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in his service :- That in the eternal world, the smallest degree of celestial happiness will be more than a sufficient compensation for any services which we may perfrom here upon earth; and, therefore, whatever may be the condition of others, we shall have no reason to murmur at our own lot. But more especially, the seeming difficulty here alluded to, may be explained by remarking, that this figurative mode of expression is never to be subjected to the most rigid interpretation : that in this part of his parable, our Lord intended to correct the unreasonable jealousy and envy of the Jews against the Gentile nations of the earth. They were God's ancient people; they entered into the vineyard early in the morning; they supposed themselves entitled to particular consideration ; they therefore murmured against the good-man of the house, because the heathen were admitted to the same privileges which they enjoyed, and, by the gracious dispensation of the Gospel, would be entitled to the same reward. This malignant prejudice our Lord severely reproves, by introducing the householder as addressing the labourer with this unanswerable remonstrance—“Friend, I do “ thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a
penny ? Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will “ give unto this last even as unto thee. Is it not law« ful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine “ eye evil, because I am good ? So the last shall be « first, and the first last.” That is, as the apostle afterwards expressed it, “the Gentiles shall be fellow- heirs with the Jews, and of the same body, and “ partakers of his promise in Christ by the Gospel.” Thus, in this wonderful dispensation of mercy, the middle-wall of partition is broken down; and Christ is the light of the Gentiles, as well as the glory of his people Israel. When the law of Moses was superseded by the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ, they who from among the heathen nations were admitted into the Church by the ministry of the holy apostles, were received into equal favour with the faithful descendants of God's ancient servant Abraham-they came from the east and from the west, and with the holy patriarchs they have been exalted to the kingdom of heaven. The stream of divine mercy and loving. kindness has flowed down through every age, and we, upon whom the ends of the world are come, may now approach and participate with our predecessors, to the endless refreshment of our souls. What though at a late hour in the gospel-day we have been called into the service of our divine Master ? Let us perform our allotted task with diligence and fidelity, and we shall in no wise lose our reward. When the great Master of the household comes to take account of his servants, as members of that Church which, throughout the world and in every age, has maintained the profession of the true faith, we shall be associated with the good and faithful of all countries, nations, and languages. Before the awful Dispenser of punishment and reward, we shall stand with the goodly fellowship of patriarchs and prophets, with the glorious company of the apostles, and with the noble army of martyrs. This, it must be confessed, is a very dignified society. What rational being, what professing Christian can be insensible to the honour and felicity of such a pure and exalted association ? To this happy state we can reasonably expect to arrive only by a diligent discharge of all the duties which are now enjoined us in the Gos
pel of our blessed Redeemer. For, we may take ocsasion from the parable before us, to observe,
3dly. That they who are not engaged in the service of God, are employed to no valuable purpose: they are here represented by our Lord as absolutely idle “ Why stand ye here all the day idle? Go into the 46 vineyard, and work; for otherwise ye cannot expect « a reward.”
If the doctrines of Christianity be true--and it is to be hoped that none of us are inclined to dispute the truth of them if we be immortal creatures, destined for an eternity of existence either in happiness or misery; and if our future portion entirely depend upon the use which we make of the present season of probation; how wonderfully absurd to every considerate mind must appear the general conduct of heedless mortals! What is the business that most engages their thoughts and affectionis? Is it to lay up treasure in heaven? to make provision for their everlasting welfare? to obtain what unerring wisdom calls the one thing needful? Look round the world. All that noise, and hurry, and confusion which is perceptible on every quarter, arises merely from the desire to make provision for the flesh, in order to fulfil the lusts thereof. One is going to his farm, and another to his merchandise. One is prepared to dig for riches with Mammon, and another to follow ambition up the steep ascent of power. In the mean time, what relation has all this anxiety and toil to the advancement of their everlasting • Welfare? As to the proper business of immortal creatures, they are entirely idle; nay, many of them are in a much more deplorable condition than that of idleness and inactivity; for the holy apostle has declared, that Vol. II.
men confirmed in their native degeneracy, are dead in trespasses and sins; that he who liveth in pleasure, is even dead while he liveth.
Let us then consider the magnitude and difficulty of the task assigned us. Let us work out our eternal salvation with fear and trembling; and, to accomplish this important purpose, let us without delay rise and be doing. Let us attend to the call of our Master. Let us work while it is day, for the night cometh, when no man can work. Having gifts differing according to the grace
of God that is given to us, let us, in our respective stations, do our duty faithfully from the heart; not as men-pleasers, but as the conscientious servants of God. Let him that teacheth, wait with zeal and diligence on his teaching. Let him that ruleth, consider himself as appointed to be a terror to evil works, but the minister of God for good to those who do well. In whatever way we may be enabled to promote the welfare of our neighbour, let us give with simplicity to the relief of both his temporal and spiritual necessities. Let mercy, on all occasions, be showed with cheerfulness. In a word, let love to God and man be without dissimulation, and we shall not be slothful in the proper business of rational and immortal creatures; we shall be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
And what service can be more honourable, or more advantageous? If there be any among us who have hitherto refused to comply with the invitations of this bountiful Master ; who are now totally immersed in the business or the pleasures of the world ; let me with the utmost seriousness exhort them to consider, that the evening of this day of trial is fast approaching : that the mighty hand of death will soon rend from their
fond embraces all those temporal possessions, to which they are now cleaving with such ardent affection: that in this awful hour, without a title to the joys of heaven, the acquisition of the whole world will be of no signifi
What melancholy deprivation must surround that immortal spirit; what terror and dismay must overwhelm it, when launching forth into the eternal world; if no provision be made for its future wellbeingno prop to sustain it, no refreshment to repair its decaying powers, no friend to minister consolation? Let heedless mortals be persuaded, while the accepted time and the day of salvation continues, to guard against the assaults of these terrible evils. Why stand they idle, all the day, when so much work is yet to be done, and such are the awful consequences of inattention and idleness? If they believe the Gospel, and their practice has hitherto been so inconsistent with their principles; let a sound faith from this moment have its due effect, and begin to be productive of a holy life and conversation. As the apostle exhorted some of the primitive believers—“Let the time past of your life suffice to “ have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when ye « walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, re“ vellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries. “ Soon shall ye be called to give account to him that “ is ready to judge the quick and the dead. The end “ of all earthly things is at hand; begin, therefore, « immediately, to be sober and to watch unto prayer.”
Surely, the longest life that is commonly allotted to man here below, ought not to be deemed too long a period to be devoted to the service of God, if we may thereby attain a happy immortality. Are there any, who, having been dedicated to Christ in their infancy,