Unprofitable Servants

   (No. 1541)




   "And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall
   be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Matthew 25:30.

   "So likewise you, when you shall have done all those things which are
   commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we ha ve done that
   which was our duty to do."

   Luke 17:10.

   "His lord said unto him, Well done, you good and faithful servant."

   Matthew 25:21.

   THERE is a narrow path between indifference and morbid sensibility.
   Some men seem to feel no holy anxiety--they place their Master's talent
   in the earth, leave it there and take their pleasure and their ease
   without a moment's compunction. Others profess to be so anxious to be
   right that they come to the conclusion that they can never be so and
   fall under a horror of God, viewing His service as a drudgery and
   Himself as a hard master--though probably they never say so. Between
   these two lines there is a path, narrow as a razor's edge, which only
   the Grace of God can enable us to trace. It is free from carelessness
   and from bondage and consists in a sense of responsibility bravely
   borne by the help of the Holy Spirit.

   The right way usually lies between two extremes--it is the narrow
   channel between the rock and the whirlpool. There is a sacred way which
   runs between self-congratulation and despondency which is a very
   difficult track to find and very hard to keep. There are great perils
   in the consciousness that you have done well and that you are serving
   God with all your might, for you may come to think that you are a
   deserving person, worthy to rank among the princes of Israel. The
   danger of being puffed up can hardly be overestimated--a dizzy head
   soon brings a fall. But perhaps equally to be dreaded, on the other
   side, is that sense of unworthiness which paralyzes all exertion making
   you feel that you are incapable of anything that is great or good.

   Under this impulse have men fled from the service of God into a life of
   solitude. They felt that they could not behave valiantly in the battle
   of life and, therefore, they fled from the field before the fight
   began--to become hermits or monks--as if it were possible to do the
   Lord's perfect will by doing nothing at all and to discharge the duties
   to which they were born by an unnatural mode of existence! Blessed is
   that man who finds the straight and narrow way between high thoughts of
   self and hard thoughts of God, between self-esteem and a timid
   shrinking from all effort. My desire is that the Spirit of God may
   guide our minds into the golden median where holy Graces blend and the
   contending vices, equally natural to our evil hearts, are all excluded.

   May the Spirit of God bless our three texts and the three subjects
   suggested by them, so that we may be put right and then, by infinite
   mercy, may be kept right until the great day of account. Let us read
   Matthew 25:30. "And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer
   darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

   I. In this, our first text, we have THE VERDICT OF JUSTICE upon the man
   who did not use his talent. The man is here styled an "unprofitable
   servant " because he was slothful, useless, worthless. He did not bring
   his master interest for his money nor render him any sincere service.
   He did not faithfully discharge the trust reposed in him as his fellow
   servants did. Notice, first, that this unprofitable person was a
   servant. He never denied that he was a servant. In fact, it was by his
   position as a servant that he became possessed of his one talent and to
   that possession he never objected.

   If He had been capable of receiving more, there is no reason why he
   should not have had two talents, or five, for the Scripture tells us
   that the master gave to every man according to his ability. He
   acknowledged the rule of his master even

   in the act of burying the talent and in appearing before him to give an
   account. This makes the subject the more heart-searching for you and
   for me, for we, too, profess to be servants--servants of the Lord our
   God. Judgment must begin at the house of God, that is, with those who
   are in the house of the Lord as children and servants. Let us,
   therefore, look well to our actions.

   If judgment first begins with us, "what shall be the end of them that
   obey not the Gospel of God?" "If the righteous are scarcely saved,
   where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" If this in our text is
   judgment upon servants, what will be the judgment upon enemies? This
   man acknowledged that he was a servant even to the last. And though he
   was impertinent and impudent enough to express a most wicked and
   slanderous opinion about his master, yet he neither denied his own
   position as a servant, nor the fact that his talent was his lord's, for
   he said, "Lo, there you have what is yours."

   In thus speaking he went rather further than some professing Christians
   do, for they live as if Christianity were all eating the fat and
   drinking the sweet and not serving at all--as if religion had many
   privileges but no precepts and, as if, when men were saved, they became
   licensed loiterers to whom it is a matter of honor to magnify Free
   Grace by standing idle all day in the market place. Alas, I know some
   who never do a hand's turn for Christ and yet call Him Master and Lord!
   Many of us acknowledge that we are servants--that everything we have
   belongs to our Master and that we are bound to live for Him. So far, so
   good. But we may get as far as that and yet, in the end, we may be
   found unprofitable servants and so be cast into outer darkness where
   shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Let us take heed of this.

   This man, though a servant, thought ill of his master and disliked his
   service. He said, "I knew that you are an hard man, reaping where you
   have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed." Certain
   professors who have stolen into the Church are of the same mind--they
   dare not say that they regret their having joined the Church and yet
   they act that all may conclude that if it could be undone they would
   not do the same again. They do not find pleasure in the service of God,
   but continue to pursue its routine as a matter of habit or a hard

   They get into the spirit of the elder brother and they say, "Lo, these
   many years have I served you; neither transgressed I at any time your
   commandments and yet you never gave me a kid that I might make merry
   with my friends." They sit down on the shady side of godliness and
   never bask in the sun which shines full upon it. They forget that the
   father said to the elder son, "Son, you are always with me and all that
   I have is yours." He might have had as many feasts, as many lambs and
   kids as he desired--he would have been denied no good thing. The
   presence of his father ought to have been his joy and his delight--and
   better than all merry-makings with his friends. And it would have been
   so if he had been in a proper state of heart.

   The man who hid his talent had carried the evil and petulant spirit
   much further than that elder brother, but the germs are the same and we
   must be careful that we crush them at the beginning. This unprofitable
   servant looked upon his master as one that reaped where he never sowed
   and used the rake to gather together what he had never scattered--he
   meant that his master was a hard, exacting and unjust person whom it
   was difficult to please. He judged his lord to be one who expected more
   of his servants than he had any right to look for and he had such a
   hatred of his unjust conduct that he resolved to tell him to his face
   what he thought of him.

   This spirit may readily creep over the minds of professors. I fear it
   is brooding over many even now, for they are not content with Christ.
   If they want pleasure, they go outside the Church to get it--their joys
   are not within the circle of which Christ is the center. Their religion
   is their labor, not their delight. Their God is their dread, not their
   joy. They do not delight themselves in the Lord and, therefore, He does
   not give them the desire of their hearts and so they grow more and more
   discontented. They could not call Him, "God, my exceeding joy," and so
   He is a terror to them. Devotion is a dreary engagement to them--they
   wish that they could escape from it with an easy conscience. They do
   not say as much to their secret selves, but you can read between the
   lines these words--"What a weariness it is."

   It is no wonder when things come to this pass that a professor becomes
   an unprofitable servant, for who can do a work, well, which he hates to
   do? Forced service is not desirable. God needs not slaves to Grace His
   Throne. A servant who is not pleased with his situation had better
   leave--if he is not content with his master, he had better find
   another, for their mutual relationship will be unpleasant and
   unprofitable. When it comes to this, that you and I are discontented
   with our God and dissatisfied with His work, we had better look for
   another lord, if any such will have us, for we shall certainly be
   unprofitable to the Lord Jesus from our lack of love to Him.

   Note next, that, albeit this man was doing nothing for his master, he
   did not think himself an unprofitable servant. He exhibited no
   self-depreciation, no humbling, no contrition. He was as bold as brass
   and said unblushingly, "Lo, there you have what is yours." He came
   before his master with no apologies or excuses. He did not join with
   those who have done all and then say, "We are unprofitable servants,"
   for he felt that he had dealt with his lord as the justice of the case
   deserved. Indeed, instead of acknowledging any fault, he turned to
   accusing his lord!

   It is even so with false professors. They have no idea that they are
   hypocrites. The thought does not cross their minds. They have no notion
   that they are unfaithful. Hint at it and see how they will defend
   themselves! If they are not living as they ought to do, they claim to
   be pitied rather than blamed--the blame lies with Providence! It is the
   fault of circumstances! It is the fault of anybody but themselves. They
   have done nothing and yet they feel more at ease than those who have
   done everything. They have taken the trouble to dig in the earth and
   hide their talent and they as good as ask-- "What more do you want? Is
   God so exacting as to expect me to bring more to Him than He gave me? I
   am as grateful and prayerful as God makes me--what more will He

   There is, you see, no bowing in the dust with a sense of imperfection,
   but an arrogant casting upon God of all blame and this, too, under the
   pretense of honoring His Sovereign Grace! Ah me, that men should be
   able to torture the Truth of God into such presumptuous falsehood! Mark
   well that the verdict of justice, at last, may turn out to be the very
   opposite of that which we pronounce upon ourselves. He who proudly
   thinks himself profitable shall be found unprofitable and he who
   modestly judges himself to be unprofitable may, in the end, come to
   hear his Master say, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

   So little are we able, through the defects of our conscience, to form a
   right estimate of ourselves, that we frequently reckon ourselves to be
   rich and increased in goods and having need of nothing when, indeed, we
   are naked and poor and miserable. Such was the case with this
   unfaithful servant--he wrapped himself up in the conceit that he was
   even more just than his lord and had an argument to plead which he
   thought would exonerate him from all blame. It should give rise to much
   searching of heart when we notice what this unprofitable servant did,
   or, rather, what he did not do. He carefully deposited his capital
   where no one was able to find it and steal it--and that was the end of
   his service.

   We ought to observe that he did not spend that talent upon himself, or
   use it in business for his own benefit. He was not a thief, nor in any
   way did he misappropriate moneys placed under his charge. In this he
   excels many who profess to be the servants of God and yet live only to
   themselves. What little talent they have is used in their own business
   and never upon their Lord's concerns. They have the power of getting
   money, but their money is not made for Christ--such an idea never
   occurs to them. Their efforts are all for themselves, or, to use other
   words to express the same thing--for their families.

   Yonder is a man who has the gift of eloquent speech and he uses it, not
   for Christ, but for himself, that he may win popularity; that he might
   arrive at a respectable position. The one end and objective of his most
   earnest speech is to bring grist to his own mill and gain to his own
   estate. Everywhere this is to be seen among professors, that they are
   living to themselves--they are not adulterers or drunks, far from
   it--neither are they thieves or spendthrifts. They are decent, orderly,
   quiet sort of people but, still, they begin and end with self. What is
   this but to be an unprofitable servant? What is a servant to me if he
   works hard for himself and does nothing for me?

   A professing Christian may toil till he becomes a rich man, an alderman
   in the city, a Lord Mayor, a member of Parliament, a millionaire--but
   what does that prove? Why, that he could work and did work well for
   himself and if all this while he has done little or nothing for Christ,
   he is all the more condemned by his own success! If he had worked for
   his Lord as he worked for himself, what might he not have accomplished?
   The unprofitable servant in the parable was not so bad as that and yet
   he was cast into outer darkness. What, then, will become of some of
   you? Furthermore, the wicked servant did not go and misspend his
   talent. He did not waste it in self-indulgence and wickedness as the
   prodigal son did, who spent his substance in riotous living.

   Oh no, he was a much better man than that! He would not waste a
   halfpenny! He was all for saving and running no risks. The talent was
   as he received it, only wrapped up in a napkin and hidden in the
   earth--put into a bank, in fact-- but a bank which gave no interest! He
   never touched a penny of it for a feast or a revel and, therefore,
   could not be accused of being a spendthrift with his lord's money. In
   fact, he was superior to those who yield their strength to sin and use
   their abilities to gratify the guilty passions of themselves and
   others. I grieve to add that some who call themselves

   servants of Christ lay out their strength to undermine the Gospel they
   profess to teach! They speak against the holy name by which they are
   named and thus they use their talent against their Master.

   This man did not do that. He was bad enough in heart for anything, but
   he had never openly become so base a traitor. He never employed
   learning in order to raise needless doubts, or to resist the plain
   doctrines of the Word of God. This has been reserved for Divines of
   these latter days--days which produce monsters unknown to less educated
   times. This man's talent had not been wasted under his hand--it was as
   he had received it and he, therefore, reckoned he had been faithful.
   Ah, but this is not what Christ calls faithfulness--just to stay where
   we are! If you think you have gifts and only keep what you have,
   without obtaining more, it will be hiding your talent in the earth and
   keeping it a barren thing. It is not enough to retain--you must
   advance. The capital may be there, but where is the interest? To be
   living without aim or purpose beyond that of keeping up your position
   is to be a wicked and slothful servant, condemned already.

   While meditating upon this subject, may we, each one, say to himself,
   "Lord, is it I?" His lord called this servant "wicked." Is it, then, a
   wicked thing to be unprofitable? Surely wickedness must mean some
   positive action! No. Not to do right is to be wicked! Not to live for
   Christ is to be wicked! Not to be of use in the world is to be wicked!
   Not to bring glory to the name of the Lord is to be wicked! To be
   slothful is to be wicked! It is clear that there are many wicked people
   in the world who would not like to be called so. "Wicked and
   slothful"--these are the two words which are riveted together by the
   Lord Jesus, whose speech is always wise.

   A schoolboy was asked by his master "What are you doing, John?" He was
   called up and thought to be quite clear by saying, "I was doing
   nothing, Sir." But his master answered, "That is the very thing for
   which I called you out, for you ought to have been doing the lesson
   which I set before you." It will be no excuse, at the last, for you to
   cry, "I was doing nothing, Sir." Were not those on the left hand made
   to depart with a curse upon them because they did nothing? Is it not
   written--"Curse you Meroz, said the Angel of the Lord, curse you
   bitterly the inhabitants thereof because they came not to the help of
   the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty." He who does
   nothing is a "wicked and slothful servant."

   This man was condemned to outer darkness. Notice this! He was condemned
   to be as he was, for Hell, in one light, may be described as the great
   Captain's saying, "As you were." "He that is unjust, let him be unjust,
   still. And he that is filthy, let him be filthy, still." In another
   world there is permanence of character--enduring holiness is Heaven but
   continual evil is Hell. This man was outside of the family of his lord.
   He thought his lord a hard master and so proved that he had no love to
   him and that he was not really one of his household. He was outside in
   heart and so his lord said to him, "Remain outside." Besides that, he
   was in the dark--he had wrong notions of his master, for his lord was
   not an austere and hard man. He did not gather where he had not
   scattered, nor reap where he had not sown. Therefore his lord said,
   "You are willfully in the dark: abide there in the darkness which is

   This man was envious. He could not endure his master's prosperity. He
   gnashed his teeth at the thought of it. He was sentenced to continue in
   that mind and so to gnash his teeth forever. This is a dreadful idea of
   eternal punishment, this permanence of character in an immortal
   spirit--"He that is unjust, let him be unjust, still." While the
   character of the ungodly will be permanent, it will also be more and
   more developed along its own lines--the bad points will become worse
   and, with nothing to restrain them--evil will become still viler. In
   the next world, where there are no hindrances from the existence of a
   Church and a Gospel, the man will ripen to a more hideous maturity of
   enmity against God and a more horrible degree of consequent misery.

   Sorrow is bound up with sin--abiding in sinfulness, a man must
   necessarily abide in wretchedness--for the wicked is like the troubled
   sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. What must it
   be to be forever outside the family of God? Never to be God's child?
   Forever in the dark? Never to see the light of holy knowledge and
   purity and hope? Forever to gnash one's teeth with painful contempt and
   abhorrence of God, whom to hate is Hell? O for Grace to be made to love
   Him, whom to love is Heaven! The unprofitable servant had a dreadful
   wage to take when his master reckoned with him, but who can say that he
   had not well earned it? He had the due reward of his deeds. O our God,
   grant that such may not be the lot of any one of us!

   II. I must now call your attention to the second text--"So likewise
   you, when you shall have done all those things which are commanded you,
   say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty
   to do" (Luke

   17:10). This is THE VERDICT OF SELF-ABASEMENT given forth from the
   heart of servants who had laboriously discharged the full work of the
   day. This is a part of a parable intended to rebuke all notions of
   self-importance and human merit.

   When a servant has been plowing or feeding cattle, his master does not
   say to him, "Sit down and I will wait upon you, for I am deeply in your
   debt." No, his master bids him prepare the evening meal and wait upon
   him. His services are due and, therefore, his master does not praise
   him as if he were a wonder and a hero. He is only doing his duty if he
   perseveres from morning light to set of sun and he by no means expects
   to have his work held up to admiration or rewarded with extra pay and
   humble thanks. Neither are we to boast of our services, but think
   little of them, confessing that we are unprofitable servants.

   Whatever of pain may have been caused by the first part of the
   discourse, I trust it will only prepare us the more deeply to enter
   into the spirit of our second text. Both these texts are engraved on my
   heart as with an iron pen by a merciless wound inflicted when I was too
   feeble to bear it. When I was exceedingly ill in the South of France
   and deeply depressed in spirit--so deeply depressed and so sick and ill
   that I scarcely knew how to live--one of those malicious persons who
   commonly haunt all public men and especially ministers, sent me
   anonymously a letter, openly directed to "That unprofitable servant, C.
   H. Spurgeon."

   This letter contained tracts directed to the enemies of the Lord Jesus,
   with passages marked and underlined--with notes applying them to
   myself. How many Rabshekahs have, in their day, written to me!
   Ordinarily I read them with the patience which comes of use and they go
   to light the fire. I do not look for exemption from this annoyance, nor
   do I usually feel it hard to bear, but in the hour when my spirits were
   depressed and I was in terrible pain, this reviling letter cut me to
   the quick. I turned upon my bed and asked--Am I, then, an unprofitable
   servant? I grieved exceedingly and could not lift up my head or find

   I reviewed my life and saw its infirmities and imperfections, but knew
   not how to put my case till this second text came to my relief and
   answered as the verdict of my bruised heart. I said to myself, "I hope
   I am not an unprofitable servant in the sense in which this person
   intends to call me so, but I am assuredly so in the other sense." I
   cast myself upon my Lord and Master once again with a deeper sense of
   the meaning of the text than I had felt before--His atoning Sacrifice
   revived me and in humble faith I found rest. By the way, I wonder that
   any human being should find pleasure in trying to inflict pain upon
   those who are sick and depressed, yet are there persons who delight to
   do so. Surely, if there are no evil spirits down below, there are some
   up above and the servants of the Lord Jesus receive painful proofs of
   their activity!

   Let me, then, if you have felt any pain from the first text, lead you
   to the point at which I personally arrived when, at last, I could thank
   God for that letter and feel that it was salutary medicine to my
   spirit. This which is put into our mouths as a confession--that we are
   unprofitable servants--is meant to rebuke us when we think we are
   somebody and have done something worthy of praise. Our text is meant to
   rebuke us if we think that we have done enough, that we have borne the
   burden and heat of the day a long time and have been kept at our post
   beyond our own watch. If we conclude that we have achieved a fine day's
   work of harvesting and ought to be invited home to rest, the text
   upbraids us. If we feel an inordinate covetousness after comfort and
   wish the Lord would give us some present and striking reward for what
   we have done, the text shames us. This is a proud, unchildlike,
   unservantlike spirit and it must be put down with a firm hand.

   In the first place, in what way can we have profited God? Eliphaz has
   well said, "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise may be
   profitable unto himself? Is it any pleasure to the Almighty that you
   are righteous? Or is it gain to Him that you make your ways perfect?"
   If we have given to God of our substance, is He our debtor? In what way
   have we enriched Him to whom all the silver and gold belongs? If we
   have laid our lives out with the devotion of martyrs and missionaries
   for His sake, what is that to Him, whose Glory fills the heavens and
   the earth? How can we dream of putting the Eternal in debt to us? The
   right spirit is to say with David, "O my Soul, you have said unto the
   Lord, You are my Lord: my goodness extends not to You; but to the
   saints that are in the earth and to the excellent, in whom is all my
   delight." How can a man place his Maker under an obligation to him? Let
   us not dote so blasphemously!

   Dear Brothers and Sisters, we ought to remember that whatever service
   we have been able to render has been a matter of debt. I hope our
   morality is not fallen so low that we take credit to ourselves for
   paying our debts! I do not find

   men in business priding themselves and saying, "I paid a thousand
   pounds this morning to such an one." "Well, did you give it to him?"
   "Oh no, it was all owing to him." Is that any great thing? Have we come
   to such a low state of spiritual morals that we think we have done a
   great deal when we give to God His due? "It is He that made us and not
   we ourselves." Jesus Christ has bought us, "we are not our own," for we
   are "bought with a price."

   We have also entered into covenant with Him and given ourselves over to
   Him voluntarily. Were we not baptized into His name and into His death?
   Whatever we may do is only what He has a right to claim at our hands
   from our creation, redemption and professed surrender to Him. When we
   have persevered in the hard work of plowing till no field is left
   untilled; when we have done the pleasant work of feeding the sheep and
   when we have finished by spreading the table of communion for our
   Lord--when we have done all--we have done no more than was our duty to
   have done! Why do we boast, then, or cry for a discharge, or look for

   Over and above this there is the sad reflection that, alas, in all we
   have done we have been unprofitable through being imperfect. In the
   plowing there have been baulks; in the feeding of the cattle there have
   been harshness and forgetful-ness; in the spreading of the table the
   viands have been unworthy of such a Lord as we serve. How must our
   service appear to Him of whom we read, "Behold, He put no trust in His
   servants and His angels He charged with folly." Can any of you look
   back upon your service to your Lord with satisfaction? If you can, I
   cannot say I envy you, for I do not sympathize with you in the least
   degree, but tremble for your safety!

   As for myself, I am compelled to say with solemn truthfulness that I am
   not content with anything I have ever done. I have half wished to live
   my life over again, but now I regret that my proud heart allowed me to
   so wish, since the probabilities are that I should do worse the second
   time. Whatever Grace has done for me I acknowledge with deep gratitude,
   but so far as I have done anything myself, I beg pardon for it. I pray
   God to forgive my prayers, for they have been full of fault. I beseech
   Him to forgive even this confession, for it is not as humble as it
   ought to be. I beseech Him to wash my tears and purge my devotions and
   to baptize me into a true burial with my Savior that I may be quite
   forgotten in myself and only remembered in Him. Ah, Lord, You know how
   far we fall short of the humility we ought to feel. Pardon us in this
   thing. We are, all of us, unprofitable servants, and if You should
   judge us by the Law we must be cast away.

   Once more, we cannot congratulate ourselves at all, even if we have had
   success in our Lord's work, since for all that we have done we are
   indebted to our Lord's abundant Grace. If we had done all our duty, we
   should not have done anything if His Grace had not enabled us to do it!
   If our zeal knows no respite, it is He that keeps the fire burning! If
   our tears of repentance flow, it is He that strikes the rock and
   fetches the waters from it! If there is any virtue, if there is any
   praise, if there is any faith, if there is any ardor, if there is any
   likeness to Christ, we are His workmanship, created by Him and,
   therefore, to ourselves we dare not take a particle of the praise!

   Of Your own have we given unto You, great God! So far as anything has
   been worth Your accepting, it was Your own beforehand. Therefore the
   best are still unprofitable servants! If we have special cause of
   regret because of some evident error, we shall be wise to go in a lowly
   spirit and confess the fault and then go on doing the work of each day
   in a plodding, hopeful spirit. Whenever you get distressed because you
   cannot do what you would. Whenever you see the faultiness of your own
   service and condemn yourself for it, the best thing is to go and do
   something more in the strength of the Lord. If you have not served
   Jesus well up to now, go and do better!

   If you make a blunder, do not tell everybody and say that you will
   never try again, but do two good things to make up for the failure.
   Say, "My blessed Lord and Master shall not be more a loser by me than I
   can help. I will not so much fret over the past as amend the present
   and wake up for the future." Brothers and Sisters, try to be more
   profitable and ask for more Grace. The servant's business is not to
   hide himself in a corner of the field and cry, but to go on plowing.
   You are not to bleat with the sheep, but feed them and so prove your
   love to Jesus. You are not to stand at the head of the table and say,
   "I have not spread the table for my Master as well as I could have
   desired." No? Go and spread it better!

   Have courage, you are not serving a hard Master and, though you very
   properly call yourself an unprofitable servant, be of good cheer, for a
   gentler verdict shall be pronounced upon you before long. You are not
   your own judge-- either for good or bad--another Judge is at the door
   and when He comes He will think better of you than your self-abasement
   permits you to think of yourself. He will judge you by the rule of
   Grace and not by Law and He will end all that dread which comes of a
   legal spirit and hovers over you with vampire wings.

   III. Thus we have arrived at the third text--"His lord said unto him,
   Well done, you good and faithful servant" (Mat. 25:21). I shall not try
   to preach upon that cheering word, but shall only say a word or two
   upon it. It is much too grand a text to be treated upon at the end of a
   sermon. We find the Lord saying to those who had used their talents
   industriously, "Well done, good and faithful servant." This is THE
   VERDICT OF GRACE. Blessed is the man who shall acknowledge himself to
   be an unfaithful servant--and blessed is the man to whom His Lord shall
   say, "You good and faithful servant."

   Observe here that the, "Well done," of the Master is given to
   faithfulness. It is not, "Well done, you good and brilliant servant"
   for, perhaps, the man never shone at all in the eyes of those who
   appreciate glare and glitter. It is not, "Well done, you great and
   distinguished servant" for, it is possible that he was never known
   beyond his native village. He conscientiously did his best with his
   "few things" and never wasted an opportunity for faithfully doing good
   and, thus, he proved himself. The same praise was given to the man with
   two talents as to his fellow servant with five. Their stations were
   very different, but their reward was the same. "Well done, good and
   faithful servant," was won and enjoyed by each of them.

   Is it not very sweet to think that though I may have only one talent, I
   shall not, thereby, be debarred from my Lord's praise? It is my
   faithfulness on which He will fix His eyes and not upon the number of
   my talents! I may have made many mistakes and have confessed my faults
   with great grief, but He will commend me as He did the woman of whom He
   said, "She has done what she could." It is better to be faithful in the
   infant school than to be unfaithful in a noble class of young men. It
   is better to be faithful in a hamlet over two or three score of people
   than to be unfaithful in a great city parish, with thousands perishing
   in consequence! It is better to be faithful in a cottage meeting,
   speaking of Christ Crucified to 50 villagers than to be unfaithful in a
   great building where thousands congregate.

   I pray you are faithful in laying out all that you are and have for
   God. As long as you live, whatever faults you have, be not half-hearted
   or double-minded, but be faithful in intent and desire. This is the
   point of the Judge's praise--the servant's faithfulness. This verdict
   was given of Sovereign Grace. The reward was not according to the work,
   for the servant had been "faithful in a few things," but he was made
   "ruler over many things." The verdict itself is not after the rule of
   works, but according to the law of Grace! Our good works are evidences
   of Grace within us! Our faithfulness, therefore, as servants--will be
   the evidence of our having a loving spirit towards our
   Master--evidence, therefore, that our heart is changed and that we have
   been made to love Him for whom once we had no affection.

   Our works are the proof of our love and, therefore, they stand as
   evidence of the Grace of God. God first gives us Grace and then rewards
   us for it! He works in us and then counts the fruit as our work. We
   work out our own salvation, because "He works in us to will and to do
   of His own good pleasure." If He shall ever say, "Well done" to you and
   to me it will be because of His own rich Grace and not because of our
   merits! And, indeed, this is where we must all come and where we must
   all stay, for the idea that we have any personal merit will soon make
   us find fault with our Master and His service as being austere and

   I have sometimes admired how men who have denied the doctrine of
   Salvation by Grace, as a matter of theology, have, nevertheless,
   admitted it in their devotions. They have entered into controversy
   against it and yet unconsciously they have believed it! An extreme case
   is that of Cardinal Bellarmine, who was one of the most inveterate
   enemies of the Reformation and a renowned antagonist of the teaching of
   Martin Luther. I will quote from one of his works (Inst. Do
   Justification, Lib. v., c. 1). He says, in summing up, "On account of
   the uncertain nature of our own works and the danger of vain-glory, it
   is the safest course to place our whole trust in the mercy and loving
   kindness of God."

   You have said well, O Cardinal! And since the safest course is that
   which we would choose, we will place our whole trust in the mercy and
   loving kindness of God! It is reported and, I believe on excellent
   authority, that this great man who had, all his life, been crying up
   salvation by works, when dying, breathed a prayer in Latin, the
   translation of which would be something like this--"I beseech God, who
   weighs not our merits, but graciously pardons our offenses, that He
   would receive me among His saints and His elect." Is Saul, also, among
   the Prophets? Does Bellarmine, at the last, pray like a Calvinist? Such
   a case makes one hope that many others may be saved in an apostate
   church! Thank God many are a great deal better than their creed and in
   their hearts believe what, as polemical theologians, they deny. However
   this may be, I know that if I am saved or rewarded it must be of Grace
   alone, for I can have no other hope. As for those who have done much
   for the Church, we know that they will disclaim all praise, saying,
   "Lord, when did we see You hungry and

   give You meat; or thirsty and give You drink?" All the Lord's faithful
   servants will sing, "Non nobis domine." Not unto us. Not unto us!

   Lastly, Brothers, with what infinite delight will Jesus fill our hearts
   if, through Divine Grace, we are happy enough to hear Him say, "Well
   done, good and faithful servant." Oh, if we shall hold on to the end
   despite the temptations of Satan and the weakness of our nature and all
   the entanglements of the world! Oh, if we can keep our garments
   unspotted from the world, preaching Christ according to our measure of
   ability and winning souls for Him, what an honor it will be! What bliss
   to hear Him say, "Well done!" The music of these two words will have
   Heaven in them to us. How different it will be from the verdict of our
   fellow men who are often finding fault with this and that, though we do
   our best. We never could please them, but we have pleased our Lord!

   Men were always misinterpreting our words and misjudging our motives,
   but He sets all right by saying, "Well done!" Little will it matter,
   then, what all the rest have said--neither the flattering words of
   friends nor the harsh condemnations of enemies will have any weight
   with us when He says, "Well done!" Not with pride shall we receive that
   eu-logium, for we shall reckon ourselves, even then, to have been
   unprofitable servants. But oh how we shall love Him for setting such an
   estimate upon the cups of cold water we gave to His disciples and the
   poor broken service we tried to render Him! What condescension to call
   that well done, which we feel was so ill done!

   I pray God's servants here, who, this morning first began with
   searching themselves and then went on to confess their imperfections,
   will now close by rejoicing in the fact that if we are believing in
   Christ Jesus and are really consecrated to Him, we shall conclude this
   life and begin the next with that blessed verdict of, "Well done!"
   Mind, however, that you are those who are doing all and are faithful. I
   hear some people speak against self-righteousness, to whom I would say,
   "You need not say much about that matter, for it does not concern you,
   since you have no righteousness to be proud of."

   I hear persons speak against salvation by good works who are in no
   danger of falling into that error, since good works and their lives
   have long parted company. What I do admire is to see a man like Paul
   who lived for Jesus and was ready to die for Him, yet saying, at the
   close of his life, "But what things were gain to me, those I counted
   loss for Christ. Yes, doubtless and I count all things but loss for the
   excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have
   suffered the loss of all things and do count them but dung, that I may
   win Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which
   is of the Law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the
   righteousness which is of God by faith."

   Go on, Brothers and Sisters, and think not of resting till your day's
   work is done. Serve God with all your might! Do more than the Pharisees
   who hope to be saved by their zeal. Do more than your brethren expect
   of you and then, when you have done all, lay it at your Redeemer's feet
   with this confession, "I am an unprofitable servant." It is to those
   who blend faithfulness with humility and ardor with self-abasement that
   Jesus will say, "Well done, good and faithful servant: enter you into
   the joy of your Lord."