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preparation, although previous meditation and prayer may dispose the thoughts to proper seriousness and attention. Let it be your care, by the regular discharge of all other obligations, to render yourself fit for that which I have here endeavoured to recommend, and you will then also be ready to meet every dispensation of Providence with a temper suitable to the occasion.
ON THE FUTURE PUNISHMENT OF THE
THE Almighty is a Being of infinite mercy and goodness; and in all his works of creation and providence, he delights to Ishow his love and favour to mankind. He sends down rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, both on the just and unjust, though the latter continue to provoke his displeasure every day. And in the revelation he has condescended to make of his will, he has assured us, that "he is long-suffering and gracious, not willing that any should
perish, but that all should come to repentance;" and by his prophet he thus affectionately argues with impenitent sinners"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die, and not that he should repent, and turn from his ways and live? Turn ye, turn ye, from your evil way, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" And to confirm these gracious declarations of forgiveness, he sent his son into the world, that all that believe in and obey him should not perish, but have everlasting life. In truth, to make use of the expostulation of the Deity with his chosen people, what could he have done for us, my young friend, which he has not done, to promote our good, and procure our salvation?
Allow me to repeat the beautiful simile out of the fifth chapter of Isaiah, as a preface to our present subject. The prophet begins by the following introduction. "Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved, touching his vineyard." The title of the well-beloved, signifies the Lord and Ruler of the Jewish nation; and the vineyard represents that favoured people for whom God had done such great things. "My well.
beloved," adds the inspired writer, "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 vine-press therein;" that is, he took every possible precaution to cultivate and protect the fruit which he had delighted in. "And he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes."
The parable of a vineyard, used as a representation of the people of God, is par ticularly beautiful, when we consider the situation of the Eastern countries, and that the heat and drought to which they were subject rendered the cooling produce of the grapes peculiarly salutary and refreshing. When, therefore, instead of the luxurious fruit that was expected, it brought forth "wild grapes," without taste or flavour, and entirely unwholesome, it conveys to us a striking image of the ingratitude and disobedience of a rebellious nation. "And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard that I have not
done in it? wherefore (or why then), when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes? And now go to (or attend), 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; I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it; for the vine. yard of the Lord of Hosts is the House of Israel, and the House of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression-for righteousness, but behold a cry ;" that is, a complaint of injustice.
The simile you have been reading, my young friend, was delivered to the Israelites, to reprove them for their iniquities, and to warn them of that captivity which was to be their consequent punishment. But it may, in a more extensive sense, be applied to such Christians as now persevere in wickedness, after the coming of the Son of God. The Church, or people of Christ, is his vineyard, and he used the same image in a parable which himself delivered to the Jews during the time he preached to them
while on earth. "And Jesus began to speak to the people this parable:" A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, who, unfaithful to their trust, detained from him the fruits it produced, when at his return from a long journey he sent to demand them. The Lord of the vineyard, with great patience and gentle. ness, sent many servants, one after another, to expostulate with them on their wicked. ness and injustice; but, instead of attending to reason, or being reformed by his mild. ness and admonitions, they cruelly beat and wounded some, and returned them without redress, and with shame and ill-usage. Unwilling to punish, and in hopes to reclaim these wicked men, their Master determined to send them his only and well-beloved Son, thinking they would certainly reverence a person of such high rank and authority.
But when the husbandmen saw him," they were only the more hardened, and, judging from the former instances of their Lord's mercy, that he would never take vengeance on their crimes, they reasoned among themselves, saying, "This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheri