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at the end of it adds: The vineyard of the Lord of hosts, is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant : and he looked for judgment, but beheld oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry. Our Saviour, therefore, continued the metaphor, telling them; That 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 husbandman took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned
, another. The Almighty sent the prophets to exhort the Jews to entertain just sentiments of religion, and tread the paths of virtue; but the Jews, extremely irritated at the prophets for the freedom they used in reproving their sins, persecuted and slew them with unrelenting fury. Their wickedness, however, in killing these messengers, did not instantly provoke the Almighty to pour down his vengeance upon them ; he sent more prophets to exhort and reclaim them, but they met with no better fate than the former. His mer. cy however, still continued; and that no means might be left untried, he sent unto them his own son, whose authority, being clearly established by undeniable miracles, ought to have been acknowledged cheerfully by these wicked men: but how different were the consequences ? · 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. 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 season.'
On hearing this answer made by the Pharisees, the people said, God forbid; surely these husbandmen will not proceed to such desperate iniquity; surely the vineyard will not thus be taken from them. But, to confirm the truth of this, our Saviour add a remarkable prophecy of himself, and of his rejection, from the 118th Psalm : Did ye never, said he, 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.
The rejection of the Messiah by the Jews, and the reception he met with among the Gentiles, all brought to pass by the providence of God, are wonderful events: and therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
The chief priests, perceiving the drift of our Saviour's parable, were highly incensed, and would glad. ly have apprehended him; but they feared the people, who acknowledged him as the Messiah while they surrounded him in the temple.
But as the rulers were afraid to apprehend Jesus, he was at liberty to proceed in the offices of his ministry; accordingly he delivered another parable, wherein he described on the one hand, the bad success which the preaching of the gospel was to meet with amongst the Jews; and, on the other, the cheerful reception given it among the Gentiles. This gracious design of the Almighty, in giving the gospel to the children of men, our blessed Saviour illustrated by the behaviour of a certain king, who in honour of his son made a great feast, to which he invited many guests: The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king; which made a marriage for his son. This marriage-supper, or great feast, signifies the joys of heaven, which are properly compared to an elegant entertainment, on account of their exquisiteness and duration; and are here said to be prepared in honour of the Son of God, being be. stowed on men as a reward for their obedience.
But before the supper was ready, the servants were sent forth to call the guests to the wedding; that is, when the fulness of time approached, the Jews, as being the peculiar people of God, were first called to the
great feast of heaven by John the Baptist, and afterwards by Christ himself; but they refused all these benevolent calls of mercy, and rejected the kind invitations of the gospel, though pressed by the preaching of the Messiah and his forerunner. After our Saviour's resurrection and ascension, the apostles were sent forth to inform the Jews, that the gospel-covenant was established; that mansions in heaven were prepared; and that nothing was wanting but their cheerful acceptance of the honour designed them: 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 really: come unto the marriage. But these messengers were as unsuccessful as the former. The Jews undervaluing the favour offered them, mocked at the message; and some of them more rude than the rest, insulted, beat, and slew the servants, that had been sent to call them to the marriage-supper of the lamb; But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth; and sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city. This branch of the parable, plainly predicted the de. struction of the Jews by the Roman armies, called here the armies of the Almighty, because they were appointed by him to execute vengeance on that once favourite, but now rebellious people.
The benevolent calls of the gospel being thus rejected by the Jews, the king again sent forth his servants into the countries of the Gentiles, with orders to com. pel all that they met with to come unto the marriage. This was immediately done, and the wedding was furnished with guests: but when the king came into the apartment, he saw there a man which had not on awedding garment; and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth: for many are called, but few arc chosen. Matt. xxii. 11, 12, 13, 14.
The latter part of the parable represents the final judgment, and teaches us, that though the Gentiles obeyed the call of the gospel with more alacrity than the Jews, yet they should not all be saved. And by the conclusion of the parable we learn, that the profession of the christian religion will not save a man, unless he lives in a manner conformable to its precepts. Let us, therefore, who have obeyed the call, and are by profession the people of God, think often on that awful day when the king will come in to see his guests when the Almighty will, with the greatest strictness, view every soul that lays claim to the joys of heaven: let us think of the speechless confusion that will seize such as have not on the wedding garment, and of the inexorable anxie- , ty with which they will be consigned to weeping and gnashing of teeth; and let us remember, that to have seen for a while the light of the gospel, the fair beamings of an eternal hope, will add deeper and more sensible horrors to those gloomy caverns.
On the other hand, to animate and encourage us, let us think also on the harmony, pomp, and beauty of heaven, that will add to the solemnity, the magnificence, and the joys of the happy time, when the marriage-supper of the Lamb shall be celebrated.
Our Saviour answers the insidious question of the
Pharisees concerning paying tribute to Cesar : He confuteth the Sadducees who questioned him toucha ing the Resurrection : He sheweth which are the two great Commandments of the Law : He proposeth to the Pharisees a Question concerning himself: He erhorteth to observe the Doctrine, but not to fol. low the evil Erample of the Scribes and Pharisees; and particularly not to imitate their ambition : He pronounceth divers Woes uguinst the Scribes and Pharisees, for their blindness and Ilypocrisy : and
proposeth the Destruction of Jerusalem. THE parable of the marriage-supper incensed the Pharisees in such a manner, that they immediately con.certed with the Herodians or Sadducees, on the most proper method of putting our Lord to death. It is sufficiently evident, that their hatred was now carried to the highest pitch; because the most violent enmity which had so long subsisted between the two sects, was on this occasion suspended, and they joined together to execute this cruel determination on the Son of God: they, however, thought it most eligible to act very cautiously, and endeavour if possible, to catch some hasty expression from him, that they might render him odious to the people and procure something against him, that might serve as a basis for a prosecution. Accordingly, they sent some of their disciples to him, with orders to feign themselves just men, who main. tained the greatest veneration for the divine sa sv, and dreaded nothing more than the doing any thing inconsistent with its precepts; and, under this specious cloak of hypocrisy, to beg his determination of an affair, that: had long lain heavy on their consciences; namely, the paying tribute to Cæsar, which they thought inconsistent with their zeal for religion. This question was, it seems, furiously debated in our Saviour's time; one