« PreviousContinue »
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 inust suppose the circumstances to be thrown together for the purpose of setting out the envious and murmurilig disposition of the Pharisees, who thought they had a difficult duty to perform in serving God, who clained 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 cvery 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, not that they may remain wicked and miserable forever, but that they may be converted, brought to the knowledge of the truth, and made holy and happy. He prays God to bless the wicked, for he sees that the good are sufficiently blessed in being made good.
Let us learn from the parable before us, to guard against the odious spirit of envy; to cultivate the meek and forgiving spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ; and to govern our actions by that rigid rule of impartiality which distinguishes the divine adıninistration.
Parable of the Two Sons,
MATT. XXI. 28-31.
"A certain man had two sons ; and he came to the first, and said, 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 likewise. 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. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.”.
This parable is preceded in the narrative of the evangelist, by an account of an interview which took place between our Lord, and the chief priests and the elders. They came unto him with these questions, “by what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority?". ver. 23. To this Jesus said, “I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things,” ver. 24. The question which Jesus asked them was as follows: " The baptisrn of John, whence was it ? from heaven, or of men ?”. This inquiry threw them into a dilemma, and they could not readily determine what answer to return. “ And they reasoned with themselves, saying, if we shall say, from heaven, he will say unto us, why did ye not then believe him? But, if we shall say of men, we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet.” The dishonesty of these priests and elders is remarkable. They either believed that the mission of John was of divine authority, or they did not, and whatever their opinion was, they might have answered the question readily and honestly. But it seems not to have occurred to them, that it was best to give a direct and sincere answer. They began immediately to inquire how an answer would affect themselves; and after weighing the result, first on the one side, and then on the other, they came to the conclusion that it was expedient to utter a falsehood, and declare that they could not tell.
" And they answered Jesus, and said, we cannot tell.” Jesus then declares, “neither tell I you by what authority I do these things." Ver. 27.
After this conversation had taken place, Jesus immediately embraced the opportunity to propose to them the parable now before us. Although disposed to ask questions, they had shown themselves unwilling to answer a simple question which had been just put to them in turn; whereupon Jesus resolved to put a question to them which it was probable they would answer, and in answering which he foresaw they would condemn themselves. “But what think ye?" said he; i. e. give me your opinion on the subject I am about to lay before you. "A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, son, goʻwork 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 likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir, and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father?” They did not find any difficulty in answering this question, but with great readiness replied, that the son who said he would not, but afterwards repented and went into his father's vineyard, did the will of his father; i. e. he did that which was the more acceptable in the sight of his father. Jesus adds, “verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you."
From these circumstances, it appears evident, that the priests and elders were represented by the son who said to his father, “I go, sir, and went not.”
The publicans and harlots were represented by the son who said, “I will not, but afterwards repented and went.”.
The design of this parable was to show, that those who appear the most ready to do their duty, are not always the most faithful in perforining it; and, on the other hand, that those who make no professions of obedience, do sometimes perform it more readily and faithfully than others.
The priests and the elders professed to be the people of God; they'alleged that they were his children, and that they were ready to do his will ; but it was notoriously manifest that they had not done it. Like the son who said, I will, but did not, so they had declared that they would obey God, but had failed altogether in this respect. The priests and elders were a peculiarly religious people in their own estimation: they attended to all the duties of religion, such as praying, fasting, paying