Abbildungen der Seite

dies and is buried. And was the memory of his past cruelty buried with him ? No: in that hell, which he so well deserved, he lifts


eyes in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom,

It has been much controverted among the learned, whether our Saviour proposes this narration as a real history, or only as a parable. There are, however, several circumstances, which seem very clearly to determine it to be the latter. For in the first place it is hardly possible to suppose,

that what is here said of the rich man's conversation with Abraham; of his lifting up his eyes in torments and seeing Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, with the several other particulars of the story, should be any other than a fable. Again, we know that the whole story itself is taken from an antient Jewish tradition, and only accommodated by our Saviour to enforce the great doctrine of commiserating and relieving the necessities of the distressed. And in fact we find, that the several parts of this story are exactly agreeable to, and




Jewish notions. Thus where it is said, that the beggar was carried by angels, into Abraham's: bosom, there is a plain allusion to the Jewish doctrine, which represented the happiness of heaven under the similitude of a feast, at which the righteous were seated with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God. Thus also when it is said, that the rich man lift


in hell, and saw. Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, we in like manner trace the footsteps of Jewish fable and antiquity, For the word aans, which we translate hell, properly signifies an invisible place, which the Jews supposed to be divided into two parts, the one for the reception of the souls of the righteous, the other for those of the wicked. And in this hell it was, that the rich man being in torments, that is, in the part appropriated to the wicked, saw Abraham afar off, beyond that gulph which was fixed for an impassable boundary, in the mansion of the blessed. I might make the same observation upon some other parts of this affecting story; but perhaps enough has been said already


to shew, that the whole is no other than a parable; one of those ingenious fictions intended to make a deeper impression upon the mind by representing things in the strong and lively colours of a real transaction.

What colouring then can be stronger than that which is here made use of by our Saviour to deter men from those heavy sins, which brought the rich man into so deplorable a state of misery? We see the unhappy wretch in a moment stripped of all that grandeur, which had puffed up his soul and made him deaf to the cries of the poor, and by a just sentence plunged into the torments of hell, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. In this situation, amid the racking pains of his own conscience, under the sense of God's everlasting displeasure and the loss of heaven, under all the bitter agonies of utter despair, he asks so small a favour as a drop of water to cool his tongue; and yet even that is denied.


One might think this a sufficient description of the poor wretch's misery: it might seem a sufficient torment that he was in hell; but a double and worse hell yet remained for him, even that of seeing Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in "his bosom. Could there be a more painful sight? Could there be a greater aggravation of his torments, than to see him, whom he had so lately driven from his gate as a despicable beggar, now transformed into an angel of light, and enjoying the glories of heaven, whilst himself was doomed to all the horrors of hell?

And yet, as if even this was not sufficient to redouble his pangs, and kindle a worse hell in his soul than that which preyed upon

his body, even holy Abraham calls upon

him to remember that, which he certainly above all things most wished to forget, that bitterest ingredient in his cup of sorrow: “ Son, remember that “ thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good.

things, and likewise Lazarus evil things:

[ocr errors]

« but now he is comforted, and thou art ,* tormented."

Such was the deplorable condition to which this unhappy man had reduced himself by his folly! Will it not then be a very natural, as well as interesting, enquiry for us all to make, what were the particular crimes, which brought upon him so heavy a sentence?

The first of these seems to have been pride. Exalted with prosperity, his heart was vainly puffed up, and taught him to consider the rest of mankind as beings below his notice or regard. Hence he could behold an unhappy fellow-creature groveling at his feet, under all the distresses of want, without condescending to enquire into or relieve them; though at a time when no legal provision was made for the poor, and therefore it was a duty to relieve those, whose necessities led them abroad to solicit the aid of the rich. And much I fear the same spirit is still too often the companion of wealth and grandeur. Riches, among too many, seem

« ZurückWeiter »