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JOHN, XX. 29.

Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: 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, how ever 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? 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 inquire 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 inquiry, 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.

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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? Perhaps 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 connexion 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 aught may be worthy, of the Being that accepts it; prescribes the most rational duties - things intrinsically

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