« הקודםהמשך »
Bistle i) men, who notwithstanding they prosessed lemselves Jew, lived like Heathens, dissolutely, without regarding any of the rules, or restraint* of religion made the best of this world, and had H.Q hopes, no thoughts of another. Sensual wits they were, who, 'iis probable, took pleasure in ridiculing the notion of a lise to come, and saying scornsully of it, that it was a dark invisible state, ps 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, frlight they indeed receive news from thence, by an hand that was to be relied on; would any of their old companions in vice, who had made the said experiment, be so kind as to return and certify them of what he had learnt, they should readily give up their assent to so commanding an evidence, and suit their practices to that persuasion: But till they s.iw somewhat of this nature done, they desired to be excused.
To consute these vain reasonings and pretences, pur Saviour made use of diat instructive and affecting 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 sufficient, isl 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 "branam afar oss, and Lazarus together with him in glory; and making this request, among others, to the bleiled patriarch, that he would please to send; Laz..rui to his sive brethren, now alive, in order to tistijy unto them, Icji li.cy o.lso (soys he) come tits to this place of torment. A request, very sitly addressed to Abraham, the father of the Jev»'fb 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 f, which would incline him to perform it. Nevertheless, ibraham, 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 themThey 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 solemn, authentic, and credible manner; and is sufficient to influence their faith and practice, if they do but attend to it; They have Moses ■and t'!e Prophets, let them hear them. Not fatissied with this answer, the tormented person renews his intercession, with the fame freedom that the patriarch himself had once used in behalf of the So..i'mites ; repress nting further to ibraham, that the means of conviction, which his brethren enjoyed, though sufficient, 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
V to them srom the dead, they will repent. He thought so, but Abraham knew otherwise; and therefore stiuts up the discourse with this foll and and sinal resolution of the case, That, Is they heard not Moses and the propheti, neither .would they he persuaded, though one rese srom 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 gU "ven to them in scripture; would stand out a** gainst any evidence, any application whatsoever; "even that of a messenger, sent expresi from the ** other world, to inform and reclaim them."
This is, I consess, a very surprizing truth, and not likely to be entertained readily, upon the sirst proposal. That I may, therefore, set it in at clear a light as is poffible, I shall endeavour, ia what follows:
L To state and limit the due extent of it.
II. To consirm the truth, so stated, by various arguments and reflections. After which, I shall,
in. Deduce some inserences from it.
As to the extent of this assertion, we may observe,
I. First, That it is evidently to be understood of such persons only, as are placed in the fame
circumstances circumstances with the sive brethren in the parable; such, consequently, as have been born, where the true religion is profesied and bred up in the belief of it; have had all the early prejudices of education on the side of truth, and all manner of opportunities and advantages towards acquainting themselves with the grounds of It; and yet, notwithstanding all these advantages, have Ihut their eyes against it, and withstood its force. For, as to others, who have lived under the guidance of reason alone, without the assistance of supernatural light, it is highly probable, that shp' IMoses and the prophets [the tenor of a divine revelation], when sirst proposed to them, should not; yet miracles, or a mesfage from the dead, would persuade them; according to what is elsewhere laid down by our Saviour, that, if tbi tn ybty works, .which were done in Chorisifi and Bethfaida, had been done in Tyre and Sidott, they would have repented in sackcloth and ajbest Mat£. 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 lusts and passions, through the contagion or ill example, or too deep an immersion in the affairs ef lift, swerve exceedingly from the rtilfes of thew 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 i$ pointed chiesly, if not solely, upon sinners of the
first rate, who have cast off all regard for piety and goodness \ have let up for a life of fense, 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, ,thaf even a message from the dead would not be sufficient to reclaim them. We may observe,
Tiirdly, That even of these proffigate creatures themselves it is not faid, That so 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 \ but they would not, however, be convinced and reformed -, * P* «r«&wo>7«i, fays the original; an expression of some force, which our English translation doth not fully reach, and which plainly signisies, that they would not be so far wrought upon, as to change their whole mind and course of life, and become new creatures.
Regard being had to these several restrictions, the doctrine of the text may, I hink, be more fully represented to you after this manner: "That where "men have been brought up in the sirm belies o£ ** a divine revelation, and have afterwards sha*' ken it off, have reasoned themselves not only "into a disbelief, but a contempt of it, and given *' themselves up to twamit iniquity v/ithgrtedwes.;
Vol. II. E "ia