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Vol. IV.— New Series.]
[OCTOBER 1, 1861.
* THE CHURCH
“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
THOU IN THY LIFETIME RECEIVEDST THY GOOD THINGS.
-- Luke xvi. 25.
BY THE REV. EDWARD WHITE. The vision of Jesus Christ ranged upward through all the “mansions ” of heaven, around through all that was in the hearts of men, and downward into the realms of death. In this so well-known parable he bows down the ears of his auditors to listen to a tremendous colloquy in the Shades, between the blessed soul of Abraham in the upper Hades, and the spirit of a lost sinner tormented in the depths below, at the flaming centre of the world. His discourse was addressed to the Pharisees, who concealed every spiritual abomination under an appearance of superexcellent piety and reverence for the letter of the Scriptures, Every
hing addressed by Christ to them deserves the particular attention of an age Wheu a religious profession is 80 common an accompaniment of a life of self. ndulgence and luxury. Let no one conclude that the Pharisees were too wicked lo furnish lessons to ourselves. The persons who would so conclude are usually hose who would also determine that the saints of the Bible are too holy to serve s our examples; and there are multitudes who do thus actually evade all the astruction by example offered in the Scriptures. The wicked men in the Bible re regarded as too wicked to furnish them with a fitting warning, the good as 20 good to supply an imitable pattern. These words of the Great Warning Toice were addressed to the most religious men of that generation.
Here, then, was the nameless rich man, the epicure, who of himself makes no lark in history, but whose memory is, nevertheless, branded upon the gospelage, as a noisome insect might be impaled as a study in the cabinet of an entoologist. The wealth, perhaps, of many generations and of several families was incentrated in his hands. In his wide-reaching domain stands his ancestral ulace, adorned within with all the ornaments of art. He leads a jovial, joyous fe, in the midst of his friends, in feasting and merriment; he passes his time othed in blue and white--the colours of that heaven which he shall never enter. Te see him at the head of his hospitable table crowned with roses, passing the ine-cup to his companions, and enjoying the regale of music and dancing. Begone, dull care!" is written over every lintel of his house. “Eat, drink, and be erry !” is inlaid with gold around his table. "I will fear no evil!" is the keyte of the strain which breaks for ever from his lips. At the distant front entrance of his mansion lies Lazarus, reduced by poor ring to a skeleton, “full of sores”: “moreover the dogs came and licked 8 sores.” The grand owner cares nothing for the diseased vagrants' who fest bis gates, but the servants distribute the crunibs and broken pieces which fall from the rich man's table ;" just enough, it may be, to keep body and soul
together for Lazarus no very desirable union. At length, worn ont with misery, he dies. The crumbs do their office of detaining the imprisoned soul no longer. The dogs give up their ministrations to the angels, who carry the liberated spirit to Abraham's bosom.
Soon afterwards the great man in the palace is taken ill in the midst of his festivities; and, after a grand sickness and decline in a gilded chamber, dies, and with much melancholy pomp of minstrels, and processions, and costly spices, is; buried, and a marble monument, perpetuating his name and glory, covers his remains.
But, “ in hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments,”—and here ensues the frightful discourse to which Christ bids his hearers listen. Down in the dark ness this once sumptuous sinner is tormented in a flame of conscience and judg. ment which environs him. In the upper laminous region of the spirit-world be “sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom," being comforted, after his hard life of sores and crumbs and licking by the dogs, amidst the songs * angels and the caresses of the saints. The lost wretch draws as near as he car to the upper part of the vast black chasm which separates the two worlds of the dead, and there “cries aloud,”-shrieks, for water-a "drop of water to cool bis tongue,"—some slight refreshment from his torment. But, no! As the lord di that region, Abraham answers him terribly in his profound abyss : “Son. remember, thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented! Besides, tee black gulf which divides the upper and the lower regions is absolutely INSUPEI. ABLE. It can never be crossed again, either by bright spirit or dark. No dark soul can traverse it to come up hither, and no blissful inhabitant of Paradise caz descend into its direful shades !”
Now, what did our Lord intend to enforce by this awful parable! Was designed to teach us that men's future states depend upon their outward condition here, so that what is to follow will be simply a contrast-for the poor, eternal wealth in heaven; for the rich, the want and thirst, the poverty and tor. ment, of hell? This is inconceivable. Many poor men, like Judas Iscariot, are the sons of perdition. Some rich men, like Abraham himself, are among the best. David, and Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, were rich, but they went to heaven. A man's present character is not determined by the quantity of that which he possesses, but by the use that he makes of it, or by the Tu in which he endures the want of property; and, surely, these are the consder ations which will govern his lot in futurity. Are these words, “ Thou in D lifetime," designed to teach us that enjoyment on earth is incompatible with sty hope of heaven ;-that to possess a hope “ full of immortality' one ought Dot to possess also a body “full of sores ";—that to entertain a well-founded expecte tion of having angels for the convoy of the departing soul, one ought to be te duced now to the ministration of dogs for the body? Are these words intendo to affright us out of all earthly pleasures ? to make us feel unsafe in the posset. sion of even a moderate competency ? to throw a cloud of suspicion and gloom over every bright prospect that opens before us, by land or sea ? to make a regard “convenient food” for the body as poison for the soul? “two coats" . the changeable apparel of the condemned ? a happy home as the restibule the abyss, and a cheerful fireside as the prelude to eternal flames ? It canes be. Our Lord could not have intended to teach us that enjoyment of life is seal of the second death, and that, in order to be blessed for ever, a man dos always be miserable now. If this were so, what should we say to the fact, the as all obedience to God tends towards physical, intellectual, and moral best 80 all health tends towards happiness ?* What should we say of that domine design in creation which seems to be planned in order to make creatures bapa What, moreover, should we say of those scriptural affirmations that tra
"tender mercies are over all his works,” that “he giveth us all things richly to enjoy," and that he “ doth not willingly afflict nor grieve the children of men”? It cannot be that Christ designed to discourage all enjoyment of common mercies. There is nothing more opposite to the spirit of true religion than “ forbidding.” the pleasures which God has permitted to mankind, or“ commanding to abstain” from mercies which he has profusely scattered. If we are to enjoy nothing, for what are we to be thankful P If we may possess nothing, from what store are we to be ready to distribute and willing to communicate ? And if every man who is in comfortable circumstances is liable to hear in hell the reproach, "Thou in thy lifetime !" how shall heaven be filled with those who shall look back from the everlasting hills upon the good way in which they have been led by Him who suffered them to lack no good thing?
What is it, then? For many there are to whom it will be said in thunder across the “ great gulf fixed,” THOU IN TIY LIFETIME !
These words will be spoken to those who enjoy life without self-culture, without love to their neighbour, and without trust in or gratitude to God.
1. When men enjoy their life without self-culture they have their portion here. You may go into many houses where it is awfully evident that, whatever may be their “religious profession,” heaven and hell are regarded as fables, fables as devoid of reality as the mythology of ancient paganiam--houses where it is manifestly a settled thing that the only object worth living for is to get money, money to spend on sensual enjoyments. WHOSE GOD IS THEIR BELLY, WHO MIND EARTHLY THINGS. The ruling forces of life are the animal appetites. Amidst all the seeming refinement in manners, in furniture, in apparel, the ultimate governing power is the body, with its passions and lusts; to which the soul and its sacred relationships are habitually sacrificed. There are thousands of the most respectable families who must be thus described. The elegance of their exterior conceals only internal barbarism. What they are can be learned from what they want, and all that they want belongs to the material world. It 18 affecting to consider how nearly all body a human being can become; having 20 concern beyond the daily succession of pleasant sensations, and putting forth no endeavour to clarify, to strengthen, to elevate, to discipline the mind by education, study, literature, or religion. There is no inner life ; no interest n the past, with it's awful lessons on the nature of man and of God, with its evelation of Christ blazing through the darkness of ages, its fulfilled prophecies ind soul-awakening histories of heroism, martyrdom, and genius consecrated
God. There is no moral concern in the present, with its great battles of ruth and falsehood, right and wrong. There is no anticipation of the future; ither of that future which looms and lightens over the world of time, or of hat more dread futurity beyond.
A man who would be saved must lead a life above sense ; he must be a mind is well as a body, a spirit in regenerate union with the world unseen. If a man njoy material blessings only with the body, he in his lifetime receives his good hings. But God has richly infused his own spirit of wisdom and beauty into he material world, in order that the soul might glorify sense. The fields which rield corn yield flowers. The earth brings forth food for the body and mind at ince. And when the Spirit of God dwells in a man, then a mans eats his meat Fith gladness and singleness of heart.” When a strong moral spirit breathes in house, a noble tone of godly symbolism in the material sphere leading ever pwards to the King Immortal ; when the spirit shines through the beauty, and heds her golden light upon the sphere, of sense; when intelligence selects, goerns, moderates the indulgences that are without, then no abundance of wealth leprives man of the blessing on the “poor in spirit;" but there is a silent prohecy breathing all around, that tbese enjoyments are but prelusive to eternal avishments in heaven. The secret of enjoying the visible creation through all