And the Lord answered, "Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their portion at the proper time?
I. IT IS CHRIST'S WILL THERE SHOULD BE STEWARDS IN HIS CHURCH, WHOSE DUTY IT IS TO GIVE HIS PEOPLE MEAT IN DUE SEASON. (Ver. 42-44.) This is the great design of the ministry - to feed the flock of God. All other duties are subsidiary to this.. For souls need to be as regularly fed with truth as the body with food. To this end the Christian ministry should, therefore, direct all its effects, that the people may be fed. And need it be said that the truth which nourishes men's souls is the truth as it is in Jesus? When Jesus is presented in the glory of his Person and offices, then the famished souls are saved and satisfied. Now, our Lord declares that the ministry will continue for such a purpose until his advent. The household of God will always need the food furnished by the ministry. No time will come when the ministry shall be superseded. And the ministers who are diligently employed at their teaching and feeding of souls when our Lord comes will find themselves blessed
(1) in their own experience, and
(2) in the magnificent promotion awaiting them,
Christ promises the faithful minister no less than universal influence. He is to be ruler over all he has. Others may have some influence, but a faithful minister will, in the world made new, have universal sovereignty. Ministerial influence is often incomparably the grandest and widest exercised among men in this life: how much more in the life and order which will be ushered in by the advent!
II. OUR LORD AT HIS ADVENT WILL MAKE SHORT WORK OF SPIRITUAL DESPOTS. (Ver. 45, 46.) Some in the ministry, it would seem, instead of living in expectation of the advent, will live as if the long-delayed advent would never come. In such a case selfish tyranny over the people committed to them will soon manifest itself; and upon the self-indulgent despot our Lord shall come suddenly, to appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. A ministry that is not earnest, but self indulgent and tyrannical, has before it a terrible doom.
III. HE ALSO SHOWS THAT JUDGMENT IN THE WORLD TO COME SHALT, BE GRADUATED ACCORDING TO DESERT. (Vers. 47, 48.) The difficulties about the Divine judgment have been partly owing to the forgetfulness of the fact that sinners are not to be cast indiscriminately into some common receptacle, but subjected to a series of graduated punishments of the most carefully adjusted character. The rhapsodies which are so plentiful against any thoroughness in punishing the impenitent are based mainly upon the false assumption of indiscriminating punishment. According to a person's opportunities will be his doom.
IV. OUR LORD DECLARES THAT HIS PRESENT ADVENT MUST GENERATE OPPOSITION. (Vers. 49-53.) The fire which our Lord came to kindle is that of spiritual enthusiasm; such a fire as burned in the disciples' hearts as he spoke to them on the way to Emmaus; such a fire as was promised in the baptism with the Holy Ghost. Such incendiarism is just the blessed commotion the world needs. But in the kindling of the holy flame our Lord will have to pass through a bloody baptism. He sees how inevitable this dread experience is, and yet he pants for the cross which is to crown his work and revolutionize the world. The cross of Christ is really the great divider of mankind; by its instrumentality families are divided into different camps, and the battle of the truth begun. But the division Christ creates is infinitely better than the unity without him. Better far that we should have to fight for truth than that we should live, like lotus-eaters, through indifference towards or ignorance of it. The battle for Christ is wholesome exercise, and the victory at last is assured.
V. HE CHARGES THEM WITH MISUNDERSTANDING THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES, WHILE THEY CAN APPRECIATE THE SIGNS OF THE WEATHER. (Vers. 54-56.) He is now speaking to the people, and not to the apostles. He points out how they can anticipate shower and heat by certain signs on the face of nature. People become "weather-wise," and can often show wonderful predictive power. And yet the times were providentially more significant than the weather. And before their eyes were hung the signs of a great contest between good and evil, between Christ and the world; and yet their hypocritical hearts would not allow them to appreciate the signs or take the proper side. It is a curious fact that many will study the laws of physical nature with intense interest and success, and yet neglect utterly those laws of the Divine government which involve the mightiest of revolutions. The hypocrisy of the heart is, our Savior here says, the secret of such inconsistent apathy.
VI. HE DECLARES THE URGENCY OF RECONCILIATION WITH GOD. (Vers. 57-59.) The adversary, magistrate, and officer, are three individuals needful for the initiation and execution of human judgment. But the context shows that Jesus here refers to the Divine judgment which these hypocrites are courting. In this case - as Godet, in loco, observes - the adversary, judge, and officer are united in the Person of God. He is the Adversary to charge us with our defaults; he is the Judge to decide our guilt; he is the Officer to execute due vengeance on us in case we incur it. Christ consequently urges reconciliation with God without delay upon these hypocrites. To secure this he appeals to their conscience. They can surely come to this conclusion themselves, that, in opposing and persecuting him, they are not doing right. Their own inward monitor must witness to the guilt of their present course. Let them see to it, then, that they are delivered from their doom. Only one way is open, and that is by throwing themselves upon his mercy manifested in Christ. In this appointed way our Lord leaves them without excuse. There is surely a hopeless air about the terms of this judgment. The payment of the last mite is surely impossible in the prison-house of eternity, and current remedial programmes about the future life are but "will-o'-the-wisps" to lure thoughtless minds onwards towards doom! May we calculate upon no post-mortem reformation, but enter upon the pardon and spiritual progress God offers to us now! - R.M.E.
That faithful and wise steward.I. HERE IS REPRESENTED A SITUATION OF WEIGHTY RESPONSIBILITY. A stewardship. All responsibility on the part of man is owing to God.
1. And first, my brethren, let it be remarked that God, on this principle and in this relationship of responsibility, or of stewardship, has endowed us with natural faculties: faculties which impart to us a dominion and empire over the various orders of that material creation by which we are surrounded; faculties which enable us to distinguish between right and wrong, between good and evil; faculties which therefore entitle us to comprehend the purposes for which moral government is formed; and faculties which permit our assimilation to the attributes and image of our Maker, that assimilation by which, most of all, He is dignified and honoured. There are, my brethren, you observe in these cases, entrustments which are committed to all, and the improvement of which is required from all, excepting, indeed, in cases of sad and mysterious affliction, or where it is usurped by madness. And those who, from time to time, have conceived, whether truly or falsely, that they have received an amount of natural faculties greater than the ordinary measure, must always remember, with deep and with prayerful solemnity, that what remains for them is nothing but humility, and seriousness, and diligence, and prayer.
2. Secondly, let it be observed that upon this principle and assimilation of stewardship God has also endowed us with many advantages and blessings. The comforts that men derive from their measure of worldly substance and competency, whatever it may be, and the comforts which they derive from the intimacies of friendship and the sweet and tender endearments of private and domestic life, ought not to escape enumeration, and ought not to be meanly esteemed.
3. God, on this principle of stewardship, has also endowed us with many religious privileges. He has endowed us with many religious privileges: that is to say, those means that are eminently adapted to instruct His creatures in the knowledge of His will, and to prepare them and guide their feet into the ways of quietness and peace.
II. Here is presented AN IMPORTANT CHARACTER BY WHICH THIS SITUATION IS DISTINGUISHED. "The Redeemer, you observe, speaks of the faithful and wise steward's love to the cause of his master. What we intend now to remark on this is, that these are the attributes which it is desirable that every human being should sustain with respect to that stewardship under which he is placed.
1. To be faithful and wise stewards, men must ascertain the nature of the duty which is imposed.
2. To be faithful and wise stewards, men must love the duty which is imposed.
3. To be faithful and wise stewards, men must practically perform the duty which is imposed.
4. To be faithful and wise stewards, men must habitually contemplate the account to be rendered of the duty which is imposed.
III. THE DELIGHTFUL RESULTS IN WHICH THE MAINTENANCE OF THAT CHARACTER IN THAT SITUATION IS TO TERMINATE.
1. The public approbation of the Divine Master.
2. The introduction to substantial honour, and perfect and eternal happiness.
(J. Parsons.)Francis Xavier, papist as he was? Yet what a man, how consecrated, how zealous! with all his errors, and all his mistakes, and all his faults, yet passing over sea and land, penetrating forests, and daring death a thousand times, that he might spread abroad the poor misguided doctrines which he believed. As much as I hate his teaching, I admire his all but miraculous zeal. When I think of some such men; when I would fain censure their mistakes, I can only censure myself that I cannot even so much as think, or cannot do more than think of living such a life as they lived.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Blessed is that servant.I. WE ARE ARE OF US SERVANTS AND STEWARDS, AND ARE TO BE IN EMPLOYMENT. We must be "doing." Religion is no idle and lazy thing, it is not sluggish and sleepy, it is not drowsy and lethargic, but it is lively and active, vigorous and operative, and always puts us upon holy endeavours and enterprizes. A Christian is not made to stand still and dig nothing. His soul and all its faculties were given him for some great design, and fitted for some excellent use and work.
II. IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO BE EMPLOYED AND TO BE DOING SOMETHING; WE MUST BE "SO DOING" — doing our Master's work. We had better be doing nothing than not be so doing — "so run, that ye may attain," saith the apostle. The racer may run, and with full speed, and yet never reach the goal, never obtain the prize, for he may run out of the way, and make haste from the mark. And though he keeps the way, he may not be swift enough. The manner as well as the matter o! religion is to be minded, and the latter of these chiefly. I shall endeavour, then, to explain this duty of a Christian in my text; I will show you what it is to be so doing, and I pray God the several particulars, which are all plain and intelligible, may have influence on our lives and practices, that when our Lord shall come, we may be found employed about these following things.
1. Meditating and examining ourselves, serious consideration and reflection on our ways. The Christian is to be busied within doors; he is to be rifling his own breast, and taking account of the inward frame and disposition of his heart.
2. Watching is another exercise meant here by the "so doing," as you may see in verses 37 and 38 of this chapter. You are, then, to watch over your hearts, and to keep them with all diligence. And moreover, you are to watch over your actions and lives; you must avoid the occasions of every vice, and keep a strict guard over your senses, which are the common inlets to sin, and betray you to the commission of the greatest follies. "Behold! I come as a thief" (saith Christ), "blessed is he that wateheth" (Revelation 16:15).
3. Praying is another good and laudable posture to be found in when our Lord cometh. "Watch and pray" go hand in hand together, and they are never more seasonable than when we are expecting the coming of our Lord.
4. Lamenting and sorrowing for our sins is to be "so doing"; and is another good work to be found in when we are to depart hence, and appear before the impartial tribunal of heaven. Our sins and failings are very numerous, our slips and offences are many and frequent, and we cannot sufficiently lament and bewail our folly, and implore the Divine pardon, and invoke the assistance of the Holy Spirit, but let us resolve to do it with all our might, and with sincere and upright hearts, that our present sorrows and lamentations may give us an entrance into undisturbed joy and felicity.
5. Whilst we have opportunity, let us reckon it our duty and interest to be constantly attending on God's holy ordinances, not only that of prayer (before mentioned), but that of reading and hearing God's Word; also the Holy Communion.
6. Doing of works of charity to the souls and bodies of our brethren is an acceptable employment, and will render our last accounts easy to us.
7. Serving God in the several particular callings and places wherein He hath set you is a work which you should endeavour to be found doing. Let me tell you, you serve God by your secular vocations; you may bring glory to Him even by your worldly employment, though it be never so mean and contemptible. The poorest labourer, by a conscientious discharge of his proper trust, by diligence and honesty, is in a capacity to honour his Maker and the religion which he professes. Every one in the sphere and orb wherein Providence hath fixed him must act, move, and influence. Serve God with constancy both in your general and particular calling. This is Christianity, and this will bring a blessing upon you and yours.
III. OUR LORD WILL COME AND TAKE AN ACCOUNT OF WHAT WE HAVE DONE. The Master will come and visit His servants whom He hath set on work. My brethren, our Lord observes and minds what we do; He takes notice whether we be idle or watchful, whether we busy ourselves about His work or Satan's. And it will not be long before He comes and reckons with us for all our past demeanour. The days of accounting are these two, death and the last judgment. These are the set times of our Lord's coming, and none can reverse and escape them. The voluptuous and debauched person must appear before that great tribunal, and give an account of his wild and brutish deportment; the unclean person who shunned the light, and thought to conceal his folly by darkness and retirements, must then appear and stand out in the open view of the world, and be accountable for his lewd and lascivious practices. The profane swearer, who blasphemed the holy name of God and His Son Jesus, must then bow and prostrate himself to Him whom he before profaned. The mighty oppressor, who escaped here the earthly judge, and by his wealth and power made himself too great for human judicature, must stand at that great bar and submit to the fatal sentence. The hypocrite, who thought to deceive God as well as his neighbours, shall appear then in his true shape, which he never did before. The uncharitable man, the fomenter of strife and discord, the man that haled others before the judge, must himself appear before the Judge of heaven and earth, and answer for all his unchristian and unbrotherly behaviour.
IV. THOSE SERVANTS WHOM CHRIST AT HIS COMING SHALL FIND ABOUT HIS WORK AND BUSINESS ARE IN A BLESSED AND HAPPY CONDITION.
1. How comfortable must it needs be to a holy person that he hath not only all his lifetime endeavoured sincerely to serve his God, and to do all the good he could in the world, but that, by God's grace assisting him, he hath persevered in the same course until death; and now that he is to depart this life he is not employed in the works of darkness, he is not displeasing God, and offending good men, but he is about his Master's business, and he expires his last breath in the discharge of his duty. Blessedness is entailed on the servant who thus behaves himself. If you consider the nature of the thing itself it cannot be otherwise, for he being made by God to serve Him, and to be wholly at His beck and disposal, it must needs be that his satisfaction and happiness should consist in conforming himself to God's will, and in acting according to His laws and commands. I may add likewise that God will protect His servants in the discharge of His own work. They are safe whilst they are doing what He sets them about. Come what will, they cannot be miserable. The summary application of all may be that of 2 Peter 3:11. "Seeing, then, that all these things shall be dissolved" (seeing that the day of the Lord approaches, and Christ will come to judge thee speedily, either at death or at the last judgment), "what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?" how exemplary should your lives and conversations be? how zealous should you show yourselves in all the exercises of religion. Give me leave to direct you (as to this great matter) in these few words:
1. Pray more fervently. Unite all your forces now and wrestle with God, and cry mightily unto Him for yourselves, for this place where you inhabit, and for the whole land of your nativity.
2. Disengage your affections more resolvedly from the world. You are convinced by this time, surely, that the world is vain and uncertain. Dote not on its enjoyments, sink not your souls into earth, plunge them not into the mire, be indifferent as to all things here below, and be ready to part with any of this world's goods.
3. Oppose vice more vigorously than ever, and the rather because of those many strong temptations you meet with in this degenerate and corrupted age.
4. Breathe after heaven more passionately. Let the ill things which you behold here below be the occasion of raising your thoughts and desires toward those mansions above where nothing inhabits but what is pure and holy.
5. Let your lives and actions acquaint the world how mindful you are of that great account which you are to give at the coming of the Lord. Desire to be found doing your Master's work, and then be not solicitous about the wages, but assure yourselves that that will be a recompense far beyond your thoughts and wishes. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
(John Edwards, D. D.)I. THE FAITHFUL PRINCIPLES OF THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD.
1. He views God as an ever-present Master.
2. He acknowledges God as the Giver of life and salvation to his perishing soul.
II. THE HONOURABLE OCCUPATIONS OF THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD. He considers himself to be entrusted with various gifts; not for his own pleasure, but for God's glory; not for selfish ends, but for the highest good of his fellow-creatures. All that he possesses he considers as being his Lord's goods; and he does not dare to waste any part of them. He takes an inventory of what is committed to him, and "occupies" or trades therewith. He turns everything to good account; he squanders nothing. To this end, moreover, he often reviews his own proceedings; and these self-examinations are preparatory to that last solemn hour when it shall be said, "Give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward." See how he dedicates his talents to the Most High, and employs all his mind for God! What poor, ignorant sinners, whether at home, or heathen abroad, can I bring to the knowledge of Christ? What afflicted person can I comfort? What tempted servant of Christ can I succour? What neighbour, or friend, or relative, that is unconverted, can I win to Christ? Thus, moreover, he lays out his time; his years, his days, his very hours are engaged for God.
III. THE GENEROUS DISPOSITIONS OF THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD. In one word — love. Therefore, nothing is irksome, nothing burdensome.
IV. THE REWARD WHICH SHALL BE GIVEN TO THE TRUE SERVANT OF GOD.
1. He is commended.
2. He is promoted.
3. He is admitted to joys inconceivable.
(Dr. Jowett, M. A.)I. THE HONOURABLE OCCUPATION DESCRIBED IS THAT OF A SERVANT DILIGENTLY EMPLOYED IN HIS MASTER'S WORK.
1. Labour is not necessarily and essentially a curse. Adam in Eden. Labour in itself is invigorating, promoting the welfare of the body and the cheerfulness of the mind, while it tends to keep the heart from the power of those temptations which find in the idle and unoccupied an easy prey. It is idleness in all its forms against which the displeasure of our God is expressed with repeated emphasis in the sacred Scriptures. And labour is honourable, whether in the lowly engagements of those who tread the humbler walks of life, or in the more imposing pursuits of those who occupy the prominent stations of society; whether the miner who labours in the bowels of the earth, or the author who with his pen records the processes and results of laborious thought for the guidance of his fellow-men. God has prescribed labour as one of the lasting arrangements of the social world. Everything is full of labour, from the glowing seraph, who flies through boundless space, the willing agent of Almighty will, down to those mysterious laws which keep the universe in being and secure its destined aims; and man is to be no exception, his varied powers of body and of mind were bestowed, net to evaporate in listless, dreamy idleness, to be prostituted for the needs of selfishness and pleasure, but to be employed in active, healthful toil; hence we say labour is honourable. And if prescribed and honourable in the social world, much more so is its relation to the religion of Jesus. He would have no idlers in His kingdom. The idea of our text is that of a servant diligently engaged with his work. Now this, you know, is not the case with all; by some it is done partially, sluggishly, grudgingly, fitfully; but the character here described is supposed to recognize his obligation, without which no one will prove a faithful servant; to carry out his obligations with perseverance, feeling that every day has its claim, and every hour its demand; and further, seeking his Master's approbation, and thus making his labour his delight, as will always be the case when the smile of approbation is felt to be a coveted reward and a gratifying recompense. This we have described as an honourable position, and contrast justifies the representation. How unlike the trifler and the profligate is the course of the faithful servant!
2. Such a character is honourable in the unprejudiced estimate of the world. To whom do we look back with reverence and esteem? To the men who lived solely for selfish ends, either that they might amass a fortune or obtain a name? or to those who spent their all in riotous living? Oh no, they have passed into a silence as complete as the destruction they have secured, or are remembered only as warnings to others to avoid their folly and escape their doom. It is the patriot toiling or suffering for his country's good. A Howard or a Fry risking the infection of disease in their efforts to alleviate the sufferings or restrain the progress of guilt — the humble, devoted instructor of youthful ignorance — the faithful pastor — the sanctified intellect — the self-denying philanthropist — these are they whom the world, with all its evils, yet delights to honour — whose names are embalmed in fragrant recollection, who are looked upon as men who are held up for the admiring imitation of succeeding generations — these, the servants diligently and faithfully engaged in their work, are the lights of the world and the salt of the earth.
3. Such characters are honourable in the approving representations of God's own Word.
II. CONSIDER THE BLESSEDNESS WITH WHICH SUCH COURSE SHALL BE CROWNED. "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord when He cometh shall find so doing."
1. Here we are referred to a solemn event, the coming of the Master.
2. And yet further, the form of our text suggests to us the uncertainty of the mode and the moment of the Master's arrival. Uncertainty — not with Him, for known unto God are all things from the foundation of the world, but uncertainty as respects ourselves; the moment is hastening on, but we know it not — the mode is arranged and fixed, but it is not revealed. Nor can any careful induction of facts lead us to any reliable conclusion as to what awaits us — under what circumstances, or at what time, the Master will come to us. Sometimes we see the servant left to toil on through the whole extent of the wilderness, like Joshua and Caleb, while others enter the promised land in the springtide of their youth or in the full yet undecayed maturity of advanced years: wearisome sickness sometimes makes the exhausted traveller cry, " Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly," while others, spared the struggle and the dying strife, drop the coil of mortality and soar away on more than eagle's wings, and find themselves at rest. None, none can tell the hour or foresee the mode by which he shall be summoned to the final interview, yet the event with all its details is determined and known to Him in whom we live and move and have our being. The time is settled when, by the slow process of decay, or suddenly without previous notice, amid scenes of pleasure, the occupations of business, or in the solitude of retirement, we shall hear the Master's voice, and be called to appear before Him.
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