ePub 版

tan particularly (a great doctor of the Roman church) confesses he cannot tell what to make of it: and out of the abundance of his modesty, and profound respect to our Lord, because he cannot, thinks nobody else can, and says that it is not only difficult, but impossible, to give its true meaning. As if Christ spake so unintelligibly in it, that he could never be understood.

But I suppose the reason of this was, their attempting to make every circumstance in the parable suit exactly with the scope and design of it, and answer directly in every thing: which though in some parables it does, yet must not be expected from the most; which are only intended to represent, by some familiar resemblance or comparison, a piece of useful doctrine and instruction. And therefore if we can find out what that is, it is sufficient; and as for the manner of expressing it, we must not squeeze and strain and torture that too much, but be content with what comes freely and naturally from it. But though the substance or kernel of a parable is that which is to be chiefly looked after in the explication of it, yet the circumstantials, the shell and outside, must not be wholly disregarded ; being like that of some noble plants and fruits, not without its excellence and use.

Now the main drift and design of this parable seems to be twofold; first, to reprove men's strange carelessness and indifference to religion, and thoughtless laziness in the prosecution of it, though the greatest concern of all; by comparing it with the cunning contrivance and great industry of men that give themselves up to the world to gain the point they aim at, though a mere trifle in comparison with

[ocr errors]

this; for the children of this world are wiser in their generations, &c. And secondly, to shew the great wisdom of improving the present blessings, and good things God has here below committed to our trust and management, to the furtherance of our eternal future happiness above; Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, &c.

I. The first of these is represented thus: There was a certain rich man which had a steward, and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods ; upon which he called him to account, and told him he should be no longer steward. This made the steward full of thought what he should do hereafter for a livelihood : he could not dig, forsooth, he was too good for that, and had not been bred to work, but to idleness and ease, and was better at cheating and purloining, than honest industry and labour, (as is the case of too many servants still,) and to beg he was ashamed, as pride and fraud and idleness usually go together. What then should he do? Why this at last he resolved on; namely, to be true to his principles, (though very bad ones,) and to go on in cheating and defrauding his lord; and accordingly he called every one of his lord's debtors privately to him, and asked them one by one, How much owest thou unto my lord? And when they had told him, he gave them the writing which he had of them, in which they acknowledged themselves so and so indebted to his lord, and bid them change the several sums into a less; as he that owed an hundred measures of oil, he bid him turn it into fifty; he that owed an hundred measures of wheat, he bid him set down foura Luke xvi. 8.

b Ver. 9.

[ocr errors]

score instead of it; and so on. And by this he obliged them, not only upon account of kindness and gratitude, (which was no more to be depended upon then than now,) but by a direct compact and bargain, to receive him into their houses, when his lord had turned him off. And by this cunning contrivance he made that same falsehood and dishonesty, which was the occasion of the loss of his stewardship, the means of his future support. And the policy and craft of this way of proceeding his lord could not but commend, though not the honesty of it, you may be sure; and our Saviour makes this first excellent remark upon it, The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light: that is, men that place all their happiness here below, and mind nothing but the world, are a great deal shrewder in their way, and manage their sordid affairs with much more thought and contrivance and application, than the children of light, those that profess to seek a better country, the regions of eternal glory, do their heavenly interest, though it be of such infinitely greater consequence.

And then, from the particular course the unfaithful steward took to ingratiate himself with his lord's debtors, and with his lord's substance, to make a good provision for himself hereafter, our Saviour takes occasion to give us another very excellent and useful piece of advice; namely, that since we are but stewards of the good things of this world, which God hath intrusted us with to promote his glory, and to be beneficial to one another as we have opportunity, and of which we must render account to him at last; we would imitate the prudence, though

not the unfaithfulness of the steward in the parable, and be so wise as to make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, to improve that portion of worldly wealth which God shall give us, and which is too often abused to very ill purposes, and the occasion of much wickedness; to improve it by charity and good works, to the promoting our eternal happiness in heaven; that when we fail, and the time comes that we must be stripped of every good thing here below, and return into the world of spirits as naked as when we first came into this, they, the blessed angels, the ministers of God's kingdom, may receive us into those everlasting habitations, and give us possession of those immense rewards which are prepared for faithful and wise servants, and welcome us to the joy of our Lord.

Having thus seen the twofold design of our blessed Saviour in speaking this parable, we shall, without taking any further notice of the particulars of the narration, apply ourselves to consider those things which he intended to represent by it; and more especially

I. The first of them; which is the strange carelessness, and thoughtless indifference and coolness, with respect to the great business of religion and eternal salvation, which is but too visible even in those that profess to be children of the light, to be Christians, disciples of the holy Jesus, and candidates for heaven; when the men of the world, who make riches their heaven, and mammon their god, are quite another thing, all life and diligence and prudence in the prosecution of those trifles in comparison. Nay, when the children of the light themselves are all this in the management of their secular affairs; and

inconsiderate drones only in the pursuit of happiness eternal. This is unaccountable indeed, and deserves the severest reproof. For what interest can be greater than that which the children of light, as such, profess to pursue ? what of so great consequence as everlasting salvation ? and what will it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his immortal soul; and what in it is of value sufficient to be accepted in exchange for it, when it is once lost, to redeem it?

To save our souls is to make ourselves for ever happy in the largest and highest sense of that blessed word; that is, as full as we can hold of the most exalted pleasure and delight, the most perfect satisfaction and joy that our natures are capable of; in the society of saints and angels, of Jesus our dear Redeemer, and of God himself, in a place of infinite and inexpressible glory; and all this without the least allay, intermission, or disturbance, to ages without end. And to lose our souls is the direct reverse,

That is, it is to make ourselves for ever miserable in the largest and most comprehensive sense of that dreadful word, and as full as we can hold of the most exquisite torment, vexation, and remorse that our natures are capable of; in the company of the worst of men, of hellish fiends and furies, and of our greatest enemy and destroyer, the Devil, in a place of infinite and inexpressible horror and dread; and all this without the least mitigation, intermission, or hope, to all eternity.

Now what can more concern us than to attain such a happiness, and escape such a misery as this? And what is there in this world that is comparable

« 上一頁繼續 »