Page images

"with God all things are possible." Ver. 26. We have now arrived at the more immediate context. Peter, who had listened to all his Master had said to the young man, that he must be willing to part with all his earthly possessions, now breaks out in an expression of his own feelings, and shews what thoughts were predominant in his own mind, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee: what shall we have therefore ?" 27. As though he had said, 'Lord, we have obeyed thy com mands; we have given up all we had on earth, and followed thee; and now what reward are we to have?' A question of a similar nature was asked by some of the disciples on another occasion: "who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven ?" Matt. xviii. 1. xx. 20. Luke xxii, 24. In both these 1: questions, the followers of Christ manifested some impatience for their reward; and evinced a desire to be exalted above others, in consequence of their services. This ought to be borne in mind, when we come to the application of the parable. The answer of Jesus to Peter's question was as follows: 66 Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel;" 28. i. e. in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye which have followed me shall sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel-a figurative expression to denote that the apostles would be raised to stations of eminence in the church, at the coming of Christ.1 Furthermore, Jesus said to Peter, "And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or

1 See Dr. Campbell's note on this verse.


children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." 29. The meaning of the expression, "to enter into life," we have already fully explained. See particularly pp. 12, 21, 22. Everlasting life was that state of peace and rest into which the believers of the gospel entered, and which the church of Christ preeminently enjoyed, when delivered from her persecutors at the coming of Christ to destroy the Jewish nation; and this is called, in our version, everlasting life from the Greek phrase zoen aionion, which is generally, if not invariably, applied to the time of the gospel dispensation. See our remarks on Matt. xxv. 46, under the parable of the Sheep and Goats, and compare also the following passages of scripture: John v. 24. vi. 47, 54. xvii. 3. Rom. vi. 22. 1 John v. 13. In pursuing the context, we have now brought ourselves to the last verse of chap. xix. as follows: “But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." The apostles, who were the first to embrace the gospel, would not receive their reward until the last; while those who were last, who did not embrace the gospel until after the apostles, should be rewarded first. The apostles did not receive their reward until a late period-their preeminent services exposed them to preeminent dangers and sufferings, and persecution rage. against them longer than any others. The parable of the laborers in the vineyard was designed to illustrate the facts here stated, and to reprove the apostles for the desire they had manifested to receive greater rewards than should be coufered on others. See particularly Mark x. 35, 37. We have already shown, that there can be no question that the parable before us was designed to illustrate what is

said xix. 30," but many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first ;" and this fact is rendered more evident from the circumstance, that immediately on closing the parable, Jesus adds. “ 30 the last shall be first, and the first last," as he had illustrated in the parable.

We proceed then to say, that the dealings of God with men, in the dispensation of the gospel, were like those of a householder, who went out early in the morning to hire laborers into his vineyard. The earliest professors of Christianity, were those who went first into the vineyard. Those who subsequently embraced the gospel, were such as entered the vineyard later in the day. As the lord of the vineyard rewarded all the laborers, so all the followers of Christ were assured of their reward; and as the master of the house, in rewarding the laborers, began at the last, and proceeded unto the first, so some that embraced the gospel at a late season, would be rewarded before others who had been more conspicuous in their defence of Christianity. As those who entered first into the vineyard murmured against the good man of the house because he gave to each laborer a penny, so the disciples were desirous of being exalted above others, in consequence of their labors in the vineyard of their Master.

This, it appears to us, was the original design of Jesus in uttering this parable. We are willing to admit, however, that it is easily susceptible of an application to the Scribes and Pharisees, who murmured at Jesus Christ, because he received sinners, and showed them favor. In fact the words which, as we have shown, the parable was designed to illustrate, are applied in another place to the Jews. See Luke xiii. 28-30, where the evangelist de

scribes the rejection of the Jews from the kingdom of the gospel, and the reception of the Gentiles; when he adds, "and behold there are last that shall be first, and there are first that shall be last." Here these words signify, that the Jews to whom the gospel was first preached, would be the last to embrace it; whereas the Gentiles, to whom it was not preached until after it was rejected by the Jews, would embrace it first. If we interpret the parable to refer to the Pharisees, the application cannot be very particular. In that case, we must suppose the circumstances to be thrown together for the purpose of setting out the envious and murmuring disposition of the Pharisees, who thought they had a difficult duty to perform in serving God, who claimed a large reward for it, expecting to be exalted above others, and who found fault with Jesus because he bestowed blessings on all mankind. That such was the disposition of the Pharisees we have sufficiently shown in this work; and their conduct may be well illustrated by that of the laborers who murmured against the good man of the house, because each one received a penny.

The same disposition is frequently seen at the present day, in those persons who profess to be the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. They boast that they serve God in this life, while others are engaged in the practice of sin; and they confidently look forward to the time of reckoning, when they hope to be distinguished from others, and exalted above them. If we tell them that at last every man will receive a penny, or, in other words, that God will raise all men to the enjoyment of equal bliss, they are angry; they murmur against those who preach such a doctrine, as the laborers murmured against the master of the house; they

complain that they have "borne the burden and heat of the day," and maintain that they ought, therefore, to receive a greater reward than others in the world to come. They declare in substance, that if they are to have but one penny, others ought not to have so much; but if others are to receive that sum, they ought in all justice to have more. Equality is one of the seven things which are an abomination to them; and like the murmuring laborers they cry out in indignation, "thou hast made them EQUAL UNTO US." They claim an exclusive reward on the ground that they have wearied themselves to serve God; they have resisted the temptations and pleasures of sin, and worn the heavy yoke of obedience; they place their claim for a greater reward than others have, where the murmuring laborers put theirs, on the fact that they "have borne the heat and burden of the day." But the insufficiency of all their claims is very easily perceived. If they really loved God, and loved to serve him, they would not' call his service a weariness, and a trouble; they would not represent the service of sin as easy and pleasant; but they would regard the duty of a Christian as Jesus regarded it, when he said, "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light," Matt. xi. 30. The enjoyments of religion and virtue would be to them the richest enjoyments they had on earth; and so far from claiming any other reward for walking in the path of wisdom, they would feel themselves laid under a debt of gratitude to God, for having guided their feet in the way of peace. This is the feeling of every true Christian. He finds an abundant reward in obedience itself—this is his joy, his crown, his heaven. The wicked are to him objects of pity, not of envy; and he prays,

« PreviousContinue »