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ever own; but this is no wonder, for they used to make kings and princes in the same way: “ They have made kings,” saith God, “ but I knew it not, and princes, but not by me;" and if they can make kings, why not doctors ? But the Lord's servants are called, furnished, and sent by himself. I am, says Paul, “an apostle, not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ.”
The apostle, in the chapter out of which our text is taken, represents the servants of the Lord in a twofold character; first, a labourer in the vineyard, and secondly, a good soldier of Jesus Christ. “The husbandman that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits.” The labourer must know the divine husbandman and the principal vine, before he can know any thing of the vineyard, or the branches of it, or be able to work in it. God the father is the chief husbandman, Christ the principal vine, every believer a branch, and the whole church a vineyard. And these things must be known by every labourer, or inferior husbandman, who is called the Lord's servant in my text.“ This is life eternal to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” If an experimental knowledge of these things is life eternal, then these things must be known by the Lord's servant before he can labour: who can work that is dead? “ He that laboureth,” says Paul, “ must first be partaker of the fruits.” No preaching Christ crucified, till we know that our old man is crucified with him; a knowledge of this, cruci
fies us to the world, and the world to us. We must be planted together in the likeness of his death, before we shall know the value of it; and in the likeness of his resurrection also, and be begotten again to a lively hope by it, before we can preach Christ as the firstfruits of them that slept.
He must be partaker of the fruits, before he can labour. He cannot be a spiritual labourer, or a minister of the Spirit, till he is a partaker of the fruits of the Spirit. He must be a partaker of the Spirit of love, be brought to love God, Jesus Christ, his word, and all that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, before he can be a minister of the Spirit. One glorious fruit of the Spirit is faith, and the Lord's labourers are called faithful servants; but graceless men cannot be called faithful. To hear unbelievers preach faith, seems as great a contradiction as for Python the Devil, to call Paul and Silas servants of the most high God, which was true, but when he added, that shew unto us the way of salvation, it was a lie, for there is no salvation for devils. Satan by this shew of candour, expected some lenity to be shewn by the apostle; but Paul was not ignorant of his devices, he paid no respect to his candour, but charged him to come out of the damsel, and then Satan let Paul feel the effects of his spleen and bitterness : he set off into the heart of the damsel’s master, stirred up a mob, and brought the servants of the most high God before the judgment seat, with this
heavy charge, “ These men being Jews do exceedingly trouble our city,” Acts xvi. 19, 20.
The husbandman that labours must be a partaker of the fruits; he cannot bring forth good fruits, till his own heart be made good; no man can gather grapes of thorns nor figs of thistles; he cannot bring forth the fruits of the Spirit till the Spirit be in him, nor can the ministry of a barren soul be fruitful. What knows a carnal man of God's husbandry ? Spiritual labourers have the fallow ground of the heart to plow up; thorns of carnal cares and covetousness to grub up; clods to break; precious seed to bear; and incorruptible seed to sow; planting and watering to do. He is to enforce fruitfulness; describe sour grapes and wild figs; observe what clusters have a blessing in them and what clusters are hitter; which branch to encourage and which branch to cut at: for which business, none can furnish or qualify us but God himself, nor can there be either success or increase, without his direction and blessing.
Nor is it enough for a man to taste these fruits at his being first sent into the vineyard, he stands in need of them daily. The keepers of the vineyard have one hundred; an hundred fold in this life. It is poor work, keeping a flock and not tasting the milk of the flock. Sad work, to tread the wine-press and suffer thirst, which our Master did; it is dreadful work to keep a vineyard and not taste the fruit of the vineyard, both in a spiritual and temporal sense. In short, the labourer
needs fruits and fortitude too, especially as there are so many little foxes that spoil the vines, and are so subtle and busy about them that have ten
The Lord's servant must serve his master with nothing but what is his master's own. He must plow with his master's heifer; bear his master's yoke; sow his master's seed; go by his master's direction; and aim at his master's honour. He must give no heed to old wives fables, nor turn aside from the way of the vineyard, though Jezebel the prophetess should attempt to teach the servants of the Lord.
Secondly, Paul calls this servant in my text, a good soldier of Jesus Christ. If he is a good soldier, he is enlisted, and, under a divine power on the will, he becomes a volunteer; liis encouragement and fortitude arise from the view that he has of the banner of divine and everlasting love being displayed over him, and from the good cheer of the banqueting house. He will make but a poor recruiting serjeant that never received the king's bounty, and unless he is in
present pay quarters himself, in vain he beats up for volunteers. He that feeds upon Christ and his word, drinks the new wine of the kingdom, and makes God his dwelling place, will make a good recruiting officer, because he can speak cheerfully, comfortably, feelingly, and knowingly, about the Captain of our salvation, and the glorious privileges of being quartered in the cleft of the rock, of the
penny a day promised, and of the king's bounty that is given.
The apostle tells us that this servant of the Lord is a warrior: “ No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life.” He that kneeled down to drink water at the river Jordan was sent back as not fit for the field, none but those that lapped like a dog were to engage in the Lord's battle, Judges vii. 5. If bowing the knee to the world renders a man unfit for this military service, what shall we say of soldiers that aim at nothing else but the things of this life, savour not the things of God, but those that be of men, and load themselves with thick clay?
This servant or soldier is chosen by his Lord, and to please his Lord should be his chief aim. “ That he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier,” says Paul; he is to receive all his orders from the Captain of his salvation, do all in his name, depend on his strength, go by his rules, and use his spiritual weapons. Our captain has not made any old women commanders in chief of his forces, nor has he committed the word of command to them; this would look as if the God of armies had left the camp; he suffers not a woman to be heard in his household, much less in his wars. If Jezebel choose four hundred of Satan's soldiers, and keep them at her own table, and use them in her service, they will be expected to obey her orders, because she chooses, enlists, and feeds them. But this servant in my text belongs to another