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And these false prophets, I have said, are many—they may be among those of our own household—among near and familiar friends.
But whoever they are, and wherever they are, our study should be to stand against them. We may notwhatever they say to the contrary-turn back with them into the forbidden land—we who have promised to renounce sin and serve God, may not associate with those who are the “servants of sin.” God's word is clear and strong on this point-Have no fellowship with evil doers—come out from among them, and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing—Put away from among you that wicked person !
Beware, then, my brethren-I say it again, beware of false prophets !-try the spirits, whether they be of God choose your friends, as much as you can, from such as fear the Lord. But have no fellowship with those whose words and works are evil— Come not into their secret—unto their assembly be not thou united—beware of the effect, the deadly effect of such companionshipbeware, lest being led away by the error of the wicked, ye fall from your stedfastness—but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ !
Once more—let us avoid a mistake which, on first reading this history, some have fallen into. It was a man of God who was disobedient unto the word of the Lord. Let us not take occasion from hence to dwell on the fail. ings of religious persons—but rather let us consider ourselves, test we also be tempted.
And further—let us not think that the disobedient prophet was a sinner above all others, because he
suffered such things : or that his punishment extended beyond death. Rather let us think of him as one of those whom God punishes severely in this world, that their souls may be saved in the next.
For, brethren, remember this present pain and loss, yea, even the loss of dear life itself, though it be a mark of God's chastisement, is also very frequently the mark of His love-For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth!
Do not wish to be without that scourging. Do not desire, either for yourselves or for your friends, to pass all your time untroubled. There is in afflictions, the bitterest that can happen to us, a sweet and healing virtue -if so be we view them as of God's sending-sent for this end, to correct and amend what He sees to be amiss in us.
To be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, for such creatures as we are, is no proof of acceptance with God-rather it is a proof to the contrary—a proof that we are not really His sons. The old prophet of Bethel, as far as we know, was without chastisement to the last. With his brother's blood upon him, he remained unmolested in his home, and died in a good old age, and was buried in the grave he had desired.
But for all that, we cannot count him happy—we cannot but think of him as of one whose sin has followed him after!
May it not so be with any of us, brethren! Better far that we should be purged, through whatever fire, in this life present, so that at length, “our sins done away, and our pardon sealed,” we are admitted into our Father's kingdom, through the merits and mediation of His Son our Lord—than that, untouched by any suffering here, unvisited by any calamity, no notice at all taken of our sins, no stroke of punishment inflicted on us, we stand in the latter day, as it were for the first time, in judgment: and there receive what we have treasured up, the due reward of our deeds—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, the appointed meed for every soul of man that doeth evil, and dieth with that evil still upon him!
NINTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
PARABLE OF THE UNJUST STEWARD.
ST. 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,
It is a very great and instructive parable which comes before us in the Gospel for this Sunday. It is one, too, that differs from most of our Lord's parables, in that it is less easy of interpretation. There are things in it which have given rise to much controversy, and which, even at this day, are disputed of Still the main teaching of the parable is clear. We may all readily master so much of it, as to carry away from its perusal a most needful and wholesome warning. We may all feel the justice of the rebuke which our Lord administers to us when He holds up, by way of contrast to our slackness, and want of diligence in religion, the keenness, and quickness, the promptitude and the vigour, the going straight to their end, which appears in the conduct of the worldly wise-The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light.
That is the lesson, the plain and excellent lesson of this parable. Let us notice the striking manner in which it is enforced-and afterwards let us consider what further light our own experience throws upon the same subject.
And first, notice the words of the parable—There was a certain rich man which had a steward, and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. How much is there to dwell upon in these opening words ! a rich man and his steward—and the same accused of wasting his master's goods! That, no doubt, is a lively image of God's position towards us, and our position towards God. He is the rich man—the Lord and Owner of all things. We every one of us are His stewards. None of us are so poor, but what we have some gift entrusted to us, which forms our stewardship; which we have to manage for God—to manage so that fle may receive of His own with usury.
The same figure is often found in the New Testament -both in the Gospels and in the Epistles. Thus our Lord, in St. Luke xii. 42, speaks of a faithful and wise steward, the prudent manager of his master's property, whom that Master, when He cometh, will promote to highest honour. St. Paul gives the title of stewards generally to Christ's ministers, to mark their responsibility (1 Cor. iv. 1), while, in his letter to Titus, he uses the word to designate the chief minister-A Bishop must be blameless as the steward of God (Titus i. 7). In 1 St. Peter iv. 10, we have the term extended to all Chris. tians—good stewards of the manifold grace of God.