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4. It more evidently shews the importance of the affair, that God should immediately concern himself in it, than the coming of one from the dead would do. Those things in which kings most immediately concern themselves, are commonly matters of the greatest importance; they leave lesser concerns to their ministers and agents. Now God in all ages of the world hath shewed himself much concerned in this matter. How abundantly hath he warned us in his holy word-how earnest has he shewn himself in it-how many arguments and expostulations has he used that we might avoid the way to hell!
5. God's warning us of a danger has a greater tendency to influence us, because he is our Judge. The punishment is that to which he condemns, and which he inflicts. What he warns us against, is his own wrath and vengeance. He tells us that if we go on in sin he will destroy us: He tells us so himself, and this is certainly more calculated to affect us, than to be told so by another who is not to be our judge.
6. God is infinitely wise, and knows better how to speak persuasively to us, than one rising from the dead. He perfectly knows our nature and state, and knows how to adapt his instructions and warnings to our frame and circumstances in the world. If one should come from the dead to warn sinners, it
be that he would tell them of hell in a manner that would drive them to despair, rather than exeite them to strive for salvation, in the diligent use of the means which God has appointed. But God knows what revelation we can bear, and what is the most proper to do us good in this our infirm, dark, and sinful state. It is good for us to be warned and instructed by God, who knows best how to do it.
Now since the rising of one from the dead seems to us the most calculated of all other methods to awaken us, and yet our Savior says, that even this would not have the effect, where the testimonies of Moses and the prophets fail, it is a natural inference, that all other methods that could be imagined would be ineffectual.
Men think that if they saw some prophet and his miracles, this would strongly impress them. But how was it in those times in which there were prophets? There has rarely been a more degenerate age than that in which Elijah and Elisha lived. The people did not regard their prophecies or miracles, but walked in their own ways, and served their own gods: so that Elijah thought there were none left of the true worshippers of God. Would it be sufficient if we could hear God therefore, actually speak from Heaven? But in the time of Moses, they heard God speak out of the midst of the fire, and saw Mount Sinai covered with smoke and flame, and shaken to its base. Did they all turn from their sins? It is true that they were very much affected at first; but how hard-hearted, and rebellious them
soon became! Men are apt to suppose that if they had lived in the time of Christ, and had seen and heard him, and witnessed his miracles, they must have been convinced, and would have obeyed him. But what was the fact of men like ihe Pharisees, who did see him? few were brought to repentance by all his discourses and miracles — few were his constant followers! The scripture is full of instances to prove, that if the word of God will not awaken sinners, nothing will. And we see enough in these days to convince us of it. Men sometimes meet with things by which we should think it in possible that they should not be reformed, if we did not see the fact. They sometimes hear the warnings of dying men, who are expecting to go to hell; they are affected for a while; but the solemn warning does but just touch them, and passes away: Sometimes themselves are laid upon a bed of sickness, and their lives hang in doubt before them. They are brought to the sides of the grave, and their hearts are full of terror: yet if they recover they soon forget it, and return to the ways of folly and wickedness. Sometimes this is repeated—they are taken sick again, are again in extreme danger-their hearts are full of terror-and many promises and vows are made: yet on recovery they forget all, and again return to sin and folly! Such things may convince us that where the word of God is not effectual, neither sickness, nor any thing else is likely to be so.
Hence let us learn the dreadful hardness of our hearts, that we are not more moved and wrought upon by the best means which infinite wisdom could provide. How few are there who are effectually changed by the word of God! they are very thinly sown, there is but here and there one. But how just will God be in punishing the impenitent! For he gives them the best means of reclaiming them; and gives them abundant warning before he punishes them. What could he have done more than he has done? We cannot devise or imagine a method better than that which God hath given us. How justly therefore are ungodly, men punished! how inexcusable will they be! Let us be induced to improve those means, that is, let us hear Moses and the prophets, Christ and the Apostles—let us be persuaded to study the scripture more; to read and hear it carefully; to consider it thoroughly; and daily to walk according to its rule. The danger of neglecting it, on any pretence, cannot be more forcibly exhibited than by recurring to the circumstances of the narrative before us. And it is well worth our while to inquire, in what we differ from the rich man. not worse, we hope, than our neighbors; we would not injure a fellow-creature in the world; we believe in the scriptures: but might not the rich man have said the same with perfect truth? yet he went to hell. He was not charged by Abraham with defect in any of his duties towards men, yet he went to hell: why?
because he was a lover of pleasure, more than a lover of God he loved the world and the things of it. He wished to receive his good things in this life. He preferred the present to the future. He could not sacrifice present enjoyments in the expectation of future rewards-he could not submit to privations, though the necessities of his soul required ithe could not undergo the difficulties, or brook the self-denial of a religious life-he would not make himself miserable when he had the means of enjoyment in his power-he kept up his religion perhaps by the cursory performance of a few heartless duties, but he would not suffer it to interfere with his pleasures, or debar him from agreeable society, whether they consisted of persons fearing God, or otherwise.
God would let him have his choicehis Bible being neglected, God sent him no other monitor. He ate, he drank, he laughed, he played, but, while yet a young man, he died, and went to hell!
Men and brethren, can any thing open your eyes if this does not? Can you not yet perceive for whom our Savior spoke the parable? Plainly not for the wicked, but for those whose chief concern is the body and this life. If there be any doubt on this head, see it confirmed by our Savior's own words: Woe unto you that are full, for ye shall hunger. Granting that these words need not be taken in their literal sense, there is something in the spirit of them that may shew us what Christianity is. If