And now, we may imagine ourselves sitting with Jesus and his disciples on the Mount of Olives. As we look down we see the city of Jerusalem spread out beneath our feet. We see its walls, and its palaces. And there, just before us, outshining everything in its beauty, is that sacred temple, that was "forty and six years in building." Its white marble walls, its golden spires, and pinnacles, are sparkling in the beams of the sun, as they shine upon them. No wonder the Jews were so proud of it! It was a glorious building.
But now Jesus is beginning to speak. Let us listen to what he says. The lessons that he taught on the Mount of Olives run all through the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth chapters of St. Matthew. In the first of these chapters, Jesus gave them a sign, by which those who learn to understand what he here says, might know when his second coming is to take place. These are some of the lessons from Olivet. I should like, very much, to stop and talk about them. But this cannot be now. We pass over to the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew. In this chapter we have three of our Saviour's parables. These are very solemn and instructive. They all refer to the judgment that must take place when Jesus shall come into our world again. The second of these parables is the one we are now to consider. It is called -- "The Parable of the Talents." We find it in St. Matt, xxv: 14-30. And the lessons from Olivet, which we are now to try and learn, are all drawn from the words of our Saviour, contained in the verses just mentioned.
This, then, is our present subject -- The Lessons from Olivet. And there four lessons, in this part of our Saviour's discourse, of which we are now to speak. The first is -- the lesson about the Master. The second -- the lesson about the servants. The third is -- the lesson about the talents; and the fourth, the lesson about the rewards.
The lesson about -- THE MASTER -- is the first thing of which we are to speak.
In the 14th verse of this 25th chapter of St. Matthew, Jesus speaks of himself as -- "a man travelling into a far country," -- and of his people as -- "his own servants." In the 19th verse he speaks of himself as "the lord of those servants, coming back, after a long time, to reckon with them."
In St. Luke xix: 11-27 we have another of our Saviour's parables, very similar to the one now before us. There, he speaks of himself as "a nobleman who went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return." This language was borrowed from a custom that prevailed in those days. The headquarters of the government of the world then was in the city of Rome. The kings and rulers of different countries received their appointments to the offices they held from the Roman Emperor. Archelaus, the son of Herod, succeeded his father as king of Judea. But, it was necessary for him to go to Rome and get permission from the emperor to hold and exercise that office. He had done this, not very long before our Saviour applied to himself the words we are now considering. This was a fact well known. And this is the illustration which Jesus here uses in reference to himself. He is the Head -- the Prince -- the Lord -- the Master of all things in his church. He spoke of himself to his disciples as their "Lord and Master," St. John xiii: 14. He tells us that he has gone to heaven, as Archelaus went to Rome, "to receive for himself a kingdom and to return." He said he would be absent "a long time," verse 19. And this is true. He has been absent more than eighteen hundred years. He said he would "return," or come again. And so he will. It is just as certain that he will come again as it is that he went away. And he will come, not in figure, or in spirit, but in person, as he went. Remember what the angels said about this to his disciples, at the time of his departure. "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven," Acts i: 11. He said he would return, and so he will.
But, in the meantime, he would have us remember that he is still our Lord and Master. No master ever had such a right to be Lord and Ruler as he has. God the Father has appointed him to be "Head over all things to his church," Ephes. i: 22. He is our Master, because he made us. This is what no other ever did for his servants. He is our Master because he preserves us. We cannot keep ourselves for a single moment, but he keeps us all the time, -- by night, and by day. And he is our Master because, when we had sold ourselves into sin, and were appointed unto death, he redeemed us. He bought us with the price of his own precious blood. He made our hands to work for him; and our feet to walk in his ways. He made our hearts to love him; -- our minds to think about him; our eyes to see the beauty of his wondrous works, our ears to listen to his gracious words, and our lips and tongues to be employed in speaking and singing his praises.
We cannot be our own masters. "I am my own master!" -- said a young man, proudly, to a friend who was trying to persuade him from doing a wrong thing; "I am my own master!"
"That's impossible," said his friend. "You can not be master of yourself, unless you are master of everything within, and everything around you. Look within. There is your conscience to keep clear, and your heart to make pure, your temper to govern, your will to control, and your judgment to instruct. And then look without. There are storms, and seasons; accidents, and dangers; a world full of evil men and evil spirits. What can you do with these? And yet, if you don't master them, they'll master you."
"That's so," said the young man.
"Now, I don't undertake any such thing," said his friend. "I am sure I should fail, if I did. Saul, the first king of Israel, wanted to be his own master, and failed. So did Herod. So did Judas. No man can be his own master. 'One is your Master, even Christ,' says the apostle. I work under his direction. He is my regulator, and when he is Master all goes right. Think of these words, -- 'He is your Master even Christ.' If we put ourselves under his leadership we shall surely win at last."
And as we cannot be our own master, if we refuse to take Christ as our Ruler, there is nothing left for us but to have Satan as our master. These are the only two masters we can have. We must make our choice between them. If Jesus is not our Master, Satan must be. If Jesus is our Master here, he will share his glory with us hereafter. If we serve Satan here, we must share his punishment hereafter. This is one of the solemn lessons that Jesus taught on Olivet. He is speaking of the day of judgment. He represents himself as on the judgment-seat. Two great companies are before him. On his right hand are those who took him for their Master. To them he says -- "Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you, from the foundation of the world," St. Matt, xxv: 34.
On his left are those who took Satan for their master. The awful words he speaks to them are: -- "Depart from, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." St. Matt. xxv: 41.
This is our first lesson from Olivet -- the lesson about the Master.
The second lesson from Olivet is the lesson about -- THE SERVANTS.
We are told that before this nobleman went away to the far country, he called to him "his own servants." The nobleman here spoken of means Jesus, our blessed Master. And now the question is -- who are meant by "his own servants?" He has three kinds of servants. The first kind is made up of those who serve him ignorantly. This takes in all those things that have no knowledge or understanding. There, for instance are the sun, -- the moon, -- the stars, -- the mountains, -- the hills, -- the plains, -- the valleys, -- the rivers, -- the seas, -- the wind that blows, -- the rains that descend, -- and the dews that distil; these all serve God, without knowing it. He made them to serve him, and they do it; but they do it ignorantly. "His kingdom ruleth over all," and it makes all these things his servants. They do exactly what they were made for, but they do it ignorantly.
And there is another class of our Lord's creatures who serve him unwillingly. This is a very large class. It takes in all the wicked men, and the wicked spirits who are to be found anywhere. They do not wish to serve God, and yet, in spite of themselves, they are obliged to do it. We see this illustrated, when we think of the way in which the crucifixion of our blessed Saviour was brought about. Satan stirred up the Jews to take Jesus and put him to death. God allowed them to do it. They did it of their own choice -- as freely, and as voluntarily, as they ever did anything in their lives. They did it because they hated him, and wished to get him out of their way. So they nailed him to the cross in their malice and their rage. This was the very thing God had determined should be done, that he might save and bless the world. He allowed Satan, and the Jews, to do just what their wicked hearts prompted them to do; and then he overruled it for good. And, in this way, as David says, he "makes the wrath of man to praise him, and the remainder of it he restrains." And thus we see how evil men, and evil spirits, are God's servants unwillingly.
But then, there is another class of persons who serve God willingly. This takes in all those who know and love him. He speaks of them, in this parable as "his own servants." When they find out what he has done for them, the thought of it fills their hearts with love; and then they desire to serve him, and do all he tells them to do, in order to show their love to him. And this is what Jesus means when he says -- "Take my yoke upon you; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light," When we really love a person, anything that we can do for that person is easy and pleasant to us. And so it is the great love for Jesus, that his people have, which makes his yoke easy, and his burden light to them.
"How to Become a Willing Servant to Jesus." A little boy came to his grandmother one day, and asked her how he could become a Christian. She answered very simply, "Ask Jesus to give you a new heart, and believe he does it when you ask him."
"Is that all?" said the little fellow joyfully; "oh! that is easy enough." So he went to his room, and kneeling beside his bed, asked Jesus to give him a new heart. He believed that the dear Saviour, who loves little children, did hear and answer his prayer. And he left his room with a happy heart, for he felt sure that he was now one of Christ's own loving children, and willing servants. And this is the way in which we must take the yoke of Jesus upon us, and become his willing servants. And then in everything that we do we can be serving him. As St. Paul says -- "whether we eat or drink, or whatsoever we do, we can do all to the glory of God."
A good man once said "that if God should send two angels down from heaven, and should tell one of them to sit on a throne and rule a kingdom, and the other to sweep the streets of a city, the latter would feel that he was serving God as acceptably in handling his broom as his brother angel was in holding his sceptre. And this is true. We see the same illustrated in the fable of:
"The Stream and the Mill." "I notice," said the stream to the mill, "that you grind beans as well and as cheerfully as you do the finest wheat." "Certainly," said the mill; "what am I here for but to grind? and so long as I work, what does it signify to me what the work is? My business is to serve my master, and I am not a whit more useful when I turn out the finest flour than when I turn out the coarsest meal. My honor is, not in doing fine work, but in doing any thing that is given me to do in the best way that I can." That is true. And this is just the way in which Jesus wishes us to serve him when he says to "his own servants," "Occupy till I come." This means serve me, in everything, as you would do if you saw me standing by your side.
"How to Serve God." Willie's mother let him go with his little sister into the street to play. She told them not to go off the street on which their house stood. Willie was a little fellow, and lisped very much in talking; but he was brave, and he was obedient. Presently his sister asked him to go into another street; but he refused. "Mamma thaid no," was Willie's answer. "The thaid we muthn't do off thith threet," said Willie in his lisping way. "Only just a little way round the corner," said his teasing sister. "Mamma'll never know it."
"But I thall know it my own thelf; and I don't want to know any thuch a mean thing; and I won't!" And Willie straightened himself, and stood up like a man. That was brave and beautiful in Willie. And that is the way in which we should try to serve our heavenly Master.
"How a Boy May Serve God." A gentleman met a little boy wheeling his baby brother in a child's carriage. "My little man," said the gentleman, "what are you doing to serve God?" The little fellow stopped a moment, and then, looking up into the gentleman's face, he said: -- "Why, you see, Sir, I'm trying to make baby happy, so that he won't worry mamma who is sick." That was a noble answer. In trying to amuse his baby brother, and to relieve his poor sick mother, that little boy was serving God as truly and as acceptably as the angel Gabriel does when he wings his way, on a mission of mercy, to some far off world.
And this is the lesson about the servants that comes to us from Olivet.
The lesson about -- THE TALENTS -- is the third lesson that comes to us from Olivet.
This parable tells us that before the Master went away, he "called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. Unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to every man according to his several ability." verses 14, 15, In St. Luke's account of the parable, what the master gave to his servants is spoken of as pounds, and each servant is said to have received one pound. These talents or pounds both mean the same thing. They denote something with which we can do good, and make ourselves useful. And it is plain, from both these parables, that the Master gave at least one talent, or one pound, to each of his servants. None of them were left without some portion of their Master's goods. And the lesson from Olivet which comes to us here is that every one of us has a talent, or a pound, that our Master Jesus, has given us, and which he expects us to use for him. And the most important thing for us is to find out what our talents are, and how we can best use them, so as to be ready to give a good account of them when our Master comes to reckon with us.
A TALENT FOR EACH.
"God entrusts to all
"Little drops of rain
"Every little mite,
"God will surely ask,
"One Talent Improved." One day, amidst the crowded streets of London, a poor little newsboy had both his legs broken by a dray passing over them. He was laid away, in one of the beds of a hospital, to die. On the next cot to him was another little fellow, of the same class, who had been picked up, sick with the fever which comes from hunger and want. The latter boy crept close up to his poor suffering companion and said:
"Bobby, did you ever hear about Jesus?"
"No, I never heard of him."
"Bobby, I went to the mission-school once; and they told us that Jesus would take us up to heaven when we die, if we axed him; and we'd never have any more hunger or pain."
"But I couldn't ax such a great gentleman as he is to do anything for me. He wouldn't stop to speak to a poor boy like me."
"But hell do all that for you Bobby, if you ax him."
"But how can I ax him, if I don't know where he lives? and how could I get: there when both my legs is broke?"
"Bobby, they told us, at the mission-school, as how Jesus passes by. The teacher said he goes around. How do you know but what he might come round to this hospital this very night? You'd know him if you was to see him."
"But I can't keep my eyes open. My legs feels awful bad. Doctor says I'll die."
"Bobby, hold up yer hand, and he'll know what you want, when he passes by." They got the hand up; but it dropped. They tried it again, and it slowly fell back. Three times they got up the little hand, only to let it fall. Bursting into tears he said, "I give it up."
"Bobby," said his tender-hearted companion, "lend me yer hand. Put your elbow on my piller: I can do without it." So the hand was propped up. And when they came in the morning, the boy lay dead; but his hand was still held up for Jesus. And don't you think that he heard and answered the silent but eloquent appeal which it made to him for his pardon and grace, and salvation, to that poor dying boy? I do, I do.
Bobby's friend had been once to the mission-school. He had but a single talent; but, he made good use of it when he employed it to lead that wounded, suffering, dying boy to Jesus.
"Good Friends." "I wish I had some good friends, to help me on in life!" cried lazy Dennis, with a yawn.
"Good friends," said his master, "why you've got ten; how many do you want?"
"I'm sure I've not half so many; and those I have are too poor to help me."
"Count your fingers, my boy," said the master.
Dennis looked down on his big, strong hands. "Count thumbs and all," added the master.
"I have; there are ten," said the lad.
"Then never say you have not ten good friends, able to help you on in life. Try what those true friends can do, before you go grumbling and fretting because you have none to help you."
Now, suppose that we put the word talents, for the word friends, in this little story. Then, we may each of us hold our two hands before us, and say "here are ten talents, which God has given me to use for him. Let me try and do all the good I can with these ten talents."
THE BEST THAT I CAN.
"'I cannot do much,' said a little star,
"A child went merrily forth to play,
"So he helped a younger child along,
"A Noble Boy." "Not long ago," said a Christian lady, "I saw a boy do something that made me glad for a week. Indeed it fills my heart with tenderness and good feeling whenever I think about it. But let me tell you what it was.
"As I was walking along a crowded street I saw an old blind man walking on without any one to lead him. He went very slowly, feeling his way with his cane.
"'He's walking straight to the highest part of the curb-stone,' said I to myself. 'And it's very high too. I wonder if some one won't help him and start him in the right direction.'
"Just then, a boy, about fourteen years old, who was playing near by, ran up to the old man and gently putting his hand through the man's arm, said: -- 'Allow me, my friend, to lead you across the street.' By this time there were three or four others watching the boy. He not only helped the old man over one crossing, but led him over another to the lower side of the street. Then he ran back to his play.
"Now this boy thought he had only done an act of kindness to that old man. But just see how much farther than that the use of his one talent went. The three boys with whom he was playing, and who had watched his kind act, were happier and better for it, and felt that they must be more careful to do little kindnesses to those about them.
"The three or four persons who stopped to watch the boy turned away with a tender smile upon their faces, ready to follow the good example of that noble boy. I am sure that I felt more gentle and loving towards every one, from what I saw that boy do.
"And then, another one that was made happy was the boy himself. For, it is impossible for us to do a kind act, or to make any one else happy, without feeling better and happier ourselves. To be good and to do good, is the way to be happy. This is our mission here in this world. Whatever talents our Master has given us, he intends that we should use them in this way."
"Tiny's Work for God." Two little girls, Leila and Tiny, were sitting, one summer day, under the tree which grew beside their home.
Both children had been quiet for a little while, when suddenly Tiny raised her blue eyes and said, "I am so happy, Leila. I do love the flowers, and the birdies, and you, and everybody so much." Then she added, in a whisper, "And I love God, who made us all so happy. Sister, I wish I could do something for him."
"Mother says if we love him, that is what he likes best of all," said Leila.
"Yes, but I do want to do something for him -- something that would give me trouble. Can't you think of anything?"
Leila thought a little, and said, "Perhaps you could print a text for the flowers mother sends every week to the sick people in the hospital. They are so glad to have the flowers, and then the text might help them think about our Father in heaven."
"Oh! thank you, sister, that will be so nice! I will write -- 'Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.'"
But Tiny was only a little over four years old, and it was hard for her to hold a pen, but she managed to print two letters every day till the text was finished. Then she went alone to her room, and laying the text on a chair, she kneeled down beside it, and said -- "Heavenly Father, I have done this for you: please take it from Tiny, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen." And God heard the prayer, for he always listens when children truly pray.
So Tiny's text was sent up to London, and a lady put a very pretty flower into the card and took it to the hospital. She stopped beside a bed where a little boy was lying. His face was almost as white as the pillow on which he lay, and his dark eyes were filled with tears.
"Is the pain very bad to-day, Willie?"
"Yes, miss; its dreadful-like. But it's not so much the pain as I mind. I'm used to that, yer know. Father beat me every day a'most, when he was drunk. But the doctor says I'm too ill for 'im to 'ave any 'opes for me, and I'm mighty afeard to die."
"If you had a friend who loved you, and you were well, would you be afraid to go and stay with him, Willie?"
"Why no, I'd like to go, in course."
"I have brought you a message from a Friend, who has loved you all your life long. He wants you to trust him, and to go and live with him. He will love you always, and you will always be happy."
Then the lady read Tiny's text, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not." She told him how Jesus had died, and then had risen again, and had gone to heaven, to prepare a place for him, and for many other children. She told him how Jesus is still saying "Come," and his hand is still held out to bless.
So Willie turned to the Good Shepherd, and was no longer afraid. A few days afterwards he whispered -- "Lord Jesus, I am coming;" and he died with Tiny's text in his hand.
That little girl used the talent that was given her, and it helped to bring a soul to Jesus.
EVERY TALENT USEFUL.
"Though little I bring,
"And the drops of rain
"May we strive to fulfill
Let us never forget this third lesson from Olivet, the lesson about, -- the talents.
The fourth, and last lesson from Olivet is the lesson about -- THE REWARDS.
The parable tells us that when the Master came back, and reckoned with his servants, he said to each of those who had made a right use of his talents: -- "Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord." In the parable in St. Luke we are told that the servant who had gained ten pounds was made ruler over ten cities; and he who had gained five pounds was made ruler over five cities. This shows us that God will reward his people, hereafter, according to the degree of faithfulness with which each one shall have used the talents given to him. And this is the lesson which the apostle Paul teaches us when he says that, "Every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labor." I. Cor. iii: 8.
All the willing, loving servants of God will receive a crown of life when Jesus comes to reckon with them. But those crowns will not be all alike. They are spoken of as "crowns of gold:" Rev. iv: 4; as "crowns of glory:" I. Peter v: 4, and as "crowns of life:" Rev. iii: 11. But still there will be very great differences between these crowns. Some will be simply crowns of gold, or of glory, without any gems or jewels to ornament them. Some will have two or three small jewels shining in them. But, others again will be full of the most beautiful jewels, all glittering and sparkling with glory. And this will all depend upon the way in which those who wear these crowns used their talents while they were on earth, and the amount of work they did for Jesus. There is an incident mentioned in Roman history about a soldier, which illustrates this part of our subject very well.
"The Faithful Soldier and His Rewards." This man had served forty years in the cause of his country -- of these, ten years had been spent as a private soldier, and thirty as an officer. He had been present in one hundred and twenty battles, and had been severely wounded forty-five times. He had received fourteen civic crowns, for having saved the lives of so many Roman citizens; three mural crowns, for having been the first to mount the breach when attacking a fortress; and eight golden crowns, for having, on so many occasions, rescued the standard of a Roman legion from the hands of the enemy. He had in his house eighty-three gold chains, sixty bracelets, eighteen golden spears, and twenty-three horse trappings, -- the rewards for his many faithful services as a soldier. And when his friends looked at all those honors and treasures which he had received, from time to time, how well they might have said as they pointed to those numerous prizes -- that he had "received his own reward, according to his own labor," and faithfulness! And so it will be with the soldiers of the cross, who are faithful in using the talents given them by their heavenly Master.
"A Great Harvest from a Little Seed," Some years ago there was a celebrated artist in Paris whose name was Ary Scheffer. On one occasion he wished to introduce a beggar into a certain picture he was painting. Baron Rothschild, the famous banker, and one of the richest men in the world, was a particular friend of this artist. He happened to come into his studio at the very time he was trying to get a beggar to be the model of one which he desired to put into his painting.
"Wait till to-morrow," said Mr. Rothschild, "and I will dress myself up as a beggar, and make you an excellent model."
"Very well," said the artist, who was pleased with the strangeness of the proposal. The next day the rich banker appeared, dressed up as a beggar, and a very sorry looking beggar he was. While the artist was engaged in painting him, another friend of his came into the studio. He was a kind-hearted, generous man. As he looked on the model beggar, he was touched by his wretched appearance, and as he passed him, he slipped a louis d'or -- a French gold coin, worth about five dollars of our money -- into his hand. The pretended beggar took the coin, and put it in his pocket.
Ten years after this, the gentleman who gave this piece of money received an order on the bank of the Rothschilds for ten thousand francs. This was enclosed in a letter which read as follows:
"Sir: You one day gave a louis d'or to Baron Rothschild, in the studio of Ary Scheffer. He has invested it, and made good use of it, and to-day he sends you the capital you entrusted to him, together with the interest it has gained. A good action is always followed by a good reward.
"JAMES DE ROTHSCHILD."
In those few years that one gold coin, of twenty francs, had increased to ten thousand francs. And this illustrates the way in which Jesus the heavenly Master rewards those who use their talents for him. See how he teaches this lesson, when he says -- "Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward." St. Matt, x: 42. And in another place we are told that the reward shall be "an hundred fold," and shall run on into "everlasting life." St. Matt, xix: 29. How sweetly some one has thus written about
THE REWARD OF HEAVEN.
"Light after darkness, gain after loss,
The last lesson from Olivet is the lesson about the rewards. And taking these lessons together, let us remember that they are -- the lesson about the Master: the lesson about the servants: the lesson about the talents: and the lesson about the rewards.
The Collect for the thirteenth Sunday after Trinity is a very suitable prayer to offer after meditating on the lessons from Olivet:
"Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; which exceed all that we can desire; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN!"