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were those who first listened to the message of the apostles and such are many in every age, who, having in their youth been deaf to the call of duty, hearken to it in their riper years. What reason have they to bless God, who has subdued their sinful and reluctant hearts, and made them willing to serve him! How thankfully does St. Paul speak of this, and describe his own case as an encouragement to others! "For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” 5
6. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?
7. They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.
Observe what is implied in the question, Why stand ye here all the day idle? Yet why should they not, if there was no certain and essential concern, in which it was their duty to be engaged? And what that concern is, we need not go far to inquire. It is the working out our salvation; it is the securing our eternal state; it is the preparing ourselves for eternity, by living to him who died for us; died for us, that he might bring us to God, and make us a peculiar people, zealous in the Lord's service, and doing all to his glory. Whosoever is not thus employed, is, in the judgment of his Maker, idle. Busy enough he may be, and probably is: for
3 1 Tim. i. 16.
the yoke of Satan is not light, nor the burden of Mammon easy but God will esteem him idle, and appoint him the portion of the slothful and unprofitable.
It is true concerning the Gentiles, whose case was perhaps uppermost in our Lord's view when he uttered this parable, that they might with some justice return the answer, Because no man hath hired us. Their business in the world, though it might have been better known and practised than they did know or practise it, had not been clearly revealed. But none of us could plead a like excuse. We have been engaged, from our very birth, to the service of God through Christ Jesus. Those of us who have been standing idle, have not stood idle for want of business to perform. A business has been enjoined us which may well employ our first thoughts and our best endeavours; a business honourable, if to serve the King of heaven is honourable; a business great and serious, if the condition of a never-dying soul is serious. He said to us at our baptism, Go ye into my vineyard, and whatsoever is right ye shall receive. He repeats the same to us, by the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, every time that conscience whispers, Is my heart right with God? He says the same by the voice of his word, whenever we are warned in Scripture, "What shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" His ministers are constantly pressing the same truths upon us; and so is the flight of life, and so is the approach of death, and so is the daily disappearance of our neighbours from this earthly scene. therefore, if we are standing all the day idle, idle as
to the most important thing, though perhaps busy in worldly affairs, and even pleading that excuse-—we cannot allege the pretext that no man hath hired us.
8. 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.
9. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
10. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
11. And when they had received it, they murmured against the good man of the house,
12. 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.
13. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
14. Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
16. So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
This conclusion of the parable rebukes, by anticipation, the envy and jealousy of the Jewish nation, which burst out as soon as the apostles proclaimed that "God had granted unto the Gentiles also repentance unto life." This "holy nation," this " peculiar people," murmured that others should be "made equal unto" themselves in the kingdom of God, whether on earth or in heaven. No disciple
of Christ ever complained that God had shown mercy unto those whom he may have received at the
eleventh hour. No disciple of Christ ever boasted that he had borne the burden and heat of the day : he entreats from first to last that his offences may be pardoned, and not that his merits may be weighed. But the eye of the Jew was evil, because God was good when a multitude of the Gentiles heard the word gladly, they were "filled with envy:"6 and even Peter himself was instructed by a vision, before he ventured to declare that "in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted of Him."" So corrupt and deceitful is the human heart: which is capable of finding even in its spiritual privileges the materials of jealousy, contempt, and hatred.
It is not the object of this parable, to point out the danger of delay in turning to the service of God. But the parable gives occasion to remark it. For how few live to an eleventh hour! How few, if they do live to it, then listen to a command which they have rejected all their lives! Fewer still are able to give proof of their obedience, by going then to do work in the vineyard! Let not the "longsuffering of God," which is designed to "lead to repentance," lead to presumption which might preclude repentance. To the eleventh hour, to the very close of life, it is written over mercy's gate, "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you." But upon no man's forehead is it written, This man shall have space granted him to seek the gate at last, and shall have the will to knock there.
And if God intended
6 Acts xii. 45; xiv. 1, &c.
7 Acts x. 35.
to reward those who do not decidedly engage in his service, we should not find this parable in scripture. He would not rebuke and invite those who are standing all the day idle, if all were to receive, whether they had laboured in the vineyard or no. If God would hereafter make no "difference between him that serveth him, and him that serveth him not," t," 8 we should not be told that though many are called few are chosen.
DISTINCTION REQUESTED FOR JAMES AND JOHN.
MATT. XX. 17-23.
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.
20. 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 unto her, What wilt thou? she saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
• Mal. iii. 18.