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of the delay seems to have been, that honour might be put on the first day of the week which was now to supercede the Jewish Sabbath; and, in consequence of our Lord's resurrection thereon, to be, in all succeeding generations, the day particularly appropriated to religious worship. By appearing to His disciples on this day, our Lord has taught us to expect His presence whenever we meet together in His name on His own blessed day.
On this second visit Thomas was in the circle of the disciples. He had smarted severely by his former neglect. Eight days of painful suspense, and probably of torturing anxiety, had taught him wisdom. It is happy when we are made sensible of spiritual losses which our own sinful negligence has occasioned, and are solicitous to repair them!
Jesus came as before into the room where the disciples were assembled, miraculously introducing Himself into their company, the doors of the chamber being shut for fear of the Jews. He placed Himself in the midst of them, like a father in the circle of his children, and said, • Peace be unto you!” He is the same compassionate Saviour still. He does not say, “ This perverse fellow has neglected the means which I afforded of ascertaining by the evidence of his own senses that I am risen from the dead; and then, forgetful of my predictions or disbelieving their veracity, he obstinately refuses to credit the solemn attestations of his ten brethren who have seen and believed. It is unreasonable that I should comply with the bold requisitions of a sceptic, who presumes for his own satisfaction to prescribe to me the criterion of truth. Let him alone. Let him follow his
own petulant humour, and be expelled from the college of my faithful adherents.” Such a declaration would have been just, and might have been expected from any other lips besides those into which grace was Divinely poured. Though the gates of heaven were already expanded for the purpose of receiving back its triumphant Lord-though myriads of angels awaited His ascent, poised on the wing of eager expectation, with their harps ready tuned, and their hands raised to strike the melodious halle. lujah; yet the compassionate Friend of sinners could not turn His back on the earth, leaving His anxious disciple in a state of suspense, but first complies with his unreasonable requisitions, and thereby affords him the satisfaction that he demanded. Thus He illustrated the character which the Spirit of prophecy had given Him by the pen of Isaiah, when it described Him as a shepherd that “ carries the lambs in His “ bosom, and gently leads those that are with young.
The feeble and the burthened are His especial care.
What passed between Thomas and his Lord is worthy of particular notice. It is probable that Christ conversed, during the interview, with His other disciples. But His condescension to Thomas is alone recorded, Thus the Spirit of inspiration illustrates and exemplifies His own exhortation to “comfort the feebles minded.”
Thomas, as we have already observed, had rejected the testimony of his brethren that they had seen the Lord, and had required, as the only kind of evidence that could convince him, ocular demonstration of the identity of his per- , son, and even perception by the sense of feeling
that the supposed Jesus was the same who had been crucified. Unreasonable as this conduct was, there is an essential difference between the unbelief of Thomas and the infidelity of the ungodly world. The Scribes and Pharisees maliciously opposed the doctrine of Christ's resur. rection, wishing it to be falsified, and using the basest means to overthrow the evidence of the fact. (See Matth. xxvii. 62, &c. and ch. xxviii. 11, &c.) Whereas Thomas was cordially affected to the doctrine, although, through the weakness of his mind, he disputed the fact. The Bible is a bill of indictment against an unconverted man, which it is his interest to confute, if its confutation be possible. To a weak believer it is the record of a parent's will, the probat of which it is his privilege to substantiate. There is the same distinction to be made between Peter's denial of Christ and the rejection of Him by the Jews. The latter were influenced by batred to His person, character, and doctrine; the former acted under the power of temptation, while his heart was sincerely attached to his Master's name and cause. Let us inquire whether, taking the Bible as an aggregate, contemplating its requisitions as well as its proposals, its precepts as well as its promises, we wish to find it all inviolably true. Are the doctrines of justification and sanctification, in their full extent of latitude-the universal self-denial which Scripture inculcates, as well as the bright reward wbich it exhibits-accordant to judgment and dear to our hearts, so that, were it in our power, we would not alter an iota of the sacred volume? This is the turning point which must determine whether our unbelief be
the imbecility of a gracious mind, or the hostility of an infidel heart.
Our collect informs us that the unbelief of Thomas was the effect of Divine permission. We are not, however, to suppose that God tempted him thereto. But He suffered the occasion to occur in the course of His providence, and the devil to tempt him. And He moreover withheld that grace whereby faith is produced and supported, and without which it cannot exist, and much less be active.
The reason of this permission is stated to have been wise and gracious. It was for the benefit of the church in every succeeding generation of believers. It gave rise to so strong a confirmation of the truth, that even the Atheist Spinoza could no otherwise evade its force than by denying to the Apostles the possession of common sense. By the testimony which the Apostles have borne respecting the fact of the resurrection, from the evidence of their own senses, the church is “ built on the foundation “ of the Apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being & the chief corner-stone,” as the Epistle for the day informs us. The resurrection of our Lord is the key-stone in the arch of salvation.
The effect which was wrought on the mind of the celebrated Gilbert West, by that peculiar evidence of our Lord's resurrection which was afforded to His Apostles, was very remarkable. He and his friend Lord Littleton, both men of acknowledged talents, had imbibed the principles of infidelity from a superficial view of the Scriptures. Fully persuaded that the Bible was an imposture, they were determined to expose the cheat. Mr. West chose the resurrection of Christ, and Lord Littleton the conversion of St. Paul, for the subject of hostile criticism. Both sat down to their respective tasks full of prejudice and a contempt for Christianity. The result of their separate attempts was truly extraordinary. They were both converted by their attempts to overthrow the truth of Chris. tianity. They came together, not, as they expected, to exult over an imposture exposed to ridicule, but to lament their own folly, and to felicitate each other on their joint conviction that the Bible is the word of God. And their inquiries have furnished two most valuable treatises in favour of Revelation-one entitled, Observations on the Conversion of St. Paul, and the other, Observations on the Resurrection of Christ.
But we return to the consideration of our collect, and of the fact on which it is founded. Our Lord's condescension to His hesitating disciple deserves our highest admiration, and encourages the liveliest hope of similar indulgence to our own infirmities. He singled out Thomas from his brethren, and immediately addressed him for the purpose of removing his doubts, graciously complying with his perverse requisitions, and thereby affording a proof of His own omniscience. For so soon as He had uttered His general salutation, He said to Thomas, “ Reach hither thy finger and behold my “ hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust “it into my side: and be not faithless but be“ lieving.'
Thus a compassionate physician visits that patient in the hospital first who most needs his aid. Thus also our Lord sent a special message to Peter on the morning of Hlis resurrection, naming him only among the