themselves to their business. Those that have so much work to do, as every Christian has, need to set about it quickly, and lose no time. They went, and traded. Note, A true Christian is a spiritual tradesman. Trades are called mysteries, and without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; it is a manufacture trade; there is something to be done by us upon our own hearts, and for the good of others. It is a merchant-trade; things of less value to us are parted with for things of greater value; wisdom's merchandise, Prov. 3. 15. Matth. 13. 45. A tradesman is one who, having made his trade his choice, and taken pains to learn it, makes it his business to follow it, lays out all he has for the advancement of it, makes all other affairs bend to it, and lives upon the gain of it. Thus does a true Christian act in the work of religion; we have no stock of our own to trade with, but trade as factors with our Master's stock. The endowments of the mind—reason, wit, learning, must be used in subserviency to religion; the enjoyments of the world—estate, credit, interest, power, preferment, must be improved for the honour of Christ. The ordinances of the gospel, and our opportunities of attending them, bibles, ministers, sabbaths, sacraments, must be improved for the end for which they were instituted, and communion with God kept up by them, and the gifts and graces of the Spirit must be exercised; and this is trading with our talents.
(2.) They were successful; they doubled their stock, and in a little time made cent. per cent, of it: he that had five talents soon made them other five. Trading with our talents is not always successful with others, but, however, it shall be so to ourselves, Isa. 49. 4. Note, The hand of the diligent makes rich in graces, and comforts, and treasures of good works. There is a great deal to be got by industry in religion.
Observe, The returns were in proportion to the receivings. [1.] From those to whom God hath given five talents, he expects the improvement of five, and to reap plentifully where he sows plentifully. The greater gifts any have, the more pains they ought to take, as those must that have a large stock to manage. [2.] From those to whom he has given but two talents, he expects only the improvement of two, which may encourage those who are placed in a lower and narrower sphere of usefulness; if they lay out themselves to do good according to the best of their capacity and opportunity, they shall be accepted, though they do not so much good as others.
2. The third did ill; (v. 18.) He that had received the one talent, went and hid his lord's money. Though the parable represents but one in three unfaithful, yet, in a history that answers this parable, we find the disproportion quite the other way, when ten lepers were cleansed, nine of the ten hid the talent, and only one returned to give thanks, Luke 17. 17, 18. The unfaithful sen-ant was he that had but one talent: doubtless, there are many that have five talents, and bury them all; great abilities, great advantages, and yet do no good with them: but Christ would hint to us, (1.) That, if he that had but one talent be reckoned with thus for burying that one, much more will they be accounted offenders that have more, that have many, and bury them. If he that was but of small capacity was cast into outer darkness, because he did not improve what he had, as he might have done, of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, that tramples under foot the greatest advantages? (2.) That those who have least to do for God, frequently do least of what they have to do. Some make it an excuse for their laziness, that they have not the opportunities of serving God that others have; and, because they have not wherewithal to do what they say they would, they will not do what we are sure they can, and so sit down and do nothing: it is really an aggravation of their sloth, that when they have but one talent to take care about, they neglect that one.
He digged in the earth, and hid the talent, for fear it should be stolen; he did not mispend or misemploy it, did not embezzle it or squander it away, but he hid it. Money is like manure, (so my lord Bacon used to say,) good for nothing in the heap, but it must be spread; yet it is an evil which we have often seen under the sun, treasure heaped together, (Jam 5. 3. Eccl. 6. 1, 2.) which does good to nobody; and so it is in spiritual gifts; many have them, and make no use of them for the end for which they were given them. Those that have estates, and do not lay them out in works of piety and charity; that have power and interest, and do not with it promote religion in the places where they live; ministers that have capacities and opportunities of doing good, but do not stir up the gift that is in them, are those slothful servants that seek their own things more than Christ's.
He hid his lord's money; had it been his own, he might have done as he pleased; but whatever abilities and advantages we have, they are not our own, we are but stewards of them, and must give account to our Lord, whose goods they are. It was an aggravation of his slothfulness, that his fellow-servants were busy and successful in trading, and their zeal should have provoked his. Are others active, and shall we be idle?
III. The account of this improvement, v. 19. 1. The account is deferred; it is not till after a long time that they are reckoned with; not that the master neglects his affairs, or that God is slack concerning his promise; (2 Pet. 3. 9.) no, he is ready to judge; (1 Pet. 4. 5.) but every thing must be done in its time and order. 2. Yet the day of account comes at last; The lord of those servants reckoneth with them. Note, The stewards of the manifold grace of God must shortly give account of their stewardship. We must all be reckoned with—what good have we got to our own souls, and what good have we done to others, by the advantages we have enjoyed. See Rom. 14. 10, 11. Now here is,
(1.) The good account of the faithful servants, and there observe,
[1.] The servants giving up the account; (v. 20, 22.) "Lord thou deliveredst to me five talents, and to me two; behold, I have gained five talents, and I two talents more."
First, Christ's faithful servants acknowledge with thankftdness his vouchsafements to them; Lord, thou deliveredst to me such and such things. Note, 1. It is good to keep a particular account of our receivings from God, to remember what we have received, that we may know what is expected from us, and may render according to the benefit. 2. We must never look upon our improvements but with a general mention of God's favour to us, of the honour he has put upon us, in intrusting us with his goods, and of that grace which is the spring and fountain of all the good that is in us, or is done by us. For, the truth is, The more we do for God, the more we are indebted to him for making use of us, and enabling us, for his service.
Secondly, They produce, as an evidence of their faithfulness, what they have gained. Note, God's good stewards have something to show for their diligence: Shew me thy faith by thy works. He that is a good man, let him shew it. Jam. 3. 13. If we be careful in our spiritual tmde, it will soon be seen by us, and our works will follow us, Rev. 14. 13. Not that the saints will, in the great day, make mention of their own good deeds; no, Christ will do that for them; (v. 35.) but it intimates, that they who