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The general frame of human society, and the origin and constitution of different societies, are points not understood by all, but all can understand some things in every society; for instance, that there must be masters and there must be servants, some to direct and some to be directed. The business of the world must be carried on; and it is only by labor that we are all maintained. Our food and raiment, our habitations and accommodations, and in part our enjoyments, we owe to the hand of industry. Now there are but two methods possible ; one is, every man working for himself, to supply himself with every thing he has occasion for ; the second is, working for another. The former is the condition of savages, among whom, though every man toils night and day to procure himself food and clothing, every man is wretchedly and scarcely provided with either. In such a state, they who are best provided are worse off than the poorest inhabitant of this country can be. Therefore by such a rule, if it were possible to establish it, the poor would gain nothing, and all who are above poverty would lose a great deal. The second is the condition of civilized life, in which one man sets himself to work whatever he is qualified to carry on for the benefit of others, and is in return rewarded with the benefit of his industry in some other way. There goes through the different employments of life a general exchange. Service, in particular, is a fair exchange of maintenance for industry, of wages for labor. The exchange is honest and advantageous on both sides. The master is no less obliged to a good servant, than the servant to a good master.
There must be property. The face of the earth would be a waste without it. The ground would be uncultivated, if no man had a property in it. No business of any kind need or would be carried on, if they who carried it on had not a property in the produce and the profit; but if there be property at all, it must be regulated by some fixed rules; and let these rules be what they will, property will run into unequal masses. This is inevitable. The art of man cannot hinder it. One man will have a great deal to spare, another will want. But there is one species of property which every man is born to; the use of his liberty; and thanks be to God, things are in such a state with us that this, in general, is equal; but then to turn his strength, faculties, and activity to account, he must engage with some one who has that to spare which he stands in need of. He must give him what he has to give, namely, his personal service, in order to obtain from him what he must obtain, his maintenance; and there is no service in this country but what is
founded in the interest of the servant himself. Now the reflection that arises from all this, and which is the reflection contained in the text, is, that some service necessarily results from the order and constitution of civil life, and since that order was of God Almighty's fixing, that constitution of his appointment, service also itself may be truly said to be the destination and contrivance of his providence. The state is what God made and designed, because it is owing to that order of things which he has settled in the world; but we are moreover to refer to his providence the state in which each finds himself; and this is true of the lowest as well as the highest, of the servant in his state as well as the prince upon his throne. We are all disposed into our different states by the appointment of God. Wherefore the business and duties of these several stations may justly be called the task which God has given us to perform; and, be it what it will, whilst we perform it we are performing the will of God. A servant, therefore, as the apostle admonishes, is doing service to the Lord. The work assigned him is assigned, not only by the will of man, but by the appointment of God; and therefore, as the apostle proceeds, in the execution of that work he is to look, not merely to the favor of men, but to the approbation of God. Honesty and diligence in a servant are so far their own reward, that they ensure to him a good character, and nothing else will; and his character is his livelihood; but the apostle of Christ, in giving this servant of his for his wages the reward of a future state, carries his disciple farther; he teaches him that, whatever be a man's state, if he discharge the duties and business of it, he will be rewarded for it by God Almighty. The words are these ; · Whatever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Now as this is the principle and motive which the apostle proposes, namely, the constant consideration that they are doing God's work, and, in doing that work well, are serving and pleasing him, the rule by which a servant is to guide himself must correspond with this principle.
St Paul delivers his rule in these words ; Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, in singleness of heart, as unto Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with good will doing service. Now the first quality that we find required here, is singleness of heart as unto Christ; that is, not only sincerity of heart, but the same sincerity as if they were immediately serving the Lord Christ. This excludes all pretences, all contrivances and machinations,
rvice as the serviwhile he is watchedervice is ing man, an's viewer,
áll affectation and appearance of service, which is not true and real at the bottom. The second thing laid down in the text in the duty of a servant, is, that he do his duty, 'not with eyeservice as menpleasers, but as the servants of Christ.' Eyeservice is the service of him who works only under the eye of his master, only while he is seen and observed by him ; who is good according as he is watched, diligent so long as he is well looked after. This sort of service is condemned in the text, and for a very plain reason; if pleasing man, if pleasing his master, was the whole and sole object of a servant's view, this might do ; but it can never do with God; it can never, therefore, satisfy him who looks to God and not to man for the final recompense of his labors; it can never be his part who conducts himself, not as a manpleaser, but according to St Paul's direction, as the servant of Christ ; it can never be his part who considers himself, whilst he is working for his master, as doing that business, that task of life, which God Almighty has appointed him, and looks, as St Paul speaks, to receive of the Lord for his service. Such a one knows, that whether his earthly master be absent or present, be negligent or careful, be skilful or ignorant, be difficult to impose upon or easy to impose upon, He who is to be the ultimate rewarder of him can never be deceived, is watching him when no one else is, seeth in secret, rewards that fidelity and that diligence which is not to be corrupted by opportunity of negligence or dishonesty, or which forgets itself when out of sight. '
Having thus stated what I take to be the mind and meaning of the apostle, as to the duty and condition of servants, I will add, as a concluding consideration, some of the various intimations given us in scripture, how greatly our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ esteemed the character of a good servant. And this appears from hence, that when he would set forth the merit and acceptance of a virtuous disciple, he generally does it by comparing his with that of a good servant; Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord has made ruler over his household, to give them their meat in due season ; blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. I say unto you he will make him ruler over all his house.
Here you see the reception which a true Christian may expect from God, as compared with that which a faithful servant shall meet with from his master.
“The kingdom of heaven is as man travelling into a far country, who called his servants and delivered unto them his
goods; and unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. After a long time the lord of these servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And he that had received five talents came in and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents, behold I have gained besides them five talents more ; and the lord said unto bim, Thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things ; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.' We know that this is but a parable or similitude, and that in truth Christ is representing how God will applaud and recompense those who have improved and best used the abilities and opportunities put into their power; but what I argue is this; that Christ conveys this representation under the comparison of a just, orderly, and faithful servant, and that he would never have used this comparison, if the character of such a servant had not been what he approved, and what those who had heard him were presumed to approve also. It may be observed also, what were the circumstances of this servant whom our Saviour here describes. They were circumstances, in the first place, of great trust. The master had delivered to the servant certain goods; the behaviour of the servant was the more praiseworthy, the trial of his fidelity the greater, inasmuch as he had exerted himself so diligently and so successfully when his master was absent,
afar off on a journey,' and absent for a long time; this increases the virtue and merit of such conduct, and is mentioned by our Lord because it did increase it.
These parables admit of two applications; a good Christian sees his duty and his reward described by the fidelity and recompense of a good servant. A good servant sees how highly that character is prized and valued by Christ, when he finds that Christ' makes choice of it as the type and similitude by which he delineates the qualities and virtues which he wishes to find in his disciples, and how those virtues will be accepted at the coming of their heavenly master.
A STUDIOUS LIFE RECOMMENDED TO THE
[Preached at Durham, at the Visitation of the Right Reverend Shute, Lord
Bishop of Durham.]
1 TIMOTHY IV. 13.
Till I come give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
Next to the lessons which proceed from our Lord himself, I know nothing that can well be imagined more interesting to a believer in Christianity, than letters of advice and instruction from an original missionary of the religion, to one whom he had associated with himself in the office; especially from the most active and zealous of its teachers, to a disciple and colleague favored with his highest confidence; from the chiefest of the apostles to the most beloved of his converts.
It might be expected that the apostolic character would flow in pages, which were dictated by christian zeal united with personal affection. They came from a mind filled at all times with the momentous truths of the religion it had embraced, but now in particular excited by sentiments of the warmest friendship for the person whom he addressed, by a sense, as it should seem, of responsibility for his conduct, and by the most ardent desire for the success of his ministry. Still more important would this correspondence become, if any of the letters should appear to have been written under circumstances the most trying to human sincerity of any in which mankind can be placed, the view of impending death ; because we should presume, that under such circumstances we were reading the mind of the author without reserve or disguise, the thoughts which most constantly dwelt in it, and with which it was most powerfully impressed, without the admixture of any thing futile or extraneous.
The account which we have given, does nothing more than describe the epistles of St Paul to Timothy, and the last part of the account belongs to the second of these epistles. • I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith ; henceforth there is laid up for
itides at as