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of us our own vineyard to keep, our own soul ; and it is God's, and to be kept and dressed for him. In this work we must not be slothful, not loiterers, but labourers, working, and work out our own salvation. Work for God will not admit of trifling. A man may go idle to hell; but he that will go to heaven, must be busy. What shall be their wages ? He promises, A penny, ver. 2. The Roman penny was, in our money, of the value of sevenpence-halfpenny, a day's wages for a day's work, and the wages sufficient for a day's maintenance. This doth not prove that the reward of our obedience to God is of works, or of debt (no, it is of grace, free grace, Rom. iv. 4), or that there is any proportion between our services and heaven's glories; no, when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants; but it is to signify that there is a reward set before us, and a sufficient one. Ile was to give whatsoever is right, ver. 4-7. God will be sure not to be behind-hand with any for the services they do him: never any lost by working for God.
For what terms are they hired? For a day. It is but a day's work that is here done. The time of life is the day, in which we must work the works of him that sent us into the world. The reward is for eternity, the work is but for a day. This should quicken us to expedition and diligence in our work, that we have but a little time to work in, and the night is hastening on, when no man can work ; and if our great work be undone when our day is done, we are undone for ever.
Notice is taken of the several hours of the day, at which the labourers were hired. This may be, and commonly is, applied to the several ages of life, in which souls are converted to Christ. The common call is promiscuous, to come and work in the vineyard; but the effectual call is particular, and it is then effectual when we come at the call.
When the account was taken ; when the evening was come, then, as usual, the day-labourers were called and paid. Evening time is the reckoning time; the particular account must be given up in the evening of our life ; for after death cometh the judgment. Faithful labourers shall receive their reward when they die ; it is deferred till then, that they may wait with patience for it, but no longer; for God will observe his own rule, “ The hire of the labourers shall not abide with thee all night, until the morning." See Deut. xxiv. 15.
When the account was taken, They received every man a penny. All that by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, honour, and immortality, shall undoubtedly obtain eternal life (Rom. ii. 7), not as wages for the value of their work, but as the gift of God. Though there be degrees of glory in heaven, yet it will be to all a complete happiness. The giving of a whole day's wages to those that had not done the tenth part of a day's work, is designed to show that God distributes his rewards by grace and sovereignty, and not of debt.
Some of the labourers, dissatisfied with their payment, murmured at the goodman of the house ; not that there is, or can be, any discontent or murmuring in heaven, for that is both guilt and grief, and in heaven there is neither ; but there may be, and often are, discontent and murmuring concerning heaven and heavenly things, while they are in prospect and promise in this world. This signifies the jealousy which the Jews were provoked to by the admission of the Gentiles into the kingdom of heaven. As the elder brother, in the parable of the prodigal, repined at the reception of his younger brother, and complained of his father's generosity to him ; so these labourers quarrelled with their master, and found fault, not because they had not enough, so much as because others were made equal with them. They boast, as the prodigal's elder brother did, of their good services; We have borne the burthen and heat of the day, that was the most they could make of it. Sinners are said to “ labour in the very fire” (Hab. ii. 13), whereas God's servants, at the worst, do but labour in the sun; not in the heat of the iron furnace, but only in the heat of the day. Now these last have worked but one hour, and that, too, in the cool of the day; and yet thou hast made them equal with us. There is a great proneness in us to think that we have too little, and others too much, of the tokens of God's favour, and that we do too much, and others too little, in the work of God. Very apt we all are to undervalue the deserts of others, and to overvalue our own.
The master of the vineyard answers their complaints. He asserts his own justice; Friend I do thee no wrong. He calls him friend, for in reasoning with others, we should use soft words and hard arguments. It is incontestibly true that God can do no wrong. This is the prerogative of the King of kings. “Is there unrighteousness with God ?" The apostle startles at the thought of it; God forbid! Rom. iii. 5, 6.
To convince the murmurer that he did no wrong, he refers him to the bargain, “ Didst thou not agree with me for a penny? And if thou hast what thou didst agree for, thou hast no reason to cry out of wrong ; thou shalt have what we agreed for.” Though God is a debtor to none, yet he is graciously pleased to make himself a debtor by his own promise, for the benefit of which, through Christ, believers agree with him, and he will stand to his part of the agreement.
He therefore ties him to his bargain (ver. 14); Take that thine is, and go thy way. If we upderstand it of that which is ours by debt or absolute propriety, it would be a dreadful word ; wę are all undone, if we be put off with that only which we can call our own. The highest creature must go away into nothing, if he must go away with that only which is his own : but if we understand it of that which is ours by gift, the free gift of God, it teaches us to be content with such things as we have. Instead of repining that we have no more, let us take what we have, and be thankful. If God be better in any respect to others than to us, yet we have no reason to complain while he is so much better to us than we deserve, in giving us our penny, though we are unprofitable servants.
The servants had no reason to quarrel with the master; for what he gave was absolutely his own, ver. 15. As before he asserted his justice, so here his sovereignty,—is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? God is the owner of all good; his propriety in it is absolute, sovereign, and unlimited. He may therefore give or withhold his blessings, as he pleases. What we have is not our own, and therefore it is not lawful for us to do what we will with it; but what God has, is his own; and this will justify him; in all the disposals of his providence; when God takes from us that which was dear to us, and which we could ill spare, we must silence our discontents with this—may he not do what he will with his own? He hath taken away, but he originally gave. It is not for such depending creatures as we are to quarrel with our Sovereign. In all the dispensations of his grace, God gives or withholds the means of grace, and the Spirit of grace, as he pleases. Not but that there is a counsel in every will of God, and what seems to us to be done arbitrarily, will appear at length to have been done wisely, and for holy ends. But this is enough to silence all murmurers and objectors, that God is sovereign Lord of all, and may do what he will with his own. We are in his hand, as clay in the hands of a potter ; and it is not for us to prescribe to him, or strive with him.
The application of the parable (ver. 16) lies in that observation which occasioned it (chap. xix. 30); So the first shall be last, and the last first. There were many that followed Christ now in the regeneration, when the gospel kingdom was first set up, and these Jewish converts seemed to have got the start of others; but Christ, to obviate and silence their boasting, here tells them, That they might possibly be outstripped by their successors in profession, and though they were before others in profession, might be found inferior to them in knowledge, grace, and holiness.
He warned them that they had reason to fear, lest they themselves should be found hypocrites at last; for many are called but few chosen. This is applied to the Jews (chap. xxii. 14); it was so then, it is too true still; many are called with a common call
, that are not chosen with a saving choice. All that are chosen from eternity, are effectually called in the fulness of time (Rom. viii. 30), so that in making our effectual calling sure we make sure our election (2 Pet. i. 10); but it is not so as to the outward call; many are called and yet refuse (Prov. i. 24); nay, as they are called to God, so they go from him (Hos. xi. 2, 7), by which it appears that they were not chosen, for the election will obtain, Rom. xi. 7. There are but few chosen Christians, in comparison with the many that are only called Christians; it therefore highly concerns us to build our hope for heaven upon the rock of an eternal choice, and not upon the sand of an external call; and we should fear lest we be found but seeming Christians, and so should really come short; nay, lest we be found blemished Christians, and so should seem to come short. Heb. iv. 1. 17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in
the way, and said unto them, 18 'Behold, we go up to Jerusalem ; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, 19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.
e Mark x. 32; Luke xviii. 31; John xii. 12. s Chap. xvi. 21. 8 Chap. xxvii. 2; Mark xv. 1, 16; Luke xxiii, 1; Jobp xviii. 28; This is the third time that Christ gave his disciples notice of his approaching sufferings; he was now going up to Jerusalem to celebrate the passover, and to offer up himself the great Passover.
This prediction of his sufferings is a repetition of what he had once and again told before, chap. xvi. 21. This intimates that he not only saw clearly what troubles lay before him, but that his heart was upon his suffering-work; it filled him not with fear, then he would have studied to avoid it, and could have done it, but with desire and expectation; he spoke thus frequently of his sufferings, because through them he was to enter into his glory. It is good for us to be often thinking and speaking of our death, and of the sufferings which, it is likely, we may meet with betwixt this and the grave; and thus by making them more familiar, they would become less formidable.
Acts iii. 13.
Our Lord is more particular here in foretelling his sufferings than any time before. He had said (chap. xvi. 21), that he should suffer many things, and be killed; and (chap. xvii. 22), that he should be betrayed into the hands of men, and they should kill him ; but here he adds, that he shall be condemned, and delivered to the Gentiles, that they shall mock him, and scourge him, and crucify him. These are the frightful things, and the certain foresight of them was enough to damp an ordinary resolution, yet (as was foretold concerning him (Isa. xlii. 4), he did not fail, nor was discouraged; but the more clearly he foresaw his sufferings, the more cheerfully he went forth to meet them. He foretells by whom he should suffer, by the chief priests and the scribes ; so he had said before, but here he adds, They shall deliver him to the Gentiles, that he might be the better understood ; for the chief priests and scribes had no power to put him to death, nor was crucifying a manner of death in use among the Jews. Christ suffered from the malice both of Jews and Gentiles, because he was to suffer for the salvation both of Jews and Gentiles; both had a hand in his death, because he was to reconcile both by his cross, Eph. ii. 16. 20 q \Then came to him the mother of 'Zebedee's children with her sons,
worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. 21 And he said
m Luke xii. 50. n Acts xii. 2; Rom. viii. 17; 2 Cor. i. 7 ; Rev. i.9. o Chap. XXV. 34. p Mark X. 41; Luke xxii. 24, 25,
Rom. v. 15, 19; Heb. ix. 28. Here is, first, the request of the two disciples to Christ, and the rectifying of the mistake upon which that was grounded, ver. 20–23. The sons of Zebedee were James and John, two of the first three of Christ's disciples; Peter and they were his favourites; John was the disciple whom Jesus loved ; yet none were so often reproved as they ; whom Christ loves best, he reproves most, Rev, jjj. 19.
Here is the ambitious address they made to Christ-that they might sit, the one on his right hand, and the other on his left, in his kingdom, ver. 20, 21. It was a great degree of faith, that they were confident of his kingdom, though now he appeared in meanness; but a great degree of ignorance, that they still expected a temporal kingdom, with worldly pomp and power, when Christ had so often told them of sufferings and self-denial. In this they expected to be grandees. They ask not for employment in this kingdom, but for honour only; and no place would serve them but the highest, next to Christ, and above every body else.
There was policy in the management of this address, that they put their mother on to present it, that it might be looked upon as her request, and not theirs. Though proud people think well of themselves, they would not be thought to do so, and therefore affect nothing more than a show of humility (Col. ii. 18), and others must be put on to court that honour for them, which they are ashamed to court for themselves. It was likewise policy to ask for a general grant, that he would do a certain thing for them, not in faith, but in presumption, upon that general promise, “ Ask, and it shall be given you;” in which is implied this qualification of our request, that it be according to
I Chap. xxvi. 39, 42; Mark xiv. 36; Luke xxii. 42; John xviii. 11.
t John xiii, 4.
u Phil. ii. 7.
I Luke xxii. 27.
the revealed will of God, otherwise, we ask and have not, if we ask to consume it upon our lusts, Jam. iv. 3.
There was pride at the bottom of it, a proud conceit of their own merit, a proud contempt of the r brethren, and a proud desire of honour and preferment; pride is a sin that most easily besets rs, and which it is hard to get clear of. It is a holy ambition to strive to excel others in grace
and holiness; but it is a sinful ambition to covet to exceed others in pomp and grandeur.
Christ, in answer to this address (ver. 22, 23), reproved the ignorance and error of their petition, Ye know not what ye ask. They were much in the dark concerning the kingdom they had their eye upon; they dreamed of a temporal kingdom, whereas Christ's kingdom is not of this world. They knew not what it was to sit on his right hand, and on his left ; they talked of it as blind men do of colours. Our apprehensions of that glory which is yet to be revealed, are like the apprehensions which a child has of the preferments of grown men. They were much in the dark, also, concerning the way
to that kingdom. They know not what they ask, who ask for the end, but overlook the means, and so put asunder what God has joined together. The disciples thought, when they had left what little all they had for Christ, and had gone about the country a while preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, all their service and sufferings were over, and it was now time to ask, What shall we have ? As if nothing were now to be looked for but crowns and garlands; whereas there were far greater hardships and difficulties before them than they had yet met with. They imagined their warfare was accomplished when it was scarcely begun.
Christ repressed the vanity and ambition of their request. They were pleasing themselves with the fancy of sitting on his right hand, and on his left, in great state; now, to check this, he leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings, and leaves them in the dark about their glory. He leads them to the thoughts of their sufferings, which they were not so mindful of as they ought to have been. Observe how fairly he puts the matter to them, concerning these difficulties (ver. 22); you would stand candidates for the first post of honour in the kingdom, but, are you able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of? You talk of what great things you must have when you have done your work; but are you able to stand out to the end of it? Put the matter seriously to yourselves. The same two disciples once knew not what manner of spirit they were of, when they were disturbed with anger, Luke ix. 55 ; and now they were not aware what was amiss in their spirits when they were lifted up with ambition.
To suffer for Christ is to drink of a cup, and to be baptized with a baptism. In this description of sufferings affliction doth abound. It is supposed to be a bitter cup that is drunk of-wormwood and gall, those waters of a full cup that are wrung out to God's people (Psal. Ixxiii. 10); a cup trembling, indeed, but not of fire and brimstone, the portion of the cup of wicked men. Psal. xi. 6. It is supposed to be a baptism, a washing with the waters of affliction. Some are dipped in them, the waters compass them about even to the soul (Jonah ii. 5); others have but a sprinkling of them; both are baptisms. Some are overwhelmed in them, as in a deluge ; others, ill wet, as in a sharp shower. But even in this, consolation doth more abound. It is but a cup, not an ocean; it is but a draught, bitter, perhaps, but we shall see the bottom of it; it is a cup in the hand of a Father (John xviii. 11); and it is full of mixture. Psal. lxxv. 8. It is but a baptism; if dipped, that is the worst of it, not drowned; perplexed, but not in despair.
To suffer for Christ is to drink of the same cup that Christ drank of, and to be baptized with the same baptism that he was baptized with. Christ is beforehand with us in suffering; and in that, as in other things, left us an example. This bespeaks the condescension of a suffering Christ, that he would drink of such a cup (John xviii. 11), nay, and such a brook (Psal. cx. . 7), and drink so deep, and yet so cheerfully; that he would be baptized with such a baptism, and was so forward to it. Luke xii. 50. It was much that he would be baptized with water, as a common sinner; much more with blood, as an uncommon malefactor. But in all this he was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, and was made sin for us. It also bespeaks the consolation of suffering Christians,—that they do but pledge Christ in the bitter cup, are partakers of his sufferings, and fill up that which is behind of them. We must therefore arm ourselves with the same mind, and go to him without the camp.
See how boldly they engage for themselves (ver. 22). They said, We are able-in hopes of sitting on his right and on his left; but at the same time, they fondly hoped that they should never be tried. As before they knew not what they asked, so now they knew not what they answered. We are able ; they would have done well to put in,-Lord, by thy strength, and in thy grace, we are able; otherwise we are not. They knew not what Christ's cup was, nor what his baptism, and therefore they were thus bold in promising for themselves. But those are commonly most confident, that are least acquainted with the cross.
Christ plainly and positively foretold their sufferings (ver. 23),-Ye shall drink of my cup. That is, Ye shall suffer. James drank the bloody cup first of all the apostles. Acts xii. 2. John, though
of sway, would
at last he died in his bed, if we may credit the ecclesiastical historians, yet often drank of this bitter cup; as when he was banished into the isle of Patmos (Rev. i. 9); and when, as they say, at Ephesus he was put into a caldron of boiling oil, but was miraculously preserved. He was, as the rest of the apostles, in deaths often. He took the cup, offered himself to the baptism, and it was accepted.
But whilst he foretells their sufferings, he leaves them in the dark about the degrees of their glory. To carry them cheerfully through their sufferings, it was enough to be assured that they should have a place in his kingdom. The lowest seat in heaven is an abundant recompense for the greatest sufferings on earth. But as to the preferments there, it was not fit there should be any intimation given for whom they were intended; for the infirmity of their present state could not bear such a discovery with any evenness. To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, and therefore it is not for you to ask it, or to know it; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.
The other disciples, when they heard the request of James and John (ver. 24), were moved with indignation against the two brethren ; not because they were desirous to be preferred, which was their sin, but because they were desirous to be preferred before them—which was a reflection upon them. Many seem to have indignation at sin; but it is not because it is sin, but because it touches them. These disciples were angry at their brethren's ambition, though they themselves, nay, because they themselves, were as ambitious. It is common for people to be angry at those sins in others which they allow of and indulge in themselves.
The check that Christ gave them (ver. 25) was very gentle ; rather by way of instruction what they should be, than by way of reprehension for what they were.
The princes of the Gentiles (ver. 25) exercise dominion and authority over their subjects; and, if they can but win the upper hand, over one another too. That which bears them up in it is, that they are great; and great men think that they may do any thing. Dominio and authority are the great things which the princes of the Gentiles pursue, and pride themselves in: they would bear
carry all before them, have every body truckle to them, and every sheaf bow to theirs. It shall not be so among you (ver. 26). The constitution of the spiritual kingdom is quite different from this. You are to teach the subjects of this kingdom, to instruct and beseech them, to counsel and comfort them, to take pains with them, and suffer with them,—not to exercise dominion or authority over them. You are not to lord it over God's heritage (1 Pet. v. 3), but to labour in it. This forbids not only tyranny and abuse of power, but the claim or use of any such secular authority as the princes of the Gentiles lawfully exercise. So hard is it for vain men, even good men, to to have such authority and not to be puffed up with it, and do more hurt than good with it, that our Lord Jesus saw fit wholly to banish it out of his Church. Paul himself disowns dominion over the faith of any. 2 Cor. i. 24. Now, if there were no such power and honour intended to be in the Church, it was nonsense for them to be striving who should have it. They knew not what they asked.
Our Lord Jesus here sets himself before his disciples (ver. 28) as a pattern of humility and usefulness. The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
When the Son of God came into the world, his ambassador to the children of men, one would think he should have been ministered to, should have appeared in an equipage agreeable to his person and character. But he did not so; he made no figure, had no pompous train of state-servants to attend him, nor was he clad in robes of honour, for he took upon him the form of a servant. He was indeed ministered to as a poor man, which was a part of his humiliation—there were those that ministered to him of their substance (Luke viii. 2, 3); but he was never ministered to as a great man
- he never took state upon him. He came to minister help to all that were in distress; he made himself a servant to the sick and diseased ; was as ready to their requests as ever any servant was at the beck of his master, and took as much pains to serve them; he attended continually to this very thing, and denied himself both food and rest to attend to it. Never was there such an example of beneficence and usefulness as there was in the death of Christ, who gave his life a ransom for many. Our lives were forfeited into the hands of divine justice by sin. Christ, by parting with his life, made atonement for sin, and so rescued ours. He was made sin, and a curse for us, and died not only for our good, but in our stead. Acts xx. 28; 1 Pet. i. 18, 19. It was a ransom for many-sufficient for all—effectual for many; and if for many, then, saith the poor doubting soul,
Why not for me?". It was for many, that by him many may be made righteous. These many were his seed, for which his soul travailed (Isa. liii. 10, 11); for many—so they will be when they come all together, though now they appear but a little flock.
Now this is a good reason why we should not strive for precedency--because the cross is our