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tures. Sometimes in language, soft as the breathings of love divine; sometimes in notes, severe as the voice of offended majesty; sometimes by the gentle allurements of promised rewards; and sometimes by the awful denunciations of a judgment to come.
Our blessed Redeemer, in the preceding chapter, had been preaching up the most comfortable doctrine of his father's free grace, manifested in the remission of sins, and his readiness to receive and embrace returning penitents. The love of God in this, and his planning from eternity a method of bringing home lost souls to himself, through the all-perfect satisfaction of a Saviour, are most beautifully and tenderly set forth in sundry instructive parables; such as a shepherd's leaving ninety-nine of his sheep in the wilderness, to look after one lost, and calling all his neighbours to rejoice with him on finding it! Such as a woman's searching carefully for a piece of lost treasure, and communicating her joy to all around her on the recovery thereof! And, above all, such as that of an indulgent parent, receiving back to his bosom even a prodigal son, that had wasted his substance in riot and intemperance.
But all these soft and winning descriptions were lost upon the hardened pharisees. Our Saviour, therefore, addresses them in a very different strain. He lays before them this parable of the steward, called suddenly to account before his lord and master, thereby intimating to them, in colours the most striking, that however light they might make of the Gospel overtures in the day of grace, a time would come, and that suddenly too as a thief in the night,
when they would be called to give a severe account of the improvements they had made of such signal blessings!
I have not chosen these words, as thinking that this congregation could be moved by nothing but arguments of terror; nor because there is the least similitude between the character of the steward in the text, and that character which is the occasion of the present mournful solemnity. To argue thus, would be a perversion of all parables, and the design of all preaching. The scripture parables are generally written for the illustration of some important point of doctrine, or morals; and do not require a particular application of every particular circumstance.
The words which I have read, “ give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward,” are to be taken, as they stand, in their single and irrelative sense, being equally applicable to accountable creatures of every degree. And the doctrine I would infer from them on the present occasion is
First, that every thing we possess in this world is given us in trust, and for improvement.
Secondly, that there will be a day of final reckoning; and that as the account stands at the hour of death, so will it be produced in the day of Judgment.
Thirdly, that the only reflections which can give us hope, as accountable creatures, in the hour of death, and the resignation of our stewardship, are to be derived from the Gospel-prospects and promises.
And first, then it is evident, from the whole tenor of God's holy word, that whatsoever we possess in this life is given us in trust and for improvement. The unprofitable servant, who laid up his pound in a napkin, had a severe sentence passed upon him by his returning Lord—“ Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds* ;''-to him that hath made a due improvement of what was formerly committed to him. The like sentence was denounced against the fruitless fig-tree-" Cut it down, why cumbreth it the groundt?"
Many more scripture-proofs might be adduced; but the point in question does not seem to need them. To a man who lives a life of reason and of virtue, few things are sufficient to satisfy the calls, nay to answer the conveniencies, of life. Could it be agreeable then, to the ordinance of a wise and just God, for one to grasp a thousand times his proportion of the goods of this world and to hoard them up without improvement for the public? Why should different talents be assigned to clifferent persons, if they were to be employed solely for their own private use? Why should one wallow in wealth; one be exalted to the summit of power; one rejoice in bodily strength; one enjoy faculties of mind almost angelic; if the separate possessors were to use these separate gifts only for themselves, without regard to the community?
Through all nature, there is incessant energy, action and communication of powers. Nothing seems to exist on its own single account. The very stars, that spangle the face of night, are bound to
Luke xix. 24. xiii. 7.
their orbits by mutual action on each other, and on the common centre of the system !
Why, then, should those divine gifts and endowments, which providence showers so profusely on individuals of the human system, be left without their full use? . Why should they be suffered to stagnate, as it were, like waters emitting only a noisome vapour in the summer's drought? Ought they not rather to flow irriguous, like the refreshing rills, rejoicing the country around ? Most undoubtedly, my brethren, they ought! And such would be the improvement which we should make of every thing committed to us if, instead of looking upon it as peculiarly our own, and so much added to our private felicity, we would consider ourselves only as God's stewards for the same; and more especially reflect that there will be a day of final reckoning, when we shall be called to give an account of our stewardship, before men and angels, at the bar of Omnipotence. And this was the second topic of my discourse.
Now a day of accounts is inseparable from the very notion of a stewardship; and the sacred scriptures, pursuing the metaphor, have placed this matter beyond contradiction. We are there told that all our actions are registered in a book, written with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond. We are also told that our Omnipotent judge will open this awful book and proceed against us by regular process " I saw a great white throne and him that sat on it; from whose face the earth and the heavens fed away, and there was no place found for them.
And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works*.”
Ah! then, my fellow-christians! how many thousand thousand secrets shall be laid open before an assembled universe? Then, and not till then, shall we thoroughly see and understand the sum and scope of God's eternal plan, without those intricacies wherein it is now involved! Then shall the account between virtue and vice be finally stated and balanced! Then shall hypocrisy be obliged to lay down its mask, oppression his rod, dominion his sceptre ; and all to appear naked and on a level, at the bar of the Almighty, to give an account of their stewardship, each for himself, and none by another!.
Then shall it be seen how every one of us has used the gifts committed to us in our several spheres, Then shall it be known for what end wealth, or power, or great talents were variously bestowed. If the forme' was our portion, it will be known, whether we hoarded it up with a mere sordid view of self enjoyment? Whether we suffered it to draw off our atten. tionfrom things celestial, to extinguish the social and public affections; and to debase us into a literal affinity with the beasts that perish? or whether, if we did bestow any thing out of our abundance, it was done with a spirit of ostentation to be seen of men; or done, in the true Gospel-sense, to feed the hungry and cloath the naked, after answering all the domestic charities of father, son and brother, and the sacred calls of the community, which includes the whole,
Rev. xx. 11, 12,