« ПретходнаНастави »
hood, and evil habits contracted in that early part of life. Your own experience hath shown you with what success religious principle may be instilled into the most depraved mind, and with what efficacy the grace of God counteracts evil principles and evil habits; for you have found that "the situation of infant thieves is peculiarly adapted to dispose their minds to the reception of better habits." Remember therefore, that if you would be true to your own generous undertaking, religious instruction must be the first, not a secondary object of your institution. Nor must the masters of the different trades be suffered so severely to exact the children's labour as to defraud them of the hours that should be daily allotted to devotion, nor of some time in every week, which, besides the leisure of the Sundays, should be set apart for religious instruction. To educate the children to trades, is a wise, beneficial, necessary part of your institution: But you will remember, that the eternal interests of man far outweigh the secular; and the work of religion, although the learning of it require indeed a smaller
portion of our time, is of higher necessity than any trade. While your work is directed to these good ends, and conducted upon these godly principles, the blessing of God will assuredly crown your labours with success; nor shall we scruple to extend to you the benediction, in its first application peculiar to the commissioned preachers of righteousness, "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, and send forth the feet of the ox and the ass."
JOHN, XX. 29.
Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed.
THESE were the words of Christ's reply to his apostle Thomas, when he, who had refused to credit the resurrection of Jesus upon the report of the other apostles, received the conviction of his own senses in a personal interview, and recognised our Saviour for Lord and God.
What is most remarkable in these words, on the first general view of them, is the great coolness with which our Lord accepts an act of homage and adoration offered
with much warmth and cordiality; a circumstance which plainly indicates some defect or blemish in the offering, by which its value was much diminished. And this could be nothing but the lateness of it the apostle's wonderful reluctance to believe much less than what he at last professes: But eight days since, he would not believe that Jesus to be alive whom now he worships as the living God.
But this is not all: The apostle is not only reproved for his past incredulity; he is told besides, at least it is indirectly suggested to him, that the belief which he at last so fervently professes hath little merit in it, — that it was not of that sort of faith which might claim the promises of the gospel; being indeed no voluntary act of his own mind, but the necessary result of irresistible evidence. This is clearly inplied in that blessing which our Lord so emphatically pronounces on those who not having seen should yet believe. "Thomas, because thou has seen me, thou hast believed:" You now indeed believe, when the testimony of your own senses leaves it
no longer in your power to disbelieve. I promise no blessing to such reluctant faith: "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed."
Here arise two questions, which, either for the difficulty which each carries in the first face of it, or for the instruction which the speculation may afford, may well deserve an accurate discussion. The first is, why Thomas was reproved for not believing till he was convinced? the second, what should be the peculiar merit of that faith which hath not the immediate evidence of sense for its foundation or support, that our Saviour should on this sort of faith exclusively pronounce a blessing? A readiness to believe wonders upon slender evidence hath ever been deemed a certain mark of a weak mind; and it may justly seem impossible that man should earn a blessing by his folly, or incur God's displeasure by his discretion.
For the clearing up of these difficult questions, this shall be my method,— First, to consider what ground there might be for