shall receive a hundred fold in this life, and in the world to come life eternal." There is therefore a two-fold fulfilment of the promise given by our Saviour ; the one the wages that belong to this life; the other the blessedness that belongs to the life that is to come. And it is with reference to this second part that he gives the solemn injunction, but many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first; the meaning of which follows in the explanation or winding up of this parable,“ The first shall be last, and the last first; for many are called but few chosen."

Now it is to set this two-fold truth before us that our Lord gives us here the parable of the labourers in the vineyard. For the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man that is an householder which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard; and when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 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. 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 ? And 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.” Here then is one of the ordinary occurrences of the business of life; early in the morning, soon as it was light, the owner of the vineyard goes out into the common market-place and finds men, even at that early hour, looking for employment. He selects as many as he wants, and sends them


It was

into his vineyard. Now with regard to merit, there was no claim of gratitude either on the one side or the other. The owner of the vineyard did not employ these men for any benevolence to them, it was that his vineyard needed dressing. The men did not go into the market place for any benevolence towards the owner of the vineyard, their families needed support, it was the ordinary necessities of life that took them into the market place, and took the owner of the vineyard there to seek them. therefore simply a matter of employment, of labour, on one side, and of wages on the other. Three hours after he needs other labourers, and finds men still waiting in the same market place, looking for employment; he employs as many as he needs; but leaves those that were in the market place, that he did not need, unemployed. Three hours after he goes and does the same. Three hours after he repeats the same visit to the market place, and the men who had remained there from the morning light to the ninth hour assuredly showed a great anxiety for employment ; although they showed neither love nor otherwise towards the owner of the vineyard. It was simply the necessities of life, and the industry of life which these men exhibited. At the eleventh hour, within one hour of the close of the day the owner of the vineyard goes into the market place and employs other labourers. He asks them Why stand ye here all the day idle ?" and the answer which they gave was a full vindication of their apparent idleness, No man hath hired us." There could be no rebuke upon them for their idleness, for there they were waiting. There was indeed on the contrary very great praise due to them for their earnest anxiety to find employment. Had they not longed for this employment they would not have remain

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


ed until it was almost hopeless to find it. Disappointed at the third hour, disappointed at the sixth hour, disappointed at the ninth hour, they might well have gone home and said As no man hath hired us in the first part of the day we are not likely to find any one to employ us the last quarter of the day," and they might well have gone home ; but there was that necessity of life which made them wait in anxious hope, and so at the eleventh hour they were found there still earnest, to be employed. If there were to be any merit in looking for employment, surely those who remained in the market place during the whole day for eleven hours, hoping and wishing to be employed would be the best instead of the worst. So that in no respect does it suit the character of unconverte persons sinfully remaining out of the Lord's service; but it well suits the character of those who cannot go into the vineyard until the owner of the vineyard sends for them.

If we apply this to the work of Christ he also has his vineyard in this world ; “ The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant plant.” Now the parable does not bring before us the view of the men that

compose the vineyard, but the labourers who take care of the vineyard. It sets before us those who are employed in the ministries of the church, of whatever kind those ministries may be, but not the church itself as a people. It teaches us the very important truth that no man can enter into the service of Christ in the church except called by Christ. What a blessed example does our blessed Lord himself show of this in his own person.

The Apostle says in the 5th chap. of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “No man taketh this honor unto himself but he that is called of God as was Aaron ; so also Christ glorified not himself

must say,

[ocr errors]

to be made a high priest, but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee." We may wish for employment in the Church of Christ; we may ask for it; we may be found as it were in the marketplace putting ourselves in the way of being employed ; but it is he that must come into that market-place and

“ Go, work in my vineyard ;” and it is he who is the great Lord of Heaven and Earth, that has an eye to the services of the sinner as well as the saint, who can and does employ the unconverted as well as the converted ; like those unclean birds that were sent of God to feed the prophet in the desert; thus unclean and yet feeding with clean food him who was the prisoner of the Lord. The labourers then are represented as doing their work during the whole of the time they were employed by the master of the vineyard. · But when the evening was come the Lord of the vineyard said 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.

But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more: and they likewise received every man a penny. 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; did'st thou not agree with me for a penny, Take what thine is and go thy way; I will givē unto this last even as unto thee.

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good ?" [Here we have no fault found with the work of the men.

The master of the vineyard is there, the

received a penny.

steward is there, the wages are paid, there is no scrutiny of the work; the men are not represented as being dismissed from employment; but simply this, the labourers are called

up and paid, which implies that their work was accepted. There was one class who had a claim of right to a penny; there was another class who had a claim of right only to the twelfth part of a penny, and yet they

Neither class received more than a day's wages for a day's work. In the interpretation therefore of the parable it is not set before us heaven, or the blessedness of heaven; but earth and the wages of earth, in the service of Christ in his church on earth. In the one class we have as I have said that which was earned and was justly due, and there is this in the Church of Christ, the Lord hath ordained that they that preach the gospel should live of the gospel. If we have our temporal wants and the great head of the church call upon us with all these human wants about us, to separate ourselves from our ordinary business in life, and to give ourselves up to his service in the church, there is a claim for actual work performed, upon him who so employs his ministers in the church. In this respect we may reverentially say it is a work of merit, that is, it is something really earned and so Christ represents it here. For, if we have a right to labour for our daily bread, and God has promised that in the sweat of thy brow thou shall eat bread; he whom God calls and Christ calls, to set himself apart, to give himself up from his ordinary labour, to labour for him in his church, he offers not heaven but all his daily wages. So the Apostle Paul says, quoting the words of our Saviour and master in the 5th chap. of Timothy, and the 17th & 18th verses,

“ Let the elders that rule well be considered worthy of double honour: especially they who labour in

« ElőzőTovább »