Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

parison of the present parable with the allegory of Isaiah, so far as regarded the meaning of their common material image, would be this ; that the vineyard, agreeing in so many respects in both, is the same in both, and may stand indifferently for the land of Canaan, as the local habitation of the people of the Jews, in their proper relation to God, or for the visible church of God, as planted among and consisting of the Jews; between which church, considered independently of the members belonging to, and comprised by its communion, and the country in which they live—the visible boundaries of their local habitation—it is not possible to draw a distinction.

By what association of ideas, and by what attention to strict propriety of speech even in the metaphorical use of terms, the church of God, as planted in Judæa, and still limited to the precincts of that country, might come to be denoted by such an image as this—was shewn at large in treating of the parable of the labourers; where also, as well as here, the principal or fundamental image was the idea of a vineyard, and of something connected with it, or transacted in it. The garden of the Lord, the vineyard of the Lord—these are forms of expression, which as used of him in whom the lordship of all the earth was vested, both in their original conception, and in their determinate application, could properly be meant or understood of nothing, but some part of the world, selected from the whole, and placed in a peculiar relation to the common lord and owner of all; some small and individual, but chosen and favoured polity among the families of mankind, of each of whom God was alike the head : distinctions, which at this time were true of no country, in opposition to the rest of the world, but Judæa; nor of any people, in opposition to the rest of mankind, but the Jews.

In fact, that one part of the present allegory which relates to the history of the son of the owner of the vineyard, is such as of itself to furnish a clue to the interpretation of the whole. His personal relation as the Son; his personal description as the well-beloved of his Father; his mission to the husbandmen as his father's messenger; his treatment at their hands in particular; the penal consequences thence resulting, or liable to result, to its authors, more than from any former instance of their misconduct besides—are such as prima facie, with the evidence of the event to direct us to their meaning, are seen to be capable of agreeing to nothing, and finding their fulfilment in nothing, but the facts of our Saviour's personal history. If so, the Lord of the vineyard to whom he stands in the relation of Son, is the first person in the blessed Trinity; and the God of Israel. The vineyard to which this lord stands in the relation of owner, is the church of God as planted in the land of Israel, and as still confined to those precincts. The husbandmen, to whom that vineyard was committed, and who became, by virtue of that act, the recognised tenants of the owner in the possession of his vineyard—must be the people of the Jews, as placed in possession of the visible church, established in their own country. The other personages who stand to the lord of the vineyard in the relation of the servants of his household, and to the husbandmen in the relation of his messengers, fulfilling a certain commission with respect both to them and to him—whose mission precedes, but in its final end and purpose agrees with that of the son—will be the prophets or holy men of God, who lived from time to time among the Jews, before the Gospel dispensation, and discharged a definite part with respect both to them, and to the God of Israel, who sent them. The alienation of the vineyard from the husbandmen, at first put in possession of it, in consequence of their own misconduct, and as part of the punishment on that account to be inflicted on them, is the alienation from the Jews, of the privilege of standing in the relation of the peculiar people of God; and the transfer of the vineyard to other husbandmen, is the transfer of the possession of the visible church from the Jews to the Gentiles. The moral of the parable, so far as it was designed to convey this particular assurance, is asserted by our Lord himself: “ For this reason I say unto you, “ The kingdom of God shall be taken away from “ you, and given to a nation producing the fruits “ thereof." The taking away of the kingdom of God here, is an equivalent expression for taking away the possession of the vineyard, in the parable

-as the allusion to its fruits sufficiently intimates-and the persons from whom it was to be taken away, that is, the persons whom our Lord was addressing at the time, being clearly the Jews, they, to whoin it was to be given, on the principle of contraries, must be the Gentiles. It is very observable, however, that it is not the vineyard which it is said should be taken away from the one, to be given to the other—but the kingdom of God. The vineyard as such must be understood of the visible church, as

[ocr errors]

established among the Jews, and as confined to their country: the kingdom of God may be understood of the same church whether as established among them, or among the Gentiles—whether as still confined to one community, or as extended to all mankind.

The parabolic history, then, is a concealed, but real history of God's dealings with the Jews, whether past, or to come, from the time when they became his chosen people, to the time when they should cease to be so: that is, froin the Exodus out of Egypt, to the communication of Gospel privileges to the Gentiles. It is consequently partly historical, and partly prophetical, but the historical part is subservient to the prophetical. It is historical from the point where it commences, down to the mission of the son prophetical from that time forward to that period in the economy of the Gospel, whatsoever it was, when the spiritual privileges once actually possessed by the Jews, might properly be said to have been actually lost by them, and actually transferred to the Gentiles.

THE INTERPRETATION. In the first place, the vineyard, as such, had no being until it was planted ; nor the lord of the vineyard that peculiar character and relation by which he was known as its owner, until the same event : and in like manner, whether God had any church in the world, prior to the formation of the Jewish, or not, he had no such church as that which must be denoted by his vineyard; he had selected no country to be the local habitation of a community sacred to himself, until he made choice of Judæa. The formation of the vineyard was the act of the master of an household, who was also the owner of a larger estate ; and the selection of Judæa to be the receptacle of the visible church was the act of the Lord of the whole earth; the choice of one nation to be his peculiar people, and to live in possession of his church, in a country appropriated to them and to it, was made by the Father of the families of all mankind.

The final end of planting the vineyard, that is, devoting a certain portion of a larger estate to the inhabitation and culture of the vine, was necessarily the profit and advantage resulting to the possessor from that species of possessions in particular; and therefore the personal benefit of the owner. To speak in the language of the parable, the final end for which he must be supposed to have planted it, was “ to “ receive of its fruits in their season.” Now the fruits of the vineyard are nothing distinct from the fruits of the trees planted within it: and where the vineyard itself is a metaphorical denomination for the local habitation of the visible church, the trees which are planted within it, taken in the complex, must stand for the aggregate of professing believers, who make up the congregation of the visible church. The vineyard denoting the country which comprehends the visible church, its vines must denote the nation which lives in that country, possessed of that church.

But when moral agents, taken individually, or communities taken collectively, are metaphorically denoted by trees; the fruits of these trees, it has been shewn, in reference to instances of the same

« IndietroContinua »