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he feared would be so to his brethren; but that they would cer
peared to them actually from the dead. 30. And he said, Nuy, father Abraham, but * if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. Abraham told him he was much mistaken, assuring him that the evil dispositions which hindered men from believing the evidences of a future state, contained in the writings oí Mo. ses and the prophets, would likewise hinder them from believing the testimony of a messenger from the dead. 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.
By this parable we are taught several important lessons : as, 1. That one may be great and renowned, and highly esteemed among men, who is entirely obscure and vulgar in the eyes of God, nay, and an abomination unto him, ver. 15. For what can be greater or better in the eyes of men, than to live adorned with all the splendour of wealth, luxury, and honours ? and what more disgrac.ful in the sight of God than to be polluted with sin, and fit only for the flames of hell ? On the other hand, the parable teaches that some who appear mean and despicable in the eyes of their fellows, are men of great worth, and highly beloved of God. Wealth, therefore, and power, and grandeur, are not to be coveted, neither is poverty to be dreaded, since that honour which is the chief charın of the one, and that reproach which is the bitterest sting of the other, are altogether without foundation.
2. This parable teaches us, that the souls of men are immor tal, that they subsist in a separate state after the dissolution of the body, and that they are rewarded or punished according to their actions in this life; doctrines very necessary to be asserted in those days, when it was fashionable to believe the mortality of the soul, and to argue in defence of that pernicious error. Farther, it teaches us, that the miseries of the poor who have lived religiously, and the happiness of the rich who have lived wickedly, do end with this life; and that the several stations in which they have lived, together with the past occurrences and actions of their lives, are distinctly remembered and reflected upon by them; see ver. 25. And that the remembrance of past pains and pleasures
* Ver. 30. licne went unto them from the diad, &c.] It is uncertain whe.. ther the rich man, bs “ one from the dead," meant an apparition or resurrection, His words are capable of either sense, yet the quality of the person to whom this messenger was to be sunt, makes it more probable that he m'ant an apparition. For without doubt the character Josephus , gives us of the Jews in high life, viz. that they were gen rally Sacducees, was applicable to those brethren; so that disbelieving the existence of souls in a separate state, noihing more was necessary, in the opinion of their broder, to convince them, but that they should see a real appari.
will not lessen, but rather increase the joys of the one, and the forrows of the other; and consequently that we make a very false judgment of one another's condition, when we think any man happy because he is rich, or any man miserable because he is poor.
3. From this parable we learn, that men shall be punished hereafter, for entertaining principles inconsistent with morality and religion, for their worldly-mindedness, and heedlessness with respect to matters of religion, for being immersed in pleasure, and for not using their riches aright, as well as for crimes of a grosser nature; wherefore it affords a fit caution to all the great and rich, to beware of the rocks on which they are most apt to split. This great man who fell into the flames of hell, is not charged with murder, adultery, injustice, oppression, or lying; he is not even charged with being remarkably uncharitable. Lazarus lay commonly at his gate ; and though he received evil things, being treated by every one in the family as a beggar, he got his maintenance there, such as it was, otherwise he would not have been laid there daily, nor would the rich man have desired Abraham to send him.rather than any other of the blessed, with a drop of water to cool his tongue, had he not imagined that gratitude would prompt him to undertake the office with cheerfulness. The rich man's sin, therefore, was his living in luxury and pleasure, which made him on the one hand neglect religion, for cultivating which he had che best opportunities; and on the other, cherish atheistical principles, particularly such as flow from believing the mortality of the soul. If so, all who resemble this person in his character, should take warning by his punishment, and not delude themselves with thinking that because they live free from the more scandalous vices, they shall escapo damnation. In particular, all who make it their chief business to procure the pleasures of sense, neglecting to form their minds into a relish of spiritual and divine pleasures, may in this parable see their sad but certain end. They shall be excluded for ever from the presence of God, as incapable of his joys, although they may have pursued their pleasures with no visible injury to any person. But if men, not accused of injustice in getting riches, are thus punished for the bad use they have made of them, what must the misery of those be, who both acquire them unjustly, and use them sinfully? As this parable admovishes the rich, so it is profitable for the instruction and comfort of the poor; for it teaches them the proper method of bringing their afflictions to a happy issue, and shews them, that God will distribute the re. wards and punishments of the life to come impartially, without respect of persons.
4. This parable teaches us the greatness of the punishment of the damned. 29. And in hell he lift tip his eyes, being in tor
ments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. We cannot from this representation infer, that burning with material fire shall be any part of the true and proper punishment of the damned. The never-dying worm, which is sometimes joined with the fire of hell, is confessed by all to be metaphorical, and therefore the fire may be so likewise. Yet no man can be absolutely certain that the wicked shall not be burnt with flames, seeing the resurrection of their bodies, and the union of them with their souls, make the thing possible. In the mean time, be this as it will, the expressions found here, and in other passages of Scripture, taken in their lowest sense, intimate that the pains of hell will be very great. For if wicked men retain the passions, appetites, and desires, which were predominant in them on earth, as it is highly probable they will, (see Gal. vi. 7.) these desires being for ever deprived of their objects, must occasion a nisery which they only can conceive, who have felt what it is to lose, without hope of recovery, that which they are most passionately fond of, and to be racked with the violence of desires, which they are sensible can never be gratified. Or although the passions thems lves should perish with their objects, a direful eternal melancholy must necessarily ensue from the want of all desire and enjoyment, the misery of which is not to be conceived. In such a state, the bitter reflections which the damned will make on the happiness they have lost, must raise in them a dreadful storm of self-condeinnation, envy, and ciespair. Besides, their consciences provoked by the evil actions of their lives, and now, as it were, let loose upoa them, will prove more inexorable than ravening wolves, and the torment which they shall occasion will, in respect of its perpetuity, be as if a never-dying worm was al. v’ays consuming thein. This is the fire of hell, and those the everlasting burnings threatened with such terror in the word of God, where they are represented perhaps by material frames, to strike the dull and gross apprehensions of mankind ; but they are far more terrible than the other, for the misery arising from these agonizing reflections must be of the most intense kind. And as there is not any thing in that state to divert the thoughts of the damned from them, they must be uninterrupted also, not admit. ' ting the least alleviation or refreshment. '
5. Fron this parable we learn, that mens states are unalterably fixed after death, so that it is vain to hope for any end of their misery who are miserable, and unreasonable to fear any, change of their prosperity who are happy. With respect to the latter, there can be little doubt; for, as one has observed, in a state where men are perfectly good, and can have no temptation to be otherwise, it is not imaginable, that they should fall from that state. And as for the dained, it is certain that they must be reclaimed to virtue before they can be made happy. But in
the virtue of a creature at least, it is essential that there be both freedom of will and of action ; virtue being not only the voluntary obedience of such as can disobey, but an obedience from conviction and love, in cases where it is possible for them to act contrary to both; consequently an obedience from choice, and not from a necessity of nature. Upon these principles it may be questioned, whether the damned are capable of virtue. For while a man is actually lying under the immediate and complete punishment of his sin, while he is loaded with sufferings whose nature is such as necessarily fixes his attention to his sins as the cause of them, he cannot' but be sensible of the evil of sin, because he feels it, and cannot but hate it, b'cause it makes him miserable. Hence it appears, that though the damned repent, that is, have the strongest convictions of the evil of sin, with the bitterest grief and hatred of it, there is no virtue in all this, because it is not in their power to do otherwise ; and if there be no virtue in their repentance, we must acknowledge that it can have no influence to make them happy. To object that this argument derogates from the worth of conversion produced by the sufferings of this life, is not to the purpose ; for as matters stand at present, a man may in the course of providence be laid under many heavy calamities, without seeing the evil of his sin. The reason is, we are under no absolute necessity of considering these calamities as the punishment of our sin. And in fact, many suffer without ever thinking upon their sin as the cause of their suffering. Since therefore in our present repentance we are not necessitated, this character sufficiently distinguishes the sufferings and repentance of this life, from those of the life to come.
6. The parable informs us, that if the evidences of a future state already proposed do not persuade men, they will not be persuaded by any extraordinary evidences that can be offered, consistently with the freedom requisite to render them accountable for their actions. The truth is, we do not call the reality of a future state into question, either because it is not demonstrated by sufficient arguments, or because we are not able to comprehend them. Every man has within his own breast what leadeth him to the acknowledgment of this grand, this fundamental support of religion ; a certain foreboding of immortality, which it is not in his power ever to banish. But being addicted to sin, on account of the present pleasures attending it, we vehemently wish that there were no future state ; and in consequence of these wishes, we will not allow ourselves to weigh the arguments offered in its behalf, and so at length come to work ourselves into an actual disbelief of it. Or if the truth, proving too hard for us, should constrain our assent, the habit of yielding to our passions which we labour under, has influence suthcieni to make us act contrary to our convictions. Wherefore, though the evidence
of a future state was more clear and forcible than it is, men might hinder themselves from seeing it, just as they hinder themselves from seeing the evidence by which it is at present supported. In a word, the proofs of the soul's immortality have ale ways been sufficient to persuade those who have any candour, or love of goodness, and to demand more is unreasonable; because, although it were given, it might prove ineffectual. “ If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Accordingly, Abrahani's assertion is verified by daily experience; for ihey who look on all that the eternal Son of God, who actually arose from the dead, has said concerning the punishments of the damned, as so many idle tales, would pay little regard to any thing that could be told them, even by a person risen from the dead. ♡ XCVII. Concerning offences, and their forgiveness; see $ 73.
The disciples desire Jesus to increase their faith. Luke xvii. 1,-10.
Having been thus derided by the Fharisees as a visionary, and affronted on account of his doctrine concerning the pernicious influence of the love of money; he tcok occasion to speak of af. fronts and offences (oravêcàoi, stumbling-blocks, provocations to sin). And though he represented such things as necessary, in respect of the ercise ard improvement which they afford to
malice, and other jarring passions of men, he did not fail to set forih their evil nature in their dreadful punishment. Luke xvii. 1. Then said he unto the disciples, It is impossible but that offence's will come; but * woe unto him through whom they come. 2. It
sage, it is necessary that we attend to an obvious distinction. All offences or temptations, are not of the same nature. Some of them are things in therrscives sinful; others of them are things innocent. Jesus speaks of the first sort, Nor has he denounced against the authors of them a greater punishment tan they deserve. Because to their own intrinsic malignity such things have this added, that they prove stumbling-blocks to others; "so are of the most atrocious nature. When the other sort of offences bappen to be mentioned, they are spoken of in milder terms. If the offence is given to a fellow Christian, the person guilty of it is blamed only for wanting that high degree of charity towards his brother, which the Chris. tian religion enjoins. If it is given to a hearhem, he is charged with being deficient with dae concern for the glory of God. In the mean time,
it must be observed on this liead, that though the weakness of well mean. ing persons, who bv relying on our example niay be led to imitate us in
things which they think sinful, is a strong reason, in point of charity, why we should forbear such actions, however innocent, unless we are under the greatest necessity of doing them ; yet the perverseness of malicious minds, who are apt to misrerresent things, does hy no means lay any obligation on a good man to forbear what lic finds convenient for him, provided be