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LUKE xvi, 19–31.
"There was a certain rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, who was laid at his gate full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table : moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died and was buried. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 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. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed : so that they who would pass from hence to you, cannot ; neither can they pass to us that would come from thence. Then he said, I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldst send bim to my father's house : For I have five brethren ; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets ; let them hear them. And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they 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."
The context informs us, that our Lord delivered the preceding awful history on the following occasion. Some Pharisees being present, whose hearts Christ knew were inordinately attached to the world, who had the form of godliness, but were destitute of its power, and yet pretended to be the only servants of the Almighty; to awaken them to a due sense of the inconsistency of their conduct, and the vanity of their expectations, our blessed Lord repeated a sentiment which he had formerly delivered in his sermon on the mount: viz. “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one
and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other:" and this he urged home on their consciences with, “ YE cannot serve God and mammon." This maxim could not be successfully controverted : it being sufficiently evident, that we fully serve him only, whom we love supremely: for a man cannot be in perfect indifference betwixt two objects which are incompatible: he must at least comparatively hate and despise what he does not love supremely, when the necessity of making a choice 'presents itself. These sayings gave the highest offence: for the sacred writer immediately observes, ver. 14, “The Pharisees" piragyugor UNAPXOVTES, being lovers of money, having heard these things, derided him," eğeuuxongilov aurov, a phrase which cannot be literally translated, but whích signifies, they treated him with the utmost indecency and contempt;* and why? Because they were lovers of money, and he showed them that all such were in the utmost danger of perdition. As they were wedded to this life, and not seriously concerned for the other, they considered him one of the most absurd and foolish of men, and worthy only of the most sovereign contempt, because he taught that spiritual and eternal things should be preferred before the riches of the universe.
From what farther passed on this occasion we learn, that they not only gave their hearts to the world, but endeavoured to justify themselves before men, in doing it: i. e. they endeavoured to make it appear to others, that though they felt an insatiable thirst after the present world, yet they could secure the blessings of another: reconcile God and mammon, and serve two masters of opposite interests, with equal zeal and affection. And in this they were unhappily successful : for, as in their outward conduct they were conformed to the letter of the law, the people not only considered them as saints, but had them highly in estimation, verse 15, and were
* Μυκτηριζω απο του μυζειν τοις μυκτηρσι. Ηesych.
doubtless influenced by their example to act in the same way. Had the matter ended here, the ungodly Pharisees might have triumphed in their scorn, and the common people have been confirmed in their worldly mindedness. Something, therefore, was necessary to be done, in order to confound these lovers of mammon, to undeceive the people, and to instruct all succeeding generations, which was this, to prove by example on the authority of eternal Truth, that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him; and that howsoever conformed to the letter of God's law his outward conduct may be ; yet if his money be his idol, and his belly his god; he can never enter into the kingdom of heaven, though no outward viciousness can attach to his character. He shall perish, merely because he loved the world, and did not love God with all his heart: while the poor afflicted godly man, who was destitute of every earthly good, but whose heart was replenished with love and piety towards his Maker, shall at his demise be infallibly taken to the regions of the blessed.
In order to accomplish these great purposes, our blessed Lord thus addressed them : There was a certain rich man at Jerusalem, &c. Before I proceed to consider the different parts of this portion of Scripture, it may be necessary to inquire in what light the whole passage should be viewed. Is it a parable, or a real history ? Many of the primitive fathers* supposed it to be a real history, because the circumstances are more distinctly marked in this, than they are in mere parables; and besides there is a man's name mentioned in this account, which is never done in any parable, however the connecting circumstances may seem to require it. Others assert that it is a parable; and this they contend for principally, because they are not willing that any of the facts, mentioned in it should be literally understood. Of all the modes of interpreting the Sacred Writings, the allegorical
* Irenæus, Ambrose, Tertullian, Euthymius, ory the Great, &c,
and metaphorical have ever appeared to me, the most exceptionable and dangerous: and for the purposes of general edification, the literal method is undoubtedly the best. With fear and trembling should any man depart from the literal meaning of a text, except where a metaphor is evident, and a spiritual sense plainly indicated. As I am not certain how far this passage is to be metaphorically understood, and as a literal explication of it conveys a perfectly consistent sense, I shall prefer the latter, and shall not attempt to decide on the question, whether this be a real history, or a parable, though I cannot help leaning to the former opinion. If it be a parable, it is a representation of what may be ; for parable properly signifies a near representation of the truth. If it be a real history, it is a description of what has been. Either a man may live as is here described, and go to perdition when he dies; and so the parable proves the possibility of the thing : or, some have lived in this way, and are now suffering the torments of an eternal fire. The account is equally instructive in whichsoever of these lights it be viewed.
Let us carefully observe all the circumstances offered here to our notice, and we shall see,
I. Why this man's soul was sent to perdition ? And II. In what his punishment consisted ?
“There was a certain rich man" in Jerusalem, ver. 19. As it is most likely this was a true history, there is no doubt our Lord could have mentioned the name of this rich man, as well as that of the beggar; but as this might have given offence, he with great delicacy passes it by. It is true, in the scholia of some ancient copies of this chapter, he is called Nineve; but this seems to be an attempt to be wise above what is written, and on it no dependance should be placed.
He was rich. As this, according to our Lord's account, stands in the number of his vices; it is of the utmost consequence to the whole history to understand what is meant