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the maintenance of our families. This is the natural and intended use of the talent; therefore it may and ought to be an encouraging reflection to the industrious husbandman at his plough, the industrious weaver at his loom, the artificer at his work, the tradesman in his shop, that he is then and there using the precious gist of bodily health and strength in the way in which his Maker intended they should be used, and that when his Master comes to reckon for the gift he can render his account. Health, strength, and activity are talents ; lawsul industry is the use of those talents. There will be occasions for using them still more meritoriously, when we can put forth our exertion to help a neighbour, to do a good or a kind turn by means of our bodily activity, without desiring or hoping to be paid for it. I do allow that such exertions can only be occasional ; but the readiness and the disposition to lend our assistance when the occasions do arise, is both a duty and a virtue. To save, for instance, a man from a shipwreck, can happen but seldom, but that disposition which would make a man exert or endanger himself when it did happen, may be constant; the disposition resides in a good man constantly, though the occasions which call it forth arise only incidentally. The talent is neglected, when men suffer their bodily strength and activity to rust in sloth and idleness, and thereby become a useless burden to society ; when men have not taught themselves any useful art, or do not exercise what they profess, with such regularity as to be faithful to the expectations of those who employ them, and so manage to throw themselves out of employment, and then make that a pretence for leading an idle life. Such men find poverty, unpitied poverty, the common consequence of their conduct, or if they be preserved from that, they find the uncomfortableness of an insignificant existence; but what I wish them to find is, that they are laying up a precious talent in a napkin, that their Lord will come and reckon with them, that they will have no sufficient account to render of their talent, none of its improvement, none of its application. But this talent of bodily health and strength may be worse than neglected, it may be abused ; and this is the case when it is employed to carry men into lewd, drunken, or vicious courses.
To see a young man, blessed by his Maker with the gifts of health, strength, and activity, blessings which no money can purchase, blessings, which, if they could be purchased, thousands would lay down their fortunes as the price; to see him using the strength and goodness of his constitution, and at a time of life when both are in perfection, only in pursuit of de
bauchery and intemperance, and making the firmness of his health only a reason for plunging deeper and continuing longer in these courses, is to witness a most wicked abuse of the Creator's kindness. It is the height and extremity of ingratitude. It is not simply neglecting a precious talent, but it is wilfully consuming and destroying it. Besides every other aggravation that attends this course of life, it is chargeable with the guilt of throwing away the bounty of Providence. What has not such an one to fear, when his Lord shall demand an account of his gifts ?
But, secondly, we have other faculties than those of the body; we have endowments of mind to account for. And by endowments of mind I do not mean great parts, great abilities, because if the parable related to these alone, it would concern very few; though it be true, no doubt, that such parts and such abilities, when they do occur, cast upon the owner of them corresponding obligation to exert and exercise them properly. They are given, not to outshine others with, but to do good to others. I here rather intend that which, thanks be to God, is conferred upon most of us, a right and sound mind; and I desire it may never be forgotten that this is a gift, properly so called ; and moreover, that it is not less a gift because it is bestowed upon others as well as upon us; and being likewise a gift, by the use of which we can do good, it is a talent in the sense of the parable. The capacity of learning is a talent. They therefore who, with sufficient capacity, learn nothing, no useful art, occupation, or knowledge, from being either too idle to take the necessary pains, or too dissipated to give the necessary attention, or submit to the necessary confinement, grievously neglect their talent. They who, being masters of some useful art, do not exercise it to the benefit of mankind, also grievously neglect their talent. They who feel in themselves a particular turn to some one art or science, a peculiar facility in acquiring it, and a prospect of attaining to eminence and excellence, do very well to cultivate their talent in that way in which they can hope to be most serviceable; not, however, imagining that their parts place them above their regular calling, at least till they have provided themselves with something better. But faculties of mind are abused when our whole ingenuity is turned to contrive and execute mischief, or compass unlawful ends, with more subtlety and success than the generality of men could do; and it is lamentable to see men of good parts, not only make this bad use of their parts, but boast of so doing, and value themselves upon the extraordinary skill and address which they have shown in carrying some point they never ought to have attempted.
Another talent committed to men, that is, another quality by which they may do either much good or much harm, is the power and influence that result from station. I very well know you will say, that this talent is not intrusted to us who occupy honest, but certainly very private stations in life. What power have we to use? what influence can we exert? If this be a talent, it is one for which we cannot have to account. Now this is the very point I wish you to see, that private as the situations of most of us undoubtedly are, there is, nevertheless, a species and degree of influence belonging to all of them which we may either apply or misapply, and for which we are equally accountable with those who possess higher stations. For instance, no man has a family of children and servants, but in that very relation of a parent and master of a family he has a great deal of power and influence. The subjects of his power may not be numerous, but the power itself is very great. Here therefore is influence, for the due use of which we shall have to account as much as a prince will have to account for the authority of his station. The parent, therefore, who uses his authority over his children for the purpose of pouring into their minds principles of godliness and religion, of training them up in the habits of piety and obedience to their great Creator, and of qualifying them for being useful to man, discharges his trust, and employs his talent. A parent who is careless about his children altogether, or who, though he takes some care of their education, as far as respects means of succeeding in the world, yet takes none of their morals, and dispositions, and religion, neglects his trust, and suffers a great opportunity of doing good to pass by him unimproved. Again ; a parent, who, by his countenance and example and conversation leads his children to vice as much as a good man would lead his children to virtue, not perhaps designedly, for that must be a strange case, but very effectually, abuses the ascendancy which God and nature have given him over the minds and persons of his offspring, which ascendency is full as great in a poor man's family as in a rich man's. The same thing appertains in a considerable, though not in the same degree, to those who have servants within their families, and also, though in a degree less strict, to those who have workmen in their employment. You see, therefore, that the most private station is not without its measure of influence; which influence is a thing committed to us, and for the duc use and employment of which we shall be callcd
to account ; for the neglect alone, we shall be punished; for the abuse, most severely.
The true way of treating the subject is, not to go about to excuse ourselves by the humility or poverty of our station, the common and ordinary nature of our faculties and occupations, and so leave the instruction contained in the parable of the talents to the concern of those who feel themselves in possession of great abilities, great wealth, and great stations to do good in, as if these alone were intended to be admonished by it; but the way is, first, to regard every means and every opportunity of doing good to any as a talent in the meaning of the parable; and then to inquire what means, what opportunities are given to ourselves, either in our bodily health and vigor, or in our mental soundness and understanding, or in our place and relation as parents and children, as masters of servants, as members of a neighbourhood ; and whereinsoever we find the means and opportunities, and no man who inquires fairly but will find many and sometimes more than he had believed or thought of, to consider them as what he shall have to account for at last, and the use, or neglect, or abuse of which will form one principal subject of inquiry at the last day, and one principal ground of God's judgment; ever bearing in mind, what the parable very expressly avers, that the neglect simply, will be iinputed to us as a crime.
PARABLE OF THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN.
Luke XVIII. 9-14.
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they
were righteous, and despised others. Two men went up into the Temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself; God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this Publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the Publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner! I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased ; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Vanity, which can mix itself with the best actions, is apt to steal into our religion as much as any one thing in the world ; nor is it to be wondered at. Religion is what every man can pretend to ; and religion being of so much greater importance than any thing else, gives to some either real or even imagined superiority the highest value and excellence. Besides, when we have bestowed extraordinary pains and attention upon any subject whatever, it is very natural to value ourselves upon it. If this subject, then, be of a high nature and consequence, this value that we put upon our attainment of it, will be high in proportion. Nor are men to be blamed for overvaluing religion ; that is impossible ; but for overvaluing their own proficiency in it; that is very possible; and for making religious excellence, whether real or supposed, a reason for despising others.
But hitherto we have only been observing that spiritual pride is very natural, is what men easily glide into. We will venture to say, that of all prides, spiritual pride is the worst. The pride of riches, the pride of dress, the pride of family, the pride of beauty, though very absurd and offensive, are neither singly, nor all together, so bad as religious or spiritual pride. When I say so bad, I mean, it does so inuch harm to the man himself or to others.
The effect it has upon the man himself is no other than spoiling entirely his religion, by placing it all upon wrong motives. The pure and proper motive of religion is the desire of