Page images

sensation, for there is no knowledge nor device in the grave; and there is a Hell proper to the soul and body together. This Hell may be felt. Jonah, ii. 2. “ Out of the belly of Hell cried I, and thou hearedst my voice.” But there is a Hell proper to the soul, when separated from the body. Psalm xvi. 10. ^ Thou wilt not leave my soul in Hell.” The two latter always convey the idea of misery, and I am strongly inclined to think may be in some sense applicable to the rich man before us. It was some such Hell as one of these the inhabitants of the antideluvian world were in, when Jesus went in spirit, and preached to their spirits, thus imprisoned, (1 Peter, iïi. 19) thus illumining by the consolations of irradiating mercy, these benighted regions of despair ; and blessed be God, so just so, shall the Hell to which both body and soul is condemned finally deliver up the dead which are in them. Rev. xx. 13. “ And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them; and they were judged every man according to his works.” But,

7th. He was in torment. In Hell he lift up his eyes being in torment. We have said that the Hebrew word Sheol, translated Hell, conveys throughout the whole of the Old Testament an idea of unqualified darkness, and this idea exactly corresponds with the condition of the rich, or rather the reduced man in the Parable. In his lifetime he had light, the light of Divine vision, the word of a God, and that word was a light to the feet, and a lanthom to the path, making plain the things which made for peace. But now the sad reverse prevails, they are shut up in darkness; in Sheol; the things that make for their peace are hid from their eyes, and though the word be with them still, it is not now a light unto their feet, for when they read Moses, the veil is on their hearts, the commandments of the Lord are rendered void by their traditions, nor is this strange, for whatever maketh manifest is light, but as the light in manifesting to the soul the things that make for peace, gives peace and joy in believing, so, when the soul enveloped in darkness, discerneth not these precious truths, it must have fear and agonizing inquietude-yea verily, the word of our God is truc, fear hath torment. Indeed as there cannot be a greater heaven than to dwell in the light, as God is in the light, so I cannot conceive of a more gloomy, a more dreadful Hell, than to be shut from this light, into outer darkness. This is the state of this rich man in the parable, and if it be admitted that to dwell in the light of life bestoweth fulness of joy, and that to be excluded therefrom is the source of tor. ment, then it will follow, that the description is striking, and every way adequate to the purpose. Guilt is the parent of terror, and darkness always genders fear. What state can be more dreadful than to possess a consciousness of guilt, without the radiant torch of faith to point us where the mountain is removed, the transgression forever put away. See a person in absolute despair, indeed it is rare in the present state to find an individual utterly deprived of hope: generally amused by the fleeting scenes of time, we do not frequently investigate our future prospects, and the important subject of eternal happiness, or misery, is reserved to a more convenient season. Yet some few there have been, whose souls were so exceedingly dark, and by consequence so distressingly fearful, that they have despised all pleasant meat, have loathed life, and in the bitterness of their spirits have, with great propriety declared themselves already in Hell; their torments they have said were more then they could bear, and indeed this would be the precise situation of every unbcliever, awakened to a just sense of his own demerits. But the children of men are too often like the expiring patient lulled by narcotics, or blinded by the potent influence of a strong delirium. The cian in the parable however is not thus circumstanced, here is sensibility, for he is in torment, he did not know the Redeemer of men surely not. He came to his own, but his own refused to receive him, because they knew him not; had they known him, they would have asked of him, and he would have given them living water ; but then they would not have fulfilled the coứn. cil of God respecting the Saviour of the world, and the preachers of this Saviour. “ These things shall they do unto you," because they have not known the Father, nor me. No, God hath blinded them, so that they shall not know Him, leat they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and be converted, and he should heal them, and thus deliver them from torment, by removing their fears, for (1 John, iv. 18.) frar hath torment, and it is love, perfect love that casteth out fear. But to love God we must first know him, and we cannot know him without light. The sufferer before us is represented as complaining principally of his tongue. The apostle James, chapter iii. 6. writing to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, thus expresses himself. “ And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity : so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of Hell. Thus this part of the figure becomes strikingly apposite, and of course easy to be understood, we cease to wonder why the offender recurs principally to his tongue, and we comprehend the nature of his sufferings.

8th. He calls on his father Abraham for relief. This is a corroborating proof of what went before ; if he had not been blinded he would aot have called upon his father after the flesh, who was not able to help hin, but on the Father of his spirit, with whom all things were possible. Yet this is perfectly in character for a figure of the Jewish nation ; speaking to our Saviour they say, John, chap. viii. 53, “Art thou greater than our father Abraham?" and again, Matthew, chapter iii. 9, " Think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father," and thus our rich man is represented as calling in his distress upon this comparatively imbecile Father, nay, he is so blind as to pray that Abraham would send Lazarus that he may dip his finger in water, and put it on his tongue; gladly would he derive consolation from a source so recently, and so greatly despised. He who in the days of his prosperity, indignantly refused the crumbs from his table, supplicates aid through the instruinentality of that very forlorn individual, he had treated with such unexampled contumely; this aid, however, must be sent him by his father Abraham, whom he beheld a great way off, and Lazarus in his bosom. But

9th. Abraham replies, Son, thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things and Lazarus his evil things, but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. Of the rich man's torment we have already attempted an explanation, and we shall in the sequel, have the pleasure of dwelling upon the consolation administered to the poor man ; but Abraham proceeds, and besides all this, between me 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 who come from thence.”

If what has already been said on this subject be consistent with reason, and with scripture, the reply made by the patriarch is in course. If it be conceded that the rich man is a figure of God's peculiar people, and his life time, the dispensation with which they were indulged, then we shall be constrained to acknowledge and with devout admiration, the equal ways of our God. Thus proclaimeth the prophet Ezekiel, chap. xviii. 25, “ Hear now, O house of Israel; Is not my way equal ?" the 4th verse of the same chapter

VOL. I. 4

furnisheth a reason for the impartial distribution of Deity, “ Behold all souls are mine, as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine," and surely the potter hath not only power to make one vessel to honour, and another to dishonour, but a nation also ; Jeremiah, chap. xviii, 7, " At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it.” How transcendently decisive is the exemplification. The righteous God, whose way is always equal, shut up the Gentiles for a long season in darkness, confining his irradiating manifestations to the descendants of Abraham, but now the divine Oracles are in effect, taken away, for they are blinded respecting the things which make for their peace, which renovating truths are, in those sacred 1ecords, abundantly contained, and perhaps the way of God may ultimately appear equal even in the term of the duration, should the fulness of the Gentiles be brought in at the close of a similar number of years to those in which his peculiar people en. joyed their inestimable privileges. But what I would, in an especial manner attend to, in this place, is the gulf which Abraham informs this tormented petitioner, is fixed between them, so that it is impossible for one in the state of torment before described to pass to the state which he is in, and equally impossible for any one, circumstanced like Lazarus, to pass over this gulf to him. Is not this gulf the decrees of God? Hath God said it, and shall it not stand? according as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, ears that they should not hear unto this day. And David said, Let their table be made a snare, and a trapand a stumbling block, and a recompense unto them; Let their eyes be darkened that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. That these denunciations pointed to the shutting up the Jews in darkness is manifest from the use the Apostle makes of

and, he adds, “ Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God, on them who fell severity ;" and again, Romans, chap. xi. 32, « For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” From these testimonies, and others of like import, it is manifest, that God doeth as seemeth good in his sight with respect to the whole of his inheri.ance, and that with him are the issues of Life, and of Death. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy. When he shuts, no man can open; and if he vouchsafe to open the eyes of the understanding, the power exists not which can draw the obscuring veil of darkness. Omnipotence


is the attribute of the Creator, the creature can neither do, nor undo. The vision is for an appointed time. But this brings us to consider,

10th. The rich man's request for his brethren. I pray thee, father Abraham, that thou send him to my father's house, for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they come into this place of torment. The parabolical style is admirably supported. The rich man is represented as wishing happiness to his own house, and evincing much and very tender compassion for the individuals of which it was composed. However obdurate he had been to Lazarus, he is solicitous for their felicity, even should it be procured through the instrumentality of so obnoxious a character as this same Lazarus. As thongh hel.:d said, if we in this present day are ordained to remain in this miserable state of adversity, let even Lazarus be sent by you, father Abraham, and the morning of felicity may yet dawn upon futurity.

Ilth. Abraham replies. They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them; if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded although one should rise from the dead. There is great strength of argument in this reply : as though he had said, the people who are so strongly prejudiced in favour of their own writer's, writers who have testified so clearly of the Messiah, of the Shiloh, unto whom the gathering of the people should be, if the veil is continued on their hearts, while they peruse predictions so unequivocal, testimonies so apposite, neither will they be persuaded by a messenger from the Gentiles, from nations who were, who are still considered by them as dead, and who would testify of themselves as dead, having no life but what is hid with Christ in God; and, as whatever maketh manisest is light, and God hath shut them up in darkness, it would be impossible for any created power, to bring tliem acquainted with the things which make for their peace-such I conceive is the language of the Patriarch's reply. Thus 1 have minutely attended to the character of the rich man, in all its parts, my reason is obvious ; we are by this arrangement enabled to investigate, without confusion. We are now to consider,

12th. The beggar named Lazarus, in other words a being infested with loathsome diseases. Our inimitable poet, Milton, points out the appalling magnitude of this terrifically comprehensive character, in the view the archangel gives to our first general head :

« PreviousContinue »