« AnteriorContinuar »
of vermin, and trust to what they could obtain, by imposing on the charitable, rather than use what they had to provide food aud clothing. And there may have been others, who, if without means, they have not been without ability to procure a living by honest labour, yet have preferred begging, though sometimes badly fed, and always badly clothed. But somehow, and justly too, we never had a thought ourselves, and we never heard even the worst enemy the Beggar has, say, or insinuate, that Lazarus belonged to either class just named.
Means he had not, and strength to labour was not his. If he had had either, Lazarus would not have appeared at the gate of the Rich Man, in the character he did, that of a beggar. The thought would have been insulting both to his manhood and his religion. To deprive the dogs of the least part of their fare, the crumbs and broken fragments of meat that fell from their master's table, while he had the means to buy, or strength to labour for that which would have been more suitable for him, he would not have submitted. It was uncontrollable circumstances, stern necessity, that made Lazarus a beggar. If ever poverty and suffering of the last degree were associated in the experience of one human being, they were in the experience of Lazarus. And, therefore, a more worthy object on whom to bestow her bounty than Lazarus, Charity never had. Ears that could turn away, and hearts that could resist the appeals of Lazarus, must have been hard and pitiless indeed. And while still at the "Rich man's gate, the dogs," with which he would have been happy to share, came and "licked his sores." What on affecting, heart. rending sight it must have been. Nature, exhausted by want and suffering, gave way under the crushing and killing load. The struggle is over. Life's journey is run. Its poverty is passed. Its sufferings are ended. Lazarus is dead ! Dead at the Rich man's gate, while the dogs licked his sores. His spirit has left its earthly house, and is carried by angels to Abraham's bosom. And his poor body, instead of suffering pain and hunger, lacks only one thing, that is, a grave. A place where it may “ rest in
hope," the coming of another day, and to Lazarus, and ! all who like him love and serve God, a happier day, when our Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.
We see that Lazarus, notwithstanding his deep poverty and extreme suffering, was a child of God, and an heir of heaven. This poor man's soul and body greatly contrasted in the sight of God and man. Man saw a form that was human, but O, how poor, wretched, haggard, and attenuated. His clothing scanty and tattered, his walk feeble and slow, his sores large and many, unbound and all unmollified with ointment, which might have mitigated the pain, and prevented the flowing of the blood. He was such an object, as many could only look upon and weep, while others turned away with disgust. But God saw within that half-fed, half-clothed, suffering body, a precious, priceless soul, which notwithstanding its share in the original depravity common to our nature, and the guilt consequent on the commission of actual sin, was, by seeking and trusting in God's mercy, worthy of a holier and happier world. Worthy of heaven, the heaven of God and angels.
2. It teaches that piety, which submits to patiently, bears up under and acquiesces in the dealings of Divine providence, though often dark and mysterious, is ultimately crowned with a great and glorious reward.
The ways of Providence are inscrutable, perplexing even to faith and hope, and to everything else, they sometimes seem irreconcilable with, and contradictory of, the deep interest and ardent love which God feels for those who love and serve Him. “How is it," some are ready to ask, “if the earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof. If the : gold and the silver are His, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, and He really di sired the welfare and happiness of Lazarus,-How is it He allowed him to suffer such poverty
and pain ?" And how is it, God allows so many, in every age, to suffer so long and so deeply ? Such persons say, that it is not only improbable, but impossible, that Lazarus could have been at the time of his deep poverty and severe pain, a child of God, and an object of His love and care. Aud they ask for proofs that he was. What proofs are there ? Are there any ? Will they bear the light? Bear looking at, and testing. We say that neither poverty, however deep, nor pain, however severe and long continued, can be taken as demonstrative proofs that those who are their subjects are not the children of God, whom He tenderly loves. On the contrary, they are the proofs of His love and care for them. But some say, “how can these things be ?" They are so. But they say, “ assertion is not proof :" no more is it. But we have proof. The Bible, which warrants the assertion, furnishes the proof, that God afflicts His children in love. “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons ; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not. Furthermore, we have had fathers of our own flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence, shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live, for they verily for a few days chastened us for their own pleasure, but He for our profit, that we might "be the partakers of His holiness," It may be said again, : “ that all God's children are not thus poor and afflicted, how is it ?" We say, there is a great diversity of character and excellence in God's great family on earth. And God our Father has a diversity of ways in dealing with his children, that he may best develope their character and bring their excellences to light, and at the same time have the greatest care for their dearest interests. Some, for instance, are largely gifted with courage, zeal, and activity, which qualifies them for working hard and successfully in the Church. And they never seem so happy, and their excellences never shine forth so brightly and beautifully, as they do when they are in “labours more abundant." There are others, who are endowed with great fortitude and patience, which enable them to bear up under poverty and suffering, with unfailing submission, and unflinching resignation to God's will. And never do they give a fairer representation of Christianity, and never do they appear so amiable, as they do when in the furnace. Like good metal, the hotter the furnace, the severer the test is, the more transparent and beautiful their virtues appear.
Abraham was distinguished for the strength of his faith. And how greatly was his faith tried. The more it was tried, the stronger it appeared. His faith was tried by the delay of the promise of Isaac. But much more so, on one of Mount Moriah's mountains, chosen by God for the place where Isaac should be offered up, chosen becanse of its suitableness, but especially because it was to be the place where a greater than Isaac should be afterwards offered, even Christ, whom Isaac typified. The Father and the son, the Offerer and the offering, ascended the mountain alone, but not empty. They carry with them “the tire and the wood.” The thoughts of each dwell on the errand on which he goes, but one only knows what has been commanded. Isaac said, " My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burntoffering " And Abraham said, “ My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt-offering." Isaac was not yet aware that he was the offering. They reach the mountain top, the place of sacrifice. It is a solemn place in itself; rendered far more so, by the sacrifice about to be offered. Other mountains and hills had been the scene of sacrifice, but never had mountain or hill been the scene of such a sacrifice as this. The altar is built, and Isaac hears, for the first time, that he is to be the offering. What a secret to be told by a father's lips, but the offering is ready bound and laid upon the altar. Surely Abraham's faith is sufficiently tried now ? no, the work is only partly done, and what remains is still more trying than what has already been done.
Here is a knife ! to slay the sacrifice, but what hand is nerved to use it, to slay such a sacrifice? There !
is a hand, a hand nerved by faith, it is the hand of Abraham. It seizes the knife, the hand is stretched out, the knife glitters in the sunlight, unstained with blood. Does not the faith of Abraham fail ? no, nor is the trial yet over! There! the aim is taken, and in another moment the blood of the offering would have streamed down the altar. But it is enough! The hand is stayed, not by the failing of Abraham's faith, but by God Himself, who cries, “Abraham, Abraham, lay not thy hand upon the lad, neither do thou any harm unto him, for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.” The trial was severe, and the result was satisfactory in the highest degree. Never did the faith even of Abraham appear so great.
Job was distinguished for his patience, and it was put to the severest test. The loss of cattle, the loss of children, and the loss of health, together with the desertion of friends, came in close succession. But in the midst of all, his patience sustained him. “He held on his way, waxing stronger and stronger.”
And Lazarus, like many of God's loved ones, was chosen in the furnace of affliction. And in few instances has the furnace been heated hotter than it was in his case, but he nobly stood the fiery trial. If his religion had been a name, a something professed, such trial must have detected its spuriousness, and made it appear to every one. Base metal would have sent up thick, foul, worthless dross, without reflecting a single feature of the purifier, sitting by watching the process, and awaiting the result, the reflection of his own image ; but the ore was good, and with the increased intensity of the furnace, the ore became increasingly brilliant, and the looked-for image became beautifully clear and distinct. Lazarus murmured not against the providence of God, because of the hardness of his lot, but humbly bowed to the will of Him who makes all things work together for good to them that love Him. And how great is His reward ! And so it will be with all who like Lazarus say,-say by their life, say in their deepest