1 Peter 4:7-11
But the end of all things is at hand: be you therefore sober, and watch to prayer.…
The manifold grace of God — the term is a remarkable one — it is that word by which the Greeks expressed infinite variety of hue or of design — the shiftings and glistenings of richly-mingled colours, or the dappled patterns of skilful embroidery. We have not, I think, been good stewards of this manifold grace. We have been ever apt to look on the grace of God in one or at most in some few of its aspects only. We have forgotten its manifoldness. In other words, we have assumed for the gospel of Christ too exclusively theological a character. We want to raise up the new life within men. Now it seems to me, that in doing this we have been too long acting contrary to all natural analogies. Have we, like the unskilful workman, been utterly careless about minutiae? O when will men begin to see that religion is not a separate trade or profession, but the business of life? When will they begin to apprehend the grace of God in its manifoldness? to see that it was sent to win every affection, to brighten every smile, to shed fresh interest over every pursuit, to light up new hopes in every prospect — to embrace every variety of human temperament, assist every degree of human capacity? We never shall be good stewards, till we know and apply this truth, and carry it out in practice in our own times, and among those with whom we live. "Am I a good steward of this manifold grace?" "Am I occupying with it, that at my Master's coming He may find it increased and fructified?" We will first speak, as the most obvious case, of the bestowal of God's grace in the position and opportunities afforded by rank, wealth, and influence among men. It is God who putteth down one and setteth up another. The purpose for which He has ordained various ranks in human society, is that He may thereby be glorified in the Christian use of influence over others, the Christian bestowal of worldly means. Who can overestimate the value of such an one as a centre of influence for good? A blessing to his own relatives, to his dependants, among whom he is ever moving and speaking; a blessing to his equals, with whom he communes in the intercourse of social life; a blessing to general society in checking all that is evil and encouraging all that is good. And a word on mere wealth, considered as a stewardship. The question in every case for them is not an absolute, but a relative one; not "what?" but "what proportion?" As a man's worldly means increase, so his charities ought to increase. Then there is another matter belonging to this part of our subject; the stewardship of administration of charity, or of any money laid out for the general good. The labour of love is essential not only to good stewardship, but to the Christian character itself; and every man may make — and ought to make if there be any difficulty in the way — leisure and opportunity for such labour of love. The ways and occasions for it are manifold, as the grace which will help us in it. Let me now speak of another stewardship of God's manifold grace; that which we ordinarily know as talent; ability of various kinds, wherewith many are considerably, and some few eminently, endowed. Great numbers of ordinary men are made very much by that which they read, or that which they hear, of the sentiments of those who are abler than themselves. With what a vast responsibility does this invest those who thus stand in the first rank, and lead mankind! How great a difference, to take an example, will be made in general society in the matter of Christian belief, according as one commanding man of genius, who has power over thought and language, makes use of that power. We are all, as was said of the Spartan army of old, commanders of commanders; we all work upon those, who work in their turn upon others. And therefore our ability, be it ever so small is our stewardship, of which God will most certainly have an a count from us. But influence over others is not the only matter in which we are to be good stewards of His manifold grace. It was given us for influence over ourselves; that our whole body, soul, and spirit might be sanctified wholly — that it might fill us to our utmost capacity with the fulness of God, and render us efficient for promoting His glory.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.