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more transporting, than that which is excited within us by the exercise of practical benevolence towards our afflicted neighbours,—from the recollection that we have diffused content among the suffering, driven despair from the abodes of penury, and restored peace, from her banishment, to the household of the destitute? And where can this feeling be so extensively known, or so fully enjoyed, as by the rich man, who considers the wants of his neighbour before his own pleasures ?
The divine proverb tells us, “ he that giveth to the poor shall not lack, but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.” So that by relieving the wants of others, besides enjoying the sublime consolations which an ardent benevolence produces in the hearts of those who exercise it, we also escape those penalties which are denounced in the gospel, against the covetous and uncharitable. The wealthy man may, indeed, consider himself peculiarly favoured of Heaven, by the additional means which are bestowed upon him of doing good ; and in proportion to his present beneficence, if it be accompanied with a devout spirit, shall be his future reward.
As the parable before us offers a most instructive lesson to the rich, so also does it supply abundant consolations to the poor. It shows them, that although the privations of this life are often manifold and severe, there is, nevertheless, a state in futurity where their transient sufferings here
shall be succeeded by everlasting peace; where their souls shall flourish in eternal vigour, and their bodies be never again exposed to the accidents of time, after they have once risen to the glories of eternity. Poverty also is not without its spiritual advantages, although its aspect be so stern and repulsive. It tends to subdue the
passions, to chasten the heart, and reconcile the mind to “ the changes and chances of this mortal life.” It removes us from many temptations; it weans us from a love of this world, because it allows us to participate in few of its seductions; and thus renders us less loth to quit it when the days of our pilgrimage shall have reached their term. The poor man will naturally be less anxious to continue in a scene, where privation has chiefly been his portion, when the warrant of death is served upon him, than he most probably would be, if life had been attended with more general or more permanent blessings. Still, whatever advantages may be derived to the rich or the poor, relatively, from the merciful dispensations of Providence, their chance of salvation must depend equally upon the manner in which they perform those duties allotted “ to all sorts and conditions of men.” Neither poverty nor wealth can give us a
" dispensation from them, since, in the next world, “ the rich and the poor meet together” upon an equal footing, to be judged according to their works, “ for the Lord is the Maker of them all.”
Sins of omission, to which the parable of our text so expressively points, are equally attributable to all classes of every christian community. The poor, indeed, from an idea that their comparatively destitute state excludes the necessity or possibility of practical benevolence, too often neglect to do good, when they have it in their power; as if their homeliness of condition could furnish them with an available pretext for neglecting to extend to their neighbours whatever assistance they may be able to bestow. It is a most cruel delusion, to hold up to the poor the expectation of eternal glory in another life, as a remuneration for their privations in this. Why should the Almighty expect greater righteousness in one class of his creatures than in another, when all are equal in his sight, all equally included in the privileges of redemption, all equally the objects of his propitiatory mercy? According to the means given to us, we are expected to employ them. To do as we would be done by, is alike incumbent upon all. Poverty can prevent no one from benefiting his neighbour, at least, to the best of his power. Lazarus was not “carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom, merely because he “lay at the rich man's gate full of sores,” and solicited the crumbs that “ fell from his table.” He must have been a good man although poor, or he could have no “inheritance in the kingdom of God and of Christ.”
From what the parable has led us to consider, we shall feel the necessity of improving our time in preparation for eternity. Whether the smiles or frowns of fortune be upon us, it should be remembered that death will soon terminate our present joys or sorrows, and that our condition in a future world will be decided by our conduct in this. When the shoreless ocean of eternity shall expand before us, it is certain that we shall then be, either members of the heavenly banquet, or outcasts with the wretched. Let us endeavour to prevent this latter terrible evil, by establishing our faith on the gospel of Christ, and by acting, in every state of our probation, suitably to such belief. Wherefore, “ giving thanks always for all things unto God," let us " receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls."
SAME SUBJECT CONTINUED.
St. LUKE, XVI. 23.
“And in Hell he lift his eyes, being in torments, and seeth
Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.”
I have already addressed you upon the subject of this parable, but as the limits of a single discourse did not admit of those explanations which the subject seems to demand, I shall avail myself of the present opportunity, to point out and clear the few difficulties in which it has been thought by some to be involved.
It will be observed, then, that the rich man is represented as suffering penal torments in Hell, and the poor man as enjoying perfect blessedness in Heaven, before the final resurrection to judgment.
The Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory may appear, without a due consideration of the subject, to be countenanced by this parable of our blessed Lord; and the rather, too, as some of