Imatges de pÓgina
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their former power and opportunities, and leaving them without the means of doing much good, beyond that which consists in the discipline of their own minds, and in the exercise of the more patient virtues. In the mean time, sickness and disease, in various forms, may produce nearly the same effects; while, with all, the "evil days" of old age are creeping on us, with nearly imperceptible approaches, and may soon leave us, perhaps, in a pitiable state of helplessness, decrepitude, and mental imbecillity.

When, therefore, to these considerations we add the shortness, and uncertainty of life, we may learn to bless God for his mercy and goodness, in still prolonging the period of our existence, and make it our chief study to "redeem the time, because the days are evil." But let us remember the precept of our blessed Lord, on a very different occasion, indeed,-" What thou doest do quickly. Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Delays are always attended with danger, and sometimes with folly. In matters that concern the loss, or salvation of the soul, there must be in them a strange admixture of both: for while we go on from day

to day, and year to year, vacillating between the gratifications of sin, and the principles of duty;-while we are ready to yield to temptation, and feel only weak and ineffectual purposes of amendment ;-death may suddenly come on us, as it has on others. The day of trial will then be past; and, notwithstanding the merits and atonement of Christ, the gates of eternal life may be for ever shut against us, as heedless, unrepentant sinners, who heard not the warnings of divine Love, and to whom the gracious terms of salvation had been proffered in vain.

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There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.

THE words of the text are the beginning of the well-known Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Of the former, it is said, that, in his life-time he had "received his good things;" and of the latter, that he had "received evil things:" but that, after death, the one was comforted, and the other tormented.

In discoursing on this subject, I shall not consider the variety of important information, which this Parable, on mature reflection, may be made to convey; but will confine myself, chiefly, to the awful dispensation of Providence, with respect to the destiny of the two persons described, in the future and invisible world;

and endeavour to shew, that it was founded on the exercise of that strict, retributive justice, which we must all expect from our Great Creator in the day of judgment.

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Their respective characters and conduct are not delineated by our blessed Lord with any amplification of language, or minute detail of circumstances; and therefore we must form our inferences, in some measure, from his silence and reserve. It is stated, indeed, that the rich man was clothed in purple, and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:" but his fortune might have enabled him to do this, without any imputation of extravagance,-without any risk of loss to others, or any danger of ruin to himself. We do not read, that his luxurious mode of life was supported by a fraudulent extension of credit, or by any actual oppression of those with whom he was connected. purple and the fine linen, it is true, were of foreign manufacture; and therefore the purchase and consumption of them must have proved injurious, in some measure, to the trade of his own country.

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Again, it is said of Lazarus, that he was a beggar, and grievously afflicted with disease; but this is by no means a decisive proof of the

virtue, or the innocence of his character: for his beggary and poverty, instead of proceeding from unavoidable misfortunes, might have been the result of vice and idleness; and the loathsomeness of his disease might have been the consequence of imprudence, or of the most sinful and licentious indulgences.

Let us attend, therefore, with some minuteness, to the context; and endeavour to learn what were the real distinctions of character and conduct, with respect to these men, which, in the case of one, laid the just foundation of future punishment; and, in the other, of future happiness and reward.

The infinite difference between a state of suffering, and a state of enjoyment, in the regions of eternity, could never have arisen from the casual distribution of good and evil in this present life; because our Almighty Father knew that such a dispensation would be reciprocally necessary for our discipline and trial; and, in constituting the various orders of civilised society, He has told us, that "the poor shall never cease out of the land." The single cir cumstance, therefore, that the Rich Man in his life-time had received his good things," and "Lazarus evil things," will by no means recon

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