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s in fuch a cafe, the standing ordinary means of “ conviction failing to influence them, it is not “ to be expected, that any extraordinary means; « of what kind foever, should be able to do it ; " no, not thoʻ one should come from the dead, “ on purpose to warn them of their danger. For, “ however such a meflage might startle and amaze “ them at the first, might for a while put new " thoughts, new, resolutions into them; yet it « would work no total change: They, who were « absolute infidels before fuch a message, would, “ in all probability, continue infidels still.”
Which truth, thus largely explained and stated, I proceed now, under my
Second general head, to coofirm, by various árguments and reflections. And
First, We will fuppofe, that such a meffage 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 finner out of the error of his ways, than any standing revelation, however so well attested and confirmcd: I will shew, nevertheless, that it would not be complyed with. Because
11t, It is not, for want of strength, that the standing ordinary ways of proof are rejected, but for want of fincerity and a disinterested mind in thofe to whom they are proposed; and the same want of fincerity, the fame adhesion to vice, and averfion from goodness, will be equally a reason
for their rejecting any proof whatsoever. The - evidence they had before, was enough, amply ènough to convince them; but they were resolved not to be convinced : And to those, who are re
folved not to be convinced, all motives, all arguments are equal. He that shuts his eyes against a small light, on purpose to avoid the fight of somewhat that displeases him, would (for the same reason) fut them also against the sun itself; and not be brought to see that, which he had no mind to see, let it be placed in never so clear a light, and never so near him. The truth is, such a man understands by his will; and believes a thing true, or false, merely as it agrees or disagrees with a violent inclination: And therefore, whilft that inclination lafts in its strength, he discerns pothing of the different degrees of evidence, nor distinguisheth at all between a weak motive and a Itrong one. But,
2dly, A motive, however stronger in itself than another, may yet make a weaker impression, when employed, after that the motive of less, tho' fufficient, ftrength hath been already resisted. For the nind doth, by every degree of affected unbelief, contract more and more of a general iná disposition 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. 'Tis in infidelity, as in a vicious course of life; a sturdy, hardened finner shall advance to the utmost pitch of impiety with less difficulty, lefs reluctance of mind, than perhaps he took the first steps in wickedness, whilft his conscience was yet viligant and tender. Should therefore the evidence of one arising from the dead, be in itself more powerful than that of the
standing gospel-proofs, yet, we fet, it would o-. perate as little, or less than they, upon a person who had before-hand rejected those proofs. Nay,
3dly, The peculiar strength of the motive may. of itself, perhaps, contribute to frustrate the effi. cacy of it; rendering it liable to be fufpected by him to whom it is addressed. He is conscious, how little he hath deserved so extraoi dinary a privilege ; how much rather he hath deserved to have the ordinary means of grace withdrawn, which he hath so long baffled and defied: And he will, therefore, as loon as his first surprise is over, justly begin to wonder, how such a favour came to be bestowed on him; why God should, for his fake, do what was never before done, since the foundations of the world were laid ; should reverse the laws of nature merely to produce an ef. fect, which tends rather to spread the interests of irreligion, than to stop the growth of it ; which encourages men to be as vicious as they can, in order to qualify themselves for God's greatest indulgences and mercies : For that (he well knows) is his only qualification. He will conclude therefore, That there must have been some mistake or delusion in the matter. It might be a mere dream which he saw, the imagery of a melancholic fancy; such as now and then presents ittelf to a musing, thoughtful men, when their fpirits are low, and the fpleen hath gotten possession of them; and such as they mistake at that time for a reality, though they are afterwards satisfied, that it had no existence any where, but in their own disordered imagination. Or, if he cannot help bulieving, that such
things he saw and heard, he may still have room to believe, That what this airy phantom said, is not absolutely to be relied on: For it might be one of thofe ill-natured beings, who are at enmity with mankind, and do, therefore, take pleasure in disturbing and perplexing their minds, and filling them with vain and groundless terrors. Or it might, after all, be one of his jocund unbelieving acquaintance (now alive,] dressed up in such a form, and acting such a part, on purpose to get the advantage of his credulity, and to expose him.
But whoever, or whatever it was, 'tis not conceivable that it should be indeed that very person, whose shape and voice is assumed : For if there be any such thing as hell, he is certainly tormented in the flames of it. And while he is so, can it be imagined that he should either be enough at ease, or have concern and compassion enough for his surviving friends, to contrive such expedients for their recovery? And by that means. defeat himself of the pleasure he may one day hope for in their company? Damned spirits do not, surely, use to entertain such charitable designs: They must needs be all envy, despair, and rage ; and have so much of a Diabolical nature in them, as to wish rather, that all men should share, than endeavour that any should escape, their torments.
For these, and many other reasons, which the evil spirit, who is ever ready to affist men's doubts on these occasions, will be sure to infufe, he'll suspend his judgment of this strange event a while, till he hath considered further of it. In the mean
çime, during this suspense, the heat of the im. pression abates, and that of his lusts and passions returns; and then 'tis odds but the scale turns at last on nature's fide, and the evidence of one or two senses gives way to the united bent and tend. ency of all the five. Especially, if it be considered, · 4thly, 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. We may imagine, what reception they would give to such a story, and the teller of it; how many pleasant and gay things they would say on this occasion: Which will have so much the keener cdge, in the present case, because they are turned upon one, who, 'tis probable, hath taken the like liberties before ; hath himself laughed with them on this very supposition as loudly, and ridiculed such idle tales, as heartily as any man. They will be sure, therefore, to put him in mind of his own waking thoughts, ere these dreams had as yet made their impression on his fancy, and to encounter him with those reasonings, and that scorn, with which he used to encounter others, on the like occasions ; till they have made him ashamed first to vouch the truth of the relation, and afterwards even to credit it. For, when a man is surrounded on all sides with opposition and contempt for believing, what he himself would not have believed, upon the relation of another; and what, for his vices fake, he paffionately wishes he may not have reason to believe; tis not hard to imagine, how he may be brought to give up the clearest evidence, and suffer him