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the world, and observe how inclinable men are to defend evil, as well as to commit it,-one would think, at first sight, they believed that all discourses of religion and virtue were mere matters of speculation, for men to entertain some idle hours with; and conclude very naturally, that we seemed to be agreed in no one thing, but speaking well, and acling ill. But the truest comment is in the text, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, c.
If they are not brought over to the interests of religion upon such discoveries as GoD has made, or has enabled them to make, they will stand out against all evidence ; in vain shall one rise for their conviction :-Was the earth to give up her dead- it would be the same;-every man would return again to his course, and the same bad passions would produce the same bad actions, to the end of the world.
This is the principal lesson of the parable; but I must enlarge upon the whole of it--because it has some other useful lessons, and they will best present themselves to us as we go along.
In this parable, which is one of the most remarkable in the gospel, our SAVIOUR represents a scene, in which, by a kind of contrast, two of the most opposite conditions that could be brought together from human life, are passed before our imagination.
The one, a man exalted above the level of mankind, to the highest pinnacle of prosperity,-to riches to happiness.-I say, happiness,-in compliance with the world, and on a supposition, that the possession of riches must raake us happy when the very pursuit of them so warms our imaginations, that we stake both body and soul upon the event, as if they were things not to be purchased at too dear a rate. They are the wages of wisdom, as well as of folly.-Whatever was the case
here, is beyond the purport of the parable ;-the scripture is silent, and so should we; it marks only his outward condition by the common appendages of it,in the two great articles of Vanity and Appetite :-To gratify the one, he was clothed in purple and fine linen; to satisfy the other,-fared sumptuously every day,-and upon every thing too-we will suppose, that climates could furnish, that luxury could invent, or the hand of science could torture.
Close by his gates is represented an object whom Providence might seem to have placed there, to cure the pride of man, and show him to what wretchedness his condition might be brought: A creature in all the shipwreck of nature,-helpless -undone-in want of friends, in want of health, -and in want of every thing, with them, which his distress called for.
In this state he described as desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table; and though the case is not expressly put, that he was refused, yet, as the contrary is not affirmed in the historical part of the parable,—or pleaded after by the other, that he showed mercy to the miserable, we may conclude his request was unsuccessful ;-like too many others in the world, either so high lifted up in it, that they cannot look down distinctly enough upon the sufferings of their fellow-creatures,-or, by long surfeiting in a continual course of banqueting and good cheer, they forget there is such a distemper as hunger in the catalogue of human infirmities.
Overcharged with this, and perhaps a thousand unpitied wants, in a pilgrimage through an inhospitable world, the poor man sinks silently under his burden. But, good GoD! whence is this? Why dost thou suffer these hardships in a world which thou hast made? Is it for thy honor, that one man should eat the bread of fullness, and so
many of his own stock and lineage eat the bread of sorrow?- --That this man should go clad in purple, and have all his paths strewed with rose-buds of delight, whilst so many mournful passengers go heavily along, and pass by his gates, hanging down their heads? Is it for thy glory, O GOD! that so large a shade of misery should be spread across thy works?-or, is it that we see but a part of them? When the great chain at length is let down, and all that has held the two worlds in harmony, is seen ;—when the dawn of that day approaches, in which all the distressful incidents of this drama shall be unravelled ;when every man's case shall be reconsideredthen wilt thou be fully justified in all thy ways, and every mouth shall be stopped.
After a long day of mercy, mispent in riot and uncharitableness, the rich man died also,the parable adds and was buried; -buried, no doubt, in triumph, with all the ill-timed pride of funerals, and empty decorations, which worldly folly is apt to prostitute upon those occasions.
But this was the last vain show, the utter conclusion of all his epicurean grandeur :-The next is a scene of horror, where he is represented by our SAVIOUR, in a state of the utmost misery, from whence he is supposed to lift up his eyes toward heaven, and cry to the patriarch Abraham for mercy.
And Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things
That he had received his good things,it was from heaven, and could be no reproach: With what severity soever the scripture speaks against riches, it does not appear, that the living Or faring sumptously every day, was the crime objected to the rich man; or that it is a real part of a vicious character. The case might be then, as now: His quality and station in the world might VOL, III. V
be supposed to be such, as not only to have justi fied his doing this, but, in general, to have required it, without any imputation of doing wrong; for differences of stations there must be in the world, which must be supported by such marks of distinction as custom imposes. The exceeding great plenty and magnificence, in which Solomon is described to lived, who had ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and an hundred sheep, besides harts and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl, with thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore measures of meal, for the daily provision of his table;-all this is not laid to him as a sin, but rather remarked as an instance of God's blessing to him :-And, when, ever these things are otherwise, it is from a waste. ful and dishonest perversion of them to pernicious ends, and, oft-times, to the very opposite ones for which they were granted-to glad the heart, to open it, and render it more kind.
And this seems to have been the snare the rich man had fallen into ;-and, possibly, had he fared less sumptuously, he might have had more cool hours for reflection, and been better disposed to have conceived an idea of want, and to have felt compassion for it.
And Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in the lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things.--Remember!-Sad subject of recollection! that a man has passed thro' this world with all the blessings and advantages of it on his side, favored by GoD Almighty with riches, befriended by his fellow-creatures in the means of acquiring them, assisted, every hour, by the society of which he is a member, in the enjoyment of them to remember, how much he has received, how little he has bestowed,——— that he has been no man's friend-no one's protector-no one's benefactor- -Blessed GOD!
Thus begging in vain for himself, he is represented at last as interceding for his brethren, that Lazarus might be sent to them to give them warn. ing, and save them from the ruin which he had fallen into ;They have Moses and the prophets, was the answer of the patriarch-let them hear them: But the unhappy man is represented as discontented with it; and still persisting in his request, and urging-Nay, father Abraham, but if one went from the dead, they would repent.
-He thought so-but Abraham knew other wise: And the grounds of the determination I have explained already, so shall proceed to draw some other conclusion and lessons from the parable.
And first, our SAVIOUR might farther intend to discover to us, by it, the dangers to which great riches naturally expose mankind, agreeably to what is elsewhere declared, how hardly shall they who have them, enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The truth is, they are often too dangerous a blessing for GoD to trust us with, or we to manage:They surround us at all times with ease, with nonsense, with flattery, and false friends, with which thousands, and ten thousands, have perished:-They are apt to multiply our faults, and treacherously to conceal them from us ;-they hourly administer to our temptations ;—and allow us neither time to examine our faults, or humility to repent of them ;-nay, what is strange, do they not often tempt men even to covetousness?—and though, amidst all the ill offices which riches do us, one would last suspect this vice, but rather think the one a cure for the other; yet, so it is, that many a man contracts his spirits, upon the enlargement of his fortune, and is the more empty for being full.
But there is less need to preach against this :