faithfully improve their talents shall have boldness in the day of Christ, 1 John 2. 28.—4. 17. And it is observable, that he who had but two talents, gave up his account as cheerfully as he who had five; for our comfort, in the day of account, will be according to our faithfulness, not according to our usefulness; our sincerity, not our success; according to the uprightness of our hearts, not according to the degree of our opportunities.
[2.] The master's acceptance and approbation of their account, v. 21, 23.
First, He commended them; Well done, good and faithful servant. Note, The diligence and integrity of those who approve themselves the good and faithful servants of Jesus Christ, will certainly be found to praise, and honour, and glory, at his appearing, 1 Pet. 1. 7. Those that own and honour God now, he will own and honour shortly. 1. Their persons will be accepted; Thou good and faithful servant. He that knows the integrity of nis servants now, will witness to it in the great day; and they that are found faithful shall be called so. Perhaps they were censured by men, as righteous overmuch; but Christ will give them their just characters of good and faithful. 2. Their performances will be accepted; Well done. Christ will call those, and those only, good servants, that have done well; for it is by patient continuance in well-doing that we seek for this glory and honour; and if we seek, we shall find; if we do that which is good, and do it well, we shall have praise of the same. Some masters are so morose, that they will not commend their servants, though they do their work ever so well; it is thought enough not to chide: but Christ will commend his servants that do well; whether their praise be of men or no, it is of him; and if we have the good word of our Master, the matter is not great what our fellow-servants say of us; if he saith, Well done, we are happ', and it should then be a small thing to us to be judged of men's judgment; as, on the contrary, not he who commendeth himself, or whom his neighbours commend, is approved, but whom the Lord commends.
Secondly, He rewards them. The faithful servants of Christ shall not be put off with bare commendation; no, all their work and labour of love shall be rewarded.
Now this reward is here expressed two ways.
1. In one expression agreeable to the parable; Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things. It is usual, in the courts of princes and families of great men, to advance those to higher offices that have been faithful in lower. Note, Christ is a Master that will prefer his servants who acquit themselves well. Christ has honour in store for those that honour him—a crown, (2 Tim. 4. 8.) a throne, (Rev. 3. 21.) a kingdom, ch. 25. 34. Here they are beggars, in heaven they shall be rulers. The upright shall have dominion; Christ's servants are all princes.
Observe the disproportion between the work and the reward; there are but few things in which the saints are serviceable to the glory of God, but there are many things wherein they shall be glorified with God. What charge we receive from God, what work we do for God in this world, is but little, very little, compared with the joy set before us. Put together all our services, all our sufferings, all our improvements, all the good we do to others, all we get to ourselves, and they are but a few things, next to nothing, not worthy to be compared, not fit to be named, the same day with the glory to be revealed.
2. In another expression, which slips out of the parable into the thing signified by it; Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. Note, (1.) The state of the blessed is a state of joy, not only because all tears shall then be wiped away, but all the springs of comfort shall be opened to them, and the fountains of joy broken up. Where there are the vision and fruition of God, a perfection of holiness, and the society of the blessed, there cannot be but a fulness of joy. (2.) This joy is the joy of our Lord; the joy which he himself has purchased and provided for them; the joy of the redeemed, bought with the sorrow of the Redeemer. It is the joy which he himself is in the possession of, and which he had his eye upon when he endured the cross, and despised the shame, Heb. 12. 2. It is the joy of which he himself is the Fountain and Centre. It is the joy of our Lord, for it is joy in the Lord, who is our exceeding Joy. Abraham was not willing that the steward of his house, though faithful, should be his heir; (Gen. 15. 3.) but Christ admits his faithful stewards into his own joy, to be joint-heirs with him. (3.) Glorified saints shall enter into this joy, shall have a full and complete possession of it, as the heir, when he comes of age, enters upon his estate, or as they that were ready went in to the marriage feast. Here the joy of our Lord enters into the saints, in the earnest of the Spirit; shortly they shall enter into it, shall be in it to eternity, as in their element.
(2.) The bad account of the slothful servant. Observe,
[1.] His apology for himself, v. 24, 25. Though he had received but one talent, for that one he is called to account. The smallness of our receiving will not excuse us from a reckoning. None shall be called to an account for more than they have received; but for what we have we must all account.
Observe, First, What he confides in. He comes to the account with a deal of assurance, relying on the plea he had to put in, that he was able to say, "Lo, there thou hast that is thine; if I have not made it more, as the others have done, yet this I can say, I have not made it less." This, he thinks, may serve to bring him off, if not with praise, yet with safety.
Note, Many a one goes very securely to judgment, presuming upon the validity of a plea that will be overruled as vain and frivolous. Slothful professors, that are afraid of doing too much for God, yet hope to come off as well as those that take so much pains in religion. Thus the sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason, Prov. 26. 16. This servant thought that his account would pass well enough, because he could say, There thou hast that is thine. "Lord, I was no spendthrift of my estate, no prodigal of my time, no profaner of my sabbaths, no opposer of good ministers and good preaching; Lord, I never ridiculed my Bible, nor set my wits to work to banter religion, nor abused my power to persecute any good man; I never drowned my parts, nor wasted God's good creatures in drunkenness and gluttony, nor ever to my knowledge did I injury to anybody." Many, that are called Christians, build great hopes for heaven upon their being able to make such an account; yet all this amounts to no more than. There thou hast that is thine; as if no more were required, or could be expected.
Secondly, What he confesses. He owns the burying of his talent, I hid thy talent in the earth. He speaks as if that were no great fault; nay, as if he deserved praise for his prudence in putting it in a safe place, and running no hazards with it. Note, It is common for people to make a very light matter of that which will be their condemnation in the great day. Or, if he was conscious to himself that it was his fault, it intimates how easily slothful servants will be convicted in the judgment; there will need no great search for proof, for their own tongue shall fall upon them.
Thirdly, What he makes his excuse; I knew that