Page images

pistle ;) men, who notwithstanding they professed themselves Jews, lived like Heathens, diffolutely, without regarding any of the rules, or restraints of religion made the best of this world, and had no hopes, no thoughts of another. Sensual wits they were, who, 'tis probable, took pleasure in ridiculing the notion of a life to come, and saying scornfully of it, that it was a dark invisible itate, of which they knew nothing, and could not easily believe much, till they had some more authentic accounts of it, than as yet had been given them. Might they indeed receive news from thence, by an hand that was to be relied

on ;


of their old companions in vice, who had made the said experiment, be so kind as to return and cer, tify them of what he had learnt, they thould readily give up their affent to fo commanding an evidence, and suit their practices to that perfuafion: But till they saw somewhat of this nature done, they desired to be excused.

To confute these vain reasonings and pretences, our Saviour made use of that instructive and afa fecting parable, which concludes with the words I have read to you. I need not lay before you the several circumstances of that parable: It is fufficient, if I put you in mind, how, towards the close of it, the rich man is represented, lifting up his eyes from the place of punishment allotted to him in the other world, discerning ubranam afar off, and Lazarus together with him in glory ; and making this request, among others, to the blessed patriarch, that he would please to fend Lazarus to his five brethren, now alive, in order to testify unto them, left they clfo (says he) come in... to this place of torment. A request, very fitly addressed to Abraham, the father of the Jewib nation, on the account both of his great familiarity and friendihip * with God, which might enable him, and his known character of compassion and tenderness t, which would incline him to perform it. Nevertheless, thraham, instead of indulging the supplicant in his desire of new evidence, refers him to that, which his brethren already had; They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them : They have Moses and the Prophets, whom God, for my fake, and in virtue of the covenant made with me and my feed, sent to there forefathers, and by whom he revealed his own will, and their duty, in a more ample manner than it had been declared to any of my descendants before them. This standing revelation, which they (and which none but they, and the rest of my feed) enjoy, was attested in the most folemn, authentic, and credible manner; and is sufficient to influence their faith and pra. Etice, if they do but attend to it; They have Moses and the Preihers, let them hear them. Not fatisfied with this answer, the tormented person renews his interceflion, with the same freedoin that the patriarch himself had once used in behalf of the Sodomites; representing further to zbraham, that the meaos of conviction, which his brethren enjoyed, though suficient, yet not having prevailed, it would be great charity to try others; and that the expedient now proposed, could not fail of success : Nay, Father Abraham, but if one went

* Chiron ,XX. 7. fli. xli. 8 Ja. ii. 23. Gen. xviii. 23, &c.


u to them from the dead, they will repent. He thought so, but Abraham knew otherwise ; and therefore shuts


the discourse with this full and and final resolution of the case, That, if they heard not Moses and the prophets, neither would they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. The meaning of which words, when cast into a general proposition, is, that “ They, who are

not induced to believe and live as they ought “ to do, by those discoveries which God hath “ made, and those commands which he had gi

ven to them in scripture; would stand out a.

gainst any evidence, any application whatsoever ; « even that of a mefsenger, fent express from the « other world, to inform and reclaim them.”

This is, I confefs, a very surprizing truth, and not likely to be entertained readily, upon the first proposal. That I may, therefore, set it in as clear a light as is possible, I Mall endeavour, in what follows:

[ocr errors]

1. To state and limit the due extent of it.

II. To confirm the truth, fo stated, by various

arguments and reflections. After which, I shall,

III. Deduce some inferences from it.

As to the extent of this affertion, we may observe,

I. First, That it is evidently to be understood of such persons only, as are placed in the same circumstances with the five brethren in the parable ; fuch, confequently, as have been born, where the true religion is profeffed and bred up in the belief of it; have had all the early prejudices of education on the side of trutli, and all manner of opportunities and advantages towards acquainting themselves with the grounds of it; and yet, notwithstanding all these advantages, have Thut their eyes against it, and with stood its force. For, as to others, who have lived under the guidance of reason alone, without the affiftance of fupernatural light, it is highly probable, that tho' Moses and the prophets (the tenor of a divine revelation], when first proposed to them, should not; yet miracles, or a message from the dead, would perfuade them; according to what is ellewhere laid down by our Saviour, that, if the mighty works, which were done in Chorizin and Bethsaida, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in fackcloth and asbes, Matt. xi. 21.


Secondly, Neither is the assertion to be rigorously extended to all those, who have been educated under the influence of a divine revelation, and yet lived in opposition to the rules of it: For there is great reason to believe, that there are many persons, who, through the heat of their lufts and passions, through the contagion of ill example, or too deep an immersion in the affairs of lift, swerve exceedingly from the rules of their holy faith; and yet would, upon such an extraordinary warning as is mentioned in the text. be brought to comply with them. But this truth is pointed chiefly, if not solely, upon linners of the

first rate, who have cast off all regard for piecy and goodness ; have fer up for a life of fenfe, and are wicked by principle; for such likewise those five brethren were; they lived in the fame degree of luxury, and uncharitableness, as their dead brother had done; they heird not Moses and the prophets, believed nothing of religion, of its threatenings or its promises ; looked upon all revelation as a cheat, and all pretenders to it, as impostors. Of such as these we may suppose the text to affirm, that even a message from the dead would not be fufficient to reclaim them. - We may observe,

Tbirdly, That even of these profligate creatures themselves it is not faid, That fo astonishing a scene would make no manner of impression, would have no present influence upon them; buc only, That it would not produce a lasting effect, nor work an entire conversion. It is certain, that they would be very much roused and awakened by such a sight's but they would nor, however, be convinced and reformed ; fon ww Indovlar, says the original; an expression of fome force, which our English translation doth not fully reach, and which plainly signifies, that they would not be fo far wrought upon, as to change their whole mind and course of life, and become new creatures.

Regard being had to thefe feveral restrictions, the doctrine of the text may, I hink, be more fully represented to you after this manner:

" That where ko men have been brought up in the firm belief of « à divine revelation, and have afterwards fha. sken it off, have reasoned themselves not only " into a dishclief, but a contempt of it, and given “ themselves up to commit iniquity with greedinef; VOL. II.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »