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compare its circumstances with the characters and situations of the parties to whom it was addressed. And while we thus endeavour to elicit its true intent, it will be necessary also to bear in mind that great fundamental truth, that “God is no respecter of persons“;" that the means of grace and the hope of glory are not arbitrarily dispensed or withholden, so as to make men responsible for what they have not, or free from responsibility for what they have ; but that, in all the Divine dealings with mankind, just regard will ever be had to their respective circumstances and conditions ; so that none shall hereafter have reason to complain of the retribution that awaits them. These are truths so continually inculcated in holy writ, that no portion of its sacred word can be rightly applied, without reference to them as the standard by which its meaning is to be determined.

To begin then with the occasion which led to this remarkable discourse.

Our Lord's disciples during his ministry on earth appear to have been strongly tinctured with the prejudices of their fellowcountrymen respecting the nature of the Messiah's kingdom; and were with difficulty

a Acts x. 34.

brought to bear any intimations that it was “ not of this world.” Even the chosen Twelve, who constantly attended on his ministry and possessed his especial confidence, entertained a persuasion that, in consideration of these privileges, they might lay claim to higher marks of future distinction than others who embraced the Gospel ; and that having devoted themselves entirely to his service, they should not fail of obtaining some extraordinary recompense for their fidelity and zeal.

A remarkable conversation to this effect is recorded in the preceding chapter. Our Lord had taken occasion, from the conduct of a young man who relinquished the intention of becoming his disciple through fear of losing his worldly possessions, to observe how difficult it was for men of great worldly substance to submit to the hardships and privations which were likely to result from embracing the profession of the Gospel. The disciples being astonished and perplexed at this observation, Peter seized the opportunity to magnify his own disinterestedness, and that of the other Apostles, in following Jesus; and to intimate their expectation of a proportionate reward :—“ Behold, we have “ forsaken all, and followed Thee; what

“ shall we have therefore b?” Our Lord assures them that their reward should be great and excellent.“ Verily, I say unto you, That

ye which have followed me, in the regene6 ration when the Son of Man shall sit in the " throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon “ twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes “ of Israel.” This promise appears to have reference to the government of the Christian church, which was afterwards more solemnly vested in the Apostles by our Lord himself before his ascension, and was subsequently confirmed to them by the miraculous effusion of the Holy Spirit. This was to be their special recompense. But lest they should infer from this that a greater measure of the Divine favour would finally be bestowed

them than


other faithful disciples, he adds, “ And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or

father, or mother, or wife, or children, or

lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an “ hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting “ life.” To this, however, he subjoins a caution, needful to all who might be inclined to presume upon any extraordinary privileges vouchsafed to them ;—“but many that are “ first shall be last; and the last shall be

b Matth. xix. 27, 28, 29, 30.



“ first.” The high prerogative of being called to the apostolic office brought with it a weight of awful responsibility. If it placed them above others with respect to the importance of their charge; still it was not to supersede the claims of those who, with equal real and fidelity, were ready to discharge the duties of their respective stations, however inferior in magnitude and import

Great also as the advantage unquestionably was, of being personally attendant upon our Lord's ministry, and among the first who were called and invited by him to enter into his fold, or to exercise pastoral authority over it; yet even among these might be many who would forfeit their claims to preeminence, and ultimately be cast out as faithless and unprofitable servants: while the last and lowest in these respects, persons admitted in later ages into the bosom of the church, under no such favourable auspices, nor holding any distinguished station in its ministry, might so diligently and faithfully acquit themselves of their Christian calling, as to outstrip their competitors in the race, and obtain the prize which the others had deservedly lost.


In illustration of the saying, “ Many that " are first shall be last, and the last shall be

“ first,” our Lord delivers this parable :“ The kingdom of heaven is like unto a man “ that is an householder, which went out

early in the morning to hire labourers into

his vineyard. And when he had agreed “ with the labourers for a penny a day, he “ sent them into his vineyard. And he went “ out about the third hour, and saw others “ standing idle in the market-place, and said “ unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, “ and whatsoever is right I will give you. “ And they went their way. Again he went “ out about the sixth and ninth hour, and “ did likewise. And about the eleventh hour “ he went out, and found others standing “ idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye “ here all the day idle? They say unto him, “ Because no man hath hired us. He saith “ unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; “ and whatsoever is right, that shall ye re“ ceive. 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 that were hired about the

eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they sup

posed that they should have received more: “ and they likewise received every man a


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