The unbelief of Thomas

The unbelief of Thomas, expressed in this famous sentence, was a sad fault in a good man, which cannot be explained away. He refused to believe the testimony of ten competent witnesses who had seen Christ in the body with their own eyes. He refused to believe the testimony of ten true friends and brethren who could have no object in deceiving him. He passionately declares that he will not believe unless he himself sees and touches our Lord’s body. He presumes to prescribe certain conditions that must be fulfilled before he can credit the report of his brethren. He uses singularly emphatic language to express his skepticism: “Others may believe if they like, but I shall not and will not believe until I see and touch for myself.” All this was very sad and very sinful.  Thomas might have remembered that at this rate nothing could ever be proved by witnesses; and that he himself, as a teacher, could never expect men to believe him. His case shows us how foolishly and weakly a believer may speak sometimes, and how, under the influence of depression and doubt, he may say things of which afterwards he is heartily ashamed. 

After all, the case of Thomas is not an uncommon one. Some people are so strangely constituted that they distrust everybody, regard all men as liars, and will believe nothing except they can see it all and work it all out for themselves. They have a rooted dislike to receive anything on trust or from the testimony of others, and must always go over the ground for themselves. In people of this kind, though they know it not, there is often a vast amount of latent pride and self-conceit; and it is almost ludicrous to observe how entirely they forget that the business of daily life could never go on if we were always doubting everything which we could not see for ourselves. Nevertheless, they exist in the Church and always will exist; and the case of Thomas shows what trouble they bring on themselves.

—J.C. Ryle, 'Expository Thoughts on John’

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