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doctrine of God our Saviour, you may, clothed with the wedding garment of righteousness and true holiness, enter in through the gates into the city, and sit down with the King at his table to the everlasting feast of God's unclouded presence and unchangeable favour.
PARABLE OF THE TALENTS.
MATTHEW xxv. 14-30.
"For the kingdom of heaven is as 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 ability ; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents, went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one, went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents, came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents : behold, I have gained besides them five talents more.
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and 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. He also that had received two talents came, and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents : behold, I have gained two other talents besides them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and 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. Then he which had received the one talent came, and said, Lord I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed : and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth : lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 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 which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance : but from him that hath noi, 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 is a long text, my friends, but I am very sure that none but inspired wisdom could say so much in as few words. Were it proper to speak absolutely and without qualification of the importance to us of different passages in the Holy Scriptures, I should not hesitate to pronounce that one which I have just read, of more value than any other. But as it would be presumptuous to give an unqualified preference to a part where all is of vital interest and unspeakable value, I will only say this, that for practical use and general application it is more happily and wisely adapted than any other single passage in the word of God.
The mysterious doctrines of our religion, by which I mean those which are above our reason, and derive their value and importance to us from their Author, and from their intimate connexion with the whole plan of redemption---such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation of the second person in that ineffable union, the resurrection of the body, the operation of divine grace in our hearts, with many others that might be named, deserve all the attention which Christians can give them, and are to be received and believed, simply on the authority of the Revealer. The preceptive parts of Christianity, also, being consonant to the highest reason, and the purest morality, and productive of all the happiness mortals can attain to, demand, on the ground both of duty and of interest, the most hearty and diligent observance. Yet they nevertheless want that familiar application to each one's personal concerns, that concentration, if I may so speak, of all that both doctrine and precept lead to, which we find in the parable of the talents. So lively and forci. ble is the lesson therein contained, that no one can read it attentively, without feeling the immediate bearing it has upon himself, as an accountable creature; without perceiving, at a glance, as it were, the sum and substance of the religion of the gospel, and the exceeding goodness of God our Saviour in furnishing accountable creatures for that judgment, whose equitable rule is manifested in the parable, by example..
The great purpose of the present life, and the object of public instruction from the pulpit, being to awaken men to the care of their souls, and to prepare them for another and a better, to that end I shall consider the parable in my text, not in a minute subdivision of the doctrines, but as a general fund of instruction and exhortation.
By the word talent we are not to understand any one particular qualification or advantage, either temporal or spiritual, either of mind, body, or estate ; but, whatever in the present life can be applied to promote the glory of God, and the good of our fellow creatures. This is the best practical explanation of the word which I can give you; the most comprehensive in its application ; the most consonant with the duties arising from the unequal condition of this life, which it is one great object of Christianity to equalize; and the one which agrees the most perfectly with the equity of that judgment, in which we shall all soon have to meet our God. This, my friends, is what gives to this passage of Scripture its peculiar force and impression. Do what we will, we can escape from the fairness and reasonableness of its application no otherwise, than by putting away from us every religious consideration, and desperately shutting our eyes, and closing our ears, and hardening our hearts, against the united testimony of revelation and conscience.
Another remark, more applicable to this parable, perhaps, than to any which our Lord put forth, and well worthy of your notice, is this—there is in it no difficulty of interpretation. The moral is not hid in the depth of the allusion, nor can an erroneous mystical meaning be drawn from it. It comes home to the every day business of human life; sets before us, in a manner not to be mistaken, one grand and leading principle for the regulation of conduct, embracing every possible condition in this our probationary state ; and presents religion to our notice and regard, not as a system of speculative truth, but as a faithful, active, and diligent improvement of whatever Cod hath been pleased to bestow upon us.
This much may susfice as to the importance of the parable itself. The instruction we may draw from it, is as follows:
I. First. Whatever our condition in the present life may be, it is the appointment of a wise and gracious God, who proportions his gifts, not by an arbitrary and capricious choice, but by the fixed and settled order of that Providence in which he governs the universe; and with a foresight of the part each individual has to act. This is clearly pointed out to us in the commencement of the parable—IIe called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods; to every man according to his several ability.
This doctrine, we are all ready enou. to admit; but we do not extend it as far as we ought, being disposed to confine it to those qualifications of mind and body which are confessedly not
of our own procuring in any sense, such as beauty or deformity of person, health and strength of body, soundness of mind, with all the grades of genius, as it is called, in other words, a capacity to acquire knowledge, either generally or in some particular branch of science, together with situations in life, productive of events, whether good or evil, which leave a permanent character behind them. These, and such like, we readily enough attribute, at least in words, to the special gift of God. But to entertain this doctrine as we ought, we must include much more; even all that is not evidently the result of our own crimes and follies. These last, indeed, are provided, both for and against, in the infinite comprehension of God's overruling wisdom ; but they can never be considered as talents, that is, as improveable gifts ; for in so doing, we should make God the author of sin. Hence, my brethren, we are instructed, that our original condition, as respects the advantages or disadvantages of birth and fortune, the moral qualities of temper and disposition, the means, time, and opportunity afforded, are all in the number of those gifts of God, here represented to us by the word talent. To the inquiry, why to one is given five, to another two, and to another one ? we can give no other answer, than that infinite goodness and wisdom so willed; nor are we concerned to know. Indeed, no benefit could arise from the knowledge, beyond the satisfaction of a vain curiosity. The point of wisdom for us to be engaged about is, the number and magnitude of those committed to ourselves. We have not to answer for each other-Every one shall give account of himself to God.
II. Secondly. We are instructed from the text, that whatever we possess, be it more or be it less, is not our own, in the sense we attach to ownership. All should be considered as the property of the “Giver of every good and perfect gift,” to be used in his service, and applied according to his direction. We hold in trust, my brethren, and a trust of a complicated nature.
First, and in the highest sense, to the use, honour, and glory of the giver. Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God; which means, briefly, this—to keep a continual sense of God upon our minds, and truly to intend and earnestly to promote the advancement of his kingdom among