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of deep and serious reflection. The one has only to reach forth his hand, to touch the print of the wounds of Jesus Christ; the other must exert all the powers of his mind, in sifting the proofs, on which the doctrine is established. The one expects that the Saviour should present himself to him, and say: Be not faithless, but believing, Jo. xx. 27. The other goes forth seeking after the Lord Jesus, through the darkness in which he is pleased to involve himself. Is it not evident that this last expresses incomparably greater love for the truth, and offers up to it greater sacrifices than the first ? This last, then, corresponds better to the idea of probation and sacrifice, to which we are called, during the time which, by the will of God, we are destined to pass in this world. Blessed therefore, with respect to the obscurity of the past, blessed is he who has not seen, and yet has believed.
2. The same principle is applicable to what concerns the night of futurity. It would require but feeble efforts, and would exhibit no mighty sacrifice, for a man to deny himself the delights of a present life, if the joys of the Paradise of God were disclosed to his eyes.
But how great is the magnanimity of the Christian, how wonderful the fortitude of the Martyr, and, in propriety of speech, all Christians are martyrs, who, resting on the promises of God alone, immolates to the desire of possessing a future and heavenly felicity, all that is dear and valuable to him upon the earth? The present, usually, makes the most powerful impression on the mind of man. An object, in proportion as it becomes exceeding remote, in some measure loses its reality, with respect to us. The impression made
the mind by sensible things, engrosses almost its whole capacity, and leaves little, if any, portion of its at
tention, for the contemplation of abstract truths. Farther, when abstract meditations dwell on wellknown objects, they possibly may fix attention. But when they turn on objects of which we have no distinct idea, they are little calculated to arrest
A Christian, a man actuated by that obscure faith, whose excellency we are endeavoring to unfold, surmounts all these difficulties. I see neither the God who has given me the promises of an eternal felicity, nor that eternal felicity which he hath promised me. This God conceals himself from my view. I must go from principle to principle, and from one conclusion to another, in order to attain full assurance that he is. I find still much greater difficulty in acquiring the knowledge of what he is, than in rising up to a persuasion of his exist
The very idea of an infinite Being confounds and overwhelms me.
If I have only a very imperfect idea of the God who hath promised me eternal felicity, I know still less wherein that felicity consists.
I am told of a spiritual body, 1 Cor. xv. 44: a body glorious, incorruptible : I am told of unknown faculties: of an unknown state : of an unknown economy. I am told of new heavens and a new earth : I am promised the society of certain spirits, with whom I have never enjoyed any kind of intercourse: I am told of a place entirely different from that which I now inhabit; and when I would represent to myself that felicity, under ideas of the pleasures of sense, under ideas of worldly magnificence, I am told that this felicity has no resemblance to any of these things. Nevertheless, on the word of this God, of whom I have a knowledge so very imperfect, but whose existence and perfections are so certain, I am ready to sacrifice
every thing, for a felicity of which I have a still more imperfect knowledge, than I have of the God who hath promised it to me.
There is nothing more delightful to me than to live in the bosom of my country and kindred. My native air has in it something congenial to my constitution; nevertheless, were God to call me as he did Abraham ; were he to say to me, in the words which he addressed to that Patriarch: Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, Gen. xii. 1. I will, without hesitation, obey: I will depart, without delay, for the land which he shall please to shew me.
Nothing can be more delightful to me, than the possession of an only and beloved son: nothing appears to me so dreadful, as separation from a person so dear to me; but, above all, there is nothing which inspires so much horror, as the thought of plunging, with my own hand, the dagger into his bosom. Nevertheless, when it shall please God to say to me: Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, and offer him for a burnt-offering, upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee off, Gen. xxii. 2. I will take that son, that object of my tenderest affection, that centre of
my desires, and of my complacency; I will bind him ; I will stretch him out upon the pile; I will lift up my arm to pierce his side, persuaded that the favor of God is a blessing beyond all comparison, more precious, than the possession of even that beloved portion of myself.
There is nothing capable of more agreeably flattering my
ambition and self-love, than to talk with authority : than to govern a whole world with despotic sway: than to rule over the nations, which look up to their sovereigns as so many divinities; nevertheless, were a competition to be established
between a throne, a crown, and the blessedness of the heavenly world, I would esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt : I would choose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleașures of sin for a season, Heb. xi. 25.
There is nothing to which my nature is more reluctant, than the suffering of violent pain. The idea of the rack, of being burnt at a stake, makes me shudder. I am convulsed all over at the sight of a fellow-creature exposed to torture of this kind. What would it be, were I myself called to endure them? Nevertheless, the lofty ideas I have conceived, of a felicity which I have not seen, will elevate even me, above the feelings of sense and nature : I will mount a scaffold: I will extend myself upon the pile which is to reduce me to ashes; I will surrender my body to the executioners to be mangled ; and amidst all these torments, I will siill cry out with triumph: I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, Rom. viii. 18. for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor. iv. 17. Blessed be the Lord, my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight, Psa. cxliv. 1,
I ask, my brethren, does not a man in such circumstances, correspond incomparably better to the idea of probation and sacrifice, than the person who should behold, with his own eyes, the eternal recompense of reward which God has prepared for his children? The proposition of our blessed Lord, therefore, is verified with regard to periods still future, as with regard to periods already past. The vocation of the Christian, then, is to pierce through
all those clouds, in which God has been pleased to envelop the religion of Jesus Christ ; the vocation of the Christian is to pierce through the obscurity of the past, and the obscurity of the future; it is to make study supply the want of experience, and hope the want of vision. The felicity of the Christian depends on the manner in which he corresponds to this high vocation : Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. This was the point to be demonstrated.
It highly concerns us, my brethren, to fulfil this twofold engagement, and thus to attain, at length, supreme felicity, in the way which it has pleased God to trace for us.
1. Pierce through the obscurity of the past. Let us learn to make study supply the want of experience. Let us diligently apply ourselves to acquire the knowledge of our religion, by seeking after assurance of the truth of those facts, on which it is established. Of these, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the chief: for if Jesus Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain . . ye are yet in your sins, 1 Cor. xv. 14, 17. But, thanks be to God, this fact, of such capital importance, is supported by proofs which it is impossible for any reasonable man to resist.
But it requires a considerable degree of attention, of serious recollection, to study these with advantage. To this study there must, of necessity, be sacrificed some worldly employment, some party of pleasure: a man must sometimes retire into his closet, and get the better of that languor which deep thought and close reading naturally produce. But O, how nobly is he rewarded for all his labor, by the copious harvest which it yields !