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and then the man might return to the dead, from whence he came, and not a soul make one inquiry about him.
-This, I fear, would be the conclusion of the affair. But to bring this matter still closer to us, let us imagine, if there is nothing unworthy in it, that God, in compliance with a curious world,—or froma better motive-in compassion to a sinful one, should vouchsafe to send one from the dead, to call home our conscience and make us better christians, better citizens, better men, and better servants to God than we are.
Now bear with me, I beseech you, in framing such an address as, I imagine, would be most likely to gain our attention, and conciliate the heart to what he had to say : the great channel to it is in. terest ;-and there he would set out.
He might tell us, (after the most indisputable credentials of whom he served) That he was come a messenger from the great God of heaven, with reiterated proposals, whereby much was to be granted us on his side,
and something to be parted with on ours but that, not to alarm, us,-'twas neither houses, nor land, nor possessions ;--'twas neither wives, nor children, nor brethren, nor sisters, which we had to forsake ;-no one rational pleasure to be given up ;-no natural endearment to be torn from.
In a word, he would tell us, We had nothing to part withs--but what was not for our interests to keep, and that was our vices; which brought death and misery to our doors.
He would go on, and prove it by a thousand arguments, that to be temperate and chaste, and just
and peaceable, and charitable and kind to one anotherwas only doing that for CHRIST's sake, which was most for our own; and that, were we in a capacity of capitulating with God, upon what terms we would submit to his government ;-he would convince us, 'twould be impossible for the wit of man to frame any proposals more for our present interests, than " to lead an uncorrupted life-to do the thing which " is lawful and right," and Jay such restraints upon our appelites as are for the honour of human nature and the refinement of human happiness.
When this point was made out, and the alarms from interest got over-the spectre might address himself to the other passions.-In doing this, he could but give us the most engaging ideas of the perfections of God ;-nor could he do more than iinpress the most awful ones of his majesty and power ishe might remind us, that we are creatures but of a day, hastening to the place from whence we shall not return ;-that during our stay we stood accountable to this Being, who, though rich in mercies,-yet was terrible in his judgments; Łthat he took notice of all our actions that he was about our paths, and about our beds, and spied out all our ways; and was so pure in his nature, that he would punish even the wicked imaginations of the heart ; and had appointed a day wherein he would enter into this enquiry.
He might add,
But what ?-with all the eloquence of an inspired tongue, What could he add or say to us, which has not been said before? The experiment has been tried a thousand times upon the hopes and fears, the reasons and passions of men, by all the powers
of nature :--the applications of which have been so great, and the variety of addresses só unanswera. ble, that there is not a greater paradox in the world than that so great a religion should be no better recommended by its professors.
The fact is, mankind are not always in a humour to be convinced ;--and so long as the pre-engagement with our passion subsists, it is not argumenta. tion which can do the business ;-We may amuse ourselves with the ceremony of the operation, but we reason not with the proper faculty, when we see every thing in the shape and colouring in which the treachery of the senses paints it : and indeed, were we only to look into the world, and observe how inclinable men are to defend evil, as well as to commit it, one would think, at first sight, they believe ed that all discourses of religion and virtue were mere matters of speculation for men to entertain some idle hours with ; and conclude very naturally, that we seemed to be agreed in no one thing but speaking well and acting ill. But the truest com. ment is in the text ;If they hear not Moses and the prophets,' &c.
If they are not brought over to the interests of religion upon such discoveries as God has made, or has enabled them to make, they will stand out against all evidence : in vain shall one rise for their conviction ;-was the earth to give up her dead, 'twould be the same;every man would return again to his course, and the same bad passions would produce the same bad actions to the end of the world.
This is the principal lesson of the parable ; but I must enlarge upon the whole of it because it has some other useful lessons; and they will best present themselves to us as we go along:
In this parable, which is one of the most remarkable in the gospel, our Saviour represents a scene, in which, by a kind of contrast, two of the most opposite conditions that could be brought together from human life, are pass'd before our imaginations.
The one, a man exalted above the level of mankind, to the highest pinnacle of prosperity,—lo riches-to happiness ;-I say happiness in compliance with the world, and on a supposition that the possession of riches must make us happy, when the very pursuit of them so warms our imaginations, that we stake both body and soul upon the event ; as if they were things not to be purchased at too dear a rate. They are the wages of wisdom,mas well as of folly..Whatever was the case here, is beyond the purport of the parable ;-the scripture is silent, and so should we ; it marks only his outward condition, by the common appendages of it, in the two great articles of vanity and appetite :gratify the one, he was clothed in purple and fine linen : to satisfy the other, fared sumptuously every day ;-and upon every thing too, we'll suppose, that climates could furnish that luxury could invent,
or the band of science could torture: Close by his gates is represented an object, whom Providence might seem to have placed there to cure the pride of man, and shew him to what wretchedness his condition might be brought : a creature in all the shipwreck of nature ;-helpless-undone, -in want of friends in want of health and in want of every thing with them which his distresses called for.
In this state he is described as desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; and though the case is not expressly put, that he was refused, yet, as the contrary is not affirmed in the historical part of the parable,--or pleaded after by the other, that he shewed mercy to the misera. ble,we may conclude his request was unsuccess. ful ;-like too many others in the world, either so high lifted up in it, that they cannot look down distinctly enough upon the sufferings of their fellowcreatures-or, by long surfeiting in a continual course of banqueting and good cheer, they forget there is such a distemper as hunger in the catalogue of human infirmities.
Overcharged with this, and perhaps a thousand unpitied wants in a pilgrimage through an unhos. pitable world, the poor man sinks silently under his burden.-But, good God ! whence is this ? Why dost thou suffer these hardships in a world which thou hast made ? Is it for thy honour that one man should eat the bread of fulness, and so many of his own stock and lineage eat the bread of sorrow ? -That this man should go clad in purple, and have all his paths strewed with rose-buds of delight, whilst so many mournful passengers go heavily along, and pass by his gates, hanging down their heads ? Is it for thy glory, O God, that so large a shade of misery should be spread across thy works?
is it that we see but a part of them ?-When the great chain at length is let down, and all that has held the two worlds in harmony is seen ;-when the dawn of that day approaches, in which all the distressful incidents of this drama shall be unravelled; When every man's case shall be reconsidered, 'then wilt thou be fully justified in all thy ways, and every mouth shall be stopped.