THE UNJUST STEWARD
Luke 16:1-13. “And He continued to speak to His disciples, There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and he was falsely accused to him as wasting his goods.”
a. The word here dieblethe, “accused,” E. V., is the strongest word in the Greek language for false accusation. Yet he could not help himself, but was forced to face his landlord, and abide his destiny as if he had been ever so guilty.
b. “And calling him, he said to him, What is this I hear concerning you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you are not able to be steward any longer.” We should all profit by this incident, considering the fact that we are God’s stewards, every one of us, and liable every minute to be called into His presence to give an account of our stewardship as when we pass out of this world we can be stewards no more.
c. “The steward said within himself, What shall I do? because my lord taketh my stewardship away from me. I am unable to dig; I am ashamed to beg.” The truth of it is, the man had held the office so long, and thus accustomed to mental labor only, that he had lost his ability, hardihood, and aptitude to rough work and hard manual toil, so that he was actually unable to make a living if put out of his office; while, of course, he was ashamed to turn beggar. It seems that the man had used all of his salary as fast as it came due, so that he had actually accumulated nothing, and would consequently be utterly destitute of a living if turned out of his office.
d. “I know what I shall do, in order that when I may be removed from my stewardship they may receive me into their houses.” He now proposes to do something in order to make favor with the people, so they will show him kindness, and extend him their hospitality, after he is thrown out of office. “Calling each one of the debtors of his lord, he spoke to the first, How much do you owe my lord? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said to him, Take thy accounts, and sitting down, quickly write fifty.”
Of course this was a private transaction in his office, known only to himself and the recipient. “And then he said to another, How much do you owe? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat. He says to him, Take out thy accounts, and write eighty.” So the steward doubtless went through the entire curriculum of indebtedness to his lord, meeting each debtor privately, and confidentially making these liberal donations to each one, thus bringing them under great financial obligation, so they would be ready in any emergency to reciprocate the favor. Consequently the steward would have so many people thus brought under obligations to him, that when thrown out of employment and tramping round, he would have plenty of homes and friends, and find an abundance of kind hospitality among the people to whom he had made these liberal donations.
e. “And the lord praised the unjust steward, because he acted shrewdly.” Of course, the landlord in a case of that kind would find out this extensive depletion of the accounts; but as the business was all in the hands of this steward, who was his legal and responsible agent, and authorized to sign his name to the papers, he could neither disentangle the matter nor have recourse so as to rectify the mutilations. Consequently while he could not help himself, seeing through the problem involved, and recognizing the fact that this man had brought quite a lot of his customers under lasting financial obligations to him, he said to the people, “He is a sharp, shrewd fellow, thus ingeniously managing to subserve his own interest when forced to resign his office.” Now you see this landlord emblematizes God. N.B. —
He did not praise the man for his rascality, but for his shrewdness, which is an exceedingly commendable trait. We must not apply our Savior’s metaphors indefinitely, as the illustration is generally confined to some isolated salient fact. Much confusion in Biblical interpretation arises from the misapplication of the tropes and figures used by the Holy Ghost to bring Divine truth within our comprehension. “Because the sons of this age are wiser in their generation than the sons of light.” The meaning of this is very plain. People, as a rule, provide much better for this life than that which is to come. O how difficult it is to get Christians so filled and dominated by the Holy Spirit as to subordinate time to eternity, earth to heaven, and the people to God! O how few are actually living for heaven, with an eye single to the glory of God! When the things of this world are so fleeting and transitory, how strange that even Christians do not more faithfully obey the Savior’s commandment: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust do corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also!”
f. “I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, in order that when it may fail you, they may receive you into eternal habitations.” The “mammon of unrighteousness” is money, the “unrighteousness” signifying the fraudulent manner in which it is so frequently obtained, the word here being inserted in continuation of the preceding narrative, where the steward acted fraudulently, and yet very wisely, his lord commending his wisdom, but not his fraud. Now the answer to the above question simply involves the solution of the problem by which we can all make money our friend. We frankly admit that money is a wonderful power. Why does England, a small island in the Atlantic Ocean, girdle the world with her commerce, overawe the time-honored nations with her gunboats, and constrain all the powers of earth to recognize her as “Mistress of the Seas?” The principal reason is because she has been piling up gold in the Bank of England a thousand years. Hence her money-power solves the problem. When mammon gets you by the throat, she is almost certain to drag you into hell. There is a way by which you can make money your friend, instead of permitting it to be your enemy. What is that way? It is none other than entire sanctification. The truly sanctified man has made money his friend, ready to go at his bidding and come at his beck, so that he rules it, sending it on missions of love and mercy, to shine the light of truth and holiness into the dark hovels of poverty, sin, and misery; causing prisoners to rejoice, and hell-dens to be transformed into heavenly vestibules, and missionaries to cross the great oceans and light the antipodean continents with the glory of God; and bring heaven down to bless the sable children of Ham as they tread the burning sands of the Dark Continent; cause the wild sons of Esau to rejoice in the glorious benedictions of Abraham’s God, the red men of the Orient to turn away from their dumb idols and glorify the God of Israel, and the almond-eyed Chinaman and the wild Tartar hordes to hail with joy the glorious coming King, turn evangelists, and roll the celestial fire from arctic mountains to equatorial seas. Now we are well assured that we will all soon fail in this world, when we must go into eternity. This man, through the instrumentality of money, brought many people under obligation to him, so that when turned out of his stewardship, to abide his destiny a penniless tramp, he had so many people thus indebted to him that he actually found it more comfortable tramping than performing the duties of his office, as doors were thrown open on all sides, and a hearty welcome extended from many homes to come and abide with them indefinitely, without money and without price. When we die, we all surrender up our stewardship. Now, do you not know that many poor widows, beggars, invalids, and especially the heathens, who have been saved by your money, whose names you have never heard, will get to heaven, in all probability, before you are called to give up your stewardship? Do you not know that all the saints have guardian angels, whether in America, Africa, Asia, or the islands of the sea? Thee guardian angels are posted about our relations either to other. Now the end has come, and it is said, “You can be steward no longer;” i.e., “You die today.” Do you not know that the guardian angels around your dying bed will wing their flight to heaven, and there notify the beneficiaries of your philanthropy that you are coming? Do you not know that they will ring the bells of heaven, blow the jubilee trumpets, come sweeping out through the gate in shining platoons, calling your name, with a long, loud “Welcome home!” thus actually verifying this promise of Jesus to receive you into eternal habitations?
g. “He who is faithful in little is faithful in much; and he who is unjust in little is unjust in much.” So if you are faithful, industrious, frugal, and economical in the little things of temporal life, it is demonstrative proof, as a rule, that you are faithful in the great things of God and heaven. This is an awful argument against laziness and carelessness appertaining to temporal things. As a rule, indifference, indolence, and neglect of house, farm, books, education, and all phases of temporal interest, are indices of a corresponding indifference and depreciation in the great things of the kingdom. Hence it is exceedingly difficult for a lazy person to be a Christian. “If therefore you are not faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will intrust to you the true? There is a woeful blindness among Christians, and even holiness people, on this very subject of industry, economy, and frugality. So many would like to go to the Holy Land, but stagger when those who have been there testify that it is impossible to make the trip on less than one thousand dollars, while it is unsafe to start with less than twice that amount. All that is true, if you sail first-class and eat at tables. I very recently traveled through England, France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Syria, and the Holy Land, seventeen thousand miles, on four hundred dollars, sailing second class, and when on land buying my own edibles, and thus boarding myself, living elegantly everywhere I went, in Europe, Asia, Africa, as well as America, on fifteen cents a day, and always having money to give the poor beggars and help the missionaries in all of my travels, which is no small matter in the Old World. Well has the poet said,
“Man wants but little here below, Nor wants that little long.”
It takes so little to live on in this world that any person who has the use of bodily organs can not only make a living, but have much more to contribute for the glory of God in the amelioration of soul and body than the small pittance requisite to his fleeting life. A girl in New England, only twelve years old, made and sold maple-sugar and built stone fence to the amount of ninety dollars, every cent of which she gave the missionary cause, as she lived with her parents and did not need the money. “If you are unfaithful in another’s business, who will commit to you your own?” This life is so complicated “that no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself,”
our affairs being so identified with the interest of others that, either directly or indirectly, we are working for one another. Not so in spiritual things. Every tub stands on its own bottom. You can go to heaven if all your neighbors go down to hell, et vice versa. So if you are not faithful, true, reliable, industrious, economical, and frugal in temporal things, can you expect God to entrust to you the priceless investment of glory and immortality? The presumption is, you would fail.
h. “No servant is able to serve two masters; for he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cleave to the one and despise the other, You are not able to serve God and mammon.” You see from our Savior’s conclusion of this notoriously mysterious parable (as generally considered), while temporal things are indices of spiritual, and as a rule both are appreciated or neglected together, yet we must not forget that making the best we can of all temporal things, as God’s faithful stewards we are to subordinate them indiscriminately to the glory of God. If we permit a competition to rise between the things of this world, here emblematized by mammon, and the things of God, His claims upon us, our duties and responsibilities, we will end in wreckage. God made the material world, and gave us these mortal bodies, vehicles of probation, and requires us to appreciate, appropriate, and utilize the elements of earth, air, and water for His glory; meanwhile all temporal labors, enterprises, and achievements are to be subordinated to the will of God, and utilized with an eye single to His glory in the amelioration of humanity and the salvation o£ the world. John Wesley’s maxim is here exceedingly appropriate: “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.” You see, the final evolution of this mysterious parable culminates in that full and perfect sanctification which alone can make mammon your friend, submissive to your mandamus, meekly wheeling into line, and becoming your most potent ally in the salvation of the world. If your life does not thus culminate in complete and perfect victory over money and all temporal things, so that you can ungrudgingly and joyfully subordinate them to the sweet will of God in every respect, you still leave a handle for Satan to take hold of, divert you from the narrow way, and drag you down to endless woe.
Luke 16:14-15. “And the Pharisees, being money lovers, were hearing all these things, and murmuring against Him.” If you preach holiness like lightning, as Jesus did, money-loving Church members will raise a lugubrious howl. “He said to them, You are those justifying yourselves before men, but God knoweth your hearts; because that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” The very things which exalt you in the estimation of the people; i.e., wealth, position, human honor, office, and aggrandizement — unless accompanied by the true sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, sweetening all with perfect meekness, humility, and love, are an abomination in the sight of God. Lord, open our eyes to the abominations abounding in the popular Churches!
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Luke 16:16-18. “The law and the prophets were till John; since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every one passeth into it.” These Pharisees hung on His track like lightning on the skirts of the clouds, barking and snapping at everything He said; because the red-hot truth which Jesus preached was awfully repellent to these galvanized hypocrites, who, with their preachers to help them, were laboring incessantly to justify themselves, and were professedly great sticklers for the law and the prophets; i.e., the O. T. Scriptures. Jesus here informs them that the old dispensation actually wound up with John the Baptist, the last of the prophets, who formally superseded it by introducing Jesus to the world, and ceremonially inaugurating Him into His official Messiahship. As He is Mediatorial King, His very office, preaching, and presence normally introduce the kingdom whithersoever He goes. Hence He announces to them that the kingdom of God has superseded the law and the prophets, and every truly. awakened soul is pressing into it. It is equally true this day.
The kingdom of God is all and in all to every true heart, and throughout the evangelical world there is a constant pressing into it. We enter it through the narrow gate of regeneration, and are established in it by the stupendous work of entire sanctification.
“But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than one item of the law to fall.” Though we live in the dispensation of the gospel kingdom, which superseded that of the law and the prophets, as our Savior well reminds us, we must not conclude that a solitary. item of the law is ignored or becomes null and void. The ceremonial law of bloody sacrifices, symbolizing the vicarious atonement, was all fulfilled, when Jesus bled and died on the cross. The vast expurgatory watery. ablutions, symbolizing the sanctification of the Spirit, were fulfilled when the Holy Ghost descended in fiery baptisms on the day of Pentecost. The supersession of the law and the prophets by the kingdom of God is only affected so far as the O. T. symbolism is verified in N. T. experiences.
“Every one putting away his wife, and marrying another, committeth adultery; and every one marrying her who has been put away by her husband, committeth adultery.” The Jews had very loose views on the marriage relation, frequently sending away the wife for a diversity of trivial causes, supplying her place by another. They claimed that they had a right under the law of Moses to do those things; meanwhile they set great store on those privileges. Jesus, knowing the hearts of those corrupt, bigoted Pharisees, exposes their spiritual obliquity by these plain deliverances in reference to the marriage relation. Those scribes and Pharisees had ingeniously manipulated the Scriptures of Moses mad the prophets, misconstruing them in the defense of their iniquitous lives.
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS
Luke 16:19-31. “And there was a certain rich man, and he was clothed in purple and fine linen, faring sumptuously every day.”
a. This was a rich Jew, living like a king at his own expense, daily wearing a royal scarlet robe, manufactured by the Syrians for the especial use of kings; meanwhile, for his underwear, he used the fine linen made by the Egyptians. Hence he not only dressed like a king, but, as we here see, he ate like one, having a royal festival in his palatial mansion every day. Of course, he was very popular, inviting the royalty, nobility, and aristocracy to eat with him day by day, who complimented his generous hospitality by feasting at his table.
b. “And there was a certain beggar by name Lazarus laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed from the crumbs having fallen from the rich man’s table; but the dogs, coming, continued to lick his sores.” The friendly animals thus showing him kindness, soothing his suffering, and keeping him company. There is no word in the original here signifying “crumbs.” We simply have the article and the participle, including the “fragments” left by the guests who ate at his table. These fragments were good enough for a king. The conclusion is, that Dives was a very generous, large-hearted man, giving liberally and freely to beggars, Lazarus having the fortune to be one of his beneficiaries. Doubtless this royal aristocrat was much esteemed by the beggars, who held him in grateful remembrance for the sake of his many benefactions. Great houses in the Old World are built in a quadrangular shape, with a large open court in the interior, where the sun shines down and the rains fall. The gate enters this interior court, from which, through porticoes, the different apartments of the mansion are entered. I have seen these gates, with a comfortable house built over them, designated “porter’s lodge;” i. e., the residence of the gate-keeper and other servants. It is more than likely Lazarus was in a place of this kind.
c. “And it came to pass that the beggar died, and was carried by angels into the bosom of Abraham.” As God reiterated the mediatorial covenant with Abraham which He had made with Christ before the foundation of the world, providing salvation for the entire fallen race (Galatians 3:16), and that covenant must be confirmed, ratified, and verified by the blood of Jesus on the cross before any one could enter heaven, Jesus, being “the First-fruits of them that slept,” must lead the way into glory before any of His brethren could enter the glorified presence, consequently the O. T. saints were gathered into the intermediate paradise, here denominated “Abraham’s bosom,” and there abode till the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant by the expiatory work of Christ; therefore we see that Lazarus, though a poor beggar and eminent saint, is carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. Nothing is said about his body, as he was unable to purchase a place in a sepulcher. Doubtless his beggar-comrades carried away his ulcerated corpse, and deposited it in some cave, or covered it in a deep ditch.
d. “The rich man also died, and was buried.” The phraseology in the original warrants the conclusion that Dives was complimented with a magnificent funeral service and a royal burial. Doubtless a beautiful sepulcher was prepared at great cost, and most brilliant funeral obsequies performed by the higher clergy in their gorgeous robes, and all accompanied with great pomp and pageantry; and an eloquent sermon delivered, eulogizing him for his magnanimity, philanthropy, and loyalty to the Church, of which he was a leading official. “And in Hades, lifting up his eyes, being in torments, he sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.” Some have concluded from this that heaven and hell are visible, either from other, which, I now, is a great mistake. We have two Greek words translated hell in E. V., Hades, from a, “not,” and eido, “to see,” meaning simply the unseen world, including both heaven and hell; and Gehenna, the land of Hinnom, originally applied to that deep mountain gorge southwest o£ Jerusalem, where the Israelites from the days of Solomon were accustomed to offer their children in sacrifice to Moloch, an Ammonitish idol, represented by a brazen statue, with the body of a man and head of an ox, all hollow, and heated intensely by an internal fire, so that the infant laid in his arms was consumed, thus endeavoring to propitiate the anger of this evil demon by human sacrifices. When King Josiah purified Jerusalem and Israel of idolatry, he had this valley polluted by throwing the dead animals and offal of the city into it, where they were burnt with fire, thus perpetuating the devouring flame incessantly in the Valley of Hinnom. Consequently this Greek word Gehenna, is used in the New Testament to denote the perpetual fires which devour the wicked in the world of woe. Here we find that both Dives and Lazarus went into the intermediate world; i.e., Hades. The Old Testament recognizes the good as well as the bad going down to Sheol; i. e., Hades. When the witch of Endor called on the spirits to come from the unseen world, God sent up Samuel, His holy prophet, who told King Saul of his fate on the morrow, when he and his three sons would fall on Mount Gilboa, and he said to him, “You will be with me.” Saul was a hopeless backslider, and died by suicide. We have no evidence that any of his sons were ever saved. Hence we see that all the disembodied went into Hades, the righteous, like Lazarus, into the intermediate paradise — i. e., Abraham’s bosom; and the wicked, like Dives, into Tartarus, the place of perpetual fire. (2 Peter 2:4.) Hence you see both Lazarus and Dives went into Hades — i. e., the unseen world — Lazarus into paradise, and Dives into the devouring flames.
e. “And he, calling, 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; because I am tormented in this flame.” You see clearly that Dives was a member of the Jewish Church, having stood at the front, beloved and honored for his liberality and loyalty, a favorite with the preachers as well as the magnates of the ecclesiasticism. He died in the full assurance that all was well, and was awfully surprised when he found himself in hell. How the wealthy, influential Church members especially should take warning from this notable case, and how should the pitiful Nohellites hear the alarm from Dives, already in the hell which they ridicule! Some of them endeavor to dodge the issue, because they say this is a parable, and not literal. That is their own fabrication. Jesus nowhere calls it a parable. It is a historic transcript, given by our Savior, from the Jewish Church in bygone ages, by way of alarm to those bigoted priests and Pharisees in his audience who were in the very same dilemma. You see from this that the man who denies the revelation of hell-fire and torment flatly contradicts Jesus, and is an infidel of the very worst type. We must take all of the Bible or none. “And Abraham said, Child, remember that in thy life thou didst receive thy good things, and Lazarus likewise evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.” Dives had lived for this world, depending on Churchisms to save him. Lazarus lived for heaven, wearing the world’s loose garment, ready to drop it off at a moments warning. We are all in the succession of Dives or Lazarus. “You can not serve God and mammon.” Dives tried it, like millions of others, and signally failed. If you would live in heaven, you must live for heaven in this world. The reason why so few reach the kingdom is because they try to take the world with them.
f “And in addition to all these things, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, in order that those wishing to cross over from hence to you may not be able, nor may they cross thence unto us.” We know not the amount of transient light from the Noachian dispensation which lingered among the Greeks and Romans two thousand years ago, when their poets and philosophers beautifully corroborated this Scripture in their expositions of the disembodied state, teaching that all souls go in-to Hades — the righteous into Elysium, a place of unmingled joy and ineffable bliss, while the wicked are cast into the unquenchable fires of Tartarus; meanwhile an impassable gulf, which they call Cocyus, rolling a deep murky bog at the bottom, whose billows articulate mournful wails as they roll on. This, you see, literally corroborates the above statement of Abraham to Dives. When Jesus expired on the cross His human soul descended into Hades (1 Peter 3:19), and proclaimed His victory in the pandemonium, triumphing over all the demons of the pit. Then crossing that deep chasm, impassable to all but Him, He enters the intermediate paradise, and meets the saved thief before midnight, according to promise (Luke 22:43): “This day thou shalt be with Me in paradise.” Meanwhile all the Old Testament saints run to meet Him, crowd round Him, and O what a jubilee runs through the ensuing Sabbath! The first day of the week, supervening from midnight, He abolishes that intermediate paradise, leading captivity captive (Ephesians 4:8-10); and now, ascending back to earth the way He had descended, accompanied by all the mighty host of O. T. saints, He enters the sepulcher and receives His body, which of course was visible, the sainted host being invisible, because disembodied. The saints linger with Him during the forty days, accompanying Him in His glorious ascension up from Mount Olivet, He leading the way, darting through trackless ether at lightning speed, passing rolling worlds, blazing suns, wheeling spheres, and flaming comets. David’s prophetic eye (Psalms 24) catches the triumphal procession, and hears the exultant shout: “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and let the King of glory come in. Who is this King of glory?” is shouted back from the celestial portals. “The Lord, mighty to save; He is the King of glory.” Then the pearly portals are lifted high and swing wide. The Prince of glory heads the sanctified host. They sweep in, saluted by millions of angels, archangels, cherubim, and seraphim. Circling up, they halt before the Great White Throne, and Jesus says to His Father, “Behold, I and the children Thou hast given Me.” Now, such a testimony as the angels never heard follows. Father Abraham mounts a celestial pinnacle, and tells the wonders. of redeeming love. Isaac, Jacob, Job, and all the prophets, follow in quick succession, holding the unfallen angels spellbound by their thrilling rehearsals of the triumphs of redeeming grace, till all heaven roars and reverberates with congratulatory salutations and hallelujahs. Whereas the intermediate paradise (“Abraham’s bosom”) was abolished, as above specified, Jesus leading the way into heaven and all the O. T. saints following. From that date heaven has been open to all the children of the kingdom (Ephesians 4:8-10); Tartarus, the fiery prison of demons and disembodied sinners, still continues in the earth’s interior, and will there remain till the general resurrection, the cremation and sanctification of the earth, when, from the final judgment (Revelation 20:15), they will be “cast in, to the lake of fire,” located “in outer darkness;” i.e., darkness outside of the illuminated universe. Now, when we consider the astronomical revelation of one hundred and seventeen millions of glowing suns, and contemplate the distance to which they transmit light, and remember that the location of the ultimate doom of the wicked is so infinitely distant that the combined illumination of these one hundred and seventeen millions of suns can never reach it with a solitary ray, then you may have some vague apprehension of the immeasurable distance to which God is going to banish the incorrigible and unsavable in the ultimate finale, thus banishing them so far away that no finite being can ever return to trouble His peaceful and holy universe. Thus the grand ultimatum of the redemptive scheme is to save all the savable, and ultimately remove the incorrigible and unsavable away to that infinitely distant void, where unquenchable fires flame in black, dismal horror, producing no light. O how momentous the responsibility of all probationary, created intelligences, and what an infinite combination of potent inspirations accumulate all round us, flooding us with incentives to a holy experience in life, fraught with eternal moment!
g. “And He said, Therefore I pray thee, O father, that thou mayest send him to the house of my father: for I have five brothers; in order that he may witness to them, that they may not come to this place of torment. But Abraham says, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. And he said, No, Father Abraham; but if any one may go to them from the dead, they will repent. And he said to him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded if one may rise from the dead,” Here we see a clear refutation of the popular dogma so emphatically preached in the carnal Churches; i.e., that all who love the Lord are justified. This is true of the agape, Divine “love,” in the E. V., erroneously translated “charity” (e.g., 1 Corinthians 13), but not of philia, the love of friendship; i.e., human love, in contradistinction to the love of God, which is exotic in the human heart, which remains a stranger to it till the Holy Ghost pours it out (Romans 5:5) in regeneration, while the philia, human love, is indigenous in all mankind, sinners as well as saints. The popular: dogmatism, so prominent in the Churches, that the love of the brethren is an index of regeneration is woefully misapprehended and misconstrued, being true of the agape, Divine love, but not true of the philia, human love. Here we have an unanswerable refutation of this dogma, so prominent in the popular Churches. We see members gladly received in platoons on the profession that they love the brethren, the preacher then assuming that they “have passed from death unto life” (1 John 3:14), which would be true if their love had been poured out in their heart by the Holy Ghost; but otherwise utterly untrue, a they simply love the brethren with human love, which. is peculiar to all sinners, not only in this life, but as w see in the case of Dives, even surviving death, as you here observe that he loved his brethren so dearly while in hell that he wanted to send them a missionary, to say their souls and keep them out of that devouring flame. I certainly do commend his judgment in selecting Lazarus, the hottest holiness crank he had ever known Hence you see that, so far as grace is concerned, the popular Churches that are so ready to take in member on a simple profession of love for the brethren, might: go down to the regions of woe, and there take in mere hers to their satisfaction, as we -have no fight to conclude that Dives is the only soul in hell who truly loves his brethren, as he proved it by manifesting the greatest enthusiasm in behalf of their salvation. The truth of the matter is, if you really have the agape poured out in you heart by the Holy Ghost, it will be attested by a clear conversion, accompanied by the witness of the Spirit and a conviction for entire sanctification soon following as normally as the shadow follows the substance. Sore very striking coincidences are suggested by this narrative delivered by our Lord. But a few days previously He had raised Lazarus, of Bethany, from the dead, who was with Jesus at that time, and even under His convincing testimony, those proud Pharisees did not repent. Within a few days afterward, Jesus Himself came forth from the dead; yet those scribes and Pharisees did not repent. Therefore, at that time, they had a literal demonstration of the truth as spoken by Abraham, who said, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, they will not be persuaded even though one should rise from the dead.” At the same time we have an ostensible demonstration of the rich man’s mistake in thinking his brethren would repent, if one should come from the dead.
h. There is a grand significance in these two prominent biographies, broad as the world, and comprehensive of all the teeming millions who have trodden terra firma from Adam down to the latest posterity that shall stand on the terminus of time and look out into boundless eternity. There is absolutely no exception. Every son and daughter of Adam’s race is in the succession of Dives in hell or Lazarus in heaven. These two characters are strikingly contrastive at three grand, salient points; i. e. living, dying, and beyond the grave. While living, the contrast is decidedly in favor of Dives. He lived in royal splendor, having more than heart could wish. His riches, honors, and pleasures were without embargo; while Lazarus was at the other pole of the battery, a penniless beggar, destitute of everything calculated to render this life comfortable and desirable. Here is Satan’s occult trap, in which he caught Dives, and the multiplied millions now populating hell. No wonder the saved are few, when only one here and there has the stamina to resist the temptations of riches, honors, pleasures, worldly aggrandizements and emoluments. Very adroitly has Satan long ago appropriated religion, using it as a veil to hide the smoke and flames of hell, and a greased plank to slide his deluded rotaries in. Humanity is magnetized by the splendor of Dives, and horrified by the degradation and suffering of Lazarus, thus drawn toward the one and driven from the other. This is the fundamental reason why perdition devours humanity with such fearful voracity, and heaven gets but here and there a traveler. Now we perceive the contrast these diametrically opposite characters exhibit in the article of death. On the human side, the old contrast is perpetuated — pomp, pageantry, and royal splendor gathering around the deathbed of Dives, and even running on through the magnificent funeral, eloquent sermon, and royal interment which followed; meanwhile, the tattered beggars, amid the bleak winds, constitute the faithful cohort gathered around the dying beggar, and carrying away His ulcerated corpse, coffinless, shroudless, and sepulcherless, covering it up in the burning sand, to await the resurrection trump. But another scene, thrillingly contrastive, visible only to immortal eyes, climaxes both of these deathbeds. The royalty, nobility, elite aristocracy, and robed clergy are no obstruction to the black cohort of demons which come up from the bottomless pit, and arrest the soul of Dives simultaneously with its evacuation of the body, and drag it down to hell; meanwhile the forlorn visages, naked limbs, and emaciated forms of the ragamuffins who stand around the pallet on which dying Lazarus bids the world adieu, are no barricade against the bright angel band from glory, descending and lighting the scene with the unearthly splendor of radiant pinions, while they congratulate their heroic brother on the victory won over the world, the flesh, and the devil, and probation triumphantly sustained to its glorious termination, under the bright smiles of heaven and the approval of the Father: “Well done, My son! Come away from that land of storm, trouble, sorrow, and suffering. The fair fields of glory are open to your ingress, while saints and angels shout you welcome to their heavenly home.” Finally, we see another exceedingly decisive contrast: Lazarus has joined the patriarchs and prophets, martyrs and saints, of all bygone ages, who have been gathered by the angels and garnered in Abraham’s bosom; meanwhile we hear the mournful wail of Dives, crying from the fiery depths of Tartarus for water to cool his parched tongue. He cries in vain, for there was none to help. The billows of fire which then rolled over him will inundate him with flames inextinguishable through the flight of eternal ages.
i. Without a dissenting voice, all immortal intelligences respond: “Let me die like Lazarus. I want the angels to come for me and take me to heaven.” While all aspire to the glorious triumphs of Lazarus in death and in eternity, why do so few ever reach this grand desideratum? It is because they are unwilling to live like Lazarus. They all warn to live like Dives. What God hath joined together, no man can separate. If you would succeed Lazarus in death and eternity, you must succeed him in life. Were not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Job all rich men? Was not Daniel prime-minister of the universal Chaldean Empire, handling bushels of gold? To these questions we certainly respond in the affirmative. Yet these patriarchs and prophets had the experience, patience, resignation, and humility of Lazarus, beautifully illustrated in the case of Job, who, when brought clown from millionaireship to beggarly destitution, his body covered with blackleprosy and eaten by vermin, was true as an angel and courageous as a martyr, abundantly confirming and authenticating the conclusion that he was ready for all the poverty and suffering of Lazarus, even while in possession of royal affluence. The trouble with Dives was that of millions now. Though a Church member, he was without experimental salvation, this being the reason why his soul was lost, his vast estate, abstractly, having nothing to do with it. While earthly possessions open a thousand doors to the vices and follies incident to worldly pleasure, honor, and aggrandizement, yet Omnipotent grace, which is free for the rich as well as the poor, is more than a match for the demoniacal platoons that swarm up from hell and besiege you on all sides. So if you would die like Lazarus and meet the angels, ready to waft you to the paradise of God, you must have his experience and life of self-denial, humility, and holiness. The trouble with Dives was that, while a great Church member, he depended on the form, while destitute of the spirit and the power. Now, reader, it is certain that you are in the succession of the one or the other of these conspicuous and diametrically opposite characters. If you are living in the succession of Lazarus, the angels will come for you when you die and take you to heaven. If in the succession of Dives, the demons from the pit will seize you the moment you evacuate the body, and you, with him, will “lift up your eyes in hell, being in torments.” Will you not settle this matter quickly? We are so exceedingly fortunate in the Biographer who gives us these two antipodal characters. We are all fond of reading biographies; but there is one serious trouble which looks us all in the face, and that is, that no biographer in all the ages has ever delineated his subject beyond the grave when they reach the dark river, the black curtain always falls. Consequently all human biography is restricted to this life. Not so with Dives and Lazarus. Our Biographer is as familiar with eternity as time. Consequently, He unhesitatingly pursues both of these characters, right through the dark portal of death, into the infinite beyond, giving us the history of one of them as wailing in the flames of hell; and the other, wafted by the angels to the paradise of God. Be sure that, in the clear light of the Holy Ghost, you calculate your spiritual latitude and longitude, and ascertain definitely and indubitably whether you are in the succession of Dives or Lazarus!
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Godbey, William. "Commentary on Luke 16". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany