To conclude: our difficulty and its religious solution are contained in the sixth chapter of St. John. After our Lord had declared what all who heard seemed to feel to be a hard doctrine, some in surprise and offence left Him. Our Lord said to the Twelve most tenderly, "Will ye also go away?" St. Peter promptly answered, No: but observe on what ground he put it: "Lord, to whom shall we go?" He did not bring forward evidences of our Lord's mission, though he knew of such. He knew of such in abundance, in the miracles which our Lord wrought: but, still, questions might be raised about the so-called miracles of others, such as of Simon the sorcerer, or of vagabond Jews, or about the force of the evidence from miracles itself. This was not the evidence on which he rested personally, but this,—that if Christ were not to be trusted, there was nothing in the world to be trusted; and this was a conclusion repugnant both to his reason and to his heart. He had within him ideas of greatness and goodness, holiness and eternity,—he had a love of them—he had an instinctive hope and longing after their possession. Nothing could convince him that this unknown good was a dream. Divine life, eternal life was the object which his soul, as far as it had learned to realize and express its wishes, supremely longed for. In Christ he found what he wanted. He says, "Lord, to whom shall we go?" implying he must go somewhere. Christ had asked, "Will ye also go away?" He only asked about Peter's leaving Himself; but in Peter's thought to leave Him was to go somewhere else. He only thought of leaving Him by taking another god. That negative state of neither believing nor disbelieving, neither acting this way nor that, which is so much in esteem now, did not occur to his mind as possible. The fervent Apostle ignored the existence of scepticism. With him, his course was at best but a choice of difficulties—of difficulties perhaps, but still a choice. He knew of no course without a choice,—choice he must make. Somewhither he must go: whither else? If Christ could deceive him, to whom should he go? Christ's ways might be dark, His words often perplexing, but still he found in Him what he found nowhere else,—amid difficulties, a realization of his inward longings. "Thou hast the words of eternal life."
So far he saw. He might have misgivings at times; he might have permanent and in themselves insuperable objections; still, in spite of such objections, in spite of the assaults of unbelief, on the whole, he saw that in Christ which was positive, real, and satisfying. He saw it nowhere else. "Thou," he says, "hast the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have known that thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." As if he said, "We will stand by what we believed and knew yesterday,—what we believed and knew the day before. A sudden gust of new doctrines, a sudden inroad of new perplexities, shall not unsettle us. We have believed, we have known: we cannot collect together all the evidence, but this is the abiding deep conviction of our minds. We feel that it is better, safer, truer, pleasanter, more blessed to cling to Thy feet, O merciful Saviour, than to leave Thee. Thou canst not deceive us: it is impossible. We will hope in Thee against hope, and believe in Thee against doubt, and obey Thee in spite of gloom."
Now what are the feelings I have described but the love of Christ? Thus love is the parent of faith. We believe in things we see not from love of them: if we did not love, we should not believe. Faith is reliance on the word of another; the word of another is in itself a faint evidence compared with that of sight or reason. It is influential only when we cannot do without it. We cannot do without it when it is our informant about things which we cannot do without. Things we cannot do without, are things which we desire. They who feel they cannot do without the next world, go by faith (not that sight would not be better), but because they have no other means of knowledge to go by. "To whom shall they go?" If they will not believe the word preached to them, what other access have they to the next world? Love of God led St. Peter to follow Christ, and love of Christ leads men now to love and follow the Church, as His representative and voice.
Let us then say, If we give up the Gospel, as we have received it in the Church, to whom shall we go? It has the words of eternal life in it: where else are they to be found? Is there any other Religion to choose but that of the Church? Shall we go to Mahometanism or Paganism? But we may seek some heresy or sect: true, we may; but why are they more sure? are they not a part, while the Church is the whole? Why is the part true, if the whole is not? Why is not that evidence trustworthy for the whole, which is trustworthy for a part? Sectaries commonly give up the Church doctrines, and go by the Church's Bible; but if the doctrines cannot be proved true, neither can the Bible; they stand or fall together. If we begin, we must soon make an end. On what consistent principle can I give up part and keep the rest? No: I see a work before me, which professes to be the work of that God whose being and attributes I feel within me to be real. Why should not this great sight be,— what it professes to be—His presence? Why should not the Church be divine? The burden of proof surely is on the other side. I will accept her doctrines, and her rites, and her Bible,—not one, and not the other, but all,—till I have clear proof, which is an impossibility, that she is mistaken. It is, I feel, God's will that I should do so; and besides, I love all that belong to her,—I love her Bible, her doctrines, her rites, and therefore I believe.