Immagini della pagina

With respect to the departure of the principal personage, which takes place at the same point of time in each of the parables, there is the same silence in the present as in the former instance, upon every thing that directly concerns him, from the moment of his going away to the moment of his coming again: the duration of his absence only, which was implied before to have been considerable enough for the production of the historical effects which took place while it lasted, and to answer the purpose of an æconomy of probation for the servants, against the period of the return of the master—is affirmed, in the present instance, to have been “a “ long time.”

With respect to the conduct of the servants, considered as the subjects of the scheme of probation, going on meanwhile—there is the same evidence in this instance as in the former, of a difference of personal principle among them, actuating each to a difference of personal behaviour, in the use and application of a common trust, under a common obligation beforehand, to use it with equal diligence and fidelity for a common purpose ; and the same proof of a difference of personal capacity, as evinced by the difference of personal success. There is the same reason too to suppose, in this instance, as in the former, that none of the subjects of the probation, whether as using or abusing his particular trust, denotes an individual person, but a class of individuals : and consequently there is the same reason as before to conclude, that the number of such classes is four in all; three of those who in various ways

apply their trust aright, and the fourth of those who, by whatever distinction in the means adopted to produce a common effect, yet agree in the result of them all, the abuse of their trust alike.

Moreover, the choice and determination of the particular method in which each of the servants was to apply his proper trust, being left in this instance, as well as in the former, to the discretion of the trustee himself; there is the same reason as before to conclude, that the effect of the application, in two out of the three instances of its right use and successful administration, was due to some among the possible means of improving a pecuniary deposit, different from the most simple and obvious one of turning money into money by the method of usury; and that the effect in the third instance of all, as the least degree of the good use of a trust like this, which would have satisfied the master and acquitted the servant from blame, was due to this simple and obvious method itself; while the abuse in question, opposed to them all, and more especially to the last, consisted in withholding the original trust, not only from all the other possible modes of application, which might have improved it to a still greater degree, but even from this, the easiest as well as the least of all, and consequently in retaining it to the end, unproductive and barren-contrary to the final end of the commission, and repugnant to the nature of the subject of the trust—and not only without any positive addition to its amount, but virtually as much less, at last, as it might have been rendered greater, by the accumulation of interest upon the principal, for the term during which it was held.

It is observable, too, that the proportion of the gains in this instance to each other is nearly the same as in the former, viz. that of two to one; but

of ten pounds was made in one instance before, and a gain of five in another; as a gain of five talents is made in one instance now, and a gain of two in another; but each of the former was effected by the use of one mina, the first of the latter was made by the use of five talents, the second by the use of two. In proportion, therefore, to the sums originally received, the gains were greater in the former instance than in the latter. The reasons of this distinction may appear hereafter. At present, with respect to the particular suppositions in the later parable—remembering that the sums originally committed to each of the servants were represented to be in proportion to their respective abilities, we may observe, it is with an evident propriety that the gains acquired by the use of these sums, are represented as preserving the relative proportions of the sums themselves, which is in fact that of the abilities of the receivers ; and still more so, that though each may equal, neither is supposed to exceed, the amount of the original trust. These gains being compared together too, supposing the means and opportunities enjoyed by each of the receivers of the sums in question, to be exactly commensurate to his power of using them, for the improvement of his trust; it was a priori to be expected that he who, as competent for the use of most, had been entrusted with most, should be found to have gained most: yet, notwithstanding this, the earnings of all being in proportion to their means, and their means to their powers and capacities, he who had earned most, as having received most, and as being competent to the use of most, had not acquitted himself better in the discharge of his trust than he who had earned least, because as being qualified for the use of least, he had been entrusted with the possession and management of least.

The return of the principal personage again, after a personal absence of however long a duration previously, takes place in this parable, at last, as well as in the former: and his return is followed here, as it was before, by a calling of the servants to account for the mode of the adıninistering of their trust, during the absence of the master; the business of which account answers as properly to the idea of an economy of retribution, as the use and administration of the trust, into which it constitutes the inquiry, to the idea of an economy of probation.

There is the same reason also to conclude in this instance as in the former, that the process of this inquiry is a public transaction, carried on in the presence of others besides the principal parties who likewise have a proper duty to discharge, arising out of the process, and equally affecting both the parties in it. The individual subjects of the probation beforehand, are here also individually called to their account at last, after a similar order; beginning with those who had deserved best, and ending with those who had deserved worst, at the hands of the master, for the use they had made of his own trust: and the dispensation of their proper reward to the one, is over here also, before the dispensation of their proper punishment to the other, begins or is

carried into effect. The same language is attributed to the subordinate personages, as they are individually called to their account, both to make known the successful result of the adıninistration of their trust, where it has been well applied, and to tender their gains along with the original deposit, as not less the right of their master than the sum originally committed to them, by the use of which they had been made ; and also to justify their personal sloth and indolence, where the trust had been suffered to remain unproductive, and the money committed to the servant was tendered back to its owner, nominally such as it had been received, but really less than before: the only difference in this part of the two narratives being one which is equally characteristic of the propriety of each—that the talent is supposed to have been buried in the ground in this instance, the mina to have been kept hid in a napkin before : for a talent was too large a sum to have been capable of being concealed in a napkin, and a mina too small a sum to require to be buried in the ground; but the end designed by this different disposal of each, with respect to the receiver, was the same—that it might be kept by him, as he had received it and the effect produced by it to the injury of the master, was a common one-that his money in either instance was rendered unprofitable to its owner. The same answer too is attributed to the principal personage, both when he accepts the tender, and expresses his approval of the conduct, of each of the meritorious servants; and when he replies to the address of the indolent servant, and out of his own mouth exposes and condemns the absurdity and weakness of his plea.



« IndietroContinua »