« AnteriorContinuar »
stead of giving their assistance to extricate him from his distresses, those miserable comforters push them deeper in the pit, and take a cruel pleasure in adding affliction to the afflicted, conscious that whilst they are insulting over their unfortunate brother, they are paying encomiums to their own superior prudence and discretion. This rich man had brought himself into the last of evils, into an evil that admitted of no remedy,^ by his own wickedness. Yet Abraham did not address him in this severe and insulting language. He calls him son, his descendant according to the flesh. The good patriarch wanted not to add to the horrors of hell. The spirit of rage and rancour never gains admittance into the bosoms of the blessed. This shews us how different the meek, the gentle, and the benevolent temper is from that cruel and merciless zeal which often passeth for it upon earth.
His own petition being refused, the rich man now applies for his relations. Verse 27. Then he said, I pray thee therefore^ father', that thou wouldst send him to my father's house. Let no wicked man boast himself of possessing some virtues amid the number of his crimes. You see there is even some goodness in hell. The rich man retained still some affection for his brethren, and had a desire for their conversion. Though they had been partakers with him in his sins, he did not want them to be partakers of his punishment. The repetition of the request shews he was in earnest;
Verse SI. Neither ivill they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. As this is a point of great consequence, it requires to be illustrated at some length. Let us suppose, that in order to convince a person of the immortality of his soul, Almighty God sent one of his deceased friends, either in his nnembodied state, or with the same body he had in life. As no person would require such a proof, but one who was very much addicted to scepticism, it is very probable, that even then his doubts would not be removed. He might say, perhaps this may be an im
TOL. IT. J I
pastor, perhaps it may be some evil spirit who has assumed the shape ©f my deceased friend.
But let us suppose, that these doubts are removed, that he is convinced of the reality of the apparition, and the truth of a future state. Let us then see what effect it would have upon his life. He goes into company. He tells the story of the apparition to his companions. They hear it with derision and ridicule, and consider him as a visionary enthusiast, disturbed in his imagination. As the experience of all mankind is against him, and the laws appear to be fixed for ever, of no intercourse between this world and the next, in whatever companies he tells it, it meets with the same treatment ; and all the effect of the apparition is, that it makes every one to conclude him to be beside himself. You all know how difficult it is to remain single in opinion against the whole world. It is still harder to become the object of laughter and ridicule; so that with these difficulties in his way, it is ten to one but he falls in with the opinion of the world, and believes the apparition to have been the phantom of his own fancy. That this is not a mere conjecture, but what would really happen, appears from undoubted matter of fact, that did really happen. You remember the history of Saul. When the Lord would npt answer him by his prophets, he went in quest of a woman who had a familiar spirit. She raised up to him an apparition, which he believed to be the ghost of Samuel the prophet. The apparition assured him that his kingdom was departing from him, and that he had only one day longer to live. What effect had this upon the king? did he repent of his sins? At first he was sore afraid, and was melancholy, but through the persuasion of his attendants, he soon resumed his joy ; and on the morrow after the battle was lost, in order to fulfil the prophecy of the .devil, he. proceeded to commit the most deliberate crimes that can be perpetrated by man: he raised impious hands against his life, and plunged his sword in his own breast.
The fact is, my brethren, mankind are not always in a mood to be convinced. In spite of speculative opinion, men act from their passions, and bad passions will always produce bad actions, to the end of the world. The reluctance of mankind to assent to evidence, when it makes against their preconceived opinion, is remarkably apparent in the reception the Jews gave to our Saviour. All the prophecies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled in him. He appeared in the world in the precise time predicted for the coming of the Messiah; he was descended of the lineage of David; he was born in the city of Bethlehem. A prophet went before him in the spirit and power of Elias. He performed miracles and mighty works, which no man could perform. But after all these proofs, after all these miracles, the Jews, who expected their Messiah to be a temporal Prince, still demanded more evidence. "Shew us," said they, "a sign from heaven." A sign from heaven they obtained. Now, in the presence of multitudes, a voice came from heaven, the voice of the Eternal, piercing the clouds, and proclaiming aloud, " This is "my beloved Son!" Were they then convinced? No : They persecuted him with reproaches in his life, and at last brought him to an ignominious death. And when they had nailed him to to the accursed tree, they still affirmed they would believe on him on proper evidence. "Let him come down from the cross, and we will believe on him." If he had come down from the cross, the redemption of mankind would have been defeated, as it was to be accomplished by his death; but he did more than come down from the cross. He rose from the dead. Did they then believe on him? No : They charged the soldiers who brought them the news of his resurrection, to give out that his disciples stole him away while they slept. Well then may we adopt the maxim of the Patriarch Abraham, and affirm, that if ye believe not Moses and the Prophets ; if ye believe not Christ and his Apostles; ye will not be persuaded though one rose Jrom the dead.
Matthew Xxv. 1—10.
1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven he likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
3. And Jive of them zeere wise, and Jive %<sere foolish.
3. They that zoere foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6. And at midnight there was a. cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 • Then all those' virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8. And the foolish said unto the wise^ Give us of your oil, Jor our lamps are gone out.
9. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10. And white they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that zeere ready, went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.
N a former lecture, I explained to you the nature, the origin, and the use of parables. They were the common vehicles of instruction among the,oriental nations. The wisdom of the east loved to go adorned with flowers and with figures, and, by means bf the imagination, to make its way to the heart. This mode of instruction was frequently honoured by our Lord's adopting it. Accommodating himself to the practice of the east, and to the manners of the Jews, he wrapt up his wisdom in this veil, and delivered his doctrines to the people in parables. As men are much under the guidance of the external senses, and strongly impressed by the material objects ar round them, he who knew what was in man, and who laid hold of every avenue to the human heart, frequently addressed himself to this part of our frame. He spiritualizes the whole system of nature, he turns the most common and familiar occurrences of life into vehicles of Divine truth: and in the gentlest and most insinuating manner, leads us from earth to heaven.
In the parable which 1 have now read, the kingdom of Heaven, or dispensation of the Gospel, is likened to a marriage solemnity. On such occasions it was a custom among the Jews, that the bridegroom, in company with his friends, came late in the night to the house of the bride, where, upon a signal given, she and her bride-maids went out in procession to light him into the house, with great ceremony and splendour. It is said that Jive of these virgins were wise, and that Jive of them were Jcolish. I explained to you, on a former occasion, that, in a parable, we are not to apply particular expressions, but to consider the intention and design upon the whole. If we understood and applied this expression literally, we would be led to conclude, that, under the New Testament, the number of the good and of the bad was equal. But to settle this point, to ascertain the number of those who are to be saved, and of those who are to be damned, was not the intention of our Lord in the parable. For, by the same way of argu ing, we might infer from the parable of the talents, which immediately follows this, that the number of the good was double the number of the wicked, as there were two faithful servants who improved the talents committed to them, for one slothful servant who wrapt up his in a napkin; and in the parable of the marriage supper, in the foregoing chapter, afaongst all the number of the guests who were called