Luke 16:1


There is a wide difference between worldly cleverness and spiritual sagacity; of these two acquisitions, the former is to be questioned if not avoided, the latter to be desired and attained. Christ's teaching here will be entirely misunderstood if we fail to discriminate between them.

I. THE EMPLOYER'S COMMENDATION OF HIS STEWARD'S CLEVERNESS. "His lord" (not our Lord) commended the unjust steward because he had acted "shrewdly" (not "wisely") (ver. 8). What does this commendation amount to? It cannot be a justification of his action upon the whole, - that idea cannot be entertained, for this action on the steward's part was wholly adverse to the employer's interests. It was simply a compliment paid to his keenness; it was equivalent to saying, "You are a very clever fellow, a very sharp man of the world; you know how to look after your own temporal affairs;" only that, and nothing more than that, is meant.

II. OUR LORD'S COMMENDATION OF SPIRITUAL SAGACITY.

1. Jesus Christ could not possibly praise cleverness when devoid of honesty. He could not do that for two reasons.

(1) Because mere cleverness without honesty is a criminal and a shameful thing; no amount of imaginable "success" would compensate for the lack of principle; he who pays truthfulness for promotion, conscientiousness for comfort, purity for gratification, self-respect for honour or applause, pays much too high a price, does himself an irreparable wrong, sins against his own soul.

(2) Because mere cleverness does not succeed in the end. It did not here. The steward of the text would have been better off if he had shown less sharpness and more fidelity; if he had been faithful he would not have been reduced to a dishonourable shift to secure a roof above his head. It does not anywhere. No one is more likely to outwit himself than a very clever man of the world. Unprincipled dexterity usually finds its way to desertion and disgrace. Success begets confidence, confidence runs into rashness, and rashness ends in ruin. No wise man would bind up even his earthly fortunes with those of his clever, unscrupulous neighbour.

2. Jesus does praise sagacity in connection with integrity. He would like the "children of light" to show as much forethought, ingenuity, capacity, in their sphere as the "children of this world" show in theirs. He counsels them, for instance, to put out their money to good purpose, so as to secure much better results than it is often made to yield. Make friends with it, he suggests. What better thing can we buy than friendship? Not, indeed, that the very best fellowship is to be bought like goods over the counter or like shares in the market; but by interesting ourselves in our fellow-men, by knowing their necessities and by generously ministering to them, we can win the gratitude, the blessing, the benediction, the prayers of those we have served and succoured. And how good is this! What will personal comforts, bodily gratifications, luxuries in dress and furniture, any visible grandeurs, weigh against this? Nay, more, our Lord suggests, we may make even money go further than this; it may yield results that will pass the border. It, itself, and all the worldly advantages it secures, we know that we must leave behind: but if by its means we make friends with those who are "of the household of faith," we relieve them in their distress, help them in their emergencies, strengthen them as they pass along the rough road of life, - then even poor perishable gold and silver will be the means of helping us to a fuller, sweeter, gladder welcome when our feet touch the other shore of the river that runs between earth and heaven. This is true sagacity as compared with a shallow shrewdness. It is to make such of our possessions, and of all our resources of every kind, that they will yield us not only a passing gratification of the lower kind, but rather a real satisfaction of the nobler order, and even lay up in store for us a "treasure in the heavens," enlarging the blessedness which is beyond the grave.

(1) Is our wisdom limited to a superficial cleverness? If so, let us "become fools that we may be wise" indeed.

(2) Are we making the best use of the various faculties and facilities God has committed to our trust? There are those who turn them to a very small account indeed, to whom they are virtually worth nothing; and there are those who are compelling them to yield a rich harvest of good which the longest human life will be too short to gather in. - C.







There was a certain rich man, which had a steward.
I. SHOW WHAT THINGS THEY ARE ENTRUSTED WITH, THAT ARE NOT THEIR OWN.

1. All earthly good things, as riches, health, time, opportunities.

2. Also spiritual goods, viz., the gospel and its ministration, spiritual knowledge, gifts, grace, the worship of God, and His ordinances, promises, providences, and care of His holy temple or vineyard.

II. SHOW WHY WE MUST CAREFULLY IMPROVE ALL THINGS THAT ARE IN OUR HANDS.

1. Earthly things.(1) Because, whatsoever we have put into our hands is to advance the honour of our great Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, and to refresh, comfort, and support the whole household where we are placed.(2) Because we have nothing that is our own; it is our Lord's goods.(3) Because if we are not faithful in the least, it may stop the hand of Christ from giving the greater things to us.(4) It will be otherwise a wrong and great injustice to the poor, or to such for the sake of whom they that are rich are entrusted with earthly wealth, in withholding that which is theirs by Christ's appointment from them; and so a clear demonstration of unfaithfulness both to God and man; and it may provoke God to take away from them what they have.(5) Because we must in a short time be called to give an account of our stewardship; we must expect to hear Christ say, "What have you done with My gold and silver, My corn, My wool, and My flax? How is it that My poor have wanted bread and clothes, and My ministers have been neglected and forced to run into debt to buy necessaries to support their families?"(6) Because if these good things be not rightly and faith. fully improved as Christ commands, His poor and His ministers may be exposed to great temptations, and their souls borne down and sorely discouraged; and Satan may get advantages against them, for many snares and dangers attend outward want; moreover the name of God and religion may also thereby be exposed to the contempt of the world. Who can believe we are the people of God, when they cannot see that love to one another among them which is the character of true Christians? Or how should they think that we believe the way we are in is the true way and worship of God?

2. Spiritual things.(1) The gospel and its ministration, because it is given to the end that we may profit thereby. It is Christ's chief treasure, and that which He intrusts very few with. If not improved, He may take it away from us, as He has already from others. When that goes, God, Christ, and all good goes, and all evil will come in.(2) Spiritual gifts, knowledge, etc., because given for the use and profit of the Church; and they that have them are but stewards of them, which they are commanded to improve (1 Peter 4:10). Use: Get your accounts ready; you know not but this night Christ may say, "Give an account," etc.

(B. Keach.)

A friend stepping into the office of a Christian business man one day, noticed that he was standing at his desk with hit, hands full of banknotes, which he was carefully counting, as he laid them down one by one. After a brief silence the friend said: "Mr. H ——, just count out ten pounds from that pile of notes and make yourself or some other person a life member of the Christian Giving Society!" He finished his count, and quickly replied, "I'm handling trust funds now!" His answer instantly flashed a light on the entire work and life of a Christian, and the friend replied to his statement with the question, "Do you ever handle anything but trust funds?" If Christians would only realize that all that God gives us is "in trust," what a change would come over our use of money! "I'm handling trust funds now." Let the merchant write the motto over his desk; the farmer over the income of his farm; the labourer over his wages; the professional man over his salary; the banker over his income; the housekeeper over her house expense purse; the boy and girl over "pocket money" — and what a change would be made in our life. A business man who had made a donation of one thousand pounds to a Christian enterprise, once said in the hearing of the writer — "I hold that a man is accountable for every sixpence he gets." There is the gospel idea of "trust funds." Let parents instruct and train their children to "handle trust funds" as the stewards of God's bounty, and there will be a new generation of Christians.

I. That the common maxims of human wisdom in the conduct of worldly affairs, and even those of carnal and unjust policy, may be usefully applied for our direction in the concerns of religion, and they reproach the folly and slothfulness of Christians in working out their salvation; the children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light."

II. The second observation is, that riches and other gifts of providence are but little in comparison with the greater and more substantial blessings which God is ready to bestow on His sincere and faithful servants; that these inferior things are committed to Christians as to stewards for the trial of their fidelity, and they who improve them carefully to the proper ends for which they were given, are entitled to the greater benefits which others forfeit, and render themselves unworthy of, by negligence and unfaithfulness. This is the meaning of the 10th and 11th verses — "He who is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much; if, therefore, you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true richest" We may further observe upon this head, that God hath wisely ordered the circumstances of this life in subordination to another. The enjoyments of our present state are the means of trying our virtue, and the occasions of exercising it, that so by a due improvement of them to that purpose, we may be prepared for the perfection of virtue, and complete happiness hereafter. This might be illustrated in a variety of particular instances — indeed, in the whole compass of our worldly affairs, which, according as they are conducted, either minister to virtue or vice. By the various uncertain events of life, as some are tempted to different distracting passions, to eager, anxious desire, to fear and sorrow, so there is to better disposed minds an opportunity of growing in self. dominion, in an equal and uniform temper, and a more earnest prevalent desire of true goodness, which is immutable in all external changes; in afflictions there is a trial and an increase of patience, which is of so much moment as to be represented in Scripture as the height of religious perfection. Knowledge, likewise, is capable of being greatly improved for the service of mankind; and all our talents of this sort, which are distributed promiscuously to men, though little in themselves, and with respect to the main ends of our being, yet to the diligent and faithful servant, who useth them well and wisely for the cause of virtue, and under the direction of its principles, they bring great returns of real and solid benefit, which shall abide with him for ever. Thus it appeareth that Divine Providence hath wisely ordered the circumstances of our condition in this world, in our infancy of being, so that by the proper exercise of our own faculties, and the industrious improvement of the opportunities which are afforded us, we may be prepared for a better and happier state hereafter. But if, on the contrary, we are unjust to our great Master, and to ourselves, that is, to our highest interest, in the little, which is now committed to us, we thereby forfeit the greatest good we are capable of, and deprive ourselves of the true riches. If in the first trial which God taketh of us, as moral agents during our immature state, our state of childhood, we do not act a proper part, but are given up to indolence and sloth, and to a prodigal waste of our talents, the consequences of this folly and wickedness will naturally, and by the just judgment of God, cleave to us in every stage of our existence; of which there is a familiar instance every day before us in those unhappy persons who having from early youth obstinately resisted the best instructions, for the most part continue unreclaimed through their whole lives, and bring themselves to a miserable end. Let us, therefore, always consider ourselves as now under probation and discipline, and that eternal consequences of the greatest moment depend upon our present conduct.

III. The third observation is, THAT THE THINGS OF THIS WORLD COMMITTED TO OUR TRUST ARE NOT OUR OWN, BUT THE PROPERTY OF ANOTHER; BUT THE GIFTS OF GOD, GRANTED AS THE REWARD OF OUR IMPROVING THEM FAITHFULLY, HAVE A NEARER AND MORE IMMEDIATE RELATION TO OURSELVES, AND A STRICT INSEPARABLE CONNECTION WITH OUR HAPPINESS. "And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?" (ver. 12.) The things which are said to be another's, are, the unrighteous mammon, and others like it; God is the sovereign proprietor of them; they are foreign to the constitution of the human nature, and their usefulness to it is only accidental and temporary. But the other goods, virtuous integrity and the favour of God, enter deeper into the soul, and by its essential frame are a never-failing spring of joy and consolation to it in every state of existence. It is very surprising that a man, who so much loveth and is devoted to himself, being naturally and necessarily so determined, should be so ignorant, as many are, what that self really is, and thereby be misled to place his affections on something else instead of it. By the least attention every man will see that what is meant by himself is the same person or intelligent agent, the thinking, conscious "I," which remaineth unaltered in all changes of condition, from the remembrance of his earliest thoughts and actions to the present moment. How remote from this are riches, power, honour, health, strength, the matter ingredient in the composition of the body, and even its limbs, which may be all lost, and self still the same? These things, therefore, are "not our own," meaning by that, what most properly and unalienably belongeth to ourselves; we hold them by an uncertain, precarious tenure, they come and go, while the same conscious, thinking being, which is strictly the man himself, continueth unchanged, in honour and dishonour, in riches and poverty, in sickness and health, and all the other differences of our outward state. But, on the contrary, state of religious virtue, which it is the intention of Christianity to bring us to, and which is the immediate effect of improving our talents diligently and faithfully, that "kingdom of God which is righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost"; this is of a quite different kind, it entereth into our very selves, and closely adhereth to us; it improveth our nature, refineth and enlargeth its noblest powers; it is so much "our own," as to become our very temper, and the ruling bent of our minds; there is nothing we are more directly conscious of in ourselves than good dispositions and good actions proceeding from them, and the consciousness is always accompanied with delight. The good man is therefore "satisfied from himself," because his satisfaction ariseth from a review of his goodness which is intimately his own.

(J. Abernethy, M. A.)

I. THE OFFICE OF STEWARD.

1. A steward is a man who administers a property which is not his own. His relation to property is distinguished on the one hand from that of those who have nothing to do with the property, because the steward has everything to do with it that he can do for its advantage; and, on the other hand, from that of the owner of the property, because the steward is no sense the owner of it, but only the administrator. His duty towards it is dependent on the will of another, and it may terminate at any moment.

2. The office of a steward is before all things a trust. It represents in human affairs a venture which the owner of a property makes, upon the strength of his estimate of the character of the man to whom he delegates the care of the property.

3. An account must at some time be rendered to some one.

(1)We are accountable to public opinion.

(2)To our own conscience.

(3)To God. If man has no account to give, no wrong that he does has the least consequence.If man has no account to give, no wrong that is done to him, and that is unpunished by human law, will ever be punished. If man has no account to give, life is a hideous chaos; it is a game of chance in which the horrible and the grotesque alternately; bury out of sight the very last vestiges of a moral order. If man has no account to give, the old Epicurean rule in all its profound degradation may have much to say for itself (1 Corinthians 15:32).

II. HUMAN LIFE IS A STEWARDSHIP. We are stewards, whether as men or as Christians; not less in the order of nature than in the order of grace.

1. Every owner of property is in God's sight a steward of that property, and, sooner or later, He will demand an account. Has it, however little, been spent conscientiously; or merely as the passion or freak of the moment might suggest?

2. Or, the estate of which we are stewards is a more interesting and precious one than this. It is situated in the world of the mind, in the region where none but knowledge and speculation and imagination and taste have their place and sway. Yet all this is not ours, but God's. He is the Author of the gifts which have laid out the weed of taste and thought and knowledge; and each contributor to that world, and each student, or even each loiterer in it, is only the steward, the trustee, of endowments, of faculties which, however intimately his own when we distinguish him from other men, are not his own when we look higher and place them in the light of the rights of God. "Give an account of thy stewardship." The real Author and Owner of the gifts of mind sometimes utters this summons to His stewards before the time of death. He withdraws the mental life of man, and leaves him still with the animal life intact and vigorous. Go to a lunatic asylum, that most pitiable assortment of all the possibilities of human degradation, and mark there, at least among some of the sufferers, those who abuse the stewardship of intelligence.

3. Or, the estate of which we are stewards is something higher still. It is the creed which we believe, the hopes which we cherish, the religion in which we find our happiness and peace as Christians. With this treasure, which He has withheld from others, God has entrusted us Christians, in whatever measure, for our own good, and also for the good of our fellow-men. Religion, too, is a loan, a trust; it is not an inalienable property.

4. And then, growing out of those three estates, is the estate of influence — that subtle, inevitable effect for good or for ill which man exerts upon the lives of those around him. The question is, what use are we making of it; how is it telling upon friends, acquaintances, servants, correspondents, those who know us only from a distance — are we helping them upwards or downwards, to heaven or to hell? Surely a momentous question for all of us, since of this stewardship events may summon us before the end comes to give account.

5. And a last estate of which we are but stewards, is health and life. This bodily frame, so fearfully and wonderfully made, of such subtle and delicate texture that the wonder is that it should bear the wear and tear of time, and last as long as for many of us it does — of this we are not owners, we are only stewards. It is most assuredly no creation of our own, this body; and He who gave it us will in any case one day withdraw His gift. And yet how many a man thinks in his secret heart that if he owns nothing else, he does at least own, as its absolute master might own, the fabric of flesh and bones, nerves and veins, in which his animal life resides: that with this, at least, he may rightfully do what he will, even abuse and ruin and irretrievably degrade, and even kill; that here no question of another's right can possibly occur; that here he is master on his own ground, and not a steward. Oh, piteous forgetfulness in a man who believes that he has a Creator, and that that Creator has His rights! Oh, piteous ingratitude in a Christian, who should remember that he is not his own, but is bought with a price, and that therefore he should glorify God in his body no less than in his spirit, since both are God's! Oh, piteous illusion, the solemn moment for dissipating which is ever hurrying on apace! The Author of health and life has His own time for bidding us give an account of this solemn stewardship — often, too, when it is least expected.

(Canon Liddon)

I. MEN ARE STEWARDS.

1. In regard to their talents.

(1)Time.

(2)Money.

(3)Physical, mental, and moral abilities.

2. In regard to their privileges. Each privilege is a sacred talent, to be utilized for personal, spiritual end. Golden in character. Uncertain in continuance.

3. In regard to their opportunities. Men are responsible not only for what they do, but also for what they are capable of doing.

II. MEN ARE STEWARDS ONLY. Whatever we have, we have received, hold in trust, and must account for to God.

III. THE RECKONING DAY IS COMING.

1. The day of reckoning is certain.

2. Uncertain as to the time.

3. Divine in its procedure. God Himself will make the final award.

4. Solemn in its character.

5. Eternal in its issues.Learn —

1. That moral responsibility is a solemn thing.

2. It is imposed upon us without our own consent.

3. That we cannot avert the day of reckoning.

4. That upon the proper use of our talents shall we reap the reward of life and blessedness.

5. That unfaithfulness to our solemn responsibilities will entail eternal disgrace and everlasting reprobation.

(J. Tesseyman.)

The Preacher's Monthly.
I. THE TRUST REPOSED IN US — "Thy stewardship." Stewardship is based upon the idea of another's proprietorship.

1. Of the Divine Proprietorship.

2. Stewardship implies interests entrusted to human keeping and administration.

3. Stewardship implies human capability. Faithfulness cannot be compelled by an omnipotent Ruler. It is a subject of moral choice.

II. THE END OF OUR STEWARDSHIP AS HERE SUGGESTED — "Give an account. Thou mayest be no longer steward." Moral responsibility is the solemn heritage of all rational intelligences.

1. The stewardship may be held to be determinable at death. Moral power continues, and moral obligations and duties rest on the spirit. So, there will be stewardship in eternity. But here the concern is with "the deeds done in the body."

2. Stewardship may practically be determined before the last hour of mortal history.

(The Preacher's Monthly.)

1. We are stewards, not proprietors.

2. Let me urge upon you to be faithful in whatsoever position in life you may be.

3. It is only as you are in Christ, and Christ in you, that you will be able to realize your true position, and act with true faithfulness.

(A. F. Barfield.)

I. THE OBLIGATION TO THIS.

1. Because we are dependent on God.

2. Because we are accountable to Him.

II. ITS PROPER NATURE.

1. In general.

(1)It is provident of the future.

(2)It conceals not from itself the true state of matters.

(3)It is inventive of means for its well-being.

(4)It forms its purpose with greatest determination.

(5)It discloses clearly who or what can be of service to it for the accomplishment of its purpose.

(6)It does not content itself with purposes, but goes immediately to action.

(7)It employs the time without delay.

(8)It transacts everything with careful consideration.

2. In particular.

(1)It employs temporal goods in well-doing.

(2)It is mindful of death and the day of reckoning.

(3)It has an eye to eternal bliss.

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF IT.

1. It obtains the approval of the Lord and Judge of all.

2. It renders us capable and worthy of receiving greater, truer, abiding goods.

(F. G. Lisco.)Lessons: —

1. A regard to our own interest is a commendable principle. The great fault which men commit is, that they mistake the nature as well as the means of happiness.

2. There is another object which our Saviour has in view. It is to compare the sagacity and exertion which worldly men employ in order to attain their ends with the lukewarmness and negligence of the children of light. Do we not see with what ardour and perseverance those who place their happiness in wealth pursue their grand object?

3. We learn from parable, and the observations of our Saviour which accompany it, the manner in which riches may be applied for the advancement of happiness.

4. From this passage we may learn the benefit which good men may derive from observing the vices which prevail around them. This lesson our Saviour has taught us. By seeing vice, as it appears in the world, we may learn the nature and character, the effects and consequences of it.

5. But the principal object of this parable was evidently to teach us that the exercise of forethought is an important duty required of all Christians. Forethought, then, is necessary to reformation. It is not less necessary to improvement. For does not improvement presuppose that we seek or watch for opportunities of exercising our benevolent affections — of doing good and kind actions — and of supplying the importunate wants of the needy and the destitute?

(J. Thomson, D. D.)

If we were to wait for perfect men, men perfect in all parts and on all sides of their character, before admiring them or asking others to admire them, whom should we admire? what models or examples could we hold up before our children or our neighbours? Instead of turning so foolishly from the instruction human life offers us, we detach this quality or that from the character of men, and admire that, without for a moment meaning to set up all the man was or did as a complete model, an exact and full epitome of human excellence. We can call the attention of our children to the dexterity of a cricketer or a juggler without supposing, or being supposed, to make him the beau ideal of mental and moral character. We can admire Lord Bacon as one of "the greatest" and "wisest" of mankind, if we also admit him to have been one of "the meanest." We can quote an eminent sceptic as a very model of patience and candour, yet deplore his scepticism. Both we and the Bible can detach noble qualities from the baser matter with which they are blended, and say, "Imitate these men in what was noble, pure, lovely," without being supposed to add, "and imitate them also in what was mean, weak, immoral." Why, then, should we deny our Lord the liberty we claim for ourselves? What should we expect of Him but the mode of teaching which pervades the Bible throughout? Above all, why should we suppose Him to approve what is evil in the men He puts before us, unless He expressly warns us against it, when we ourselves, and the inspired writers, seldom make any such provision against misconception? Read the parable honestly, and, according to all the analogies of human and inspired speech, you will expect to find some excellent quality in the steward which you will do well to imitate; but you will not for an instant suppose that it is his evil qualities which you are to approve. Do any ask, "What was this excellent quality?" Mark what it is, and what alone it is, that even his lord commends in the Unjust Steward. It is not his injustice, but his prudence. "His lord commended him because he had done wisely" — because on a critical occasion he had acted with a certain promptitude and sagacity, because he had seen his end clearly and gone straight at it. Did he not deserve the praise?

(S. Cox)

I. IN THE PRESENT LIFE EVERY ONE OF US HAS THE CHARACTER AND PLACE OF A STEWARD.

II. THE TIME OF OUR STEWARDSHIP WILL HAVE AN END.

1. It will end certainly at death.

2. It may end suddenly.

3. Our stewardship, once ended, shall be renewed no more. When death comes, our negligences and mismanagement are fatal.

III. ON OUR CEASING TO BE STEWARDS, AN ACCOUNT OF OUR STEWARDSHIP WILL BE REQUIRED.

1. Who must give an account? I answer, every one that lives and is here a steward.

2. To whom? And this is to God; to God by Christ, to whom all judgment is com-mitred.

3. Of what will an account be demanded? The text says, of our stewardship, i.e., how we have acted in it while it lasted.

4. When will such aa account be demanded? The Scripture tells us —(1) Immediately upon every one's going out of his stewardship.(2) Most solemnly at the last day.

5. what is conveyed in the expression, "Give an account of thy stewardship"?(1) That God will deal with every one in particular.(2) That notice is taken, and records kept of what every one now does, and this in order to a future judgment, when all is to be produced, and sentence publicly passed.(3) Every one's account called for to be given, shall be according to the talents wherewith he was entrusted.Application:

1. Is every one in the present life to be considered as a steward of all that he enjoys? How unreasonable is pride in those who have the largest share of their Lord's goods; as they have nothing but what they have received, and the more their talents, the greater the trust.

2. What cause of serious concern have all that live under the gospel, left, as stewards of the manifold grace of God, they should receive it in vain, and have their future condemnation aggravated by their present advantages, as neglected or abused?

3. Will the time of our stewardship have an end? What a value should we put upon it, as a season in which we are to act for eternity.

4. The believer has no reason to faint under the difficulties of his stewardship; seeing it will have an end, a most desirable one; and neither the services nor sufferings of the present time are worthy to be compared to the glory to be revealed.

5. When our stewardship ends, must an account be given up? It is hence evident, that the soul survives the body, and is capable of acting and of being dealt with in a way of wrath or mercy, according to the state in which it goes away; and hereupon —

6. How great and important a thing is it to die; it being to go in spirit to appear before God, and give an account of all that we have done in the body, and to be dealt with accordingly? What is consequent upon it?

(Daniel Wilcox.)

In this parable the man was dispossessed from his place because he wasted goods which did not belong to him. He had been in various ways careless. The particular nature of his carelessness is not specified; but this is specified — that he was to be dispossessed because he was not faithful in the management of the property of another. Our subject, then, is: The use of funds not your own, but intrusted to your administration or keeping. Men think they have a complete case when they say, "Here is a power in my hand for a definite end, and I shall use it for that end; but I find that it is a power which may accomplish more than that: it can do good for more than the owner. I can use it and derive benefit from it. I can also benefit the community by my operations. Besides, it will never be known. Therefore men who are weaker than I will not be tempted by my example to do the same thing. It will never injure the owner, it will help me, through me it will benefit many others, and no evil shall come from it." This would seem to make the thing secure; but let us examine the matter.

1. It would not be honest, and therefore it would not be wise, to use other people's property for our own benefit, secretly, even if it were safe. If it did them no harm, if it did you good, and if nobody knew it, it would not be honest. You have no business to do it under any circumstances. And it does not make it any better that you have managerial care over property. In that event the sin is even greater; for you are bound to see to it that it is used for the purposes for which it was committed to your trust, and not for anything aside from that.

2. No man has a right to put property that is not his own to all the risks of commerce. What if a man thus employing trust funds does expect, what if he does mean, so and so? That is nothing. He might as well throw a babe out of a second-story window, and say that he hoped it would lodge in some tree and not be hurt, as to endanger the property of others held in trust by him, and say that he hopes it will not come to any harm. What has that to do with it? The chances are against its being safe.

3. No man has a right to put his own character for integrity and honesty upon a commercial venture. No man has a right to enter upon an enterprise where, if he succeeds, he may escape, but where, if he fails, he is ruined not simply in pocket, but in character; and yet this is what every man does who uses trust funds for his own purposes. He takes the risk of destroying himself in the eyes of honest men. He places his own soul in jeopardy.

4. No man has a right to put in peril the happiness, welfare, and good name of his family, of the neighbourhood, of the associates and friends with whom he has walked, of the Church with which he is connected, of his partners in business, of all that have been related to him.

5. No man has a right to undermine the security of property on which the welfare of individuals of the community depends in any degree.

(H. W. Beecher.)

I. First, then, THE STEWARD. WHAT IS HE?

1. In the first place the steward is a servant. He is one of the greatest of servants, but he is only a servant. No, we are nothing better than stewards, and we are to labour for our Master in heaven.

2. But still while the steward is a servant, he is an honourable one. Now, those who serve Christ in the office of teaching, are honourable men and women.

3. The steward is also a servant who has very great responsibility attached to his position. A sense of responsibility seems to a right man always a weighty thing.

II. And now, THE ACCOUNT — "Give an account of thy stewardship." Let us briefly think of this giving an account of our stewardship.

1. Let us first notice that when we shall come to give an account of our stewardship before God, that account must be given in personally by every one of us. While we are here, we talk in the mass; but when we come before God, we shall have to speak as individuals.

2. And note again, that while this account must be personal it must be exact. You will not, when you present your account before God, present the gross total, but every separate item.

3. Now remember, once again, that the account must be complete. You will not be allowed to leave out something, you will not be allowed to add anything.

III. And now, though there are many other things I might say, I fear lest I might weary you, therefore let me notice some occasions when it will be WELL for you all to give an account of your stewardship; and then notice when you MUST give an account of it. You know there is a proverb that "short reckonings make long friends," and a very true proverb it is. A man will always be at friendship with his conscience as long as he makes short reckonings with it. It was a good rule of the old Puritans, that of making frank and full confession of sin every night; not to leave a week's sin to be confessed on Saturday night, or Sabbath morning, but to recall the failures, imperfections, and mistakes of the day, in order that we might learn from one day of failure how to achieve the victory on the morrow. Then, there are times which Providence puts in your way, which will be excellent seasons for reckoning. For instance, every time a boy or girl leaves the school, there is an opportunity afforded you of thinking. Then there is a peculiar time for casting up accounts when a child dies. But if you do not do it then, I will tell you when you must; that is when you come to die.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

We learn here incidentally, how evenly balanced are the various conditions of life in a community, and how little of substantial advantage wealth can confer on its possessor. As your property increases, your personal control over it diminishes; the more you possess, the more you must entrust to others. Those who do their own work are not troubled with disobedient servants; those who look after their own affairs are not troubled with unfaithful overseers.

(W. Arnot.)

Give an account of thy stewardship
1. An account of the blessings received, children of prosperity.

2. An account of the fruit of trial, members of the school of suffering!

3. An account of the time measured out to you, sons of mortality!

4. An account of the message of salvation received, ye that are shined upon by that light which is most cheering!

(Van Oosterzee.)

How much owest thou unto my Lord?
I. Our first appeal must be made to rest upon the BROAD BASIS OF OUR PRIVILEGES AS A NATION. How much, I ask, do we of this land owe to the God of all mercies, as inheritors of the noble patrimony of a constitutional government; as dwelling under the shadow of equal law; as enriched with a commerce which allies us with the most distant extremities of the earth; as honoured, in the great brotherhood of nations, for our literature, for our science, for our vanguard position in all the ennobling arts of life; as rich in agencies for promoting the physical and moral happiness of all classes of our people, providing for the young, the old, the fallen, the outcast — for the poor a shelter, and for the sick a home; as enjoying a liberty of thought and conscience, free as the winds which sweep round our shores, and yet as having a governing power over the opinions of other nations, which controls more than half the world? For how much of such blessings we are indebted to our Christianity, we may admit, it is not easy to determine. Here, then, I rest my first appeal to your gratitude as possessors of a national Christianity. Religion, says Burke, is the basis of civil society, and education in its truths is the chief defence of nations. It hallows the sanctions of law. It puts the seal of heaven on social order. It ministers to learning and the liberal arts. It strengthens the foundations of civil liberty. It refines the habits of domestic life. It makes each home that embraces it a centre of blessing to the neighbourhood, and every country that adorns and honours it a centre of light unto the world. And this is the religion which by the gospel is preached unto you. "How much owest thou unto my Lord?"

II. But let me urge a claim upon your gratitude, in the next place, ARISING OUT OF THAT PURE AND REFORMED FAITH, WHICH IN THIS COUNTRY IT IS OUR PRIVILEGE TO ENJOY. "How much owest thou unto thy lord," for the glorious light and liberty of the Protestant faith, for the recovered independence of our ancient British Church, for the Protestantism of Ridley, and Latimer, Jewel, and other faithful men, who witnessed for the truth of God by their teaching, and some of them with their blood?

1. How much do we owe for a permanent standard of religious faith — for a "form of sound words" which yet bows implicitly to the decision of the sacred oracles to approve its soundness?

2. Again, how much do we owe for the clearer views — brought out anew as it were from the concealment and dust of ages — of the method of a sinner's acceptance and justification, through faith in the merits of Christ to deliver, and by the influences of His Spirit to restore.

3. Again, we owe much to the men of those times for their vindication of the great principles of political and religious freedom, and the services thereby rendered to the cause of moral progress in the world.

III. I must not conclude, brethren, without urging upon you one form of gratitude, which, to those who have experience of it, will be far more constraining than any! have yet brought before you, I mean THE DEBT WHICH YOU OWE TO THE GOD OF ALL GRACE AS BEING YOURSELVES PARTAKERS OF THE SPIRIT AND HOPES OF THE GOSPEL. And I ask how much owest thou for a part in Christ, for a sense of forgiveness, for the weight lifted off the burdened conscience.

(D. Moore, M. A.)

I. I turn at first TO THE ESTABLISHED CHRISTIAN and ask, How much owest thou unto my Lord?

II. Is any here A LOVER OF PLEASURE MORE THAN A LOVER OF GOD? How much owest thou unto my Lord? "He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." O will ye defraud Jesus of the travail of His soul, by making an idol of the world and bowing down before it as before your God?

III. Are any among you offending God, BY DISREGARD OF HIS LAWS, OR UNBELIEF OF HIS GREAT SALVATION.

IV. There are persons who have DECLINED IN RELIGION. "Ye did run well, who hath hindered you?" O take with you words of penitence and sorrow, and turn to the Lord your God.

V. Once more. LET ME ADDRESS THE AFFLICTED SERVANT OF CHRIST, and say, How much owest thou unto my Lord?

(R. P. Buddicom.)

I. I might remind you, in the first place, of our obligations to God, AS CREATURES OF HIS HAND. He not only made us, but He preserves us; "in Him we live, and move, and have our being." Are there no obligations that we have incurred, in consequence of our constant reception of these varied mercies at the hands of God?

II. But I proceed to take another view of our subject, and to remind you HOW WE ARE INDEBTED TO GOD AS SINNERS AGAINST HIS RIGHTEOUS LAW. You will remember that the blessed Saviour teaches us to look upon sins in the light of debts. Surely there is none present who would have the hardihood to say that he owes nothing (Jeremiah 2:22, 23).

III. Let me remind you next, of DUTIES THAT HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED. Alas I how long a list might here be made, in the catalogue of unworthiness, ingratitude, and guilt! To say nothing of our unprofitableness, under the public ordinances and means of grace, what says conscience as to our daily communion with God in privacy and retirement?

IV. I must remind you, further, of OPPORTUNITIES THAT HAVE BEEN UNIMPROVED. We have, first, the opportunities of gaining good, and then the opportunities of doing good.

V. But there is yet another view of our subject. How much do we owe unto Him, as those who have hopes of pardon through His mercy in Christ Jesus?

(W. Cadman, M. A.)

A merchant, who was a God-fearing man, was very successful in business, but his soul did not seem to prosper accordingly; his offerings to the Lord he did not feel disposed to increase. One evening he had a remarkable dream; a visitor entered the apartment, and quietly looking round at the many elegancies and luxuries by which he was surrounded, without any comment, presented him with the receipts for his subscriptions to various societies, and urged their claims upon his enlarged sympathy. The merchant replied with various excuses, and at last grew impatient at the continued appeals. The stranger rose, and fixing his eye on his companion, said, in a voice that thrilled to his soul, "One year ago tonight, you thought that your daughter lay dying; you could not rest for agony. Upon whom did you call that night?" The merchant started and looked up; there seemed a change to have passed over the whole form of his visitor, whose eye was fixed upon him with a calm, penetrating look, as he continued — "Five years ago, when you lay at the brink of the grave, and-thought that if you died then, you would leave a family unprovided for — do you remember how you prayed then? Who saved you then?" Pausing a moment, he went on in a lower and still more impressive tone — "Do you remember, fifteen years since, that time when you felt yourself so lost, so helpless, so hopeless; when you spent day and night in prayer; when you thought you would give the world for one hour's assurance that your sins were forgiven — who listened to you then?" "It was my God and Saviour!" said the merchant, with a sudden burst of remorseful feeling; "oh yes, it was He!" "And has He ever complained of being called on too often? " inquired the stranger, in a voice of reproachful sweetness. "Say — are you willing to begin this night, and ask no more of Him, if He, from this time, will ask no more of you?" "Oh, never! never!" said the merchant, throwing himself at his feet. The figure vanished, and he awoke; his whole soul stirred within him. "O God and Saviour I what have I been doing! Take all — take everything I What is all that I have, to what Thou hast done for me? "

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