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judgment to try the very hearts and reins, and a punishment for those who are condemned in that judgment beyond all that our worst fears can reach to. And we disbelieve this, not because it is too good to be true, but because its truth would be intolerable; because if we did believe it to be true, our whole lives and hearts must be altered. Or again, is it a disbelief of great pain, like that of theirs whom I was just now describing ; who would give all that they have in the world to be able to believe as heartily as they love, but who find that they cannot ? Our disbelief costs us no pain at all, nor scarcely gives us any consciousness. We do not bring Christ's words steadily before our minds, and then find ourselves unable to receive them. Not at all.
We do not dispute them. If we did do this in earnest, we might find out that they were true.
But we take a surer course, we shut them out from our minds altogether, not by any means denying them, but only not believing them.
Where in the whole world is this particular sort of unbelief more frequent than here? Do you deny Christ? If any one were to say to you that the Apostles' Creed were a mass of falsehood from beginning to end, should you be ready to listen to him? Or should you not be in the highest degree shocked and disgusted? If any one were to tell you that heaven was all a fable, and that when you died there would be an end of you for ever, I believe that the most careless among you would cry out blasphemy. You are not misbelievers, but too many of us surely are not believers. There is no greater mistake in the world than to suppose that we believe what we do not disbelieve. The common state with many of us is to do neither the one nor the other; neither to think that Christ's word is true, nor yet that it is false; but to think nothing at all about it.
But this is truly unbelief; truly, and in the scriptural sense of unbelief; because, although neither our tongue nor our understanding consciously says that Christ's word is false, yet our whole being says so daily; it gives its witness against Christ's truth, silently, indeed, but quite decisively. Our whole being has settled the question for itself without directly arguing it. Our hopes renounce Christ, our fears renounce Him, our affections renounce Him; they all go on their way, working busily every day, but taking no account at all of Him. And their testimony is our testimony, for they are our true life. Ask of our fear whether it ever knows any thing of Christ, and it will say, No. Ask of our hope the same,
, and it will give the same answer.
Ask of our affections, which are very busy every day, and their answer is no less positive, that to them Christ is not. Their witness is our truest witness of all;
their clinging to or indifference to any thing, is our real belief or unbelief. We believe not Christ's resurrection any more than His apostle Thomas believed it. Say rather, far less; for his hopes and affections did believe in it, it was his understanding alone that was unsatisfied. hopes and affections do not believe in it, and our understanding rather does not deny it than with confidence affirms it.
To such, therefore, that most precious passage of the Scripture, which contains our Lord's appearance to Thomas, and his joyful confession when his understanding was enabled to go along with his wishes, can be as yet of no interest at all. Neither their belief nor their unbelief are the same with the apostle's. They are of a far different kind; far more resembling that evil heart of unbelief spoken of in the Hebrews,—which departs from the living God, which is confirmed, not by any difficulties of the understanding, but only through the deceitfulness of sin.
But it is not to such that Christ reveals Himself. The gracious words,“ Reach hither thy
, finger, and behold my hands,” &c., will never be spoken to them. By a far different process must Christ be sought: not by the understanding, but by the heart. By obeying Christ's commandments you will be best assured of Christ's glory. By thinking of Him at all, you will best learn to think of Him with assurance. And here we see how our help does not and cannot stand in the help of man. If the matter were to satisfy the understanding, we might produce again our Lord's appearance and words to Thomas, and the unwilling doubt might again be changed into joyful certainty, and cry out, “My Lord and my God.” But how can man, by telling us to hope make us hope; or by telling us that we ought to love, make us love really? Alas! it is impossible. Things are mightier than words.
The world around you, so busy and so real to you, utterly excludes all mere human teaching. One thing only we could hope to do, not to persuade you to hope and to love, for that were vain; but to persuade you to pray to Him in whose gift hope and love and faith are. If our words could reach thus far, they would do all that could be desired of them. We can but pray you to pray to God; to ask His help for the very weaknesses which most beset you; to ask Him, in Christ's name, and through the virtue of Christ's blood, to give you the faith which you need: a faith not of words but of feeling; not contented with merely not denying, but with its whole heart and soul affirming. This is the faith which overcometh the world; this is the faith which enters into God's rest.
November 28, 1841.
THE PATRIARCHS-FAITH TRIUMPHANT
Hebrews, xi. 13.
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but
having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
The part of this verse on which I would wish more especially to dwell, is that in which it says, “ These all died in faith.” For many are well content to live in faith many years, looking forward I mean to some good thing which is not yet manifest, and doing much and enduring much in order to gain it. And this no doubt is a faith after its measure; it does elevate the character far more than it would be elevated without it: he whose object is removed from him by ten years, or by one year, or even by a few months and weeks, and