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ashamed." He, therefore, very unwar

XVIII. rantably called together his lord's debtors,

and, having in his hands the several securities they had given, he gave each man a power of secretly lessening his debt, that by thus serving their interests, he might secure their friendship when he should be put out of his stewardship. This inequitable proceeding came to his lord's ears, and, as the text states, the "Lord commended "the unjust steward." When we consider the drift of all our Saviour's parables, much more when we reflect on his own incomparable purity and goodness, it must needs appear to us impossible, that the unjust dealings of this profligate steward should, as such, be ever represented as the objects of commendation and applause. And, indeed, if we take the whole context together, we can scarce make such a mistake, for we shall then understand, that the unjust steward was not commended because he was unjust, but because he “bad acted wisely:" that is, in fact, prudently; with some degree of forecast and consideration. And yet neither was this, in his particular



case, the direct subject of commendation, SERM. but, (as we may collect from the following XVIII. words) it is only meant to be implied, that a similar prudence, under other circumstances, would be commendable. In short, the lesson conveyed to us in the parable amounts to this, that in worldly concerns we find the most careless and dissipated possessed, in case of necessity, of prudence enough to make some provision for futurity, whereas, oftentimes, those much better instructed in the real concerns of life, the ways of Providence, and the hopes of religion, betray a woeful neglect of these matters, to the hazard of losing the great gift of immortal happiness, promised them, in the world to come. This should be carefully attended to, lest the mere words of the parable should in any way mislead us; for how could any commendation be due to the unjust steward, except for the ingenuity of his prudence and management. Besides his previous negligence, could any thing surpass his treachery, and breach of confidence, in calling together all his lord's debtors, and urging them to join him in an act of notorious fraud and

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SERM. dishonesty? His injustice was not intended to be passed over, or extenuated, we may be sure, from the very title given him of the Unjust Steward. Thus far, however, I have thought it fit to clear the matter up, because any mistaken division of the words of the text, might lead to a very different interpretation from what was designed.

But let us proceed to apply the parable to ourselves. The great and mighty God has so placed us in this world, that be our outward condition what it may, we have all a stewardship to answer for. The most destitute of worldly goods has still the gifts of reason, and free will, to account for; these are very important talents, entrusted to his care, his management, and discretion; scarce any other can be misapplied but through a direct abuse of these. However, in the course of the parable, we are particularly cautioned in regard to the


mammon of unrighteousness." This is an expression which, though not actually familiar in itself, is yet capable of a very plain and simple interpretation; it may justly be held to stand for all such worldly attainments


attainments or possessions, the abuse of SERM. which must necessarily involve us in dis- XVIII. tress and despair. To whomsoever," saith the Scripture," much is given, of him will "much be required;" and so it is, in the nature of things, that the more we are possessed of, the more we must be liable to commit some abuse or other. And And yet it is hard to fix any bounds to what is in fact our stewardship; for those who are in a state of want are as much in a state of trial as those who are blessed with affluence and abundance; and even the Mammon of unrighteousness may, without much force, be brought to include every condition to which may be annexed a temptation to do wrong, according to the memorable request of Agur; “ Give me, "O Lord, neither poverty nor riches, lest," in the one case " I be full and deny thee, " and who is the Lord?" or, "lest I be



poor and steal, and take the name of my "God in vain." Here riches and poverty might equally become the unrighteous mammon,by drawing us away from our duty to God. And thus, figuratively, any allotment may be converted into " a mammon of unright


SERM. "unrighteousness," though, generally speakXVIII. ing, it is usually held to stand for riches. We are admonished, in the parable, to make to ourselves "friends of the mammon


of unrighteousness," following herein, not by any means the fraudulent and corrupt doings of the unjust steward, but his precaution and foresight; he is represented as making to himself friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, by so engaging his lord's debtors in a fraudulent conspiracy against him, that, first, they should be so obliged to him as to receive him when put out of his stewardship; and, secondly, by being made confederates with him, should be equally interested not to make a discovery. This, then, was a step to take as full of worldly wisdom and cun. ning as it well could be. Such prudence, therefore, may well be made an example to others, though here applied in so bad and unjustifiable a manner; for, on this very account, it carries a degree of reproach with it, if we can neglect concerns of infinite more importance. What comparison, for instance, can there be, between


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