Luk_20:15. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?
WHEN the mind is unbiassed, it can easily discern between truth and error, especially where the grounds of judgment are clear and strong. But where persons are under the influence of prejudice or worldly interest, they are blind to the most obvious conclusions, and obstinately tenacious of the most absurd opinions. Hence our Lord spake so much in parables; because his adversaries, not aware of their drift at first, were easily brought to acknowledge things, which, if more plainly delivered, would have excited the most inveterate opposition. In this manner he gained their assent to the equity of God in executing the heaviest judgments on themselves and their whole nation.
This was the scope of the parable before us [Note: Read the whole parable, ver. 9–16.] — — — in opening which, we shall shew,
In whom this heinous wickedness is found—
It was manifestly accomplished in those to whom the parable was spoken—
[God had planted his Church among the Jews, and had cultivated it with peculiar care [Note: Isa_5:1-4.]. From it he expected a revenue of honour and glory: and when the people were forgetful to pay it, he sent his prophets to remind them of their duty, and to stir them up to the performance of it. But they abused his messengers in every successive age, and beat them, and sent them away empty. He, however, averse to punish them as they deserved, sent, last of all, his Son, in hopes that, when they should see his exalted dignity, his clear credentials, and his unbounded benevolence, they would reverence and obey him. But they, wishing to retain undisturbed possession of their lusts, determined to cast him out and kill him. And though, when warned that they would do so, they exclaimed, ‘God forbid that we should treat the Messiah thus [Note: ver. 16.]!’ they actually fulfilled the parable within the space of three days, and put to death God’s only begotten Son.]
And is it not accomplished in us also?
[It is true that we cannot crucify him as the Jews did, because he is not within our reach; but nevertheless we cast him out with as much indignity as ever they did. As he was among them, “the man whom the nation abhorred,” so is he still “despised and rejected of men,” “a butt of contradiction” to an ungodly world [Note: Luk_2:34-35.]. How is he treated by the ungodly and profane [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.]? When he comes to them in the ministry of the word, and demands their hearts for God, do they not thrust him away, saying, “Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us [Note: Act_7:27.]?” “We will not have this man to reign over us [Note: Luk_19:14.]?” And how do the self-righteous moralists regard him [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.]? When he calls them to build on him as the only foundation of their hopes, do they not make him a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence [Note: Rom_9:30-33.]? Do they not persist in going about to establish their own righteousness, instead of thankfully submitting to his [Note: Rom_10:3.]? Among his very followers too, are there not many self-deceiving professors [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.], who acknowledge him in words, but in works deny him [Note: Tit_1:16.]? If others crucify him more openly, these, like Judas, betray him with a kiss. Lastly, what shall be said of vile apostates [Note: Shew under each of these heads (printed in Italics) what the Lord requires of them; which however they will not do.], who having once embraced his cause, decline from his ways, and go back unto the world? Are we not expressly told, that they crucify him afresh [Note: Heb_6:6.], and “tread him under foot?” By all of these then is Jesus cast out of the vineyard, as much as ever he was by the Jews of old.]
Let us then consider attentively,
What portion such persons must expect—
The Jews, as our Lord foretold, were visited with the heaviest calamities—
[They, when interrogated by our Lord, confessed what such labourers must expect at the hands of their lord [Note: Mat_21:41.]. And behold, it happened to them according to their word. That generation was not passed away, before their city was burnt up, their people were massacred without distinction, and their whole polity, civil and religious, was dissolved. Nor can any one reflect on their treatment of their Messiah, without acknowledging the equity of those unparalleled judgments that were inflicted on them.]
And shall not the wrath of God fall on those also who contemn him now?
[Let our Lord’s appeal be considered, “What shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?” Would any rational person imagine that he should shew kindness to such obstinate transgressors? Do we not see immediately that God must be incensed against them? must he not be displeased with those who withhold from him the tribute of their love? Must he not be indignant also that his messages of mercy are so continually slighted? And above all, must not the contempt poured upon his only dear Son, provoke him to anger? What can we expect, but that his wrath should wax hot against us, and “burn even to the lowest hell [Note: Deu_32:22.]?” Let any one impartially consider the ingratitude and impiety of such conduct, and he will confess that the everlasting punishment of such offenders is no more than adequate to their just desert [Note: Heb_2:3; Heb_10:28-29.].]
Let us then learn from this parable,
That we are accountable to God for all the advantages we enjoy—
[If God has made us his vineyard, and bestowed culture upon us, doubtless such a favour entails upon us an obligation to love and serve him. And if he have sent a succession of faithful servants to remind us of our duty, and direct us in the performance of it, this also calls for correspondent acknowledgments from us. Above all, if he have sent us his only dear Son, not only to instruct us, but to die for us, we should be incessantly filled with admiration of his love, and with zeal for his glory. But these very mercies, if overlooked and despised, will bring upon us the heavier indignation. Think then for how many things, both temporal and spiritual, you are indebted to God; and begin immediately to render to him his dues. That which, above all, he requires is, the tribute of a grateful heart. O that he may receive it daily from us; and that we may devote ourselves to him in body, soul, and spirit!]
That we are peculiarly responsible for our treatment of Jesus Christ—
[Christ is the Father’s greatest gift. Our past abuse of all his other mercies may be forgiven, provided we be duly sensible of this mercy. However long we have alienated God’s property, yea, however shamefully we have abused his other messengers, if now we repent us of our sins, and turn to him in the name of Jesus, he will pardon our past transgressions, and remember our iniquities no more. But, if we continue to slight the Saviour, all other changes will be to no purpose. We may turn from profaneness to morality, or may even profess a regard for Jesus himself; yet if we do not cordially receive him for all the ends and purposes for which he was sent into the world, we shall only deceive ourselves to our eternal ruin. Let us then “look on him whom we have pierced, and mourn.” Then shall God’s indignation be turned to love; and we shall be made partakers of his eternal inheritance.]