« ZurückWeiter »
trial, especially if we have no blood of Christ to plead! The great Advocate will get his people an acquittal, through his imputed merits, even though our sin in itself would condemn them. But remember, that without him we shall never be able to stand the fiery ordeal of that last dread assize. “Well," said an old preacher, “when the law was given, Sinai was on a smoke, and it melted like wax; but when the punishment of the law is given, the whole earth will quake and quail. For who shall be able to endure the day of the Lord, the day of God's fierce anger ?"
III. The last point is, IF BY DIVINE GRACE-(and it is only by divine grace that this can ever be accomplished)-OUR TWO TALENTS BE RIGHTLY USED, TIE FACT THAT WE HAD NOT FIVE, WILL BE NO INJURY TO US.
You say, when such a man dies, who stood in the midst of the church, a triumphant warrior for the truth, the angels will crowd to heaven's gates to see him, for he has been a mighty hero, and done much for his Master. A Calvin or a Luther, with what plaudits shall they be received !-men with talents, who have been faithful to their trust. Yes, but know ye not, that there is many a humble village pastor whose flock scarcely numbers fifty, who toils for them as for his life, who spends hours in praying for their welfare, who uses all the little ability he has in his endeavour to win them to Christ; and do ye imagine that his entry into heaven shall be less triumphant than the entry of such a man as Luther? If so, ye know not how God dealeth with his people. He giveth them rewards, not according to the greatness of the goods with which they were entrusted, but according to their fidelity thereunto, and he that hath been faithful to the least, shall be as much rewarded, as he that hath been faithful in much. I want you briefly to turn to the chapter, to see this. You will note first, that the man with two talents came to his Lord with as great a confidence as the man that had five. “And he said, Lord, thou deliverest unto me two talents; behold, I have gained two talents beside them." I will be bound to say, that while that poor man with the two talents was trading with them, he frequently looked upon his neighbour with the five talents, and said, “Oh, I wish I could do as much as he is doing! See now, he has five talents to put out, and how much interest he has coming every year; Oh, that I could do as much!” And as he went on he often prayed, “O my Lord, give me greater ability, and greater grace to serve thee, for I long to do more." And when he sat down to read his diary, he thought, " Ah, this diary does not tell much, There is no account of my journey through fifty counties; I cannot tell how I have travelled from land to land, as Paul did, to preach the truth. No; I have just had to keep in this parish, and been pretty well starved to death, toiling for this people, and if I have added some ten or a dozen to the church, that has been a very great deal to me. Why, I hear that Mr. So-and-so, was privileged to add two or three hundred in a year; Oh, that I could do that! Surely when I go to heaven, I shall creep in at the door somehow, while he by grace will be enabled to go boldly in, bringing his sheaves with him.” Now stop, poor little faith, stop; thy Master will not deal thus with thee. When thou shalt come to die; thou wilt through his grace feel as much confidence in dying with thy two well-used talents, as thy brother with his ten, for thou wilt, when thou comest there, have thy Lord's sweet presence, and thou wilt say, “ I am complete in Christ Christ's righteousness covers me from head to foot, and now in looking back upon my past life, I can say, Blessed be his holy name. It is little that I could do, but I have done as much as I could for him. I know that he will pardon my defects, and forgive my miscarriages, and I shall never look back upon my humble village charge without much joy, that the Lord allowed me to labour there.” And, Oh, methinks, that man will have even a richer commendation in his own conscience, than the man who has been more publicly applauded, for he can say to himself, after putting all his trust in Christ, “ Well, I am sure I did not do this for fame, for I blushed unseen-I have lost my sweetness on the desert air. No one has ever read my deeds; what I did was between myself and my God, and I can render up my account to him and say, 'Lord, I did it for thee, and not to honour myself.'” Yes, friends, I might tell you now of many a score of earnest evangelists in this our land who are working harder than any one of us, and yet win far less honour. Yes, and I could bring you up many a score of city missionaries whose toil for Christ is beyond all measure of praise, who never get much reward here, nay, rather meet with slights and disrespect. You see the poor man start as soon as he goes from his place of worship to-day. He has got three hours this afternoon to go and spend among the sick, and then you will see him on Monday morning. He has to go from
house to house, often with the door slammed in his face, often exposed to mobs and drunken men, sometimes jcered and scoffed at, meeting with persons of all religious persuasions and of no persuasion. He toils on; he has his little evening meeting, and there he gets a little flock together and tries to pray with them, and he gets now and then a man or a woman converted; but he has no honour. He just takes him off to the minister, and he says, “Sir, here is a good man; I think he is impressed; will you baptize him and receive him into yonr church?” The minister gets all the credit of that, but as for the poor city missionary, there is little or nothing said of him. There is, perhaps, just his name, Mr. Brown, or Mr. Smith, mentioned sometimes in the report, but people do not think much of him, except, perhaps, as an object of charity they have to keep, whereas he is the man that gives them the charity, giving all the sap and blood and marrow of his life for some poor sixty pounds a year, hardly enough to keep his family above want. But he, when he dies, my friend, shall have no less the approval of his conscience than the man who was permitted to stand before the multitudes and raised the nation into excitement on account of religion. He shall come before the master clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and with unblushing face shall say, “I have received two talents; I have gained beside them two talents more.”
Furthermore, and to conclude, you will notice there was no difference in his Master's commendation-none in the reward. In both cases, it was “Well done good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Here comes Whitfield, the man that stood before twenty thousand at a time to preach the gospel, who in England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, has testified the truth of God, and who could count his converts by thousands, even under one sermon! Here he comes, the man that endured persecution and scorn, and yet was not moved—the man of whom the world was not worthy, who lived for his fellow men, and died at last for their cause : stand by angels and admire, whilst the Master takes him by the hand and says, “Well done, well done, good and faithful servant; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord !” See how free grace honours the man whom it enabled to do valiantly. Hark! Who is this that comes there? a poor thinlooking creature, that on earth was a consumptive; there was a hectic flush now and then upon her cheek, and she lay three long years upon her bed of sickness. Was she a prince's daughter, for it seems heaven is making much stir about her ? No, she was a poor girl that earned her living by her needle, and she worked herself to death !-Stitch, stitch, stitch, from morning to night! and here she comes. She went prematurely to her grave, but she is coming, like a shock of corn fully ripe, into heaven; and her master says, “Well done thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” She takes her place by the side of Whitfield. Ask what she ever did, and you find out that she used to live in some back garret down some dark alley in London ; and there used to be another poor girl come to work with her, and that poor girl, when she first came to work with her, was a gay and volatile creature, and this consumptive child told her about Christ; and they used, when she was well enough, to creep out of an evening to go to chapel or to church together. It was hard at first to get the other one to go, but she used to press her lovingly; and when the girl went wild a little, she never gave her up. She used to say, “O Jane, I wish you loved the Saviour ;" and when Jane was not there she used to pray for her, and when she was there she prayed with her; and now and then when she was stitching away, read a page out of the Bible to her, for poor Jane could not read. And with many tears she tried to tell her about the Saviour who loved her and gave himself for her. At last, after many a day of hard persuasion, and many an hour of sad disappointment, and many a night of sleepless tearful prayer, at last she lived to see the girl profess her love to Christ; and she left her and took sick, and there she lay till she was taken to the hospital, where she died. When she was in the hospital she used to have a few tracts, and she used to give them to those who came to see her; she would try, if she could, to get the women to come round, and she would give them a tract. When she first went into the hospital, if she could creep out of bed, she used to get by the side of one who was dying, and the nurse used to let her do it; till at last she got too ill, and then she used to ask a poor woman on the other side of the ward, who was getting better, and was going out, if she would come and read a chapter to her; not that she wanted her to read to
her on her own account, but for her sake, for she thought it might strike her heart while she was reading it. At last this poor girl died and fell asleep in Jesus; and the poor consumptive needle-woman had said to her, “Well done"-ard what more could an archangel have said to her?_"she hath done what she could.”
See, then, the Master's commendation, and the last reward will be equal to all men who have used their talents well. Ah ! if there be degrees in glory, they will not be distributed according to our talents, but according to our faithfulness in using them. As to whether there are degrees or not, I know not; but this I know, he that doeth his Lord's will, shall have said to him, “Well done good and faithful servant."
And now, friends, this one word only. I have told you that there are many in our denomination who are preaching the gospel continually. I should bring some few of the letters, written by the poor ministers to us to read, but sometimes I think this a violation of delicacy, and I do not like to do it. But when I did that one year, the collection was almost twice as good; so I think I might almost commit a breach of etiquette in order to help them. However, I can solemnly assure you, that if there is poverty anywhere, it is to be found among the ministers in the Baptist churches, and I am sorry to say that one cause of it is the fault of the people themselves; they are so little in the habit of giving, that their ministers are starved. Now, if Christ will say, “Well done,” hereafter, to many a humble preacher, do you think he intends the church to starve them while they are here on £30 or £40 a year. Now, brethren, if Christ will say, “ Well done,” at last, we may anticipate his verdict, and say, “ Well done to-day.” And can we better say, “well done” than by unmuzzling the ox that treadeth out the corn, and give these poor ministers something out of our own wealth, as God may help us, that their necessities may be supplied ? There will be pretty well a score of persons who will be dependant during the next year upon what you give this year ; perhaps you will remember that and assist them. One kind gentleman, who usually comes here, says“ I could not come to-day, so I forward my pound to be put into the box by the minister.” And I trust, it there are any not here to-day who will be here next Sabbath, that they will not forget this collection. It is always very dear to the heart of my church,
THE FOLLY OF EXCESSIVE LABOR.
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY AFTERNOON, JANUARY 17, 1858,
BY THE REV. HENRY MELVILL, B. D.,
IN THE CATHEDRAL CHURCH OF ST. PAUL, LONDON.
"If the iron be blunt and he do not whet the edge, then must he put to more strength : but
wisdom is profitable to direct."- Ecclesiastes X. 10.
The first meaning of these words is so obvious as scarcely to require that it be pointed out. A man is engaged in some manual occupation, using an iron instrument, such as an axe or a chisel ; and the nature of his business tends to blunt the tool with which he works, so that after proceeding for some time he is not only fatigued with his labor, but less able to prosecute it from the diminished efficiency of the instrument. Under these circumstances, he might put out more strength, endeavoring to supply by the exertion of greater force the loss resulting from the deterioration of the tool; but it is easily seen that this method would not answer. He would only be rapidly exhausting his already tasked powers, whilst his continuing to use the blunted instrument would only blunt it still more, so that he must soon be compelled to give up his work in despair. Whereas if he ceased for a little while from his toil, and used the ordinary and known methods of sharpening his tool, all his difficulties might be overcome and he would carry on his trade with both ease and success—so profitable is wisdom to direct. The brute force would be presently exhausted if there were no skill in its management; but let there be only a due share of prudence, and science, and strength might be so used as to surmount every obstacle. If the iron be blunt and a man refuse or neglect to whet the edge, he must of necessity increase the amount of force which he applies; and it is not possible with a nature constituted as ours is, that such a system should long be of any avail. But if, as soon as he perceives that the instrument grows blunt, he will bring it to the grinding stone and give it a new edge he may expect through this wise husbandry of his strength to accomplish what he wishes, and greatly to prosper in his labor. Such is evidently we think, the drift of the statement under review, and this having been ascertained and admttted, we proceed to furnish those illustrations of the principle which is brought before us, and to the drawing those inferences which we may judge at once the most pertinent and the most practical.
Now it must often have struck you as a very surprising feature in God's dealings with this earth, that though he has abundantly stored it with all necessaries for the purposes and comforts of civilised life, he has left the discovery and employment of such materials dependent upon human industry and ingenuity. We do not know, for example, that he gave any instructions to the first fathers of our race as to agriculture or handicraft : we have rather reason to believe that he left them as he has left their descendants, to learn by experience the uses and properties of different substances, and determine by successive trials the best methods of turning them to account. We are quite aware that many of the most valuable productions of nature, which we even now reckon amongst the necessaries of life, are not attainable in any shape except by dint of vast labor, vor available to our wants except when subjected to curious and elaborate processes. The very metal for example, iron, mentioned in our text-to deprive the world of which would be to threaten it with starvation-with what toil is it wrung from the bowels of the earth, and under how much costly and curious operation does it pass ere it can come to the husbandman under the form of a spade or of a plough. God has nowhere instructed man where to find or how to prepare iron; he has only furnished man with faculties for discovery, placed him under circumstances favoring, or rather requiring, the developement of those faculties, and then left him to his own industry and ingenuity, placing a sure reward within reach, if he will make full use of the communicated power.
And how marvellously has discovery gone on from age to age, how have new properties been ascertained, new resources unfolded, new virtues established, so that every century, we may almost say every year, has witnessed some addition to human convenience and comfort ; an addition which has resulted from the detection of some fresh power in nature, or from a fresh application of some already known law. You read of Tubal Cain, the seventh in descent from Adam, that he was the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. The human race was then vastly on the increase, and it had become a matter of great importance to it that there should be such improvements in husbandry as could not be effected without the use of metals; and industry and ingenuity had been so turned on discoveries and inventions whilst the necessity was only beginning to be felt, that they were ready with implements and arts when that necessity began to be urgent. And we believe that this has been the order of things from the earliest days down: we believe that God who has appointed labor as man's inheritance because best adapted to a state of moral discipline, has also crowned labor with such measures of success as should just meet existing wants, but not supersede the necessity for fresh efforts. This is wonderfully observable with regard to all those surprising inventions which have multiplied man's power almost beyond human calculation. The mighty steam engine, which now does with ease what would have required and baffled an army; and the machine which a child can