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traordinary reward might be expected. In his answer to this question Christ assures them that the losses which they sustained by professing the gospel would be abundantly recompensed, both in this world and in the next. He at the same time, however, warns them to beware of imagining that because they were the first to believe the gospel
, they were on that account to be rewarded, above others who received it at a later period: for in regard to this matter, those who were last to believe the gospel would be treated as the first, provided they embraced it as soon as it was offered to them. The virtue of each is alike, and therefore they shall receive a like reward. “Many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first.” It was to illustrate this point that Christ had recourse to the parable before us, in explaining which we must not look for a moral in every part, but must remember that many things are introduced, in order to connect and complete the narrative.
2. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day ; sevenpence a day, in our money; he sent them into his vineyard.
3. And he went out about the third hour, about nine o'clock, and saw others standing idle, “ doing nothing,” in the market-place.
This was the place where labourers usually stood; to offer themselves to hire.
4. And said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you, i.e. the customary wages; and they went their way.
5. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise, i. e. at noon, and at three in the after
These persons sent into the vineyard were intended to represent those who, at different times, made a profession of the Christian faith, according as they had opportunities of receiving it. 6. And about the eleventh hour,
, five o'clock in the evening, he went out, and found others standing unemployed and said unto them, Why stand ye here all the day, doing nothing ?
7. They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us.
These represent heathen nations, who are late in receiving the gospel; not because they are averse to the Christian religion, but because it has never before been preached to them.
He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right that shall
receive. 8. So when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last to the first; “ from the last to the first.”
9. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man seven-pence.
But when the first came, they .supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man seven-pence.
11. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, “ the master of the family,"
12. Saying, These last have wrought but one hour; and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden and heat of the day.
Those who first embraced Christianity, and were exposed thereby to persecution, might imagine that some grand distinction ought to be made between them, and others who received it at a later period, and who had not the same difficulties to struggle with. But Christ the steward, under the direction of God the houshold er, will bestow the same general reward upon the last as upon the first; even the gift of eternal life. This shall be bestowed upon all who labour in the vineyard of the gospel, whether they enter at a later or an earlier period of time, whether they professed it in the time of Christ and his apostles, or not till many thousand years afterwards; but although the reward be one and the same to all, consisting in an eternal existence of future happiness, yet that existence must be of different value to individuals, according to the work they have done, and the proficiency they have made in Christian virtues. We cannot indecd suppose that at the day of final retribution, any good men will think they have reason to complain, or to be dissatisfied; but Christ puts into their lips the language of complaint, not to answer future objections, but such objections as would be made at present. The first Christians, com paring themselves with their successors, would think
themselves entitled to something more than they. The folly of such an expectation Christ exposes, by the answer which the housholder makes to those workmen who had entered the vineyard at the dawn of day.
13. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong. Didst thou not agree with me for sevenpence ?
14. Take that thine is, and go thy way. I will give unto this last even as unto thee.
Seeing I have given thee the wages which I promised thee, thou hast no reason of complaint; and if I choose to give to those who came last into the vineyard the same wages as I have given unto thee, what right hast thou to find fault?
15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? rather, “ in my own affairs."
Am I not free to act as I please, in the management of my own concerns?
If I choose to perform an act of generosity, by bestowing upon these men the same as upon you, who has any right to complain?
Is thine eye evil, because I am good? An evil eye is a Hebrew phrase for an envious disposition, and is derived from the well-known circum stance of this disposition appearing in the eye, or in the countenance. The meaning then is, Because I am kind, art thou envious?
16. So the last shall be first, and the first last.
In the same manner as the housholder gave the same wages to those who went last into his vineyard, as to
those who came first; so, those who are last to receive the gospel, because it was not brought to them sooner, shall receive the same reward as those who embraced it first.
For many be called, but few chosen. These words seem to have no manner of connection with the design of this parable: for if the purpose of it is, what I have explained it to be, to show that, whether men enter later or earlier into the gospel dispensation, they will receive the same reward; it is an observation totally foreign from this design to say that many are called to be Christians, but few of them chosen. I am therefore inclined to think, with Bishop Pearce, that the words are an interpolation, inserted here from Chap. xxii. 14. where they are found word for word, and are very suitable; being applied to the case of those who were invited to the marriage supper, and refused to come; so that the king was obliged to fill up their places from the high-ways and hedges.--This supposition seems to be confirmed by the words not being found in several Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, nor in one version of great authority We have no reason to be surprised or alarmed at discovering these mistakes; how they arose is easily accounted for, and they by no means destroy the genuineness of the other parts of Scripture.
The explanation which I have now given of this parable is different from the construction which is put upon it by several others. Thus some have supposed it to relate to the several ages of man; to those who are converted in their infancy, youth, manhood, middle age, and old age: and that it was intended to declare that those who repent at the close of life shall be accepted of God, and possess eternal life, as well as those who are converted at an earlier period: but this, however true, appears to have no connection with the subject of which Christ is here speaking, which is the merit of those who embrace the gospel at different periods of time. Others have supposed that it refers to the Gen
• Griesbach in loc,