WE feel some hesitancy in offering an opinion upon the parables spoken by our Lord on various occasions during his incarnation. One prominent reason assigned by our Redeemer for using parables was to display the discriminating nature of his grace; that to his people it was given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, while to them which are without all these things are presented in parables. Parables, it should be remembered, are used for illustration, rather than for demonstrating the things to which they are applied. In order to receive instruction from them it is important we should observe the occasions on which they are particularly applied in the scriptures. We have been pained sometimes at witnessing their misconstruction and misapplication by well meaning brethren, as for instance when we have heard the three parables in the 25th chapter of Matt. applied to the final judgment after the resurrection of the dead, &c., without regard to the subject or circumstances on which they were spoken. For ourself, we do not claim superior light on the parables, nor do we feel prepared to settle all the questions arising in our own mind in regard to the parable on which our comment is desired; we may therefore become the occasion of as much pain to others in the remarks which we are about to make, as others have inflicted on us. But to the subject.
In the xxiii. chapter an awful catalogue of woes is denounced on a generation of vipers known in the cities of Judea as scribes, pharisees, lawyers, and hypocrites. In the commencement of chapter xxiv. Christ assured his disciples of the utter destruction of the buildings of the temple at Jerusalem, and shortly afterwards they came to him on the Mount of Olives, and asked when these fearful predictions should be accomplished, what should be the sing of his coming, and of the end of the world. The reply of our Lord to these questions occupies the whole remaining part of this chapter and the three parables in the xxv. chapter. It would be a wide departure from the subject of the destruction of the buildings of the temple, and the visitation of wrath upon the cities of Judea, on which our Lord was treating, for us to apply his parables so as to make the talents to represent the saving grace of God which he has bestowed on his children. That grace cannot be intended is evident,
First, Because he was not speaking on that subject.
Second, Because the grace of God cannot be increased in quantity or quality by the application, faithfulness or industry of its recipients and,
Third, Because the grace of God bestowed on souls cannot be withdrawn from them and applied to others.
By taking this parable in its connection with the whole subject of the three chapters, it will appear that it was designed to enforce the admonitions given to the disciples in the latter part of the xxiv. chapter. “Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” These words were addressed to those disciples unto whom our Lord had given a special charge concerning the impending judgments which hung over Jerusalem and the cities of Judea; the instructions and admonitions given were committed to them as stewards of their Lord, and to be dealt out or communicated to those of his spiritual household in due time. These instructions are called goods, meats, and talents, and these were given in fives, in twos and in one, according to the several ability of every disciple; for some of his disciples possessed abilities differing from others, some greater and some less, but according to their ability they were every one required to make these instructions (or goods, or talents) profitable to the household, or church of their Lord. The variety of ability to improve these instructions to the profit of all the household of Christ, referred to the different capacity to the communicate, to speak, admonish and stir up the minds of the disciples to a profitable use of the warning which he had given them. Then, as now, there were among the disciples those who were more eminently qualified to impart instruction than others, and according to their qualifications the goods were distributed, and each required to occupy until their Lord should come to take account of their respective stewardships. Jesus had informed them that he was going away into a far country to receive a kingdom, and to return again; and during this interval of time they were to be in charge of the affairs of his household, so far as related to their stewardship; that at his return his steward which were faithful in the discharge of their trust in the few or minor things which related to the preservation of his disciples from the temporal calamities which were ripening for the devoted cities of Judea, should be promoted to higher stations in the organization of his spiritual kingdom. Having thus given to them, his own servants, or disciples, his goods, he straightway took his journey. The admonition of the parable of the talents shows that those who were not in possession of abilities equal to those of others, were no more excusable for slothfulness than those of superior gifts would be.
The hiding of the one talent is clearly described in chapter xxiv., verses 48 and 49, “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,” &c. Instead of adhering to the instructions received, and the solemn admonitions by which they were enforced, he dug into the earth of carnal reason, and in the argument of “My Lord delayeth his coming,” or, since the fathers have fallen asleep all the things remain as they were from the beginning; and where is the promise, (or fulfillment of the promise,) of his coming? These earthly, sensual reasonings prevailing bury the instructions, the charge, the warning, and he begins to eat and drink with the drunken, the intoxicated and infatuated scribes, pharisees, and carnal Jews, drinking in their poisonous doctrines and thereby opposing and smiting those servants who were faithful in the discharge of their duty, and wounding them; in an unexpected moment, as the lightning darts from the east, and shineth even to the west, shall the Lord of that servant come, and shall appoint him his portion, in regard to the temporal calamities which awaited Jerusalem, with hypocrites in the famine, pestilence and suffering, which should be visited on Jerusalem and the cities of Judea, where the mightiest of the works of Christ had been performed. The talent shall be taken from him; no longer should he have opportunity, even if he desired it, to speak to the household of our Lord to remind them of the talent shall be transferred to more faithful hands, who will not cease to improve it.
An important lesson may be inferred from these parables for the admonition and instruction of the disciples of Christ in all ages of the church in her militant state. Those of us who possess but small abilities for feeding our Lord’s household, are not at liberty to say, our Lord is austere, and that in requiring us to speak of his goodness, testify of his truth, and bear testimony against the hidden things of dishonesty so as to edify his people and give them meat in due season, inasmuch as he has not given us as great abilities as we think we ought to have, he reapeth where he hath not sown, and gathereth where he hath not strewed. Is it not too frequently the case in our churches that brethren who feel impressed to speak in testimony of truth, or in exhortation or prayer, have reasoned upon the subject in this way: If the Lord requires of me to occupy any gift in the church, why has he not given me suitable abilities? He is a hard master if he would reap or gather from my improvement any benefit to his saints, for he has not sown, or strewed, or bestowed on me such abilities as I think are necessary. With this conclusion do they not reason themselves into the conclusion that it is better that the time which they have felt impressed to occupy, should be filled by brethren of superior gifts, by the minister or the deacons who have the five or the two talents? These things should be duly considered, that we may profit by the things set forth in the parables of our Lord.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
March 15, 847
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 758 – 762