S. LUKE xvi.2.
"Give an account of thy stewardship."
My brothers, we shall all hear that command one day. When our earthly business is finished and done with, when our debts are paid, and our just claims settled, and our account books balanced for the last time, we must render our account to God, the Righteous Judge. But it is not only at the day of Judgment that the Lord so calls upon us. Then He will ask for the final reckoning, -- "Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward." Now, whilst we are yet alive on the earth, whilst we are still in the enjoyment of our stewardship, God, at certain times, calls for an account. Whenever the Holy Spirit touches our hearts, and stirs our conscience, and we look into the secret places of our life, and examine ourselves, then we hear the whisper of God, "Give an account of thy stewardship -- how much owest thou unto my Lord?" Then at our dying bed there will be all our past life; our youth, our manhood, our working days, our times of pleasure, these will all be clamouring in our ears -- "Give an account of thy stewardship." The dying bed of a sinner, who has wasted his life, will be haunted by the ghosts and phantoms of the past. Days dead and gone, sins dead and forgotten, yet not forgiven, will be there to trouble the thoughts of the dying man, to murmur, "God requireth that which is past; give an account of thy stewardship." Such a death-bed must be an awful thing, no wonder that some people are said to die hard. It must be indeed a sad ending to a misspent life, to leave it amid the shadowy crowd of our former faults and failures; to the sound of the evil words which we have spoken; to the stern summons of our unquiet conscience -- "Give an account of thy stewardship." May the merciful Jesus save us from such a death as that. And that we may find pardon and peace at the last, let us use the present, and not allow our account to grow, like that of a reckless debtor, till we are overwhelmed by the amount. We are all the stewards of Almighty God. Whatever things we possess are our Master's goods. Let us see how we have used them hitherto. "Give an account of thy stewardship."
What are some of the goods which our Master, God, has entrusted to our care? First of all, there is the treasure of time. Our years, our months, and weeks, and days, are all so many precious jewels lent to us, and we must give a strict account of every one of them. Every day of our life has its special work for God; have we always tried to do the day's work with our might? Every day of our life is a teacher in God's great School, and brings its lesson; have we tried to learn the lesson aright? If we must give an account for every idle word, so surely must we for every idle day. And remember that any time spent entirely on selfish pleasure, or amusement, is wasted. Unless we are doing some good, we are certainly doing some harm. There is a motto very commonly engraved upon a sundial, which means that the moments of time are perishing, and are being recorded in God's Book. Yes, they are being put down to our account on one side or the other, just as we have used, or misused, them. Look on two death-beds. A Queen of England is dying, surrounded by her attendants. What are the last words they hear her speak, as she passes over the brink of eternity? "All my possessions for a moment of time!" Now look on another picture. An English Admiral lies wounded unto death. The decks are slippery with blood, and the air dark with smoke; but the sound of many voices is heard, it is the British shout of victory. The dying hero clasps the hand of his friend, and murmurs, "Now I am satisfied; thank God, I have done my duty." Brethren, our ending of this life must be like one of these. Either we must cry helplessly over wasted days, which cannot return, and beg in vain for time to right some wrong; or we shall die with the comforting thought that, in spite of many faults and failures, we have tried to do our duty. Remember that time once lost cannot be recovered. "Lost wealth may be replaced by industry, lost knowledge by study, lost health by temperance and medicine, but lost time is gone for ever."
Again, "give an account of thy stewardship," of the good things which God has given you; your creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; and above all, the redemption of the world by Jesus Christ our Lord. I knew a man once who said that he was not thankful to God for having created him. I think that man was wrong. We ought to thank God for having made us, for if He had not we could never know the joys of Heaven. This world is full of beauty, full of good things, and we must give an account of our stewardship of them. God has sent the sun to warm and cheer us, blue skies and flower-dotted meadows, seed time and harvest, summer and winter, wind and storm fulfilling His Word. Too often we take these gifts as a matter of course, and forget to thank God, who giveth all. God has fed you, and clothed you, and preserved you all these years; have you been thankful? "Give an account of thy stewardship." Then think what we owe God for our redemption, for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. For each of us Jesus suffered hunger and thirst, the temptation in the wilderness, the agony in the Garden, the cruel torture of the Cross. Do we think lightly of our sins? They were heavy enough to drive those piercing nails through the Hands and Feet of Jesus. Do we speak lightly of our sins? They were heavy enough to force that bitter cry from Jesus, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" How much do you owe unto our Lord for these benefits? "Give an account of thy stewardship."
Then, too, the means of grace -- how are we using them? There are the Sacraments of the Church, do we value them as we ought? Do we understand the privilege and the blessing of having been baptised into Christ's Holy Church, and made partakers of the resurrection of Jesus? Do we appreciate the value of that Holy Sacrament, when we bring our children to be baptised? Then think of that other Sacrament, the blessed legacy of our dying Saviour's love, the Holy Food of us travellers through the wilderness. Why are not all of you who hear me now Communicants? Why should there be two classes among you; one class of Church-goers only, the other of Church-goers who are Communicants? Your Saviour offers you the highest of all blessings in that Sacrament, He offers you Himself. Are you afraid to look upon God? You must look on Him one day. Are you trying to live without the Precious Food of the Altar? Man doth not live by bread alone; he cannot live by bread alone, unless God feeds him there is no life in him. As you turn away from this Altar, and go to that other altar which you have raised to some unworthy idol, does there come no reproach to you, no warning voice -- "What hast thou done? Give an account of thy stewardship." And so with all the means of grace, we must give an account of them. Our Confirmation, that solemn coming of age, when we were bidden to take unto us the whole armour of God; have we remembered that, and all its responsibilities? Our prayers in private, and our public worship in Church, we must answer to God for them. When you are tempted to hurry over your prayers, to say words with no heart, perhaps no meaning in them; or when in Church you are silent and inattentive, instead of throwing all your heart and mind into the act of worship; remember that for all these things God will bring you into judgment, and will say, "Give an account of thy stewardship." Is that your Bible on the shelf, covered with tell-tale dust? Well, God lent you that good thing, and He will ask for an account of your use of it, or your neglect.
Then again, God has sent you trials, sorrows, losses, as teachers who warn you of your state. You must render an account for them. You stood by the grave of someone stricken very suddenly by death. That was a message sent to you by God, reminding you that man's time passeth away like a shadow, and bidding you take heed to your ways. Did you listen to the warning, my brother, and take heed? Some of you have lost your money, others your health; some have seen their cherished plans disappointed, their dearest wishes fail. All these are whispers from God, warnings from the Unseen. Have you understood them? God will ask you one day.
Again, God has given you bodies and minds in trust. You must give an account of your use of them. Are you keeping those bodies of yours as temples of the Holy Ghost, in purity, chastity, temperance? Or have you defiled those holy temples with drunkenness and lust? "Give an account of thy stewardship." Man of business, God has given you a quick brain, a keen eye, an aptitude for you [Transcriber's note: your?] calling. How are you using these things? Are you in your business walking honestly, as in the day? Will your accounts bear looking into by God's Eye? "Give an account of thy stewardship."
Fathers and mothers, God has given you children, souls precious in His sight. Do you take good care of those souls? You clothe your children, you feed them, you educate them; yes, but do you take care of their souls? Do you educate them for Heaven? Do you give them that best of all teaching -- a good example? What if our children fall through our fault, because we have set no good pattern before them! What if they never get to Heaven because they have never seen us walking in the right way! God grant that these solemn thoughts may sink deeply into our hearts, and bear fruit of amendment, before the day when God shall say to me who preach, and you who hearken -- "Give an account of thy stewardship."