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and that faith which comes from God believes it; for, as Mr. Bruce says, we may just as well deny that God made the sea, as to deny that he has power to divide it.
It was this sin of unbelief that kept Israel out of the promised land, according to Paul's epistle to the Hebrews; for he asks, “And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” This sin not only kept them out of the promised land, but it procured their eternal destruction. For, “ The Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not,” Jude 5.
That which makes this sin of unbelief so very aggravating is, that the unbeliever doth not give the God of truth that credit that he gives to frail man; though God be true, and every man a liar. The Egyptians, that could not believe the reality of the miracles of Moses, believed the miracles of the magicians; and the Israelites, that could not believe the report that God gave of the promised land, of its flowing with milk and honey, yet they credited and firmly believed all them that brought up an evil report upon the good land: and their faith in these lies was attended with such zeal, that they even threatened to stone Joshua and Caleb for contradicting it. An unbeliever will not give that credit and that hearty assent to truth as he will to lies; nor give that honour to God which
he gives to Satan. “I am come,” says Christ, "in my Father's name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye ceive.” And they that came in their own name, were sent by Satan. Hence it appears to me, that that branch of unbelief which was the destruction of the Jewish nation, was not, strictly speaking, the want of that faith which is peculiar to God's elect; for no man can exercise a grace which he never possessed. But their unbelief was this, that they did not give that credit and honour to Christ which they gave to men, and to men notoriously evil. They did not give that hearty assent to the words of the Son of God, nor confess him, nor receive him, nor honour him, with that affection, regard, fear, and homage, which they paid to men, to deceivers, hypocrites, impostors, and even to devils.
The Jews had in their hands the oracles of God, the law, covenants, prophecies, and promises. They had the line and genealogy of Christ from his birth to his session at the right hand of God; the families he was to descend from, even from -Adam to Joseph and Mary; the doctrine he was to preach, the miracles he was to perform, the death he should die, and the glorious redemption of his people by it; the glory that should follow, and the salvation of Jews and Gentiles by it. And those very men who were the writers and expounders of these oracles, and the masters and teachers of the people, and who boasted so much of their light, understanding, and wisdom, as to ask Christ himself, “ Are we blind also?” and assert, that this people, who knoweth not the law, are cursed; that this people, who alone were intrusted with the oracles of God, and who had these to guide them, and these to try every pretender from a true prophet by, Deut. xviii. 22; and yet these very men, with all their boasted light, acted contrary to all that they read, and pretended to believe and revere; as it is written, “ For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him. And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. But God raised him from the dead,” Acts xiii. 27-30. But it appears that their infidelity was magnified still higher in that our Lord's holy, spotless, and obedient life; his scriptural vindications of himself, his character and conduct, by which he had always put them to silence; the miracles of mercy that he wrought, the gracious change that appeared in his poor followers, his continual labour in doing good; were so evident, powerful, and convincing, that even their own consciences bore witness to hiin; so that, “When the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance,” Matt. xxi. 38: Nicodemus confessed, as the mouth of all the chief rulers, that Jesus was a teacher that came from God, and that no man could do the miracles that Jesus did, except the Lord be with him, John iii. 2. And it is further declared, “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” The truth of the matter is, that our Lord's doctrine, miracles, holy life, and the irresistible force of his answers and refutations that he gave them and all gainsayers, were so powerful, and attended with such convincing proofs and cutting convictions, that their own hearts and consciences were as fully persuaded of the truth of his messiahship as the devils themselves were, who believe and tremble, and ask if he was come to torment them before the time, saying, “We know thee who thou art, the holy one of God." Thus devils believed and confessed, but the Jews believed and denied. Their thirst for human applause, their self-love, the enmity of their minds at being so exposed, and their rage and jealousy in defence of their own honour, carried them into desperation, which bore down even the testimony of their conscience; hence they ask, “ Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees, believed on him?" And yet it is said that, “ Among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the
Pharisees they did not confess him,” John xii. 42. What conscience believed the mouth denied, enmity bore down all conviction, and offered violence to the decisions of their own conscience. Nevertheless the convictions which conscience received of the truth of Jesus increased, and grew stronger and stronger upon them; first, by the conviction and confession of Judas, who brought back the money to them, threw it down before them, and who, in black despair, confessed that he had sinned and betrayed innocent blood, and then went and hanged himself. And this was known to all that dwelt at Jerusalem; insomuch as the field which they bought with the money is called the field of blood, Acts i. 19.
2. Conscience received additional strength at the crucifixion of Christ, by the earthquake, the darkness which overspread the land, the rending of the rocks, the report of many dead bodies rising out of their graves and appearing to many;
besides the rending the vail of the temple from the top to the bottom.
3. The watch which they set to guard the tomb. These coming to the chief rulers filled with terror and consternation; telling them of the descent of the angels, of their shining appearance, and rolling away the stone, and telling the women that, “He is not here; but is risen. Come, see the place where the Lord lay.” Conscience could not receive a much fuller conviction than this. And here the Lord fulfilled his promise to them: