What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked, etc.
No one place of Scripture is more frequent in the mouths and writings of the patrons of free-will, and adversaries of the grace of God, than this; which is used by them, to prove that God gives sufficient grace for the conversion of such who are not converted; and that he does not effect that work by an irresistible power, by an unfrustrable operation; which operation, it is said, "if necessary to produce the expected fruits, and not vouchsafed, it must follow, that this vineyard had not grace sufficient to answer her Lord’s expectations; and if so, he must unreasonably complain, that she brought forth wild grapes, and more unreasonably expect good grapes, and. most unreasonably punish, her for not doing what he would not give her grace sufficient to perform. To which I reply,
1. These, words are part of a parable, representing the state and condition of the people of the Jews. Now, parabolical divinity is not argumentative; nor ought parables to be stretched beyond. their scope and design; the intent of this is to show the ingratitude of the Jews, in the midst of many favors bestowed on them, and the patience and long-suffering of God towards them, and to vindicate his justice in their ruin as a nation.
2. Seeing there is a particular application of this parable to the people of Israel and Judah, verse 4; The vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plants; who were favored with peculiar blessings above all people on the face of the earth; it can be no proof of any blessing or grace common to all mankind; or in other words, it can be no proof that God gives to all men sufficient grace for conversion, though not effectual, through their perverseness.
3. It does not appear from hence that God gave to all the men of Israel and Judah, grace sufficient for conversion; which is not a national, but a personal blessing; and it is evident, that some among them had not restraining grace, no sense of sin in them, nor fear of God before their eyes; they drew iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope; they said, Let him make speed, and hasten his work, that we may see it; and let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw nigh and come, that we may know it; they called evil good, and good evil; put darkness for light, and light for darkness (vv. 18, 20). Nor was every man in Israel and Judah capable of judging whether God had given sufficient grace or no, to any, or all among them.
4. These words, What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done, in it; cannot be understood of God’s having done all that was sufficient and necessary to the saving conversion of those who are designed by the vineyard; for a reply to the question, taken in this sense, might easily be made after this manner: that God could have made of this bad vine a good one, which was absolutely necessary to its bringing forth good grapes; he could by internal grace have effected the saving work of conversion; to which, external means, without it, were insufficient; he could have removed the veil from their understandings, and have taken away the stony heart, and given an heart of flesh; all which are requisite to the real work of conversion.
5. The similitudes in the parable only regard the external culture of the vineyard, and can only, at most, design the outward means of reformation, which these people enjoyed; such as the mission of the Lord’s prophets to them, the ministry of the word, admonitions, exhortations, reproofs, etc., when it might be expected that a people enjoying such privileges, would behave well in their moral conversation; and instead of being guilty of rapine, oppression, luxury, drunkenness, pride, and contempt of God himself, sins which they are in this chapter charged with; they would have done common justice between man and man, would have sought judgment, relieved the oppressed, judged the fatherless, and pleaded for the widow; all which they might have done, without supposing them to have grace sufficient to saving conversion, and though this might be withheld from them, and therefore it was not unreasonable in the Lord to expect good grapes of this kind from them, nor to complain of their wild grapes, nor to
punish them for them.
6. If the parable is narrowly examined, it will be found, that the good things which God had done for his vineyard, the men of Israel and Judah, were of a civil nature, and which regarded their civil constitution and settlement as a body politic; such as the planting of it in a very fruitful hill, in the land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey; fencing it with good and wholesome laws, which distinguished and kept them separate from other nations, as well as with his almighty power and providence; especially at the three yearly festivals, when all their males appeared at Jerusalem; gathering out the stones, casting the heathen out, and driving Canaanites before them; planting it with the choicest vine, such having fallen in the wilderness who murmured and rebelled against God; building a tower in it, expressive of divine protection, and placing a winepress, which may either mean plenty of temporal blessings, or the prophets, who were placed among them to stir up and exhort the people to a regard to the laws of God.
7. God’s looking or expecting that this vineyard should bring forth grapes, is not to be taken properly but figuratively, after the manner of men; for, from such a well-formed government, from such an excellent constitution, from a people enjoying such advantages, might it not be reasonably expected hat the fruits of common justice and equity would have appeared? might not judgment have been looked for instead of oppression, and righteousness instead of a cry? but alas! it proved just the reverse.
8. The interrogation ought not to be rendered as it is by our translators, What could have been done more to my vineyard? nor as Dr. Whitby reads it, What was there more to do for my vineyard? etc., but ymrkl rws twselAhm should be translated, What is to be done here, after to my vineyard? etc., and so designs not any thing past, but something to come; and is to be understood not of good things bestowed before, but of punishment hereafter to be inflicted, as evidently appears from the answer to it, (vv. 5, 6): —And now go to, I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard; I will take away the hedge thereof and it shall be eaten up, and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down, and I will lay it waste, etc., which was fulfilled in the destruction of the land by the Chaldeans, a punishment God never inflicted to that degree before on that people; and so the words have much the same meaning with those in Matthew 21:40, 41: —When the Lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto these husbandmen? they say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and let out his vineyard to other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons; for the question must be of the same nature with the answer; and if it be so, the words are far enough from proving that grace sufficient for conversion is given to some who are not converted, or from contradicting the doctrine of unfrustrable grace in conversion.
 Remonstr. in Coll Hag. art. 3. 4. p. 216, 219; Act. Synod. p. 89. etc: Curcell. Christ. Institut. 1. 6. c. 13. sec, 3, p. 400; Limborch. 1. 4, c. 13, sect. 2, 3, 4, p. 369.
 Whitby, p. 334; ed. 2. 229.