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very much enjoying ourselves; we think and care so little about God then, that we do not desire the sky to be opened,--we neither wish to hear His voice, nor to see the brightness of His presence. But there is a time with all of us, with all of us who are at all better than the beasts, when we are not busy; when we are not merry, and yet when we are not asleep; there is a time, in short, when we think. And there is also a time, it may come very seldom to some, yet it does come sometimes, when we think, not merely about what we have done to-day, or may be doing to-morrow, or next week, or even next year; but our thoughts go a little farther a little farther backwards, and a little farther forwards; they go as far as the beginning of life on one side, and the end of it on the other. Our parents will remind us of the one, and our children of the other; and then when our thoughts get to things so high, there comes the wish for certain knowledge. A few years ago we ourselves were nothing; a few years before that our parents were nothing; a few hundred years ago our country was nothing; not one town, or village, or church, or house which we see was in existence; and going back farther still, the very hills and waters themselves were not in existence, or were in a state without form and void, such as we cannot conceive.
So, on the other side, a few years hence and we
shall be gone; a few years more and our children will be gone; a few hundred years hence, and every town and house and tree which we behold will be gone also; and farther on still, as signs are not wanting to shew that all earthly things are doomed to perish, there will be again neither men upon the earth, nor hills nor waters in any state that we can imagine. Is there then nothing that has lasted, and will last for ever? Is there no power which is above all these endless changes, with whom and in whom there is rest and life undying ? Shall we ourselves, in whom life is now thrilling so strongly, who move and see and hear so quickly, whose thoughts range so far and so easily; shall we indeed, when a few years are past, be actually nothing; shall our dry bones be the last part of us that shall remain in existence ? Let us come to thoughts and questions like these, and then indeed we long for the sign from heaven to give or to confirm the answer. Then we cannot believe lightly, nor trust what may be no more than a fancy. The mind, afloat as it were on a sea so vast, needs, and with reason, a sure anchor. Man cannot tell us of what man has never seen. We crave for the very heaven itself to be opened; we crave to see the light in which God dwells; we crave to hear the voice of Him to whom all things are known, who can neither be deceived nor deceive.
This feeling is in its own nature nothing blamable. All belief is not deserving of the name of faith, and it is greatly against the wisdom of God to confound them. If God were to give us no answer at all when we ask for a sign from heaven, no man could be blamed for remaining in uncertainty; on the contrary, to believe a thing merely because we do not like the feeling of ignorance about it, is no better than folly. Or, again, it might have been possible that God should have given us the very exact answer we desired. He might have opened to us the unseen world; He might have chosen to make His presence and His will concerning us as manifest as He has made the sun or the stars, or the ground on which we tread, and then this would have been knowledge; we should all of us have been as sure of God's existence as of our own; we should have known heavenly things as well as we know the common earthly things of our daily living. But God, we know, has not chosen to give us this answer. There is no sign in heaven, we see Him not, neither can we see Him. It might have been the case, that we should be living in utter ignorance; that God should have given us no answer at all. Or it might have been the case, that we should be living in perfect knowledge; that God should have given us the exact answer which we wanted. But neither of these is our actual case; we are not
left in utter ignorance, nor raised to perfect knowledge. There is a state between these two, and that is properly the state of faith. There is no place for faith in entire ignorance ; for to believe then were mere idle guessing, it would not be faith, but folly. Nor, again, is there any place for faith in perfect knowledge ; for knowing is something more than believing. But the place for faith is between both; when we know something, and from that something have good reason to believe something else, though we cannot be actually certain of it, when we have an answer from God, not wholly of performance, but performing part, and promising the rest. He who trusts to this answer, who puts his trust in what God has done once, as an earnest of what He will do hereafter, he is the man who neither believes blindly nor knows certainly, but who is walking as a Christian must walk, not by sight, nor yet by folly, but by that which is between the two, even by faith.
Now let us hear the answer which was given to those who sought a sign from Heaven ; “ There shall no sign be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonah.” It is not said that no sign should be given at all, but that the particular sign which they asked for should not be given ; it was to be the sign of the prophet Jonah, but not a sign in the sky. The sign of the prophet Jonah is the resurrection of our blessed Lord. So He Himself ex
plains it: “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” That Christ died and rose again from the dead, is the great work which God has wrought for our satisfaction; it is not absolutely the only sign which He has ever given, far from it, but it is the greatest, and goes most directly to that question which we must long to have answered.
It assures us of God, that He loves us, and will love us for ever. To those who think upon it fully, it does become the real sign from heaven which was required; for it brought God into the world, and the world near to God. “He that hath seen me,” said Christ, “ hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, shew us the Father?”
But it is the remarkable part of this our Christian sign, that it speaks to us more and more strongly according as we are better and holier. It speaks strongly as a matter of fact to all of us : the evidence of our Lord's life and death, and resurrection, is of the same sort as that which we rest on in human matters. Whoever has heard the summing up of a judge on any great trial, will be able to understand what I mean ; the jury have heard a great many witnesses; some of them have perhaps contradicted others, some have stated things very improbable; in a long cause, if the jury are un