Page images
PDF
EPUB

thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented” He did not say, remember thou in thy lifetime wast wicked, but Lazarus good.

Another inquiry properly arising in this place is, does not the literal sense of the passage pointedly disagree with the notions of those who contend that it is not a parable? We often hear that such as go to hell never have one holy feeling; no desire for the company of the blessed ; that they spend their time in blaspheming God. Was it so with the rich man? Do we read of his blaspheming God? No; but we read of his offering up a prayer, and a good one too. "I pray thee therefore, father," said he, "that thou wouldst send him (Lazarus) to my father's house : for I have five brethren ; and that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.” Did he not in this language breathe forth a good desire ? Did he not have a holy feeling? Again. Abraham, when speaking of the great gult, said it was fixed so that they who would pass from bence to you cannot: neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.” Here two things should be noticed. 1. There were some with Abraham that would go to the rich man; but could not. And, 2. There were some with the rich mail who would go to Abrabam ; but could not. It appears froin this, that there were some in hell who had a desire for the company of the blessed, and would have gone to them, had it been in their power. And we learn, furthermore, that hell cannot be so hot a place as it has been represented. For if it were so, the rich man, we should think, would have called for more water than Lazarus could have carried on the tip of his finger. And suppose the common idea of a devil be correct, how would he be pleased to have so benevolent a prayer as that of the rich man, offered up in his dark dominions ? The literal sense of the text comes in direct contact with many people's notions of a future world.

Now let us turn to Abraham and those with him. It is commonly supposed, that those who are in heaven are happy, and perfectly reconciled to the will of God. We have already shown that there were some in the place of happiness who would go to the rich man ; but could not. They were not, therefore, perfectly happy, inasmuch as they were desirous of doing that which they were not permitted to do. Neither were they reconciled to the will of God; for it was the will of God that they should not go, and he had made the great gulf to prevent them. Wishing to do what was not permitted to be done, they were unhappy, and being unreconciled to God, they were wicked. If wieked, they must have been miserable. So we have one argument to prove that those who were with Abraham were wicked, and two that they were miserable. How will these things agree with the opinions of those who contend that the parable is a literal relation of facts ? Those who were in heaven were unreconciled to God, and those who were in hell were unreconciled to the supposed devil. How can the passage be explained literally?

But it may be said, those in heaven were benevolent, sympathetic, and were urged by good inotives to endeavor to relieve the distressed. Permit is to ask, how could they be ignorant of God's determination to punish the wicked eternally? And will it be said, they were better than God? Was not he as good, sympathetic and benevolent as they ? Let those who interpret the passage literally. consider these things. Let them tell us why those in heaven wished to go down to hell. Was it tu abide there? Was it to relieve some friend, some relation ? Would some parent comfort his child ? Some child, its parent? Some brother, a sister? Some husband, a wife ? No, answer the orthodox, the saints say Amen, alleluia, when they see the smoke of the turment of the wicked ascend. How will those who do not allow that the passage is a parable, surmount these difficulties?

Now allowing the passage to be a literal relation, what will it prove? It will not prove the doctrine of election and reprobation; it will not prove that men are to be punished or rewarded in the next life for their conduct in this; but it will prove that there was a inan tormenteil in hades, who was a good man in some respects, and for anght we know, as good as any body else : it will prove that those who are in heaven are both wicked and miserable, that they wish to leave the place and go to hell; and it will prove that some notions which orthodox people have entertained for years, are totally erroneous. Those who contend that it is not a parable, for any thing we see, must allow all these things.

But it may be said that the passage understood literally, proves that men will be punished after death. We answer, if we interpret it literclly, and suppose the death of the rich man to mean the departure of life froin his animal frame, then it will teach that one man was tormented in another state of being ; but whether it should be for one year, one day or hour, we could not tell. One thing is certain, it would not then prove the doctrine of endless torment, for the place, the hell, in which the rich man was tormented, is to be destroyed, according to the testimony of Hosea, “Ohades, I will be thy

[ocr errors]

destruction," (Hos. xiii. 14,) and of John, "And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire, (Rev. xx. 14,) and of Paul, “Ohades where is thy victory," (1 Cor. xv. 55.) But if we may have the liberty of interpreting parables literally, we will engage to prove almost any thing. There is no intelligent christian who does not know, that those things which Jesus used as figures of the reality, should not be considered the reality itself.

There is sufficient evidence, both internal and external, to prove that the passage is a parable. We will first briefly examine the internal. It is stated the beggar was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom. Now we ask, can any one suppose that this is to be understood in the literal sense ? These people are represented as having bodily on gans and powers. The rich man had eyes and a tongue, and Lazarus fingers, Ca! this be interpreted literally? Do disembodied spirits in the world to come have eyes, and tongues, and ficgers, and the powers of speech, of hearing and seeing ?

1Lift up his eyes. These words, like as some of the following, must not be understood properly, for the soul being a spiritual being, hath neither eyes, nor tongue, nor finger, but by similitude,

See the Dutch Annotations, according to the translation of the Bible as ordered by the Synod of Dort. London, 1° 57. Ver. 19. “This is more likely to be a parable than a true history."

“ All this ought to be understood figuratively. See pious and learned Annotations on the Holy Bible by John Diodati, of Geneva. London, 1651.

Dr. Whitby argues conclusively that the passage is a parable, and states that it was not original with Jesus, but was quoted by him froin some Jewish writings. 6. That this is only a parable, and not a real history of what was actually done, is evident, ist, because we find this very parable in the Gemara Babylonicum, whence it is cited by Mr. Sheringham, in the preface to his Joma. 2d. From the circumstances of it, viz. the rich man's lifting up his eyes in hell, and seeing Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, his discourse with Abraham, his complaint of being tormented with Aames, and his desire

&c.'

23. Lift up.

We do not profess to know much about spirits in another world, but we believe this is not the common opinion upon the subject. However, it belongs to those who say the passage is not a parable, to solve these difficulties, and to show us how people in heaven and hell can converse with apparent ease froin one place to the other.

The external evidence that the passage is a parable, is the connexion in which it is found. We should maintain a proper connexion throughout our Lord's discourse. But we see no way to do this, if we do not consider the passage a parable. It is found connected with a number of parables, in Luke xv. and xvi. as we have already shown.

In the beginning of the 15th chapter, we find that the Scribes and Pharisees murmured, because Jesus received siuners and ate with them. · In the three parables which fill np the remainder of this chapter, viz. that of the lost sheep, of the lost piece of silver, and of the prodigal son, Jesus vindicated that part of his conduct of which they had complained. But in the last of these three parables, a character was presented which had not appeared in either of the others. This was the elder s01), who was angry because the prodigal was received into favor, and who very justly represented the scribes and Pharisees; for they murmured because Jesus Christ received sinners and ate with them. These Pharisces rejected the gospel; and this is represented by the elder son's refusing to go that Lazarus might be sent to cool his tongue ; and if all this he confessedly parable, why should the rest, which is the very purable in the Gemara, be accounted bistory?" Note on Luke xvi. 29.

'Arch Bishop Tillotson remarks, that in some ancient A SS. the passage commences as follows : “ And he spake a parable unto them, saying, there was a certain rich man, &c." See his Sernior on the parable. Dr. Gill hus the same remark in his Comuentary,

« PreviousContinue »