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door be shut, your knocking and crying will then be in vain: it will be a lost cause with you. Make haste, then, and press in with all your might, while it is called to-day. "Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might: for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither you are going." Sacrifice every thing to your soul's eternal good. Give up all for Christ. Whatever persons or things may stand in your way, push them aside without ceremony, and press straight forward. If you press on in this way, you have the promise of success. "If thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures: then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God." If you come to the Lord in this way, he will in no wise cast you out."
And, if you have already obtained admittance into the kingdom of God on earth, still press on towards the kingdom of God on high. Do not relax in your exertions, but seek even to increase them. Do not spend much time in looking back, or in dwelling on your present progress, but look forward, and go forward, and be like the apostle, when he said, "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure; for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
LUKE XVI. 19–3).
"There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: 20. And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, 21. And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores. 22. 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; 23. And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24. 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. 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. 26. And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. 27. Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: 28. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29. Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. 30. And he said, Nay, father Abraham : but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. 31. And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”
WHAT a striking, and even terrific passage! Some have been inclined to view it as a real history, not, however, apparently with much reason; for, though several of the first mentioned circumstances might have literally occurred in the history of real persons, it is sufficiently plain that what is stated in the last part of the passage, in the form of a conversation, did not, and probably could not, occur in fact in that manner, but is to be considered as an embodying, in the language of dialogue, of certain ideas which exist in the minds of many of the inhabitants of the other world, and this for the sake of making these ideas more intelligible and impressive to the living. It is possible, indeed, that the passage may be partly historical and partly allegorical, as many think is the case with the book of Job; but the
particularity of that narrative, and many other considerations, demonstrate that what is said of Job himself must be held as a real history, and could not apply to any other individual; whereas, there is nothing of what is said in this passage but what is constantly occurring in substance. There is, therefore, nothing to prevent us from interpreting, or rather, there is everything to require us to interpret, the passage as a parable throughout. It is not, however, exactly like most other parables; for here there is no similitude or comparison. It is like the parable of the good Samaritan. It is an allegorical description. It is a supposed case, drawn out in the form of history, for our instruction,* and it is indeed full of matter eminently deserving our most serious and prayerful consideration. May the Lord enable us to give it such consideration, and may he bless it abundantly for our souls' good!
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus may be divided into three branches, which we shall consider in order: First, The outward condition and implied character of these two persons, during their life on earth; Secondly, Their death, and the state into which it introduced them; and, Thirdly, The dialogue between the rich man and Abraham.
Let us consider, first, the outward condition and implied character of the rich man and Lazarus, during their life on earth. This branch includes the first three verses.
No proper name is given to one of the parties, he is merely designated as a certain rich man.' God, in his providence, had bestowed on him great wealth. That circumstance, surely, could not be imputed to him as a crime in itself. The Supreme Disposer of all things places men in very different stations of life, and bestows on them very different degrees of outward prosperity. Wealth is, doubtless, a blessing when it is properly employed, and, though not many, yet some rich men are called.
It is said of this rich man, that he was "clothed in purple and fine linen."+ It is not agreed of what material the cloth was made which our translators render, both in the Old and New Testament, "fine linen;" but, Egypt was particularly famed for producing it, and of it was made what was reckoned the finest cloth in ancient times. The very finest of this species of cloth fetched an enormous price, so that it was only very opulent persons who could afford * A parable, similar to this, is found in the Jewish Talmud. Lightfoot quotes it from the Gemara.
See Calmet on the article Byssus.
to wear it. That kind of cloth, as well as other kinds, was, of course, sometimes dyed purple. The colour of purple being splendid, and formerly very expensive, was worn chiefly by princes and great men. In some countries, indeed, it was indicative of high authority.* In illustration of this mode of dress the following passages may be noticed: "The men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule over us;" and they presented to him, among other gifts, "the purple raiment that was on the kings of Midian."- "Mordecai,” whom king Ahasuerus delighted to honour, "went out from the presence of the king, in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple."+ This being a rich man, we are not to conclude that his being handsomely dressed was, in itself, necessarily sinful; for, if men dress only according to their station, and not extravagantly, or indecently, they do what is reasonable in itself, and what obviously tends to promote the welfare of others, by providing them with employment and the means of subsistence.
It is farther said of this man, that he "fared sumptuously,” or, rejoiced splendidly, "every day." This expression includes every kind of showy and costly living, more especially a sumptuous table, and that not on some great and rare occasions, but constantly; and, though it seems to be rather too strong to be applicable to any mode of living which is quite lawful, it does not necessarily imply any shameful excess. He is by no means described as that monster of iniquity, in the eye of the world, which some have supposed. Though rich, it is not said that he acquired his wealth by extortion or fraud, or that he was a griping miser. Though he dressed and lived splendidly, it is not said that he was a drunkard, or a glutton, or a debauchee, or an infidel. Nor, though we cannot suppose him to have been truly charitable, does it appear, from any thing said of the beggar, that the rich man absolutely refused to allow any of his substance to go to the relief of the poor. He was not an idolatrous heathen; on the contrary, from his calling Abraham "father," and from its being said that his brethren had Moses and the prophets, it is to be inferred that he was a Jew, and was not altogether destitute of some form of religion. Still, it is plain, from his miserable end, that he was an ungodly sinner.
* "Purpurei tyranni."-Horace. +Judges viii. 26; Esth. viii. 15. † Εὐφραινόμενος λαμπρως.
In what, then, did his sin consist? It appears to have consisted chiefly in his setting his heart on earthly things, and seeking his happiness in them, to the neglect of God, of his soul, and of eternity. He was like the rich fool, mentioned in the 12th chapter, who said to his soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry:""So is every one that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich towards God." And are there not many such characters in every age? Behold," saith the Lord, by Ezekiel, "this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom: pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her, and in her daughters; neither did she strengthen the hands of the poor and needy." Such persons are thus addressed by Amos,* as leading a life of self-indulgence, to the neglect of their own spiritual concerns, and of the interests of the Church of God: "Woe to them that are at ease in Zion"—"Ye that put far away the evil day, and cause the seat of violence to come near; that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches, and eat the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall; that chant to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music, like David; that drink wine in bowls, and anoint themselves with the chief ointments: but they are not grieved for the affliction of Joseph." To the same purpose, in Job,t "They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave. Therefore they say unto God, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have if we pray unto him?” There are actually many such; and, what is very worthy of consideration, there would be many more than there are, could all obtain their heart's desire: for, are not those who are rich, and who are in gay clothing, and fare sumptuously every day, generally regarded as the most enviable of men? and is not such a state of wealth and splendour what multitudes would regard as the very summit of their ambition, and what many pursue as their fondest object? But, as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." The bent of the soul, rather than the outward accomplishment of purpose, constitutes the character. If this consideration be rightly pondered, as well as that of the rich man in this parable * Amos vi. 1, 3. + Job xxi. 12.