Francis Aidan Gasquet.

Plain sermons (Volume 2) online

. (page 18 of 29)
Online LibraryFrancis Aidan GasquetPlain sermons (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 29)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


death is swallowed up in victory." Adding what may
perhaps be considered as a most divine hymn or an-
them : —

" death * where is thy sting. grave ? where is thy victory.
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through our Lord
Jesus Christ."

And then after his manner the apostle subjoins his
solemn practical warning, by way of inference from the
great doctrinal truths he had been setting forth.

" Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast,
unmoveable, always, uniformly, abounding in the work
of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is
not in vain in the Lord."



214 LOFTY AIMS AND LOWLY DUTIES.

Passing on to an exemplification of, or mode of put-
ting- in practice at once this thankfulness, this steadfast,
uniform, accomplishment of the work of the Lord :
" Concerning the collection for the saints," or poor
Christians, " as I have given directions to the churches
of Galatia, even so do ye ; on the first day of the week
let every one of you lay by him in store" for this chari-
table purpose, whatever he can afford, " as God hath
prospered him."

He afterward speaks of his intended journeys, and of
his hope to come and spend some time with them ;
mentions by name various friends, with a particular re-
quest that every kindness and attention should be shown
them, interspersing here and there solemn hints (as it
were) of what should be ever in a Christian's thoughts,
however employed. "Watch ye, standfast in the faith,
quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be
done with charity. If any man love not the Lord Jesus
Christ, let him be Anathema maranatha."

On reading then, and comparing these two chapters
together, we see that the divine knowledge and lofty
privileges vouchsafed to the illustrious apostle St. Paul,
did not in any way prevent or keep him back from ful-
filling, what may be called, his course of every day du-
ties. One moment he is descanting on the highest and
most magnificent doctrines of the gospel; the next lay-
ing down rules for managing a collection for the poor,
or arranging the order of his visits to his flock or friends,
and so forth.

We also see on the other hand, that the great apos-
tle's attention to these common duties, did not at all
draw off his heart and affections from his heavenly priv-
ileges, and true home. " All his things," to use his
own emphatic expression, " were done with charity,"
with " love for the Lord Jesus Christ," and of all men
for his sake.

It becomes us then, as disciples of the same divine
Master, to endeavor, by the aid of the ever-blessed Spirit,
to follow the illustrious apostle's example in both the
ways jjow referred to, When we search into, and med-



LOFTY AIMS AND LOWLY DUTIES. 215

itate on, the truths of Christ's glorious gospel, we should
never make this an excuse for being negligent of the
peculiar daily duties belonging to our several stations. —
And also on the other hand we should be careful, that
in fulfilling these duties, we be not forgetful of our high
Christian privileges.

On each of these points let me offer a few observa-
tions by way of caution.

People sometimes think, or speak as if they thought,
that if they give their minds in any considerable degree
to matters of a directly religious nature, they must be
so far the less competent to take their part in matters
of business or society, properly belonging to their re-
spective station.

Yet we see that St. Paul, to whonn was granted in so
eminent a degree "the gift of prophecy, the power to
understand all mysteries and all knowledge," — this great
apostle and holy minister of Jesus Christ, was constant-
ly most active and diligent (no one more so), and at the
same time most discreet and prudent in fulfilling all the
duties of that state of life to which it had pleased God
to call him. Hence we may conclude that habits of sin-
cere unaffected piety, the habitual study of God's holy
word, and regard to the rules of his church — the " con-
tinuing in prayer (as St. Paul, expresses it), and watch-
ing in the same with thanksgiving," with the Eucharist,
with habitual communion with our Lord Jesus Christ at
his own holy table — a life so led is quite compatible with
the uniform practice of all the daily duties suited to our
respective stations.

If some high emotions of feeling were absolutely re-
quisite to put the heart into a truly religious frame be-
fore God, it would be difficult, if not impossible to
maintain a uniform spirit of religion ; to pass at once,
for instance, from prayer, or communion, or the study
of God's revealed word, to matters of domestic or
social duty.

But as St. Paul has set us the example we need not
scruple to believe, that the proper way of turning to
account the high knowledge and privileges imparted to



216 LOFTY AIMS AND LOWLY DUTIES.

US as Christians, is to be " steadfast, unmoveable, always
abounding in the work of the Lord," and at once to
enter on what comes first in our line of duty, that is,
to us " the work of the Lord" — each man's proper
calling.

At all times indeed, but especially in the present cor-
rupt and decayed state of what is called the Christian
world, the temptation to serious and contemplative
minds is to withdraw from this restless unsatisfying
scene of things, an.l to let their hearts and minds dwell
on those noble privileges and rewards, which, by faith
in the Lord Jesus Christ, they are enabled to call their
own, either in possession or in hope.

They would willingly shut their eyes to the matters
which concern only this transitory life, and look only
to the great subjects which belong to them as of right —
as members of the church of God which he purchased
with his own blood — as, namely, the communion of
saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the
body, and the life everlasting.

To these great matters, and others of kin to them,
they would willingly limit their thoughts. But they
know they must not — they know that they are required
to use this world, as not abusing (or rather, as not
using) it ; to follow the path assigned them with utter
indifference as to what the results may be ; not to seek
high things for themselves, but to be content to go
along low by the ground; to be content, I say, as the
catechism so admirably expresses it, "to learn, and
labor, truly to get their own living, and to do their duty
in that state of life to which it shall please God to call
them."

In times also of distress and affliction, from whatever
cause arising, it is a great trial to tender and devout
spirits to go on engaging themselves in matters of com-
mon every day business. It seems to them almost as
if there were something wrong and even presumptuous
in so doing ; as if God were speaking to them, and
they refused to hear. And this the more because they
too often see worldly and hard-hearted persons pur-



LOFTY AIMS AND LOWLY DUTIES. 217

suing this very course, deadening (as it were) the sound
of God's warnings in the noise of business or pleasure.

Nevertheless the sincere Christian must be assured,
that in time of affliction, as at all other times, it never
can be wrong to go on steadfast, unmoveable, always,
that is, uniformly abounding in the work of the Lord.
He must not look on things too much after the outward
appearance. The other disciples, yielding perhaps to
their feelings, went away, not enduring to behold their
Lord's sufferings. St. John remained at the foot of the
cross and saw the nails driven into his hands and feet —
and the spear thrust into his side.

And when Christians carry to the grave the mortal
remains of their brethren, the church, consoling us
with the glorious doctrine of St. Paul in this very
chapter, does not omit the last verse, the practical con-
clusion of the whole. She seems to warn us not, under
a natural touch of feeling, to waste our precious time
yet remaining, and the more precious for being so un-
certain, in sorrowing as others that have no hope, but
to proceed at once " in the collection for the saints,"
in the prosecution of those various duties which every
man knows, if he reflects at all, that he has on his
hands every morning of his life.

But while we endeavor to follow on, however imper-
fectly, this our path of daily duty, it is of the most
serious importance that we bear in mind, at the same
time, the high Christian privileges to which the mem-
bers of Christ's holy church are entitled.

People may go on leading a decent, respectable, and
what is miscalled, moral course of life, without giving
their thoughts with any habitual seriousness to what
their Lord and Savior has wrought for them, to the
need they are in of having their hearts in all things
guided and ruled by the Holy Spirit.

I say, it is a mistake to call such persons "moral"
men, they are very immoral; they neglect their best
friend ; they disobey their Master in whose service they
are sworn, they constantly promise what they do not
even try to perform.

Vol. IL— 19



218 LOFTY AIMS AND LOWLY DUTIES.

It seems therefore no less than necessary for us, if
we would be acknowledged as good and faithful ser-
vants of the holy Jesus, that we apply our hearts to
search into, and ascertain the great concerning truths
of the gospel. These truths are meant for all persons,
of all stations and circumstances ; they are not limited
to men of learning, and scholarship, nay not offered to
them, unless they bring as humble and teachable a
spirit as the meanest Christian.

But with such a temper of lowliness and devotion,
with habitual prayer for the instruction and guidance of
God's blessed spirit, with diligence in reading and hear-
ing his holy word, especially according to the ancient
rules provided by his church, and with making the most
of that leisure which all are able to enjoy at least on
the Lord's sacred day — in this way the sincere Chris-
tian, be his condition in life what it may, will still as
each week passes over him become more substantially
wise, even with the wisdom which proceedeth from
above ; will still (as the apostle speaks) be growing in
grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, at the best and wisest in this world, we
see but as through a glass, darkly and by reflection.

The time will come, when those who have sought
their Savior aright in this world of trial, shall find him —
shall ever be with him^ — yea, " shall be like him, for they
shall see him as he is."



THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT. 219



SERMON LIX.

THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT. '■-

St. Matt. xxv. 25.
" I was afraid : and went and hid thy talent in the earth."

It seems, on consideration, of great importance toward
the right understanding and application of many, or per-
haps I may say, of most of the parables of our blessed
Lord, that we regard them as prophecies, or rather as
prophetic warning, valuable indeed to Christians in every
age of the church, but especially to us of these later days.
For as time goes on, and seems in a manner to take us
on farther from the source of evangelical light and truth,
the " word of prophecy," according to its nature, still
grows clearer, and becomes, as St. Peter expresses, more
and more " sure ;" sure, that is, to us, both to encourage
and to guide us in this " dark place."

For, I suppose, we, looking back on the history of the
Christian world for many centuries past, and witnessing
its condition at the present day, in this and other nations,
are able to perceive the force of many of our Savior's
prophetic discourses, and especially of his parables, more
clearly even than many of those disciples to whom they
were originally addressed.

At all events, the warnings contained in these parables
could not have touched the consciences of the first
Christians more closely than they must ours, so far at
least as we have a serious sense of our real condition,
and of the state of Christ's church militant here on earth.

To the first Christians it was a prophecy that the gos-
pel of their Savior should be as good corn scattered in
a field, of which only a small proportion falls into good
ground and brings forth fruitt



220 THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT.

To US this is matter of history, observation, and ex-
perience.

To the first Christians it was a prophecy that tares
should spring up among the good corn, and that the ser-
vants would be impatiently anxious to make the separa-
tion, sooner than their Master would think well.

How this prophecy has been fulfilled, the history of
the Christian world, in past and present times, may well
bear witness.

To the first Christians it was 7i prophecy that the Chris-
tian faith should be as a grain of mustard-seed springing
up into a great tree. We are able to imagine from what
we already know, that at no distant day the earth shall
be filled with at least the knowledge of the glory of the
Lord.

And to refer to one more only of our Lord's parables ;
to the first Christians it was aprophecy that persons who
had received, and who knew that they had received, from
their Lord and Master talents and advantages, more or
less valuable, to be accounted for, would nevertheless
deliberately set them aside as worthy of no care or re-
gard at all, and as though they should never be called to
account respecting them.

That things should be so in the Christian church, the
Omniscient and Holy Jesus expressly foretold. That
things have been and are so, we must, alas! all of us see
and confess, if at least we will not be wilfully blind, and
regardless of the prospect which is spread before us.

The last parable, as it seems, which the Savior of man-
kind delivered while on earth, was the following : —

" A man travelling into a far country, called his own
servants and delivered unto them his goods. And unto
one he gave five talents, to another two, and to an-
other one, to every one according to his several abili-
ty : and straightway took his journey. Then he that had
received the five talents went and traded with the same,
and made other five talents. And he that had received
the two, he also gained other two. But he that had re-»
ceived the one went and digged in the earth, and hid his
Lord's money j" did not misspend it, but merely hid it.



THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT. 221

" After a long time, the Lord of those servants cometh
and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received
the five talents came and brought other five talents, say-
ing, Lord thou deliveredst unto me five talents, behold,
I have gained beside them five talents more. His Lord,
said unto him. Well done, 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.

"And he also that had received the two talents came
and said. Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents ;
behold, I have gained two other talents beside them."
Here we observe that he which had made the best use
of his two talents was welcomed by his Lord in exactly
the same gracious words as he who had the five. " His
Lord said unto him, Well done, 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.

" Then he that had received the one talent, came, and
said," in a bold unhesitating manner, " Lord, I knew thee
that thou art a hard man, reaping Avhere thou hast not
sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed, and I
was afraid, and I went and hid thy talent in the earth ;
lo, there thou hast that is thine." I have spent none of
it. I have made no use of it, either good or bad. Take
it again as thou gavest me. I now owe thee nothing.

We may well believe that among many other prophetic
warnings of the greatest value implied in this parable, this
is one, that as Christians we are in danger, through pride
and indolence, of neglecting to turn to account God's
common mercies and privileges ; yet deceiving ourselves
and others all the while with a pretence of humility and
unworthiness, and extreme fear and awe of the Divine
perfections.

It may seem that the servant in the parable was se-
cretly displeased that while of his fellow-servants, some
had five talents, and others two, he should be only en-
trusted with one. So he made up his mind that it was
»ot worth taking any trouble about j that if he should

19*



222 THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT.

try any scheme of improvement and not succeed, his
master, whom he chose to call without reason, "a hard
man," would be very angry, so it would be safer to go
at once and bury the talent in the earth, taking all chances
for the consequences.

Thus, I say, does our merciful Savior warn us to make
the most of whatever talents are intrusted to us, however
small, and in the world's opinion, contemptible, and not
with a pretence of fear and humility, to encourage secret-
ly the fatal kindred dispositions to indolence and pride ;
ever remembering the end denounced against him, v/ho
is here designated not as proud, or envious, or disobe-
dient, all of which doubtless he was, but as an " unprofi-
table servant," one who did not try to make the most
of what was intrusted to his charge.

We observe then, that this man, when he was called
to account, for the manner in \vhich he had employed his
talent, endeavored to excuse himself, by alleging the
fear and awe he had for his Master. " I was afraid (says
he), so I w^ent and hid thy talent in the earth." As much
as to say, if I had five talents intrusted to me, or even
two, I might have accomplished something worth laying
before thee, but with only one poor talent I Avas afraid
of attempting anything, for I was sure I should fail.

Here, I say, seems to be set before us a solemn warn-
ing against cherishing any unworthy fear, or rather pre-
tence of fear, which \vould keep us back in our several
stations, from turning whatever talents our merciful God
may intrust us w^ith, to the intended account.

People very often think what they would do if they
■were placed in a more influential situation, if they were
more wealthy, or more clever, or more learned, or in
any respect more skilful, or were naturally better tem-
pered, or had been blest with more vigorous health, or
more even spirits.

I say, feeling our deficiency, as almost all must in
some one or more of these respects, we are in danger
of cloaking our indolence or our vanity under the dis-
guise of humility, and because we know we cannot suc-
ceed so well as some others, to profess ourselves afraid



THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT. 223

to attempt anything in the special service of our Lord
and Master.

For instance, the poor widow in the gospel, who when
many that were rich cast in much to the offerings of
God, threw in two mites, being all she had, and for that
had the distinguished honor of being commended by her
Savior and Judge himself, I say, if this poor widow had
been of the disposition of the servant in the parable, she
might and would have said, I was afraid to give so little,
so I gave nothing. And so doubtless it is to this day,
persons are often afraid to subscribe small sums even
to purposes which it is their duty to support, and which
they highly approve ; they are afraid (they say) they
shall do more harm than good to the cause, and get
laughed at instead of thanked, and so forth. Now if we
look a little more closely into our motives on these oc-
casions, we shall generally find a lurking spirit of vani-
ty, or perhaps of covetousness, which deceives us under
the cloak of fear and humility.

Or again, though it be not so generally considered,
yet without question there is one precious talent, gift,
and privilege, within the reach of us all of this country,
which the majority of persons nevertheless, in the spirit
of a vain and false fear bury in the earth, and this is the
privilege of church-membership, with its accompanying
graces and duties.

Thus many persons think, or at least speak and act
as if they thought, that the question of church unity
was no concern of theirs, very proper for the clergy
and learned men, but quite above the reach of the gen-
erality of Christians.

Many are afraid of committing themselves by over-
strictness (as they call it) in some particular instance,
because they are fearful (that say) they shall bring dis-
grace on religion by not being consistent in other re-
spects.

On this plea many persons, among other things, are
unwilling to begin or keep on with the sacred duty of
family prayers ; many refuse or decline to kneel down
when they are in this house of God j and on the same



224 THE UNPROFITABLE SERVANT.

principle many systematically refrain from even intend-
ing to partake of their Redeemer's body and blood at
his own sacred table ; and all these things people do on
religious grounds, so they flatter themselves. But if
they could be prevailed on to examine more closely and
candidly into the motives which really influence them,
they would find them to be near of kin to those which
led the unprofitable servant in the parable to profess so
boldly to his Lord, " I was afraid, and went and hid my
talent in the earth." Far from that true " reverence
and godly fear," with which alone, as the apostle to the
Hebrews intimates, we Christians can " serve our God
acceptably."

It is also very observable here as in innumerable
other places of the New Testament, how emphatically
we are warned, that whatever blessings or advantages
we possess are not our own, but our heavenly Master's
intrusted and deposited with us now, and strictly to be
accounted for in the end.

Of this the servant in the parable was fully aware ;
for (says he " I was afraid, and went and hid (not my
talent, but) thy talent in the earth."

Applying this to our own case, we shall perceive that
it is a very false and unholy fear indeed, which, in any
case, keeps us back from employing the precious gifts
of God to the honor and glory of him who bestows them.

Our whole time, the years, months, weeks, and days
allotted to us in this transitory life ; this our time, I
say, is not in any sense our own, what we have a right
to employ simply as we please. It is God's time intrust-
ed to us, and we may not dare under the notion or plea,
that it is not worth his acceptance or beneath his re-
gard — we may not, I say, deliberately venture to waste
or misspend it. It is one of our Lord and Master's
most precious talents given in charge to us, and if
through false fear we hide it in the earth, we can ex-*
pect at last no other than the heavy doom of the un-
profitable servant.

So, again, the blessing of a Christian education, in
greater or less degrees, is a talent of great value, cora«



THE Ur;PROFITABLE SERVANT. 225

mitted to us by our heavenly Father ; that is, it is of
great value to us, if we turn it to its proper use j but if
we apply our knowledge to evil purposes, or employ it
not in any way to God's glory, under a notion of its in-
ferior importance, we shall find, in the end, that we
have dishonored God in one of his best gifts, and must
look to be requited accordingly.

And, indeed, whatever blessing we enjoy either of
nature (as it is called) or of grace, the only true way
of considering them all, is as of talents divinely intrust-
ed to us, and for which we *' must give account in the
day of judgment."

This thought should make us all, whatever our sta-
tion in life may be — I say, it should make even the
poorest people, as well as those in middling and high
stations, very serious and earnest in their religion, that
is in their whole conduct. For there is no one who will
not have many talents to account for ; no one, too, who
will not need the mercy of his Savior and Judge for his
sad misapplication of them.

However, as we must not venture to stand idle in our
Christian course, but must still be endeavoring to do
somewhat in God's cause, however poorly and imper-
fectly; it must be well for us to keep a constant guard
against the two evil dispositions before referred to,
which, if cherished, will, above all others, tend to make
us, in this probationary world, " unprofitable servants"
of our heavenly Lord, and, hereafter, outcasts from his
everlasting favor and love. I need scarcely name these
two dispositions, as all persons who have exerted them-
selves at all earnestly in pursuing the narrow way which
alone leadeth unto life, will acknowledge, that the
temptations to indolence and pride, above all other the



Online LibraryFrancis Aidan GasquetPlain sermons (Volume 2) → online text (page 18 of 29)