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this comfortable reflection to his disciples, telling them that the time was at hand when the kingdom of Satan should be destroyed, and the sons of men exalted with himself into the happy regions of the heavenly Canaan: Now is the judgment of this world : now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.
But the people on hearing our blessed Redeemer affirm, that he was to suffer death on the cross, or as he · termed it, be lifled up from the earth, could not reconcile what he said with the prophecies made concerning the Messiah, whom they supposed was never to taste of death: We have heard, said they, out of the law, that Christ abideth forever : and how sayest thou, The son of man must be lifted up ? To which our blessed Lord replied, that they should soon be deprived of his presence and miracles, and therefore they would do well to listen attentively to his precepts, firmly believe the doctrines he delivered, and wisely improve them to their eternal advantage ; for otherwise they would be soon overtaken with spiritual blindness, and rendered incapable of inheriting the promises of the gospel: that while they enjoyed the benefit of his preaching and miracles, which sufficiently proved the truth of his mission from the Most High, they should believe on him, for by that means alone they could become the children of God: Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you : for he that walketh in darkness, knoweth not whither he goeth. While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.
I laving spoken these words to the people, our dear Lord retired privately from Jerusalem, probably to Bethany: but, notwithstanding the many miracles our great Redeemer had wrought in the presence of this perverse and stiff-necked people, the generality of them refused to own him for the Messiah; being filled
with the vain expectations of a temporal prince, who was to rule over all the kingdoms of the earth, and place his throne in Jerusalem. Some indeed, even of the rulers, believed on him, though valuing the good opinion of men above the approbation of the Almighty they thought it prudent to conceal their faith, lest they should, like the blind man, be excommunicated, or put out of the synagogue.
But our Redeemer being willing to cherish the least glimmerings of faith, wherever it appeared, soon returned to Jerusalem; and to inspire such as believed on him with courage, he cried in the temple, He that believeth on me, beliereth not on me, but on him ihat sent me. As if he had said, the doctrine I preach to the children of men, is so evidently from God, that he who believeth on me, believeth more properly on the Almighty, who sent me into the world, and by whose authority alone I preach the gospel: adding, he that seeth the miracles I perform, seeth the operations of that omnipotent power by which I act; I am the Sun of Righteousness, whose beams dispel the darkness of ignorance in which the sons of men are involved, and am come to deliver all who believe on.me, out of that palpable darkness. You must not however expects that I will at present execute my judgments upon those who refuse to embrace the doctrines of the
gospel; for I am not come to condemn and punish, but to save the world, and consequently to try every gentle and winning method to reclaim the wicked from the error of their ways, and turn their feet into the paths of virtue, which lead to the happy mansions of my Father's kingdom: they shall not, however escape unpunished who neglect the instructions and offers of salvation now made to them; for the doctrine I have preached, shall bear witness against them at the awful tribunal of the last day; and as it has aggravated their sin, so it shall then heighten their punishment. I well know, that the doctrines and precepts which the father hath commanded me to preach, are the only condir
tions of eternal life; and, therefore, I have promised them with the greatest faithfulness, perspicuity, and confidence; consequently I am worthy of credit, both with regard to my mission, and the faithfulness with which I have executed the commands of the Most High.
A deputation of priests and elders was sent from the supreme council, while our Lord was thus preaching in the temple, to ask him concerning the nature of the authority by which he acted, whether it was as prophet, priest, or king, as no other person had a right to make any alterations either in church or state; and, if he laid claim to either of those characters, from whom he received it; But our blessed Saviour, instead of giving a direct answer to the question of the Pharisees, asked them another: promising, if they resolved his question, he would also answer theirs: I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like manner will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven or of men? Matt. xxi. 14, 25.
The priests were reduced, by this question, to an inextricable dilemma ; they considered, on the one hand that if they said it was from God, it would oblige them to acknowledge the authority of Jesus, John having more than once publicly declared him to be the Messiah; and, on the other, if they peremtorily denied the authority of John, they would be in danger of being stoned by the people, who, in general, considered him as a prophet: they therefore thought it the most eligi. ble method to answer, that they could not tell from whence John's baptism was. Thus, by declining to answer the question asked them by Jesus, they left him at liberty to decline giving the council the satisfaction they had sent to demand: and at the same time, they plainly confessed, that they were unable to pass any sen. tence on John the Baptist, notwithstanding he claimed the character of a messenger from God, and they had sent to examine his pretensions. This was, in effect, to
acknowledge, that they were incapable of judging of any prophet whatsoever; well, therefore, might the blessed JESUS say, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things. You have no right to ask, since you have confessed you are unable to judge; and, for that reason I shall not satisfy your inquiry.
This deputation of the elders having said, that they were ignorant from whence the baptism of John was, our blessed Saviour sharply rebuked them, conveying his reproof in the parable of the two sons commanded to work in their father's vineyard; and made them condemn themselves, by asking their opinion of the two. A certain man, said he, had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. But this ungracious youth very roughly answered the kind command of his father, and, without the least preface, or appellation of respect, answered, I will not : but, after reflecting on the impropriety and indecency of such behaviour to this kind and indulgent father, he repented of what he had done, and went to work in the vineyard. The father having met with so harsh a reply from the former son, had recourse to the other, and in the same manner ordered him to work that day in his vineyard. This son was very different from the former, and in a very dutiful manner said, I go Sir. But notwithstanding this seeming obedience, he delayed to do as his father desired; he did not go to work in the vineyard. The temper and behaviour of this second son were exactly conformable to that of the Pharisees: they gave the Almighty the most honourable titles, and professed the utmost zeal for his service, in their prayers and praises; but at the same time refused to do any part of the work that he enjoined them. In the character of the other son, the disposition of the publicans and harlots is well described. They neither professed or promised to do the will of their Creator; but when they came to reflect seriously on their conduct, and the offers of mercy which were so kindly made them, they submitted to our Saviour, and amend ed their lives in consequence of their futh.
Our Lord having thus finished the parable, asked the Pharisees, Whether of them twain did the will of his Father ? Thay say unto him, the first. They did not immediately perceive, that by this answer they condemned themselves, till our Saviour made a just application to the parable, in this sharp, but just rebuke; * Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not,' nor entered into your father's vineyard, though like the second son, you promise in the most fair and candid manner; but the publicans and the harlots believed him, repented of their former disobedience, and entered into the vineyard,
Our blessed Lord did not rest satisfied with sliewing the Pharisees the heinousness of their sin in rejecting the Baptist, but he thought proper also to represent the crime of the nation in rejecting all the prophets which had been sent since they became a nation, and among the rest, the only-begotten Son of the Most High; warning them, at the same time, of their danger, and the punishment that would inevitably ensue, if they continued in their rebellion. The outward economy of religion, in which they gloried, would be taken from them; their relation to God, as his people, cancelled; and the national constitution destroyed; but because these topics were extremely disagreeable, he delivered them under the veil of the following parable: There was, said 'he, a certain householder, which planted vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandinen, and went into a far country,
We frequently find in the sacred scriptures, the comparison of the church to a vineyard; but this particular parable, for the fuller conviction of the Jews, is expressly taken from the fifth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, with which they could not fail of being well acquainted, nor ignorant of its meaning, as the prophet