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S I Sermon
DELIVERED BY THE REV. R. ROBINSON, B A.
AT THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH, WOLVERHAMPTON, SUNDAY, FEB. 13, 1831.
Luke, xvi. 2.—" Give an account of thy stetcardship, for thou mayest be no longer
I Need not inform this congregation that the words which I have this day selected for my text form a very interesting portion of one of the beautiful and edifying parables of Jesus Christ, which appear in the volume of God's holy word, as heavenly luminaries to guide mankind through the mazes of ignorance and of doubt to the knowledge of Gospel truth, and the glorious and soul-reviving prospects of eternity. Seasonable and salutary as were these parables which our Lord delivered sometimes to the proud and haughty and high-minded Pharisee, and sometimes to the careless and sceptical Sadducee, there is not one which conveys to us more useful, yet awful, instruction than that of the unjust steward. In this parable it is the merciful and manifest design and intention of the great Redeemer of souls to excite and arouse a negligent and sleeping world to a sense of their alarming danger from the all-powerful motive and consideration of a judgment to come:—to point out to mankind the responsibility of their situation, and their dependance upon God as accountable creatures, and to persuade them to " flee from the wrath to come," —from the ruin of their immortal souls. We, my hearers, are all stewards. Man, in every situation of life, no matter how circumstanced—no matter where born—man is a responsible agent. We all have received, and are daily receiving, from the great author of our existence, those blessings which render that existence dear to us—those
riches of his goodness which call forth. the warm returns and the acceptable service of love to God—those talents of health and strength committed to our trust, and for which we must ere long render an account. To us has the glorious work and plan of redemption—the offering of the Son of God for the salvation of souls—appeared in all the splendour of divine love, the embracing or not embracing of which will seal our everlasting destiny at the approaching day of judgment. To us the word of God has shone—the invitations of mercy been sent—the sacraments and ordinances of grace mercifully vouchsafed, and time for making our peace with God, and for working out our eternal salvation granted, for all of which the hour is speedily approaching when we must render an account.
Now, although all and each of us are in a great measure identified with the character of the steward described in the text, yet of some much more than of others will be the account required of the responsibility attached to them, and the appropriation of the talents committed to their care: '' for of him to whom much is given, much will be required." When I think of the position in which the minister and ambassador of Christ is placed—he who stands mid-way between God and his people—he who enters the sanctuary and ministers by the altar of his God—he who is entrusted with the office of that priesthood of which I Christ is the great High Priest, and who exhorts and plead s and intercedes for immortal souls at the throne of divine grace:—when I reflect on the momentous importance of his god-like charge, and think of the possibility of his endangering the salvation of his own soul, I turn to the awful misgivings of the Apostle Paul, and think with alarm, "that after he has preached to others he himself may be a cast away."
Blessed, too, my hearers, as you allarc this day, with the glorious privilege of drawing near to Christ;—blessed with a revelation that speaks of heaven and of heavenly things, and that points to the glories of immortality;—assembled as you are this moment, within the walls of God's temple, and permitted, nay, solicited, to pour out your supplications to the great God of heaven and earth for divine aid and spiritual assistance, and, moreover, promised that aid and that assistance, if your petitions are directed to God through the all-prevailing atonement of Christ, is there one amongst you that can say—that dare to say, that for all these things he is not accountable to God ?" When God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life ;"—when the Son of God descended from his father's throne, and left the glory and splendour of heaven— when his love for sinful man was so great, and when nothing but his own blood could atone for man's transgression, that he veiled himself in human form, and lived in the world miserable and afflicted, and died upon the cross, "the just for the unjust," and that "we might be reconciled unto God," is there one amongst you that can say he is deserving of such unbounded love? Oh! my hearers, the account betwixt God and man is immeasurably great! At that day, when our probation being ended, and
we give an "account of our stewardship," every wilful disregard of the mercies of God—every violation of his sabbaths and ordinances—the means of grace despised—his promises and threatenings reviled shall then be brought to light. And if there be one in this assembly, who has treated "the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing, and trampled under foot the Son of God"—that Saviour will be no Saviour to him—that blood will sink him deeper in eternal condemnation.
There is a solemn and an affecting warning suggested to us all in the latter part of my text—" thou mayest be no longer steward." Whatever are the blessings and the privileges we now enjoy—and however we may improve or despise the mercies of God, the time is coming when they must all have an end. In whatever situation we may be placed, whether as Ministers of the Gospel of Christ, or as hearers of the word of God, the Almighty will shortly say to us all individually, as the rich man in the parable said to his steward, "give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward." When the exulting tyrant of the tomb, that has slain his thousands and tens of thousands, shall have dragged us in his iron grasp to the grave, the stewardship of every one of us will be over for ever. The grave cultivates no talent—improves no virtue—reforms no vice—yet how often, even in this world, do we see the talents committed to our fellowcreatures suddenly withdrawn from them. We have seen reason, the best of natural gifts from God to man, quitting in a moment its accustomed residence and consigning its victim to a life of idiotic simplicity and childish indifference, or leaving him a maniac dancing in his chains. We have seen that health, in which so many exult— which has promised to its possessors many years of happiness and of pleasure, suddenly removed, and the pale and sickly hue come there in its stead. But if these talents should still be continued to us, I repeat again, that our stewardship ends at death ; "for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest." Death comes upon the soul often with the rapidity of lightning! and oh! it is a fearful thing to go down to the grave unprepared—to be arrested by the hand of death in the midst of worldly care and worldly enjoyment—to be stricken down even at the moment of exulting in health and strength, and rejoicing in life in ts follies and its vices—to be smitten as with a thunderbolt, and to have every limb and every sinew paralized for ever—and thus unsuspecting and unprepared to appear at the bar of God to give in the dreadful final account! Once passed the barrier of the grave—once launched into the unseen and unknown world of spirits, no more the light of redemption shines upon the benighted soul—no more the voice of intercession is heard pleading for man. There no more time is allowed for redeeming a misspent life, and making peace with an offended God: —there no means of grace remain—no sacraments—no ordinances—no ministering voice to sooth the anguish of an agonized and troubled mind :—" As the tree falls so it must lie." Locked in the jaws of the grave sleeps many a one, whose soul, alarmed and distracted at the unprofitable use of talents committed to its care, would give a world such as ours for this one hour which you are passing (perhaps in carelessness) in the house of God, in order to settle some awful account betwixt God and itself. And here we are all assembled—here many of you have from year to year, through the mercy of God, been allowed to come up to the temple of the Lord, invited to partake of his holy and refreshing ordinances—
solicited, earnestly solicited, to engage in the salvation of your souls, and exhorted to come to Christ that ye may have life. And how have you profited by this long-suffering forbearance of God? How, think you, stands the settlement betwixt God and you? If there be in the whole compass of the mind's conception one question which more than another requires our serious attention, it is what will be the account which each of us, as stewards of the covenanted mercies of God, shall present to the great judge of quick and dead? There cannot rest a doubt upon the mind of man, that not only the whole human race collectively, but that each person individually, must give an account of the works done in the body—the use or the abuse of God's important trust. The text plainly suggests, that such is the wise determination in the counsels of heaven, and St. Paul himself expressly states, in his epistle to the Romans, that such will be the case. "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Yet when we take an accurate survey of the world, and perceive thousands of our fellow-creatures, whose every act is stamped with responsibility, living as if there were no God in the world, can we for a moment imagine, that these persons really believe in a judgment to come? When we see God's sabbaths polluted—his name derided —his ordinances reviled—the means of grace despised—the blood of the covenant treated with scorn, and everlasting salvation set at naught, can there be amongt these one serious, persuasive thought that they must render an account of their stewardship? It is most awfully true, that the all-important fact of a reckoning to come is, by nine-tenths of God's creatures, lightly regarded, and the provision necessary for such a scrutiny totally neglected. It is not only true, that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," but there seems to be a prevalent disposition, if not determination, that it shall remain so. Or else why is it that men are become so totally indifferent about heaven and heavenly things ;—why is it that we, as a nation, are even in this world judged and scourged, and what mean those prayers that are offered up from every temple in the land to the throne of grace, if not to prove that we are a backsliding nation, and that God's judgments are hanging over us? Bat above all, why is it that in the counsels of a mighty empire, one day of penitence and of prayer cannot be exclusively appropriated to the services of an offended God, and why is the bare mention of such a religious ordinance treated with contempt? I know not, and I care not, what construction may be put on these observations, convinced as I am in my own mind, that any nation like the Jewish nation of old, (and the greater the privileges it possesses, and the more valuable the talents committed to its care the greater is its responsibility) if it trust in the help of man and disregard the eternal God—that nation must sink in the scale of National importance, and its glory must depart from it. Yet there was a time when our ancestors highly valued and fondly cherished that religion which is almost become a by-word in the present generation—when they pressed forward to the prize of their high calling in Christ Jesus, and are now reaping the reward of a glorious inheritance.
Now since we are distinctly informed by the book of God's revelation, that we must render an account of the things done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil, I turn to that book, and find in seventeenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles that that judgment will be committed to Christ—" because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge
the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead." To the faithful followers of Christ is there one declaration in holy writ imparting such consolation to the mind as the one I have just quoted? To find at the last great day when "the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed," —that he in whom we have believed, —that he "who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities," shall appear as our Lord and Judge, must raise the desponding soul and give it humble confidence in the day of judgment. Yes, my hearers, there is a time coming when Christ shall appear in celestial splendour— when he shall be seated on that "throne which is for ever and ever," —when he shall assume that "sceptre of his kingdom which is an everlasting sceptre;"—when the myriad myriads of intellectual beings, that have passed the earth from the time of Adam to the coming resurrection morn, shall stand before him to receive their final sentence: when every soul in this assembly shall be raised to the glories of heaven, or consigned to the miseries of hell—when every soul before me shall rise from pinnacle to pinnacle of eminence, and of glory in the realms of eternal light, or sink into the unfathomable depths of darkness and despair. I put the question to each of you individually, and ask you seriously and affectionately, if the day of judgment should now break upon our astonished sight, and Christ should appear with his holy angels and all the glories of heaven, is the account betwixt God and you satisfactorily settled, and are yon ready to meet his coming? This is a question in which we are all equally interested, because the account we must give, must be given each one for himself. In the silent midnight hour, when the shades of darkness fall heavily
around us—when the mind is abstracted from earth and earthly things, often does the warning voice of conscience tell us of a reckoning to come—often does it whisper to us the joys of heaven, and terrify the soul by the honors of hell.
If there be one in this congregation who has never seriously examined the state of his own soul—who is careless and indifferentas to his eternal salvation, and reckless of a world to come, I tell that individual that the day of the Lord is hastening, and that it is nigh at hand. I tell him that thousands of his fellow beings have been unexpectedly swept from the stage of human life, and have been torn from this world without one hope beyond the grave. I tell him to "make haste and escape, because of the stormy wind and tempest." I exhort him to go in faith and penitence to the Lord Jesus Christ—the great Redeemer of souls: —to lay hold on the promises of the Gospel, and to allow neither " sleep to his eyes, nor slumber to his eyelids," until he has made his peace with God.
To all of us here present the solemn realities of the last great day are fast approaching—the stewardship of every one of us is drawing to a close. To the youngest amongst you the time is, comparatively speaking, short betwixt you and the grave; and even that life in which you pride yourself to-day may be snatched from you to-morrow, that health in which you delight— which sparkles on the countenance and brightens it with joy and gladness— blooms only to decay. Many a fair and promising sun that has arisen in majesty and splendour, even before the noontide hour, has been overcast with clouds and tempests. There is a possibility that many of you may reach
an advanced old age, but there is likewise an alarming certainty that many will sink prematurely into the grave. Oh! then, is it not a question of paramount importance to put to yourselves frequently and seriously in the retirement of the closet, "am I prepared for such a change;—am I in the strait and narrow way that leadeth unto life, or am I in the broad way that leadeth unto death?" To those who are in the last stage of their mortal existence —to those who are tottering on the very brink of the tomb—to those whose talents have long been continued, yet must shortly be withdrawn, the certainty of a judgment to come must strike to the heart, and pierce the very soul. A few more days—a few more weeks, and, it may be, a few more months, and their day of grace sets for ever. Are you then ready? What account can you give of the talents committed to you? Oh! examine yourselves sincerely as those that must give an account—commune with your own hearts; and if in the solemn investigation you find your conscience alarmed, and your soul misgive you, turn, I beseech you, to the stronghold,—fly to Christ the great intercessor for a ruined world,—the Mediator of the new covenant—the Saviour of souls.
And on the heart of every one here present the words of my text "give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward," should be deeply engraven and firmly fixed. May we never forget that we are stewards, and that an awful responsibility is attached to us all, and above all, may we always remember "the great and solemn account which we must one day give," and the awful importance of that account which will raise us to everlasting happiness, or sink us in eternal misery and woe.