Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thomas Manton on the Eye of Faith

The less sensible evidence there is of the object of faith, the greater and stronger is the faith, if we believe it upon God's word: "Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed; blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (John xx. 29). It extenuateth our faith, when the object must be visible to sense, or it worketh not on us. Faith hath more of the nature of faith, when it is satisfied with God's word, whatever sense and reason say to the contrary: "Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" (1 Peter i. 8). Whatever faith closeth with upon sure grounds, it is spiritually present to the soul, though few sensible helps. The less we see in the world, the more must we believe. To see things to come as present, and to see things that otherwise cannot be seen, cometh near to God's vision of all things. God saw all things before they were, all things that may be, shall be, visione simplicia intelligentice: "Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth" (Prov. viiL 31). So doth faith eye all things, in the all-sufficiency and promise of God, long before they come to pass, and affects the believer with them.


This is the commendation and praise of christianity, that they can 'walk by faith' when they cannot 'walk by sight;' 2 Cor. v. 7, 'We walk by faith, not by sight.' They see not Christ, because he is absent in body; yet they believe in him, and love him, and send their hearts after him. So 1 Peter i. 8, 'Whom having not seen ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.' Faith is eagle-eyed, and can look above the clouds. The absence of Christ did not prejudice their comfort and hope. Faith contenteth itself with an intellectual sight and certainty. This is a trial of christians, when they can believe in Christ, and rejoice in Christ as if they did see him with their bodily eyes, and hear him with their bodily ears. Ibi figunt desiderium, quo nequeunt inferre conspectum, saith Leo—They fasten their hearts upon him, though they cannot fasten their eyes. Faith is sight enough.
You may make use of Christ, now he is in heaven, as the disciples did on earth, to ask him questions, to seek his counsel, to commend your prayers and persons to God. It is no disadvantage to faith that Christ is removed out of sight, but only an occasion given whereby it may discover itself with more praise. Therefore let us believe in Christ, though we see him not; we shall one day see him in the heavens to our comfort, and to the terror of the wicked; in the meantime, let faith serve instead of vision. It will be your commendation, 'whom having not seen, ye love,' 1 Peter i. 8. God hath removed Christ out of sight, to make way for the exercise of faith and love; and it is much better by faith to converse with him in heaven, than by sight to see him upon earth: John xx. 29, 'Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believe.' Thomas would make his senses the judge; he must feel the wounds, and put his finger in the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into his side; which discovered the weakness of his faith. Faith is not grounded on sense, but testimony. Be not discouraged, though you never saw him in the flesh, you shall one day see him in heaven; though you could not hear his gracious words, yet you have whispers and counsels from his Spirit. You saw him not hanging on the cross, yet he is crucified before your eyes, Gal. iii. 1. In the word and sacraments he is notably and plainly laid forth to faith. The gospel is a magical glass, as it were, wherein God will have the soul look, that we may see our absent friend, sic oculos, sic ille mamis, sic ora ferebat; there are the very postures of Christ, Therefore let us make use of our present advantages; you may expect as powerful influences from him as if present in person; as the sun doth not come down from heaven, but only his influence. There is a derivation of virtue from his person; yea, Christ is not like the sun; the farther absent from us in body, the more powerful is his influence: Eph. iv. 10, 'When he ascended up on high, he filled all things.' Briefly then, if you have anything to do with Christ, you know where to seek him. Those that live far from court, never saw their king, yet they enjoy the benefit of his government, and are bound to allegiance. Christ is as meek, as gentle, as easy to be entreated as ever.

Thomas Manton, Sermon XIV Upon John XVII.