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THOSE WHO BELIEVE NOT IN THE SCRIPTURES WOULD NOT BE PERSUADED THOUGH ONE ROSE FROM THE DEAD.
LUKE XVI. 31.
"And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
THESE words are the close of the parable uttered by our Saviour concerning the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man had solicited of Abraham that Lazarus might come to his relief in the place where he was tormented. When he found this request could not be granted, he besought of Abraham that he would send Lazarus to his father's house; "for," said he, " I "have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they "also come unto this place of torment." Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." And he said," Nay, Father Abraham; but if one went unto "them from the dead, they will repent." Abraham replied, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they "be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." This certainly is a very strong assertion. Multitudes have probably discredited the truth of it without hesitation; others have undoubtedly thought it a hard saying, and others still, unwilling to treat the Scriptures with irreverence, have indeed admitted
it to be true, but in a manner which they did not perceive, and were ready to suppose that they could not comprehend it.
As all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, it must all be true, whether believed by us or not; or if believed, whether the manner in which it is true be understood by us or not. Still it is always desirable to know the manner in which any thing is true, so far as we may. There are many mysterious truths which we are necessitated to believe by the soundest philosophy, and many others which we are required to admit implicitly by the authority of God. Yet it is our duty to understand, wherever we can, not only the truth itself, but the evidence also by which it is supported. Wherever this can be done to our own satisfaction, it will enable us often to confute gainsayers, to remove plausible objections against the word of God, and to convince those who are not unwilling to be convinced.
In the text it is declared that those who believe not Moses and the prophets, or the Scriptures of the Old Testament, would not be persuaded to repentance and reformation although one should rise from the dead, and testify the indispensable importance and supreme necessity of both. The Scriptures of the New Testament were at that time not written. This appeal, therefore, could not be made to them. As it stands in the text, I believe it to be exactly true. Still I shall extend it in the following discourse to the whole sacred canon, because our own concern with the doctrine lies in applying it to both Testaments united. To a Jew the words of Christ, here put into the mouth of Abraham, were addressed with absolute propriety and irresistible force. To us the case scarcely becomes a practical one, without involving in the doctrine, the whole body of revelation.
In canvassing this subject at the present time, I will
I. Consider the evidence of divine truth presented by one risen from the dead.
II. I will examine the evidence of the same truth furnished by the Scriptures, and the advantages of that evidence for convincing and persuading the mind.
III. I shall attempt to show that the doctrine illustrated by this comparison is true.
I. I shall consider the evidence of divine truth, presented by a person risen from the dead, and its probable effects upon mankind.
Here it will be necessary to confine the case to such as actually saw and conversed with the person who had risen. This plainly is the very case supposed in the text. The rich man wishes that Lazarus may be sent in person to his brethren. It is to this request that the answer of Abraham is directed; and this is the case included in the declaration which is now the subject of inquiry. A person whom we saw rising from the dead would affect us deeply. A person of whose resurrection we had only heard would comparatively affect us very little. Our inquiries, therefore, ought to be confined to the former of these cases, if we would even appear to do justice to the subject. With this scheme of investigation before me, I proceed
First, That the impressions made by one who was seen to rise from the grave, and gave to the spectators his testimony concerning a future state, would undoubtedly be great and solemn.
This truth is enforced upon the conviction of every man by the mere impulse of his own feelings. We see all men listen, nay, we ourselves have often listened, to stories concerning the appearance of the inhabitants of the invisible world with an attention singular, and with emotions appalling the imagination, and engrossing the heart. A person known to have come from that world, a person seen to ascend from the grave, would therefore exceedingly engross and alarm the minds of men. The apprehension that he had come from the unknown, unvisited region to which the soul is summoned when it bids adieu to the body, that he dwelt there, and knew whatever existed or was transacted there, would be among the most solemn of all apprehensions. Whatever he said he would be justly considered as speaking from his own experience. He would be regarded as uttering, not doctrines, but facts. His discourses would not
be cold dissertations concerning abstract subjects, apt in their nature to be uninteresting, and addressed only to the intellect, but histories of events which had actually taken place, and brought directly home to the soul. The miseries which he had suffered, or the happiness which he had enjoyed, would flow from his tongue in the living language of the heart. His views would be the sun-light views of experience. His emotions would be awakened by intense woe, or kindled by the flame of immortal life. His thoughts would breathe, his words would "burn." He who was not moved by them would be justly pronounced to have a heart formed of the nether mill-stone.
Secondly, The evidence which would attend every thing said by such a person would be irresistible.
The miracle of his resurrection would furnish unanswerable proof that he was sent by God; evidence which every man could understand, and which no man without absolute sottishness would fail to feel. But he who is sent by God will, of course, speak that which was true. Even Balaam, hardened as he was in sin, has taught this truth in the most forcible manner. "Lo," said he unto Balak, "I am now come unto "thee. Have I any power at all to say any thing? The "word that God putteth into my mouth, that shall I speak. "How shall I curse whom God hath not cursed, or how shall "I defy whom Jehovah hath not defied? Behold I have re"ceived commandment to bless, and he hath blessed, and I "cannot reverse it." As therefore the mission of this person would be certainly known to be from God, whatever he said would be attended with invincible evidence of its certainty. At the same time, both from the nature of the subjects concerning which his testimony was given, and the high authority of his. mission, from the fact that he was an inhabitant of the eternal world, and from the miracle of his resurrection, it would be equally evident that whatever he said was of the highest importance to mankind. To those who were witnesses of his resurrection, therefore, his whole message would come, fraught with all the proof which could be desired.
Still I am apprehensive that his power to persuade men to repentance and reformation would be much less than at first
thought would be naturally imagined, and that those who resist the various appeals of the Scriptures to the conscience and the heart would find means also of resisting him. To satisfy ourselves, let us now,
II. Examine the evidence of divine truth furnished by the Scriptures, and the advantage which they possess for convincing and persuading the mind.
In this examination the
First thing that meets us is, that the Scriptures were written by God, and were therefore written in the best manner that was possible to accomplish their end.
It will, I suppose, be admitted without a question that the end for which the Scriptures were written is to persuade mankind to repentance and reformation. Much less can it be questioned that the wisdom of God enabled him to discern the best manner of promoting this end, or that his goodness induced him to adopt it. The Scriptures, therefore, are actually written in this manner, and are in the highest degree fitted to effectuate this persuasion.
Secondly, The things which are communicated in the Scriptures concerning our future existence are in their nature the most solemn and impressive which can be conceived.
They are such as God thought it wisest and best to communicate, and are therefore certainly the wisest and best possible. In their own nature also, and as they appear in themselves to our eyes, they possess an immeasurable solemnity and importThe account which is there given of the judgment, of the final sentence, and the grounds on which it is uttered, of the glories of heaven and the miseries of hell, is fraught with an awful and amazing grandeur and a superlative interest, which overwhelm the imagination and spread far beyond the utmost comprehension of the understanding. No objects can affect the mind equally with these, and no method of communicating them, equally with that contained in the Scriptures.
A person risen from the dead might, I acknowledge, disclose a variety of particulars concerning this subject, and inform us of many things which God has not thought proper to unfold in