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yard, which you can read to me, as it is given by St. Matthew. (See chap. xxi. 33-46.)
In this parable our Lord compares the Church of God to a vineyard surrounded on every side, as by a wall, with the providence of God watching over it and preserving it from evil; hedged in by His strict laws and ordinances; with a wine-press in it, by means of which the husbandmen or keepers of the vineyard may convert the grapes into wine. To these keepers or husbandmen, the owner of the vineyard sends his servants at the proper season to receive the produce of the vineyard. For God expects, in due time, fruit from His Church and from every tree in it.
E. Yes, the vines represent the people of God; and I think I see a great deal of the meaning of the rest of the parable. Were not the husbandmen, who so cruelly treated the servants, belonging to the owner of the vineyard, meant to represent the chief Priests and Scribes, who at that very time were seeking to destroy our Lord?
M. Yes; the chief Priests had the care of the Jewish people, both as rulers and teachers. The cultivation of the spiritual vineyard was entrusted to them and Christ, it is plain, was the beloved Son, the heir of all things, who was at last sent to remonstrate with them, after they had so long refused to hearken to His servants the prophets, who had gone before Him. But Him these wicked husbandmen were determined to kill and to cast out. They shall not do it, however, without warning. Christ here plainly tells them of the dreadful judgments which should follow such wickedness: and He makes them utter with their own lips an awful prediction of the
destruction which should come upon their city and
E. I see; when our Lord asked them what the lord of the vineyard would do to those wicked husbandmen, they themselves answered, "He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, who shall render the fruits in their seasons.' How strange that they should not see that they were speaking of themselves!
M. So awfully does sin darken the mind! But the sentence which they were thus led to pronounce against themselves was too true. Christ, the stone, whom they, as the Psalmist had said, rejected, should nevertheless become the head of the corner, and should prove the ruin, as well as the rising again, of many in Israel: breaking those who fell upon it; and grinding to powder those on whom it fell. So was Christ, you see, rejected by the chief Priests and Scribes, and at last put to death. Yet did He rise again and become the corner stone, the precious corner stone, the tried stone, the sure foundation on which the Church of God has rested, and shall rest for ever. And awful afterwards was the vengeance which fell upon His enemies.
E. I was hoping, Mamma, that such a warning as this might have turned their hearts, and that now, though so late, they might still become disciples of Christ. He had spoken to them so plainly; now they must, I think, have understood Him.
M. Alas! from that same hour they tried to lay hold of His sacred person; and would have done so at once but for their fear of the people. The wicked you know are generally cowards. They know that
the people believed Christ to be a prophet: and a prophet truly He was, signifying to them at this very moment things which should be fulfilled in that generation, to the joy of many, but to the confusion of more.
The next parable which I wish to explain to you, is a very solemn one ;-solemn to all, although its first application seems to be to the Jews. Here we find their perverseness in rejecting the Gospel set forth in striking colours. Angry and amazed, the chief Priests and Scribes had just left our Lord in the temple ; where, undisturbed by their perverse cavils, He continued quietly to teach the people. The only use He made of their violent conduct towards Himself, was to put it in its right light before the ignorant persons, who were daily witnessing it; if haply they might still take warning.
E. What is the parable called, which He now delivered to them?
M. We know it by the name of 'The wedding garment,' the reason for which you will see presently. In it our Lord compares His heavenly Father to a king who made a marriage feast for his son, and graciously invited all his people to partake of it; but they all with one accord began to make excuse; although their king repeated his loving invitations, saying, "Behold I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready; come unto the marriage." Their excuses were various. One spoke of his farm, another of his merchandise, and all turned away from the feast, which had been prepared and spread for them; and some not only insulted, but even put to death the servants who carried the invita
tions. I will stop a few minutes, that you may see whether you discover the meaning.
E. Is not the Gospel that great feast, and did not the Jews act just in this way when they refused to partake of it? I am sure our Saviour invited them very often, and very kindly.
M. He did indeed, and great were the blessings, rich the feast which He had set before them; but they contemptuously refused the invitation, and persecuted even to death our Lord Himself, and many of His servants. But such conduct could not pass unpunished. At the close of the parable we see the dreadful destruction which came upon these murderers, and the very city in which such wickedness had been committed. Whilst the feast, prepared for them, was spread before others, more willing to partake of it. The king's servants were sent into the highways and hedges to bid all whom they could find to the wedding, till at last it was furnished with guests.
E. Highways and hedges! what do they mean? I cannot quite make that out.
M. What do you think of the despised Gentiles, who, when the Jews refused, had the Gospel feast spread before them, and were persuaded to accept of it? Not that it is enough merely to accept the invitation: many, many profess themselves to be Christians, who do not really belong to Christ. They have the name, but not the character, of his followers. Well did our Saviour know that there would be such people in His holy Church—such guests at His sacred feast! Yes, He knew that many would walk among His own people on earth, who would not walk with them hereafter in the streets of the holy city, new Jeru
salem-that many would venture even to draw near to the table of the Lord, and put forth unholy hands to touch the sacred feast, the rich banquet of the Saviour's body and blood; many, that would never eat of it with Him in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus describes such persons as these, and warns them of their danger in another part of this parable.
E. Is it where He says that when the king went in to see the guests, he found one that had not on the wedding garment? But was it his own fault? Might he not have been too poor to get one?
M. That is very probable; but it was the custom in eastern countries, for the master of the house to provide the guests with fit garments on such an occasion he must, therefore, have been too proud, or too careless, to accept of one. At any rate he must have been sadly wanting in reverence for his king. But what is this wedding garment? Is it not that righteousness which God has provided for us in the Gospel; that "fine linen, clean and white," which St. John speaks of in the book of Revelations, even "the righteousness of the saints."
E. But, Mamma, I thought none of us could be clean and white?
M. We cannot, it is true, make ourselves so: but remember David's prayer, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow:" and remember too, that what St. John says of those whom he saw around the throne of God in heaven: "They had washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." And so shall we be white when our sins are washed away by His blood, and our hearts cleansed by His Holy Spirit. This is the garment God provides for all of us