PLEASANT HILL, Ga., Dec. 2, 1839.
BROTHER BEEBE: - In consequence of attending our associations, &c., this fall, I have not read all the numbers of the "Signs of the Times;" and I do not know whether you have yet given your views upon the talents, according to my request. I feel anxious to see them in the" Signs of the Times," and hope the Lord will direct your mind, for the satisfaction of his Zion.
The Upate Association met on Saturday last, and there were twenty-five churches represented, .and several votes taken; but through the transaction of all the business, there was not a no, and yes; but union of heart seemed to prevail, brotherly love to fill each heart, and the preaching was all of one kind, viz: Salvation by grace; and I think I can say, the Lord was in the place. Yours, as ever,
JOHN W. TURNER.
REPLY: By the above extract of a letter from brother Turner, our readers will perceive that he has repeated his request that we publish our views on the parable of the talents, Matt. xxv. 14-30. We have thus far delayed a compliance with the request of our brother, not so much for want of views to express, as from the conviction that our views will be considered somewhat novel, and perhaps speculative, by many of our readers whom we love and respect; yet, being a second time called on for them, such as we have are at the service of our brethren, subject to such animadversions as they may feel themselves warranted by the scriptures of truth, to make through our columns. It is the opinion of many of our readers, that, taking into consideration the comparatively destitute condition of our churches of the stated preaching of the word, the devotion of a greater share of our paper to the expounding, illustrating, and comparing of views on the scriptures, might better subserve the cause of truth and righteousness. In their opinion we fully concur, with the provision, that in all our dicussions, a spirit of tenderness towards each other, where difference of opinion may be found, and a singleness of heart for the declarative glory of God, and the general edification of the saints, shall govern in those who write, and in those who read. But to the parable.
There is, in our opinion, an evident connection between the twenty-fourth and this twenty-fifth chapter; and the several parables are employed by our Lord to enforce the solemn admonitions given to the disciples in the former chapter, concerning the judgments which were soon to be experienced by the Jews, when God should execute his indignation, in a temporal point of view, on Jerusalem. Hence we believe the whole discourse of our Lord in the two chapters, was founded on the text. "Tell us, when shall these things be?" (to wit, the destruction of Jerusalem) "And what shall be the sign of thy coming," (to execute these things) "and of the end of the world?" That is, the passing away of the cid heaven, and of the old earth, &c. In these two chapters, Christ informed his disciples that all these judgments would surely take place; that for the special benefit of his elect, they should be preceded by such signs as should be a sufficient warning to his disciples to retire to the mountains; that the precise time of the execution of these things, although they should take place before some among them should see death, was not then a matter of revelation, but was only known to God. The solemn admonitions expressed in this connection, and enforced by these well adapted parables, with sufficient clearness, taught the disciples that there was danger of their being involved in the temporal calamities which should at that day burst upon the Jews; and hence the necessity of their watching the accomplishment of those signs, which should signify to them that the time was at hand. There should be false christs, and false prophets, and heresies7 wars, earthquakes, &c. But when they should see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel, standing in the holy place, they should then have but barely time to flee to the mountains; for then the coming of the Son of Man, in the revelation of power and great glory, revealed in flaming fire, and taking vengeance on them that knew him not, should not be as when he came in incarnation to bear the sins of his people; and consequently was not then revealed in that power; but in this revelation, he would come without sin, to receive his kingdom, and destroy those in Israel who would not that he should reign over them. This coming should be with the velocity of lightning; and, therefore, let him that readeth understand. And after making these statements to his disciples, our Lord repeated the admonition, (xxiv. 42) "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord cometh2' That is, watch those signs which should be given to them. From this (42) verse, to the end of the subject, the relation of lord and servant takes the place of teacher and disciple; showing that in this visitation on Israel, he was to be revealed as the Lord and King; his humiliation would then be past, and he revealed in his reigning power and glory. From verse forty-five, to fifty-one inclusive, of chapter twenty-five, is found the key to the parable of the talents. "Who, then," (at the time of his coming) "is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them their meat in due season; blessed is that servant whom his lord when he cometh shall find him so doing. Verily, I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods." But we will revert to this again, presently.
Here the connection seems broken, by the division which our translators have made of the chapters; but every one must necessarily see that the same subject is continued in chapter twenty-five. The twenty fourth chapter closes with a declaration of what the Lord will do with his servants at his coming, as above spoken of', which have, and those which have not obeyed him; the former should be made rulers of all his goods, and the disobedient should be companions with hypocrites, in the temporal judgments which were to be executed on the Jews. The next chapter commences, "Then;" which certainly signifies, at that very time. But what shall then be developed? Then shall the kingdom of heaven, the nominal church of Christ, be likened unto ten virgins; agreeing with the circumstances connected with the first coming of Christ; for this parable is evidently based upon the event of, and circumstances attending his first appearing in the flesh and among the Jews. In that instance when it was announced by John the Baptist, that Christ, as the long waited for Bridegroom, was come, there went out to meet him as such, Jerusalem and Judea, and all the regions round about Jordan; but alas! their lamps were gone out. Their having Abraham to their father could no longer serve them; they were sent away to buy oil, or fruits meet for repentance; and have not yet returned to their place among the virgins; but from late accounts, they are still trading in oil; their prospect is as cheerless as is theirs who expect salvation by the deeds of the law, or from the modern anxious-bench system. Now we say, such had been the case of Israel in the days of John the Baptist, and at that day when Christ should be revealed in the destruction of Jerusalem, it should be in like manner with the kingdom of heaven; at that time the division of his nominal disciples should as completely answer to the figurative import of the parable, as the parable answered to the former events. As national Israel traveled down through all the generations appointed them, to meet the advent of Christ, and were looking for his coming, were expecting to meet him, and be recognized as his bride, and as very many of them were not able to stand when he appeared, (Mal. iii. 2) so the kingdom of Christ, after his ascension to glory, should look for his return. He had frequently taught them that he would in their day return to them again, that he was only going into a far country to receive a kingdom, and would shortly come to preside over them; also, that at his return, all the hand-writing of ordinances should be blotted out, Jerusalem that then was, and which was in bondage with her children, should be destroyed, and the elect among the Gentiles be gathered in. At that time, his professed disciples should experience such a division and final separation, as should correspond with the type, as set forth in the parable of the virgins.
The two sexes, male and female, implied in these solemn warnings, as, men in the field, women gringing at the mill, men servants and maid servants, servants and virgins, appear to have been designed to inforce these words, "What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch!"
In justification of his application of the parable of the virgins, our Lord introduced the parable of the talents. "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." To our mind, nothing can be more clear than that this parable is given as a further illustration of the parable and warnings before expressed in the connection of the subject. Then shall the kingdom be likened; but why shall it be thus compared? For the kingdom, &c., is as a man traveling into a far country.
Having, as briefly as the nature of the case would admit, shown to what particular period this cluster of parables related, we will endeavor to show the analogy this parable bears to the subject to which we believe it was applied by the Master.
By the kingdom of heaven, we understand the church of our Redeemer, in her connection with him, as her Head and King. Our brother will observe that this parable does not commence like the preceding one. Then shall; but the present tense is used; and therefore embraces all that period of time from the date of these instructions, until the time when this kingdom should be likened to ten virgins, or to what is implied in that of the sheep and the goats. Christ was himself the man traveling into a far country; he was at this very moment making his arrangements to go to his Father, and to their Father, by calling unto him his own servants, these disciples, which he was addressing, some of whom were not to see death until all these things were fulfilled. In John xv, his intention to perform this journey was announced; and the nature and object of it was explained to the disconsolate saints, and the promise of his return, and the final establishment of his kingdom, together with the promise of the Holy Ghost, to preside over them during so much of his absence as extended from the day of pentecost, until his return; also in John xvi. and xvii., this subject is more fully expounded. His Father had appointed unto him a kingdom, and he had also appointed unto them .a kingdom; he therefore goes into this far country, to receive a kingdom, to prepare a place, &c. And if I go away, he says, I will come again. It is needful for you that I go away. The necessity of his going away is fully set forth in these remarkable words: "Whom the heavens must receive." And again, that by his own blood he should enter, not into the holy place made with hands, as did the eons of Aaron, but into heaven itself; ceasing from his own works, or legal service under the law, observing its precepts and bearing its penalty, thereby expiating the guilt of his people, as God did rest from the works of creation, on the seventh day, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
"Who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods." Here we are to inquire, Who were his own servants, and what were the goods delivered to them? We cannot believe with the arminians, that these servants included all mankind; for some portion of the human family were at that time suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, and therefore were not at that time called together; nor can we believe with others, that the Jews, as such, were intended; for they were not recognized in any sense as the servants of Christ; nor were the Jewish ritual formerly delivered to them, any part of the goods of Christ, as the Mediator or the King. But, by his own servants, we understand those very disciples unto whom he was at that time administering these instructions. The Lord, the servants, the journey, the goods, or talents, with the use made of the latter, were all necessary to describe the then present state of the kingdom of heaven.
As we promised to revert to the close of the twenty-fourth chapter, as a key to the parable; a little attention will convince the reader that the service of those persons called "his own 5ervants," was to rule over his household, by giving them meat in due season; and consequently none were in this sense his own servants, but such as stood in this connection with his household. The goods which he delivered unto them, we think, had reference to the gifts bestowed for the edification, succor and support of those who are of the household of faith. When he escended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. - Eph. iv. 8, 11, 14. "And he gave some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," &c. Those who are distinguished as Christ's own servants, are frequently brought to view, as in the parable of the talents before us, as being stewards of their Lord's goods. A good man, out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man, evil things, &c.; for of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. - Luke vi. 45. And again, we are taught that the preparation of the heart and the answer of the tongue, are of the Lord - they are his goods.
The next expression of the parable claiming our attention, is the manner of distributing these gifts. This distribution, we are informed, was made with reference to the several abilities of the servants left in charge with their Lord's goods. And so it has ever been in the churches; the Lord has not given equal abilities, and therefore has not committed the same amount of his goods to all his servants; there are a diversity of gifts now, and there was then; but all by the same spirit; and those who have but inferior gifts, are as inexcusable for neglecting to improve them, as are those who have the five talents. But in the immediate sense of this parable, we understand our Lord had left in charge with his servants, those admonitions in regard to the great and terrible day which was then at hand; these signs, admonitions, parables, &c., were his goods, delivered to them according to their several capacity. Some of these servants were apostles, and consequently had a capacity for a greater degree of usefulness than those who could only make advantageous use of two talents; and some of them were ordinary ministers of the word, and hence were in advance of those, for general usefulness, which were not called to stand in that responsible relation to the household; others, again, were disciples of Christ, who, though they were not called publicly to preach, yet having received these admonitions, were in possession of at least one talent of their Lord's goods; and such were solemnly obligated to exhort one another, and so much the more as they should see the day approaching.
Now, then, with this distribution of gifts, for stirring up the minds of the saints, in regard to the tokens which should indicate the near approach of the promised return of their Lord, and the day of reckoning, which he had informed them of, he straightway took his journey. "God went up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet," leaving the impressive charge, "Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh2' Who then is that wise servant whom his Lord hath made ruler, or, to whom he bath committed talents, viz: to give meat, or instruction, to his household, seasonably, in relation to his return, and of those fearful judgments then to be realized? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Verily, he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But, and if that evil servant shall soy in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when lie 1ook~th not for him, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Can there be any difficulty in perceiving that the above quotation is in substance the very subject, more fully illustrated in the parable of the talents?
These views are sustained by the faithful record made in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the epistles, particularly in those written by James, Peter, John and Jude, to those Jewish disciples, in stirring up their minds to a remembrance of these things, and in giving us a historical account of these servants or disciples, how they conducted themselves during that space of time from the ascension of Christ until the epistles were all written.
The actual event of Christ's coming, in the destruction of Jerusalem, is not, of course, given in the New Testament; for the canon of scripture was completed before this event occurred; but the certainty that he did come, and that some of his disciples who heard his admonitions, as stated in Matt. xxiv, did live to witness that event, is founded on the infallible truth of Christ himself. The testimony that Christ's words, in regard to this visitation, were literally fulfilled, is first found in detail in the history written by Josephus, and corroborated by the fact that not one stone can be found on the top of another, of all that magnificent temple, or of the buildings therewith connected.
Alexandria, D. C.,
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 552 - 561