« AnteriorContinuar »
stand it. Prejudice blinded their eyes. Here then lies the malady; and if the remedy correspond with it, it must consist in being renewed in the spirit, or temper, of our minds ; and not merely in having the intellectual faculty enlightened.
It may be said, we cannot love that of which we have no idea ; and therefore light in the understanding is necessary to the exercise of love in the beart. Be it so ; it is no otherwise necessary than as it is necessary that I should be a man in order to be a good man. There is no virtue or holiness in knowledge, farther than as it arises from some virtuous propensity of the heart, any more than there is in our being possessed of human nature. This, therefore, cannot be the grand object communicated by the Holy Spirit in regeneration.
Should it be farther objected, That those who plead for a new light in the understanding, mean by it more than mere speculative knowledge ; that they mean spiritual or holy light, such as transforms the heart and life ; to this I should answer: If so, the light of knowledge of which they speak is somethiog more than knowledge, literally and properly understood : it must include the temper of the heart, and therefore is very improperly distinguished from it.
To represent meu as only wanting light, is indeed acknowledging their weakness, but not their depravity. To say of a man who hates his fellow-man, 'He does not know him—if he knew him, he would love him ;' is to acknowledge that the enmity towards the injured person is owing to mere mistake, and not to any contrariety of temper or conduct. The best of characters might thus be at variance, though it is a great pity they should, especially for any long continuance. If this be the case between God and man, the latter is not so depraved a creature as we have hitherto conceived him to be. The carnal mind is not enmity against God, but merely against an evil being, which in his ignorance he takes God to be. To this may be added, if sin originate in simple ignorance, (which is supposed, in that the removal of this ignorance is sufficient to render us holy,) then it is no more sin ; nor is there any such thing as moral evil in the universe. So far as we can træce our actions to simple ignorance, or ignorance in wbich we are alto
gether involuntary ; so far, as we have already seen, we may reckon ourselves innocent, even in those cases wherein, had we not been ignorant, we should have been guilty. These are serious consequences ; but such as at present appear to me to be jost.
The above is submitted to the consideration of Tardus, and the reader, as the result of the maturest reflections of the writer.
ON THE PARABLE OF THE UNJUST STEWARD.
It will not be expected that we should affix a distinct idea to every term in a parable. There are some parts of almost every composition of this kind, which belong to what may be called the drapery of it; and were we to aim at a minute explication of them, we should presently feel ourselves lost in mazes of folly and impertinence. The first and chief object in the exposition of parables, is to find out the leading design of the speaker. The leading design in this parable is manifestly to expose the sin of covetousnes&. So it was understood by the Pharisees, who, as the sacred writer observes, (v. 14.) were covetous, and who, when they heard these things, derided him. They perceived the parable was aimed at a sin in which they lived; but instead of being reproved and humbled, they affected, like the same kind of people in the present day, to carry it off with a high hand, and treated the reprover with derision.
To show the evil of the sin of covetousness, our Lord represents every man in the possession of worldly property as a steward under God; and intimates that a time will come when we must give account of our stewardship, and be no longer stewards. From the supposed case of one of the children of this world, who, on being
Vol. VIII. : 9
summoned to give account of his stewardship, took measures to ingratiate himself with his lord's tenants, our Saviour takes occasion to reprove the folly of avarice, and to enforce the practice of charity and liberality; by which that worldly property which had hitherto been unjustly detained from the necessitous, and which therefore was in danger of proving injurious to the souls of its possessors, might be turned to their everlasting advantage. The children of this world, he observed, are wiser in their generation than the children of light. The expedient supposed to be used by one of the former is introduced in order to shame the latter, and to provoke them to be as wise for their souls as the others are for their bodies.
The want of integrity in the unjust steward does not appear to consist in his giving back a part of the rents to his lord's tenants, but in his having embezzled and misapplied his property. The abatements which he is supposed to have made, seem to have been, whatever might be his motive, but an exercise of justice Lowards those whom for his own private interest he bad oppressed. In oppressing the tenants and defrauding his lord, the unjust steward fitly represents the conduct of those who, at the same time, withhold what is meet from the poor and from the Lord, appropriating what Providence puts into their hands to mere selfish purposes.
Worldly riches are called the mammon of unrighteousness, not because it is uprighteous to be rich, nor, as I am inclined to think, on account of their having been obtained by unrighteous methods ; but rather because of their being unrighteously detained from the poor and needy. Our riches may have been righteously obtained with respect to men, and yet unrighteously detained with respect to God, and with respect to the poor, who are his tenants, bis repre. sentatives in this world. Such an unrighteous detention of our worldly weal this tantamount to the conduct of the unjust steward, who wasted hislord's goods. That which is not applied to the pure poses for which it was intrusted in our bands, is embezzled and misapplied in God's account. In this view, the most covetous persons are the greatest wasters ; and every one who possesses more thao he ought, by having detained it from the poor and needy, is in
possession of unrighteous mammon, is an unjust steward, and must shortly have to give account of his stewardship!
But if the mere detention of our property beyond what is fit and right, constitute it the mammon of unrighteousness, who tben is innocent ? Who that is in possession of wealth can wash his hands and say, 'I am clear in this matter; I owe nothing to religion, nothing to the poor?' Alas, every one must feel self-condemned ! The prevalence of this sin may account for our Lord's speaking of riches in general, in verse 11, as the unrighteous mammoa. There is perhaps a part at least of every man's property that, if all had their dues, would uot be his. :
And what is to be done with this overplus, this unrighteous mammon? The answer is, Apply it to the uses to which it ought to have been applied before: not only communicate liberally of your substance to all those purposes for which you are intrusted with it, which ought to be your general course; but, like Zaccheus, pay up your arrears. This will be making friends of, or By the mammon of unrighteousness; láying up treasure in heaven; Laying up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal life.
It is true, the mere communication of relief to the needy, if unaccompanied by love, will avail us nothing; and even if it spring from love, there is nothing in it that can, strictly speaking, merit the kingdom of God; yet God having graciously promised eternal life as the reward of those who give but a cup of cold water to a disciple of Christ, because pe belongs to him, a compliance with the one affords a foundation to expect the other. As God graciously rewards even his own work in this world, so it will be in that to come : those wbo have sown sparingly here, will reap sparingly hereafter ; while those who have sown plentifully, shall reap plentifully. We may as truly be said, by laying out ourselves for God, to lay up treasure in heaven, az if eternal life was literally tbe reward of human merit; and though when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants, having done no more than was our duty to do, yet, through the superabounding goodness of God, we may be said by these means to make to ourselves friends,
who will bear such witness in our favour as that we shall be received into everlasting habitations.
To enforce the exercise of liberality, our Lord holds up the disparity between earthly and heavenly riches; the one as little, the other as much; the one as unrighteous, deceitful, or false mammon, the other as the true riches; this as pertaining to another man, of which we are only stewards, that as being properly our own an unalienable and eternal inheritance ; seriously warning us, at the same time, that if we continue unfaithful in the one, we can never expect to be put in possession of the other.
DEGREES IN GLORY PROPORTIONED TO WORKS OF PIE
TY, CONSISTENT WITH SALVATION BY GRACE ALONE.
A CONSTANT reader of the Evangelical Magazine for September Jast, p. 376, approves of several observations which were made on the parable of the unjust steward, but wishes me to show more particularly the consistency of spiritual and eternal blessings being bestowed as a reward of works of piety and charity, and conse. quently of different degrees of glory being hereafter conferred on different persons, according to their conduct in the present life with the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. I consider the above as an inte resting inquiry, and submit the following as an answer.. .. In the first place, it seems proper a little more fully lo establish the sentiments themselves. Whether we can perceive their consistency, or not, they manifestly appear to be taught in the holy Scriptures. The same divine writers who teach the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, teach also that eternal life will be confer. red as a reward on those who have served the Lord with fidelity,