Christ's Object Lessons
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 23: The Lord's Vineyard
Based on Matt. 21:33-44
The Jewish Nation
The parable of the two sons was followed by the
parable of the vineyard. In the one, Christ had set before
the Jewish teachers the importance of obedience. In the
other, He pointed to the rich blessings bestowed upon
Israel, and in these showed God's claim to their obedience.
He set before them the glory of God's purpose, which
through obedience they might have fulfilled. Withdrawing
the veil from the future, He showed how, by failure to
fulfill His purpose, the whole nation was forfeiting His
blessing, and bringing ruin upon itself.
|The Parable of the Vineyard.—Davis Collection.|
"There was a certain householder," Christ said, "which
planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged
a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to
husbandmen, and went into a far country."
A description of this vineyard is given by the prophet
Isaiah: "Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my
beloved touching His vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a [p. 285] 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." Isa. 5:1, 2.
The husbandman chooses a piece of land from the
wilderness; he fences, clears, and tills it, and plants it with
choice vines, expecting a rich harvest. This plot of ground,
in its superiority to the uncultivated waste, he expects to do
him honor by showing the results of his care and toil in its
cultivation. So God had chosen a people from the world
to be trained and educated by Christ. The prophet says,
"The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah His pleasant plant." Isa. 5:7. Upon
this people God had bestowed great privileges, blessing
them richly from His abundant goodness. He looked for
them to honor Him by yielding fruit. They were to reveal
the principles of His kingdom. In the midst of a fallen,
wicked world they were to represent the character of God.
As the Lord's vineyard they were to produce fruit
altogether different from that of the heathen nations.
These idolatrous peoples had given themselves up to work
wickedness. Violence and crime, greed, oppression, and the
most corrupt practices, were indulged without restraint.
Iniquity, degradation, and misery were the fruits of the
corrupt tree. In marked contrast was to be the fruit borne
on the vine of God's planting.
It was the privilege of the Jewish nation to represent
the character of God as it had been revealed to Moses. In
answer to the prayer of Moses, "Show me Thy glory,"
the Lord promised, "I will make all My goodness pass
before thee." Ex. 33:18, 19. "And the Lord passed by
before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, [p. 286] merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in
goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving
iniquity and transgression and sin." Ex. 34:6, 7. This was
the fruit that God desired from His people. In the purity
of their characters, in the holiness of their lives, in their
mercy and loving-kindness and compassion, they were to
show that "the law of the Lord is perfect, converting
the soul." Ps. 19:7.
Through the Jewish nation it was God's purpose to
impart rich blessings to all peoples. Through Israel the
way was to be prepared for the diffusion of His light to
the whole world. The nations of the world, through
following corrupt practices, had lost the knowledge of God.
Yet in His mercy God did not blot them out of existence.
He purposed to give them opportunity for becoming
acquainted with Him through His church. He designed that
the principles revealed through His people should be the
means of restoring the moral image of God in man.
It was for the accomplishment of this purpose that God
called Abraham out from his idolatrous kindred and bade
him dwell in the land of Canaan. "I will make of thee a
great nation," He said, "and I will bless thee, and make
thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing." Gen. 12:2.
The descendants of Abraham, Jacob and his posterity,
were brought down to Egypt that in the midst of that great
and wicked nation they might reveal the principles of God's
kingdom. The integrity of Joseph and his wonderful work
in preserving the lives of the whole Egyptian people were a
representation of the life of Christ. Moses and many others
were witnesses for God.
In bringing forth Israel from Egypt, the Lord again
manifested His power and His mercy. His wonderful
works in their deliverance from bondage and His dealings
with them in their travels through the wilderness were not [p. 287] for their benefit alone. These were to be as an object
lesson to the surrounding nations. The Lord revealed Himself
as a God above all human authority and greatness.
The signs and wonders He wrought in behalf of His people
showed His power over nature and over the greatest of
those who worshiped nature. God went through the proud
land of Egypt as He will go through the earth in the last
days. With fire and tempest, earthquake and death, the
great I AM redeemed His people. He took them out of
the land of bondage. He led them through the "great and
terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and
scorpions, and drought." Deut. 8:15. He brought them forth
water out of "the rock and flint," and fed them with "the
corn of heaven." Ps. 78:24. "For," said Moses, "the Lord's
portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance.
He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling
wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept
him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirreth up her
nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings,
taketh them, beareth them on her wings: so the Lord alone
did lead him, and there was no strange god with him."
Deut. 32:9-12. Thus He brought them unto Himself, that
they might dwell as under the shadow of the Most High.
Christ was the leader of the children of Israel in their
wilderness wanderings. Enshrouded in the pillar of cloud
by day and the pillar of fire by night, He led and guided
them. He preserved them from the perils of the wilderness,
He brought them into the land of promise, and in the sight
of all the nations that acknowledged not God He established
Israel as His own chosen possession, the Lord's vineyard.
To this people were committed the oracles of God.
They were hedged about by the precepts of His law, the
everlasting principles of truth, justice, and purity. Obedience
to these principles was to be their protection, for it [p. 288] would save them from destroying themselves by sinful
practices. And as the tower in the vineyard, God placed in
the midst of the land His holy temple.
Christ was their instructor. As He had been with them
in the wilderness, so He was still to be their teacher and
guide. In the tabernacle and the temple His glory dwelt
in the holy shekinah above the mercy seat. In their behalf
He constantly manifested the riches of His love and
God desired to make of His people Israel a praise and
a glory. Every spiritual advantage was given them. God
withheld from them nothing favorable to the formation of
character that would make them representatives of Himself.
Their obedience to the law of God would make them
marvels of prosperity before the nations of the world. He
who could give them wisdom and skill in all cunning work
would continue to be their teacher, and would ennoble and
elevate them through obedience to His laws. If obedient,
they would be preserved from the diseases that afflicted
other nations, and would be blessed with vigor of intellect.
The glory of God, His majesty and power, were to be
revealed in all their prosperity. They were to be a kingdom
of priests and princes. God furnished them with every
facility for becoming the greatest nation on the earth.
In the most definite manner Christ through Moses had
set before them God's purpose, and had made plain the
terms of their prosperity. "Thou art an holy people unto
the Lord thy God," He said; "the Lord thy God hath
chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all
people that are upon the face of the earth. . . . Know
therefore that the Lord thy God, He is God, the faithful
God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love
Him and keep His commandments to a thousand generations.
. . . Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, [p. 289] and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee
this day, to do them. Wherefore it shall come to pass, if
ye hearken to these judgments, and keep, and do them, that
the Lord thy God shall keep unto thee the covenant and
the mercy which He sware unto thy fathers; and He will
love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: He will also
bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land, thy
corn, and thy wine, and thine oil, the increase of thy kine,
and the flocks of thy sheep, in the land which He sware
unto thy fathers to give thee. Thou shalt be blessed above
all people. . . . And the Lord will take away from thee
all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of
Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee." Deut. 7:6, 9, 11-15.
If they would keep His commandments, God promised
to give them the finest of the wheat, and bring them honey
out of the rock. With long life would He satisfy them,
and show them His salvation.
Through disobedience to God, Adam and Eve had lost
Eden, and because of sin the whole earth was cursed. But
if God's people followed His instruction, their land would
be restored to fertility and beauty. God Himself gave them
directions in regard to the culture of the soil, and they were
to co-operate with Him in its restoration. Thus the whole
land, under God's control, would become an object lesson of
spiritual truth. As in obedience to His natural laws the
earth should produce its treasures, so in obedience to His
moral law the hearts of the people were to reflect the
attributes of His character. Even the heathen would recognize
the superiority of those who served and worshiped the
"Behold," said Moses, "I have taught you statutes and
judgments, even as the Lord my God commanded me, that
ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and [p. 290] your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall
hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is
a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there
so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our
God is in all things that we call upon Him for? And what
nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so
righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?"
The children of Israel were to occupy all the territory
which God appointed them. Those nations that rejected the
worship and service of the true God were to be dispossessed.
But it was God's purpose that by the revelation of
His character through Israel men should be drawn unto
Him. To all the world the gospel invitation was to be
given. Through the teaching of the sacrificial service
Christ was to be uplifted before the nations, and all who
would look unto Him should live. All who, like Rahab the
Canaanite, and Ruth the Moabitess, turned from idolatry
to the worship of the true God, were to unite themselves
with His chosen people. As the numbers of Israel
increased they were to enlarge their borders, until their
kingdom should embrace the world.
God desired to bring all peoples under His merciful
rule. He desired that the earth should be filled with joy and
peace. He created man for happiness, and He longs to fill
human hearts with the peace of heaven. He desires that the
families below shall be a symbol of the great family above.
But Israel did not fulfill God's purpose. The Lord
declared, "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?" Jer. 2:21. "Israel is an empty
vine, he bringeth forth fruit unto himself." Hosea 10:1.
"And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah,
judge, I pray you, betwixt Me and My vineyard. What
could have been done more to My vineyard, that I have not [p. 291] done in it? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring
forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go
to; I will tell you what I will do to My vineyard: I will
take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and
break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:
and I will lay it waste; it shall not be pruned nor digged;
but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also
command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it. For . . .
He looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for
righteousness, but behold a cry." Isa. 5:3-7.
The Lord had through Moses set before His people the
result of unfaithfulness. By refusing to keep His covenant,
they would cut themselves off from the life of God, and His
blessing could not come upon them. "Beware," said Moses,
"that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping His
commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which
I command thee this day: lest when thou hast eaten and art
full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and
when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver
and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is
multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget
the Lord thy God. . . . And thou say in thine heart, My power
and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. . . .
And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God,
and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship
them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely
perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before
your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be
obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God." Deut.
8:11-14, 17, 19, 20.
The warning was not heeded by the Jewish people.
They forgot God, and lost sight of their high privilege as
His representatives. The blessings they had received
brought no blessing to the world. All their advantages
were appropriated for their own glorification. They robbed [p. 292] God of the service He required of them, and they robbed
their fellow men of religious guidance and a holy example.
Like the inhabitants of the antediluvian world, they
followed out every imagination of their evil hearts. Thus they
made sacred things appear a farce, saying, "The temple of
the Lord, the temple of the Lord, are these" (Jer. 7:4),
while at the same time they were misrepresenting God's
character, dishonoring His name, and polluting His
The husbandmen who had been placed in charge of the
Lord's vineyard were untrue to their trust. The priests and
teachers were not faithful instructors of the people. They
did not keep before them the goodness and mercy of God
and His claim to their love and service. These husbandmen
sought their own glory. They desired to appropriate the
fruits of the vineyard. It was their study to attract attention
and homage to themselves.
The guilt of these leaders in Israel was not like the guilt
of the ordinary sinner. These men stood under the most
solemn obligation to God. They had pledged themselves to
teach a "Thus saith the Lord" and to bring strict obedience
into their practical life. Instead of doing this they were
perverting the Scriptures. They laid heavy burdens upon
men, enforcing ceremonies that reached to every step in life.
The people lived in continual unrest, for they could not
fulfill the requirements laid down by the rabbis. As they
saw the impossibility of keeping man-made commandments,
they became careless in regard to the commandments of God.
The Lord had instructed His people that He was the
owner of the vineyard, and that all their possessions were
given them in trust to be used for Him. But the priests and
teachers did not perform the work of their sacred office as if
they were handling the property of God. They were
systematically robbing Him of the means and facilities [p. 293] entrusted to them for the advancement of His work. Their
covetousness and greed caused them to be despised even by
the heathen. Thus the Gentile world was given occasion
to misinterpret the character of God and the laws of His
With a father's heart, God bore with His people. He
pleaded with them by mercies given and mercies withdrawn.
Patiently He set their sins before them, and in forbearance
waited for their acknowledgment. Prophets and messengers
were sent to urge God's claim upon the husbandmen;
but instead of being welcomed, they were treated as enemies.
The husbandmen persecuted and killed them. God
sent still other messengers, but they received the same
treatment as the first, only that the husbandmen showed still
more determined hatred.
As a last resource, God sent His Son, saying, "They
will reverence My Son." But their resistance had made
them vindictive, and they said among themselves, "This is
the heir; come, let us kill Him, and let us seize on His
inheritance." We shall then be left to enjoy the vineyard,
and to do as we please with the fruit.
The Jewish rulers did not love God; therefore they cut
themselves away from Him, and rejected all His overtures
for a just settlement. Christ, the Beloved of God, came to
assert the claims of the Owner of the vineyard; but the
husbandmen treated Him with marked contempt, saying,
We will not have this man to rule over us. They envied
Christ's beauty of character. His manner of teaching was
far superior to theirs, and they dreaded His success. He
remonstrated with them, unveiling their hypocrisy, and
showing them the sure results of their course of action.
This stirred them to madness. They smarted under the
rebukes they could not silence. They hated the high [p. 294] standard of righteousness which Christ continually
presented. They saw that His teaching was placing them
where their selfishness would be uncloaked, and they
determined to kill Him. They hated His example of truthfulness
and piety and the elevated spirituality revealed in all He
did. His whole life was a reproof to their selfishness, and
when the final test came, the test which meant obedience
unto eternal life or disobedience unto eternal death, they
rejected the Holy One of Israel. When they were asked to
choose between Christ and Barabbas, they cried out,
"Release unto us Barabbas!" Luke 23:18. And when Pilate
asked, "What shall I do then with Jesus?" they cried
fiercely, "Let Him be crucified." Matt. 27:22. "Shall I
crucify your King?" Pilate asked, and from the priests and
rulers came the answer, "We have no king but Caesar."
John 19:15. When Pilate washed his hands, saying, "I am
innocent of the blood of this just person," the priests joined
with the ignorant mob in declaring passionately, "His
blood be on us, and on our children." Matt. 27:24, 25.
Thus the Jewish leaders made their choice. Their
decision was registered in the book which John saw in the
hand of Him that sat upon the throne, the book which no
man could open. In all its vindictiveness this decision
will appear before them in the day when this book is
unsealed by the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
The Jewish people cherished the idea that they were the
favorites of heaven, and that they were always to be exalted
as the church of God. They were the children of Abraham,
they declared, and so firm did the foundation of their
prosperity seem to them that they defied earth and heaven
to dispossess them of their rights. But by lives of unfaithfulness
they were preparing for the condemnation of heaven and for
separation from God.
In the parable of the vineyard, after Christ had [p. 295] portrayed before the priests their crowning act of wickedness,
He put to them the question, "When the Lord therefore of
the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen?"
The priests had been following the narrative with
deep interest, and without considering the relation of the
subject to themselves they joined with the people in answering,
"He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will
let out His vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall
render Him the fruits in their seasons."
Unwittingly they had pronounced their own doom.
Jesus looked upon them, and under His searching gaze they
knew that He read the secrets of their hearts. His divinity
flashed out before them with unmistakable power. They
saw in the husbandmen a picture of themselves, and they
involuntarily exclaimed, "God forbid!"
Solemnly and regretfully Christ asked, "Did ye never
read in the scriptures, 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
say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken
from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits
thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be
broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him
Christ would have averted the doom of the Jewish nation
if the people had received Him. But envy and jealousy
made them implacable. They determined that they
would not receive Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. They
rejected the Light of the world, and thenceforth their lives
were surrounded with darkness as the darkness of midnight.
The doom foretold came upon the Jewish nation. Their
own fierce passions, uncontrolled, wrought their ruin. In
their blind rage they destroyed one another. Their [p. 296] rebellious, stubborn pride brought upon them the wrath of their
Roman conquerors. Jerusalem was destroyed, the temple
laid in ruins, and its site plowed like a field. The children
of Judah perished by the most horrible forms of death.
Millions were sold, to serve as bondmen in heathen lands.
As a people the Jews had failed of fulfilling God's
purpose, and the vineyard was taken from them. The
privileges they had abused, the work they had slighted,
was entrusted to others.
The Church of Today
The parable of the vineyard applies not alone to the
Jewish nation. It has a lesson for us. The church in this
generation has been endowed by God with great privileges
and blessings, and He expects corresponding returns.
We have been redeemed by a costly ransom. Only by
the greatness of this ransom can we conceive of its results.
On this earth, the earth whose soil has been moistened by
the tears and blood of the Son of God, are to be brought
forth the precious fruits of Paradise. In the lives of God's
people the truths of His word are to reveal their glory and
excellence. Through His people Christ is to manifest His
character and the principles of His kingdom.
Satan seeks to counterwork the work of God, and he
is constantly urging men to accept his principles. He
represents the chosen people of God as a deluded people.
He is an accuser of the brethren, and his accusing power
is employed against those who work righteousness. The
Lord desires through His people to answer Satan's charges
by showing the results of obedience to right principles.
These principles are to be manifest in the individual
Christian, in the family, in the church, and in every institution
established for God's service. All are to be symbols of [p. 297] what can be done for the world. They are to be types of
the saving power of the truths of the gospel. All are
agencies in the fulfillment of God's great purpose for the
The Jewish leaders looked with pride upon their
magnificent temple, and the imposing rites of their religious
service; but justice, mercy, and the love of God were lacking.
The glory of the temple, the splendor of their service,
could not recommend them to God; for that which alone
is of value in His sight they did not offer. They did not
bring Him the sacrifice of a humble and contrite spirit.
It is when the vital principles of the kingdom of God are
lost that ceremonies become multitudinous and extravagant. [p. 298] It is when the character building is neglected, when
the adornment of the soul is lacking, when the simplicity
of godliness is lost sight of, that pride and love of display
demand magnificent church edifices, splendid adornings,
and imposing ceremonials. In all this God is not honored.
A fashionable religion that consists of ceremonies, pretense,
and display, is not acceptable to Him. Its services call
forth no response from the heavenly messengers.
The church is very precious in God's sight. He values
it, not for its external advantages, but for the sincere piety
which distinguishes it from the world. He estimates it
according to the growth of the members in the knowledge
of Christ, according to their progress in spiritual
Christ hungers to receive from His vineyard the fruit of
holiness and unselfishness. He looks for the principles
of love and goodness. Not all the beauty of art can bear
comparison with the beauty of temper and character to be
revealed in those who are Christ's representatives. It is
the atmosphere of grace which surrounds the soul of the
believer, the Holy Spirit working upon mind and heart,
that makes him a savor of life unto life, and enables God
to bless his work.
A congregation may be the poorest in the land. It
may be without the attraction of any outward show; but if
the members possess the principles of the character of
Christ, they will have His joy in their souls. Angels will
unite with them in their worship. The praise and
thanksgiving from grateful hearts will ascend to God as a sweet
The Lord desires us to make mention of His goodness
and tell of His power. He is honored by the expression of
praise and thanksgiving. He says, "Whoso offereth praise
glorifieth Me." Ps. 50:23. The people of Israel, as they [p. 299] journeyed through the wilderness, praised God in sacred
song. The commandments and promises of the Lord were
set to music, and all along the journey these were sung
by the pilgrim travelers. And in Canaan as they met at
their sacred feasts God's wonderful works were to be
recounted, and grateful thanksgiving was to be offered to His
name. God desired that the whole life of His people should
be a life of praise. Thus His way was to be made "known
upon earth," His "saving health among all nations."
So it should be now. The people of the world are
worshiping false gods. They are to be turned from their
false worship, not by hearing denunciation of their idols,
but by beholding something better. God's goodness is to
be made known. "Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord,
that I am God." Isa. 43:12.
The Lord desires us to appreciate the great plan of
redemption, to realize our high privilege as the children
of God, and to walk before Him in obedience, with grateful
thanksgiving. He desires us to serve Him in newness of
life, with gladness every day. He longs to see gratitude
welling up in our hearts because our names are written in
the Lamb's book of life, because we may cast all our care
upon Him who cares for us. He bids us rejoice because
we are the heritage of the Lord, because the righteousness
of Christ is the white robe of His saints, because we have
the blessed hope of the soon coming of our Saviour.
To praise God in fullness and sincerity of heart is as
much a duty as is prayer. We are to show to the world
and to all the heavenly intelligences that we appreciate the
wonderful love of God for fallen humanity and that we
are expecting larger and yet larger blessings from His
infinite fullness. Far more than we do, we need to speak of
the precious chapters in our experience. After a special
outpouring of the Holy Spirit, our joy in the Lord and our [p. 300] efficiency in His service would be greatly increased by
recounting His goodness and His wonderful works in behalf
of His children.
These exercises drive back the power of Satan. They
expel the spirit of murmuring and complaint, and the
tempter loses ground. They cultivate those attributes of
character which will fit the dwellers on earth for the
Such a testimony will have an influence upon others.
No more effective means can be employed for winning
souls to Christ.
We are to praise God by tangible service, by doing all
in our power to advance the glory of His name. God
imparts His gifts to us that we also may give, and thus
make known His character to the world. Under the Jewish
economy, gifts and offerings formed an essential part of
God's worship. The Israelites were taught to devote a
tithe of all their income to the service of the sanctuary.
Besides this they were to bring sin offerings, free-will
gifts, and offerings of gratitude. These were the means
for supporting the ministry of the gospel for that time. God
expects no less from us than He expected from His people
anciently. The great work for the salvation of souls must
be carried forward. In the tithe, with gifts and offerings,
He has made provision for this work. Thus He intends
that the ministry of the gospel shall be sustained. He
claims the tithe as His own, and it should ever be regarded
as a sacred reserve, to be placed in His treasury for the
benefit of His cause. He asks also for our free-will gifts
and offerings of gratitude. All are to be devoted to the
sending of the gospel unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
Service to God includes personal ministry. By personal
effort we are to co-operate with Him for the saving of the
world. Christ's commission, "Go ye into all the world, and [p. 301] preach the gospel to every creature," is spoken to every
one of His followers. (Mark 16:15.) All who are ordained
unto the life of Christ are ordained to work for the
salvation of their fellow men. Their hearts will throb in
unison with the heart of Christ. The same longing for
souls that He has felt will be manifest in them. Not all can
fill the same place in the work, but there is a place and a
work for all.
In ancient times, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses with his
meekness and wisdom, and Joshua with his varied capabilities,
were all enlisted in God's service. The music of
Miriam, the courage and piety of Deborah, the filial affection
of Ruth, the obedience and faithfulness of Samuel, the stern
fidelity of Elijah, the softening, subduing influence of
Elisha—all were needed. So now all upon whom God's
blessing has been bestowed are to respond by actual service;
every gift is to be employed for the advancement of His
kingdom and the glory of His name.
All who receive Christ as a personal Saviour are to
demonstrate the truth of the gospel and its saving power
upon the life. God makes no requirement without making
provision for its fulfillment. Through the grace of Christ
we may accomplish everything that God requires. All the
riches of heaven are to be revealed through God's people.
"Herein is My Father glorified," Christ says, "that ye bear
much fruit; so shall ye be My disciples." John 15:8.
God claims the whole earth as His vineyard. Though
now in the hands of the usurper, it belongs to God. By
redemption no less than by creation it is His. For the
world Christ's sacrifice was made. "God so loved the
world, that He gave His only begotten Son." John 3:16.
It is through that one gift that every other is imparted to
men. Daily the whole world receives blessing from God.
Every drop of rain, every ray of light shed on our unthankful [p. 302] race, every leaf and flower and fruit, testifies to God's
long forbearance and His great love.
And what returns are made to the great Giver? How
are men treating the claims of God? To whom are the
masses of mankind giving the service of their lives? They
are serving mammon. Wealth, position, pleasure in the
world, is their aim. Wealth is gained by robbery, not of
man only, but of God. Men are using His gifts to gratify
their selfishness. Everything they can grasp is made to
minister to their greed and their love of selfish pleasure.
The sin of the world today is the sin that brought
destruction upon Israel. Ingratitude to God, the neglect of
opportunities and blessings, the selfish appropriation of
God's gifts—these were comprised in the sin that brought
wrath upon Israel. They are bringing ruin upon the world
The tears which Christ shed upon Olivet as He stood
overlooking the chosen city were not for Jerusalem alone.
In the fate of Jerusalem He beheld the destruction of the
"If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy
day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they
are hid from thine eyes." Luke 19:42.
"In this thy day." The day is nearing its close. The
period of mercy and privilege is well-nigh ended. The clouds
of vengeance are gathering. The rejectors of God's grace
are about to be involved in swift and irretrievable ruin.
Yet the world is asleep. The people know not the time
of their visitation.
In this crisis, where is the church to be found? Are
its members meeting the claims of God? Are they fulfilling
His commission, and representing His character to the
world? Are they urging upon the attention of their
fellow men the last merciful message of warning? [p. 303]
Men are in peril. Multitudes are perishing. But how
few of the professed followers of Christ are burdened for
these souls. The destiny of a world hangs in the balance;
but this hardly moves even those who claim to believe the
most far-reaching truth ever given to mortals. There is a
lack of that love which led Christ to leave His heavenly
home and take man's nature that humanity might touch
humanity and draw humanity to divinity. There is a
stupor, a paralysis, upon the people of God, which prevents
them from understanding the duty of the hour.
When the Israelites entered Canaan, they did not fulfill
God's purpose by taking possession of the whole land.
After making a partial conquest, they settled down to enjoy
the fruit of their victories. In their unbelief and love of
ease, they congregated in the portions already conquered
instead of pushing forward to occupy new territory. Thus
they began to depart from God. By their failure to carry
out His purpose, they made it impossible for Him to
fulfill to them His promise of blessing. Is not the church
of today doing the same thing? With the whole world
before them in need of the gospel, professed Christians
congregate where they themselves can enjoy gospel
privileges. They do not feel the necessity of occupying new
territory, carrying the message of salvation into regions
beyond. They refuse to fulfill Christ's commission, "Go ye
into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Mark 16:15. Are they less guilty than was the Jewish
The professed followers of Christ are on trial before the
heavenly universe; but the coldness of their zeal and the
feebleness of their efforts in God's service mark them as
unfaithful. If what they are doing were the best they could
do, condemnation would not rest upon them; but were their
hearts enlisted in the work, they could do much more. [p. 304] They know and the world knows that they have to a great
degree lost the spirit of self-denial and cross bearing.
Many there are against whose names will be found written
in the books of heaven, Not producers, but consumers. By
many who bear Christ's name, His glory is obscured, His
beauty veiled, His honor withheld.
There are many whose names are on the church books,
but who are not under Christ's rule. They are not heeding
His instruction or doing His work. Therefore they are
under the control of the enemy. They are doing no
positive good; therefore they are doing incalculable harm.
Because their influence is not a savor of life unto life, it is
a savor of death unto death.
The Lord says, "Shall I not visit for these things?"
Jer. 5:9. Because they failed of fulfilling God's purpose,
the children of Israel were set aside, and God's call was
extended to other peoples. If these too prove unfaithful,
will they not in like manner be rejected?
In the parable of the vineyard it was the husbandmen
whom Christ pronounced guilty. It was they who had
refused to return to their lord the fruit of his ground. In
the Jewish nation it was the priests and teachers who, by
misleading the people, had robbed God of the service which
He claimed. It was they who turned the nation away from
The law of God unmixed with human tradition was
presented by Christ as the great standard of obedience.
This aroused the enmity of the rabbis. They had set human
teaching above God's word, and had turned the people
away from His precepts. They would not give up their
man-made commandments in order to obey the requirements
of the word of God. They would not, for the
truth's sake, sacrifice the pride of reason and the praise of
men. When Christ came, presenting to the nation the [p. 305] claims of God, the priests and elders denied His right to
interpose between them and the people. They would not
accept His rebukes and warnings, and they set themselves
to turn the people against Him and to compass His destruction.
For the rejection of Christ, with the results that
followed, they were responsible. A nation's sin and a nation's
ruin were due to the religious leaders.
In our day are not the same influences at work? Of
the husbandmen of the Lord's vineyard are not many
following in the steps of the Jewish leaders? Are not
religious teachers turning men away from the plain requirements
of the word of God? Instead of educating them in
obedience to God's law, are they not educating them in
transgression? From many of the pulpits of the churches
the people are taught that the law of God is not binding
upon them. Human traditions, ordinances, and customs
are exalted. Pride and self-satisfaction because of the gifts
of God are fostered, while the claims of God are ignored.
In setting aside the law of God, men know not what they
are doing. God's law is the transcript of His character.
It embodies the principles of His kingdom. He who refuses
to accept these principles is placing himself outside the
channel where God's blessings flow.
The glorious possibilities set before Israel could be
realized only through obedience to God's commandments.
The same elevation of character, the same fulness of
blessing—blessing on mind and soul and body, blessing on house
and field, blessing for this life and for the life to come—
is possible for us only through obedience.
In the spiritual as in the natural world, obedience to the
laws of God is the condition of fruit bearing. And when
men teach the people to disregard God's commandments,
they are preventing them from bearing fruit to His glory. [p. 306] They are guilty of withholding from the Lord the fruits
of His vineyard.
To us God's messengers come at the bidding of the
Master. They come demanding, as did Christ, obedience
to the word of God. They present His claim to the fruits
of the vineyard, the fruits of love, and humility, and
self-sacrificing service. Like the Jewish leaders, are not many
of the husbandmen of the vineyard stirred to anger? When
the claim of God's law is set before the people, do not these
teachers use their influence in leading men to reject it?
Such teachers God calls unfaithful servants.
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copy of this enlightening book about the parables of Christ.
The words of God to ancient Israel have a solemn
warning to the church and its leaders today. Of Israel
the Lord said, "I have written to him the great things of
My law; but they were counted as a strange thing." Hosea
8:12. And to the priests and teachers He declared, "My
people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou
hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee; . . . seeing
thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget
thy children." Hosea 4:6.
Shall the warnings from God be passed by unheeded?
Shall the opportunities for service be unimproved? Shall
the world's scorn, the pride of reason, conformity to human
customs and traditions, hold the professed followers of
Christ from service to Him? Will they reject God's word
as the Jewish leaders rejected Christ? The result of
Israel's sin is before us. Will the church of today take
"If some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being
a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with
them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
boast not. . . . Because of unbelief they were broken off,
and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but
fear; for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed
lest He also spare not thee." Rom. 11:17-21.
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"Without a Wedding Garment"