« VorigeDoorgaan »
well knew, whose honesty he had no ground to suspect, whose prejudices too had prevailed greatly, say to him: “ We have seen the Lord.” Here are ten witnesses concerning a point about which they could not be easily deceived. And very probably, some others, who had seen Christ separately, told him the same thing. Nevertheless, he did not believe them. Nor would he believe, he said, unless he should himself see and touch the marks of his crucifixion. Thus acted this person, because of some prejudices, too much favoured and indulged. Nevertheless Jesus did not give him up to his unbelief. But he comes again among his disciples, and at a time when Thomas was with them. He shows himself to him, speaks to him, and discovers the strange and positive demand that he had made for his satisfaction.
In like manner, may some others, good and sincere men, reject a sufficient evidence of some truths, on account of prejudices, which have been long and deeply rooted in their minds.
When this is the case, though they should withhold their assent to the first representation of the evidences of some truth; it may not be always reasonable to give them up. It may be fit to take some other opportunity to repeat the evidence, or to set it before them in a different light, or to add new and farther proofs if they can be had. It is a kind and generous work, to carry men on from truth to truth, and bring them to a persuasion of every truth conducive to the enlargement of their minds, and the increase and perfection of their virtue.
Thomas was a Jew and a good man, and believed the general articles of religion. But our Lord does not leave him there. For his own benefit, and the benefit of others, he affords him evidences of his resurrection, till he is convinced ; that thereby he might have farther evidences of a future state, and be acquainted with all the inducements to virtue, and steadiness therein, which would flow from a belief of his resurrection; and might be also able to recommend them to others.
You know how St. Paul solemnly exhorts Timothy. “ Preach the word,” says he“ be instant in season and out of season. Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine," 2 Tim. iv. 1, 2.
4. We may infer from the declaration of our Lord in the text, that the Divine Being in his acceptance of men, and in the recompences he bestows upon them, has a respect to their several circumstances, and their suitable improvements.
It is a general maxim, mentioned by our Lord, Luke xii. 48, “ Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required. And to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more."
The doctrine of the text is to the like purpose. Our Lord pronounceth a special blessing upon such as have not seen, and yet have believed. He that did not see, has not all the same inducements to believe that Thomas had, who saw Christ after his resurrection. In this respect he excels Thomas, who believed upon the evidence of sight, and not before.
If then any one, with less and fewer advantages, attain to an equal degree of faith and virtue with him who has more and greater advantages, he is more commendable, and will be more blessed than the other.
It was very fit that all the apostles of Jesus should have the highest evidence; that they might give the best satisfaction to others concerning his resurrection, and that they might all be eminent examples of zeal, patience, and fortitude.
And yet he who with less advantages equals them in zeal, patience, and fortitude, may be reckoned to exceed and excel them.
We hereby see how difficult it must be to answer that question : “ Who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. xviii. l; a question which the disciples put to our Saviour, when their notions of that kingdom were too worldly and sensual. The question is still very difficult, though our ideas are enlarged; nor can we say, “who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven;" or whence that person shall come; Whether from among those who lived in the time of our Saviour, who heard the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth, and saw the wonderful works that he did; and thereby were filled with a lively faith in God, and in the Son of God, and were excited to labour, and endure hard things for his name's sake. Whether, I say, he shall be one of those who “ have seen, and therefore believed ;" or whether he will be one of those “ who have not seen, and yet have believed.” Whether he may be one who lives in latter times, and by serious and humble inquiry and consideration arrives at a faith of equal strength and activity with those of the more early ages of the gospel, and labours, and suffers, and dies as they did.
Or, whether he shall come from among those, who, nder the obscurer revelations of the divine will, before the coming of Christ, arrived at eminence in all virtue and holiness.
Or, finally, whether he shall come from some of the dark places of the earth, where scarcely one ray of divine revelation has reached; and be a person, who, under the greatest disadvantages for religious knowledge, arrived at some considerable justness of sentiments concerning God, and the way of serving him, and has been there an example of virtue to the men among whom he lived; who had sought, and found, and acknowledged the one God, Creator of the universe, and under great discouragements recommended the worship of God, and the practice of virtue.a
But though we cannot say who will be the greatest, we know, that “ whoever hears Christ's sayings, and doth them,” Matt. v. 19; whoever sincerely " keeps the commandments of God, shall be great in the kingdom of heaven," ch. vii. 24. And we know what are the virtues, and what the works which are in high esteem with the Saviour and Judge of the world : “ feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, and such as are in prison," (especially when it is for a good cause,) and other like offices of benevolence to our fellow-creatures in this state of trial.
Upon the whole, then, let us cherish and improve a faith of invisible things, by serious and impartial consideration ; and attending to the evidence which God has given us; which, though not the highest, is very cogent and sufficient. And let us be concerned to show our faith by works suited to the doctrine of Christ, which we have received, and all the advantages which we enjoy.
• Whoever places the true moral worth and excellence where it ought to be placed, I mean, not in the soundness of the head, but in the soundness of the heart, will easily discern, how possible it is for one professor, that is furnished with the scantiest stock of knowledge, to be a far better, worthier, and more amiable character in life, than another who is possessed of the greatest. And if God, in the great day of tribulation, will render to every one according to his work; for the same reason it is not impossible, after all our boasted advantages in point of knowledge, but that a man, cast upon the most barbarous and illiterate part of the globe, may come off with more applause at that impartial tribunal, than our Clarkes, Newtons, or any other the most distinguished characters, whether of the philosophic, religious, or civil kind.' Dr. J. N. Scott. Serm. xx. vol. ii. p. 416, 417.
JESUS THE SON OF MAN.
And he said unto the disciples : The days will come, when
ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye
shall not see it. Luke xvii. 22. THE words of the text are owing to an inquiry concerning the time of the manifestation of the kingdom of the Messiah; accompanied, it is likely, with indications of their prevailing prejudice concerning its worldly nature. Ver. 20, “ And when he was demanded of the pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come; he answered them, and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation :” or with the outward pomp and splendour visible in earthly kingdoms, exciting wonder and surprise, attracting the eyes, and pleasing the passions, of carnal and worldly people.
Ver. 21, “ Neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there; for the kingdom of God is within you.” Neither will it come after the manner of worldly kingdoms, set up by a great leader, to whose standard all should be invited to resort, to put themselves under his protection, in order to join in advancing it, and share in its emoluments and advantages. « For behold, the kingdom of God,” though you are not pleased to regard it, and the signs of it are such as you disdain to observe, is within you, or among you. It is already begun to be set up, the kingdom of the Messiah is come, the doctrine of it is preached, the rules, and the rewards and privileges of it are published. And it is received by some, who even press into it, and are the willing subjects of it; and rejoice in and shall partake of all its blessings and privileges. · So the kingdom of God was then among them; but not literally within the persons to whom Christ was speaking, as some have thought. For if our Lord be supposed to speak directly to the pharisees, or of them, this kingdom was not within them. It had not gained power in their minds, nor been received and acknowledged by them.
Ver. 22–25, “ And he said unto the disciples, The days will come, when
shall desire to see one of the days of the * Illud evrog juwv recte vertitur, in medio vestri. Conf. Matt. xxi. 43. Grot. in loc.
ye shall not see it. And when they shall say unto you, See here, or see there,” [looking for the appearance of the Messiah,] “ go not after them, nor follow them : for as the lightning that lightens out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven, so shall also the Son of man be in this day:” his kingdom will prevail on a sudden, and his doctrine will make a swift and amazing progress in a very short time, beyond expectation, and without the ordinary methods made use of in advancing worldly designs and interests. 6. But first he must suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation.” So is the context.
In considering the words of this text, there offer to us three several subjects of inquiry. I. How are we to understand that character, the Sou of man? II. Who
persons here spoken to, and said to be the disciples ? III. What our Lord says to them, or the design of this warning and prediction : “ Ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of man, and ye shall not see it.”
I. The first subject of inquiry is, how we ought to understand that character, the Son of man?
And as it is frequently used by our Lord in speaking of himself, we may be desirous to determine the meaning of it. But here, as in many other cases, where certainty would be desirable, it is not a little difficult to find what shall be decisive.
Son of man is often in scripture equivalent to man. Job xxxv. 8, “ Thy wickedness may hurt a man as thou art, and thy righteousness may profit the son of man.” Ps. viii. 4, " What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him?” And Prov. viii, 4, says Wisdom : “ Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men :" or to all men in general, and of every rank, to whom my instructions will be useful, Isa, li, 12, "1, even I am he, which comforteth thee. Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man, that shall die, and of the son of man, which shall be made as grass ?” And in like manner in many other places. See particularly Jer. xlix. 18, 33; ch. I. 40; li. 43. This then is one common, obvious meaning of son of man.
It is the same as man. Some think that the son of man, when used by our Saviour, denotes his high dignity, or a man of distinction and eminence, and is equivalent to Messiah, or the Christ; and that he hereby intends to signify, that he is the great Person spoken of by the prophets, who was to come for the benefit of mankind. And indeed in Dan. vii. 13, 14, is this re