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The Two Sons (vv. 28-32).

The parable of the two sons is exceedingly simple; and the question founded upon it, "Whether of them twain did the will of his father?" admitted of but one answer—an answer which seemed, as it was spoken, to involve only the simplest of all moral judgments; yet how keen the edge of it when once it was disclosed! Observe the emphatic word did, suggesting without saying it, that it made comparatively little difference what they said (see xxiii. 3). So far as profession went, the Pharisees were all that could be desired. They were the representatives of religion in the land; their whole attitude corresponded to the answer of the second son: "I go, sir." Yet when John—whom they themselves admitted to be a prophet of the Lord—came to them in the way of righteousness, they set his word aside and refused to obey him. On the other hand, many of those whose lives seemed to say "I will not," when they heard the word of John, repented and began to work the works of God. Thus it came to pass that many of these had entered the kingdom, while the self-complacent Pharisee still remained without.

The words with which the parable is pressed home are severe and trenchant; but they are nevertheless full of gospel grace. They set in the strongest light the welcome fact that the salvation of God is for the chief of sinners, for those who have been rudest and most rebellious in their first answers to the divine appeal; and then, while they condemn so very strongly the self-deceiver, it is not for the purpose of covering 311 him with confusion, but in order to open his eyes and save him from the net in which he has set his feet. Even in that terrible sentence which puts him lower down than open and disgraceful sinners, there is a door left still unlatched for him to enter. "The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you"; but you may enter after them. If only you, like them, would "afterward" repent—if you would repent of your hypocrisy and insincerity, as they have repented of their rudeness and rebellion—you would be as gladly welcomed as they into the kingdom of God.

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