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years to come, so he was purposely now to be reduced for ever to poverty and want: as he had himself neither intended nor expected to impart a share of his ample means to any beside himself, so he should now leave them all to others, without any share in them himself: as he had reckoned on enjoying his good things exclusively, and by himself, they should now become any one's rather than his—they should serve for any purpose, and minister to any enjoyment, rather than to his pleasure and gratification, who was at present their owner.
It appears further, from the moral which our Lord himself subjoins to the narrative, “So shall “ be he that treasureth up for himself, and is not “ rich unto God,” that this particular rich man stands only as the representative of a class; and that his offence was but one instance of the kind of crime, which might be committed by others, under circumstances similar to his. The case of this one rich man, therefore, is proposed as a warning to the rich in general ; and the punishment which his offence is seen to have incurred, is a specimen of what might be expected by others in the like situation, if they should be guilty of the same. “ So “ shall be (or even, so is) the man, who treasureth
up,” or “layeth in store for himself, and is not “ rich unto God:” an assurance which implies first, the fact of some retribution in general, as the proper punishment of all offenders, who under the circumstances in which their offence should be committed, might resemble the rich man; and secondly, the fact of a retribution in kind, like that which he also is supposed to have undergone according to the representation in the parable.
Indeed, as the proper instance of the penal retribution which was due to the crime or misconduct of those, who should be guilty, as the rich man had been, of the offence specifically described by treasuring up for themselves—an offence, explained and illustrated by the end and design which he was seen to propose, in treasuring up—that is, bestowing and securing his own possessions—for a certain use and purpose in his own behalf-the least possible ill consequence which could be expected to result from it, must be the deprivation of that wealth, in amassing and reserving which, for their own exclusive use and enjoyment, the specific act of the offence would consist. Nor is this all. The deprivation of a thing abused may prevent the possibility of its being abused for the future; but it cannot compensate for the fact of its abuse for the past. It may justly be presumed, then, that although the proper retribution for the specific crime of such an offence as the abuse of wealth in time past, under the necessary circumstances of the case; will of course be preceded by the resumption of the thing abused, and by the consequent loss of the wealth itself to its possessor : it cannot stop there, but must include some further evil consequence to the author of the abuse, beyond that first step towards his punishment; and probably some evil much worse than it.
In like manner, though to be rich unto God must imply generally the true vise and application of the gift of wealth, because it is opposed to treasuring up and being rich to the possessor's own self, which constitutes, as we have seen, its proper abuse; yet what the particular nature of that true use and application of riches is, does not appear, from the allusion thereto at present. If, however, we consider that God is not, and cannot be, actually the possessor of those things in which the wealth consists, even when a person is said to be rich unto him ; nor the person defrauded of them, when riches are supposed to be treasured and laid up in store for the use and enjoyment of the possessor exclusively; yet must be in some sense or other the object of that particular use of wealth which makes a man rich unto him, just as the possessor himself is, of that use of wealth which ensues when riches are laid up for a man's self; it will be an obvious inference, that the possession and use of wealth, which as it is well or ill applied, makes a man rich unto God but poor unto himself, in one case-or poor unto God but rich unto himself, in another—are to be regarded as the possession and exercise of a temporary trust, wherein the actual possessor in the person of a man, merely represents the virtual owner, who is God. If wealth, indeed, is the gift of God, as we have all along supposed, the state of the case, with respect to its tenure, could not possibly be otherwise represented; for the gifts of God are not bestowed except for a proper end and purpose, worthy both of the giver and of his gifts—nor therefore, without a liability to be accounted for. Nor is it indifferent to the giver of such gifts whether they are applied, after he has bestowed them, according to his intention in bestowing them, or not: nor does he, by bestowing them on his creatures, so entirely make them over to them, as to cease to retain any right in them himself, nor to reserve the liberty of exercising a proper jurisdiction and control, if necessary, over the receivers and possessors themselves.
The truth is, all the gifts of God to his creatures, of whatever kind, are loans rather than donations, and trusts rather than gratuities; the good use of which may be further rewarded, but the abuse, instead of empowering the party in fault to plead in his own excuse, that he was free to do what he pleased with his own, only entails the further crime, and renders him liable to the further guilt, of defeating the intentions of God, and bringing a calumny on his gifts; which in lieu of being a blessing both to the possessor and to others, and as such redounding to the praise and glory of their beneficent source, are by his misuse and perversion of them, in other words, his failure in the due discharge of the duties of his trust, converted into a curse, and made the means, contrary to their own nature, of a variety of evils, not less dishonouring to God than injurious to his creatures.
The proper reward or retribution, then, which may be expected at the hands of God, for the specific merit or demerit of the use or the abuse of wealth, is that which we may presume to await a steward at the hands of his master, as he has been faithful or unfaithful in the discharge of a delegated trust; as he has acted up to, or fallen short of, the just expectations of his superior in the exercise of his commission. That this is a correct representation of the doctrine of scripture, respecting the origin, the design, the use and application of the gift of temporal wealth, as a trust derived from God—to be exercised in the offices more especially, of piety and charity, with a view to his own glory and to the good of men, particularly of the poor and needyand ultimately to be accounted for, in that capacity, to him—will appear from other moral parables of our Saviour, which have yet to come under our consideration a
Before we take our leave of the above parable, I cannot forbear to observe upon it, however short and simple it is, what an exquisite specimen it furnishes of the parabolic mode of instruction, not only in the matter, but in the manner of the narrative. How much is contained in its moral—how truly evangelical—how worthy of all men to be received and attended to, are the truths therein conveyed; it has been the object of the above exposition, however imperfectly, to show. And as to the beauty of the details; what, for example, can be more apposite, or more in unison with the character of the rich man, than the train of reflections which pass through his mind; what more lively and animated than the terms in which they are told ! Ti Troiñow K.T... down to, και ερώ τη ψυχή μου ψυχή έχεις πολλά αγαθά κείμενα εις έτη πολλά αναπαύου: φάγε, πίε, ευφραίνου. What a crowd of pleasing images ; what a tumult of hope and expectation ; what confidence and presumption are implied in these words; and how forcibly contrasted with the event. Need I remind the reader how much the asyndeton of the construction adds to the force and animation of the description ? So Euripides,
εύφραινε σαυτόν, πινε, τον καθ' ημέραν
βίον λογίζου σον, τα δ' άλλα της τύχης. Alcestis, 805. Nor is there
any circumstance in the account, which very reasonably be supposed to form part of a real history; if we except the language ascribed to the Deity, cine 8è avro é θεός κ. τ.λ. I will not say that είπεν αυτώ here may mean, " said “ of him," as well as “ unto him ;” which would imply merely that God was privy to his thoughts, or to what had just been passing in his mind; nor that this address, if actually made to him by the Deity, might be made in a dream : I will rather suppose that the whole transaction, of which this particular incident forms a part, belongs to a time when the Jews were living under an extraordinary dispensation, and every transgression received, or was liable to receive, an immediate
recompense of reward. Under such a state of things, this kind of communication even from the supreme moral Governor, might not be unfrequently made to individuals guilty of peculiar offences: to certify them