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kind of metaphor on other occasions , must stand for the conduct of moral agents, the personal qualities and personal behaviour, which are the effect of certain moral principles ; and the fruits of vines in particular, as the kind of tree which grows and is cultivated in vineyards, must stand for such qualities and such behaviour, as the effect of such principles, in the instance of such moral agents more particularly, as the professing members who compose the congregation of the visible church.
Considered in this point of view, the final end which the owner proposed, in the formation of his vineyard, will be understood to mean a certain moral constitution in the lives and characters of the visible members and possessors of his church, proposed by its author, in its foundation. The relation of moral agents in general is not that of members of the visible church in particular ; nor, consequently, are the obligations incumbent on moral agents in general, necessarily the same with the obligations incumbent on the members of the visible church in particular. Moral agents, under all circumstances of their relation to God, have their proper duty arising from their proper relations; and the obligation to this duty under all circumstances is founded in the same necessity of an implicit obedience to the declared will of God. But moral agents in general are left to collect this will, and consequently the particulars of their duty, from the light of conscience; the members of the visible church are taught it by the light of revelation : and the light of conscience is one thing, and the light of revelation is another. The light of conscience, in
g Vide vol. ij. 100--1ll: iii. 365–369.
deed, can teach or suggest nothing which the light of revelation will not confirm and approve; but the light of revelation has ascertained many things, which the light of conscience could never discover.
It is essential, therefore, to such a relation as that which subsists between God as the head, and moral agents, as the members of the visible church, to be founded in the duty of an implicit obedience to the will of God, not only as declared by the law of conscience, but still more, as explained and certified by the light of revelation. Conformity, therefore, of the conduct to the principles of their proper obligation, in the members of the visible church, is conformity to the revealed will of God; and the will of God, in every revelation of himself to his moral creatures, has been made known alike on points of faith and on points of practice, as equally necessary to perfection ; both as to what he requires to be believed, and what he requires to be done by his creatures, in their present state of probation, with a view to his own favour and acceptance. It may justly be said, then, that God planted his vineyard, that is, formed and established his church, (whether among the Jews at first, or among Christians since—with respect to this one object and purpose, would be indifferent,) subject to his own revealed will and discipline, that he might “ purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good “ works ;” that he might prescribe to the members of this church, and experience from them, a more entire conformity to his own will, in all essential respects, and a more perfect obedience, than he could require or receive from the rest of his moral creatures. The moral obedience of the creature, indeed, under all circumstances, has a natural tendency to promote the glory of the Creator; but the obedience of moral agents in general reflects honour upon God as the moral Governor of all mankind, that of the members of his church redounds to his glory as the Head and Governor of the Church. And as the latter of these relations is closer than the former, so is the obedience founded upon the latter more perfect than that which is entailed by the former; and therefore the resulting effect to the glory of the Creator is more complete in the one case, than in the other.
The care of the owner, to render his vineyard perfect, and to provide it with every thing necessary to the attainment of the end which he proposed in planting it, before he let it out—was singularly displayed in the minute preliminary description of its component parts. To this part of the parabolic history, much might be specified as answering, in the real history of the Jews; first, with regard to the effect resulting from all these precautions, in the entire adaptation of the vineyard to its natural uses and purposes—the peculiar locality of Judæa, the physical constitution of the country, its isolated situation in comparison of other countries, all eminently qualifying it to become the vineyard of God, for the time being, on earth, and the receptacle of a nation, living within it, subject to a law and a discipline peculiarly their own, and detached by their position, as much as by their religion, from the rest of mankind; secondly, as preliminary to that result, and as answering to the several steps in a series of provisions, designed for one and the same effect—the extraordinary dealings of God, preparatory to the
settlement of the Jews in the land of Canaan, which remarkable as they were, had no object in view from the first, but to lead to that result; and display the same prospective solicitude to provide a fit people in due time for the possession of his church, as a proper country beforehand for the habitation of this people. In the whole of this preparatory æconomy, there is nothing which is not of an extraordinary character. The call of Abraham, the history of that patriarch subsequently, the lives of his immediate descendants, down to the period of their settlement in Egypt, are a series of special favours and distinctions, conferred on a single family ; the exercise of a never-failing particular providence in their behalf; the control of natural and preternatural causes, alike to conspire for their good; the instances of great temporal blessings, and still greater spiritual privileges, bestowed upon and appropriated to them. The history of the same family, through an equal length of time, from the descent into Egypt to the Exodus, is the history of the continued exertion of the same providential care, if not so openly yet not less effectually, to multiply them from an handful of souls to the number of the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea, in multitude h: while the facts of their history, at the time of the Exodus, and after it, abundantly prove that the same outstretched hand of their heavenly protector, which had been so signally displayed by their deliverance from Egypt, was not shortened
h Deuteronomy xxvi. 5 : “ And thou shalt speak and say “ before the Lord thy God, A Syrian ready to perish was my “ father, and he went down into Egypt, and sojourned there “ with a few, and became there a nation, great, mighty, and “ populous.”
or relaxed, but still as visibly exerted in the wonderful instances of its providence for their support and preservation in the desert.
But that event in the history of the preparatory dealings of God with his people, whom he had already chosen to be the future possessors of his visi. ble church—which answers most exactly to the care and pains of the owner of the vineyard, bestowed in providing it with all things necessary to its perfection, before it was committed to husbandmen-is the delivery of the Law, after the Exodus, yet prior to the settlement in Canaan. The interposition of this event, between these two periods, is alone sufficient to prove that without the delivery and reception of the Law beforehand, the Jews could not be settled in Canaan : the reason of which doubtless was, that they could not be settled in Canaan, except as the people of God, nor could they become the people of God, until they had received the Law of God. The fabric of the visible church may be said to have been reared, when the formation of that Law was complete in all its parts. The polity under which the nation were designed to live, from that time forward, was already defined; though the country within which the nation were to live, subject to that polity, remained still to be possessed. From that time forward the visible church travelled about with the Jews, in their subsequent wanderings in the wilderness, as the visible temple or residence of God migrated from place to place, with the shiftings of the moveable tabernacle ; but as from the time of the building of the tabernacle, until the place of his abode was permanently established at Jerusalem, God did not cease to be resident among