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1 Pet. i. 8. Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable
and full of glory. THERE
are three graces mentioned here by the apostle, each of which has a commendation annexed to it. The first is love to Christ, spoken of as raised and ennobled by this circumstance, that it was loving one whom they had not seen; it being far more difficult to place our affections on a person we have never seen, than on one whom we see and converse with. To have an unseen Saviour frequently in our minds, to be often thinking on the excellencies of his person, the greatness of his performance, his wonderful love to us, the sufferings he underwent upon our account, and the blessings he has thereby procured; to make these things the subject of our frequent, serious meditations, so as to excite a holy flame in our souls, is a matter of pains and labour and difficulty; especially since our hearts are so apt to be entangled with the things of sense, and what we daily see and converse with so easily gains our affections; since the love also which is required of us towards the blessed Jesus must exceed that of all things here below, so that we must readily part with them for his sake whenever called out unto it.
The second grace mentioned by the apostle is faith in Christ, in whom believing. This, though mentioned in the second place, is the first in order. For we therefore love Christ, because we believe in him. If we have neither seen him, nor believe in him, it is impossible we should love him. But although we see him not, yet, if we believe in him, we may, and, if we will act like reasonable creatures, we must both love and obey him. Believing in Christ signifies our assenting to the truth of those things which are related concerning him in the Gospels, particularly that he was in the beginning with God, and is God; that all things were made by him; that he condescended to take to him the human nature, led a poor suffering life, and died a cruel lingering death; that he died thus to make atonement for our sins, and reconcile us to God; that the Father was well pleased with the sacrifice he made of himself, raised him from the dead, and has committed all power into his hands; that one day he will come again, attended with the holy angels; raise the dead; cite all, both quick and dead, to appear at his awful tribunal, and pass sentence on them according to their deeds, rendering eternal happiness to those who have obeyed him, the severest everlasting punishment to those who have not. If we yield our assent to the truth of these things, can it be said that we act like rational beings, unless, by submission and obedience to Christ, we prepare for this great and solemn day of reckoning? It is of those who so believe the gospel as to obey it that the apostle is here speaking; for he joins love and joy to the faith mentioned. The faith therefore which the apostle commends is such an assent to the truth of the gospel as has an influence on the heart and life, such as begets in us a sincere and ardent love to Christ, and is the foundation of a true and solid joy; Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, or of praise; a joy truly praiseworthy, approved and applauded by God and all good men, and secretly commended by the consciences even of the wicked themselves. Such a joy proceeds from that faith alone which is fruitful in love and good works.
What I propose to consider more particularly at this time is, the commendation given to the grace of faith, as exercised by the persons the apostle writes to; In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing : it was faith in a Saviour whom they had not seen.
That this circumstance adds a lustre to faith is confirmed to us by our Lord himself, who says to Thomas, Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have believed, John xx. 29. Blessed are they ; i. e. they are more blessed. Whence we may justly conclude that their faith is more praiseworthy.
That we may the better understand how this circumstance adds a lustre to faith, and renders it more commendable, I would offer these two or three things to your consideration : first, this does not in the least imply that in divine matters we are not to seek after proper evidence for what we believe. When the apostle commends the Christians he wrote to for believing in a Saviour whom they had not seen; and our Lord blames Thomas for his in
credulity, and applauds the faith of such who believed in him, though they had not seen him; it is not hereby intended to discourage persons from looking after proper evidence in such matters of religion as are proposed to their belief, or to hint to them that they should blindly assent to things, as the truths of God, without having clear proof given them of their being so. This would be greatly to demean and misemploy the faculties bestowed on
To what end have we a capacity of searching into and examining the truth of things ? Why has God given us a power of considering the evidences that are offered, and judging of their weight and force, if he did not intend it should be exercised by us? That he designed it should be exercised, we are fully informed in the sacred writings, and are exhorted to it. Our blessed Lord, John v. 32. 39, calls upon the Jews to consider the evidence given them of his being the Son of God. He appeals to the testimony of John the Baptist, to the testimony of his Father, by a voice from heaven, and to the miraculous works he enabled him to perform, and to the testimony of the holy scriptures; Search the scriptures; for in them ye think that ye have eternal life, and they are they which testify of me. In many places he appeals to the evidence he gave them of being their Messiah by the wonders he wrought; and, John X. 37, assures them that he expected not any credit from them, if he gave them not full proof Kereof by his works; If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. In another place he plainly declares, that, if he had not given them clear evidence by his miracles of, his being the Son of God, their unbelief had been excusable, John xv. 24. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin. The Bereans are highly applauded for searching into the truth of those things which were spoken by St. Paul, Acts xvii. ll. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. And the apostle John exhorts us, 1 John iv. 1. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world. This therefore most certainly cannot be the meaning of the commendation here given to the faith of these persons, to discourage and prevent our looking after proper evidence for the things that are proposed to us in matters of religion, because this is a thing which the holy scriptures do indeed every where encourage what they command us to do, and applaud Christians for doing. But,
2dly, The plain meaning of it is, that, when proper evidence is offered, we should yield our assent. When such evidence is offered for the truth of those things, which are proposed to our belief in religious matters, as wise men commonly act upon in the affairs and concernments of the present life, we are to yield our assent to the truth of those things, and to act accordingly. Herein Thomas was wanting; and it is this failure of his is blamed by our Lord. He did not yield to proper evidence, to that evidence which could not have been gainsaid by him in any other case, and that was the testimony of many credible persons who had seen our Lord after his resurrection. As to the thing reported by them,