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Duty

Duty

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY SAMUEL PENNIMAN LEEDS



So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things
which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants :
we have done that which was our duty to do. — Luke xvii. lo.
BY SAMUEL PENNIMAN LEEDS



So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things
which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants :
we have done that which was our duty to do. — Luke xvii. lo.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Nov 19, 2013
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DUTY BY SAMUEL PEIMA LEEDS So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants : we have done that which was our duty to do. — Luke xvii. lo. " We are unprofitable servants." It is one illustration of the amount of thought which, first and last, has been given to every say- ing of our Lord's — each grain of corn having been picked over, as it were — that some have found in this confession a mark of a quite imperfect state of character. That is, they tell us, we ought not to feel as servants but as friends of Jesus Christ, for He himself has said, " Henceforth I call you not servants, — but I have called you friends." Is it likely, say they, that He who thus spoke on another, though later, occasion would here bring forward in so strong a light the service rendered Him as one merely servile ? And again, they urge another passage in this same Gos- pel of Luke, " Blessed are those*^ servants 2i8 CHRISTIA PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching; verily, I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them." For a Christian to feel that he is a servant, they argue, is to have the defective spirit of the elder brother of the Prodigal
 
Son, who said to his father (you remember), " Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy com- mandment." Even though we regard this interpreta- tion as mistaken, some of its illustrations, historical and otherwise, are interesting and instructive. We find, for instance, that very great if not always safe church fa- ther, Origen, saying, " As long as one does only what he ought, that is, those things which are prescribed, he is an useless ser- vant," and he refers to this passage ; " but," he says, " if you add something to the pre- scribed things, then you will not be an use- less servant, but it shall be said to thee, ' Well done, good and faithful servant,' " — in which Scripture, however, we note that the disciple is called a " servant," although a faithful one. Here, in Origen's v^ords, we DUTY 219 see the very beginning of the Roman doc- trine of works of supererogation, though he thought not of such a thing, and that doc- trine was not developed for many a century afterward. The heathen Seneca, too, treats the question whether a slave can confer a favor on his master, and answers, "When his conduct passes into the feeling of friendship, it ceases to be called a service ; whatever exceeds the rule of servile duty and is rendered not from command but of free will, is a favor." This suggests that slavery with its usages very likely led Ori- gen and others to their interpretation.
 
But it appears on examination that our Lord called His disciples, — even His apos- tles, — servants at about the same time that He styled them friends. " If any man serve me, let him follow me ; and where I am, there shall also my servant be," He said on the last public occasion recorded by St. John, and in the very same conversation in which He said, " Henceforth I call you not servants but friends ; " and at a later point in it (five verses later in the same chapter, the fifteenth), He goes as near to calling them servants as this : " Remember the 220 CHRISTIA PHILOSOPHY OF LIFE word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his Lord." And even after the day of Pentecost, with all its revela- tions of their favored position, we find them praying, " And now, Lord, grant unto thy servants that with all boldness they may speak thy word." The truth is that the emphasis is on the word " unprofitable " in our text, and not at all on the word " servants," and that it describes the way in which we should re- gard ourselves,-that is, as having only done our duty when we have done our utmost, while some other passages tell how our Lord will graciously treat us. Paul puts the two things together when he says : " But now, being servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness and the end ever- lasting life. For the wages of sin " — that which it earns and deserves — " is death,

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