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correspondent that, “ for aught that appears to the contrary, Dives might have been one of the most excellent of mankind."
We are now introduced to another scene, in which the veil of futurity is drawn aside, and the two characters in our parable are represented with their conditions utterly reversed.” We see the place of torment and the abode of bliss, the spirits of the departed clothed once more in flesh, and discoursing and reasoning with each other touching their own condition and that of those whom they left upon earth. We find "he continues” an apparatus, so to speak, altogether supernatural-an imagery derived from a state of things of which we have no trace in nature, or any parallel in our Lord's teachings, or elsewhere in Scripture."
To this reasoning I would reply that, though we must admit that our Lord's parables are taken from “ agricultural or pastoral subjects, or from domestic events, and that they come home at once to the experience of every man, woman, and child,” yet we are not bound to infer that He never made use of any imagery but what was derived from the above sources. Supposing St. John xxi., verse 5, to be a strong hyperbole, yet the many other things which Jesus did were most probably accompanied by as much which He had said, and granting this, where is the impossibility that He should have made use of supernatural imagery, or rather is it not highly probable that He would do so. Is not this a perfectly fair supposition ?
Again, your correspondent declares, that “such a reference to the unseen world has not only no parallel in our Lord's teaching, but that it is not found elsewhere in Scripture.”
To this last assertion, the largest portion of the concluding chapter of Isaiah gives a " decided contradiction.” There we have a setting forth of the last judgment, when the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury and His rebuke with flames of fire. “And it shall come to pass, that I will gather all nations and tongues, and they shall come and see my glory. For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain. And they shall
go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhor. ring unto all flesh.”
Now, it is most evident that our Lord quotes these identical words of the prophet, expressive of the eternal fire, in the ninth chapter of St. Mark, verse 44 and 48, and that these expressions had been applied by Isaiah to those unhappy spirits on whom the
inhabitants of the new heaven and the new earth should look, they themselves being in a state of felicity. Is there any opposition here to our parable, which also opens a glimpse of the future invisible world, representing the righteous and the wicked as visible to each other ? Our Lord has employed the language of condemnation used by the prophet; why should He not have made use equally of the imagery which accompanies it ?
We read that “the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom." Can any language more emphatically declare the blessedness of the departed spirit, conveying especially to the Jewish mind an increase of that blessedness, in being conducted by God's ministers into the presence of the Father of the Faithful. We, therefore, draw the undeniable conclusion that Lazarus had been "essentially ” a man of a holy life, and are constrained to marvel at your correspondent's assertion, " That for aught that appears, Lazarus might have been one of the most worthless of mankind."
“But the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, 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. 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 these last words lies the apparent, or, as some would say, the real difficulty of the parable. Now, even supposing that this portion of it does “omit to ascribe the opposite conditions of the persons brought forward to their moral excellence or depravity while upon earth,” though such an omission may appear strange and unaccountable, we must not abandon the search after a correct interpretation, and satisfy ourselves with one, which really increases the difficulty. Even the most diligent student of Holy Writ is hardly conscious of the depth of meaning which lies hid under expressions, which are often far from implying all that they appear to say. Who would have inferred the cardinal doctrine of the resurrection from the words, “I am the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob,” unless our Lord himself had so interpreted it ? So in the present instance, the language appears to infer the doctrine of a compensation," which, of course, is not only utterly unlike our Lord's teaching, but utterly opposed to it. Moreover, to affirm that in a future state one man is to be miserable because on earth he had been prosperous, and another to be happy, because in the same state
of probation he had been in abject poverty, is a doctrine which I can hardly imagine to be sanctioned even by any“ false religion.” What, then, are we to infer from the language attributed to Abraham on this occasion ? I conceive that an under current of thought” pervades the whole of it, which can only be exhibited and brought to the surface, by applying to it the real principles of our Lord's teaching, "Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst (årenáßes, hast received out, full and completely) thy good things.” But this very reception implies in itself a corresponding obligation, to return with usury, that which has been received, as we learn from the nineteenth chapter of this very Gospel of St. Luke, in the parable of the pounds. Abraham may, therefore, very justly be supposed to say, “ You enjoyed all the most valuable gifts of fortune, and these in a heartless and selfish manner you squandered on the gratification of your appetites and passions, negligent of the claims of your poor brethren, whom you now see before you in the person of their representative, Lazarus. You are, therefore, justly condemned as an unprofitable servant, as a withered branch fit for the burning, while he, on the contrary, amid much suffering and the extreme of temporal want, has been found worthy, by his patient trust and confidence in God, to be brought into this place of happiness.” I would ask whether there is anything strained in this mode of interpreting this portion of the parable, or whether, on the contrary, it does not form an harmonious picture, consonant with itself in every part ?
Again, in a parable so eminently figurative, there seems nothing incongruous in the refusal of Abraham to send Lazarus to the rich man to relieve him. There was a moral impossibility that the righteous should again mingle with the wicked, as on earth. There was a physical impossibility, on account of the “great gulf fixed” between them.
The concluding portion of our parable is supposed by some to be intended to inculcate more strongly the necessity of a belief in Moses and the prophets. Archbishop Trench, indeed, thinks that this was its primary object. But, as your correspondent observes, “The Pharisees, of all men, were not likely to be accused of any want of such a faith, and as they did not stand in need of such a lesson, it is hardly likely that it was given.”
This view appears to me correct, since such a mode of interpretation would destroy the symmetry and harmony which reigns throughout our parable. “From motives of charity and feelings of fraternal affection, or from an apprehension that the arrival of his brethren would add poignancy to his pain and increase his
anguish, the rich man wished that Lazarus should be sent to his father's house to warn them of the dreadful fate which awaits the impenitent. The reference to Moses and the prophets was intended, then, to shew that by the supreme efficacy of the the Word of God whether, under the old or the new dispensation, or both, was a thorough conversion of heart alone to be brought about, and not by an impression upon the senses." The request was for the return of a spirit, από νέκρων πόρευθη. The reply indicates that their repentance would result "not even (où dė) from a more surprising event, the rising of one in bodily shape. It is important to bear in mind that faith is a moral act dependent on the exercise of the will or affections, as well as the understanding. Where there is a settled alienation of the will and affections from the truth, no impression made by miracles would be permanent. Accordingly, our Lord, after his resurrection, shewed Himself only to His disciples. A rule of such universal applicability, one suited to either dispensation at all times, would have had no special favour with the Pharisees.
If, then, according to the definition of Archbishop Trench, “the parable is constructed to set forth some truth spiritual and heavenly,” we have here one which vindicates the ways of God to man in a most striking manner-righteous retribution for the sin of Dives in his hard-hearted contempt of the poor and his luxurious squandering on self. What a striking echo do we find in the language of St. James, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you; your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten, and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire.”
Against that selfishness which would lead to the neglect of the poorer members of the great family of man, by which we are surrounded, our parable speaks in unmistakeable language. Any attempt, however well meant, and even conducted with a reverential spirit, to eliminate it from the rest of Scripture, if successful, would deprive us of a “warning beacon” especially needed in an age and country where the streams of luxury and civilization, at least among certain classes, run “pari passu.”
May I be permitted to hope that, as the result of my enquiries has been satisfactory to myself, it will prove equally so to those readers of The Journal of Sacred Literature who may chance to peruse it.
H. P. m Note on this passage in the Greek Testament, by W. Webster, M.A., and W. F. Wilkinson, M.A.
CONTRIBUTIONS TO MODERN ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. No. IV.-CHRONICLES OF THE CONGREGATION OF LYSA. (Continued from Vol. III.,
p. 366.) It is well known that the Protestants, in Austria, were very restricted in their religious rights after the Patent of Toleration issued by the Emperor Joseph II., so that their houses of God were not allowed to possess towers, bells, lofty windows, entrances from the street, or, speaking generally, to have the appearance of churches. It is, therefore, very natural that, in later times, now that these restrictions have ceased, they should be everywhere striving to build or acquire proper churches instead of their old and usually sorry prayer-houses or chapels. This desire is especially reasonable in places where such churches formerly existed, but were forcibly wrested from the Protestants at the time of their subjugation ; and to attain to the possession of such buildings must be very desirable to them, not only on moral but also on material grounds. Permission was given to Protestant congregations by a Court-decree, so long ago as the year 1786, to purchase secularized Catholic churches and convert them into Protestant ones; but such purchases have become much more frequent since the appearance of the Imperial Patent of April 8th, 1861, whereby complete religious freedom and equality with all recognized confessions was secured to the Protestants.
These things moved the congregation of Lysá to apply for an ancient church, which stands in the middle of the town, and is provided with a tower; and it felt itself so much the more prompted thereto as this church had not been a Catholic one, but had been formerly a Protestant church belonging to the Bohemian Brethren. Already in the year 1786, soon after the appearance of the Patent of Toleration, an attempt was made by the congregation to acquire it, but in vain.
Upon this subject the following entry stands written in the chronicles of the congregation. “ Anno Domini 1786, the members of the congregation transmitted a petition to His Majesty the Emperor at Vienna, that the old church, which stands in the middle of the town, might be sold to them: they thinking it would be easier for them to pay for the church by annual instalments than to build a new one. By supreme command a Circle-commission came soon afterwards to examine into the matter; but as both the local authorities and the chief magistrate opposed the sale of the church to the Protestant congregation, their petition was entirely rejected.” Although the attempt at that