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in the gloom and shades of heathen serm. night. All these inequalities both of II. natural and spiritual gifts we must of necessity refer to the sole and sovereign will of God. And as in the dispositions of nature it becomes us to be resigned to that Providence, which has exalted one and abased another; so in the dispensations of grace it behoves us humbly to acquiesce in the declaration of our Lord, that to some it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, and to others it is not given. In all our contemplations on the government of God it becomes us to say, Is it not lawful for him to do what he will with his own? And since he is evidently good to some, shall' our eye be evil, if we do not immediately perceive him to be equally good to alla?

Yet while we bow to the authority of him, who made us, and still disposes of us according to his good pleasure, we have this great encouragement in committing burselves to his absolute disposal, that whatever he determines is completely wise and just and good : He is righteous in all his ways, and true

• Mat. xx. 15.

II.

SERM, in all his judgments. And though it is

not for creatures to discover the more mysterious parts of his counsel in the government of the world, yet even with our finite understandings we may discover the traces of consummate wis. dom, justice, and benevolence.

It is one great article of religious faith, that this world is designed for a state of probation or discipline. Το constitute such a state it was expedient that there should be various degrees and measures of endowment, both natural and spiritual; that some should be in high situations of life, and others again in low; that some should be placed in the sun, and others in the shade; that some should have many talents, and that others should have few. But in order to counterbalance these inequalities of endowment it is a principle of divine justice, which our Lord very frequently repeats, that where much has been given, much also will be required. On the man, who is gifted with an abundance of worldly goods, a greater duty rests to improve his abundance to the glory of God and the benefit of men.

On the man, who is blest with a high degree of spiritual light, a

great

greater duty rests to improve his know-SERM. ledge by a faithful and universal service.

II. The same principle implies, that where less has been given, less also will be required.

A righteous God does not claim from the poor the same distributions of charity, which are due from the rich: nor does he demand from the ignorant and unenlightened the same measure of services, which he expects from those, who abundantly know and understand his will.

Still however he expects of those, who are endowed in the least degree, that they make a return in some proportion to what they have received. And while he looks with approbation on them, who labour to improve their superior portion of gifts, he will not excuse those, who on the plea of a very scanty endowment in any kind of talents neglect altogether to turn them to some account.

It is further to be noted, that while the Sovereign of the world has distributed his gifts in various measures and proportions, he has also left it in some degree to the choice and power of men to increase or to diminish all these gifts, according as they are disposed to use

them

SERM. them well or ill. It is an equitable II. operation of divine Providence, which

experience plainly shews us in the economy of nature, that the man, who exercises his talents or capacities of any kind, by consequence improves them; that the man, who neglects to exercise them, by consequence impairs them. In like manner it is a principle of divine justice in the economy of grace, which is frequently advanced in the discourses of our Lord, that whosoever hath, or well employs his spiritual gifts, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance ; but whosoever hath not, or lives as if he hath them not, by waste ing or abusing them, from him shall be taken even that which he hath.

This maxim be introduces and applies on the present occasion, Therefore speak I to them in parables, because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. To the Disciples were openly imparted the mysteries of the Gospel dispensation, because they had honestly received and assiduously improved those divine communications which he had already made: to the multitude they were couched under the shade of parable, because they had

shewn

II.

shewn no disposition either honestly to serm. receive or assiduously to improve them.

The great obstacle to a right understanding among the Jews was an inconsiderate and in some respects a perverse and wilful prejudice against the person and doctrine of Jesus Christ. This prevailed, though in different measures and qualities, both among the superior, and among the common orders of the people.

Offended at the lowliness of his birth and the poverty of his condition in the world, the Pharisees and Scribes despised his words and vilified his works. When he indulged his Disciples in the reasonable comforts and innocent recreations of life, they said in derision, Behold a gluttonous man, and a wine-bibbers: when he conversed with the poor and such as were in need of spiritual counsel and assistance, they opprobriously called him a friend of Publicans and sinners": and when by the finger of God he healed all manner of disease and infirmities among the people, they blasphemously ascribed his miracles of mercy to the operations of the Devil'.

. Mat. xi.,19. Mat. xii. 34.

The

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