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SO WHEN EVEN WAS COME, THE LORD OF THE
VINEYARD SAITH UNTO HIS STEWARD, CALL THE LABOURERS, AND GIVE THEM THEIR HIRE ; BEGINNING FROM THE LAST UNTO THE FIRST. AND WHEN THEY CAME WHO
HAD BEEN HIRED ABOUT THE ELEVENTH
HOUR, THEY RECEIVED EVERY
In a late discourse * I endeavoured to explain the case of the thief on the cross, which hath
be feared, to trust in a death-bed repentance. I shall now consider another passage of scripture—the parable of the labourers hired into the vineyard; which may, perhaps, be misapplied in the same mischievous way. * See Vol. II. Serm. XXXV.
The general substance of the parable, you will recollect, is this :
A householder went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. Such as he found, he agreed with by the day, at the price of the country *
Some hours afterwards he went out again, and finding others unemployed, he sent them also into his vineyard; and even, at a very late hour, finding others who could get no work, he hired them also. In the evening he paid all his workmen ; and gave such as had wrought only one hour, the same wages which he gave to those who had laboured through the day.
“ Now from this paffage (says the man who wishes to find a cover for his fins) it is evident we are not tied up so stri&tly, as many suppose, to the duties of religion: the gospel is more liberal. The labourers hired into their master's vineyard, we find, entered at different times, but
* The penny was a Roman coin, Jews : it was worth about yd. or 8d. of our money, and was the price of a day's labour in Judea. The good Sa. maritan therefore paid the host about one shilling and fourpence in value ; and as that sum would purchase much more than the same fum now, it was sufficient for the purpose.
áll received an equal reward. There is no difference made between him who laboured from an early hour, and him who laboured from a late önė. And what can be meant by this, except that some men repent fooner, and some later; but that a merciful God is as well inclined to accept the late penitent as the early one? Since this is the case,” he cries, “ we may safely defer our repentance till the eleventh hour, or later if need be; and if we then enter the vineyard—if we then repent, we may expect, from our Saviour's own promise, an equal reward with them who have laboured through the day."
A man's falvation is in a very deplorable state, when he begins thus to tamper with the terms of salvation; and, instead of making his practice agree with his religion, sets his wits at work to make his religion agree with his practice.--I hope none of you, my brethren, are in fo dangerous a state. However, as the least fallacy in this point is in a high degree dangerous, I shall, in the following discourse, endeavour to fhew you, first, the meaning of the parable; from which it will appear that it furnishes no argument for a late repentance; and thall, secondly, shew you
what kind of repentance alone is available in the fight of God.
As to the meaning of the parable, it does not relate to christians, but to heathens--not to those who wilfully defer repentance, but to those who were before ignorant of the truth of religion; to those who were idle-not because they would not work, but because no man had hired them.
The Jews had long been God's peculiar people; but when our Saviour came into the world, that distinction was to be lost, and the gofpel to be preached to all mankind. This great truth, however, which was so difpleasing to the Jews, our blessed Lord opened by degrees. He endeavoured to loosen the prejudices of men, fometimes by. leaving them to conjecture from obscure hints, and sometimes by giving them plainer fimilitudes.
Among other discourses of this tendency he here instructs the Jews, under the fimilitude of a master who went out at different hours to hire labourers, that God intended to call other labourers into the christian church besides them, at different periods of time, as their conversion could be effected--some earlier, and somie later; and that he would afford those nations, lo converted, the fame marks. of favour which he afforded the Jews. This is the meaning and end of the parable; which is fo far, you fee, from giving encouragement to a late repentance, that it has not any immediate reference to repentance at all. It may indeed be applied to single persons; but can then only mean that God will accept the penitent, on his embracing the first means of conviction. But this doth not affect those who, when called, never enter the vineyard; or, if they do enter it, instead of labouring as they ought till sunset, spend their time in idleness. Had the servants stood idle in the market-place after they had an opportunity of working, they had met with no reward--they had then been condemned as wicked and sloth ful servants ; but, by labouring as soon as they could, they fhewed they would have laboured fooner if they had had it in their power. God therefore accepted the little they did, because it was all they could do.