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longest, and most important journey-their journey from earth to heaven.* It is, doubtless, a service most agreeable to these holy and benevolent spirits, to follow up their other ministrations by discharging this kind office; though, indeed, they cannot be considered as having finished their ministrations till the resurrection, when "the Son of man shall send them with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." What happiness and honour for Lazarus, to be thus conducted by angels, through unknown ways, to glory!
"Abraham's bosom," was one of the names which the Jews gave to paradise, or heaven; and it is here sanctioned by Jesus Christ. It implies that Abraham, the father of the faithful, is there, occupying a distinguished place. It implies, too, that the saints in heaven know each other, and hold familiar and endearing intercourse. There is, in this expression, also, an allusion to the posture in which the Jews, and other Eastern nations, reclined at meat on couches, so that every person reclined on, or rather, towards, the breast of him who was next to him on his left hand. In this way, the happiness of heaven is set forth under the comparison of a noble banquet, partaken of in company with Abraham, and, of course, the other glorified patriarchs and departed saints. Thus, in another place, our Lord says,‡ That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." What a change for poor, despised, diseased Lazarus! He who could not obtain admittance within the rich man's gate, and who could hardly procure crumbs to satisfy his hunger, enters triumphantly the gate of heaven, is seated next to the father of the faithful, and feeds on all the blessings of the heavenly banquet. Thus it is with every one who dies in the Lord. Let this
* Plato (in Phoedo) teaches, that the soul which has passed through life pure and temperate (when it dies) has the gods for its companions and guides, ξυνεμπορων και ηγεμόνων θεων τυχειν· The Greeks and
Romans generally assigned this office to Mercury, who was thence called, the Conductor, Πομπος, Πομπαιος, Νεκροπομπος, ψυχοπομπος, and Juxaywyos. Sophocles (Ajac. Flagell. 843) represents Ajax, when about to die, as invoking Mercury, the Conductor, to lay him sweetly asleep, and to remove him by a gentle and quick leap.
Tu pias lætis animas reponis
See John xiii. 23.
Matt. viii. 11.
thought, then, support the heart of believers in the darkest hour. Let them think, with solemnity, and yet with cheerfulness, of their latter end, of the close of their sorrows, of the angelic convoy, of the glorious entrance into the regions of immortality, and of all the varied and endless blessedness of the saints in light: let them think of these things, and be of good cheer. May such blessedness be ours!
But, "the rich man also died." His wealth could not purchase a reprieve, not to speak of immortality on earth. "They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; none of them can by any means redeem," in this sense, "his brother," or himself, "or give to God a ransom for him," "that he should still live, and not see corruption." How alarming to this sinner, in his approaches, was the last enemy, if he was at all aware of what was coming! “Oh, death, bitter is the remembrance of thee to the man who is at rest in his possessions!" And awful must have been his distraction at the hour of dissolution, if he was sensible and awakened. But was there nothing of a splendid nature to enliven the scene in the eye of the world? There was splendour in his departure, such splendour as it was; for he " was buried" -buried, no doubt, in a pompous and expensive way, with showy decorations and processions; and a costly monument, with a flattering inscription, would, probably, be erected on the spot where his remains were deposited. But such honours availed him not; for he was insensible to them all. "I saw the wicked buried," says the Preacher; "this also is vanity." The rich man's career of ungodly indulgence was at an end; and nothing remained of it but the guilt it contracted, and the remorse it entailed. His last hope of happiness vanished for ever when his eyes closed on this world; for, though his body was splendidly buried, his soul
"And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.” If his conscience awoke before death, now his worst apprehensions were more than realized. If there were no bands in his death," now he was bound "in everlasting chains of darkness;" and what a surprise must it have been, to awake from his dreams of luxury and security, amid the indescribable miseries of the damned! But we shall hear more of this in the last part of the parable.
* In Hades, or the unseen world; here evidently the place of punishment.
It is added here, that the rich man saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." The nature of a parable renders it uncertain how far this is to be understood literally. It is clear, however, that the condemned in hell must be as certain of the happiness of departed believers, as if they actually saw them in heaven; and the consciousness of this, in connexion with the sense of the loss they have sustained by being excluded from heaven themselves, must greatly aggravate their misery. Yet there may be something of a more direct knowledge of this nature, for we read* that the workers of iniquity" shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and they themselves thrust out." How woful the change for this ungodly man! Surely he felt as if he would have said, "Fool that I was, to sacrifice the substance of happiness for the shadow! Wretched man, to reject offered mercy on earth, to cast away all the joys of yonder heaven, and to involve myself in all the misery of this hell! What madness, to revel in thoughtless alienation from God, knowing assuredly that I was thus to be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power!"
But more concerning this wretched man afterwards, if it please God. Meanwhile, let us tremble at the thought of the awful abyss into which he was plunged; and let us flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel, and trust and obey Him who alone can deliver us from the wrath to come.
*Luke xiii. 28.
LUKE XVI. 19–31.
PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS—CONTINUED.
WE formerly observed, that the parable of the rich man and Lazarus may be divided into three great branches, and two of these we then considered, namely, the outward condition and implied character of these two persons during their life on earth, and their death, and the state into which death introduced them. We now proceed to consider the Third branch, which is, The dialogue between the rich man and Abraham. This includes what is contained from the 24th verse to the end of the chapter.
It was noticed, generally, that the nature of a parable renders it unnecessary to suppose that all the circumstances introduced ever literally take place, and, more particularly, that what is stated in the last part of this parable, 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, in order to render these ideas more intelligible and impressive to the living. The rich man, having died and passed into hell, is represented as there seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus reclining close beside him. The description then proceeds, in the same allegorical manner: "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." The invisible world being thus opened up, our Lord, instead of inculcating the doctrines relating to it in an abstract manner, puts them into the mouth of two of its inhabitants.
And, first of all, how dreadful the view here given of the misery of the condemned in the other world! "In hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments," said our Lord; and
here, "I am tormented in this flame," says the wretched man himself.
Let us reflect on the absolute certainty of the punishment of those who die in sin. Conscience forebodes it: there is "a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation to devour the adversaries" of God. Revelation declares it. The Psalmist says, "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." Our Saviour says, "Fear not them who kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell:" and his apostle declares, that God "will render to every man according to his works," "to them who are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil." There will be no possibility of escaping. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not go unpunished."
Let us reflect, also, on the dreadful nature of this punishment. It is a heavy punishment of loss. They lose all earthly comforts, all the means of grace, all the strivings of the Spirit, all restraints from sin; and they lose the society of saints and angels, all the happy employments of the heavenly state, and the blissful vision of God and of the Lamb. There is also the punishment of sense, or positive punishment. On this subject, the most awful language is employed in Scripture, the full import of which we cannot fathom. They must pine under the lashes of a guilty conscience, and the torments of despair; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Here, conscience is often lulled asleep by the delusions, or drowned in the giddy stream, of life; but there, nothing can ever intervene to keep it from preying on itself. The soul agonizes mentally on its entrance into the prison; and the body, on its resurrection, will be subjected to bodily infliction. What words are these: "They are cast into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth"-" Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched!" They are subjected to dreadful and distressing society-the society of the abandoned of men, and of the devil and his angels. They are subjected to the pressure of the Divine wrath. This is terrible even on earth; when God hides his face, men are troubled, when his terrors set themselves in array against them, they are distracted, even now: but how terrible will his wrath be in hell! "Who knoweth the power of his anger? according to his fear so