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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Luke 16

 

 

Verse 8

DISCOURSE: 1547

THE UNJUST STEWARD

Luke 16:8. 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.

THE parables never were intended to bear to the same point in every particular: some admit of a fuller, and others of a more partial application: some are to be interpreted solely in reference to the principal idea contained in them. It is of great importance that we should read them under this impression. If we endeavour to accommodate all their parts to the main scope, we shall both mar their beauty, and deduce from them the most fatal errors. This observation is particularly to be attended to in considering the parable before us. It will instantly remove all the cavils which have been raised against our Saviour as a minister of sin; and it will enable us to collect much useful instruction from this valuable portion of Holy Scripture.

The text leads us to consider,

I. The wisdom of the unjust steward—

He had frequently betrayed the trust reposed in him by his lord and master. If he had not purloined, he had profusely wasted, his master’s substance; and for this he was now to be discharged from his stewardship—

[It is in vain for persons to hope that they shall always escape detection. Dishonesty may be practised for awhile; but it will generally defeat its own ends. This steward had hoped to derive pleasure, if not profit, from his unfaithfulness; but in the issue it involved him in much distress and poverty. No sooner was it discovered, than it exposed him to shame, and provoked his master to dismiss him from his service.]

But he contrived a way to remedy, in a measure, the evil he had brought upon himself—

[As soon as he had received warning, he began to say, What shall I do? nor ceased from his inquiries, till he had devised a happy expedient. He felt in himself that he was too idle to work, and too proud to beg: nor had he any hopes of obtaining another situation of trust and confidence. It was probable, therefore, that he might soon experience the pressure of extreme indigence. An artful plan for supplying his wants speedily arose in his mind. He determined to make all his master’s debtors accomplices in his iniquity: he remitted to every one a considerable portion of the sum he owed. Thus he secured their present friendship and future recommendations. They would not dare to oppose him, lest their own dishonesty should be revealed by him. He would be able to make them afterwards accede to any of his proposals. He cared not how much guilt he contracted, or how many souls he ruined. All which he desired, was, to secure a home till he should be otherwise provided: and doubtless his contrivance was well adapted to the end proposed.]

This device was commended by our Lord—

[Christ himself seems to be the person who gave the commendation [Note: It was the same person who uttered the words in the text.]: but it was the ingenuity, and not the dishonesty, that he commended. The very epithet which he gave the steward shewed his disapprobation of the act. The text itself explicitly declares the only ground of our Lord’s applause [Note: “He had done wisely.”].]

It admirably illustrates (what alone our Lord intended to illustrate),

II. The comparative folly of God’s own children—

“The children of this world” are very indefatigable in prosecuting their temporal interests; but “the children of light” ought to be incomparably more earnest in pursuing their spiritual interests—

[They are called “children of light,” because they are enlightened by God’s word and Spirit. They have been “brought out of darkness into the marvellous light” of the Gospel. They see the vanity of all things that are visible and temporal, and the infinite importance of those that are invisible and eternal [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:18.]. They know what a strict account they must shortly give of their stewardship, and the necessity of improving every hour in securing an “everlasting habitation.” They know how much more important are their interests, more honourable their work, more certain their success, and more glorious their reward: they therefore should be more concerned about their souls than others are about their bodies; and “labour more for the meat that endureth, than others for that which perisheth [Note: John 6:27.].”]

It must be owned however that the children of this world discover more wisdom in the prosecution of their interests:

They seek them more earnestly

[What quickness in conceiving, eagerness in maturing, and promptness in executing his plans, did the unjust steward discover [Note: “What shall I do?—I am resolved—so he called—every one— sit down quickly”—]! Thus worldly men in general find it easy to put forth the whole energy of their souls. But where is the Christian that displays such ardour in his pursuits? How rarely can the spiritual man thus engage in his work! Alas! what backwardness to duty, what languor in it, and what readiness to disengage himself from it, does he feel! Happy indeed would he be who could fully equal the zeal of worldlings: but Christians have to oppose the tide of their corrupt nature, while others have only to commit themselves to its impetuous current.]

They follow them more uniformly

[The children of this world have at all times an eye to their own advantage. Though their thoughts be not immediately engaged about business, they can turn them into that channel the very instant that prospects of gain arise. But the children of light are often wholly indisposed for spiritual exercises [Note: Galatians 5:17.]. Too often do they find occasion to adopt the language of St. Paul [Note: Romans 7:13; Romans 7:15; Romans 7:18-19; Romans 7:21-23.]— and frequently are they ready to compare themselves with the very beasts that perish [Note: Isaiah 1:3.].]

They contrive for them more ingeniously

[If a worldly man have prospects of advancement he will devise a thousand means to attain his end. If he have reason to fear a loss, he will try many expedients to avert, to mitigate, or to remedy the evil. He will rarely lose any thing which his cunning will enable him to secure. But how often does the Christian suffer loss purely through his own folly! How often does he see infallible means of gain, and yet neglect to use them! and infallible means of injury, which he is not careful to shun! Many times is he forced to adopt that most humiliating confession [Note: Psalms 73:22. Proverbs 30:2.]—]

To prevent misapprehension, we subjoin a word of caution—

[Let not any one suppose that one fraud may be committed in order to prevent the consequences of another. This is too often practised: but it plunges the offender in deeper guilt and shame. God has warned us in many places what will be the reward of dishonesty [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.]. It is impossible that they who defraud an earthly master can be accepted of God. However their ingenuity may be admired, it will prove folly in the issue. Let every one then, who professes to be a child of light, remember the Apostle’s words [Note: 1 John 1:6.] —]

To enforce the subject we conclude with suitableadvice—

1. Be faithful to your Lord and Master—

[If ye be Christians indeed, Christ is the Master whom ye serve. Be faithful to him, then, whether ye have little or much [Note: Proverbs 23:26.]. Especially honour him in the distribution of the unrighteous mammon [Note: ver. 13.]. He is a kind and liberal Master, that does not grudge you any thing that is good. Nevertheless he expects that you improve for him the talents he has committed to you.]

2. Be diligent in his service—

[We see how diligent worldlings are in the service of the world. Let not us be surpassed by them. We have a far better Master, and an infinitely richer reward.]

3. Stand ready to give up your account to him—

[We know not how soon he will say, Give an account of thy stewardship: but it will be a joyful word to those who shall be found ready. Let us then be daily inspecting and balancing our accounts. He will then give us the true riches [Note: ver. 11.]: and will bestow upon us what shall to all eternity be our own [Note: ver. 12. Matthew 24:45-47.].]


Verse 16

DISCOURSE: 1548

PRESSING INTO THE KINGDOM

Luke 16:16. The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

WHEREVER the Gospel is preached with fidelity and earnestness, the places of worship are, for the most part, well attended. And this is often made a ground of joyful congratulation. But if, instead of comparing the attendance of persons at such places of worship with that which is seen at other Churches, we were to compare it with what took place at the first introduction of Christianity, we should see in it nothing but an occasion of shame and sorrow. Under the law and the prophets, that is, during the Mosaic dispensation, there was but little of preaching: but when John, the forerunner of our Lord, came, he preached much and often; and so powerful were his ministrations, that persons of all ranks and orders pressed into that kingdom, which he sought and laboured to establish. Let us then, for our humiliation, consider,

I. The effects of John’s preaching—

“He preached the kingdom of God”—

[By “the kingdom of God” I understand, the kingdom of the Messiah, or the reign of Christ in the world and in the heart. He declared that Christ was come: and he pointed him out to the people as “that very Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.” He called men to repentance, and to an acknowledgment of the Saviour, by being baptized in his name; and announced that as the sure and only way of obtaining the remission of their sins [Note: Luke 3:3.] — — —]

Immediately, such was the impression on all descriptions of persons, that “every one pressed into it”—

[Most surprising was the effect of his ministrations. Persons flocked from every quarter, to be baptized of him. Pharisees and Sadducees, distant as they were from each other in their principles, equally felt the power of his word, and came to be baptized of him. Nay, all Jerusalem, and all Jud ζa, and all the region round about Jordan, were so wrought upon, that they actually submitted to his baptism, making public confession of their sins [Note: Matthew 3:5-7.]. They sought instruction also from him, every one (soldiers, publicans, and the people generally) being willing and desirous to approve his sincerity before God, by abandoning all the evils to which he had been particularly prone, and by practising those duties which would most adorn his holy profession [Note: Luke 3:10-14.]. Many of them, it is to be feared, went back afterwards: but such, at the time, was the power of the Gospel as ministered by him.]

Let us compare with this,

II. The effect of Gospel ordinances in our day—

We preach the kingdom of God, even as he did—

[Our blessed Lord commanded, that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem [Note: Luke 24:47.]:” and the Apostles obeyed this injunction, preaching this doctrine to the Jews first [Note: Acts 5:31.], and afterwards to the Gentiles [Note: Acts 20:21.]. The same injunction, also, do we obey. You yourselves will bear us witness, that the great subject of all our ministrations is, “repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yea, like St. Paul, “we have determined to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified [Note: 1 Corinthians 2:2.]. We proclaim the Lord Jesus to be “King in Zion:” we call upon you to submit yourselves to him: we declare that “his blood was shed for the sins of the whole world [Note: 1 John 2:2.];” and that “all who believe in him shall be justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses [Note: Acts 13:38-39.].” In this respect we have even the advantage of John the Baptist: for he could only proclaim what the Lord Jesus should do; whereas we declare to you what he has done — — —]

And what is the effect of our ministrations?

[Do we see every one pressing into this kingdom? I had almost asked, Where we do see any one pressing into it as he ought? Alas! the word which we preach, “comes,” to the generality, “in word only, and not in power:” with many it is regarded only as “a cunningly-devised fable:” with many who approve of it, it has no practical effect: they are pleased with it only “as with the melody of one who plays well upon an instrument [Note: Ezekiel 33:31-32.]:” and, of those who feel somewhat of its power, how few press into the kingdom with that earnestness which becomes them! Look and see around; are there any “flocking unto the Lord, as doves to their windows [Note: Isaiah 60:8.]?” Where do we find people “pressing,” as it were, through all the obstacles which the world, the flesh, and the devil, can lay in their way, and “counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus their Lord [Note: Philippians 3:8.]?” Let the state of our auditors in general be viewed, and there is reason to weep over them with floods of tears. And let even the more approved amongst us be brought to the test of Scripture experience, and of by far the greater number we must “stand in doubt, whether Christ be indeed as yet truly formed in them [Note: Galatians 4:19-20.].”]

Address—

1. Those who are but little influenced by what they hear—

[Ah! how many of you are of this description! And are you content that it shall be always thus? Will you still hold fast the delusion that you shall win the race without running, and gain the victory without fighting? If success be not the portion of those who so demean themselves in relation to earthly things, how can you imagine it will in reference to heavenly things? Will it be no matter of regret to you in a dying hour, that you have been so supine and careless? or, if Satan be permitted to blind you then, will it be no grief to you when you shall open your eyes in the eternal world? O awake from your stupor: and “to-day, whilst it is called today, harden not your hearts, lest God should swear, in his wrath, that you shall never enter into his rest [Note: Hebrews 3:7-11.].”]

2. Those who feel some desire to enter into the kingdom—

[I thank God, if there be in any of you a good desire. But did you never hear what our blessed Lord has said, that “many shall seek to enter into the kingdom, and not be able [Note: Luke 13:24.].” How comes this? They seek, with good desires; but they do not strive with the full bent and determination of their hearts. But this is necessary, indispensably necessary, to the attainment of God’s heavenly kingdom. The pursuit of it must be regarded by you as “the one thing needful [Note: Luke 10:42.].” It must be entered upon with the same spirit as David manifested, when he said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will seek: after [Note: Psalms 27:4.].” You must engage in it “with all your might [Note: Ecclesiastes 9:10.]:” and, instead of ever looking upon your attainments with complacency, or feeling yourselves at liberty to relax your ardour, you must, with Paul, “forget what is behind, and reach forward to that which is before, and press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:13-14.].” There must be “no looking back, after you have once put your hand to the plough [Note: Luke 9:62.];” “no weariness in well-doing [Note: Galatians 6:9.]:” you must “endure unto the end, if ever you would be saved [Note: Matthew 10:22.]:” and, like the manslayer, never rest a moment, till you enter the gates of the heavenly city [Note: Numbers 35:11-12.].]


Verse 25

DISCOURSE: 1549

THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS

Luke 16:25. 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.

THE more strongly the discourses of a minister bear upon the prevailing vices of the day, the more will they, whose besetting sin is pointed out and reprobated, pour contempt upon the preacher and his word. Our blessed Lord had spoken the parable of the unjust steward, in order to shew, that every one should consider himself as responsible to God for the use he makes of that which is entrusted to him. “The Pharisees, who were covetous, immediately derided him [Note: ver. 14.].” Our Lord, however, was not to be deterred by their derision; on the contrary, he addressed to them a personal and severe reproof, and added another parable, that should enforce, with tenfold energy, his preceding admonitions. He represented a rich man, after a short enjoyment of his carnal pleasures, doomed to eternal misery in hell; and a poor man, after a transient scene of sufferings on earth, exalted to a state of everlasting felicity in heaven.

In opening this parable we shall present to your view,

I. Their different conditions in this world—

The Rich Man enjoyed all that could gratify an earthly mind—

[High titles, stately mansions, superb clothing, pompous equipage, numerous attendants, sumptuous entertainments, courtly friends, and flattering sycophants, were his distinguished portion, his daily enjoyment — — — These were the things in which he took delight; nor had his vain earthly heart a thought or wish beyond them [Note: “Thy good things.”], Doubtless he was to many in his day an object of admiration and envy. And many amongst ourselves are ready to say, Give me but such a portion as his, and I desire no more.]

The Poor Man was as destitute as a human being could be—

[He wanted even the most common necessaries of life. In addition to this, he was “full of sores” from head to foot; without medical aid to cure them, or even a friendly hand to bind them up; so that “the very dogs came and licked them.” Unable to walk, he was carried, and, as if no man cared what became of him, was cast [Note: ἐβέβλητο.] at the Rich Man’s gate, to gather a scanty and precarious subsistence from the crumbs which fell from his table. Thus destitute of food, of health, of friends, a very outcast from society, he protracted a wretched existence, till death relieved him of his sorrows.

Who would have thought that these two men were of the same species, or that, if they were, a just and merciful God should put such a difference between them?]

But our minds will be reconciled to this seeming inequality of state, if we survey,

II. Their still more different conditions in the invisible world—

The Rich Man was reduced to a state of deserved misery—

[We read not of any enormous crimes that he committed; and therefore we cannot justly impute any to him. His elegant clothing and costly fare were not in themselves sinful, provided they were such as were suited to his station in life. That which constituted his guilt in the sight of God was, that his heart was set upon them; that he sought his happiness in them rather than in God; and that he lived solely for himself, to the neglect of those, whose necessities he should have delighted to relieve. And behold, what fearful punishment this iniquity brought upon him! His career of sin was soon terminated; and nothing of all his happiness remained to him but the guilt which he had contracted by it. He was buried indeed in a sumptuous manner; but what pleasure could he receive from funeral processions, sepulchral monuments, or flattering inscriptions? Alas! his body was insensible of the honours paid to it, and his soul was enduring unutterable anguish in the flames of hell. He prayed indeed, but his prayer was now too late. Had he called upon God when he was on earth, he might have obtained all the glory of heaven: but now he was refused, though he asked no more than a momentary mitigation of his pain. He begged that a messenger might be sent to warn and to convince his five surviving brethren, who were walking securely in his delusive steps: but neither could this be granted him; nor indeed would it have been of any use to those who disregarded the testimony of the sacred records. Instead of finding any relief, he was upbraided with his having sought an earthly portion, while he neglected those things which were to endure for ever; the remembrance of which folly could not but greatly aggravate his misery. Ah! how altered now his state, from honour to ignominy, from pleasure to pain, from affluence to extremest want!]

The Poor Man, on the contrary, was raised to a state of unspeakable felicity—

[As death put a speedy period to the enjoyments of the one, so it soon also terminated the sorrows of the other. Nothing is spoken of the burial of the Poor Man; he was carried unnoticed, unregretted, to the silent grave; or rather, his fellow-creatures probably rejoiced that they were rid of a public nuisance. Not but that he was honoured in his death; for though disregarded by men, he was attended by angels, who gladly received his departing spirit, and bore it on their wings to the regions of light and glory. Let our eyes now follow him to his blest abode: behold, he, who once had scarcely enough to satisfy the cravings of nature, is now sitting next to Abraham himself at the heavenly banquet [Note: At feasts they lay on couches; so that one seemed, as it were, to be in the bosom of the person next to him. In this view, the circumstance of his being in Abraham’s bosom is well worthy of notice.]; while the man who had “fared sumptuously every day” on earth, has not so much as a drop of water to cool his tongue! Nothing now remains to him of all his former sorrows, except indeed their sanctifying influence upon his soul. Now he has the good things which he sought on earth, the things in which alone he found delight. The enjoyment of the Divine presence was then his only consolation; and now it is his abiding, his ever-blessed portion.

Now let us contrast the two; and we shall confess that Lazarus with all his penury was, on the whole, an object of envy; while the Rich Man with all his indulgences was, on the whole, an object of the deepest commiseration.]

Let us learn from hence,

1. How vain are riches without grace!

[What could the Rich Man’s wealth procure him in this life? Nothing but food and raiment: nor were his delicacies more sweet to him, than to the cottager his homely meal. His riches could not ward off for a moment the stroke of death: much less could they “profit him in the day of wrath.” They served only to witness against him, and to “prey upon his flesh like fire [Note: James 5:1-5.].” Let not any then envy the great and gay; but rather seek to be rich in grace, and happy in the enjoyment of their God.]

2. What consolation will religion afford under the severest trials!

[Though Lazarus appeared so destitute, he doubtless had his comforts as well as his sorrows. He would console himself with such reflections as these: ‘I have no earthly treasures; but I have treasures laid up for me in heaven: I am diseased in body; but my soul flourishes in health and vigour: I am scantily supported with refuse crumbs; but I have meat to eat which the world knows not of: I am without a mortal friend to minister unto me; but God is my friend, and angels are my ministering servants: I have nothing that I can call my own in this life; but I have all the glory of heaven in the life to come.’ Yes, thousands of such considerations would raise his drooping spirits, and often render him happier than all the gratifications of sense could possibly have made him. And all who possess real religion in their hearts shall find it as conducive to their happiness in this life, as it is to their eternal felicity.]

3. How earnestly we should improve our time in preparation for eternity!

[Whether we be in prosperity or in affliction, we are hastening to the grave: the whole of this life is but as a dream: death will soon terminate our present joys or sorrows: and our condition in the future world will depend entirely on the manner in which we have lived in this state of probation. God has drawn aside for a moment the veil of the invisible world; and shewn us what we shall all be in a little time: yes; all of us shall be banquetting in heaven, or agonizing with inexpressible, unintermitted anguish in hell; and in whichever state we be, all transition from it will be prevented by an “impassable gulf.” Let us endeavour to realize these awful truths. Let us believe what the Scriptures have told us respecting the issue of a worldly life. Let us pity those who, like the five brethren, are hastening in the delusive paths of ease and pleasure to the place of torment. And let us live now, as we shall wish we had lived, when our state shall be for ever fixed.]


Verses 29-31

DISCOURSE: 1550

THE HOPELESS STATE OF THOSE WHO DISREGARD THE SCRIPTURES

Luke 16:29-31. 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.

IT is painful to reflect how men follow the footsteps of their forefathers, without ever seriously inquiring whither they tend. If we examine the records of those who have gone before us, we find that, for the most part, they lived to themselves, rather than unto God. “This their way was their folly; yet their posterity approve their saying [Note: Psalms 49:11; Psalms 49:13.],” and, like their predecessors, rush forward thoughtlessly to their own destruction. A very striking illustration of this is given us by one who was himself a spectator of the fact which he records [Note: Baxter.]. A flock of sheep, whilst going over a bridge, were frightened; and one of them jumped over the side of the bridge: the rest, imagining that he who led the way was safe and happy, followed in succession; and were all carried down a rapid river, and involved in one common, but unsuspected, ruin. Thus the different generations of men pass away; and each surviving race, concluding of course that those who went before are happy, follow the same fatal track, till it is too late to remedy their error.

The passage before us will illustrate this. It is part of a parable, wherein our Lord represents a rich man as living in luxurious indolence, till he is surprised by death, and made to feel the wrath of an avenging God. He had left his riches among five surviving brethren, who were all walking in his delusive steps, without ever once considering in what they would issue. The Rich Man, unable to prevail for even a drop of water to cool his tongue, requests, that if Lazarus may not be sent to him to mitigate his torment, he may be sent to his brethren to warn them of the danger in which they were, and to guard them against a continuance in their fatal security. But neither could this be granted: Abraham tells him, that they bad the Scriptures in their hands; and that, if they would not attend to them, any message from the dead would be of no avail.

From this solemn declaration we shall take occasion to shew,

I. The use and office of the Holy Scriptures—

This is plainly intimated in our text. The Rich Man had solicited that Lazarus might be sent to warn his brethren, lest they also should come into that place of torment. The reply was, that they had the Scriptures, and should attend to them: whence it appears that,

The use of the Scriptures is to guide men to heaven—

[They are intended to shew us the way thither, and to guard us against every erroneous path — — — This they do with the utmost plainness and fidelity; insomuch that, if studied with diligence and prayer, they will assuredly “make us wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus.” — — — There certainly are passages in them difficult to be understood: but the great and essential truths are stated in so clear a manner, that he who runs may read them. Who that searches the Scriptures can doubt the issue of a carnal and worldly life? “To be carnally-minded is death.” Or who can doubt the acceptance of a sinner that humbles himself before God, and flees to Christ for refuge? Will it be found that any one was ever cast out, who came unto God through Christ? In a word, there is no instruction wanted, which is not contained in the sacred volume, and conveyed too in the most edifying manner. Its warnings are most solemn, its invitations most earnest, its expostulations most affectionate, its promises most enlarged — — — If only we pay attention to them, we shall infallibly “be kept from the paths of the destroyer [Note: Psalms 17:4.],” and have “our feet guided into the way of peace.”]

For this end they are fully sufficient—

[Nothing is wanting in them, God himself being witness — — — The Old Testament writers and the New, alike declare the sufficiency of Scripture for every end that can be desired [Note: Psalms 19:7-11. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.] — — — It is “the rod of God’s strength, whereby he effects his work upon the souls of men, quickening the dead [Note: Psalms 119:93. James 1:18.], sanctifying the unclean [Note: John 15:3. Ephesians 5:26.], comforting the afflicted [Note: Psalms 107:20.], and saving the lost [Note: James 1:21.] — — — And all that is wanting to render the word effectual, is to get it applied to our hearts by the Spirit of God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:5.]: when so applied, it becomes “the power of God to the salvation of our souls [Note: Romans 1:16.].”]

It must be remembered, however, that whilst the Scriptures are so powerful to save those who use them aright, they declare most unequivocally,

II. The hopeless state of those who disregard them—

The Rich Man imagined, that, if some new method were used for the conversion of his brethren, it would be successful; but Abraham informed him, that, where the Scriptures were ineffectual, not even a messenger from the dead would be of any avail;

1. To convince the unbelieving—

[Though a messenger from the dead might be instrumental to awaken the attention of a person to the Scriptures, he could not convince him of any one truth contained in them. For what could he say that is not contained in the Scriptures? He could only affirm, that the truth of what they declared was now ascertained and felt by him, and placed beyond the reach of doubt. But this has been already declared by all the inspired writers, who in successive ages sealed the truth with their blood. Besides, the Scriptures corroborate their testimony by a thousand other proofs, which a person coining from the dead could not supply: and consequently, he who rejects the weightier evidence, would not be likely to be convinced by that which would he comparatively light. But the experiment has been made. Lazarus was raised from the dead: but many who saw him after his restoration to life, so far from being convinced by the miracle, sought to put him to death, lest a conviction should be wrought by it in the minds of others. Moreover, when our Lord rose from the dead, the soldiers, who guarded his tomb, went and announced it to the Jewish rulers: but they, instead of being suitably impressed by it, and acknowledging the truth of Christ’s Messiahship, instantly fabricated a falsehood, and bribed the soldiers to attest it; and the soldiers actually accepted the bribe, and attested the falsehood, and joined in denying the truth of Christ’s resurrection, even within an hour after they themselves had beheld it: so little power has any sight, however terrific or unquestionable, to convince a mind that is biassed by prejudice, and blinded by the devil.]

2. To convert the impenitent—

[The sight of a person clothed with the splendour of heaven or the terrors of hell, would surprise and alarm; but it would never convert a soul. The same lusts that counteract the influence of the written word, would soon efface the impressions which any such spectacle might produce. The love of sin would still remain as strong as ever; and a desire to defer to a more convenient season that work, to which men are so radically averse. The effect of such a sight might be strong at the time; but it would gradually wear away; and probably ere long become a subject of derision. We know how frequently such declensions are found after a person has been alarmed by some awful providence or some awakening discourse: we know also how the Israelites “forgat the Lord at the Red Sea, even at the Red Sea:” and we are well assured, that they who can withstand the voice of God in his word, would equally withstand the voice of a fellow-creature, whether he should come down from heaven, or ascend from hell. Even if heaven and hell were opened to their view, the impression would be only transient; for, to convert a soul, is the work of God [Note: Ephesians 2:10.]; and his power only can effect it [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:5-7; 1 Corinthians 5:4.].]

We may learn from hence,

1. In what an awful condition are the impenitent hearers of the Gospel!

[Many hear the Gospel, and approve it, who yet are never truly converted by it, never stirred up to flee from the wrath to come, never quickened to lay hold on eternal life: religion never becomes the one business of their lives: they never engage in it as the voluptuary in his pleasures, or as the worldling in his pursuits: they may go on in a round of observances; but they want the life and power of godliness; their religion is destitute of zest, and earnestness, and uniformity — — — Now these persons withstand the most powerful engine which God himself employs for the conversion of the world. If they had never heard the sound of the Gospel, there might be hope that they would submit to it as soon as it should reach their ears: but they have heard it, and continue to resist its power, or to yield to it only a feigned and limited obedience. Let such persons consider the warning given them by St. James: for, whilst they are “hearers only, and not doers, of the law, they fearfully deceive their own souls: it is the doer of it only, that shall be blessed in his deeds [Note: James 1:22-25.].” — — — Let us then examine what effects the Gospel produces upon us; let us see what conformity there is in our spirit and conduct to the examples of Christ and his Apostles: it is not by a mere outward morality that we must judge of ourselves, but by the spirituality of our minds, and the heaven-liness of our lives. It is to this, that “Moses, and the Prophets” invite us; and, if we “hear them” not to this end, we hear them altogether in vain.]

2. How inexcusable are they who will not hear the Gospel!

[Various are the grounds on which men slight the everlasting Gospel: some think it too early in life to pay any attention to it; others are too busy; others take up a prejudice against it; others are deterred by the fear of man. But what would they say to us, who are now fixed in their eternal state, if they were permitted to come and declare their minds? Would the blest inhabitant of heaven tell us, that his reward is too small a compensation for his labour, and that he regrets having paid so much attention to the concerns of his soul? Or would the wretched companion of devils and damned spirits represent his sufferings as unworthy to be regarded, and tell us that we need give ourselves no trouble to escape them? No: whether it should be the Rich Man from hell, or Lazarus from heaven, that should come to us, his testimony would be, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding.” Beware therefore, brethren, lest you suffer any thing to divert your attention from the Gospel of Christ. Be thankful that it is not yet too late for you to lift up your voice in prayer to God. Read the Scriptures, with prayer for the teachings of God’s Spirit, and improve every opportunity of hearing them explained to you in public: they are given you as “a light shining in a dark place;” and it becomes you to “take heed to them” without delay [Note: 2 Peter 1:19.]. With our Lord, therefore, I say, “Search the Scriptures;” or, in the words of our text, “You have Moses and the Prophets, hear them.”]

3. What cause of thankfulness have they who have heard it with effect!

[This is a mercy to you from God, the richest mercy that God himself could bestow. It is God alone can “give us an understanding, that we may know him that is true:” and if he had not opened your understandings, you would still have been as blind as ever. Know then to whom you are indebted: and let it be the labour of your lives to express a just sense of the obligations conferred upon you. But how shall you do this to the best purpose? I answer, Look around you, and see how many there are regardless of the Scriptures, and of the state to which they are hastening. Unhappy creatures! they have many friends or relatives that would gladly come from heaven or from hell to warn them: but no such intercourse can be allowed. They have the Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament; and if they disregard these, no other means of salvation will be afforded them. But it is not prohibited to living saints to warn them: you may have access to them as often as you please, and even a more favourable access, than a disembodied spirit could have. To you they may listen without any terror or dismay. Improve then the opportunity that is afforded you. “Freely ye have received, freely give.” It is not for yourselves only that God has given you light, it is for others also; that you may put it on a candlestick, and give light to all around you. You have some brethren or friends; go to them as an angel of light: and may God succeed your endeavours, to the salvation of many souls!]

END OF VOL. XII.

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Luke 16:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/luke-16.html. 1832.

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