« FöregåendeFortsätt »
After a long day of mercy mispent in riot and uncharitableness, the rich man died also :—the parable adds,—and was buried :-buried no doubt in triumph, with all the ill-timed pride of funerals, and empty decorations, which worldly folly is apt to prostitute upon those occasions.
But this was the last yain show; the utter con. clusion of all his epicurean grandeur :--the next is a scene of horror, where he is represented by our Saviour in a state of the utmost misery, from whence he is supposed to lift up his eyes towards Heaven, and cry to the patriarch Abraham for mercy.-“ And Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in “thy life time receivedst thy good things."
That he had received his good things,'twas from Heaven,--and could be no reproach. With what severity soever the scripture speaks against riches, it does not appear that the living or faring sumptuously every day was the crime objected to the rich man; or that it is a real part of a vitious character : the case might be then as now ; his quality and station in the world might be supposed to be such, as not only to have justified his doing this, but, in general, to have required it, without any iinputation of doing wrong ;- for differences of stations there must be in the world, which must be supported by such marks of distinction as custom imposes. The exceeding great plenty and magnif. icence in which Solomon is described to have lived, who had ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pastures, and a hundred sheep, besides harts and roe-bucks, and fallow deer and fatted fowl, with thirty measures of fine flour, and threescore meas. ures of meal, for the daily provision of his table ;
all this is not laid to him as a sin, but rather remarked as an instance of God's blessing to him ;-and whenever these things are otherwise, 'tis from a wasteful and dishonest perversion of them to per. nicious ends, and oft-times, to the very opposite ones for which they were granted, -to glad the heart, to open it, and render it more kind
And this seems to have been the snare the rich man had fallen into ;-and possibly, had be fared less sumptuously, he might have had more cool hours for reflection, and been better disposed to have conceived an idea of want, and to have felt compassion for it.
“ And Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things, and “ likewise Lazarus evil things."Remember! sad subject of recollection ! that a man has passed through this world with all the blessings and advan. tages of it on his side-favoured by God Almighty with riches-befriended by his fellow-creatures in the means of acquiring them,-assisted every hour by the society of which he is a member, in the enjoyment of them,-o remember how much he has received, how little he has bestowed !--that he has been no man's friend !-no one's protector ! no one's benefactor !_blessed God !
Thus begging in vain for himself, he is repre. sented at last as interceding for his brethren, that Lazarus might be sent to them to give them warning, and save them from the ruin which he had fallen into ;-" They have Moses and the prophets," was the answer of the patriarch ;" let them hear “ them;" but the unhappy man is represented as discontented with it, and still persisting in his re.
quest, and urging, Nay, father Abraham, but if one went from the dead, they would repent."
He thought so ;-but Abraham knew otherwise ;-and the grounds of the determination I have explained already ;-so shall proceed to draw some other conclusions and lessons from the parable.
And first, our Saviour might further intend to discover to us by it, the dangers to which great riches naturally expose mankind ; agreeably to what is elsewhere declared, how hardly shall they who have them enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The truth is, they are often too dangerous a blessing for God to trust us with, or we to manage : they surround us at all times with ease, with nonsense, with fattery, and false friends, with which thousands and ten thousands have perished :~they are apt to multiply our faults, and treacherously to conceal them from us :--they hourly administer to our temptations ;-and neither allow us time to examine our faults, nor humility to repent of them Nay, what is strange, do they not often tempt men even to covetousness ! and though amidst all the ill offices which riches do us, one would least suspect this vice, but rather think the one a cure for the other, yet, so it is, that many a man contracts his spirits upon the enlargement of his fortune, and is the more empty for being full.
But there is less need to preach against this. We seem all to be hastening to the opposite extreme of luxury and expense : we generally content ourselyes with the solution of it ; and say, 'Tis a natu. ral consequence of trade and riches ;-- and there it ends.
By the way, I affirm, there is a mistake in the ac
count; and that it is not riches which are the cause of luxury,but the corrupt calculation of the world, in making riches the balance for honour, for virtue, and for every thing that is great and good ; which goads so many thousands on with an affection of possessing more than they have ;-and, consequently, of engaging in a system of expenses they cannot support.
In one word, 'tis the necessity of appearing to be somebody, in order to be so,—which ruins the world.
This leads us to another lesson in the parable, concerning the true use and application of riches : we may be sure, from the treatment of the rich man, that he did not employ those talents as God intended.
How God did intend them-may as well be known from an appeal to your own hearts, and the inscription you shall read there,mas from any chapter and verse I might cite upon the subject. Let us then for a moment, my dear auditors, turn our eyes that way, and consider the traces which even the most insensible man may have proof of, from what he may perceive springing up within him from some casual act of generosity; and though this is a pleasure which properly belongs to the good, yet let him try the experiment ;-let him comfort the captive, or cover the naked with a garment, and he will feel what is meant by that moral delight arising in the mind from the conscience of a humane action.
But to know it right, we must call upon the compassionate.-Cruelty gives evidence unwillingly, and feels the pleasure but imperfectly; for this, like all other pleasures, is of a relative nature, and
consequently the enjoyment of it requires some qualification in the faculty, as much as the enjoyment of any other good does. There must be something' antecedent in the disposition and temper which will render that good,-a good to that individual,-otherwise, though 'tis true it may be possessed,-yet it never can be enjoyed.
Consider how difficult you will find it, to convince a miserable heart that any thing is good which is not profitable ! or a libertine one, that thing is bad which is pleasant !
Preach to a voluptuary, who has modell’d both mind and body to no other happiness but good eating and drinking-bid him "taste and see how good God is," there is not an invitation in all nature would confound him like it.
In a word, a man's mind must be like your proposition before it can be relished :--and 'tis the resemblance between them which brings over his judg. ment, and makes him an evidence on your side.
'Tis therefore not to the cruelgm'tis to the merciful ;-to those who rejoice with them that rejoice, and weep with them that weep,that we make this appeal.- 'Tis to the generous, the kind, the humane, that I am now to tell the sad *story of the fatherless, and of him who hath no helper, and bespeak your almsgiving in behalf of those who know not how to ask for it themselves.
- What can I say more ? It is a subject on which I cannot inform your judgment .;--and, in such an audience, I would not presume to practise upon your passions -let it suffice to say, That they
Charity sermon at St. Andrew's, lIolborn.