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seeing, as he supposes, it was one of the "causes of the rich man's perdition."
You must excuse me, my hearers, if I find it difficult to treat such a statement with seriousness, though made by a learned Doctor of Divinity.
But we proceed to notice that the man described in the parable, was not only rich, and clothed in purple and fine linen, but he "fared sumptuously every day.” This is put down, by the commentator as his third crime and the "third cause of his perdition." We confess we can see no reason for it. Solomon says, "There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and enjoy good-This also I saw that it was from the hand of God." And Moses says to the Israelites,-"The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land a land of wheat, and barley, and vines and fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey, a land wherein thou shall eat bread without scarceness, thou shall not lack any thing in it; "—and, says he, "when thou hast eaten and art full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee." And moreover. "Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth."
Now it should be observed that this rich man was a descendant of Abraham, and he lived under the Jewish dispensation, in which abundance of temporal good things were promised as the reward of obedience. Hence the wise man says "Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine." The same commentator acknowledges, and says" this rich man is not accused of having eaten food which was prohibited by
the law. It is true, he is said to have feasted, or fared sumptuously, every day; but our Lord does not intimate that this was carried to excess, or that it ministered to debauch."-Furthermore, he says-" his probity is not attacked, nor is he accused of any of those crimes which pervert the soul, or injure civil society." In fact, my friends, he is not charged with a single crime of any sort. True, he is said to have fared sumptuously. But we do not know exactly the extent of the meaning of that term in those days. Luxury had probably not then arisen at the height it now is: commerce was not so much extended as it is at present, and there was not as great a variety of delicacies at command. And I expect there is little doubt, that there are many professing Christians in our time, who fare as sumptuously every day, as this rich man did. Providence had indeed blessed him with abundance, and he enjoyed it probably for nothing appears to the contrary-with gratitude to his Maker, and, as is strongly intimated, with feelings of benevolence and charity towards his more needy and dependent neighbors.
You are sensible, my hearers, that a very different representation has often been given of the character and conduct of this rich man,-both in sermons and in commentaries that have been made upon the parable before us. He has been called the rich glutton; the unfeeling, selfish, voluptuous wretch, who thought of nothing and cared for nothing, but his own ease, worldly grandeur, and carnal gratification. Even the celebrated commentator before referred to, although his description of him is comparatively favorable, and he admits that, "compared with thousands, he was not only blameless, but a virtuous man ;" yet, yielding to the common tradition, that the hell in which he is described as being
"in torments," is a place of punishment in a future state, he is anxious to find some cause assigned for his tremendous destiny-some sufficient reason for the fearful sentence, which at his death was supposed to be executed upon him. And therefore, although he cannot find him accused of any criminal action, yet he concludes that he was "an indolent man, who sought, and had his portion in this life, and was not at all concerned about another.”
Now, how can it be determined that he had no concern about another life? The account given says nothing of the kind. True, he had a good portion of the things of this life, and fared well as to worldly enjoyments. But this, according to St. Paul's opinion, was nothing against him, for he says, "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and also of that which is to come." But mankind, in this world, are subject to many vicissitudes and reverses, both as nations and as individuals. Sometimes they are prosperous and happy, in the enjoyment of peace and plenty; sometimes they are subjected to disappointments and troubles, and are in circumstances of adversity, bereavement and sorrow. Of this, the Jews, as a people, had frequent experience; and to these changes, individuals in all ages have been liable. They are incident to our condition in this world, and are, no doubt, wisely ordered and directed by the overruling providence of God for the most important purposes, "Thou shalt consider in thine heart, (says Moses to Israel,) that as a father chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee, that he may humble thee, and that he may prove thee to do thee good at thy latter end." Solomon says, "In the day of prosperity be
joyful, but in the day of adversity consider." When God in his providence siniles upon us and sends us abundance, it is that we may enjoy it, and that we may fare sumptuously; and not to do it, would be rather an indication of ingratitude, as it would appear like slighting and spurning the divine bounty.
This rich man, whose condition and character we have been considering, was richly supplied, and he fared richly, and there is not the least intimation that he did not do it innocently and gratefully. There is not the smallest hint given that he was intemperate in the use of his abundance, or that he was haughty, selfish, hard-hearted, or unkind. In short, however strange the statement may perhaps appear to some of my hearers, there is nothing contained in the account given in the passage, which intimates, either that he was a bad man, or that he was not as good in every respect, and as virtuous and pious, as was Lazarus, the beggar, who was laid at his gate, full of sores.
To be sure, preachers and writers of nearly all denominations, have long determined, and constantly taught, that the rich man is in a hell of torments, in the invisible world, or world of spirits; and they have concluded, of course, that he must have been a bad man, a vile sinner, an ungodly wretch! But there certainly is nothing in the account given in the passage, to authorize or support such a conclusion. Our Saviour has told us that he was rich, and richly clothed, and well fed, and that is all. He has not said a word about his moral or religious character, good or bad. But we have done with him for the present.
Another character is introduced in the passage, and now in order, claims our attention. We shall consider him as we have the other, as an individual person; and
in this view shall follow them both through the whole account that is given of them, that we may see whether the common opinion is correct and can be sustained. After which we shall endeavor to illustrate the parable according to our own views of its import and intention.
"And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores."-This is supposed to have been a person of a very different character from the former, whom we have just been considering. And so he was, with respect to his bodily condition, and outward circumstances. He was poor, and meanly clad, hungry, and destitute of needful food; and moreover, he labored under sore bodily affliction, which appears to have rendered him incapable of exertion. He was full of sores.
But nothing is said of his piety or virtue, of his humility or patience of his love and reverence for the Supreme Being, and resignation to his will; or of the hope of salvation and future blessedness, which sustained him in his present sufferings.
There is nothing in the description given of him by which it appears that he was, in a moral or religious view, any better than the rich man, at whose gate he was laid. He was indeed poor. But poverty is no certain evidence of piety, or moral worth. Poor people, as well as others, are often-I lament to say it-very destitute of upright or religious principle, and very wicked and worthless characters.
Lazarus was a beggar. By what means, or from what cause or causes, he was reduced to such an extremity, we are not told. It might have been by unavoidable casualties or misfortunes; or might have been the consequence of his own imprudence, idleness, or negligence. At any rate, the circumstance