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us, in our appointed sphere done our part ? Oh, our God, have patience with us ; let not for this thine “anger be kindled against thy people,” * but because thou hast given thy Son to be our Saviour, give us thy Holy Spirit to stir us up, and to strengthen us in the right way; and even though trouble and darkness may be coming upon the earth, "yet in thee let us have light, and let our song be-O Lord, I will praise thee, though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me. Behold, God is my salvation ; I will trust and not be afraid : for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song: He also is become my salvation,"+ world without end. Amen.
LUKE Xx. 17.
The Saviour never ceased for one moment his efforts to save, from the coming ruin, those who were thirsting for his blood. The parable which he had just related to them gave the past and future history of God's dealings with them, but it did not set forth the way of Redemption from the miseries that were coming upon them; therefore He for a moment passed from the parable of the vineyard and the wicked husbandmen to that part of Scripture in which He, the Messiah, is pictured under the figure of the key-stone of the arch, the chief corner-stone that held together all the building of God's church. They, who looked upon themselves as the builders of the church, rejected Him; but He was the head-stone of the corner, and without Him the whole would fall in ruins.
“He beheld them, and said, What is
LUKE XX. 17.
+ Ibid xii. 1, 2.
* Isaiah ii, 5.
this then that is written, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner! This is the Lord's doing and it is marvellous in our eyes.* Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
Therefore, yes! for this very reason. The knowledge that the Head-stone that was needed to complete the building of the church of God, must be just such a one as Jesus, was the very fruit God's vineyard was expected to produce. Now was the season of the vintage, He the eternal Son had come to receive the glad submission, the reverence that was his due.
They were about to reject Him. Let them beware. The vineyard would not only be taken from them, but ruin would come upon them so complete, that it could only be expressed by the dreadful words,—they should be ground to powder, by the falling upon them of Him whom they now rejected, and who had been offered to them as their chief support.
MATTHEW xxi. 44. “ Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken ; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it shall grind him to powder.”
Both these parables, that of the vineyard, and that of the chief corner-stone, t were taken from scriptures well known to the Chief Priests and Elders of the people. They both spake the same lesson: but the image of the builders, who casting aside the principal stone of the building stumbled over it and fell, was more complete in its resemblance to the conduct of the chief men among the Jews, and had in it all that was wanting in the parable of the vineyard ; for it was impossible that their malice and wickedness could defeat the purposes of God. Let them rage ever so violently, He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn. They rejected the headstone of the corner, and to them, by its displacement in their own minds, it becomes “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence." Nevertheless it should become that which God purposed.
* Psalm cxviii. 22, 23. + Psalm cxviii. 22, 23. Isaiah viii. 14, 15. Daniel ii. 44, 45.
It should be raised to the height for which it was destined ; but though nothing could prevent its remaining for ever, the strength and ornament of the whole building, yet upon them it shall fall and grind them to powder. The meaning of this is plain ; all who reject the Saviour now, who turn with dislike from the humbling nature of his religion, stumble, and fall, for there is no other salvation. Let them beware in time, for He the forgiving Saviour of to-day, must become the unsparing Judge of the morrow that will surely come, and fearful will be the doom which He will then award. Did not the thought of this fill the bosom of Jesus with pitying grief, “as He beheld them," and laboured on to save them still ? Surely yes, for we shall read that such sorrow filled his heart, that he wept over their coming ruin. Oh, let his love find its way into our hearts. It was foretold of Him while yet a babe in His Mother's arms, that he was “sent for the fall and rising again of many in Israel.”
Let it be so with us. Let our fall not be a wilful and rebellious stumbling at the searching doctrines of Christianity; let it be the bringing down of our sinful pride, to the salvation of our souls through Christ the only Redeemer.
“Lord, let this flinty heart of mine,
Be broken on thy corner-stone."
* Luke ii. 34.
The Pharisees well understood the meaning of these parables ; but, instead of being warned by them to escape the danger now at hand, in the blindness of their self-willed pride, they madly rushed on to destruction. Thus they proved to the letter each word of Jesus, and shewed his parables to be not only warning and rebuke, but prophecy. It is written,
Verse 45. “And when the chief priests and pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
LUKE xx. 19. “And the same hour sought they to lay hands on him."
MATTHEW xxi. 46. “But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.”
Oh madness of man, to fear the less danger, and to be blind to the greater.
Shall we who read these things, simply wonder at the obstinacy of the Pharisees, and pass on as though we had nothing in common with them ? Do we never persevere
any course which we have strong room to believe is contrary to Scripture, because we will not have our plans thwarted ? Is not the fear of man, (whether of his violence, or of his opinion,) often a stronger motive within us than the fear of God? Let us well consider this, for the spirit of the old Pharisee has never departed from the world. It takes a thousand shapes, but it may always be known by its pride. It hates the humbling doctrines of Christ. It would not give up the name and credit of religion, no, that belongs to the light-minded Sadducee ; but it seeks the
praise of man, it would make for itself a name, and keep back from God the humble lowly fruits of His religion, which His own Son, His well-beloved, came to seek. Oh, how shall we escape this danger? even as these Pharisees might have escaped · it. By listening to the words of Christ, not to oppose them, but to be taught by them, not to make them speak our views, our wishes, but to see what is the message he would impress upon us, and, while we listen, while we read, to pray humbly, earnestly, fervently, that we may be taught by the Spirit.
Our best safety is with prayer to take such Scriptures as these into deep consideration, to try ourselves by them, to compare with them our plans, our thoughts, our wishes. Do they agree with the work Christ came to do, to overthrow the powers of Satan, and to establish God's kingdom. Do we in very deed build all our hopes and dependance on Christ, our chief corner-stone? Do we anxiously labour to render unto Him in their season the fruits that are his due ? Christ is
gone, but he hath left his footsteps in the world. Is it our earnest care to look for them and to follow them. We are not bound by the opinions of our fellow-men, but we are bound to obey each word that Christ hath spoken. The Pharisees, when they perceived that he had spoken a parable against them, would have laid hands on Him, if they had dared, but they feared the people; and there are many, who, if they could, would silence the word of Christ, because it testifies against their evil courses. They would openly declare against religion, but they also “fear the people:” that is, they fear the opinion of their fellow-men, therefore they continue in a decent outside show, while in their hearts they rebel against his authority.