Sermon 1541. Unprofitable Servants
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 6, 1880,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25:30.
"So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: weha ve done that which was our duty to do."
"His lord said unto him, Well done, you good and faithful servant."
THERE is a narrow path between indifference and morbid sensibility. Some men seem to feel no holy anxiety-they place theirMaster's talent in the earth, leave it there and take their pleasure and their ease without a moment's compunction. Othersprofess to be so anxious to be right that they come to the conclusion that they can never be so and fall under a horror ofGod, viewing His service as a drudgery and Himself as a hard master-though probably they never say so. Between these two linesthere is a path, narrow as a razor's edge, which only the Grace of God can enable us to trace. It is free from carelessnessand from bondage and consists in a sense of responsibility bravely borne by the help of the Holy Spirit.
The right way usually lies between two extremes-it is the narrow channel between the rock and the whirlpool. There is a sacredway which runs between self-congratulation and despondency which is a very difficult track to find and very hard to keep.There are great perils in the consciousness that you have done well and that you are serving God with all your might, foryou may come to think that you are a deserving person, worthy to rank among the princes of Israel. The danger of being puffedup can hardly be overestimated-a dizzy head soon brings a fall. But perhaps equally to be dreaded, on the other side, is thatsense of unworthiness which paralyzes all exertion making you feel that you are incapable of anything that is great or good.
Under this impulse have men fled from the service of God into a life of solitude. They felt that they could not behave valiantlyin the battle of life and, therefore, they fled from the field before the fight began-to become hermits or monks-as if itwere possible to do the Lord's perfect will by doing nothing at all and to discharge the duties to which they were born byan unnatural mode of existence! Blessed is that man who finds the straight and narrow way between high thoughts of self andhard thoughts of God, between self-esteem and a timid shrinking from all effort. My desire is that the Spirit of God may guideour minds into the golden median where holy Graces blend and the contending vices, equally natural to our evil hearts, areall excluded.
May the Spirit of God bless our three texts and the three subjects suggested by them, so that we may be put right and then,by infinite mercy, may be kept right until the great day of account. Let us read Matthew 25:30. "And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
I. In this, our first text, we have THE VERDICT OF JUSTICE upon the man who did not use his talent. The man is here styledan "unprofitable servant " because he was slothful, useless, worthless. He did not bring his master interest for his moneynor render him any sincere service. He did not faithfully discharge the trust reposed in him as his fellow servants did. Notice,first, that this unprofitable person was a servant. He never denied that he was a servant. In fact, it was by his positionas a servant that he became possessed of his one talent and to that possession he never objected.
If He had been capable of receiving more, there is no reason why he should not have had two talents, or five, for the Scripturetells us that the master gave to every man according to his ability. He acknowledged the rule of his master even
in the act of burying the talent and in appearing before him to give an account. This makes the subject the more heart-searchingfor you and for me, for we, too, profess to be servants-servants of the Lord our God. Judgment must begin at the house ofGod, that is, with those who are in the house of the Lord as children and servants. Let us, therefore, look well to our actions.
If judgment first begins with us, "what shall be the end of them that obey not the Gospel of God?" "If the righteous are scarcelysaved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" If this in our text is judgment upon servants, what will be the judgmentupon enemies? This man acknowledged that he was a servant even to the last. And though he was impertinent and impudent enoughto express a most wicked and slanderous opinion about his master, yet he neither denied his own position as a servant, northe fact that his talent was his lord's, for he said, "Lo, there you have what is yours."
In thus speaking he went rather further than some professing Christians do, for they live as if Christianity were all eatingthe fat and drinking the sweet and not serving at all-as if religion had many privileges but no precepts and, as if, whenmen were saved, they became licensed loiterers to whom it is a matter of honor to magnify Free Grace by standing idle allday in the market place. Alas, I know some who never do a hand's turn for Christ and yet call Him Master and Lord! Many ofus acknowledge that we are servants-that everything we have belongs to our Master and that we are bound to live for Him. Sofar, so good. But we may get as far as that and yet, in the end, we may be found unprofitable servants and so be cast intoouter darkness where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let us take heed of this.
This man, though a servant, thought ill of his master and disliked his service. He said, "I knew that you are an hard man,reaping where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed." Certain professors who have stolen intothe Church are of the same mind-they dare not say that they regret their having joined the Church and yet they act that allmay conclude that if it could be undone they would not do the same again. They do not find pleasure in the service of God,but continue to pursue its routine as a matter of habit or a hard obligation.
They get into the spirit of the elder brother and they say, "Lo, these many years have I served you; neither transgressedI at any time your commandments and yet you never gave me a kid that I might make merry with my friends." They sit down onthe shady side of godliness and never bask in the sun which shines full upon it. They forget that the father said to the elderson, "Son, you are always with me and all that I have is yours." He might have had as many feasts, as many lambs and kidsas he desired-he would have been denied no good thing. The presence of his father ought to have been his joy and his delight-andbetter than all merry-makings with his friends. And it would have been so if he had been in a proper state of heart.
The man who hid his talent had carried the evil and petulant spirit much further than that elder brother, but the germs arethe same and we must be careful that we crush them at the beginning. This unprofitable servant looked upon his master as onethat reaped where he never sowed and used the rake to gather together what he had never scattered-he meant that his masterwas a hard, exacting and unjust person whom it was difficult to please. He judged his lord to be one who expected more ofhis servants than he had any right to look for and he had such a hatred of his unjust conduct that he resolved to tell himto his face what he thought of him.
This spirit may readily creep over the minds of professors. I fear it is brooding over many even now, for they are not contentwith Christ. If they want pleasure, they go outside the Church to get it-their joys are not within the circle of which Christis the center. Their religion is their labor, not their delight. Their God is their dread, not their joy. They do not delightthemselves in the Lord and, therefore, He does not give them the desire of their hearts and so they grow more and more discontented.They could not call Him, "God, my exceeding joy," and so He is a terror to them. Devotion is a dreary engagement to them-theywish that they could escape from it with an easy conscience. They do not say as much to their secret selves, but you can readbetween the lines these words-"What a weariness it is."
It is no wonder when things come to this pass that a professor becomes an unprofitable servant, for who can do a work, well,which he hates to do? Forced service is not desirable. God needs not slaves to Grace His Throne. A servant who is not pleasedwith his situation had better leave-if he is not content with his master, he had better find another, for their mutual relationshipwill be unpleasant and unprofitable. When it comes to this, that you and I are discontented with our God and dissatisfiedwith His work, we had better look for another lord, if any such will have us, for we shall certainly be unprofitable to theLord Jesus from our lack of love to Him.
Note next, that, albeit this man was doing nothing for his master, he did not think himself an unprofitable servant. He exhibitedno self-depreciation, no humbling, no contrition. He was as bold as brass and said unblushingly, "Lo, there you have whatis yours." He came before his master with no apologies or excuses. He did not join with those who have done all and then say,"We are unprofitable servants," for he felt that he had dealt with his lord as the justice of the case deserved. Indeed, insteadof acknowledging any fault, he turned to accusing his lord!
It is even so with false professors. They have no idea that they are hypocrites. The thought does not cross their minds. Theyhave no notion that they are unfaithful. Hint at it and see how they will defend themselves! If they are not living as theyought to do, they claim to be pitied rather than blamed-the blame lies with Providence! It is the fault of circumstances!It is the fault of anybody but themselves. They have done nothing and yet they feel more at ease than those who have doneeverything. They have taken the trouble to dig in the earth and hide their talent and they as good as ask- "What more do youwant? Is God so exacting as to expect me to bring more to Him than He gave me? I am as grateful and prayerful as God makesme-what more will He require?"
There is, you see, no bowing in the dust with a sense of imperfection, but an arrogant casting upon God of all blame and this,too, under the pretense of honoring His Sovereign Grace! Ah me, that men should be able to torture the Truth of God into suchpresumptuous falsehood! Mark well that the verdict of justice, at last, may turn out to be the very opposite of that whichwe pronounce upon ourselves. He who proudly thinks himself profitable shall be found unprofitable and he who modestly judgeshimself to be unprofitable may, in the end, come to hear his Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."
So little are we able, through the defects of our conscience, to form a right estimate of ourselves, that we frequently reckonourselves to be rich and increased in goods and having need of nothing when, indeed, we are naked and poor and miserable.Such was the case with this unfaithful servant-he wrapped himself up in the conceit that he was even more just than his lordand had an argument to plead which he thought would exonerate him from all blame. It should give rise to much searching ofheart when we notice what this unprofitable servant did, or, rather, what he did not do. He carefully deposited his capitalwhere no one was able to find it and steal it-and that was the end of his service.
We ought to observe that he did not spend that talent upon himself, or use it in business for his own benefit. He was nota thief, nor in any way did he misappropriate moneys placed under his charge. In this he excels many who profess to be theservants of God and yet live only to themselves. What little talent they have is used in their own business and never upontheir Lord's concerns. They have the power of getting money, but their money is not made for Christ-such an idea never occursto them. Their efforts are all for themselves, or, to use other words to express the same thing-for their families.
Yonder is a man who has the gift of eloquent speech and he uses it, not for Christ, but for himself, that he may win popularity;that he might arrive at a respectable position. The one end and objective of his most earnest speech is to bring grist tohis own mill and gain to his own estate. Everywhere this is to be seen among professors, that they are living to themselves-theyare not adulterers or drunks, far from it-neither are they thieves or spendthrifts. They are decent, orderly, quiet sort ofpeople but, still, they begin and end with self. What is this but to be an unprofitable servant? What is a servant to me ifhe works hard for himself and does nothing for me?
A professing Christian may toil till he becomes a rich man, an alderman in the city, a Lord Mayor, a member of Parliament,a millionaire-but what does that prove? Why, that he could work and did work well for himself and if all this while he hasdone little or nothing for Christ, he is all the more condemned by his own success! If he had worked for his Lord as he workedfor himself, what might he not have accomplished? The unprofitable servant in the parable was not so bad as that and yet hewas cast into outer darkness. What, then, will become of some of you? Furthermore, the wicked servant did not go and misspendhis talent. He did not waste it in self-indulgence and wickedness as the prodigal son did, who spent his substance in riotousliving.
Oh no, he was a much better man than that! He would not waste a halfpenny! He was all for saving and running no risks. Thetalent was as he received it, only wrapped up in a napkin and hidden in the earth-put into a bank, in fact- but a bank whichgave no interest! He never touched a penny of it for a feast or a revel and, therefore, could not be accused of being a spendthriftwith his lord's money. In fact, he was superior to those who yield their strength to sin and use their abilities to gratifythe guilty passions of themselves and others. I grieve to add that some who call themselves
servants of Christ lay out their strength to undermine the Gospel they profess to teach! They speak against the holy nameby which they are named and thus they use their talent against their Master.
This man did not do that. He was bad enough in heart for anything, but he had never openly become so base a traitor. He neveremployed learning in order to raise needless doubts, or to resist the plain doctrines of the Word of God. This has been reservedfor Divines of these latter days-days which produce monsters unknown to less educated times. This man's talent had not beenwasted under his hand-it was as he had received it and he, therefore, reckoned he had been faithful. Ah, but this is not whatChrist calls faithfulness-just to stay where we are! If you think you have gifts and only keep what you have, without obtainingmore, it will be hiding your talent in the earth and keeping it a barren thing. It is not enough to retain-you must advance.The capital may be there, but where is the interest? To be living without aim or purpose beyond that of keeping up your positionis to be a wicked and slothful servant, condemned already.
While meditating upon this subject, may we, each one, say to himself, "Lord, is it I?" His lord called this servant "wicked."Is it, then, a wicked thing to be unprofitable? Surely wickedness must mean some positive action! No. Not to do right is tobe wicked! Not to live for Christ is to be wicked! Not to be of use in the world is to be wicked! Not to bring glory to thename of the Lord is to be wicked! To be slothful is to be wicked! It is clear that there are many wicked people in the worldwho would not like to be called so. "Wicked and slothful"-these are the two words which are riveted together by the Lord Jesus,whose speech is always wise.
A schoolboy was asked by his master "What are you doing, John?" He was called up and thought to be quite clear by saying,"I was doing nothing, Sir." But his master answered, "That is the very thing for which I called you out, for you ought tohave been doing the lesson which I set before you." It will be no excuse, at the last, for you to cry, "I was doing nothing,Sir." Were not those on the left hand made to depart with a curse upon them because they did nothing? Is it not written-"Curseyou Meroz, said the Angel of the Lord, curse you bitterly the inhabitants thereof because they came not to the help of theLord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." He who does nothing is a "wicked and slothful servant."
This man was condemned to outer darkness. Notice this! He was condemned to be as he was, for Hell, in one light, may be describedas the great Captain's saying, "As you were." "He that is unjust, let him be unjust, still. And he that is filthy, let himbe filthy, still." In another world there is permanence of character-enduring holiness is Heaven but continual evil is Hell.This man was outside of the family of his lord. He thought his lord a hard master and so proved that he had no love to himand that he was not really one of his household. He was outside in heart and so his lord said to him, "Remain outside." Besidesthat, he was in the dark-he had wrong notions of his master, for his lord was not an austere and hard man. He did not gatherwhere he had not scattered, nor reap where he had not sown. Therefore his lord said, "You are willfully in the dark: abidethere in the darkness which is outside."
This man was envious. He could not endure his master's prosperity. He gnashed his teeth at the thought of it. He was sentencedto continue in that mind and so to gnash his teeth forever. This is a dreadful idea of eternal punishment, this permanenceof character in an immortal spirit-"He that is unjust, let him be unjust, still." While the character of the ungodly willbe permanent, it will also be more and more developed along its own lines-the bad points will become worse and, with nothingto restrain them-evil will become still viler. In the next world, where there are no hindrances from the existence of a Churchand a Gospel, the man will ripen to a more hideous maturity of enmity against God and a more horrible degree of consequentmisery.
Sorrow is bound up with sin-abiding in sinfulness, a man must necessarily abide in wretchedness-for the wicked is like thetroubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. What must it be to be forever outside the family of God?Never to be God's child? Forever in the dark? Never to see the light of holy knowledge and purity and hope? Forever to gnashone's teeth with painful contempt and abhorrence of God, whom to hate is Hell? O for Grace to be made to love Him, whom tolove is Heaven! The unprofitable servant had a dreadful wage to take when his master reckoned with him, but who can say thathe had not well earned it? He had the due reward of his deeds. O our God, grant that such may not be the lot of any one ofus!
II. I must now call your attention to the second text-"So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which arecommanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do" (Luke
17:10). This is THE VERDICT OF SELF-ABASEMENT given forth from the heart of servants who had laboriously discharged the fullwork of the day. This is a part of a parable intended to rebuke all notions of self-importance and human merit.
When a servant has been plowing or feeding cattle, his master does not say to him, "Sit down and I will wait upon you, forI am deeply in your debt." No, his master bids him prepare the evening meal and wait upon him. His services are due and, therefore,his master does not praise him as if he were a wonder and a hero. He is only doing his duty if he perseveres from morninglight to set of sun and he by no means expects to have his work held up to admiration or rewarded with extra pay and humblethanks. Neither are we to boast of our services, but think little of them, confessing that we are unprofitable servants.
Whatever of pain may have been caused by the first part of the discourse, I trust it will only prepare us the more deeplyto enter into the spirit of our second text. Both these texts are engraved on my heart as with an iron pen by a mercilesswound inflicted when I was too feeble to bear it. When I was exceedingly ill in the South of France and deeply depressed inspirit-so deeply depressed and so sick and ill that I scarcely knew how to live-one of those malicious persons who commonlyhaunt all public men and especially ministers, sent me anonymously a letter, openly directed to "That unprofitable servant,C. H. Spurgeon."
This letter contained tracts directed to the enemies of the Lord Jesus, with passages marked and underlined-with notes applyingthem to myself. How many Rabshekahs have, in their day, written to me! Ordinarily I read them with the patience which comesof use and they go to light the fire. I do not look for exemption from this annoyance, nor do I usually feel it hard to bear,but in the hour when my spirits were depressed and I was in terrible pain, this reviling letter cut me to the quick. I turnedupon my bed and asked-Am I, then, an unprofitable servant? I grieved exceedingly and could not lift up my head or find rest.
I reviewed my life and saw its infirmities and imperfections, but knew not how to put my case till this second text came tomy relief and answered as the verdict of my bruised heart. I said to myself, "I hope I am not an unprofitable servant in thesense in which this person intends to call me so, but I am assuredly so in the other sense." I cast myself upon my Lord andMaster once again with a deeper sense of the meaning of the text than I had felt before-His atoning Sacrifice revived me andin humble faith I found rest. By the way, I wonder that any human being should find pleasure in trying to inflict pain uponthose who are sick and depressed, yet are there persons who delight to do so. Surely, if there are no evil spirits down below,there are some up above and the servants of the Lord Jesus receive painful proofs of their activity!
Let me, then, if you have felt any pain from the first text, lead you to the point at which I personally arrived when, atlast, I could thank God for that letter and feel that it was salutary medicine to my spirit. This which is put into our mouthsas a confession-that we are unprofitable servants-is meant to rebuke us when we think we are somebody and have done somethingworthy of praise. Our text is meant to rebuke us if we think that we have done enough, that we have borne the burden and heatof the day a long time and have been kept at our post beyond our own watch. If we conclude that we have achieved a fine day'swork of harvesting and ought to be invited home to rest, the text upbraids us. If we feel an inordinate covetousness aftercomfort and wish the Lord would give us some present and striking reward for what we have done, the text shames us. This isa proud, unchildlike, unservantlike spirit and it must be put down with a firm hand.
In the first place, in what way can we have profited God? Eliphaz has well said, "Can a man be profitable unto God, as hethat is wise may be profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you are righteous? Or is it gain to Himthat you make your ways perfect?" If we have given to God of our substance, is He our debtor? In what way have we enrichedHim to whom all the silver and gold belongs? If we have laid our lives out with the devotion of martyrs and missionaries forHis sake, what is that to Him, whose Glory fills the heavens and the earth? How can we dream of putting the Eternal in debtto us? The right spirit is to say with David, "O my Soul, you have said unto the Lord, You are my Lord: my goodness extendsnot to You; but to the saints that are in the earth and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight." How can a man placehis Maker under an obligation to him? Let us not dote so blasphemously!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, we ought to remember that whatever service we have been able to render has been a matter of debt.I hope our morality is not fallen so low that we take credit to ourselves for paying our debts! I do not find
men in business priding themselves and saying, "I paid a thousand pounds this morning to such an one." "Well, did you giveit to him?" "Oh no, it was all owing to him." Is that any great thing? Have we come to such a low state of spiritual moralsthat we think we have done a great deal when we give to God His due? "It is He that made us and not we ourselves." Jesus Christhas bought us, "we are not our own," for we are "bought with a price."
We have also entered into covenant with Him and given ourselves over to Him voluntarily. Were we not baptized into His nameand into His death? Whatever we may do is only what He has a right to claim at our hands from our creation, redemption andprofessed surrender to Him. When we have persevered in the hard work of plowing till no field is left untilled; when we havedone the pleasant work of feeding the sheep and when we have finished by spreading the table of communion for our Lord-whenwe have done all-we have done no more than was our duty to have done! Why do we boast, then, or cry for a discharge, or lookfor thanks?
Over and above this there is the sad reflection that, alas, in all we have done we have been unprofitable through being imperfect.In the plowing there have been baulks; in the feeding of the cattle there have been harshness and forgetful-ness; in the spreadingof the table the viands have been unworthy of such a Lord as we serve. How must our service appear to Him of whom we read,"Behold, He put no trust in His servants and His angels He charged with folly." Can any of you look back upon your serviceto your Lord with satisfaction? If you can, I cannot say I envy you, for I do not sympathize with you in the least degree,but tremble for your safety!
As for myself, I am compelled to say with solemn truthfulness that I am not content with anything I have ever done. I havehalf wished to live my life over again, but now I regret that my proud heart allowed me to so wish, since the probabilitiesare that I should do worse the second time. Whatever Grace has done for me I acknowledge with deep gratitude, but so far asI have done anything myself, I beg pardon for it. I pray God to forgive my prayers, for they have been full of fault. I beseechHim to forgive even this confession, for it is not as humble as it ought to be. I beseech Him to wash my tears and purge mydevotions and to baptize me into a true burial with my Savior that I may be quite forgotten in myself and only rememberedin Him. Ah, Lord, You know how far we fall short of the humility we ought to feel. Pardon us in this thing. We are, all ofus, unprofitable servants, and if You should judge us by the Law we must be cast away.
Once more, we cannot congratulate ourselves at all, even if we have had success in our Lord's work, since for all that wehave done we are indebted to our Lord's abundant Grace. If we had done all our duty, we should not have done anything if HisGrace had not enabled us to do it! If our zeal knows no respite, it is He that keeps the fire burning! If our tears of repentanceflow, it is He that strikes the rock and fetches the waters from it! If there is any virtue, if there is any praise, if thereis any faith, if there is any ardor, if there is any likeness to Christ, we are His workmanship, created by Him and, therefore,to ourselves we dare not take a particle of the praise!
Of Your own have we given unto You, great God! So far as anything has been worth Your accepting, it was Your own beforehand.Therefore the best are still unprofitable servants! If we have special cause of regret because of some evident error, we shallbe wise to go in a lowly spirit and confess the fault and then go on doing the work of each day in a plodding, hopeful spirit.Whenever you get distressed because you cannot do what you would. Whenever you see the faultiness of your own service andcondemn yourself for it, the best thing is to go and do something more in the strength of the Lord. If you have not servedJesus well up to now, go and do better!
If you make a blunder, do not tell everybody and say that you will never try again, but do two good things to make up forthe failure. Say, "My blessed Lord and Master shall not be more a loser by me than I can help. I will not so much fret overthe past as amend the present and wake up for the future." Brothers and Sisters, try to be more profitable and ask for moreGrace. The servant's business is not to hide himself in a corner of the field and cry, but to go on plowing. You are not tobleat with the sheep, but feed them and so prove your love to Jesus. You are not to stand at the head of the table and say,"I have not spread the table for my Master as well as I could have desired." No? Go and spread it better!
Have courage, you are not serving a hard Master and, though you very properly call yourself an unprofitable servant, be ofgood cheer, for a gentler verdict shall be pronounced upon you before long. You are not your own judge- either for good orbad-another Judge is at the door and when He comes He will think better of you than your self-abasement permits you to thinkof yourself. He will judge you by the rule of Grace and not by Law and He will end all that dread which comes of a legal spiritand hovers over you with vampire wings.
III. Thus we have arrived at the third text-"His lord said unto him, Well done, you good and faithful servant" (Mat. 25:21). I shall not try to preach upon that cheering word, but shall only say a word or two upon it. It is much too grand a textto be treated upon at the end of a sermon. We find the Lord saying to those who had used their talents industriously, "Welldone, good and faithful servant." This is THE VERDICT OF GRACE. Blessed is the man who shall acknowledge himself to be anunfaithful servant-and blessed is the man to whom His Lord shall say, "You good and faithful servant."
Observe here that the, "Well done," of the Master is given to faithfulness. It is not, "Well done, you good and brilliantservant" for, perhaps, the man never shone at all in the eyes of those who appreciate glare and glitter. It is not, "Welldone, you great and distinguished servant" for, it is possible that he was never known beyond his native village. He conscientiouslydid his best with his "few things" and never wasted an opportunity for faithfully doing good and, thus, he proved himself.The same praise was given to the man with two talents as to his fellow servant with five. Their stations were very different,but their reward was the same. "Well done, good and faithful servant," was won and enjoyed by each of them.
Is it not very sweet to think that though I may have only one talent, I shall not, thereby, be debarred from my Lord's praise?It is my faithfulness on which He will fix His eyes and not upon the number of my talents! I may have made many mistakes andhave confessed my faults with great grief, but He will commend me as He did the woman of whom He said, "She has done whatshe could." It is better to be faithful in the infant school than to be unfaithful in a noble class of young men. It is betterto be faithful in a hamlet over two or three score of people than to be unfaithful in a great city parish, with thousandsperishing in consequence! It is better to be faithful in a cottage meeting, speaking of Christ Crucified to 50 villagers thanto be unfaithful in a great building where thousands congregate.
I pray you are faithful in laying out all that you are and have for God. As long as you live, whatever faults you have, benot half-hearted or double-minded, but be faithful in intent and desire. This is the point of the Judge's praise-the servant'sfaithfulness. This verdict was given of Sovereign Grace. The reward was not according to the work, for the servant had been"faithful in a few things," but he was made "ruler over many things." The verdict itself is not after the rule of works, butaccording to the law of Grace! Our good works are evidences of Grace within us! Our faithfulness, therefore, as servants-willbe the evidence of our having a loving spirit towards our Master-evidence, therefore, that our heart is changed and that wehave been made to love Him for whom once we had no affection.
Our works are the proof of our love and, therefore, they stand as evidence of the Grace of God. God first gives us Grace andthen rewards us for it! He works in us and then counts the fruit as our work. We work out our own salvation, because "He worksin us to will and to do of His own good pleasure." If He shall ever say, "Well done" to you and to me it will be because ofHis own rich Grace and not because of our merits! And, indeed, this is where we must all come and where we must all stay,for the idea that we have any personal merit will soon make us find fault with our Master and His service as being austereand hard.
I have sometimes admired how men who have denied the doctrine of Salvation by Grace, as a matter of theology, have, nevertheless,admitted it in their devotions. They have entered into controversy against it and yet unconsciously they have believed it!An extreme case is that of Cardinal Bellarmine, who was one of the most inveterate enemies of the Reformation and a renownedantagonist of the teaching of Martin Luther. I will quote from one of his works (Inst. Do Justification, Lib. v., c. 1). Hesays, in summing up, "On account of the uncertain nature of our own works and the danger of vain-glory, it is the safest courseto place our whole trust in the mercy and loving kindness of God."
You have said well, O Cardinal! And since the safest course is that which we would choose, we will place our whole trust inthe mercy and loving kindness of God! It is reported and, I believe on excellent authority, that this great man who had, allhis life, been crying up salvation by works, when dying, breathed a prayer in Latin, the translation of which would be somethinglike this-"I beseech God, who weighs not our merits, but graciously pardons our offenses, that He would receive me among Hissaints and His elect." Is Saul, also, among the Prophets? Does Bellarmine, at the last, pray like a Calvinist? Such a casemakes one hope that many others may be saved in an apostate church! Thank God many are a great deal better than their creedand in their hearts believe what, as polemical theologians, they deny. However this may be, I know that if I am saved or rewardedit must be of Grace alone, for I can have no other hope. As for those who have done much for the Church, we know that theywill disclaim all praise, saying, "Lord, when did we see You hungry and
give You meat; or thirsty and give You drink?" All the Lord's faithful servants will sing, "Non nobis domine." Not unto us.Not unto us!
Lastly, Brothers, with what infinite delight will Jesus fill our hearts if, through Divine Grace, we are happy enough to hearHim say, "Well done, good and faithful servant." Oh, if we shall hold on to the end despite the temptations of Satan and theweakness of our nature and all the entanglements of the world! Oh, if we can keep our garments unspotted from the world, preachingChrist according to our measure of ability and winning souls for Him, what an honor it will be! What bliss to hear Him say,"Well done!" The music of these two words will have Heaven in them to us. How different it will be from the verdict of ourfellow men who are often finding fault with this and that, though we do our best. We never could please them, but we havepleased our Lord!
Men were always misinterpreting our words and misjudging our motives, but He sets all right by saying, "Well done!" Littlewill it matter, then, what all the rest have said-neither the flattering words of friends nor the harsh condemnations of enemieswill have any weight with us when He says, "Well done!" Not with pride shall we receive that eu-logium, for we shall reckonourselves, even then, to have been unprofitable servants. But oh how we shall love Him for setting such an estimate upon thecups of cold water we gave to His disciples and the poor broken service we tried to render Him! What condescension to callthat well done, which we feel was so ill done!
I pray God's servants here, who, this morning first began with searching themselves and then went on to confess their imperfections,will now close by rejoicing in the fact that if we are believing in Christ Jesus and are really consecrated to Him, we shallconclude this life and begin the next with that blessed verdict of, "Well done!" Mind, however, that you are those who aredoing all and are faithful. I hear some people speak against self-righteousness, to whom I would say, "You need not say muchabout that matter, for it does not concern you, since you have no righteousness to be proud of."
I hear persons speak against salvation by good works who are in no danger of falling into that error, since good works andtheir lives have long parted company. What I do admire is to see a man like Paul who lived for Jesus and was ready to diefor Him, yet saying, at the close of his life, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yes, doubtlessand I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered theloss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness,which is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith."
Go on, Brothers and Sisters, and think not of resting till your day's work is done. Serve God with all your might! Do morethan the Pharisees who hope to be saved by their zeal. Do more than your brethren expect of you and then, when you have doneall, lay it at your Redeemer's feet with this confession, "I am an unprofitable servant." It is to those who blend faithfulnesswith humility and ardor with self-abasement that Jesus will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter you into thejoy of your Lord."