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of avarice or ambition or vanity; the unconverted statesman or lawyer or physician or clergyman; the unconverted farmer or labourer or mechanic; the unconverted man, whatever his calling may be, is more shrewd and intelligent in perceiving, and more prompt in availing himself of every plan, every opening, every prospect which promises any worldly advantage or gratification; than the Christian man is in considering and planning and acting for eternity. But hear! "What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"
The ultimate object which the Christian has in view is far superior to that of the children of this world; it is everlasting glory in the presence of Almighty God. The motive by which it is the Christian's privilege to be actuated, is far superior to the motives of the children of this world; it is the constraining love of Jesus Christ, who first loved him and gave himself for him. The Christian's encouragement to persevere in his course, is far superior to any encouragement which the children of this world can have; it is the sure promise of his faithful and omnipresent God: and the Christian's strength to have the victory over every difficulty, is far superior to the strength of the most powerful of the children of this
world; it is the communicated strength of his almighty and all-sufficient Saviour.
If then the children of light have a superior object in view, a superior motive to act upon, superior encouragement to persevere against every difficulty, and superior strength to have the victory and to triumph in every conflict; is it not most deeply to be lamented that they do not shew superior wisdom, prudence, and foresight, in their high calling? And while it is thus to be lamented, is it not at the same time a most suitable subject for ministerial instruction, for Christian reproof, for warm and affectionate expostulation?
It cannot be said that this species of worldly wisdom is not desirable in spiritual matters; that it savours of carnal policy, and is inconsistent with the simplicity of dependence which belongs to the faith of the children of light. On the contrary, it is highly commended in the sacred Scriptures; we are frequently exhorted to it, with the most pressing and urgent entreaties. And this very quality in worldly men is set before us as well deserving our imitation; not indeed that we should imitate them in their object, which terminates in this world, and in the choice of which they are most eminently foolish; but that we should imitate them in their wisdom, their prudent calculation, and watchful sagacity.
There was a certain worldly wise steward who was accused to his lord of having wasted his goods. The nobleman sent for him, and told him, that as such was the case, he must dismiss him from his stewardship, and at the same time he desired him to get ready his accounts. The steward perceived his approaching difficulties; his careless conduct would soon be exposed, so that he could never expect to be employed again in a situation of trust and confidence: he was so enervated by long indulgence and laziness, that he was unable to earn his bread by manual labour: he had always moved in so respectable a station of life, that he felt ashamed to beg; and having carelessly wasted his own wages as well as his master's goods, he had realized nothing to meet any unforeseen emergency. His situation, therefore, when his lord gave him warning, was one of extreme embarrassment; it called his energies into action: and here observe his consummate skill in providing himself a refuge in his distress. He had not yet settled his accounts and given up his books to his master. I am resolved, said he, what I will do. I will secure to myself the friendship of my lord's debtors; I will bind them to me by such obligations, that their houses shall be always open to me, and so I shall not want a home when I am turned out of my stewardship. For the accom
plishment of this purpose, he called the debtors to him, and said to one of them, how much do you owe to my lord? he answered, one hundred guineas: then said the wily steward, my master knows nothing of this, he has not yet seen the books, it is in my power to serve you; I will return you as a debtor of only fifty guineas: arrange your books and accounts accordingly, and keep the other fifty. Then said he to another, and how much owest thou? he said, one hundred pounds. The steward answered him in like manner, go and write down fourscore, and keep the other twenty.
This plan, while it exhibited the most nefarious, and complicated dishonesty; did at the same time manifest a contrivance, a worldly wisdom and a promptitude in action truly admirable; and his master commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely. He was a child of this world, and had done more wisely in his generation, than the children of light usually do in theirs. His waste of his master's goods is highly to be condemned: his dishonesty in defrauding his master and involving others in the same injustice, is also highly to be condemmed: but his wisdom in providing for himself after he must leave his present situation, is highly to be commended; and leaves us an example which should make us ashamed of our negligence in a better cause. His mas
ter commended the unjust steward, not because he had wasted his goods, not because he had defrauded him of his just dues, but for this one point, because he had done wisely. This is the main scope of the parable: to inculcate, not merely conscientiousness, but activity and design and watchful wisdom, in turning to the very best possible account all the opportunities and advantages with which it has pleased God to entrust us as his stewards.
And thus our Lord directed the application of the subject to the children of light. He spoke the parable to his disciples, and he said unto them, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they
may receive you into everlasting habitations. The
steward, by his prudent management, made to himself friends by means of his master's property, during the interval which elapsed after he got warning, and before he was actually dismissed from his situation: and when he was dismissed, he reaped the benefit of his prudence, for they received him into their houses. My brethren, you are stewards, all of you responsible stewards; you have wasted your time and talents; you have been warned; your Lord graciously leaves you yet a little while in the stewardship; use his property. then, whether it be money or time, or worldly influence, or religious privilege, whatever it may