« הקודםהמשך »
people wantonly. He will keep them from all evil in the midst of all the evils of the world, except when his glory and their good require affliction. Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus, was called to suffer much pain in sickness. His sisters, whom Jesus loved, were called to the most painful affliction in the death of a brother whom they loved beyond measure. The beloved Lazarus must suffer the pains of death, that Jesus might prove himself to be the Son of God, by raising him from the dead. But what is still more remarkable, Jesus glorifies himself by the suffering of his dearest friends, when he could have proved his Sonship by the death and restoration of his enemies. Christians, take notice. It is not the revilers and blasphemers of the Son of God who are put to suffering and visited with death, in order to prove his dignity. It is his friends who are called to this high honour. The best soldiers are called to mount the breach. God's children are honoured and blessed by being selected to suffer for his glory. If afflictions were not for the good of his children, Christ would have exercised his sovereign power in the sickness and cure of his enemies. His friends he could cover from every evil, and from every danger. When he selects them for suffering, it must be for their own good, as well as for
Let us mark the conduct of Jesus in this affair. Though he loved Lazarus exceedingly, yet he intentionally delayed setting out to visit him for two whole days. This was evidently that Lazarus might be dead before he would arrive. He tells his disciples expressly :-“ I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent that ye may believe." The design of all was, that Lazarus might be dead, and for a considerable time in the grave, in order to confirm the faith of the disciples, as well as afe ford evidence of his pretensions to his enemies. For this reason the feelings of the family of Lazarus must be long distressed, and the sorrow of death must affect them for several days. This was a trial of their faith.
And the Lord's people are often kept in affliction long for a similar reason. The person whom God designs to raise up from the bed on which lies is kept long under sickness, and brought to the very gates of death, that God may at last be glorified in his recovery. And when any dies, as he lived not to himself, so he dies not to himself, but by his death glorifies God.
In this case we see that it is no evidence that the Lord does not hear the prayers of his people, that he does not answer them immediately. The sisters of Lazarus pressed Jesus to come, that their brother might not die. For a long time he came not. He intentionally delayed after the message. But yet he came in time to deliver.
In like manner, the Lord may hear the prayers of his people to spare the life of their beloved relation, though he afflicts long after they call. They should ask and faint not, till the event shall show the mind of the Lord. When this is the case, they should submit in patience, and be satisfied that God has done all things well. Even then their prayers are not lost. If God has not given them what they asked, he can give them what is better. He can perfect strength in their weakness, and make his grace sufficient for them.
THOMAS NOT AT THE MEETING OF THE DISCIPLES
WHEN JESUS APPEARED AFTER HIS RESURREC-
It is remarkable that one of the disciples should have been absent from the assembly on such an interesting occasion. What was the cause of his absence it would be worse than useless to conjecture. But the intention of Providence in it is obvious. It was to display the natural unbelief, as to the things of God, that is in the heart of man; and to teach us the kind of evidence that God accounts sufficient for his saving truth.
Why was one of the disciples absent ? Why was this disciple Thomas ? The narrative itself affords an answer to both questions. Divine Providence intended to give us a specimen of unbelief even in his own people. Thomas was peculiarly incredulous ; therefore he was the person fitted to act the part designed for him on this occasion. If Thomas was afterwards convinced, there is no room left for captiousness to allege that the fact of Christ's resurrection was received by the disciples
on slight grounds, without sufficient evidence and caution.
The unbelief of Thomas was unreasonable and sinful in a degree beyond expression. Why did he not believe the united testimony of the other apostles? He should have received the testimony of any one of them. Unbelief justly exposed him to eternal condemnation. Has Thomas a licence for unbelief, more than any other of the human race? Must he not be liable to condemnation on the same ground with the rest of mankind ? Must he be satisfied in his own whims with respect to the evidence of this fact ? Can he say with innocence, “Except 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 ?” Did ever any infidel express a more unreasonable demand for the evidence of Christ's resurrection, and the truth of the Christian religion ? The demands of sceptics are moderate and sober, compared to this intemperance of unbelief. The most unreasonable of them demand only that a particular revelation of the gospel should be made to every man. This falls far short of the extravagance and unreasonableness of the unbelief of Thomas.
But there is wisdom in this madness. If Thomas is unreasonable, God uses his unreasonableness to effect a great purpose. By this means, in the satisfaction given to Thomas, we have the fact of the resurrection established on evidence beyond all
suspicion. The possibility of delusion is removed ; and the reality that it was Jesus whom the apostles saw, rests not merely on the testimony of their eyes, but of the hands of the most unreasonable unbeliever that ever was in the world. Of all the infidels that ever existed, Thomas was the most extravagant. Voltaire and Hume are men of moderation, compared to this prince of infidels. Nothing will satisfy this philosopher but the handling of the prints of the nails in his Master. Was it not possible that the risen body of Jesus should have had no scars? Was not this the most likely thing to be expected ? That Almighty power which could raise him, could raise him without mark of his crucifixion. But Thomas was in all respects unreasonable ; that through this, Jesus might exhibit bimself with evidence of his resurrection, that the most extravagant incredulity could presume to demand.
By this providential fact the Lord teaches us that his own disciples believe in him, not because they are naturally more teachable, or less incredulous than others. It is God only who overcomes their unbelief. They are not only by nature the children of wrath even as others; but after they are brought to faith and life, the only security of their perseverance is the favour and love of God in Christ. They are kept by faith, and that faith is not of themselves, but is the gift of God. The strongest of all the disciples of Christ would not abide in the faith for a single day, if, like Peter or like Thomas,