Page images
PDF
EPUB

direct testimonies were wanting, it might be inferred from the present parable, that no man can either enter into a state of grace, or work out the salvation once begun by God's Spirit, in his heart, except by the preventing and supporting grace of that blessed Spirit alone. It is God's gift that he is called. It is God's vineyard in which he is privileged to labour; and the power and opportunities of doing good are, like tools for the day, supplied to him by God alone.

[ocr errors]

In thus maintaining God's absolute sovereignty, I am not maintaining the doctrine of absolute decrees. I cannot conceive that God ever uses His sovereignty in that manner; though grace is free, it will not follow that it is employed irresistibly; and, for all which appears to the contrary in the present parable, the labourers who were sent into the vineyard might, as well as the guests who were invited to the marriage supper, have refused to go, and have preferred their previous idleness, or the service of a different master. But with such as accept the call, with such as persevere in their labours, with such as, on account of these labours, have reason to expect everlasting life from their Heavenly Father, with all such the calling has been of God; and for that calling, and all its blessed consequences, they owe to God unbounded thankfulness, and have reason to ascribe to His goodness alone even the covenanted rewards which they receive from Him. But it is obvious that His goodness to them, being thus free, cannot be lessened

by the fact that He shows to certain of their brethren a greater goodness still; they are, themselves, paid beyond their deserts; and it is envy alone, of all evil passions the worst and basest, which can find pain in the happiness of another. Yet even in this dispensation of our God, as represented to us in the present parable, is nothing capricious or unintelligible, inasmuch as other considerations innumerable, besides the duration, or even outward success of our Christian course, must have their weight with the Alljust and Allwise.

One believer, for instance, is placed by His providence in a distinguished and, outwardly, an arduous station of duty. He bears the burthen and the heat of the day; he rides in the foremost ranks of the armies of His invincible Lord; he carries the banner of the cross where it is assailed by the potentates of earth, and the princes of the power of the air; and he fights, through a long life, the good fight of faith successfully, being encouraged and supported, in part it may be, by the very conspicuousness of the sphere in which he moves, and still more and more, undoubtedly, by that secret influence of the Most High, which hath girded his loins with strength, and covered his head in the day of battle.

The pilgrimage of another is of an obscurer kind; his walk is through the secret paths of life, unknown, unpraised, perhaps reproved and slighted. He has no converts to show; he has had no splendid opportunities of evincing his love of God and

his dauntless faith in his Redeemer. His warfare has been within; and in weakness and fear, in solitude and silence, he has struggled with the defects of an imperfect education, with the discouragement of unsuccessful labours, with the infirmities of a peevish and distrustful temper, with the unkindness or neglect of men, and with the indescribable terrours of those powers of darkness which are most potent with the weak and melancholy. Yet, though he has trembled, he has not yielded; yet, though he has done little, he has endeavoured all he could; yet, though he has been encompassed with darkness and dismay, from the deeps he hath called upon God; and his eye, from the midst of the valley of the shadow of death, has been bent on the heavenly Sion! And of these two candidates, these martyrs of different descriptions, which best may claim the palm? I know not; who but God can know! But the men are both gone to their reward; and I am convinced that the more illustrious and distinguished servant of Christ would be neither surprised nor grieved to find his weaker brother set beside him!

It is the same with every exercise of the graces and virtues of Christianity. A man is judged, and if judged then surely recompensed, according to that which he hath, not according to that which he hath not. This man, we will suppose, has an ample fortune, and uses that fortune nobly. He supports missions, he founds hospitals, he relieves the bodily and spiritual wants of hundreds. This

other is himself but little, if at all, elevated above the condition of an object of charity; yet he steals from his own repose to watch by the sick-bed of a neighbour; he defrauds his own scanty meal to share it with those who are yet more necessitous. The one is a mighty river, which bears wealth and fertility to many provinces; the other is a little mountain spring, whose rills are but sufficient to nourish a drooping flower, or to offer a cup of cold water to a fainting traveller. But is the widow's mite forgotten? or who shall doubt that, under circumstances of which God alone is the fitting judge, it may be, when the river and the spring have alike rolled their waters to the ocean of eternity, that the one may, in proportion to its course and its quantity, have been as valuable as the other!

The same observation will apply to a longer and a shorter life, or, to approach more closely to the particular circumstances of the parable, to the strongest case of all, of an earlier or later conversion to the faith and practice of Christianity. It is a great and blessed thing when a man has, from his youth up, been faithful; neither transgressed in any considerable respect, the will of his Heavenly Father. For such a one a crown of glory is laid up; for such a one the promise abideth sure that he shall dwell in the presence of God for ever! How many dangers does he not escape who, from the beginning of his course, has never widely wandered! How many fears, how many bitter sorrows,

that neither youth nor middle age are exempt from the accidents of mortality; that though life should be granted, it does not follow that grace will return; and that he who commits his soul to the chance of an evening which may never arrive, and a warning which may never be granted to him, may learn too late the consequence of his unspeakable folly, when the vintage is ended and the night is come, and the steward of the vineyard shall descend in His Father's name to recompense their deserts alike to the profitable and unprofitable

servant!

« PreviousContinue »