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disciples, that He might assure his disconsolate soul of his Lord's continued friendship, notwithstanding his late grievous act of apostacy. (Mark xvi. 7.)
While, however, our Lord invited Thomas to satisfy himself to the utmost respecting the doubts which he had entertained, a severe though tacit rebuke was intended in that invitation-a rebuke which Thomas must doubtless have felt most keenly. But Oh! what pity beautifies the Saviour's face, whilst we see Him suffering His worm to dictate to Him! How strikingly was His own promise by the prophet Ezekiel, (ch. xxxiv. 16) fulfilled in this instance! “I will seek that “ which was lost, and bring again that which was “ driven away; and I will bind up that which was
broken, and I will strengthen that which was - sick.”
St. Thomas, immediately overcome by the flood of evidence which poured on his mind, in ecstacy cried out, “My Lord, and my God.” Ashamed of his guilty doubts, and overwhelmed with admiration of the grace which had been vouchsafed to him, he adored its author with lively gratitude and joy. Those only to whom Christ has been spiritually revealed, after a season of mental darkness and distress, can conceive what the holy Apostle felt when he uttered this precious confession of his faith.
The explicit acknowledgment of our Lord's Divinity which Thomas made without receiving any reproof for it, is an argument in favour of that cardinal doctrine which cannot be evaded by attributing the exclamation to the effect of surprize. For surely if our Lord had not been justly intitled to these ascriptions of Deity, He would have corrected the mistake of His disciple, acting the same part which Barnabas and Paul acted on a like occasion. (Acts xiv. 14, 15.) But no such correction took place; and we are therefore warranted to address the highest adoration to our incarnate Saviour, as Jehovah and “over all God s6 blessed for ever."
We may and doubtless do err in a failure of giving Him the honour which is due unto His name; but excess is here impossible.
On this narrative of the interview between our Lord and St. Thomas, our church founds a prayer to God for grace that we may “so perfectly, and “ without all doubt, believe in His Son's resurrec- tion, that our faith in His sight may never be “reproved.” Faith in its origin, progress, and establishment being the work of God within us, we properly look up to Him for the assistance of His grace, that we may believe to the saving of our souls. And the petition is of the utmost importance ; since faith is the principal and parent grace of the Christian character, without which it is impossible to please God or to inherit His promises. O how earnest, then, should we be in imploring a continuance and increase of faith in our souls!
That the faith of God's people is liable to fail of producing its proper effects, is evident from the instances of Peter, of Thomas, of Abraham though styled the father of the faithful, and of innumerable others. Indeed a perpetual vacillation of mind must inevitably take place, whenever God withholds His supporting grace; for faith lives and acts by a derivation of power from Him. And God sometimes sees it necessary, as in the case of Thomas, to withdraw that aid from which the exercise of faith results. Our correction for remissness in duty, our further humiliation, and the promotion of increasing fervency
in spirit, render a .temporary and partial dereliction an act of wisdom and mercy.
The suspension of that gracious influence which is necessary to the exercise of faith is always the consequence of sin. And therefore those defects in faith which it occasions are a just cause of Divine reproofs. Indeed the workings of unbelief are so dishonourable to the Lord Christ, by tending to defeat, so far as they are permitted to extend, the purposes of His incarnation, sufferings, and death, that they are peculiarly offensive to God. It is no wonder therefore that they meet with keen reprehension. Unbelief, whenever it is predominant and final, excludes its subject from any participation of Divine mercy. This was the cause of the destruction which overtook in the wilderness all the Israelites who came out of Egypt, except two persons. (Heb.iii. 19, and iv. 6.) This occasioned also in the Jewish church the privation of its privileges as the church of
“ Because of unbelief they were broken « off.” (Rom. xi. 20.) And even when it partially prevails in the bosoms of true disciples, it is very provoking to God. For it is recorded, (Mark xvi. 14) that our Lord “ UPBRAIDED His
disciples with their unbelief” respecting His resurrection from the dead. Well therefore may we pray, considering how ready we are to stagger, how offensive it is to God, how dishonourable to our blessed Saviour, and how injurious to ourselves, that we may be enabled “so stedfastly to “ believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, that our faith “ in His sight may never be reproved."
But it may be asked, whether so steadfast belief as is deserving of no reproof, is possible to be maintained? It is certain, that no Christian's faith hath ever been free from defects, or .
commensurate with the Divine declarations and promises. It is, however, our duty and privilege continually to implore an increase of faith, to strive against unbelief, and to mourn over its remains within our bosoms. We have moreover cause for thankfulness, if we are preserved from those flagrant failures which would openly disgrace our profession, dishonour our Lord, and dangerously wound our own souls.
At the close of our collect we repeat our petition, and enforce it by the all-effectual plea which the merit of our Lord affords us-beseeching God to “hear us through the same Jesus “ Christ our Lord” who is the object of our faith. Christ and His Father are one, in essence and in will. The same compassion therefore, which our Lord manifested to His doubting disciple Thomas, we may expect in answer to our prayer. We may indulge a well-founded persuasion that our faith will be strengthened and confirmed unto the end. Oh! that both the reader and writer may be earnest for an increase of this precious grace! Our utmost importunity is justified by the importance of the boon which we implore, and our success insured by the faithful promises of God. Confident therefore of a favourable answer, let us ascribe to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, “all honour and glory, now and ever« more." Amen.
THE CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL.
O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Saint Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine through the world ; Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may shew forth our thankfulness unto thee, by following the holy doctrine which he taught, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
MIDST the great cloud of witnesses who
have attested the truth and excellence of Christianity, by their doctrine, lives, and deaths, there is one who in a peculiar manner claims our attention. The circumstances of his conversion were singular; the extent of his usefulness was unparalleled; to him we are indebted as the amanuensis of the Holy Ghost for a very large proportion of the New Testament Scriptures; of him the sacred historian's pen, under the guidance of Divine inspiration, has written more largely than of any other Apostle; and (what ought deeply to interest our feelings) there is strong reason to believe that he first planted the gospel in our own island. Recollecting therefore this most important æra of our national history, it becomes us to be deeply thankful while we commemorate the conversion of St. Paul.
St. Paul is not commemorated in the church by his death or martyrdom, as the other Apostles are, but by his conversion, on account of the remarkable circumstances which attended