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be well said, that the publicans and the harlots should go into the kingdom of God before the scribes and the Pharisees, providing these were not to enter after them.
The propriety of accommodating this parable to various circumstances of the like nature of the one to which the Saviour applied it, is evident, because the same similitude would be as proper to be used now, as when Christ was upon earth. A son who should refuse in the first instance, obedience to his father's commands, but should afterwards repent and obey, in our day, would be preferred to one, who should consent to the commands, in the first instance, but should afterwards refuse; and with as much propriety as in the days of Christ. So also, in the present day, those who sustain a character similar to those to whom the question in this parable was put, may be justly compared to the son who went directly contrary to his profession; while others who are now more particularly in the situation of publicans and sinners, may be preferred to the former, as the penitent son was to his broth
The characters to whom the Saviour put the query, in the parable, are spoken of in the 23d verse, ' And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? These chief priests and elders of the people were those to whom the Saviour spoke, and they were those whom
he represented as going directly contrary to their profession. They professed to know and to do the commandinents of God, and yet they paid all their attention to bring God's commands to bend to their vain and abominable notions and wicked traditions, by which they made the law void.
As nothing takes place without a cause to produce it, we may suppose that there was a cause which produced the circumstance here noticed. Nor is it more difficult to determine the reasons why those chief priests and elders of the Jews were in such a situation, than it is to see why many religious people are now in the same. The pure religion of God, whether commended to man in a dispensation of a law of commandments, a law of ceremonies, or in the still more luminous dispensation of the gospel of Christ, is in all ages and dispensations the same. Supreme love to God, and a love for fellow men equal to that which man has for himself, was all which the law required or the prophets taught. This love to God and mankind is the divine sanctity prefigured by the shadows of the Levitical priesthood, and is gloriously manifested as the spirit of the gospel of our salvation. To this religion the carnal mind is enmity, and its methods of warfare are as uniform as the enmity itself. Here let us raise an important query, which, if answered correctly, will serve to illuminate our subject. 1. Have not religious people, in all ages of the world, professed a love and friendship for God? Answer, yes. 2. Have they not professed a love and regard towards their fellow men? Answer, yes. 3. How do these professions consist with their standing in the character of the son who said he would go, and did not? Or how does it happen that the carnal mind, which is enmity
against God, should make the above professions? Reply: as the carnal mind can never love a character which is contrary to itself, it always reduces the character of the divine Being to a correspondence with itself, before it can exercise any love towards it. When a god is formed in the imagination, which comports with the desires of the carnal mind, then carnal mindedness is the true religion of such a God. This religion when brought into operation, acts like the carnal mind, in direct opposition to the divine law of love. Just as much as a person esteems this god, and is zealous in his cause, under this deception, just so much he exercises an enmity to the true God, and to the true religion. If the carnal mind be enmity against God and not subject to his law, then it must be hatred towards God, and hatred towards man, as the divine law is love to both. Hence it is as plain as demonstration, that whenever religious people arm their God with vindictive vengeance against any portion of his works, they have made him exactly according to the pattern of that carnal mind which is enmity to God's law, is not subject to it, neither indeed can be. Why cannot the carnal mind be subjected to the law of God? Answer, because the god that it adores cannot be subjected to that divine law of love, which requires us to love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
There never could exist a false religion in our world, which was destitute of enmity; for in the first place, a religion in which there is no enmity is the wisdom of God, as described by an apostle, who says, 'The wisdom which is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy, and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.' It is very evident that a wisdom which is full
of mercy, and impartial, can have no enmity against any being in the universe. Secondly, a religion destitute of enmity would have nothing to recommend itself to the carnal mind, which is enmity. This carnal minded religion was in high repute among the chief priests and elders of the people of Israel, in the days of our Saviour; this was the wisdom of the princes of this world, which stood in opposition to Christ, the wisdom of God. The religion of the chief priests and elders taught them to believe that they were the peculiar favorites of heaven, that they were more holy and righteous than others who did not conform to their notions and traditions, and they were fixed in the opinion that God had no regard to those whom they called sinners; they themselves hated them, and rejected Christ because he appeared the sinner's friend. Their love to their religion, their devotedness to their god, their zeal for that darling enmity which rankled in their hearts, all led them so directly contrary to their profession, that although they believed in a Messiah, and longed to see him manifested, yet they hated, despised and rejected him, and at last put him to death. Thus they said they would go and labor in God's vineyard; but in room of doing this, they made a god to their liking, and went and labored in his vineyard. On the other hand, those people who had never clothed themselves with the traditions of the elders, entertained no high opinion of their personal holiness, whose minds were mostly taken up in things of a worldly nature, and who had no religious hatred settled in their minds towards others, had never professed to understand the mysteries of the law, nor publicly covenanted to keep the commandments, on hearing the words of Jesus, who spake as never man spake,
who taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes, who proclaimed liberty to captives, forgave the sins of transgressors, appeared to be a friend to publicans and sinners, healing all their infirmities, were melted into penitence and love, and they forsook the world and followed after their friend and Redeemer. Thus those who did not profess to follow the way of holiness, repented and went into the vineyard, and labored in the works of love.
This was equally true in regard also to the preaching of John, as the Saviour notices: see the application, verse 31, 32. Jesus saith unto them, 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 nim not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.'
Are the things of which we have been treating all done away from our world, or is their resemblance still in being? Have the chief priests and the elders of the Jews not a soul on earth to support their character, or defend their religion? Is the world forsaken of all those who thank God that they are not like other men, who feel grateful that they are not like the publicans and sinnners? Is there not one to vindicate the religion of the carnal mind? no one to arm an almighty power with enmity against mankind who are sinners? Is the world destitute of those righteous people who feel and exercise an unmerciful vengeance towards those whom they esteem unworthy of the favor which they have merited? Let the intolerant spirit of those who profess to understand the mysteries of the gospel, and to maintain its religion in the world, give the