THE AUTHOR TO THE READER.
Friend, because it is a dangerous thing to be walking towards the lace of darkness and anguish; and again, because it is (notwithstanding) the journey that most of the poor souls in the world are taking, and that with delight and gladness, as if THERE was the only happiness to be found, I have therefore thought it my duty, being made sensible of the danger that will befal those that fall therein, for the preventing of thee, O thou poor man or woman! to tell thee, by opening this parable, what sad success those souls have had, and are also like to have, that have been, or shall be found persevering therein.
We use to count him a friend that will forewarn his neighbour of the danger, when he knoweth thereof, and doth also see that the way his neighbour is walking in doth lead right thereto, especially when we think that our neighbour may be either ignorant or careless of his way. Why friend, it may be, nay twenty to one, but thou hast been, ever since thou didst come into the world, with thy back towards heaven, and thy face towards hell; and thou, it may be, either through ignorance or carelessness, which is as bad, if not worse, hast been running full hastily that way ever since. Why friend? I beseech thee put a little stop to thy earnest race, and take a view of what entertainment thou art like to have, if thou do in deed and in truth persist in this thy course. Friend, thy way leads 'down to death,' and thy 'steps take hold on hell' (Prov 5:5). It may be the path indeed is pleasant to the flesh, but the end thereof will be bitter to thy soul. Hark, dost thou not hear the bitter cries of them that are but newly gone before, saying, Let him 'dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame?' (Luke 16:24). Dost thou not hear them say, Send out from the dead, to prevent my father, my brother, and my father's house, from coming 'into this place of torment?' Shall not then these mournful groans pierce thy flinty heart? Wilt thou stop thine ears, and shut thy eyes? And wilt thou not regard? Take warning and stop thy journey before it be too late. Wilt thou be like the silly fly, that is not quiet unless she be either entangled in the spider's web, or burned in the candle? Wilt thou be like the bird that hasteth to the snare of the fowler? Wilt thou be like that simple one named in the seventh of Proverbs, that will be drawn to the slaughter by the cord of a silly lust? O sinner, sinner, there are better things than hell to be had, and at a cheaper rate by the thousandth part! O! there is no comparison, there is heaven, there is God, there is Christ, there is communion with an innumerable company of saints and angels. Hear the message then that God doth send, that Christ doth send, that saints do bring, nay, that the dead do send unto thee: 'I pray thee, therefore, that thou wouldst send him to my father's house'; 'if one went unto them from the dead they would repent.' 'How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning? And fools hate knowledge?' 'Turn you at my reproof: behold,' saith God, 'I will pour out my Spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you.' I say, hear this voice, O silly one, and turn and live, thou sinful soul, lest he make thee hear that other saying, But, 'because I have called, and ye refused, I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh' (Prov 1:22-26).
O poor soul, If God and Christ did [thus] with thee for thine harm, it would be another matter; then if thou didst refuse, thou mightest have some excuse to make, or fault to find, and ground to make delays. But this is for thy profit, for thy advantage, for the pardoning of thy sins, the salvation of thy soul, the delivering of thee from hell fire, from the wrath to come, from everlasting burnings, into favor with God, Christ, and communion with all happiness, that is so indeed.
But it may be thou wilt say, All that hath been spoken to in this discourse is but a parable, and parables are no realities. I could put thee off with this answer, That though it be a parable, yet it is a truth, and not a lie; and thou shalt find it so too, to thy cost, if thou shalt be found a slighter of God, Christ, and the salvation of thy own soul.
But secondly, know for certain, that the things signified by parables are wonderful realities. O what a glorious reality was there signified by that parable, 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net that was cast into the sea,' &c. Signifying, that sinners of all sorts, of all nations, should be brought into God's kingdom, by the net of the gospel. And O! how real a thing shall the other part thereof be, when it is fulfilled, which saith, And 'when it was full they drew to shore, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away' (Matt 13:47,48). Signifying the mansions of glory that the saints should have, and also the rejection that God will give to the ungodly, and to sinners. And also that parable, what a glorious reality is there in it, which saith, 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit' (John 12:24). To signify that unless Jesus Christ did indeed spill his blood, and die the cursed death, he should abide alone; that is, have never a soul into glory with him; but if he died, he should bring forth much fruit; that is, save many sinners. And also how real a truth there was in that parable concerning the Jews putting Christ to death, which the poor dispersed Jews can best experience to their cost; for they have been almost ever since a banished people, and such as have had God's sore displeasure wonderfully manifested against them, according to the truth of the parable (Matt 21:33-41). O therefore, for Jesus Christ's sake, do not slight the truth, because it is discovered in a parable! For by this argument thou mayest also, nay, thou wilt slight almost all the things that our Lord Jesus Christ did speak; for he spake them for the most part, if not all, in parables. Why should it be said of thee as it is said of some, These things are spoken to them that are without 'in parables, that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand?' (Luke 8:10). I say, take heed of being a quarreller against Christ's parables, lest Christ also object against the salvation of thy soul at the judgment day.
Friend, I have no more to say to thee now. If thou dost love me pray for me, that my God would not forsake me, nor take his Holy Spirit from me; and that God would fit me to do and suffer what shall be from the world or devil inflicted upon me. I must tell thee, the world rages, they stamp and shake their heads, and fain they would be doing; the Lord help me to take all they shall do with patience; and when they smite the one cheek, to turn the other to them, that I may do as Christ hath bidden me; for then the Spirit of God, and of glory, shall rest upon me. Farewell.
I am thine, if thou be not ashamed to own me, because of my low and contemptible descent in the world.
A Few Sighs from Hell;
The Groans of a Damned Soul..
'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 lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeeth 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 wouldst 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.'
This Scripture was not spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ to show you the state of two single persons only, as some, through ignorance of the drift of Christ in his parables, do dream; but to show you the state of the godly and ungodly to the world's end; as is clear to him that is of an understanding heart. For he spake them to the end that after generations should take notice thereof, and fear, lest they also fell into the same condition. Now in my discourse upon these words I shall not be tedious; but as briefly as I may, I shall pass through the several verses, and lay you down some of the several truths contained therein. And the Lord grant that they may be profitable, and of great advantage to those that read them, or hear them read.
The 19th and 20th verses also, I shall not spend much time upon, only give you three or four short hints, and so pass to the next verses; for they are the words I do intend most especially to insist upon.
The 19th, 20th, and 21st verses run thus:—'There was a certain rich man which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared' deliciously or 'sumptuously every day. And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate full of sores.'
First. If these verses had been spoken by Jesus Christ, and no more, all the world would have gone near to have cast a wrong interpretation on them. I say, if Jesus had said only thus much, 'There was a certain rich man' which 'fared sumptuously daily, and a certain beggar laid at his gate full of sores'; the world would have made this conclusion of them—the rich man was the happy man; for, at the first view, it doth represent such a thing; but take all together, that is, read the whole parable, and you shall find that there is no man in a worse condition than he; as I shall clearly hold forth afterward.
Second. Again, if a man would judge of men according to outward appearance, he shall ofttimes take his mark amiss. Here is a man to outward appearance appears the only blessed man, better by half than the beggar, inasmuch as he is rich, the beggar poor; he is well clothed, but peradventure the beggar is naked; he hath good food, but the beggar would be glad of dog's meat. 'And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table.' The rich man fares well every day, but the beggar must be glad of a bit when he can get it. O! who would not be in the rich man's state? A wealthy man, sorts of new suits and dainty dishes every day; enough to make one who minds nothing but his belly, and his back, and his lusts, to say, O that I were in that man's condition! O that I had about me as that man has! Then I should live a life indeed; then should I have heart's-ease good store; then I should live pleasantly, and might say to my soul, 'Soul,' be of good cheer, 'eat, drink, and be merry' (Luke 12:19). Thou hast everything plenty, and art in a most blessed condition.
I say, this might be, aye, and is, the conclusion with them that judge according to outward appearance. But if the whole parable be well considered, you will see (Luke 16:15), that which is had in high estimation with men is an abomination in the sight of God. And again (John 16:20-22), that condition, that is the saddest condition, according to outward appearance, is ofttimes the most excellent; for the beggar had ten thousand degrees the best of it, though, to outward appearance, his state was the saddest; from whence we shall observe thus much:—1. That those who judge according to outward appearance, do for the most part judge amiss (John 7:24). 2. That they who look upon their outward enjoyments to be token of God's special grace unto them, are also deceived (Rev 3:17). For as it is here in the parable, a man of wealth and a child of the devil may make but one person; or a man may have abundance of outward enjoyments, and yet be carried by the devils into eternal burnings (Luke 12:20). But this is the trap in which the devil hath caught many thousands of poor souls, namely, by getting them to judge according to outward appearance, or according to God's outward blessings.
Do but ask a poor, carnal, covetous wretch, how we should know a man to be in a happy state, and he will answer, those that God blesseth, and giveth abundance of this world unto; when, for the most part, they are they that are the cursed men. Alas! poor men, they are so ignorant as to think that because a man is increased in outward things, and that by a small stock, therefore God doth love that man with a special love, or else he would never do so much for him, never bless him so, and prosper the work of his hands. Ah! poor soul, it is the rich man that goes to hell. And 'the rich man died,' and in hell, mark, 'in hell he lift up his eyes,' &c.
Methinks to see how the great ones of the world will go strutting up and down the streets sometimes, it makes me wonder. Surely they look upon themselves to be the only happy men; but it is because they judge according to outward appearance; they look upon themselves to be the only blessed men, when the Lord knows the generality are left out of that blessed condition. 'Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called' (1 Cor 1:26). Ah! did they that do now so brag, that nobody dare scarce look on them, but believe this, it would make them hang down their heads and cry, O give me a Lazarus' portion.
I might here enlarge very much, but I shall not; only thus much I shall say to you that have much of this world, Have a care that you have not your portion in this world. Take heed that it be not said to you hereafter, when you would very willingly have heaven, Remember in your lifetime you had your portion (Psa 17:14).
And friend, thou that seekest after this world, and desirest riches, let me ask this question, Wouldst thou be content that God should put thee off with a portion in this life? Wouldst thou be glad to be kept out of heaven with a back well clothed, and a belly well filled with the dainties of this world? Wouldst thou be glad to have all thy good things in thy lifetime, to have thy heaven to last no longer than while thou dost live in this world? Wouldst thou be willing to be deprived of eternal happiness and felicity? If you say no, then have a care of the world and thy sins; have a care of desiring to be a rich man, lest thy table be made a snare unto thee (Psa 19:22). Lest the wealth of this world do bar thee out of glory. For, as the apostle saith, 'They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition' (1 Tim 6:9). Thus much in general; but now more particularly.
These two men here spoken of, as I said, do hold forth to us that state of the godly and ungodly; the beggar holdest forth the godly, and the rich man the ungodly. 'There was a certain rich man.'
But why are the ungodly held forth under the notion of a rich man? 1. Because Christ would not have them look too high, as I said before, but that those who have riches should have a care that they be not all their portion (James 1:10-12; 1 Tim 6:17). 2. Because rich men are most liable to the devil's temptations; are most ready to be puffed up with pride, stoutness, cares of this world, in which things they spend most of their time in lusts, drunkenness, wantonness, idleness, together with the other works of the flesh; for which things sake, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience (Col 3:6). 3. Because he would comfort the hearts of his own, which are most commonly of the poorer sort; but God hath chosen the poor, despised, and base things of this world (1 Cor 1:26). Should God have set the rich man in the blessed state, his children would have concluded, being poor, that they had no share in the life to come.
And again, had not God given such a discovery of the sad condition of those that are for the most part rich men, we should have had men concluded absolutely that the rich are the blessed men. Nay, albeit the Lord himself doth so evidently declare that the rich ones of the world are, for the most part, in the saddest condition, yet they, through unbelief, or else presumption, do harden themselves, and seek for the glory of this world as though the Lord Jesus Christ did not mean as he said, or else that he will say more than shall assuredly come to pass; but let them know that the Lord hath a time to fulfil that he had a time to declare, for the scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35).
But again, the Lord by this word doth not mean those are ungodly who are rich in the world, and no other, for then must all those that are poor, yet graceless and vain men, be saved and delivered from eternal vengeance, which would be contrary to the Word of God, which saith that together with the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, there are bondmen or servants, and slaves, that cry out at the appearance of the Almighty God, and his Son Jesus Christ, to judgment (Rev 6:15).
So that though Christ doth say, 'There was a certain rich man,' yet you must understand he meaneth all the ungodly, rich or poor. Nay, if you will not understand it so now, you shall be made to understand it to be so meant at the day of Christ's second coming, when all that are ungodly shall stand at the left hand of Christ, with pale faces and guilty consciences, with the vials of the Almighty's wrath ready to be poured out upon them. Thus much in brief touching the 19th verse. I might have observed other things from it, but now I forbear, having other things to speak of at this time.
Verse 20.—'And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores.'
This verse doth chiefly hold forth these things; 1. That the saints of God are a poor contemptible people; 'There was a certain beggar.' If you understand the word beggar to hold forth outward poverty, or scarcity in outward things, such are saints of the Lord, for they are for the most part a poor, despised, contemptible people. But if you allegorize it and interpret it thus, They are such as beg earnestly for heavenly food; this is also the spirit of the children of God, and it may be, and is a truth in this sense, though not so naturally gathered from this scripture. 2. That 'he was laid at his gate, full of sores.' These words hold forth the distempers of believers, saying he was 'full of sores,' which may signify the many troubles, temptations, persecutions, and afflictions in body and spirit which they meet withal while they are in the world, but also the entertainment they find at the hands of those ungodly ones who live upon the earth. Whereas it is said, he was 'laid at his gate, full of sores.' Mark, he was laid at his gate, not in his house—that was thought too good for him—but he was laid at his gate, full of sores. From whence observe, (1.) That the ungodly world do not desire to entertain and receive the poor saints of God into their houses. If they must needs be somewhere near unto them, yet they shall not come into their houses; shut them out of doors; if they will needs be near us, let them be at the gate. And he 'was laid at his gate, full of sores.' (2.) Observe that the world are not at all touched with the afflictions of God's children for all they are full of sores; a despised, afflicted, tempted, persecuted people the world doth not pity, no, but rather labour to aggravate their trouble by shutting them out of doors; sink or swim, what cares the world? They are resolved to disown them; they will give them no entertainment: if the lying in the streets will do them any good, if hard usage will do them any good, if to be disowned, rejected, and shut out of doors by the world will do them any good, they shall have enough of that; but otherwise no refreshment, no comfort from the world. And he 'was laid at his gate, full of sores.'
Verse 21.—'And he desired to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table: the dogs came also and licked his sores.'
By these words our Lord Jesus doth show us the frame of a Christian's heart, and also the heart and carriage of worldly men towards the saints of the Lord. The Christian's heart is held forth by this, that anything will content him while he is on this side glory. And 'he desired to be fed with the crumbs'; the dogs' meat, anything. I say a Christian will be content with anything, if he have but to keep life and soul together; as we used to say, he is content, he is satisfied; he hath learned—if he hath learned to be a Christian—to be content with anything; as Paul saith, 'I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content' (Phil 4:11). He learns in all conditions to study to love God, to walk with God, to give up himself to God; and if the crumbs that fall from the rich man's table will but satisfy nature and give him bodily strength, that thereby he may be the more able to walk in the way of God, he is contented. And he 'desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table.' But mark, he had them not; you do not find that he had so much as a crumb, or a scrap allowed unto him. No, then the dogs will be beguiled, THAT must be preserved for the dogs. From whence observe that the ungodly world do love their dogs better than the children of God. You will say that is strange. It is so indeed, yet it is true, as will be clearly manifested; as, for instance, how many pounds do some men spend in a year on their dogs, when in the meanwhile the poor saints of God may starve for hunger? They will build houses for their dogs, when the saints must be glad to wander, and lodge in dens and caves of the earth (Heb 11:38). And if they be in any of their houses for the hire thereof, they will warn them out or eject them, or pull down the house over their heads, rather than not rid themselves of such tenants. Again, some men cannot go half a mile from home but they must have dogs at their heels, but they can very willingly go half a score miles without the society of a Christian. Nay, if when they are busy with their dogs they should chance to meet a Christian, they would willingly shift him if they could. They will go on the other side the hedge or the way rather than they will have any society with him; and if at any time a child of God should come into a house where there are but two or three ungodly wretches, they do commonly wish either themselves or the saint out of doors; and why so? because they cannot down with the society of a Christian; though if there come in at the same time a dog, or a drunken swearing wretch, which is worse than a dog, they will make him welcome; he shall sit down with them and partake of their dainties. And now tell me, you that love your sins and your pleasures, had you not rather keep company with a drunkard, a swearer, a strumpet, a thief, nay, a dog, than with an honest-hearted Christian? If you say no, what means your sour carriage to the people of God? Why do you look on them as if you would eat them up? Yet at the very same time if you can but meet your dog, or a drunken companion, you can fawn upon them, take acquaintance with them, to the tavern or ale house with them, if it be two or three times in a week. But if the saints of God meet together, pray together, and labour to edify one another, you will stay till doomsday before you will look into the house where they are. Ah! friends, when all comes to all, you will be found to love drunkards, strumpets, dogs, anything, nay, to serve the devil, rather than to have loving and friendly society with the saints of God.
Moreover, 'the dogs came and licked his sores.' Here again you may see, not only the afflicted state of the saints of God in this world, but also that even dogs themselves, according to their kind, are more favourable to the saints than the sinful world; though the ungodly will have no mercy on the saints, yet it is ordered so that these creatures, dogs, lions, &c. will. Though the rich man would not entertain him into his house, yet his dogs will come and do him the best good they can, even to lick his running sores. It was thus with Daniel when the world was mad against him, and would have him thrown to the lions to be devoured, the lions shut their mouths at him, or rather the Lord did shut them up, so that there was not that hurt befel to him as was desired by the adversaries (Dan 6). And this I am persuaded of, that would the creatures do as some men would have them, the saints of God should not walk so quietly up and down the streets and other places as they do. And as I said before, so I say again, I am persuaded that, at the day of judgment, many men's conditions and carriages will be so laid open, that it will evidently appear they have been very merciless and mad against the children of God, insomuch, that when the providence of God did fall out so as to cross their expectation, they have been very much offended thereat, as is very evidently seen in them who set themselves to study how to bring the saints into bondage, and to thrust them into corners, as in these late years (Psa 31:13). And because God hath in his goodness ordered things otherwise, they have gnashed their teeth thereat. Hence then let the saints learn not to commit themselves to their enemies; 'beware of men' (Matt 10:17). They are very merciless men, and will not so much favour you, if they can help it, as you may suppose they may. Nay, unless the overruling hand of God in goodness do order things contrary to their natural inclination, they will not favour you so much as a dog.
Verse 22.—'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.'
The former verses do briefly hold forth the carriage of the ungodly in this life toward the saints. Now this verse doth hold forth the departure, both of the godly and ungodly, out of this life.
Where he said, 'And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried—into Abraham's bosom,' and 'the rich man also died';—the beggar died, that represents the godly; and the rich man died, that represents the ungodly. From whence observe, neither godly nor ungodly must live always without a change, either by death or judgment; the good man died and the bad man died. That scripture doth also back this truth, that good and bad must die, marvellous well, where it is said, 'And it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment' (Heb 9:27).
Mark, he doth not say it is so that men by chance may die; which might beget, in the hearts of the ungodly especially, some hope to escape the bitterness of it. But he saith it is a thing most certain, it is appointed; mark, 'it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.' God hath decreed it, that since men have fallen from that happy estate that God at the first did set them in, they shall die (Rom 6:23). Now when it is said the beggar died and the rich man died, part of the meaning is they ceased to be any more in this world; I say partly the meaning, but not altogether. Though it be altogether the meaning when some of the creatures die, yet it is but in part the meaning when it is said that men, women, or children die; for there is to them something else to be said, more than barely agoing out of the world. For if when unregenerate men and women die there were an end of them, not only in this world but also in the world to come, they would be happy over they will be now, for when ungodly men and women die there is that to come after death that will be very terrible to them, namely, to be carried by the angels of darkness from their death-beds to hell, there to be reserved to the judgment of the great day, when both body and soul shall meet and be united together again, and made capable to undergo the uttermost vengeance of the Almighty to all eternity. This is that, I say, which doth follow a man that is not born again, after death, as is clear from that in 1 Peter 3:18, 19, where, before speaking of Christ being raised again, by the power of his eternal Spirit, he saith, By which, that is, by that Spirit, 'he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.' But what is the meaning of this? Why, thus much, that those souls who were once alive in the world in the time or days in which Noah lived, being disobedient in their times to the calls of God by his Spirit in Noah, for so I understand it, was, according to that which was foretold by that preacher, deprived of life and overcome by the flood, and are now in prison. Mark, he preached to the spirits in prison; he doth not say, who were in prison, but to them in, that is, now in prison, under chains of darkness, reserved, or kept there in that prison, in which now they are, ready, like villains in the jail, to be brought before the judgment-seat of Christ at the great day. But of this I shall speak further by and by.
Now if this one truth, that men must die and depart this world, and either enter into joy or else into prison, to be reserved to the day of judgment, were believed, we should not have so many wantons walk up and down the streets as there do, at least it would put a mighty check to their filthy carriages, so that they would not, could not walk so basely and sinfully as they do. Belshazzar, notwithstanding he was so far from the fear of God as he was, yet when he did but see that God was offended and threatened him for his wickedness, it made him hang down his head and knock his knees together (Dan 5:5,6). If you read the verses before you will find he was careless, and satisfying his lusts in drinking and playing the wanton with his concubines. But so soon as he did perceive the finger of a hand-writing, 'then,' saith the scripture, 'the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.' And when Paul told Felix of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, it make him tremble. And let me tell thee, soul, whosoever thou art, that if thou didst but verily believe that thou must die and come into the judgment, it would make thee turn over a new leaf. But this is the misery, the devil doth labour by all means as to keep out other things that are good, so to keep out of the heart, as much as in him lies, the thoughts of passing from this life into another world; for he knows, if he can but keep them from the serious thoughts of death, he shall the more easily keep them in their sins, and so from closing with Jesus Christ; as Job saith, 'Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.' Which makes them say to God, 'Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways' (Job 21:14). Because there is no fear of death and judgment to come, therefore they do put off God and his ways, and spend their days in their sins, and in a moment, that is, before they are aware, go down to the grave (Job 21:17). And thus it fared also with the man spoken of in Luke 12:20. The man, instead of thinking of death, he thought how he might make his barns bigger. But, in the midst of his business in the world, he lost his soul before he was aware, supposing that death had been many years off. But God said unto him, 'Thou fool,' thou troublest thyself about things of this life, thou puttest off the thoughts of departing this world, when this night thy soul shall be taken from thee; or, this night, they, that is, the devil, will fetch away thy soul from thee. And here it comes to pass, men's not being exercised with the thoughts of departing this life, that they are, so unexpectedly to themselves and their neighbours, taken away from the pleasures and profits, yea, and all the enjoyments they busy themselves withal while they live in this world. And hence it is again, that you have some in your towns and cities that are so suddenly taken away, some from haunting the ale-houses, others from haunting the whore-houses, others from playing and gaming, others from the cares and covetous desires after this world, unlooked for as by themselves or their companions. Hence it is also that men do so wonder at such tidings as this. There is such a one dead, such a one is departed; it is because they do so little consider both the transitoriness of themselves and their neighbours. For had they but their thoughts well exercised about the shortness of this life, and the danger that will befall such as do miss of the Lord Jesus Christ, it would make them more wary and sober, and spend more time in the service of God, and be more delighted and diligent in inquiring after the Lord Jesus, who is the deliverer 'from the wrath to come' (1 Thess 1:10). For, as I said before, it is evident, that they who live after the flesh in the lusts thereof, do not really and seriously think on death, and the judgment that doth follow after: neither do they indeed endeavour so to do; for did they, it would make them say with holy Job, 'All the days of my appointed time will I wait till my change come' (Job 14:14). And as I said before, that not only the wicked, but also the godly have their time to depart this life. And the beggar died. The saints of the Lord, they must be deprived of this life also, they must yield up the ghost into the hands of the Lord their God; they must also be separated from their wives, children, husbands, friends, goods, and all that they have in the world. For God hath decreed it; it is appointed, namely, by the Lord, for men once to die, and 'we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,' as it is, 2 Corinthian 5:10, 11.
But it may be objected, if the godly do die as well as the wicked, and if the saints must appear before the judgment-seat as well as the sinners, then what advantage have the godly more than the ungodly, and how can the saints be in a better condition than the wicked?
Answ. Read the 22d verse over again, and you will find a marvellous difference between them, as much as is between heaven and hell, everlasting joy and everlasting torments; for you find, that when the beggar died, which represents the godly, he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom, or into everlasting joy (Psa 1). But the ungodly are not so, but are hurried by the devils into the bottomless pit, drawn away in their wickedness (Prov 14:32), for he saith, 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.' When the ungodly do die, their misery beginneth, for then appear the devils, like so many lions, waiting every moment till the soul depart from the body. Sometimes they are very visible to the dying party, but sometimes more invisible; but always this is certain, they never miss of the soul if it do die out of the Lord Jesus Christ; but do hale it away to the prison, as I said before, there to be tormented and reserved until that great and general day of judgment, at which day they must, body and soul, receive a final sentence from the righteous Judge, and from that time be shut out from the presence of God into everlasting woe and distress. But the godly, when the time of their departure is at hand, then also are the angels of the Lord at hand; yea, they are ready waiting upon the soul to conduct it safe into Abraham's bosom. I do not say but the devils are ofttimes very busy doubtless, and attending the saints in their sickness: ay, and no question but they would willingly deprive the soul of glory. But here is the comfort, as the devils come from hell to devour the soul, if it be possible, at its departure, so the angels of the Lord come from heaven, to watch over and conduct the soul, in spite of the devil, safe into Abraham's bosom.
David had the comfort of this, and speaks it forth for the comfort of his brethren (Psa 34:7), saying, 'The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.' Mark, the angel of the Lord encampeth round about his children, to deliver them. From what? From their enemies, of which the devil is not the least. This is an excellent comfort at any time, to have the holy angels of God to attend a poor man or woman; but especially it is comfortable in the time of distress, at the time of death, when the devils beset the soul with all the power that hell can afford them. But now it may be, that the glorious angels of God do not appear at the first, to the view of the soul; nay, rather hell stands before it, and the devils ready, as if they would carry it thither. But this is the comfort, the angels do always appear at the last, and will not fail the soul, but will carry it safe into Abraham's bosom. Ah friends, consider, here is an ungodly man upon his death-bed, and he hath none to speak for him, none to speak comfort unto him; but it is not so with the children of God, for they have the Spirit to comfort them. Here is the ungodly, and they have no Christ to pray for their safe conduct to glory; but the saints have an intercessor (John 17:9). Here is the world, when they die, they have none of the angels of God to attend upon them; but the saints have their company. In a word, the unconverted person, when he dieth, he sinks into the bottomless pit; but the saints, when they die, do ascend with, and by the angels, into Abraham's bosom, or into unspeakable glory (Luke 23:43).
Again, it is said, that the rich man when he died was buried or put into the earth; but when the beggar died, he was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The one is a very excellent style, where he saith he was carried by angels into Abraham's bosom: it denotes the excellent condition of the saints of God, as I said before; and not only so, but also the preciousness of the death of the saints in the eyes of the Lord (Psa 116:15). That after-generations may see how precious in the sight of the Lord the death of his saints is, when he saith they are carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom.
Thus many times the Lord adorneth the death and departure of his saints, to hold forth unto after-generations, how excellent they are in his eyes. It is said of Enoch, that God took him; of Abraham, that he died in a good old age; of Moses, that the Lord buried him; of Elijah, that he was taken up into heaven; that the saints sleep in Jesus; that they die in the Lord; that they rest from their labour, that their works follow them; that they are under the altar; that they are with Christ; that they are in light; that they are to come with the Lord Jesus to judge the world. All which sayings signify thus much, that to die a saint is very great honour and dignity. But the ungodly are not so. The rich or ungodly die and are buried; he is carried from his dwelling to the grave, and there he is buried, hid in the dust; and his body doth not so fast moulder and come to nought there, but his name doth stink as fast in the world, as saith the holy scripture: 'The name of the wicked shall rot' (Prov 10:7). And indeed, the names of the godly are not in so much honour after their departure, but the wicked and their names do as much rot. What a dishonour to posterity was the death of Balaam, Agag, Ahithophel, Haman, Judas, Herod, with the rest of their companions?
Thus the wicked have their names written in the earth, and they do perish and rot, and the name of the saints do cast forth a dainty savour to following generations; and that the Lord Jesus doth signify where he saith the godly are 'carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom'; and that the wicked are nothing worth, where he saith the ungodly die and are buried.
Verse 23.—'And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.'
The former verse speaks only of the departure of the ungodly out of this life, together with the glorious conduct that the godly have into the kingdom of their Father. Now our Lord doth show, in this verse, partly what doth and shall befal to the reprobate after this life is ended, where he saith, 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.' That is, the ungodly, after they depart this life, do lift up their eyes in hell.
From these words may be observed these things, First. That there is a hell for souls to be tormented in, when this life is ended. Mark, after he was dead and buried, 'In hell he lifted up his eyes.' Second. That all that are ungodly, and do live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they die, they go into hell: he died and was buried; 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.' Third. That some are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know well where they are till they come into hell; and that I gather from these words, 'In hell he lifted up his eyes.' He was asleep before, but hell makes him lift up his eyes.
[First.] As I said before, it is evident that there is a hell for souls, yea, and bodies too, to be tormented in after they depart this life, as is clear, first, because the Lord Jesus Christ, that cannot lie, did say that after the sinner was dead and buried, 'In hell he lifted up his eyes.'
Now if it be objected that by hell is here meant the grave, that I plainly deny: 1. Because there the body is not sensible of torment or ease; but in that hell into which the spirits of the damned depart, they are sensible of torment, and would very willingly be freed from it, to enjoy ease, which they are sensible of the want of; as is clearly discovered in this parable, 'Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.' 2. It is not meant the grave, but some other place, because the bodies, so long as they lie there, are not capable of lifting up their eyes, to see the glorious condition of the children of God, as the souls of the damned do. 'In hell he lifted up his eyes.' 3. It cannot be the grave, for then it must follow that the soul was buried there with the body, which cannot stand with such a dead state as is here mentioned; for he saith, 'The rich man died'; that is, his soul was separated from his body. 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.'
If it be again objected that there is no hell but in this life; that I do also deny, as I said before: after he was dead and buried, 'In hell he lifted up his eyes.' And let me tell thee, O soul, whoever thou art, that if thou close not in savingly with the Lord Jesus Christ, and lay hold on what he hath done and is doing in his own person for sinners, thou wilt find such a hell after this life is ended, that thou wilt not get out of again for ever and ever. And thou that art wanton, and dost make but a mock at the servants of the Lord, when they tell thee of the torments of hell, thou wilt find that when thou departest out of this life, that hell, even the hell which is after this life, will meet thee in thy journey thither; and will, with its hellish crew, give thee such a sad salutation that thou wilt not forget it to all eternity. When that scripture comes to be fulfilled on thy soul, in Isaiah 14:9, 10, 'Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even all the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they,' that is, that are in hell, shall say, 'Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us?' O sometimes when I have had but thoughts of going to hell, and consider the everlastingness of their ruin that fall in thither, it hath stirred me up rather to seek to the Lord Jesus Christ to deliver me from thence, than to slight it, and make a mock at it. 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.'
[Second.] The second thing I told you was this, that all the ungodly that live and die in their sins, so soon as ever they depart this life, do descend into hell. This is also verified by the words in this parable, where Christ said, He 'died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes.' As the tree falls, so it shall be, whether it be to heaven or hell (Eccl 11:3). And as Christ said to the thief on the cross, 'Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.' Even so the devil in the like manner may say unto thy soul, To-morrow shalt thou be with me in hell. See then what a miserable case he that dies in an unregenerate state is in; he departs from a long sickness to a longer hell; from the gripings of death, to the everlasting torments of hell. 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.' Ah friends! If you were but yourselves, you would have a care of your souls; if you did but regard, you would see how mad they are that slight the salvation of their souls. O what will it profit thy soul to have pleasure in this life, and torments in hell? (Mark 8:36). Thou hadst better part with all thy sins, and pleasures, and companions, or whatsoever thou delightest in, than to have soul and body to be cast into hell. O then do not now neglect our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou drop down to hell (Heb 2:3). Consider, would it not wound thee to thine heart to come upon thy death-bed, and instead of having the comfort of a well spent life, and the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the comforts of his glorious Spirit: to have, first, the sight of an ill-spent life, thy sins flying in thy face, thy conscience uttering itself with thunder-claps against thee, the thoughts of God terrifying of thee, death with his merciless paw seizing upon thee, the devils standing ready to scramble for thy soul, and hell enlarging herself, and ready to swallow thee up; and an eternity of misery and torment attending upon thee, from which there will be no release. For mark, death doth not come alone to an unconverted soul, but with such company, as wast thou but sensible of it would make thee tremble. I pray consider that scripture (Rev 6:8), 'And I looked and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and hell followed with him.' Mark, death doth not come alone to the ungodly, no, but hell goeth with him. O miserable comforters! O miserable society! Here comes death and hell unto thee. Death goeth into thy body, and separates body and soul asunder; hell stands without, as I may say, to embrace, or rather, to crush thy soul between its everlasting grinders. Then thy mirth, thy joy, thy sinful delights will be ended when this comes to pass. Lo it will come. Blessed are all those that through Christ Jesus his merits, by faith, do escape these soul-murdering companions. 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.'
[Third.] The third thing you know that we did observe from these words was this, That some are so fast asleep, and secure in their sins, that they scarce know where they are, until they come into hell. And that I told you I gather by these words, 'In hell he lifted up his eyes.' Mark, it was in hell that he lift up his eyes. Now some do understand by these words that he came to himself, or began to consider with himself, or to think with himself in what an estate he was, and what he was deprived of; which is still a confirmation of the thing laid down by me. There it is that they come to themselves, that is, there they are sensible where they are indeed. Thus it fares with some men that they scarce know where they are, till they lift up their eyes in hell. It is with those people as with those that fall down in a swoon; you know if a man do fall down in a swoon in one room, though you take him up and carry him into another, yet he is not sensible where he is till he cometh unto himself, and lifteth up his eyes.
Truly thus, it is to be feared, it is with many poor souls, they are so senseless, so hard, so seared in their conscience (1 Tim 4:2), that they are very ignorant of their state; and when death comes it strikes them as it were into a swoon, especially if they die suddenly, and so they are hurried away, and scarce know where they are till in hell they lift up their eyes: this is he who 'dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet' (Job 21:23).
Of this sort are they spoken of in Psalm 73, where he saith, 'There are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm.' 'They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men.' And again, 'they spend their days in wealth, and in a moment,' mark, 'in a moment,' before they are aware, they 'go down to the grave' (Job 21:13).
Indeed this is too much known by woeful and daily experience; sometimes when we go to visit them that are sick in the towns and places where we live, O how senseless, how seared in their consciences are they! They are neither sensible of heaven nor of hell, of sin nor of a Saviour; speak to them of their condition, and the state of their souls, and you shall find them as ignorant as if they had no souls to regard. Others, though they lie ready to die, yet they are busying themselves about their outward affairs, as though they should certainly live here, even to live and enjoy the same for ever. Again, come to others, speak to them about the state of their souls, though they have no more experience of the new birth than a beast, yet will they speak as confidently of their eternal state, and the welfare of their souls, as if they had the most excellent experience of any man or woman in the world, saying, 'I shall have peace' (Deut 29:19). When, as I said even now, the Lord knows they are as ignorant of the new birth, of the nature and operation of faith, of the witness of the Spirit, as if there were no new birth, no faith, no witness of the Spirit of Christ in any of the saints in the world. Nay, thus many of them are, even an hour or less before their departure. Ah, poor souls! though they may go away here like a lamb, as the world says, yet, if you could but follow them a little, to stand and listen soon after their departure, it is to be feared, you should hear them roar like a lion at their first entrance into hell, far worse than even did Korah, &c., when they went down quick into the ground (Num 16:31-35).
Now, by this one thing doth the devil take great advantage on the hearts of the ignorant, suggesting unto them that because the party deceased departed so quietly, without all doubt they are gone to rest and joy; when, alas! it is to be feared the reason why they went away so quietly, was rather because they were senseless and hardened in their consciences; yea, dead before in sins and trespasses. For, had they had but some awakenings on their death-beds, as some have had, they would have made all the town to ring of their doleful condition; but because they are seared and ignorant, and so depart quietly, therefore the world takes heart at grass, as we use to say, and make no great matter of living and dying they cannot tell how; 'therefore pride compasseth them as a chain' (Psa 75:6). But let them look to themselves, for if they have not an interest in the Lord Jesus now, while they live in the world, they will, whether they die raging or still, go unto the same place; 'and lifted up their eyes in hell.'
O, my friends, did you but know what a miserable condition they are in that go out of this world without an interest in the Son of God, it would make you smite upon your thigh, and in the bitterness of your souls cry out, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?' (Acts 16:29-31). And not only so, but thou wouldst not be comforted until thou didst find a rest for thy soul in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Verse 23. 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.'
Something, in brief, I have observed from the first part of this verse, namely, from these words, 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes.' And, indeed, I have observed but something, for they are very full of matter, and many things might be taken notice of in them. There is one thing more that I might touch upon, as touched in this saying, and that is this:—Methinks the Lord Jesus Christ doth hereby signify that men are naturally unwilling to see or take notice of their sad state, I say by nature; but though now they are willingly ignorant, yet in hell they shall lift up their eyes. That is, in hell they shall see and understand their miserable condition; and, therefore, to these words: 'In hell he lifted up his eyes,' he adds, 'being in torments.' As if he had said, though once they shut their eyes, though once they were willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3:5), yet, when they depart into hell, they shall be so miserably handled and tormented, that they shall be forced to lift up their eyes. While men live in this world, and are in a natural state, they will have a good conceit of themselves, and of their condition—they will conclude that they are Christians, that Abraham is their father, and their state to be as good as the best (Matt 3:7-9). They will conclude they have faith, the Spirit, a good hope, and an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ; but then, when they drop into hell, and lift up their eyes there, and behold first their soul to be in extreme torments; their dwelling to be the bottomless pit; their company thousands of damned souls; also the innumerable company of devils; and the hot scalding vengeance of God, not only to drop, but to fall very violently upon them; then they will begin to be awakened, who all their lifetime where in a dead sleep. I say, when this comes to pass, lo it will; then in hell they shall lift up their eyes, in the midst of torments they shall lift up their eyes.
Again, you may observe in these words, 'And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments,' that the time of the ungodly men's smarting for their sins will be in the torments of hell. Now here I am put to a stand, when I consider the torments of hell into which the damned do fall. O unspeakable torments! O endless torments! Now that thy soul might be made to flee from those intolerable torments into which the damned do go, I shall show you briefly what are the torments of hell. First. By the names of it. Second. by the sad state thou wilt be in, if thou comest there.
First. The names. It is called a never-dying worm (Mark 9). It is called an oven fire, hot (Mal 4:1). It is called a furnace, a fiery-furnace (Matt 13). It is called the bottomless pit, the unquenchable fire, fire and brimstone, hell fire, the lake of fire, devouring fire, everlasting fire, eternal fire, a stream of fire (Rev 21).
[Second. By the sad state thou wilt be in, if thou comest there.]
1. One part of thy torments will be this, thou shalt have a full sight of all thy ill spent life, from first to last; though here thou canst sin today and forget it by to-morrow, yet there thou shalt be made to remember how thou didst sin against God at such a time, and in such a place, for such a thing, and with such a one, which will be a hell unto thee. God will 'set them in order before thine eyes' (Psa 51:21).
2. Thou shalt have the guilt of them all lie heavy on thy soul, not only the guilt of one or two, but the guilt of them all together, and there they shall lie in thy soul, as if thy belly were full of pitch, and set on a light fire. Here men can sometimes think on their sins with delight, but there with unspeakable torment; for that I understand to be the fire that Christ speaketh of, which shall never be quenched (Mar 9:43-49). While men live here, O how doth the guilt of one sin sometimes crush the soul! It makes a man in such plight that he is weary of his life, so that he can neither rest at home nor abroad, neither up nor in bed. Nay, I do know that they have been so tormented with the guilt of one sinful thought, that they have been even at their wits' end, and have hanged themselves. But now when thou comest into hell, and hast not only one or two, or an hundred sins, with the guilt of them all on thy soul and body, but all the sins that ever thou didst commit since thou camest into the world, altogether clapped on thy conscience at one time, as one should clap a red hot iron to thy breasts, and there to continue to all eternity: this is miserable.
3. Again, then thou shalt have brought into thy remembrance the slighting of the gospel of Christ; here thou shalt consider how willing Christ was to come into the world to save sinners, and for what a trifle thou didst reject him. This is plainly held forth in Isaiah 28, where, speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, the foundation of salvation, verse 16, he saith of them that reject the gospel, that, when the overflowing scourge doth pass through the earth, which I understand to be at the end of the world, then, saith he, it shall take you morning by morning, by day and by night shall it pass over you; that is, continually, without any intermission. 'And it shall be a vexation only to understand the report.' 'A vexation,' that is, a torment, or a great part of hell only to understand the report, to understand the good tidings that came into the world by Christ's death for poor sinners. And you will find this verily to be the mind of the Spirit, if you compare it with Isaiah 53:1, where he speaks of men's turning their backs upon the tenders of God's grace in the gospel, he saith, 'Who hath believed our report?' or the gospel declared by us? Now this will be a mighty torment to the ungodly, when they shall understand the goodness of God was so great that he even sent his Son out of his bosom to die for sinners, and yet that they should be so foolish as to put him off from one time to another; that they should be so foolish as to lose heaven and Christ, and eternal life in glory, for the society of a company of drunkards; that they should lose their souls for a little sport, for this world, for a strumpet, for that which is lighter than vanity and nothing; I say this will be a very great torment unto thee.
4. Another part of thy torment will be this: Thou shalt see thy friends, thy acquaintance, they neighbours; nay, it may be thy father, thy mother, thy wife, thy husband, thy children, thy brother, thy sister, with others, in the kingdom of heaven, and thyself thrust out (Luke 13:28). 'There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham (your father), and Isaac, and Jacob, (together with your brethren), and all the prophets in the kingdom of heaven, and you yourselves thrust out.' Nay, saith he, 'they shall come from the east, and from the west'—that is, those that thou didst never see in all thy life before, and they shall sit down with thy friends, and thy neighbours, thy wife and thy children, in the kingdom of heaven, and thou, for thy sins and disobedience, shall be shut, nay, thrust out. O wonderful torment!
5. Again, thou shalt have none but a company of damned souls, with an innumerable company of devils, to keep company with thee. While thou art in this world, the very thoughts of the devils appearing to thee makes thy flesh to tremble, and thine hair ready to stand upright on thy head. But O! what wilt thou do, when not only the supposition of the devils appearing, but the real society of all the devils in hell will be with thee howling and roaring, screeching and roaring in such a hideous manner, that thou wilt be even at thy wits' end, and be ready to run stark mad again for anguish and torment?
6. Again, that thou mightest be tormented to purpose, the mighty God of heaven will lay as great wrath and vengeance upon thee as ever he can, by the might of his glorious power. As I said before, thou shalt have his wrath, not by drops, but by whole showers shall it come, thunder, thunder, upon thy body and soul so fast, and so thick, that thou shalt be tormented out of measure. And so saith the Scripture (2 Thess 1:9), speaking of the wicked, 'Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,' when the saints shall be admiring his goodness and glory. Again, this thou shalt have, as I said before, without any intermission; thou shalt not have any ease so long as while a man may turn himself round; thou shalt have it always every hour, day and night; for their worm never dies, but always gnaws, and their fire is never quenched; as it is written in Mark 9.
7. Again, in this condition thou must be for ever, and that is as sad as all the rest. For if a man were to have all his sins laid to his charge, and communion with the devils, and as much wrath as the great God of heaven can inflict unto him; I say, if it were but for a time, even ten thousand years, and so end, there would be ground of comfort, and hopes of deliverance; but here is thy misery, this is thy state for ever, here thou must be for ever: when thou lookest about thee, and seest what an innumerable company of howling devils thou art amongst, thou shalt think this again, this is my portion for ever. When thou hast been in hell so many thousand years as there are stars in the firmament, or drops in the sea, or sands on the sea-shore, yet thou hast to lie there for ever. O this one word EVER, how will it torment thy soul!
Friends, I have only given a very short touch of the torments of hell. O! I am set, I am set, and am not able to utter what my mind conceives of the torments of hell. Yet this let me say to thee, accept of God's mercy through our Lord Jesus Christ, lest thou feel THAT with thy conscience which I cannot express with my tongue, and say, I am sorely tormented in this flame.
'And seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.'
When the damned are in this pitiful state, surrounded with fears, with terrors, with torment and vengeance, one thing they shall have, which is this, they shall see the happy and blessed state of God's children. He seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom; which, as I said before, is the happy state of the saints when this life is ended. This now shall be so far from being an ease unto them, that it shall most wonderfully aggravate or heighten their torment, as I said before. There shall be weeping, or cause of lamentation, when they shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven, and themselves thrust out.
1. Observe, Those that die in their sins are far from going to heaven; he seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And, indeed, it is just with God to deal with them that die in their sins according to what they have done; and to make them who are far from righteousness now, to stand far from heaven to all eternity. Hearken to this, ye stout-hearted, that are far from righteousness, and that are resolved to go on in your sins, when you die you will be far from heaven; you will see Lazarus, but it will be afar off.
Again, he 'seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.'
These are some of the things the damned do behold, so soon as they come into torment. Mark, and he 'seeth Lazarus in Abraham's bosom.' Lazarus, who was he? Why even he that was so slighted, so disregarded, so undervalued by this ungodly one while he was in the world, he seeth Lazarus in Abraham's bosom.
From whence observe, That those who live and die the enemies of the saints of God, let them be never so great, or stout, let them bear never so much sway while they are in the world, let them brag and boast never so much while they are here, they shall, in spite of their teeth, see the saints, yea, the poor saints, even the Lazaruses or the ragged ones that belong to Jesus, to be in a better condition than themselves. O! who do you think was in the best condition? who do you think saw themselves in the best condition? He that was in hell, or he that was in heaven? He that was in darkness, or he that was in light? He that was in everlasting joy, or he that was in everlasting torments? The one with God, Christ, saints, angels, the other in tormenting flames, under the curse of God's eternal hatred, with the devils and their angels, together with an innumerable company of howling, roaring, cursing, ever-burning reprobates? Certainly, this observation will be easily proved to be true here in this world, by him that looks upon it with an understanding heart, and will clear itself to be true in the world to come, by such as shall go either to heaven or to hell.
2. The second observation from these words, 'And seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom,' is this; they that are the persecutors of the saints of the Lord now in this world, shall see the Lord's persecuted ones to be they that are so highly esteemed by the Lord, as to sit or to be in Abraham's bosom, in everlasting glory, though they, the enemies to the children of God, did so lightly esteem them, that they scorned to let them gather up the dog's meat that falls under their table. This is also verified, and held forth plainly by this parable. And therefore be not grieved, O you that are the tempted, persecuted, afflicted, sighing, praying saints of the Lord, though your adversaries look upon you now with a disdainful, surly, rugged, proud, and haughty countenance, yet the time shall come when they shall spy you in Abraham's bosom!
I might enlarge upon these things, but shall leave them to the Spirit of the Lord, which can better by ten thousand degrees enlarge them on thy heart and conscience, than I can upon a piece of paper. Therefore, leaving these to the blessing of the Lord, I shall come to the next verse, and shall be brief in speaking to that also, and so pass to the rest.
Verse 24.—'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.'
You know I told you that verse 22 is a discovery of the departure of the godly and the ungodly out of this life; where he saith the beggar died, and the rich man also died. The 23d verse is a discovery of the proper places, both of the godly and the ungodly after death; one being in Abraham's bosom, or in glory, the other in hell. Now this 24th verse is a discovery of part of the too late repentance of the ungodly, when they are dropped down into hell; 'And he cried, and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me.' From these words, 'And he cried,' we may observe,
First. What a change the ungodly will have when they come into hell. 'He cried.' It is like he was laughing, jesting, jeering, drinking, mocking, swearing, cursing, prating, persecuting of the godly in his prosperity, among his filthy companions. But now the case is otherwise, now he is in another frame, now his proud, stout, currish carriage, is come down; 'And he cried.' The laughter of the ungodly will not last always, but will be sure to end in a cry; 'The triumphing of the wicked is short' (Job 20:5). Consider, you must have a change either here or in hell. If you be not new creatures, regenerate persons, new-born babes, in this world, before you go hence, your note will be changed, your conditions will be changed; for if you come into hell, you must cry. O did but the singing drunkards, when they are making merry on the ale bench, think on this, it would make them change their note, and cry, What shall I do? Whither shall I go when I die? But, as I said before, the devil, as he labours to get poor souls to follow their sins, so he labours also to keep the thoughts of eternal damnation out of their minds; and, indeed, these two things are so nearly linked together, that the devil cannot well get the soul to go on in sin with delight unless he can keep the thoughts of that terrible after clap out of their minds.
But let them know that it shall not always be thus with them; for if, when they depart, they drop down into eternal destruction, they shall have such a sense of their sins, and the punishment due to the same, that it shall make them to cry; 'And he cried.' O what an alteration will there be among the ungodly when they go out of this world? It may be a fortnight, or a month before their departure, they were light, stout, surly, drinking themselves drunk, slighting God's people, mocking at goodness, and delighting in sin, following the world, seeking after riches, faring deliciously, keeping company with the bravest; but now, they are dropped down into hell, they cry. A little while ago they were painting their faces, feeding their lusts, following their whores, robbing their neighbours, telling of lies, following of plays and sports, to pass away the time; but now they are in hell, they do cry. It may be last year they heard some good sermons, were invited to receive heaven, were told their sins should be pardoned if they closed in with Jesus; but, refusing his proffers, and slighting the grace that was once tendered, they are now in hell, and do cry.
Before, they had so much time, they thought that they could not tell how to spend it, unless it were in hunting, and whoring, in dancing, and playing, and spending whole hours, yea, days, nay, weeks, in the lusts of the flesh; but when they depart into another place, and begin to lift up their eyes in hell, and consider their miserable and irrecoverable condition, they will cry.
O what a condition wilt thou fall into, when thou dost depart this world; if thou depart unconverted, and not born again, thou hadst better have been smothered the first hour thou wast born; thou hadst better have been plucked one limb from another; thou hadst better have been made a dog, a toad, a serpent, nay, any other creature in the visible world, than to die unconverted; and this thou wilt find to be true, when in hell thou dost lift up thine eyes, and dost cry.
Here then, before we go any further, you may see that it is not without good ground that these words are here spoken by our Lord, that when any of the ungodly do depart into hell, they will cry. Cry, why so? 1. They will cry to think that they should be cut off from the land of the living, never more to have any footing therein. 2. They will cry to think that the gospel of Christ should be so often proffered them, and yet they are not profited by it. 3. They will cry to think that now, though they would never so willingly repent and be saved, yet they are past all recovery. 4. They will cry to think that they should be so foolish as to follow their pleasures, when others were following of Christ (Luke 13:28). 5. They will cry to think that they must be separated from God, Christ, and the kingdom of heaven, and that for ever. 6. To think that their crying will now do them no good. 7. To think that, at the day of judgment, they must stand at the left hand of Christ, among an innumerable company of the damned ones. 8. They will cry to think that Lazarus, whom once they slighted, must be of them that must sit down with Christ to judge; or together with Christ, to pass a sentence of condemnation on their souls for ever and ever (1 Cor 6:2,3). 9. Cry to think that when the judgment is over, and others are taken into the everlasting kingdom of glory, then they must depart back again into that dungeon of darkness from whence they came out, to appear before the terrible tribunal. There they shall be tormented so long as eternity lasts, without the least intermission or ease.
How sayest thou, O thou wanton, proud, swearing, lying, ungodly wretch, whether this be to be slighted and made a mock at. And again tell me now, if it be not better to leave sin, and to close in with Christ Jesus, notwithstanding that reproach thou shalt meet with for so doing, than to live a little while in this world in pleasures and feeding thy lusts, in neglecting the welfare of thy soul, and refusing to be justified by Jesus; and in a moment to drop down to hell and to cry? O! consider, I say, consider betimes, and put not off the tenders of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, lest you lift up your eyes in hell, and cry for anguish of spirit.
'And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus,' &c.
[Second.] These words do not only hold forth the lamentable condition of the damned, and their lamentable howling and crying out under their anguish of spirit, but also they do signify to us, as I said before, their too late repentance; and also that they would very willingly, if they might, be set at liberty from that everlasting misery that by their sins they have plunged themselves into. I say, these words do hold forth a desire that the damned have, to be delivered from those torments that they now are in: O 'Father Abraham,' saith he, '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.' These words, 'Father Abraham,' may have some difficulty in them. It is possible that some may think them to be meant of Abraham; and those, or him that crieth out here, to be the Jews. Or it may be some may understand it to be God, or Jesus Christ his Son, which I rather suppose it may be, that is here cried out unto; because you find the same cry to him as it were uttered by the ungodly in other places of the Scripture; as in Luke 13:25, 26. Then shall they say, 'Lord, Lord, we have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.' Nay more, 'In thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name done many wonderful works' (Matt 7:22). This was just at their rejection. And again, in Matthew 25:11, they cry again to him, even to Jesus, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' And he there again gives them a repulse, as also in this parable.
But however or whosoever Abraham is, yet these truths may be observed from the words. 1. That the damned, when in an irrecoverable estate, will seek for, or desire deliverance from the wrath that they are and shall be in for eternity. 'Surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him' (Psa 32:6). 2. That they will pray, if I may so call it, earnestly for deliverance from their miserable estate. These two things are clear from the words. For mark, he not only said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me'; but 'he CRIED,' and said, 'Father Abraham, have mercy on me.' 3. From whence take a third observation; and that is, there is a time coming wherein, though men shall both cry and pray, yet they are like to have no mercy at the hands of God; for so was this man served, as I shall further show by and by when I come to it.
Some people are so deluded by the devil as to think that God is so merciful as to own or regard anything for prayer; they think anything will go for current and good satisfaction, while they are here in this world, through ignorance of the true nature of the mercy of God, and the knowledge in what way God is satisfied for sinners. Now I say, through ignorance they think, that if they do but mutter over some form of prayers, though they know not what they say, nor what they request, yet God is satisfied, yea, very well satisfied with their doings; when, alas! there is nothing less. O friends, I beseech you to look about you, and seek in good earnest for the Spirit of Christ so to help you now, to strive and pray, and to enable you to lay hold of Christ, that your souls may be saved, lest the time come that though you cry and pray, and wish also that you had laid hold on the Lord Jesus, yet you must and shall be damned.
Then again, you may see that though God be willing to save sinners at some time, yet this time doth not always last. No, he that can find in his heart to turn his back upon Jesus Christ now, shall have the back turned upon him hereafter, when he may cry and pray for mercy, and yet go without it. God will have a time to meet with them that now do not seek after him. They shall have a time, yea time enough hereafter to repent their folly, and to befool themselves, for turning their backs upon the Lord Jesus Christ. 'I will laugh at your calamity,' saith he, and 'mock when your fear cometh' (Prov 1:26).
Again, this should admonish us to take time while it is proffered, lest we repent us of our unbelief and rebellion when we are deprived of it. Ah friends! Time is precious, an hour's time to hear a sermon is precious. I have sometimes thought thus with myself, Set the case, the Lord should send two or three of his servants, the ministers of the gospel, to hell among the damned, with this commission; Go ye to hell, and preach my grace to those that are there. Let your sermon be an hour long, and hold forth the merits of my Son's birth, righteousness, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession, with all my love in him, and proffer it to them, telling them that now once more, and but once, do I proffer the means of reconciliation to them. They who are now roaring, being past hope, would then leap at the least proffer of mercy. O they that could spend whole days, weeks, nay, years, in rejecting the Son of God, would now be glad of one tender of that mercy. 'Father,' saith he, 'have mercy on me.'
Again, from these words you may observe, that mercy would be welcome when souls are under judgment. Now his soul is in the fire, now he is under the wrath of God, now he is in hell, there to be tormented; now he is with the devils and damned spirits; now he feels the vengeance of God. Now, O now, have mercy on me! Here you may see, that mercy is prized by them that are in hell, they would be glad if they could have it. Father, have mercy on me; for my poor soul's sake, send me a little mercy.
'And send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.'
[Third.] These words do not only hold forth that the ungodly have a desire of mercy, but what those mercies are, what these poor creatures would be glad of. As, 1. to have the company of a Lazarus granted to them. Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus. Now Lazarus was he that was beloved of God, and also he that was hated of them. Therefore, 2. Observe, that those saints, that the world in their lifetime could not endure, now they are departed, they would be glad to have society with them. O now send Lazarus! Though the time was when I cared not for him, yet now let me have some society with him.
Though the world disregard the society of God's children now, yet there is a time coming in which they would be glad to have the least company with them. Nay, do but observe, those of the saints that are now most rejected by them, even from them shall they be glad of comfort, if it might be. Send Lazarus; he that I slighted more than my dogs, he that I could not endure should come into my house, but must lie at my gate, send him. Now Lazarus shall be welcome to me, now do I desire some comfort from him; but he shall go without it.
From whence again observe, that there is a time coming, O ye surly dogged persecutors of the saints, that they shall slight you as much as ever you slighted them. You have given them many an hard word, told many a lie of them, given them many a blow. And now in your greatest need and extremity they shall not pity you, the righteous shall rather 'rejoice when he seeth the vengeance' of God upon thee (Psa 58:10).
Again, Send Lazarus. From whence observe, that any of the saints shall then be owned by you to be saints. Now you look upon them to be the sect with Hymeneus and Philetus, but then you shall see them to be the Lazaruses of God, even God's dear children. Though now the saints of the Lord will not be owned by you, because they are beggarly, low, poor, contemptible among you; yet the day is coming that you shall own them, desire their company, and wish for the least courtesy from them.
'Send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.'
Thus shall the souls that abide in their sins cry out in the bitterness of their spirits, with wonderful anguish and torment of conscience, without intermission; 'That he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.' That he, namely, the man who before I scorned should eat with the dogs of my flock, that before I slighted and had no regard of, that I shut out of door; send him, 'that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue.'
Now these words, 'that he may dip the tip of his finger in water,' &c., do hold forth the least friendship or favour; as if he should have said, Now I would be glad of the least mercy, now I would be glad of the least comfort, though it be but one drop of cold water on the tip of his finger. One would have thought that this had been a small request, a small courtesy—ONE DROP OF WATER—what is that? Take a pail full of it if that will do thee any good. But mark, he is not permitted to have so much as one drop, not so much as a man may hold upon the tip of his finger; this signifies that they that fall short of Christ shall be tormented even as long as eternity lasteth, and shall not have so much as the least ease, no not so long as while a man may turn himself round, not so much leave as to swallow his spittle, not a drop of cold water.
O that these things did take place in your hearts, how would it make you to seek after rest for your souls before it be too late, before the sun of the gospel be set upon you! Consider, I say, the misery of the ungodly that they shall be in, and avoid their vices, by closing in with the tenders of mercy; lest you partake of the same portion with them, and cry out in the bitterness of your souls, One drop of cold water to cool my tongue.
'For I am tormented in this flame.'
Indeed, the reason why the poor world does not so earnestly desire for mercy, is partly because they do not so seriously consider the torment that they must certainly fall into if they die out of Christ. For let me tell you, did but poor souls indeed consider that wrath, that doth by right fall to their shares because of their sins against God, they would make more haste to God through Christ for mercy than they do; then we should have them say, It is good closing with Christ to-day, before we fall into such distress.
But why is it said, Let him 'dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue?' Because that, as the several members in the body have their share in sin, and committing of that, so the several members of the body shall at that time be punished for the same. Therefore, when Christ is admonishing his disciples, that they should not turn aside from him, and that they should rather fear and dread the power of their God than any other power, he saith, 'Fear him,' therefore, that can cast both body and soul into hell (Luke 12:4). And again, 'Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell' (Matt 10:28). Here is not one member only, but all the body, the whole body of which the hands, feet, eyes, ears, and tongue are members. And I am persuaded, that though this may be judged carnal by some now, yet it will appear to be a truth then, to the greater misery of those who shall be forced to undergo that which God, in his just judgment, shall inflict upon them. O then they will cry, One dram of ease for my cursing, swearing, lying, jeering tongue. Some ease for my bragging, braving, flattering, threatening, dissembling tongue. Now men can let their tongues run at random, as we used to say; now they will be apt to say, Our tongues are our own, who shall control them? (Psa 12:4). But then they will be in another mind. Then, O that I might have a little ease for my deceitful tongue? Methinks sometimes to consider how some men do let their tongues run at random, it makes me marvel. Surely they do not think they shall be made to give an account for their offending with their tongue. Did they but think they shall be made to give an account to him who is ready to judge the quick and the dead, surely they would be more wary of, and have more regard unto their tongue.