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The Pharisees were provoked at these rebukes and admonitions, and they derided him who reproved them. He then dealt plainly with his religious enemies, and said, "Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts for that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the sight of God." Continuing his subject, Jesus adds, "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail." Here we come to the parable concerning adultery, by which is shown that the law must be fulfilled, and not put away, as a man puts away his wife unlawfully, and marries to another. On the other hand, it is signified, that as Jesus is the end of the law for righteousness, and had come to close the first dispensation, and to introduce the gospel, the Jews in rejecting the gospel, and living in the law covenant, committed adultery, as would a man who should marry a woman who had been put away from her husband.
The next words are, "There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen," &c. Here a parable is introduced, by which is represented the adultery which the religious Jews committed in remaining in the law covenant, and refusing to enter into the gospel church.
By the rich man the high priest might be particularly intended, as a representative of the Jews in general. In the 28th of Exodus we have an account of this garment of purple and fine linen, which Moses was commanded to prepare for Aaron, the first high priest.
By the beggar, the Gentile is represented as excluded from the privileges which God's covenant people enjoyed. The death of Lazarus consisted in his being absolved from all his idolatrous relig on; and by his being carried by angels into Abraham's bosom, is represented the conversion of the
Gentiles to Abraham's faith, by the preaching of the Apostles. The rich man died a political death. His dispensation ceases. He now sees fulfilled the words of Christ, Luke xiii, 28, 29. "There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you your selves thrust out. And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God." And here let us add, the next verse for our instruction. "And behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.
In this wretched situation, this representative of the house of Israel sees Abraham afar off, with the Gentile in his favour, and makes his request for mercy. But though Abraham calls him son, he reminds him of his former situation, in which he was favoured with the divine oracles, while the Gentiles could get nothing but a few crumbs which their travelling philosophers picked up for them, of the religion of the patriarchs, and of the law. These philosophers are represented by dogs who icked the sores of the beggar-Endeavouring to molify and heal the vices of heathenism, with the moral maxims which they communicated from their tongues. "Now he is comforted, and thou art tor/mented." You Jews have had a divine revelation, have been blessed of God for a long time, while the poor Gentiles had no hope, and were without God in the world; but now the divine wisdom has seen fit to visit the Gentiles with the gospel, while you are excluded. And lest the Gentile believers should have access with the waters of the gospel to you, or you should come into the christian faith, "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."
In the next place, this representative of the Jews requests that Lazarus may be sent to his five
brethren who were in his father's house, that he might testify unto them, that they might not come into this unhappy situation. But Abraham replies, "they have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them ;" and assures them that if they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one went unto them from the dead. These five brethren were that part of the house of Israel which was represented by five foolish virgins in the 25th of Matthew, who not having the oil of divine knowledge with the rites of the law, were left in darkness, when the glorious bridegroom entered, with his Gentile bride, into the gospel covenant and dispensation.
On the subject of this gulf, it may be proper to be somewhat particular. The use of it we have already seen; which is to prevent those who would go from Abraham's bosom to the rich man; and those who would go from the place of the rich man to Abraham's bosom. By these things we are instructed that the Gentile Christian would go to the unbelieving Jews with the gospel, if it were possible, and that the unbelieving Jews have at all times been desirous of entering into favour with Abraham their father. But why should such a gulf be fixed? And what are the purposes of divine wisdom in this thing? These queries are solved in the 11th chapter to the Romans, where St. Paul has treated the subject in a most luminous manner. He first argues the necessity of the Jews' unbelief, for the purpose of granting favour to the Gentiles. And on the other hand, he argues that through the mercy which the Gentiles obtain through the fall of the Jews, the Jews shall at last obtain mercy.See verses 30, 31, 32. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief; even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
Will any inquire, how the Gentiles obtained mercy through the unbelief of the Jew? Then let them consider, that if Jews had not apostatized from the true religion, but had believed in the Saviour when he came, they never would have fulfilled the prophecies concerning him, by rejecting him, condemning him, and by putting him to death. And if these prophecies concerning the treatment which Christ should receive from his countrymen, had not been fulfilled, the Gentiles could never have been converted to the gospel. But when the Gentiles heard the gospel preached by the apostles, witnessed by the fulfilment of the prophecies concerning Jesus, the door of faith was properly opened to them; and they saw the light which God gave for "salvation unto the ends of the earth."
That the wisdom of God, which is without partiality, might appear to have the whole direction of these vast affairs, those blinded Jews, through whose fall this great salvation came to the Gentiles, are to obtain mercy at last by the means of the Gentile church. Here we see the sense of our Saviour's words before noticed: "And behold there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last." The apostle in the 11th of Romans, seems desirous that his Gentile brethren should understand this mystery, and says, verses 25, 26, "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, (lest ye should be wise in your own conceits) that blindness in part is hap pened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, there shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob."
In this view of our subject, the pertinence of the words of Abraham appears, in which he suggested to the rich man, that equal favours were distri buted between him and Lazarus. And indeed we see no reason why equal favours should not be granted to the two; for there is not a word in the hole parable, that intimates that one was inore
meritorious than the other. We are not informed that the rich man went to hell because he was rich, or that the beggar went into Abraham's bosom because he was poor, and covered with sores.
How beautiful, how glorious, how surpassing wonder, are the ways of divine wisdom. With God there is no respect of persons. He is equally good to all. That gulf which divides between the believing Gentile, and the unbelieving Jew, is designed for the ultimate good of both, and wisely constructed to aid the cause of God's universal grace and love towards mankind. For this cause, the Redeemer of the world said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father; for so it seemeth good in thy sight."
The wisdom of heaven, unlike the wisdom of this world, never works against its own scheme of "reconciliating" both Jews and Gentiles, "unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby." Eph. H. 16. And therefore it would not have seemed good to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to hide the things of the kingdom of the gospel from the Jews, if it were not necessary for the eventual accomplishment of their final reconciliation. But the wisdom of this world, which is foolishness with God, labours to prove, that those Jews who stumble at the stumbling stone laid in Sion, are cast off, to be received to favour'no more. But St. Paul in the 11th of Romans, to which reference has been made, argues in a very different manner, as in verses 11, 12. "I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid but rather through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness ??? Such was the glory and beauty of this subject, in the view of this apostle, that when he comes to