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at the sixth and ninth hours; yea at the eleventh hour he did likewise. And when they came all to receive their wages, he gave the last he had hired as much as he had agreed for with the first, viz. every one a penny, neither more nor less. Whence they infer that the future reward, signified by this penny, shall not be proportioned according to the difference of men's works, but be one and the same to all.
I answer, this parable belongs not at all to the matter in question, seeing the scope of it is to justify God's proceedings in the dispensation of his grace towards the church of the Jews, and that of the Gentiles; the latter of which was not called till a long time after the former; and though being so much junior to it, yet was made its equal in the benefits and blessings of God's gracious covenant. The Jews were first hired into the vineyard betimes in the morning, in the more early ages of the world, in the days of Abraham, with whom and his posterity God made a special covenant of grace and mercy; and in the after-ages, (which seem to be signified in the parable by the third, and sixth, and ninth hours,) at such times as the true religion was in danger to fail among them, he by extraordinary means and instruments raised and restored it again; as in the days of Moses and Elias, and after the captivity of Babylon. But the Gentiles were not called into the vineyard till the day was far spent, in the last time and disc pensation; (undoubtedly signified in the parable by the eleventh hour;) and yet these, by the goodness of their heavenly Master, are admitted to the same privileges with the Israelites, and they receive the same reward which was promised to the Jews, with whom
the covenant was first made, and who bore the heat of the day, whilst the others stood idle.
This admission of idolatrous Gentiles, upon their conversion to the faith of Christ, unto equal privileges with the Jews, was a great offence to them, and an occasion of hardening many of them in their unbelief and rejection of Christ's Gospel. They would rather quit, than share in the benefits of the Gospel with the Gentiles, whom they so much despised and hated, as if they scorned to go to heaven in their company. This discontent of the Jews, at the gracious dispensation of God towards the Gentiles, by the Gospel of Christ in the latter ages, is doubtless signified in the parable by the murmuring of those servants that were first hired into the vineyard, against the equal retribution given to those servants that were hired last of all, mentioned ver. 11, 12. And now what is all this to the purpose of the objectors?
In a word, it may seem strange that any man should fetch a proof out of this chapter for a parity of rewards in the life to come, and that from a parabolical discourse delivered therein, and that manifestly designed to a quite different purpose; when in the very same chapter, ver. 23, 26, 27, our Saviour plainly teacheth the contrary doctrine, as I have already undeniably evinced.
The objections against this truth being thus cleared, I shall add only one caution, necessary to prevent the misunderstanding of it, viz. that though there shall be different degrees of glory in the life to come, yet to every saint his own degree shall be a satisfactory beatitude.
To receive those rivers of pleasure, that flow from the right hand of God, there will be many vessels (if I may use the common similitude) of different sizes and capacities, some greater, some lesser, but all of them shall be filled. This different, but in every one satisfactory perception of the future heavenly bliss, seems to have been typified and represented by the Israelites gathering of manna (that food of heaven) in the wilderness; of which we read, Exod. xvi. 18. that he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack: they gathered every man according to his own eating. To explain this as far as we are able, it is to be observed, that although whilst we are in this state of proficiency and running our race, it be not only lawful, but a laudable ambition and emulation in us, to strive to outstrip and excel each other in virtue, and so to gain the richer prize; yet when our race is finished, and the great Bpaßeuths or Judge of it hath given his award, and passed the decisive sentence, we must not, we shall not contend, but fully acquiesce and rest therein. And then the servant, who having increased his pound but to five more, shall hear his lord thus pronouncing, El áryabè doüre, Well done thou good servant, be thou ruler over five cities : he, I say, shall be as well pleased and satisfied as the other servant, who, having made a double improvement, shall receive a proportionable reward, and have authority over ten cities.
Among the blessed in heaven there shall be no discontent or repining, no pride or disdain, no grudging or envy; but there shall be all contentment, all joy, all thankfulness, all love. They that are seated in the higher mansions of glory, shall not look down, with contempt on those that are beneath them; nor
shall these lift up an envious eye towards the other; but they shall perfectly love and delight in each other: and by an inexpressible union of sublimated charity, each shall make what the other enjoys his own, and all together shall make up in different notes one sweet harmonious concert in the praises of God, the fountain of their bliss. To this purpose is the saying of St. Austin on John xiv. 2. speaking of the different rewards of the blessed in heaven: “It comes “ to pass through charity, that what each hath is “common to all; for thus every man hath it also in
himself, when he loves and rejoiceth in, and so enjoys in another, what himself hath nots.”
It is hard indeed for us mortals, whilst we dwell in these houses of clay, and are encumbered with the sinful inclinations and passions of this flesh, to conceive of this, and to comprehend the divine power of exalted love. But let us consider, why may not that be among the saints hereafter, which we are sure is among the holy angels now? In that celestial hierarchy, archangels and angels, cherubims and seraphims, and thrones, and the lower orders of those blessed spirits, disagree not among themselves, though they differ from one another in honour and dignity; but on the contrary, they perfectly love and delight in each other, and all in their God. And in their several stations, they readily and cheerfully execute the will and pleasure of their great Lord and Master, whose ministers they are; and all together make one family of love and peace, of joy and order, and one harmonious choir, in perfect concert, and with ravish
& Fit quidem per charitatem, ut quod habent singuli, commune sit omnibus : sic enim quisque etiam ipse habet, cum amat in altero quod ipse non habet.
ing melody, sounding forth the praises of their heavenly King. And thus it shall be with the saints after the resurrection, when they shall be made loáryeros, like unto the angels, i. e. when they shall enjoy the same life immortal which the angels do, and be joined to them, and incorporated into their blessed society
And now, lastly, to apply this whole discourse: Let us, by what hath been said, be excited and stirred up to a diligent, earnest, and zealous pursuit after an increase of virtue, and a greater proficiency in the ways of righteousness and holiness. Let us shun no labour that comes in our way, and is within our reach and compass, whereby we may glorify God, and do good to others; for we see, the more grace the more glory; and the greater and more industrious our labour in God's service hath been in this life, the greater and more copious and abundant shall our reward be in the life to come. We cannot be truly righteous overmuch, as the slothful world would
persuade us, nor can there be any excess or superfluity in virtue, or in the habits and exercises of real piety and charity. How great soever our labour be in the business of religion, none of it shall be lost labour, or in vain in the Lord. Every degree of grace
which we advance to here, shall raise us a degree higher in the future glory. And all the good works that ever we do, shall be recorded in the faithful register of the divine Omniscience, and not one of them shall be forgotten, or miss of its reward. Oh! that this consideration might often and very deeply enter our thoughts ! How would a vigorous sense of this truth awaken and rouse us out of our remissness and negligence in religion, that too often seizeth on us! How