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Let those rise up in honor of the chief priests and the elders, who declare eternal, unmerciful vengeance against those who do not submit to their inventions and traditions. Let that religion which is irreconcilable enmity against the rational creatures of God, put an end to all such questions. He who professed Jesus, was put out of the synagogue, by the chief priests and the elders; and whoever now professes that religion of Jesus, in which there is no enmity towards man, must be turned out of the church, if he belongs to one. Those who lead in the religion of the carnal mind, are an exact resemblance of those to whom Jesus spoke this parable. They say by profession, that they will work in the vineyard of the true God, but immediately we find them calling their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to a god which is the vanity of their imaginations. And by making an offering of millions of their fellow creatures to gratify the enmity and wrath of their deity, they procure for themselves confirmation, which they predicate on the endless misery of those whom they have thus offered up. Thus circumstanced, what view must they naturally entertain of him who came not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved; who gave himself a ransom for all to be testified in due time, who by the grace of God tasted death for every man, who was delivered for our offences and raised again for our justification, who abolishes enmity, by the blood of his cross, with a design to reconcile all things to himself, to whom are given the heathen for an inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession, and through the redemption of whose blood, all who have sinned and come short of the glory of God, are freely justified? Can
those love such doctrine who are justified in their own religious opinions, by the spirit of enmity? who can entertain no idea of the love of God towards them, only in the ratio as he hates somebody else? To such the meek, humble spirit of the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, is the most offensive of any thing with which they are troubled. Like the chief priests and elders of the people of the Jews, those who are foremost in this religion of enmity, in the present day, make great professions of godliness, of remarkable piety, are strict in outward ceremonies; but their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness towards those who do not comply with their religious opinions. Because their opposition to the gospel of Christ, is so deeply rooted in their religious sentiments, it is much harder for them to yield to the self-denying doctrine of divine grace, than it is for those who have no goodness of their own on which they depend. It would be erroneous, no doubt, to suppose that the chief priests and elders of the people were, by nature, more opposed to the gospel than publicans and harlots, as it is evident that their greater opposition, grew directly out of their religious education and profession. So in the present day, it is not because the christian clergy are worse, by nature, than other men, that they, in general are so much more opposed to the true spirit of the gospel, than other people. It is evident enough that this greater opposition grows out of their religious education and profession. These chief priests and elders were honorable men, they were established in a system which gave them opportunity to receive honor one of another, and this was a fatal bar to their believing in Christ. See St. John v, 44: How can ye believe, which receive honor one of another, and
seek not the honor that cometh from God only?' It was then considered dishonorable to profess to be a disciple of that friend to publicans and sinners.Whosoever did this, of those who were esteemed honorable in the Pharisees religion, must suffer great loss of esteem, and be classed with those who were held in great contempt. For fear of this scorn, Nicodemus and many others of the rulers, though they believed on Jesus, did not confess him, lest the Pharisee should put them out of the synagogue. To be put out of the synagogue was as dreadful then, as to be excom municated from a church and deprived of the privilege of communion, is now; which at present keeps too many from the open profession of what they in conscience believe. Under these embarrassing circumstances, who are the most easily introduced to a knowledge and open profession of the gospel of Christ? Answer, those who have the least of those difficulties to hinder them. Therefore we now heat from the lips of our high professors and honorable divines, contemptuous language against those who profess to believe in that religion in which there is no enmity against mankind. Hence we find but very few of those who stand in the high esteem of the carnal religion of the day, willing to part with the honors which they receive one of another, for the dishonorable reproaches of Christ.. But those who have never believed themselves so much better than others, as to say, 'Stand by thyself, come not nigh me, for I am holier than thou,' who have none of those religious honors to lose, who are already viewed, by those high in favor, as reprobates on whom God will have no more mercy than is consistent with the enmity of the Pharisee, generally hear the gospel gladly, and,
thanks be to God, many receive the truth in the love of it.
The christian reader is here cautioned against a spirit of hardness against those in the present day, who fill the place of the chief priests and elders among the Jews. It has already been hinted that their opposition to the gospel grows out of their religious education; and this circumstance ought to excite charity, and even to move our pity. If in the days of Christ, those who were called sinners and despised by the religious Pharisees, had been brought up and educated as Saul was, they would undoubtedly have been as opposed to the gospel as the chief priests themselves.
The influence which our schools have on the minds of youth, is great and hard to be resisted. A young man of respectable parents, who under the kind patronage of paternal love and affections, receives an education which is supposed suitable for the ministry, studies with a learned divine of honorable rank in the system of honor which is at the disposal of the order, is honored himself with those degrees in learning which are highly esteemed in the world, has many powerful ties to bind him to the traditions of the elders. How can he believe the truth as it is in Jesus? He can hardly bear to hear a word said on a subject so distant and contrary to his picus education; much less, think of giving a doctrine a place in his heart which is despised as an abominable heresy, by all those on whom he depends for his growing fame, and desired additional honors. The difficulties under which the mind is confined, in such an instance, are too numerous and too considerable for a heart, like the heart of all men who love this world, to overcome.
Though more has been said already, on this passage, than was intended in the beginning, it seems improper to dismiss it without making an application of it to individuals. A profession of the gospel of Christ may be said to be answering as the son did, who said, 'I go, sir;' this was so far doing his duty; but it was the smallest part of it, and a part which he had much better have neglected, than to neglect the part which he did. He did not according to his profession, but he who refused, afterwards repented and went, and was preferred to the other. Let every professor of the religion of Christ, so far apply this parable to himself, as to examine carefully whether he goes according to his profession.
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country. And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the hus bandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did unto them likewise. But last of all, he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But 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. And they caught him and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. 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 seasons. Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never 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 it is marvellous in our eyes. Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.'-Matt. xxi. 33-43.