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humiliation and misery, to shame and spitting, to reproach and scorn, to an ignominious and painful death, even the death of the cross; to this end, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life? Has it detected and exposed to you the secret deceit and hypocrisy and ingratitude and selfishness of your hearts? and has it displayed before you in attractive loveliness, that high and holy standard of christian feeling and practice, with any thing short of which, the really regenerate soul cannot rest satisfied? These are deeply important questions: examine yourselves, try your ownselves; behold in the law a ministration of condemnation, and fly for refuge to the bosom of the Prince of Peace. Or, having so fled already, and being at peace with God, behold in the law, that dreadful curse from which you are delivered, and be thankful; that holy way in which you are to walk, and be diligent; and that high standard from which you are still so far, so very far distant, and be humble.
This is the lawful use of the law, and the law is good if a man use it lawfully.
THE WISDOM OF THE UNJUST STEWARD A
LUKE xvi. 8.
"The Children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."
In these words we have our Lord's application of the parable of the unjust steward. He speaks of two families, the children of this world and the children of light: he institutes a comparison between them, as to their wisdom in their respective callings; and makes this assertion concerning them, that the children of this world are, in reference to their peculiar pursuits and objects and principles, or, as it is here expressed, "in their generation," wiser than the children of light.
That we may enter upon the discussion of this subject with an unequivocal understanding of the expressions adopted by our Lord, let us, in the first place, make some inquiry respecting the origin and family connexions of these children. It is abundantly evident that neither angels nor devils are here spoken of, but that
the expressions of our text are intended to designate two distinct classes of the children of men. All, therefore, of both families are descended from Adam, and in this respect have one and the same common nature belonging to all. Scripture declares this to be a fallen nature," alienated from the life of God," "enmity against God," earthly, sensual, devilish." That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and minds the things of the flesh. "They that are in the flesh cannot please God." All men universally are by nature "walking after the flesh," "according to the course of this world," or, in the language of our text, "the children of this world." It is further written concerning them, that they walk "according to the prince of the power of the air; the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience." And again, that "the God of this world hath blinded their minds;" and Jesus Christ, addressing himself to some of them, says, "Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do." The children of this world, then, are the offspring of Adam, born of sinful flesh, educated according to the common course of this evil world, blinded in their minds and seduced in their affections by the deceitful influence of the god of this world; and exhibiting in their conduct a fatal family similitude to the great enemy of all righteousness.
This description includes the whole human race, even every soul which is naturally engendered of the seed of Adam: there is not a single exception, no, not one. Where then shall we look for the children of light spoken of in our text, and contrasted with these children of this world?
We find frequent mention made of them in the Scriptures. St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Thessalonians, says, "Ye are all the children of light and the children of the day." How came these Greeks of Thessalonica to be children of light, amidst the darkness and ruin of the species? The Apostle answers this inquiry in the first chapter of his Epistle, where he says to them, Our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance." The Gospel coming thus to them as the power of God, made them children of light. In like manner, he says to the Ephesians, "Ye were sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord. Ye were dead in trespasses and sins, children of wrath even as others; but God hath quickened you together with Christ; by grace ye are saved: ye are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God hath before ordained that ye should walk in them." To the same purpose also he says to the Corinthian Christians,
"God who commanded light to shine out of darkness hath shined in your hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
Thus it appears that the children of light were by nature children of this world: but the Gospel has come to them with power: by grace they are saved: quickened to spiritual life: born again of the Holy Ghost: and the light of the glory of God, as revealed in his dear Son, shineth in their hearts. And thus they are become "a peculiar people zealous of good works;" a family taken out of the midst of a family, "that they should show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into his marvellous light."
Now, it might fairly be expected that in every good thing, these children of light would manifest the most decided superiority over the children of this world: yet our Lord plainly tells us, that the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light; more sagacious and quicksighted to discern what is conducive to their worldly interests, than the children of light are in discerning what is conducive to their eternal interests.
This is the statement now before us, that the unconverted man of pleasure, the unconverted man of business, the unconverted man