« ПредишнаНапред »
that he had made man; and brought upon the world a flood of waters, whereby the world that then was,” except eight persons, perished. Such was the result of one trial ; such unquestionably would be the issue of another.
1st. From these observations we derive complete proof of the wisdom of God in limiting human life by its present bounds.
There are few dispensations, so naturally mysterious and perplexing, in a world formed by the Author of life and perfection, as Death. The whole explanation of this strange and melancholy event is furnished only by the moral character of man. We see, in the observations already made, abundant reasons why he should be removed from the present world; since his contin. uance in it would be ruinous to himself, and to his fellow men. We are also presented by them with abundant reasons why he should be removed after a short continuance here, rather than after a longer one; and why he should be removed in a gloomy and painful, rather than in a joyful and triumphant, manner. Death, the last act of Providence towards man in the present world, is, and ought to be, a solemn testimony of God against human corruption. Were we universally to go from the world, as Enoch and Elijah went; the terror of death would cease; for it would be concluded, and with strong probability, that with all our corruption we were regarded by God with favour, and destined to a prosperous future being. Were our life extended to the antediluvian date; men would universally assume the antediluvian character; and the world be filled with the antediluvian vice and corruption. Men are now, at least, sufficiently sinful; sufficiently deaf to the voice of mercy; sufficiently blind to their own good; sufficiently hardened against warning, reproof, and reformation. Then, the mental eye would be closed in absolute darkness, and the heart be changed into adamant. No argument would persuade; no warning alarm ; no reproof reclaim; and no reformation be found.
We naturally love life ; and at every period instinctively wish to live longer. But reason here clearly decides, that it would be really undesirable to extend our earthly being beyond the present boundary; that God in fixing it has manifested his supreme wise dom and goodness ; and that the dispensation, though unwel. come to us, is established in a manner far better than that which would accord with our wishes.
2dly. We also learn the wisdom, and the necessity of employ. ing this short life in acquiring a life which is eternal.
Immortality is necessarily the object of earnest desire to every intelligent, and would be if he could form the thought, to every percipient, being. It was the actual and glorious lot of our first parents. It may be the lot of every one of us. A short period, a limited life, is the only period during which we can obtain it
. This very consideration demands of us the utmost anxiety and diligence. The death also, which we must all undergo, enfor· ces strongly with its painful and distressing circumstances this powerful argument. Like a beacon, lighted up with an eternal fire on a height visible to all the nations of men, it solemnly warns us of the evils to which we are exposed, and of which to all the impenitent it is itself the beginning. We need thus to be warned. If we are wise, we shall welcome the alarm; and, beholding the Sun of life hastening through the heavens, shall “ do, while the day lasts, whatsoever our hand findeth to do with our might;" and, to quicken our diligence, shall cast a constant and apprehensive eye toward the rapid approach of that night in which no man can work. Instead of wishing to live longer, we shall labour to live better. Instead of vainly panting for immortal being in a world of sin and sorrow, where we, together with others, should only sin and suffer; we should bend all our efforts, to find it in that glorious world, where it can be actually found ; and where its ages roll on in the “fulness of joy, and pleasures forevermore."
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS.
LUKE xvi. 26.
And besides all this between us and you there is a great gulf fixed : so that they which would pass from hence to you, cannot : neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
The design of the parable, from which the text is taken, is to shew the dangerous influence of wealth and luxury; and the superiority of the most abject poverty, when connected with piety, to all worldly gratifications. The rich, the proud, and the splendid, are designed to be here alarmed and warned; the poor and forsaken, to be comforted and encouraged. The parable is also filled with a great variety of evangelical doctrines; almost as many as it contains words. All these are exhibited in a most distinct light by the contrast which is studiously maintained between the several parts of the parable, as well as between the two principal characters which are exhibited in it.
It is the design of the present discourse, to consider the contrast between the situation of Dives and that of Lazarus; both in the present, and in the future, world.
Between the circumstances of these individuals the difference was immense.
Dives was in this world rich, honourable, and externally happy; while Lazarus was poor, despised, and externally wretched. Beyond the grave the condition of both was utterly reversed.
I shall consider
I. The Circumstances of Dives, in his two different states of existence. Vol. II.
In this world, Dives was possessed
He had great wealth. This doubtless was of the same kind with the wealth of that country, at the present time; and consisted, among other things, of lands, houses, cattle, silver, gold, gems, servants, and apparel. This great, proud, luxurious man may naturally be supposed to have delighted in walking over his possessions, and in surveying his lands and houses ; in admiring the fertility of the one, and the elegance and splendour of the other. It may be easily believed, that he delighted to see the number and labours of his servants, and the increase of his property by their industry. We cannot doubt that he loved to count his money, and to calculate his gains. All worldly men do this. He probably did it with the same pleasure and exultation which is experienced by others.
2dly. He knew how to enjoy this abundance, according to the usual meaning of this phraseology.
He did not amass riches for their own sake, but for the sake of enjoying them. He was clothed in purple and fine linen; at that time the dress of nobles and princes; and of them only. Here softness and splendour were united ; and both contributed to enhance and variegate enjoyment. It seems indeed that he did not deny himself any enjoyments; but meant to live while here, and to let posterity take care of itself, and futurity bring with it what it might. He also fared sumptuously: he ate and drank to the full the richest and most dainty viands ; and these were supplied to him every day. Thus it appears that his life was a life of uniform abundance and enjoyment, and was varied by diversities of pleasure only.
3dly. He was probably, so far as pertains to human nature in these circumstances, possessed of entire ease of mind.
There is no reason to believe, that he was at all disturbed by considerations of futurity or by any anxiety about the present. Let us eat and drink: to morrow shall be as this day and much more abundant: were probably the maxims by which he regulated his life and enjoyments. Death seems to have disturbed him little,
if at all. Eternity we may believe affected him still less. Of Eternity, the Judgment, and the Recompense of reward, he probably believed nothing. Death by him, was perhaps regarded as an Eternal Sleep; as it is generally by modern infidels. His life was plainly that of a mere animal. His death was, therefore, naturally believed by him to be that of an animal, also.
It would seem, that he was a Sadducee. His mode of life accords only with the doctrines of that sect of the Jews. If this be a just opinion, it is certain, that he believed neither in the existence of Angel nor Spirit; neither in a Resurrection, nor in a state of reward. In the spirit of a modern infidel he boldly denied every thing, which pertained to future and endless being, to the judgment and eternity, to heaven and hell.
At the fears of such poor and pitiful wretches as Lazarus, he doubtless laughed with many an ingenious jest, and many a cutting sarcasm. Their cowardly apprehensions of a future world, a world of retribution too, he magnanimously despised ; and triumphed in his own independence of thought, raised above the superstition of nurses, and bigots, and fanatics, who were held by their fears in a constant and miserable bondage. His own passions and appetites, he knew, were all natural, and were doubtless given only to be gratified. Whatever was natural, was doubtless lawful; and whatever was in itself good, was unquestionably designed to be enjoyed. “Let the miserable beings,” he may be imagined to say, “ who know no better, tremble, and pray, and destroy all the comforts of their lives, by the bugbear terrors of futurity. God made me, if I was made at all, to be happy; and he has amply provided me with the means of being so. I shall not abuse his bounty by refusing to taste and enjoy, nor by trembling to taste, the good which he has given. Certainly the Creator, if he be a benevolent being, cannot grudge his creatures the enjoyment of the good which he has himself given. The bounties of his providence were never intended to be lost in selfdenial and fasting. The roses blossom, to be seen and relished. I will pluck them, ere they wither.”
Like other Infidels, both speculative and practical, he could