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John 20:24-25

24. But Thomas, one of the twelve, who was called Didymus, 211211     “Qui est appel, Gemeau;” — “who is called Twin.” was not with them when Jesus came. 25. The other disciples, therefore, said to him, We have seen the Lord. But he said to them, If I do not see in his hands the print 212212     Ou, le lieu, ou, les enseignes;”“or, the place, or, the marks.” of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, 213213     “Et si je ne mets mon doigt ou estoyent les cloux;” — “and if I do not put my finger where the nails were.” and put my hand into his side, I will not believe. 26. And after eight days, his disciples were again within, and Thomas with them. Then Jesus came, while the doors were shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be to you. 27. Then he saith to Thomas, Reach hither thy linger, and behold my hands; and reach thy hand, and put it into mv side; and be not faithless, but believing. 28. Thomas answered, and said to him, My Lord and my God! 29. Jesus saith to him, Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed; blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed.

 

24. But Thomas, one of the twelve. The unbelief of Thomas is here related, that by means of it the faith of the godly may be more fully confirmed. He was not only slow and reluctant to believe, but even obstinate. His dulness of apprehension was the reason why Christ again permitted them both to see and to feel him, in the same manner as before. In this manner, a new addition to the proof of Christ’s resurrection was given, not only to Thomas, but, also to us. Besides, the obstinacy of Thomas is an example to show, that this wickedness is almost natural to all men, to retard themselves of their own accord, when the entrance to faith is opened to them.

25. Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails. This points out the source of the vice to be, that every one wishes to be wise from his own understanding, and flatters himself beyond measure. If I do not see, says he, “and if I do not touch, I will not believe.214214     “Si je ne voy point, dit il, et si je ne touche, je ne croirai point.” These words have no approach to faith, but it is what may be called a sensual judgment, by which I mean, a judgment which is founded on the perception of the senses, 215215     “C’est a dire, qui est fonde sur l’apprehension des sens.” The same thing happens to all who are so devoted to themselves 216216    Qui sont tellement adonnez a leur propre sens.” that they leave no room for the word of God. It is of no consequence, whether you read the place, or the shape, or The Print of the nails; for transcribers may have exchanged τύπον (print) for τόπον, (place,) or τόπον (place) for τύπον, (print;) but the meaning is not altered on that account. Let the reader, therefore, choose which of them he shall prefer. 217217     Car les deux mots Grecs ne sont point differens qu’en une lettre, et il est aisc de prendre Pun pour l’autre;for the two Greek words differ only in a single letter, and one of them might easily be taken for the other.”

26. Reach hither thy finger. We have already spoken once about Christ’s entrance, and the form of salutation which he employed. When Christ so readily yields to the improper request of Thomas, 218218     “Ce qu’il avoit demande par l’obstination et l’opiniastrete;” — “what he had asked through obstinacy and stubbornness.” and, of his own accord, invites him to feel his hands, and touch the wound of his side, we learn from this how earnestly desirous he was to promote our faith and that of Thomas; for it was not to Thomas only, but to us also, that he looked, that nothing might be wanting which was necessary for confirming our faith.

The stupidity of Thomas was astonishing and monstrous; for he was not satisfied with merely beholding Christ out wished to have his hands also as witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. Thus he was not only obstinate, but also proud and contemptuous in his treatment of Christ. Now, at least, when he saw Christ, he ought to have been overwhelmed with shame and amazement; but, on the contrary, he boldly and fearlessly stretches forth his hand, as if he were not conscious of any guilt; for it may be readily inferred from the words of the Evangelist, that he did not repent before that he had convinced himself by touching. Thus it happens that, when we render to the word of God less honor than is due to it, there steals upon us, without our knowledge, a glowing obstinacy, which brings along with it a contempt of the word of God, and makes us lose all reverence for it. So much the more earnestly should we labor to restrain the wantonness of our mind, that none of us, by improperly indulging in contradiction, and extinguishing, as it were, the feeling of piety, may block up against ourselves the gate of faith.

My Lord and my God! Thomas awakes at length, though late, and as persons who have been mentally deranged commonly do when they come to themselves, exclaims, in astonishment, My Lord and my God! For the abruptness of the language has great vehemence; nor can it be doubted that shame compelled him to break out into this expression, in order to condemn his own stupidity. Besides, so sudden an exclamation shows that faith was not wholly extinguished in him, though it had been choked; for in the side or hands of Christ he does not handle Christ’s Divinity, but from those signs he infers much more than they exhibited. Whence comes this, but because, after forgetfulness and deep sleep, he suddenly comes to himself? This shows, therefore, the truth of what I said a little ago, that the faith which appeared to be destroyed was, as it were, concealed and buried in his heart.

The same thing happens sometimes with many persons; for they grow wanton for a time, as if they had cast off all fear of God, so that there appears to be no longer any faith in them; but as soon as God has chastised them with a rod, the rebellion of their flesh is subdued, and they return to their right senses. It is certain that disease would not, of itself, be sufficient to teach piety; and hence we infer, that, when the obstructions have been removed, the good seed, which had been concealed and crushed, springs up. We have a striking instance of this in David; for, so long as he is permitted to gratify his lust, we see how he indulges without restraint. Every person would have thought that, at that time, faith had been altogether banished from his mind; and yet, by a short exhortation of the Prophet, he is so suddenly recalled to life, that it may easily be inferred, that some spark, though it had been choked, still remained in his mind, and speedily burst into a flame. So far as relates to the men themselves, they are as guilty as if’ they had renounced faith and all the grace of the Holy Spirit; but the infinite goodness of God prevents the elect from falling so low as to be entirely alienated from God. We ought, therefore, to be most zealously on our guard not to fall from faith; and yet we ought to believe that God restrains his elect by secret bridle, that they may not fall to their destruction, and that He always cherishes miraculously in their hearts some sparks of faith, which he afterwards, at the proper time, kindles anew by the breath of his Spirit.

There are two clauses in this confession. Thomas acknowledges that Christ is his Lord, and then, in the second clauses, 219219     “Au second membre.” he ascends higher, and calls him also his God. We know in what sense Scripture gives to Christ the name of Lord. It is, because the rather hath appointed him to be the highest governor, that he may hold all things under his dominion., that every knee may bow before him, (Philippians 2:10,) and., in short, that he may be the Father’s vicegerent in governing the world. Thus the name Lord properly belongs to him, so far as he is the Mediator manifested in the flesh, and the Head of the Church. But Thomas, having acknowledged him to be Lord, is immediately carried upwards to his eternal Divinity, and justly; for the reason why Christ descended to us, and first was humbled, and afterwards was placed at the Father’s right hand, and obtained dominion over heaven and earth, was, that he might exalt us to his own Divine glory, and to the glory of the Father. That our faith may arrive at the eternal Divinity of Christ., we must begin with that knowledge which is nearer and more easily acquired. Thus it has been justly said by some, that by Christ Man we are conducted to Christ God, because our faith makes such gradual progress that, perceiving Christ on earth, born in a stable, and hanging on a cross., it rises to the glory of his resurrection, and, proceeding onwards, comes at length to his eternal life and power, in which his Divine Majesty is gloriously displayed.

Yet we ought to believe, that we cannot know Christ as our Lord, in a proper manner, without immediately obtaining also a knowledge of his Divinity. Nor is there any room to doubt that this ought to be a confession common to all believers., when we perceive that it is approved by Christ. He certainly would never have endured that the Father should be robbed of the honour due to him, and that this honor should be falsely and groundlessly conveyed to himself. But he plainly ratifies what Thomas said; and, therefore, this passage is abundantly sufficient for refuting the madness of Arius; for it is not lawful to imagine two Gods. Here also is declared the unity of person in Christ; for the same Jesus Christ 220220     “Un mesme Jesus Christ.” is called both God and Lord. Emphatically, to, he twice calls him his own, MY Lord and MY God! declaring, that he speaks in earnest, and with a lively sentiment of faith.

29. Because thou hast seen me, Thomas. Christ blames nothing in Thomas, but that he was so slow to believe, that he needed to be violently drawn to faith by the experience of the senses; which is altogether at variance with the nature of faith. If it be objected, that nothing is more unsuitable than to say that faith is a conviction obtained from touching and seeing, the answer may be easily obtained from what I have already said; for it was not by mere touching or seeing that Thomas was brought to believe that Christ is God, but, being awakened from sleep, he recalled to remembrance the doctrine which formerly he had almost forgotten. Faith cannot flow from a merely experimental knowledge of events, but must draw its origin from the word of God. Christ, therefore, blames Thomas for rendering less honor to the word of God than he ought to have done, and for having regarded faith — which springs from hearing, and ought to be wholly fixed on the word — as bound to the other senses.

Blessed are they who have not seen, and have believed Here Christ commends faith on this ground, that it acquiesces in the bare word, and does not depend on carnal views or human reason 221221     “Du sens charnel, ne de la raison humaine.” He therefore includes, in a short definition, the power and nature of faith; namely, that it does not rest satisfied with the immediate exercise of sight, but penetrates even to heaven, so as to believe those things which are hidden from the human senses. And, indeed, we ought to give to God this honor, that we should view His truth as (αὐτόπιστος 222222     αὐτόπιστος, that which is worthy of being believed on its account. ) beyond all doubt without any other proof 223223     “Qua sa verite nous soit indubitable sans autre probation.” Faith has, indeed, its own sight but one which does not confine its view to the world, and to earthly objects. For this reason it is called

a demonstration of things invisible or not seen,
(Hebrews 11:1;)

and Paul contrasts it with sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7,) meaning, that it does not rest satisfied with looking at the condition of present object, and does not cast its eye in all directions to those things which are visible in the world, but depends on the mouth of God, and, relying on His word, rises above the whole world, so as to fix its anchor in heaven. It amounts to this, that faith is not of a right kind, unless it be founded on the word of God, and rise to the invisible kingdom of God, so as to go beyond all human capacity.

If it be objected, that this saying of Christ is inconsistent with another of his sayings, in which he declares that the eyes which behold him are blessed, (Matthew 13:16,) I answer, Christ does not there speak merely of bodily sight, as he does in this passage, but of revelation, which is common to all believers, since he appeared to the world as a Redeemer. He draws a comparison between the Apostles and the holy kings and prophets, (Matthew 13:17,) who had been kept under the dark shadows of the Mosaic Law. He says, that now the condition of believers is much more desirable, because a brighter light shines around them, or rather, because the substance and truth of the figures was made known to them. There were many unbelievers who, at that time, beheld Christ with the eyes of flesh, and yet were not more blessed on that account; but we, who have never beheld Christ with the eyes, enjoy that blessedness of which Christ speaks with commendation. Hence it follows, that he calls those eyes blessed which spiritually behold in him what is heavenly and divine; for we now behold Christ in the Gospel in the same manner as if he visibly stood before us. In this sense Paul says to the Galatians, (Galatians 3:1,) that Christ was crucified before their eyes; and, therefore, if we desire to see in Christ what may render us happy and blessed, let us learn to believe, when we do not see. To these words of Christ corresponds what is stated in another passage, in which the Apostle commends believers, who

love Christ whom they have not seen, and rejoice with unspeakable joy, though they do not behold him.
(1 Peter 1:8.)

The manner in which the Papists torture these words, to prove their doctrine of transubstantiation, is exceedingly absurd. That we may be blessed, they bid us believe that Christ is present under the appearance of bread. But we know that nothing was farther from Christ’s intention than to subject faith to the inventions of men; and as soon as it passes, in the smallest degree, beyond the limits of the word, it ceases to be faith. If we must believe without reserve all that we do not see, then every monster which men may be pleased to form, every fable which they may contrive, will hold our faith in bondage. That this saying of Christ may apply to the case in hand, we must first prove from the word of God the very point in question. They bring forward the word of God, indeed, in support of their doctrine of transubstantiation; but when the word is properly expounded, it gives no countenance to their foolish notion.


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