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with his cast Clothes: but his strutting in Purple and fine Linen, when Lazjrrus was naked and shivering, and ready to die with the cold his denying him the Crumbs of his Table, when he was just perishing at his doors, was such a piece of Hardheartedness, as justly deserv'd the greatest Torments. However, Riches are not to be blamed for the Faults of the Owners j for they are the Blessings of God, and capable of serving many good Ends. If we use the good things of this Life well, they will bring us to much better in the next 'tis only the Abuse of them here, that dooms us to evil things hereafter. And therefore our Care should be, not only to get the Wealth and Substance of this World, but to have Hearts to use and employ it aright, that it may tend to our present Comfort, and the Increase of our future Felicity.
3*//y, We may observe farther, that as 'tis not the possessing, but the abusing of Riches, that brings on future Torments \ so 'tis not Poverty only, but a pious and patient Behaviour under it, that intitles to future Comforts, 'Twas not Poverty alone that carry'd Lazarus into Abraham's Bpfom, but a Poverty attended with an honest, meek, and contented Mind: for he did not open his mouth ini Murmuring, Lyyig, or Blaspheming, nor reach out his. Hand to Picking and Stealing ., but quietly resign'd himself to God's Dispofal, and trusted in his Providence for a Deliverance when he should fee fit. If a poor Man be a Thief or a Lyar, proud and impatient, and a Contemnec of God and good things, his untanctify'd Poverty will not help him, he hath forfeited all title to Favour - , and to the, evil things he hath receiv'd here, will be added much worse hereafter. In short, Dives was tormented, not for being rich, but for being hard-hearted and unmerciful, for spending all his Wealth upon his own Vanities, and sparing nothing to the Relief o1 Laz.arus's Necessities: And Laz.arttt was comforted not barely for being poor, but for patiently submitting to God's Will, casting his Care upon him in well-doing, and waiting for a Recompence of his Sufferings in God's due time.
The Sense then of Abraham's Answer to J)ives is, to shew that wicked Men, who prosper in their Wickedness, have all their Portion in the good things of this Life ., and for their abusing and mispending of them now, (hall receive nothing but the evil things of Misery and Punishment jn the World to ^oaxs '. likewise that they who have their Portion in the Afflictions and Troubles of this World* (hall be recompens'd with better things at the Resurrection 6f the Just.
As to that part of Dives's Request, to (tn^Lazjsrus with a little Relief to ease his Torments, Abraham replies farther, that between us and you there is a great Gulf fixed, so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, neither ean they pass to us, that would come from you. Which words relate either to the Distance of the Places between them, which would admit of no Correspondence, or passing from the one to the other j or else to that irreversible Decree past upon them, whereby 'twas utterly impossible to give them any Relief in their Condition, or to get them a Release for one moment out of their miserable State• , for the Gates of Mercy were then (hut, and 'twas in vain to ask for that now, which should have been done sooner. Hereupon,
Dives finding his Torments to be endless, easeless, and remediless, faid unto Abraham, 1 pray thee therefore, Fathers that thou wouldst fend him to my Father's House, for I have five Brethren ', that he may testify unto them, left they also come into this place of Torment. Which words are still parabolical, and signify, not that there is so much Charity and Goodness in Hell, as to call Men to Repentance, and to caution others to avoid that place of Torment, in which they had unhappily piung'd themselves: but the Design of those words was, to enhance the Misery and Torments of the Damned, that they were so great, that they could not bear them themselves, nor would they wish them to their greatest Enemies,' and much less to their Friends and Relations. However, Abraham replies to him, that they have sufficient warning already in those matters; for they have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. They may daily read or hear these expounded to them, and by God's Ministers are frequently call'd upon to reform and amend their Lives out of the Scriptures. JXTay, but Father Abraham, (faith he) if one went unto them from the Dead, they will repent. Such an unusual thing would prevail more with them, than all the common and ordinary Means are wont to do. A Messenger from the Dead, that related to, them, from his own Sight and Knowledg, the dreadful Punishments of the Wicked in the other World, would be much more minded and hearken'd to, than the remote and silent Notices of Moses and the Prophets; ye,a, such an. Eye-witness to testify these things, would in all probability work more, and leave deeper Impressions upon Mens Minds, than all the Discourses of those that never faw them. To which Abraham rejoin'd again;
Jf they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, tho one rose from the Dead. Which words plainly suppose,
1st, That they had sufficient Revelations of a future State, together with the Happiness and Misery that follows and belongs to it.
2dly, That 'tis our Duty to hearken to and be directed by them, without seeking or desiring any new or farther Revelations. And,
idly. If we are not convinc'd by the Revelations already made in God's Word j we shall not be persuaded by any other, no not if one rise from the Dead. For the
1st, I fay, that God hath made sufficient Discoveries to us o, the Happiness and Misery of a future State, and summ'd up the whole of our Duty with relation to both, notify'd and confirm'd to us in the Holy Scriptures. They have Moses and the Prophets (faith Abraham) which was a. far better Light than that of natural Reason; by which yet the Heathens had some, tho obscure, Notices of the Rewards and ftinishments of another Life: but we, beside them, have Christ and his Apostles, who have given us much clearer and brighter Revelations of these Truths than they had, and have brought Lise and Immortality to light by the Gospel, 2 Tim. i. 10. He hath shew'd, 0 Man, (faith the Prophet) what is good, and what the Lord thy God requires of thee; namely, to do justly, to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God: Mic. & 8. So that he hath not beenwanting to us in delivering his Mind and our Duty to us, having plainly Ibew'd us both our Work and our Wages, And therefore,
idly, 'Tis manifestly our Duty to receive and hearken to what God hath already told us, without seeking or desiring any new Revelations. They have Moses and the Prophets (laith Abraham) let them hear them; and we have Christ iand his Apoltles, let us much more hear and attend to them. Now by hearing of both, is here meant,
(1.) A thorow and stedfast Belief of what they have delivers to us. For 'tis not the bare hearing or the outward professing of it, that Abraham here speaks of; but 'tisf to have our Understandings thorowly convinc'd of the
Truth Truth of it, and to have this Belief firmly rooted and fettled in our Minds. The Jews heard Christ and his Apostles expounding Mosti and the Prophets to them, but it, barf no effect upon them, because they believ'd it not. So the Author to the Hebrews tells us, that the Word preach d profited not, because it was not mix'd with Faith in them that heard it. And there are many still, who are not so thorowly persuaded of Divine Truths as they ought: And therefore, - . , ;- .,-.. , ,.'.,
(2.) To hear Moses and the Prophets, and other present Revelations, is not only to believe, but seriously to consider and to be directed by them : and they that are so, will soon find that there will be no need or use of any other.
And this is the last Thing here to be briefly spoken to, viz.. That if We are not convine'd by the ordinary standing Revelations of God's Word, we shall not be persuaded by one that comes from the Dead. Some are apt to think, that a Messenger from the Dead would wprk more upon them, than all the Books and Exhortations of the Living: And that because such a Messenger would give them the Certainty of another Life, of which they cannot be otherwise so well persuaded.
Again, One coming from Hell would testify the Truth of such a Place, and the Torments thereof. ,
Moreover, One coming from Abraham's Bosom, may certify us of the Rest and Happiness of such a Place.
But that all these things are otherwise, appears, first, Betause this Experiment hath been already try'd without effect i for Christ the Son of God rose from the Grave, and came from the Dead, to confirm his Doctrine, and to acquaint us with the Affairs of the other World, and yet the Jews would neither receive or believe in him.
Beside, The coming of any from the Dead, is no likely or proper means of giving any fatisfaction: for this is a way liable to great Doubts and Uncertainties, and many have been impos'd upon by Tales of Ghosts and Apparitions.
Again, The coming of any from the Dead is more apt to terrify and affright, than to convince any. When our Saviour first appear'd to his Disciples after his Resurrection, 'tis faid they were terrify'd and affrighted, as if they had seen a Spirit: and that put him to as much pains to fatisfy them of the Reality of his Person, as of the Truth of his Doctrine. Beside, Men may and will easily find Shifts and Evasions to mar the Force of such Arguments. Add to this, that God hath no where promis'd to fend any from the Dead upon such an Errand, nor will'd us to trust or hearken to them, and much less to desire or expect these Expresses. In a word, a settled standing Revelation is of more certainty and better use, than any such Messages from the Dead; the former being well confirm'd to us by Miracles and a Voice from Heaven, the latter liable to all the Cheats and Impostures of Hell. And therefore let us rest sittisfy'd and contented with the Revelations that God hath given us in the Holy Scriptures, and make a right Use of them ; and then there will be no need of any other to guide us into Truth, and to bring us to Heaven.
The Epistle for the Second Sunday afteJ»
i Johniii. Ij, to the end. . .. ;.''. Marvel not, my Brethren, if the World, hate you* We know that me have passed from Death to Life, because we love the Brethren: he that Loveth not his Brother, abideth in Death; whosoever hateth his Brother, is a Murderer, &C.
TH E Collect for this Day minds us of the never-failing Care of God Almighty, to help and govern them, whom he brings up in his stedfast Fear and Love - , and thence beseeches him to keep us under the Protection of his good Providence, and to make us have a per~ petual Fear and Love of his Holy Name.
To which end, the beloved Disciple, in the Epistle for this Day, first warns all good Christians of the Hatred and Malice ot the World against them; after which, he shews the blessed Fruits of a true Love to the Brethren, together With the mischievous Effects of Hatred and Ill-will towards