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conduct diametrically the reverse of that which he had observed towards them, at the beginning of it.
It is another use also of the parabolic narrative, in its refer. ence to a series of future matters of fact, to illustrate the possible, however mysterious, compatibility of the Divine predestination of events, with the freedom of human agency. The death of the son of the lord of the vineyard is historically described therein, as an event which must be considered the result of contingent causes; which was not anticipated, and which might not have happened. And so it was, with respect to the parabolic economy-to the mission of the son, by the father, and to his reception and treatment by the husbandmen: and yet it is not too much to say, of the actual mission of our Lord, which answers to this in the parable, that the Father sent him, and that he himself came, to sustain and discharge a part, foreknown and preconcerted, from the beginning of the world ; that all these things must have been ; that Christ must suffer; and that the Jews, in putting him to death, were but unwittingly the instruments in fulfilling the voices of the prophets, read among them every sabbath day.
The circumstantial discrepancies in the narratives of the different Evangelists require some little consideration, before we dismiss the parable. With respect, indeed, to these discrepancies generally—there is no reason why we should expect verbal, and not merely substantial, agreement in the accounts of our Saviour's parables, as simply the narratives of facts—any more than in the details of his general history, which consist of facts likewise. In the present instance, St. Luke's account of the parable is obviously more concise than either St. Matthew's or St. Mark's, just as his account of the parable of the sower was, compared with theirs; and probably for the same reason—that each of these parables had been so fully recorded by his predecessors, it was scarcely necessary for him to relate either, had not the one been the first which our Saviour delivered, and had not the other contained so graphic a delineation beforehand of his death and passion, and so remarkably verified, only two days after, by the event.
Yet the discrepancies in question are after all reducible to two: one of which is that St. Matthew and St. Luke speak of the ejection of the son from the vineyard, as preceding his being
put to death; St. Mark speaks of it as following after it. There is no inconsistency in these statements; for it does not appear that either of them affirms the order of the event; or does more than simply specify the fact itself, as closely connected with that of the death—and as conspiring with it to the same effect, to shew that the subject of either violence had no right to the vineyard, or none which they were disposed to respect, who were offering it to him. For this purpose, the casting him out of the vineyard was necessarily a part of the treatment which he must expect to receive from them—and as expressive of contempt for his rights, and of indignity to his person, as his death itself; but in what order, and whether before or after his being put to death, would be a matter of indifference, and might be related in either way.
The other circumstance of difference is, that when our Lord had arrived at that part of his narrative where he asks the question at the 40th verse in St. Matthew's, the 9th in St. Mark's, the 15th in St. Luke's account; the answer, according to St. Matthew, verse 41, was returned by others ; according to St. Mark, verse 9, and St. Luke, verse 16, was returned by himself. There is no inconsistency here also ; for both answers might have been returned ; one by the bystanders, as related in St. Matthew, the other by our Lord himself, in prosecution of his own narrative, as recorded in St. Mark and St. Luke. For there is no reason to suppose, that in asking the previous question, he meant the answer to be supplied by his hearers, and not to be subjoined by himself; though it is very possible, that under the circumstances of the case, his hearers (especially his disciples, and the common people) could not hear such a ques. tion, subjoined to such a narrative as had preceded, and not be prompted by their own sense of justice and humanity, to return such an answer to it.
But St. Luke adds, that when those about our Lord had heard his last words, as recorded at verse 16, they said, “ God “ forbid;” which seems to be attributing to them an answer directly contrary to that which also is ascribed to the bystanders in St. Matthew. The way to reconcile these representations with each other is, to suppose that one part of the bystanders made the observation in St. Luke, and another in St. Matthew ; and on this principle Theophylact reconciles them, Operum i. 453. C—D. in Lucam xx. It is to be remembered that our Saviour delivered this parable in the presence of a mixed audience —not merely his disciples, but the people; and not merely the people, and such portion of them, as are said at this very time to have heard him gladly, but the Scribes and Pharisees, his enemies—who were at this very time plotting his destruction, and seeking to lay hands upon him.
Each of the Evangelists informs us, that when our Lord had done speaking, his enemies would gladly have carried this design of theirs against him into execution, on the spot; and according to each, for the same reason, that they perceived he had been speaking the parable against them : whence, though it may not follow that they must have understood the full meaning of the parable, which they resented accordingly, yet it would, that they knew it to be levelled against themselves, and in some manner or other to contain a denunciation against them. It might contribute to direct their attention to its drift, and to raise the expectation of its containing something personal to themselves, that it followed directly upon Matt. xxi. 28–32. an illustration which had been applied against them ; and it was prefaced by the words, άλλην παραβολήν ακούσατε-in reference doubtless to what had preceded in the form of a parable also.
The interposition of such an exclamation, from such a quarter, at this period of the narrative, is necessary to explain the sequel, to the end of the account, in each of the Gospels ; Matthew 42—44: Mark 10–11: Luke 17–18: and especially in St. Luke's; first as to what he mentions of our Lord's looking steadfastly at them, in consequence of it, and then, his subjoining the words, “What then is this which is written?" before quoting the 22nd and 23rd verses of the cxviiith Psalm, as he proceeds to do in all the accounts. This steadfastly looking at them, before he said any thing—(the proper meaning of eußléxas avrois : compare Luke xxii. 61.) implies that they had done something to provoke it ; to direct attention to them more parti. cularly: and the form of the words in which he introduces the quotation from the Psalm, “ What then is this which is writ“ ten ?" or, as St. Mark expresses it, “ Have ye not read even “ this scripture?” leads further to the inference, that if he had said any thing to produce such an exclamation, as it was, he was going to say something still more calculated to excite it.
It may well be supposed, that an observation, proceeding from Scribes and Pharisees, or any of those who were declared enemies of our Lord, in answer to a denunciation proceeding from him, and threatening them with some penal consequence or other—would be founded in scorn and contempt; arising, no doubt, from the presumed incompetency of the speaker to carry any of his menaces into effect; in which case, they might safely be despised and set at defiance. If such was the motive which prompted the exclamation, in this instance, or such the thought secretly passing in the minds of those who uttered it; how appositely might our Lord both pause a while, steadfastly to look upon them, and then proceed to quote the Psalm in question, in such words as these, “What then is this which is written?” “Have “ye not read even this scripture?” “ As to the stone, which “ they that were building reprobated, this is become for the “ head of a corner? This head is become so of the Lord; and “ it is wonderful in our eyes :" concluding as St. Matthew represents him, “ 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. And he that hath fallen upon “this stone, shall be dashed to pieces: and on whomsoever it “ may fall, it shall grind him to powder.”
This image of the stone, which they that were building rejected or reprobated, and which yet had become fit to be the head of a corner, is ascribed to our Saviour, by St. Peter, Acts iii. 11: and the builders who had rejected it, are represented personally as the Scribes and Pharisees, or leaders of the Jews also. The rejection of the stone, by the builders, in a supposed process of building, implies its want, in their estimation, of those qualities, which must make it fit to form part of a building—the qualities of strength and solidity; its being become the head of a corner, in an actual building, implies its possession of such qualities in the utmost possible degree. A corner-stone in a building, like the key-stone in an arch, must possess the usual qualities which make stones fit to support their share of the burden, and to contribute their share to the strength of a building, in a degree beyond any other component part of it whatsoever. But the rejection of the stone is attributed to its supposed deficiency in such qualities, in the estimation of human builders ; its becoming the head of a corner, and its consequent possession of the requisite properties, in the highest degree, to a power and sufficiency derived from God. All this was applicable to our Saviour's own situation at the time, and to the judgment which his enemies had passed upon him; and to the degree of power and exaltation, short only of the Divine, in that very capacity-at present, to all appearance, so weak and contemptible-to which he should hereafter be advanced: the certainty of which, to carry on the same metaphorical description, would be shewn by nothing so much as the defensive, and offensive property of the same corner-stone; the former in resisting all the attacks which should be made upon it, and dashing to pieces those who should encounter it, the latter in its power to exterminate, when it should itself become the assailant, and to grind unto powder all on whom it should fall. The first of these powers is conservative, and necessary to the protection of the church which rests upon that corner-stone, from all those assaults of various kinds, to which it is, and it must be exposed, during the continuance of its state of probation : the latter is destructive or penal, and subservient to that final economy of redress in behalf of the church, and of vengeance upon its enemies, which its head and protector will ultimately carry into effect, in order that the state of probation may be succeeded by the state of retribution. Yet in its primary sense, this allusion to the double power of the same stone, might be understood by the hearers to refer to a custom of their own, in inflicting the punishment of stoning; according to which, we are told, that the head of the criminal was first dashed against one large stone: and if that did not prove fatal, another was cast upon the top of it—which invariably served to dispatch him.