Thomas Carlyle.

The Christian treasury, Volume 2 online

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' Gterist, as one of the human fruits of his kingdom
offered by him, the Great High Priest, to the God


Infidels assnme, in subjects which, from their
magnitude, necessarily stretch away into mystery, to
pronounce whatever can or cannot be. They seem
I to say, we stand on an eminence sufBloient to com-
mand a Tidon of all things; iher^ore whatever we
cannot see, doe» not exist _.


Polished steel will not shine in the dark; no more
can reason, however refined, shine efficaciously, but
as it reflects the light of Divine truth, shed from


How dangerous to defer those momentous refor-
mations which conscience is solemnly preaching to

I the heart ! If they are neglected, the difficulty and
indisposition are increasing every month. The mind
is receding, degree after degree, from the warm and
hopeM zone, till, at last, it will enter the arctU

i circle, and become fixed in relentless and eternal


I I have sometimes thought, if the sun were an
intelligence, he would be horribly incensed at the
world he is appointed to enlighten; such a tale of
ages, exhibit^ a tiresome repetition of stupidity,
follies, and crimes.



> For the kingdom of heaven U like to a man that is an bouie-
hoider, who went out earlj in the morniM to hire la-
bourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with
the labourers for a penny a day/* ^. ** So the last shall
be first, and the first last ; for many be called, but few
chosen."— Matt. xx. I- 16.

This fwrable of the labourers in the vineyard,
called into it at different hoiiTB, and labouring
in it for very different periods, yet all receiving
at the close the same pay, is perhaps Uie least
understood of our Lord's parables, and requires
a more attentive consideration than most of
them, to get at its real meaning. There is no
difficulty in deriving a certain measure of truth
from it, or perceiving that its drift is somehow
aimed at the challenging of a divine sovereignty
on the part of God, and the checking of a pre-
sumptuous and querulous pride on the part of
men. But it is in fitly accommodating the seve-
ral parts of the parable to the spiritual lessons
taught in it that the difficulty is felt; and on
this account it is that, while the opinions of
commentators are of almost endless variety,
they commonly find some part of the parable
which does not properly square with the particu-
lar opinion adopted, and ** which, consequently,
must not be strained too far." We shall not
, attempt to expose what we conceive to be the
' errors of some current interpretations, but shall

simply endeavour, in a few leading particnlan^ t
to bring out what we take to be the true import
and great practical lesson of the parable. j

1. It is first of all to be noted, in regard
to the general aim of the parable, that nothing :
depends for its right interpretation on the par-
ticular hour persons came into the vineyard, or
the precise amount of work they did in it.
The first, third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh
hours are aU specified as the several times at
which they were called to enter; but when we \
come to the reckoning, no account is made of j
any but those who entered last and first. The (
reason obviously was, that as the space of time
spent in the vineyard, and consequently the
amount of service performed there (for, since
nothing is said to the contrary, all must be ~
understood to have wrought with equal dili-
gence), differed most in these two, so they were
taken as the best representatives of their re-
spective classes; in them the state and temper
of niind characteristic of each would natur^y
be most distinctly marked; and the shorter or
longer periods of time were of no fnrthwr
moment than as serving, when viewed in con-
nection with the uniform rate of pay, to mve
rise in the labourers to the one or the other
class of feelings. Then, the slightest glance at
the parable itself, especially at the latter part
of it, is sufficient to show that it is the wrong
state and temper of mind, as exhibited in the
first called labourers, which our Lord especially ;
seeks to bring out to view; and that the other '
and right one is to be gaUiered only from the
contrast, which the silent acquiescence of the
last called labourers presented to the querulous .
demands of the first. |

2. The question, then, is, What is the state
and temper of mind here represented as so pe-
culiarly characteristic of the first class, and
which our Lord would stamp with his condem-
nation, as disqualifying for tiie membership of
his kingdom! Manifestly a proud and self-
righteous spirit, which must first have some
ground to work upon, and then some opportunity
to display its real disposition and character. The
first it had in the long period of service, reach-
ing from the earliest dawn to the shades of j
evening, and consequently having trial of allj
the heat and burden of the day. Here there [
was something for a self-exaltii^ spirit to rest . j
upon — a ground in their case ror favour and |
distinction, such as those evidently wanted |
who had wrought only during the last brief J
hour of time. And the opportunity also was
given them to show that such was their spirit,
by the order of the reckoning, beginning as it
did with the last called, and thus furmahing
the first called with an occasion to exhibit the
spirit that was in th<^m in two of its leading'
manifestations — its boasting over others, and
its dissatisfaction with the Lord's procedure
toward themselves. It is always characteristic
of such a spirit, for ^men to trust in th^nsdves.

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tliatthej are righteous and despise others;"
and yiewing all with an eye of self-love, it
naturally leads them to dwell chiefly upon the
outside and superficial distinctions, which, in
I comparison of these others, they can claim to
themselTes. What sacrifices have we not made
' in the cause of riffhteonsness! What lahonrs
haye we not undexvone! What wonderful
works have we not donet (Matt vii. 22, 23.)
But it is not lees characteristic of the same spirit,
to quarrel with the dispensations of God, and
con^lain that their singular merits are not
duly attended to. ^Wh^efore have we ftsted,
and thou seest not ! wherefore have we afflicted
, our soul, and thou takest no knowledge I" — '^ Ye
have wearied the Lord with your woras. Yet ye
say^ Wherein haye we weaned him ! Whoi ye
say. Where is the God of judgmait!" (Isa.
lyiii. 3; MaL ii. 17.) Thus we see the ohiect of
this parahle is yery much the same with th«t
of the Pharisee and the Puhlican; the early
call here in the first called labourers, and their
long period of service, serves precisely the same
purpose as the fiutin^ tithes, and outward de-
|Cendee m the Pharisee do there; while the
short period of service in the last called labour-
ers, and the consciousness of manifold sins in
I the Publican, cut off equally from both all poe-
) sible ground for boasting, and leave room only
for a spirit of deep abasement and prostrate

3. If now we look to the occasion which
called forth this parable, we shall see that this
was precisely the lesson we might have ex-

• pected it to teach, viz., the utter unsuitableness
; of a proud and self-righteous spirit to the king-
' dom of God. For it was occasioned by a de-
claration of Peter, which evidently breathed
not a little of this spirit, and called for a solenm

; check and admonition. ** Behold," said he, ** we

have forsaken all and followed thee : what shall

iM have therefore!" This was said with the

I view of cimtristing what they had done^ and

I were henoe entitled to expect, with what the

' rich young man mentioned immediately before

j had been called to do, but refused from his love

of riches to perform. Rather than part with

these, he had shown his determination to bid

fiurewell to the kingdom of God. But the

I thought instantly occurred to Peter, We have

i done the very thmg which he has £uled to do —

I we have left all, and followed thee; surely, then,

I since it is so difficult a matter, we may expect

a large recompense of blessing. In reply to

, this expression of self-complacent satisfoction

I with their own doings, and boastful superiority

I over the young man, our Lord declared it to be,

I indeed, a principle in his kingdotai, that for

; every such sacrifice, sincerely and honestly

I made by any one for his sake, there would be

large recompenses of blessine — ^^He shall re-

, ceive an hundred-fold, and shall inherit ever-

• lasting life;" but he proceeds at the same time
1 to teach, that all depended on the tpirit in

which it might be done; and that if the spirit,
the germ of which had now so dearly discovered
itse^ in Peter, were to become tibeir character-
istic, so hr from bein|^ laigely reoomp^ised,
they would be found mcapable of holding a
place in the kingdom at aU. ^But many/^ he
adds, ''that are first shall be last, and the last
first." He expresses himself at first mildly^ as
if it were only a danger to be feared and
guarded against, lest those who thought them-
selves, and were perhaps thought by others, in
the foremost rank of members, might after all
be found in the lowest place; and then, when
he has delivered the parable, and shown how
completely at variance the sctf-rig^teous dis ;
position is with the nature of the kingdom, he
draws the conclusion more strongly and com-
prehensively as a universal principle : **8o the
last shall be firsts and the first last; for many
be called, but few ohosttA." The first all last,
and the last not chosen; that is, utterly unfit
to hold a place in the kingdom at all; their
labours and sacrifices, however great and l<mg^
continued, were all done upon a wrong prinoi{^
and could attain to no blessing. For Christ
takes it for cranted, as a thing ^ain enough of
itself, that the persons who betrayed an oppo-
site mind to that of the householder, and were
denounced by him as having an evil eye, while
his was good, that these persons could not pos-
sibly represent the true members of the long-
dom, but only such as listened to the outwai^
call, and had a nominal title to its privileges and
blessings. Such persons might in the eye of
man nmk among its members, and in their own
esteem might even hold an unrivalled place;
but there is an utter contrariety between thdr
mind and that of the Lord of the kingdom; and
when the full truth is told concerning them, it
is, that they are altogether aliens from his
chosen and blessed company. What a timely
and solemn warning, then, to Peter and hu
fellow-disciples I It was just a repeating over
again of the lesson which bad already been im-
pressively tau^t them (Matt, xviii. 1-6), but
which their still carnal minds rendered them
incapable of fully apprehending. They had con-
tended who shoidd be greatest in the km^om of
heaven; but Jesus, taking a little child and
setting him in the midst of them, said, <* Verily
I say unto you. Except ye be converted and
become as little children, ye shall not enter in-
to the kingdom of heaven;" — ^as much as to
say. It is well, indeed, for you to be contending
alK>ut who is to occupy the highest place there;
when it rather becomes you to take heed lest ye
be excluded from any place among its members;
for assuredly, unless ye come down from your
present towering imaginations, and possess the
heart of little children, the kingdom is not for
you, nor you for it.

4. The foundation of this great practical
truth concemiDg the kingdom of God lies in the
nature of the kiugdom itself, as wholly of God,

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and in all its proYinons the gift of his mee to
men. Thia fiuidainental idba is also brooght
out have, and mna throuah the repreeentaiaona
of the panable. The Tinejrard is the hoiis»-
holder'a in so conplete and abeolnte a senaa^
that to him alone it belongs to call men into i^
to preaeribe and appoint the terms on whidi
ther are to labour in it,and in his awards to do
as he wills, because transacting with what is
entir^j his own. In sooh a case it would
manifesUj be an inoongmityy nay, an insolent
preenmption not to Im tolerated, for anj to
thhik of making terms and bargaining with
him concerning its recompenses of blessing.
These are, in the highest sense, gifts of grace
freely conferred in sovereign goo&essnpoa the
sinfal and unworthy. Here pre-eminently all
things are of God tlurongh Chnst; the kingdom
and everything that concerns it are his. Our
'calling is of God; we miMt wait till he bids us;
land when we eater^ must enter on the terms
he is pleased to prescribe to us, and take
thankfiUly from his hand what he sees good to
beatow. A spirit of deep abasement and child*
like humility most, on our part, lie at the root
of all, disposing us, at the bidding of our divine
Master, to enter aa labourers into his vineyard,
bat not as hirelings; — as labourers indeed; for
while all receive freely and undeservedly from
his hand, it is that they may lay it out in doing
fidthful service to hmi. From the hi^est
sen^h in glory to the humblest follows of Jesns
on earth, all have their appointed work to do
in the kingdom, and must fiod their huipinees
and well-being, not in an idle and profitless re-
pose, but in diligently obeying the will of their
common Father in heaven. While we must
work, however, if we are Christ's, we must do
60r as proper labourers, and not as hirelings.
** These may both apply their powers, often even
their most strenuous efiorts, to the execution of
a work, in which they obey the guidance and
di^rection of some other will thiui their own.
But in this they difier from each other, that
the labourer, b^g prompted by love, makes
his Lord's will his own; whereas the hireling
remains as an alien to the will of his Lord, be-
cause he is destitute of love. The labourer
moves himself with ease and freedom, because
he is full of spirit; the hireling is crippled and
benumbed, because he is destitute of q)irit.
The labourer finds his pleasure io his work; the
hireliog is allured only by what he wins. The
labourer rejoices in the success also of others,
his heart being in the cause; the hireling
grudges every gain in which he has himself no
share." {Drcueke,) In short, self and the
claims of self are everything with the one, who
has never fdt himself to be a lost and undone
sinner; while Grod's grace, and will, and glory,
are everything with the other.

5. Finally, the parable is fitted to impress
upon us the sad and miserable condition of
those who are not truly living and labouring in

the kinffdomu It is to wrest the panble qmtm
beside the purpose, fw which it waa maai^Mtlyj
taug^to understand it aa inq^on^ by tMJ
pr^rence given to the lastcalled, thai it is ar
matto* of no moment at what period of li&^
men may ^.y/pky themselves in eanieei to tiMt
thingsofGod. Its real teaohui; ia rather tM
reverse; for by all being repreeented as idle nw.
to the momeast they received and complied wi£j
the call of the householder, it obviaaaly seeks tft^
impress upon us a conviction of the alike daBge4
reus and hurtful nature of delay^ Not only doiaaii
ev&rj hour defenred increase the peril of oui
finding the door at last finally doaed and ahnl^
but it is also so maoh time mtae^nt, utterly,
and iorevocably gone. For though men tamf^
toil and labour ever so hard, and even thinks
while they are doin^ se^ that they are working
for heaven, yet it is only when they listen as
humUe sinners to the voice of mercy in tkft
Saviour, and give themselves, ae ransomad*
creatures, to his service and gk»y, that thejr:
labour to any pm^pose. Till tiien ihej are^idla,
as regards the real interests of their naturea— •
^spending their money for that wMch ia ikfk
bread, and their labour for that wMch satisfiatit
not." To work out of the kingdom, or to wodc
in the kingdom otherwise t^n in a spirit ol
humble and lowly dependence upon God, ii
equally lost labour.



MosBS was denied entnnofr into the land of Canaaiu
Tbouc^ he had braved the wrath of PfaarB<^ 'ra-
noonesd his worldly expeotelioni, periled his Ufo,
and led on the hosts of Israel for forty years thiooglk
the wildemesB, for the sole purpose of reaolnBg idbel
promised land, his eyes were never to be gladdened!
by the sight. He had eeoaped the wnvth of his par^i
suers— the pestileaoe that swept so many thousands;
to death'— the bite oi tiie faming ' serpents tfaa^
strewed the camp with se many thousands mors-^'
even the decay of the body itself— to die at last by|
special decree in sight of the verf object of all hia
t(n]s—<he antioipated rest from all his labours. The
sea had been passed— the murmurs of the people
b(»ne with— the long, weary desert tanrelled ovev^— '
forty years of the prime of lifb exhausted, to secure'
one single object, and tiioi he died witii that ofctjeot
unreached, though spread out ia all its tempting
loveliness before him.

Angry when the people ohunoured for water-
daring to cany out the oommands of tiie Lord In a
petulant manner — assemUing the people hastily,
without sanctifying them for the great miracle about
to be performed— addressing them roug^y, and claim-
ing the credit of ihe miracle, tiiough, p^haps unia*
tentionally, saying, *< Must we bring water out of the
rock P*^ and smiiang, in his vexation, the rook twice^
instead of once, as he had been conmianded, and
thereby ii\jaring the antitype— Moses had so dis. |

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pleMed the Lord that he denied him entnnce into

I Ib idiaterer zelationB we behold Moaes, with the
I aboYe single exception, he is erer the same sablime
'and miuestic character. Noble by nature, great by
his misnon, and greater still by the manner in which
he accomplished it, he ever maintains his ascendency
orer our feelings. We see the fiery promptings of
the heart that could not brook oppresnon, in the
bloody Tengeance he took on the Egyptian who would
trample on his brother. Preferring the desert with
freedom to the court of Pharaoh in sight of iz^ustice,
he led the life of a fugitive. Called by a voice from
heaven to go back to deliver his people, he again trod
the ooorts of the king of Egypt.

But not in the presence of Pharaoh when he with-
stood the monarch to his &ce, and brought down the
thunders of heaven on his throne— not on the beach
of the sea, vrith one arm upraised toward heaven and
the other stretched out over the water, while the
waves that went surging by, stopped and crouched
jat his feet— not in the midst of the raining manna
t— not in the lifting of the brazen symbol in the midst
I of the flying serpents, while the moan of suffering
jand the cries of the dying struggled up from a
j mighty encampment— not when, between the moun-
'tains, his stately form shone in the light of the bias-
ing, fiery pillar, while the tread of the mighty mul-
{titude shook the earth behind him— nor even when
•he stood on shaking Sinai, his guard the thunder,
^and his vesture the lightning, and talked with the
! Eternal, as friend talketh vrith friend— not in all
I these awful relations does he appear to be so mi^estic
land attractive as in the last event of his life.
! Behold the white tents of Israel, stretched over
{the plain and swelling knolls, at the foot of Mount
Nebo. It is a bahny, glorious day. The sun is sail-
ing over the encampment, while the blue sky bends
in love over all things. Here and there a fleecy
cloud is hovering over the top of Pisgah, as if
conscious of the mysterious scene about to transpire
there. The trees stand green and fresh in the sun-
light; the lowing of cattle rises through the still
atmosphere, and Nature is lovely and tranquil, as if
no sounds of grief were to disturb her repose. Amid
this beauty and quietness, Moses assembled the
children of Israel for the last time, to take his ftre-
well look, and leave his farewell blessing. He casts
his eyes over the leaders beside him, and over the
host, while a thousand contending emotions struggle
for the mastery in his bosom. The past, with its
tolls and sufferings, rose up before him; and how
could he part with his children, miumuring and un-
grateful though they had been, whom he had botne
j CD his brave heart for more thaA forty years ? Self-
I collected and calm he stood before them, and gave
them his blessing. He made no complaints — ^never
I spoke of his hardships in their behalf; made no allu-
aon to his anguish in leaving them on the very verge
of Canaan, the object for which he had toiled so
long. He did not even refer to his death. In the
i magnanimity of his great heart, forgetful of himself,
1 or else not daring to trust his feelings in an allusion
j 1K> his fate, he closed his sublime address in the fol-

lowing touching language :—" The eternal God
thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms : '
and he shall thrust out the enemy before thee. Israel
then shall dwell in safety alone. Happy art thou,
O Israel ! who is like unto thee : O people saved by '
the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the
sword of thy excellency !" Noble language— noble \\
heart ! Carried away in the contemplation of hia
children's happiness, he burst forth into exclamations
of joy in the moment of his deepest distress. But ' j
did not that manly voice fiilter, and that stem lip ' ;
quiver, as he advanced to bid them his last adieu ? , j
For a moment, perhaps, the rising emotions checked '
his utterance. They had been the companions of his ' |
toil— the objects of his deepest solicitude. A common [ \
suffering, a common fivte, had bound them to him by \
a thousand ties. He looked back on the desert : it was ' '
passed. He looked forward to Canaan : it was near. ,
He turned to the people : they were weeping. He j
cast his eye up Nebo, and he knew he must die.
Although no complaint escaped his lips— no regret !
fell from his tongue, a deeper paleness vnis on his
cheek, and a sterner strife in his heart, than he .
had ever felt before. Though outwardly calm, hia!
stem nature shook for a moment like a cedar in a '
tempest, and then the stmggie was over. His fare- , |
well was echoed in melancholy tones from lip to lip^ ^
through the vast host as he turned to ascend the j
mountain. As he advanced from rock to rock, the ;
sobbing of the multitude that followed after tore his. !
heart-strings, like the cry of a child for its parents, and
it was long before he dare trust himself to turn and !
look below. But at length he paused on a high rock,
and gazed a moment on the scene at his feet There,
were the white tents of Jacob glittering in the sun-
light, and there the dark mass of Israel's host, as '
they stood and watched the form of their departing
leader. Those tents had become familiar to him aa
household scenes; and as he gazed on them, now far,
far beneath him, and saw the cloud over^iadowing
the mysterious ark, a sigh of unutterable sadness
escaped him. He thought of the bones of Josq>h he. '
had carried forty years, that were to rest with his
descendants, while he was to be left alone amid the
mountains. Again he turned to the ascent, and soon
a rock shut him from view, and he passed on alone
to the summit.

There vras spread before him the land of Canaan.
He stood a speck on the high crag, and gaeed on the'
lovely scene. Jordan went sweeping by in the glad'
sunlight. Palm trees shook their green tops in the
summer wind, and plains, and cities, and vineyards
spread away in endless beauty before him. But, ah i
methinks he saw more than the landsciq>e smiling be- '
neath the Eastern sky. Was not the history of the
fixture unrolled before him ? Did he not see the spot
of Bethlehem, and also the star that hung over it ? j
Did he not see Jerusalem in its glory and downiU ? i
Did he not hear the birth-song of the angels ? Did ,
not a mysterious mount rise before him, vrrapped in
storm and cloud, through whose gloomy foldings
gleamed a cross? The clouds roUed away, and lo,
the Strength of Israel, the Refuge of Judah, hung in
death. Again the vision changed — the sepulchre

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WM open, and like an aaoending glory that fonn

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleThe Christian treasury, Volume 2 → online text (page 102 of 145)