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:On the Parable of Dives and Lazarus.
MY DEAR Nieces,
The instructive parable of Dives and Lazarus, to be found in Luke xvi. 1931, appears to have been particularly addressed by our Lord to certain rich pharisees, who are reproached by the historian, with the character of being “ covetous," and who, notwithstanding their irnmoral conduct, procured great attention and respect from the multitude, on account of their large possessions. The vices specified in the parable are, sensuality, luxury, and insensibility to the wants of their fellow creatures.
The descriptions given of the principal persons in this parable, reflect additional beau ty on each part of it, by the strong contrast in which these individuals stand with each . other. « There was a certain rich man, who' was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared
sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who was laid at the gate, full of sores, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table."
The gate of a rich man was the place where beggars stood, or were laid, and asked alms. Hence it was a rule with the Jews, “If a man die, and leave sons and daughters, with but a small substance, the daughters shall be taken care of, and the sons shall beg at the gate.”
The account of the rich man is descriptive of great affluence. Purple, which was the habit of kings and princes, was deemed in the East the richest and most suberb.of dresses, The purple of the ancients consisted of fine linen dyed of this colour. Hence it is here described as purple and fine linen. But though Dives indulged all his own appetites, spared no expense to adorn himself in rich apparel, and fared sumptuously every day, he cared not for the sufferings of the poor and miserable though placed before his sight. His profusion was without charity ; and his external splendor was a gilded cover to the deformity of his soul.
While this rich man appears to have possessed every luxury, Lazarus seems to have united in bis person all the evils which belong to human wretchedness. He was so feeble and diseased, that he could not walk to the rich man's gate, but was obliged to be carried thither; so poor, that he was willing to accept the crumbs which fell from his table, in which he was probably gratified ; and so destitute of clothing, that his ulcerated limbs appear to have been uncovered. But the rich man did nothing to relieve his distress. The picture is still heightened by the following circumstance. “ Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores." No words could more strongly describe the utter neglect, which was shown to this unhappy beggar, than by representing all the notice he obtained, as proceeding from these animals. The narrative seems to intimate, that the sufferings of Lazarus were insupportable by human nature ; for it is added, “ And it came to pass, that the beggar died." " The rich man also died, and was buried.” He was interred with great pomp and ceremony. Lazarus indeed was laid in the ground as well as he ; but the mention of the circumstance of Dives being buried, was to shew, that funeral honours were paid to him, which were denied to Lazarus.
After death, the grand contrast begins. « The beggar is carried by angels into Abraham's bosom.” The Jews believed that the spirits of the just were conveyed by angels to, a seat of felicity. They likewise conceived of heaven under the figure of an entertainment, at which there should be present Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with all the blessed. This figure was sometimes adopted by Christ. It is here alluded to in the expression, that Lazarus was carried to Abraham's bosom. The ancients did not sit at their meals, but reclined on long seats, like sofas, resting on their left arm, so that the head of one person was placed on or near the bosom of another. This is what is referred to in John xiii. 23. where the beloved disciple is said to have been leaning on Jesus' bosom; that is, he was placed next to him at supper. In like manner, when it is said in this parable, that Lazarus was carried to Abraham's bosom, it
is meant that he was conveyed to a most distinguished place near to Abraham, at the great entertainment in heaven. I
Of the rich man, it is said, on the other hand, “ And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." He petitions the patriarch, that he would send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water to cool his tongue. By our Lord's describing the rich man ás applying to Abraham for relief, he might intend to reprove the arrogance of the Jews, who boasted of their descent from that patriarch, and trusted in his merits to deliver them from future punishment. In the Talmud, it is said: “In the future world Abraham will sit at the gate of hell, and will not suffer any circumcised Israelite to descend into it.” Our Saviour might intend to teach the Jews, by Abraham's mouth, that he would not afford any help to the sinners of Israel. It is to be observed, that the patriarch, even when he saw the rich man in this place of torment, calls him “son.” Upon the rich man's requesting Abraham to send Lazarus to warn