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THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM.
PARABLE OF THE TALENTS.
St. MATTHEW, xxv. 24.- -“ 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."
False views of the divine nature and character lie at the root of all false practice and all mistakes in religion ; for, until the heart rightly appreciates what God is, man can never rightly serve God or feel rightly towards him. The parable before us very strikingly teaches us that the unprofitable servant was he who looked
God as an austere taskmaster, gathering where he had not strewed, and reaping where he had not sown : unaware of the real goodness of the divine character, he was unfit for the blessedness of the divine presence, and his end was this—"Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness ; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." We should bear in mind that this awful sentence is not the mere exercise of sovereignty on the part of God, but it is deeply seated in the nature of things. It could not be that he who has untrue views of the divine love could dwell with comfort in that divine presence, and he who regards God as an austere taskmaster, cannot be fit to serve God in that heaven of love and joy, where there are no harsh taskmasters found, and no unwilling service rendered.
This parable is not to be confounded with a very similar one which we have in the nineteenth chapter of St. Luke. The purpose for which it was given was in some respects different, although in many respects the same. That parable in St. Luke was given to corract the mistake that the kingdom of God should immediately appear : it was given to the multitudes who were surrounding Jesus before he went up to Jerusalem. This one was given on the Mount of Olives, to instruct his eleven disciples, the faithful ones who were then around him, while the unfaithful one was gone to betray him. Here our Lord speaks of those who have got talents committed to them, and who have this reward,Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. There we find those who have got these talents getting this reward :because thou hast been faithful over ten things, rule thou over ten cities; and he who had been faithful over five talents ruled over five cities, receiving a proportionate reward. They each teach a similar, and yet not the same truth ; but this one gives us that which more especially belongs to the loving disciple; his reward as the care-taker of talents committed to him was this he shared his Lord's joy : Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Now, in the parable of the virgins, we had the character of the true disciples of Christ in the abiding indwelling of God's Holy Spirit. Here we have another view of the disciples of Christ; not men who are waiting for their Lord, but men who are occupied in their
master's business. “The kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods." Christ here represents himself as having left this world for a little while to go to a great distance, and indeed he has gone to a great distance : He has ascended far above the heavens that he might fill all things : and being away, he left the sense of absence amongst his disciples : he left his goods unto them, and he himself was absent from them. It is, as a similar parable expresses it, after a long time that the master comes to reckon with his ser. vants. Here there is one feature of the kingdom of heaven with which our Lord begins this parable ; for the Son of man, whose home is earth, not heaven, and whose eternal dwelling place is to be a glorified world, which is at the right hand of God, is in a far country, distant from the place of his human birth, distant from the place of his eternal dwelling, he is gone there; but before he went he called his own servants and delivered to them his goods. He has given to them all that belonged to him on earth, committed to their care the earth and the fulness thereof. Indeed, is not this what our blessed Saviour has done to his church, when he said, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature : he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned ?"
Now, what is Christ representing this man as doing to his servants? It was not making gifts to them, but delivering trusts to them : he delivered to them his goods—they remained the master's goods still. This truth, then, Christ makes prominent in this parable, that what we have are not our own, they belong to the
Son of man. Our mind is not our own-our talents are not our own: we are stewards of the property of another–He whose they are by creation, and He whose still more they are by redemption : they are his goods. How important a lesson is here brought before our thoughts !—how does it remind us of the words of the prophet: “ Will a man rob God?” Will a man take that which does not belong to himself, and use it as if it did belong to himself? And here we see the grave sin of self-will, of feeling as if our sin were our own, as if our property were our own, as if our ownselves were our
“ Ye are not your own; ye are brought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are his.” This therefore we should feel taught by the parable before us, that this inscription is written on all that is ours- 5—His goods ; Christ's property-not
Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one : to every man according to his several ability, and straightway took his journey, How mistaken are men when they wish for more than they have got ! How forgetful they are that the master is the person who best knows what to entrust to his servants. Men, wishing for a more conspicuous position in the world, for a larger accumulation of property, for a greater opportunity of satisfying themselves, are they not forgetting that upon all these is inscribed the master's mark-His goods ? and that upon them all, therefore, is inscribed another truth — man's responsibility? But each one has got according to his several ability. How would this teach us, brethren, contentment with our lot in life, that it is proportionate to our several ability, that he who has got capacity from God to do a great deal, gets trust from God to accomplish a
great deal; and he who has got capacity from God to do but little, gets trust from God proportionate to do that little which he has the capacity to do: to every one according to his several ability.
Now, there is a twofold view given us here of our relation to God in Christ-the one that what we have entrusted to us is given to us according to the wisdom and mind of Christ; the other, that it is entrusted to us to be exercised according to the ability and opportunity of man; that, while we can do nothing of ourselves, yet we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth us, and that we cannot truly say that our business exceeds our power, or that our responsibilities are greater than our opportunities : he has given to every one according to his several ability. If we could remember that, in going on our journey in life, how much heavenly comfort it is suited to give us !
Can the mother say, if she has several children entrusted to her care, that she has no ability to train those children for Christ and for heaven ? Are they not among those talents entrusted to her charge ? and amongst the claims that she has upon the fulfilment of that character of Christ that he is made of God, unto her wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption ? And can the man that is placed in difficult circumstances of public life, surrounded by ten thousand difficulties, and pressed down by innumerable circumstances,-can he say that he can be pressed beyond his strength, above life ? can he say that he is to despair of being able to accomplish anything, remembering who it is that has given him those trusts and responsibilities, who it is that has surrounded him with those circumstances, and who gives to every man according to his several ability ? It is