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come to an end; evil things were thenceforward to be his everlasting portion. And as an aggravation to his misery, he seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. He had, it appears, gloried formerly, as his nation did, in having Abraham for his father.55
But now he saw him
only afar off; and, to his surprise, the poor despised beggar was owned as a son of Abraham, while he was not able to go near him.
As, however, he saw Abraham, though afar off; 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. What a dreadful state was this! His tongue had not been employed to praise God for the good things with which he had been favoured; but in offending God, in speaking things unbecoming a creature who is dependent upon the God that made him, and granted him the enjoyment of all that he possessed; and now a drop of water is implored to cool it, in order to obtain a momentary relief from torment. How ought we to take heed to our ways, that we sin not with our tongue,56 when such is the dreadful consequence of making use of it in transgression.
This man asked a favour from Abraham; but Abraham was unable to bestow it. Had he as
55 Matthew iii. 9.
56 Psalm xxxix. 1.
earnestly and anxiously implored mercy from God, while he was in the land of the living, he would not have sought it in vain. He asked for the services of Lazarus on his behalf, though he had treated him with neglect and contempt in this life; but his petitions were of no avail. Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented. The rich man had abused the good things which he had possessed in this world, and no more would be given to him. His comforts had passed away for ever. Evil things were all that he had to look forward to, torments without remedy, without alleviation for a moment, without end.
He was further informed, that there could be no communication of benefits to him from the blessed, no relief from the distress and misery which sin had brought upon him, no deliverance from the dire abyss into which he was plunged, no hope to mitigate his anguish, no prospect of consolation to assuage his despair. Abraham added, And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. There is no place of Purgatory, from whence deliverance may be obtained; that is the vain fiction of foolish, sinful men; there is no means of escape
from the fire that never shall be quenched,” to those who shall once enter that dire abode of the enemies of God. The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever; and they have no rest day nor night.58 Well may we pray earnestly, as we are taught to do in our Burial Service, "O Lord God most holy, O Lord most mighty, O holy and most merciful Saviour, deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death."
When this wretched man found that his own case was desperate, he addressed Abraham again; and said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment. He was anxious to prevent them from sharing in his misery. Perhaps he had been accustomed to tempt them to sin, or to encourage them in it; and therefore feared that, if he and his brethren should meet together again, and be companions in that place of torment, their just reproaches would increase his own anguish and woe. And having his own eyes open now as to the realities of the invisible world, he thought that an alarming vision might prove the means of their conversion from the error of their ways; that an account of the transcendent glories of the blessed, and of the appalling torments of the lost, if de
57 Mark ix. 43.
58 Revelation xiv. 11.
livered by one whom they could recognise as having departed to the world of spirits, might induce them to flee from the wrath to come.59
In reply to this request, Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them. They have the means of salvation in their hands, the word which God has revealed, the holy Scriptures which were given by His inspiration, and which are able to make men wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus,60 let them attend to the word of God, and they will learn from it the way in which their sins may be forgiven, and they may be delivered from eternal misery and destruction. But as this rich man had been himself accustomed to neglect the means of grace, he naturally conceived that his brothers would never regard the word of God, any more than he had done; unless they were wrought upon by some external circumstances, which would terrify and alarm their consciences.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. If their minds could be convinced beyond doubt of the realities of the invisible world, and of a future state of existence, then, he thought, they would turn from sin; then, they would seek earnestly for the salvation of their souls. An
59 Matthew iii. 7.
60 2 Timothy iii. 15.
extraordinary vision would alarm them, so that they would lay to heart the solemn warning that might then be given; and would truly repent them of their sins past, and turn to the Lord God with all their hearts. But his idea was a mistaken one; therefore Abraham again said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Should they be warned of their danger by the appearance of a departed spirit, whom they might recognise as one whom they had known to have lived and died in this world, a momentary terror might indeed seize them; but soon they would account it nothing more than a delusive dream; and when its impressions were worn off their minds, they would proceed again in their downward career to destruction, perhaps more hardened in iniquity than ever.
When our blessed Saviour spake this parable, we may conceive that He had in His mind the manner in which the Jewish nation, to whom Moses and the prophets had been given, or to whom had been committed the oracles of God, would continue to disregard those lively oracles, notwithstanding the evidence that would be afforded of the reality of a future state of existence, by means of His resurrection from the dead. A miracle, however surprising, or beyond conception astonishing, would have no effect