A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *7/5/2012
Son, go work today in my vineyard. [Mt 21:28]
1. I am not going to confine myself to the context of these words, nor to use them strictly after the manner in which they were first spoken. I may, perhaps, explain the parable very briefly at the close; but I take the liberty to lift these words from their immediate context, and use them as a voice which, I believe, sounds often in the ears of God’s people, and sometimes sounds in vain. — “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” It is certain that God still speaks to us. He has spoken to us in his word. There are his precepts and promises; his statutes and testimonies. He who has ears to hear let him hear these sacred oracles. But beside this public revelation there are counsels and rebukes more closely and personally addressed to the conscience; voices — sometimes as soft as whispers, at other times as loud as the thunders that pealed from Sinai. The Lord has a way of speaking to men when “he opens the ears of men and seals their instruction,” as Elihu said. Thus he speaks when he calls them effectually by his grace in conversion. So he once called “Samuel, Samuel,” until the child answered. So he said, “Matthew, follow me.” So he called out, “Zacchaeus, come down.” So he cried out, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” So he asked some of us until the divine accents were clear and irresistible. Similarly many of us have heard him say, “Son, give me your heart”; and we have given him our hearts: we could not do otherwise. That voice exerted such a charming spell and swayed us with such a divine power that we were subdued by it, and we yielded our hearts to the God of love. Since then you who know the Lord must often have heard a voice speaking to you and asking you to seek his face in prayer. Perhaps you have been busy with the world, but you found an impulse of a mysterious kind coming over you, and you have been glad to withdraw yourself for a few minutes to the prayer closet so that you might speak with God. You know how it has been when you have been meditating alone, and yet not alone. One whose presence you knew, whose face you could not see, was with you. You felt as if you must pray. It has not been any effort on your part. The exercise has been as easy as to breathe and as pleasant as to partake of your daily bread. You felt the Lord drawing you to the mercy seat and saying in your soul, “My son, ask what you wish and it shall be done for you.” You must have been conscious of such a voice as that.
And have you not at times, in the silence of your mind, heard the
Lord call you to a closer communion with himself? Has not the sense,
if not the words, of the spouse in the Canticle been heard in your
soul, — “Come, my beloved, let us see if the vines flourish. Come with
me from Lebanon my spouse, with me from Lebanon?” You have been up
and away. You have gone into the secret places where Christ has shown
you his love, until you sat under his shadow with great delight, and
his fruit has been sweet to your taste. Our experience makes us know
that there are heavenly voices that invite prayer and call to
communion. And probably some of you have also been conscious of
another voice which I earnestly desire we may all hear tonight,
namely, the more martial and stirring call to service for the Lord
Jesus Christ. Some of you have been obedient to the call these many
years, and it calls louder and louder and louder still. You have been
reaping, and bearing the heat and burden of the day, but you cannot
throw down your sickle, your hand cleaves to it. Yes, rather you take
more gigantic strides and sweep down more of the precious grain at
every stroke you take. You feel that you can never cease from it
until you do —
Your body with your charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live.
A divine voice seems to be calling you and saying, “Follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men. Behold I have made you a chosen vessel to bear my name to the Gentiles.” You have heard that voice, and you are striving to obey it more and more.
3. Others either have never heard it, or hearing it have forgotten it. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear, and there are some who have a very deaf ear to any admonitions of this kind. They are like Issachar — a strong donkey crouching down between two burdens, but yet lifting neither. I fear lest upon them should come the curse of Meroz, because they do not come “to the help of the Lord — to the help of the Lord against the mighty.” Now, maybe this evening there are some Christian men or women here who shall feel as if the hand of the Crucified were laid upon them, and they hear him say to them, “You are not your own. You are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your bodies and in your spirits, which are his. Awake, you who sleep and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.”
4. The text, I hope, may be blest by God to be such a voice as that. Listening to it, we notice four things. First, the character under which it calls us, “Son”; secondly, the service to which it calls us, “go work”; thirdly, the time for which it calls us, “go work today”; and fourthly, the place to which it directs us, “go work today in my vineyard.”
5. I. First, then, THE CHARACTER UNDER WHICH IT CALLS US.
6. It appears to me to be a very powerful selection of terms. “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” It puts work on a very gracious footing, when we are asked to work for the Lord, not as slaves, nor as mere servants, but as sons. Moses speaks to us, and he says, “Servant, go and work for your wages.” But the Father in Christ speaks to us, and he says, “Son, go work today in my vineyard.” You shall serve the Lord no more as a servant, but as a son. The returning prodigal said, “Make me as one of your hired servants.” That was not an evangelical prayer, and was not answered. The father said, “This my son was dead, and is alive again,” and so he received him, not as a hired servant at all, but as a son. Oh, dear people of God, I trust you always draw the distinction very clearly between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. When you work for God you do not work for life but from life. You do not try to serve Christ in order that you may be saved, but because you are saved. You do not obey his commands so that you may become his children, but because you are his children, and therefore are imitators of God as dear children. You say “Abba, Father,” because you feel the spirit of adoption within you, and you endeavour to obey the commands of your Father for the very same reason. I do not, therefore, say to anyone here, “Go and work for God so that you may be saved.” I would not venture to put it on that footing. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” But turning to those who are saved, the gospel exhortation is expressed after a gospel manner — “Son, go work today in my vineyard.”
7. And it has all the more strength on this account, because, in addressing us as sons, it reminds us of the great love which has made us what we are. We were by nature heirs of wrath even as others, but, beloved, “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” Think of the love which chose us when we were still aliens and enemies; the love which adopted us, and put us into the family, itself wondering while it did it, for the Lord is represented as saying, “How shall I put you among the children?” — as if it were a strange thing that such as we are should ever be numbered among the children of God. The love which adopted us did not stop there, but having given us the rights of children, it gave us the nature of children, therefore we were regenerated — “Begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; born, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and abides for ever.” Now, just think of election, adoption, regeneration, and when the Lord addresses you by that term of “son,” think of all that and say, “I owe to God an immeasurable debt of gratitude for having enabled me to become his son: giving me power and privilege to become a child of God. Therefore I feel the claims of obligation, and I would endeavour to work in the vineyard because I am his child, his son, his daughter, made so by his grace.”
8. This you see, dear friends, engages us to work in the vineyard all the more energetically, because we may reflect not only on the grace which has made us sons, but also on the privileges which that same grace bestowed upon us in making us sons; for, if children of God, the Lord will provide for us, will clothe us, will heal us, will protect us, will guide us, will educate us, will prepare us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. Remember, too, that precious passage, “And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” If heirs of God, how large our inheritance is, and if joint-heirs with Christ how secure that inheritance is; and we have been brought now, beloved, to such an estate as this that the angels themselves might envy us, for I venture to apply a passage of Scripture to this case — I hope without wresting it — “To which of the angels did he say at any time, ‘You are my Son?’ ” But he speaks like this to us poor worms of the dust, and when he is asking us to serve him he comes to us under this character, and addresses us in this relationship, and he says, “Son, daughter, go work today in my vineyard. I have given you boundless privileges in making you my child. I have given you this world and worlds to come. Earth is your lodge, and heaven your home. And therefore, because I have done all this for you — and what could I have done more for you than have made you my child? — therefore I say, ‘Go, work today in my vineyard.’ ”
9. In appealing like this to us under the name of son, it is supposed that we have some feelings within us corresponding to the condition to which our heavenly Father has called us. He says, “son.” If any of you, being a son, has a father and if that father wished you to do something for him, and he addressed you as “my son,” you would feel at once that whatever you could do you were bound to do because you were a son. It would awaken in you the filial feeling which is swift at once to yield obedience and love. And when the Lord looks upon you, my brother, and says to you “Son,” it is supposed that there is in your heart a child’s nature given by his grace, and that this filial instinct prompts the quick response, “My Father, what do you say to me? Speak, Lord, speak, Father, for your son hears you. I long to do your will. I delight in it, for to me it is the greatest joy I know that you are my Father and my God. Therefore, Lord, my heart stands ready now to listen to whatever you have to say, and my hand is ready to do it, as your grace shall enable me, only strengthen me in your ways.” Son, daughter, go work today in my vineyard.
10. By the use of that term “son,” also, it is supposed that you have something of the qualification that will prepare you to do what he asks. A man who has a vineyard naturally supposes that his son knows something about vineyards. The boy will have learned something through his father, and you who know the Lord are the only people who can serve him in his vineyard — that is to say, in winning souls for Christ no one can do this except those who are won themselves. If there is a lost child to be reclaimed, he shall be brought in by one of the children who has himself been found. To the wicked God says, “What have you to do to declare my statutes?” but to you who are his sons and daughters he entrusts the gospel, putting you in trust with it so that you may bear it to others and bring others to know and love his name. Oh, dear friends, it must be a dreadful thing to be trying to save the souls of others while you yourselves are lost; and what an unhappy mortal must he be who has to preach the gospel that he never knew — to speak of promises that he has never believed, and to preach a Christ in whom his soul has never trusted! But when the Lord speaks to you as his son and his daughter, the very fact that you stand in that relationship to him proves that you have some qualification for the service; and, therefore, dear brother or sister, you must not back out of it. You must not wrap your talent in a napkin, for you have received some talent in the very fact of being a child of God — a son or daughter of the Most High.
11. Thus I have tried to describe the character to whom the Lord speaks, but I cannot do it so as to interest those who are not his people. But I do say this to those of you who are a people near to him, to whom he stands as a Father, that this fact has strong claims on you. If I am a Father, where is my honour? If you are my children, where is your fear? If indeed the Lord has put you into his family, do you not owe to him the obedience and the love of children, and what can be more natural that if there is a household work to do — vineyard work to do — your Father should look to you to do it, and turn to you whom he has loved so long and loved so well, and say, “Son, daughter, go work today in my vineyard?”
12. II. Well, now, secondly, let us turn to the next point, and that is, THE SERVICE TO WHICH THE LORD CALLS US — “Go work.”
13. I know some Christians who do not like the name of work, and they look very black in the face if you say anything about duty. As for the matter of that, I do not mind how black they look, because there are some people who very much expose their own disposition by black looks and sullen moods; and when they turn sour they only reveal what is in their own nature. He who quarrels with the precept quarrels with God. Let him note that. And he who does not like the practical part of Christianity may do what he likes with the doctrinal part of it, for he has neither part nor lot in this matter. The language of the true child of God is, “I delight myself in your precepts”; and, as David put it, “Your precepts have been my song in the house of my pilgrimage.” He would even sing about the precepts of the gospel. And now the text says, “Go work.” That is something practical, something real. Go work. He does not say, “My son, go and think and speculate, and make curious experiments, and draw out some new doctrines and astonish all your fellow creatures with whims and oddities of your own.” “My son, go work.” And he does not say here, “My son, go and attend conferences one after another all the year around and live in a perpetual maze of hearing different opinions and going from one public meeting and one religious engagement to another, and so feed yourself on the rich things full of marrow.” All this is to be attended to in its proper proportion, but here it is “Go work: go work.” How many Christians there are who seem to read, “Go plan”; and they always figure in a way with some wonderful plan for the conversion of all the world, but they are never found labouring to convert a baby — never having a good word to say to the tiniest child in the Sunday School. They are always scheming, and yet never accomplishing anything. But the text says, “My son, go work.” Oh, yes, but those who do not like to work themselves display the greatness of their talents in finding fault with those who do work, and they have a very clear perception of the mistakes and the crotchets of the very best of workers, whose zeal and industry are equally unflagging. However the text does not say, “My son, go and criticize”; what it distinctly says, is, “Go and work.” I remember that when Andrew Fuller had a very severe lecture from some Scottish Baptist brethren about the discipline of the church, he made the reply, “You say that your discipline is so much better than ours. Very well, but discipline is meant to make good soldiers. Now, my soldiers fight better than yours, and I think therefore that you ought not to say much about my discipline.” So the real thing is not to be for ever calculating about modes of church government, and methods of management and plans to be adopted and rules to be laid down, which it shall be accounted a serious breach to violate. All that is very good in their place, for order is good in its way. But come, now, let us go to work. Let us have something done. I believe the very best working for God is often done in a very irregular manner. I get more and more to feel like the old soldier of Waterloo when he was examined about the best garment that could be worn by a soldier. The Duke of Wellington said to him, “If you had to fight Waterloo over again how would you like to be dressed?” The answer was, “Please, sir, I should like to be in my shirtsleeves.” I think that is about the best. Get rid of everything superfluous, and get at it and hack away. I wish that some Christians could do that, just strip to it, get rid of the superfluities of orderliness and propriety, and everything else which hampers them in trying to win poor souls. There they are, going down to hell, and we are stickling about this mode and that, and considering the best way not to do it, and appointing committees to consider and debate, to adjourn and to postpone, and to leave the work in abeyance. The best way is to arise and do it, and let the committee sit afterwards. May God grant that we may. My son, go work today. Let it be something practical, something real, something actually done.
14. And by good work is meant something that will involve effort, toil, earnestness, self-denial, perhaps something that will need perseverance. You will need to stick to it very earnestly. You will heartily have to yield yourself up to it, and give up a good deal else that might hinder you in doing it. Oh, Christian men and women, you will not glorify God much unless you really put your strength into the ways of the Lord, and throw your body, soul, and spirit — your entire manhood and womanhood — into the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. To do this you need not leave your families, or your shops, or your secular engagements. You can serve God in these things. They will often be vantage-grounds of opportunity for you, but you must throw yourself into it. A man does not win souls to Christ while he is himself half asleep. The battle that is to be fought for the Lord Jesus must be fought by men who are wide awake and quickened by the Spirit of God. “My son, go work today.” Do not go and play at teaching in Sunday Schools. Do not go and play the preacher. Do not go and play at exhorting people at the corners of streets, or even play at giving away tracts. “My son, go work.” Throw your soul into it. If it is worth doing it is worth doing well; and if it is worth doing well, it is worth doing better than you have ever done it yet; and even then it will be worth doing better still, for when you have done your best you still have to reach forward to something far beyond; for the best of the best is all too little for such a God and for such a service. “My son, go work.”
15. Well, now, such a claim as this may, perhaps, you think, sound rather difficult; but I could tell you of many who would be very glad indeed if the Lord would say that to them. I might tell you about some who seldom leave their beds, some who can seldom sit upright through their weakness, to whom the nights are often full of pain, and the days are spent in weariness. They have learned, by God’s teaching, to be content to suffer; but sometimes they cannot stifle an ardent wish; they wish the Lord would let them serve him. They do not envy, but yet sometimes there crosses over their mind the shadow of something like envy when they remember what opportunities some of you have, who are full of health and strength. I have seen my brother minister laid aside, the voice perhaps gone, the lungs feeble, the heart prone to palpitate, and, oh, how he has wished that he could preach. With what fervour has he said, “Oh, if I only had those opportunities over again, how I would try to use them better than when I was favoured with them!” I tell you there are thousands of God’s servants who would kiss the dust of his feet if he would only say to them, “Go work.” I remember reading about a minister who had been labouring in America until he had fairly broken down. He had to take a sabbatical for his health. He had not been away many days before he wrote in his diary, “There may be some ministers who consider it a pleasure to be relieved from the duty of preaching, but I consider it a misery. I would sooner preach as I have done in my own pulpit continually than I would see all the kingdoms of the world.” And, indeed, there is no pleasure in the world like that of serving God. You will soon get tired if you have a vacation, but you will never get tired of a divine vocation, though you may sometimes grow tired in it. Now, think that the Lord might have said to you, “Now, go and lie on that bed for ten years. Go and pine away in consumption. I have nothing much for you to do. You have got to submit to my will.” Are you not very glad that you are full of strength, or that you have some share of it, and that now your heavenly Father says, “Son, go work. I have given you strength: go work?” Lord, we thank you for so kind and gentle a command.
16. Besides, there is a great deal of honour in this work. You know how much your little boy wants to be a man. All boys do. When he first wears a suit he congratulates himself upon the sign of anything like being a man. How proud he is of it! And if you, being a father, were to say to your boy, “My son, you are now of such an age that I can trust you to do some work for me”; see how the little man would begin to lift himself up: he is glad of it. And I am sure that if we look at it properly, we who are the children of God ought to feel honoured by our heavenly Father saying to us, “You may do something for me.” We must be very humble, for, after all, we cannot do anything except as he works in us to will and to do his pleasure. But it is really very gratifying and ennobling for a poor mortal spirit to be allowed to do anything for God, indeed, and to do what perfect saints above and holy angels cannot do; for oh, dear brother, there is no glorified spirit that can go down that back street and up that blind alley, and up those staircases that seem as if they would tumble down under your feet. Go and talk to that dying woman about Christ. You have a privilege which honoured Gabriel does not have: be thankful that you have it. There is no angel that can take that little child in the Sunday School class and tell him of “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” and carry the little lamb for the Good Shepherd. The Lord sends you to do it. And it should be a point of thankfulness with us all that he has considered us worthy, and put us into the ministry — into any part or parcel of that ministry — to do something for his name’s sake. Well, we are always receiving — always receiving, and it is very blessed; but still in this, as in other things, it is more blessed to give than to receive; and when we can give back to God some little trifle of service, stained with our tears because it is no better than it is, oh, it is a happy and a blessed thing. How grateful you ought to be that the Lord does say to you, “Son, go work today.”
17. And remember, once more, on this point, that the work to which the Lord calls us is quite varied, therefore there is a great deal of change in it; and, besides that, it suits the different temperaments, constitutions, dispositions, and abilities of his people. He says, “My son, go work today in my vineyard.” But he does not assign you to do my work, and he does not assign me to do your work. Dear sister, you would like to do the work of such and such an excellent Christian woman, would you not? Yes, but that is naughty of you. Be satisfied to do your own work. Suppose your housemaid always wanted to do the cook’s work, the house would soon be in bad order. Better keep to your own place, dear sister. Ah, there is a brother here who says, “I think I could preach if I only had such and such a congregation.” Very likely, brother, but you had better preach to your own and do what good you can there. Very likely I should do better with my own congregation, and you will do better with yours than I should. Every man had better keep to his own work in his own place. And how thankful we ought to be that if one can preach a sermon, yet another can offer a prayer, — that if one can go and speak to thousands, yet another can speak to ones and twos. There is work in the Sunday School; there is work in the family; there is work in the street; there is work in the workshop; there is work everywhere for Jesus if you will only stretch out your hand to find it and follow Solomon’s good advice, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
18. III. Now, THE TIME is the next thing. “My son, go work today.” That means directly — now.
19. Brother, sister, I will not say a word about what it is your duty to do tomorrow. Let tomorrow take care of itself. I will have nothing to say about what it will be right for you to do in ten years’ time. If you are alive, grace will be given to you for that. But what I have to say to you in God’s name is, “Go work today,” and since the sun has gone down, let it be, “Go work tonight in my vineyard,” if there is opportunity, even tonight, before another day’s sun has dawned upon the world. “And why today?” Because, brother, your Father wants you to be at it at once. “Why do you stand here all the day idle?” If you have done nothing for Christ you have wasted enough time. Do not rest today, but be at it now. He wants you to do it now, because the vines are in a certain condition that just now require work. There is someone in the world who is in a tender state of mind, to whom you may speak successfully. There is a mourner here who needs comfort tonight. There is one struggling against his conscience, who needs urging on tonight in the right way. If the case is neglected tonight it will be like neglecting to trim the vines just at the proper time for taking a way the superfluous wood. Now can you do it? You cannot do it on any other day. Therefore, “go work today.”
20. “Today,” because there are certain dangers to which those whom you are about to bless are just now exposed. The devil is tempting them; it is necessary that you go and help them against that temptation. They are just now in despair; it is necessary that you step in with the word of comfort from your Master’s mouth. They are, perhaps, this very night, before they go to their rest, about to commit a great sin. Maybe the Lord intended for you to interpose just now, before that sin is done. Son, go work today; you are needed. There are very few labourers just now: many of them have gone. Son, go today, while the others have gone out for their recreation — while the others are asleep and grown idle. There is a gap just now: it is at this moment. Many a brave deed of valour owed its success to being done at once. If Horatius [a] had not kept the bridge just in that very moment when the enemy endeavoured to cross over, we should never have heard of him, nor of the brave deeds of old. There is a time of dearth — of lack: there is an urgency. Son, God says to you, “Hurry now, even now, and go work today in my vineyard.” “Today”: notice that.
21. It means work all the day: work as long as you ever live. Son, if once you get into that vineyard do not come home again until the day is done. I am always sorry when I hear of Christian people beginning to give up some of their work before the infirmities of old age come on; although I think that many a minister, when he gets old, had better give up a charge for which he is not equal and take one smaller for which his strength would avail. But I know that some give up this work and that, and they say, “Let the young people come and take their turn.” Yes, yes, but suppose the sun were to stop shining and say, “There is a star over there; let him have a turn and shine instead of me.” Suppose the moon were for ever to give up shining in the night watches, and say that she has had enough of being out at night; and suppose the earth were to say it has had enough of yielding harvests. “Why should I yield any more? Let the sea take its turn and grow grain.” And so, dear Christian friends, keep on as long as you can. Who can blame dear old John Newton? When he got too feeble to get up the pulpit stairs of St. Mary Woolnoth, he was helped up, and then, leaning on his pulpit Bible he poured out his soul. A friend of his said to him, “Dear Mr. Newton, do not you think you ought to give up preaching?” “What!” he said, “shall the old African blasphemer ever give up praising the grace of God as long as there is breath in his body? Never.” And so he went to his work again. Oh, for more of that spirit to persevere in the Master’s service.
22. Only there is this thought: it is only a day. “Son, go work today.” It will only be a day. The longest life is no more, and then the shadows of death will gather: but there will be no night, for instead of that the day shall break and the shadows shall flee away, and then life’s service here below will all be over. There will be no troublesome children to teach, no hard-hearted sinners to rebuke, no backsliding, lukewarm Christians to reprove, no deceivers to encounter, no sceptics to answer with the testimony that cannot be shaken, no scoffers to put up with, patiently bearing their contemptuous insolence. It will be all over then; and then those who have served their Master shall behold him gird himself and sit down and serve them, and they shall feast at his table and enter into his joy. “My son, go work today,” for you shall rest tomorrow. Work on, for there is rest enough in heaven: work on, for eternity shall well repay you for the toils of time.
23. IV. Then, concerning THE PLACE WHERE THE LORD CALLS US TO THE WORK. “My son, go work today in my vineyard.”
24. I like to think of this special sphere of labour, because it must be a pleasure to work in our Father’s vineyard, for there everything that we do will be done for him. I trim this vine; it is my Father’s vine. I dig this trench; but it is my Father’s ground I work. I gather out these stones; it is my Father’s vineyard that I am engaged in clearing. I repair this fence; it is my Father’s soil that I am hedging about. It is all done for him. Who would not do all that he could for the dear Redeemer, dying Lamb, and for the blessed Father of our spirits? “Go work today in my vineyard.”
25. Then what interesting work it is, for it is our own vineyard because it is our Father’s vineyard. All that belongs to him belongs to us. We are sons working in our Father’s vineyard; so we can say, “This vine; why, I have an interest in it, for I am the heir of my Father’s property. This ground that I endeavour to dig up and fertilize; it is my ground, it is my Father’s. And this wall that I try to repair; it is mine, it is my Father’s.” It is always pleasant to work for ourselves, you know; and, in a blessed sense, when we are working for God we are working for ourselves. You are labourers, you are God’s workmanship, you are God’s people; and when you are working for the Lord you really are taking shares with him.
26. And what a work it is, too! “Go work today in my vineyard.” One likes working in a vineyard, because it pays. Working in a desert may be thankless toil; but working in a vineyard where there will be clusters is very different. One can already think of those juicy grapes that will be ready for the wine-press, and for the festival, when the ruddy juice comes freely forth — when they make merry and rejoice in the vintage. And you will have the new wine, and the wine on the lees well refined. All kinds of pleasures await the man who serves the Lord.
27. “Go work in my vineyard.” Does it not mean that the work is plentiful? There is always something to be done in a vineyard. If you ask those who keep the vines they will tell you that there is much labour required. From one part of the year right on there is something still to be done, many dangers to be averted, and many enemies to be kept off from the vine; so there is plenty to do, brother. Go work in the vineyard, where there will be need of all your hands. It is close at hand; very near you; for the heavenly Father did not say, “Son, take a ship and go to Tarshish, or to Ophir.” He said, “My son, go work in my vineyard”; and the vineyard was just beyond the backdoor over there. Now, your heavenly Father’s vineyard is close to you. Those streets where you live — the very house in which you dwell — perhaps the very bedroom where you sleep — is God’s vineyard, where you are to work for him. It is your heavenly Father’s own work, to be done by you in your heavenly Father’s own strength. Oh, if I might tonight set one young man on fire with love for Christ I should be glad. If I could only be the humble means of inspiring some Christian woman with the high mission of being useful in her day and generation, how much would my soul rejoice! There came into this Tabernacle one evening a young gentleman who was well known as being a great hand with his cricket bat. He was a Christian and full of earnestness in laying hold upon the great truths of revelation; but he had never served his God. He thought it was right to spend his leisure time in manly exercises, and in such pursuits he sought recreation. But while I spoke a fire kindled within him, and he went home to begin to preach the gospel in the street of the city where he lived, and now he is the pastor of a large and influential church which he has gathered together. Since then he has preached the gospel of Jesus Christ more than once in this place. Oh, that some other believer who may happen to be in that condition — some young man of ability who is spending all his strength on the world without going into anything grossly wrong, but simply wasting his talent — might hear a voice saying to him tonight, as he goes down that aisle, “My son, go work today in my vineyard.”
28. After dwelling so long upon the practical admonition, I have very little time left for that brief explanation of the parable, or more properly the parables of the vineyard with which on the outset I promised to close. The occasion on which they were spoken is memorable. Assailed “while he was teaching,” — rudely interrupted by the legal sanhedrin of the Jews with the high priest in the forefront, they confronted our Lord as it were with a warrant and propounded to him two questions; — one concerning the authority or title by which he acted — the other concerning the source from which his authority was derived. You all know how skilfully he evaded his unscrupulous antagonists. “I also will ask you one thing,” he said. Then he asked them a question that stumped them, and left them in a ridiculous parley, for “they reasoned among themselves,” went aside to whisper, and then drew back in sheer timidity declining an answer, for “they feared the people,” or as you may read it, they were afraid of the mob. The advantage our Lord thus gained he quickly followed up with a parable — in fact, with the parable we have been talking about. He opened it like this, — “What do you think?” — posing a question about two sons, the one forward in profession, yet utterly disobedient, the other sullen in appearance though afterwards penitent in spirit and diligent in labour. The thing was so obvious that they answer without hesitation with a reply that nailed the censure to their own hearts. “Which of these two did the will of his father?” They say to him, “the first.” Read it, read the parable for yourselves. Experience the force of it if you can. The penitent prostitute and the obdurate high priest are put in the scales. “In the way of righteousness” — according to the truthful caricature — the chief priests and elders themselves admit that “the first” of these two did the will of our heavenly Father. Meditate on this parable, I urge you. Almost without a break the vineyard supplied him yet again with another parable which he insisted on their hearing — a parable that brought out the character of the age and “the signs of the times” so distinctly, that they could not fail to read it in the light of their own prophets, and at the same time it so exposed the treachery of their counsel and conspiracy that they recognised their own portrait at once and perceived that he spoke of them. “The vineyard,” you are all aware, was the constant symbol of the Jewish nation as a theocracy. The men who sat in Moses’s seat were the stewards in charge of that vineyard which was Jehovah’s special property. They, like the perverse rulers of every age, sought to shelter their evil schemes under cover of syndicates and conferences. But the words and warning’s of Jesus, his proverbs and parables, were keen enough to probe all their subtleties, and leave them to stand abashed without an excuse for the guile of their hearts or the guilt of their conduct. Now remember that the kingdom of God was taken from them and given to a nation producing its fruits. To what nation is it given? Is it not to the church which is called “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a particular people; that you should proclaim the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light?” The vine is the express symbol of our Christian life, since all believers are incorporated with Christ. Well then, there is a vineyard of God’s own planting; you believe that. He has rented it out to farmers; you believe that. He will come seeking fruit from this vineyard; you believe that. You are, dear brethren, the children of the farmers; you believe that, or else you would not presume to sit at his table and drink from his cup. Therefore he says to you, “Son, go work in my vineyard.” What answer do you give with your lips? What answer do you give with your life?
So far I have not been speaking to unconverted people. I have not
said a word to them. To them, however, I have this word to say, and I
am finished. I shall not ask you to work for Christ. I cannot exhort
you to do anything for him. You are not in a state of mind to do it.
You must first believe in him. Oh, let it be a sorrow for you tonight
that you are incapable of serving Christ. Until you receive a new
heart and a right spirit you have no capacity to serve him. First you
have to trust Christ, and to prove in your own souls that this gospel
is the power of God to your salvation. Your eyes must be opened; you
must be turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to
God, so that you may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance
among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus, before you can do
anything for him. Then, not until then, will you be fit to be made
witnesses both of those things which you shall have seen and of those
things in the which he will hereafter appear to you. You must be
born again yourselves before you can travail in birth for others,
until Christ is formed in them. You cannot testify, those of you by
whom the testimony of Christ has not been received and in whom it is
not confirmed. Your unskilled labour would be mischievous. Hands
off such holy work until those hands have been washed clean by Jesus
Christ. Come to him, and trust him, and believe in him, and when he
has saved you, then he will say to you, “Son, go work today in my
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Mt 21:12-32]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 23” 23 @@ "(Version 2)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Holy Anxiety — ‘Lovest Thou Me?’ ” 639]
[a] Publius Horatius Cocles: He was an officer in the army of the ancient Roman Republic who famously defended the Pons Sublicius from the invading army of Lars Porsena, king of Clusium in the late sixth century BC, during the war between Rome and Clusium. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatius_Cocles"
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 23 (Version 1)
1 My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he mikes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
2 He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake his ways:
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
3 When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
4 Thy hand, in spite of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows;
Thine oil anoints my head.
5 The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
Oh may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!
6 There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, or a guest,
But like a child at home.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 23 (Version 2)
1 The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
2 My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.
3 Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
4 My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
5 Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house for ever more
My dwelling place shall be.
Scotch Version, 1641.
Psalm 23. (Version 3)
1 The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want beside?
2 He leads me to the place
Where heavenly pasture grows,
Where living waters gently pass,
And full salvation flows.
3 If e’er I go astray,
He doth my soul reclaim;
And guides me in his own right way,
For his most holy name.
4 While he affords his aid,
I cannot yield to fear;
Though I should walk through death’s dark shade,
My Shepherd’s with me there.
5 In spite of all my foes,
Thou dost my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
And joy exalts my head.
6 The bounties of thy love
Shall crown my following days;
Nor from thy house will I remove,
Nor cease to speak thy praise.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 23 (Version 4)
1 The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a Shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye;
My noonday walks he will attend,
And all my midnight hours defend.
2 Though in the paths of death I tread,
With gloomy horrors overspread,
My stedfast heart shall fear no ill,
For thou, Oh Lord! are with me still:
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid,
And guide me through the dreadful shade.
Joseph Addison, 1712.
The Christian, Holy Anxiety
639 — “Lovest Thou Me?”
1 Do not I love thee, oh my Lord?
Behold my heart and see;
And turn each odious idol out
That dares to rival thee.
2 Do not I love thee from my soul?
Then let me nothing love:
Dead be my heart to every joy,
when Jesus cannot move.
3 Is not thy name melodious still
To mine attentive ear?
Doth not each pulse with pleasure bound,
My Saviour’s voice to hear?
4 Hast thou a lamb in all thy flock
I would disdain to feed?
Hast thou a foe, before whose face
I fear thy cause to plead?
5 Would not my ardent spirit vie
With angels round the throne,
To execute thy sacred will,
And make thy glory known?
6 Would not my heart pour forth its blood
In honour of thy name,
And challenge the cold hand of death
To damp the immortal flame?
7 Thou know’st I love thee, dearest Lord;
But oh, I long to soar
Far from the sphere of mortal joys,
And learn to love thee more.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.