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illiterate who have had any thing of a Christian education. The general view of it, joined to the intrinsic probability of the doctrine, may reasonably work that determined conviction which may incline the illiterate believer to turn a deaf ear to objections which the learned only can be competent to examine; and to repose his mind in this persuasion, that there is no objection to be brought, which, if understood, would appear to him sufficient to outweigh the mass of evidence that is before him.
It is to be observed, that all the writers who have attacked the external evidence seem to have taken it for granted that the thing to be proved is in itself improbable. None, I believe, hath been so inconsiderate as to assert, that if the Christian scheme were probable in itself, the evidence we have of it, with all the difficulties they have been able to raise in it, would not be amply sufficient. That they do not perceive the intrinsic probability of Christianity, those of them, I mean, who discover a due respect for natural religion,
that these do not perceive the intrinsic probability of the doctrines of our religion, I would not willingly impute to any moral depravity of heart: I will rather suppose that they have attended singly to the marvel of the story, and have never taken a near view of the beauty and perfection of the moral and theological system.
From this general state of the principles on which the faith of Christians in these ages may be supposed to rest, when none can have the conviction of ocular proof, it is not difficult to understand what is the peculiar merit of that faith which believes what it hath not seen, whereby it is entitled to our Saviour's blessing. The merit of this faith is not to be placed merely in its consequences, in its effects on the believer's life and actions. It is certain, that faith which hath not these effects is dead: There can be no sincere and salutary faith, where its natural fruit, a virtuous and holy life, is wanting. But faith, if I mistake not, hath, besides, another merit more properly its own, not acquired from its consequences, but conveyed to it from the principles in
which it takes its rise. These indeed are what gives to every action, much more than its consequences, its proper character and denomination; and the principles in which faith is founded appear to be that integrity, that candour, that sincerity of mind, that love of goodness, that reverent sense of God's perfections, which are in themselves the highest of moral endowments and the sources of all other virtues, if indeed there be any virtue which is not contained in these. Faith, therefore, in this view of it, is the full assemblage and sum of all the Christian graces, and less the beginning than the perfection of the Christian character: But if in any instance the force of external evidence should work an unwilling belief where these qualities of the heart are wanting, in the mere act of forced belief there is no merit: "The devils believe and tremble." Hence, we may understand upon what ground and with what equity and reason salvation is promised in Scripture to faith, without the express stipulation of any other condition. Every thing that could be named as a condition of salvation on the gospel plan is
included in the principle no less than in the effect of that faith to which the promises are made.
On the other hand, it is easy to perceive that the sentence of condemnation denounced against the unbelieving is not to be applied to the ignorance or the error of the understanding; but to that unbelief which is the proper opposite of the faith which shall inherit the blessing, that which arises from a dishonest resistance of conviction from a distaste for moral truth from an alienation of the mind from God and goodness. This unbelief contains in it all those base and odious qualities which are the opposites of the virtue of which true faith is composed: It must be nigh unto cursing," inasmuch as in the very essence and formality of its nature it is an accursed thing.
Lest any thing that has been said should seem to derogate from the merit of the apostles' faith, I would observe, that whatever degree of evidence they might have for some part of their belief, in particular
for the important fact of our Lord's resurrection, they had ample exercise for it in other points, where the evidence of their sense was not to be procured, or any external evidence that might be equally compulsive, for the whole of their faith. For the great doctrines of the Father's acceptance of Christ's sacrifice of himself - of the efficacy of the Mediatorial intercession of the ordinary influences of the Holy Spirit of the resurrection of the body · of the future happiness of the righteous and misery of the wicked of the future judgment to be administered by Christ,for these and many other articles, the apostles had not more than we the testimony of their senses: It is not therefore to be imagined that they were deficient in that meritorious faith which believeth what it hath not seen; nor is the reproof to Thomas to be extended to the whole of his conduct, but confined to that individual act of incredulity which occasioned it. Thomas, with the rest of the delegated band, set the world a glorious example of an active faith, which they are the happiest who best can imitate: And, seeing faith