Saturday, July 03, 2004

The Feast of St. Thomas, Apostle and Martyr
is today. There is information on him here.

Returning, then, to what I said when I began, we see now how it was that our Lord praised easiness of belief, and condemned hardness of belief. To be easy in believing is nothing more or less than to have been ready to inquire; to be hard of belief is nothing else but to have been loth and reluctant to inquire. Those whose faith He praised had no stronger evidence than those whose unbelief He condemned; but they had used their eyes, used their reason, exerted their minds, and persevered in inquiry till they found; while the others, whose unbelief He condemned, had heard indeed, but had let the divine seed lie by the roadside, or in the rocky soil, or among the thorns which choked it. And here I am led to say, what seems to me, as far as it is reverent to conjecture it, the fault of the holy Apostle St. Thomas. He said that he would not believe that our Lord had risen, unless he actually saw Him. What! is there not more than one way of arriving at faith in Christ? are there not a hundred proofs, distinct from each other, and all good ones? Was there no way of being sure He came from God, except that of seeing the great miracle of the resurrection? Surely there were many others; but St. Thomas prescribed the only mode in which he would consent to believe in Him. This was the case of his countrymen also, for in this point he only did what they had done. The Jews had long been the people of God, and they had the writings of the Prophets. The fulfilment of the prophecies in the Person of our Lord was the most obvious and natural evidence to the Jews that He was the Messias; but they would not accept this evidence, and determined to have another. They determined to be convinced in one particular way, viz., by miracles; and when, out of the superabundant mercy of God, miracles were wrought before their eyes, then they would choose the special kind of miracle which was to convince them, and would not believe, unless it was a miracle to their liking. And hence it was that our Lord said, as I have already quoted His words: "Unless ye see signs and wonders, ye believe not." Hence too He said, on other occasions: "O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all things which the Prophets have spoken." And: "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they believe if one rise again from the dead." And: "An evil and adulterous generation seeketh a sign, and a sign shall not be given it, but the sign of Jonas the Prophet." And hence the Jews of Thessalonica are censured, and the Bereans, on the contrary, praised, "who received the word with all eagerness, daily searching the Scriptures, whether these things were so." It is added, "and many of them believed." And therefore, in the instance of St. Thomas, I say that, when he was so slow to believe, his fault lay in thinking he had a right to be fastidious, and to pick and choose by what arguments he would be convinced, instead of asking himself whether he had not enough to convince him already; just as if, forsooth, it were a great matter to his Lord that he should believe, and no matter at all to himself. And therefore it was, that, while Christ so graciously granted him the kind of proof he desired, He said to him for our sakes: "Because thou hath seen Me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed."

Venerable John Henry Newman,C.O.,Sermons Preached on Various Occasions


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