And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods.
We are God's stewards our whole life long: each day of our lives, therefore, claims its own account; each year, as it passes, suggests to us naturally such reflections, since we reckon our life by years. To many thoughtful men their own birthdays have been days of solemn self-examination. To many, the last day of the civil year brings a like reminder. Indeed, popular language recognises in it something of this power.
I. While our life is full of vigour, such anniversaries, however, invite us to look forward as well as backward. The end of an old year is the beginning of a new one. To look back is for a Christian to repent, since the best of us is but a sinner before God; but repentance should bear fruit in new life. And if we have abused God's gifts in the past year, the approaching festival of Christmas with the whole train of holy seasons that follow one after another, and bringing manifold reminders of God's love to man, tells us that there is help in heaven, help ready for us on the earth, if we will even now turn to God and amend our lives. Advent, Christmas, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension Day, are not only thankful commemorations before God of glorious things done for us in past time; they are not only settings forth before man of great events of which we might neglect to read, or read carelessly, in Scripture. They serve to remind us also of a God, ever-living and ever-present, able and willing to renew to us daily those great blessings which our Lord lived and died on earth to win for us all.
II. But as anniversaries multiply upon us, as the years behind us are many, the years to come few in comparison, my text has a meaning for us which deepens continually—a meaning which cannot but force itself on the attention of those who avoid generally serious thoughts. The end of life is in very deed the end of our stewardship. We know little of the existence appointed for us between death and judgment. Little has been told us, except in brief and momentous outline of that which is to come after the Judgment Day. But we have no reason to think that in either there will be room for further probation for use or misuse of gifts and opportunities. As we draw near to the end of this earthly life our thoughts are apt to retrace the space which we have crossed. We find that we have done little, far less than we might have done, because our own indolence made us decline the task, or private aims warped and marred our public action. And yet another question remains which we put to ourselves as we look back on our past life. How have we done our duty to God in it? Ability to know God and to serve Him is one portion assuredly of our stewardship; and as we draw near to the end of life, we cannot but ask ourselves how we have used it. We alone know—I do not say that we ourselves know perfectly—whether we have sought to draw near to God, to know, serve, and love Him in real earnest. In the retrospect of which I have been speaking, there is more of sadness and less of hope. Little time, little opportunity, remain for amendment. But there is hope for us still. God's love, God's mercy, is inexhaustible. Humbly, trustfully, lovingly, we must cast all our sins before the throne and commit ourselves to God's mercy in the Name of Him who heard and accepted the thief upon the cross.
Archdeacon Palmer, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, Dec. 4th, 1879.
References: Luke 16:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 192; E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. i., p. 64; F. O. Morris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 276; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 91; H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 77; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 353. Luke 16:3.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 111. Luke 16:5.—J. M. Neale, Occasional Sermons, p. 132. Luke 16:5-7.—Ibid., Sermons in a Religious House, 2nd series, part i., 231.
Luke 16:8I. It is a remarkable story told by the poet Cowper of himself, that, when he was a young man, and living in London, where his companions were not only persons of profligate life, but of low and ungodly principles, they always had a great advantage over him when arguing upon the truth of Christianity by reproaching him with the badness of his own life. In fact, it appears that his life at that time was quite as bad as theirs, and they used to upbraid him for it; telling him that it would be well for him if they were right and he wrong in their opinions respecting the truth of the Gospel; for if it were true, he certainly would be condemned upon his own showing. These men, like the unjust steward in the parable, had at least the merit of acting wisely upon their own view of the matter; they made the mammon of unrighteousness—that is, the riches and enjoyments of the world—serve their turn for all that they believed them capable of yielding. And therefore Christ makes their conduct a reproof to Christians, who do not make the world yield to them that fruit which, according to their professed belief, it might afford them.
II. The lesson which the parable of the unjust steward is designed to teach us is, that nothing is more unworthy, nothing more ruinous, than to be a Christian by halves; to begin to build, and not be able to finish. Salt is good, but the salt that has lost its savour is good neither for the land nor yet for the dunghill, but men cast it out; and even so vile and worthless is that Christian, in name only, who does not live according to his own principles but in defiance of them—who, with a journey to an eternal state opened before him, plays away his time on the road, and makes no provision for the end of his pilgrimage.
III. This one parable of our Lord's is to many a stumbling-block and to few so useful as it ought to be. To make to ourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, an English reader naturally understands to mean to make the mammon of unrighteousness, or unrighteous riches, our friends; whereas the real meaning of the words is: "Make to yourselves friends with, or by, the mammon of unrighteousness; that is, so use the riches and other advantages of this world that they may gain you friends hereafter—friends that will stand by you, when the riches themselves have perished. I need hardly add what these friends are—the record of good done upon earth, of misery relieved, of folly enlightened, of virtue encouraged and supported—the record of their thankful voices, who, having received from us good things in this world, shall welcome us with thanks and blessings, when we all stand together before Christ's judgment-seat.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 205.
Luke 16:8-9The Unjust Steward.
I. It is impossible to read this parable, and our Lord's remark upon it, without being struck by the broad assertion that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light. The children of light are those who have been called to a knowledge of the Gospel, and who have given ear to that call, at least in some measure. The child of this world, on the other hand is one who, like Gallio, the Roman governor, cares for none of these things. Now of these two men, our Lord says, the child of this world is wiser in his generation, mind; that is, wiser in his own time. He who chose his path like a fool, walks along it like a wise man, he who chose his like a wise man, walks along it like a fool. The true child of this world is thorough-going, active, persevering. When he has made up his mind that this or that thing is desirable, he sets his heart upon having it. Mammon is the god he has chosen for himself, and he serves his god, as a god ought to be served, with all his heart, with all his mind, and with all his strength. He is wise, therefore, in his way.
II. Turn now to the children of light, and tell me whether you can see the like marks of wisdom in them. We profess to make heaven the object of our lives; are we really and earnestly following after it? Too certain it is, that we serve our God, the great Maker and Ruler of the world, with less zeal, with less affection, with less heartiness, with less truth, than the man of business his mammon, or the man of pleasure his Belial. This is the fault and frailty of our Christian life. We do our work by halves. Seeing that we do believe in Christ, seeing that we do hope and wish for heaven, let us take a lesson from the enemy, and learn the wisdom of the serpent. Let us imitate the zeal, the perseverance, the prudence, the courage, the unweariableness—in a word, the wisdom—which the children of this world show in the pursuit of their vain and perishable, of their ruinous and deadly objects. Let us be as active and as determined to please God as they are to please themselves. Then on the great day, the God who for His Son's sake will vouchsafe to accept our services and to look with favour on imperfect attempts to employ the mammon of unrighteousness in His service, will receive us into everlasting habitations.
A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 228.
Reference: Luke 16:8.—E. Cooper, Practical Sermons, vol. ii., p. 174; C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day, p. 385; Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 503; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xi., p. 141; J. Armstrong, Parochial Sermons, p. 201; Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 105; H. P. Liddon, Ibid., vol. xxvi., p. 97; I. Taylor, Saturday Evening, p. 161. Luke 16:8-12.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 277.
Luke 16:9The Earthly Life and Heavenly Training.
I. Every circumstance of man's life may become a training for immortality. The tenth and eleventh verses of this chapter imply two great principles on which this possibility is founded: (1) The eternity of God's law; (2) the perpetuity of man's character.
II. Observe the practical application of the words of our text. (1) They are a call to action. (2) They contain a lesson of encouragement.
E. L. Hull, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 144.
References: Luke 16:9.—J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 193; Church of England Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 138; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ix., p. 305; J. P. Waldo, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 84; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 257; G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons p. 296. Luke 16:9-11.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 280.
Luke 16:10Living to God in small Things.
I. Notice how little we know concerning the relative importance of events and duties. We use the terms great and small in speaking of actions, occasions, or places, only in reference to the mere outward look and first impression. We are generally ignorant of the real significance of events, which we think we understand. Almost every person can recollect one or more instances where the whole after-current of his life was turned by some single word, or some incident so trivial as scarcely to fix his notice at the time. The outward appearance of occasions and duties is, in fact, almost no index of their importance, and our judgments concerning what is great and small are without any certain validity. These terms, as we use them, are, in fact, only words of outward description, not words of definite measurement.
II. It is to be observed that, even as the world judges, small things constitute almost the whole of life. The great days of the year, for example, are few, and when they come they seldom bring anything great to us. And the matter of all common days is made up of little things, or ordinary or stale transactions.
III. It very much exalts, as well as sanctions, the view I am advancing, that God is so observant of small things. He upholds the sparrow's wing, clothes the lily with His own beautifying hand, and numbers the hairs of His children. The works of Christ are, if possible, a still brighter illustration of the same truth. Notwithstanding the vast stretch and compass of the work of redemption, it is a work of the most humble detail in its style of execution. When perfectly scanned, the work of Christ's redemption, like the created universe, is seen to be a vast orb of glory, wrought up out of finished particles.
IV. It is a fact of history and of observation, that all efficient men, while they have been men of comprehension, have also been men of detail.
V. It is to be observed that there is more of real piety in adorning one small than one great occasion. The piety which is faithful in that which is least is really a more difficult piety than that which triumphs and glares on high occasions.
VI. The importance of living to God in ordinary and small things is seen in the fact that character, which is the end of religion, is in its very nature a growth. And, accordingly, there never has been a great or beautiful character which has not become so by filling well the ordinary and smaller offices appointed of God. Private Christians are instructed by this subject in the true method of Christian progress and usefulness. If it is your habit to walk with God in the humblest occupations of your days, it is very nearly certain that you will be filled with the Spirit always. Why is it that a certain class of men, who never thrust themselves on public observation by any very signal acts, do yet attain to a very commanding influence, and leave a deep and lasting impression on the world? They are the men who thrive by constancy and by means of small advances, just as others do who thrive in wealth. They live to God in the common doings of their daily life as well as in the more extraordinary transactions in which they mingle. And their carefulness to honour God in humble things is stronger proof to men of their uprightness than the most distinguished acts or sacrifices. Such persons operate principally by the weight of confidence and moral respect they acquire, which is the most legitimate and powerful action in the world. If a Christian of this stamp has not the talents or standing necessary to lead in the most active forms of enterprise, he will yet accomplish a high and noble purpose in his life. The silent savour of his name may, perhaps, do more good after he is laid in his grave, than abler men do by the most active efforts.
H. Bushnell, The New Life, p. 191.
Luke 16:10-12This Life our Trial for Eternity.
I. It is a great and awful thought which is put before us in these words by the Saviour and Guide of our souls; the great importance, namely, of every part of our behaviour here in this present world, seeing that, from beginning to end, we are here upon our trial. The Lord and Head and Father of the family tries and proves us His children and servants whilst we are here by the little things of this world, whether we are fit to be entrusted with the great things of the world to come. The life in which we now are is our place of education, our school, our apprenticeship, which, if we get through well, we shall be ready for that which God hath prepared for us in the eternal life by-and-by. The little, short, passing affairs in which the Lord employs us now, are to us in one way great, and enduring, and eternal—for, by them, and by our behaviour in them, He would have us to become ready for the good, the true, the eternal things.
II. The true riches, given through God's mercy in Christ as a reward for our faithfulness in these mean, earthly things, are the very joy and glory of heaven itself, that joy and that glory of which it is written, that when He was rich in it, for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich. Nothing here can be truly called our own; it is only lent for a short time, just to see how we will employ it; how can it be our own, indeed, seeing we must so soon part from it? We may call it ours as little children call things their own which are put into their hands as playthings for a time; but really and truly that only is ours which we shall meet with in the other, the eternal, part of our being; that which we have committed in faith and love to the keeping of our Lord Jesus Christ, that is ours, and will be so for ever. Our time, our money, all that we will call ours, is in reality His time and money, to whom we ourselves belong. To Him we must account for all. None of them have passed away for ever; they will one day surely find us out.
J. Keble, Sermons for Sunday's after Trinity, part i., p. 283.
I. From the highest point of view true faithfulness knows no distinction between great and small duties. From the highest point of view, that is, from God's point of view, to Him nothing is great, nothing small, as we measure it. The worth and the quality of an action depend on its motive only, and not at all on its prominence, or on any other of the accidents which we are always apt to adopt as the tests of the greatness of our deeds. Nothing is small that a spirit can do. Nothing is small that can be done from a mighty motive. "Large" or "small" are not words for the vocabulary of conscience. It knows only two words, right and wrong. This thought binds together in a very terrible unity all acts of transgression, and in a very blessed oneness all acts of obedience.
II. Faithfulness in small duties is even greater than faithfulness in great. We may legitimately adopt the distinction of great and small, a distinction which is founded upon truth, in regard to the different kinds of duties which devolve upon us in our daily life, if only we remember that all such distinctions are superficial; that the great and the small, after all, run down into one. Remembering that we may, then, fairly measure our different actions by two standards: one is the apparent importance of the consequences and the apparent splendour of the act, the other is the difficulties with which we have to contend in doing it;—I think it is quite true that it is a great deal harder, in ordinary cases, for us to go on doing the little things well, than for us to do the great things well. The smallest duties are often harder, because of their apparent insignificance, because of their constant recurrence, than the great ones. Be faithful in that which is least, and the accumulation of minute faithfulnesses will make the mighty faithfulness of a life.
III. Faithfulness in that which is least is the preparation for, and secures our having, a wider sphere in which to obey God. Every act of obedience smooths the road for all that shall come after. To get the habit of being faithful wrought into our life, and becoming part of our second and truer self, that is a defence all but impregnable for us when the stress of the great trials comes, or when God calls us to lofty and hard duties.
A. Maclaren, Sermons preached in Manchester, 1st series, p. 274.
How the Little may be used to get the Great.
I. Consider that strange new standard of value which is set up here. On the one side is placed the whole glittering heap of all material good that man can touch or handle, all that wealth can buy of this perishable world; and on the other hand there are the modest and unseen riches of pure thoughts and high desires, of a noble heart, of a life assimilated to Jesus Christ. The two are compared in three points: (1) As to their intrinsic magnitude; (2) as to their quality; (3) as to our ownership of them.
II. Notice the other broad principle that is laid down in these three verses, as to the highest use of the lower good. Whether you are a Christian man or not, this is true about you, that the way in which you deal with your outward goods, your wealth, your capacity of all sorts, may become a barrier to your possessing the higher, or it may become a mighty help. The world thinks that the highest use of the highest things is to gain possession of the lowest thereby, and that truth and genius and poetry are given to select spirits, and are wasted unless they make money out of them. Christ's notion of the relationship is exactly the opposite: that all the outward is then lifted to its noblest purpose when it is made rigidly subordinate to the highest; and that the best thing that any man can do with his money is so to spend it as to purchase for himself a good degree, laying up for himself in store a good foundation that he may lay hold on eternal life.
III. One word as to the faithfulness which thus utilises the lowest as a means of possessing more fully the highest. You will be faithful if through all your administration of your possessions there runs (1) the principle of Stewardship; you will be faithful if through all your administration of your earthly possessions there runs (2) the principle of Sacrifice; you will be faithful if through all your administrations of your earthly possessions there runs (3) the principle of Brotherhood.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 341.
References: Luke 16:10.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xv., p. 106; W. M. Punshon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 104; Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 372; Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 115; Ibid., vol. xxxi., p. 140; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 239; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part i., p. 283; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 68. Luke 16:11.—Ibid., 4th series, p. 18. Luke 16:11, Luke 16:12.—J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part i., p. 274. Luke 16:12.—Homilist, 3rd series, vol. x., p. 346.
Luke 16:14Consider the conduct of the Pharisees, whose weak point had been touched by our Lord's teaching; they adopted the fool's course of mocking at that which they could not deny to be true, but whose truth they did not like to follow into its consequences, namely, into the practical result of a godly, self-denying life. Concerning this mode of dealing with rebuke, I have two remarks to make.
I. In the first place, I remark that however foolish a mode it may seem, and however much people may feel ashamed of it, when they see what it really is, yet it is very common and, in the usual sense of the word, very natural. It is natural to turn into ridicule any exhortation or rebuke which has been felt to touch ourselves, and because it is natural, therefore it is also common. In the Book of Proverbs a fearful light is thrown upon the subject of mockery when wisdom is represented as eventually adopting the same course herself, mocking those who had once mocked her, laughing at their trouble, showing in such an awful manner the folly of such conduct by a terrific kind of retaliation.
II. The second remark which I have to make is that this method of derision is not only foolish and empty, but is also positively mischievous. The Pharisees in the text, for example, were morally injured by their conduct towards the Lord; they were less fit than they were before to receive impressions for good; their covetousness was fixed more firmly, and all their other evil habits also. For this is the special characteristic of deriding what is good, that the whole moral sense suffers, the edge of the conscience is blunted; the man is less open to conviction than before, not only with regard to the particular subject which called forth his derision, but with regard to every subject. Indeed the surest method which Satan can adopt, to ruin in the end a Christian's character, is to tempt him in the beginning to deride the persons from whom he hears solemn instruction and warning, or the books in which he reads the same.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 233.
References: Luke 16:14.—J. P. Gledstone, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 181. Luke 16:15.—C. G. Finney, Sermons on Gospel Themes, p. 347.
Luke 16:17I. My text is true of the Bible as a Book divinely inspired. Since John wrote in his cell at Patmos, and Paul preached in his own hired house at Rome, the world has been turned upside down—all old things have passed away, all things on earth have changed but one. Rivalling in its fixedness and more than rivalling in its brightness the stars that saw our world born and shall see it die, that rejoiced in its birth and shall be mourners at its funeral, the Word of our God stands for ever. Time that weakens all things else has but strengthened its position. And as, year by year, the tree adds another ring to its circumference, every age has added its testimony to this truth, "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth, but the Word of the Lord shall endure for ever.
II. In practical application of my text I remark: (1) It can be said of the threatenings of the word, that it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail. If there are more blessed, there are more awful, words in the Bible than in any other book. It may be compared to the skies which hold at once the most blessed and the most baneful elements—soft dews to bathe the opening rose, and bolts that rend the oak asunder. In its threatenings, as much as in its promises, heaven and earth shall sooner pass, than one tittle of the law shall fail. (2) In regard to its promises. The traveller in the desert has heard that, far across the burning sands, a river rolls. He has seen or heard, or read of those who have sat on its willowy banks, and quenched their thirst and drunk in life there, and bathed their fevered frames in its cool crystal pools. So, though with bleeding feet, and sinking limbs, and parched throat and dizzy brain, led on by hope, and already in imagination quenching his thirst, he stoutly fights a battle for life and reaches the brink at length. Alas, what a sight meets his fixed and stony gaze! He stands petrified; no wave glittering in the sunbeams ripples on the shore, and invites the poor wretch to drink. The channel is full, but full of dry white stone. It saved others; him it cannot save. Victim of the bitterest disappointment, he lies down to expire, losing life where others found it. To such an accident, to hopes so fair but false, none are exposed who, rising to the call, "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink," seek life in Jesus—salvation in the grace of God. There is not one promise in the Gospel which is not as good and true as on the day it was made.
T. Guthrie, Family Treasury, Nov. 1861.
Reference: Luke 16:17.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 200.
Luke 16:19-20I. It is very important to observe that, in this parable, we have not before us the entire character either of the rich man or Lazarus. The luxurious self-indulgent habit of living is the assumed scriptural characteristic of an unrenewed, worldly mind; and when it is associated with indifference to the suffering that everywhere abounds around us, it is itself a proof that, in such a manner as the love of God is wanting, the spirit of Christ does not dwell. The rich man was not cast into prison because he was rich, but because he had abused his riches to pride and selfishness and worldly-mindedness, and forgetfulness of God. Still more important it is to observe that we have not the whole character of Lazarus. He was poor, he was afflicted, he was neglected and cast off by men; but so have many been who yet when they died found no entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Worldliness of spirit may be as confirmed, and disaffection towards God and holiness as inveterate and deep, under an outside of poverty and sores, as under a covering of fine linen and purple. It was not because he was poor that Lazarus was carried into Abraham's bosom. The real state of the heart towards God was the test applied, so that if Lazarus had not been patient as well as poor, resigned as well as afflicted, he would have been as rejected a suitor for a drop of water in the next world as he had been for a few falling crumbs of bread in this; for in Christ Jesus neither riches avail anything, nor want of riches, but a new creature.
II. The leading design of the parable is to show the inveterate stubbornness of unbelief, and the utter inadequacy of all conceivable means for its removal, where the ordinary appliances of revelation fail. "If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead." Unbelief is a disease of the heart. Evidence cannot reach it; miracle cannot reach it, it can be reached only, can be cured only, by the enlightening and transforming power of the Spirit of God.
D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,371.
References: Luke 16:19.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 200; C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 131. Luke 16:19, Luke 16:20.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Life of Duty, vol. ii., p. 9. Luke 16:19-31.—R. C. Trench, Notes on the Parables, p. 453; H. Calderwood, The Parables, p. 347; A. B. Bruce, The Parabolic Teaching of Christ, p. 376; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 117; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., pp. 102, 190; Ibid., vol. vi., p. 91; Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 265; W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv., p. 372. Luke 16:22.—Ibid., vol. vi., p. 200; L. Campbell, Some Aspects of the Christian Ideal, p. 175. Luke 16:22, Luke 16:23.—G. Calthrop, Words spoken to My Friends, p. 223. Luke 16:22-31.—S. A. Tipple, Echoes of Spoken Words, p. 163.
Luke 16:23-24Prayer to Saints, and Purgatory. These are two points of doctrine, upon which I think that we may regard this parable as throwing light, without straining its words to purposes for which they were not intended.
I. The first doctrine to which I allude is that of prayer to saints. (1) I observe that the description of the resting-place of the blessed, as "Abraham's bosom," is the adoption of a merely Jewish figure for the condition of the departed. To be taken to that place in which Abraham, the head and father of their race, was, and to remain in his society, was to the mind of a pious Jew the fulfilment of all his soul's hopes; and the Lord, not desiring to raise the veil which hides the mysteries of the unseen world, adopted a description of the regions of the departed which at once explained itself to those whom He addressed, inasmuch as they were Jews. (2) Even if we do look upon the prayer of the rich man to Abraham as an example of a prayer to a saint, still that prayer was not answered. Abraham, without saying whether he had or had not the power to grant the request, shows why it would be wrong that it should be granted. The five brethren were in the hands of the Judge of all the earth, who would assuredly do right; and therefore it would be useless for him to interfere in a matter which was in God's own hands. This seems to point out the immorality of all prayers made to saints. For why are not the prayers made to God Himself? The conduct of Abraham seems to show that prayers to saints must either be unanswered and therefore vain, or else answered at the expense of interfering with the all-wise government of a just and jealous God.
II. The doctrine of purgatory. The rich man seems to me to be himself the best evidence we can have of the entire impossibility of changing the condition of those whose time of trial has terminated, and whose time of retribution has come; for those reasons which prevented the prayer offered to Abraham from being answered, though it is true that that prayer was one offered by a sinner in his torment, are quite as cogent when they are applied to prayers offered upon earth by the friends who have been left behind. The parable shows us, not only the futility of the prayers of the dead for their surviving friends, but also the emptiness of the prayers of surviving friends for the dead. There is a great gulf fixed; the saint cannot pass it to help the sinner, neither can the sinner pass it to claim the company of the saint.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 5th series, p. 276.
Luke 16:25Memory in Another World.
"Son, remember." It is the voice, the first voice, the perpetual voice, which meets every man when he steps across the threshold of earth into the presence-chamber of eternity. All the future is so built upon and interwoven with the past, that for the saved and for the lost alike this word might almost be taken as the motto of their whole situation, as the explanation of their whole condition. Memory in another world is indispensable to the gladness of the glad, and strikes the deepest note in the sadness of the lost.
I. Memory will be so widened as to take in the whole life. We believe that what a man is in this life he is more in another, that tendencies here become results yonder, that his sin, that his falsehood, that his whole moral nature, be it good or bad, becomes there what it is only striving to be here. Whether saved or lost, he that dies is greater than when yet living; and all his powers are intensified and strengthened by that awful experience of death, and by what it brings with it. In this life, we have but the island memories heaving themselves into sight, but in the next the Lord shall cause the sea to go back by the breath of His mouth, and the channels of the great deep of a human heart's experience and actions shall be laid bare. "There shall be no more sea," but the solid land of a whole life will appear when God says "Son, remember."
II. Memory in a future state will probably be so rapid as to embrace all the past life at once. We do not know, we have no conception of, the extent to which our thinking and feeling and remembrance, are made tardy by the slow vehicle of this bodily organization in which the soul rides. From the mountain of eternity we shall look down and see the whole plain before us. The memory shall be perfect—perfect in the range of its grasp, and perfect in the rapidity with which it brings up all its objects before us at every instant.
III. There will be a constant remembrance in another world.
IV. Memory will be associated in a future life with a perfectly accurate knowledge of the consequences, and a perfectly sensitive conscience as to the criminality of the past.
A. Maclaren, Sermons preached in Manchester, p. 111.
References: Luke 16:25.—Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 294; vol. xxviii., p. 123; R. Duckworth, Ibid., vol. xxii., p. 264; M. Dix, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, p. 257.
Luke 1:26The Great Gulf.
Consider the lasting distinction between the condition of the rich man and of Lazarus which the text brings before us. Abraham says that between the rich man and Lazarus a great gulf was fixed, so that none could pass from one side to the other. A great gulf fixed; observe, it is no slight interval, no trifling difference, but it is a chasm, a gulf and a wide one; and, moreover, it is fixed, the word in the original Greek is quite as strong as that which our English version has given, perhaps stronger; it means that this gulf or chasm has been firmly and durably established, that it is no slight or accidental difference which it may be hoped that time will blot out, but that it is a deep wide gap which no reasoning can hide, and no time can ever heal. It is most necessary that, as this is our Saviour's own description, we should take His words in all the fulness of their meaning, of course not straining them beyond their intention, but, also, not cutting off from them any of their strength.
I. What I conceive, then, that our Lord asserts in the text is this,—that there is a great impassable gulf fixed between the spiritual condition of those whom He represents by the rich man, and those whom He represents by Lazarus. The great gulf is not between the rich and the poor, not between those who have been favoured by God in this life and those who have been chastened by Him, but it is between those who have so used this world as to starve their spirits, those who have fixed their eyes so firmly on the things of time and sense that they could not see the realities of a future world, those who have become carnal and sensualised because they must needs give all their efforts to feed their bodies, and have been content to leave their souls uncared for.
II. And without pretending to go into the deep mystery of the other world, yet this, at least, is enough to show us the greatness of the gulf, and why it is so firmly fixed; the joys of heaven are spiritual, there is no pleasure there for a man who has no fear of God, no pleasure in obeying Him; and therefore he who by a long course of carelessness and self-indulgence and neglect of God has hardened his soul, has thereby put a gulf between heaven and him. The mere possibility of doing so should make all of us ask ourselves earnestly and with trembling, how far we are improving our opportunities. Even this is the seed-time of a long existence, and he who does not sow good seed, or having sown it does not water it and weed it, may not complain if his crop fail in the end.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 2nd series, p. 216.
References: Luke 16:26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 518; J. Keble, Sermons for Sundays after Trinity, part i., p. 20; Homilist, vol. vi., p. 25.
Luke 16:27-28I. The Scriptures distinctly reveal future punishment.
II. In a future state punishment will completely arouse memory. "Son, remember."
III. The punishment of hell will be regulated by the previous conduct and character of the punished. Hell is a grave in which God places what is not fit to be elsewhere, and from which is absent all but the process of corruption and the workings of destruction.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 3rd series, p. 165.
References: Luke 16:27.—C. C. Bartholomew, Sermons Chiefly Practical, p. 143. Luke 16:27, Luke 16:28.—Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. ii., p. 189; R. S. Candlish, Scripture Characters and Miscellanies, p. 522; Homilist, vol. iv., p. 47.
Luke 16:30The Future Results of Present Indifference.
I. Many read this parable, and are staggered at finding that so little is said against the rich man. What was it by which he so grievously offended? and which caused his being cast into that fire which shall never be quenched? We can only say, from what we read in the parable, that there was in this rich man a complete unmindfulness of others—that he was swallowed up in himself. The sick beggar lay at his gate, where he could not have been wholly unobserved; but he took no notice, and ordered no relief. This was a grievous inhumanity. I do not mean that the rich man was a cruel and hard-hearted man, but he was thoroughly selfish and devoted to his own pleasures and enjoyments; he did not give even a passing thought to the necessitous and the suffering among his fellowmen. Surely we ought to gather a more startling lesson from this than had the rich man been charged with what the world regards as enormous crime.
II. Consider the rich man's entreaty that Lazarus might be sent to warn his five brothers, lest by living the same life they should incur the same doom. It seems inconsistent with the thorough selfishness of Dives that we should suppose him at all actuated in making this request by compassion towards his brethren. Probably, as a selfish being still, he dreaded the coming spirits as those of ministers of vengeance who would overwhelm him with reproaches and execrations, as having encouraged them by his example in the broad way of ruin. Dives shrank from the presence of his brethren. Come any companions rather than these.
III. Consider the reasons on which Abraham refused so earnest a petition. The parable put into the mouth of Abraham may be vindicated by the most cogent, yet simple, reasoning. The effect of a messenger threatening us with punishment unless we repent, depends chiefly on our assurance that it is actually a messenger from God. Now which is the stronger, the evidence which we have that the Bible is God's Word, or that which we could be supposed to have that the grave has given up its tenant, and that the spectre has spoken to us truth. The man who is not persuaded by Christ and the Apostles, might be expected to remain unpersuaded by the spectre. It would give a solemnity, an awful unearthliness, to the ministry of the word if it were conducted by a visitant from the separate state; but the pleasures and business of this life would produce gradually the same effect as now, obliterating the impression made by the solemn discourse. If they hear not Christ and His Apostles, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No., 1,496.
Reference: Luke 16:30, Luke 16:31.—J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 63.
Luke 16:31Let us ask what was the cause which brought on the rich man so terrible a fate? It was not simply his wealth, and it was something from which an observance of the precepts of the Jewish religion would have saved him. What, then, is the character of the rich man as drawn in the parable? It is drawn in two strokes—his ordinary life, and his treatment of Lazarus. (1) His daily life was luxurious. But most certainly we have no right to condemn him for that. With the Jewish nobility in practice, as with the Jewish law in theory, luxurious living does not seem to have been thought to involve any sin whatever. (2) Lazarus is, then, the type of the poor generally. The treatment which Lazarus received is to be regarded as a fair specimen of the rich man's behaviour to the poor generally. The portrait of the rich man, as drawn by Christ, is that of a man luxurious and selfish—habitually careful of the gratification of his own appetite, and habitually careless of the suffering which was around him, even at his doors. And from this selfish disregard of human misery, "Moses and the prophets," had he listened to them, would certainly have saved him. There was no point on which they spoke more plainly. Love to his kindred the rich man certainly had, and his anxiety, in the midst of his own suffering, to save from the same fate the brethren whom he had left behind is almost sublime. The charity which is so often said to begin at home—the love which, strong but narrow, expends itself wholly upon the small circle of relatives and friends—that he had. The love that looks more widely, not refusing pity and aid, because the applicant is a stranger—that he had not.
J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son and Other Sermons, p. 15.
I. What the chief sins of the rich man were, although not expressly stated in the parable, may yet be understood from attending to two or three of its circumstances. First, his heart seems to have been too much set upon the good things of this life, instead of seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Secondly, as Lazarus desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from his table, and as we do not read that he was fed, we may guess that the rich man took no notice of him, but let him lie and languish without relief. Here are two grievous sins, worldly-mindedness and hard-heartedness, justly punished with God's wrath and damnation. Let us look to ourselves, that we be not guilty of the same sins, and liable to the same punishment.
II. Let no man complain as if he had not enough made known to him by Almighty God concerning his duty. For if even in the time of Moses and the Prophets, and before one rose from the dead, they were inexcusable, whoever they were that sinned, much more we, if we do despite unto the Spirit of grace, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing—as we plainly do if we sin wilfully after we have come to a knowledge of the truth. For unto us that hath happened which alone this man thought needful to make any sinner repent, to us One hath come from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord, who was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Let us therefore hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering, knowing that if we break or reject this covenant, there remaineth no other.
III. Finally, if ye know these things, ye are but the more unhappy except ye do them. It is not your calling yourselves Christians, nor even your believing the Gospel when you happen to think of it, that will make you worthy to be carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom, if your heart be not with God—if your thoughts, words, and actions be not governed by His Commandments.
J. Keble, Sermons Occasional and Parochial, p. 29.
I. The radical defect in this rich man, that which was the root of all his sin and the cause of all his woe, was, that he did not use his advantages, he despised Moses and the Prophets, he had a talent given him and he buried it in a napkin. And this being the case, we shall not be so much surprised at the words of the text, if we think well upon them; for the Books of Moses and the Prophets told the rich man of his duty quite as clearly as Lazarus could have done if he had returned from the dead. They told him that he was to love God above all things and his neighbour as himself; and they told him also that God was a jealous God, and One who would in no wise spare the guilty. And if he shut his ears to this, what reason have we to think that a man returned from the dead would have greater powers of persuasion? For it is not as though there were something of which a man had to be convinced, and of which a resurrection from the dead would be a proof: there is a voice within every man, which tells him what is right and condemns what is wrong, and when this is stifled by selfishness and sin, no voice from the grave can supply its place.
II. Some advantages we all have in common: we have all the public prayers of the Church; we have all the Holy Spirit striving within us, and convincing us of sin and of righteousness; we have all our Bibles, which we can read; we may all partake, if we will, of the Holy Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood. These, and such as these, are our "Moses and the Prophets;" they are the voice of God speaking to us, and telling us of the beauty of holiness, the ugliness of sin, of the glories of heaven and the horrors of hell. Do we want any other voice? Nay, if we shut our ears to these, a voice from the grave would be in vain. The same message of repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ has come to us all, and it is for us to attend to it; and if we shut our ears and harden our hearts to such messages as this, we have put ourselves into an attitude of resistance to God, and have so injured our own perceptions of right and wrong, have so blinded our eyes to that Light which lighteth every man who comes into the world, that no miracle, not even a resurrection from the dead, will have any power to convince.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 1st series, p. 209.
I. Consider how we are to understand this declaration of Abraham. There is at first sight something very startling in the principle here enunciated, more especially if we remember from whom it came. Are these, it may be asked, indeed the words of the Founder of Christianity? Is it thus He speaks of the value of miracles, who Himself repeatedly appealed to His own marvellous works as a convincing evidence of His Divine mission? To understand what the thought really is, we must inquire what additional proof of the truth of His religion or incentive to its practice, would have been given to one who had in his hands the writings of "Moses and the Prophets," by the re-appearance of man after death. We must note here that scepticism with regard to the marvellous events of their own history does not seem to have been prevalent among the Jews of that time, and was certainly not the fault of that class, the Pharisees, to whom this parable was more immediately addressed. The Divine mission of Moses—a mission attested and enforced by miracles—was quite generally accepted as a truth. So far, then, the thought seems to be, "On you, who have already in your hands the recorded miracles of the Mosaic Dispensation, no seen miracle could produce, in enforcing the same truths, any appreciable results."
If this were all, the passage which I have taken for my text would not present any great difficulty. But there is something still behind. Does the Author of this parable mean to say that the doctrine of a future life would be destitute of moral effect on those who were deaf to the teaching of Moses? I answer that whatever of obedience to positive law could be obtained by a system of temporal rewards and punishments—by the promise or bestowal of earthly prosperity—by the threat or infliction of earthly suffering—all that had been done by the Mosaic Dispensation. And I cannot read the words of Christ to mean less than this: that if you alter the Mosaic system merely by super-adding to the hopes and terrors of this life the hopes and terrors of the life to come, you will effect nothing. If that system has failed, yours will not succeed. If such promises and threats fail to obtain the result, you will not obtain it merely by changing the scene of their fulfilment from this world to the next.
J. H. Jellett, The Elder Son and Other Sermons, p. 30.
References: Luke 16:31.—H. P. Liddon, Church of England Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 1; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 143; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 225; G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 47; R. L. Browne,' Sussex Sermons, p. 141; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 2nd series, p. 186; T. T. Lynch, Three Months' Ministry, p. 169; R. Scott, University Sermons, p. 210. Luke 16—F. D. Maurice, The Gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven, p. 246.
And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?
And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?
No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.
And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.
Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and whosoever marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery.
There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:
And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,
And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.
And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;
And in hell he lift 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.
And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence.
Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father's house:
For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.