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There is the same accommodation too, in this instance as before, of the nature of the reward to the nature of the desert, which produces it; viz. the commission of another trust in return for the faithful discharge of a former : and the new trust, in this instance also, stands distinguished from the old, as what is “ much” of a certain kind is distinguished from what is "little” of the same kind. There is the same intimation also of something like an extra dispensation in favour of the most meritorious servants of all, over and above their proper share of the common reward of the common merit earned by the faithful discharge of a common trust; according to which, whatever degree of that reward might have been intended for all, and might have been earned by all, who had shared in the common trust, (even by those who had proved unfaithful to it, as much as by those who had not,) being lost to the one, through their own fault-and requiring to be given to some one or more of the rest—it was bestowed upon these in particular. And lastly, the proper punishment of the unprofitable servant, which was implied in the former parable, is distinctly specified in this; viz. besides his personal disgrace in being deprived of his past trust, and rendered altogether unfit for future confidence; his being driven from the presence of his master, and ejected into the outer darkness, where should be “ weeping and the “ gnashing of the teeth."
It must be evident from the above review, that two histories, each of them capable of being regarded distinctly from the other, are combined in
of the narrative.corn, and con
of these hist
the same account. The first of these begins with the departure, continues during the absence, and terminates with the return of the principal personage; the second begins with his return, and continues to the end of the narrative: that is, the first of these histories expires where the second begins, and the second begins where the first expires. The principal agent in both is the same, and the subordinate agents in both are the same also. The subject of the first is the commission of a responsible trust, by the former of those agents to the latter, designed to be administered in a certain way, while it was retained, and sometime to be rendered up again. The subject of the second is the resumption of that trust, the inquiry into the mode of its administration previously, and the dispensation of reward or of punishment, to its proper subjects, according to the inerits of the case. These two histories, then, as related of the same persons, are the distinct, but consecutive parts of the same general oeconomy, the former of which conducts to the latter, while the latter concludes and fills up the former. The history of the commission of the trust beforehand would have been incomplete, without the history of the account exacted of it at last; and the history of that account at last could have had no being, without the history of the commission of the trust previously. The end of the parabolic narrative in general, then, is comprised in this part of its details in particular: a conclusion to which the greater length and circumstantiality of this part in comparison of the preceding, would of itself have led us; the one being dispatched in five verses, the other extending through twelve.
Now if the first of these histories will bear to be regarded as an adequate representation of a certain scheme of probation; the second, which answers to it so exactly, will bear to be considered an adequate representation of a corresponding scheme of retribution. If the first of these accounts in the parable merely prepares the way for the second, the scheme of probation answering to the former, must prepare the way for the scheme of retribution corresponding to the latter; and if the first account, for that reason, is subordinate in its proper place to the second, so must the scheme of probation represented by the one, be subordinate in its order to the scheme of retribution adumbrated by the other b.
It is an observable difference between this parable, and the one immediately preceding it, that no such practical direction is found to be appended to this, as was seen to be subjoined to that. We may argue
b The connection of a scheme of probation on the one hand, and a scheme of retribution answering to it on the other, is so close and reciprocal, that it is impossible for either to be made the subject of an appropriate representation, without, in some manner or other, implying the other. It ought not to surprise us, then, if in any delineation, however complete, of the antecedent scheme of probation, we trace, interwoven with it, the outlines of the consecutive scheme of retribution : or vice versa. But when both are distinctly combined together, as separate, and individual parts of the same whole, (which is the case in the parable,) the very relation of cause and effect, of antecedent and consequent, suffices to prove that the end of all, the object proposed by the union of two such parts, must reside in that to which the other conducts; in the scheme of retribution, not in the scheme of probation. Under such circumstances, the scheme of retribution takes precedence of the scheme of probation : the account of the latter is preliminary and subordinate to that of the former. VOL. V.
from this distinction, that the present parable was not intended to supply any moral inference: that the representation contained in the one, was capable of being applied to the enforcement of the duties of diligence, readiness, perseverance for such and such purposesbut not that contained in the other. Regarding both as equally designed for a future, and not an existing scheme of things, we may infer that from the time the material fact, pourtrayed in the former of these delineations, should begin and continue to be in being, the season of such precepts, the time for their being remenbered, observed, and applied, would begin and continue also; but when the matter of fact adumbrated by the latter, was now at hand, the season of such precepts, the proper time for recollecting and observing them, was past.
This conclusion is no more than the necessary consequence of the essential difference between two such things as the doctrine of a scheme of probation, however represented, and that of a scheme of retribution — with respect to their practical tendency. The season of trial is the season of vigilance, labour, and perseverance; the appointed period of the use and employment of every means, which can further the Christian work, and enable us to render our calling and election sure. With reason, then, are precepts, admonitions, and warnings, found to go along with the representations of a scheme of trialteaching the necessity, urging the expediency, foretelling the blessed effects, of a timely foresight, an unslumbering watchfulness, a patient and unwearied assiduity, in the discharge of an appointed part; in the legitimate use and application of all the means of grace, and opportunities of salvation. But when the
period of trial is over, the period of preparation is past; and with it the possibility or the expediency of any further cautions, or instructions, to make the best use of means and opportunities still in being.
But though it should be considered probable that the subject of the parable is rather the deconomy of a scheme of final retribution, than one of preparatory probation; the question will still remain, who are the persons supposed to be properly concerned in it ? The parties in the parable are one principal, the rest subordinate; whose relation to each other is that of the master of an household, on the one hand, and that of his servants, on the other ; and the parts respectively attributed to them arise out of this relation. If then it can be determined whom we are to understand by the master, it will follow whom we are to understand by the servants; if what, by the æconomy of either kind, and more particularly that of the retribution, represented in the parable—we shall know what is meant by the part and agency respectively attributed to the persons concerned in it. Now by the master, I contend, we are to understand our Saviour Jesus Christ: and by the economy of retribution, the process of the final judgment.
For, first, to say nothing of the argument from the analogy of the preceding parable, in which the principal personage was shewn to be Jesus Christ; to take it for granted also, that if our Saviour is speaking of himself under any character, in the present parable, he is speaking indirectly, or under the disguise of an allegorical resemblance; still, I think, it must be inferred that if the circumstances, rela