Matthew 21:33. Hear another parable In which you are very nearly concerned, as your own consciences must quickly tell you. In the preceding parable of the two sons, our Lord convicted the Pharisees, the chief priests, and elders, of absolute disobedience to God, their heavenly Father, notwithstanding all their fair speeches and smooth promises: here he rises upon them, and shows them, as in a glass, the high privileges they enjoyed; and their exceeding great ingratitude, that, if possible, he might awaken their souls, and disarm them of the horrid purpose they had already conceived of murdering him, the true heir of the vineyard whereof they were such unfaithful husbandmen. And indeed they must have proceeded to great lengths in iniquity, and have hardened their hearts above measure, who could go on in their black design of destroying Jesus, after he had thus plainly shown them his knowledge of their design, and laid open their devices, and the dreadful consequences thereof to themselves, to the justice of which they had subscribed with their own lips. There was a certain householder Or, master of a family, representing God, the proprietor of all; which planted a vineyard The Jewish Church planted in Canaan, represented also as a vineyard, Isaiah 5:1-4, in a parable on which this of our Lord seems to be founded; see the notes there. There could not be a more natural emblem of the church, or one more familiar and obvious for the prophets and our Lord to use in Judea, than that of a vineyard; as that country abounded with vineyards, and so gave the people constant occasion, by having them always before their eyes, to recollect and apply the spiritual instructions drawn from them. And the comparison was not only obvious, but natural: and the particulars, whereof our Lord and the prophets speak, as they are essential to a vineyard, so do they beautifully correspond to the essential blessings vouchsafed of God to the Jewish Church. 1st, It is necessary that a vineyard should be planted, for vines are not anywhere the natural produce of the soil. Our Lord, therefore, mentions this particular first. 2d, Vines being tender plants, and vineyards subject to the incursions of beasts and enemies, it is necessary they should be enclosed. Therefore it is here observed that this vineyard was hedged round about; namely, by the divine protection, which was as a wall of fire round the Jewish Church and people, whereby he enclosed and defended them from all their enemies. But a hedge is not only for defence, but for the distinction and separation of property; and so God distinguished and separated his church by the fence of circumcision, and the ceremonial law, which were what St. Paul calls the partition wall, which was broken down and taken away in Christ, who yet has appointed a gospel order and discipline to be the hedge round about his church. 3d, A vineyard, being thus planted and fenced, must be provided with a place for the cultivator’s reception and dwelling; and for the gathering in and receiving of the fruit. Accordingly this householder built a tower for the former purpose, and prepared a wine-press for the latter. So God provided for his ancient church a tabernacle first, and then a temple, wherein the cultivators of his vineyard might dwell and watch continually, (for the priests are the Lord’s watchmen,) where also he himself promised to dwell, and give them the tokens of his presence among them, and pleasure in them: and in this temple he set up his holy altar, which, as the wine-press flowed with the blood of the grape, was to flow continually with the blood of the sacrifices, the fruits of their obedience, the testimonies of their faith, and then truly acceptable when offered up in faith of the great Sacrifice, whose blood all the blood shed in sacrifices prefigured, and who was himself trodden in the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. The next clause, And let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country, signifies no more than that God, having established and provided his vineyard with all things necessary to render it fruitful to his praise, committed the care and cultivation of it to the priests and elders, the ecclesiastical and civil rulers, by whose ministry the people were to be instructed and governed, without expecting such extraordinary marks of God’s constant presence and immediate direction as appeared at his forming them into a church.
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