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glory of God and our own eternal good; and especially by so using our riches, which the Bible calls the mammon of unrighteousness. So shall we make friends who may receive us, not into decaying houses on earth but into heavenly habitations-friends in the poor, the distressed, the naked, the hungry; friends in the angels; and, above all, a Friend in Christ Himself.
It is very important to draw all our ideas and opinions from the word of God, and not from the notions of men, which are so often directly opposite to the divine will. Among men, persons are often highly esteemed and valued, merely because they are rich. But with God it is not so. What is highly esteemed among men is often abomination in His sight. He does not look at our wealth, but at the use we make of it. There is no gilding men over in His sight. Again, riches are looked upon in the world as the great means of happiness, because men place their happiness in bodily ease and pleasure, which riches can purchase. Yet they cannot buy health, nor a good appetite, nor sweet refreshing sleep. Above all they cannot buy peace of mind; they cannot purchase everlasting happiness; and if with money we could procure every thing that was to be enjoyed on earth, we could only enjoy it for a little while. In a few years, at most, we must take a long leave of this world, to enter for ever on another; and we can carry nothing away with us when we die, but the precious hopes of the life to come. What a solemn and affecting picture does our Lord draw of all this, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus! Who can read it without a pang; without at least a momentary dread, lest he also should so have his good
things in this world, as to have none left for him in the world to come? Who can dwell upon this most awful and melancholy story, and not perceive that things look very differently in this world, from what they really are? See this rich man dressed in his purple and fine linen, and every day sitting down to his sumptuous fare: see too the poor miserable Lazarus lying neglected at his gate, covered with painful and disgusting sores. Within the mansion, all is splendour, magnificence, and gaiety: at the gate, rags, hunger, and misery. Had any one of us passed by at the time, what should we have said of Lazarus?
E. Ah, Mamma, how we should have pitied him, poor, miserable creature!
M. And what should we have said of Dives? should we not have thought him a most happy and enviable person? But wait a little. Wait only till they die. E. That puts me in mind, Mamma, of what Solon said to Croesus, when Croesus asked him, if he did not think him a happy man: "No man can be deemed happy till his death."
M. It was an extraordinary answer, full of wisdom and truth, though it fell from the lips of a heathen Philosopher; and though not quite the same that we are now learning from a pure and more certain source, the Fountain of eternal truth. Solon spoke only of happiness on earth, Christ of bliss on high. "And it came to pass that the beggar died." How his body was buried we are not told; but the angels waited for his spirit, and took him to the heavenly banquet to sit next to Abraham, or, as it is said in Scripture, to lay his head on Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died; for one thing happeneth unto all, high and low,
rich and poor, one with another. He too died, and was buried, no doubt, as sumptuously as he had lived. To the last his body was taken care of. But his soul? It is now separated from his body, can no longer taste of those pleasures which riches purchase, and has none of its own to take their place. In the regions of departed spirits Dives lifts up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off with Lazarus in his bosom. He is now become the beggar, entreating that the very Lazarus, who had lain at his gate neglected, should be sent to him with but a drop, nay not a drop, but the mere touch of water, to cool his burning tongue. But in vain : it was too late! the impassable gulf, the great chasm,' was fixed for ever. So that Lazarus could no longer come near to Dives, even if he would. Poor miserable Dives! Whilst he was in this world, there was no gulf between him and heaven: it was open to him then, as it still is (blessed be God!) to us. Let us not wait, as he did, until it is too late!
Yet what had he done? Had he been unjust, cruel, oppressive, or openly profligate? Nothing of this kind is said against him, but simply that he sought for all his happiness in this life, and made no preparation for the next; was rich to himself, but not towards God; spent his wealth in mere selfish enjoyment, never remembering that he was God's steward; so that Lazarus was suffered to long even for the crumbs that fell from his table! These were his crimes. It was for this he lifted up his eyes in hell, tormented in that flame! Remember this, I pray you. Oh! may God give us both grace to remember it, lest we also come to that place of torment!
E. And I am always the more sorry for him, Mamma, be cause he seems to have been so kind to his brothers.
M. The request which he makes so earnestly for them, shows us indeed that he was not what the world calls unamiable: he had feeling for his brothers though not for the poor. But his request was not granted. Why? Because if they did not believe Moses and the prophets, they would not believe, though one did unto them from the dead. The heart that does not attend to the word of God, is too hard to be softened, even by so great a miracle. Did not the Israelites become so accustomed to God's wonders in the wilderness, as to care little about them? Did not the Pharisees cavil continually at the miracles of our Lord? Are our hearts naturally better than theirs? When Lazarus did return from the dead, did the Pharisees repent? No; from that day forth they took counsel to put Jesus to death.
E. Mamma, after reading this story I do not wonder our Lord should say it is a difficult thing for a rich man to go to heaven.
M. It certainly throws much light upon those very strong expressions, which He afterwards made use of to his disciples. "Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God. And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God." Riches make men love earth, not heaven; and nothing but the especial grace of God can enable us whilst we have them, not to set our hearts upon them. With men indeed this is quite impossible, but with God all
things are possible. There are many persons, whose conduct, as far as men observe it, is all that is moral and amiable and right, but whose hearts, as God sees them, are fast tied down to this present evil world. Indeed it was a case like this which led our blessed Saviour to say, "How hardly shall men that have riches enter into the kingdom of God !" We are told that a young man came to Jesus, and said unto him, "Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life.” And we find, from our Lord's conversation with him, that there was much in his character that was lovely and good, and, more than all, an earnest desire to obtain eternal life." He wanted, however, one thing," but that the chief thing, a willingness to give up earth for heaven; treasure here below, where moth and rust corrupt, and thieves break through and steal, for everlasting treasure, and abiding riches in the kingdom of heaven. Our blessed Lord had listened to his enquiry most graciously, and looking at him with much love and compassion, invited him to leave all his riches, and to take up his cross and follow Him; adding a most encouraging promise, that, if he would do this, he should have treasure in heaven. But, unhappily, when the young man heard this, he was very sorrowful for he was very rich, and instead of following Christ, he went away grieved.
Poor unhappy young man! What a foolish choice he made! How little did he know the value of what he was giving up, and how bitterly would he repent in a short time, the choice which he had made! We hear no more of him; we are only told that Jesus looked after him sorrowfully, as he turned away, and then gave his disciples that solemn warning against the love of riches, which I noticed to you just now!