« PreviousContinue »
inates himself, and that out of his own mouth he is condemned. He is led on unconsciously step by step, till he finds his retreat cut off, and he is compelled to surrender.
He who "spake as never man spake," excelled in this as well as in every other mode of tuition. memorable instance is now before us. His adversaries had asked our Saviour, by what authority he had commenced reformer, and had purified the temple. He engages to satisfy them, provided they will answer him one question, namely, Whence John derived his 1 authority to preach and baptize? They found themselves equally in a dilemma, whether they acknowledged the origin to be human or divine. "if we shall
say, from Heaven; he will say unto us, why then "did ye not believe him? But if we shall say, of we fear the people; for all hold John as a "prophet," Hence they affect ignorance, and remain silent. Our Saviour perceiving their perverseness, refuses their inquiry; and by a familiar representation induces them to pass judgement on themselves. “But what think ye? A certain man had "two sons; and he came to the first, and faid, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered
" and said I will not; but afterward he repented, and ❝ went. And he came to the second and said like"wise. And he answered, and said, I go, Sir; and "went not. whether of them twain did the will of "his father? they say unto him, the first."
The parable has a particular application, which may be thus explained. John preached to the Jews. His audience consisted of two classes; the profane,
and the pretending. Some among his hearers were profligate. Such were publicans and harlots. These made no profession of religion; they never spake of v the Messiah, or hoped for his kingdom. But when they heard John, they received his doctrine; were humbled by it; and obtained repentance and remission of sins. Others were sanctimonious. Such were the Scribes and Pharisees. They assumed extraordinary appearances of devotion, observed every punctilio of the law, wore a peculiar dress, used a singular gait, crucified their countenances, made long prayers and frequent fasts, gave tithes of all their possessions, and pretended a high regard for the writings of Moses and the prophets, who all testified of Christ. But when his forerunner came and announced his speedy approach, they inconsistently rejected his ministry. Thus far we cannot be mistaken, for we follow an infallible Guide-"Jesus saith unto them, Verily, I say "unto you, that the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came un"to you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed "him not; but the publicans and harlots believed "him. And ye, when ye had seen, repented not af"terward, that ye might believe him."
By a more extensive allusion, it applies to the Jews and the Gentiles. The Gentiles were the children' of disobedience; they had lived without God in the world, and the way of peace had they not known; but when the Gospel was published among them they "obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine which
was delivered to them: and being made free from "sin, they became the servants of righteousness." P P
The Jews from the beginning were the professing peo ple of God. They had never been wanting in highpretensions and promises. When the Law was given on Horeb, they exclaimed, "all that the Lord com"mandeth us will we do, and be obedient." When Joshua addressed them in Shechem, they again said, "the Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will "we obey." "Nevertheless, they did flatter him "with their mouth, and they lied unto him with their tongues. For their heart was not right with him, "neither were they stedfast in his covenant." "What "shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which fol "lowed not after righteousness, have attained to righ"teousness, even the righteousness which is of faith:: "but Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by "faith, but as it were by the works of the law, for
they stumbled at that stumbling-stone; as it is writ"ten, behold I lay in Zion a stumbling-stone, and "rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him, "shall not be confounded."
The similitude will stand as an illustration of various characters to the end of time. Accordingly we are going to consider it, I. AS HOLDING FORTH THE COMMAND OF GOD TO HIS CREATURES. And, II. AS EXEMPLIFYING THE MANNER IN WHICH IT
IS REGARDED BY THEM.
PART I. "The Lord looketh from heaven: he "beholdeth all the sons of men." Neither as his creatures, or as his subjects, are they beneath his
To display his authority and to secure their welfare, He addresses them in language appropriate to their circumstances. His cOMMAND is distinguished by three characters. It is AFFECTIONATE; it is PRACTICAL; it is URGENT.
First. It is AFFECTIONATE. He speaks as unto children, "My Son, go work to-day in my vineyard.” He is the lovely Father of all mankind; and though sin has rendered us unworthy of his care, it has not destroyed our relation to him. "We have had fathers "of our flesh who corrected us, and we gave them "reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjec ❝tion to the Father of Spirits, and live?" They were only the Instruments of our existence; but to Him the name belongs in all its perfection."We are his "offspring;" "we are all the work of his hands:" from him we derive the immortal principle; our very souls are his; produced by his power, and subject to his agency. This is the common character given of him in the New Testament. Under this encouraging representation we are taught to address him in prayer; in this tender relation we are to view him as dispensing his commands. I see the Father blending with the Sovereign; I see goodness mingling with authority; I obey from love; it is a Father I serve, and his service is perfect freedom. If he employ us as children, he "knows our frame, and will remember that we "are dust." He will not lay upon us more than is meet; He will be kind to our infirmities, and spare us as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. " We "have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby we cry,
“Abba Father. Wherefore thou art no more a "servant but a son, and if a son then an heir of God "through Christ."
Secondly. It is PRACTICAL. For to what does the Father call him? To "wORK in his vineyard." I admire this Father. He does not bring up his children in idleness. Though he be a rich man, and have a vineyard of his own, he requires them to labour. And "it is good for a man to bear the yoke in his 'youth." The Grand Seignior of Turkey is always taught some mechanical business. The Jews, whatever was their rank, always gave their sons some manual trade. Paul had a learned education, and was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel; but he knew the craft of tent-making. There was wisdom in this plan. It preserved the young from sloth, it filled up the vacancies of life, it prevented temptation, it made them useful in society, it furnished them with a resource in case of reduction and distress. Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to dress it. The Son of God till he assumed his public character wrought at the business of a carpenter. Heaven is all energy and activity; "they rest not day nor night." It is better to pursue the meanest occupation, and even to be a servile day-labourer, than to live in idleness, a mere cumberer of the ground. Parents! early accustom your children to exertion and difficulties. Bring them up idly and delicately, and they are ruined for this world and the world to come. I equally pity and condemn that Father, who is ashamed or afraid to say "Go work in my vineyard." And what you of God? He assigns us our place of action,
to a son, think