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The former situation of Lazarus is brought in contrast with his present state. He had in his life time, received his evil things, but not through the means of the rich man. He is dead, and "the dead know not any thing," but still, he is comforted. No eulogy is pronounced on the piety of his former life, no self-gratulation on account of the discriminating grace which selected him as a monument of God's sparing mercy, while others no better than himself, were consigned to realms of hopeless wo, for the glory of God's vindictive justice; nor do we learn that pæans of praise were sung for joy, while contemplating the damnation of the sufferer. The comforted and the tormented had changed conditions. One received consolation; the other was miserable.
For any thing which appears to the contrary, the dead retained the use of all their faculties, with the identity of their bodily organs, as completely as at any former period of their existence. The flame in which the rich man was enveloped, seems not to have impaired, either his vision or his speech. He recognized both Abraham and Lazarus; they seem to converse with as much propriety as people do on this mundane sphere; nor were the pains of the sufferer sufficient to interrupt a regular succession of ideas, nor the usual mode of expression.
But another consideration presses hard on the subject. Not a word is heard of the resurrection, nor of a general judgment. The transition appears to be instantaneous. No invitation-Come No invitation-Come ye blessed! No sentence-Depart ye cursed! No reason given for the contrast which was both sudden and great, between their present and former cirmumstances, save the im plied equality which was effected by the change.
But a reason is given why Lazarus could not fulfil the request for relief. A great gulf was fixed between them. This appears to have escaped the notice of
the petitioner. Abraham was not "higher than heaven," that the rich man should inquire, "what shall I do!" Nor was he, in comparison with Abraham, "deeper than hell." The gulf was fixed, so that they who would go hence to you cannot! Marvellous indeed! what, were any disposed to pass from the Abrahamic, the comforting portion of hades, or hell, to the opposite side of the gulf? So the language would import, as clearly as that the rich, or more properly reduced man, would exchange places with Lazarus. This indeed he did not ask. But was the rich man alone, or in hell with the damned?" If this be pure history, determine for yourself, why he should rather say I am tormented, than we are?
But the knowledge of this gulf forecloses all intercession in his own behalf. He now solicits that Lazarus may be sent to his father's house, to his five brethren, of course to the children of Abraham! - For what end does he request this? "That he may testify unto them." For what purpose? "Lest they also come into this place of torment." What was to be the burden of his testimony? The same which Moses and other prophets testified; for Abraham says, "They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them." What then was their testimony? Did they in one instance threaten an endless hell, to the chosen, but stiffnecked Israelites? I answered unhesitatingly, NO. They testified of the coming of the Just One, the Messiah, the Shiloh, the desire of all nations, who should finish transgression, and bring sin to an end. Abraham is therefore very properly represented as saying, *If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead." How clearly this was verified in its fair and scriptural import, will be seen in its proper place.
We have now traced the subject in its leading points, if not to the extent of its various ramifications, and we
have seen that as a whole, it has no possible claims to stand in the rank of realities. The first part, indeed, which describes the characteristics of the two men, would by itself require no illustration to make it appear as a history of facts; thus to lead the mind unconsciously into a train of ideas by the use of easy similitudes, is the very object of parables, and is the mode by which wise men in all ages have imparted useful information. But what shall we say of the remainder of this chapter? Does it agree, or rather, does it not disagree, not only with the testimony of our senses, but with the most obviously literal declarations of scripture-and that too without exhibiting as a consequent moral, either warnings or encouragements? Considered literally, it is a perfect blank. Thus idly amusing the populace with sounding brass, was not the method in which our Master spent his precious time.
Those who still pertinaciously adhere to this portion of scripture as a relation of facts, may perhaps fancy with Tertullian," the shape and corporeal lineaments" of departed spirits, and that they "do yet preserve the shape or character of the body to which they were united;" but why not also adopt the reveries of Pythagoras, on the metmpsychosis, or transmigration of souls? Each boasts antiquity for its origin, and each may claim equal authority from scripture. Thes-pesias, indeed, "returning to life, represents the colour of souls, and saith there be scars and ulcers of their passions left upon them, by which they are discerned." But have you any belief in all this sublimated nonsense?
But a circumstance of no inconsiderable importance in this discussion, settles the character of the passage beyond controversy. The fact to which I allude is quoted by Mr. Balfour from the celebrated Dr. Whitby, on this passage, which I give you verbatim. "We
find this very parable in the Gemara Babylonicum, whence it is cited by Mr. Sheringham, in the preface to his Joma." Now the very circumstance of finding it primarily used as a parable, in a work written long anterior to the Christian dispensation, and its repetition by our Saviour without the least intimation of change from a figurative to a literal construction of the language is very conclusive evidence that he used it as a parable, and in no other sense. What was its use as a figurative representation will be seen in the sequel. But when such critics as Campbell, Doddridge, Chapman, and other commentators, are compelled to consider this subject as entirely figurative, the conclusion that their judgment is founded on irresistible testimony is obvious, it is inevitable. But the strength of this is increased, when we recollect that this is the only place in the New-Testament, where HADES, here rendered hell, is connected with punishment! In allusion to this fact we conceive the present subject particularly interesting.
You are already aware that hades, and not Gehenna, is the word rendered hell in the passage before us. Of this word Dr. Campbell says: "In my judgment it ought never in scripture to be rendered hell, at least in the sense in which that word is now understood by Christians." This orthodox Doctor gave this opinion with the most convincing data.
Notwithstanding the labour already expended on the negative side of this subject, we shall state a reason sometimes urged in favour of a literal interpretation of the passage, which shall be fearlessly met, and fairly investigated. The objection arises from the fact, that it is not introduced as a parable. This objection is easily repelled by a direct appeal to the commencement of other parables. To begin then with this very chapter. It commences with the parable of the Unjust Steward. To the use of this as a parable.
we think no one objects. But where is its imagery? It is as bare of figure, as is the skeleton tree of foliage, in the depth of winter. Nothing connected with it, but looks more like fact than figure, if we except its application, and even that is ambiguous. Not so with the parable under consideration. Here the imagery is brilliant, and the scope extensive. But we will now call your attention to the comparison. "There was a certain rich man, which," is the introduction to the first. "There was a certain rich man, which," is the introduction to the one under examination. What a remarkable coincidence. Not a word is said of either as a parable—their commencement is the same. The parable under discussion is full of imagery, and as history, is equally full of improbabilities, not to add impossibilities-the other, destitute of imagery, is taken for granted as parable, nemine contradicente; and why? It does not militate against any preconceived opinions. Were no other fact preceptible, the very reason which is objected to the one as figure, is demonstrably evident as the other is concerned. But though this is considered as an entire answer to the objection now stated, you may compare at your leisure, Mat. 13: 44, 45-47-49, where you may find parables introduced in as abrupt a manner as the one under consideration. See also Mat. 20: 1. the parable of the labourers; also Mat. 25: 1. respecting the ten virgins, and that of the talents, v. 14. with others ad libitum. Of those in Mat. 13. it may indeed be urged, that "All these things spake Jesus to the multitude in parables, and without a parable, spake he not unto them." But you ought to perceive that this includes in the most ample form, the very subject under examination. The multitude was contradistingnished from the disciples; this was spoken to the Pharisees; ergo, to the multitude. It is then a parable.