Luke 17:7

The hardest nut may have the sweetest kernel; the least inviting and most difficult parable may have the most strengthening and stimulating truth beneath the surface. So with this passage. We may be even repelled from treating it because it seems to represent our Father in a light in which we do not like to look at him. It seems as if we were required to regard him as a hard taskmaster, indifferent to the past labour and present weariness of his servants, accepting their service without sign or token of recognition. We don't recognize the portrait in this picture. But when we look longer and see more, we understand that Jesus Christ did not for a moment intend to convey this impression of his Father and ours.

1. It is inconsistent with the revelation of God which Christ gave us both in his doctrine and in his own Person and life. For in both of these God is revealed to us as a Father who gives rather than receives. Jesus Christ himself was "amongst us as he that serveth;" he "came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life;" it is not from him that we can receive the impression that God is one that exacts everything and makes no response.

2. Christ's method of teaching does not require us to interpret the parable in this sense, He argued not only from comparison, but from contrast; not only from the less to the more worthy, but also from the unworthy to the excellent. He said, "If an unjust judge for a bad reason will do right, how certainly will the just Judge for a high one!" He said, "If an ungracious neighbour, prompted by a selfish consideration, will listen and comply, how much more surely will the gracious God, from beneficent considerations!" So here. The slave, when he returns from his day's laborious duties, prepares, unthanked, for his master's comfort before he thinks of his own necessities; and he does this unquestioningly, uncomplainingly. How much more ready, more eager, should we be to serve our God! - we who are not slaves, but children; to serve him, who is no unresponsive and inconsiderate taskmaster, but who is Considerateness itself, who is Responsiveness itself, who is Encouragement itself. We should be ready and eager to serve him to the uttermost, and when we have done everything we can do, be prepared to say, "It is nothing of all that we should do and would do for thee." Now, there are certain occasions to which this more particularly applies; and here we have a touch of resemblance in the parable. As the master there requires of his slave something over and above his day's work in the field, so does our Lord sometimes ask of us more than we thought he would when he first said to us, "Follow me," and we said, "Lord, I will." This may be in the way -

I. OF ACTIVE SERVICE; e.g. when parents have clothed and fed, taught and trained their own children, they may be directed, in God's providence, to take charge of the children of others; or when the minister, superintendent, missioner, teacher, finds that the duty he has undertaken involves a great deal more of costly work than he had counted upon - more time, trouble, patience, self-mastery, self-sacrifice.

II. OF SACRIFICE; e.g. when the young man leaves home or college for work in the foreign field, he finds that the privations he has to endure, the scenes he has to witness, the discouragements he has to bear, the parting with his children he has to go through, are a great deal more than he realized when he started on his way.

III. OF SUBMISSION. When life seems to have been lived through, its strength spent and its work done, the weary human spirit craves rest, the rest of the heavenly home; but God may allot many months or even years of patient waiting before the summons is sent to "come up higher." And in whatever way, or to whatever degree, the heavenly Father may ask of his children the service which they did not look for, such should be and may be their spirit of

(1) perfect trustfulness, and of

(2) fervent love, that they will gladly and faithfully respond; doing with alacrity and bearing with cheerfulness all his holy will, and quite disposed at the end to say, "All is not half enough to give unto the 'Lamb that was slain,' who is worthy to receive the riches of our hearts and of our lives." - C.

But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle.
The one thing on which our Lord wishes to concentrate our attention is not the spirit in which God deals with His servants, but rather the spirit in which we should serve God — not what God thinks of our work, but rather how we should regard it ourselves. The Christian belongs to God; therefore God has a right to all the service he can render. And, when he has rendered it all, he may not indulge in self-complacency as if he had done anything extraordinary, or had deserved any special commendation; for even at the best he has done no more than he ought to have done, since soul, body, and spirit, in all places and in all cases, everywhere and at all times, he is the property of God.

I. THE CONTINUOUS OBLIGATIONS OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. The Christian's "day" is not one merely of twelve hours; but throughout the twenty-four he must be ready for any emergency, and must meet that at the moment when it rises. Always he is under obligation to his Lord; and "without haste," but also "without rest," he must hold himself absolutely at the disposal of his Master. All his time is his Lord's; he can never have "a day off." He is to be always waiting and watching until death.


1. We must meet them with patience. No murmuring or whimpering over our lot, as if it were tremendously hard, and as if we were undergoing a species of martyrdom.

2. And then, on the other side, we are not to stroke ourselves down complacently after we have met the demand upon us, as if we had done something extraordinary. Pride after toil is just as much out of place here as murmuring under tell.

3. We are not to think about ourselves at all, but of God, of what He has been to us and what He has done for us, and of what we owe to Him; and then, when we get to a right and proper estimate of that, our most arduous efforts and our most costly sacrifices will seem so small in comparison, that we shall be ready to exclaim, "We are unprofitable servants! All that we have done does not begin to measure the greatness of our indebtedness to Him for whom we have done it!"

4. Thus, in order to comply with the exactions of the Christian life, in the spirit which this parable recommends, we have to become reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. It is the sense of redemption and the consciousness of regeneration whereby we have become no longer servants, but sons, alone, that will impel us to reckon ourselves as not our own, and to do without a murmur, and without the least self-complacency, all that God requires at our hands. When the life of a beloved son is hanging in the balance, no one can persuade his mother to take rest. You may tell her that others are watching, that everything is being done that can be done, that it is her "duty" to take a respite; but you might as well speak to the deaf, for she is his mother, and her mother-love will not let her be content with less than her own personal ministry to her boy. But does she think then of doing merely her duty to him? Is she measuring her conduct then by any standard of rectitude Nothing of the kind! She has risen above all standards and all duty. So with ourselves and the service of God. Love lifts us above legalism.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)


1. This He has revealed in His Word.

2. For this He has given us the capacity and powers which are essential. The obedience He claims must possess the following characteristics.

(1)It must be the obedience of love.

(2)It must be spiritual.

(3)It must have respect to all His commandments.

(4)It must be constant.

(5)It must be persevering fidelity unto death.

II. THE SUPPORT HE GIVES TO IT. This is implied in His sitting down to "eat and drink" (vers. 7, 8). Notice —

1. God gives ability for the service.

2. He provides daily food for the soul.

3. He gives satisfaction and peace in the service.

III. THE DIVINE INDEPENDENCY WITH RESPECT TO THIS SERVICE. Doth the master "thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded," etc. (ver. 9)? Now the force of this will be seen when it is remembered —

1. That no man can go beyond the Divine claims in his obedience.

2. God's goodness to man is ever beyond the services He receives from him.

3. That man's best services are, in consequence of his infirmities, frail and imperfect.Learn —

1. How necessary is humility even to the most exalted saints.

2. In all our obedience, let us set the glory of God before us.

3. Those who refuse to obey the Lord must finally perish.

(J. Burns, D. D.)

Are these indeed the words of Him who said, "Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends"? This is a picture of a hard, unlovely side of life — a slave's life and a slave's service, without thanks or claim for thanks. We ask, I repeat, and not unnaturally, where such a representation of Christian service fits into that sweet and attractive ideal which Christ elsewhere gives us under the figure of the family relation — sons of God, confidential friends of Christ. We hasten to say, No; but it will require a little study to discover why we may say no, and to fix the place of this parable in relation to others of a happier tone.

1. Observe, in the first place, that it is not unusual for our Lord to draw a disagreeable picture in order to set forth His own love and grace. Unjust judge. Churlish man refusing bread to neighbour! We must not be repelled by a figure, therefore. Let us try to see what facts and conditions of Christian service are intended to be expressed by this parable. The parable answers to the fact in being a picture of hard work, and of what we call extra work. The service of God's kingdom is laborious service-service crowded with work and burdens. Christ nowhere represents it as easy. No Christian can shut himself up to a little routine of duty, and say, I will do so much, within such times, and no more. So long as a man's work is merely the carrying out of another's orders, it will tend to be mechanical and methodical: but the moment the man becomes identified in spirit with his work; the moment the work becomes the evolution of an idea, the expression of a definite and cherished purpose; the moment it becomes the instrument of individual will, sympathy, affection; above all, the moment it takes on the character of a passion or an enthusiasm — that moment it overleaps mechanical trammels. The lawyer is not counting the number of hours which duty compels him to work. He would make each day forty-eight hours long if he could. He has a case to gain, and that is all he thinks of. The physician who should refuse to answer a summons from his bed at the dead of night, or to visit a patient after a certain hour of the day, would soon have abundance of leisure. Pain will not measure its intervals by the clock, fever will not suspend its burning heats to give the weary watcher rest: the affliction of the fatherless and widow knocks at the doors of pure and undefiled religion at untimely hours. Times and seasons, in abort, must be swallowed up in the purpose of saving life and relieving misery. I need not carry the illustrations farther. You see that the lower a type of service, the more mechanical and methodical it is; and that the higher types of service develop a certain exuberance, and refuse to be limited by times and seasons.

2. A second point at which the fact answers to the parable, is the matter of wages; that is to say, the slave and the servant of Christ have neither of them any right to thanks or compensation. What God may do for His servants out of His own free grace and love, what privileges He may grant His friends, is another question; but, on the hard business basis of value received, the servant of God has no case. What he does in God's service it is his duty to do. "God," as Bengel remarks, "can do without our usefulness." God has no necessary men.

3. Now, then, we reach the pith of the parable. It is spoken from the slave's point of view; it deals with service of the lower, mechanical type. Now the moment a man puts himself on that lower ground, and begins to measure out his times and degrees of service, and to reckon what is due to himself, that moment he runs sharply against this parable. That moment Christ meets his assertion of his rights with this unlovely picture. The parable says to him, in effect, "If you put the matter on the business basis, on the ground of your rights and merits, I meet you on that ground, and challenge you to make good your claim. I made you: I redeemed you, body and soul, with My own blood. Everything you have or are, you owe to My free grace. What are your rights? What is your ground for refusing any claim I may see fit to make upon you? What claim have you for thanks for any service you may render Me at any time?" And the man cannot complain of this answer. It is indeed the master's answer to a slave; but then, the man has put himself on the slave's ground. To the servile spirit Christ asserts His masterdom. He has no word of thanks for the grumbling slave who grudges the service at his table after the day's ploughing; but to the loving disciple — the friend to whom His service is joy and reward enough, and who puts self and all its belongings at his disposal-it is strange, wondrous strange, but true, nevertheless, that Christ somehow slips into the servant's place. Strange, I repeat; but here is Christ's own word for it: "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning." Here is a picture of night-work, you see. "And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately." Here are the servants, weary, no doubt, with the day's work, but waiting and watching far into the hours of rest for their master, and flying with cheerful readiness to the door at his first knock. What then? "Blessed are those servants, whom the master when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." The amount of the matter is, that for him who gives himself without reserve to Christ's service, Christ puts Himself at his service. When he accepts Christ's right over him with his whole heart, not as a sentence to servitude, but as his dearest privilege, counting it above all price to be bought and owned by such a Master, he finds himself a possessor as well as a possession. "All things are yours, and ye are Christ's."

(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)

The instruction of this parable supposes —



1. The text takes it for granted that we are engaged spontaneously and habitually in serving this great Master according to our several stations in His household.

2. But besides this there is a further idea in the service described in the parable — that of duties succeeding each other without intermission.

3. The text also conveys the idea that the good servant postpones personal ease or indulgence to his master's command and interest.

III. THE LOW ESTIMATE WHICH THE CHRISTIAN FORMS OF HIMSELF AFTER ALL HE HAS DONE OR CAN DO FOR HIS HEAVENLY LORD. Doth your goodness extend to the infinite Creator? Do your minute services at all weigh in the view of the infinite fulness of eternal glory, and the majesty of Him that sits upon the circle of the heavens?

(D. Wilson, M. A.)

"People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply paid back as a small part of a great debt owing to our God, which we can never repay? Is that a sacrifice which brings its own blest reward in healthful activity, the consciousness of doing good, peace of mind, and a bright hope of a glorious destiny hereafter? Away with the word in such a view and with such a thought! It is emphatically no sacrifice. Say, rather, it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, or danger, now and then, with a foregoing of the common conveniences and charities of this life, may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this be only for a moment. All these are nothing when compared with the glory which shall hereafter be revealed in and for us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made who left His Father's throne on high to give Himself for us."

(Dr. Livingstone.)

We used to be roused and stirred by the clarion call of duty, as well as soothed and comforted by the tender breathings of love. And here the call comes to us loud and clear, waxing even louder as we listen and reflect. "Do your duty; and when you have done it, however laborious and painful it may be, remember that you have only done your duty. Do not give yourselves airs of complacency, as though you had achieved some great thing. Do not give yourselves air of martyrdom as though some strange thing had happened to you. Neither pity yourselves, nor plume yourselves on what you have done or borne. Do not think of yourselves at all, but of God, and of the duties you owe to Him. That you have done your duty — let this be your comfort, if at least you can honestly take it. And if you are tempted to a dainty and effeminate self-pity for the hardships you have borne, or to a dangerous and degrading self-admiration for the achievements you have wrought, let this be your safeguard, that you have done no more than your duty." It is in this strain that our Lord speaks to us here.

1. And is it not a most wholesome and invigorating strain, a strain to which all in us that is worthy of the name of man instantly and strongly responds? The very moment we grow complacent over our work, our work spoils in our hands. Our energies relax. We begin to think of ourselves instead of our work, of the wonders we have achieved instead of the toils which yet lie before us and of how me may best discharge them. So soon as we begin to complain of our lot and task, to murmur as though our burden were too heavy, or as though we were called to bear it in our own strength, we unfit ourselves for it, our nerves and courage give way; our task looks even more formidable than it is, and we become incapable even of the little which, but for our repugnances and fears, we should be quite competent to do.

2. And then how bracing is the sense of duty discharged, if only we may indulge in it. And we may indulge in it. Does not Christ Himself teach us to say "We have done that which it was our duty to do?" He does not account of our duty as we sometimes account of it. If we are at work in His fields, He does not demand of us that we should plough so many acres, or that we should tend so many heads of cattle. All that He demands of us is that, with such capacities and opportunities as we have, we should do our best, or at lowest try to do it. Honesty of intention, purity and sincerity of motive, the diligence and cheerfulness with which we address ourselves to His service, count for more with Him than the mere amount of work we get through. The faithful and industrious servant is approved by Him, however feeble his powers, however limited his scope. And He would have us take pleasure in the industry and fidelity which please Him. He would have us account, as He Himself accounts, that we have done our duty when we have sincerely and earnestly endeavoured to do it.

3. We need not fear to adapt any part of this parable to our own use, if only we take to ourselves the parable as a whole. For, in that case, we shall not only add, "We are unprofitable servants," so often as we say, "We have done that which it was our duty to do"; we shall also confess that every moment brings a fresh duty. We shall not rest when one duty is discharged, as though our service had come to an end; we shall be content to pass from duty to duty, to fill the day of life with labour to its very close. We shall not be content only, but proud and glad, to wait at our Master's table after we have ploughed the soil and fed the cattle. And even when at last we eat and drink, we shall do even that to His glory — eating our bread with gladness and singleness of heart, not for enjoyment alone, but that we may gain new strength for serving Him.

(S. Cox, D. D.)

We are unprofitable servants
Life is a work, a service. Our best works are but faulty. This consideration ought —





1. From the great Master of all, the doing of whose will is necessary for the welfare of His entire household.

2. From the world, in order to promote its benefit by our culture, instruction, and example.

3. From our own life, that its best interests and happiness may be secured.



II. I proceed now, secondly, to consider HOW MUCH IT CONCERNS, AND HOW FITLY IT BECOMES, SUCH UNPROFITABLE SERVANTS TO MAKE THEIR HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS BEFORE GOD, OF THE WORTHLESSNESS OF ALL THEIR SERVICES; worthless, I mean, with respect to God, not otherwise: for they are not worthless with respect to angels, or to other men; more especially not to our own souls, but that, by the way, only to prevent mistakes.

III. I proceed now, thirdly and lastly, to observe, THAT SUCH HUMBLE ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AS I HAVE BEEN HERE MENTIONING, MUST NOT HOWEVER BE SO UNDERSTOOD AS TO AFFORD ANY EXCUSE OR COLOUR FOR SLACKNESS IN OUR BOUDEN DUTIES; or for pleading any exemption or discharge from true Christian obedience.

(D. Waterland, D. D.)

Now of course there is a danger of persons becoming self-satisfied, in being regular and exemplary in devotional exercises; there is danger, which others have not, of their so attending to them as to forget that they have other duties to attend to. I mean the danger, of which I was just now speaking, of having their attention drawn off from other duties by their very attention to this duty in particular. And what is still most likely of all, persons who are regular in their devotions may be visited with passing thoughts every now and then, that they are thereby better than other people; and these occasional thoughts may secretly tend to make them self-satisfied, without their being aware of it, till they have a latent habit of self-conceit and contempt of others. What is done statedly forces itself upon the mind, impresses the memory and imagination, and seems to be a substitute for other duties; and what is contained in definite outward acts has a completeness and tangible form about it, which is likely to satisfy the mind. However, I do not think, after all, that there is any very great danger to a serious mind in the frequent use of these great privileges. Indeed, it were a strange thing to say that the simple performance of what God has told us to do can do harm to any but those who have not the love of God in their hearts, and to such persons all things are harmful: they pervert everything into evil.

1. Now, first, the evil in question (supposing it to exist) is singularly adapted to be its own corrective. It can only do us injury when we do not know its existence. When a man knows and feels the intrusion of self-satisfied and self-complacent thoughts, here is something at once to humble him and destroy that complacency. To know of a weakness is always humbling; now humility is the very grace needed here. Knowledge of our indolence does not encourage us to exertion, but induces despondence; but to know we are self-satisfied is a direct blow to self-satisfaction. There is no satisfaction in perceiving that we are self-satisfied. Here then is one great safeguard against our priding ourselves on our observances.

2. But again, if religious persons are troubled with proud thoughts about their own excellence and strictness, I think it is only when they are young in their religion, and that the trial will wear off; and that for many reasons. Satisfaction with our own doings, as I have said, arises from fixing the mind on some one part of our duty, instead of attempting the whole of it. In proportion as we narrow the field of our duties, we become able to compass them. Men who pursue only this duty or only on that duty, are in danger of self-righteousness; zealots, bigots, devotees, men of the world, sectarians, are for this reason self-righteous. For the same reason, persons beginning a religious course are self-righteous, though they often think themselves just the reverse. They consider, perhaps, all religion to lie in confessing themselves sinners, and having warm feelings concerning their redemption and justification — and all because they have so very contracted a notion of the range of God's commandments, of the rounds of that ladder which reaches from earth to heaven. But the remedy of the evil is obvious, and one which, since it will surely be applied by every religious person, because he is religious, will, under God's grace, effect in no long time a cure. Try to do your whole duty, and yon will soon cease to be well-pleased with your religious state.

3. But this is not all. Certainly this objection, that devotional practices, such as prayer, fasting, and communicating, tend to self-righteousness, is the objection of those, or at least is just what the objection of those would be, who never attempted them. When, then, an objector fears lest such observances should make him self-righteous, were he to attempt them, I do think he is over-anxious, over-confident in his own power to fulfil them; he trusts too much in his own strength already, and, depend on it, to attempt them would make him less self-righteous, not more so. He need not be so very fearful of being too good; he may assure himself that the smallest of his Lord's commandments are to a spiritual mind solemn, arduous, and inexhaustible. Is it an easy thing to pray? And so again of austerities; there may be persons so constituted by nature as to take pleasure in mortifications for their own sake, and to be able to practise them adequately; and they certainly are in danger of practising them for their own sakes, not through faith, and of becoming spiritually proud in consequence: but surely it is idle to speak of this as an ordinary danger. And so again a religious mind has a perpetual source of humiliation from this consciousness also, viz., how far his actual conduct in the world falls short of the profession which his devotional observances involve.

4. But, after all, what is this shrinking from responsibility, which fears to be obedient lest it should fail, but cowardice and ingratitude? What is it but the very conduct of the Israelites, who, when Almighty God bade them encounter their enemies and so gain Canaan, feared the sons of Anak, because they were giants? To fear to do our duty lest we should become self-righteous in doing it, is to be wiser than God; it is to distrust Him; it is to do and to feel like the unprofitable servant who hid his lord's talent, and then laid the charge of his sloth on his lord, as being a hard and austere man. At best we are unprofitable servants when we have done all; but if we are but unprofitable when we do our best to be profitable, what are we, when we fear to do our best, but unworthy to be His servants at all? No I to fear the consequences of obedience is to be worldly-wise, and to go by reason when we are bid go by faith.

(J. H. Newman, D. D.)

A sentence which requires thought. At first sight we might be inclined to say, "If a servant does all which he is deputed to do, can that servant in any way be an unprofitable servant?" But look at the matter a little more closely, and see how the balance lies. All service is a covenant between two parties. The servant covenants to do certain works, and the employer covenants to provide for his servant certain wages, food, and accommodation. If the agreement be a just one, and if both do their duty according to the agreement, neither can truly say he is a gainer or a loser in respect of the other. What the servant gives in work he receives back in money, food, and accommodation. What the master pays he receives back in the benefit and comfort which he derives from the servant's work. Each gets back what he gave; his own in another shape. But how is it between a man and his Creator? Let me for a moment suppose a ease — quite impossible I fear — but the case of a man who has fulfilled all the ends for which he was created. How does the case now stand? God has endowed that man with life, and all its powers of body, mind, and soul; with all its influences and opportunities; and God has watched over him and kept him and blessed him. Now if that man be a kind and useful man to! all his fellow-creatures with whom he has to do, and if he uses rightly all his possessions, and if he honours God and loves his neighbour, that man has done his duty. But is God the gainer? He has only received back His own. It is all His own property, His gift; it is but His right. The creature hath done his duty; but the Creator has not benefitted. How can a man be "profitable" to his Creator? But "profit" is to have your own back with increase; and if that be profit, there is no profit here. The man is still, in reference to his master, "an unprofitable servant." Now let us look at it as a matter of fact. So far are we, even the best of us, from having "done all these things" which are commanded of us, and so fulfilled our duty, that the question is, Have we really kept any one single commandment that God ever gave? Or put it in another way, in which Christ placed it, Is there a person in the world to whom your conscience will tell you that you have really done your whole duty in everything?

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. THE UTMOST WE CAN DO IS NO MORE THAN OUR BOUNDEN DUTY. Our creation places us under a debt which our most accurate services can never discharge. Alas! all we do, or all we can suffer in obedience to Him, can bear no proportion to what He has done and suffered for us. And if our best services cannot discount His past favours, much less can we plead them in demand of His future. And therefore whatever farther encouragement He is pleased to annex to our obedience, must be acknowledged as a pure act of grace and bounty.

II. AFTER WE HAVE DONE ALL, WE ARE UNPROFITABLE. God is a being infinitely happy in the enjoyment of His own perfections, and needs no foreign assistance to complete His fruitions, No — our observance of His commands, though by His infinite mercy it be a means of advancing our own, is yet no addition to His felicity, which is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and consequently our most dutiful performances cannot lay any obligation of debt on our Creator, or presume upon any intrinsic value which His justice or gratitude is bound to reward.

III. THE PERFORMANCE ITSELF CANNOT BE INSISTED ON AS AN ACT STRICTLY OUR OWN, BUT MUST BE ASCRIBED TO THE ASSISTANCE OF DIVINE GRACE WORKING IN US; and that all the value of it is derived from the mediation and atonement of Christ. It is His Holy Spirit that kindles devotion in our breast, infuses into us good desires, and enables us to execute our pious resolutions. This single reflection should, methinks, be sufficient to subdue every high and insolent conceit of our own righteousness, that in our best performances to God we give Him but of His own, and that even our inclination and ability to serve Him we receive from Him. To our Redeemer only belongs the merit and glory of our services, and to us nothing but the gratitude and humility of pardoned rebels.

(J. Rogers, D. D.)

Here is a little stream trickling down the mountain side. As it proceeds, other streams join it in succession from the right and left until it becomes a river. Ever flowing, and ever increasing as it flows, it thinks it will make a great contribution to the ocean when it shall reach the shore at length. No, river, you are an unprofitable servant; the ocean does not need you; could do as well and be as full without you; is not in any measure made up by you. True, rejoins the river, the ocean is so great that all my volume poured into it makes no sensible difference; but still I contribute so much, and this, as far as it goes, increases the amount of the ocean's supply. No: this indeed is the seeming to the ignorant observer on the spot; but whoever obtains deeper knowledge and a wider range, will discover and confess that the river is an unprofitable servant to the sea — that it contributes absolutely nothing to the sea's store. From the ocean came every drop of water that rolls down in that river's bed, alike those that fell into it in rain from the sky, and those that flowed into it from tributary rivers, and those that sprang from hidden veins in the earth. Even although it should restore all, it gives only what it received. It could not flow, it could not be, without the free gift of all from the sea. To the sea it owes its existence and power. The sea owes it nothing; would be as broad and deep although this river had never been. But all this natural process goes on, sweetly and beneficently, notwithstanding: the river gets and gives; the ocean gives and gets. Thus the circle goes round, beneficent to creation, glorious to God. Thus, in the spiritual sphere — in the world that God has created by the Spirit of His Son — circulations beautiful and beneficent continually play. From Him, and by Him, and to Him are all things. To the saved man through whom God's mercy flows, the activity is unspeakably precious: to him the profit, but to God the praise.

(W. Arnot.)

I. In the first place, he must so say, and so feel, because he is a CREATED being. Mere dead matter cannot exert any living functions. The saw cannot saw the sawyer. The axe cannot chop the chopper. They are lifeless instruments in a living hand, and must move as they are moved. It is impossible that by any independent agency of their own they should act upon man, and make him the passive subject of their operations. But it is yet more impossible for a creature to establish himself upon an independent position in reference to the Creator. Every atom and element in his body and soul is originated, and kept in being, by the steady exertion of his Maker's power. If this were relaxed for an instant he would cease to be. Nothing, therefore, can be more helpless and dependent than a creature; and no relation so throws a man upon the bare power and support of God as creaturely relation.

II. In the second place, man cannot make himself "profitable" unto God, and lay Him under obligation, because he is constantly SUSTAINED AND UPHELD BY GOD.

III. In the third place, man cannot be "profitable" to God, and merit His thanks, because all his GOOD WORKS DEPEND UPON THE OPERATION AND ASSISTANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. Our Lord's doctrine of human merit is cognate with the doctrine of Divine grace.

1. In the first place, we see in the light of our Lord's theory of human merit, why it is impossible for a creature to make atonement for sin.

2. In the second place, we see in the light of this subject why the creature, even though he be sinlessly perfect, must be humble.

3. And this leads to a third and final inference from the subject, namely, that God does not require man to be a "profitable" servant, but to be a faithful servant. Whoever is thus faithful will be rewarded with as great a reward as if he were an independent and self-sustaining agent. Nay, even if man could be a "profitable" servant, and could bring God under obligation to him, his happiness in receiving a recompense under such circumstances would not compare with that under the present arrangement. It would be a purely mercantile transaction between the parties. There would be no love in the service, or in the recompense. The creature would calmly, proudly, do his work, and the Creator would calmly pay him his wages. And the transaction would end there, like any other bargain. But now, there is affection between the parties — filial love on one side, and paternal love on the other; dependence, and weakness, and clinging trust, on one side, and grace, and almighty power, and infinite fulness on the other. God rewards by promise and by covenant, and not because of an absolute and original indebtedness to the creature of His power. And the creature feels that he is what he is, because of the grace of God.

(W. G. T. Shedd, D. D.)

A.L.O.E., in "Triumph over Midian," writes: "You have not your due," were the words which a wife addressed to a husband, who had been deprived of some advantage which she considered to have been his right. "May God be praised that I have not my due! "he replied. "What is my due as a sinner before God? What is my due from a world which I have renounced for His sake? Had I chosen my portion in this life, then only might I complain of not receiving my due."

The faithful performance of duty in our station, ennobles that station whatever it may be. There is a beautiful story told of the great Spartan Brasidas. When he complained that Sparta was a small state, his mother said to him: " Son, Sparta has fallen to your lot, and it is your duty to adorn it." I (the Earl of Shaftesbury) would only say to all workers, everywhere, in all positions of life, whatever be the lot in which you are cast, it is your duty to adorn it.

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