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LUKE Xvi. 31.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the pro
phets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. It sometimes happens in matters of reason, as it often does in objects of sense ; that which at first appearance makes a fair shew, upon examination proves 'to be worthless and of no esteem. Some fruits, which allure the eye moft, can the least bear the test of the palate : they may be admired by the traveller, who rides hastily by, and only sees them at a distance ; but, when they are served up at the table, the taste foon rectifies the mistake of the eyes. So likewise, in matters of reason : fome arguments strike the fancy immediately, and take the judgment captive, before it has time fairly to examine the merits of the cause ; and yet, when the vigour of the first onset is over, and time is given for reflection, the demonftration dwindles into nothing, and leaves a man admiring that he was fo casily deceived by lo palpable a cheat. And this seems to be the case of the argument in which the
text is concerned: who would not think that the coming of one from the dead would effectually convince an unbeliever? Or, were we for ourselves to defire the last evidence for a future state, what more should we desire, than to see one come from the dead; one of our old acquaintance; and to hear from him the relation of what happened to him after death, and of what he had seen and experienced in the other world ? And yet this evidence, our Saviour tells us, would have no effect upon an unbeliever : he, who can hold out against the evidence that God has already given that he will one day judge the world in righteousness, would not be per. Juaded though one rose from the dead.
Our Saviour does not deny the coming of one from the dead to be an evidence of a future state ; nor yet, allowing it to be an evidence, does he determine of what weight and authority it is, or ought to be. This only he affirms; that, let the authority of it be what it will, they who will not submit to the authority of a divine revelation, will not submit to this : the reason of which judgment may appear from the following confiderations :
First, If the evidence of revelation be in itself greater and more convincing than the evidence given by one from the dead can possibly be, then there is no reason to expect that he who rejects the greater should submit to the less authority.
Secondly, If the objections which the unbeliever makes use of against the authority of revelation, lie stronger against the authority of one coming from the dead, it is not to be supposed, that he will pass over that in one case, which he so mightily stumbles at in the other. Or,
Thirdly, If unbelief be the effect of a vitiated and corrupted mind, which hates to be reformed; which rejects the evidence, because it will not admit the doctrine, not the doctrine, because it cannot admit the evidence ; in this case all proofs will be alike, and it will be lost labour to ply such a man with reason or new evidence, since it is not want of reason or evidence that makes him an unbeliever. And it is upon this case chiefly that our Saviour grounds his judgment in the text.
First then, Let us consider, whether the evidence upon which revelation stands be in itself greater or more convincing, than the evidence of one coming from the dead can be : if it is, we must subscribe to our Saviour's judgment; that he who will not hear Moses and the Prophets, or Christ and his Apostles, would not be persuaded though one rose from the dead. Whatever a dead man, who appears to you, may tell you concerning another world, all the reason you can have to believe him is, because
you suppose him to come from the other world, and to relate things which he has seen and known: so that his authority is no more than barely the authority of a traveller, who relates things of the countries through which he has paffed. And how will it appear to you, that one from the dead cannot possibly deceive you ? As he is a man, I am sure you have reason to mistrust him; and what reason you have to rely on him as a dead man, I know not. Possibly you may think that the very seeing of one come from the dead will of itself prove the great point of all, the reality of a future ftate. But are you sure it is impossible for any being of the other world to personate a dead man, and to appear to you in the shape and figure of one you formerly knew ? Surely, it is one thing to prove that there is another world, and beings belonging to it; and another to prove a future state, that is, a world in which dead men shall live.
Our Saviour's resurrection was something more than merely the apparition of a dead man: he foretold the time and circumstances of his resurrection, and put the proof of his miffion and doctrine upon the performance of this great wonder : so that by this means his resurrection became a direct proof of this, that the doctrine he taught was the doctrine of him who has power to raise the dead. And since part of his doctrine is, that the dead shall be raised; we are thus far certain, that he, who has power to raise the dead, has assured us that the dead shall be raised : for no one can foretel the time and circumstances of a dead man's rifing to life, who has not the power, or is not commissioned by him who has the power, of life and death. So that the authority of our Saviour's word after his resurrection was not barely the authority of one coming from the dead, but it was the authority of him who has power to raise the dead; which authority we know belongs not to man, and therefore is greater than the authority of any man either from the dead or the liv. ing. So that our Saviour's resurrection proves a commission from the highest power to teach the world; which cannot be proved merely from the appearance of one from the dead. And here lies
the true difference between the refurrection of Chrift, and the refurrection of those whom our Saviour himself raised from the dead. We have been asked, why Lazarus and the rest did not publish their knowledge of the other world? One plain answer is, they were not commissioned so to do: their resurrection was a proof of his power and commiffion, who raised them to life, but of their own power and commiffion it was no proof: they were merely passive in their resurrection, and brought no more authority from the grave, than they carried to it; and therefore had no right to set up for teachers.
Then, as to the reality of our Saviour's resurs rection, there was warning given to expect it ; which of itself is a great evidence of fincere dealing. Men do not use to give public notice of the cheats they intend to play; or, if ever they have, the fuccess has been answerable to the inanagement, and yielded nothing but shame and confusion to the contrivers. And, after his resurrection, his stay upon earth was so long, as to give full satisfaction, to all concerned, of the truth and reality of what they saw. At his first appearance, the disciples were in the fame case with others who think they see spectres and apparitions; that is, they were confounded and amazed, and did not know well what they saw: and, had not the frequency of our Saviour's appearances made them familiar to then, so that they bore the fight of him with the same fedateness of mind as they did in his lifetime, and consequently had all the necessary qualifications to judge rightly concerning what they heard or faw;