There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:…
I. TO STATE AND LIMIT THE DUE EXTENT OF IT.
II. TO CONFIRM THE TRUTH, SO STATED, BY VARIOUS ARGUMENTS AND REFLECTIONS. After which I shall —
III. DEDUCE SOME INFERENCES FROM IT. As to the extent of this assertion, we may observe —
1. That it is evidently to be under. stood of such persons only as are placed in the same circumstances with the five brethren in the parable; such, consequently, as have been born, where the true religion is professed, and bred up in the belief of it; have had all the early prejudices of education on the side of truth, and all manner of opportunities and advantages towards acquainting themselves with the grounds of it; and yet, notwithstanding all these advantages, have shut their eyes against it, and withstood its force.
2. Neither is the assertion to be rigorously extended to all those who have been educated under the influence of a Divine revelation, and yet lived in opposition to the rules of it; for there is great reason to believe that there are many persons who, through the heat of their lusts and passions, through the contagion of ill example, or too deep an immersion in the affairs of life, swerve exceedingly from the rules of their holy faith, and yet would, upon such an extraordinary warning as is mentioned in the text, be brought to comply with them.
3. That even of these profligate creatures themselves it is not said that so astonishing a scene would make no manner of impression, would have no present influence upon them; but only that it would not produce a lasting effect, nor work an entire conversion.
II. Second general head TO CONFIRM BY VARIOUS ARGUMENTS AND REFLECTIONS. And —
1. We will suppose that such a message from the dead as that for which the rich man here intercedes is really in itself an argument of greater strength and force to persuade a sinner out of the error of his ways than any standing revelation, however so well attested and confirmed. I will show, nevertheless, that it would not be complied with. Because —
(1) It is not for want of strength that the standing ordinary ways of proof are rejected, but for want of sincerity, and a disinterested mind in those to whom they are proposed; and the same want of sincerity, the same adhesion to vice and aversion from goodness, will be equally a reason for their rejecting any proof whatsoever.
(2) A motive, however stronger in itself than another, may yet make a weaker impression when employed, after that the motive of less though sufficient strength hath been already resisted. For the mind doth, by every degree of affected unbelief, contract more and more of a general indisposition towards believing; so that such a proof, as would have been closed with certainty at the first, shall be set aside easily afterwards, when a man hath been used to dispute himself out of plain truths, and to go against the light of his own understanding.
(3) The peculiar strength of the motive may of itself, perhaps, contribute to frustrate the efficacy of it, rendering it liable to be suspected by him to whom it is addressed. He is conscious how little he hath deserved so extraordinary a privilege.
(4) How far these suspicions of his will be improved and heightened by the raillery and laughter he will be sure to meet with on this head from his old friends and companions.
(5) Time and a succession of other objects will bring it about. Every day the impression loses somewhat of its force, and grows weaker, till at length it comes to lie under the same disadvantage with the standing proofs of the gospel. Hitherto I have supposed that the evidence of one risen from the dead hath really the advantage, in point of force and efficacy, of any standing revelation, how well soever attested and confirmed; and, proceeding on that supposition, I have endeavoured to show that such evidence, however in itself forcible, would certainly not be complied with.But the truth is, and, upon a fair balance of the advantages on either side it will appear that the common standing rules of the gospel are a more probable and powerful means of conviction than any such message or miracle: —
1. For this plain reason, because they include in them that very kind of evidence which is supposed to be so powerful, and do, withal, afford us several other additional proofs of great force and clearness. Among many arguments by which the truth of our religion is made out to us, this is but one, that the promulgers of it — Jesus Christ and His apostles — did that very thing which is required to be done, raised men and women from the dead, not once only but often, in an indisputable manner, and before many witnesses.
2. Another great advantage which the standing proofs of the gospel have over such an extraordinary appearance, that this hath all its force at once upon the first impression, and is over afterwards in a declining stale, so that the longer it continues upon the mind, and the oftener it is thought of, the more it loses; whereas those, on the contrary, gain strength and ground upon us by degrees, and the more they are considered and weighed the more they are approved.
3. That, lot the evidence of such a particular miracle be never so bright and clear, yet it is still but particular, and must, therefore, want that kind of force, that degree of influence, which accrues to a standing general proof, from its having been tried and approved, and consented to by men of all ranks and capacities, of all tempers and interests, of all ages and nations.
1. One coming from the dead, angel or man, cannot bring a doctrine more necessary, there being in the Scriptures sufficient direction about the way to true happiness, for which we have not only express testimony, but apparent reason and sensible experience.
2. Better arguments cannot be urged, nor more persuasively. The gospel is "the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24); and surely God knoweth all the wards of the lock, and what kind of keys will fit the heart of man. What do we need more to move us? Shall God pipe to you in a sweeter strain than that of gospel grace or gospel promises? Is the giving Himself and His Christ a price too cheap to purchase your hearts? or must He thunder to you in a more dreadful accent than the horrors of everlasting darkness? Oh! but one that cometh from the dead is supposed to testify his own sight and knowledge, and so to speak more feelingly. And have not God's messengers some experience? Cannot they say, We declare to you the things which we have seen and heard and felt?
3. It is not because he could propound these truths with more certainty, for these things are already propounded to our understandings, and we have sensible confirmation.
(1) They are propounded to our understandings with a fair and full credibility. The holy Scriptures have in themselves a self-evidencing light, by which they make it out to the consciences of men that they are of God.
(2) We have sensible confirmations. We are wrought upon by sense. Now is not ordinarily the word as sensibly confirmed to us as it would be by a vision or apparition from the dead?
(a) There is the holiness of professors (1 Corinthians 14:25).
(b) There is the constancy of the martyrs that have ratified this truth with the loss of their dearest concernments.(Revelation 12:11).
(c) Then there is the inward feeling of God's children; they find a power in the word, convincing, changing, comforting, fortifying their hearts. They have answerable impressions on their hearts (Hebrews 8:10).
(d) Those that have no experience of this have a secret fear of the power of the word (John 3:20).
(e) There are also outward effects of the power of the word; its propagation throughout all the world within thirty years or thereabout.
(f) Then consider the many sensible effects of the word, as the accomplishment of prophecies, promises, threatenings, and answer of prayers. God's providence is a comment upon Scripture.
II. Against it. THERE ARE MORE RATIONAL PREJUDICES THAT LIE AGAINST ANY OTHER WAY THAN THIS WAY THAT GOD HATH TAKEN. As to instance in the matter in hand.
1. It is no mean scruple about the lawfulness of hearkening to one that should come from the dead, since they are out of the sphere of our commerce, and it is a disparagement to the great doctor of the Church. Against consulting with the dead, see Deuteronomy 18:10-12, with 14, 15.
2. It is not so sure a way. How could we trust or believe any one that should bring a message from the dead, since impostors are so rife? Satan can turn himself into an angel of light.
3. It is not so effectual a course as some think. The Jews would not believe Lazarus, when, after he had been four days dead, he was raised up again.
4. It is not so familiar a way, and therefore not so fit to instil faith, and reduce men to God's purpose by degrees, as the written Word, to which we may have recourse without affrightment, and that at all times.
1. That man is apt to indent with God about believing and repenting upon terms of his own making (Matthew 26:42). God will not always give sensible confirmation.
2. There lie more prejudices by far against any way of our devising than against the course which God hath instituted for the furthering of our repentance. Man is an ill caterer for himself. All God's institutions are full of reason, and if we had eyes to see it we could not be better provided for.
3. God in giving the Scriptures hath done more for us than we could imagine, yea, better than we could wish to ourselves. He hath certainly done enough to leave us without excuse. Try what you can do with Moses and the prophets. It is a great mercy to have a rule by which all doctrines are to be tried, to have a standard and measure of faith, and that put into writing to preserve it against the weakness of memory and the treachery of evil designs, and that translated into all languages.
4. That we are apt to betray present advantages by wishes of another dispensation, as that we may have oracles and miracles. It is but a shift to think of other means than God hath provided. Man is ever at odds with the present dispensation. It is a sign the heart is out of order, or else any doctrine that is of God would set it a-work.
5. Those that like not the message will ever quarrel at the messenger; and when the heart is wanting, something is wanting.
6. How credulous we are to fables, and how incredulous as to undoubted truths; spirits and apparitions, these things are regarded by us, but the testimony of the Spirit of God speaking in the Scriptures is little regarded.
III. HOW TO IMPROVE THE SCRIPTURES TO REPENTANCE.
1. Believe them as you would an oracle or one from the dead. Consider the authority and veracity of God. The authority of God: God commandeth men to repent; charge the heart in the name of God, as it will answer to him another day.
2. Urge thy heart with it; recollect yourselves: "What shall we then say to these things?" (Romans 8:31).
(T. Manton, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
WEB: "Now there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, living in luxury every day.