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DELIVERED BY THE REV. R. ROBINSON,
AT THE COLLEGIATE CHURCH, WOLVERHAMPTON, ON SUNDAY, MARCH 27, 1831.
Matthew, xxi. 29.-" He answered and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented, and went."
WHOEVER attentively peruses the book of God's holy word, and accurately investigates the thoughts of his own mind, can never be at a loss to discover that the "carnal mind is at enmity with GOD," and that the "human heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked." Through the whole and unbroken chain of Scripture history, from the expulsion of Adam and Eve out of the garden of Paradise, down through the long and countless ages of prophecy, to the appearance of Christ and his Apostles, one uniform spirit of rebellion seems to have pervaded the whole human race. The lives even of patriarchs and of prophets, of those who are peculiarly described as the servants of GOD and the favourites of the Most High, are stained with blemishes, and exhibit to our view the evident traces of inherited sin. The transgression of Adam descended to all his posterity, and the polluted waters of sin had deluged and corrupted the whole earth, bringing down upon a degenerate world the wrath and vengeance of an insulted GOD. The mists of ignorance and superstition enveloped the land, and the sin of rebellion was stamped in legible characters on the countenance of apostate man. In the midst of doubts and perplexities-in the awful upbraidings of a guilty conscience, and the alarming consideration of a lost and desperate and helpless statein the thought of the utter impossibility of escaping eternal punishment, and of appeasing the wrath of Jeho
| vah, the dawning of the Gospel dispensation, the glorious appearance of salvation, and of reconciliation between man and his offended GOD, burst upon a benighted world. The long foretold blessings of redemption, and the hallowed visions of prophecy were realised in all their fulness, and exhibited in all their power. The boundless love of God to sinful man shone out in meridian splendour, and the offering of his only begotten Son, the immense price of the soul's redemption filled all the courts of heaven with admiration, and carried into the recesses of hell the feeling of wonder and astonishment. The laws of the eternal GOD had been wantonly broken, his ordinances violated, and himself despised and set at nought, when as the last grand resource of reclaiming a disobedient and sin-loving people, and that the issues of eternal life or eternal death might for ever depend upon it, he sent forth the Son of his love "that whosoever should believe on him might not perish, but have everlasting life." Thus, then, was the Saviour of the world earnestly and mercifully occupied in the performance of his stupendous mission, and actively engaged in the salvation of souls, by drawing the attention of the human mind to the Gospel dispensation, when he addressed the words of my text to those who surrounded him.
With these preliminary remarks, I shall now proceed to point out, so far as I am able, the meaning and the vast importance of this portion of Holy Writ.
The evident intention of all the parables of Christ was to illustrate in a way familiar to the understandings of his hearers the doctrine which he taught, the duties and precepts which were to be practised, and the grand and allimportant object of the Gospel dispensation. And in the parable now under consideration, the blessed Redeemer produces to the chief priests and elders a doctrine of a novel and peculiar character, when he holds out to the vilest of sinners, who repented and believed at the preaching of the Baptist, acceptance with GOD, and lightly regards the conduct of those who honour GOD with their lips, whilst their hearts are far from him." The whole scope and design of these words of Christ is, to point out to mankind the nature and efficacy of the Gospel dispensation; to exhibit to their view the vast importance and distinction between vital and outward religion between the religion of the heart and the mere profession of it.
"A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, Son, go work to-day in my vineyard: he answered and said, I will not; but afterwards he repented, and went. And he came to the second and said likewise; and he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not."
Under the beautiful emblem of a man and his two sons, our blessed Lord represents the great Father of the universe, and the creatures of his own hands-the whole human race. Almighty is here described as paternally interested in the glorious work of the blessed Gospel, and wishful above all things for the salvation of all his children. He desires them to commence in the important business of the soul's welfare-to cultivate the truths of religion to root out the destructive habits of sin, and to cherish and encourage in the human mind the growth
of that piety which may bring forth the fruits of righteousness. We find even in the prophetic times, in the writings of Isaiah, that the same earnest desire for the happiness of his creatures-the same excessive love to the souls of his people, dwelt in the great and eternal GoD who inhabiteth eternity. hear him, in the fifth chapter of the book of the evangelical prophet, affectionately expostulating with them on the neglect of the means of grace and opportunities which they possessed, and pointing out to them the dignified situation in which they were placed, and the interest he had taken for their happiness :-"What could have been done more 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?"
By the two sons mentioned in the parable, our Saviour evidently wishes to represent two different and distinct classes of people who lived in those days, and which are by no means uncommon in the present generation. The former of these, as described by Christ, are they who have been totally indifferent about their immortal souls, reckless of a future state, and who have desperately plunged into almost every vice, and deeply stained themselves with crime. Nevertheless, on the preaching and ministry of John the Baptist-when the glad tidings of salvation by the Gospel sounded in their ears when an admission into the heavenly Jerusalem, and an inheritance among the saints in light was proclaimed "by a new and more perfect way," these repented, and joyfully embraced the Gospel terms.
And, again, the other class of persons are the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the self-righteous, who were scrupulously exact in all the outward forms and ordinances of religion-who punctually and rigidly observed the
rites and ceremonies of the Jewish | should come to repentance." He still church, but who neglected "the waits that you may be saved. He still weightier matters of the law-judg-longs for your salvation. He still exment, mercy, and faith." To the un- horts you to work in his vineyard. derstandings of these was the voice of the Baptist likewise directed. In vain did he warn them to flee from the wrath to come; in vain did he unfurl the banner of reconciliation between GOD and man; in vain did he call their attention to the long-wished-for coming of the Messiah, and declare unto them the glorious plan of Gospel redemption. Blind to their eternal interests, and clinging to the law and the prophetsproud in their self-righteousness, and boasting in their paltry deeds of alms, they spurned the Lord of glory-disdained the covenant of mercy, and, therefore (they are the words of Christ himself), "the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before them."
How comes it to pass, when a neglect of this all-important work-when a refusal to comply with this earnest entreaty is dangerous to the soul's eternal welfare-how comes it to pass, that many who acknowledge the necessity of the work, promise to "go, yet go not." There seems to be a charm in the world that lulls to sleep the thoughts of heaven and heavenly things;—there seems to be a mighty invisible power actively engaged in deadly and deep-rooted enmity against the souls of men, and leading them on, in secret defiance against the power of GOD, to eternal destruction. The soul even sleeps on the very brink of ruin. The latent flame of religion that burns dimly in the recesses of the human heart, is often quenched by the world, and the power of the Prince of the World. Oh! my hearers, it is the world, and nothing but the worldthe power of the world—the influence of the world—the occupations of the world, that chain down the soul in a base and servile subjection to time and the things of time :-that for ever clog and impede its progress to the vineyard of the Lord-that for ever induces it to postpone the only work of importance to itself. It is the world that would bury religion, that would keep man from his Maker, and while it persuades him to defer the work of spiritual reformation, would destroy him in endless perdition. The business of the world is followed with breathless anxiety-its occupations engage every nerve and stretch every sinewits cares and perplexities are encountered and surmounted, and there seems to be but one work neglected and disregarded, and that work is religion's work. You see men toiling in their
To all of us, my hearers, as well as to those to whom it was originally spoken, is this parable of our Lord addressed for our individual benefit and instruction. Often and repeatedly to every one, in this congregation, has the Holy Spirit of GoD, in accents of love and mercy for your souls, entreated you to come to the Lord Jesus Christ-to enter into the vineyard of the Lord of Hosts, the Gospel dispensation, and to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." And is there one amongst you all so desperately insensible to his own fallen state-so alarmingly blind to the weakness and corruption of the human mind, as to see no efficacy in a saving hand -to feel no necessity of a redeeming power? The obnoxious guilt of man daily and hourly calls down upon us the direful vengeance of a consuming GOD. We all are debtors to a fearful amount and yet the Lord GOD is gracious and merciful, and "not will.. ing that any should perish, but that all
"that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son," that you might have the means of salvation through him?
daily avocations-following their temporal pursuits-bustling on this mortal stage of existence with an energy that surprises, and a perseverance that astonishes: there is no loitering here -there is no postponing here; and yet when requested to come to Christ only that they may have life, they hesitate, they falter, they turn away.
There is something very remarkable in the positive denial of the young man mentioned in my text, to his father's wish and injunction, and that he should afterwards repent and go. Yet in thus retracting his harsh refusal he was only advancing his own interest, and performing a known duty. And it is your interest, no less temporal than eternal, no matter what may be your condition -no matter how you may have rejected the offered mercy—it is your interest to embrace the terms of salvation, and to lay hold on eternal life. It is your duty-since God Almighty has graciously condescended to be called the Father of such an unworthy creature as man-it is your duty to obey his paternal will. In the book of the prophet Malachi he is heard complaining of the disobedience of Israel:-"A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master; if, then, I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?" If there be any in this place of worship who have from time to time refused to accept and attend to the calls of the Gospel, and who still persist in such a refusal, I would ask, where is your gratitude? Is it nothing to you that the Son of God left his Father's kingdom, came into this lower world and tabernacled among men-that he lived a life of poverty and affliction—that he died upon the cross that he might redeem you and all mankind from the punishment and penalty of sin:-I ask, is it nothing to you that the sufferings, the afflictions, and the death of Christ, brought redemption to a lost world?
Again, I would ask, where is your wisdom in such a refusal? That all have sinned is a truth which none can deny, and that every sabbath you come within these walls you not only confess that this is the case, but you acknowledge yourselves to be miserable sinners; and knowing, moreover, that it is declared in the Book of GOD that "the soul that sinneth it shall die," where is your wisdom in rejecting the Gospel of him who "put away sin by the sacrifice of himself?" The captive pining away in solitude and confinement would rejoice in being delivered from bondage and oppression. The prisoner long immured within the walls of his cell, would hail with joy the author of his ransom and deliverance, and would bless the hand that led him forth to liberty and light. It is only the ransom of the soul—it is only a rescue from sin by the glad tidings of salvation, that is treated in a light and indifferent manner that is often noticed as a matter of little moment, when yet it is the deliverance of the soul from the penalty of sin, and the opening to the eye of despondency the vast and unsearchable riches of the kingdom of heaven.
The time is fast approaching when the opportunities we now enjoy of engaging in the service of GOD and our own souls must draw to a close. Many a day of grace has set in darkness. The time, comparatively speaking, is short betwixt us all and eternity; and yet, knowing, as we do, the shortness of life, the uncertainty of life, and the awful consequence of being deprived of life in an unprepared state, surely it is madness-it is worse than madness— still to persist in the neglect of the work of the Gospel, and to live in utter carelessness about the final salvation of our souls! Under circumstances so alarming,
and in the commencement of a work of such infinite importance, the loss of a day, or even an hour, may seal your doom through the long and countless ages of eternity: before another day may come your eyes may be shut in the darkness of the tomb, where the angel of repentance never enters, "for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goest."
Oh, then, my hearers, estimate the worth-bring home to the conviction of your inmost thoughts the vast importance of that Gospel which a gracious Redeemer wishes to establish in the hearts of men-view it in its origin -view it in its progress-view it in its design, and view it in its blessed effects. See a world wrapt in impenetrable darkness and shrouded in the shadow of eternal death; see victim after victim offered up, in soul-agonizing barbarity, on the shrine of ignorance and superstition to "the unknown GOD." Behold in the far distant horizon the faintly and weakly glimmering of a strange and unusual light-it is the gospel-star-it is "the day-spring from on high;" it comes upon the world the harbinger of peace, and in its progress it gathers lustre upon lustre, till it drive from the earth the darkness in which it was enveloped-till it ride triumphantly in its heavenly course, scattering and imparting to a joyless land the rays of light and life. It pours upon the wilderness its resplendent beams, and it flourishes as Eden-it penetrates with its rays the recesses of
the lonely desert, and it springs up as the garden of God. It tracks its way in the vaulted sky, upborne by mercy and truth, and while it showers down peace upon earth it echoes to the courts of heaven the voice of praise and thanksgiving. It rolls along in its appointed path, and draws, with a power as wondrous and invisible as that of the magnet, rebellious man to his insulted GOD: it unbars the gates of heaven, and shews to the eye of faith the glory of GoD and the blessings of eternity. It illumines the monarch's throne, and encircles the head of royalty with a diadem studded with the richest gems, while it points to a crown incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away. It visits the sequestered ground, and enters the lonely cot, and throws upon the poor and humble occupant the mantle of love and joy, of faith and hope. Oh! hail, then, this heavenly luminary, prize it as the best, as the most inestimable boon of God to Welcome it as a pearl of great price. Treasure it up in your hearts as your glorious deliverer from sin and Satan. Bring down the proud and stubborn mind in subjection to the Gospel of Christ. "Look unto" the blessed Redeemer, "and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;" and may God grant that every individual in this congregation may be received into the mansions of glory-that every voice may be tuned to the everlasting praise of God and the Lamb, and that the whole world may I see the salvation of our GOD."
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