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not to do good. It is an abuse of the gifts of God not to employ them. Repose is a crime in him who is called to a laborious life. To live to ourselves is to live to sin. A negative character is an unfaithful one. This appears
further in the Excuse which the slothful servant is described as making : 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 strawed ; and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast that is thine. It is a strange blindness to imagine we can justify ourselves by accusing God of injustice. But self-love and a corrupt heart are capable of any deceit. The multitudes who live a decent worldly life without repentance, faith in the merits of Christ, or any serious religion, and who never once think of making a right employment of their talents, commonly fall into this fatal wickedness. They flatter themselves that they do what they can. They persuade themselves that God is unjust in requiring so much from them. They say, The way of the Lord is not equal, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and ihe children's teeth are set, on edge. They frame to themselves a character of God according to their own fancy. Sometimes he is all mercy, and this invites them to presumption and impeni
tence. Sometimes he is all justice, and this deters them from any effort. Whilst humility and love to their Master animate the faithful servants to begin in the first place with their own duty, and trust their Lord's kindness and mercy; pride and indolence dispose the slothful ones to begin with vain reasonings on God's supposed designs, and in this way to provoke him to his face.
Thus the foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord. He yields to servile fear; he views God secretly as an enemy; he abuses the little he knows of religious truth; he takes up parts of the Gospel, and wrests them to his own destruction. He says, if he had the opportunities of others, he would act, but that it is of no use for him to attempt any thing. He says he has tried, and cannot serve Christ. He says he cannot turn to God of himself, and so he must wait till God gives him his grace. He profanely dares, first to imagine to himself what are God's secret purposes, and then to oppose them to his express commands and revealed will. Endless are the mazes in which indolence loses itself. Men may not avow such sentiments as these, nor frame them into a positive creed, but their conduct speaks too plainly for them. They contemn God, for they say in their hearts, Thou God wilt not require it.
"To all such presumptuous reasonings, The REPLY of the Lord to the indolent servant is addressed: Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed; thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. All the vain pleas of nominal and hypocritical Christians will be silenced at the day of judgment. Out of their own mouths they will be judged,
God does not deign to argue ; he confounds. If, indeed, as they pretend, they formed such a severe notion of the divine character, why did they not act as reasonable creatures on the supposition? Why did they not employ the talent which they consess was intrusted to them? Why did they not pray and read the Scriptures? Why did not they examine into the whole of that revelation which they professed to believe, but believed only to abuse? Why did they not strive with redoubled eagerness to enter in at the gate which they knew to be so strait? Why did they not make every sacrifice, resort to every assistance, call in every helper in a case so urgent and so extreme? Was idleness the way to meet an austere master with acceptance? Was neglect of what they had received the way to obtain further grace?
Was disobedience to a plain command the best method of disarming an ex,
traordinary severity?' Was burying the talent in the earth the safest and most profitable way of preparing to account for it?
But all such excuses in fact mean nothing. They are the mere inventions of a wicked' heart. They will only serve for the sinner's greater condemnation. Whatever reasonings he may resort to, if those reasonings practically lead him to indolence and sloth as to his salvation and the glorifying of God, they will be themselves the arguments and confirmation of his sentence. Nothing will remain to shield him from the divine wrath. Take, therefore, the talent from him, will his Lord say, and give it unto him that hath ten talents ; for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not 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 will be the end of the unprofitable Christian. Stripped of what he seemeth to have, he will be separated from God and happiness, and reap the awful reward of his indolence and wickedness. To the marriage-banquet he will not be admitted. He will be excluded from the joy and from the presence of his Lord. Outer darkness will be his portion, and interminable misery his doom.
1. Let us, then, in conclusion, first use this subject in a way of CONVICTION OF SIN.
For how many, we have reason to fear, are slothful servants! How many are practically inert with respect to God and their salvation, absolutely dead as to spiritual religion and active improvement of their talents! If we are to consider all those to be unfaithful, who, with a profession of Christianity, and the opportunities of knowing and obeying the Gospel, are yet living a sensual unprofitable life, uninterested about their own souls and the souls of others ; tareful concerning this world, thoughtless about another ; labouring for the meat which perisheth, neglecting that which endureth to everlasting life; valuing highly their superiority over others, and all their advantages, só far as they think it will reflect honour on themselves, but depreciating them when reminded of the account they shall have to give; yielding to every: prejudice against religion, every threat of the world, every apprehension of reproach, where God and the souls of men are concerned, and overcoming all these when their own ease or gratification is at stake-if all these persons, together with the numerous classes of men who, in different ways, do not increase their gifts nor rightly use them—are in fact wicked and slothful servants, and in danger of being cast into outer darkness, where is weeping and