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THOSE WHO BELIEVE NOT 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 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 into 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 enquiry. 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 to ob
1stly. 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-bright 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.
2dly. The evidence, which would attend every thing said by such a person, would be irresistible.
The miracle of his resurrection would furnish unanswerable proofs, that he was sent by GoD: evidence, which every man could understand, and which no man without absolute sottishness could fail to feel. But he, who is sent by GoD, will, of course, speak that which is 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. I now 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 JEнOVAH hath not defied? Behold, I have received 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 the Scriptures; and the advantages which they possess for convincing, and persuading the mind.
In this examination the
1st 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 per
2dly. 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 importance. The 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 the Scriptures. I will readily admit, that in all probability they would be universally interesting. But, when the Scriptures assert, that they contain all things necessary for life, and for godVOL. II.