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LUKE, xvi. 2.

Give an Account of thy Stewardship; for thou mayest be no

longer Steward.

RENDER up your stewardship-give an account of your conduct—thundered forth by some powerful superior, who will brook no delay—what a tremendous summons is this?

Hear it ye rich, and ye poor; ye rulers, and ye subjects; ye pastors, and ye people! Whether there be committed to you ten talents, or one; whether your stewardship be in things spiritual, or things temporal-hear it and be instructed! The last knell of expiring time; the trump of God calling us to his judgment-scat; ought not more deeply to alarm us, than this awful summons of the Gospel; which, though it is daily heard by us, has its moral but too much daily neglected.

Various are the methods by which God's wisdom thinks fit to call sinners to repentance, in the scriptures. Sometimes in language, soft as the breathings of love divine; sometimes in notes, severe as the voice of offended majesty; sometimes by the gentle allurements of promised rewards; and sometimes by the awful denunciations of a judgment to come.

Our blessed Redeemer, in the preceding chapter, had been preaching up the most comfortable doctrine of his father's free grace, manifested in the remission of sins, and his readiness to receive and embrace returning penitents. The love of God in this, and his planning from eternity a method of bringing home lost souls to himself, through the all-perfect satisfaction of a Saviour, are most beautifully and tenderly set forth in sundry instructive parables; such as a shepherd's leaving ninety-nine of his sheep in the wilderness, to look after one lost, and calling all his neighbours to rejoice with him on finding it! Such as a woman's searching carefully for a piece of lost treasure, and communicating her joy to all around her on the recovery thereof! And, above all, such as that of an indulgent parent, receiving back to his bosom even a prodigal son, that had wasted his substance in riot and intemperance.

But all these soft and winning descriptions were lost upon the hardened pharisees.

Our Saviour, therefore, addresses them in a very different strain. He lays before them this parable of the steward, called suddenly to account before his lord and master, thereby intimating to them, in colours the most striking, that however light they might make of the Gospel overtures in the day of grace, a time would come, and that suddenly too as a thici in the night,

when they would be called to give a severe account of the improvements they had made of such signal blessings!

I have not chosen these words, as thinking that this congregation could be moved by nothing but arguments of terror; nor because there is the least similitude between the character of the steward in the text, and that character which is the occasion of the present mournful solemnity. To argue thus, would be a perversion of all parables, and the design of all preaching. The scripture parables are generally written for the illustration of some important point of doctrine, or morals; and do not require a particular application of every particular circumstance.

The words which I have read, “ give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward,” are to be taken, as they stand, in their single and irrelative sense, being equally applicable to accountable creatures of every degree. And the doctrine I would infer from them on the present occasion is

First, that every thing we possess in this world is given us in trust, and for improvement.

Secondly, that there will be a day of final reckoning; and that as the account stands at the hour of death, so will it be produced in the day of Judgment.

Thirdly, that the only reflections which can give us hope, as accountable creatures, in the hour of death, and the resignation of our stewardship, are to be derived from the Gospel-prospects and promises.

And first, then it is evident, from the whole tenor of God's holy word, that whatsoever we possess in this life is given us in trust and for improvement. The unprofitable servant, who laid up his pound in a napkin, had a severe sentence passed upon him by his returning Lord—“Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds* ;"-to him that hath made a due improvement of what was formerly committed to him. The like sentence was denounced against the fruitless fig-tree-a " Cut it down, why cumbreth it the groundt?”

Many more scripture-proofs might be adduced; but the point in question does not seem to need them. To a man who lives a life of reason and of virtue, few things are sufficient to satisfy the calls, nay to answer the conveniencies, of life. Could it be agreeable then, to the ordinance of a wise and just God, for one to grasp a thousand times his proportion of the goods of this world and to hoard them up without improvement for the public? Why should different talents be assigned to clifferent persons, if they were to be employed solely for their own private use? Why should one wallow in wealth; one be exalted to the summit of power; one rejoice in bodily strength; one enjoy faculties of mind almost angelic; if the separate possessors were to use these separate gifts only for themselves, without regard to the community?

Through all nature, there is incessant energy, action and communication of powers. Nothing seems to exist on its own single account. stars, that spangle the face of night, are bound to

The very

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their orbits by mutual action on each other, and on the common centre of the system!

Why, then, should those divine gifts and endow. ments, which providence showers so profusely on individuals of the human system, be left without their full use? Why should they be suffered to stagnate, as it were, like waters emitting only a noisome vapour in the summer's drought? Ought they not rather to flow irriguous, like the refreshing rills, rejoicing the country around? Most undoubtedly, my brethren, , they ought! And such would be the improvement which we should make of every thing committed to us if, instead of looking upon it as peculiarly our own, and so much added to our private felicity, we would consider ourselves only as God's stewards for the same; and more especially reflect that there will be a day of final reckoning, when we shall be called to give an account of our stewardship, before men and angels, at the bar of Omnipotence. And this was the second topic of my discourse.

Now a day of accounts is inseparable from the very notion of a stewardship; and the sacred scriptures, pursuing the metaphor, have placed this matter beyond contradiction. We are there told that all our actions are registered in a book, written with a pen of iron and with the point of a diamond. We are also told that our Omnipotent judge will open this awful book and proceed against us by regular process" I saw a great white throne and him that sat cn it; from whose face the earth and the heavens Aed away, and there was no place found for them.

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