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Chapter 8 Verse 11
a vineyard at Baal-hamon; he let out the vineyard
unto keepers: every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a
thousand pieces of silver.
these words the little sister goes on to give an account of the success of the Gospel, the planting of churches, and establishment of Christ’s interest in the Gentile world; together with the advantages which accrued to Christ thereby, under the metaphor of a vineyard, and the fruit thereof: where we have to consider,
I.The vineyard itself, and what is intended by
II.The owner of it, who is Solomon.
III.The place of its situation, at Baal-hamon.
IV.The letting of it “out to keepers,” and who are meant by them.
V.The price it was let at, or the rent which they were to bring in; “every one for the fruit thereof was to bring a thousand pieces of silver.”
I.It will be proper to consider what is meant by this vineyard; which I think is to be understood of the church of Christ; the Israelitish nation, and the church of God therein, sometimes bears this name (see Ps. 80:8, 9, 14, 15; Isa. 5:1, 7), and it is very usual with Christ to express the New Testament church-state by the same metaphor (see Matthew 20:1, 21:33), which was thus prophesied of by Isaiah, chapter 27:2. “In that day, sing ye unto her, a vineyard of red wine.” Now the church of Christ may be compared to a vineyard, for these following reasons: 1. A vineyard is a spot of ground, separated and distinguished from others; so is the church of Christ from the rest of the world, by electing, redeeming, and efficacious grace; believers are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation; and being, so, are a peculiar people; they are fenced about with sovereign grace, whereby they are made to differ from others. 2. A vineyard is a spot of ground set with plants of various sorts, and especially vines: it is manifest, from chapter 1:14 and 7:12, that it was usual to set other plants in vineyards besides vines; for which see also Luke 13:16. In the vineyard, the church, stands in the first place Christ, the true and most noble vine; and next to him true believers, who are there planted by him, engrafted on him, and grow up in him: now these are of various sorts, of different growths and fruitfulness; some are larger and more fruitful than others; but are all “the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified:” but besides these, there are some who are only externally planted here, and grow up only in a mere outward profession; who are not planted by Christ’s heavenly Father, and therefore shall be rooted up; because, instead of bringing forth right fruit, they bring forth wild grapes. 3. Vineyards are valuable to the owners of them; one part of their wealth and riches consisting therein: the church of Christ is highly esteemed of by him, it being his inheritance, his portion, and wherein great part of his riches, as mediator, lies; his Father gave it to him, and he values it upon that account; as Naboth did his vineyard, because it was “the inheritance of his fathers,” and therefore would not part with it to Ahab upon any consideration whatever: moreover, Christ’s esteem for his vineyard, the church, is farther manifest from the great price he gave for it, which was his own blood, as also from the exceeding great care he takes of it. 4. A vineyard is a very fruitful spot; so is the church of Christ and all believers, who are “filled with the fruits of righteousness by Jesus Christ:” who is “ the true vine,” on whom they are engrafted; and “the green fir-tree,” from whom their fruit is found: all that are “planted in the house of the Lord,” being watered by divine grace, “flourish in the courts of our God,” and bring forth fruit, whereby he is glorified. 5. Vineyards are delightful and pleasant; thus among the several methods which Solomon took co gratify and indulge himself in pleasure, this was one; he “planted himself vineyards,” (Eccl. 2:4). The church is a delightful vineyard to Christ, where he delights to walk, and observe how his several plants grow and thrive; for this purpose he often goes down into it, as in chapter 6:11, and the church, knowing how much pleasure he takes therein, invites him to it, in chapter 7:12. 6. Vineyards are not only delightful, but also profitable; there is much fruit produced by them, to the advantage of the owners thereof: so Christ has much fruit from his vineyard, as appears from this and the following verse; which makes for the advancement of his honor and glory in the world; for as all their fruit comes by him, and from him, so all the glory redounds unto him; and “his glory is great” in every branch of their salvation. 7. Vineyards are exposed to beasts of prey, which often break in and do much damage to them: the church of Christ is not only exposed to the “boar out of the wood,” the openly profane world, which often makes great havoc of it, by its oppressions and persecutions; but also to those foxes, false teachers, heretics, who cunningly bring in their pernicious doctrines, to the great annoyance and disturbance of the peace, comfort, and faith of God’s people; hence it is said, in chapter 2:15 “Take us the foxes, the little foxes, that spoil the vines; for our vines have tender grapes.” 8. A great deal of care must be used in promoting the fruitfulness of vineyards; the vines must be watered, pruned, and propped up, as well as the stones gathered out, and a fence set about them (see Isa. 5:2). Christ does all this and much more to his vineyard; he waters it every moment with his grace, prunes and lops off the unfruitful branches, supports the weak and tender vines with his Almighty power; gathers out all things that offend, and fences it about with divine favors; in short, acts the whole faithful part of a vine-dresser to it.
II.The owner of this vineyard is Solomon, by whom the Messiah is meant; for it may be truly said, that “a greater than Solomon is here.” Christ bears this name, because Solomon was an eminent type of him, as has been shown on chapter 3:7, he now is the owner of this vineyard; it is his, 1. By choice; he has pitched upon this spot of ground, and separated it from all others for his use and service. 2. By his Father’s gift: he asked it of his Father, and he gave it him; “thine they were,” says he, “and thou gavest them me,” (John 17:6). 3. By purchase; he has bought this vineyard with his own blood (Acts 20:28). 4. It is of his own planting: all the vines in it are of his setting, and are made fruitful by him. 5. He takes the whole care of it, and has the advantage of the fruit thereof.
III.The situation of this vineyard, at Baal-hamon; perhaps the same with Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon (Josh. 11:17, 13:5), since they are of the same signification, the master of a multitude, or of a troop. By which may he meant, either, 1. The city of Jerusalem;10221022So the Tarugam and R. Sol. Jarchi in loc. interpret it. which may be called “Baal-hamon, or the master of a multitude,” because it was a very populous city; as it is said, in Lamentations 1:1. “How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people?” where was the principal seat of the Jewish church-state; the letting out of which to keepers, the priests and Levites, may seem to suit well with the legal and mercenary spirit which much attended the Old-Testament dispensation. Though, 2. I rather think the Gentile world is here intended; among the nations of which Christ has a gospel church planted; whereby the promise is fulfilled to Abraham, that he should be a “father of many nations;” which his name signified, and is of much the same import with this in our text. Unless, 3. It should be thought only to intend in general, the fruitfulness of the soil in which Christ’s vineyard was planted; at “Baal-hamon,” the Lord or master of a multitude,10231023In ea quae habet populos. Vulgate Latin version; in domino multitudinis, Piscator. that is, where a multitude of vines grow. Thus it is said, in Isaiah 5:2, “My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:” the church of Christ, and so all believers, are planted in a very fruitful soil, being “rooted and built up” in Christ, and watered with the continual dews of divine grace; the believer is like to “a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doth shall prosper,” (Ps. 1:3).
IV.The letting out of this vineyard to keepers, is next to be inquired into. By the keepers, we are to understand the ministers of the gospel; who have their several parts and different employments assigned them in this vineyard of Christ. 1. The business of some of them is to plant: this work the apostle Paul was much concerned in; “I have planted,” says he (1 Cor. 3:6, 8), and indeed it is hard to say how many churches, and how many souls in those churches, were planted by him; and especially at Baal-hamon, in the Gentile world, with whom he was chiefly concerned. 2. Others are employed in watering this vineyard, as was Apollos; of whom Paul says, “I have planted, Apollos watered:” some ministers are more useful for edification than conversion; their ministry succeeds most for the watering of Christ’s plants, for promoting the comfort and faith of those who are already planted; their doctrine drops as the rain, and their speech distils as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass (Deut. 32:2), so that they become fruitful. 3. The work of others is to prime the vines; they have an excellent talent at reproof, both on the account of erroneous doctrines, and immoral practices; they can give gentle admonitions where the case only requires them; and rebuke with sharpness, cut deeper, where there is a necessity for it; not being afraid of the faces of any, but having the good of Christ’s vineyard at heart; these excel in that branch of their office, which concerns the discipline of the church. 4. Others ate useful in supporting and upholding weak believers; who, like vines, stand in need of it; which they do, by putting into their hand the staff of the promises, and refreshing them with the reviving cordials of gospel-doctrines. 5. The employment of others is to protect and defend; their business is chiefly to take the foxes, to refute heresies, and defend the doctrines of grace, and preserve the church from all innovations, both in doctrine and worship. Now I would not be understood, as though I thought that ministers were so confined to one or other of these particular branches of the ministerial work, that they had no concern in the rest; for one and the same minister may be more or less useful in them all; but yet, generally speaking, he excels in some one of them.
The letting out of this vineyard to them, agrees with those parables of our Lord, in Matthew 20:1, 2 and 21:33, where he seems to allude to the words of our text; which is no inconsiderable evidence of the divine authority of this book. The phrase shows, 1. That though Christ takes care of the vineyard himself, yet he also makes use of his ministers: Christ is not separated from his ministers; he acts as the owner, they as the servants; he is the chief and principal wine-dresser; which work he performs mediately by his ministers, who are not to be slighted and laid aside; hence the apostle writing to the Corinthians, among whom were many divisions about their ministers; some being for Paul in opposition to Apollos, and some for Apollos in opposition to Paul; and others for Cephas in opposition to them both, and others for Christ in opposition to them all; they were for Christ without his ministers; but, says the apostle (1 Cor. 1:12, 13), “Is Christ divided?” that is, from his ministers; no, they are not to be separated from him, though subordinated to him. 2. It shows, that Christ entrusts his vineyard with his ministers; he makes them overseers of it; he sets them to watch over it, and faithfully discharge the several branches of their duty before-mentioned which is meant by the letting it out unto them: and it ought to be observed, that Christ has the sole power of letting out his vineyard, and he lets it out to whom he pleases; therefore none ought to usurp it: it is indeed a great honor to he entrusted with it; but no man should take this honor to himself, but he that is called of God to it; persons should not run into this work before they are sent, nor perform it negligently when they are in it. 3. Christ in some respects makes his ministers owners of this vineyard; he let out, or gave10241024^tn edwke, Sept. dcdit, Marckius, Michadis. the vineyard to keepers; hence, in chapter 2:15, it is said, our vines have tender grapes: ministers-have in some sort an interest in the vines, the churches; their joy, comfort, life, and glory, lie much in the fruitfulness and well-being of them; which is a very great and powerful argument to induce them to vigilance, diligence, and carefulness, in the discharge of their work.
V.The price this vineyard was let at, or the rent which these keepers were to bring in for the fruit of it, is a thousand pieces of silver: which may denote, 1. The exceeding great fruitfulness of this vineyard, that the fruit of it was worth so much: thus in Isaiah 7:23, it is said, “and it shall come to pass in that day, that every place Shall be, where there were a thousand vines, at a thousand silverings, it shall even be for briars and thorns;” that is, those places, which were so exceeding fruitful before, shall now be barren and desolate. It may denote the usefulness of a gospel-ministry; which is to bring home souls to Christ; to gather in the fruit of his labors, and travail of his soul, which are as dear and valuable to him as a thousand pieces of silver; at which he rejoices as much as the poor woman did (Luke 15:8, 9). at the finding of her lost piece: Christ’s ministers are her rent-gatherers, and the collectors of his fruit; “I have chosen you and ordained you,” says he (John 15:10), “that they should go and bring forth fruit;” and then do they bring it m, when souls are converted under their ministry. 3. The sum to be brought in from every one of them is alike, every man his thousand pieces: Christ’s ministers have indeed one and the dame commission to preach the gospel; but they have not all the same abilities for the work, nor are they alike succeeded in it; but yet, in the faithful and honest discharge of their work, they are all so blessed by him, as to answer the end of their ministration designed by him; so that he reckons that every one, even the meanest, brings in his thousand pieces, as well as the more able and successful. 4. It shows that there is a reckoning-day coming, for ministers as well as others; who must give an account of their talents, what use they have made of them in Christ’s vineyard, and what success has attended their labors; which, if they can do with joy, and not with grief, will turn to their account, as well as be of advantage to others,
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