Luke 16:12
We must gain our idea of the sense in which the word "true" is to be taken by our knowledge of Christ's use of it. And we know that he used it as distinguishing, not the correct from the incorrect, or the existing from the imaginary, but the valuable from the comparatively unimportant, the substantial from the shadowy, the essential from the accidental, the abiding from the transitory. It is in this sense that he says of himself, "I am the true Light;" i.e. "I am not that which renders the smaller service of revealing outward objects and the outward path, but that which renders the supreme service of making clear Divine and heavenly truth, and the way that leads home to God himself." Thus he speaks also of himself as "the true Bread;" i.e. not the food which sustains for a few hours, but that inward and spiritual nourishment which satisfies the soul and makes it strong for ever. Similarly he declares that he is "the true Vine;" i.e. the Divine Author of the soul's refreshment, strength, and joy. We shall, therefore, find in "the true riches" those treasures which are truly valuable, which permanently endow their possessor, in opposition to those other treasures which are of inferior worth. We glance at -

I. THE INFERIOR CHARACTER OF EARTHLY TREASURE. NO doubt these riches, which are not entitled to be called the "true riches," have a worth of their own which is far from contemptible. Indeed, they render us services which we cannot help calling valuable; they provide us with shelter, with food, with raiment, with instruction, and even (in the sense of ver. 9) with friendship. But they neither supply to us nor secure for us lasting satisfaction.

1. They do not supply it in themselves. The possession of wealth may give, at first, considerable pleasure to the owner of it; but it may be doubted whether there is not more pleasure found in the pursuit than in the possession of it. And it cannot be doubted that the mere fact of ownership soon ceases to give more than a languid satisfaction, often balanced, often indeed quite outweighed, by the burdensome anxiety of disposing of it.

2. They do not ensure it. They can command a large number of pleasant things; but these are not happiness, much less are they well-being. That life must have been short or that experience narrow which has not supplied many instances in which the riches of this world have been held by those whose homes have been wretched, and whose hearts have been aching with unrest or even bleeding with sorrow.

II. THE SUPREME VALUE OF SPIRITUAL GOOD.

1. There are true riches in reverence. To be living in the fear of God; to be worshipping the Holy One; to be walking daily, hourly, continually, with the Divine Father; to have the whole of our life hallowed by sacred intercourse with heaven; - this is to be enriched and ennobled indeed.

2. There is real wealth in love. Our best possession at home is not to be found in any furniture; it is in the love we receive, and in the love we have in our own hearts: "The kind heart is more than all our store." And to be receiving the constant loving favour of a Divine Friend, and to be returning his affection; to be also loving with a true and lasting love those for whom he died; - this is to be really rich.

3. There are true riches in the peace, the joy, the hope, of the gospel of Christ. The peace that passes understanding; the joy that does not pall, and which no man taketh from us - joy in God and in his sacred service; the hope that maketh not ashamed, that is full of immortality; - these are the true riches. To be without them is to be destitute indeed; to hold them is to be rich in the sight of God, in the estimate of heavenly wisdom. - C.







Faithful in that which is least.
1. Notice how little we know concerning the relative importance of events and duties. We use the terms "great" and "small " in speaking of actions, occasions, plans, and duties, only in reference to their mere outward look and first impression. Some of the most latent agents and mean-looking substances in nature are yet the most operative; but yet, when we speak of natural objects, we call them great or small, not according to their operativeness, but according to size, count, report, or show. So it comes to pass when we are classing actions, duties, or occasions, that we call a certain class great and another small, when really the latter are many fold more important and influential than the former. We are generally ignorant of the real moment of events which we think we understand.

2. It is to be observed that, even as the world judges, small things constitute almost the whole of life.

3. It very much exalts, as well as sanctions this view, that God is so observant of small things. He upholds the sparrow's wing, clothes the lily with His own beautifying hand, and numbers the hairs of His children. He holds the balancings of the clouds. He maketh small the drops of rain.

4. It is a fact of history and of observation that all efficient men, while they have been men of comprehension, have also been men of detail. Napoleon was the most effective man in modern times — some will say, of all times. The secret of his character was, that while his plans were more vast, more various, and, of course, more difficult than those of other men, he had the talent, at the same time, to fill them up with perfect promptness and precision, in every particular of execution. There must be detail in every great work.

5. It is to be observed that there is more real piety in adorning one small than one great occasion. This may seem paradoxical, but what I intend will be seen by one or two illustrations. I have spoken of the minuteness of God's works. When I regard the eternal God as engaged in polishing an atom, or elaborating the functions of a mote invisible to the eye, what evidence do I there receive of His desire to perfect His works! No gross and mighty world, however plausibly shaped, would yield a hundredth part the intensity of evidence. An illustration from human things will present a closer parallel. It is perfectly well understood, or if not, it should be, that almost any husband would leap into the sea, or rush into the burning edifice to rescue a perishing wife. But to anticipate the convenience or happiness of a wife in some small matter, the neglect of which would be unobserved, is a more eloquent proof of tenderness.

6. The importance of living to God in ordinary and small things, is seen in the fact that character, which is the end of religion, is in its very nature a growth.Application:

1. Private Christians are here instructed in the true method of Christian progress and usefulness.

2. Our subject enables us to offer some useful suggestions, concerning the manner in which Churches may be made to prosper.

3. Finally, some useful hints are suggested to the ministers of Christ.

(H. Bushnell, D. D.)

"Who has despised the day of small things?" Not the sagacious men of the world, to whom experience has taught the necessity of husbanding the minutes that make up days, and the pence that grow to pounds.

I. OUR LIVES FOR THE MOST PART ARE MADE UP OF LITTLE THINGS, AND BY THESE OUR PRINCIPLE IS TO BE TESTED. There are very few who have to take a prominent place in the great conflicts of their age, and to play their part in the arena of public life, The vast majority must dwell in humbler scenes, and be content to do a much meaner work. The conflicts which a Christian has to maintain, either against the evil in his own soul, or in the narrow circle where alone his influence is felt, appear to be very trivial and unimportant, yet are they to him the battle of life and for life, and true heroism is to he shown here as well as in those stander struggles in which some may win the leader's fame, or even the martyr's crown. It will stimulate us to faithfulness in such little things if we bear in mind the way in which the Master regards the humblest works that are done, and the poorest sacrifices that are made from a pure feeling of love to Him. He can recognize and bless the martyr-spirit even though it be shown in other ways than the endurance of bonds, or the suffering of death. There is not a tear of sympathy with the sorrows of others which we shed that falls without His knowledge. His presence is with us to encourage and strengthen us in these little as in the greater trials, and faithfulness here will have its own reward.

II. LITTLE DEFECTS WEAKEN THE INFLUENCE OF MANY VIRTUES. "One sinner" (the wise man tells us) "destroyeth much good," and then following out the principle he proceeds to show by an expressive illustration how a little sin or even folly m a good man may rob him of much of the power that otherwise he would possess for good. "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour, so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour." The world is always on the watch for the faults of Christians. But the point on which we wish chiefly to insist is that men's estimate of our character is regulated chiefly by their observation of little things.

III. LITTLE THINGS CONTRIBUTE MATERIALLY TO THE FORMATION OF CHARACTER. Under the operation of varied causes, of whose power over us we are hardly-conscious, we are continually growing in holiness or sinking lower and lower in sin, by a process so gradual as to be scarcely perceptible. Conversion may be sudden, but not sanctification. Our power of resistance is to grow by constant exercise; our love, fed by the ministry of Providence and grace, is to burn with an ever brighter and purer flame; our path is to be like the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Thus, by listening to every voice of instruction, by using every opportunity, by watchfulness in the least things, are we to attain spiritual increase. There is a part of our Lancashire coast on which the sea is making steady encroachments. Those who have long been familiar with its scenery can point you to places over which the tide now rolls its waters, where a few short years ago they wandered along the grassy cliff, and stood to watch the play of the wild waves beneath. From year to year the observer may note continued alteration — fresh portions of the cliff swept away, and the bed of the ocean becoming ever wider. Were he to ask for an account of these changes, some would tell him that during a terrible tempest the sea had rolled in with more than its usual violence and carried away great fragments of solid earth — and fancy that thus they had told the whole story. His own eyes, however, gave him fuller information. He sees around him preparations for the desolations of the coming winter. Other places are now menaced with the fate of their predecessors, and the work is already being done — the process may be gradual, but sure — every tide of more than ordinary power is contributing something towards it — "by little and little" the work advances, and all is making ready for the fiercer storm which shall put the final stroke to what may seem to be the work of a night, but is in reality that of weeks and months. This is a picture but too true of incidents in the spiritual life of man. Sometimes the successive steps of the process are all hidden, and we see only the sad result; in others its advances may be more distinctly marked.

(J. G. Guinness, B. A.)

Holiness of character is not a thing into which we can jump in a moment, and just when we please. It is not like a mushroom, the growth of an hour. It cannot be attained without great watchfulness, earnest effort, much prayer, and a very close walk with Jesus. Like the coral reef which grows by little daily additions until it is strong enough to resist the mighty waves of the ocean, so is a holy character made up of what may be called littles, though in truth each of those littles is of vast importance. Little duties prayerfully discharged; little temptations earnestly resisted in the strength which God supplies out of the fulness which He has made to dwell in Jesus Christ for His people; little sins avoided, or crucified; these all together help to form that holy character which, in the hour of need, will be, under God, such a sure defence to the Christian.

(A. C. Price, B. A.)

In every thought, word, and act of an intelligent agent, there is a moral principle involved.

1. Fidelity in little things commends itself to us, when we consider our inability to estimate the prospective value, power, and influence of the smallest things.

2. Fidelity in little things commends itself when we consider that it is only by attention to small things that we can hope to be faithful in great. Great events often turn on little hinges. Chemists say, one grain of iodine will impart its colour to seven thousand times its weight in water. So, often, a little deed containing a great moral principle will impart its nature to many hearts and lives.

3. Attention to small things is important, as it relates to our individual character. Its effect is subjective as well as objective. A beautiful character reaches its climax by progressive development. You cannot paint it on the life. It must be inwrought.

4. The example given us by Christ, our great prototype, should prompt us to fidelity in little things.

5. We should exercise the strictest fidelity in all things, small and great, because we are to be judged in view of these things.

(J. W. Bledsoe.)

Essex Remembrancer.
Consider the excellence of religious principle

1. In the energy of its operation.

(1)Promptness in decision.

(2)Determination to do one's duty.

(3)Courage.

(4)Self-denial.

2. In the uniformity of its effects.

3. In the extent of its influence. It prompts to the discharge of every duty, and to the avoidance of every sin.

4. The simplicity of its character.

5. The perpetuity of its existence. Undecaying and immortal.

(Essex Remembrancer.)

Now let us look, for a moment or two, at these three principles.

I. From the highest point of view, TRUE FAITHFULNESS KNOWS NO DISTINCTION BETWEEN GREAT AND SMALL DUTIES. From the highest point of view — that is, from God's point of view — to Him, nothing is great, nothing small, as we measure it. The worth and the quality of an action depends on its motive only, and not at all on its prominence, or on any other of the accidents which we are always apt to adopt as the tests of the greatness of our deeds. The largeness of the consequences of anything that we do is no measure of the true greatness or true value of it. So it is in regard to God Himself, and His doings. What can be little to the making of which there goes the force of a soul that can know God, and must abide for evermore? Nothing is small that a spirit can do. Nothing is small that can be done from a mighty motive. Faithfulness measures acts as God measures them. "Large" or "small" are not words for the vocabulary of conscience. It knows only two words — right and wrong. The circle that is in a gnat's eye is as true a circle as the one that holds within its sweep all the stars; and the sphere that a dew-drop makes is as perfect a sphere as that of the world. All duties are the same which are done from the same motive; all acts which are not so done are alike sins. Faithfulness is one in every region. Large or small is of no account to the Sovereign eye. "He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward," because though not gifted with the prophet's tongue, he has the prophet's spirit, and does his small act of hospitality from the very same prophet-impulse which in another, who is more loftily endowed, leads to burning words and mighty deeds. Faithfulness is faith. fulness, on whatsoever scale it be set forth!

II. Then — in another point of view, FAITHFULNESS IN SMALL DUTIES IS EVEN GREATER THAN FAITHFULNESS IN GREAT. Great things that are great because they seem to have very wide-reaching consequences, and seem to be lifted up upon a pinnacle of splendour; or great things that are great because there was severe resistance that had to be overcome before we did them, and sore temptations that were dragging us down on our way to the performance of them — are really great and lofty. Only, the little duties that had no mighty consequences, no glittering splendour about them, and the little duties that had not much strife with temptation before they were done, may be as great, as great in God's eye, as great perhaps in their consequences, as great in their rewards, as in the other. Ah, my brother, it is a far harder thing, and it is a far higher proof of a thorough-going persistent Christian principle woven into the very texture of my soul, to go on plodding and patient, never taken by surprise by any small temptation, than to gather into myself the strength which God has given me, and, expecting some great storm to come down upon me, to stand fast and let it rage. It is a great deal easier to die once for Christ than to live always for Him. It is a great deal easier to do some single mighty act of self-surrender, than daily — unnoticed, patiently — to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts." Let us neither repine at our narrow spheres, nor fancy that we can afford to live carelessly in them because they are narrow. The smallest duties are often harder — because of their apparent insignificance, because of their constant recurrence — harder than the great ones. But do not let us forget that if harder, they are on the whole more needful. The world has more need of a great number of Christian people doing little things like Christians, than it has need of one apostle preaching like an apostle, or one martyr dying like a martyr. The mass of trifles makes magnitude. The little things are greater than the great, because of their number. They are more efficacious than the single lofty acts. Like the air which in the lungs needs to be broken up into small particles, and diffused ere it parts with its vitalizing principle to the blood, so the minute acts of obedience, and the exhibition of the power of the gospel in the thousand trifles of Christian lives, permeating everywhere, will vitalize the world and will preach the gospel in such a fashion as never can be done by any single and occasional, though it may seem to be more lofty and more worthy, agency. Honour the trifles, and you will find yourself right about the great things! Lastly: FAITHFULNESS IN THAT WHICH IS LEAST IS THE PREPARATION FOR, AND SECURES OUR HAVING A WIDER SPHERE IN WHICH TO OBEY GOD. Of course, it is quite easy to see how, if once we are doing, what I have already said is the harder task — habitually doing the little things wisely and well, for the love of Christ and in the fear of God — we shall be fitted for the sorest sudden temptations, and shall be made able to perform far larger and far more apparently splendid acts. Every power strengthens by exercise. Every act of obedience smoothes the road for all that shall come after. And, on the other side, the same process exactly goes on to make men, by slow degrees, unfaithful in all. Tampering with a trifle; saying, Oh, it is a small matter, and I can venture it; or, It is a little thing, too little for mighty motives to be brought to bear upon it — that ends in this — "unjust also in much." My brother, life is all great. Life is great because it is the aggregation of littles. As the chalk cliffs in the South, that rear themselves hundreds of feet above the crawling sea beneath, are all made up of the minute skeletons of microscopic animalculae; so life, mighty and awful as having eternal consequences, life that towers beetling over the sea of eternity, is made up of these minute incidents, of these trifling duties, of these small tasks; and if thou art not "faithful in that which is least," thou art unfaithful in the whole. He only is faithful that is full of faith.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

I. The great principle of the text is, that he who has sinned, though to a small amount in respect of the fruit of his transgression — provided he has done so by passing over a forbidden limit which was distinctly known to him, has, in the act of doing so, incurred a full condemnation in respect of the principle of his transgression. In one word, that the gain of it may be small, while the guilt of it may be great; that the latter ought not to be measured by the former; but that he who is unfaithful in the least shall be dealt with, in respect of the offence he has given to God, in the same way as if he had been unfaithful in much.

1. The first reason which we would assign in vindication of this is, that, by a small act of injustice, the line which separates the right from the wrong is just as effectually broken over as by a great act of injustice. There is no shading off at the margin of guilt, but a clear and vigorous delineation. It is not by a gentle transition that a man steps over from honesty to dishonesty. There is between them a wall rising up unto heaven; and the high authority of heaven must be stormed ere one inch of entrance can be made into the region of iniquity. The morality of the Saviour never leads him to gloss over beginnings of crime.

2. The second reason why he who is unfaithful in the least has incurred the condemnation of him who is unfaithful in much, is, that the littleness of the gain, so far from giving a littleness to the guilt, is in fact a circumstance of aggravation. There is just this difference. He who has committed injustice for the sake of a less advantage has done it on the impulse of a less temptation. Nay, by the second reason, this may serve to aggravate the wrath of the Divinity against him. It proves how small the price is which he sets upon his eternity, and how cheaply he can bargain the favour of God away from him, and how low he rates the good of an inheritance with Him, and for what a trifle he can dispose of all interest in His kingdom and in His promises. It is at the precise limit between the right and the wrong that the flaming sword of God's law is placed. It is there that "Thus saith the Lord" presents itself, in legible characters, to our view. It is there where the operation of His commandment begins; and not at any of those higher gradations where a man's dishonesty first appals himself by the chance of its detection, or appals others by the mischief and insecurity which it brings upon social life.

II. Let us now attempt TO UNFOLD A FEW OF THE PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCES THAT MAY BE DRAWN FROM THE PRINCIPLE OF THE TEXT, both in respect to our general relation with God, and in respect to the particular lesson of faithfulness which may be deduced from it.

1. There cannot be a stronger possible illustration of our argument than the very first act of retribution that occurred in the history of our species. What is it that invests the eating of a solitary apple with a grandeur so momentous? How came an action, in itself so minute, to be the germ of such mighty consequences? We may not be able to answer all these questions; but we may at least learn what a thing of danger it is, under the government of a holy and inflexible God, to tamper with the limits of obedience.

2. Let us, therefore, urge the spirit and the practice of this lesson upon your observation. It is evangelizing human life by impregnating its minutest transactions with the spirit of the gospel. It is strengthening the wall of partition between sin and obedience. It is the teacher of righteousness taking his stand at the outpost of that territory which he is appointed to defend, and warning his hearers of the danger that lies in a single footstep of encroachment. It is letting them know that it is in the act of stepping over the limit that the sinner throws the gauntlet of his defiance against the authority of God. It may appear a very little thing, when you are told to be honest in little matters; when the servant is told to keep her hand from every one article about which there is not an express or understood allowance on the part of her superiors; when the dealer is told to lop off the excesses of that minuter fraudulency which is so currently practised in the humble walks of merchandise; when the workman is told to abstain from those petty reservations of the material of his work for which he is said to have such snug and ample opportunity; and when, without pronouncing on the actual extent of these transgressions, all are told to be faithful in that which is least, else, if there be truth in our text, they incur the guilt of being unfaithful in much. It may be thought, that because such dishonesties as these are scarcely noticeable, they are therefore not worthy of notice. But it is just in the proportion of their being unnoticeable by the human eye, that it is religious to refrain from them. These are the cases in which it will be seen, whether the control of the omniscience of God makes up for the control of human observation — in which the sentiment, that "Thou God seest me!" should carry a preponderance through all the secret places of a man's history — in which, when every earthly check of an earthly morality is withdrawn, it should be felt that the eye of God is upon him, and that the judgment of God is in reserve for him.

(T. Chalmers, D. D.)

In our text the Master declares that fidelity, which is an element of conscience, must be thorough. It must not be an optional thing, chosen when we see that it will be better than any other instrument to secure a desired end. It must belong to every part of life, pervading it. It must belong to the least things as much as to the highest. It is not a declaration that little things are as important aa great things. It is not a declaration that the conscience is to regard all duties as of one magnitude and of one importance. It is a declaration that the habit of violating conscience, even in the least things, produces mischief that at last invalidate it for the greatest, and that is a truth that scarcely can have contradiction. I propose to illustrate this truth in some of its relations to life. In the first place, I shall speak of the heedlessness and unconscientiousness with which men take up opinions and form judgments, on every side and of every kind, in daily life. In regard to events, men seldom make it a matter of conscience to see things as they are, and hear things as they really report themselves. They follow their curiosity, their sense of wonder, their temper, their interests, or their prejudices, instead of their judgment and their conscience. There are few men who make it a point to know just what things do happen of which they are called to speak, and just how they happen. How many men were there round the corner? "Twenty," says the man, quickly. There were seven. How long did you have to wait? "Two hours, at least." It was just three-quarters of an hour by the watch. So, in a thousand things that happen every day, one man repeats what his imagination reported to him, and another man what his impatient, irritable feelings said to him. There are very few men that make it a matter of deliberate conscience to see things as they are, and report them as they happen. This becomes a great hindrance to business, clogs it, keeps men under the necessity of revising their false impressions; expends time and work; puts men on false tracks and in wrong directions; multiplies the burdens of life. But its worse effect is seen in the judgments and prejudices which men are liable to entertain about their fellow-men, and the false sentences which they are accustomed to issue, either by word of mouth or by thoughts and feelings. In thousands of men, the mind, if unveiled, would be found to be a Star-chamber filled with false witnesses and cruel judgments. The effect in each case may be small, but if you consider the sum-totals of a man's life, and the grand amount of the endless scenes of false impressions, of wicked judgments, of causeless prejudices, they will be found to be enormous. This, however, is the least evil. It is the entire untrustworthiness of a moral sense which has been so dealt with that is most to be deplored. The conscience ought to be like a perfect mirror. It ought to reflect exactly the image, that falls upon it. A man's judgment that is kept clear by commerce with conscience ought to reveal things as they are, facts as they exist, and conduct as it occurs. Now it is not necessary to break a mirror to pieces in order to make it worthless. Let one go behind it with a pencil, or with a needle of the finest point, and, with delicate touch, make the smallest line through the silver coating of the back; the next day let him make another line at right angles to that; and the third day let him make still another line parallel to the first one; and the next day let him make another line parallel to the second, and so continue to do day by day, and one year shall not have passed away before that mirror will be so scratched that it will be good for nothing. It is not necessary to deal it a hard blow to destroy its power; these delicate touches will do it, little by little. It is not necessary to be a murderer or a burglar in order to destroy the moral sense; but ah! these million little infelicities, as they are called, these scratchings and raspings, take the silver off from the back of the conscience — take the tone and temper out of the moral sense. Nay, we do not need even such mechanical force as this; just let the apartment be uncleansed in which the mirror stands: let particles of dust, and the little flocculent parts of smoke, settle film by film, flake by flake, speck by speck, upon the surface of the mirror, and its function is destroyed, so that it will reflect neither the image of yourself nor of anything else. Its function is as much destroyed as if it were dashed to pieces. Not even is this needed; only let one come so near to it that his warm breath falling on its cold face is condensed to vapour, and then it can make no report. Now there are comparatively few men who destroy their moral sense by a dash and a blow, but there is many a man whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron. The effect of this is not merely to teach us the moral lesson that man is fallible; it is to diminish the trust of man in man. And what is the effect of diminishing that? It is to introduce an element which dissevers society, which drives men away from one another, and takes away our strength. Faith in man, trust in man, is the great law of cohesion in human society. And so this infidelity in little things and little duties works both inwardly as well as outwardly. It deteriorates the moral sense; it makes men unreliable; it makes man stand in doubt of man; it loosens the ties that bind society together, and make it strong; it is the very counteracting agent of that divine love which was meant to bring men together in power. The same truth, yet more apparently, and with more melancholy results, is seen in the un-trustworthiness and infidelity of men in matters of honesty and dishonesty. The man that steals one penny is — just as great a transgressor as if he stole a thousand dollars? No, not that. The man that steals one single penny is — as great a transgressor against the laws of society as if he stole a thousand dollars? No, not exactly that. The man that steals one penny is — just as great a transgressor against the commercial interests of men as if he stole a thousand dollars? No, not that. The man that steals a penny is just as great a transgressor against the purity of his own conscience as if he stole a million of dollars. The danger of these little things is veiled under a false impression. You will hear a man say of his boy, "Though he may tell a little lie, he would not tell a big one; though he may practise a little deceit, he would not practise a big one; though he may commit a little dishonesty, he would not commit a big one." But these little things are the ones that destroy the honour, and the moral sense, and throw down the fence, and let a whole herd of buffaloes of temptation drive right through you. Criminals that die on the gallows; miserable creatures that end their days in poorhouses; wretched beings that hide themselves in loathsome places in cities; men that are driven as exiles across the sea and over the world — these are the ends of little things, the beginnings of which were thought to be safe. It is these little things that constitute your peculiar temptation and your worst danger.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Can you discover a man's character more accurately by his public, extraordinary acts, than by his ordinary, everyday conduct and spirit? Which is the true Marlborough — the general in the field winning brilliant victories, or the peculator in his chamber manipulating papers for defrauding the public treasury? Which is the real man — Lord Bacon on the bench, or Lord Bacon with open palm behind his back feeling for bribes? Which is the true woman — the lady in the parlour courteously receiving her guests, or the termagant rendering home wretched by everyday exactions and scoldings? Jesus teaches that the little things of everyday life reveal true character, and show the man as he is in himself, by referring to the ordinary tempers by which he is governed. Is it not plain, when simply announced, that general conduct in little things is a truer test of a man's real character than occasional isolated acts could be?

1. Little things make up the vast universe. The clouds gather up the rains in moisture, and part with them in drops. The stars do not leap fitfully along their orbits, but measure with equal movement each consecutive mile. All the analogies of nature point to the minute as essential to the harmony, glory, and utility of the whole. And little things are as necessary in their places in the moral, as in the physical world.

2. Jehovah is observant of little things. Sparrows. Lilies. Jehovah neglects nothing. Nothing is so little as to be beneath His notice. His providence regards with equal distinctness a worm and a world, a unit and a universe. You are unlike your God and Saviour if you neglect little things.

3. Little things engross the most of life. Great events are only occasional. Frequency and regularity would take away from their greatness, by rendering them common. We shall find little to do, if we save our energies for great occasions. If we preserve our piety for prominent services, we shall seldom find place for its exercise. Piety is not something for show, but something for use; not the gay steed in the curricle, but the plough-horse in the furrow; not jewellery for adornment, but calico for home wear and apron for the kitchen.

4. Attention to little things is essential to efficiency and success in accomplishing great things. Letters are little things, but he who scouts the alphabet will never read David's psalms. The mechanic must know how to sharpen his plane, if he would make a moulding; the artist must mix colours, if he would paint landscapes. In every direction the great is reached through the little. He will never rise to great services who will not pass through the little, and train his spiritual nature, and educate his spiritual capabilities. Through faithfulness in the least he rises to faithfulness in the much, and not otherwise.

5. Little things are causes of great events, springs of large influences. To know whether a thing is really small or great, you must trace its results. Xerxes led millions to the borders of Greece. It looked to the world like a big thing. The whole vast array accomplished nothing. It turned out a very small business. The turning of a tiny nee.lie steadily toward a fixed point is a little common thing, but it guides navies along safe and sure paths, over unmarked oceans. So a magnetic word has guided a soul through a stormy world to a peaceful haven. A simple, secret prayer has pierced and opened clouds to pout down showers of spiritual blessings upon a city or state.

6. Conscientiousness in little things is the best evidence of sincere piety.

7. Faithfulness in little things is essential to true piety. The principle of obedience is simply doing what the Lord requires because He requires it. There is nothing little if God requires it. The veriest trifle becomes a great thing if the alternative of obedience or rebellion is involved in it. Microscopic holiness is the perfection of excellence. To live by the day, and to watch each step, is the true pilgrimage method.

(J. L. Burrows, D. D.)

Here are two great truths suggested to us.

1. That we are here in this world merely on trial, and serving our apprenticeship.

2. That it is our fidelity that is tried, not so much whether we have done great or little things, but whether we have shown the spirit which above all else a steward should show — fidelity to the interests entrusted to him. The two verses following, in which this is applied, may best be illustrated by familiar figures. "If," says our Lord, "ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust that which is real?" He considers us all in this world as children busy with mere playthings and toys, though so profoundly in earnest. But, looking at children so engaged, you can perfectly see the character of each. Although the actual things they are doing are of no moment or reality; although, with a frankness and penetration not given to their elders, they know they are but playing, yet each is exhibiting the very qualities which will afterwards make or mar him, the selfish greed and fraud of one child being as patent as the guileless open-handedness of the other. To the watchful parents these games that are forgotten in the night's sleep, these buildings which as soon as complete are swept away to make room for others, are as thorough a revelation of the character of the child as affairs of state and complicated transactions are of the grown man. And if the parent sees a grasping selfishness in his child, or a domineering inconsiderateness of every one but himself, as he plays at buying and selling, building and visiting, he knows that these same qualities will come out in the real work of life, and will unfit their possessor for the best work, and prevent him from honourable and generous conduct, and all the highest functions and duties of life. So our Lord, observant of the dispositions we are showing as we deal with the shadowy objects and passing events of this seeming substantial world, marks us off as fit or unfit to be entrusted with what is real and abiding. If this man shows such greed for the gold he knows he must in a few years leave, will he not show a keener, intenser selfishness in regard to what is abiding? If he can trample on other people's rights for the sake of a pound or two, how can he be trusted to deal with what is infinitely more valuable? If here in a world where mistakes are not final, and which is destined to he burned up with all the traces of evil that are in it — if in a world which, after all, is a mere card-house, or in which we are apprentices learning the use of our tools, and busy with work which, if we spoil, we do no irreparable harm — if here we display incorrigible negligence and incapacity to keep a high aim and a good model before us, who would be so foolish as to let us loose among eternal matters, things of abiding importance, and in which mistake and carelessness and infidelity are irreparable?

(Marcus Dods, D. D.)

— A merchant sees among his clerks one whose look and bearing are prepossessing, and he thinks that by and by this lad might possibly make a good partner; he watches him, but he finds him gradually degenerating into slipshod ways of doing his work, coming down late in the mornings, and showing no zeal for the growth of the business; and so the thought grows in his mind, "If he is not faithful in that which is another man's, how can I give him the business as his own? I can't hand over my business to one who will squander what I have spent my life in accumulating; to one who has not sufficient liking for work to give himself heartily to it, or sufficient sense of honour to do it heartily whether he likes it or no. Much as I should like to lift him out of a subordinate situation, I cannot do so." Thus are determined the commercial and social prospects of many an unconscious youth, and thus are determined the eternal prospects of many a heedless servant of God, who little thinks that the Master's eye is upon him, and that by hasting to be rich he is making himself eternally poor, and by slackness in God's service is ruining his own future.

(Marcus Dods, D. D.)

A jest led to a war between two great nations. The presence of a comma in a deed lost to the owner of an estate one thousand pounds a month for eight months. The battle of Corunna, in 1809, is said to have been fought, and the life of that noble officer Sir John Moore sacrificed, through a dragoon stopping to drink while bearing despatches. A man lighting a fire on the sea-shore led to the Rev. John Newton's honoured labours and life of usefulness.

We sin by omitting cheap acts of beneficence in our daily walk and among our early companionship. The web of a merciful life is made up of these slender threads.

(J. W. Alexander, D. D.)

A man who was hung at Carlisle for house-breaking declared that his first step to ruin was taking a halfpenny out of his mother's pocket while she was asleep. Another offender, convicted of housebreaking at Chester, said at the gallows, "You are come to see a man die. Oh! take warning by me. The first beginning of my ruin was Sabbath-breaking. It led me into bad company, and from bad company to robbing orchards and gardens, and then to housebreaking, and that has brought me to this place."

Vermont Chronicle.
A brother in the ministry took occasion to preach on the passage, "He that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." The theme was, "that men who take advantage of others in small things have the very element of character to wrong the community and individuals in great things, where the prospect of escaping detection or censure is as little to be dreaded." The preacher exposed the various ways by which people wrong others; such as borrowing, by mistakes in making change, by errors in accounts, by escaping taxes and custom-house duties, by managing to escape postage, by finding articles and never seeking owners, and by injuring articles borrowed, and never making the fact known to the owner when returned. One lady the next day met her pastor, and said, "I have been to rectify an error made in giving me change a few weeks ago, for I felt bitterly your reproof yesterday." Another individual went to Boston to pay for an article not in her bill, which she noticed was not charged when she paid it. A man going home from meeting said to his companion, "I do not believe there was a man in the meeting-house to-day who did not feel condemned." After applying the sermon to a score or more of his acquaintances, he continued, "Did not the pastor utter something about finding a pair of wheels?" "I believe not, neighbour.". He spoke of keeping little things which had been found." "Well, I thought he said something about finding a pair of wheels, and supposed he meant me. I found a pair down in my lot a while ago." "Do you," said his companion, " know who they belong to? Mr. B.—— lost them a short time ago." The owner was soon in the possession of his wheels.

(Vermont Chronicle.)

A king appointed one servant over his gold treasure, another over his straw. The latter's honesty being suspected, he was angry because the gold had not been trusted to him. The king said, "Thou fool, if thou couldst not be trusted with straw, how can any one trust thee with gold?"

(Archbishop Trench.)

A Corsican gentleman, who had been taken prisoner by the Genoese, was thrown into a dark dungeon, where he was chained to the ground. While he was in this dismal situation the Genoese sent a message to him, that if he would accept of a commission in their service, he might have it. "No," said he; "were I to accept your offer, it would be with a determined purpose to take the first opportunity of returning to the service of my country. But I would not have my countrymen even suspect that I could be one moment unfaithful."

Ye cannot serve God and mammon
I. REASONS WHY AVARICE SHOULD BE GUARDED AGAINST.

1. The avaricious man usually leads a miserable life, making no use of his wealth.

2. Avarice takes away a man's peace of mind.(1) The avaricious man is in constant disquietude —

(a)Through terror of losing his possessions.

(b)Through envy of others, and the craving to possess their property.

(c)Through desire to accumulate more wealth.(2) The avaricious man is inconsolable at the loss of his riches.

2. Avarice is a base vice, and the source of many other vices.

3. Avarice almost inevitably leads to eternal ruin.

II. MEANS TO BE ADOPTED FOR GUARDING AGAINST AVARICE.

1. Endeavour to know yourself, your inclinations, passions, desires; and examine yourself in order to ascertain whether you cannot find some symptom of avarice within yourself. Such symptoms are —(1) A greater confidence in temporal goods than in Almighty God (Psalm 52.7).(2) Unscrupulousness in the manner of acquiring temporal goods.(3) Excessive grief at the loss of temporal goods.(4) If you do not use temporal goods for the glory of God, nor for your own and your neighbours' needs.

2. Strive to keep from your soul the vice of avarice,(1) By continual struggle against the concupiscence of money and riches (Psalm 62:10).(2) By the exercise of opposite virtues, especially that of Christian charity. You will experience the joys earned by these virtues.(3) By supplication for the removal of the temptation.

(Chevassu.)

"No man can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other: or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24). In one point of view, this sounds very strangely; for nothing is more certain than that we can serve two masters. Every child that is dutifully reared serves two masters — its father and its mother; and it is quite possible for one to be a servant of a whole family of masters. But in order that this may take place, it is indispensably necessary that the masters should be alike in feeling, and identical in interest. But if masters are antagonistic the one to the other, if their interests are not only different but conflicting, if to serve one of necessity puts you in opposition to the other, then it is impossible to serve two. And the more you look at it the plainer it becomes. Suppose one man represents perfect honour, and another represents perfect meanness, and you undertake to serve both of them, what sort of success will you have? Suppose one man be called Truth, and another be called Falsehood, and you attempt to serve both of them, is it not plain that you will either hate the one and love the other, or else hold to the one and despise the other? You cannot serve both at the same time. No man can serve purity and lust at the same time. No man can serve good nature and anger at the same time. Are God and mammon, then, antagonistic? And what are the ways in which man is looked at from the two spheres — the Divine and the earthly? Mammon regards man as a creature of time and this world, and thinks of him, plans for him, educates him, and uses him, am it, like the beast of the field, he only had existence here, and as if his existence was only related to the comforts that belong to this state of being. But God looks upon man as a creature of eternal duration, passing through this world. The chief end and interest of men are also viewed antagonistically. In short, man in his immediate and visible good, is that which mammon regards. On the other hand, God regards not indifferently the interests of our body; but more He regards the interests of our being. Mammon builds men in the finer traits which they possess in common with animals. God would build men in those traits which they have in common with Him. One builds for this world exclusively. The other builds for this world and the next. There is nothing more certain than that a man's character depends upon his ruling purpose. Let us look at it. A man may be a thoroughly worldly man — that is, all his ruling aims, and desires, and expectations, may make him worldly; and yet he may be observant of external religious services. A man is not to be supposed to be less a worldly man because when the Sabbath day comes round he knows it. He maybe, also, a believer in the gospel, and in the most evangelical and orthodox type of doctrine — as an idea. It is quite possible for a man to be supremely worldly, and yet to have strong religious feelings. There is nothing more common than instances which go to show that we like as a sentiment things that we do not like as an ethical rule. Nay, it is possible for a man to go further, and yet be a thoroughly worldly man. And here it is that the distinction comes in. Although a man may be a servant of mammon, and may serve him with heart and soul; yet, externally, there may be a great many appearances that look as though he was serving God. And men really seem to think that they can serve God and mammon [

1. There is reason m believe that the morality of multitudes of men, though they are good in some degree, leaves out that which alone can make it a ground of complacence and trust. A man may be a moral man, and leave out the whole of the life to come. The Greeks were moral men, many of them. The Romans were moral men, many of them.

2. There is reason to fear that the religion of multitudes of professors of religion is but a form of church-morality. You may tell me that this is a misjudgment. I hope it is. But what sort of lives are we living, when it is possible to misinterpret them? What if I should have occasion to say the same things about your allegiance to the government that I have said about your religion? There is not a man of any note in the community about whose allegiance you have any doubt. If I point to one man, you say, "He is not true to his country." If I point to another man, you say, "He is loyal"; and you state facts to prove it. You say, "When his personal interest came in collision with the interest of the country, and one or the other had to be given up, he gave up his personal interest." But when God's claims come in collision with your personal interests, God's claims go down, and your personal interests go up. Now, there ought to be no cause for doubt that you are Christians. A man is bound to live towards his country so that there shall be no mistake about his patriotism. And God says, "You are bound to live towards Me so that in some way men shall see that you are My children." You are bound to live in everything as you do in some things. You are attempting, partly through ignorance, partly by reason of carelessness, and partly on account of too low an estimate of the sacredness of your religious obligations, to serve God with your right hand, and mammon with your left; and men see it, and they doubt you; and that is not the worst of it — they doubt God, they doubt Christ, they doubt the reality of religion. And to be the occasion of doubt concerning matters of such grave importance, is culpable. No man, therefore, has a right to allow any mistake to exist in the matter of his Chris. tian character. There is need, Christian brethren, of severe tests in this particular. You need to settle these questions: "Where is my allegiance? Am I with God, and for God supremely?"

(H. W. Beecher.)

For the opening and prosecuting of which words, consider —

1. What these two masters are.

2. What it is to serve them.

3. How none can serve them both.

4. Why none can serve them both.

5. The use and application.For the first of these, these two masters are God and the world, but with much difference, as we may see severally. God is a Lord and Master absolutely, properly, and by good right in Himself; being in His own nature most holy, most mighty, most infinite in glory and sovereignty over all His creatures. Again, He is a Lord and Master in relation to us: and not only by right of creation and preservation as we are men and creatures, but also by right of redemption and sanctification, as new men and new creatures.

1. He hath made a covenant with us, first of works, and then of grace.

2. He hath appointed our work.

3. He hath as a Master appointed us liberal wages, even a merciful reward of eternal life.Thus is God a Lord and Master. Now, on the other side, the world is called a master or lord, not by any right in itself, of over us, but —

1. By usurpation.

2. By man's corruption, and defection from the true God.

3. By the world's general estimation, and acceptation of the wealth and mammon, as a lord and great commander; which appeareth —

(1)By subjecting themselves to the basest services of wealth for wealth.

(2)By affecting wealth as the chief good.

(3)By depending (as servants on their masters) on their wealth.Concerning the service of these masters, we must mark, that our Saviour saith not, A man cannot serve God that hath riches, but, He cannot serve God and riches. For he that cannot distinguish between having the world, and serving the world, cannot understand this text and conclusion of Jesus Christ. Our Lord well knew it was lawful both to have, and to seek, and to use the world holily and humbly. But how may we conceive that one cannot be servant to two masters, or to these two? In these conditions:

1. Not at the same time.

2. Not in their proper commands; for as they are contrary lords, so they command contrary things, and draw to contrary courses. One calls to works of mercy, charity, compassion, liberality, and the like; the other to cruelty, and unmercifulness, to shut our eyes from beholding our own flesh, to shut our ear from the cry of the poor, to shut our purse and hand from the charitable relief of Christ's poor members. And how can one man obey both these in their contrary commands?

3. No man can serve two masters in sovereignty, unless they be subordinate one to the other, and so their commands concur in order one to another, and cross not one another.The reasons whereof are these:

1. A servant is the possession of his master; and one possession can have but one owner and possessor at once.

2. The servant of the world sets up his wealth as an idol in his heart; by which the worldling forsakes the true God, and turns to most gross idolatry. So of the second reason.

3. The apostle (Romans 6:16) asks thus, "Know ye not, that to whomsoever ye give yourselves as servants to obey, his servants ye are whom ye do obey, whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" But the distinction implies that they cannot obey both together.

4. No man can serve these two masters, because a man cannot divide his heart between God and the world; and if he could, God will have no part of a divided heart, as Elijah said in that case (1 Kings 18:20).How may I know what master I serve?

1. Whom hast thou covenanted withal? God or the world? To whom hast thou wholly resigned thyself? Is thy strength become God's? Is thy time His? thy labour His?

2. Every servant is commanded by his master. God's servant knows his Lord's mind and pleasure, and readily attempts it, even in most difficult commandments.

3. Every servant receives wages of his own master, and thrives by his service. Of whom doest thou receive wages?

4. Which of these two masters lovest thou best? He that is thy master, thy affection must cleave to him, as is said of the prodigal.

5. If thou beest the servant of God, thy wealth is His servant as well as thyself.

(T. Taylor, D. D.)

What we all want is unity of character. We are, most of us, too many characters folded up into one. This want of unity of character is the chief secret of almost all our weakness. No life can be a strong life which has not a fixed focus. Another consequence of this uncertainty of aim and this divided allegiance is that we really are missing the goodness and happiness of everything. We have too much religion thoroughly to enjoy the world, and too much of the world thoroughly to enjoy religion. Our convictions haunt us in the world, and our worldliness follows us even to our knees. But there is a worse consequence than this. The Holy Spirit is grieved in us, and Christ is wounded, and the Father is dishonoured. For, which is worse, to be half loved or not to be loved at all? Where you have a right to all, is not partial love a mockery and an insult? The question, the all-important question is, What is the remedy? But first, before I speak of that, let me draw your attention to a distinction which is not without its force. The word "masters" in the text does not actually carry the meaning of "masters " and "servants" in the ordinary acceptation of the phrases. It might be literally translated, according to the root of the word, "proprietors" or "lords." "No one can serve two proprietors." This emphasizes the sentence. God has a property, all property, in you. By right you are His. The world is not your proprietor. You are not made to be the world's But now I return to the question, "How can we best attain to serve one lord?" I should answer first, without hesitation, by making that one Master, or Proprietor, or Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. And more than this. God has given the govern. merit and the sovereignty of this world till the day of judgment, to Jesus Christ. Therefore He is our Proprietor and our Master. Therefore I say, begin with believing that you are forgiven. Let Jesus — as your own dear Saviour — occupy His right place in your heart. The rest is quite sure. You will want no other Masher. All life is service. The happiness or the unhappiness of the service depends on who is the master. If self is the master, the service will be a failure! If the world is the master, the service will soon become drudgery I If Christ is the master, the service will be liberty; the law will be love, and the wages life, life for ever. If self, and the world, and Christ, be all masters, the diluted service will be nothing worth. There will be no "service" at all. Self will go to the top, and self will be disappointed. But if the "Master" be one, and that one God, that concentration will give force to every good thing within you. Life will be a great success. The service will be sweet.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

We cannot possibly serve both God and mammon. "When you see a dog following two men," says Ralph Erskine, "you know not to which of them he belongs while they walk together; but let them come to a parting-road, and one go one way, and the other another way, then will you know which is the dog's master. So while a man may have the world and a religious profession too, we cannot tell which is the man's master, God or the world; but stay till the man come to a parting-road. God calls him this way, and the world calls him that way. Well, if God be his master, he follows truth and righteousness, and lets the world go; but if the world be his master, then he follows the flesh and the lusts thereof, and lets God and conscience go." It is always so. The lukewarm can never be trusted, but the heartily-loving are ever loyal.

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