ON THE PARABLE OF THE VINEYARD LET OUT TO HUSBANDMEN. MATT. XXI 33
Consider first, what our Lord here tells us: that ‘there was a certain householder, who planted a vineyard, and made a hedge round about it; and dug in it a wine-press, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a strange country.’ This householder represents to us God himself; and this vineyard which he has planted is his universal church. But see my soul, what care he has bestowed upon this vineyard; fencing it in with his excellent laws, and his perpetual protection, as with a hedge; digging in it a wine-press, by the institution of his divine sacraments, the sources of his heavenly grace, pressed out for us from the sacred wounds of our crucified Saviour; and building in its favour a tower, in which he might watch over it by his extraordinary province, as well to keep evils away from it as to provide it with all good. This vineyard he lets out to husbandmen; that is to all men, inasmuch a he has given to all men a part, or share, in which each one is to labour; to wit, his own soul at least, and the souls of as many others as he has committed to his charge. And having done this, he withdraws himself, as it were, into a strange country, by keeping himself out of our sight, during the time of our mortal life, and patiently waiting for the fruit of this his vineyard, which we are to furnish in due season. O what lessons have we here, as well with regard to the goodness of our God on the one hand, in all that he has done for his vineyard, and for every part of it, and consequently for every Christian soul, as with regard to our indispensable duty, on the other hand, of corresponding with this his goodness by our labours, in producing and furnishing the fruit he expected.
Consider 2ndly, with regard to thyself, what this great Lord has done for the vineyard of thy soul in particular, by innumerable favours and graces of every kind which he has bestowed upon thee all thy life long, till this very hour; and by many happy opportunities of doing good, which he has afforded thee, (which if duly embraced by thee, might have made thee a saint,) beyond what he has granted to thousands of others. Then see if he may not say of thee, what he said heretofore of this vineyard of Jerusalem, Isaias v. 4, ‘What is there that I ought to do more for my vineyard, that I have not done to it?’ But after all this care on his part, what fruit hast thou hitherto produced for him? alas! may he not justly complain of thee, as he did of that Jewish vineyard, that instead of the good grapes, which he looked for from thee, thou hast only brought forth wild grapes? O dread then what he threatens, in the same place, in consequence of his being thus disappointed, in the words that immediately follow – ‘I will show you,’ said he, ‘what I will do to my vineyard. I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be wasted; I will break down the wall thereof, and it shall not be pruned, and it shall not be digged; but briars and thorn shall come up! and I will command the clouds to rain no rain upon it.’ Can anything be more terrible than these threats of the soul’s being thus abandoned and given up to a reprobate sense, in punishment of her still bringing forth no good fruit, after so many repeated favours and graces?
Consider 3rdly, in this parable, how the Lord of the vineyard sent, at different times, his servants to the husbandmen, to receive the fruits of it; but they persecuted them to death; till at length he sent his only son, whom they used in like manner. In punishment of which he brought these evil men to an evil end, and let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, that should render him the fruit in due season. This was literally verified in the Jews, to whom the parable was addressed by our Lord a few days before his passion. God sent to them, at divers times, his servants, the prophets, to call for the fruits of his vineyard; but they returned him no fruits; they even persecuted his messengers, and put several of them to death. At length, he sent them his only Son; and him they cast off, condemned to death, and crucified. And therefore, as our Lord here foretells, the kingdom of God (that is the vineyard of his church) has been long ago taken away from them, to be given to a nation (that is to the Gentiles) that should bring forth the fruits thereof. But all this is applicable, more or less, to the particular vineyard of the soul of each Christian. Wherefore, as to thy own part, O my soul, reflect how far thou hast imitated those unhappy husbandmen, in refusing to render to the Lord of the vineyard, in due season, the fruits which he has so often called for at thy hands by his messengers; that is, by his preachers, by his word, by his inspirations, by reproaches of conscience, &c.; and in persecuting those who he sent to thee, by wilfully resisting his graces, stifling his inspirations, and setting at nought all them who sought to bring thee to good. Alas! hast thou not, by thy obstinacy in sin, as much as lay in thee, even crucified again the Son of God? O take heed, lest if thou go on in this perversity, thou fall under the like sentence as the Jews did, of being brought to an evil end, and the kingdom of God be taken away from thee and given to another.
Conclude to look well to the vineyard of thy soul, that it may, be due correspondence with divine grace, bring forth its fruit in due season: even such good grapes as may be acceptable to the great Lord, who has let out his vineyard to thee, and who ceases not to furnish thee with all proper helps to make it fruitful.