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destruction of Jerusalem, with all the minute circumstances of .agreement between the prophecy and execution: the rejection of the Jewish nation for so many ages, and with the most eminent marks of distinction: the extensive and quick propagation of the gospel answerable to what was foretold, notwithstanding the greatest oppositions, and by instruments very unlikely to conquer the world to the obedience of faith: the many sufferings of the professors of it, their courage and constancy, and yet the growth of Christianity under all: the rise and progress of the man of sin: and other such proofs.
We have also the standing evidence of the power of the gospel, in the mighty change it produces in the tempers and lives of some in every age: would to God there were more such instances in our degenerate times, to strike the world around with conviction and admiration! Blessed be God, that therq are some. Those who actually feel the virtue of it, "have the witness in themselves."
These things may shew that in our present circumstances, faith in Christ is most reasonably claimed from us, though we have never seen him.
3. Faith in Christ, upon the foundations we now have, is sufficient to supply the want of sight, for all practical purposes. If we are willing to believe the testimony of God, upon as full attestations that it comes from him as we are entirely satisfied with in other cases, we cannot want considerations fit to influence us to every part of the Christian life. The object of faith, the doctrine of the gospel, contains abundant evidence of things not seen; a full proof of them, though we see them not: by faith we receive that evidence or proof as God's testimony: and if we do it sincerely, we shall act and govern ourselves by it. We have those truths recorded in the scripture, which our Lord delivered by word of mouth; and the same credentials enrolled there for the use of all ages, which Christ then gave. If we are insensible of the obligations arising from these things in our present circumstances: whatever we may imagine, it may justly be concluded, that we should have been among the unbelievers in Christ's own time; that the same prejudices and corrupt affections would have prevailed with us to reject Christ in person, which hinder us from entertaining him as offered in the gospel.
4. We are called to believe many things concerning Christ,
which none ever saw ; and therefore for those things at least, we are upon a level with those who conversed with him in our world. His life and death, and resurrection, and ascension, were indeed made objects of sense to some; but his divine na-. ture, and the designs of his death, were entirely matters of faith to them as well as to us. What Christ is now in heaven, what he is doing there, and what he will do when he shall come again the second time, ever were things out of the reach of sense, as they are now : eye hath not seen them, though the ear hath heard them; they were believed upon the word of Christ, and of his inspired apostles, and so they should be by. us. These things which are as important in Christianity as those which were once obvious to sense, and which have as great an influence upon the Christian temper, were solely matters of faith to the first Christians as well as to us. 5. There is a peculiar excellence in the faith of Christians, as thus circumstanced ; that it is a faith in a Saviour whom they have not seen. The goodness of faith consists in a readiness to believe and govern ourselves by the testimony of God, as far as we can discern it. There was nothing commendable in persons believing that such and such facts came to pass, that such mighty works were done, which they saw with their eyes, and therefore could not but believe : but all that was morally good in their faith was, that they were led by these evidences to believe unseen things upon the testimony of God. The case is the same now ; the grace of faith is altogether a different thing from sight; and if our sensible evidence be less than that of the first Christians; yet as long as it is sufficient, our faith thus circumstanced shews a more prompt inclination to take God’s word, where we have ground enough to believe that he speaks, though we should not have such over-bearing evidences as some have had. The language of it is ; “I am willing to know the mind of God, howsoever he pleases to make it known to me; I prescribe not to him the way; I acquiesce in the method, which his wisdom, and goodness, and sovereignty chooses, for making me acquainted with it; as long as I am convinced that I have his testimony, I would fall in with it, and guide myself by it; and therefore I receive a Saviour, who I am well assured comes from him, though I have never seen him as some did.” This is a temper of mind honourable to God, becoming a reasonable creature,
and one who is in earnest concerned for the interests of lis soul. 6. We have encouragement to hope, that our faith in an unseen Saviour will be peculiarly acceptable. We not only find Christ praying before his sufferings for those who should afterwards believe in him through the word of his apostles, as well as for his present disciples; John xvii. 20. but also after his resurrection pronouncing a peculiar blessedness upon those who should “believe in him, though they saw him not,” John xx. 29. Hereby we give glory to God, as strong in faith; and God will accordingly honour such a faith. The apostle writing to the Thessalonians, who were called into the kingdom and fellowship of the Lord Jesus after his leaving the world tells them, 2 Thess. i. 10. that “he should come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe, because (says the apostle) our testimony among you was believed.” INFERENCEs.—1. We may see the wisdom of divine providence, in adjusting the circumstances of those in his visible church in so equitable proportion on one another. It is true he is a sovereign, and does not give to all advantages alike. In this as well as in other respects, to some he gives ten talents, to others five, and to others one. But then he requires from none any more than in proportion to their talents. And besides that in relation to the state of the church from one age to another, there may be observed a remarkable ballancing of advantages and ofdisadvantages: of which the case before us is one instance, th state of those who saw Christ in the flesh, and of those who have not seen him. 2. We may see the necessity of divine grace in order to saving faith in every age of the church. During Christ's ministry, and since also, the gospel is to some a savour of life unto life, and to others, of death unto death ; and in both periods, faith is to be considered as “the gift of God,” Eph. ii. 8. When the gospel was effectual to produce saving faith in the primitive times, it was “the power of God unto salvation,” Rom. i. 16. mighty through God; and so it is still. And therefore, while we are considering the excellencies of gospeldiscoveries in themselves, and the evidences given us of their
truth, we should earnestly apply to God for his grace to form
our minds to a faith unfeigned, a faith of the operation of God; and through the whole course of the Christian life, which is animated by faith, we should make it our daily prayer, “Lord, increase our faith,” Luke xvii. 5. * 8. We may collect the usefulness of a standing ministry in the church. Since Christ has left the world, and was a preacher of his gospel in person, only for a few years, and to one country; it was fit, that there should be some in every age and in all places, as far as may be, to preach the gospel to every creature. “How shall men call on him, whom they have not believed 2 and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Rom. x. 14. I'or this purpose the apostles were employed to propagate the gospel; but they did not leave the matter there, but appointed “elders (standing presbyters,) to be ordained in every city,” Tit. i. 5. And Paul enjoins Timothy, 2 Tim. ii. 3. “The things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” If it should be said, that the need of such is now superseded by the gospel’s being committed to writing ; I answer, the writings of the New Testament appoint this farther provision, as in the place just mentioned, and therefore for certain do not supersede it. All our doctrine indeed must be tried by the written word; we are not lords of men's faith, but helpers of their joy; and nothing which we deliver hath any authority, farther than we can support it by evidence from the scriptures. But the business of ministers is to help you to understand the scriptures, and to represent to your consciences the truths contained there. If there were no such provision, I believe religion would be at a far lower ebb in the world than it is. It is God's appointed and usual way for bringing men to the obedience of faith, and for the perfecting of the saints, to instruct, admonish and exhort men by men like themselves, who have the same everlasting interests to mind, and need the same Saviour as they do. 4. We have reason to be content with the circumstances of that age of the world, wherein our lot is cast. We are favoured with sufficient advantages, and are encouraged to apply for the same grace to make them effectual. And indeed the condition we are in, that we see not the Saviour in whom we believe, is entirely of a piece with the rest of the Christian's state
in this world. The main objects of our attention and concern, as Christians, are things invisible. "We walk by faith, and Hot. by sight," 2 Cor. v. 7. We "look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen," chap. iv. 18. Our chief concern is with an invisible God, Heb. xi. 27- The principal benefits we have to value are spiritual blessings, Eph. h 3. And the inheritance we are born to is out of sight. It is suitable therefore to all the ms% that our Redeemer should be so too. This is a circumstance, which may greatly contribute to promote one principal branch of the Christian disposition, to aspire after a heavenly country when we must consider our dear Saviour, as already there at "the right hand of God," Col . iii. 1. It facilitates to a Christian the work of dying, to think that his death is not a removal from his Lord, but going to him.
5. Let us be very solicitous, that under our many advantages, and by the help of that grace so ready to be bestowed, we may believe to the saving of our souk. That every part of the testimony, which God hath borne to his Son, be readily entertained by us; and that we receive and' appropriate him to ourselves for all the uses and purposes, for which he is offered in the gospel.
6. Let our faith in him be allowed its proper practical influence upon the whole Christian temper and life. More immediately upon those holy dispositions toward Christ himself, of which the text speaks? love to him, and joy in him. If our faith thus work by love, and work us up to the genuine joy of living Christians, this cannot fail to animate the whofe of the divine life.