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John xx. 24.
Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not
with them when Jesus came. THE circumstance thus related, became the occasion of a very remarkable passage in the life of Thomas the Apostle. Neither of his acts and labours, nor of his death, have we any account in the Holy Scriptures. They principally represent him to us as the doubting one of the twelve, whom Jesus condescended specially to convince, and to reprove.
It may seem strange, that we should thus be given to know an Apostle, chiefly by a considerable infirmity in his character. So, however, it is in the present instance. And indeed, generally, they who wrote the Gospels appear to have been careful for nothing, but to record the truth without disguise. Every observant reader of those sacred histories must feel sure, that not a single occurrence was either omitted or set down by the Evangelists, with a view to make up a fair account, or to exhibit themselves and their associates in a favourable light. They evidently wrote, as impartial men, whatever the Spirit of Christ suggested to them, scarcely stopping to think how it might be received. Their persuasion was, that the gospel should infallibly be made to stand, not by human wisdom or perfection, but by the almighty power of God: wherefore, nobly disregarding vain objections, they have described, for our admonition, the worldly tempers of James and John, the treachery of Judas, the denial of Peter, and the unbelief of Thomas, in a manner equally simple and open, as if they were describing things of good report, or of a nature to enhance their credit with mankind.
The words of my text are, “ Thomas, one “ of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with “ them when Jesus came.” As to the time and manner of the coming of Jesus herein alluded to, we have to consult some preceding verses. In them it is related, that, “ on the first day of “ the week at even, when the doors were shut “ where the disciples were assembled for fear “ of the Jews, came Jesus” (who had risen from the dead early in the morning of the same day) “ and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, “ Peace be unto you. And when He had so “ said, He shewed them His hands and His “ side,” the better to satisfy their minds that it was He Himself, (lately crucified,) and not another, nor a spirit only, which was appearing to them. On that, the disciples, being sensible that they saw the Lord restored to life, were glad ; and then, after another solemn blessing and address, Jesus mysteriously went out from them, or disappeared. Such was the coming of Jesus to His disciples when Thomas was not with them. Why he was not with them, on what account he was absent from this their assembly, which was probably one of religious worship, we cannot by any means discover. However, it most concerns us to observe the mind with which the Apostle returned. The other Apostles, wishing to make him a partaker of the joy and satisfaction which they had just before experienced, said unto him, “ We 66 have seen the Lord.” But Thomas absolutely, and in a manner rudely, set at naught their testimony on the subject. As if he suspected that they were either false or foolish, and imagined that, in such a matter, no witness could be depended on, he refused to be convinced, save by the evidence of his own senses, that Jesus was alive again from the dead : “ Ex
cept,” he returned answer to their report, “ I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, “ and put my finger into the print of the nails, " and thrust my hand into His side, I will not “ believe.” Hence it appears, that, whereas his fellow-disciples thought it enough to have heard and seen their beloved Master, Thomas was resolved moreover to handle Him, or to remain incredulous.
Perhaps the Apostle supposed himself to be merely adopting the cautious wisdom of a strong-minded man. Nevertheless, he surely betrayed, by his resolution above cited, a considerable weakness of understanding. That one hath risen from the grave, is doubtless a wonderful thing to hear, insomuch that any person may, without blame, decline suddenly, or all at once, to believe it. But the resurrection of Jesus was an event, which Thomas, together with his companions, had been amply forewarned to expect. The ancient prophets had testified, that "it behoved Christ to suffer, “ and to rise from the dead the third day,” as He Himself had lately explained to them. (Psalm xvi. 10. Isaiah liji. Jonah i. 17. Matth. xii 40.) Also, He had previously told the Jews to destroy the temple of his body, and in three days He would raise it up, (John ii. 19.) and had repeatedly mentioned the decease appointed for Him to accomplish at Jerusalem, always with the addition of a distinct assurance to His disciples, that, after so short a period, He would return from the grave. (Mark viii. 31.)
Nor could they justly doubt His power, thus to take again His life which He had laid down, since they had seen Him continually doing wonders, and calling Lazarus, not long before, from the tomb, although he had been four days dead. Wherefore, when in addition to these preparatory circumstances, the ten distinctly informed Thomas of their Lord's appearance to them, he certainly ought not to have returned the answer which he did. Besides, his language, or mode of expression, carries a sound with it, to us, of irreverence. He seems almost to have spoken as a discontented man, who, remembering the failure of his former hopes at the death of Jesus, was hardly disposed to acknowledge His resurrection, while he could delay to do so, and presumes, accordingly, in a somewhat unbecoming style, to proclaim the only conditions on which he will believe. As if a man were not obliged to believe, under pain of the Divine displeasure, whatever important matter shall in any probable way have been declared to him, Thomas would not yield himself to any mode of conviction but one. He almost offensively rejected the word of his brethren, and rashly prescribed the method in which God should make known to him the resurrection of His Son: nothing short of seeing with his eyes and handling with his hands the