« PreviousContinue »
SERM." servant into outer darkness, where shall
be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
The admonitions and threats of the gospel are chiefly directed against people of this class: the denunciations of our Saviour are more frequently pointed at the lamp which had no oil, the tree which bore no fruit, and the talent which was not improved, than at bad oil, corrupt fruits, and talents ill-employed. On the latter, I suppose, as being more self-evident, it was not so necessary to insist. Flagrant violations of God's commandments speak for themselves; those who are guilty of them cannot but know their criminality, and the dangers which they incur; but it was an instance of our Lord's paternal care to awaken from their slothful dreams, to rouse from their imagined security, those who, resting satisfied with nega tive virtue, flattered themselves that they might attain heaven and happiness, so long as they did no harm.
Turn to the 25th chapter of St. Mat- SERM. thew, and you will see there clearly set forth throughout on what sandy foundations all hopes of God's favour are raised on our merely not being wicked.-It begins with the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the former of whom were admitted to the marriage feast, because they had oil in their lamps properly prepared to meet the bridegroom, and the latter excluded because they had no oil. It is not said that their oil was bad, that they were wicked virgins, but merely that they had no oil, that they were slothful and improvident, and had been slumbering in indolence during the whole time. in which they ought to have been exerting themselves :-" when the door was shut, "these virgins came, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us, but he answered and said, "Verily I say unto you, I know you not."
The next parable, which immediately follows, is still more in point. I have already
SERM. touched on it.Our Saviour likens himself
and his dealings with mankind, to a man, who departing into a distant country, delivered to his servants different sums of money to trade with; on his return summoning them to render up their accounts, he finds two of them had been provident and industrious, having greatly improved what had been intrusted to them, and they accordingly receive his commendations and rewards in proportion to their different merits; but the third having made no advantage of his trust, but merely wrapt it in a napkin, meets with the severest reproofs, and is ordered to be cast into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The conclusion of the chapter is a sort of application of the parable.-It is the remarkable account, which our Saviour gives of the day of judgement. He represents himself as sitting upon the throne of his glory
with all his holy angels around him, and SERM. dividing mankind into two bodies, the virtuous and the wicked, inviting the former to take possession of their reward, to sit down with him in his kingdom, and banishing the latter from his presence and dooming them to everlasting fire:-that however his justice may be manifest, he briefly runs over the principal merits and demerits, which will determine him in this distribution.
To the virtuous he says, "The rewards, " which I bestow on you, are obtained by your many kindnesses to your brethren; when they were hungry, ye fed them; when they were thirsty, ye gave them drink; when they were naked, ye clothed them; when they were strangers, ye hospitably received them; when they were sick and in prison, ye were attentive and ministered to them in their necessities.-From this we see, that active benevolence is the merit,
SERM. which is attributed to those, whom our Saviour receives into his kingdom. It was not because they did not injure their fellowcreatures, but because they exerted themselves to be of service to them, that they are rewarded with bliss and immortality.
On the other hand, the wicked are condemned to everlasting torments for the omission of those very acts of benevolence, for having done which the righteous are rewarded with eternal happiness: they are not in the sentence passed on them charged with having killed, defrauded, or in any shape oppressed their brethren, but merely with having done them no services.-This alone is looked upon as sufficient to exclude them from the presence of God, and deprive them of the enjoyments of heaven.
Nor indeed could we in reason expect it to be otherwise. No human accomplishment, no human possession (to speak in general) is attained without pains and labour;