Neglect Of Spiritual Privileges
“Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
“The fruit that the Lord receives from his vineyard in this land is disgracefully small compared with what it ought to be. We should note what an awful reckoning God sometimes makes with nations and churches which make a bad use of their privileges.
A time came when the long-suffering of God towards the Jews had an end. Forty years after our Lord’s death the cup of their iniquity was at length full and they received a heavy chastisement for their sins in the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple. They themselves were scattered over the face of the earth and the kingdom removed from them (v.43).
And will the same thing ever happen to us? Will the judgments of God come down upon this nation because of her unfaithfulness under so many mercies? Who can tell? Only God knows. But history tells us that judgments have come on many churches and nations. Where are the early African and Eastern churches? They are run over by Islam and destroyed. At all events it becomes all believers to intercede much on behalf of our country. Nothing offends God so much as the neglect of privileges. Much has been given to us and much will be required.
What power conscience has even in wicked men! The chief priests and elders at last discovered that our Lord’s parable was especially meant for them. The point of its closing words was too sharp to escape.
There are many hearers in very congregation who are in exactly the position of these unhappy men. They know that what they hear Sunday after Sunday is all true. They know that they are wrong themselves and that every sermon condemns them. But they have neither will nor courage to acknowledge this. They are too proud and too fond of the world to confess their past mistakes and to take up the cross and follow Christ. Let us all beware of this awful state of mind. The last day will prove that there was more going on in the consciences of hearers than was at all known to preachers. Tens of thousands will be found to have been convicted by their own conscience and yet to have died unconverted.”
God is pleased to bestow distinguishing privileges on some nations. He chose Israel to be a peculiar people to himself. He separated them form the other nations of the earth and bestowed on them countless blessings. He gave them revelations of himself while all the rest of the earth was in darkness. He gave them the law, the covenants, the oracles of God, while al the world besides was left alone. In short, God dealt with the Jews as man deals with of land which he fences out and cultivates, while all the fields around are left untilled and waste. The vineyard of the Lord was the house of Israel (Isa. 5:7).
And have we no privileges? Beyond doubt we have many. We have the Bible and liberty for everyone to read it. We have the gospel and permission for everyone to hear it. We have spiritual mercies in abundance denied to many men in many nations. How thankful we ought to be!
What a bad use nations sometimes make of their privileges! When the Lord separated the Jews from other people he had a right to expect that they would serve him and obey his laws. Where a man has taken pains with a vineyard he has a right to expect fruit. But Israel rendered not a due return for all God’s mercies. They mingled with the heathen and learned their works. They hardened themselves in sin and unbelief. They turned aside after idols. They kept not God’s ordinances. They despised God’s temple. They refused to listen to his prophets. They ill used those whom he sent to call them to repentance. And finally they brought their wickedness to a height by killing the Son of God himself.
And what are we doing with our privileges? Truly that is a serious question and one that ought to make us think! It may well be feared that we are not, as a nation, living up to our light or walking worthy of the mercies that we have. Must we not confess with shame that millions amongst us seem utterly without God in the world? Must we not acknowledge that in many a town and village Christ seems hardly to have a disciple and the Bible seems hardly to be believed? Are we provoking God as did the Jews?
-From J.C. Ryle’s (1816-1900) Expository Thoughts; Found in Daily Readings From All Four Gospels Published by Evangelical Press Auburn, MA 2001 October 3 and 4 Devotions