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LUKE xvi. 25. But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in
thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things : but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
We have in this Parable a striking representation of two persons, whose circumstances and condition, both in this life and in the next, form an awful and instructive contrast: one, possessing an abundance of this world's goods, rich and splendid, “ clothed in purple “ and fine linen, and faring sumptuously every
day,” but afterwards doomed to everlasting shame and misery,—the other, suffering here the most calamitous state of poverty and disease, but, after death, enjoying a blessed immortality with the Father of the Faithful.
Our solicitude is naturally awakened to know wherefore such different portions were finally allotted to these men; what were the sins which brought upon the rich man such a tremendous retribution, what were the virtues which obtained for the other so preeminent a recompense.
On these points, however, the parable does not directly instruct us.
The rich man is not stigmatized as avaricious, oppressive, or unjust. It is not said that he obtained his wealth by iniquitous practices, or that, like the prodigal son, he “wasted his substance “ in riotous living, and devoured it among “ harlots.” Even the charge of inhumanity towards Lazarus is not expressly stated as the offence imputed to him; although the circumstances of the Parable seem to imply, that he was too much engrossed by his own personal gratifications to regard the supplications of misery and distress. But the main features of his character are discoverable from the words of the Text; where Abraham brings to his recollection an awful truth, which in his lifetime this votary of wealth and luxury had neglected : “ Son, remember “ that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good
things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: “ but now he is comforted, and thou art tor“ mented." Amidst the fascinations of splendour and affluence, the thought of a future state of retribution had either been banished from his mind, or had been regarded as a superstitious dream. That this was his great
offence, is confirmed by the latter part of the Parable. Convinced too late of the dreadful consequences of his own neglect or disbelief, he entreats that Lazarus might be sent from the dead, to warn his brethren of the momentous truth which they, like him, had hitherto disregarded, and to save them from a similar doom. We may therefore well suppose the offence which brought him into this sad condemnation to have been that of an irreligious and worldly disposition, of a mind devoted to the pleasures and riches of this earthly scene, terminating all its views in present gratification, and heedless of a future state.
On the other hand, the virtues of Lazarus are not more expressly recorded than the vices of the rich man. From the inestimable reward that awaited him, we may reasonably infer the rectitude of his conduct; that “in “ patience he possessed his soul,” submitted to the visitation of God with humble resignation, and trusted, with a firm and undoubting mind, in the Divine mercy and good
But here our inquiry as to the characters of the parties must terminate: and the further scope and design of the Parable is to be deduced chiefly from the circumstances
connected with it, and the occasion on which it was delivered.
It has been supposed that this Parable was directed chiefly to the Sadducees, a kind of Epicurean Sect, who denied the Resurrection of the Body and the Immortality of the Soul, and who were much addicted (as such persons usually are) to the pleasures of this life. But although the Parable is exceedingly applicable to them, yet, from the narrative, it rather appears to have been specially addressed to the Pharisees, “who,” says the Evangelist, “were covetous, and “derided him.” It is, however, a matter of comparatively little importance, whether it was intended for one of these Sects in particular, or for both ; since it evidently abounds with weighty and momentous instruction to every class of readers or hearers, in whatever station, age, or country.
In the first place, it clearly teaches that neither prosperity nor adversity in this present life can afford any certain criterion of the Divine favour or displeasure; each being distributed, as God sees fit, for the trial and probation of those to whom it is allotted.
The opposite conditions of the persons here described, with respect to this world and the next, afford a decisive proof that we shall
make a very false estimate of any man's real happiness, if we judge of it only according to his outward state and appearance in the present life. If temporal enjoyments or temporal afflictions were sure indications of God's approbation or disapprobation, the result in a Future State would correspond with that which now takes place. But the Parable gives a directly contrary representation : and in so doing it effectually vindicates the dispensations of the Almighty in the distribution of present good and evil. The pomp and luxury of the rich man, viewed with reference to his subsequent condition, appear as most bitter evils; while the wretchedness of Lazarus, being brought into contact with the happiness and glory following as its immediate consequence, is viewed as in reality a blessing. So palpable must this be to the mind even of the most ordinary observer, that we can hardly conceive any man so infatuated, that, if the choice were presented to him, he would not rather forego all the good things the rich man possessed than incur his subsequent misery; or willingly endure the sufferings of Lazarus, for the sake of that “fulness of joy” with which they were afterwards so amply recompensed.
To this point the words of the Text seem