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righteousness by His servant John. Some proved better than they promised; others promised better than they proved.1 The Rulers, the men of education, those who professed to do the will of God,3 obeyed not the voice of His servant either first or last; while men and women whom they despised, and who were indeed sinners, believed the Baptist to be a man sent from God,5 repented according to his preaching, and amended their sinful life. These, with
all their unrighteousness, were found more ready than the other, with all their pretension, to enter into that Church. and Kingdom which Christ came to set up, and for which the Baptist prepared the way. What made their conduct the less excusable, and that of the other the more wonderful, was the fact that John came walking in a way which the former professed to admire, and which the latter had hitherto neglected. Yet even the strange spectacle of penitent Publicans and sinners failed to have any effect on these. Even those of them who came to the Baptist came with subtlety, came without sincerity, came in unbelief, came only because it was popular, because it was the fashion to come. Their late answer concerning him shewed what manner of spirit they were of. They resembled the son who disobeyed, and they failed to resemble the son who afterward repented.
THE WICKED HUSBANDMEN.
St. Matthew xxi. 33-39.
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to
2 The original expression of v. 30 may be compared with the Hebrew idiom rendered "Here am I."
3 St. Matt. xv. 7, 8; xxiii. 3.
4 St. Luke xviii. 9-14.
5 St. John i. 6.
6 St. Luke vii. 29, 30.
St. Luke i. 6.
8 St. Luke vii. 33.
9 St. Matt. iii. 7, 8.
husbandmen, and went into a fur country: and when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.
The Lord has not yet done with those who had wantonly attacked Him. Another wholesome truth shall these discomfited assailants be made to hear. The application of the parable is plain. God is represented under the character of a proprietor. He planted the people of the Jews in the promised land, hedging in their nation from the nations round about, as a vineyard is protected by its fence. The vat or cistern dug in the rock or ground for the grapejuice, and the tower for the watchman, though belonging more to the setting of the parable, and filling up the picture, mark the care bestowed upon the spiritual vineyard. Nothing was wanting. As He had already asked by His Prophet "What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?"3 It was the custom in the East for landlords to let their vineyards to tenants who paid them part of the produce, a fixed rent in kind. The proprietor in the parable is represented as doing all this personally, and then withdrawing into a far country for a long time. In the first settlement of the chosen people in the land of pro
mise God was, so to speak, visibly in their midst.' To their Priests and Levites, as to these husbandmen, the care of the spiritual vineyard was committed. They had their account to render.
As "at the season "2 the landlord sent servant after servant, first one, then another and another,3 so God sent His Prophets to demand fruits of righteousness. But these fared at their hands as the servants in the story; one taken as if he were an intruder, and beaten, and sent empty away; another receiving even worse treatment, shamefully handled, as David's ambassadors at the hands of Hanun,5 and stoned, and wounded in the head; a third actually killed. Then more servants were sent. The Prophets increase in number. They become plainer in their predictions, louder in their demands. They fare as those who went before them, receiving all kinds of ill-treatment; some beaten, some killed. Now the lord of the vineyard is represented as deliberating, how he might bring these men to their senses. He has one only son, well beloved; even him will he spare for the purpose. It may be, speaking after the manner of men, they will reverence him when they see him. What a counterpart we have here of the mission of Christ! "God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto our fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." What a counterpart have we to the case of the wicked husbandmen in the conduct of the Jews to the "heir of all things!" Like Joseph's brethren 10 they conspire against Him to slay Him. The rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against His Anointed. They cast Him out of the vineyard. Jesus suffered without the gate."
1 Deut. iv. 32-38.
2 St. Mark xii. 2.
3 St. Luke xx. 10-12.
St. Mark xii. 3.
5 2 Sa. x. 4, 5.
6 St. Mark xii. 4.
7 St. Mark xii. 5.
8 St. Luke xx. 13.
St. Mark xii. 6.
10 Gen. xxxvii. 18-20. The very words of the LXX. are reproduced here in v. 38.
"Heb. xiii. 12. Compare Acts vii. 58.
THE SAME SUBJECT-continued.
St. Matthew xxi. 40-46.
When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, 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 say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.
So plain was the parable, that to the Lord's question at its close they could make but one answer. They pronounce sentence upon themselves. Man's natural sense of justice. can denounce in another the iniquity to which he is blind in his own case. Yet like Hazael,' they deny that such base conduct could be ever theirs. The Lord looks at them, as one who can look through them, and reminds them of a Scripture which it seemed as though they had never read. He is spoken of under this figure of a stone rejected of the builders, but which God in His marvellous might made the head of the corner. The Disciples seem to have remembered His words. The Lord plainly declares to them the import
With the original expression in v. 41 compare Wisd. vi. 6.
22 Ki. viii. 13. Compare 1 Sa. xxiv. 6. The expression in St. Luke xx. 16, seems to have this force.
3 St. Luke xx. 17.
4 Taken from that same 118th Psalm from which the people had quoted on His entry into Jerusalem.
5 Acts iv. 11; 1 St. Pet. ii. 7. Here is a coincidence.
of the prophetic parable. He applies to them their own sentence. The privileges of the Kingdom which had hitherto been exclusively theirs should be taken from them, and given to a Gentile race, which should bring forth the required fruit of good living. The Prophet's figure of the chief corner-stone He now extends. To the disobedient He becomes a stumblingstone.' They bruise themselves against that which was meant to sustain them. Those who persist in rebellion will at length find it, like the stone of Daniel's mountain, fall upon them and reduce them to the condition of the dust of the summer threshing-floors.2 The Chief Priests and Pharisees and Scribes cannot but fit this cap to themselves; but instead of receiving instruction, they give way to passion. They would even then have proceeded to apprehend Him, but were restrained for the present by the evident impression (though it proved a passing one) made upon the people, whose opinion was that He must be a Prophet.
THE MARRIAGE OF THE KING'S SON.
St. Matthew xxii. 1-10.
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come. Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise: and the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully,
1 1 Pet. ii. 8.
2 Dan. ii. 34, 35, 44, 45. Compare St. Matt. iii. 12.
3 St. Luke xx. 19. Bengel notices
that the elders of v. 1 do not reappear. It was rather a priestly than a popular persecution.