thou wast a hard man, and I was afraid. Good thoughts of God would beget love, and that love would make us diligent and faithful; but hard thoughts of God beget fear, and that fear makes us slothful and unfaithful. His excuse bespeaks,
1. The sentiments of an enemy; I knew thee, that thou art a hard man. This was like that wicked saying of the house of Israel, The way of the Lord is not equal, Ezek. 18. 25. Thus his defence is his offence. The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and then, as ift that would mend the matter, his heart fretteth against the Lord. This is covering the transgression, as Adam, who implicitly laid the fault on God himself; The woman which thou gavest me. Note, Carnal hearts are apt to conceive false and wicked opinions concerning God, and with them to harden themselves in their evil ways. Observe how confidently he speaks; I knew thee to be so. How could he know him to be so? What iniquity have we or our fathers found in him? Jer. 2. 5. Wherein has he wearied us with our work, or deceived us in his wages? Mic. 6. 3. Has he been a wilderness to us, or a land of darkness? Thus long God has governed the world, and may ask, with more reason than Samuel himself could, Whom have I defrauded, or whom have I oppressed? Does not all the world know the contrary, that he is so far from being a hard Master, that the earth is full of his goodness, so far from reaping where he sowed not, that he sows a great deal where he reaps nothing? For he causes the sun to shine, and his rain to fail, upon the evil and unthankful, and fills their hearts with food and gladness, who says to the Almighty, Depart from us. This suggestion bespeaks the common reproach which wicked people cast upon God, as if all the blame of their sin and ruin lay at his door, for denying them his grace; whereas it is certain that never any, who faithfully improved the common grace they had, perished for want of special grace; nor can any shew what could in reason have been done more for an unfruitful vineyard than God has done in it. God does not demand brick, and deny straw; no, whatever is required in the covenant, is promised in the covenant; so that if we perish, it is owing to ourselves.
2. The spirit of a slave; I was afraid. This ill affection toward God arose from his false notions of him; and nothing is more unworthy of God, nor more hinders our duty to him, than slavish fear. This has bondage and torment, and is directly opposite to that entire love which the great commandment requires. Note, Hard thoughts of God drive us from, and cramp us in, his service. Those who think it impossible to please him, and in vain to serve him, will do nothing to purpose in religion.
[2.] His Lord's answer to this apology. His plea will stand him in no stead, it is overruled, nay, it is made to turn against him, and he is struck speechless with it; for here we have his conviction and his condemnation.
First, His conviction, v. 26, 27. Two things he is convicted of.
1. Slothfulness; Thou wicked and slothful servant. Note, Slothful servants are wicked servants, and will be reckoned with as such by their Master; for he that is slothful in his work, and neglects the good that God has commanded, is brother to him that is a great waster, by doing the evil that God has forbidden, Prov. 18. 9. He that is careless in God's work, is near akin to him that is busy in the devil's work, Satis est mali nihil fecisse boni—To do no good is to incur very serious blame. Omissions are sins, and must come into judgment; slothfulness makes way for wickedness; all become filthy, for there is none that doeth good. Ps. 14. 3. When the house is empty, the unclean spirit takes possession. Those that are idle in the affairs of their souls, are not only idle, but something worse, 1 Tim. 5. 13. When men sleep, the enemy sows tares.
2. Self-contradiction; (v. 26, 27.) Thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not: thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers. Note, The hard thoughts which sinners have of God, though false and unjust, will be so far from justifying their wickedness and slothfulness, that they will rather aggravate and add to their guilt. Three ways this may be taken; (1.) "Suppose I had been so hard a Master, shouldest not thou therefore have been the more diligent and careful to please me, if not for love, yet for fear, and for that reason oughtest not thou to have minded thy work?" If our God be a consuming fire, in consideration of that, let us study how to serve him. Or, thus, (2.) "If thou didst think me to be a hard Master, and therefore durst not trade with the money thyself, for fear of losing by it, and being made to stand to the loss, yet thou mightest have put it into the hands of the exchangers, or goldsmiths, mightest have brought it into the bank, and then at my coming, if I could not have had the greater improvement, by trade and merchandise, (as of the other talents,) yet I might have had the lesser improvement, of bare interest, and should have received my own with usury;" which, it seems, was a common practice at that time, and not disallowed by our Saviour. Note, If we could not, or durst not, do what we would, yet that excuse will not serve, when it will be made to appear that we did not do what we could and durst. It we could not find in our hearts to venture upon more difficilt and hazardous services, yet will that justify us in shrinking from those that were more safe and easy? Something is better than nothing; if we fail of shewing our courage in bold enterprises, yet we must not fail to testify our good-will m honest endeaours; and our Master will not despise the day of small things. Or thus, (3.) "Suppose I did reap where I sowed not, yet that is nothing to thee, for I had sowed upon thee, and the talent was my money, which thou wast intrusted with, not only to keep, but to improve." Note, In the day of account, wicked and slothful servants will be left quite without excuse; frivolous pleas will be overruled, and every mouth will be stopped; and those who now stand so much upon their own justification, will not have one word to say for themselves.
Secondly, His condemnation. The slothful servant is sentenced,
1. To be deprived of his talent; (v. 28, 29.) Take therefore the talent from him. The talents were first disposed of by the Master, as an absolute Owner, but this was now disposed of by him as a Judge; he takes it from the unfaithful servant, to punish him, and gives it to him that was eminently faithful, to reward him. And the meaning of this part of the parable we have in the reason of the sentence, (v. 29.) To every one that hath shall be given. This may be applied, (1.) To the blessings of this life—worldly wealth and possessions. These we are intrusted with, to be used for the glory of God, and the good of those about us. Now he that hath these things, and useth them for these ends, he shall have abundance; perhaps abundance of the things themselves, at least, abundance of comfort in them, and of better things; but from him that hath not, that is, that hath these things as if he had them not, had not power to eat of them, or to do good with them, (Avaro deest, tam quod habet, quam quod non habet—The miser may he considered as destitute of what he has, as well as of what he has not,) they shall be taken away. Solomon explains this, (Prov. 11. 24.) There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to poverty. Giving to the poor,