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have been threatened with its loss. "Take me not away," says the pious Psalmist, " in the midst of my days!" "O spare me a little, that I may recover strength before I go hence, and be no more!" How pathetic is the remonstrance of Hezekiah, when informed by the Prophet that his death was approaching! And do not these instances prove the high value they affixed to this privilege?
II. I would now, in the second place, attempt to offer a vindication of Providence with respect to diversity of gifts.
The first idea which must here strike us, is the right which God has over the faculties of his creatures. And in this view, the interesting and instructive parable, of the labourers in the vineyard, must rise to our minds. He has undoubtedly a right over the creatures he has formed, nor does the exercise of his especial bounty to one, lessen or contract his benevolence to all. "Is thine eye evil," says the Lord of the vineyard, "because I am good?" Suppose I am possessed of three talents, while another is intrusted with five, does the circumstance of his being gifted with a greater number, lessen the value of those I have received?
But to take up the argument upon another ground. It is, I believe, a remark generally admitted, and of the truth of which I feel more and more convinced, that with great talents, there is usually great drawbacks. Strong powers of intellect are, in most cases, attended with strong passions, and these are frequently productive of evil consequences. You never saw ambition in a fool! Look to the Continent, and there behold the effects of great talents perverted to bad purposes; were it not for the influence of this principle, Europe might now be a happy country.
But there is yet another and a stronger vindication of Divine Providence, in respect to the diversity of gifts. I hope the levelling system, which, twelve or fourteen years ago, pervaded this island, is now on the decline; were all ranks and distinctions thrown aside, there would be no room for the exercise of benevolence, of mutual candour, or various other christian virtues; and the same remark holds good with respect to difference of talents. You never (comparatively speaking) meet with a variety of talents united in the same person; and why? That an interchange of good offices may be maintained. One man has genius to plan, another has patience to execute, one lays the foundation, another raises the walls, and a third places a top-stone
on the edifice; but all act in perfect harmony; all equally proclaim the power, wisdom, and goodness of the great Architect who superintends the whole; all equally promote the general good, and support and contribute to the beauty and order of the plan.
III. I am now, in the third place, to show the responsibility which attaches to all such privileges and talents. I shall endeavour to prove this responsibility, by proposing three questions.
1. What is the general expectation of a man?
2. What is the voice of equity, justice, and gratitude?
3. What is the testimony of Scripture?
1. In the first place, What is the general expectation of mankind? Read the whole verse of which my text is a part, and you will perceive an answer to this inquiry; "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him will much be required; and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.' Our Saviour (who well knew what was in man) has founded his observation on this very principle; and surely it holds good, if we look into our own conduct, with respect
to the arrangement of our families. Let one servant be placed over the rest; in him, we place entire and unlimited confidence; to him we intrust all that is valuable in our possession; he is to superintend the remainder of the household, to portion their employments, and to give them their meat in due season." And shall we not expect much from that servant? And were he to forfeit his integrity, and betray the trust reposed in him, should we not view him as doubly culpable, from the consideration of the confidence with which he had been honoured? I have lamented from a youth a law in our legislature, which, I believe, is either lately repealed, or about to be so; namely, that if a crime is proved to be only a "breach of trust, it will rescue that servant from the halter he merits. Surely such a confidence highly aggravates, rather than extenuates, the offence.
2. What is the voice of equity, justice, and gratitude?
To requite another proportionably to the benefits we have received, is the plainest dictate of equity and justice, and appeals to every bosom where these virtues predominate. Have many talents been bestowed upon us? Let us ever consider them as a claim upon our conduct, as a stimulus to our exertions,
in order to make some return for such unmerited bounty! But you may lay justice asleep, and bury equity under your foot, bring gratitude forward, and this alone will prompt us to action, this alone will warm our breasts, and animate our endeavours; this alone will rouse and call into exercise our noblest powers in the service of our Almighty Benefactor.
3. What is the testimony of Scripture? Turn to the forty-second verse of the same chapter of which the text is a part; where our Saviour, in explaining the preceding parable to his disciples, calls them stewards or rulers over God's household.-Let us rejoice to be thus considered, and let it be our care never to violate the trust reposed in us, by a perversion, or even a neglect, of the talents committed to our care! Let us carefully examine their nature, and endeavour to turn them to the honour of God, the benefit of our fellow creatures, and our own edification and improvement! Let us reflect a moment on what would be our sensations at the close of life, if we had wasted or misapplied the talents intrusted to us. O let us anxiously endeavour to escape from such painful recollections, by devoting our whole attention now to their improvement, aware of the uncertainty