Page images
PDF
EPUB

He did not trouble himself to inquire into the condition of Lazarus, or go out of his way to afford him any substantial relief; but he allowed his servants to throw him the crumbs, and give him a share, with the curs of the street, in the fragments that fell from his overloaded board. As he was a disciple of Moses, he had, doubtless, received the sign of circumcision, offered gifts according to the law, paid his “tithes of anise, mint, and cummin;" and was called a Jew,—of the stock of Abraham, an inheritor of the promises ; and had “the form of knowledge, and of the truth, in the law."—Who then should pronounce him an outcast ?-an“ alien from the commonwealth of Israel ;" “ having no hope, and without God in the world ?

Such was his claim to religion. And with respect to morality, what were his deficiencies there? We are not given to understand that he lived in open violation of the moral code. He was rich, gorgeously appareled, and fared sumptuously ; but his purple robes and delicate fare might be nothing more than some of those distinctions which affluence will always obtain; and, perhaps, only mentioned here to mark the

superiority of his station. It is not said, or hinted, that

his wealth had been obtained by fraud, extortion, or rapine ; or that his gratifications were accompanied with riot and debauchery. We are not told that the prodigal upbraided him with having accelerated his ruin; that the outcries of the widow besieged his gates, or the tears of the orphan stained his porch. Nor did he live in a course of licentious pleasure : no purchased beauties filled his haram; no midnight Bacchanalian orgies resounded from his hall: he regaled himself daily, but it was with decent sensuality: what he spent, was his own; what he retained, was his own; and he might therefore say, with the Jew of Venice, “ What judgment shall I dread, doing no wrong?"

This then, I apprehend, was the state of this man's mind and manners ; living irreligiously, carelessly, voluptuously, uselessly; thinking little of his Maker or his fellow-creature; but neither blasphemously denying the one, nor basely oppressing and injuring the other :-undismayed by “ the terrors of the Lord,” having rocked himself to rest in slumbering security and easy ignorance of his true condition.

Thus he paced along the road of life, without any ardour of piety, or labour of benevolence;

praying, if he prayed at all, with cold formality, and neglecting his opportunities of doing good; entering into no examination of his own heart and conduct, and therefore without compunction as to the past, or apprehension of the future. Yet he was of the seed of Abraham ; he was of one of the twelve tribes; it may be, "an Hebrew of the Hebrews;" “ touching the righteousness of the law blameless." Would the Rabbis, then, the keepers of his conscience, impugn his claim to partake the inheritance promised to the descendants of the Patriarchs !-So with this comfortable confidence, or easy indifference, as to the next world, he might resolve to enjoy this to the utmost, and

cry, with a kindred spirit, in another parable, “ Soul, thou hast goods laid

up years ; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.” But this scene of self-enjoyment, and self-delusion, is hastening to a close. He is going the way of the rich and the poor, the monarch and the slave,- for riches, however they may gladden life, cannot charm away disease and retard death;—he sickens-he expires.

Such was the character of the Jewish Dives, who may be regarded as the type, the lively portrait, of the wealthy and the great of every age.

for many

Let us now see whether the modern Dives be a just copy of this striking original.

Riches have in all times and countries the same evil tendency. By administering to appetite, they inflame and increase the passions, and by swelling the heart with pride, make it callous to reproof. Many a well-disposed mind have they corrupted and debased, but never yet did they teach a bad man to become wise and virtuous. At present, however, I mean not to treat of the various vices which they breed or augment, but rather to confine myself to that irreligious spirit, that indifference to God, his neighbour, and his own soul, which seems more particularly to mark the character our Saviour describes, and which too frequently disgraces, and finally destroys, those whom the world calls prosperous and great. It was the apprehension of falling into this irreligious temper, which made the wise Agar deprecate riches as well as poverty, “ lest,” said he, “I be full, and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord ?” and it was this, which made our Redeemer assert, with so much seeming severity, “ that it is easier for a camel,” (which perhaps might be translated, for a cable) “to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter

into the kingdom of God.” And the reason is plain. The rich man's treasure is in the world ; and the world he will not relinquish, either to preach or practise “ the Gospel of that kingdom” which“ is not of this world :" “ For where the treasure is, there shall the heart be also."

To all general observations there are some exceptions; and I hope and believe, there are many exceptions to this, that opulence is not burdened with much humanity or religion. There are some among the wealthy, and a few among the great, who esteem their fortunes only as instruments of good, and their rank only as placing them on an eminence from which their light may more fully and beneficially “shine before men :" but surely the common effect of exorbitant wealth is to deaden the feelings, contract the heart, and leave in it little room for charity or piety. The man whose chests are filled with money, and who sees himself the lord of a fertile and extensive domain, if he has not “ received with meekness the engrafted word,” is too apt to say in his heart, “ I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing,” and knows not that he is “poor, and blind, and naked.” If not in vicious riot, his days pass away in enervating

« PreviousContinue »