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THE UNJUST STEWARD.
LUKE XVI. 8.
And the Lord commended the unjust steward because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light.
THESE words occur in the parable re- SERM. lated in the Gospel of the day. A certain XVIII. steward, the parable states, having administered the concerns of his master ill, began to be alarmed at the situation he had brought himself into, and to bestir himself accordingly to provide the best he could against his approaching dismissal and degradation. If reduced to absolute want, he knew that his own exertions would fail him; labour he had been unaccustomed to, and he could not stoop to solicit charity. Dig, he could not, and to beg he was " ashamed."
SERM." ashamed." He, therefore, very unwarXVIII. 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,
case, the direct subject of commendation, SERM. but, (as we may collect from the following 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
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