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clothed in purple and fine linen, and enjoyed himself sumptuously every day.
“And there was a certain poor person, named Lazarus, who was cast down at his gate full of ulcers; and earnestly desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs used to come and lick his sores.
“ And it came to pass that the poor man died and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom,” the most favored seat, that is, in paradise, and among the spirits of the just.
“ The rich man also died and was buried,” that is, had a grand and expensive funeral.
“And in hell," that is, in the place of departed souls, "he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, resting on him, soothed and comforted.
“And he cried and said, father Abraham, have pity on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.
“And beside all this, there is a great chasm fixed between us and you, so that they who would wish to pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us from thence."
Then, perceiving his own case to be thus wretched, he began to think of those he had left behind him in the world; “I pray thee, therefore, father, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house,” the family mansion (as we should say), “ for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment."
We seem to be here plainly taught, that the souls of persons departed have a knowledge of the conduct of their surviving friends, and an anxiety for their condition in the eternal world.
The man spoken of by our Savior had, it seems, five Vol. II.-20
brothers, younger probably than himself, and to whom in his life-time he had set a bad example, nor cared at all how they went on.
But when he had passed the boundary, and seen and felt the reality of God's judgments, in the world of spirits; then, to add to his wo, he could not but reflect on the wicked courses which had brought himself to that miserable state, and would, he knew, bring his brethren also, if they would not consider their ways in time, and return to their God while yet it was in their power.
Such is the view of the case offered to our serious thoughts by our Savior and Judge himself. That it does indeed demand to be seriously thought of by all sincere Christians, no one can deny or doubt.
For, in the first place, we are hereby warned that such persons as depart this life not in God's faith and fear, whatever they may suffer besides, in (what may be called) the natural course of the divine judgments, have also the misery of remorse, arising from the consciousness of the blessed opportunities they have lost.
We seem, as I said, also to be hereby taught one of “the secret things of the Lord our God," namely, that the souls of the departed, even of those who have led wicked or careless lives, do feel an anxiety for their friends whom they have left behind them in this evil world, and that they would if possible send to them to warn them of their danger.
But this, as it seems, cannot be, that is, is inconsistent with the course of God's moral government: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets;' if they refuse to listen to the voice of Gods church, “neither will they be persuaded," though a messenger were sent from the grave to warn them of the dangerous consequences of their conduct; “neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead."
Now, then, as to the latter of these topics, let me offer a few considerations.
Suppose the case, alas! the too common case, of persons going on from year to year in the
erate neglect of all true religion, entirely regardless of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, as if it were at length discovered to be a mere set of falsehoods, or if true, no concern whatever of theirs.
Now persons who are leading this kind of life and multitudes of such there are-if reasoned with on the danger of their course, would say at once they see no danger in it—that many of their friends and relations before them have lived and died in this sort of way, and, for anything that appears to the contrary, no harm has come of it. Therefore they mean to go on as they are; and, they dare say, God will be merciful to them, whatever the bigots may say.
To such persons it might be said, How do you know that the condition of those of your acquaintance or relatives, who led such a life as you are leading, and died in it-how do you know that they are now in a state of
and rest. Rather, if you could hear them speak out of their graves, would they not most certainly entreat you (like the unhappy man montioned in the text) to take warning betimes, lest you also come into their “place of torment."
Would they not say, We now look back on our worldly irreligious lives, and wish a thousand times over we had spent them differently. We call to mind our contempt of God's service, his holy days and holy places: we think of Sundays misspent, of prayers neg: lected, of the Scriptures disregarded, of the scorn and mockery which we have cast on the ministers and church of the Lord Jesus, and would give worlds for the opportunity which you possess of leading a life devoted to his service. Thus doubtless would many de. parted spirits, if it were possible, offer their earnest warnings to their surviving friends and relatives, whom they see (perhaps), or at least fear for, as going on in the evil courses of which themselves set the example.
But their desire will be in vain; no voice is heard from the grave. If men will not hearken to the warnings of the Lord, speaking to them outwardly by his
church, and inwardly by their consciences, then nothing more can be done. No miracle will be wrought to convince those whom truth, and reason, and natural affection had for years and years pleaded with in vain.
If they hear not Moses and the prophets under the old covenant, and the Lord Jesus and his church under the new, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. Again, we may too easily suppose
very many Christians, not altogether neglectful of religion, but still so fond of this world, so readily giving way to their passions and tempers, so unwilling to be checked or controlled, that really and in practice they pay almost as slight a regard to the strict rules of the gospel as if they were professed unbelievers.
Such persons also might easily enough plead the example of others, living and dead ; they might mention friends and relations long since, perhaps, deceased, who, they are sure, were quite as worldly-minded, quite as hasty or ill-tempered, quite as unwilling to be corrected or controlled as themselves; and then why should they pretend to be better than such, who, they doubt not, were very religious, good sort of people, with all their faults,
Now this way of speaking or thinking is by no means uncommon, even with persons in some respects seriously disposed; yet it is really presumptuous, irreverent, and profane.
To such persons it might be said-perhaps your departed friends think differently of your condition from what you do yourself. They, without question, now feel themselves, and they wish you to feel, the infinite difference between that religion which will satisfy “society” (as it is called) and that which is vital, substantial, practical.
They would tell you, that the love of this world, and the cherishing of evil tempers and dispositions, and the being unwilling to practice self-denial, and a dislike of humble, lowly obedience; that these things are fatal to the precious interests of the soul, though possibly some
external forms or internal feelings of devotion (or what is called devotion) may be all the while kept up. Against such delusions the spirits of the departed would warn us (if they could be heard), and would entreat us to practise as well as profess the renouncing of the world with its pomps and vanities; to keep down resolutely every tendency to ill-temper and unkind feeling, to deny our. selves daily and habitually; to practise all lowliness, meekness, and obedience.
“Keep innocency (they would say), and take heed unto the thing which is right, for that shall bring a man peace at the last.” Hearken not to any person who would delude you with the treacherous fancy that there can be true faith in the blood of
your Redeemer, with out positive obedience to his declared will.
And here I may just touch on another important point which what I have now alluded to seems naturally to suggest. People too often talk very confidently about their neighbors, friends, and relations ;-I mean, about their being gone to rest, though possibly there might be great faults and errors in their course of life, or their views of Christian truth.
Surely it is better to think than to speak on such awful mysterious topics. The church commits the bodies even of her most unworthy members to the grave, with a hope that they may rest in Jesus, and over the graves of the most saintlike she ventures not beyond a hope. She draws no lines of distinction, but leaves that to the omniscient Judge. Certainly it is natural that we should wish to have some assurance of the happiness of our departed friends—but neither Scripture itself, nor the ancient interpreter of Scripture, I mean the catholic and apostolic church-anywhere that I know of authorizes us to look anxiously for any such assurance. And the reason perhaps is plain to an humbly-disposed mind; namely, because if there were any certain mark or sign by which that assurance could be obtained, we should either fancy we ourselves had it, and then grow presumptuous, or else fancy we had it not, and so sink into despair. Most wisely, then, and most mercifully does