But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.…
Let us consider —
I. THE LEGITIMACY OF DOUBTING.
1. It is an evil habit to always think of doubt as sinful. It may be, because it may be the sign of a captious and insincere mind; but what can and ought a man do but doubt, if the evidence is not sufficient? Christian faith, it is true, is more than an act of the reason, but it never contradicts, and is itself, so far, an exercise of reason.
2. Are we to believe because our ancestors believed, and so gave us the Christian faith as an inheritance? Partly so; but never chiefly. If we are right-minded, right-hearted, we cannot help some preferences in favour of what comes to us from our forefathers. But this never can justify us in accepting the Christian faith. We must put on it the stamp of our own intelligence, and hold it in the grip of our own conviction.
3. It were better for us to be satisfied with evidence when it is enough than to be so critical and exacting as to demand that it shall be irresistible; better to be satisfied with the testimony of two senses than to require the concurring testimony of a third. Still, there are always those who are not so easily satisfied as their brethren. And when Thomas asks for more evidence, there is nothing to be done but to furnish it.
4. We have the highest of all examples for this procedure — Jesus Himself, who made this distinct appearance to satisfy His doubting disciple, and all besides him who are of his temper and school.
II. DOUBT, IF IT IS TO CONTINUE TO BE LEGITIMATE AND WHOLESOME, MUST BE ALWAYS ACTING AS A FORCE, URGING MATTERS ON TO A PRACTICAL AND DECISIVE SETTLEMENT.
1. A merely speculative scepticism that entertains questions politely for a few hours simply for intellectual interest; that puts the Christian religion among the things, waiting a far-off day of settlement; is a most injurious habit. All deep earnestness is against it; and all high living; and all Holy Scripture; and the whole mind and heart of Christ.
2. That Christ did exist no sane man will deny. It will be granted, too, that some respect ought to be paid to His own wish and will in considering the matter of His claims. Here, then, is One who has filled the world with His name and influence; who never published a line, and yet has set all the world publishing books about Him; who never led an army, and yet has overrun the four quarters of the world; who never entered a palace, and yet exercises a sovereignty that kings might well envy. Now, has not He a right to say something as to the way His claims shall be treated? This is what he says, "Reach hither thy finger," &c. Some one says, "I acknowledge Jesus Christ to be the chief of the sons of men." That will not do. "Reach hither thy finger, and behold My hand." The hand that laboured, that healed, that blessed the little children, that rolled back the gates of Death. Another says, "I see that Jesus Christ wields a vast influence over many hearts and over all the world, and with that influence I have no intention of interfering." That will not do. "Reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into My side!" into the love-wound; the fountain of this world's purity; the only place where salvation can be found. Another says, "I shall remain neutral for a while; there can be no harm in that." That will not do. "Be not" or literally "Become not unbelieving, but believing." Every man is becoming something more and more each day. The matter will not remain in balance. Consciously or unconsciously, it will ever grow to firmer faith or deeper unbelief. Therefore press the matter to settlement.
III. HOW IS THIS SETTLEMENT TO BE REACHED?
1. It was easy for Thomas to do it. Or, rather, it was easy for him to reach satisfaction without doing it. Apparently, he never did reach thither his finger. He was surprised, most of all, to hear his own expressions of doubt reproduced, when no one could have told the Master of them. All doubting is over now, and all desire is gratified: "My Lord and my God!"
2. The same principle operates still. A man lays down certain conditions as indispensable; but as he goes on he finds he can believe without them. Doubts are solved by the heart as well as by the intellect. There must, of courser be apprehended truth, else faith is only a superstition. But where there is an earnest mind the way of life will be plain and open. Now let us think again how Thomas was satisfied, and what the kind of proof was that brought him into this happy condition. Not by touching, for he never touched Him; not by seeing., although he did see Him; not by hearing, although he did hear, and knew the voice. The proof taking rank above all proofs was that God was near, and that he felt the awful glorious presence.
3. But where is the analogy between Thomas and any living person now? Here it is common now for those who reject Christianity to say, "Faith is not at our bidding. Show us the truth, and give us sure proof of it, and there will be no question left." And if we ask, "What kind of proof," &c., the answer is, "I can construct an argument in logic, so that no sane man will be able to resist the conclusion; or, I can demonstrate a mathematical problem, so that there can be no demur; or I can make a scientific experiment, so that a particular result shall lie before the eyes of every observer." Do you the same by religion, and then you may blot the word "unbeliever" out of your vocabulary. Now what is all this but to say with Thomas, in his honest but lower mood, "Except I shall see," &c. And yet he did believe with less than this, and so does many a one now who thinks for a while that he never can.
4. Let it be plainly told we have no certainty of a mathematical, logical, scientific kind. We use the means for rational conviction. In a sense we try the Lord and His great claims, as He says we may, by rational and outward tests. If we had not these to begin with, we could make no beginning. But as we begin to reach forth the finger of examination and the hand of verification, and thus approach the great central person Himself, we feel how true it is that spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and that "no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost."
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.