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SERMON XX.

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS.

LUKE XVI. 26.

"And beside 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 show 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.

In this world Dives was possessed,

First, of an abundance of earthly good.

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.

Secondly, 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.

Thirdly, 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, nor 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 probably disturbed him little, if at all. Eternity not improbably affected him still less. Of eternity, the judgment, and the recompense of reward he probably believed nothing. Death by him was not improbably holden to be 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

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"of the good which he has himself given. The bounties of his "providence were never intended to be lost in self-denial 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 probably reason learnedly on accountableness, and prove that man is a machine; that all his volitions are governed irresistibly by motives; that those motives are presented to him without his contrivance or concurrence; and, therefore, that all his actions are necessary and mechanical. Of course, they are neither right nor wrong, neither good nor evil. It is indeed probable, that at times he complained, like other such men, of the faults and sins of his servants; and he probably cursed them for their omissions of duty, and their trespasses on his property and convenience. Probably also he followed the customs of the age, and at times whipped and tortured them for their crimes as he himself styled them. But, whatever was the case with servants, and however wicked they might be, or however accountable to him, he certainly was not accountable to God, nor capable of being a sinner. A saint he never pretended nor wished to be. Upon the whole, he was satisfied with his allotments in life; and he presumed that God, who gave them, would, and must be satisfied also.

If men lived beyond the grave, he had concluded, and in his own view proved, that they must be happy. Otherwise God must be unjust and malevolent. This all men denied as well as himself; the consequence therefore must be admitted.

Around his board, as around those of others of the same character and condition, there doubtless swarmed a multitude, who were buzzing in the sunshine of opulence, and feasting on the honey which it yielded. All these united in approving his arguments, applauding his ingenuity, and adopting without a question his conclusions. These were all equally necessary and comforting to them as to him. None, therefore, called them in question; but all united to confirm him in the conviction, that his doctrines were certain, and his arguments unanswerable.

Nor was he probably less persuasive on the other favourite

topics of infidelity: The want of chastity he could prove, like Hume, to be, when known, of little consequence; and, when unknown, to be nothing. Adultery, he could exhibit also, like Hume and Bolingbroke, as not forbidden by the law of nature, and as necessary to the real enjoyment of life. The innocence of gambling and profaneness, he could display with arguments fraught with the same ingenuity and conviction; and, when argument failed, could rout his antagonists with a jest, applauded of course by all his dependents and associates in pleasure.

Thus he withheld not his heart from any joy. Life was to him a period of sunshine, and a circuit of vernal seasons only. Light and gaiety, verdure and bloom, abundance and pleasure, frolicsome companions, and laughing amusements, were his constant round of happy existence. Every day brought its brilliancy and its enjoyments. Every sun rolled round only a succession of good. In his bosom conscience, early silenced and finally discouraged, ceased to reprove; and, during his life, no gloomy preacher or melancholy enthusiast embittered happiness by unseasonable and unwelcome suggestions concerning sin, or judgment, or future retribution.

But, in the midst of this joyous career, death pointed the fatal arrow at his heart. His wealth, his grandeur, his gaiety, his sports, his flatterers, his physicians, could not defend him from this conflict, nor prevent his fall. Perhaps his stupidity and grossness of mind continued to the last; and he died, as he had lived, a brute. Perhaps, like many other proud, hardened, and guilty wretches, he awaked on a dying bed to sense and reason for the first time; and now found, that all his former conduct was madness, that his pleasures were nothing, and that his dangers were real and dreadful. Now, perhaps for the first time, he began to feel that he was dependent on God, and accountable to him. Now, perhaps he made the first essay towards a prayer. But the day of grace was past to him. His prayers were the cries of hardened guilt extorted by danger and fear, and they were disregarded and rejected. The mercy he had so long slighted and so impiously mocked, now laughed at his calamity, and mocked when his fear came.

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