Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 166, 1898

The Lord’s Vineyard


December 15, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in 6BC 1079; 17MR 26.

“Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a wine-press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.” [Matthew 21:33.] What was the hedge? The law of Ten Commandments. This was what distinguished the Israel of God from all other nations upon the face of the earth. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 1

Christ spoke this parable to set before His hearers the wonderful history of His church. The householder made every provision that his vineyard should receive the most careful attention, that nothing should be left undone. The church is represented as God’s peculiar treasure, precious in His sight, and dear to His heart of infinite love. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 2

A description of the vineyard is given in the fifth chapter of Isaiah. “Now will I sing to my well-beloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My well-beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill; and he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vines, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a wine-press therein.” [Verses 1, 2.] Everything was done that could be done to make the vineyard an honor to the one who owned it. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 3

The figure of the vineyard and the winepress represents the advantages and opportunity given to Israel. To them as His church God committed His oracles. Through Moses they received precepts and commandments. Guides and ministers were appointed them. God gave them riches and prosperity. They had every temporal and spiritual advantage. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 4

“Moreover, brethren,” Paul writes, “I would not have you ignorant that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink; for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” [1 Corinthians 10:1-4.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 5

When the children of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians, God revealed Himself as a God above all human authority, all human greatness. The signs and miracles wrought in behalf of His people revealed His power over nature and over the greatest intellects among those who made a god of nature, ignoring the supreme power that made nature. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 6

God went through the proud land of Egypt just as He will reveal Himself in the last days. With fire and tempest and death the Great I AM redeemed His people, to make them glorious as His special representatives. He took them out of the land of bondage. He bore them as upon eagle’s wings, and brought them unto Himself, that they might dwell under the shadow of the Most High. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 7

In their wilderness wanderings Christ was the invisible leader of the children of Israel. Enshrouded in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night, He led and guided them. In their behalf He constantly manifested the riches of His divine love and patience. Moses, appointed by God as the visible leader of the children of Israel, was called by Him the meekest man on the face of the earth. He had little confidence in himself, but he had implicit confidence in God. But the people he was leading often lost faith in God. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 8

At one time when Moses was in the Mount communing with God, they went to Aaron, saying, “Up, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what has become of him.” [Exodus 32:1.] Aaron had been left as the guardian of the church, and had he been faithful to his duty, had he held the people to their allegiance, this terrible record of idolatry need never have been written. But he yielded to the clamors of the people, thus revealing his weakness in time of trial. He betrayed sacred trust, and had not Moses interceded in his behalf, death would have been his penalty. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 9

“And Moses said to Aaron, what did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them? And Aaron said, Let not the anger of the Lord wax hot; thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, make us gods, which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what has become of him. And I said unto them, whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: and I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.” [Verses 21-24.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 10

Again the Lord’s forbearance was manifested. Opportunity was given for the people to save themselves from the punishment God Himself had offered. “Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said, Who is on the Lord’s side? Let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him. And he said unto them, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.” [Verses 26, 27.] Those who stubbornly refused to obey His command must suffer the result. A division was called for, and Moses exposed himself to the wrath of those who would not relent, the boldest and most obstinate. They might have fallen upon Moses in an attempt to take his life. But God was there to sustain his servant, and he built around him a bulwark of unseen agencies. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 11

“And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.” [Verse 28.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 12

It may seem to us that this punishment was severe. But God pronounced it an act of consecration to put to death all who justify their idolatrous action. It was not by the people’s choice that they were made executioners; God had said that the unrelenting should be slain. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 13

After the command of God was obeyed, Moses said to the people, “Ye have sinned a great sin: and now I will go up unto the Lord; per-adventure I shall make an atonement for your sin. And Moses returned unto the Lord, and said, Oh, this people have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of gold. Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin”—Here Moses paused, as if not knowing what to say. He knew that the request he had presented was a great one. “But if not,” he said, “blot me, I pray thee out of thy book which thou hast written.” [Verses 30-32.] Moses was speaking to the Lord Jesus Christ, who had pledged himself for the propitiation for the sins of the world. As he stood there before the Lord, the depth of his love for his people was unveiled. God knew it all, and was honored by his spirit of love and compassion. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 14

“And the Lord said unto Moses, whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book. Therefore go now, lead the people unto the place which I have spoken unto thee: behold, mine Angel shall go before thee: nevertheless in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.” [Verses 33, 34.] Please read and study verses twelve to twenty-three of the thirty-third chapter of Exodus. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 15

Christ was the invisible leader of the Israelites. They had great privileges. All witnessed the wonderful working of the hand of God when they passed through the Red Sea. All were under the cloud, the symbol of the divine presence. Why did not a nation so favored value and improve the privilege of being educated by no less a teacher than the living God? Christ was their instructor. He was their guardian, their shield, and their defense. They were instructed to render perfect obedience to the commands of God. This would be a hedge about them, keeping them from destroying themselves by sinful practices. With wonderful patience God strove to educate them in the art of believing in Him as the Author and Finisher of their faith. He gave to them the everlasting principles of truth, justice, and purity. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 16

God desired His people to render obedience to Him, not as a forced, arbitrary exaction, but because they realized that obedience to His law, the transcript of His character, would make them men and women of understanding. God was drawing and willing and obedient with the cords of love. He desired His people to go forth conquering and to conquer. It was their privilege to reveal the character of their great Leader. With such a Leader, with such exhibitions of his greatness and power in their deliverance from the degradation and death, they should have been inspired with faith and courage to go forward. The souls of men and women are of infinite value in God’s sight, not because, as many declare, they have natural immortality, but because it is possible for them through Christ to gain immortality. He only hath immortality, dwelling in light. To the believing soul, this is the germ of a new life. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 17

But the children of Israel failed to carry out God’s purposes for them. “With many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” [1 Corinthians 10:5.] Only two of the men who crossed the Red Sea, lived to go over into the promised land. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 18

“Now these things were our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as was some of them; as it is written, the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” [Verses 6, 7.] In the place of giving praise and thanksgiving to God, speaking words in acknowledgement of His bounties and blessings, calling the attention of those associated with them to Him, they drew minds away from Him by their trifling words and amusements. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 19

“Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted him, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” [Verses 8-12.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 20

We need to beware lest we suffer the same fate as did ancient Israel. The disobedience and destruction of the Israelites is recorded for our instruction, that we may avoid doing as they did. These things are written “for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” [Verse 11.] If we pass by these inspired cautions and warnings, and develop the wrong traits of character developed by the children of Israel, what excuse can we plead? 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 21

During the whole Jewish economy at God’s appointed time, prophets and messengers were sent to receive the Lord’s portion from His husbandmen. But they saw that everything was being appropriated to a wrong use, and the Spirit of the Lord inspired them to warn the people of their unfaithfulness and their misappropriation of the Lord’s portion. But though the people were convicted of their unrighteous course, they would not yield, but became the more stubborn. Entreaties and arguments were of no avail. They hated reproof. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 22

“When the time of the fruit drew near,” Christ said in the parable, “he sent his servants to the husbandman, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first; and they did unto them likewise.” [Matthew 21:34-36.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 23

Paul records the treatment received by God’s messengers, “Women received their dead raised to life again,” he declares, “And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheep skins and goat skins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy;) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and in caves of the earth.” [Hebrews 11:35-38.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 24

For centuries God looked with patience and forbearance at the cruel treatment given His ambassadors, at His holy law prostrate, despised, trampled under foot. He swept away the Noachic world by a flood. By fire from heaven Sodom was consumed. But when the earth was again peopled, men drew themselves away from God, and renewed their hostility to Him, manifesting bold defiance. The people God rescued from Egyptian bondage, followed in the footsteps of those who had proceeded them. Cause was followed by effect, and the earth was being corrupted. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 25

A crisis had arrived in the government of God. The earth was filled with sin and transgression. The voices of those who had been sacrificed to human envy and hatred were crying beneath the altar for retribution. All heaven was prepared to move at the word of God to the help of His elect. One word from Him, and the bolts of heaven would have fallen upon the earth filling it with fire and flame. The Son of God had but to speak, and there would have been thunderings and lightning and earthquakes and destruction. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 26

The heavenly intelligences were prepared for a fearful manifestation of almighty power. Every move was watched with intense anxiety. The exercise of justice was expected. The angels looked for God to punish the inhabitants of the earth. But God said, I will send My Son. Perhaps they will reverence Him. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] Amazing grace! Christ came not to condemn the world, but to save the world. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” [1 John 4:10.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 27

The heavenly universe were amazed at such patience, such inexpressible love. To save fallen humanity, the Son of God took humanity upon Him, laying aside His kingly crown and royal robe. He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. One with God, He alone was capable of accomplishing this work, and He consented to an actual union with man. In His sinlessness, He could bear every transgression. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 28

This love was manifested, but it cannot be comprehended by mortal man. It is a mystery too deep for the human mind to fathom. Christ did in reality unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because by this act of condescension, He would be enabled to pour out His blood in behalf of the fallen race. Thus He made it possible for man to eat His flesh and drink His blood. By making Himself an offering for sin, He provided a way whereby human beings might be made one with God. He placed Himself in man’s position, taking human nature, becoming capable of suffering. His whole life on earth was a preparation for the altar. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 29

Jesus points us to the key of all this suffering and humiliation—the love of God. We read in the parable, “last of all he sent unto them his Son, saying, They will reverence my Son.” [Matthew 21:37.] Again and again the Jewish nation had apostatized. Christ came to see what more could be done for his vineyard that he had not done. With His divinity clothed with humanity, He stood before the people, presenting before them their true condition. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 30

How was the Son received? When the husbandmen saw Him, they said among themselves, “This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him.” [Verses 38, 39.] Christ came to His own, but His own received Him not. They rewarded Him evil for good, and hatred for love. His soul was filled with grief as He saw the backsliding of Israel. As He looked at the devoted city, and thought of the punishment to come upon it, He exclaimed with weeping and agony, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto them, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” [Matthew 23:37, 38.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 31

Christ was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. By wicked hands, He was taken and crucified. Speaking of His death the Psalmist writes, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about, the snares of death prevented me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 32

“There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. He made darkness his secret place: his pavilion round about him was dark waters, and thick clouds of the skies.” [Psalm 18:4-11.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 33

“When therefore the lord of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto the wicked husbandmen?” Christ asked. [Matthew 21:40.] Among Christ’s hearers were the very men who were then plotting to take His life. But so engrossed had they become in the narrative, that they answered, “He will utterly destroy those wicked men, and let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their season.” [Verse 41.] They did not realize that by their denunciation of the husbandmen that they had pronounced their own sentence. But Jesus now fastened the guilt where it belonged. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 34

“Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner?” He asked. “Therefore I say unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” [Verses 42, 43.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 35

As Christ made this application to Himself, the Pharisees saw the meaning of the parable. His words struck home to their hearts, and they cried out in dismay, “God forbid.” [Luke 20:16.] It was the very picture of their condition. The Lord permitted them to see and realize their own peril. They were given a vivid, momentary view of their course of action. But they closed their eyes and hardened their hearts against conviction. They determined to carry out their satanic purposes. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 36

“And whosoever shall fall on this stone,” Christ continued, “shall be broken; but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” [Matthew 21:44.] Those who remain impenitent will understand the meaning of the wrath of the Lamb. The punishment that was to fall upon the Jewish people would be all the more terrible because of the return they had made for God’s great mercy and love. Not long after this parable was given, the Son of God stood in Pilate’s judgment hall, before a human tribunal, and there He was condemned by false witnesses. Though declared innocent by a heathen judge, yet He was delivered into the hands of the cruelest power that earth can produce—a mob inspired by Satan. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 37

With all its minutest details, Calvary will stand to condemn every being who has received God-given opportunities and privileges, and yet have given no returns. “What could have been done to my vineyard that I have not done in it?” God asks. “Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, it brought forth wild grapes.” [Isaiah 5:4.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 38

When the Lord called for fruit in its season, the Jewish people were surprised that He expected anything of the kind. They professed to be the most pious people upon the earth. They had been employed as guardians and almoners of truth. They were to be faithful stewards of God’s goods, using them to bless and benefit the world. But they abused the messengers sent to them, and when God sent His Son, the heir to the inheritance, they lifted Him upon the cross of Calvary. One day they will see the result of their impenitence. No longer will be heard the pleadings of infinite love, but the wrath of the Lamb, the power they defiled, will fall upon them as a rock, grinding them to powder. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 39

Shall we profit by the teaching of this parable? “God, who at sundry times and in diverse manner spake in time past unto the fathers, by the prophets, hath in these last times spoken unto us by his son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” [Hebrews 1:1-3.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 40

“I had planted thee a noble vine,” God declares, “wholly a right seed; how then art thou turned into the degenerate plant of strange vine unto me?” [Jeremiah 2:21.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 41

The lesson is for us. Paul declares, “And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graft in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree, boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou barest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off, that I might be graft in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high minded, but fear.” [Romans 11:17-20.] This message comes to all who share the privileges once given to ancient Israel. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 42

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy. Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart will fall into mischief.” [Proverbs 28:13, 14.] “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness; otherwise thou shalt be cut off.” [Romans 11:22.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 43

If we comply with the conditions the Lord has made, we shall secure our election to salvation. Perfect obedience to His commandments is the evidence that we love God, and are not hardened in sin. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 44

Christ has a church in every age. There are in the church those who are not made any better by their connection with it. They themselves break the terms of their election. Obedience to the commandments of God gives us a right to the privileges of His church. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 45

The history of the children of Israel shows us the many blessings they enjoyed. Their teacher was no less a personage than Jesus Christ. He instructed them definitely as to what they should do. The richest blessings were in store for them if they kept His commandments. “Know therefore,” God declared, “that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations; and repayeth them that hate him to their face, to destroy them: he will not be slack to them that hateth him, he will repay him to his face. Thou shalt therefore keep the commandments, and the statutes, and the judgments, which I command thee this day to do them.” [Deuteronomy 7:9-11.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 46

“Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what is in thy heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no. ... Therefore thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to fear him.” “What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the Lord, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good? Behold, the heaven and the heaven of heavens is the Lord’s thy God, the earth also, with all that therein is. Only the Lord had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people as it is this day.” [Deuteronomy 8:2, 6; 10:12-15.] The Lord’s word to His people is not Yea and Nay, but Yea and Amen always. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 47

“What advantage then hath the Jews? Or what profit is there of the circumcision? ... Chiefly because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” [Romans 3:1, 2.] But that which would have been their greatest blessing became their condemnation because they were disobedient, unthankful, unholy. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 48

The Lord has declared that He requires His husbandmen to give Him the returns of His vineyard. It is His own property. Men are not to use it as their own, but only as entrusted to them. The Lord’s portion is to be faithfully returned to Him. “All the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy unto the Lord. And if a man will at all redeem aught of his tithe, he shall add thereto the fifth part thereof. And concerning the tithe of the herd, or of the flock, even of whatsoever passeth under the rod, a tenth shall be holy unto the Lord. He shall not search whether it be good or bad, neither shall he change it; and if he change it at all, then both it and the change thereof shall be holy: it shall not be redeemed.” [Leviticus 27:30-33.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 49

We have only a limited conception of the lessons the Lord designed to teach His people with reference to their duty. Everything was to be done by the husbandmen that could be done to bring the fruits of righteousness to the Lord. We may read the instruction given in the Old Testament as the words of God, given to Moses to give to the children of Israel. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 50

The statutes regarding the Lord’s portion were often repeated, that they might not forget them. They were to render to God His rental money, which He claimed as His portion. All that they had was only lent them on trust. The physical and mental powers, as well as the capital of means, were to be used for him. His vineyard was to be cultivated that a large income would be returned to him in tithes and offerings. A portion was to be set apart for the sustaining of the ministry, and was to be used for no other purpose. Gifts and offerings were to be made to relieve the necessities of the church. Means were to be appropriated for the relief of the poor and suffering. 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 51

Our work is presented before us in the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah. This chapter marks out a right and a wrong course, and gives assurance that if we follow the right, we shall receive the blessings specified. If we take up the very duties around us, we shall avoid the faults condemned in ancient Israel. God would teach us to exercise calm, unwavering trust in Him who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” [John 14:6.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 52

“And they that be of thee shall build the old waste places, thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.” This is the work the people of God are appointed to do in these last days. “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable, ... then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord: And I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” [Isaiah 58:12-14.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 53

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” [Isaiah 57:15.] 13LtMs, Ms 166, 1898, par. 54