Page images
PDF
EPUB

ten virgins, he added another wherein he represented the different characters of a faithful and slothful servant, and the difference of their future acceptance.-This parable, like the former, is intended to stir us up to a zealous preparation for the coming of our Lord, by diligence in the discharge of our duty, and by a careful improvement of our souls in holiness; and at the same time, to expose the vain pretences of hypocrites, and to demonstrate, that fair speeches, and outward form, without the power of godliness, will be of no service in the last great day of account.

The Son of man, with respect to his final coming to judge the world, may be likened unto a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one ; to every man according to his several abilities : and straightway took his journey.

He that had received the five talents, lost no time, but went immediately on his master's departure, and traded with the same, and his increase was equal to his industry and application; he made them other five talents. He that had received two talents, did the same, and had equal success. But he that received one, very unlike the conduct of his fellow-servants, went his way, digged in the earth, and hid his Lord's money, idle useless, unemployed, and unimproved.

a

But after a long time, and at an hour when they did not expect it, the Lord of those servants returned, called them before him, and ordered them to give an account of their several trusts. Upon which, he that had received the five talents, as a proof of his fidelity, produced five other talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents : behold, I have gained beside them, five talents more. Ilis Lord, highly applauded his industry and fidelity, said unto him, Well done, Thou good und 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. In like manner also, he that had received two talents, declared he had gained two others : upon which he was honored with the same applause, and admitted into the same joy with his fellow-servant; their master having regard to the industry and fidelity of his servants, not to the number of the talents only, and the greatness of their increase.

Then he that had received the one talent came, and with a shameful falsehood, to excuse his vile indolence said, “Lord, I knew thee, that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed : and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine'. This dishonorable notion, which the servant entertained of his Lord, greatly aggravated his crime; and accordingly his Lord was wroth, and answered, • Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gatherest where I have not strawed; thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,

This was the parable of the talents, as delivered by our blessed Saviour; a parable, containing the measures of our duty to God, and the motives that enforce it, all delivered in the plainest and simplest allusion : but its views are so extensive and affecting, that while it instructs the meanest capacity, it engages reverence and attention from the greatest, and strikes an impression on the most improved understanding. Ve are to consider God as our Lord and Master, the author and

giver of every good gift, and ourselves as his servants or stewards, who, in various instances and measures, have received from his goodness, such blessings and abilities, as may fit us for the several stations and offi. ces of life to which his providence appoints us; but then we are to observe, that these are committed to us as a trust or loan, for whose due management we are accountable to the doner. If we faithfully acquit ourselves of this probationary charge, we shall receive far greater instances of God's confidence and favour; but if we are remiss and negligent, we must expect to feel his resentment and displeasure.

A time will come, and how near it may be, none of us can tell, when our great Master will demand a particular account of every talent he hath committed to our care.

This time may, indeed, be at a distance, for it is uncertain when the king of terrors will receive the awful warrant to terminate our existence here below; yet it will certainly come, and our eternal happiness or misery depends upon it; so that we should have it continually in our thoughts, and engrave it, as with the point of a diamond, on the tables of our hearts. But this is not all we are to learu from this instructive parable ; the Divine author has adapted every incident of the relation, to convey some spiritual instruction. We hence learn, that Infinite Wisdom hath intrusted men with different talents, and adjusted them to the various purposes of human life. But though the gifts of men are unequal, none can with justice complain, since whatever is bestowed, be it more or less, is a favour entirely unmerited. Each then, should be thankful, and satisfied with his portion; and instead of envying the more liberal endowments of others, apply himself to the improvement of his own. And it should be attentively obscrved, that the difficulty of the task is in proportion to the number of talents committed to each. He who had received five, was to gain other five; and he who had received two, was to account for other two. Surely then, we have no reason to complain, if our Master has laid on us a lighter burden, a more easy and less service than what he has on others; especially as our interest, in the favour of the Almighty, does not depend on the number of our talents, but on application in the management of them : so that the moral design of this parable is to engage our utmost attention, to improve such talents as our heavenly Father has thought proper to bestow upon us. By these talents, are principally meant, the communications and graces of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows in different measures, dividing to every man severally as he will. And subordinate to these, are all the means, opportunities, and abilities to exercise or improve these graces : all the advantages of station, fortune, education, and whatever may enable us to do good; for we, having received all we enjoy from God, are strictly obliged to promote the wise ends for which he bestows his favours. And here let us take a short and imperfect view of what God has done for us; he has given us reason and understanding, to discern good from evil, and consequences of things, to collect them proper rules of judgment and action. Indeed, since the fall, this faculty has been much obscured; but still it remains an universal gift of God to men; and though not equal to all, yet it is given to every man in such measure, as is sufficient for their direction. In the knowledge of our duty, and the pursuit of our happiness, God has, by the gospel, so graciously supplied the defects of reason, that the meanest understanding may know how to be happy : such assistances of divine grace attend every Christian, if he will apply to God for it, as may enable him to direct his inclinations, govern his passions, and subdue his corrupt affections. These tal. ents, are, in some degree, common to all men; and, by the improvements of that grace which is conferred upom (very one, all have sufficient to conduct them through the several stages of life, if they will use but proper diligence and application.

But regard must be had to all the means for cultivat

ing those gifts of nature and grace, such as all opportunities of instruction; the ministry, and ordinances of religion, the reproofs and examples of good men, the occasions offered, and the abilities given for the exercise of virtue : all these are talents; or gifts of God, deposited with us; to be diligently made use of, and for which we are accountable to him. I shall, therefore, proceed to shew what duty is required from us, in the improvement of these talents.

It is here supposed, that these talents are improveable, or otherwise they would be of no use or value; and, indeed, we are bound by the command of God to improve them, who has threatened to inflict severe penalties if we neglect it : and, if they are not improved, they will not continue long with us, but be lost; the finest parts and capaci: ties, without proper culture, will make but a mean and contemptible figure. No knowledge can be preserved without use and exercise, and the same holds with regard to moral accomplishments. It requires great care and attention to form a virtuous habit, and much more to preserve it in its vigour : unless we co-operate with the goodness of God's grace, and cultivate it by use and application, its impression will gradually wear out and be lost; The spirit of God will 110t always strive , with man. He gives us a stock to manage, equal to the service he expects from us; but if we are slothful and negligent, and will not apply it to the purposes for which it was given, he will recal the useless gift: Take from him, says he, the talent and give it to him that hath ten talents. Let us, therefore diligently improve every talent committed to us, because this will be required of us in the day of account; and, if not improved, will be immediately taken from us: what this improvement implies, and how we may discharge this duty, is an inquiry of the pearest concern to us. The proper improvement of ali God's gifts, is the employing them, so as may best promote his glory : this is the end the Almiglity has proposed in our creation, in all the powcrs he has endowed us with, and in all the aids of grace hç, has vouchisafcd' to us.

Whatever ether improve

« PreviousContinue »