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SERMON IX.

THE GOSPEL SIGN ADDRESSED TO FAITH.

Matt. xii. 38.

“ Then certain of the Scribes and of the Pharisees answered,

saying, Master, we would see a Sign from Thee.”

THESE Scribes and Pharisees, though Christ had wrought among them “works which none other man did,” and, as one of their own company confessed, no man could do miracles such as His “except God were with him,” persisted in asking for some decisive Sign, which would prove His divinity beyond all question. In His reply, our Lord denied and yet promised such a sign. He says, “ An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; there shall no sign be given to it, but the Sign of the Prophet Jonas.” In this sentence it is implied, both that their wishes were not to be granted, yet that a great miracle was to be wrought.

On a second occasion they asked again, Sadducees as well as Pharisees : they “came, and tempting, desired Him that He would show them a sign from heaven.” Joshua had stopped the sun and moon “in the sight of Israel ;" Samuel had brought thunder at harvest time; they asked for a similar miracle. They asked for a sign from heaven ; He answered still by promising a Sign from the earth,—a sign like his, who was “three days and three nights in the whale's belly." A Sign was to be wrought and was to disappoint them: it was to be a Sign, but not to them ; hence our Lord says in the parallel passage in St. Mark, “ Verily I say unto you, there shall no sign be given to this generation !.”

In an earlier part of His ministry, the same question had been asked, and the same answer given under a different image. The Jews “said unto Him, what sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?” He in like manner answers ; Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise

2.” They misunderstood Him, and He did not set them right. For they were to see, and see not; they were not to witness the Sign then, nor were they allowed to apprehend His language now. of the resurrection of His body, and they were not at that season to see Him whom they had pierced.

Now what is remarkable in this passage is this, that our Lord promised a great sign parallel to those wrought by the old prophets; yet, instead of being public, as theirs was, it was in the event, like Jonah's, a secret sign. Few saw it; it was to be received by all, but on faith ; it was addressed to the

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He spoke humble and lowly. When it took place, and St. Thomas refused to believe without sight, our Lord said to him, “Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” The Apostle, perhaps, might have been arguing, “If this be the Lord's great Sign, surely it is to be seen. What is meant by the resurrection but an evidence which is to be addressed to my senses? I have to believe, and this is to assure my belief." Yet St. Thomas would have been more blessed, had he believed Christ's miraculous Presence without seeing it; and our Lord implied that such persons there would be.

1 Matt. xvi. 1. Mark viii. 12.

2 John ii. 19,

Now what makes this a subject of interest to us is, that our Lord does expressly promise all Christians a certain gracious manifestation of Himself, which it is natural, at first sight, to suppose a sensible one: and many persons understand it to be such, as if it were not more blessed to believe than to see. Our

“ He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me, shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.” When Jude asked Him, “ Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world ?” our Lord answered, “ If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make our abode with him ?.”

Lord says;

1 John xiv. 21-23,

In accordance with this promise, St. Paul says, “The Spirit Itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God;" and St. John, “ He that believeth on the Son of God, hath the witness in himself.”

Now, that this great gift, whatever it be, is of a nature to impart illumination, sanctity, and peace, to the soul to which it comes, far from disputing, I would earnestly maintain. And, in this indirect way, doubtless, it is in a certain sense apprehended and perceived ; perceived in its effects, with a consciousness that those effects cannot come of themselves, but imply a gift from which they come, and a presence of which they are, as it were, the shadow, a voice of which they are the echo. But there are persons who desire the inward manifestation of Christ to be much more sensible than this. They will not be contented without some sensible sign and direct evidence that God loves them; some assurance, in which faith has no part, that God has chosen them; and which may answer to their anticipations of what Scripture calls “ the secret of the Lord,” and “ that hidden manna” which Christ invites us to partake. Some men, for instance, hold that their conscience would have no peace, unless they recollected the time when they were converted from darkness to light, from a state of wrath to the kingdom of God. Others consider, that in order to have the seal of election in them, they must be able to discern in themselves certain feelings or frames of mind, a renunciation of their own merit, and an apprehension of gospel salvation; as if it were not enough to renounce ourselves and follow Christ, without the lively consciousness that we are doing so; and that in this lies “the secret of the Lord.” Others go further; and think that without a distinct inward assurance of his salvation, a man is not in a saving state. This is what men often conceive; not considering that whatever be the manifestation promised to Christians by our Lord, it is not likely to be more sensible and more intelligible than the great sign of His own Resurrection. Yet even that, like the miracle wrought upon Jonah, was in secret, and they who believed without seeing it were more blessed than those who saw.

All this accords with what is told us about particular divine manifestations in other parts of Scripture. The saints reflected on them afterwards, and mastered them, but can hardly be considered as sensible of them at the very time. Thus Jacob, after the vision, says; “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” Manoah said to his wife, after the Angel had departed, “ We shall surely die because we have seen God.” Gideon in like circumstances said, “ Alas, O Lord God, for because I have seen an Angel of the Lord face to face.” And St. Peter, while the Angel was delivering him out of prison, though he obeyed him, yet “wist not that it was true which was done by the Angel, but thought he saw a vision;" but “ when he was come to himself, he said, Now I

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