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imitation. It has no reference to the moral character of the transaction, but merely to the ingenuity of it. It does not mean that the master commended the steward as having done what was truly right and proper under the circumstances, but merely that he admired the dexterity with which he had endeavoured to provide himself with a retreat. Nothing is more common at present, when a piece of roguery is executed with great skill and neatness, than to speak in terms of admiration of the ingenuity displayed by the thieves : yet no one who in this respect gives them the meed of praise, ever thinks that, by doing so, he is bestowing commendation on the use which they have made of their talents: he all the while deplores that so much ingenuity should be applied to so bad a purpose. All this is in perfect harmony with the universal feelings of human nature; men, doubtless, thought and spoke in this way in ancient times as well as at present : and this, most unquestionably, is precisely the kind of commendation which we are to understand as being bestowed upon the unjust steward of the parable by his defrauded master.
But if it were otherwise : suppose, even, the steward's lord could be understood as commending generally the conduct of his discharged servant : suppose it possible for him even to consider that, under the circumstances of destitution in which the steward was placed, his conduct was excusable, and deserving more of praise for its prudence than of blame for its dishonesty ; still there is nothing in the whole narrative which intimates the recognition of such a sentiment by the Divine Person who relates the history. All the reflections which le makes upon it inculcate sentiments of a directly opposite character. When He says, “ He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much; and he that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much ;" when He adds, “ If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches ?” and when he adds still further, “ And if ye have not been faithful in that which is anotber man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” when He thus delivers the pure and holy sentiments of His own divine goodness and truth, requiring conscientious integrity in little matters as well as in great, as essential to the attainment of real blessings, and fidelity in the management of the property of others as indispensable to the acquisition of any permanent good for ourselves,-it is abundantly evident that He never proposed the conduct of the unjust steward as a model for literal imitation, nor intended, by reciting the commendation bestowed, in a certain respect, on the steward by his
injured master, to intimate that there was anything morally excellent, or even excusable, in his conduct itself.
What is the end, then,-confining our inquiries at present to the obvious instruction to be drawn from the surface of the parable, and the Lord's remarks upon it;-what is the end which, in this application, the Divine Speaker had in view, by presenting such a transaction to the consideration of His disciples ?
The first and main end, after all, doubtless was (if I may say so without appearing guilty of self-contradiction), to present us with a model for imitation. Yes, it must certainly be admitted, that the conduct of the unjust steward, fraudulent as it was, is set before us by the Incarnate God as a model for our imitation; and it is no less certain, likewise, that unless we do imitate it, we never can be received into the everlasting babitations of our heavenly Father's mansions. But how are we to imitate it? Not, most assuredly, by dishonest dealing of any kind whatever ; but by acting, as candidates for a place in the Lord's kingdom, with true heavenly prudence and determination; as the fraudulent steward, with a view to his comfortable subsistence in this world only, acted with worldly prudence or management.
How the Lord wishes His disciples to act in imitation of the unjust steward, He plainly indicates when He says, by way of inference from the commendation bestowed on the servant's prudence by his master, " for the children of this world are, in their generation, wiser than the children of light.” That which is to be imitated in the conduct of the fraudulent steward, is, the prudence or worldly wisdom with which he endeavours to provide for himself a place of retreat when dismissed from his stewardship, not by exercising the same worldly wisdom, but the heavenly wisdom corresponding to it.
Men of the world, they to whom the world is everything,—who are always thinking of worldly things because these are the objects of their supreme affections,— become exceedingly acute in discerning the means of promoting the purposes at which they aim.
“ In their generation,” that is, in their sphere and station, and in the business belonging to it, they are abundantly well-informed, and wise. The devotedness with which they are attached to worldly gain, makes them Earnest in acquiring every species of information which they think may contribute to that object : they learn whatever they deem necessary for this purpose with readiness, with ease, and with pleasure ; because their love being in the end in view, makes everything agreeable and easy which is seen to be adapted to promote that end. Upon the facts with which they thus make themselves acquainted, they reason with great acuteness; and they readily apply all the information they possess, in the way best calculated to gratify their passion for the world and its possessions. They truly are wise in their generation ; yea, far wiser than the children of light—those who admit the thought of another world to influence their minds, and who look to heaven as their proper homeare in theirs. The reason is obvious. Those whom the Lord here denominates the children of this world—the persons to whom this world is everything, and who look no farther-pursue the object at which they aim, with their whole heart and mind, and thus with undivided and unremitted attention ; whereas, those whom the Lord in his goodness denominates the children of light—those who are born again of Him, and who take the light of heaven to guide them in their main pursuit-do not, at least for a long time, seek it with the same undividedness of mind. They have in their natural man all the same attachments and tendencies which in the man of the world are entirely predominant and reign with exclusive sway; and though, to be entitled to the name of children of light at all, heavenly things must be the supreme objects of regard, yet the tendencies of the natural man will too often draw them downward, occasion severe conflict, temptation, and sometimes obscurity, and thus prevent the wisdom of the spiritual man from being always conspicuous, from always conducting them, by the straightforward path to the great end in view. Yet this ought not to be so; and though, as just remarked, their having a combat to wage, an opposition to surmount, which does not stand in the
of the children of the world, unavoidably occasions impediments which they are without; yet every one makes those obstacles greater than they need be, by not pursuing, with the steadiness that he might, the great object before him. This, then, is what, according to the most obvious purport of the parable, the Lord would stimulate his disciples to do by the example of the unjust steward, and by adverting to the wisdom, in their generation, of the children of this world. He would have us note how the man of the world—he, for instance (for such, in the natural sense, is the instance pointed to,) whose supreme affections are fixed upon the riches of this world-proceeds to obtain the gratification of his desires. He would have us observe, that he who is in the love of riches is acute in devising the means to attain or board them, and does attain and hoard them when no uncontrollable adverse circumstances interrupt his schemes and break his measures, because he pursues them with an undivided attachment and an undissipated attention. His whole heart is in his object; and thence he becomes wise in regard to the means of attaining it. The spiritual man, then, the Lord
would have us consider, ought to draw from the natural man a salutary example, by pursuing his aims in the same manner. He does not mean, by setting the ingenuity of the unjust steward before us, and calling attention to the superiority in wisdom, in their generation, of the children of this world, to teach us to pursue the same ends as they : quite the contrary ; but he means to teach us to pursue heavenly ends in the same manner as they pursue their worldly ones : and, most certainly, there cannot be a more striking and profitable lesson.
This then, according to the general purport of the parable, is what we are to do if we are in earnest in seeking the kingdom of heaven. We are to endeavour to seek it, as men of the world seek the objects of their pursuit ; that is, with the supreme love, and with undivided attention. If our natural tendency to the objects of pursuit which are exclusively followed by merely natural men, in some degree, unavoidably draws us off, an antidote to this impediment ought to be found in the immense superiority of the things we are seeking after. If the enjoyment of worldly riches, or of anything whatever which this world only can afford, and which we cannot possibly take out of the world when we leave it, is capable of inspiring such a devoted attachment and eamest pursuit ; how much more ought this to be the case with the true riches—the treasures of eternity, the enjoyment of which will go on increasing in blessedness for ever and ever. Let us then take a lesson in earnest from the conduct of the children of this world, who are so wise in their generation. If, let me repeat, things of so little value in themselves as worldly goods are, even in the acknowledgment of all; if objects wbich, even supposing them ever so excellent, capable of imparting even exquisite delight in themselves, are yet rendered so worthless when the impossibility of retaining them beyond a few feeting moments is taken into the account ;--if things thus perishable and vain, and which vanish for ever from the grasp of their possessor when he is withdrawn from the present transitory seene of existence, are capable of inspiring so devoted an attachment and of generally such steadiness of pursuit ; how much more should this be the case with the unperishing goods of eternity-with blessedness, the enjoyment of which, when participated for millions of years, will still be only in its commencement! Let these, then, be the objects of our supreme regards, and let us pursue them, with a steadiness in some degree proportioned to their incalculable importance. Amen.
A SCRIPTURE GROUP OF REPRESENTATIVE NATIONS;
OR, EGYPT, ASSYRIA, AND ISRAEL IN ALLIANCE.
There is an antiquarian delight annexed to the study of ancient history, which increases by searching into the remains of nations long since passed away, but who have left recorded on and in their monuments evidences which the hand of Time has been unable to devote to oblivion. Such nations are those of Egypt and Assyria; nations that must, from their architectural and other remains, have ranked high in the scale of civilization. When we view the mighty Pyramids and the spacious Temples of their construction, we cannot but conclude that they were a people who must have towered far above all contemporary ones then existing ; nor can we be surprised that Sacred History has selected them to show forth to future ages the representative character of such a mighty people. It is remarkable that their histories should have been resuscitated after so many ages have passed away. We can now become familiar not only with their religious observances, but enter minutely into their domestic affairs and common occurrences of life. To attach a precise period of time to their various dynasties is what we cannot do; but if we only judge from analogies, we must allow a wide margin of time from their commencement to their final dissipation; for no nation conld have arrived at their perfection and power unless through a succession of ages, which many theologians would think interfered with the creation of the world ! The learned world always attribute the commencement of improvement to the sarage mind; but if there is one fact more forcible than another that militates against their position, it is, that no nation, tribe, or people, ever were raised from the lowest scales of ignorance from their own inherent power, but that it has been done by some that were superior to them. It is the same as attributing the source of intelligence to that of ignorance, a proceeding that every judicious mind must reject; we must, therefore, reject the theory of savage origin, and substitute for it that of intelligence and wisdom, and in doing so we shall be supported by facts and common sense, two great auxiliaries in so momentous a subject. That great luminary of the age, E. Swedenborg, the literary giant, whose wonderful writings can only be judged of (as Emerson said) by a whole population of learned men, has informed us that Moses copied the first ten chapters of Genesis from the ancient Word (which is still extant in some parts of Tartary); allusion is also