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LUKE xvi. 27–31.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest
send him to my father's house; for I have five brethren : that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham : bat if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
The fact that there is a future world, where all men are to receive retribution for the characters they have sustained on earth, is one which surely ought to exercise a master control over the passions of the heart, and actions of the life. To seek that there may be an adequate and a commanding impression of this sublime truth, is an object of unequalled importance ; for what can be the result of misapprehension and neglect O
the high concerns of eternal judgment,” but an exposure to evils too tremendous to be contemplated ? Well may a concern for human happiness prompt the employment of every method of exertion calculated to produce an effect on the mind, and lead to the principles and conduct which shall ensure the enjoyment of final and perfect felicity.
We'cannot but know, how the doctrine of future recompence has been met by the avowed infidelity of some, and the thoughtless indifference of more. To banish the thought of a judgment to come, and to live as though the present world contained all that can be hoped or dreaded, has been the crying sin of the human race in all ages. The Almighty, in the exercise of his mercy,
has therefore furnished a testimony adapted to the circumstances of his erring creatures, designed to oppose the ruinous operation of their depravity, to remove their ignorance and mistakes, and to inspire them with the excitements which shall promote the salvation of the soul.—Onegreat end proposed to be accomplished by the incarnation of the Son of God, was to bring “ life and immortality to light,” and to develop the principles, and arrange the institutions of a system, which should remain for redeeming instruction and impression, during every generation of time. Among the various disclosures of futurity he made while upon earth, the narrative of which the words of the text form a part, contains one of the most solemn and comprehensive that ever fell from his lips. Whether the individuals, whose circumstances, characters, and destinies are depicted, were real or fictitious, is not a question of much importance : the principles propounded are unquestionably correct, and are invested with a surpassing interest. Here are described two persons, whose worldly situations formed a remarkable contrast. “There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day : and there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. Their death also is related; a view is given of the retributive state into which, after death, they were introduced, presenting a contrast still more striking; and in the habitations of fate, what a mighty change had occurred to each! “ It came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Then follows the conversation between the patriarch and the lost sinner, which has been read-so awful and emphatic in its import: can you cursorily peruse it without observing, that while exhibiting the emotions of a suffering individual, it also inculcates general truths which every human being should understand and receive, as of infinite consequence to his welfare in time and in eternity? To those truths we must now invoke your continued attention, and shall illustrate them in the following propositions :- That there exists a revelation from God, designed for the guidance and salvation of man : That this revelation is fully qualified to accomplish the purposes for which it was given : That on the rejection of revelation, it is not to be expected any supernatural visitations would produce a saving impression on the heart: and, That the rejection of divine revelation is the cause of future condemnation and misery.
1. THERE EXISTS A REVELATION FROM God, DESIGNED FOR THE GUIDANCE AND SALVATION
When the condemned and tormented sinner petitioned that an extraordinary warning might be sent to arouse and to convince his relatives yet living on earth, he was reminded of certain means already provided and possessed : “ they have Moses and the prophets.” As the scene and time of the parable were laid previous to the full disclosure of the Christian dispensation, the reference was made to the economy that preceded it—to the writings composed by Moses and the prophets; terms intended to include the entire record of the revealed will of Jehovah, which had been preserved and handed down in their high authority, from age to age. In our own days the reference, of course, is justly to be extended. We are required to direct, not merely to Moses and the prophets, but to Christ and the apostles--to the institutes of the Christian system ; and thus we display the whole volume, which comprises both the old covenant and the new, and which we are accustomed to receive as “the counsel" of him who inhabiteth
eternity. The terms before us therefore stand comprehensively, for divine revelation.
That what: we denominate the sacred books, do really develop the principles of true religion, and were dictated by inspiration from the Most High, man is summoned cordially to believe. Lengthened and expanded arguments on this subject, probably, are not altogether necessary in assemblies like the present; and, indeed, the statement of fact and evidence would be too voluminous for the apportioned period and character of our public exercises. We must however observe, that the demand on human faith is justified by considerations, before which the objections and cavils of scepticism ought to be for ever confounded. The necessity of some communication of the divine will and law, is exemplified by the history and state of our species in all ages. See what man has always been, when left to the devices of his own mind; how degraded in intellect, how polluted in morals, how palpably and grossly estranged from all that constitutes the design, and confers the value of his existence: see how little has been attained by the best efforts of reason and philosophy, whether of ancient or of modern times, and how reason and philosophy, when undirected by wisdom from above, have but been the sources of human error, the ministers and panders of human crime : select examples the most favourable, seasons the most promising,