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Jefus faid unto his Difciples, There was a certain rich Man, who had a Steward, and the fame was accufed unto him, that he had wasted his Goods; and he called him, and faid unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy Stewardship, for thou mayst be no longer Steward. Then the Steward said within himself, &c.

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N this Gospel for the Day we are prefented with the Parable of the Master and the unjust Steward; in which are figuratively reprefented to us,

Ift, The great Bounty and Goodness of God in difpenfing his Bleflings.

2dly, The great Injuftice and Unfaithfulness of Men in wafting and abufing of them.

3dly, The great Danger and Difficulties that enfue upon fo doing. And,

4thly, The beft Means to prevent thefe Evils, and to turn the good things to a better account. These things are contain'd in this Parable, and comprize the whole of this Day's Gofpel. The Parable was deliver'd by Jefus unto his Difciples, and begins thus:

There was a certain rich Man who had a Steward. Where, by the certain rich Man, we are to underftand God Almighty, the great Landlord and Proprietor of the World; whofe is the Earth, and the Fulness thereof. By the Steward is meant all Mankind, with whom he hath intrufted his Goods and Talents; for the Earth he hath given to the Children of Men, with all the Fruits and Product thereof, to fome more, and to fome lefs, but to all fome, expecting an Account and Improvement from them all according to

their proportion; for he hath not made them Owners or Proprietors, but only Stewards and Difpenfers of his Bleffings, to be difpos'd of according to his Will and Direction. Which fhews us from whence all our Gifts come, namely, from God the great Lord and Donor of all things; for every good Gift, and every perfect Gift (faith St. James) is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights: Jam. 1. 17. And likewife the Ends for which they are given, to wit, for the Honour of our Mafter, and the Benefit of our felves and one another. Now 'tis required of Stewards (faith the Apoftle) that they be found faithful, in managing aright what is committed to them.

But the Steward here in the Parable was found unfaithful; for he was accufed to his Lord, that he had wafted his Goods: inftead of employing them to his Master's Ufe, he had mifpent them in Riot and Prodigality, and fo wrong'd his Mafter without any Benefit to himself; as Prodigals are wont to do other Men harm, and themfelves no good. This improvident and unfaithful Behaviour coming to his Mafter's Knowledg, as Unthrift and Prodigality feldom efcape Discovery, the Mafter call'd him to him, and faid, How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy Stewardship, for thou mayst be no longer Steward. Every Mafter may, and much more our great Mafter in Heaven, call his Servants and Stewards to an account for embezleing his Goods, and discharge them too of their Office for the unfaithful Discharge of it: fo he did with this unjust Steward, and fo he will do with all wicked and unprofitable Servants; which fhould teach us Fidelity in the Truft committed to us, and in any Place or Office whereunto we are call'd, left we be brought to a Reckoning, and with Shame and Mifery be difcarded from it.

But what did this unjuft Steward when he was turn'd out of Service? Why, He faid within himself, What shall I do; for my Lord taketh from me the Stewardship, I cannot dig, to beg I am ashamed? Sin and Wickedness deprive Men of God's Bleffing; it puts them out of his Favour and Protection, and leads them into many Straits and Difficulties. This wicked Servant liv'd in Eafe and Plenty in his Master's Service, he wanted nothing but Grace to make a better ufe of what he vainly fquander'd away; and now he liv'd to want that which he fo wantonly wafted: having made no provifion for this fad time, he was at his wits end what to do for a Livelihood; to dig for it by his Labour,

he could not, and to beg for it by way of Alms he was afham'd. However, fomething must be done, and that fpeedily too, or ftarve: cafting then awhile about him, I am refolved (faith he) what to do, that when I am put out of the Stewardship, they may receive me into their Houses: And what was that? Why, it was to ingratiate himself with his Lord's Tenants and Debtors, and to make fuch Abatements in their Accounts, as might oblige them to be kind to him. in diftrefs, and to harbour him upon occafion. This Project we have in the fifth, fixth and seventh Verses; where we read, that before he gave up his Accounts, He called every one of his Lord's Debtors unto him, and faid unto the firft, How much oweft thou unto my Lord? He faid, An hundred Meafures of Oil: Then faid he unto him, Take thy Bill, and fit down quickly, and write fifty. Where he ftruck off half the Sum, bidding him write it down quickly upon his Bill, that their Books may agree, and fo avoid all Sufpicion of Miftake or Mifreckoning. Then faid he to another, And how much owest thou? And he faid, An hundred Measures of Wheat: He Said unto him, Take thy Bill, and write FourScore. Where he ftruck off twenty Measures of Wheat, every Meafure containing a great Quantity, and being the fame with the Hebrew Omer, amounted to a great Sum; him too he commanded to write down in the Foot of the Bill, that there might be no difference in the Account, and fo no Discovery. The like he did with all the reft, making favourable Entries into all their Books of Account, in hopes that having gratify'd fo many Perfons by fuch large Abatements, they would remember him in time of need; and that fome of them at least (tho others fhould prove ungrateful) would stand by him, and make fome amends for his Kindness.

But how did the Mafter take all this? Why, the next words tell us, that the Lord commended the unjust Steward, because he had done wifely, for the Children of this World are wifer in their Generation than the Children of Light: Not that he lik'd his Difhonesty or Unfaithfulness, for he gives him the Character of an unjust Steward; but he commended his Wit in contriving a way how to help himself when he was out of Service, and providing against a time of need. And indeed this was the main Delign of the Parable, to teach Men to lay up for themselves a good Foundation, and to have a provident Care for the time to come: The Maf ter feems to take little or no notice of the way or manner

of

of his providing for himself, much lefs is there here any Approbation of or Encouragement to the fraudulent or falfe Dealings ufed by him for that purpose. This was befide the Design and Intention of our Lord in this Parable, and is therefore pafs'd over in filence; and no Argument is to be taken from any incidental Circumftance, but only from the main Scope, End, and Intention of a Parable. That which the Mafter here commends, is not the Injuftice, but the Wit and Forecaft of this unjuft Steward, his dextrous projecting a way for his future Subfiftence, and laying a Scheme to help himself in time of Neceffity; this is that wherein he is faid to have done wifely: it being much wifer to apply the Mind to the finding out a way of living, than to ftarve and pine away through Negligence and Inconfide

ration.

The Mafter's commending this Steward's Wifdom, was in fome measure to recommend his Example to us, not indeed as to the fame Way or Manner, but to the fame Care and Diligence in making a prudent Provifion for our felves, as he did; and in the like, tho not in the fame way. So that two things are here recommended to our Imitation; the one relating to the End, the other to the Means.

The it is, that as this Steward was careful for his Body, to provide a Maintenance for the preferving his natural Life; fo fhould we be as careful for our Soul, to feek out fuch fpiritual Food, as may preserve and cherish it to Life everlafting. And,

2dly, As this Steward provided for himself out of his Mafter's Goods, by difpofing them into other hands, from whence he might have fome Return; fo fhould we lay up a Portion for our felves out of the Goods intrufted us by our Master in Heaven, transferring them into thofe hands, from whom we may receive them with advantage. Which we should the rather do, because he traded only in earthly, temporal, and perifhing Goods; whereas we deal in heavenly, fpiritual, and more enduring Substance.

In fhort then, the Mafter's commending the Wisdom and Providence of this unjuft Steward, teaches us to take the fame or greater care for our Souls, than worldly Men do for their Bodies, and to be as wife and diligent in providing for Eternity, as they are for a little time here in this World. The general Neglect whereof made him add, that the Children of this World are in their Generation wiser than the Children of Light. Where

By the Children of this World are meant fuch as addict themselves to this World, and are immers'd in the Cares and Affairs of it, whofe Affections are wholly bent upon the World, whofe Converfation is conform'd to the Courfe and Practices of the World, and whofe main Aim and Happiness is plac'd in the Riches, Honours, and Pleasures of this World; who are generally call'd and known by the name of Worldlings.

By the Children of Light are meant the Children of God, who is ftil'd the Father of Lights; the Followers of Chrift, who is call'd the Light of the World; the Members of his Church, who being enlighten'd with the Knowledg of Divine Things, and aiming at the Inheritance of the Saints in Light, are ftil'd the Children of Light. In fhort, our Saviour mentioning two Mafters, God and Mammon, to one or other of which all Mankind belong; the Servants of Mammon are the Children of this World, and the Servants of God the Children of Light.

Now our Saviour here in this Parable making a comparifon between these two in point of Wisdom, gives it clearly on the Worldlings fide, faying, The Children of this World are wifer in their Generation than the Children of Light. Not that they are abfolutely and in all things fo; for the Scripture makes the Fear of God the greatest Wisdom, and Solomon the wifeft of Men ftiles all wicked and worldly Men Fools: but they are wifer in their Generation, that is, as to the things of this Life; they fhew more Wisdom in managing the temporal Concerns of this World, than many who profefs themselves Chriftians do in greater and more heavenly Matters. The Senfe and Reason whereof is, that they act more prudentially and more futably to the End they propose to themselves, than the other do in theirs, The Worldling's End is the Happiness of this World, confifting in the Enjoyment of earthly Goods; the Chriftian's End is the Happiness of Heaven, confifting in the Fruition of future and eternal Bleffednefs. Now if we confider the Ways and Means that these two ufe for the attaining their feveral Ends; we fhall find the one acting more agreeably and wifely for the compafling his End, than the other; that is, the Children of this World fhew more Prudence in the managery of their temporal Affairs to the best advantage for the good of their Bodies, than many Chriftians do in the fpiritual Concerns of their Souls, and the Pursuit of everlasting Salvation, This is fo manifeft in Experience,

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