Page images
PDF
EPUB

been the boasted Prerogative of their Race for so many Generations, and kept up at the Expence of a Law very rigorous and burthensome. All this in Fact

appears from Holy Writ. So that there is scarce any Circumstance in the Parable, to which their Condition and Behaviour did not suit: and it must be confessed, that no Interpretation comes so strictly and literally home to it, as This.

But then we may be allowed, from the Occasion of this Parable, set down at large in the Chapter last before, to apply it to particular Christians too, in some, or in almost all, of the following Respects.

The Apostles left all and followed Christ; The Primitive Christians gave in their Names to his Doctrine, and continued stedfast in it, at the certain Peril of their Liberties, their Friendships, their Fortunes, nay their Lives. And yet, in any after Ages of Christianity, They who live and die, though quietly and peaceably, in the sincere Profession of this Religion, are promised the Kingdom of Heaven, as a Reward for their Faith and Obedience.

So again, Some have the Happiness of a pious Education, and carry on their early Virtue, through the feveral Stages of Life. Others, who either wanted that Advantage, or have neglected to improve it, run into the fame Excess of Riot with the unthinking part of the World. And yet if These, though late, fee their Follies, and Effectually forsake them, and become new Men; the Promise of God ftandeth fure, That at

what time foever the wicked man turneth away from the wickedness he hath committed,

and doth that which is lawful and right, be shall

save his Soul alive. Thus, once more, Some are continued to a good old Age, and by variety of Trials, and a long course of Obedience, bring Glory to God. Others Hearts are good, and equally disposed to do so; but, being

taken

Ezek. xviii. 26.

taken short, and snatched out of the World betimes, they are denied Opportunities for it. And Both shall come to Heaven. The mention of which case, if it seem foreign to the Matter in hand, desire it

may

be remembred, that as the Aphorism (Ma

Capell. in loc. ny that are first, &c.) is thought to have been proverbial among the Jews; So have they Another expresly to this purpose, That He, who lives well, and is cut off in the midst of his Days, (continues but half the Time set out for the Age of Man) shall be equally rewarded with Him, who lives seventy Years, or the utmost Term allotted for Man's Life.

Against these Cases it may be objected, That some Passages in the Parable, particularly that of the murmuring Labourers, cannot agree with our expounding it of the Rewards, and therefore we must restrain it to the Knowledge, and first Admission to the Privileges, of the Gospel

. To this it may fuffice to reply, That, to justify the Application of a Parable, it suffices, that the main design be kept close to: That many Passages are inserted for Ornament and Illustration only: That This, in particular, may mean a Reward so surprisingly great, as among Men would provoke the Envy of others: And, that the Connexion between this and the Nineteenth Chapter seems to import some other meaning, besides that of bringing the Gentile Converts upon the same level with the Jewish. These things I shall have occa

Gospel for St.

Paul's Conversion, sion hereafter more fully to explain.

Having thus done with propounding the several Cases, to which the Scripture before us may be accommodated; it only remains, that I raise from it such useful Observations, as may answer the Design of our excellent Church, in recommending it to our Thoughts at this time

And He re

more.

And, First, We are, upon this Occasion more especially, obliged to take notice of the Kindness of this Housholder, in calling these Labourers. And that, not once only, but again and again ; entertaining all that came, and very bountifully rewarding all he entertained, though the Time fome of them were employed, had been but very short. All this does our heavenly Housholder too. He appoints and calls us to our Duty, he frequently repeats that Call, and does not cast us off at our first Refusal. Nay, he does more than any Master upon Earth can do; for he

prepares our Hearts to hearken to his Calls, he strengthens and assists us in the Duty we are called to. wards us according to our good Dispositions, and graciously considers what Opportunities we had, and what use we would have made of inore, if we had had

It is hy Him, that we begin, go on, and per: severe as we ought. And, when he calls us to receive our Wages, he pays us for the Work, which without Him, we could never have done. A Work, which cannot deserve, but yet which is a necessary Condition of, our Reward. And herein are manifested the Freedom of his Grace, and the Greatness of his Bounty ; Not in bringing Men to Heaven without good Works, but in doing it for such Works, as himself impowers them to discharge.

Secondly, We shall do well to observe, how the Command here runs, Go ye into the Vineyard, that is, to labour there. And, as in a Vineyard there is great variety of Employment, so is it here likewise. Now a Man then, and then only, labours as he ought; when he diligently and conscientiously discharges the Duties of his own Station. When he considers the Poft, and the several Relations, Providence hath placed him in; and, whether He be Magistrate or Private Subject, Priest or Parishioner, Parent or Child, Master pr Servant, Rich or Poor, Trader or Labouring-Man,

studies

studies the Part belonging to him, takes care to answer all just Expectations from his Character, and honestly follows his particular Business and Calling. This then is truly and properly to work in God's Vineyard, to do our Duty, to Him, and to our Neighbour. The State of a Christian consequently is not a State of Idleness and Ease. This State is that Vineyard, which we are already entred into. We were so at our Baptism, and it is too late to think of retracting, unless we resolve to give up all our Hopes, and are content to forfeit all our Pretensions to our Wages. If therefore we have been careless, and have lost Time, this must be made up, by doubling our Diligence. And it is probable, this was the Motive, that induced the Housholder, to make his latter Labourers equal in Pay; that they had plied their Business harder, and made themselves equal in dispatch, with those who were hired early. This, it is evident, was the Case of the Gentiles, who came up to the Jews in every Instance of Faith and Obedience. This was St. Paul's, who, though called the last of them, yet laboured more abundantly than all the 4j ostles. And it is often the Case of Late Penitents, whose sense of their former Miscarriages and Neglects is apt to inflame their Zeal, and to put them upon making Reparation, by more exalted Acts of Piety and Virtue. And This is most agreeable to that Character, so frequently given of our great Master, that he rewards cvery man according to his work.

Thirdly, The Instance of the Murmuring Labourers should teach us Humility and Charity. Not to be puffed up with a vain Opinion of our own Deserts, not to undervalue those of our Brethren: To receive our Recompence thankfully, as the Full that does, as More indeed than strictly can, belong to us : And to rejoice in the Happiness of Others, as no diminution, but an increase rather, to our own. And therefore

we

we should be so far from presuming to grudge, or call our Master to account for, his Liberality to our Fellow-labourers ; that it should be rather matter of the highest Satisfaction, to see those recovered out of the Snare of the Devil, who used to be taken captive by him at his Will. For it is the Effect of God's Mercy, that We our selves were admitted to so profitable an Agreement, how early soever we came in. And when our felves have what we covenanted for ; As it is no wrong, so neither ought it to provoke our Indignation, that Others are bountifully dealt with. For, even supposing Them to receive over-measure, this hurts not, and therefore should not grieve, any, who receive their full measure.

4. Fourthly, Let us be sure to make a right use of the Encouragement given here, to these Labourers at the Eleventh hour. Which must be done, not by rendring it an Argument for Presumption, to sooth us up in Impenitence or Sloth ; as if God were bound to receive us, at what Time, and upon what Terms, we please. This is extremely to pervert the Text; which tells us indeed, That Call was the last : But it does not tell us, That they, who refused his former Calls, were called again and again. If this be done, 'tis Grace and Favour, not Justice and Debt. But We, who live under the Ministry of the Gospel, have his Calls daily founding in our Ears ; and, if we continue obstinately deaf, cannot be sure, that our last Call is not already over. The true Benefit then arising from hence, is, to all such, as have had the Unhappiness to lie long in Sin and Ignorance ; That God will accept and reward them, though they come late into the Vineyard, provided they then apply themselves heartily to their Master's Business, and work faithfully, to the uttermost of their power. He makes gracious Allowances for Hindrances and Infirmities; but then he expects, that We should

« PreviousContinue »