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our minds also. Whatever is more than ne. ceffary to convince, can only dazzle and con. found us.
Scarcs any thing, it must be acknowledged, could better satisfy the desire of prying into futurity, so natural to mankind, than what the rich man so eagerly requested: the return of a friend from darkness and the grave to light and life, muft doubtless have amazed and aftonished, but it does not from thence follow that it would have convinced the unbelievers.
The church of Rome, which hath always been ready to take advantages of the errors and follies of mankind to promote its own ends, hath not failed to lay hold of this natural curio. fity, this love of the marvellous and astonishing, so constantly found in human nature. Men were continually foliciting them for miracles, and they are therefore continually forging them for the multitude; and, as if the real wonders which our Saviour wrought were not fufficient, have continued a chain of fictitious ones from those times even to this day,
But again: Is it not the utmost arrogance in man to call in question the conduct of God? Are we to direct the great Governor of the universe, or to guide the hand of the Almighty? What right have we to expect that the rules which he hath established shall be changed for our pleasure, and the great fixed laws of nature reversed for the service or for the amuse. ment of a worthless individual? We may rest ailured, that if we have no regard to the works
of God, God hath a reverence and veneration for his own, and will not disturb or confound them. If the Almighty were to perform mira. cles as often as men wished, and perhaps expect them of him, he would have no other employment: and indeed, if such a favour were granted to one, all might have an equal right to expect it. If God had permitted Lazarus to appear to the rich man's brethren, their children, and their childrens children, might with equal eagerness have folicited for, and with an equal degree of confidence required it of him. There are sharp and power. ful medicines, which, when firit administered, act very strongly on the constitution, but if frequently repeated, lose all their efficacy. And so it is with what works upon the mind : those strange and extraordinary proofs, those miracles which might perhaps in some measure convince the judgment, or enlighten the understanding, would, in a very little time, be of no more service than the common operations of nature.
Briefly then to apply this parable to ourselves, and conclude: The Jews were a people whom no king could govern, no God could please, no miracles convert. And the case is the same with our modern Infidels who reject Christianity: they have all that reasonable men can require: their understanding muji be convinced of the truth of Christianity, but the passions refuse their assent, and will not let them embrace it.
They say with the rich man, send us one from the other world, to testify unto us, and we will believe. But had not the Jews Moses and the prophets? and have not these men the Gospel of Christ? have they not already witnesses to confront, facts to convince, and miracles to confute them?
Were messengers therefore to be sent from the grave, they would not believe them. Like those Jews who had no joy in the coming of Christ, though the news of his birth was brought by angels, yet were the tidings unwelcome to them. Thus the enemies of our holy religion would be still calling for new proofs; they would ask of God how he made the world, and how he preserves it; they would defire him to explain to them the mystery of their creation, and of their redemption; all those divine truths, which God hath reserved to himself, and which are therefore inexplicable by human wisdom, and unattainable by mortal reason.
Shall man then, who was but of yesterday, reprove the Ancient of days ? Shall he who fees but in part, find fault with all, or dare to correct that wisdom by which he was made? A day will come, we know, when all will be explained; there is nothing secret which shall not be revealed, neither hid which shall not be known. To that day, then, let us defer all our doubts and uncertainties. Let us not dare to suspect the goodness, or arraign the justice of God, but submit to his decrees, ftudy his holy Scriptures, and believe them; perform, in
short, our one easy task, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.
In the mean time we may rest assured, that if our hearts are still obdurate, and turned against God; if neither his judgments have awakened, nor his mercies melted us to repen. tance; if we still doubt, and still deny; if we are not, in short, already convinced and already persuaded, neither should we be convinced or persuaded though one rose from the dead.
ON THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON.
S E R M O N
LUKE XV. 18, 19.
I will arise and go to my father, and say unto
him, Father, I have finned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called.
thy fon. WHEN our bleffed Saviour condescended,
in an easy and familiar manner, to instruct his followers, the better to infinuate his divine precepts into the minds of those to whom positive injunctions might seem harsh and difagreeable, he frequently cloathed them in the becoming garb of fable or allegory; deceiving them, as it were, into virtue, and at the same țime commanding their attention by novelty N 2
His beautiful parables are all adapted to the capacities of those to whom they were delivered; though plain, yet elegant, and though simple, yet fublime; such, in short, as the most ignorant must have understood, and the most learned could not but admire; not spun out by tedious and unnecefsary digressions, or obscured by phrases remote and unintelligible; not calculated merely to amuse and entertain, but designed to better and improve the mind, to convey instruction, and inculcate the most important tenets of his divine institution. And amongst these, there is not perhaps one abounding with more beautiful imagery, conveying more useful lessons, nor more clearly, or more pathetically expressed, than that which is now before us.
The Pharisees, whom our Saviour so often rebukes for their pride and hypocrisy, were extremely surprised, and no less dissatisfied also, to fee one who assumed the title of a Law-giver, condescend to associate and converse with men of the lowest rank in life; and what to them appeared ftill more extraordinary, men of bad character and reputation also: and they murmured, saying, This man receiveth finners, and cateth with them
Our Saviour, therefore, takes this occasion of vindicating his conduct, and explaining to them the nature and end of his divine mission, which they were, or pretended to be strangers to: they secmed to imagine (like the church of Rome, which to this day treads in their steps) that they were the favourites, the elect