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be require me so to do? (3.) Can I offer up this action, this expense, as a sacrifice to God through Jesus Christ ? (4.) Have I reason to believe, that for this very work I shall have a reward at the resurrection of the just? You will seldom need any thing more to remove any doubt which arises on this head ; but, by this four-told consideration, you will receive clear light as to the way wherein you should go.
5. If any doubt still remain, you may farther examine yourself by prayer, according to those heads of inquiry. Try whether you can say to the Searcher of Hearts, your conscience not condemuing you, Lord, thou scest I am going to expend this sum, on that food, apparel, furniture. And thou kpowest, I act therein with a single cye, as a steward of thy goods, expending this portion of them thus, in pursuance of the design thou hadst iu entrusting me with them. Thou know'est I do this in obedience to thy word, as thou commandest, and because thou commandest it. Let this, I beseech thee, be an holy sacrifice, acceptable through Jesus Christ! And give me a witness in myself, that for this labour of love, I shall have a recompense, when thou rewardest every man according to his works.' Now if your conscience bear you witness in the Holy Ghost, that this prayer is well-pleasing to God, then have you no reason to doubt, but that expense is right and good, and such as will never make
yoli shamed. 6. You see, then, what it is to “make yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness,' and by what means you may procure, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." You see the nature and extent of truly Christian prudence, so far as it relates to the use of thai great talent, Money. Gain all you can, without hurting either yourself or your neighbour, in soul or body, by applying bereto with wintermitted diligence, and with all the understanding which God has given you;--Save all you can, by cutting oll' every expense which serves only to indulge foolish desire; to gratily either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the ere, or the pride of life; waste pothing, living or dying, on sin or folly, whether for yourself or your children;-and then, Give all you can, or, in other words, give all you have to God. Do not stipt yourself, like a Jew rather than a Christian, to this or that proportion. Render unto God, pot a tenth, not a third, not half, but all that is God's, be it more or less; by employing all, on yourself, your household, the household of faith, and all mankind, in such a manner that you may give it good account
of your stewardship, when ye can be no longer stewards ; in such a manner as the Oracles of God direct, both by general and particular precepts; in such a manner, that whatever ye do may be a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour to God,” and that every act may be rewarded in that day, when the Lord cometh with all his saints.
7. Brethren, can we be either wise or faithful stewards, unless we thus manage our Lord's goods? We cannot, as not only the Oracles of God, but our own conscience, beareth witness. Then why should we delay? Why should we confer any longer with flesh and blood, or men of the world ? kingdom, our wisdom, is not of this world : Heathen custom is nothing to us. We follow no men any farther than they are followers of Christ. Hear ye Him: yea, to day, while it is called to day, hear and obey his voice! At this hour, and from this hour, do his will : Fulfil his word, in this and in all things ! I entreat you, in the name of the Lord Jesus, act up to the dignity of your calling! No more sloth! Whatsoever your hand findeth to do, do it with your might! No more waste ! Cut off every expense which fashion, caprice, or flesh and blood demand. No more covetousness. But employ whatever God has entrusted you with, in doing good, all possible good, in every possible kind and degree, to the household of faithi, to all men ! This is no small part of “the wisdom of the just.” Give all ye have, as well as all ye are, a spiritual sacrifice to Him, who withheld not from you his Son, his only Son: So slaying up in store for yourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that ye may attain eternal life!”
THE GOOD STEWARD.
“ Give am account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no
longer steward.” Luke xvi. 2.
1. The relation which man bears to God, the creature to his Crcator, is exhibited to us in the Oracles of God under various representations. Considered as a sinner, a fallen creature, he is there represented as a debtor to bis Creator. He is also frequently represented as a servant, which indeed is essential to him as a creature; iusomuch that this appellation is giveu to the Son of God when in his state of humiliation : He “ took upon him the forns of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.”
2. But no character more exactly agrees with the present state of man, than that of a Steward. Our blessed Lord frequently represents him as such; and there is a peculiar propriety in the representation. It is only in one particular respect, namely, as he is a sinner, that he is styled a debtor; and when he is styled a servant, the appellation is general and indeterminate : but a Steward is a servant of a particular kind; such a one as man is in all respects. This appellation is exactly expressive of his situation in the present world ; specifying what kind of servant he is to God, and what kind of service his divine Master expects from him.
It may be of use, then, to consider this point throughly, and to make our full improvement of it. In order to this, let us, First, Inquire, in what respects we are now God's Stewards. Let us, Secondly, observe, That when He requires our souls of
can be no longer Stewards." It will then only remain, as we may, in the Third place, observe, to “ Give an Account of our Stewardship.”
1. 1. And, First, we are to Inquire, in what respects we are now God's Stewards. We are nowy indebted to Him for all we have : But although a debtor is obliged to return what
he has received, yet until the time of payment comes, he is at liberty to use it as he pleases. It is not so with a steward; he is not at liberty to use what is lodged in his hands as he pleases, but as his Master pleases. He has no right to dispose of any thing which is in his hands, but according to the will of his Lord. For he is not the proprietor of any of these things, but barely entrusted with them by another; and entrusted on this express condition, that he shall dispose of all as his Master orders. Now this is exactly the case of every man, with relation to God. We are not at liberty to use what he has lodged in our hands as we please, but as He pleases, who alone is the Possessor of heaven and earth, and the Lord of every creature. We have no right to dispose of any thing we have, but according to His will, seeing we are not proprietors any of these things; they are all, as our Lord speaks, addotpia, belonging to another person ; nor is any thing properly our own, in the land of our pilgrimage. We shall not receive tu dia, our own things, till we come to our own country. Eternal things only are our own : with all these temporal things we are barely entrusted by another; the Disposer and Lord of all. And he entrusts us with them on this express condition, that we use them only as our Master's goods, and according to the particular directions which he has given us in his Word.
2. On this condition he hath entrusted us with our souls, our bodies, our goods, and whatever other talents we have received: but in order to impress this weighty truth on our hearts, it will be needful to come to particulars.
And, first, God has entrusted us with our Soul, an immortal spirit, made in the image of God; together with all the powers and faculties thereof, understanding, imagination, memory, will, and a train of affections, either included in it, or closely dependent upon it,--love and hatred, joy and sorrow, respecting present good and evil, desire and aversion, hope and fear, respecting that which is to come. All these St. Paul seems to include in two words, when he says, peace of God shall keep your hearts and minds." Perhaps indeed the latter word, vonuara, might rather be rendered thoughts ; provided we take that word in its most extensive sense, for every perception of the mind, whether active or passive.
3. Now, of all these, it is certain, we are only stewards. God has entrusted us with these powers and faculties, not that we may employ them according to our own will, but according
to the express orders which he has given us; although it is true, that in doing His will, we most effectually secure our own happiness, seeing it is herein only that we can be happy, cither in time, or in eternity. Thus we are to use our understanding, our imagination), our memory, wholly to the glory of Him that gave them. Thus our will is to be wholly given up to Him, and all our allections to be regulated as He directs. We are to love and bate, to rejoice and grieve, to desire and shu, to hope and fear, according to the rule which He prescribes, whose we are, and whom we are to serve in all things, Eveu our thoughts are not our own in this sense; they are not at our own disposal; but for every deliberate motion of our mind, we are accountable to our greit Master.
1. God has, secondly, entrusted us with our Bodies, (those esquisitely wrought machines, so
machines, so “ fearfully and wonderfully made,'') with all the powers and members thereof. He has entrusted us with the organs of sense; of sight, hearing, and the rest: but none of these are given us as our own, to be employed according to our own will. None of these are lent 11s in such a sense, as to leave us at liberty to use them as ire please for it season. No: we have received them on these very terms, that, as long as they abide with 115, we should employ them all, in that very manner, and no other, which He appoints.
5. It is on the same terms, that he imparted to us that most excellent talent of speech. “ Thou bast given me a tongue," says the ancient writer, “that I may praise thee therewith."
For this purpose was it given to all the children of men, to be employed in glorifying God. Nothing, therefore, is more ungrateful or more absurd, than to think or say, 'Our longues are our own.' That cannot be, unless we have created ourselves, and so are independent on the Most High. Nay, but “it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves : The manifest couscquence is, that he is still Lord over us, in this as in all other respects. It follows, that there is not a word of our tongue, for which we are not accountable to Him.
6. To Him we are equally accountable for the use of our hands and feet, and all the members of our body. These are so many talents which are committed to our trust, until the time appointed by the Father. Until then, we have the use of all these; but as stewards, not as proprietors; to the end, we should "render them, not as instruments of unrighteousmess unto sin, but as instruments of righteousness unto God."