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this was the temper of those brethren of the rich man, in our Saviour's parable, who hearkened not to Moses and the prophets, and yet were expected to repent if one should arise from the dead: This is the conduct of modern unbelievers, who examine not the evidence of revelation as it actually stands, but insist that that sort of proof should be generally exhibited which from the nature of the thing must always be confined to very few. The apostle Thomas, in the principles of his unbelief, too much resembled these uncandid reasoners. Yet let them not think to be sheltered under his example, unless they will follow it in the better part, by a recantation of their errors and a confession of the truth full and ingenuous as his, when once their hearts and understandings are convinced.
From this summary view of the evidence that St. Thomas might have found of our Lord's resurrection, before it was confirmed to him by a personal interview, — and from this state of the principles upon which alone his incredulity could be founded, — it may sufficiently appear that the reproof he
received was not unmerited; and we may see reason to admire and adore the affectionate mildness with which it was administered.
The same thing will still more appear, when it shall be shown, that in the belief of any thing upon such evidence as was at last exhibited to Thomas of our Lord's resurrection, there can be no merit; and for this plain reason, that a belief resulting from such evidence is a necessary act of the understanding, in which the heart is totally uminterested. An assent to full and present proof, from whatever that proof may arisewhether from the senses, from historical evidence, or from the deductions of reason, - an assent, I say, to proof that is in itself complete and full, when the mind holds it in immediate contemplation, and comprehends and masters it, arises as necessarily from the nature of the understanding as the perception of external objects arises from the structure of the organs to which they are adapted. To perceive truth by its proper evidence, is of the formal nature of the rational mind; as it is of the physical
nature of the eye to see an object by the light that it reflects, or of the ear to hear the sounds which the air conveys to it. To discern the connexion between a fact and its evidence, a proposition and its proof, is a faculty fixed in the nature of the mind by God; which faculty the mind is pretty nuch at liberty to employ or not, and hath a strange power of employing it in some instances perversely; but when it is employed aright when proof is brought into the mind's view, either by its own fair investigation or by the force of external objects striking the bodily organs, assent and conviction must ensue. The eye may be shut; the ear may be stopped; the understanding may turn itself away from unpleasing subjects: But the eye, when it is open, hath no power not to see; the ear, when open, hath no power not to hear; and the understanding hath no power not to know truth when the attention is turned to it. It matters not of what kind the proposition may be to which the understanding assents in consequence of full proof; - the completeness of the proof necessarily precludes the possibility of merit in the act
of assenting. Now this was the case of Thomas, and indeed of all the apostles, not with respect to 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 well-known 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 inquires 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.