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labours continually to be accepted of God, from a conviction, that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad." And thus in Jeremiah it is declared; "I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to EVERY MAN according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings."-"For God (saith Solomon) shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil. "h

It is also urged against this view of the subject, that it is incompatible with the future happiness of God's people to have the secrets of their hearts exposed; and that it is written, "Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect?—It is God that justifieth." Yes-it is God that justifieth: and I readily grant, that nothing will interfere with their free pardon and justification; no, nor with their ultimate happiness: for I am persuaded, that the saints themselves will (when delivered from their present infirmities and prejudice) have so clear a view of the manifestation of the glory of God in all he does, that they will with humility and cheerfulness acquiesce in the award. And I would ask, who and what is the very best christian of the present day, that he should hope to enjoy an immunity, which neither kings, prophets nor apostles have enjoyed before him? Have not the failings of Abraham, Moses, Job and others been published through the world? Has not the sin of David, the man after God's own heart, though committed secretly, been made as notorious as the noon-day sun? Has not Peter's denial of his master become as well known, as the Gospel which contains it? Indeed, were there no direct exposure of the secret deeds and thoughts of men in that day;— were the Lord only silently to distinguish among us and divide us; yet that very distinction itself would, in effect, amount to the same thing. We could not help concluding of him, who might be made to take a lower place than man's judgment would assign to him, that there was some sufficient reason for it, though secret to us: only we should be left to the darkness of surmise; whereas the Lord will choose "to be justified when he speaks, and clear when he judges." Thus then "some men's sins are open beforehand, going before to judgment: and some they follow after. Likewise the good works of some are manifest beforehand; and they that are otherwise cannot be hid."

II. I shall now proceed with the parable of the Talents. First it will be necessary to ascertain, what is the meaning

f 2 Cor. v. 9,

k Psalm li. 4.

10. g Jer. xvii. 10.
11 Tim. v. 24, 25.

h Eccles. xii. 14.

iRom. viii. 33.

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of the "talents" or "goods" here mentioned. tators explain it, of the natural and acquired abilities of men, which (they say) are to be used to the glory of God. however, though true in itself, and comprehended in the parable, does not appear to be the primary meaning of this figure. For the talents are given to the servants "according to their several ability;" and this "ABILITY" of theirs must refer to their natural and worldly circumstances;-as their understanding, and powers of mind, their wealth, &c. Not indeed that this sort of ability can strictly be said to belong to any; for a man has nothing, but what he has received. The Lord not only appoints to each of his servants his particular station; but actually gives him the power and ability to qualify him for it.

The talent was a sum of money either of gold or silver, usually measured out by weight. In this respect the parable is similar to another, in which the Nobleman, who goes into a far country, is said to deliver to his servants ten pounds;m by which we are also to understand a certain weight of gold or silver; and thus the one parable may greatly serve to explain the other. For the pounds and the talents, being both precious commodities, represent, as I presume, the Gospel-i. e. the Gospel, as comprehending the hope, the precepts, the promises and doctrine it contains. Thus are the commandments of God compared in one Scripture to fine gold," whilst in another divine grace is likened to gold tried in the fire, which we are counselled to buy of Christ. In the one parable therefore this commodity appears to be given equally among all the servants, and nothing is said of their respective ability; though the different returns made evince, that they were differently gifted. But in this parable the object is apparently to show, that more is required of men by the Gospel, "according to their several ability;" and thus it is said, that ten talents are given to one, and five to another, and only one to a third; because more will be required from the rich than from the poor;-more from the learned than from the ignorant;--more from the healthy, than from the sick and infirm;-more from those who have or might have leisure, than from those who, of necessity, are much employed. The Gospel therefore, and the means of grace, are a trust. Every man who is within reach of that Gospel,-every man who may enjoy the means of grace,—is bound to consider, what is required of him on that account, and to endeavour to apprehend that for which he is apprehended of Christ Jesus. P

The three servants then, here mentioned, represent three different classes of mankind: the first, who receives five talents, m Luke xix. 12-17. n Ps. xix. 10.

• Rev. iii. 18.

P Phil. iii. 12.

sets forth a believer highly gifted and blessed; the second is a specimen of a believer of more moderate talents and advantages; the third sets forth a person of meaner abilities,—or rather (as we shall have occasion to see) one of that numerous class, who, in religious matters, imagine that it is out of their power to do much.

The man with the five talents and the man with the two are so alike in their conduct, that they may be considered both together. These went and traded with their talents. By this I understand the practical walk of faith and usefulness exhi bited by true believers. "Their merchandise and their hire is holiness to the Lord." We see in them, not a dead, and consequently unfruitful, faith; but we behold "the things which accompany salvation""the work and labour of love which they show towards his name." They imitate their heavenly master, who worked the works of him that sent him whilst it was day. They are "not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises:'t so that "giving all diligence they add to their faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity;" which things, being in them and abounding, make them, "that they are neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."u

But there are other circumstances to be considered in regard to this increase of the talents. It is a maxim of divine grace, "that whosoever hath to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance." Grace, when it is really in the heart, is a property which will expand and increase. When professors of religion only seem to go to a certain length, and then stand still; or if it alters not their character and spirit, improving them in all the various relationships of life;-we may rely upon it there is no grace. I speak not of the occasional falls and transgressions of believers, as exhibited in such men ast David, Peter, and others; but of the effectual work of grace in them throughout their life in general. Sometimes it will so call forth the energies of a man, that he will appear to possess abilities, which the world did not previously give him credit for: but, commonly, the more a man exercises himself unto godliness, the more fruitful will he become in proportion: for the faculties of the soul, like those of the body, acquire strength by use. Thus, the last works of such a man will prove "more than the first;" whilst, as regards his own personal

W

r Heb. vi. 9, 10.

s John ix. 4.

q Isaiah xxiii. 18. t Heb. vi. 12. u 2 Pet. i. 5-8. v Matt. xiii. 12. w Heb. v. 14. * Rev. ii. 19.

enjoyment, he finds that "exercising himself unto godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." Such will bring forth fruit in different degrees, according to the talent committed to them;-in some thirty, in some sixty, in some a hundred fold;-but each will prove a fruitful branch of the True Vine, and glorify God by his life and conversation.

We must now consider the character of the servant who had only one talent, in regard to whom two or three circumstances must be noticed.

First, it must not be supposed, because the servants who have five and two talents are represented as doubling them, that all persons who are blessed with superior advantages are faithful servants. Neither because the man with one talent hides it, are we to conclude, that persons with fewer gifts are always unfaithful. The character represented by this man is to be found in high life and low life,-among rich and poor,among persons with great, and persons with slender abilities. Men who have received five talents often bury them; whilst those, who have received only one, frequently trade with that one and double it. We must consequently consider the circumstance of his having only one talent in a two-fold point of view. For he represents those, who are really poor in their worldly circumstances, in education, and in natural abilities and advantages; and he likewise represents those who, when religion is concerned, imagine, that they are able to do but little; although, in reality, they are not so deficient.

Secondly, the parable teaches, that every man has one talent; that whatsoever may be his station in life, the Gospel requires of him to glorify the Lord to the utmost of his ability;-that the poorest, the most simple, the most wretched man in existence is called upon to do the will of God, if he would inherit the promise; and that there is grace promised to enable him both to will and to do of God's good pleasure.a

Thirdly we must notice, what it is which constitutes the offence of this man-viz. unprofitableness. He is not afterwards charged by his Lord with murder, theft, adultery, drunkenness or the like: the head and front of his offending is the being unfruitful,-the omitting to perform that, which in his station was required of him.

Lastly, we must notice the mode which he takes to be unfruitful. In one parable he is said to lay up his talent in a napkin. This is often literally fulfilled by poor people: they have the Gospel, (that is to say, the Bible,) and they keep it wrapt up in a pocket handkerchief and buried at the bottom

y 1Tim. iv. 7, 8; vi. 6. z Heb. x. 36. a Phil. ii. 13.

of a box or drawer. And because they possess this treasure, and have some regard for it, they take for granted, that they are in no great danger of being condemned. But what is principally set forth here, is that class of persons who neglect the Gospel in other respects. It matters not whether the Book be hid in a closet, or exposed to view upon a shelf;-it signifies not even that it be daily read, and that every week men hear it preached: if they are content with this,—if it stir them not up to zeal, to self-denial, and holiness,—they are still burying their talent and will be condemned. They may not be guilty of any gross sin;-they may be decent and respectable in the sight of the world: yet, if they strive not to be rich towards God, they are as barren soil, of which the Apostle says "it is nigh unto cursing and its end is to be burned."b

It is worthy of notice likewise, that in the parable before us, the unprofitable servant is said to dig, in order to hide his talent; which seems to imply, that he is at some pains and labour to do it. And truly there are persons, who labour far more to stifle their convictions,-to resist the truth, and to justify their neglect of God,-than ever they do to advance his cause, or to benefit their own souls.

III. The next point for consideration is the reckoning of the Lord with his servants. After a long time he came; and so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. The man who had received the two talents came also and gave a similar account; he having likewise doubled the sum committed to his trust. To each of these their Lord replies: "Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

I have already sufficiently dwelt on the reward according to works: it is enough here briefly to observe, that these now experience the truth of that saying, in its most glorious sense,-"Happy is the man than findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding: for the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. " -They are rewarded by being made rulers, instead of servants; and, according to the parable of the pounds, by receiving a dominion apportioned to their increase.*

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* A distinction however must be noticed. The servants in the parable of "the pounds" receive equal sums, yet produce different results, and are proportionately rewarded; which more decidedly illustrates the point for which I have contended in the beginning of this Essay. The servants in this parable receive different sums, and the result (in the instance of the faithful ones) corVOL. II.-45

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