James Smith, 1865
"Occupy until I come." Luke 12:13
"It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." And it is equally true and faithful, that He is gone to receive a kingdom, and intends to return. We have His Word and His Spirit; but, as the man, we have not His presence, for He is at His Father's right hand, waiting until His enemies are made His footstool. We are recognized as His, and are required not only to confess Him — but to be employed for Him. To every Christian He has given some talent; and to every one who has any talent, He says, "Occupy until I come."
Here is an EVENT referred to — the second coming of Jesus.He is now absent — but He will return. His coming is certain — for He has pledged His Word: it is necessary — for the present state both of the world and the church requires it.
When He will come is unknown. He intended it to be a profound secret. That period is not made known either by Himself or His servants. It is concealed for wise and holy purposes. It may be immediately, or it may not be for a long time to come. We can fix no date, and if we are wise we shall not attempt it. It is one of the secret things which belong to the Lord. All we have to do is, to keep it constantly in view, act in full prospect of it, and be ready at any time for it. It will never be anything but a mercy to the diligent, devoted, and decided servant of God. Not to know when He will come — but to be ready for His coming — is my business and yours.
His coming, whenever it is, will be sudden. As a thief in the night the Son of Man will come — when men are crying, 'Peace and safety' — when all are slumbering and sleeping — when some have the talent wrapped up in the napkin and put carefully away — He will come. Sudden as the lightning's flash, will Jesus the second time appear.
It will be solemn. The last trumpet will sound. "The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare." The dead in Christ will arise. He will appear in the clouds, and all His holy angels with Him. The convulsed elements, the rising dead, the roar in the skies, and His appearance in His own glory, and His father's glory — will make it most solemn.
It will be magnificently glorious. Unequaled in grandeur, splendor and majesty. Now He appears, not as the babe in Bethlehem, not as the man of sorrows, not as the thorn-crowned king, not as the crucified Nazarene — but as King of kings, and Lord of lords, and as the Head of His body the church. Robed with light, and crowned with glory, His very countenance will strike terror into his foes, and make them cry for the rocks to fall on them, and the hills to cover them, and hide them from His piercing eye. "Behold, He comes with clouds, and every eye shall see Him, and they also that pierced Him; and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him." Hence, also, His own words: "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he who watches and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." "Blessed is that servant, whom his Lord, when He comes, shall find so doing."
Here is a COMMAND — "Occupy until I come."The Lord gives talents to the whole of His servants. To some five, to some two, and to some one. Or, He distributes His money; each receives a pound, and each is expected to turn it to account. The talents are to be employed in order to be improved and increased. He who has, and employs his talent, improves it; and to him that has employed and improved it shall be given, and he shall have abundance. We may know what we have — but we do not know what it may become, if diligently employed. The industrious tradesman may begin with a very small capital — but by "tact and push" he may become one of our merchant princes; born in a hired cottage, he may end his days in a mansion of his own; in youth obliged to borrow of others, in old age able to lend to many. So it is in Christ's kingdom — we rise by degrees, and rise only by diligence, devotedness, and zeal. Every servant has some talent — not one is left without: if he has not five pounds — he has at least one, and that one is to be employed.
Some have a talent to teach children, and to unfold to their minds the gospel of the blessed God. This is an important talent — not as conspicuous as some — but perhaps quite as useful. Its place is not to be hidden in the napkin — but used in the school-room. It is to be feared, that while there are many of our schools languishing or kept small for lack of teachers, there are many in our churches and congregations who have this talent — but consider themselves exempt from the command to use it. They are too "respectable," that is, they are too proud. They work too hard in the week, that is, they may spend all their energies in the world and for the flesh, and then must be excused because no energies are left to be employed for Jesus. Time would fail to enumerate the innumerable excuses made for idleness, pride, selfishness, and carnality in its thousand forms! If you can teach, and do not, be sure, on good grounds, that your Lord does not want you, or expect you, to teach. If you did teach — but have given it up, be sure that you have your Lord's warrant, signed by His own hand, for quitting the field. Children are growing up in ignorance, young people are going to hell in droves — and you wrap your talent in a napkin, and spend your Lord's day in self-indulgence and criminal ease! This is not obeying the command, "Occupy until I come."
Some have a talent for preaching — village preaching, or occasional preaching — but not for the pastoral office — and they are required to preach. But because they have not a more conspicuous gift, they do nothing — and the poor villagers may go to hell, if every one acts like they do. We know how the flesh cries out, the distance is great, the weather may be bad, the cottage-room is inconvenient, the congregation is small. Or, I have tried — but seem to have preached in vain. Look at Jesus Himself, when he went through the towns and villages preaching. Did He flinch because of weather, distance, inconvenience, or even lack of success? No, His Father's will was His rule; and to glorify His Father's name was His highest end. Look at the apostles, persecuted, defamed, made a spectacle and a gazing-stock to angels and to men; did they give up their commission, wrap up their talent in the napkin, and ingloriously quit the field? No, they all acted upon the principle which caused one to exclaim, in reference to bonds and imprisonment, "None of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry that I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." Over kind wives, and over tender parents, by persuasions keep many at home for their own gratification, who ought to be employed in publishing the good news of a free salvation to poor ignorant sinners.
The flesh, which ought to be crucified — is indulged; the devil who ought to be resisted — is attended to; and so the work of the Lord is neglected, and our villages and hamlets are left in darkness, ignorance, and death. How many sit and hear sermons month after month — who ought to go out and preach them! If they can preach one sermon a week, and there is any place needing the gospel at hand, they ought to preach it; and if they can only preach one sermon a month, they ought to do that. How different would be the state of the villages of England — if every Christian had laid out his talent instead of laying it up!
Reader, can you speak of Jesus, in plain English, for twenty minutes, to a dozen or a score poor cottagers? Is there any village, or back street, or dark district, in your town — where you may so speak? If so, do you use your talent? If not, are you justified in burying your Lord's money in the earth? Are you attending to His command, "Occupy until I come."
Some have a talent for writing, and they could write letters full of simple gospel, accompanied with pointed appeals, loving exhortations, and urgent entreaties. To such, Jesus says, "Occupy until I come." Some can engage in vocal prayer — this is a talent, and should be employed. Nor should a nervous feeling, or fear of not shining before others — cause anyone to wrap up their talent in the napkin.
Some have a talent for singing — God has given them a voice, an ear, and grace in the heart, and this talent should be used for God's glory. Some have a talent for conversation — they can interest and impress others when they talk with them; they should be careful to speak of Jesus, and try and win souls for Him. Some could, by visiting and persuasion, induce people to attend public worship who neglect it; and they should endeavor to crowd the house. Some have money — that is a talent, and God requires that we use it for Him.
Reader, I know not what talent you have; but you have some. It may be only one — or it may be several. Are you using your talent for Jesus? Are you filling a place in the field, performing a work in the world, or, in the words of the text, are you occupying until Jesus comes?
Every talent brings with it responsibility. It is given us for the good of others. We are bound to use it. We must give an account of what we have done with it. Every one of us is bound by the command of Jesus. He is our lawful King. We are His subjects, whom He has redeemed by His blood from a fearful doom, that we may do His will, glorify His name on earth, and then reign with Him in heaven. We are bound to use our talents — the whole of them — and to use them industriously, hopefully, and because our Lord requires us to do so, and will soon come, demand an account, and reward every one of us according to His works.
Authority — His authority — binds us — but
gratitude should constrain us to do all we can for His glory and
praise. Reader, what has Jesus done for you? Do you know? What are
you doing for Jesus? Are you ashamed to say? What might you do? What
has Jesus promised you? Can you guess? Nay, it is so great and glorious,
that it has not entered into the heart of man to conceive! Can you expect so
much from Him — and yet manifest so little love, and be satisfied to
do so little for Him? Take down your napkin, unwrap the talent, put
the money into the bank, and get the interest ready for when the Master
comes. Can you teach? Let the next Lord's-day find you in the Sunday School.
Can you preach? Look out for some neglected village, or blind lane or alley,
and begin at once to
"Tell to sinners round
What a dear Savior you have found."
Villagers do not need long, dry, tedious discourses; they love something short, plain, pointed, warm from the heart, full of Christ, and corroborated by the man's own experience. Better interest for fifteen minutes — than speak sixty without! Can you write? Write at once to one or more with a view to save the soul. Can you pray vocally? Be sure and be regular at the prayer-meeting. Can you sing? Let the church and congregation have the benefit of your voice. Can you converse? Visit on purpose to speak of Jesus. Can you induce children to come to the Sunday School, or adults to come and bear the gospel? Try. Begin at once. Let no one near you have to say, "I was never asked to go to chapel. No one ever invited my children to the school. No one ever spoke to me about my soul." Have you money? Give a fair proportion to God's cause, to carry on His glorious work in the world. This will be to carry out the Lord's command, "Occupy until I come."
Let each one of us ask — first, Do I know what talent I have? Have I examined? Did I ever try if I could teach, preach, pray, sing, write, converse, or induce people to seek the salvation of their souls?
Secondly, Do I realize my responsibility for the use of the talent of talents with which the Lord has entrusted me?
Thirdly, Am I zealously employing my whole talent for the Lord?
Fourthly, Am I expecting my Lord's return; and, therefore, endeavoring so to live, so to act, and so to work, as to be ready to meet Him, and present my account to Him?
Fifthly, Is my talent, or any part of it, wrapped up in the napkin? Methinks there were never so many napkins in use in the church of God as now. We have napkins of all sorts, and all sizes. They look so white, they are folded so tastefully, they are laid up so carefully, that few suspect what they are made of, what they contain, or that they will bring shame and confusion upon their owners at last. It is to these napkins, that we must ascribe our lack of village preachers, Sunday school teachers, tract distributors, visitors of the sick, praying brethren, good singing, useful conversation, crowded chapels, and full exchequers. Whatever the Lord may find in my possession when He comes, may he never find a napkin! He left His own buried in His tomb, and what a mercy it would be if every one found in the church were buried there too.