I am bound to believe facts, which I may never have seen with my own eyes, am I laid under an obligation to swallow every thing that a legendary is pleased to tell me? How, under the pretext that I am bound to believe truths which are above the reach of my reason, am I laid under an

« FöregåendeFortsätt »