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and " he resolved what to do.” “I, who have lavished away my master's substance in so many foolish and expensive gratifications,”(thus we may suppose him reflecting with himself) “ I, who, instead of relieving the misfortunes of honest industry, have encouraged the importunities of the idle, and the worthless ;I, who have pampered hypocrites, to my own shame and disgrace, and made parasites ungrateful ;-I, who have acted with such preposterous folly, as to entirely mistake the true use of those riches, which were entrusted to my management and distribution ; -- before my final dismission, will endeavour to do something that shall be acceptable to the generous disposition of my lord, and that might secure a provision for myself, among men of a very different class from those, whom I have so foolishly indulged.”
Şuch we may suppose were the sentiments that passed in his mind. Accordingly, he sent for two of his master's debtors, as they are called ;-men who were indebted, we find, not for the expen, : sive articles of luxury and pride, nor for money, the common instrument of both, but for the necessaries of life; (such as wheat and oil were in those countries,) and he said to the onę, who
owed a hundred measures of oil,—(not in a clandestine manner, it should be particularly remembered, or with a view to defraud, because it is evident that his lord knew what he did, and commended him for it), he said to this one, “ Take thy bill and write fifty;" and to the other, who owed a hundred measures of wheat, “ Take thy bill and write fourscore.” Now, it is extremely probable, that these men were yearly tenants, and that the debts which they had contracted, were for rent. This, in ancient times, it is well known, was paid, not in money, but in the produce of the land, which is still the custom in the East; and, that the Steward had the power of remitting a part of this rent, in seasons of scarcity, or from circumstances of peculiar distress, there can be no reasonable doubt. That this abatement was made, also, in consequence of a scanty crop, seems evident from a trivial, but significant circumstance: for, in the case of the one who owed oil, the deduction, or abatement, was one half; but in the other only one-fifth. Now, the Steward was not likely to subject himself to a fresh species of injustice; and therefore we may conclude, there was a greater failure of olives than of wheat, which is frequently the case : for, by the good
ness of God, wheat, which furnishes man' with bread, “the staff of life,” is of more certain growth and produce, than any fruit-trees whatever.
Farther, the word in the original, rendered in our version by “ bill,” has a very general and indefinite meaning, and might as well signify a lease, a bond, or any kind of written agreement whatever. Indeed, it is not easy to account for these men being indebted to the lord in the Parable for such commodities as wheat and oil, on any other supposition than that of their being his tenants. The Steward, therefore, acted thus generously towards them, in order to shew that he was now willing to make a very different use of his master's property from what he had done, both for his own sake, and his employer's honor. Humble dependents entangled in poverty and debts, brought on, perhaps, by some of the many causes, which render the land unproductive, and the olivetree unfruitful ;-men whom before he had oppressed, or treated with haughtiness and rigor, he now thought of relieving from their burdens, and recommending to the liberality of his lord. Accordingly, we find that he “ commended” this deluded Steward, who had hitherto acted so foolishly, because “ he had now done wisely;" --wisely in every respect-in gratifying the wishes, and promoting the views of a generous mind ;-in lightening the distresses of those, who were best entitled to relief, and in looking forward to a probable re-instatement in his office; or, at least, to a temporary provision for himself, founded on the claims of gratitude and reciprocal kindness.
After this necessary illustration, it will not be difficult to understand the general import of the Parable, and the leading object, which our blessed Lord had in view. The Steward had abused the trust committed to him from carelessness, extravagance, and folly; but roused to a sense of his guilt by the displeasure of his lord, and by reflections on his helpless situation, he made such a prudent use of the riches that were entrusted to him, as to conciliate his of. fended master, and to secure a refuge from the storm of adversity that threatened him. So likewise should we, who are but “ Stewards and Ministers of God," make such a wise and grateful use of the riches and talents, that have been graciously entrusted to our care, that when we, from the shortness of life, shall “ fail” in power and opportunity to do good, we may be received, ás faithful servants, into everlasting habitations.
But our holy Redeemer observes, that men
are more wise, more provident, and careful to procure the friendship of their fellow-creatures, by distributing the goods of this world, and acting in the capacity of Stewards to others, than professed Christians are to secure the favor of God, and the blessedness of immortality. This is what is meant by the words“For the children of this world are in" (or rather towards) " their generation," that is, towards men of their own character and description, “wiser than the children of light;" or than those whose minds are enlightened by the revealed word of God.
This appears to be the meaning of the Parable before us, which must have been extremely obvious to the Jews, and is attended with some difficulty to us, in consequence of the figurative style of the East, coming through the medium of a dead tongue, and alluding to a variety of foreign customs, habits, and domestic manners, with which we never can be fully acquainted. Taken in this point of view, the Parable of the Unjust Steward will suggest many useful reflections, and enforce many important truths.
In the first place, let it teach us the duty, and the great advantage, of being not only true, just, and faithful to whatever trust may be re