« PreviousContinue »
passages of Scripture, might have led Mr. Flower to pause before he asserted that the after-state here delineated was a final one. The parable describes the separation immediately following death, a state irrevocable but not final. It no more represents the righteous and the wicked as having passed already to their final state, than did the promise of Jesus to the thief on the cross assure him that he should soon be in that heaven whither no man, save the Son of Man, hath ascended (John iii. 13). Surely Mr Flower will not also assert that the words, “This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise,” are at variance with those passages in which our Lord fixes the final separation at the future day of judgment.
We must dwell on one other point. If this parable were not spoken by our Lord, how do we come to possess it ? How does it happen to be so strongly, and, we must believe, indissolubly connected with the rest of His discourse ? It is found in all the manuscripts of this gospel; their readings agree with a singular unanimity. It is contained in almost every version. It is quoted by a host of early Christian writers. And yet Mr. Flower calmly suggests that it was inserted in some early manuscript by the mistake of some transcriber. This is a dangerous statement to make in the face of the strongest evidence, and without a vestige of authority. On such grounds, we may cut every word out of the Book of God. We totally deny that “there are well-known instances of similar additions.” Such doubtful passages as those often debated in the writings of St. John are not supported by a tittle of the evidence which can be summoned in behalf of this parable.
But the climax is yet to come. We are informed, also, whence the cunning transcriber obtained this magnificent parable; from a certain apologue, “very closely resembling it,
a and known to the Jews long before our Lord's time.” We confess ourselves hopelessly ignorant. By what authority this is stated, we are utterly at a loss to imagine,-until we hear that it “is to be found in the Gemara Babylonicum.” Thus, in a work, not compiled like the Mishna at the end of the second century, not even like the Gemara of Jerusalem in the. third or fourth, but written or fabricated, at the earliest, in the fifth or sixth century ; in a work teeming with the most absurd fables, with the most false and blasphemous insinuations against our blessed Lord himself, are we to look for the origin of a parable handed down to us, as it were from the very lips of Jesus. We must have better testimony than that of malicious and fraudulent Jewish Rabbis, if we are to believe that this cited apologue was extant in the time of our Saviour. May we not ask, in the name
of all reason and all justice, whether these Talmudic writers did not, just as they have done again and again, look back and appropriate the most striking parable of the Christian gospels ? Not through the blundering ingenuity of the ancient scribe, not through the garbled pages of the bitter enemies of our faith, but from the hand of the inspired Penman, the beloved Physician, have we received these divine words, which may yet prove to be a true medicine for our souls.
Here our observations must end. We have been obliged to confine ourselves to answering the objections put forward. It would be impossible to enter fully upon the mass of direct evidence which, we believe, might be brought forward in support of the genuineness of this parable. But, this, for the present, must suffice. We have often been twitted by our Gallic neighbours for our ill-success in the culinary art. The shafts of their wit must soon fall harmless. From the ranks of our theological writers is springing forth a very army of cooks. The British public bas seen more of the world, and is no longer satisfied with the somewhat coarse but juicy and substantial joints of past days. Hence, on every table we now find served up a réchauffé of French scoffing or German rationalism. We do not, for a moment, ascribe such an act to Mr. Flower; although almost every one of his arguments are to be found in the pages of the worst class of German writers. He truly says, that “the cause of religious truth can never suffer from a careful and critical investigation of the holy Scriptures, when conducted in a becoming spirit.” But, do we not all know how easy it is to pass the line where fair criticism ends, and sweeping conclusions take its place? We mount our hobby, and ride boldly on, perhaps regardless that we are spurring in the very teeth of the wind of. truth, and ruthlessly trampling our weaker brethren under our feet.
J. E. PRESCOTT.
II. In the last number of the J. S. L., there is an article bearing in a peculiar manner (after the manner of De Wette) on the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. In the following pages we assign reasons for giving the parable that place and explanation which thoughtful Christians have generally assigned it.
? Mr. Flower may be right in saying that our Lord never made use of the apologues with which the Jews of His time were familiar; but the compilers of the Talmud have made perfectly free with our Saviour's parables. We may instance those of the Labourers and of the Ten Virgins. NEW SERIES.- VOL. V., No. X.
1. It is introduced as a part of our Lord's discourse in answer to the derision with which the Pharisees had met not only the parable of the Unjust Steward, but other parables connected with it in time and, to a certain extent, in meaning. The severe criticism and the contemptuous feelings of the Pharisees were called forth by the welcome Jesus gave to publicans and sinners, and by his eating with them. To mark his sense of their envious and scornful behaviour and to awaken better thoughts in their minds, our Lord uttered three parables; the Lost Sheep, the Lost Piece of Money, and the Prodigal Son. The meaning of those three, in reference to the publicans and sinners on the one hand, and the Pharisees on the other, can scarcely be misunderstood. In each of them as mild a view as possible is taken of those who thought themselves superior to the publicans and sinners.
In the parable of the Unjust Steward, which immediately follows, our Lord urges the right use of riches, with special reference to the great and eternal future, and marks the impossibility of serving equally or faithfully both God and Mammon. “ The Pharisees,” who were covetous, heard all these things, that is, what our Lord had said both in this and in the preceding parables, “and they derided him." The appropriate lesson for the Pharisees to learn from this parable, would have been a resolution to be henceforth less Pharisaically exacting, and to use the remaining period of their stewardship, if still unjustly, yet, at least, more mercifully.
Its proper stress must be given to the fact, that the Pharisees derided our Lord after he uttered the parables, and especially when they heard the closing part of the last, in which the best use of riches is declared to be-their employment in making friends in heaven. Their derision was answered in a discourse, of which the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus forms the concluding part. The words, “And he said unto them,” in the .
" 13th verse, are the introduction at once to the discourse and to the parable. It is of use to notice that the particle dé connects the parable with the discourse, a fact not made known in the English Version, and entirely overlooked in Paragraph Bibles. Thus, persons ignorant of the original may imagine the parable unconnected with the discourse, or less immediately connected than it is.
The Pharisees derided our Lord in self-justification. They derided him in presence of those who had been listening to his words. They were always ready to interpret the law in their own favour and to introduce traditions besides, to which they gave a higher place than they sometimes gave to the law. Josephus, himself a Pharisee, admits that they were chargeable
with adding numerous traditions to the written law. Our Lord plainly told them that they made void the word of God through their tradition ; for they would allow a man, who was able to make provision for his father and mother, to neglect making that provision if he once promised to leave his wealth to be applied to ecclesiastical purposes by Pharisaic hands. Thus, they sanctioned the breach of the tenth commandment and of the fifth commandment also. And yet they were ready to justify themselves before men as to all these things. It was believed that they tacitly sanctioned the adultery of Herod Antipas, whom John the Baptist condemned. And it is clear, in both the cases now mentioned, that the sanction given was a gross and abominable service of Mammon. They made one law for the rich and another law for the poor.
Qur Lord has again and again described them in words which the most careless reader of the gospels must remember. And when on this occasion, of which we speak, he desired to teach them a better way of looking on riches, a more merciful way of regarding those whom they despised, and a more solemn regard to the far future in which they should have to give an account of the use they had made of riches, and of the treatment they had given to the poor and outcast; they meet him with derision.
He points to the law and the prophets, to John the Baptist's preaching, and to the gospel dispensation, as all contrary to their self-justifying views; and he charges them with violations of the law of God or wilful misrepresentations of its meaning. They are especially charged with breaking the law in the matter of divorce, and are solemnly reminded that, though they may succeed in justifying themselves before men, " that which is
" highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God;" and that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass than one tittle of the law to fail.”
2. A parable follows in precise accordance with this ; a parable in which the highly reputed rich man and the beggar full of sores are contrasted. Nothing is said of their moral character in the first picture, because that was not the main thing in the eyes of the Pharisees. They would regard the rich man and his dwelling in a very different way from that in which they would look at the beggar, who was laid at his gate full of sores. And to note a difference of character, at this stage, was to do what the Pharisee was not inclined to do, and was to hinder also the sudden effect of the second picture in which the fact of the contrast between the moral and spiritual character of the two men is solemnly sealed by the justice of God. In his state of torment, the once rich man affirms that the
law and the prophets are not likely to influence his impenitent and unbelieving brethren more than they had influenced himself. But he is answered in words which shew that the way of salvation was capable of being found by those who really obeyed the law and the prophets. That Lazarus had found this way is evident, because he is saved. The contrast holds good between the two, even where it is not expressed, save by the slightest touch of the master's hand in the two suggestive pictures. He whose help Lazarus once begged now begs the belp of Lazarus. He chose his good things, and enjoyed them in his lifetime. Had he chosen better things he would have enjoyed them now. Lazarus humbly accepted his position, too. Had Lazarus envied the rich man, or acted an impenitent and unbelieving part on earth, he would have shared the rich man's fate. The contrast still holds good. Selfishness remaining strong, in Dives, he asks Lazarus to be sent into the devouring flame on a mission of mercy. The words, “they that would pass from hence to you cannot,” allow the continued reign of merciful and self-sacrificing dispositions in the case of Lazarus and such as he. He who was once lapped in luxury is now swathed in flame. He who lay neglected at the gate of the rich man's mansion, is happy as the child who is taken out of trouble and pressed to his parent's heart. There is a great gulf fixed now, and there was a great gulf fixed before, between Dives and Lazarus. Dives would not cross the gulf between him and Lazarus when he could. Lazarus, if he would, cannot cross the gulf between
On earth, Lazarus humbly begged only the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table. In his tormented state, lives asks were it but the smallest alleviation of his pain,if Lazarus could only dip the tip of his finger in water and cool the parched tongue. In his life-time, Dives had five brethren to share in his happiness; Lazarus was befriended only by the dogs who came and licked his sores.
The difference in moral character and in spiritual aspirations, between the two men, is not enlarged upon; but it is sufficiently evident, if we believe that God is just in deciding their state after death. Nay, more, we have a key to the grand contrast between them, in the request of the rich man as to his brethren. He owns them to be impenitent and unbelieving. He knows they are likely to share his fate. Who can resist the inference that he and they resembled one another in their spiritual character ? Does he deny the justice of his doom? Does not the very slight alleviation of pain that he ventures to ask for, indicate his conviction that his doom is just.
3. Parables teach by hints, as pictures do. A person deficient