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PURPOSING to make the parable, as it is called, of the Unjust Steward, the subject of our morning meditations for several succeeding Sabbaths, it appeared necessary to read the whole at once, together with the reflections upon it with which it was accompanied by the Divine Speaker, that every hearer might be less in danger of forming an erroneous conception as to its general purport and design. The literal sense alone will afford sufficient subject for the present: the
* " And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward. And the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee ? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayst be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him; and he said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, A hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, A hundred measures of wheat, And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write four score. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of ligbt. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations. 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. If therefore ye have Dot been faithful in the uprighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man's, who shall give you that which is your own?"- Luke xvi, 1–12.
NO. LXI.-VOL. VI.
spiritual contents shall be adverted to the next opportunity. For whilst the far greater part of the Lord's parables contain a beautiful, striking, and obviously true lesson upon the very face of them, there are some few, from which an undiscriminating reader might be apt to deduce a very different doctrine, from that which they are really designed to convey—from which, in fact, he might derive opinions quite inconsistent with the true meaning of the parable, and actually opposed to the whole purport and tenor of the revealed will of God. Thus the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard, understood from the literal circumstances of the narrative alone, might give rise to the persuasion, that there is but one measure of heavenly reward for every degree of attainment in the Christian life, and that they who only listen to the invitations of Divine mercy at the last hour of the day of natural life, are capable of as ample a measure of the perfections and enjoyments of heaven, as they who have served the Lord with the most devoted sincerity their whole life through ; a misconception this, of a most serious and dangerous tendency, and wbich nothing but an accurate apprehension of the spiritual interpretation of the parable can remove. So also the parable now before us impresses most readers with ideas very difficult to be reconciled with the general tenour of the Word of God, and not at all in agreement with the reflections drawn from it by its Divine Author, and in which He gives what, in human parabolical compositions, would be called its moral : here, however, the erroneous impression as to the tendency of the parable will be removed, even without reference to its spiritual signification, when the proper sense of the literal narrative is clearly apprehended.
A rich man has a steward, who, as he is informed, bas misapplied and embezzled some of the property which passed through his hands. His master taxes him with his malversations, requires his accounts, and gives him notice of dismissal. Greatly distressed, the dishonest steward meditates on the prospect before him : he sees no obvious resource but in taking up the profession of a husbandman's labourer, or that of a beggar; and he has not strength for the one, nor boldness or impudence for the other. He contrives therefore a dishonest scheme to induce his master's debtors to afford him a refuge when he is dismissed from his office; according to which, also, they must be as destitute of honest principle as himself. He holds acknowledgments of theirs for the several amounts and kinds of property for which they were indebted to his lord : these he gives up to them, (as this part of the transaction is usually explained,) and takes other notes from them instead, in which the amount of their debts is greatly diminished ; thus endeavouring, by relinquishing to them from a fifth to a half of the property they owe to his master, to make them his friends. His lord, it appears, afterwards discovers the fraud. And, as is expressed in the narrative, “commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely.” Many persons who read this understand it to mean, that his master really approved of the conduct of his discarded steward, and spoke of it as deserving of imitation; and, consequently, they find in it something extremely shocking to their moral feelings. And this impression is rendered, with some, more painful still, by their supposing that the person who passes this commendation on the fraudulent artifice of the steward is the Lord Jesus Christ himself. The words read, " And the lord commended the unjust steward,” &c.; and as this is a common title of Jesus Christ, some inconsiderately suppose that it is applied to Him here. This, however, is obviously a mistake. The Lord Jesus Christ is the narrator of the parable; and He continues His discourse without interruption to the end of verse 13. That it is He who still continues to speak, is plain from its being said, in verse 9, "And I say unto you, make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,” &c. : consequently, it is He that says, in verse 8, "And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely;" and who there adds this reflection of his own ; " for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.” It is not then the Lord Jesus Christ who commends the unjust steward: He only relates that the steward's OWN LORD commended him : and that statement forms part of the parable itself.
This may appear a trifling thing to dwell upon, because it is so easy for every reader of the parable to observe it for himself. Yet, I believe, great numbers of persons do not observe it; or, at least, feel considerable doubt whether the commendation bestowed upon this dishonest man is not given by the Divine Speaker himself ; and, certainly, if it could be supposed that the Lord Jesus Christ could, under any circumstances, bestow His commendation upon a piece of artful knavery, it would indeed be calculated to shock every one's moral feelings, and would afford just ground even for the objections of infidels against the divinity of the record in which such a statement were contained. But this difficulty entirely vanishes, when it is seen that the author of the commendation is not the Lord Jesus Christ, but only the lord or master of the unfaithful servant.
Nor is the commendation which the unfaithful steward's conduct is said to have obtained from his master to be understood, as if his master actually approved of it, or thought it fit to be proposed as a model for