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SE R M O N, Delivered at Princeton, before the Board of Trustees
the College of New-Jersey, May 6, 1795, occasioned by the death of the Rev. JOHN WITHERSPOON, Di D. L. L. D. President of said College, by JOHN RODGERS, D. D. Senior Minister of the United Fresbyterian Churches, in the city of New-York.
PUBLISHED BY PARTICULAR REQUEST OF THE BOARD.
MATTHEW, xxv. 21.
* His Lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faith. ful Servant ; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
THE doctrine of a future state of rewards and punish
ments, lies deep at the foundation of our holy religion : It is a doctrine perfectly consonant to reason, and supported by it; and is either asserted, or justly taken for granted, in every page of the facred oracles. This is the immortality, for the blessedness of which we became incapacitated, by our apostacy from God; and that, for the enjoyment of which, it is one great design of the religion of Jesus Christ to prepare us. The whole frame of this religion is wisely calculated for this end. Among the many evidences of these truths, we may appeal to the discourses of our Divine Master ; and particularly to this, of which our text is a part. VOL. I.
In the preceding chapter, he had given his disciples an instructive discourse on the certainty and solemnity of his second coming. He continues the subject in this chapter, and enforces the great duty of preparation for it, by the parable of the ten virgins, from the first verse to the thirteenth ; by the parable of the talents, from thence to the thirtieth verse ; and by a more particular account of the process of the judgment of the great day, from thence to the end of the chapter.
The more immediate design of the parable of the talents, of which our text is a part, is to enforce the duty, and illustrate the happiness of being prepared for giving up our account, when he shall come to judge the world in righteousness. You may read it at your leisure. The “man travelling into a far country,” in this parable means our Lord himself; who is the great head of his church, which is his family. The “ fervants," of whom we here read, mean all professing Christians; all who call themselves the servants of Christ, whatever their nation or denomination may be ; though some suppose, the Ministers of the Gofpel are more particularly intended.
By the talents, we are to understand the various gifts of Heaven, whether of a common or of a special nature. They include the bounties of Providence, such as health, strength, reason, genius, riches, honor, power, learning, reputation, the several advantages arising from our stations in life; and, together with these, those graces of the spirit that constitute the Christian temper. These are all so many talents put into our hands, to be improved for God, and the best interests of our fellow-creatures; and they are different to different persons. To one God gives more of these gifts or graces, and to another less; which is designed in the parable by the master's giving to one servant five talents, and to another two, and to another one,
By“ the Lord of those servants coming, after a long time, to reckon with them,” we are to understand that particular judgment which every one passes under at death, when their final states are determined : and also, and principally, our Lord's coming to judge the world in righteousness, at the last day, “ When every one shall receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” At both these folemn periods, the faithful servant of Christ, whatever his character and station in life may have been, shall be received with a “ Well done, thou good and faithful fervant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
There are two things in these words that particularly deserve our notice. The character of those who shall meet with the approbation of their Lord, in the great day of final awards ; they have been good and faithful fervants. And the reward such shall receive, on that folemn occasion, from the judge of quick and dead— They fall be each one received with a "Well done, thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”
Agreeably to this view of my text, I shall,
1. Briefly consider the character of the good and faithfül servant of Christ.
II. The nature of that reward here promised to all such in the great day of the Lord.
Let us enquire,
I. What is the character of the good and faithful fervant of Christ ?
I have already said, this may be applied either to the difciples of Christ in general, of whatever nation, denomi, nation, or character in life they may be ; or to the minifters of the Gospel in particular. I shall consider the phrase as including both. And it implies,
1. Love to Christ and his service.-A good servant always loves a good master. But it is necessary to observe here, that this love to Christ and his service is not found in the heart of depraved man, in his natural ftate. We are by nature alienated from God : destitute of every principle of love to him and his son Christ, in their true character. The apostolic description of depraved human nature is," having the understanding darkened, being ali. enated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their hearts."a Hence arises the necessity of being " renewed in the spirit of our mind; and of putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.!!! But one of the principal constituents of this new man is, love to God and his son Christ Jesus. Love to God for his own divine excellence, as well as for the beneficence of his hand, to us—and love to Christ, as being the “brightness of his father's glory, and the express image of his person.” The sincere servant of Christ loves both his person and his character. His soul is pleased with him, as he is exhibited in the oracles of truth. “ He is the chicf among ten thousand, and altogether lovely in his esteem.d He loves also his service : He esteems his laws to be altogether equal and just.—This is the native effect of his love to his per. son and his government: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.”e The love we bear to the person of Christ, in proportion to its prevalence, will not only induce us to obedience, but render thạt obedience easy and delightful -We delight to oblige those whom we love.
2. The good and faithful servant of Christ loves bis fel. low servants-He considers them as children of the same common father with himfelf: and we read, that “every one that loveth him who begat, loveth him also who is begotten of him."f He considers them as redeemed by the same precious blood of Christ'; and as the subjects of the fame fanctifying and comforting influences of the spirit of grace, which are the common privilege of every true Christian; for “ If any man have not the spirit of Christ, he is none of his."& He considers them as engaged in the same common cause with himself; the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, and the illustration of the honor of God in our world. These are the great ends the good and faithful servants of Christ have in view, however they may differ in some of the modes of pursuing them. Yet this difference does not forfeit their love, or destroy their charity for each other. If the person whose character I defcribe, cannot agree to agree with his brethren, in denomination, or mode of worship, he will agree to differ with them—He will agree they should think and act for themfelves, in matters of such infinite concern; a privilege he justly claims to himself. And in how many things foever the disciples of Christ may differ in matters of lefiir moment, they will all agree in loving their Mafter, his honor, his truth, and his fervice-- They will agree in adorning their profeflion in all godliness of conversation.
* Eph. iv. 18.
b ver. 23, 24.
c Heb. i. 3. d Song. v. 10, 16. fi John v. 3. f 1 John v. 1. ģ Rom. viii. 9.
Again—The good and faithful fervant confiders his fellow-disciples as in the same vale of tears, and in the same state of imperfection and trial with himself; and, therefore, that both they and he stand in need of mutual fympathy, charity, and forbearance, one towards another. In a word, he confiders them as heirs of the fame future glory with himself; aş“ travelling to the same city, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God;" and that, therefore, they ought not to differ by the way.
Of such importance is this brotherly love, in the estimation of our Lord, that he not only enjoins it upon his disciples as their duty, but as their distinguishing and characteristic duty; that duty which more strongly marks
their character as his disciples than almost any other; and that by which they are especially to distinguish themselves from the men of the world. You, therefore, hear him fay," A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this fhall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”a
3. Diligence in his Lord's work, is another ingredient in the character of the good and faithful servant. You will easily perceive the absurdity of a good, and at the same time a slothful fervant, in common life ; and it is still more so in the case before us. We all have our work in life assigned us, in the course of a wife Providence: and
a John xiii. 34, 35.