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his Faith, Mifery: Peters
our, that he
felves, and to say with David, Our Mountain stands fo Atrong that it cannot be moved; and yet, if left to our selves, may with him foon fall into great Sin and Misery. Peter was so confident of the Strength of his Faith, and his standing firm to his Saviour, that he boldly declar'd, if all the World mould deny him, yet would not be deny bim; and yet foon after he deny'd him shamefully, and that not once only, but thrice with many bitter Oaths and Imprecations : Which may teach us not to presume too much upon our standing, but to pray that our Faith fail not, and that we fall not into Temptation :
And left any should defpond under the Greatness of his Trials, or his own Weakness to undergo them, the Apostle adds these comfortable Words in the Close, saying,
There bath no Temptation taken you, but such as is common to Man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what ye are able, but will with the Temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it : Where we have two strong Motives to Patience and Confolation under all the Trials and Hardships that may befal us. The
First is taken from the Commonness of thent; There hath no Temptation taken you, but such as is common to Man. No reasonable Man can grúdg to bear a share in the common Lot of Mankind, or hope that God should alter the Course of his Providence only for his fake: and since God is pleas’d, for wise Reasons, to exercise even the best Men with Trials and Africtions, it must be very unreasonable to refuse to taste of that bitter Cup, of which others drink before and with us. The,
Second is taken from the Security here given of sufficient Strength to bear them, and of a happy Issue and Deliverance from them ; both which are grounded upon the Fidelity of our Maker: for God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tried above what we are able, but will with the Temptation make a way to escape ; which is abundantly enough to relieve and support us under theni.
This is the Substance of this Day's Epistle;' which will afford us niany observable things, which I shall only mention. As,
1. From the Israelites eating the same spiritual Meat, and drinking the same spiritual Drink with us, we may learn that they had the same Covenant of Grace that we now
have, and were fav'd the faine way, even by Faith in Christ, as we now are : fór where the Seals and Sacraments of the Covenant are the fame, there the Covenant must be the fame also.
2. From the many Plagues and Punishments that befel the Ifraelites for their Ingratitude and Breach of this Co. venant, we may learn to fear and expect the fame upon the like Disobedience: for if every Transgression and Disobedience of Moses's Lajo receivid å just Recompence of Keward, how mall we escape if we neglect so great Salvation ? Heb. 2. 2, 3.
3. From the Caution here given against Presumption, lei us learn to suspect our felves, and not be too confident of our standing, but look narrowly to our Ways, to prevent our falling; taking the Apostle's Advice, to walk circumfpe&tly, not as Fools, &c. but as Wise.
Lastly, From God's finding a way to deliver us under the greatest Trials, let us learn at all times to put our Trust in him, and in the Use of good Means to rely upon his Providence; so Thall we be secure in all Dangers, and safe from all our Enemies: Which God grant, óca
Trinity. · St. Luke xvi. 1- 10. Jesus said unto his Disciples, There was a certain rich Man, who had i Steward, and the same was accused unto him, that he had wasted his Goods; and be called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of the Stewardship, for thou may be no longer Steward. Then the Steward said within himself, &c.
TN this Gospel for the Day we are presented with the
Parable of the Master and the unjust Steward ; in which A are figuratively represented to us,
Ift, The great Bounty and Goodness of God in dispensing his Bleflings.
adly, The great Injustice and Unfaithfulness of Men in wafting and abusing of then.
3dly, The great Danger and Difficulties that ensue upon fo doing. And,
4thly, The best Means to prevent these Evils, and to turn the good things to a better account. These things are contain'd in this Parable, and comprize the whole of this Day's Gospel. The Parable was deliver'd by Jesus unto his Disciples, and begins thus :
There was a certain rich Man who had a Stemard. Where, by the certain rich Man, we are to understand God Almighty, the great Landlord and Proprietor of the World; whose is the Earth, and the Fulness thereof. By the Steward is nieant all Mankind, with whom he hath' intrusted his Goods and Talents ; for the Earth he hath given to the Chile dren of Men, with all the Fruits and Product thereof, to some more, and to some less, but to all fome, expecting an Account and Improvement from them all according to
hacodes intends accused on the Parabieth
their proportion ; for he hath not made them Owners or Proprietors, but only Stewards and Dispensers of his Blefsings, to be dispos'd of according to his Will and Direction. Which shews us from whence all our Gifts come, namely, from God the great Lord and Donor of all things; for every good Gift, and every perfect Gift (faith St. James) is from above, and cometh down from the Father of Lights: Jam. I. 17. And likewise the Ends for which they are given, to wit, for the Honour of our Master, and the Benefit of our félves and one another. Now 'tis required of Stewards (faith the Apostle) that they be found faithful, in managing aright what is committed to them.
But the Steward here in the Parable was found unfaithful; for he was accused to his Lord, that he had wasted his Goods : instead of einploying them to his Master's Use, he had mispent them in Riot and Prodigality, and so wrong'd his Master without any Benefit to himself; as Prodigals are wont to do other Men harm, and themselves no good.
This improvident and unfaithful Behaviour coming to his Master's Knowledg, as Unthrift and Prodigality seldom escape Discovery, the Master call'd him to him, and said, How is it that I hear this of thee? Give an account of thy Stewardhip, for thou mayst be no longer Steward. Every Malter may, and much more our great Master in Heaven, call his Servants and Stewards to an account for 'embezleing his Goods, and discharge them too of their Office for the unfaithful Discharge of it: so he did with this unjuft Steward, and so he will do with all wicked and unprofitable Servants; which should teach us Fidelity in the Trust committed to us, and in any Place or Office whereunto we are callid, left we be brought to a Reckoning, and with Shane and Mifery be discarded from it.
But what did this unjust Steward when he was turn'd out of Service? Why, He said within himself, What fall 1. do; for my Lord taketh from me the Stewardship, I cannot dig, to big I am ashamed? Sin and Wickedness deprive Men of God's Blessing; it puts them out of his Favour and Protection, and leads them into niany Straits and Difficulties. This wicked Servant liv'd in Ease and Plenty in his Master's Service, he wanted nothing but Grace to make a better use of what he vainly squander'd away, and now he liv'd to want that which he so wantonly wasted: having made no provision for this fad time, he was at his wits end what to do for a Livelihood; to dig for it by his Labour, R 2
he could not, and to beg for it by way of Alms he was asham’d. However, something must be done, and that Speedily too, or starve: casting then awhile about him, I am resolved (faith he) what to do, that when I am put out of the Stewardship, they may receive me into their Houses: And what was that? Why, it was to ingratiate himself with his Lord's Tenants and Debtors, and to make such Abatements in their Accounts, as might oblige them to be kind to him in distress, and to harbour him upon occasion. This Project we have in the fifth, fixth and seventh Verses; where we read, that before he gave up his Accounts, He called every one of his Lord's Debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou "unto my, Lord He said, An hundred Measures of Oil: Then said he unto him, Take thy Bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Where he struck off half the Sum, bidding him write it down quickly upon his Bill, that their Books may agree, and fo avoid all Suspicion of Mistake or Misreckoning. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred Measures of Wheat : He said unto him, Take thy Bill, and write FourScore. Where he struck off twenty Measures of Wheat, every Measure containing a great Quantity, and being the fame with the Hebrew Omer, amounted to a great Sum; him too he commanded to write down in the foot of the Bill, that there might be no difference in the Account, and so no Discovery. The like he did with all the rest, níaking favourable Entries into all their Books of Account, in hopes that having gratify'd so many Persons by such large Abatements, they would remember him in time of need ; and that some of then at least (tho others should prove ungrateful) would stand by him, and make some amends for his Kindness. . But how did the Master take all this? Why, the next
words tell us, that the Lord commended the unjust Steward, because he had done wisely; for the Children of this world are wiser in their Generation than the Children of Light : Not that he lik'd his Dishonesty or Unfaithfulness, for he gives him the Character of an unjust Steward; but he commended his Wit in contriving a way how to help himself when he was out of Service, and providing against a time of need. And indeed this was the main Delign of the Parable, to teach Men to lay up for themselves a good Foundation, and to have a provident Care for the time to come : The Maf. ter seems to take little or no notice of the way or manner
thaents, they of the stand by