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compassion on him. With princely generosity he not only let him go, but even forgave him all the debt. Beside himself with the unspeakable joy of relief, the governor left the palace which he had entered in despair and terror. But who is that coming to meet him, or rather endeavoring in evident confusion to avoid him? It is one of his inferiors, who owes him a trifle of three or four pounds, and is not prepared to pay him at the moment. What could have been more natural chan for the great man, in his thankful joy, to make the same day glad for his own humble debtor? But no! He rushed up to him, seized him by the throat, and cried, “ Pay what you owe me!' The other fell upon his knees and besought his mercy. "Have patience with me, and I will pay it all!' But the tyrant was not melted by the thought that he himself had uttered these same words but now; and in the mouth of his inferior they did not convey a promise it was impossible to fulfil, as they had done in his. Was it vexation at the danger he had just escaped, or was this cruelty a first step towards putting his affairs upon a sounder footing? However this may be, he threw his debtor into prison till those few shillings should be paid ! But his conduct soon began to be talked about. The other great officers of state heard of it, and could not help reporting it indignantly to the king. The heartless conduct of the man to whom he had extended such princely favor raised the monarch's utmost indignation, and he summoned the delinquent into his presence once again. · Wretch !' he cried, “I forgave you that enormous debt, because you entreated me to defer exacting it, not daring even to ask that it should be forgiven! And should not you have had pity on your debtor as I had pity on you? Throw him into prison until he has satisfied my uttermost claims !' It was a hopeless sentence, for the debt could never be paid.
“ And so,” said Jesus, "shall my heavenly Father do to you unless each one from his heart forgives his brother.” 1
Jesus took many opportunities of impressing upon his tearers that simplicity and humility were absolutely necessary for those who would enter the kingdom of God. When tue disciples were disputing which of them was to be the greatest, he rebuked them by saying, “Whosoever is least among you and humbles himself to be the servant of all, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 2 Another time he warned
1 Matthew xviii. 23-35.
them vot to imitate the Scribes in their greediness for honor. * Never let yourselves be called Rabbi or Master, for one is your leader and you are all brothers. He who is chief among you shall be your servant. He who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”i Or he took a child and placed it in the midst of them, and said, “I tell you truly, unless you turn and become as children, s mple, natural, and receptive of all good influences, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” 2
Well might it be said of the contemporaries of Jesus, and of all for whom his Gospel has shone and shines, “ Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see! For verily I say to you, that many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them ; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them."
THE VOCATION OF THE CITIZENS OF GOD'S KINGDOM.
Matthew V. 13-16, XXV. 14-40, VI. 19-21, 24-34.
o learn something more of the teaching of Jesus, let us where we broke off just now.
In the last beatitude Jesus had turned directly to his friends and followers to cheer and encourage them under the bitter opposition to which they would be exposed. This leads, by the most natural transition, to the description of their work and their place in society which follows. "You are the salt of the earth.” As salt is needed to give food a relish and to preserve it from corruption, so they were needed to give social life a flavor, and preserve it from moral ruin. Without them it was in danger of becoming hopelessly frivolous and insipid. "But if the salt loses its flavor,” as it might dc if long exposed to the sun or blasted by lightning, nothing can restore its virtues to it. However precious it once was, it is now worthless, not fit even to be cast upon the dunghill! It is thrown away and trodden under foot. And so if any one 1 Matthew xxiii. 8-12.
2 Mattbew xvij 2, 3. 8 Matthew xiii. 16, 17 (Luke x, 23, 24).
should fall away from the good cause to which he had dedi. cated his life, what good could come of him for any thing?
6. You are the light of the world.” It is your task to teach the truth, to teach the way of life, to others, and it is a task you cannot lay down. “A city built upon a hill cannot be hidden. And no one who lights the lamp at eventime sets it on the ground and covers it with the corn measure; but they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. So let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify" - not you, but - you: Father who is in heaven.” 2 To see the force of the last illustration, we must bear in mind that the arrangements of a Jewish house differed widely from those of our own. The measure was an indispensable article of daily use; but moderately high tables such as ours were not used, and the lamp, which had no foot-piece and stood very low, had to be set on a tall candlestick or lampstand. It is curious to notice, in passing, that the first Gospel makes the lamp, which represents the friends of Jesus, shed its light over “ those that are in the house ;” that is to say, the Jews; whereas the HeathenChristian Evangelist, Luke, declares that “ they who come in,” that is, the Heathen, “ shall see the light.”
These words are another and a very clear indication that the Sermon on the Mount transports us to a later period of the ministry of Jesus, - a period at which the profound sig. nificance that his character and person had acquired reflected high rank and conferred wide influence upon the simple fishermen and artisans who had attached themselves to him. But the higher they were placed, the heavier was their responsibility; and should they ever prove untrue to themselves and him, the deeper their fall!
Of course we must not limit this idea to the personal friends of Jesus, but must apply it to every Christian without exception. All of us who take a serious view of life, whatever our position or our sphere of action may be, have some work for God to do in the world, and we must make it the object of our lives to do it. This thought was always present to the mind of Jesus, and experience taught him that he who is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is great; and he who is unjust in that which is least is unjust also in that which is great. He drew out this conception
1 Matthew v. 13 (Mark ix. 50; Luke xiv. 34, 35). 2 Matthew y. 14-16 (Mark iv. 21). 8 Luke viii. 16, xi. 33. See p. 31. 4 Luke xvi. 10.
of the task of life more especially in the parable of the talents. Before giving the story we may note that the word talent does not mean a special gift or capacity, but a certain sum of money amounting to nearly four hundred pounds ; and also that in the East it was a much more difficult matter in olden times to invest a sum of money than it is now with us ; " stocks," " exchanges," and so forth, were unknown. The parable runs as follows:
A rich man had to go abroad, and, since his absence would be a long one, he determined to arrange all his affairs, especially the management of his inoney matters, before he started. So he called his servants (we might say his slaves, if the word were not closely associated in our minds with the unhappy condition of the negro slaves), and, fully relying on their honesty, entrusted them with the care of his treasures. To one, for instance, he gave five talents to manage, to another two, to a third one, to each according to his ability ; and, having arranged all his affairs in like manner, set out at once on his journey. The servant in whose hands the largest sum of money had been placed did all that in him lay to prove himself worthy of his master's confidence. He bought and sold, invested in this and that, and was finally rewarded by seeing the five talents gradually increase to ten. The second servant also went to work with conscientious diligence, and had the same reward of doubling the sum entrusted to him while his master was away. But the man who had received one talent did not care to exert himself. He only considered how he could keep the money safe ; and, since strong boxes were neither so common nor so secure in those days as they are now, he dug a hole in the ground by night, in a place he could not fail to find again, and there he hid the bars of silver. All he would have to do would be to come now and again and see whether the earth had been disturbed. At last, when years had come and gone, the master returned to his bome. A great feast was prepared to welcome him, and meanwhile he called his servants together to hear what they had been doing with his money. The first came with his accounts and vouchers under his arm, and showed his master bow he had doubled his five talents. The second brought a similar account, and each received the highest praise and approbation. “Well done! good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in a little, I will set you in command over much. And now come in and be my guest at the feast of my
1 Matthew xxv. 14-30.
rejoicing!” Then came the third, carrying the talent entrusted to him in his hands. "Master," he said, covering his confusion by a show of assurance, and accusing his master by way of defending himself, “I know what an unjust and cruel man you are, making us toil and pant and then taking all the gain yourself; so I dared not risk any thing, but kept the money safely. Here you have your own.” 6* Wicked and slothful servant !” was the reply, “ did you think I should be unreasonable in my demands? Then you might at least have lodged the money with the changers that I might receive it back with interest. Take the talent from him,” added he, turning to his attendants, “and give it to him that has the ten ; for whosoever has shall receive yet more, but from him who has not shall be taken away even the little he has. And cast the worthless servant out into the darkness; there let him wail and gnash his teeth, shut out from the joyous feast within." The meaning is not hard to see.
The talents are the opportunities that God gives us of working for his kingdom. One has more than another, for each one's sphere of work and influence differs in extent from that of others. But there is not one who can do no good, who can be of no use, who can make no one happy. Whoever loves God will make the most of his opportunities, will put them out to interest. Be his powers great or small he will do something with his life. It will not pass away without result, but will in some way glorify God and bless the world. But he who loves not God is slothful and unwilling, looks about for excuses and gets nothing done. The one is ever widening the scale of his usefulness; the other gradually loses all his power of doing or of being any thing.
This story is followed in the Gospel by a description that has no immediate connection with it of the last judgment, before the founding of the Messianic kingdom. In its present form it certainly is not due to Jesus, and cannot have arisen till the men of his generation had quite died out. We mention it here, however, partly because it very possibly sprang out of a figure of speech that Jesus actually used, but chiefly because its leading thought is certainly his, and places in the clearest light what he demands of all his followers and what he promises them. This leading thought is that the happiness of man hereafter depends solely and entirely upon whether he has given proof of love, -of simple, free, and generous love of man. Let us listen to it: