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infinitely more must be exacted from the injurers, in the way of punishment. Hence, when the narrator of the parable was arrived at that part of his story, which shewed both the wickedness of the husbandmen, and the measure of the wrongs of the lord of the vineyard, to have reached their height, and to be incapable of further aggravation; whether the question which precedes, had been put, or not, “ When the lord of the vineyard is come, what “ will he do unto those husbandmen?” the instinctive sense of the reparation owing to the sufferers from outrageous injustice, and of the punishment due to the perpetrators of enormous wickedness, must have suggested the answer ascribed to the hearers, “ Wicked as they are, he will destroy them accord“ing to their wickedness, and the vineyard he will “ let out to other husbandmen, who will render him " the fruits in their seasons;" in which two things are specified, as parts of the same punishment, very different from each other, yet equally deserved, under the circumstances of the case, by the persons in fault; their own utter destruction first—and the transfer of the vineyard, before possessed by them, to others, next.
But the crimes and offences against the owner of the vineyard, which rendered the husbandmen obnoxious to all this punishment, had been committed in his absence : the infliction of the punishment upon the proper subjects, would require his presence at home: and the coming of the owner, indispensable as it must be deemed to the production of this effect, is spoken of as still future. He is not seen to return in the parable, inuch less to inflict the punishment which he could return only to execute on
those who so justly deserved it. The action of the parable, therefore, is suspended at this point of time; whence it may be inferred that some interval must transpire, before the vengeance due for every offence of the husbandmen, and especially for the last and worst of all, the death of the son of their lord, could actually overtake them, however certain to do so in the end; or if the course of the event is still pursued up to this final consummation, it is by a change in the manner of the narration, from the language of history to that of prophecy, which of itself would suffice to intimate that in the application of the facts of the parabolic to those of any real history, every thing after this point of time must be referred to the future, whether every thing before, or up to it, is to be referred to the past, or not. On this point, however, more will be said hereafter.
THE MORAL. The historical moral of the parable, or the conclusion resulting from the joint import and tendency of its material circumstances, is almost too obvious to require to be pointed out; nothing being plainer, than that the final effect of the preceding representation is to shew, by what means the enjoyment of a valuable privilege—the privilege of standing in the relation of tenants to a certain landlord, in the possession of a certain vineyard—was acquired by the proper persons, in the first instance, and by what means it was lost to them again. The proper persons were husbandmen, such as the cultivation of a vineyard would necessarily require; and they acquired the enjoyment of their privilege by the act of the owner of the vineyard, who made choice of them to possess and to cultivate it in his steadsubject to the usual condition of respecting his own rights as the landlord of the soil ; and they lost it again through their own fault, by failing to observe this condition, and refusing to respect these rights.
Such is the outline of the parable, and such the connection of its several circumstances in general, as all taking their rise from this one first principle, the planting and forming of a vineyard, for the same end and effect for which all vineyards are formed and planted—the personal benefit and advantage of the owner of the vineyard, from that species of property in the ground, whether cultivated by himself, or let out to tenants in his stead. The possession of the vineyard under such circumstances, could be first acquired by the occupants for the time being, only upon certain conditions ; and it could continue to be retained by them, ever after, only upon the same. It would be just as absurd to suppose they could be retained in possession of the vineyard, without observing the necessary conditions, as that they could have been put into possession of it, without being subjected to them. The first part of the parabolic æconomy, therefore, is naturally directed to shew, by what means, and upon what terms, the tenants of the owner were placed in possession of their trust; the next, by what means, and in consequence of what failure in the observance of their own engagement, they were necessarily to be dispossessed of it again. Every thing else, which forms a part of the transaction, as it does not directly bear upon one or other of these two results, may be considered so far parenthetic or accidental; though even these parts may conspire to a proper end, and serve to a proper use of their own; more especially the intermediate economy, between the departure of the owner abroad, after placing the husbandmen in possession of the vineyard, and his return again to be followed by their dispossession of it—which is, in fact, the principal part of the narrative and beginning with the mission of the first of the servants to enforce the proper claims of the owner, by describing the aggravated misconduct of the tenants, in their treatment of the servants, over and above the simple rejection of the claims of the master, prepares the way for the aggravated punishment, over and above the simple alienation of the possession of the vineyard, which was therefore to be inflicted upon them.
Without stopping then to recapitulate any further the circumstances of the parable, in order to the elucidation of this simple historical moral, we may pass at once to more general considerations, which will serve as a preliminary to its interpreta
There is so striking a resemblance between the terms and images of the present parable to a certain extent, and those of the allegory, contained in the fifth chapter of Isaiah—that the idea of the gospel parable might almost have been taken from the description on record in Isaiah. To enumerate every point of this resemblance, implied or express, would carry us too far into details. It is a vineyard, which is the subject of the description in both. In both, the vineyard has an owner, distinct from the vineyard itself, or from those to whom the vineyard is committed in trust. In both, the formation and preparation of the vineyard are first described, before anything else is supposed to happen to it, or to be done with it; and in both, the terms of the description, the particulars of the formation, are almost identical, leading to a common inference, that no care or pains were spared by its owner to render it perfect—nothing was neglected that depended upon himself, which might be desirable for it as an ornament, or necessary to it as a convenience. And not to pursue the parallel through the rest of the particulars in each instance, we may remark upon it as a truly critical coincidence between them, that the son of the owner of the vineyard takes a prominent part in the parable, and comes to the husbandmen in quality of the well-beloved of the owner, and the heir of the vineyard ; and the description in Isaiah is delivered in the person of some speaker, addressing his well-beloved, and ascribing the property of the vineyard, which is the subject of the allegory, to this well-beloved ; whom his name and relation alone would imply to be his son.
We had occasion to refer to this allegorical description of Isaiah's before, and to shew that he subjoins the moral of it as follows; “ For the vine“ yard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, “ and the men of Judah his pleasant plant:" whence it was easy to infer, that if the vine or pleasant plant denoted the Jews, the vineyard, the receptacle of that vine, must stand for the land of Judæa, the local habitation of the Jews—in opposition to any other country. But the people of the Jews, under the circumstances of the case, were the people of God; the local habitation of the Jews was the local habitation of the visible church of God. The conclusion then to which we might come, from a com