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Brother Beebe: Please give your views on Matthew 25:30: “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

J. Armstrong.

The parabolic instructions and admonitions of our Lord, recorded in the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of Matthew, were addressed especially and exclusively to his disciples. A careful examination of these two chapters will show that all which they contain transpired at a private interview which the disciples of Christ sought for and were favored with on the mount of Olives. “And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, [namely, to his disciples] Take heed that no man deceive you,” etc. Then follows the answers which he privately gave to their inquiries, extending to the twenty-sixth chapter and second verse, inclusive. All his admonitions contained in his reply to their inquiries were solemnly enforced by appropriate parables, which the disciples undoubtedly perfectly understood to apply to themselves, especially and primarily in regard to their exposure to temptations, deceptions, and their liability to be deceived by others, or involved in disobedience and tribulation by their own want of vigilance, and inattention to the solemn warnings he had given them in regard to the dreadful trial and sore temptations they should endure while waiting for and at the time of the fulfillment of what he told them in regard to the destruction of Jerusalem. The fact that Jerusalem should be destroyed, and not one stone left on the top of another of all the splendid buildings of the temple, and that all these things should be fulfilled before that generation should pass away, was no less certain, for, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” But certain and irrevocable as was the decree that all this destruction should take place in their day and generation, yet the day and the hour was not a matter of revelation; it was known unto the Father only. God had purposely concealed the precise time, the day and hour, of the accomplishment of this terrible judgment from all men, his saints not excepted, and with a special design to try the faith of his children. For if the good man of the house had known in what hour of the night the thief would come, he would have watched, and not suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore, said he, be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh; that is, he cometh to execute these judgments upon Jerusalem. And he adds, Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and to drink with the drunken, the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In what we have called attention to, as contained in the twenty-fourth chapter, we have presented the admonitions, to more fully and solemnly enforce which the three parables in this twenty-fifth chapter are given. “Then at that very time, when the faithfulness of the good and unfaithfulness of the evil servant shall be proved shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins,” etc. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one,” etc. Two of the servants in this parable sustained the character of good and faithful servants, and were applauded by their lord on the day of reckoning, but the third was found wicked and slothful, and was condemned and punished. Of his sentence and punishment brother Armstrong inquires. We have deemed the foregoing review of the whole subject necessary in opening the way to a clear understanding of this and to every other part of the whole.

We will now devote a few remarks to that part contained in the verse proposed, in which the sentence of the wicked servant is given. The parable of the talents represents the faithful servants who in the absence of their lord were diligent in the occupancy of their trust, approved, promoted and generously rewarded for their fidelity in the day of special trial, and the faithless and slothful servant cast out and consigned to darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth. Such being the bearing of the parable, we are to look for its application to the disciples of our Lord, who are recognized as his servants, and by his will as the servants of his church. In the divinely authorized interpretation and application of the parable, the man, or lord of the servants, represents the kingdom of heaven. The servants in the parable are those invested with gifts to rule the Lord’s household and give to those of his household their meat in due season. The good and faithful servants represent the faithful servants in the church, in the ministry, who shall be found of their Lord giving meat to those of the household of God in due season, and who in the faithful discharge of their duty “have purchased to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus (I Timothy 3:13).” The slothful servant represents the servant of the church, who is intrusted with a gift for feeding the flock, who buries that gift in the earth, and with the people and things of the earth becomes intoxicated and infatuated, smites the menservants and the maidservants of his Lord’s household when they disturb his sluggishness by application for their meat in due season, leaving the care of the flock of Christ for the vanities of the world, associating with the drunken fanatics of the world, to the annoyance, discomfort and distress of the saints; they shall in the day of reckoning receive of the temporal plagues and judgments which are held in store for the ungodly. These three invested according to their lord’s judgment with gifts or talents according to their several ability, were all equally his servants, his property, for a servant, in a scriptural sense, is one who is not his own, but is bought with a price, who therefore owes obedience and fidelity to his owner, or lord. Such were the servants in Abraham’s household, born in his house, or bought with his money, according to God’s law upon that subject (Leviticus 25:44-46). Thus the term “servant” is always used in reference to the servants of God and of the church, always signifying the Master’s right of property in them. The reason given by the apostle why “ye are not your own,” is that “ye are bought with a price,” consequently the property of him who has bought you, owing to him all your powers to serve. Upon no other principle could the slothful servant have been held accountable to his lord for neglecting to improve his talent, for if his lord had no right of property in him he could no more have demanded obedience from the servant than could the servant from his lord. It must be remembered, however, that all of God’s servants whom Christ has bought with a price are also children of God, and it is as children, not as servants, they are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. As sons, their inheritance of immortality is secure, being incorruptible, undefiled, and fading not away, but as servants, if they know their Master’s will and do it not, they shall be beaten with many stripes. The gifts or talents bestowed on the ministers or other servants of Christ and his church are committed to them as servants and stewards. So the apostle has settled the matter, for, says he, “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” And this treasure, talent or gift, we have in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power thereof may be of God, and not of us.

The peculiar labor obligatory upon the servants of the kingdom of Christ is set forth in connection with this cluster of parables to be, first, to take the oversight of the flock; they are made rulers over the Lord’s household, to give them meat in due season. But as rulers they are not lords over God’s heritage, nor are they to make rules for the household, nor smite or abuse either the menservants or maidservants, but simply to administer the rule which Christ himself has laid down for the government of both pastor and people. The obligation of the church or household to recognize these servants whom he has commissioned to take the oversight of them is found in Hebrews 13:7,8: “Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation: Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” The word of God which they have spoken to you is the rule, and the only rule which they have or are allowed to have over the household of God, and if they do not speak the word of God unto the church they are not invested with any legitimate power to rule, nor are the saints or churches at liberty to follow their faith unless the end of their conversation be Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever. If they show such credentials as are here indicated, on their peril let not the churches or the saints despise them. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves;” that is, to the rule, to the word of God which they have spoken unto you, for that is the rule, “For they watch for your souls, as they that must give account; that they may do it with joy, and not with grief.” As watchmen, they are still servants, and must give account to their Lord and Master. Now, in administering the law of Christ, the word of God, as the rule, the servants of Christ and of his kingdom are also required to “feed the church of God, which he bath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28).” In feeding the church of God they are to give to those who are of the household of faith, both menservants and maidservants, babes and fathers, sheep and lambs, their meat in due season. There are regular and stated times for meals in all well regulated households; if the family does not receive their meals regularly they may suffer from hunger and become disorderly. Paul indeed charged Timothy to “be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine (II Timothy 4:2).” As the children of the household may become hungry between meals, the servants in charge are to attend instantly to their necessities. “For,” the apostle adds, “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” In all such cases the servants of the Lord will be required to be seasonable with their reproofs, rebukes, exhortations, longsuffering and doctrine. They must not wait until the wolf has entered the fold and begun to devour the flock before they give warning, nor delay serving the wholesome food of the good word of the Lord until they see the children fainting, but they are required, as good stewards, to deal out such food from the word, whether reproof, rebuke, exhortation or encouragement, comfort and consolation, in due season; that is, just as the peculiar circumstances of the family require it. “Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.”

“But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken,” how striking the contrast! The servant whom Christ approves is watchful, faithful and diligent in the most darksome and trying times, but the other, like an eye-servant, assures himself that his lord delayeth his coming, chooseth for himself a course of self-gratification and ease, at the expense of the household over which he has been called to watch. In the trying hour, when the conflict becomes intense and violent between the church and the world, or anti-christ, in regard to the promise of his coming, in the execution of long predicted and impending judgments, the slothful servant, recreant to his trust, disloyal to his master and treacherous to his fellow-servants, falls to beating them and unites with their enemies, eats and drinks with the drunken. But the scene will soon change, the coming of the day of the Lord will not be delayed; he that is to come will come, and he will not tarry, and at his coming judgment shall prevail. The faithful servants of our Lord will be approved, but the wicked and slothful will not only be exposed and condemned and speechless, unable to utter a word in justification of his course, but will be compelled to share with the enemies of God and truth in the temporal judgments which shall consume the adversaries. His sentence is already written: “Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.” Depose him from the ministry, and let the privileges and gifts pertaining to his position be given to those who will improve them. “And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The execution of this order seems to be given to the church, who in the faithful execution of the discipline of the house of God shall disown, depose and withdraw support, countenance and fellowship from the wicked and slothful servant, and in doing this they shall cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Outer darkness is the opposite of inner light. The light, joy and peace of the people of God are realized in the church of God. “For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof (Revelation 21:23).” Expelled from the privileges of the church of Christ, and from the fellowship of the saints, the excluded, if a servant or child of God, is cast into outer darkness and utter wretchedness, “cut asunder,” or, as the margin reads, “cut off;” his portion no more with the saints in sweet communion and fellowship, but he takes a miserable portion with hypocrites, with those whom he has been eating and drinking, and a sad portion it must be to one who has ever known the inner joy and blessed light of the house of God. No wonder it is said there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; for while the poor banished servant from his Master’s house must weep bitterly when he remembers Zion, the hypocrites into whose society he is cast have no consoling words of comfort, but railing, reproaches and blasphemies. Like salt that has lost its savor, he finds himself good for nothing, but is cast out of the church to be trodden under foot of men.

We are aware that many have understood that this unprofitable servant is designed to represent one who has never been a true servant of God or of the church of Christ, but the whole connection shows that he was. The man in the parable called his own servants and delivered unto them his goods, and to every one according to his several ability. What part of the gifts of the church, goods of the spiritual household of God, or talents for feeding the church of God, has our Lord ever bestowed upon graceless hypocrites? Or what punishment would it be to cast out of the society and fellowship of an orderly church into the society and communion of hypocrites one of their own stamp, who in reality never knew the Lord and never saw the inner light and glory of the church of God? The character here presented is a servant, equally bought with a price and equally bound in duty to obey his master, with those who received the ten and the two talents. If the disciples were not themselves liable to temptations and slothfulness, and to the consequences of rebellion and disorder, why were these parables spoken privately to them? In Revelation 18:4, John says, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, that ye receive not of her plagues.” This voice was heard speaking to those who were unquestionably God’s people, yet they are admonished that if they partake of the sins of Babylon they shall also receive of her plagues. Of course the plagues spoken of are her temporal judgments, and so also in the case of the destruction of Jerusalem, to which all these parables primarily referred. Those who were admonished that when they should see the signs of Christ’s coming to destroy Jerusalem were to flee to the mountains, or participate in the temporal calamities which were to be poured out upon her. And so it is at this very day in which we are now living; the cup of anti-christ is nearly filled to its brim; she has slaughtered her hundreds of thousands, and her clergy is still as bloodthirsty as before, and still crying for carnage, and some of God’s servants who hold a commission to preach peace on earth and good will toward men are even now evidently eating and drinking with the drunken, and in their mad intoxication are smiting their fellow-servants, who cannot join them in their murderous howlings in consigning their fellow-men to the sword. The admonitions of these parables in thunder tones are addressed to them, admonishing them that the time of her judgment is very near at hand, but from their associations with the drunken, infatuated fanatics of the day they are still assuring themselves that the Lord delays his coming, and are crying peace and safety now, while sudden destruction is near at hand.

“On wings of vengeance flies our God,
To pay the long arrears of blood.”

The talent of the infatuated and slothful servant, though it be but one, is buried in the earth, or in earthly speculations, delusions and infatuations of the present times, and many have turned away their ears from the truth and are turned unto fables. But as surely as we have correctly understood the fearful import of these solemn warnings, the day is not distant when they shall call for rocks and mountains to hide them from the face of Him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. The measure which they are now meting to others shall soon be meted to them again in full measure, heaped up and running over. Let those of God’s children who can, put far from their thoughts and apprehensions the evil day, and fortify themselves with their delusions; nevertheless

“That awful day will surely come,
The appointed hour makes haste,
When they shall stand before their Judge,
And pass the solemn test.”

We do believe, however much of God’s redeemed people may have to suffer with the ungodly world for their complicity with anti-christ, they shall finally all be saved, yet so as by fire, for however far they may go in wickedness, and deeply suffer in consequence thereof, their spiritual life is hid with Christ in God; yet while here in the flesh, it is equally certain that they that sow to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption. “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Romans 8: 13,14).”

Our friend Armstrong will understand us to consider the unprofitable servant in the parable to mean an unprofitable servant of Christ, and his punishments to be a suspension of the comforts and privileges of the church, and a participation with hypocrites in the temporal judgments to which they are doomed; and further, that this solemn warning was given privately to the disciples of Christ in special reference to the judgments at that time impending over Jerusalem, and that a record of the same is preserved as an admonition to the servants of Christ in all subsequent time until the end of the world; and what Christ has said to those servants privately on the mount he says also to all his own servants throughout all time: “Watch!” “Watch and be sober.” “Take heed that no man deceive you.” “For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.”

A day is now most evidently upon us in which the faithful and unfaithful servants of the kingdom of Christ whom he has commissioned to minister to those of his household, and to give them their meat in due season, are being called to a strict reckoning, and the line is now being drawn between those who shun not to declare the whole counsel of God, even at the peril of their lives, and those who prefer to eat and drink with the drunken, and to smite the menservants and the maidservants who remain at their posts; and it will be made fully to appear that those who seek to save their lives by withholding the truth and conniving at error, shall lose their standing as ministers of Christ and be driven into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth; and they who will lay down their life for Jesus’ sake shall find it. Servants of the kingdom, beware; spread your banner fearlessly, in the name of your God. Bury not your talent in the earth. Stand boldly forth and contend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints, and count not your lives dear unto yourselves, that ye may finish your course with joy and the ministry which ye have received to testify the gospel of the grace of God.

Middletown, N.Y.
September 1, 1865.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 228 - 237