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It is not claimed that these Lectures contain many ideas in relation to this noted parable, which are entirely new, and which no others had ever thought of. The course taken, however, in the illustration is more extended, and more minute than usual; for it was an especial object to render the whole subject plain and easy of comprehension to every capacity.
HOSEA BALLOU, OF BOSTON,
WALTER BALFOUR, OF CHARLESTOWN, MASS:
This little volume of Lectures is respectfully inscribed,
by their Brother in the Ministry of Reconciliation,
and in the faith of God's universal love.
LUKE xvi. 31.
"If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
THIS is the close of the parable or history, as it has been variously called, of the Rich Man and Lazarus. It has been considered, and very justly, an important portion of the teachings of our blessed Saviour; and it appears to have been so considered by many writers and religious teachers, particularly on account of the clear and undeniable testimony it is thought to contain, in support of the doctrine of endless sufferings in a future state. The advocates of that doctrine constantly appeal to the representation here given by our Saviour, as furnishing, in their opinion, irrefragable proof of the correctness of this article of their faith. This renders an honest and careful examination of the passage, peculiarly important and interesting. Such an examination we purpose to bestow upon it in this discourse, and some succeeding ones.
This parable, so often referred to, by preachers and writers, is generally illustrated in a very summary manner; in which has been taken for granted, that the commonly received meaning and application of it is unquestionably correct; and those who have given it a more studied and careful examination, have usually
done it in the compass of a single discourse. We have thought that a still more particular and extended illustration of it might be satisfactory and useful.
If it shall appear that this noted parable, or representation, gives no just support or countenance to the tremendous doctrine of unending woe and misery, the advocates of that doctrine will be essentially circumscribed in their alleged proofs of its authenticity; and may well despair of establishing it upon the solid foundation of revealed truth, or as a radical and component part of that gospel, through which, life and immortality have been brought to light.
I shall not take up much time, at present, in agitating the question, whether this account of the rich man and Lazarus is a real history, or a parable; but shall leave it to be decided, or inferred from the succeeding illustration. If it is a real history, then the facts stated must be understood literally as described, and according to the common intent of the language employed. If it be a parable, then the representation is not real, but figurative; the circumstances and events described, are symbolical; and the language that of metaphor. And this, we expect, will very clearly appear to be the case.
We shall first proceed to consider individually the different characters given to these two men, the rich man and the beggar; and then notice how they are said to have been disposed of, by which we trust it will be manifest, that the whole description has reference to the present life only; and that no part of it relates to the condition of mankind in another world. Now if this shall appear to be the case, it will be evident that it is an entire perversion and misapplication of the passage, to quote it in support of the doctrine of punishment and suffering, in a future state of existence.