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stead of a career of improvement. Nor are these enjoyments always of a simply innocent character; they often degenerate into dissipation and riotous excess. In the midst of all this gayety, he may have little leisure to think of the concerns of futurity, and often habitually flees from religion as a gloomy thing, whose only tendency is to mar his gratifications. Many are the similar stumblingblocks which wealth casts in the footway of its possessors; and when we notice how many it causes to fall, we readily assent to the truth and force of the assertion of Jesus, that a rich man shall by the road of many difficulties “enter into the kingdom of heaven.” From this, bowever, it is not too hastily to be inferred, that riches are in themselves an evil, or that a wealthy man cannot possibly be saved. Wealth is, in itself, a good; it is the procurer of much happiness for ourselves and for our fellow-creatures; without it, we should still have been in the condition of savages; it is the patron, the supporter, almost the creator of all the arts and sciences which embellish life and make us an intellectual people. Gold is, in itself, a blessing; it is our abuse of it to evil ends, that makes it a curse. In like manner, the mere possession of wealth, does not render a man wicked or unfit for celestial blessedness. Those who use their riches, not for the gratification of their sensual appetites, but for the improvement of their minds; those who apply their superfluities to relieving the wants of the poor-educating the people in literature, morality, and religion-extending among them the blessings of civilization, competence, and liberty; those who make these and similar uses of their wealth, and at the same time maintain purity of heart, uprightness of conduct, and a religious character both in public and in private, shall surely enter into the kingdom, and their riches shall not be reckoned unto them for dishonour.
Verse 27: “ Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” Estimated by its intrinsic value, it was little indeed that the Apostles had sacrificed for the cause of the Gospel,- a few nets, and their tackle, and their fishing-boats; yet, that little was everything to them, it comprised their whole property, the only mode
of providing for their maintenance. When the poor give their all, they give as much as the rich do when they give their all. We should estimate such donations by the means of the donor; and accordingly, the poor woman who cast into the treasury two mites, all that she possessed, gave more abundantly than the rich who had contributed enormous sums.
Their Teacher tells his Apostles what shall be the reward of their zeal and disinterestedness: “ Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel." It is the doctrine of the New Testament, that Jesus shall be the Judge both of the quick and the dead. Many Christians adduce this fact as an argument in favour of the Deity of the Master. The inference is not legitimate; for Jesus is to be Judge, not in his own right, not on account of any dignity necessarily belonging to his nature, but simply because such is the will and pleasure of the Father. The Master himself declares, that “the FATHER hath given him authority to execute judgment also;" and elsewhere it is written, that “God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he bath ordained;" and again, “God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.” From these passages,
appears that Jesus would not have been judge, had not God appointed him and given him the requisite authority; and furthermore, that it is not so much Jesus who will judge the world, as God who will judge by him. If the mere fact of judging prove
Jesus to be God, the same fact will prove the twelve Apostles to be Gods, for “they shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” It is also frequently asserted, that to judge the secrets of men requires the possession of omniscience. All the great attributes—eternal and underived existence, omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, belong to the Father only. Yet, the popular belief is, that Jesus must be omniscient, because he is to be the judge, and that God could not communicate to him the knowledge necessary for this office. This objection is well answered by Professor Norton:-“ The knowledge of all thoughts and deeds which have taken place in this world from its creation, would be, compared with omniscience, less than the acquaintance which a child may have with its nursery, compared with the apprehension of an archangel. Would it, then, be an act transcending the power of God, to communicate that knowledge? Could He not give to one man a perfect acquaintance with another? And, if this be possible, is his power still so bounded, that he could not give to one who had been a man, a perfect knowledge of the thoughts and deeds of all other men who have ever lived ?” Forcible as this reply confessedly is, it might have been rendered still more satisfactory, by a reference to the case of the Apostles. They are to judge the twelve tribes of Israel," if omniscience be necessary for Jesus, it must be equally necessary for them. And if God can impart to them the knowledge necessary to qualify them for their offices, he can also impart to Jesus the larger portion of the same knowledge necessary to qualify him for his superior office.
Chapter XX. Verses 1, 2: “ For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into bis vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a-day, he sent them into his vineyard.” This passage affords another proof of the exposition frequently given, that by the 6
kingdom of heaven,” in the New Testament, is generally to be understood the Gospel Dispensation. The manner of God's dealings under this dispensation, is like that of a householder, who went out at various hours of the day—the first, third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours -to hire labourers; and, when the time for payment came, gave to those who had been last called an equal remuneration with those who had wrought all day. The “penny" here mentioned, was a silver coin introduced into circulation by the Romans, and by them called a denarius. Its value was estimated by weight, and it weighed the eighth part of an ounce, which (assuming silver to be worth five shillings an ounce) was equivalent to about sevenpence halfpenny of our money. These wages were not excessively small, for how
of our Irish fellow-countrymen would, at this moment, gladly work for even a smaller sum! About five hundred years ago, one penny per diem was the accustomed price of labour in these kingdoms; but at that time a goose could have been purchased for twopence, and a sheep for sixpence. Thus, when judging of the actual value of wages in ancient times, we should not form our opinion from the number of pence paid to the labourers, but from the quantity of provisions that those pence would purchase.
We must remember, that there was no injustice in the owner or lord of the vineyard paying those whom he called at the eleventh hour, as liberally as those who had been at work since sunrise. He had bargained with them early in the morning for a denarius for their day's labour; and if, at the end of the time, he gave them the denarius, they had been justly dealt with, and had no reason to complain. His money was his own; he had a right to dispose of it as he deemed proper; and if he chose to bestow it on those who had only wrought one hour, or even on those who had not wrought at all, no one should interfere with his distribution of his own property, no one should censure that distribution.
Without pretending to assign a distinct signification to every minute incident which it relates, we can see clearly enough, that this parable was intended to illustrate the conduct of God in his different offers of mercy to mankind. Those who are called first, in the morning of the world's existence, to do the work of the Deity, may be the Ante-diluvians, including Adam and all his successors till the time of the deluge, recorded in the Pentateuch; those who were called at the third hour, may be Noah, his family, and race, to whom was given a new dispensation; those who were called at the sixth hour, may be Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to whom was given the Patriarchal Dispensation; those who were called at the ninth hour, may be the Jews, to whom God gave the Law by Moses; and those called at the eleventh hour, are certainly the Gentiles, to whom the Gospel was proclaimed by Jesus and his Apostles. These different invitations were to the enjoyment of peculiar religious privileges; and those who were last called, partake equal privileges with those who received a previous vocation; in other words, the Gentiles are admitted to as close a relationship with Deity as the Jews formerly possessed. This is signified, by those who were called at the “eleventh” hour receiving equal remuneration with those called at the “ ninth.” The Jews wished to maintain a monopoly of the favour of Heaven, and were excessively dissatisfied that the Gentiles or Heathens should be made partakers of the blessings of the kingdom; hence, in the parable, “ they murmured against the good-man of the house, saying, these last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, who have borne the burden and heat of the day.” The object of this parable is, not only to teach them that the Gentiles shall participate of God's favour, but that the bestowing of kindness on them, is no injustice to the Jews. God offered the Gospel to the Heathen, he offered it to his Ancient People also; and the salvation of the one was evidently no impediment to the equal salvation of the other. Jesus, however, foresaw that his countrymen would reject Christianity, while the neighbouring nations would receive it gladly; and be adds, as much in prophecy as in warning, “ So the last shall be first, and the first last; for many be called, but few chosen." The Gentiles—we, and our forefathers, and our children were “the last” in order of time, who received an invitation to religious honours and privileges; and we are now “first,” because we embraced the Gospel, and live in the enjoyment of its ten thousand blessings. The Jews, who, wben compared with us, were “the first” received into close communion with Jehovah, and “the first” to whom Jesus offered the New Dispensation, are now “the last;" for our privileges are greater than theirs, and they shall ultimately be “the last” to embrace the Christian system. The words, “ for many are called, but few chosen," seem to refer to the ancient Roman mode of recruiting their armies. All the citizens able to serve their country in the field, were summoned