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Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations."-LUKE XVI. 9.
THE children of this world (saith Christ) are wiser in their generation than the children of light." To make which good, our Saviour, in so much of the chapter as goes before my text, brings in a story, or, as they call it, a parable of a cunning fellow, yet no great projector neither, no very subtle politician; notwithstanding, one who being in an extremity, turned out of his office for mispending his master's goods, had found out a shift, and that by mere cozenage, to procure so much as would serve to keep him, indeed not according to the port and fashion after which before he had lived; but only to maintain him in meat and drink, out of danger of starving, or, which was more fearful, because more full of trouble or dishonour, hard labour or begging.
2. Surely it had been no hard matter for our Saviour, who knew all whatsoever was in man, to have discovered more subtle projects, plots of a finer and more curious contrivance than this fellow's; but this, it seems, would serve his turn well enough for the purpose, for which he made use of it: and, to say the truth, there cannot be imagined an example more exactly suiting, more closely applicable to his intent; which was, not to discredit and dishearten his followers, first, by comparing and preferring the cunning of an or
dinary fellow, a mere bailiff, or steward, before that spiritual, heavenly wisdom, to which they pretend: nor, secondly, to instruct them by indirect and unwarrantable courses to provide for themselves hereafter; but chiefly this:
3. To teach us, by objecting to our view a man, who by his own negligence and carelessness being brought to an extremity, (for there was no necessity he should be brought to these plunges; a little timely care and providence, even ordinary honesty, would easily have warranted and preserved him) had upon the sudden found out a trick of his office, namely, by proceeding in his old courses, of wasting his master's substance to the enriching of his fellow-servants, and thereby gained their good wills, that for the time following they might preserve him from perishing.
4. Our Saviour, I say, by this example, would teach us, that since God hath placed us here in this world as his stewards, has put into our hands his goods, his riches, to be dispensed for his use and advantage; and such stewards we are, who have advantages infinitely more urgent, and pressing us to an honest, faithful discharge of our office, than this man in the parable ever had: as, first, we must of necessity fail, and be cashiered of our office all the power of heaven and earth cannot procure us a perpetuity in it: the case did not stand so with this man, for it was merely his own fault to deserve discarding; and, besides, having deserved that censure, it was his misfortune too, that his Lord should come to the knowledge of it; for it is no impossible thing, that a steward should thrive by his lord's loss, and yet never be called to an account for it: and, secondly, upon
our behaviour in this our office depends the everlasting welfare of our souls and bodies; we shall for ever be disposed of, according to the honest or unfaithful discharge of our place. If ill, Lord, what shall become of us? Where shall we appear in that great day of account? I dare not almost tell you the issue of it: but if we have carried ourselves as faithful servants; propose to yourselves your own conditions, give your thoughts licence and scope to be excessive and overflowing in their desires; if the whole extension and capacity of your thoughts be not satisfied and filled to the brim, with measure pressed down and running over, God himself (which is impossible to imagine) will prove a deceiving, unfaithful
5. These things therefore considered, without question it doth infinitely concern us to consult, and project, what we mean to do with our riches; to what employment we intend to put those honours, and that power, which God hath conferred on us in this life: whether to receive them as our good things, to go away contented with them as our rewards, our final rewards, expecting no other good things from God after them; or, which is our Saviour's advice, use them as means and helps of attaining blessings above all conceivable proportion exceeding them; so dispensing and providently scattering them abroad, that against our time of need (which sooner or later will undoubtedly come) we may oblige to ourselves such friends so gracious, and prevailing with our Master, who, either by their prayers and intercessions, or some other way, which we know not, may procure for us admission into our Master's joys, to be no longer
stewards and servants, but friends and sons. Thus, by the help and benefit of this mammon of unrighteousness in my text, these little things, even the least blessings that God has to bestow upon us, so called in the verse following, and in the next but one to that, these "things of other men," as if they were trifles, not worthy the owning, if compared with what rewards may be had in exchange for them, purchasing to ourselves everlasting and glorious rewards; by the assistance of our riches (in the expression of St. Paul) laying up for ourselves a foundation of good works against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life."
6. And this I suppose to be the force and meaning of this Túliov or moral of the parable, which Christ hath closely contrived and pressed into these few words: "Make to yourselves friends of the," &c. In which words I shall observe unto you these three general parts:
1. What we must expect at last, notwithstanding all the riches and pomps of this world, i. e." to fail." Christ, you see, makes no question at all of it; he takes it for granted, where he says, "that when ye fail," as implying, that certainly fail we must.
2. This being supposed, that fail we must, the counsel of Christ comes in very seasonably, namely, to provide for the main, to take order, that though we ourselves sink, yet we may procure us friends to support us in our necessities; and that is, by making to ourselves" friends of the mammon," &c. 3. The comfortable issue and convenience, which shall accrue unto us by those friends
thus purchased, i. e. by them to be received "into everlasting," &c. Of these in the order proposed.
7. You do not expect, I am sure, that I should go about seriously to persuade you, that you shall not live here for ever. For, whom should I seek to persuade? God forbid, I should be so uncharitable, as to think, or but suspect, that ever I should find occasion to make use of any persuasions for such a purpose. Indeed, a very good man (it was the prophet David) once said in his prosperity, *" I shall never be removed; thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my hill so strong." But was this well said of him, think you? It seems not; for presently to confute this his confidence, The Lord did but turn his face away from him, and he was troubled." Yet surely such a speech as this could never be spoken upon better grounds; for this his assurance, it seems, proceeded not out of any presumptuous confidence of his own strength or policy: but only out of consideration of God's especial providence shewed in his wonderful preservation from many great and imminent dangers, and in preferring him from a low, contemptible fortune to the rule and dominion over his people.
8. There is another fellow in a parable, who, though he came short of David, in this his unwarrantable confidence and presumption upon that foundation of riches and wealth, which with unwearied anxiety and care he had laid up, notwithstanding was more suddenly and unanswerably confuted: for, he did not promise to himself a per
+ Luke xii.
Psal. xxx. 6.
+ Psal. xxx. 7.