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11. "Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the prophets : let them hear them, ver. 29. And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went to them from the dead, they will repent.' Who would not be of the same opinion? Might not any one reasonably suppose, a message, solemnly delivered by one that came from the dead, must have an irresistible force? Who would not think, I myself could not possibly withstand such a preacher of repentance?
II. This I conceive to be the meaning of the words. I will now endeavour, with the help of God, to apply them. And I beseech you, brethren, while I am doing this, "to suffer the word of exhortation." The more closely these things are applied to your souls, the more ye may profit thereby.
1. "There was a certain rich man :"-And it is no more sinful to be rich than to be poor. But it is dangerous beyond expression. Therefore, I remind all of you that are of this number, that have the conveniences of life, and something over, that ye walk upon slippery ground. Ye continually tread on snares and deaths. Ye are every moment on the verge of hell! "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for you to enter into the kingdom of heaven.". "Who was clothed in purple and fine linen." And some may have a plea for this. Our Lord mentions them that "dwell in kings' houses," as wearing gorgeous, that is splendid apparel, and does not blame them for it. But certainly this is no plea for any that do not dwell in kings' houses. Let all of them, therefore, beware how they follow his example, who is " lifting up his eyes in hell:" let us follow the advice of the apostle, being "adorned with good works, and with the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit."
2. "He fared sumptuously every day."-Reconcile this with religion who can. I know how plausibly the prophets of smooth things can talk in favour of hospitality; of making our friends welcome; of keeping a handsome table, to do honour to religion; of promoting trade, and the like. But God is not mocked: he will not be put off with such pretences as these. Whoever thou art that sharest in the sin of this rich man, were it no other than "faring sumptuously every day," thou shalt as surely be a sharer in his punishment except thou repent, as if thou wert already crying for a drop of water to cool thy tongue!
3. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table," ver. 20, 21. But it seems both the rich man and his guests were too religious to relieve common beggars. sin of which pious Mr. H. earnestly warns his readers; and an admonition of the same kind, I have read on the gate of the good city of Winchester! I wish the gentleman who placed it there, had seen a little circumstance which occurred some years since. At Epworth, in Lincolnshire, the town where I was born, a beggar came to a house in the market place, and begged a morsel of bread, saying "she was very hungry.' The master bid her begone, for a lazy jade. She called at a second, and begged a little small beer, saying," she was very thirsty." She had much the same answer. At a third door, she begged a little water; saying, "she was very faint." But this man also was too conscientious to encourage common beggars. The boys, seeing a ragged creature turned from door to door, began to pelt her with snow balls
She looked up, lay down, and died! Would you wish to be the man, who refused that poor wretch a morsel of bread, or a cup of water ?— "Moreover, the dogs came, and licked his sores;" being more compassionate than their master." And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom." Hear this, all ye that are poor in this world. Ye that, many times, have not food to eat, or raiment to put on; ye that have not a place where to lay your head, unless it be a cold garret, or a foul and damp cellar! Ye are now reduced to "solicit the cold hand of charity." Yet lift up your load; it shall not always be thus. I love you, I pity you; I admire you, when "in patience ye possess your souls." Yet I cannot help you. But there is one that can: the Father of the fatherless, and the Husband of the widow. "The poor crieth unto the Lord; and he heareth him, and delivereth him out of all his troubles." Yet a little while, if ye truly turn to him, his angels shall carry you into Abraham's bosom. There ye shall "hunger no more, and thirst no more;" ye shall feel no more sorrow or pain; but "the Lamb shall wipe away all tears from your eyes, and lead you forth beside fountains of living waters.”
4. But see, the scene is changed! "The rich man also died." What! in spite of his riches? Probably sooner than he desired. For how just is that word: "Oh, death, how bitter art thou to a man that is at rest in the midst of his possessions?" However, if that would be a comfort, he " was buried." But how little did it signify, whether he was laid under a lofty monument, or among
"Graves with bending osier bound,
That nameless heave the crumbled ground?"
And what followed? "In hell he lifted his eyes." This, it is certain, ye need not do. God does not require it of you: "He willeth not that any should perish." Ye cannot, unless by your own wilful choice, intrude into those regions of wo, which God did not prepare for you, but for "the devil and his angels."
5. See the scene change again! "He seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." And he knew him; although, perhaps, he had only cast a glance at him, while he "lay at his gates.' Is any of you in doubt, whether we shall know one another in the other world? Here your doubts may receive a full solution. If a soul in hell knew Lazarus in paradise, as far off as he was, certainly those that are together in paradise will perfectly know each other.
6. " And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me!" -I do not remember in all the Bible, any prayer made to a saint, but this. And if we observe who made it, a man in hell,-and with. what success, we shall hardly wish to follow the precedent. Oh let us cry for mercy to God, not to man! And it is our wisdom to cry now, while we are in the land of mercy; otherwise it will be too late !—“ I am tormented in this flame!" Tormented, observe, not purified! Vain hope, that fire can purify a spirit! As well might you expect water to cleanse the soul, as fire. God forbid that you or I should make the trial!
7. And "Abraham said, Son, remember :"-mark, how Abraham accosts a damned spirit: and shall we behave with less tenderness to any of the children of God, "because they are not of our opinion?”— "Thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things." Oh, beware it be
not your case! Are not the things of the world "thy good things?" The chief objects of thy desire and pursuit? Are they not thy chief joy? If so, thou art in a very dangerous state; in the very condition which Dives was in upon earth! Do not then dream, that all is well, because thou art "highly esteemed among men ;" because thou doest no harm, or doest much good, or attendest all the ordinances of God. What is all this if thy soul cleaves to the dust? If thy heart is in the world: it thou lovest the creature more than the Creator.
8. How striking are the next words! "Beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they who would pass from us to you, cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence." This was the text which occasioned the epitaph on a right honourable infidel and gamester :—
"Here lies a dicer; long in doubt
If death could kill the soul, or not?
You are not passed the
But, blessed be God, your die is not cast yet. great gulf, but have it still in your power to choose whether you will be attended by angels or fiends, when your soul quits its earthly mansion. Now stretch out your hand to eternal life, or eternal death! And God says, "Be it unto thee, even as thou wilt!"
9. Being repulsed in this, he makes another request: "I pray thee, send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify to them."-It is not impossible that other unhappy spirits may wish well to the relations they have left behind them. But this is the accepted time for them, as well as for us. Let us, then, address them ourselves; and let us beg our living friends to give us all the help they can, without waiting for assistance from the inhabitants of another world. Let us earnestly exhort them to use the helps they have; to "hear Moses and the prophets." We are, indeed, apt to think, like that unhappy spirit, "If one went to them from the dead, they will repent." "But Abraham said, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." III. I am, in the third place, to prove the truth of this weighty sentence: which I will do, first, briefly, and then more at large.
1. And, first, to express the matter briefly: It is certain, that no human spirit, while it is in the body, can persuade another to repent; can work in him an entire change, both of heart and life: a change from universal wickedness, to universal holiness. And suppose that spirit discharged from the body, it is no more able to do this, than it was before no power less than that which created it at first, can create any soul anew. No angel, much less any human spirit, whether in the body or out of the body, can bring one soul" from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God." It might very possibly fright him to death, or to the belief of any speculative truth; but it could not fright him into spiritual life. God alone can raise those that are "dead in trespasses and sins."
2. In order to prove more at large, that if men "hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be [effectually] persuaded [to repent,] though one rose from the dead;" I will propose a case of this kind, with all the advantages that can be conceived. Suppose, then, one
that does not "hear Moses and the prophets," that does not believe the Scripture to be of God, to be fast asleep in his bed, and suddenly to awake, while the clock was just striking one. He is surprised to observe the chamber as light as if it were noon day. He looks up, and sees one whom he perfectly knew, standing at his bed side. Though a little surprised at first, he quickly recollects himself, and has the courage to ask "Are not you my friend, who died at such a time?" He "I am. answers, I am come from God, with a message to you. You have often wished you could see one risen from the dead; and said, then you would repent. You have your wish; and I am ordered to inform you, you are seeking death in the error of your life. If you die in the state you are in now, you will die eternally. I warn you in his name, that the Scriptures are the real word of God; that from the moment you die, you will be remarkably happy, or unspeakably miserable; that you cannot be happy hereafter, unless you are holy here: which cannot be, unless you are born again. Receive this call from God! Eternity is at hand. Repent, and believe the gospel!" Having spoken these words, he vanishes away; and the room is dark as it was before.
3. One may easily believe, it would be impossible for him not to be convinced for the present. He would sleep no more that night; and would, as soon as possible, tell his family what he had seen and heard. Not content with this, he would be impatient to tell it to his former companions. And, probably, observing the earnestness with which he spoke, they would not then contradict him. They would say to each other, "Give him time to cool; then he will be a reasonable man again." 4. Now it is constantly found, that impressions made on the memory gradually decay that they grow weaker and weaker in process of time, and the traces of them fainter and fainter. So it must be in this case; which his companions observing, would not fail to seize the opportunity. They would speak to this effect: "It was a strange account you gave us some time since: the more so, because we know you to be a sensible man, and not inclined to enthusiasm. But, perhaps, you have not fully considered, how difficult it is, in some cases, to distinguish our dreams from our waking thoughts. Has any one yet been able to find out an infallible criterion between them? Is it not then possible, that you may have been asleep, when this lively impression was made on your mind?" When he had been brought to think, possibly it might be a dream; they would soon persuade him, probably it was so; and not long after, to believe, it certainly was a dream. So little would it avail, that one came from the dead!
5. It could not be expected to be otherwise. For what was the effect which was wrought upon him? 1. He was exceedingly frightened: 2. This fright made way for a deeper conviction of the truth then declared: but, 3. His heart was not changed. None but the Almighty could effect this. Therefore, 4. The bias of his soul was still set the wrong way he still loved the world, and consequently, wished that the Scripture was not true. How easily then, as the fright wore off, would he again believe what he wished! The conclusion, then, is plain and undeniable. If men "hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded" to repent and believe the gospel, "though one rose from the dead."
6. We may add one consideration more, which brings the matter to a full issue. Before, or about the same time, that Lazarus was carried into Abraham's bosom, another Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was actually raised from the dead. But were even those who believed the fact persuaded to repent? So far from it, that "they took counsel to kill Lazarus," as well as his Master! Away, then, with the fond imagination, that those who "hear not Moses and the prophets would be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
7. From the whole we may draw this general conclusion: that standing revelation is the best means of rational conviction: far preferable to any of those extraordinary means which some imagine would be more effectual. It is therefore our wisdom to avail ourselves of this; to make full use of it; so that it may be a lantern to our feet, and a light in all our paths. Let us take care, that our whole heart and life be conformable thereto; that it be the constant rule of all our tempers, alı our words, and all our actions. So shall we preserve in all things the testimony of a good conscience towards God: and when our course is finished, we too shall be "carried by angels into Abraham's bosom." Birmingham, March 25, 1788.
SERMON CXVIII.—The difference between walking by sight, and walking by faith.
"We walk by faith, not by sight," 2 Cor. v, 7.
1. How short is this description of real Christians! And yet how exceeding full! It comprehends, it sums up the whole experience of those that are truly such, from the time they are born of God, till they remove into Abraham's bosom. For, who are the we that are here spoken of? All that are true Christian believers. I say, Christian, not Jewish believers. All that are not only servants, but children of God. All that have "the Spirit of adoption, crying in their hearts, Abba, Father." All that have" the Spirit of God witnessing with their spirits, that they are the sons of God."
2. All these, and these alone, can say, "We walk by faith, and not by sight." But before we can possibly "walk by faith," we must live by faith, and not by sight. And to all real Christians our Lord saith, “Because I live, ye live also:" ye live a life which the world, whether learned or unlearned, "know not of." "You that," like the world, were dead in trespasses and sins, hath he quickened," and made alive; given you new senses,-spiritual senses," senses exercised to discern spiritual good and evil."
3. In order thoroughly to understand this important truth, it may be proper to consider the whole matter. All the children of men that are not born of God, "walk by sight," having no higher principle. By sight, that is, by sense; a part being put for the whole; the sight for all the senses; the rather, because it is more noble and more extensive than any, or all the rest. There are but few objects which we can discern by the three inferior senses of taste, smell, and feeling and none of these can take any cognizance of its object, unless it be brought into a direct contact with it. Hearing, it is true, has a larger sphere