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most honourable place was allotted. Wherefore, wlien Christ meant to declare that some of the Gentiles should be thought worthy of the first seats in this kingdom, he says, Matt. viii. 11, that they should sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. In allusion to the same idea, he represents Lazarus at his death as carried into Abraham's bosom, that is, placed next to him, upon the same couch; in which situation the head of Lazarus would be under the breast or bosom of Abraham ; in the same manner as John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and who sat next to him at table, is said to have leaned on the bosom of Jesus, John xiii. 23. Into this situation Lazarus is said to be conveyed by angels, that is, by intelligent beings, sent for that purpose from heaven to earth, or by any instrument employed by the Divine Being to remove him out of the world: for in the language of Scripture, every thing which God does, by whatever means, he is said to do by the instrumentality of angels.
The rich man also died, and was buried.
Lazarus was laid under ground, as well as he; but the circumstance of his being buried is mentioned, in order to show that funeral honours were paid to him, which had been denied to the poor man. We have seen what the condition of each of these persons was in this world; we are next informed how their circumstances were reversed in the next.
23. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
It is necessary here to keep in mind what I mentioned upon entering upon this part of the evangelical history, that what is here delivered is no more than a parable, and that that parable represents men in a state of retribution immediately after death, or before the time appointed by God for that purpose; so as to be an anticipation of that period. Hence we find the rich man having a body, being tormented in flames, seeing
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and they are in a
Abraham and Lazarus, and addressing himself to the former; things which correspond very well with the state of men after a resurrection of the body, but which by no means suit the idea of separate spirits, which are supposed to be invisible beings, without a body, without liinbs or organs. To represent likewise the abodes of the righteous and wicked, in a future life, as so near to one another, that they are only separated by a great river or gulf, and the inhabitants upon the opposite banks as seeing and conversing with each other, may serve very well for the scenery of a parable, and be perhaps adopted from the language of the Jews respecting a future state, or from the Elysium of the Greeks; but cannot be supposed to be an exact account of the future heaven and hell of Christians. In parables, many circumstances different from or contrary to truth are frequently introduced, in order to complete the story, and more effectually to answer the purpose of the speaker.
24. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.
The rich man calls Abraham his father, as being a Jew: desiring that Lazarus might be sent to perform this office for him, is a plain proof that he had relieved his wants, when laid at his gate: for otherwise he would have been the last person to whom he would have applied to grant a favour.
25. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life tiine receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
Having enjoyed what thou deemedst good things in thy past life, in the gratifications of sense and in all such pleasures as riches afford, thou canst not think it unreasonable, if thou now hast thy share of evil, which is necessarily connected by the laws of God with thy ill conduct: and as Lazarus suffered so many calamities in life, it is but equitable that he should now enjoy some pleasure, to balance the evil that he has experienced, and to recompence him for his good conduct under it. Here Abraham endeavours to convince the rich man that it is not reasonable that his request should be complied with: in the next verse he show's that it is not possible.
26. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.
Thou canst not receive the relief which thou desirest from us, because we are separated from thee by a gulf, or stream, which neither thou nor he can pass. The rich man, finding that he could obtain nothing for himself, next endeavours to do something for his brethren, whom he had left behind him in the world, and who were imitating his example.
27. Then he said, I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house:
28. For I have five brethren, that: he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
He wishes that Lazarus might be sent to inform them of what was passing in the other world; that there were severe punishments for those who lived in sensual pleasure, unmindful of God and of a future life, and that he, in particular, was at that time enduring the most excruciating tortures for that course of conduct which they were likewise pursuing. This, he hoped, would convince them of their error, induce them
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to live in a different manner, and prove the means of preserving them from the same dreadful condition.
29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them.
Let them hearken to what they teach, and do as they direct, and this will preserve them from the misery which you now endure.
30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
I despair of their receiving good from the ordinary methods of instruction; but if a person were to rise from the dead, and assure them, from his own knowledge, of what takes place in another world, it would induce them to alter their conduct
31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
If they attend not to men who proved that they were sent from God, by the most distinguished miracles, neither would they attend to one who professed to come from the dead in the name of God: for all that he could have to recommend him would be no more than a miracle, against the evidence of which their conduct shows that they are already hardened. To comply with thy request, therefore, would be useless, if it were possible.
This parable furnishes us with many useful reflections. We see,
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1. That what is highly esteemed among men is often odious and contemptible in the sight of God; and that what they despise he values. Nothing appears more respectable, in the eyes of mankind, than a rich man, superbly clothed and feasting every day. Many there are who think that the happiest condition which the world can afford; who envy those who enjoy it, and would willingly sacrifice truth and justice in order to attain the same situation. Such men look upon the condition of Lazarus with disgust and horror. A poor man full of ulcers, clothed in rags, destitute of friends, laid at the rich man's gate, and thankful for the meanest offal which comes from his table, as the only means to support life, is a truly pitiable and loathsome object: yet this is the man who is regarded with complacency by God, who stands high in his favour, and for whom the first place of honour and enjoyment is destined in another world. Glory not ye rich men in your wealth, which is not accompanied with the smiles of divine favour: for it shall soon be taken away from you. Murmur not ye virtuous poor, at the miseries of your condition. Envy not the rich and great their present superiority: for your condition and their's shall soon be inverted. Those who are now your benefactors may become your petitioners : for you shall be exalted, while they are degraded; you shall be comforted, while they are tormented.
2. The rich may learn that to be free from great crimes, is not all that is expected from men in their condition, and that is necessary to qualify them for future happiness. This rich man is not accused of gross and flagrant violations of duty. He is not charged with murder or adultery, with fraud or oppression; nor even with the total want of humanity: for Lazarus, it appears, obtained a subsistence, scanty enough indeed, at his gate, and the favours which he had conferred upon him in that situation were so considerable, that he had no doubt of his readiness to make every return in his power. But he had given himself up wholly to the gratification of his appetites. His mind was immersed