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1. THE legal dispensation, with the privileges thereof, is intended by the vineyard let out.
2. The house of Israel, is meant by the husbandmen to whom the vineyard was let.
3. By the time of the fruits' drawing near, I understand the time when that dispensation was drawing to a close.
4. The prophets whom the Lord sent to the house of Israel, are intended by the servants whom the householder sent to the husbandmen to receive the fruits of the vineyard.
5. The treatment which the faithful prophets of the Lord received of their brethren, the Jews, we learn by the husbandmen's taking the servants and beating one, and killing another, and stoning another.
6. John, who was the greatest prophet ever born of woman, and those who were engaged with him in his ministry, are intended by the servants who were 'more than the first;' and these met with like treatment as the first.
7. Christ himself, who was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, to seek and to save that which was lost, is intended by the son of the householder, whom the householder sent to the husbandmen.
8. Jesus points to the tragical scene of his death, which he was soon to suffer by the cruel hands of the Jews, by the husbandmen's casting the son out of the vineyard and slaying him.
9. Christ again reduces the Pharisees to the necessity of giving judgment against themselves, by asking them the question, 'When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?' To which they answer, '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 then asked them another question, which again referred to their rejecting him, saying, '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, and it is marvellous in our eyes.' Then he applies the foregoing parable, according to the Pharisees' answer, and according to his own meaning; "Therefore I say unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof: By which we learn the rejection of Israel, and the granting of the gospel to the Gentiles.
The apostacy of the house of Israel, their abuse of the blessings with which God distinguished them, their setting up their traditions by which they made void the law, their teaching for doctrine the traditions and commandments of men, and their rejecting the counsel of God by the prophets, and his grace by Jesus Christ, their stumbling at the stone laid in Zion, their rejecting the stone which was made the head of the corner, and their being broken off from their own olive tree through unbelief; and the Gentiles being grafted into Christ by faith; and the many circumstances attendant on those events, are represented by a very great variety of similitudes, both in the scriptures of the prophets and those of Christ. The prophet Isaiah, in a similitude of a vineyard, varied but a little from the parable above, aims undoubtedly at the
same event. See chap. v, 1-7: Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well beloved had a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine press therein and looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, Judge I pray you betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now, go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down. And I will lay it waste it shall not be pruned nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns; I will command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, and behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.' Jeremiah ii, 21: 'Yet I have planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?' The parable of the talents in Matthew, xxv, as well as the other two parables in that chapter, signifies, no doubt, nearly the same as the above passages from the prophets. The parable of the barren fig tree in St. Luke xiii, has a very near relation to this of the vineyard. The reader, by taking a little pains, may easily discover the primary meaning and application of all such parables.
In Isaiah's song of the vineyard, it is noticed, that when the planter of the vineyard looked that it should bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes, which in the application made by the prophet, respects the wickednesss of the house of Israel. See verse 7, 'For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant ; and he looked for judgment, and behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.'
Similar to this accusation is that brought against the same people by our Saviour, as recorded in Matt. xxiii, 23: Wo unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites? For ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith; these ought ye to have done, and not leave the others undone.' Again in the same chapter, verse 14, 'Wo unto you scrives and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows houses and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.' It was not because the high professors of religion among the Jews had not been told that God delighted more in mercy than he did sacrifices, that they were so profuse of the latter, and so utterly neglectful of the former. The real reason was, they could procure sacrifices by devouring widows' houses and other acts of abominable injustice; but this was no way to come at what their evil hearts were so averse to as mercy. Of this their wilful ignorance of what their prophets had told them, our Saviour did not fail to put them in mind. See Matt. xii, 7: 'But if ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.' Again, see Matt. ix, 10, 11, 12, 13: And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at
meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, they that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.' The occasion which called for the above rebuke was of weighty consideration, and which showed but too plainly the Pharisees' want of mercy, and their unjustifiable ignorance of the scriptures of the prophets on that subject.
'Behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples.' What a sight must this have been to those self-righteous Pharisees! A divine teacher show a spirit of condescension and favor toward sinners! how contrary was this to the doctrine and practice of the Pharisees! No such fruit ever yet grew on the degenerate plant of so strange a vine as a Pharisee. Here stands the character of Christ Jesus and the character of the Pharisee, so situated in regard to each other, that their opposition is a perfect display of their two doctrines and their total difference. The doctrine of Christ, on the one hand, shows mercy to sinners; that of the Pharisees, on the other hand shows no mercy to sinners. The intent and meaning of the mission of Christ was to call sinners to repentance. The intent and design of the doctrine of the Pharisees was to sentence sinners to hopeless misery. The work of Christ, like that of a skilful physician, was to heal the sick. The work of the Pharisees was to thank God that they were not like other men.