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Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 14 (1899) - Contents
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    Ms 138, 1899

    Parables of the Vineyard


    September 27, 1899 [typed]

    Previously unpublished.

    “What think ye? A certain man had two sons, and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. And he answered and said, I will not; but afterward he repented and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go sir; but went not.” [Matthew 21:28-30.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 1

    Christ left His hearers no chance to doubt who He meant by the two sons. He asked them, “Whether of them twain did the will of his Father? They answered, The first.” Then he said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and ye when ye had seen it, repented not afterward that ye might believe him.” [Verses 31, 32.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 2

    The two sons of this parable represent two great moral divisions, two classes of people. One class is composed of open sinners, who at first are bold and determined in their rebellion. They openly refuse the yoke of restraint and obedience which the law of God imposes. Christ comes to them saying, Go work today in my vineyard. They answer, I will not. But afterward they repent, and obey the call. When the call was first made to the publicans and harlots, it was utterly refused. Conviction was to them a strange thing. But they were drawn to Christ, and through repentance and obedience they united with Him, entering His service.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 3

    The other class is made up of those who profess great piety, who, when God calls to them, promise to obey. But they obey not. In the instruction given in the seventh chapter of Matthew these pretentious hypocrites are described. Christ declares, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” [Verses 21-23.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 4

    “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” [Verses 12-15.] Those who ought to have been working earnestly in Christ’s vineyard, rendering to [Him] the very choicest fruit, were manifesting a spirit which characterized them as ravening wolves.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 5

    Of them God declares, “They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire.” [Micah 3:10, 11.] This condition of things was bringing in falsehood. “Yet will they lean upon the Lord, and say, Is not the Lord among us? none evil can come upon us.” [Verse 11.] The Jewish people were departing farther and farther away from the Word of the Lord. The principles of righteousness and equity were not permitted to bear sway. “Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field,” God declared, “and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountains of the house as the high places of the forest.” [Verse 12.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 6

    In these words is portrayed the destruction which was to come upon Jerusalem because the Jewish people, in spite of their profession, did not bear good fruit. They were workers of iniquity, and persisted in continuing in their evil course. God sent His only begotten Son in human flesh to this earth, to win them back, but they would not hear His voice.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 7

    The Jewish nation was dependent on God for all the blessings and favors they enjoyed. Light and knowledge from heaven was given them. To them had been committed the oracles of God. For them the Lord had wrought marvelously. In return for their exalted privileges and blessings, they were required to bear fruit to God’s glory, showing by their willing service that they realized their dependence and accountability to Him who had granted them such rich opportunities and privileges. They knew the will of their Father, and proudly boasted of their spiritual advantages. In response to the Lord’s invitation, they said, “I go, sir.” [Matthew 21:30.] But they did not intend to go. When they saw the publicans and harlots, who at first had refused, obeying the call, some repented and entered God’s service, but others became as ravening wolves.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 8

    By this parable Christ sought to teach His hearers that truth is not to be selfishly hoarded. Those whom God had entrusted with blessings were to render to Him the fruits of His vineyard in their season—pure, holy service, which would illustrate the sanctification which comes through a belief of the truth.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 9

    The law of which the Israelites boasted so proudly must be carried out in the practical life. Then it can demonstrate its perfection by converting the soul. It proves to be the school master which leads souls to acknowledge Christ as the only remedy for sin. But when in self-righteousness a man is satisfied with his own standard of righteousness, he seeks to escape and evade the yoke of Christ. He does not desire by willing obedience to learn the Saviour’s meekness and lowliness. Cold, proud, loveless, the heart feels need of nothing.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 10

    The experience of the apostle Paul will be the experience of every repentant sinner. He says, “I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, just and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” [Romans 7:9-13.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 11

    “I delight in the law of God after the inward man; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank my God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” [Verses 22-25.] “If ye live after the flesh ye shall die; but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the flesh, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” [Romans 8:13, 14.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 12


    Christ then gave another parable, that of the householder who planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 13

    This vineyard represents the Jewish church, and of it God writes, “The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant.” “In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it I will keep it day and night. Fury is not in me; who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them altogether. ... He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root; Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” [Isaiah 5:7; 27:2-4, 6.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 14

    The vine is very profitable property, yielding rich returns when cared for with painstaking effort; and of the vine which the Lord brought out of Egypt and planted in His vineyard, the Psalmist writes, It filled the whole land. Christ employed every benefit and blessing for the enrichment of the vine which He had planted, that He might receive fruit therefrom. Of His vineyard He says, “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 15

    “My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill, and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein; and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What more could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” [Isaiah 5:1-4.] “I had planted thee a noble vine, wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of a strange vine unto me?” [Jeremiah 2:21.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 16

    In the parable of the vineyard, given by Christ to His disciples just as He was about to be separated from them, He presented the result of abusing privileges and opportunities. The more one receives, the more he is under obligation to return. The Lord gave Israel great theocratic privileges, blessing them graciously from His abundant goodness. He desired to make them a holy people above all nations on the face of the earth. He chose them from among all other people, and made them the children of His covenant. In life and character they were to reveal the principles of His kingdom. The acknowledged people of God, they were to acknowledge the righteousness of God’s ways, rendering to Him willing obedience in return for their rich endowments and spiritual blessings.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 17

    The Israelites had been given wonderful manifestations of the grace and power of God. In their behalf the strength and power of heaven had been revealed. Again and again they were charged to call to mind their deliverance from degrading slavery. To accomplish this deliverance, the Lord desolated the land of Egypt. And as the Israelites, fleeing from Egypt, stood by the Red Sea, walled in by the sea on one side, and by rocky, inaccessible mountains on the other, with Pharaoh’s army pursuing them, God showed Himself their Leader and Deliverer. The thought that Pharaoh and his host were in pursuit filled the minds of the Israelites with a terrible dread. The word, “Go forward,” was spoken, but how could they obey, with the Red Sea before them and Pharaoh’s men of war on their track? [Exodus 14:15.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 18

    The Lord said to Moses, “Lift up thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the sea, and divide it, and the children of Israel shall go over on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” [Verse 16.] The cloud which hitherto had guided the children of Israel came between them and their foes, its bright side turned to the Israelites and its dark side to the Egyptians. To the people of God it was as a wall of fire, to their foes as a cloud of sackcloth.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 19

    The waters of the Red Sea parted, and the whole congregation of Israelites, with their cattle and the strangers who had left Egypt with them, went over in safety. The mighty army of Egypt, following the path of God’s providence, was utterly destroyed.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 20

    As the children of Israel journeyed through the wilderness, God worked constantly in their behalf. He fed them with bread from heaven and with water from the flinty rock. “They drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” [1 Corinthians 10:4.] By His power God brought them into Canaan, and delivered Jericho into their hands. These miracles they were to remember all the days of their life as monuments of God’s care and mercy for them.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 21

    The Israelites had seen the working of God’s power, and had enjoyed advantages and privileges which they knew no one but God could give them. This made their responsibility greater than that of any other people. As they received a knowledge of God’s goodness, they were made accountable, as chosen and precious in His sight, to gladly render Him the service which He sought. By living holy lives, by steadfast loyalty, by giving tithes and offerings, by cheerful, devoted service, they were to acknowledge His sovereignty and testify that in spirit, word, and character, they were made better by the favors bestowed on them. These were the fruits the Lord desired His people to render to Him in return for His goodness to them.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 22

    God made Zion His holy habitation, the joy of the whole earth. But notwithstanding His goodness to [them], they forgot Him, and wandered into idolatry. Before their dispersion the warning came to them, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and show mercy, and compassion every man to his brother; and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.” [Zechariah 7:9, 10.] These words are just as surely spoken to us as to God’s people of that time.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 23

    How did the Jews treat God’s message? “They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets; therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.” [Verses 11, 12.] If men refuse to receive the admonitions of the Lord, if they persist in walking contrary to His instruction, He cannot deliver them from the sure consequences of their actions.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 24

    They place themselves in such opposition to His purposes and heaven’s principles that He permits their enemies to have power over them and to humble them. “Therefore it came to pass that as he cried, and they would not hear, so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts; but I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned; for they laid the pleasant land desolate.” [Verses 13, 14.] This was the result of men following their own unsanctified, unsubdued way.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 25

    God permitted Israel to be humbled by idolatrous nations. Mark Daniel’s sorrow and humiliation as he searched out when the seventy years of Jerusalem’s desolation were to be accomplished. He declares, “I Daniel understood by books the number of years whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that the Lord would accomplish seventy years in the destruction of Jerusalem. And I set my face unto the Lord, to seek by prayer and supplication, with fasting and sackcloth, and ashes; and I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments: We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 26

    “Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets, which spake in thy name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. ... Yea, all Israel have transgressed thy law, even by departing, that they might not obey thy voice; therefore thy curse is poured upon us, and the oath that is written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, because we have sinned against him. ... O Lord, according to all thy righteousness, I beseech thee, let thine anger and thy fury be turned away from thy city Jerusalem, thy holy mountain; because for our sins and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and all thy people are become a reproach to all that are about us.” [Daniel 9:2-6, 11, 16.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 27

    “O my God, incline thine ear, and hear; open thine eyes, and behold our desolations, and the city which is called by thy name; for we do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousness, but for thy great mercies. O Lord, hear; O Lord, hearken and do; defer not, for thine own sake, O Lord my God; for thy city and thy people are called by thy name.” [Verses 18, 19.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 28

    The spirit of intercession was upon Daniel, and he laid hold of the throne of infinite power, praying earnestly for the restoration of Jerusalem. All heaven was interested in his supplication, and before his prayer was finished, a messenger from the heavenly courts was sent to him. He says, “Yea, whiles I was speaking in prayer, even the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation. And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding.” [Verses 21, 22.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 29

    “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people, and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and [to] build Jerusalem, unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and three score and two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.” [Verses 24, 25.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 30

    Daniel pleaded for the honor of God to be preserved. His prayer was heard, and once more the Lord had mercy upon His rebellious people. Once more He took them into favor, and a second temple was built. Jerusalem was given another probation.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 31

    We read, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy; and I was jealous for her with great fury. ... I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain. ... There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 32

    “And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. ... And it shall come to pass that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah and the house of Israel, so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing; fear not, but let your hands be strong. ... As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, ... and I repented not, so again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem,” and I repented not. [Zechariah 8:2-5, 13-15.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 33

    Thus Israel has been tested, tried, and cared for by the Lord. But they failed to fulfill His purposes for them. God longed to continue to bless His people, but selfishness took possession of the temple courts. With prophetic eye Daniel looked down the ages and saw how the Jews would refuse to humble themselves.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 34

    When the time of the fruit drew near, God sent his servants, that they might receive the fruit of his vineyard. [See Matthew 21:34.] God’s delegated servants, the prophets, were sent for this fruit. At different periods in the history of Israel, these were sent to the people in the name of Jehovah. Messenger after messenger was sent to them with words of warning, reproof, and entreaty. How were they treated?—“The husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants more than the first; and they did unto them likewise.” [Verses 35, 36.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 35

    “Last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” [Verses 37-39.] Christ came to His own vineyard seeking fruit. He came to tell the people of the love of God, but they rejected His message, and crucified Him.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 36

    As Christ stood upon the mount of Olives and looked upon the doomed city, He could not control His emotion. With weeping He exclaimed, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” [Matthew 23:37.] Christ’s tears on this occasion were shed for the impenitent of all time. His sorrow embraced the world.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 37

    As the Saviour looked down upon Jerusalem, the scene of her destruction passed before Him. He thought of the privileges which had been hers. To the Jewish people God had given heaven’s best gift. For three years Christ had been giving them the invitation to the gospel feast. Now, with pale and quivering lips He laments over Israel, the son of His care. With a strong and mighty arm He had brought them out of Egypt, leading them through the vast wilderness; and sorrow filled His heart as He said, “If thou hadst known, even thou at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!” [Luke 19:42.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 38

    Then He paused. Must He pronounce the irrevocable sentence? He hesitates. The sun is shining in its evening glory upon Jerusalem, lighting up the beauty of her temple. Christ knew that when that sun should go down behind the hills, Jerusalem’s day of mercy and reprieve would be forever ended. And as the last rays of the setting sun were eclipsed by the mountains about the city, the words of doom were spoken, “But now they are hid from thine eyes.” [Verse 42.] In refusing to believe in Jesus the Jewish people closed the door of hope against themselves.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 39

    “When therefore the Lord of the vineyard cometh,” Christ asked, “What will he do unto those husbandmen?” [Matthew 21:40.] So carried away by the narrative were Christ’s hearers that they gave a decided testimony against themselves. “He will utterly destroy those wicked men,” they said, “and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season.” [Verse 41.] “Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scripture, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner; this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” [Verses 42, 43.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 40

    Christ identified the Jewish people with the unfaithful husbandmen. His application did not apply merely to the teachers and leaders, but to the nation as a whole. To the whole nation had the living oracles of God been committed. To them the will of God had been plainly specified; and they were promised prosperity on condition that they showed their fidelity to God by returning to Him the portion He required. But they failed to keep the law of God. God had filled their cup with unmerited blessings, but in return they treated His messengers with violence and cruelty. God’s servants suffered persecution and death at their hands. Thus they broadened their iniquity, and loaded the cloud of retributive justice which was to burst upon them.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 41

    In giving the parable of the two sons and the unfaithful husbandmen, Christ had in mind the whole world. He saw that there would be two parties, one of which would take hold of the truth, and work together with God, while the other would stand in stubborn resistance, reaching at last the place occupied in the parable by the unfaithful husbandmen. “Have ye never read in the scriptures,” Christ said, “The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? ... Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken, but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” [Verses 42, 44.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 42


    Today Christ sows good seed in the hearts of men. There is need of sunshine and shower, summer and winter, dew, frost, and wind, that the tender plant may develop and bear fruit. All who receive the word into good and honest hearts will reap if they faint not. The formation of Christian character is brought about by the grace of Christ.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 43

    The message was given to John the Baptist to proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” [Matthew 3:2.] Acknowledged and received, this message would be a powerful manifestation on earth of the heavenly kingdom. Christ was soon to begin His mission as the Sent of God, teaching in the temple and in the highways and hedges, proclaiming the truth by parables, by tears of sympathy, by restoring the sick to health. The Saviour went about doing good, and His practical work was a continual lesson to the disciples. The contrast between His teaching and the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees was great. As the people listened to His words, they testified to the effect of His teaching by saying, “Never man spake like this man.” [John 7:46.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 44

    Christ blended His teaching with physical toil, walking from place to place, and instructing as He walked. He had neither horse, carriage, nor bicycle, which are so much used today.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 45

    The night seasons of prayer, which the Saviour spent in the mountain or in the desert, were essential to prepare Him for the trials He must meet in the days to follow. It was as necessary for Christ to pray as it is for His disciples. He felt the need of the refreshing and invigorating of soul and body, that He might meet the temptations of Satan; and those who are striving to live His life will feel this same need.14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 46

    Christ has given His disciples assurance that special seasons for devotion are necessary. Strength for the performance of daily duties is derived from worshiping God in the beauty of holiness. Prayer went before and sanctified every act of His life and ministry. He communed with His Father till the close of His life, when there rose from His lips the bitter cry, caused by the agony brought upon Him by the sins of the world, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Then in a voice which has reached to the very ends of the earth He exclaimed, “It is finished,” “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” [John 19:30; Luke 23:46.]14LtMs, Ms 138, 1899, par. 47

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