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eternal felicity. These are entrusted to their possessors as a deposit, which they are bound to use for the honour of God, and the well-being of their fellow-men. They are lent only for a time, a time unknown to us, and liable to be taken from us every moment whereas, the joys of heaven are considered by the saints as 'their owo by right of inheritance, in consequence of their being the heirs of God, and jointheirs of Christ, and will never be takey from them. If Christians make a proper use of their riches, they will be endeavouring to promote the cause of God on the earth, and thus will be the means of increasing the joy of angels, by contributing to the salvation of sinners. Gladly, therefore, will these glorious spirits receive the departed souls of those that thus spend and are spent for God into their everlasting habitations, where they shall enjoy unspeakable delights in the presence of God and the Lamb, eat of the fruit of the tree of life, and be clothed with immortality as with a garment.
The Pharisees who heard these excellent instructions treated them as fit subjects of derision, that they might thus justify their own detestable covetousness ; bor has their example been found without imitators in all ages, who have exercised a paltry and pretended wit to stifle the reproofs of their consciences, anů bave thus prepared themselves the more fully for the awfui vengeance of God. The answer whick Curist gave
them was deeply impressive. Ye are they who justify yourselves before men, by your care of external appearances; but God knoweth your hearts. Do not, therefore, plume yourselves upou thc approbation of your fellow-creatures ; for, it is trea queutly the case, that that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God. He then repeated what he had formerly observed concerning the eagerness with which men pressed into the kingdom of God, the permanency of the law, and the enormous evil of unnecessary divorce.
That no meavs might be wanted to impress their minds with these awful truths, be now related the parable of the rich man and the beggar ; a parable which every one is in duty bound to read, to remember, and to make the subject of the most devout and humble meditation.
n. There was a certain rich man, who abounded with all the comforts of life, was cloth d in purple and fine linen, and being greatly devoted to the enjoyınents of the table, fared umptuously every day. At his gate, within the hearing
, of his jovial songs, was laid a certain beggar, named Lazarus, a faithful servant of the living God, but who, like Jobs the pattern of his imitation, as full of sores,
So low, also, was the station in life which this good man occupied, that he depended for his subsisteuce upon the crumbs which fell from the rich inan's table : moreover, he was. so destitute of uecessary covering, that the dogs, according to the filthy friendly disposition of those animals, cume and licked his sores. Death, however, reversed the
The beggar died ; his body was barely huddled to the grave; but angels carried his soul into that state of felicity which, in allusion to Eastern entertainments, is denominated. Abraham's bosum. The rich man was also obliged to pay the debt of nature ; he was buried with great pomp and solemnity, but his soul departed to the abodes of misery, where he lift up his eyes, being in turments, and seeth Alvraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, father Abraham, have mercy on me, and sena Lazarus, the poor beggar whom I relieved, though I despised him, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I anı tormented: in this inextinguishable flame. But Abraham said, son, remeinber that thou in thy life-time receivedst what thou didst vainly account thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things ; but now he is conforted, and thou art tormented. And beside all this, betwet n us and you there is a great gulph fixed : 'so that they that would paxt, ou an errand of mcrcy, froin hence to you, cannot ; neither can they pass to us that, in order to escape from their torment, would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house ; for I have five brethren, living, as I did, in rebellion against God, therefore send hin that he may testify unto them of the truth and importance of eternal things, lest they also come into this place of torrent. Abraham saith unto him, they have Moses and the propinets, let them hear them. And he said, nay, father Abraham, but if one went unto them from the dead, iluy will repent. And he said unto him, if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.
By this parable, as Dr. Macknight observes, we are taught several important lessons : as 1. That one may be great, and rcuowned, and highly esteemed among men, who is entirely obscure and vulgar in the eyes of God, nav, an abomination unto bim. For what can be greater or better in the eves of men than to live adorned with all the splendour of wealth, luxury, and honours? and what more disgraceful in the sight of God than to be polluted with sin, and fit only for the flames of hell ? On the other hand, the parable teaches, that some who appear mean and despicable in the eyes of their fellows are men of great worth, and highly beloved of God. Wealth, therefore, and power, and grandeur, are not to be coveted ; neither is poverty to be dreaded, since that honour which is the chief charm of the one, and that reproach wbich is the bitterest sting of the other, are altogether without foundation,
2. This parable teaches us, that the souls of men are immortal, that they subsist in a separate state after the dissolution of the body, and that they are rewarded or punished according to their actions in this life ; doctrines very necessary to be asserted in those days, when it was fashionable to believe the mortality of the soul, and to argue in defence of that pernicious error Further : it teaches us that the miseries of the poor who have lived religiously, and the happiness of the rich who have lived wickedly, do end with this life ; and that the several stations in which they have lived, together with the past occurrences and actions of their lives, are distinctly remembered and reflected upon by them ; and that the remembrance of past pains and pleasures will not lessen, but rather increase, the joys of the one and the sorrows of the other ; and, consequently, that we make a very false judgment of one another's condition, when we think any man happy because he is rich, or any man miserable because he is poor.
3. From this parable we learn, that men shall be punished hereafter for entertaining principles inconsistent with morality and religion, for their worldly-mindedness and heedlessness with respect to matters of religion, for being immersed in pleasure, and for not using their riches aright, as well as for crimes of a grosser nature ; wherefore, it affords a lit caution to all great and rich persons to beware of the rocks on which they are most apt to split. This great man who fell into the flames of hell is not charged with murder, adultery, injustice, oppression, or lying ; he is not even charged with being remarkably uncharitable. Lazarus lay commonly at his gate ; and though he received evil things, being treated by every one of the family as a beggar, he got
, his maintenance there, such as it was, otherwise he would not have been laid there daily ; vor would the rich man have desired Abraham to send him rather than any other of the blessed with a drop of water to cool his tongue, had he not imagined that gratitude would prompt him to undertake the office with cheerfulness. The rich inan's sin, therefore, was his living in luxury and pleasure, which made him, on the one hand, neglect religion, for cultivating which he had the best opportunities ; and, on the other, cherish atheistical principles, particularly such as flow from believing the mortality of the soul. If so, all who resemble this person in his character, should ake warning by his punishment, and not delude themselves with thinking, that because
They live free from the more scandalous vices, they shall escape damnation. ticular, all who make it their chief business to procure the pleasures of sense, neglecting to form their minds into a relish of spiritual and divine pleasures, may in this parable see their sad, but certain end. They shall be excluded for ever from the presence of God, as incapable of his joys, although they may have pursued their pleasures with no visible injury to any person.
But if men, not accused of injustice in getting riches, are thus punished for the bad use they have made of them, what must the misery of those be who both acquire them unjustly and use them sinfully? As this parable admonishes the rich, so it is profitable for the instruction and comfort of the poor; for it teaches them the proper method of bringing their afflictions to a happy issue, and shews them that God will distribute the rewards and punishments of the life to come impartially, without respect of persons.
4. This parable teaches us the greatness of the punishment of the damned. And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in tornients, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. We cannot, from this representation, infer that burning with material fire shall be any part of the true and proper punishment of the damned. The never dying worm, which is sometimes joined with the fire of hell, is confessed by all. to be metaphorical, and therefore the fire may be so likewise. Yet no man can be absolutely certain that the wicked shall not be burnt with flames, seeing the resurrection of their bodies, and the union of them with their souls, make the thing possible.
In the nean time, be this as it will, the expressions found here, and in other passages of scripture, taken in their lowest sense, intimate that the pains of hell will be very great. For if wicked men retain the passions, appetites. and desires, which were predominant in them on earth, as it is highly probable they will, these desires being for ever deprived of their objecis, must occasion a misery which they only can conceive who have felt what it is to Tose, without hope of recovery, that which they were most passionately fond of, and to be racked with the violence of desires which they are sensible can never be gratified. Or, although the passions themselves should perish with their objects, a direful eternal melancholy must necessarily ensue from the want of all desire and enjoyment, the misery of which is not to be conceived. In such a state, the bitter reflections which the damned will make on the happiness they have lost, must raise in them a dreadful storm of self-condemnation, envy, and despair. Besides their consciences, provoked by the evil actions of their lives, and now as it were let loose upon them, will prove more inexorable than ravening wolves; and the torment which they shall occasion will, in respect of its perpetuity, be as if a never-dying worm was always consuming them. This is the fire of hell, and those the everlasting burnings, (in Dr. Macknight's opinion) threatened with such terror in the word, where they are represented, perhaps, by material flames, to strike the dull and gross apprehensions or' mankind ; but they are far more terrible than the other ; for the misery arising from these agonizing reflections must be of the most intense kind. And as there is not any thing in that state to divert the thoughts of the damned from them, they must be uninterrupted also, not admitting the least alleviation or refreshment.
5: From this parable we learn that men’s states are unalterably fixed after death ; so that it is vain to hope for any end of their misery who are miserable, and unreasonable to fear any change of their prosperity who are happy.
6. The parable informs us, that if the evidences of a future state, already proposed, do not persuade men, they will not be persuaded by any extraordinary evidences that can be offered consistently with the freedoin requisite to render them accountable for their actions. The truth is, we do not call the reality of a future state into question, cither because it is not denlonstrated by sufficient arguments, or because we are not