The Review and Herald


April 9, 1889

“Go Work Today in My Vineyard”

[Sermon at South Lancaster, Mass., January 11, 1889.]


Text: “But what think ye? A certain man had two sons; and he came to the first and said, Son, go work today in my vineyard. He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir; and went not. Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first.” Matthew 21:28-31. RH April 9, 1889, par. 1

There is work to be done in the Lord's vineyard, and there are two classes that hear the invitation, “Go work today in my vineyard.” One class say, “Yes, we will go.” They give an assent to the truth. Apparently, they accept the invitation. They say, “We go, sir;” but they do not go. The other class respond, “We will not go.” They do not seem to acknowledge the message, or to show any disposition to obey the command; but afterward they repent, and go out to do the Lord's bidding. There was something in the voice that appealed to their souls, and they hasten to proclaim the truth, and to work in the vineyard. Those who take this position, and repent before God, and turn to do his will, will stand approved before him. RH April 9, 1889, par. 2

In the parable, the son who refused to go represented the Gentile world; and the class who said, “I go, sir,” represented the Pharisees. Christ had just cleansed the temple of those who defiled it with forbidden traffic. Divinity had flashed through humanity, and men had seen the glory and power of God manifested before them. The people brought their sick and suffering ones to the courts of the temple, and Jesus had healed them all. As he had traveled toward Jerusalem, the multitude had spread their garments in the way, and had strewn his path with palm branches, and they had proclaimed his praises, singing, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” Though the rejoicing ones had not dared to carry their acclamations to the very gate of the temple fearing the priests and rulers, the children had taken up the song, and were praising God in the temple, and shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” RH April 9, 1889, par. 3

The priests tried to stop them. They declared that these children were defiling the temple, and they turned to Jesus to demand the reason of the manifestation he had called forth. They asked him, “Hearest thou what these say?” And Jesus turned to them with the question, “Have ye never read, Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?” “And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? And who gave thee this authority?” that is, “Who authorized you to take a position against the priests and rulers?” Jesus answered and said unto them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not believe him; but if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people: for all hold John as a prophet.” They had already acknowledged that it was from heaven, and had condemned themselves. Then Jesus spoke the parable of our text. He declared that the publicans and the harlots would be more susceptible to the truth than would they who had received so great light, and had failed to appreciate or improve it. And he added, “For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not; but the publicans and the harlots believed him; and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him.” RH April 9, 1889, par. 4

The Gentile world would accept the truth; but those who had so great light and such wonderful privileges, to whom had been granted both temporal and spiritual blessings, refused the message of salvation. They had professed to be the people of God. They had said, “We go, sir;” but they failed of doing their Father's will. We cannot afford to be in this position of impenitence. The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom before this class. When the invitation of heaven has been brought to your ears, have you said, “Yes, Lord, I believe the truth”; yet by the actions of your life shown that you did not believe? Have you brought it into your heart? Has its transforming power taken hold upon your soul? Has its sanctifying grace been brought into your character? How is it with you? RH April 9, 1889, par. 5

The Lord has a large moral vineyard, and there is plenty for each one to do. As the truth of heavenly origin has come to us, have we given it merely a nominal acceptance? Have we simply been theorists? Have the great benefits and privileges of God's grace and salvation been brought within our reach in vain? Have we walked in the light from Christ that has flashed athwart our pathway? Have we not kept the truth in the outer courts, when it should have been given a place in our very inmost souls? Has it transformed our lives and subdued our characters by its holy influence? Do we claim to be the obedient children of God, and yet find our characters defective in the light of his law? How do our cases stand in the sight of a holy God? He knows every worker, every laborer, every obedient child. The question is, Are we indeed his obedient children? Do we fulfill his commands? or are we transgressors of his holy law? Those who keep his precepts are registered in the Lamb's book of life. RH April 9, 1889, par. 6

Why is the complaint made so frequently that we have defective characters; that we have miserable infirmities that we cannot overcome? Why is there unhappiness in the home? Why are there stinging, bitter words uttered, and unkindness manifested one toward another? Do you not know that “by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned”? If the heart has the treasure of goodness, if Jesus is formed within, the hope of glory, the goodness will proceed from the heart. Open the door of the heart, and let the Saviour in. Clear away the rubbish from the door, and give him full entrance. We see the necessity of faith,—of that faith that works by love, and purifies the soul. We are not to have that kind of faith that will lead us to present our own righteousness, but we must have that faith that appropriates the righteousness of Christ. All our self-exaltation is in vain. We have nothing to recommend us to God. The question is, Are we baptized, heart and soul, into the work of God? We want to know who is obedient. There may be some who say, “We feel humble. We are not proud or exalted.” But this may be a natural element in your character. There are some who do not have the lifting up of pride that others have, but they lack in energy and activity. There are others who are active, but they trust in their own works, and expect to be saved on account of their good deeds, and yet they do not weave the meekness and lowliness of Christ into their characters. It is not representing Christ to present your own elements of character to the world. You must not congratulate yourself on the characteristics for which you have had no battle, no conflict. There are many who are naturally benevolent, and they give freely and without effort; but let them not deceive themselves that this benevolence will save them. We must put on Christ. RH April 9, 1889, par. 7

But while we urge upon you meekness and lowliness of heart, let no one imagine that the acquirement of this grace demands that you should be coarse and uncultivated. The religion of Christ never degrades the receiver. It refines and ennobles the character. We should study carefully lest we cultivate some trait of character that is unlike the divine Pattern, and not in harmony with the blessed will of God. Just as soon as there is the diligent study of the Bible that there should be, we shall not fail of noting a marked difference in the characters of the people of God. We shall say from the heart, “The things I once loved, I now hate; and the things I once hated, I now love.” RH April 9, 1889, par. 8

As you stand here today, and see the defects of your characters in the light of God's great moral standard, will you not say, “I will redeem the past; I will go to work in the Lord's vineyard”? By living faith will you not grasp the promises of God, and appropriate Christ's righteousness, and find the light of heaven shining in your life? You are to bring Christ into your every thought and action. A defective link in a chain makes it worthless, and a defect in your character will unfit you to enter the kingdom of heaven. You must set everything in order. But you cannot do this great work without divine aid. Are you ready to accept the promises of God, and to make them your own by living faith in his immutable word? You should walk by faith, not by feeling. We do not want a sensational religion; but we want a religion founded on intelligent faith. This faith plants its feet on the eternal rock of God's word. Those who walk by faith are all the time seeking for perfection of character by constant obedience to Christ. The Captain of our salvation has given us his orders, and we are to yield implicit obedience; but if we close the Book that reveals his will, and do not inquire, or search, or seek to understand, how can we fulfill its obligation? We shall be found wanting at last, if we pursue this course. RH April 9, 1889, par. 9

It is the privilege of every one to say, “I will carry out my Captain's orders to the very letter, feeling or no feeling. I will not wait for a happy sensation, for a mysterious impulse. I will say, “What are my orders? What is the line of my duty? What says the Master to me? Is the line of communication open between God and my soul? What is my position before God?” Just as soon as we come into right relations to God, we shall understand our duty and do it; and we shall not think the good things we do, entitle us to salvation. RH April 9, 1889, par. 10

We are coming to a crisis, and I am in terror for our souls. Why is it that we find men leaving the faith? Are we in a position where we shall know what we believe, and shall not be shaken out? That souls leave the truth should not discourage us in the least, but only make us seek more earnestly for the blessing of God. It is not the education, or the talents, or the position of men, that is to save them. We are to be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation. How do you stand before God today? The question is not, How will you stand in the day of trouble, or at some future time? but how is it with your soul today? Will you go to work today? We want a personal, individual experience today. Today, we want Christ abiding with us. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man has been lifted up, that we might look and live. There is but one plan of salvation. There is but one process by which the soul may be healed of its wounds. Look to the Man of Calvary. RH April 9, 1889, par. 11