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the river Jordan before them, and brought them into a land flowing with milk and honey. To use the language of the Psalmist, “ He brought a vine out of Egypt; He cast out the heathen and planted it; He made room for it, and when it had taken root it filled the land." He fenced this favoured vineyard from the contaminating intrusion of heathen superstitions and abominations, by the excluding pale of cere. monial ordinances: and in this gracious purpose we see the meaning and wisdom of all those trivial rites, and ceremonies, and precepts, which appear so mysterious and unintelligible to the superficial reader of Scripture, and at which the infidel mocks and stumbles. In the moral law He accurately defined the rule of duty, and pointed out Wisdom's ways of pleasantness and paths of peace. His promises held out an adequate motive to stimulate to obedience. His threaten. ings revealed from heaven the wrath of God against all unrighteous. ness and ungodliness of men; while His typical sacrifices pointed to that great atonement through which God might exercise mercy towards a guilty and perishing world in harmony with all His attributes of truth, and justice, and holiness ; and through faith, in which the guilty conscience might be purged from dead works to serve the living God, and the oppressed and sinking heart be set at liberty to run with cheerfulness in the way of God's commandments.

In return for these privileges doubtless God might have reasonably expected a rich revenue of praise and glory from the Jewish church. He might have expected not only the fruit of personal holiness, but also that, like the beacon on the watch-tower, its pure and intense light would have shone savingly on the dark and troubled ocean of surrounding heathenism ; and that its holy example would have led many to say, Surely this is a wise and understanding people. God is among them of a truth. Their God shall be our God for ever and

ever.

But the Jewish church wholly failed of the high object to which it was called ; and the testimony which God himself bare of it in every period of its history, is this, that it was a disobedient and gainsaying, a stiff-necked and rebellious people. But God, who is rich in mercy, long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, gave to this infatuated people ample space for repentance and amendment. He sent to them “ His servants” the prophets, to warn them of their danger, and to exhort them to repent that they perish not. But "they beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.” Last of all, when every lesser mean had been proved ineffectual, “ when the fulness of time was come God sent forth His Son,” “ saying, They will reverence my Son." But when their proud rulers saw the meek and lowly Jesus they were offended in Him. When they discovered the nature of the kingdom which He had come to establish, so contrary to all their carnal and worldly expectations, and which could rise but upon the ruins of all that was most dear to their worldly minds,—their pride and ambition, their in. temperance and sensuality, their covetousness, hypocrisy, and worldliness,—when they saw all this, they took the daring resolution that they would not forfeit the hope of a temporal kingdom which they valued, for a spiritual kingdom which they despised. They said among themselves, “ This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize on his inheritance." “What do we ?” said the Jewish council

, when the report was brought to them, of that stupenduous miracle which proved our Lord's Divine mission, the raising of Lazarus, “ What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone all men will believe on him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and our nation." To prevent this dreaded catastrophe,and to secure to themselves the inheritance, they determined to slay Him whom this miracle, acknowledged by themselves, proved to be the Heir ;—" then from that day forth they touk counsel together for to put him to death.” Within three days after the delivery of this parable they led Him without the gate of the holy city, and crucified Him upon Mount Calvary ; thus accurately fulfilling the prediction of the parable, “ They caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him."

Nor was the sentence which, in reply to our Lord's question, they passed upon themselves, “ He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard to other husbandmen," less accurately fulfilled. Within forty years the Roman army came up against Jerusalem, at the time of one of their great festivals, when all the males were assembled there ; and driving before them the affrighted inhabitants of the country, who fled thither as to a city of refuge, they, in fulfilment of our Lord's prediction, “ compassed Jerusalem with armies, and cast a trench about it,” to prevent any from escaping. While, within this devoted city, famine, and pestilence, and the sword of civil discord, anticipated the fury of the conqueror, and, with awful and before unheard of judgments, destroyed above a million of their devoted nation. Their temple, which was their boast and glory, so that the heaviest charge which the false witnesses could invent against our Lord was that He spake of its destruction; and which, while it stood, formed a centre and rallying point, and served as an ark of refuge to the nation — their temple, in despite of every effort even of the enemy, who would have preserved it for its magnificence and splendor, was consumed by their own hands; and then its very foundations were ploughed up by the conqueror, as if to receive the new vine which God was about to plant in His vineyard. The survivors were driven, as outcasts from the presence of God, to wander with trembling heart, and weary foot, and waking eye, through every nation under heaven. The ordinances of religion, the means of grace, the Spirit of God,—in a word, " the vineyard was taken from them," and transferred to the Gentiles : would to God that we could with truth add, in the language of the parable," and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”

Such is a brief sketch of the sins and judgments of the Jewish people. And such, undoubtedly, is the import of the parable in its primary application. But has it not a further reference to us? Does it not tell of privileges which we enjoy; of fruit which is expected from us; and of judgments which are suspended over us, and which must fall and grind us to powder, if these expectations be finally disappointed? Assuredly it does. It conveys a principle of abstract truth, which our Lord frequently inculcated, and which is alike applicable to every individual, and every nation, in every age, --" To him that hath shall be given "—to him who, by using the means of grace, which are but a loan, has converted them into grace, which is a permanent possession—to him shall be given more abundant means, and more abundant grace to use these means. “ But from him that hath not,” that is, who hath not traded upon, and improved, his stock of means, so as to have realized to himself some property in their use“from him shall be taken" even those means which he hath, but hath in vain : “for if ye be not faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own?

Let me then, with all plainness and simplicity, briefly enumerate those privileges which God has bestowed upon us, in transferring His vineyard to our nation and church. And first I would say, that while darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the nations; while three fourths of the habitable globe are bowing down to idols, wallowing in all the abominations and miseries of heathenism, or wandering in all the delusions of Mahommedan imposture; we, without any merit of ours, but through a kind Providence, have been born in a Christian land, and to the profession of Christianity in its purest and most Scriptural form. Ours is a land of Sabbaths, where the seventh day is set apart from the cares, the business, and the pursuits of the world, that it may be devoted to the care of the “one thing needful,"—to a prosecution of the interests of the soul, and the concerns of eternity. And it is a most just observation, that there is no surer mark of a rising or a falling church, than its use or abuse, its sanctification or desecration of the Sabbath. We have the various ordinances of religion, at which God has graciously promised to vouchsafe His more immediate presence, to meet there every sincere worshipper, and to render them vehicles of His spirit to the soul. We have God's ministers to watch over us, divinely commissioned to recal our wandering spirits to those all important and yet too generally forgotten subjects; to warn the unruly, to stimulate the slothful, to instruct the ignorant, to bring back the wanderer, to beseech us in Christ's stead that we be reconciled to God. We have the Scriptures, an authentic revelation of infallible and most important truths, made by God himself, which point out the path to heaven as with the finger of God; while the Divine Spirit shines upon and illumines that path for all who do not wilfully close their eyes upon it. What individual is there who has not received many warnings from Providence--an escape from danger, a bed of sickness, a death in his do. mestic or social circle ; all calculated and designed to tell him of the shortness and uncertainty of life, of the nearness and importance of eternity? Who is there who has not at some time been arrested in his sin by a check of conscience? And are there none who have been invited, by the attractions of the Divine Spirit striving within them, to wean their affections from the transitory and unsatisfying shadows of time, and to fix them upon the substantial, the satisfying, and the enduring realities of eternity? And does God expect to reap no fruit from all these privileges and opportunities? Has He abandoned his own principle, “ Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required ?" Far otherwise. Remember that the vineyard is not given but “let” to the husbandmen, and that the condition of their tenure is that they should "render him the fruits in their seasons ;" that each of those means which I have mentioned should be duly appreciated, and so used as to produce its designed end : and that under the full culture, to which these means are abundantly sufficient, each soul should put forth those three great branches which the root of vital, genuine Christianity never fails to throw out,-deep repentance, lively faith, uncompromising obedience; and on the branches bear those ripe fruits of the Spirit of holiness which are to the honour and praise of God, “ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance."

And has this debt of affectionate allegiance, enriching as it does with new privileges and immunities the soul that pays it, been discharged ? Has the reserved fruit been faithfully delivered ? Must we not confess, with shame and confusion of face, that the whole vineyard of Christ, that each individual in it, has fallen deeply in arrear to God? an arrear of which, once contracted, it were im. possible for man ever to clear off. But God, in the infinitude of his love, has provided a ransom for the past, and a still more powerful and efficacious mean for the future: and no words can express more strongly the necessity and the value of this last, best gift of God; no language can more forcibly describe the anxious solicitude, the affectionate desire of God to supply us with every advantage which the treasury of grace could furnish, than the language which He uses in this parable, as recorded by Saint Luke, when all former means have proved ineffectual, “ What shall I do?” The Trinity of God. head, which held council, before time was, upon the creation of man, and graciously determined “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness !” now again consults, whether the treasures of Omnipotence can supply further and more effectual mean for his redemption and regeneration. One resource still remains : but it is costly; it is invaluable: it touches, we know not how, but still it touches, the heart of God to use it. But “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son "—that is, he “ spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” How have we received this last, best gift of God? Do we reverence His Son ? Must not the whole church of God,-must not each individual, with deeper confusion, and deeper penitence, again plead guilty? Is not Christ now, as the prophet foretold, and as he was in the days of his flesh among the Jews, "despised and rejected of men ?" Does He not now, as then, come unto His own, and His own receive Him not? Look abroad upon society, and see the reception which Christ and His Gospel meet from its various classes. Look at the great majority, keenly alive to every temporal interest, and stupidly unconcerned about the infinitely higher and more important interests of their souls and of eternity; saying, if not with lips, at least in heart and life, Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways. Look at the Godless infidel, scoffing at His authority, and deriding His very name. Look at the haughty Pharisee of every age, who, “ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish his own righteousness, will not submit himself to the righteousness of God," but proudly rejects His proffered mercies, and refuses to bow before the footstool of His throne of grace, before the altar of his Redeemer's cross. Look at the Antinomian formalist, professing to know God, but in works denying him. Look at the base hypocrite, who would impose upon his fellow worm, beneath the eye of an angry God; drawing near to Him with his lips, while his heart is far from Him, and thus, like Judas, betraying the Son of man with a kiss. Look avowed apostate, who like Demas has loved the world and forsaken Christ, crucifying unto himself afresh the Son of God, and putting Him to an open shame. But why enumerate the various modes of perpetrating the same crime? Have we not all crucified Christ? Was it not our sin that nailed Him to the accursed tree? You will say, and say truly, that it was the Jews who by wicked hands crucified

the open,

and slew the Lord of glory. But was it not the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God which delivered up the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ; and delivered Him for our offences, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God? Did He not, in ihe language of the prophet, bear our griefs, and carry our sorrows? Was He not wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities? was not the chastisement of our peace laid upon Him: and is it not by His stripes that we are healed ? While we, like sheep, had gone astray, every one to his own way, did not God lay on Him the iniquity of us all? And shall not God visit for these things? Shall not His soul be avenged on such a nation as this ? Assuredly He will. And He sounds here an awful note of warning, “ When the Lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen ?" and to this awful inquiry the sinner's accuser, conscience, an. ticipates the fearful reply, “ He will miserably destroy those wicked men." Why then doth he permit the careless and ungodly to say, The Lord delayeth his coming ?"

When God, by a visible manifestation on Mount Sinai, planted the vineyard of the Jewish church, He went, as some of our Lord's parables express it,

“ into a far country.” When Christ, by His personal appearance, planted the vineyard of the Christian church, He also departed into a far country for a long time. And this was done, in both instances, to give full scope for the development of the characters of men : that all the evil of the reprobate heart, unrestrained by the overpowering awe of the Divine presence, might be called out and exhibited to its conviction and condemnation : and that the faith and patience of the saints might be tried in this ungodly world, and, purified as gold in the furnace, might be found unto praise, and glory, and honour, in the day of the Lord Jesus. But the day is fast approaching when “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every efe shall see Him, and they also that pierced him : and all kindreds of the earth," which despised and rejected, “shall wail because of him." Then shall sabbaths profaned, and ordinances neglected, and Scripture thrown aside, and warnings of ministers despised, and providences unheeded, and convictions of conscience stifled, and strivings of the Spirit of God resisted, and that Spirit grieved and quenched, -all rise in judgment, and be as mill-stones round the necks of the impenitent to sink them into deeper gulfs of perdition. Then shall that servant, which knew his Lord's will, and did things worthy of stripes, be beaten with many stripes. Then shall it be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, even for those cities whose sins and offences under their lesser light drew down upon them the heavy indignation of God,—then shall it be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, than for us, who live in the full blaze of Gospel light, and with all the advantages of Gospel means, if that light and those means have been unimproved by us. If we who, like Capernaum, have been thus exalted unto heaven, secure there no lodgment, our deeper fall will necessarily thrust us down into a deeper hell.

May God enable us, by His grace, so to use peculiar means and opportunities, that the things which should have been for our wealth may not be unto us an occasion of falling : but that, through them, an entrance may be ministered unto us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

J. M. H. (To be continued.)

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