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Septuagesima; or the Third Sunday before
L E N T.
St. Matth. xx.
PARAPHR A S E. HE Kingdom of Heaven is like unto a man that I, 2. The method is an boujholder, which event out early in the made use of by God, in morning to bire
labourers into his vineyard. distributing the Advan2. And when be bad agreed with the labourers for a penny tages of his Blessed Goa day, be sent ebem into bis vineyard.
spel, may be not unfitly
resembled, by that of an Housholder calling in Workmen, and contracting with them according as they were to be met with, at their usual Place of Standing, at different Hours of the Day. Some presently after Sun-rising;
3. And be went out about the third bour, and far 3, 4. Others at nine thers standing idle in the market place,
of the Clock, when the 4. And said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, second of thofe four and whatsoever is right, I will give yotl. And they went Watches, into which the
Jews usually divide their
day, begins. 5. Again he went out about the fixth and nintb bour, and 5. Others again, at did likewije.
twelve, and three in the
Afternoon, the Jews third and fourth Watch. 6. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found 6. And Others still orbers franding idle, and faith unto tbemi, Why ftand ye at five, an hour before bere all the day idle ?
Sun-set, and the time
of leaving work. 7: They say unto him, Because no man bath bired us, He saith unto tbem, Go ye alfy into the vineyard, and wbatfoever is right, tbar mall ye receive.
8. So when even was come, the Lord of tbe vineyard faith unto bis Steward, Callebe labourers, and give them ibeir bire, beginning from the last unto the firft.
9. And wben they came, that were hired about the eleventh bour, they received every man a penny.
10. But when the first came, they supposed that they fhoud bave received more, and they likcwije received every m.21 a penny.
11. And when they had received it, tbey murmured sgainst the good mar, of the boufe,
12. Saying, These last bave wrought but one bour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, wbich bave born the burden and beat of the day.
13. But be answered one of them, and faid, Friend, I do tbee no wrong, didft thou not agree with me for a
14, 15. Thou haft
14. Take that thine is, and go thy way, I will give had thy Bargain, and so unto this laft, even as unto ebee. no reaion to complain. 15. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine Thou oughtest not to own? Is thine eye cvil because I am good ? trouble thy self how I deal with Others. Nor am I bound to give thee an account, who doft very ill to envy the good Fortune of thy Brethren, and think much at my Bounty to them.
16. Thus it shall be 16. So the laft shall be firfi, and the first last ; for many in the Gospel Benefits be called, but few cbofen. too; Because the Number of them, to whom the Advantages and Opportunities of Salvation are offered, is great ; but that of the Men, who answer and make the best of them, is, in comparilon of the former, very small.
Any wise Reasons (particularly that of insinua
ting necessary but unwelcome Truths, in a manner as inoffensive as might be) moved our Bleffed Lord, to speak so much in Parables. But, to help our Understandings in the studied Ambiguity of such Figurative Speeches, he frequently applies, or concludes them, with some Figurative Sentence, which may serve as a Key to their Meaning and main Design. Thus it is here, The first shall be last, and the last first, is an Aphorism at the end of the Chapter foregoing, intended to be illustrated by this Parable. And it is here repeated again, Ver. 16. in the Close, with an express direction, how to interpret the Passages leading to it; So the last Mall be first, and the first last.
In order therefore to know, what Cases and Doĉtrines are referred to by this Allusion, it may be of some use, to consider the places, where this Sentence
occurs, and the Occasions, upon
which it is introduced. The rather, because being but few, they will neither employ us long, nor endanger any Confusion in the Application.
In the xijith of St. Luke, verse 30. It follows a Prediction, concerning the Exclusion of the Jews for their Obstinacy, and the vast and happy Confluence of the Gentiles into Christ's Church. That they, whose Ancestors were Patriarchs and Prophets, should be shut out from their Glories ; and Strangers, from every Quarter, admitted to partake with those Good Men, in Honour and Bliss. But then the 24th and 25th Verses make it plain, that this Exclusion of the Jews was not an Ad or Decree, purely Arbitrary, but inflicted as a Punishment for their Wilfulness and Pride; and because they did not think it worth their Pains, to enter in at the Strait Gate, now made the only Inlet to the Regions of the Blessed. On the other hand, the Promotion of the Gentiles is, in that and other Scriptures, mentioned, as the Consequence of their eager and indefatigable Zeal.
A Zeal, ex. press’d by coming from far, by presing into the kingdom of Heaven, by being violent, and taking it by force. Now in this regard, the Jews, who were first, ( fuperior in Privileges, and earlier in the Tenders of Happiness) came to be last; failed, and fell short of it. And the Gentiles, who were last, in Opportunities and common Esteem, becanie first in Succeís. They were forwarder in their Duty, and greedily embraced those Benefits, which the Other despised and suffered to go beside them, when every thing seemed to favour their Pretensions, and promise a certain Poffeffion.
In the Nineteenth of this Gospel, the Tenth of St. Mark (parallel to it) and the Close of the Parable now before us;
ix. I. Luke xvi. 16.
Maith. xix. 30.
The Words seem not so much to concern Those, who absolutely lost what they seem'd in better Condition to attain; and Others, who, from a State in appearance desperate, became Happy; As to state the Comparison between Persons, who all of them obtain a Recompence, though it be awarded to Each in different and very surprising Measures. Thus the Labourers here all received Wages; Some indeed more, some less, than was expected. But, which was strange, They, whose Fatigue had been longer, were paid no more than Others, whose Time had been shortest. Now, since the Person, whose Image that Housholder bears, is Judge of all the Earth, and cannot but do right; Since he is infinitely above all unaccountable Likings and partial Fondness, ( as is evident from His so frequent and folemn Declarations, That he is no Respecter of Persons) we have leave at least, nay, I take it, we ought, to conclude, that some very wife and just Considerations moved him to proceed thus, with these several sorts of Workmen. Reasons perfectly well understood by their Master himself, tho' their Fellow-Labourers either did not comprehend, or would not attend to them. And so, in this second Sense, Not with regard to being miserable, or being happy; but in regard of a Happiness greater or less than was expected, and in proportion to the time of working being more or less; There are many that are
first which shall be last, and the last which Chap. xix. 30.
shall be first. From these Pafiages thus compared, we have, I think, fufficient warrant to apply this Parable, First, To the Case of all Mankind; Or else, Secondly, To that of the Jews and Gentiles in general; Or, Thirdly, To that of private Christians in particular. I shall state each as briefly as I can, and then conclude with some proper Observations from them.
1. Take it in its first and most comprehensive Sense, and thus it intimates, That God was never in any Age wanting to Mankind, that He (as hath * been formerly observed ) did fre * Epifile for quently renew his Call, and enlarge the Day. Discoveries of his Will and their Duty, by such Dispensations, as answer to the several Hours here. But that the Gospel is his Last Call; and after this nothing is to be looked for, but the bringing Men to account, how they have acquitted themselves, under their respective Circumstances.
Next, Let us view that of the Jews and Gentiles in general. To the Jews God was pleased to make the first express Discoveries of his Will by a written Law. Their Nation alone, in the Ages before the Gospel, were blessed with a Revealed Religion. And, at the first Publication of the Gospel, our Lord confined his own Presence and Ministry to this People and Country. So did his Apostles and Disciples, by his Direction, during his Abode upon Earth, and for some time after his Ascension into Heaven. The several Steps taken in this Affair, during that Interval, may be thought answerable to the repeated Invitations of the Morning, the Third, the Sixth, and the Ninth Hours. At last, which answers to the Eleventh, this Benefit was extended to the Gentiles. They readily accepted it, and by so doing, became Partakers of the same Grace and precious Promises, with those, who had all along been brought up under the Legal, and from that removed sooner under the Evangelical, Dispensation. This gave great Offence to those earlier Converts. They thought themselves ill dealt with, and their Services not sufficiently considered, when Men, from Darkness and Idolary, were at once transated into the same marvellous Light; and all that distinction of Favour taken away, which had