Page images

have received more ; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last“ have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny ?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good ?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

* Or, have continued one hour only.

a Matt. xix. 30.

received the day's wages at the usual and cially designed to illustrate ; and to this stipulated rate only ; each a denarius. is added a second, used on other occasions

Verse 12. These last have wrought but by our Lord, for many are called, but few one hour.–Wetstein observes that they do chosen ; which, as we shall shortly see, not say ειργασ ανθο, but εποιησαν, speaking relates rather to the general conclusion of slightingly of the work which they had the parable, than to the parable itself; done ; but in the Septuagint, Ruth ii. 19, for the elucidation of which the following we have hou entorno as, “Where hast thou

remarks may be offered. wrought?” Hoceiv, joined with words de- 1. Like all other parables, it is to be innoting time, signifies also to stay or spend; terpreted by its general design, and not and so the words may be rendered, have resolved into allegory, thereby giving a spent but one hour.

spiritual meaning to every particular. Burden and heat.-The burden of the This has been done by several commentalabour, and the heat of the sun, which, tors, with great though perverted ingethrough a great part of the day in Pales- nuity, and with as little judgment. With tine, is very oppressive.

them the vineyard is the church, the Verse 15. Is thine eye evil ?-An evil master Christ; the labourers ministers; eye is a Hebrew expression for envy, and the vines the plants of righteousness; the has a tacit allusion to that peculiar ex- market-place the world, where, before pression of the eye by which that affection their conversion, God's elect idle about betrays itself. This is also intimated in amidst its pomps and vanities; with the Latin term invidia.

many other puerilities which dissipate Because I am good.--Ayados is here used the sense, and destroy the dignity of holy in the sense of bountiful or liberal. In writ. Ecclesiasticus xxxv. 8, we have a good 2. The great points of the parable are, eye” in the sense of liberality.

the fidelity of God in his dealings with all Verse 16. So the last shall be first, and his servants,-he gives to every one what the first last.Here the yuwun or prover- is right under the agreement or curenantbial sentence is repeated from the begin- promises he has made with them; the ning, to show what the parable was espe- exercise of a free and sovereign grace



grounded upon his own right to adminis- in their destitution of instruction, and ter his bounty as he pleases, beyond what yet they became first; the Gentile he has engaged himself to do by promise; church, in fact, ultimately superseding the actual exemplification of this, in not only the Jewish church as it existed cases to which he refers; and the un- under the law, but the churches of Jewish reasonable murmuring excited among Christians, who in a short time after the others by his goodness.

destruction of the Jewish polity became 3. What the cases were to which the extinct by absorption into the Gentile parable was designed to apply, may be churches. discovered by inquiring who they were

4. To all these cases the parable apthat, being considered last, were actually plies in the most natural and striking made first in “the kingdom of heaven,”

The more respectable in rank, of the administration of which he had and the more learned in the law, who been speaking. These were the apostleg might then or afterwards believe in Christ, themselves; who, though inferior to the had what was right, that which the covelearned scribes and priests among the nant of grace had stipulated to bestow jews; yet, by being chosen to the high upon believers of every class; but to be honour of ruling in Messiah's church, made apostles and ministers was not a and being constituted its only authorized inatter of promise or stipulation, and teachers, were by the special grace of though some of them might have been Christ made first. Then there were the labouring long and usefully in the serpublicans and sinners, who, being peni. vice of religion without mixing their doctent, received forgiveness of sins, and trines with the corruptions of other had a fulness of grace and favour be- teachers, they had no claim to it. This stowed upon them, in the experience of matter of grace, and Christ bestow. which men of long-continued and rigid ed it upon the fishermen and publicans of ririue among the Jews did not exceed, Galilee according to the counsel of his even when they came in upon the call of

own will.

Some virtuous Jews, also, the gospel; for many of the priests, and who had served God “in all good consome of the Pharisees, ultimately believed science,” believed in Christ, discovering in Christ; but we find no intimation of a the defects of their righteousness, and greater abundance of spiritual gifts and looking for salvation from him; and these graces being showered upon such men as received what the promise of his mercy Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and had stipulated: but those whose more others of the same respectable and virtu- notorious offences had been repented of, ous character, who subsequently received and forgiven by the compassion of our Christianity, and who, probably, long Lord, received also the same salvation in before they were acquainted with Christ all its fulness through faith ; and if there and his gospel, had been serving God in was in this case a total oblivion of their all sincerity. Lastly, and chiefly, the former foul offences, so that they were Gentiles were referred to. These were treated on an equality with others, this to be brought into the church, and made also was a inatter of grace, which implied "fellow heirs,” being placed on a perfect no injustice done to the rest. Then, as equality with Jewish believers, as to the to the Gentiles, though the believing Jews privileges and the spiritual blessings of night naturally suppose that in considerathe gospel; so that there should be tion of their nation having been for ages difference:” and to this several of the pa- the acknowledged church of God, and rables of our Lord look forward, his de- the instrument of upholding truth and sign being to prepare his apostles for it, piety in the world, after the Gentile naand gradually to undermine those Jewish tions had departed from it, they ought prejudices against it, which still held to have eminence and distinction in the possession of their hearts. These Gen- church which Christ was about to set up, tiles were last in general estimation, and although other people might be called

[ocr errors]


This ap

into it; yet they had no reason to mur- cur as the admonitory moral of the paramur at God's goodness to the Gentiles, in ble of the man that had not the weddingmaking them equal, and in some respects garrcent. Notwithstanding, therefore, that superior. The grace of the gospel in all ali men, however sinful, and even the its fulness, as promised, was granted to Gentiles themselves, would be called to an them; there was in the case no breach of equal participation with the devout Jews the covenant-stipulation, but there was in the benefits of Messiah's kingdom, nothing in that to prevent the exuberant yet their actual salvation would not folgoodness of God from flowing forth to low from that alone. The full submisthe Gentiles also. And if, in process of sion of their hearts to Christ, the full time, he should even make the Gentile acceptance of his offered grace, and perchurches first in that instrumentality by severance in it when received, were all which the world was to be illuminated necessary to final salvation. Many in the and converted, this was a pure matter of day of account would be found wanting, grace and sovereign appointment not to and thus in another sense would the words be envied but acquiesced in and adored. be fulfilled among the Gentiles them.

With respect to the second moral at selves, raised to these privileges; many of tached to the parable, “for many are them thus constituted first would be last, called but few chosen;" it is manifestly and be utterly excluded from the kingsupplementary to the first or leading dom of God. The custom upon which one, so the last shall be first, and this proverbial expression was founded, the first last ;” which will account for is probably that of selecting from the its little apparent relevancy to the struc- mass of the Israelites, all of whom were ture of the parable itself.

enrolled to bear arms, those most fit for parent want of connexion led Bishop military service. All were called, but the Pearce to consider it an interpolation inost fit chosen. The expressions there. from a subsequent chapter. But the core of “chosen men,” and “choosing great mass of the mss., and those of the out men,” for warlike expeditions, frehighest authority, all indeed but two, are quently occur in the Old Testament. The opposed to this conjecture, which could Romans had similar regulations in their never have been indulged if the true sense levies; but it is utterly improbable, that of the parable itself had not escaped that the allusion made use of by our Lord was writer. When that is understood, the Roman, when the Old Testament made connexion is traced without difficulty. their own ancient practice so familiar to It contains an incidental lesson aris- the Jews. ing, as above remarked, not directly out Other interpretations of this parable of the parable, but from its conclusion, have been given, of which it is only newhich relates principally to the calling of cessary to notice three. The first is that all men, whether the publicans and sin- of several of the Fathers, who carry up ners of Judea, or “sinners of the Gen- the different times at which the labourtiles,” to the full participation of the ers were called to the most ancient pegrace of the gospel. But the persons riods of the world. Thus Jerom, Hic thus called to this grace are not left non unius temporis, et unius ætatis homines without admonition. If murmuring was describuntur, &c.—“Here we have not the to be silenced on one part, presumption description of the men of one time, but was to be rebuked on the other. The of mankind, from the beginning to the “called,” however great their privileges, end of the world. Abel and Seth were would not in every case be the chosen;" called at the first hour ; Enoch and Noah, nay, the latter would be few in compari- at the third; at the sixth, Abraham, son with the former, as the final account Isaac, and Jacob; at the ninth, Moses would declare. For that our Lord refers and the prophets ; at the eleventh, the to the day of judgment, appears from Gentiles.” In refutation of this, it is chap. xxii. 14, where these very words oc- enough to say, that the transaction de


17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,

b Mark x. 32 ; Luke xviii. 31.

scribed in the gospel is said to take place dinarily well. What did the king? He under the administration of "the kingdom took him aside, and walked with him to of heaven.” Whitby makes the first and fro; and when even was come the hour the commencement of our Lord's labourers came that they might receive ministry; the third, the first mission of their hire; and he gave him a complete the apostles to the cities of Israel; the hire with the rest. And the labourers sixth and ninth, their preaching to the Jews murmured, saying, “We have laboured after the descent of the Holy Ghost; the hard all the day, and this man only two eleventh the calling of the Gentiles. But hours, yet he has received as much wages these distinctions serve nothing for the as we.' The king saith to them, 'He hath illustration of the parable, the stress of the laboured more in those two hours, than doctrine of which does not rest upon you in the whole day. So R. Bon plied these particulars, and they suppose a

the law more in eight and twenty years, meaning in its minuter parts, which docs than another in a hundred years.” This not appear to have been intended. A puerile version of the noble parable of third and more common opinion is, that our Lord is here introduced, because it the parable relates to the different periods has been quoted in favour of the absurd in life in which men are converted to theory held by some learned men, that God, and embrace the gospel in truth. our Lord often borrowed his observations But this is so foreign from the connex- and parables from the Jewish Rabbins. ion in which the parable stands, and the Yet this Talmudical parable was not circumstances of those to whom it was written till several hundred years after addressed, that such an interpretation our Lord's days, and bears upon it the cannot be admitted. One part of its mo. most obvious character of plagiarism ral may indeed be applicable to those who from the New Testament, but debased from their youth have followed Christ, and spoiled by being accommodated to and may be tempted to hesitate, if not to the poor style and feeble thoughts of murmur, at the great and distinguished some Rabbinical doctor. It is, however, grace sometimes showed at a late period, curious that the Jew has given precisely even the eleventh hour, to those who the same turn to the parable as some through a great part of life have lived in modern commentators, who make the re. a state of alienation from God. They ward to the labourers at the eleventh may be taught that grace is in its nature hour to rest upon the merit of their suFREE, and that God can do what he will perior diligence, and the better spirit in with his own; and that whilst he makes which they engaged in their short sergood his promises to them, he does them vice. So easily does pharisaism invade no injury by magnifying the exceeding both Jew and Gentile, and so difficult is riches of his grace to others. Still, though it for man to submit to be dealt with in this lesson is deducible from the parable, the way of pure grace and mercy. and applicable to this and similar cases, Verse 17. Going up to Jerusalem, &c.the parable itself had no respect in its This was the last time of his going to primary sense to such cases.

this city; and St. Mark adds, that the It may finally be remarked, that this pa- disciples were amazed, and as they folrable of our Lord appears in a different lowed were afraid :” amazed at his boiddress in the Talmud.“ To what was R. Bon ness in going up again to Jerusalem, Bar Chaija like? To a king who hired many where the rage of the chief priests and labourers ; among whom, there was one rulers they knew was so extreme against hired wiro performed his work extraor- him; and afraid of the consequences both

[ocr errors]

18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem ; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,

19 « And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

20 g * Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

[blocks in formation]

to him and to themselves. Our Lord it is true, a powerful opposition, and therefore takes the twelve apart from the great danger, but might suppose that this, other disciples, to show them that their when permitted to a certain extent, would fears were not groundless, and to point only give occasion to their Master to disout to them that thus “ all things writ- play his power and to destroy his eneten by the prophets concerning the Son mies. Yet they seem to have been agiof Man should be accomplished.” (Luke tated by very opposite feelings and views, xviii. 31.) The whole discourse is mi. rapidly succeeding each other, and pronutely prophetic, and shows that the ducing both hope and fear; and in this scene of his sufferings was constantly, state of mind were utterly disqualified to and in all its humiliations and most pay such an attention to the words of painful details, before his eyes. What Christ as might have led to a clearer stronger proof can we have that the death comprehension of his meaning, though of Christ was voluntary? and if voluntary, he now only repeated what he had seveit was then vicarious. How many parti- ral times stated before on the subject of culars are here predicted! 1. That he his death in the plainest terms. Still, should be betrayed ; 2. Into the hands, not however, in this perplexed state of mind of the Roman governor, but of the chief they continued to follow him even to Je. priests and scribes, composing the great rusalem, and thereby proved the sincerity council; 3. That they should condemn him of their faith, and the strength of their to death, under their law, as a blasphe honest and ardent attachment. The momer; yet, 4. That they should not stone ral strength of the apostles is exhibited, him, which was the Mosaic punishment, perhaps the more forcibly, by that very but should deliver him to the Gentiles, the infirmity of judgment which they disRomans, to mock, and to scourge, and “to played whenever the death of their Masspit upon,” (Mark x. 33,) and to crucify, ter was alluded to. all which circumstances were most accu- Verse 20. The mother of Zebedee's chilrately fulfilled ; 5. That on the third day dren.—Her name was Salome; and as her he should rise again. St. Luke adds, husband does not appear to have been a that “they understood none of these follower of Christ, she has been supposed things; and this saying was hidden from to be a widow. Her sons were James them, neither knew they the things which and John, already two of the most fawere spoken.” They knew the meaning voured disciples, which might have emof the words, but probably thought that boldened the request. The mother alone he was speaking in a kind of parable, and has been censured for this ambition ; but, that the expressions carried with them a by referring to the account in Mark, her secret mystical meaning, to which as yet sons were as much engaged in the affair they had not the key. They apprehended, as herself, for it is there stated that they

« PreviousContinue »