neighbour was to be obeyed by himself, and at his own expense, he was then at a loss to know who his neighbour was; to ascertain, that is, the limits, the extent, the measure, the objects of the obligation.

Thirdly, and lastly, we have here, as upon many other occasions, great reason to admire the wisdom with which our blessed Lord spake; the manner and the excellency of his teaching. It is extremely material to observe, that this parable was not merely made by our Lord, or prepared beforehand in the manner of a set discourse, but, from the nature of the case, was conceived at the moment. The occasion was sudden and unexpected: a certain lawyer stood up, and started the question. It was, therefore, our Lord's divine promptness and presence of mind that enabled him, without study, without notice, to deliver a wiser, and more exquisite, and more complete solution of the question, than any study or learning could have produced. This was agreeable to his constant method: he gave to every incident, every discourse, to what happened before his eyes, to what passed in his conversation, a turn so as to draw from it a lesson of perpetual use. Not merely the lawyer was to go away answered, but his disciples instructed -his disciples in all ages of the world. therefore, are we who read this beautiful

As much,



his Scriptures as they who heard the word from his lips obliged to attend to it in our minds and thoughts, and to observe it in our lives and practice.




After a long time, the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

You cannot but know that these words are the conclusion of the parable of the talents; in which parable God's final dealings with mankind are set forth under the similitude of a master, who, setting out upon a distant journey, delivered talents, to some more, and to some fewer, to his several servants, and, upon his return required from each a separate account of his management; that upon those who had managed what was committed to them with diligence and success he bestowed high, yet proportionable rewards; that one who, though he had not spent or wasted, yet had hidden and totally neglected his talent, and had made no use of it whatever, he not only dismissed without reward, but sentenced him for his neglect to a grievous punishment. Now every thing in the New Testament which discloses the rules and principles according to which God will be pleased to judge us at the last is of extreme importance, because they are what we must stand or fall by, and

because they are what we ought to regulate our choice and behaviour by, whilst we have the matter in our power. Therefore this parable, as well as those others concerning the delivery of the talents (for it is given by the Evangelists, and was repeated by our Saviour in two or three different forms), is amongst the passages of Scripture deserving our most serious attention. The points to be well considered arewhat is meant by talents; and what is meant by improving, and by neglecting, and by abusing them: for these points being understood, the application of the parable to our respective cases and conditions will be sufficiently plain.

[ocr errors]

By talents, then, are meant any powers or faculties by which we can do good. Every such power or faculty which we find ourselves possessed of is a talent delivered to us by God; and therefore a talent, for the use, the abuse, the neglect of which, as the parable expresses it, our Lord will reckon with us.

One principal thing, and the most difficult thing to be comprehended on the subject, is, that every man, the most common and ordinary person, hath his talent, for the exercise of which he will have to account. I say this is less easy of comprehension, because, whenever we talk of talents, we are in the habit of considering only great talents, or extraordinary endowments and advantages. We are very ready to allow, and we think that is what the parable means, that those who have superior gifts-those who are blessed with quick abilities, or with favours

[ocr errors]

of fortune above the common lot of mankind-ought to employ these rightly; and that if they do not so, they are highly and justly censurable but we do not see how this relates to us, who make no pretensions to uncommon endowments of any kind; who are not in stations to possess much power of doing either good or evil. This way of thinking makes nine out of ten regard the parable of the talents as what does not at all concern them. I will endeavour therefore, as I proceed, to show you, that when the proper and true notion of moral talents is entertained, they are such things as, in a great degree, are given to every one, and what therefore every one will in the same degree be responsible for.

I have said, and I repeat it, that every power and faculty by which, according as we use it, we may do good, and by which, according as we misuse it, we may do harm, is a talent within the sense and rule of the parable. This definition extends the parable to all, notwithstanding there may be, and there is, much diversity, both in kind and degree, of the powers and faculties of different men; yet I believe that there are some of every station in whom their talents do not subsist in a sufficient degree to make the possessors responsible.

To see this satisfactorily, as well indeed as the full drift and extent of the parable, we may reflect, that the gifts which we are to account for, and which, according as we employ them, may be instruments of good or of evil, are either the faculties of the body,

the faculties of the mind, or the advantages of situation.

With respect to the body, it is a great fault that few set such value as they ought upon the blessings of health, strength, soundness, and activity: those who possess them are, for the most part, those who never knew the want of them; or else they would be sensible how graciously they were dealt with by their Maker, when he formed them with a vigorous constitution of body. A healthy constitution is a talent, and a talent from God. Now this talent is used as it ought to be when we employ it, and get our own living, in that station of life into which it hath pleased God to call us; when we labour honestly and faithfully, according to our portion of strength and activity, for the maintenance of our families. This is the natural and intended use of the talent; therefore it may and ought to be an encouraging reflection to the industrious husbandman at his plough, the industrious weaver at his loom, the artificer at his work, the tradesman in his shop, that he is then and there using the precious gift of bodily health and strength in the way in which his Maker intended they should be used, and that when his Master comes to reckon for the gift he can render his account. Health, strength, and activity are talents: lawful industry is the use of those talents. There will be occasions for using them still more meritoriously, when we can put forth our exertion to help a neighbour, to do a good or a kind turn by means of our bodily

« VorigeDoorgaan »