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the best characters are defective. Nor do I speak of a perceptible and open transition from one step in this progress to another. Much less am I to be understood of hasty measures, the fruit of self-will under the garb of zeal. The busy, conceited, and presumptuous man, who neglects his immediate, or more difficult duties, to fly to distant and splendid scenes of action, is not the patient and industrious steward before us. But the gradual and quiet tenour of the faithful servant, who begins with primary and humble duties, and proceeds, as his opportunities are increased, in his holy course, preserving still all the extent and all the sweetness of a willing and well-ordered obedience, it is delightful to contemplate. It is difficult to say whither such a man may arrive at last; how his means and powers may be augmented; how his influence may expand; how his very name may be blessed. Consider only the private Christian in his domestic circle, who should for forty or more years pursue such a course. Contemplate a person of elevated birth or distinguished station in the community who should thus act in the conduct of his public, as well as personal, duties. View the sacred instructor in religion proceeding onward with similar dispo sitions and activity, in a quiet and steady path of pious actions. Take even the humblest elass of society, and suppose such a series of
efforts to be made there. The mind is quite lost in attempting to estimate the amount of good which may be achieved. There is no station in society where a faithful Christian may not succeed in this way in honouring God and promoting the benefit of man in a degree almost beyond calculation. ';
And shall any such want their REWARD? In: this world, indeed, they may possibly be opposed and misrepresented. But at length the Lord of his servants will come and reckon with them. Then he who has discharged his duty with fidelity will have boldness" in the day of judgment and a humble confidence towards God. He will say, not with pride and self-dependence, for after all he is a sinful creature, indebted for every thing to divine grace, but still with cheer-'' ful gratitude, Lord; thou : deliveredst 'unto met: five talents, behold I have gained besides 'them five talents more. ?' And this Lord will say unto him, Well dones good and faithful servånt ; thou hast been faithfül over a few things, I will ? make theë ruler over many things, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Or if he has been faithful only in the management of two talents, he will make a similar report, and receive a like commendation and reward. It is not the numa ber of our gifts, but the diligent use of them, to which our Master will bave regard. O blissful consummation! O gracious recompense ! 0 -
exhilarating plaudit! Well doné, good and faithful servant. Let us be careful not to lose this praise by seeking the praise of men. And how ample the recompense! How undeserved! For the very few things in which he has been faithful, he is made ruler over many things. Surely this far surpasses the value of the work achieved. This represents a state of bliss and transport greatly exceeding the previous tabour. It is explained by the following words, Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord : that joy which he purchased by his death and passion, which he possesses himself in infinite and unclouded glory, which he communicates of his rich bounty to all his servants.
But it is time for us to review the painful, but instructive, part of the subject which remains for our consideration, viz.
III. THE CHARACTER AND DOOM OF THE SLOTHFUL SERVANT.
He that had received one talent went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. Such is the description of the negligent Christian professor, who neither employs nor increases the gifts and blessings intrusted to him ; who neither saves himself, nor benefits those connected with him. He is said to have had only one talent, which teaches us that God will require an account of the smallest trust, as well
as of the greatest; and likewise that those who have the least to perform for God, often neglect even that little. This one talent is designed to signify a confined circle of opportunities, limited degrees of health; ability, knowledge, time or influence. It applies to persons in the ordinary and humbler stations of life, not called to great and public duties, not placed in conspicuous and commanding stations, not intrusted with abundant wealth, numerous dependents, and unusual advantages. As these persons are beyond all comparison the larger proportion of mankind, this part of the parable is the more interesting. It embraces also the minister of religion who has a smaller measure of gifts, and a narrow and retired course of duties.
The fault of this servant was SLOTH. He went and digged in the earth, and hid his lords money. He might have used the knowledge of his Bible and the blessings of the Sabbath, and the public and private worship of God, at least to his own salvation ; but this he neglected to do. He might have honoured God in his calling, however obscure; but he omitted it. He might have benefited others by a holy example, submissive temper, and diligent activity; but to these he never attended. He might have counselled or reclaimed a neighbour, comforted the distressed, and discountenanced the profane: of all this he thought nothing. He might have
instructed and blessed his family and children : but this was a labour to him. He might have spared something from his earnings by frugality and management, for the relief of a poorer fellow-creature; he might have watched for occasions of doing little kindnesses; he might have redeemed his time; he might have improved his knowledge and judgment of religious and moral duties; he might have prayed for the church and the world-but he was too indolent for such exertions. If he was an instructor of others, he might have saved his own soul, and those intrusted to his care ; but he neglected both.
It is to be observed here, that SLOTH IS of ITSELF A CRIME in a servant of God. This was sufficient to condemn the unfaithful steward. It is not said that he wasted his lord's goods, but that he buried them. It is not said that he was profligate, but that he was idle. It is not said that he opposed and despised the work of others, but that he omitted his own.
He might be virtuous in the eye of men, but he was thoughtless in the esteem of God. He might be amiable, but he was unprofitable. He gained nothing by trading. He considered it enough not to commit positive vice. He was decent, specious, temporizing, feeble, inert. Men think they live an innocent life in avoiding gross enormities, and in spending their time tranquilly and softly in inactivity. But it is a great evil