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The Rich Man and Lazarus
by Richard Chenevix Trench
Chapter 26 from The Parables of our Lord
Luke 16:19-31
(See original for extensive footnotes.)
THIS parable being addressed to the Pharisees (see ver. 14, 15), a difficulty presents itself at once.  ‘Covetous’ no doubt these were; the Evangelist expressly declares as much (ver. 14; cf Matt. xxiii. 14), but prodigal excess in living, like that of the rich man in the parable, is nowhere, in sacred history or profane, imputed to them.  So far from this, their manner of life was sparing and austere; many among them were rigid ascetics.  Our Lord Himself allowed all this; His model Pharisee fasts twice in the week (Luke xviii. 12).  Their sins were in the main spiritual; and what other sins they had were compatible with a high reputation for spirituality, which covetousness is, but not a profuse self-indulgence and an eminently luxurious living.  Mosheim feels the difficulty so strongly, that he supposes the parable directed against the Sadducees, of whose selfish indulgence of themselves, and hard-hearted contempt for the needs ,of others (for they had wrought into their very religious scheme that poverty was a crime, or at all events an evidence of the displeasure of God), we shall then, he says, have an exact description.  But the parable cannot be for them; there is no mention of Sadducees present, neither can there be any change between ver. 18 and 19 in the persons addressed; as is still more evident in the original than in our Version.

We may, perhaps, explain the matter thus.  While it is quite true that covetousness was the sin of the Pharisees, and not prodigal excess, an undue gathering rather than an undue scattering, yet hoarding and squandering so entirely grow out of the same evil root, being alike the fruits of unbelief in God and in God’s word, of trust in the creature more than in the Creator, are so equally a serving of mammon (though the form of the service may be different), that when the Lord would rebuke their sin, which was the trust in the world rather than in the living God, there was nothing to hinder his taking an example from a sin opposite in appearance to theirs,—but springing out of exactly the same evil condition of heart,—by which to condemn them.  For we must never forget that the primary intention of the parable is not to teach the dreadful consequences which will follow on the abuse of wealth and on the hard-hearted contempt of the poor,—this only subordinately,—but the fearful consequences of unbelief, of a heart set on this world, and refusing to give credence to that invisible world, here known only to faith, until by a miserable and too late experience the existence of such has been discovered.  The sin of Dives in its root is unbelief: hard-hearted contempt of the poor, luxurious squandering on self, are only the forms which his sin assumes.  The seat of the disease is within; these are but the running sores which witness for the inward plague.  He who believes not in an invisible world of righteousness and truth and spiritual joy, must place his hope in things which he sees, which he can handle, and taste, and smell.  It is not of the essence of the matter, whether he hoards or squanders: in either case he puts his trust in the world.  He who believes not in a God delighting in mercy and loving-kindness, rewarding the merciful, punishing the unmerciful, will soon come to shut up his bowels of compassion from his brethren, whether that so he may put more money in his chest, or have more to spend upon his lusts.  This was the sin of Dives, and source of all his other sins, that he believed not in this higher world which is apprehended by faith,—a world not merely beyond the grave,—but a kingdom of truth and love existing even in the midst of the cruel and selfish world; and this too was the sin of the worldly-minded Pharisees: and his punishment was, that he made discovery of that truer state of things only when the share in it, once within his reach, was irrecoverably gone.  That his sin at the bottom is unbelief shows itself again in his supposing that his brethren would give heed to a ghost, while they refuse to give heed to the sure word of God— to ‘Moses and the prophets.' For it is of the very character of unbelief, to give to portents and prodigies that credence which it refuses to the truth of God.  Caligula, who mocked at the existence of the gods, would hide himself under a bed when it thundered ; and superstition and unbelief are as twin births of the corrupt heart of man.  They are of those extremes, whose nature it is to meet.  We must ever keep in mind that this, the rebuke of unbelief, is the main intention of the parable; for if we conceive its primary purpose to warn against the abuse of riches, it will neither satisfactorily cohere with the discourse in which it is found, nor will it possess that unity of purpose, which so remarkably distinguishes the parables of our Lord: it will divide itself into two parts, only slightly linked together,—having not a single but a double point.  But when we contemplate unbelief as the essence of the rich man’s sin, his hard-heartedness towards others, with his prodigality towards himself, being only forms of its manifestation, we shall then at once admire the perfect unity of all parts of the parable, the intimate connexion of the conversation with Abraham in the latter part, with the luxurious living of the earlier.

‘There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day.’ The ‘purple and fine linen’ are named often together (Esth. 1 6; Rev. xviii. 12), both being in highest esteem, and the combination of colours which they offered, blue and white, greatly prized.  The extreme costliness of the true sea-purple of antiquity is well known.  It was the royal hue; and the purple garment then, as now, a royal gift (Esth. viii. 15; Dan. v. 7; I Macc. x. 20; xi. 58; xiv. 43); with it too the heathen idols were clothed (Jer. x. 9); there was as much, therefore, of pride as of luxury in its use.  The byssus, or ‘fine linen,’ was hardly in less price or esteem.  All then of costliest and rarest he freely bestowed upon himself.  Nor was it on some high days only that he so arrayed himself and so feasted.  The ‘purple and fine linen’ were his ordinary apparel, the sumptuous fare his every day’s entertainment.  Yet with all this, as we cannot be too often reminded, he is not accused of any breach of the law,—not, like those rich men by St. James (v. 1-6), of any flagrant crimes.  ‘Jesus said not, a calumniator; He said not, an oppressor of the poor; He said not, a robber of other men’s goods, nor a receiver of such, nor a false accuser; He said not, a spoiler of orphans, a persecutor of widows: nothing of these.  But what did He say?—"There was a certain rich man.” And what was his crime ?—a lazar lying at his gate, and lying unrelieved.’ Nor is he,—though sometimes so called, as in the heading of the chapter in our Bibles,—’ a glutton.’ To call him this, a ‘Sir Epicure Mammon,’ serves only to turn the edge of the parable.  He was one of whom all may have spoken well; of whom none could say worse than that he was content to dwell at ease, would fain put far from himself all things painful to the flesh, and surround himself with all things pleasurable—His name Christ has not told us, but the poor man’s only: ‘Seems He not to you,’ asks Augustine, ‘to have been reading from that book where He found the name of the poor man written, but found not the name of the rich; for that book is the book of life?’ ‘Jesus,’ says Cajetan, ‘of a purpose named the beggar, but the rich man He designated merely as “a certain man,” so to testify that the spiritual order of things is contrary to the worldly.  In the world, the names of the rich are known, and when they are talked of, they are designated by their names; but the names of the poor are either not known, or if known are counted unworthy to he particularly noted.'

‘And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table.’  In the porch or vestibule of the rich man’s palace, whose name, though well known on earth, was unrecognized in heaven, the beggar was flung.  He was brought hither, perhaps, by the last who took any care of him upon earth; and who with this released themselves of their charge, counting they had done enough, having cast him under the eye, and thus upon the pity, of one so abundantly able to relieve him.  How long he may have lain there is not recorded; but long enough for the rich man, as he passed in and out, to have grown so familiar with him that in Abraham’s bosom he recognizes him at once.  Ignorance, therefore, of the beggar’s needs he could not plead.  This excuse it was left for another to plead for him; who, in his eagerness to fasten charges of unreason or injustice on Scripture, affirms that he is punished without cause, ‘his only crime having been his wealth.’  But he could not help knowing, and, if he had not known, that ignorance itself would have been his crime; for, having the leisure of wealth, he should not have remained unacquainted with the want and woe at his doors.

As the rich man’s splendid manner of living was painted in a few strokes, in a few as expressive is set forth the destitution of Lazarus.  Like Job (Job ii. 7), he was ‘full of sores;’ hungry, and no man gave to him,—for, doubtless, we should understand that he desired, but in vain, ‘to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table’ (Judge i. 7); even these were not thrown to him, or in no sufficient measure to satisfy his hunger.  Shut out from human fellowship and human pity, he found sympathy only from the dumb animals; ‘the dogs'—such, probably, as wander without a master through the streets of an Eastern city (Ps. lix. 14, I5)--'came and licked his sores.’  Chrysostom, and others after him, see here an evidence of the extremity of weakness to which disease and hunger had reduced him; there was not in him strength enough even to fray away the dogs, which, licking his sores, aggravated their pain.  But scarcely so; medicinal virtue has been popularly ascribed to the tongue of the dog; which, moist and smooth, would rather assuage than exasperate the smart of a wound.  More probably the neglect and cruelty of the rich man are thus enhanced and set in the strongest light.  Man had no pity for his fellow-man, no alleviations for his woe; which yet the dogs could feel for, and would have assuaged, if they might.  We have thus stroke for stroke Dives is covered with purple and fine linen; Lazarus covered only with sores.  One fares sumptuously; the other desires to be fed with crumbs.  One has hosts of attendants to wait on his every caprice; though this circumstance is left to our imagination to supply; only the dogs tend the sores of the other.

It has been often said that nothing is expressly told us of the moral condition of Lazarus, of his faith, his patience, his hope.  Such is not exactly the case; for, as names are realities in Christ’s kingdom of truth, he who received the name Lazarus, or ‘God is my help,’ from His lips, must have had faith in God; and it was this his faith, and not his poverty, which brought him into Abraham’s bosom.  In all homiletic use of the parable this should never be forgotten.  How often Augustine, having brought home to the prosperous children of the world the tremendous lessons which are here for them, turns round to the poor, warning them that something more is wanting than sores and rags and hunger to bring them into a conformity with Lazarus and into the place of his rest.  With this outward poverty another poverty, even poverty of spirit, must go hand in hand; for that other does not in itself constitute humility, though an excellent help to it; even as the riches of this world do not of necessity exclude humility, but only constitute an enormous temptation, lest they that have them be high-minded, and trust in those uncertain riches rather than in the living God: and he often reminds his hearers how that very Abraham into whose bosom Lazarus was carried, had on earth been rich in flocks and herds and all possessions (Gen. xiii. 2).

But this worldly glory and this worldly misery are alike to have an end; they are the fleeting show of things, not the abiding realities.  ‘It came to pass that the beggar died:’ and then how marvellous the change! he whom but a moment before no man served, whom only the dogs tended, is ‘carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.’  Some have by this understood a peculiar privilege vouchsafed to him; that he was brought into the chiefest place of honour and felicity, such as the sons of Zebedee asked for themselves (Matt. xx. 23); not admitted merely to sit down among the rest of the faithful with Abraham at the heavenly festival, but to lean on his bosom, an honour of which only one could partake, as the beloved disciple leaned upon Jesus bosom at the paschal supper (John xiii. 23).  Not so, however; the image underlying these words is not that of a festival at all; in Hades there is no place for such, nor till the actual coming of the kingdom.  ‘Abraham’s bosom’ must find its explanation not from Matt. viii. 11; Luke xiii. 29, 30; but rather from John i. 18.  It is a figurative phrase to express the deep quietness of an innermost communion.  Besides, the Jews, to whose theology the phrase belongs, spoke of all true believers as going to Abraham, as being received into his bosom.  The phrase was equivalent for them to the being ‘in the garden of Eden,’ or ‘under the throne of glory,’ gathered, that is, into the general receptacle of happy, but waiting, souls (see Wisd. iii. 1-3).  Christ, by using, has been rightly considered as sanctioning and adopting, the phrase; it has thus passed into the language of the Church; which has understood by it the state of painless expectation, of blissful repose, to intervene between the death of the faithful in Christ Jesus and their perfect consummation and bliss at His coming in His kingdom.  It is ‘paradise’ (Luke xxiii. 43); the place of the souls under the altar (Rev. vi. 9); it is, as some distinguish it, blessedness, but not glory.  Thither, to that haven of rest and consolation, Lazarus, after all his troubles, was safely borne.

‘The rich man also died, and was buried;’ we naturally conclude, from the course of the narrative, after Lazarus, the mercy of God being manifested in the order of their deaths: Lazarus more early delivered from the miseries of his earthly lot; Dives allowed a longer space for repentance.’ But his day of grace comes also to an end.  Possibly the setting of Lazarus under his eye had been his final trial; his neglect of him the last drop that had made the cup of God’s long-suffering to run over.  Entertaining him, he might have unawares entertained angels; but having let slip this latest opportunity, on the death of Lazarus follows hard, as would seem, his own.  There is a sublime irony, a stain upon all earthly glory, in this mention of his burial, connected as it is with what is immediately to follow.  The world, loving its own, followed him, no doubt, with its pomp and pride, till it could not follow any further.  There was not wanting the long procession of the funeral solemnities through the streets of Jerusalem, the crowd of hired mourners, the spices and ointment very precious, wrapping the body; nor yet the costly sepulchre, on which the genial virtues of the departed were recorded.  This splendid carrying of the forsaken tenement of clay to the grave is for him what the carrying into Abraham’s bosom was for Lazarus; it is his equivalent, which, however, profits him little where now he is.  For death has been for him an awakening from his flattering dreams of ease and self-enjoyment upon the stern and terrible realities of eternity.  He has sought to save his life, and has lost it.  The play in which he acted the rich man is ended, and as he went off the stage he was stripped of all the trappings with which he had been furnished that he might sustain his part: there remains only the fact that he has played it badly, and will therefore have no praise, but uttermost rebuke, from Him who allotted to him this character to sustain.

From this verse the scene of the parable passes beyond the range of our experience into the unknown world of spirits; but not beyond the range of His eye, to whom all worlds, visible and invisible, are equally open and manifest.  He appears as much at home there as here; He moves in that world as one perfectly familiar with it; speaking without astonishment as of things which he knows.  He continues, indeed, to use the language of men, for it is the only language by which He could make Himself intelligible to men.  Yet it is not always easy now to distinguish between that which is merely figure, vehicle of the truth, and that which must be held fast as itself essential truth.’ We may safely say that the form in which the sense of pain, with the desire after alleviation embodies itself (ver. 24) is figurative.  Olshausen will have it that the entire dialogue between Abraham and Dives belongs in the same way to the parabolical clothing of the truth; that it is nothing else than the hope and longing after deliverance, which alternately rises and is again crushed by the voice of the condemning law speaking in and through the conscience.  But we are left in such entire ignorance of all the conditions of existence in that mysterious world of Hades, that it seems as impossible to affirm this as to deny it.

But to return; he that had that splendid funeral on earth is now ‘in hell,’ —or ‘in Hades’ rather; for as ‘Abraham’s bosom’ is not heaven, though it will issue in heaven, so neither is Hades ‘hell,’ though to issue in it, when cast with death into the lake of fire, which is the proper hell (Rev. xx. 54).  It is the place of painful restraint,” where the souls of the wicked are reserved to the judgment of the great day; it is ‘the deep,’ whither the devils prayed that they might not be sent to be tormented before their time (Luke viii. 31); for as Paradise has a foretaste of heaven, so has the place where he is a foretaste of hell.  Dives, being there, is ‘in torments,’ stripped of all wherein his soul delighted; his purple robe a garment of fire; or, as he himself describes it, he is ‘tormented in this flame.’

For a while he may have been quite unable to realize his new condition, to connect his present self with his past; his fearful change seeming to him only as some troubled dream.  But when convinced at length that this was indeed no dream, but an awakening, then, that he might take the measure of his actual condition, ‘he lifted up his eyes, and seeth Abraham afar of, and Lazarus in his bosom’ (cf. Isai. lxv. 13, 14).  If this is merely a figure, yet assuredly a figure of the true, conveying to us the fact that the misery of the lost will be aggravated by a comparison which they will be ever making of their estate with the blessedness of the saved.  ‘And he cried and said, Father Abraham,’—for he still clung to the hope that his fleshly privileges would profit him something; he would still plead that he has Abraham to his father (Matt. iii. 9; Rom. ii. 7; John viii. 41), not perceiving that this, which was his glory once, was now the very stress of his guilt.  That he, a son of Abraham,—the man of that liberal hand and princely heart, in whom, as the head of the elect family, every Jew was reminded of his kinship with every other, of the one blood in the veins of all, of the one hope in God which ennobled them all from the least to the greatest—should have so sinned against the mighty privileges of his high calling, so denied through his life all which the name ‘son of Abraham’ was meant to teach him,—it was this which had brought him to that place of torment.  Poor and infinitely slight is the best alleviation which he looks for: ‘Have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue ; for I am tormented in this flame.’ And this is all which he ventures to ask! so shrunken are his desires, so low the highest hope which even he himself presumes to entertain.” It has been observed that this prayer of his is the only invocation of saints whereof the Scripture knows; and it is far from being an encouraging one (Job v. 1).  He can speak of ‘father Abraham’ and his ‘father’s house;’ but there is another Father of whom he will know nothing—the Father whom the prodigal had found; for he is as far as hell is from heaven from the faith of the prophet: ‘Doubtless Thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not (Isai. lxiii. 16).

‘But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.’ In the answer of the father of the faithful there is no harshness, no mocking at the calamity of his unhappy and guilty descendant.  He addresses him as ‘Son,’ while, at the same time coupling an allowance of the relationship which the other claimed, with a denial of his request, he rings the knell of his latest hope.  And first he brings home to his conscience that all which is happening to him now is just, and that if he will only consider he must consent to it that it is so.  ‘Thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things.’  I cannot accept the interpretation which by the ‘good things’ of Dives would understand certain good actions which in some small measure he had wrought, and the reward of which he had in this present life received; even though it can claim such supporters as Chrysostom in the Greek Church, Gregory the Great in the Latin, and Bishop Sanderson in our own.  The following paraphrase of the words is from a sermon of Sanderson’s:  ‘If thou hadst anything good in thee, remember thou hadst thy reward in earth already, and now there remaineth for thee nothing but the full punishment of thine ungodliness there in hell: but as for Lazarus, he hath had the chastisement of his infirmities things [his ‘evil things’] on earth already, and now remaineth for him nothing but the full reward of his godliness here in heaven.’  Presently before Sanderson had said, ‘For as God rewardeth those few good things that are in evil men with these temporal benefits, for whom yet in His justice He reserveth eternal damnation, as the due wages, by that justice, of their graceless impenitency, so He punisheth those remnants of sin that are in godly men with these temporal afflictions, for whom yet in His mercy He reserveth eternal salvation, as the due wages, yet by that mercy only of their faith and repentance and holy obedience.’ Whether there be such a dealing of God with men as this or not, it is very far-fetched to find it here; and the more obvious explanation of the words agrees much better with the general scope of the parable, and of Abraham’s discourse in particular.  The ‘good things’ of the rich man were his temporal felicities, his purple and fine linen, and his sumptuous fare.  These, which were ‘goods’ to him, in his esteem the highest or, indeed, the only ‘goods,’ and besides which he would know no other, he had ‘received.’  He had his choice, the things temporal or the things eternal, to save his life here, or to save it there; and by the choice which he had made he must abide.

This lesson the words, either way interpreted, will contain, namely, that the receiving of this world’s good with no admixture of its evil, the course of an unbroken prosperity, is ever a sign and augury of ultimate reprobation (Ps. xvii. 14; Job xxi. 7-21 ; Luke vi. 24, 25; Heb. xii. 8).  Nor is it hard to see why.  There is in every man dross in abundance, needing to be purged away in the purifying fires of pain.  He therefore whom these purifying fires come not near, is left with all his dross in him, is no partaker of that holiness, without which no man shall see God.  Thus Dives, to his endless loss, had in this life received good things without any share of evil.  But now all is changed: Lazarus, who received in this mortal life evil things, ‘is comforted’ (Matt. v. 4 2 Cor. iv. 17; Acts xiv. 21), but he is ‘tormented.’  He has sown only to the flesh, and therefore, when the order of things has commenced in which the flesh has no part, he can only reap in misery and emptiness, in the hungry longing and unsatisfied desire of the soul (Gal. vi. 8).  The pity too which he refused to show, he fails to obtain; so that we have here the severe converse of the beatitude; ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’ (Judg. i. 7; Matt. xviii. 32-34; Jam. ii. 13; Rev. xvi. 6).  The crumbs which he denied have issued in the drop of water which is denied to him.  Having failed to make ‘himself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, ‘now when he has failed, he has none to receive him into everlasting habitations.

Nor is this severe law of the divine retaliations the only obstacle to the granting of his request.  There is further brought home to the conscience of this man, Once so rich, and now so poor, that with death an eternal separation of the elements of good and evil, elements in this world mingled and confounded, begins (Matt. xiii. 40, 41).  Like is gathered to like, good by natural affinity to good, and evil to evil; and this separation is permanent: ‘Beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed,’ not a mere handbreadth only, as the Jews fabled, but ‘a great gulf,’ and this ‘fixed’ an eternal separation, a yawning chasm, too deep to be filled up, too wide to be bridged over;--‘so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, neither can they pass to us that would come from thence.’ The latter statement contains no difficulty; it is only natural that the lost should desire to pass out of their state of pain to the place of rest and blessedness; but it is not so easy to understand the other— ‘they who would pass from thence to you cannot;’ for how should any desire this?  Not, of course, with a purpose of changing their own condition; but they cannot pass, Abraham would say, even for a season; they have no power to yield even a moment’s solace to any in that place, however earnestly they may wish it.

But though repulsed for himself, he has still a request to urge for others.  If Abraham cannot send Lazarus to that world of woe, at least he can cause him to return to the earth which he has so lately quitted; between these worlds there is no such gulf interposed: ‘I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house; for I have five brethren, that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ He and they, Sadducees at heart, though perhaps Pharisees in name, may oftentimes have mocked together at that unseen world, and by Lazarus he would fain warn them now of the fearful reality which he had found it.  He could testify at once of heaven and of hell.  In this anxiety for the welfare of his brethren, which he, who hitherto had been merely selfish, expresses, some have seen the evidence of a better mind beginning, and the proof that suffering was already doing its work in him, and awakening the slumbering germ of good.  With this, were it so, would of necessity be connected his own ultimate restoration, and the whole doctrine of future suffering not being vindicative and eternal, but corrective and temporary.  But the rich man’s request grows out of another root.  There lies in it a secret justifying of himself, and accusing of God.  What a bitter reproach against God and against the old economy is here involved: ‘If only I had been sufficiently warned, if only God had given me sufficiently clear evidence of these things, of the need of repentance, of this place as the goal of a sensual worldly life, I had never come hither.  But though I was not, let, at any rate, my brethren be duly warned.’ Abraham’s answer is brief and almost stern; rebuking, as was fit, this evil thought of his heart: they are warned; they have enough to keep them from that place of torment, if only they will use it: ‘They have Moses and the prophets: let them hear them’ (John v. 39, 45-47).  Christ putting these words into Abraham’s mouth, evidently gives no countenance to them who see an entire keeping back of the doctrine of life eternal and a future retribution in the Pentateuch; but to ‘hear Moses,’ is to hear of these things; as elsewhere more at length He has shown (Matt. xxii. 31, 32; Luke xx. 37).

But the suppliant will not so easily be put to silence: ‘Nay, father Abraham; but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.’  We are told of the faithful, that ‘their works do follow them;  their temper here is their temper in heaven; not otherwise does the contempt of God’s word, which this man manifested on earth, follow him beyond the grave.  The word, as he deems, is not sufficient to save men; they must have something more to lead them to repentance.  We have reappearing in hell that ‘Show us a sign, that we may believe,’ so often upon the lips of the Pharisees on earth.  They will believe, or flatter themselves that they would believe, signs and portents; but they will not believe God’s word (Isai. viii. 19, 20).  A vain expectation! ‘If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.’ Every word in this reply demands to be accurately weighed.  Dives had said, ‘they will repent;’ a moral change will be wrought in them; Abraham replies, they will not even ‘be persuaded.’ Dives had said, ‘if one went unto them from the dead;’ Abraham, with a prophetic glance at the world’s unbelief in a far greater matter, makes answer, ‘No, not though one rose from the dead.’ He in fact is saying: ‘A far mightier miracle than you demand would be ineffectual for producing a far slighter effect; you imagine that wicked men would repent on the return of a spirit,—the history of the last days of Saul might have taught him better (2 Sam. xxviii.),—'I tell you they would not even be persuaded by the rising of one from the dead.'

This reply of Abraham is most weighty for the insight it gives us into the nature of faith as a moral act; not therefore to be forced by signs and wonders: for where there is a determined alienation of will and affections from the truth, no impression which miracles will make, even when accepted as genuine, will be more than transitory.  There will not fail to be always a loophole somewhere or other by which unbelief can escape ; and this is well, else we should have in the Church the faith of devils, who believe and tremble.  When the historical Lazarus was raised from the dead, the Pharisees were not by this mightiest of all miracles persuaded of the divine mission and authority of Him who had raised him; and this though they did not deny the reality of the miracle itself (John xi. 47; xii. 10).  A greater too than Lazarus has returned from the world of spirits; nay, He has risen from the dead: and what multitudes, who acknowledge the fact, and acknowledge it as setting a seal to all his claims to be heard and obeyed, are not brought by this acknowledgment a whit nearer to repentance and the obedience of faith.  And it is very observable, how exactly in the spirit of Abraham’s refusal to send Lazarus, the Lord Himself acted after His resurrection.  He showed Himself, not to the Pharisees, not to His enemies, ‘not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God’ (Acts x. 41), to His own disciples alone.  It was a judgment upon others, that no sign should be given them but the sign of the prophet Jonas (Matt. xii. 39); and yet mercy too, for they would not have been persuaded, even by one that had risen from the dead.  A satisfaction of the longing, in itself most natural, that one should return from the world beyond the grave, and assure us of the reality of that world,—a satisfaction which Abraham could not give, but which Christ did,—was by him granted to those who were seeking the confirmation of faith, and not excuses for unbelief.

Our observations on this parable would be very incomplete if we did not, before concluding, give a rapid sketch of their interpretation who maintain that, besides its literal and obvious, the parable has also an allegorical, meaning.  This, though by no means the dominant interpretation, has frequently made itself heard, having found more or less favour with Augustine, with Gregory the Great, and with more modern commentators than one.  Should it obtain allowance, the parable, like so many others which we owe exclusively to St. Luke, will set forth the past and future relations of the Jew and the Gentile.  Dives will in this case represent the Jewish nation, clad in the ‘purple’ of the king, and the ‘fine linen’ of the priest —the kingdom of priests, or royal priesthood (Exod. xix. 6; I Pet. ii. 9).  They ‘fared sumptuously every day,’ being furnished to the full with all things necessary for life and godliness.  Salvation was of the Jews (John iv. 22); to them pertained ‘the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises’ (Rom. ix. 4).  But while this sumptuous fare was theirs, they, instead of sharing it with those who needed it the most, were at all pains that no portion of it should reach any other; or if they did make a proselyte, they made him not for God but for themselves, and he exaggerated all which was worst in themselves (Matt. xxiii. 15).  Making their boast of God (Rom. ii. 17), they did nothing to spread among the heathen the true knowledge of His name.’ There would not have fallen, if they could have helped it, so much as a crumb from their table for, these.  Lazarus, the beggar,” lay untended at their gate--at their gate and without it; for the Gentiles were ‘aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise’ (Ephes. ii. 12):--‘full of sores,’ for their sins and their miseries were infinite.  St. Paul, at Rom. 23-32, gives us a fearful glimpse of some of the worst among these sores, though indeed we must include in them not sins only, but all the penal miseries consequent on sin.  And the dogs came and licked these sores, and this was all the alleviation which they had.  They were slight and miserable assuagements of its want and woe, ineffectual medicine for its hurts, which the heathen world obtained from its legislators, philosophers and poets.  ‘Physicians of no value’ we have no right to call them; for the moral condition of the world would have been far worse without them; but yet they could only heal slightly at the best the hurt of their people.

The desire of the beggar to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table finds no exact counterpart in any longing on the part of the Gentiles for the satisfaction of their spiritual hunger from the table of the Jews.  Such longing might have been, if these had held and held forth the truth as they ought; but, whether from the repulsive aspect under which they presented it, or from some other causes, this desire did not in any large measure exist; though, indeed, the spread of Judaism, and the inclination, especially among women of rank, to embrace it, is more than once noted by the Roman writers about the time of the first emperors.  Still the yearning of men’s souls after a truth which they had not was a yearning after something which the Jew had, and had richly; and which, had he been faithful to his position, he would have imparted to them, and they been willing to receive of him.  Christ was ‘the Desire of all nations;’ every yearning after deliverance from the bondage of corruption which found utterance in the heart of any heathen, was, in truth, a yearning after Him; so that implicitly and unconsciously the nations of the world were desiring to live upon truth which had been entrusted to the Jew, and entrusted to him that he might share it with them.

The dying of Lazarus, with his reception into Abraham’s bosom, will find their counterpart in the coming to an end of that economy in which the Gentile was an alien from the covenant, and in his subsequent introduction by ‘the angels,’ or messengers of the covenant, into all the immunities and consolations of the kingdom of God;— ‘which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God; which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy’ (I Pet. i. 10; Ephes. ii 11-13).  But Dives dies also; the coming to an end of that comparative economy, while it is life to the Gentile, is death to the Jew; who had desperately clung to this, and would know of no other.  And now Dives is in torments,—‘in hell;’ surely not too strong a phrase to describe the anguish and despair, the madness and astonishment of heart, which must be their portion who having once known God, refuse to know Him any more.  Who can read the history, as given by a Jew, of the great final agony of the Jewish nation,—when turning fiercely upon its foes, it turned with a yet more deadly fierceness upon itseif; like a scorpion, which, girdled with fire, fixes its sting in its own body,—and not feel that all which constitutes hell was already there? And ever since have they not been ‘tormented’? What a picture of their condition as the apostate people of God does the sure word of prophecy supply (Lev. xxvi. 14-39; Dent. xxviii. 15-68).  What gnashing of teeth, what fierce madness of heart, does Christ announce shall be theirs, when they shall see the despised Gentiles sitting down in the kingdom of God, from which they themselves are thrust out (Luke xiii. 23-30).  Nor has history failed to justify these pictures to the full.

But as Dives looked for consolation from Lazarus, whom before he despised, so the Jew is looking for the assuagement of his miseries through some bettering of his outward estate,—some relaxation of severities inflicted upon him,—some improvement of his civil condition :—expecting from the kingdoms of the world that which, if they gave him, would be but as a drop of water on the burning tongue.  For it is the wrath of God which constitutes his misery; and till this is removed, till he turns from Abraham to Abraham’s God, he is incapable of true comfort The alleviation which he craves is not given; it were useless to give it.  There is but one true alleviation, that he should be himself received into the kingdom of God, that he should bewail his guilt, and look on Him whom he pierced, and mourn because of Him.  Then consolations would abound to him.  Everything short of this is but as a drop of water to the fiery tongue.  The upholders of this interpretation urge, and with reason, that the absence of any allusion in the parable to a future time, when the great gulf of unbelief which now separates the Jew from his blessings shall be filled up, makes nothing against it.  The same silence is observed in the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen.  No hint is there given that the vineyard shall one day be restored to its first cultivator, which yet we know will be the case (Rom. xi. 26; 2 Cor. iii. 26).

By the five brethren of Dives will be set forth to us, acccording to this scheme, all who hereafter, in a like condition and with like advantages, are tempted to the same abuse of their spiritual privileges.  The Gentile Church is in one sense Lazarus brought into Abraham’s bosom; but when it sins as the Jewish Church did before it, glorying in its gifts, but not using them for the calling out of the spiritual life of men, contented to see in its very bosom a population outcast, save in name, from its privileges and blessings, and beyond its limits millions upon millions of heathens to whom it has little or no care to impart the riches of the knowledge of Christ,—then, as it thus sins, it only too much resembles the five brethren of Dives, who are in danger of coming, and for sins similar to his, to the same place of torment.  Nor are we to imagine that, before judgment is executed upon a Church thus forgetful of its high calling, it will be roused from its dream of security by any startling summonses,—any novel signs and wonders,—any new revelation,—any Lazarus rising from the dead and bidding it to repent.  It has enough to remind it of its duty; its deposit of truth, its talent wherewith to trade till its Lord’s return.  The parable thus contemplated, speaks to us Gentiles in the very spirit of those awful words which St. Paul addressed to the Gentile converts at Rome: ‘Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell severity; but towards thee goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off’ (Rom. xi. 32).

Those who uphold this allegorical interpretation maintain that the parable will not, through admitting it, lose any of its practical value, Whatever, according to the more usual interpretation, might be drawn from it of solemn warning for the children of this present world, who have faith in nothing beyond it,—for all who forget, in the fulness of their own earthly goods, the infinite want and woe of their fellow-men, the same may be drawn from it still.  Only in addition to this warning to the world, it will yield another deeper warning to the Church, that it do not shut itself up in selfish pride; glorying in the abundance of its own privileges, but at the same time with no feeling sense of the spiritual wants and miseries of those who know not God, with no earnest effort to remove them; that on such forgetfulness a terrible judgment must follow.