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Written by W.M. Mitchell   

The Gospel Messenger—February 1892

Reply To W. L. Jones of Mississippi

We cannot claim that we have arrived to the full depth of meaning of any portion of the word of the Lord, especially when he “uttered his dark sayings” by parables. Much of the real sense and meaning of the written word of God may have been unfolded to us by our daily and individual experience, and without this experience no explanation that can be given will be instructive in the way of righteousness, or do us any real good. Even the preaching of the blessed gospel of the Son of God does not instruct, feed, comfort and effect all who hear it alike. Some are profited and some are not. The word preached failed to profit some in ancient times because they lacked the experience of faith within them to bear witness to the word preached. Where they have this inward witness, the preaching of the gospel comes to them as the revelation of Jesus did to doubting Thomas, and they are in spirit ready to say, as he did, “My Lord and my God.”

But we set out in this article to say a few words to Bro. Jones as to what is represented by the man with one talent. Bro. Jones asks, “Was he lost?” We know that much might be justly said concerning what our Lord has spoken of the servants and of the five, two and one talents, but as we design brevity, it must suffice at present to say that we have believed for many years that if one of those three servants represent a child of God and heir of the kingdom that He bath promised to them that love Him, they all do. A full and detailed account is given in Matthew xxv. 14-30. And we think it may be clearly seen, by a careful reading, that the parable illustrates in a strong and forcible manner, the difference between the joy, comfort, peace and happiness of an obedient Christian and one who is not. One servant received five talents and made a good use of it, according to his ability; another only had ability to use two talents, but he exercised that ability in equal proportion to him who had ability to manage five, and consequently he received the same approbation from his lord for his diligence and obedience that the servant received who had gained more than double what he had. To each it was said: “Well done, good and faithful servant;” “enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” What a blessed peace of soul here is! The answer of a good conscience and a feast of fat things with the Lord of the kingdom! 0, how delightful it is for Christians to “walk worthy of the vocation where with they are called, in all meekness and lowliness, with long-suffering and joyfulness.” There is joy and peace at home or abroad. Malice, hatred, backbiting and evil speaking are laid aside, and they come together for worship as little children, even as “new-born babes desiring the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby”—1 Pet ii.

But what shall be said of this servant with the one talent! He is a servant of the same king, and heir of the same kingdom with his fellow-servants who had been faithful to that which was committed to them But he had been unfaithful to the sacred trust committed to him, and instead of being obedient to his lord to occupy according to ability, he began to cultivate the temptation that his lord was a hard, rough and austere I man, and he finally concluded to do nothing with the treasure committed to him, except to dig in the earth and hide it, so that no one would ever know it had been committed to him. Now this conduct of the man with one talent seems forcibly to illustrate what many of the Lord’s people have experienced and done. Many of them have conferred with flesh and blood, and have been disobedient to the heavenly calling, and thereby brought much affliction and distress of mind upon themselves. Our Lord hath said that “He that knoweth his lord’s will and prepareth not himself, nor doeth according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” —Luke xii. 47.

Chastening from the Lord is sure to come in some form or another upon every slothful, faithless and disobedient child. “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

The different results to those three servants were not owing to the difference in the number of talents that had been committed to each of them; for as the man with two talents received the same approval for his faithful use of them, that was given to the servant who had gained five, there is strong reason to infer that faithfulness with the one talent would have received the same hearty approval of “Well done, good and faithful servant.” We repeat, therefore, what we have already said in substance, that though the parable may represent and illustrate other things, this one thing stands prominent in it, to illustrate the difference between faithfulness and unfaithfulness, obedience and disobedience of Christians. The same results do not attend both, and this awful lesson of instruction to be drawn from what befell the “slothful and wicked servant,” should be a lasting warning to “be not slothful in business,” but to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”—Rom. xii. It will be seen that our Lord still regards the man with one talent as a servant, though a “slothful and wicked servant.” He still belonged to the same lord, and the lord deals with him as his own servant, commanding that the talent be taken from him and given to him that had ten, and the unprofitable “servant cast into outer darkness, where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The principle of creature merit to obtain future and eternal happiness is so deeply seated in poor, depraved and sinful man, and it has been so diligently taught as a condition to obtain heaven and eternal glory, that it is no great wonder if thousands of the children of God, as well as Bro. Jones, should find the question in their minds, “Will the man with one talent be lost forever?”
Without at this moment attempting to solve and answer all the questions that might arise with regard to the talent being taken away and given to him who had ten, we will simply say that there is nothing connected with the application of this parable, whether in regard to the servants, the giving or taking away of the talents, that has any reference to the future and eternal destiny of those servants, whether good or bad servants, faithful or unfaithful. And whether we properly understand its application or not, we feel a degree of confident assurance that it has its application to the people of God in this present time state. We must, therefore, look for some other solution of the taking the talent away from the slothful servant than that of final apostasy or eternal banishment from the peaceful presence of God. We cannot regard the talent given, whether to the faithful or unfaithful servants, as representing eternal life, for the plain reason that it would not only be a contradiction of the words of Jesus that they to whom eternal life is given “shall never perish,” but it would look too silly to talk about taking eternal life from one poor, faithless and slothful servant of the Lord and giving it to another who had ten already, five of which he had gained himself by faithful business and honest trading.

Having said this much by way of relief to the mind of Bro. Jones, or others who may have been troubled with the thought that their unfaithfulness will banish them at last from God, we will now say that there is no question but the taking of the talent away, the casting the servant into outer darkness and his weeping and gnashing of teeth, has a meaning, even an awful and fearful meaning to the slothful and disobedient Christian, and we may all fear, whether we have ten, five, two or one talent, this terrible chastisement may fall upon us from our Father’s hand. Those who have five or ten talents are no more exempt from the consequences of unfaithfulness and disobedience than the servant who has but one. “He that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons” with God.—Col. iii. 25.

This taking away of the talent agrees with what each disobedient Christian experiences. The pleasant exercises and comforts of spirit he once had are gone from him, darkness—even the darkness of the outside world—envelops him. He has dug in his earthly nature, quenched the spirit of obedience, and hid that which should have been used to the glory of God. There is weeping as evidence of distress and sorrow, and there is “gnashing of teeth” as evidencing the bitterness and irreconciliation of our carnal nature. O, what a miserable struggle and death there is here; and how forcibly do the words of inspiration declare, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”—Heb. x. 31. And how solemnly and faithfully has the warning gone forth, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.”—Heb. iii. 12. Yes, in “any of you,” whether in preacher, deacon, or other individual members, whether with ten talents or one take heed to the faithful warning of God’s word, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief which will lead to a departure from the living God to follow the crooked ways of evil men that lead “down to the chambers of death.”—Prov. ii. 15; vii: 27. It becomes every servant of God, therefore, to “fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.”—Heb. iv. 1. And who is it, brethren, that seems to come shorter of the enjoyment of this gospel rest of soul than the one represented by the man with the one talent? This is the result of carnality and disobedience, and in Matthew xviii. 34, such an ungrateful and worldly-minded Christian is commanded to be delivered to the tormentors till all that is due his lord shall be paid.

The one who had the ten talents and then the gift of another which had been taken from him who had but one, demonstrates the fruitfulness of obedience by a growth in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus, and thus an entrance is given to all such abundantly into the “everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”—2 Pet. i. 11. “Grace and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ” is multiplied unto them, and they go “from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before the Lord.”—Psa. lxxxiv. 7.

We must now close this article, which has already been spun out to much greater length than at first designed. We hope it may be of some interest to Bro. Jones and other readers of the MESSENGER, and if any feel inclined to give us the benefit of such light as they may have upon the subject, it will be cheerfully inserted.  M.

Last Updated ( Friday, 22 September 2006 )
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