<< THE LABORERS IN THE VINEYARD. >>
THE ORDER OF REGENERATION.
1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. 3"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.4He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went. "He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 7" 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. "He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' 8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' 9"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' 13"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius?14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' 16"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."(MATTHEW xx. 1-16.)
Regeneration is a gradual growth. Necessarily, our latest stages of regenerate life are the best. In the beginning, our reformation is comparatively crude and superficial. But our Lord leads us onward, upward and inward, step by step, further into the kingdom of heaven, which is a heavenly condition of mind and life; "For the kingdom of God. is within you."
THE OLD IDEA.
In considering this parable, probably it would be well to clear away, at once, the cloud of error which has long hung about it. It has long been used as an argument for deathbed repentance. But, the fact is, it has nothing whatever to do with that subject. The Old Theology has long taught that, as justification is by "faith, alone," such faith may be attained on one's death-bed, in the last moment of life. But, to make this parable favor such teaching, much straining is necessary.
In the first place, death-bed repentance would come to a bad man, who had been living in evil, heedless to the call of the gospel. But the eleventh-hour laborers were not revellers, nor disreputable idlers. They were waiting for work in the public market-place, in the acknowledged place where men looked for employment. "Why stand ye here, all the day, idle? Because no man hath hired us?" Is that the reply of a heedless and wicked man? Was it his fault that he had not been hired? He was well-disposed, and looking for work.
These men might, figuratively, represent those who had been waiting for the Lord, but did not know where to find Him. They were like the Gentiles, who, being called long after the Jews, were well-disposed, but ignorant, yet ready to follow the Lord, when they learned about Him.
THE ELEVENTH HOUR.
Again, this idea of death-bed repentance confuses the eleventh hour with the twelfth hour. The eleventh-hour laborers did not fail to work. They began to work as soon as they were called. And they wrought as long as it was day. They wrought one hour. A dying man is one whose ability to work is at an end. He can not work at all. He has reached the twelfth hour. A dying man may be frightened into seeking religion, at the last moment, when there is nothing else that he can do. He may think he is willing to give up his worldly pleasures, when he is compelled to do so. But the eleventh-hour laborers went to work while they had the choice. They did all the work that they had any opportunity to do. So, in regeneration, we must do the work of repentance and reformation. Repentance alone is not enough; both the repentance and the amendment of the life are needed.
Again, if, in the parable, the eleventh-hour laborers represent those who repent at the last moment, then those who went to work in the vineyard at daybreak, must represent the life-long Christians. And yet these are the ones who make most unchristian complaints against the Lord, for giving the eleventh-hour repentant sinners as good a heaven as He gives to the early converts. If this is so, it would not argue a very good result of their long devotion to religion. We should expect their selfish tendency to complain of their Lord's goodness would have been trained out of them, long before the end of their mature life.
But, the fact is, the parable, in its true meaning, makes no reference to death-bed repentance. No such doctrine is taught in the Sacred Scriptures. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," because sin is death. Spiritual death is not a punishment for sin, but a direct result of sin. And the death is in the sin.
Historically, the parable refers to the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews had the Divine Word, but had only a superficial knowledge of it, and little regard for it. The Gentiles were ignorant, but well-disposed; and they received the Lord and His holy Word, while the Jews rejected the Lord, and rejected the Word, in spirit, even while they often made much of its letter.
But all scripture is given for our individual instruction and use. In its best sense, it refers to principles, rather than to persons or nations. It teaches principles, which are to be known, loved and practised, in the mind and life of every man.
The arbitrary division of the books of the Bible into chapters, has confused the connection of this parable with its context. It should be read in connection with the latter half of the preceding chapter, about the rich young man who not give up his riches, and the subsequent question of Peter, "Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed Thee; what shall we have, therefore?" In this parable the Lord rebuked Peter's feeling of self-merit.
The "man, a householder," is the Lord, the Divine Man, who holds in His keeping our inward house of the imind. A man's inward "house," or home, is his will; for, in his will, he really lives and dwells. The will is the central life of the man; and his thought and his conduct are truly his own, in so far, only, as they are the free expression of his will. We find, in this parable, the" house," the" vineyard," and the" market-place;" representing, respectively, the will, the understanding and the memory. The Lord inwardly leads men in their will, and teaches them in their understanding, by means of the knowledges laid up in their memory.
In a more general sense, the vineyard is the church, in which truths are planted, and in which men are taught and converted, through their rational understanding of truth. But, in the individual, the church is planted in the understanding, or intellect, by means of the knowledge of Divine truths.
HIRING THE LABORERS.
The householder goes out to hire laborers into his vineyard. Regeneration does not flow peacefully into the man, from the Lord, from the man's interiors, through the intermediate things, into the external; i. e., heaven does not simply flow into the man's will, and through his understanding, into his life. This is the order in which he receives life, after regeneration; but it is not the order in which he is consciously regenerated.
In regeneration, the Lord's influence flows into the man's interiors, his will, but first shows its effect in his exteriors, his conduct. Then, by means of obedience to the Divine law, as a rigid rule, the man is brought to understand the reason of the law.
Thus the Divine influence comes back, from the exteriors of the man, through the intermediate things of his understanding, into his will. Then the love of good, in the will, is joined to the practice of good, in the conduct ; and this is accomplished by means of truths, which are first placed in the memory, and afterwards raised up into the understanding, and then into the will. Thus the understanding is the vineyard of the mind, where the man labors to bring forth fruit, in applying truths to his life.
In the young child, the first faculty which comes into conscious life, is the will, with its affections. Then the memory is opened, and facts are stored therein. Both the will and the memory are active, long before the understanding assumes any positive form. Children exert their will, and love to know, and thus lay up knowledge in the memory. After this, the understanding begins to operate upon that knowledge.
When. the rational faculty is opened, and the youth begins to think, as of himself then all the knowledges laid up in his memory, become his laborers, working in building up his understanding. So, in our growth in regeneration, the new birth begins in the will. The will then acts upon the knowledge in the memory, And, through the understanding of truth, the man is led to unite his love of truth and his understanding of truth, in obedience to truth.
Thus the knowledges, or things known, in his memory, become active laborers in the vineyard of his understanding, which is operated by the will. Thus the householder comes out from the house, and hires the laborers into his vineyard. The house is the will; and, in the highest sense, the householder is the Lord, who is the indwelling Life of the man, the Holder of the man's inmost life. Thus the householder goes out and hires laborers into his vineyard, when the Divine influence flows through the man's will, into his memory, and there arouses his knowledges of truth, and sends them to labor in his understanding, to give the man a rational comprehension of the principles of truth.
The understanding is the man's vineyard; and yet, in the highest sense, it is the Lord's vineyard, because the Lord is the true Life of the man, and the One who begins and carries on all growth in regeneration.
Knowledges of truth are facts and ideas, in the memory. And they are waiting there, ready to be called into the vineyard, when the will sees its way to apply them to the life of love, thought, and conduct. They cannot, of themselves, do anything, until the will calls them to activity,
But there are differences in these knowledges in the memory. They are implanted in the memory at different times, and in different stages of the mind's development. And they are called forth from the memory, to enter into practical work, in the understanding, at different periods of progress in regeneration.
And now we have the key of this parable. The laborers are the knowledges in the memory, not, at first, directly employed in the active work of regeneration, but gradually, and in a certain order, called into the mental vineyard, in rational thought.
The "hire" of each laborer is the fuller life which he attains. Knowledge, by working in our regeneration, becomes lifted up from the memory, into the understanding, and is finally united with the affections. This is its recompense. "The laborer is worthy of his hire." The pay of goodness and of truth are in themselves. We are not paid for being good, but in being good. "Virtue is its own reward." The householder agrees with the laborers for a penny a day, as wages. The Lord, in His providence" allows the man, in beginning regeneration, to see something of the rewards of regenerate life. For, in the early stages, the man cannot cast out all idea of merit and rewards.
The" penny," or silver denarius, was the daily pay of the Roman soldier, and the common day's hire of working men. It was equal to about fifteen cents of our money. As silver, it represents spiritual truth. The reward of employing our knowledges of truth in working for regeneration, is the clearer and higher perception of truth, which results from the use of knowledge, as well as the delight felt by the mind in such growth. For then, the spiritual mind sends its influence down and out into the natural mind, and fills the natural mind with the sphere of a higher life.
At the end of each state, or stage of progress, the will again goes out, or the Lord goes out from the man's will, and arouses the knowledges in the memory to greater activity, that they may be lifted up into the understanding, and may become rational truths.
The reward of a penny a day, is the constant daily lifting up of the mind to clearer comprehension of truth, and to warmer states of love. In this, there is a daily strengthening, directing and leading, of the mind, in the joys of regenerate life.
The principles which are first made our own, in regeneration, are the most external, and most general; they are, then, the least pure and least perfect. There is much of self still left in them. A sense of self-merit taints them all. The man is still delighted with praise, and pained by criticism.
The different hours at which the different laborers were hired, represent the different stages of regeneration, and the order in which different kinds of knowledges are brought out of the memory into practical work in the understanding. The Jewish working day was from sunrise to sunset. As the Lord said, "Are there not-twelve hours in the day?" The first hour was at sunrise, and the twelfth hour at sunset. The third, sixth, ninth and twelfth hours, are all multiples of three. And this is so, because the subject treated of in the parable is truth; and three is a number representing fulness in truth, a full period, as to progress in truth.
To understand this parable, we must remember the order of regeneration. During our infancy and childhood, our Lord implants, in our impressible natural minds, certain states of good affection, of love towards out parents, nurses, etc. These are stored up in the child's mind. In the language of the New-Church, we call these states "remains," things stored up in the mind, and remaining there, for future use. "Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant [or remains] we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah."
These states, or "remains," are stored up unconsciously to the child. But, as the man becomes mature, he must become regenerate, as of himself. Each spiritual principle enters into the man, from the Lord, inwardly ; but it cannot become the man's own, as a part of his conscious life, until it comes out into a corresponding degree of his conscious, outward life. Here it finds a base, on and in which it can rest.
THE ORDER OF REGENERATION.
So, every man's practical regeneration, in his conscious life, begins at the last, or external and natural degree of his consciousness. He begins by simple obedience to the law, as known, Then he journeys upward and inward, And the last stages of regeneration are the best, because they are the most interior.
First, the love of pleasure is subdued by the development of a love of duty. Then the natural love of the world must be controlled by the love of the neighbor, which is spiritual. Then the natural love of self must be subdued by the celestial love to the Lord. Thus, we gradually cultivate, in succession, the principles of obedience, faith, and love. But we notice that the order of development of these principles, in our conscious life, is the very reverse of the order in which the knowledges were implanted in our minds, by the Divine Providence, unconsciously to us. Through our infantile love to our parents, celestial "remains" were first implanted in our minds. For, then, we were less self-conscious, and less of our hereditary evil was developed; and so the highest angels could then be spiritually associated with us. Truly, "Heaven lies about us, in our infancy." Our parents were as gods, to us; and our love for them became the natural base on which the love to God could afterwards rest. And our obedience to our parents became the base on which we afterwards built up our obedience to the Lord; hence the great importance of early obedience. After this stage, in childhood, our Lord, through our association with our companions, implanted the spiritual "remains" of love, to our neighbor. And, further along, in the next stage, of youth, the Lord, through our desire to know, implanted the good natural" remains," of the love of obedience to known law, These are what we call spiritual-natural remains ; i. e., on the natural plane, but filled with a spiritual principle, naturally understood.
But, as the youth matures, these last remains are first brought into activity. His “remains" commenced in the celestial degree; but his conscious regeneration begins in the natural degree. And it proceeds inward ; until, in the full measure of regeneration, he again becomes as a little child, in the innocence of wisdom, And "of such is the kingdom of heaven."
The Lord, unconsciously to us, has stored away in the interior of our minds, these "remains," or states of good and truth. And, now, as we arrive at maturity, or young manhood, He takes us by the hand, and seeks to lead us upward and inward, back over the pathway of our inward. minds, on which He has heretofore trodden alone. From infancy to manhood, while our Lord was secretly implanting the germs of a future regenerate life, we were developing our individual and selfish life. And now, on the outskirts of our mature mental life, the Lord meets us with the truth of His Divine Word, stirs up the knowledges in our memory; and induces us to walk to the development of our inward and spiritual manhood. We form a natural base, in keeping the commandments; and from that base, and on it, we build up the higher manhood.
THE FIRST AND THE LAST.
Thus, the best principles, the undeveloped germs of which were implanted in our inward minds, earliest in our life, are the last to be made ours, in our conscious life. And the last knowledges and "remains" sown in our mind, are, in the journey back to loving innocence, the first to be made our own. Thus," the first shall be last, and the last first." The outward things, which first engaged our young manhood's affections, gradually sink to their proper place, as last, in the regenerate life; and the profounder principles, which our young manhood scarcely recognized, have become the first and highest, in our completed growth.
The different laborers, entering the vineyard at different hours, represent the different kinds of knowledges, which are brought into practical use, at different stages of regeneration.
THE ELEVENTH HOUR.
Those called at the eleventh hour are the highest and best knowledges, those "remains" of infantile love and peace, first sown in the innocent mind. And, to come to the development of these remains, and into the innocence of mature wisdom, is the work of the last hour, the last stage of regenerate progress.
Until then, these" remains," or knowledges, were" standing idle" in the market-place of the memory; not because they were unwilling to work, but" because no man [had] hired them;" i. e., there was not, as yet, any thing in the man's conscious practical life, which could appreciate and use these pure" remains."
When the young man begins regeneration, he is in an external state; and he naturally first appreciates, and puts to use, those knowledges which are of an external kind, suited to his state. It will be a long while, and he will have much work to do, before he can see the pure, infantile states of love stored up in his mind, waiting to be employed in his conscious life. These purest states will stand longest, waiting in the market-place, before any man will hire them. They will be the last to be called into the vineyard of the understanding, for practical thought and work.
But when the evening comes, at the end of life's working day, and when the payment is to be made, i. e., when the man is to be completed in his regeneration, in the spiritual world, these, who were called last to labor, will be the first to be paid. That is, being the highest and most interior states, they will be the first to feel the inflow of heavenly life, which comes from the Lord, to the will, and outwardly, through the understanding, into the life.
But, the more external things, lying nearer the surface of our manhood, are necessarily more remote from the Lord's dwelling-place in our inmost life, and are thus more remotely receptive of His inflowing life.
The householder is now called “the lord of the vineyard," because the understanding is brought into intimate harmony with the will, and has also become conscious of the Lord's presence in it.
The "steward," who pays the laborers, is the rational mind, the thinking mind, which, in the regeneration, becomes the means of connection between the spiritual mind and the natural mind ; and thus the means of carrying life from the spiritual into the natural mind.
But the first laborers were disappointed, in not receiving more pay than was given to the last laborers, though they were paid according to their own agreement. These first laborers were the most external things, in the natural mind; and they still carried something of the idea of self-merit, and of deserving praise and recompense. The burden they bore was made burdensome by their own self-derived intelligence; and the heat of their day was made oppressive by the fire of their own self-love. Here we see the tendency of our most external and natural-minded thoughts to claim something for self, and to be, unsatisfied with the Divine Providence. But the higher principles of our inward minds learn to abase self, and to exalt the Lord. They see that the degrees of heavenly life are not rewards, but attainments.
QUANTITY AND QUALITY.
The natural mind always desires to determine things by their quantity, and fails to judge by quality. The natural man knows no rule but external weights and measures. But the Lord teaches us that spiritual things are determined by spiritual weights and measures; i. e., by quality. The spiritual weight of a thing is its goodness, and the spiritual measure is its truthfulness. The “spiritual" measure of a man that is, of an angel," is not in feet and inches, but in goodness and truth.
By the very nature of things, the natural mind cannot be in the fulness of regenerate life, in the same degree with the spiritual mind. But each can be in its own kind of fulness. Each can earn its penny a day. No wrong is clone to the external man, in making it what it is. No wrong is done to the foot, by creating it less sensitive than the eye.
Let each part of our manhood be in its own proper order, and it will be In its greatest possible happiness; as, in human society, every man is adapted to a certain position, and he will be happiest, as well as most useful, while in that position, contentedly performing uses. All who are regenerated, are brought into heaven, each in such degree as he has become capable of receiving.
CALLED AND CHOSEN.
"Many are called, but few are chosen." They are " called" who hear the truth calling them to regeneration. But they are" chosen," who love and do the truth; and who thus choose the life of truth and good.
"The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." "For He is Lord of lords, and King of kings ; and they that are with Him are called, and chosen, and faithful."
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887