« AnteriorContinuar »
sed upon hidesire of promo hling him to
was not so. The hardness of the heart evidently means their passionate stubborn temper, which, had they not been permitted to divorce their wives, would have excited many of them to murder or ill treat them ; as, therefore, the dispensation of Moses was intended only to prepare the way for a better, he suffered a loss evil in ordor to prevent a greater. He then proceeded to repeat what he had before observed in the sermon on the mount, that whosoever should put away his wife, except it were for fornication, and should marry another, would be guilty of adultery; and that he who should marry her that was thus dismissed should become a perpetrator of the same crime.
The disciples, it appears, were surprised at the decision of their Master ; and.. after having enquired of him further, when they had returned to the house, could not help remarking, that since the law of marriage was thus rigid, that unless the woman breaks the bond by going asiray, lier husband cannot dismiss her, but must bear with her, whether she be quarrelsome, petulant, prodigal, deformed, foolish, barren, given to drinking, or, in a word, troublesome by numberless vices, a man had better not marry at all. Jesus answered, it is not in every one's power to live continently ; yet if any man has the gift, whether by natural constitutinn, or by the injury of human force used upon him, which has rendered him incapable of the matrimonial union, or by an ardent desire of promoting the interests of religion, animating him to subdue his natural appetite, and enabling him to live in voluntary chastity, unencumbered with the cares of the world : such a person will not sin, thougb he leads a single life.
An incident soon after occurred which contributed to place the character of Jesus in a most amiable point of view. Some persons who had young children brought them to Jesus that they might receive the blessing of so great a prophet, not unreasonably believing that many important blessings would follow, in consequence of his prayers for their welfare. The disciples, thinking that this was taking too great a liberty with their Master, rebuked these people, and attempted to dismiss them. But when Jesus knew it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of God; a sentiment which he had formerly expressed in teaching his disciples humility after the transfiguration. Then, taking up the children in his arms, he put his hands upon them, blessed them, and departed.
When our Lord had gone forth into the way, probably, setting off in his journey toward Jerusalem, a certain young ruler of great riches, pleasant manners, and respectable character, but as deficient as his brethren in that deep sense of his own depravity which might have led him to an unconditional submission to the instruction of Christ, ran after him, overtook him, and kneeling down before him, said, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life. Jesus replied, why callest thou ine good ? there is none that is infallibly good but God bimself; since, therefore, thou hast not that high opinion of me, to believe that I am sent forth from God, thou hast committed a great crime iu bestowing upon me such an appellation. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments, for I find tliat on these thou hast fixed thy dependance. He saith unto him, which ? Jesus said, thou shalt do no murder, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not stcal, thou shalt not bear falso witness, honour thy father and thy mother, and thou shalt love thy neighhour as thyself. Christ, probably, intended to intimate, that even these commandments had an extent beyond that to which his morality had attained. The young man said unto him, all these things have I kept from my youth up; what lack I yet? Then Jesus, lieholding him, loved hiin, and said further, if thou wilt attaio to that which is really to be perfect, go and soul
a litttle insect..be saved?
And hedhaul things are post
thy possessions, freely distribute the produce to the poor, come to me, take up the cross, and follow me as my disciple, and a teacher of my gospel. Hearing this, he departed exceedingly sorrowful, that he could not obtain a place in the everlasting kingdom without renouncing those delights on which his heart had been fixed.
As soon as he had retired, Jesus looked round upon his disciples and said, children, how hard is it for thein that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! You know the nature of the camel, how ihat it is accustomed, by descending to its knees, to pass through places which it would seem, from its height, impossible that it should ever enter : but I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Divine power must be more eminently called forth to humble a rich man to the meek and self-denying spirit of the Christian, than so to compress the matter of a camel as to reduce its enormous bulk to the diminutive size of a litttle insect. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, who then can be saved? And Jesus, looking upon them, seith, with inen it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.
The energy of divine grace can infuse a new spirit into men, and cause them not only to submit to all my commandments, but to account it all joy when, for my sake, they pass through the severest tribulation. : This answer, however, did not satisfy the disciples, who, no doubt, had often thouglit with pleasure on the honours and profits of the great offices which they expected to enjoy in his kingdom. Ainong the rest, Peter was much disappointed, finding that his stewardship was to be of little service to him ; the office he supposed his Master had promised to him under the metaphor of " the keys of the kingdom.” Whèrefore, addressing Jesus in the name of the rest, he begged him to consider that his apostles had all done what the young ruler refused to do ; had left their relations, their employments, and their possessions, on his account. And since he was pleased to tell them that rich men could not enter into his kingdom, which was the same thing as to tell them there would be no kingdom, he desired to know what reward tney were to have. Jesus replied, that they should certainly have a peculiar reward even in this life ; because immediately after his resurrection, when he ascended the throne of his mediatorial kingdom, he would advance them to the high honour of judging the twelve tribes of Israel; that is, of ruling bis church and people, of which the twelve tribes were a type. He further informed them, that every one who had forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or wife, or children, or lands, for his name's sake, should receive an hundred fold, and should inherit everlasting life. Such as are willing to suffer for the sake of his gospel shall be no losers in the issue : because God, who designs to admit them into heaven, will give them the com forts necessary to support them in their jonrney thither, and will raise them up friends who shall be as serviceable to them as their nearest kindred, whom they have forsaken. By the special benignity of his providence, they shall have every thing valuable that relations or possessions can minister to them ; and, besides, sball bave persecutions, whose heat will nourish virtues in them of such excellent efficacy, · as to yield them, even in this present world, joys an hundred tinies better than all earthly pleasures ; so that they shall be fed by the bread of sorrows : but above all, in the world to come, they shall have everlasting life. Their amictions, contributing to the growth of their graces, which are the wings of the soul, they shall, in due time, be raised on them, even up to heaven, leaving all sorrows behind them ; and shall fly swiftly into the bosom of God, the fountain of life and joy, where they shall have full amends made them for all the evils they have undergone on his uccount. Thus many who, in the eyes of their fellows, are last in this life, by reason of their
Alictions, mortifications, and se)f-denial, are really first, not only in point of future reward, but even in respect of present satisfaction. (Mat. xix. 30.] But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first. These words were spoken alse with a view to keep the disciples bumble after their imaginations had been warmed with the prospect of their reward : for, in all probability, they interpreted the promise of the thrones, so as to make it refer to the highest offices in the temporal kingdom, the offices of greatest power, honour, and profit, in Judea ; and supposed that the other posts which were to be occupied at a distance from Messiah's person, such as the government of provinces, the generalship of armies, &c. would all be filled by their brethren Jews, to whom of right they belonged, rather than to the Gentiles. Nay, it was a prevailing opinion at this time, that every particular Jew whatever, the poorest not excepted, would enjoy some office or other in the vast empire which Mesa siah was to erect over all nations. In this light, Christ's meaning was, though you imagine that you and your brethren have a peculiar title to the great and substantial blessings of my kingdom which I have been describing, the Gentiles shall have equal opportunities and advantages for obtaining them ; because they shall be admitted to all the privileges of the gospel on the same footing with you Jews ; nay, in point of time, they shall be before you; for they shall universally embrace the gospel before your nation is converted. [Rom. xi. 25, 26.] ;!
This doctrine Jesus illustrated by the parable of the householder who hired la. bourers into his vineyard at different hours, and, in the evening, gave them all the same wages, beginning from the last unto the first. The true scope, therefore, of the parable is to shew, that the Jewish nation, who, of all people, were first, in respect of external privileges, and particularly in respect of the offer, should be the last in receiving the gospel; and that when they did receive it, they should enjoy no higher privileges under that dispensation, than the Gentiles who were called at the eleventh hour. The application of the parable suggests this interpretation, “ So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen.” The vineyard sig. nifies the dispensations of religion in general which God gave to mankind in the different parts of the world. The hiring of the labourers early in the morning represents that interposition of providence by which the Jews then alive were born members of God's church, and laid under obligations to obey the law of Moses: [Mat. xx. 1.] For the kingdom of heaven (the master of the kingdom of heaven) is like unto a man that is an householder, (the master of a family) which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard, God's bestowing the gospel dispensation upon mankind, and the preparations previous thereto, may be illustrated by an householder's sending labourers, at different hours of the day, to work in his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, (a denarius, equal to our seven pence halfpenny, and the common wages of a day-labourer in those times) he sent them into his vineyard to work according as the steward or overseer should direct them. The hiring the labourers at the subsequent third, sixth, and ninth hours, signifies the various interpositions of providence by which many of the Gentiles, in the different ages of the world, were converted, either in whole, or in part, to the knowledge and worship of the true God, becoming, some proselytes of righ. trousness, others proselytes of the gate. And he went out the third hour, and saw other's stand idle in the market-place, where the labourers usually waited in order to be hired. And said unto them. go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour and did likewise. The invitation given at the eleventh hour signifies God's calling the Gentiles in every country by the light of the gospel. And about the eleventh hou
he went out and found others standing, idle and saith unto them why stand ye here all the day idle. They say unto him, because no man hath hired us. He saith unto thein, go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right that shall ye receive. The householder did not, in the bargain which he made with those whom he hired at the third, sixth, nioth, and eleventh hours, fix any particular sum as their wages, he only said he would give them what was right, that is, give them in proportion to the hours which they should work ; therefore his bestowing on them a whole day's wages was an act of generosity, especially to those who came at the eleventh hour. The labouring of those who began early in the morning, signifies their performing the various duties imposed by the law of Moses, the dispensation they were under which, because it was a grievous yoke, obedience to its precepts was fitly expressed by bearing the heat and burden of a whole day. The labouring of such as were called at the subsequent hours, signines the obedience which the proselyted Gentiles yielded to such precepts of the law as were obligatory on them. The labouring nf those who were called at the eleventh hour, signifies the works of piety, justice, temperance, and charity, performed by the converted.
So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, call the labourers and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. The equal reward bestowed on all, the penny given to each labourer as his wages, signifies the gospel, with its privileges and advantages, which they all enjoyed on an equal footing. The steward who called the labourers to receive this reward, represents the apostles and first preachers, by whom the gospel was offered to both Jews and Gentiles. And the rewards being first bestowed on the labourers who came at the eleventh hour, signifies that the idolatrous Gentiles and proselytes should all enjoy the gospel, with its privileges, before the Jewish nation was converted; the condition, not of a few individuals, but of great bodies of men, being represented in the parable. It is true, the labourers who came in the morning are said to have received the penny. Nevertheless, we cannot from hence infer that our Lord meant to say they would embrace the gospel. On the contrary, they murmured against the householder, and, in their passion, threw the money down upon the ground, as appears from his ordering them to take it up. [Mat. xx. 11.] And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, saying, these last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them and said, friend, I do thee no wrong ; didst not thou agree with me for a penny ? take up that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is thine cye evil because I am good ? Seeing I have given thee the hire which I promised thee, thou hast no reason of complaint . and if I choose to give unto those who came last into the vineyard as much hire as I have given to thee, who can find fault with it? I own it is an act of generosity, but am I not free to bestow what is my own as I see proper ? And because I am bountiful, shouldst thou be envious ? This part of the parable, therefore, is a striking representation of God's goodness in bestowing upon the Gentiles the gospel dispensation, in preference to the Jews themselves, and without subjecting them to the grievous burden of the Mosaic yoke. So the last shall be first, and the first last ; for many shall be called, but few chosen : a proverbial expression, which, as it is here applied, imports that the Jews should 'all be called by the aposiles and first preachers to receive the gospel ; they should have the gospel preached to them: but that few of them in comparison would obey the call, or bocome chosen
servants, the generality of the nation remaining in infidelity and wickedness. Wherefore, this branch of the parable very fitly represents the pride of the Jews in rejecting the gospel, when they found the Gentiles admitted to its privileges, without becoming subject to the institutions of Moses. In the mean time, we must not urge the circumstance of the reward, so as to fancy that either Jews or Gentiles merited the blessings of the gospel by their having laboured faithfully in the vineyard, or having behaved well under their several dispensations. The gospel, with its blessings, was bestowed entirely of God's free grace, and without any thing in men's meriting it. Besides, it was offered promiscuously to all, whether good or bad, and was embraced by persons of all characters.
The conclusion of the parable deserves our attention; many are called, but few chosen ; words of vast meaning and high importance, and therefore should often be meditated upon, that we may not content ourselves with having the offers of the gospel made to us, or even with being in the visible church of God, but may give all diligence to make our calling and election su re.
Some time after delivering the parable of the labourers in the vineyard, Jesus proceeded on his journey to Jerusalem with an intention to celebrate the passover, and to suffer the things predicted concerning Messiah by the prophets. Mark x. 32.] And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem, and Jesits went before them, and they were amazed, and as they followed they were afraid. The rulers at Jerusalem had issued out a proclamation against our Lord immediately after the resurrection of Lazarus, and probably promised a reward to any that would apprehend him. [John xi. 37.) This, it should scem, was the reason why the disciples were astonished at the alacrity which their Master shewed in this journey to the capital city, and afraid while they followed him. They all expected, indeed, that the kingdom was immediately to appear. [Luke xix. 11.7 But recollecting what had been said to them concerning the difficulty of rich men entering into it, and comparing that de claration with the behaviour of the rulers who had hitherto opposed and persecuted Jesus, they became very apprehensive of the dangers they should be exposed to at Jerusalem. In such circumstances, our Lord knew that a repetition of the prophecy concerning his own sufferings was proper, because it shewed the disciples that they were entirely voluntary. And as he told them expressly that they had been predicted by the prophets, and consequently decreed by God, the opposition that he was to meet with ought only to increase their faith, especially as he had informed them that he should rise again on the third day. The apostles, however, understood not these things, and this saying was hid from thein, neither knew they the things which were spoken.
On this occasion, the disciples shewed their ignorance of the prophecies, by an action which likewise discovered, in the clearest manner, the temper of mind they were in, and the motives from which they followed their Master. James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who seem to have fancied that, by their Master's resurrection after his sufferings, was meant his taking possession of the great empire which they believed he was come to erect, no sooner heard him mention his rising from the dead, than they came and begged the favour of him that he would confer on them the chief posts i his kingdom. This they expressed by asking to be seated, the one on his right hand, the other on his left, in allusion to his late promise of placing the twelve apostles on twelve thrones, tu judge the tribes. It appears from Matthew that they had employed Salome in making this request to our Lord, in which they might rather surpose that she would succeed, as she had always treated. him with the greatest attention, and was known to have possessed much of his esteem. But Jesus answered and said, ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of,