The Last Sermon For The Year
“Give an account of your stewardship, for you may no longer be steward.”
THE first part of this text applies to us all. The second part will apply to each one of us before long. “Give an account of your stewardship,” is a command that may be addressed to the ungodly. They are accountable to God for all that they have, or have ever had, or ever shall have. The Law of the Lord is not relaxed because they have sinned–they still remain responsible to God even though they attempt to cast off the yoke of the Almighty. As creatures formed by the Divine hand and sustained by Divine power, they are bound to serve God. And if they do not, and will not, His claims upon them do not cease–and to each of them He says, “Give an account of your stewardship.”
This text may also be applied to the children of God, to the godly–in a different sense, however, and after another fashion. For, first of all, the godly are God’s children–they are accounted as standing in Christ. They are no longer merely God’s subjects, for what they owed to God as sinners has all been discharged by Jesus Christ, their Substitute and Savior. They have, therefore, been placed on a different footing from other men. But having been saved by Grace and adopted into God’s family, they have had entrusted to them talents which they are to use to His honor and Glory. Being the Lord’s children and being saved, they become His servants–and as His servants they are under responsibility to God and they will all have to give to Him an account of their stewardship.
Look at Eli. I have no doubt that he was a saved man, but God made him a steward over his own family as well as a Prophet to Israel, and he had to give an account of his stewardship. And because he had not been faithful in it, although he was not eternally condemned, yet he was made to suffer most miserably when he was told that the whole of his house would be swept away–and also when he heard of the deaths of his sons and, as the direst news of all, learned that the Ark of God was taken by the Philistines. God visited him in his capacity of steward, made him give his account, and awarded him in this life a heavy penalty for his unfaithfulness! And I do not doubt that many a child of God who has been saved at the last, yet, being found unfaithful as a steward, has had to suffer much, has lost much of honor and much of fellowship with God–and much of high advancement in the way of Grace which he might otherwise have obtained.
David was another such steward. He was not a lost soul–I have no doubt that he is among the saved and blessed saints in Heaven–but as a steward he was not found faithful. You remember how grievously he sinned and from that moment his family was full of rebellion, his kingdom was full of trouble and he went with broken bones all the way down to his grave! Hence I may say to you, children of God, who are not under the Law–and I do not address you at all in a legal strain when I so speak to you–you also have a stewardship. Give an account of it, or else, perhaps, you may no longer be spared. Or, being spared, yet you may still have tokens of your Lord’s displeasure which you may carry with you even to your tomb. Thank God you shall leave them there! But it would be more for God’s Glory and for your own comfort to not have them at all.
I desire, on this last Sabbath evening of another year, not so much to speak to you, as to get you to talk to yourselves. So, first, we will think together upon the reasonable demand made in our text–“Give an account of your stewardship.” Next, we will examine some reasons why we should at once give an account of our stewardship. And, lastly, we will consider the weighty reason in the text which will come with force to each of us sooner or later–“You may no longer be steward.”
- First, then, let us consider this REASONABLE DEMAND and let each one of us try to comply with it–“Give an account of your stewardship.” You man of God, you Christless soul, you aged man, you young Sister, “Give an account of your stewardship.”
First, give an account of the stewardship of your time. How have you spent it? Have not many hours been allowed to run to waste, or worse than waste, in frivolity and sin? Have you lived as a dying man should live? Have you employed your hours as remembering that they are very few and more precious than the diamonds in an emperor’s crown? What about your time? Has there not been much of it spent in indolence, in frothy talk, or that did not minister to edification? You need not accuse yourself for time spent in lawful recreation that may sustain your body and better fit it for the Lord’s service. It is well that you should have such recreation, but how much time is utterly wasted by some people, neither used for the good of this world, nor of that which is to come, but wholly frittered away in the service of sin, self and Satan? Where, for instance, did some of you spend yesterday–how did you employ its precious hours? I will but bring that one day to your remembrance–was it a well-spent day? Is that hour well spent that is passed in the company of drunks? Do you call that day well spent that is given up to rioting, or that night that is defiled with wantonness? I charge you to answer this question! For every moment that God has lent to you, He will ask for an account of what you did with it. There is not an hour since you began to understand right from wrong for which you will not have to give an account to God! If there were nothing but time entrusted to our stewardship, here is room, indeed, for heart-searching and close reckoning!
“Give an account of your stewardship,” next, as to your talents. We all vary in our natural gifts and in our acquirements. One has the tongue of eloquence, another has the pen of a ready writer and a third has the artistic eye that discerns beauty. But, whichever of these gifts we may have, they belong to God and ought to be used in His service. Some have only such gifts as qualify them to earn their daily bread by manual labor–they have but little mental power–yet, for that little they must give an account and also for the physical strength with which God has blessed them. There is no person here without a talent of some sort or other. There is no one individual here without some form of power either given by nature or acquired by education. We are all endowed, in some degree or other, and we must, each one, give an account for that talent. What an account must some give who have been endowed with 10 talents, but have wasted them all!
What must be the account rendered by a Napoleon? What must be the reckoning given in by a Voltaire, with all the splendor of his intellect laid at the feet of Satan and desecrated to the damnation of mankind? Yet, while you think of these great ones of the earth, do not forget yourselves! What has been your special gift? You can speak well enough in some companies–have you ever spoken for Christ? You can write well, you judge that you have no mean gift in that direction–has your pen ever written a line that will bring your fellow men to the service of the Savior? What? Having 10 talents, are they all wrapped up in napkins, or all used for self, and none employed for God, for holiness, for the Truth of God, for righteousness? How sternly does the command come to you, “Give an account of your stewardship.” Yet I am afraid that we cannot, any of us, give an account of our talents without fear and trembling!
Next, give an account of your substance. We vary greatly as to our temporal circumstances, I suppose there are a few present to whom God has entrusted great wealth, more to whom He has given considerable substance and that to the most of us He has given somewhat more than is absolutely necessary for our actual needs. But whether it is much or little, we must give an account for it all! I do not know what some rich professors will have to say concerning that which they give to the cause of God. It is no tithe of their substance–it is, as it were, but the cheese parings and the candle ends–and these they only give for the sake of appearance because it would not look respectable if they were altogether to withhold them! The Church’s coffers would never be as empty as they are if it were not that some of the stewards in the Church are not faithful to their trust.
It is very sad to think of some of the great men in our own country who have incomes which, in a single month, would furnish a competent support for an entire family during their whole lives! I wonder what sort of reckoning theirs will be when they have to give an account of hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds? With some of them, all that they can say will be, “So much lost on the racetrack, so much spent upon a paramour, so much paid for diamonds, so much squandered in this form of waste and so much in that.” But for the poor and needy, who are perishing in our streets, the multitudes who crave even necessary bread–some of them have done nothing at all! There are grand exceptions, names that shall live as long as philanthropy is prized among mankind, but the exceptions are so terribly few that when the rich men of England are indicted at the bar of God, as they certainly will be, the account of their stewardship will be a truly terrible one! Yet what are you, and what am I, to judge thus, if we cannot say that we have been faithful with our little? I ask you if you have and I pray you to make a reckoning in your mind, now, of your stewardship of the gold, or the silver, or the copper with which God has entrusted you.
We must give an account, in the next place, of our influence. Everybody has some kind of influence. The mother who never leaves the nursery has a wondrous influence over those little children of hers, though no neighbor feels the force of her influence and no one but her own little ones are affected by her faithfulness. And who knows but that she is pressing to her bosom, perhaps a Whitefield who will thunder out the Gospel through the length and breadth of the land or perhaps, on the other hand, an infidel, whose dreadful blasphemies shall ruin multitudes? There is an influence that the mother has for which she must give an account to God! And the father’s influence–oh, Fathers, you cannot shake off your obligations to your children by sending them to school, whether to a Sunday school or a boarding school! They are your children and you must give an account of your stewardship concerning your own offspring!
Yes, and even the nurse girl, though she seems of small note in the commonwealth, yet she, also, has an influence over her little charge which she must use for Christ. Not only he who thrills a senate with his oratory, but he who speaks a word from the carpenter’s bench–each has his influence and each must use it–and give an account of it. Not merely the man who, by refusing to lend his millions, could prevent the horrors of war, but the man who with a smile might help to laugh at sin, or with a word of rebuke might show that he abhorred it. There is no one of you without influence and I ask you, now, how you have used it? Has it always been on the side of the Lord? “Give an account of your stewardship,” for that influence will not always last.
We might pass on to consider all the other things that God has entrusted to us, but time would fail us. So I will remind you, my dear Friends, with much affection, that the account which you will have to render and which I ask you to render now, is not an account concerning other people. Oh, how nice it would be if we had to do that! Would it not? With what gusto some would undertake the task if they had to give a report upon other people’s characters! How easily each of us can play the detective upon our fellows! How ready we are to say of this man, “Oh, yes, he gives away a good deal of money, but it is only out of ostentation.” Or of that woman, “Yes, she appears to be a Christian, but you do not know her private life.” Or of that minister of the Gospel, “Yes, he is very zealous, but be makes a good thing out of his ministry.” We like thus to reckon up our fellow creatures and our arithmetic is wonderfully accurate, at least, so we think!
But when other people cast us up according to the same rule, the arithmetic seems terribly out of order and we cannot believe it to be right! Ah, but at the Great Judgment we shall not be asked to give an account for others, neither will I ask any of you, now, to be thinking about the conduct of others. What if others are worse than you are, does that make you the better, or the less guilty? What if others are not all they seem to be, perhaps neither are you! At any rate, their hypocrisy shall not make your pretense to be true! Judge yourselves, that you be not judged! Let each man thrust the lancet into his own wound and see to the affairs of his own soul–for each one must give account of himself to God.
Remember, too, that you are not called upon to give an account to others. Alas, there are many people who seem to live only that they may win the esteem of their fellows! There is somebody to whom we look up to–if we do but have that somebody’s smile, we think all is well. Perhaps some here are broken-hearted because that smile has vanished and they have been misjudged and unjustly condemned. It is a small matter to be judged of man’s judgement–and who is he that judges another man’s servant? To his own master, the servant shall stand or fall, and not to this interloping judge! My dear Friends, when the opinion of one leans this way, and of another the other way–when we see public opinion to be as restless and changing as the vane upon the Church steeple swinging round with every wind that blows–we may well bid defiance to it all and thank God that the last bar is not swayed by the follies of the times, and that the Great Judge will not give His verdict according to the whimsies of an hour, but according to the rule of absolute equity!
Yet remember that if it is hard to be judged of man, it will be still sterner to be judged of God! If, weighed even in the balances of men, some of us are found wanting, how shall we bear to be put into the unerring scales adjusted by the Divine hand, to be judged by Him who cannot err–and to have our destiny fixed for all eternity–either in Heaven or in Hell? Remember this, my dear Hearer, and be ready to give an account of your stewardship–not to your fellow creature–but to the great Creator and Judge of all!
Remember also, dear Friends, that the account to be rendered will be from every man, from every man, personally, concerning himself. And whatever another man’s account may be, it will not affect him. Some men will not have been any better than others of you have been. Yet if you perish as they perish, a numerous company will not make Hell any the cooler! If some men shall have been worse than others of you have been, it certainly will not diminish your punishment if you know that their doom is heavier than your own! Forget, for a while, that there are any other men in the world, and stand individually and separately before those awful eyes which are searching you through and through–for God will judge each of you as if there were no other men to judge–and read your inmost heart as if He had not another object to look upon! Give an account, then, of your stewardship. God grant us Grace to give, on each of these separate items that I have mentioned, an honest statement not only to our own conscience, but to Him who is the Judge of all!
II. Now, for a few minutes, let us examine SOME REASONS WHY WE SHOULD AT ONCE GIVE AN ACCOUNT OF OUR STEWARDSHIP.
It was a maxim of Pythagoras that each of his disciples should, every eventide, give a record of the actions of the day. I think it is well to do so, for we cannot too often take a retrospect of the past. But since, perhaps, some of you may have been lax in this duty, let me remind you that we have come, as it were, to the eventide of the year and it seems to be most suitable that before we cross into another year of Grace, we should, in our heart and conscience, take stock and give an account of our stewardship.
Sit down a while, Pilgrim! Sit down a while. Here is the milestone marked with the end of another year–sit down upon it, put your hand to you brow and think! And lay your hand upon your heart and search and see what is there. This last Sabbath evening in the year is a most fitting time for giving this account and I ask you to use it in making up the account which you have to present before God. And if you feel unwilling to do it, I shall the more earnestly press you to do it! There are no persons who so dislike to look into their account books as those who are insolvent. Those who keep no books, when they come before the court, are understood to be rogues of the first water–and men who keep no mental memoranda of the past and bring up no recollections with regard to their sins, having tried to forget them all–may depend upon it that they are deceiving themselves! If you dare not search your hearts, I am afraid there is a reason for that fear and that, above all others, you ought to be diligent in this search.
Permit me to remind you that if all should be wrong with you, it is best for you to know it. It is only the most reckless seaman who would rather not know whether there is a rock in the course that he is sailing. O Sirs, are you like the ostrich that, having covered its head in the sand, and shut its eyes to the hunter, thinks it is all secure? I pray you, seek to know the worst of your case! It seems to me that any honest and sane man would want to do this. There is nothing a wise man hates more, when he is sick, than to have a doctor attending him who will always, if he can, give a flattering report, but will never speak the truth about his patient. Let not your heart flatter you any longer, but say to it, “My Soul, make out an honest account! See what and where you are and whether you are God’s servant or not, doing as God would have you do.”
Believer in Christ, it will be well for you to make out this account because you will find that it will help you to prize your Savior more. I never look into my own heart without first feeling shame and, afterwards, feeling greater love to Him who has eternally loved such a sinner as I am! I am sure it will drive you to your knees if you honestly search your own lives. There is enough in the history of a single week to make you prize your Redeemer more than ever if you fully realize the guilt of that one week and the greatness of His Grace in pardoning it! O Christian, if you would be driven nearer to your Lord, search and see, confess, repent and seek forgiveness. Go again to the Cross because you have again felt the burden of the sin that nailed your Savior there!
And, ungodly man, I press you, also, to give an account of your stewardship because, perhaps, the same result may come to you. If you find that you cannot give so good an account as you thought you could when you were wrapped up in self-righteousness, perhaps you may be alarmed and dismayed when you see the true state of the case–and it may be that God the Holy Spirit will lead you to say, “I will go to Jesus, for I am undone without Him. I will hasten to His Cross, for I need the pardon that His blood has bought. I will now go with the language of confession on my lips and beseech Him to accept me before another year begins.” It seems such a long time since I have talked to some of you. Tossing to and fro upon my bed, suffering great pain, I have thought that those of you to whom I have preached, now, these many years, will have to give an account of every address that I have delivered to you and of every exhortation with which I have plied you. I beseech you, seek to make that account at once to your God in private and ask Him to humble you, and to draw you sweetly to trust His dear Son, that you may be saved!
I cannot bear the thought that any of you should be lost! I had hoped that those who have supplied my place during my illness might, perhaps, have been guided to shoot the arrow more directly than I can shoot it. One thing I know, there was not among them all, whoever they might be, one who more anxiously desired that you might find the Savior than I do! And I pray at this moment, since I shall never preach to you again on another Sabbath of this year, that this night may be the last one you will spend in sin–and that tomorrow may be a spiritual birthday to you, the first day in which you shall rejoice in a Savior! No, that this very night you may be born again and become a new creature in Christ Jesus!
III. And now, lastly, let us consider THE REASON WHICH THE MASTER GIVES–“Give an account of your stewardship, for you may no longer be steward.”
This may happen in various ways. It may be that some here may live for years and yet no longer be stewards. A preacher may be laid aside, his voice gone, his mental faculties weakened–he is “no longer steward.” One is thankful to have further opportunities of serving the Lord and trying to bring sinners to the Savior. O my dear Brother, work for God while you can! It is one of the bitterest regrets a man can know, to lie on his bed, to be unable to speak and to think to himself, “I wish I could preach that sermon over again. I did not drive that nail home with all the force I ought to have used! I have not been earnest enough in pleading with sinners! I have not wrestled, even to agony, over the salvation of their souls.” It may be possible, my dear Brother Minister, that you and I may have 20 or 30 years of being laid aside from active service. Then let us work while we can, before the night comes when no man can work! Brother, let us seize the oar of the lifeboat and row out over the stormy sea, seeking to snatch the drowning ones from yonder wreck, for the time may come when our strong right arm shall be palsied and when we can do no more!
Yes, and rich professors may have to give an account of their stewardship and no longer be stewards. There were some of that kind when the recent financial panic came–though they had much before the crash, they had nothing left afterwards so they could no longer be stewards of the wealth that had been taken from them! It must be a cause of deep regret to men in that position if they cannot give a good account of their stewardship because they have done but little good with their wealth while they had it. And think, Sirs, you to whom God has given great possessions, how soon He may take them from you, for riches abide not forever. Behold, they take to themselves wings and fly away! I know of no better way of clipping their wings than by giving generously to the cause of God and using in His service all that you can. It would be a subject for continual regret to you, I am sure, if you came down to poverty, not so much that you had descended in the social scale, for that you could bear if it came by mere misfortune through the Providence of God–but if you felt, “I did not do what I should have done when I had wealth”–that would be the arrow which would pierce you to the heart! It may be so, dear Brothers and Sisters, it may be so with some of you. At any rate, I feel that there are some of you who are poor because God will not lend His money where He knows that it will be locked up and not put out to good interest in His cause. What little you have is all hidden away, so the Lord will not trust you with more! He sees you are not fit to be one of His stewards. There are some, on the other hand, whom God has entrusted with much because He sees that they use it wisely in promoting the interests of His Kingdom.
But, after all, to every man, whether he is rich, or whether he is in the office of the ministry, there may be a close of his stewardship before he dies. The mother has her little children swept away, one after another. This is the message to her, “You may no longer be steward.” The teacher has his class scattered, or he is, himself, unable to go to the school. The word to him, also, is, “You may no longer be steward.” The man who went to his work, who might have spoken to his fellow workman, is removed, perhaps, to another land, or he is placed in a position where his mouth is shut. Now he can no longer be steward. Use all opportunities while you have them! Catch them on the wing! Serve God, while you can, today! Today! Today! Today! Let each golden moment have its pressing service rendered unto God, lest it should be said to you, “You may no longer be steward.”
But we shall soon no longer be stewards in another sense. The hour must come for us to die. Out of our large congregation we have constant reminders that those who have served us as a Church and have served God faithfully in His Church, cannot abide with us forever. One or another, whom we have loved and honored, gives his account and passes to his rest. So will it be in turn with the pastor, with the deacons and with the elders. Do not put away the thought of that day, my fellow workers, as though you were immortal! It may come to us all of a sudden–no gray hairs may cover our heads–but while we are yet in the full strength of manly vigor, you or I may be called to give our account! What do you think? What do you think? Could you gather up your feet in the bed and look into eternity without feeling the cold sweat of fear stand upon your brow?
What do you think? Could you face the great Judgment Seat and say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”? Oh, God be praised if we are able to say that! What monuments of mercy will you and I be if we are able to say this at the close of our service–and to hear our Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”
My fellow member, by the fact that God is continually removing from us one and another, I ask you to remember that you, also, will soon depart. Therefore, be making up your account. Rest in Christ more confidently! Love God more earnestly! Serve your generation more intensely! Live while you live–play not at living, but live in real earnest–and let it never be said of you that you trod so lightly on the sands of time that you left no footprints there! Make your mark upon your age and fill your appointed place, as God shall help you, that when you are gathered to your fathers, you may not be forgotten, but the Church may remember you because in her midst there are children born to God through your means!
As for the unconverted here, need I tell them that they must soon depart and no longer be stewards? You must go from your business, O Trader. You must go from your merchandise, O Merchant. You must go from your bench, O Artisan. You must go from your machine, O Engineer. You must each depart and go to that place from which no traveler returns. Be ready! Be ready! I will ring the alarm for some of you–perhaps my text is a prophecy meant for some man here–“Give an account of your stewardship, for you may no longer be steward.” You have had children about you and you have taught them blasphemy and drunkenness! Or you have had workmen in your employ and you have laughed at their religion, or aided and abetted them in sin! You have had talent, but you have used that talent in the service of the Evil One! You have had gold, but you have lavished it upon wantonness!
Now give an account of it all! Ah, Sirs, you may not heed what I say, but you will have to heed what will be said to you at another time! You will see this matter in another light when the death angel shall put his cold, freezing hand upon your shoulder and say to you, “Give an account! Give an account! Give an account of your stewardship!”
O Savior, Son of God, put Your pierced hands on these blind souls and give them light that they may be able to render up their account with joy, and not with grief! Give them Grace to believe in Your name and trust in Your atoning Sacrifice, for this is the way of salvation! O poor Sinners, trust in Christ Jesus and Him Crucified! You cannot be saved by your stewardship, any of you, but unfaithful stewardship will ruin you! Christ Crucified is your only hope of salvation! Look unto Him and live! Oh, look unto Him now! Amen.