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thou art pleased to promise to sincere obedience. In thee, O Lord, do I trust, O cast not out my soul; and thine be the praise and the glory for ever and ever. Amen!
Of the man's two sons, whom he commanded to go to work in his vineyard.
MATT. xxi. 28-31.
A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went.
And he came to the second, and said likewise.
And he an
swered and said, I go, sir: and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.
THIS parable was spoken to the chief priests and elders of the Jews, when they came to Jesus as he was teaching in the temple, and demanded of him by what authority he acted as he did, and took so much upon him, as he had lately done, in riding in triumph into Jerusalem, and admitting the hosannas of the people, as to the Son of David, and then casting out those that bought and sold in the temple, and overthrowing the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of those that sold doves", who were allowed to drive that trade there for the convenience of those that came to offer and to sacrifice.
To which demand he wisely waved giving a direct answer, knowing they lay upon the catch to find some matter of accusation against him; and
a Matt. xxi. 12.
put another question to them, viz. whether the baptism of John was from heaven, or of men? Which was so contrived, as you may see, ver. 25, 26, that after consulting together, they thought it their best way to say they could not tell. To which our Lord rejoins, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things: though by this he intimated plainly enough, that he and John (who was by all held to be a prophet) acted by the same authority, and received their commission from Heaven.
And then, to give a due reproof to those hypocritical pretenders to extraordinary holiness, and exact obedience to the divine commands, when there was nothing of it in reality, and make them condemn themselves with their own mouths, he proposed to them the above recited parable; and asked them which of the two was the obedient son, he that rudely and undutifully told his father, when he commanded him to work in his vineyard, that he would not, but afterward bethought himself better, and repented and went; or he that smoothed him over with good words, and said, I go, sir, but never thought any more of the matter, and went not? To which they replied, as they could do no other, He did his father's will, not that spoke him fairest, but who effectually did as he commanded. And then our Lord immediately returned upon them and said, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. As if he had said, Notwithstanding all your specious pretences to the greatest sanctity, all your high professions of zeal for God, and devoting yourselves entirely to his service; and large promises of what you will do in obedience to his will, and
vainglorious thanking him that you are not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as that publican, and the like; he that sees your hearts knows the rottenness and falsehood of them, that all is but hypocrisy and empty appearance; and there is more likelihood of even the vilest sort of people, and the greatest sinners, coming to a true sense of their duty, and hearty performance of it, and so of attaining the reward of it at last, than of your doing so, that have laid aside all sincerity, and impiously think to impose upon God by a fair outside and a few fine words.
And the event shewed this to be true; for several publicans, as Matthew and Zaccheus; and harlots, as Mary Magdalene, and that other Mary, who washed Jesus' feet with her tears, and anointed them with precious ointment, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, were converted from their sinful courses to the faith of Christ, and became great instances of sincere holiness, and most exemplary religion; but of the Pharisees and scribes and rulers, so few could be wrought upon by all that our Saviour said or did, that they themselves could say, Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed on him? And our Lord tells us the reason of this, in that saying of his to them, How can ye believe, who receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? They had no real desire of following and embracing truth, and recommending themselves to the favour of God by unfeigned inward piety: but their sole aim was, by making a great outward show of religion, in a punctual observance of the ritual ceremob Luke vii. 38. c John vii. 48.
d John v. 44.
nial part of it, to be cried up and honoured by the people, as exceeding devout and holy men; to be called rabbi, and have the respectful greetings of every body they met, and be placed in the highest seats in the synagogues, and have the chief rooms at feasts; and under the cover of so great a reputation, be the better able to compass their avaricious designs. And no wonder that such hypocrites as these (as he that knew their hearts has assured us they were) should be at the greatest distance from the kingdom of God, and most of all averse from the religion that Jesus taught; which consisted of humility and self-denial, and contempt of the world, and purity of heart, and hungering and thirsting after nothing so much as real, undissembled righteousness; which were by no means agreeable to a proud, ambitious, intriguing Pharisee. The most lewd and profane, that made no pretences at all to religion, but lived in an open contempt of it, and with the undutiful son here in the parable, positively refused to be tied up to the stiff rules of it, were in a more hopeful condition than they; and when the heat of youth was over, or they smarted for their folly (as the prodigal son did) by sickness or want, or had their consciences awakened by some rousing discourses, or the like; they might probably come to themselves, and repent, and return to their duty: but the other had too much of the Devil in their temper to be made true converts; and were much more likely to turn atheists (if they were not so already) than good Christians.
Indeed, nothing is more incurable than an inveterate hypocrisy; and nothing will sooner cause it
e Matt. xxiii.