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Or if the talents be supposed to denote not secular, but religious and spiritual blessings—what shall we say to the peculiar rule, which awarded the sums committed to each servant, as the subject matter of his individual trust, in so unequal a proportion ? For this inequality, it is observable, exists in the ratio of the distribution at first, previously to the trial of any of the parties—as well as in the subsequent augmentation of the original trust, the result and reward of its use and administration. With regard, indeed, to the further increase even of the ordinary means of grace, particular distinctions may be subsequently made, in favour of those who have employed their former opportunities and advantages to the best effect. The rule of the Divine equity laid down by the parable itself, is sufficient to authorize this expectation; “ For to every one who hath shall it be “ given, and be made to abound.” But with respect to the first instance of trial, and the first measure and degree of the helps and facilities, vouchsafed to all because necessary to all, (independently of their own cooperation,) even to begin, and much more to persevere and continue in the work of the Christian vocation; it cannot be proved from scripture, that Christians in general are not on a par, and treated alike; instead of receiving some in the proportion of five, others of two, and others of one talent.
Lastly, the language of the blessing pronounced on the faithful servants, and as collected from that language, the nature of the blessing itself, is not in unison with what is elsewhere intimated, and more especially in others of the parables, respecting the particular reward of good Christians generally. The usual imagery employed to describe it, is some
thing which implies a similar and equal participation in the resulting benefit, reward, or distinction, like the common joy and pleasure, which are the privilege of every guest invited in common to the same festivity, whether a supper in general or a marriage feast in particular; not something in which from the nature of the case, a part only can be supposed to partake in contradistinction to the restsuch as must be understood by the specific and particular image of entering into the joy, that is, of sharing in some degree or other in the proper reward and exaltation, of Christ.
If, then, the subordinate parties in the parable cannot be supposed to stand for Christians in general, they must stand for the ministers of religion in particular, as the only description of the members of the visible church in the complex, who can be understood to be opposed to the rest in general, without being distinguished from them as Christians in particular. Laying this conclusion together with the conclusions previously established, we arrive at the following idea of the moral of the parable :
The parable of the talents, relating to and describing a proper economy of retribution, consecutive upon a corresponding economy of probation, with respect to a certain description of persons-relates to and describes the process of the final judgment in respect to the ministers of religion, among the complex of Christians; a process to which they in particular, and not the people, could alone be supposed liable a priori, and alone be represented as subject at last, by virtue of that peculiar kind of responsibility which is entailed upon them, and
on them only among the complex of Christians, by their peculiar kind of relation to Christ. This view of the moral of the parable will be further confirmed by the interpretation of the facts of its material history.
THE INTERPRETATION. In the first place, the relation of master, beginning with Christ, and the relation of servants, as propagated downwards, and affecting all orders of persons in the community of the visible church, applies first and most directly to the ministers of religion. Christians in general may be called the servants or household of Christ; but the ministers of religion are his own, and his proper servants. These, though in subjection to a common master, are nearer to his person, are more distinguished by his confidence, and more possessed of an authority like his own, than their fellow-servants. They are elevated by their place and relation above the rest; they stand in the middle rank, between them and their Master; and serve as the link in the chain of ascent, to connect the Head with the subordinate members of the church on earth. In the constitution of the family of faith or the household of Jesus Christ, the case has always been, as in the domestic relations of antiquity : under the same head are incorporated many divisions of inferiors and dependants; and over each of these some servant of superior consequence and trust.
Again, the course of proceedings with respect to the trust in the parable, according to which its commission to the servants was made immediately be
fore the departure of their master, and its administration, agreeably to the final end of the commission, began immediately after it, is true of the dele. gation and exercise of the ministerial trust. For not to mention that the apostles, the future emissaries and instruments of the Gospel, and consequently the future representatives of the ministers of religion, were selected from the body of the disciples, and ordained to their apostolical commission before the personal ministry of Jesus itself was over; there is scarcely an instance, on which he is recorded to have appeared unto them in the interval between the Resurrection and the Ascension, when something may not be seen to have passed between them, which either actually or virtually amounted to an evangelical commission, formally given by him, and received by them, for the propagation of the Gospel, and the foundation and government of the church, by their means to be established on earth. Any one of these commissions would be given between the close of the personal ministry of Jesus Christ, and the beginning of that of the apostles; the last of them was so on the day of the Ascension itself. The whole interval, indeed, between the Resurrection and the Ascension, according to St. Luke, was devoted by our Lord to these successive manifestations of himself to his apostles; and as often as they thus met together, to conversing with them, and telling them of the things which concerned the kingdom of Godd ; that is, the Gospel dispensation, now at hand, but not yet formally begun. And as they received their last ministerial commission on the day of the Ascension, that is, the day of the personal departure of the Head of the church; so they entered upon the discharge of its duties only ten days after, on the day of Pentecost next ensuing.
c Vide John xx. 21, 22. Harm. v. 9. Matt. xxviii. 18—20. Ibid. 12. John xxi. 15–17. Ibid. 13. Luke xxiv. 47–49. Acts i. 4–8. lbid. 15. Mark xvi. 15—18. Ibid. 16.
d Acts i. 3.
The subject of division among the servants, was the substance or property of their master, the possession of which for the time being, properly made them his stewards; and if by this subject of division, we understand the church of Christ in the abstract—what can be so truly called his, as that which he has purchased by his own blood e? And as this property of the master was distributed in certain proportions among the servants; so has the church of Christ, from the first, been divided among the ministers of religion-each in particular being entrusted with the care and control of a part of it, and all in general with the care and control of the whole. And as the reception and possession of their master's property for the time being, made the servants his stewards; so does the commission of the church of Christ, either wholly or in part, to the care of the ministers of religion, make them his stewards also.
But if by the subject of division in the parable, we understand not the church in the abstract, but the power and authority, the dominion and jurisdiction, which belong to the head and governor of a religious, no less than a political society, as supreme; this sovereign power and jurisdiction over his church is the right and property of Jesus Christ; too, for the sake of the propagation of his
c Acts xx. 28.