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PREACHED AT WHITE - HALL,
On the 20th of MARCH, 1687.
LUKE xvi. 31.
HE Parable of the Rich Man and
Lazarus, in the Gospel, is so well T known, that it is needless to re
late the Particulars of it. These
Words are the Conclusion of that Parable, and they are made the Words of Abraham, who being in Paradise, is brought in as speaking them to the Rich Man in Hell.
The Occasion was this, This, now, Poor Man, not being able to obtain the least Comfort and Refreshment, for himself, under that unsupportable Anguish he endured; bethinks himself of his Friends and Relations in the World, and casts about how to prevent their
coming to that såd Condition. And for this purpose, he begs of Abraham, that he would be pleased to send the happy Lazarus into the World again, to testify to his Brethren what he knew and had seen concerning the State of the other Life, and to exhort them to a timely Repentance, left they should come into that Place of Torment in which he
To this Request Abraham thus Answers, They had Moses and the Prophets, which did plainly enough testify against their Sins, and offered sufficient Motives to them to Repent; and therefore there was no need of such extraordinary Means as he desired.
But this Answer did not satisfy the miserable Man. Still he pursues his former Request. Nay, Father Abraham, (says he ) but if one went unto them from the Dead, they will repent. There was no relifting such an Argument as that. If Lazarus, whom they had all known living, and now knew to be dead, should rise again, and Personally come to them, and tell them in what. a sad Condition he had seen their Friend, and that they must all expect to run the fame Fortune, if they did not change their Course of Living; this would come close to them, and be more convincing than a Hundred Arguments drawn from the Books of Moses and the Prophets, which were written many Ages before their Time, and so consequently could not be presumed to have so great a Force as an Argument drawn from their own Sense and Experience.
To this Reply of the Rich Man, Abra. ham peremptorily rejoins in the Words of the Text; If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the Dead.
To'omit lesser Matters that may be observed from these Words, the point which primarily, and most naturally seems to be offered to our Consideration from them, is this; That those who give no Credit to a Settled, Standing Revelation of God once well attested, or are not thereby, prevailed upon to reform their Evil Manners; neither, in all probability, would they be prevailed upon, though a particular Miracle was wrought by God in order to their Conversion; as, for instance, though one should rise from the Dead and appear to them.
Now, to satisfy every one of the Truth of this Proposition, it will be abundantly sufficient to make out these Two Things:
First, That there is really more Force and Weight in a Publick Standing Revelation of God, such as that was by Moses and the Prophets here mentioned, to convince Men, or to reclaim them; than there can be in a Private Miracle, though I see it with my Eyes.
And, Secondly, Though God Thould be pleased to work a Miracle, or to send an Apparition for the Conviction of an obstinate Unbeliever, or vicious Person; yet such a one would as easily find out-Shifts and Ways to evade the Force of such an Argument, and to hinder the Effect it ought to have upon him, as he formerly did, to put off the ordi
nary Standing Motives and Arguments of Re. ligion : And consequently, there is little probability, that he who is not gained by the former, will be wrought upon by the latter.
I begin with the First of thefe Things ; That there is really more Force and Weight in a Publick Standing Revelation of God, to convince Men, or to reclaim them; than there can be fupposed to be 'in a Private single Miracle, though a Man sees it with his Eyes : Or, than there can be in an Apparition from the Dead, if God should think fit to vouchsafe such a Thing.
In speaking to this, I mean not to concern myself or you, with the Revelation of Moses and the Prophets, though that be the Revelation which the Text here speaks of. I think it will be more suitable and useful to us, to consider the Proposition with relation to Chriftianity, or the Revelation of our Saviour and his Apostles: That being the Dispensation we are now under, and in which we are more immediately concerned.
Understanding, therefore, our Proposition of that Especial Revelation, which we call the Gospel, Two Things there are to be offered, which will undeniably make it out.
First, Those Persons that lived in the Times of our Saviour, when this Publick Revelation of the Gospel was made and attested, had grea. tėr Evidences and Motives to bring them over to the Belief and Practice of his Religion, than if any particular Miracle had been wrought in order to their Conversion.
Secondly, We at this Day, all Things confidered, have as strong Arguments to convince us, as powerful Motives to persuade us, as those that lived in the Times of our Saviour, and were Witnesses of what he did and taught.
The unavoidable Consequences of which Two Points are these: That those who lived in the Time of our Saviour, and were not persuaded by his Gospel, would not have been persuaded, though one had been sent to them from the Dead. And those that are now alive, and are not persuaded by the Evidences and Motives of Christianity, which we now have among us, would not have been persuaded if they had lived in the Times of our Saviour. So that in all Ages of Christianity, the Proposition will hold true, That those who give no Credit to the Standing Revelation of the Gospel, or are not thereby induced to lead their Lives according to it, would not be prevailed upon, tho’a particular Miracle was wrought for their Conversion.
First then, Our Saviour's Gospel, at the First Publishing of it, was a more effettual Means for the Conversion of any Man then living, than the sending to him one from the Dead.
Let us suppose the Parable we are now upon, to be a true History, and that this Rich Man had Five Brethren living at JeruSalem, at the Time when our Saviour spoke it; and they were all Wicked, Lewd, Atheistical Persons; and God Almighty, in