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grace, and is imputed only to such as have received it by faith ; but, while you are under the law, you have nothing to do with it. St. Paul himself will tell you, Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you would be justified by the law : ye are fallen from grace, Gal. v. 4. ; you stand entirely on your own bottom ; and God will deal with you just as he finds you in yourselves, without any relation to Christ at all.
And now, my dear brethren, do you now begin to find your. selves pincbed closely, and in a sore strait? Do you not feel yourselves imprisoned and shut up under the law? And are not you casting about, and looking out for some way of escape ? Well, I will shew you the only way left, and that is by faith in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. The gospel! the gospel ! O that my voice could publish the joyful sound in every corner of this globe inhabited by guilty sinners! The gospel of grace is the only relief for you. Fly thither, ye helpless, law-condemned, self-condemned sinners ; fly thither, and you are safe. As depraved and guilty, as ungodly and destitute of all righteousness, accept of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Cast all your dependance upon it, and make it the only ground of all your hopes. Regard the law always as a rule of life, and labour to form yout practice upon that sacred model : but as a covenant of works, by which you should obtain life, fly from it, abandon it, give up all your hopes and expectations from it : and betake yourselves to the covenant of grace, of pure, free, unmingled grace, without the least ingredient of merit. In this way, I offer you pardon, justification, and eternal salvation ; and such of you as have chosen
li this way may be assured of these blessings, notwithstanding all your sins and imperfections. O ! that this representation of your condition may recommend Jesus Christ and his righteousness to you ! O! that it may effectually draw off sinners from all their vain, self-righteous schemes, which, like cobwebs, they would form out of their own bowels, and constrain them to stoop and submit to the righteousness of God, and the method of grace! If, after all, they refuse, they will leave this house condemned and under the curse. But such of you as comply, like the penitent publican, you will return to your own house justified, however guilty you came here this morning. I shall conclude with a stanza or two from that evangelical writer, Dr. Watts :
Go, ye that rest upon the law,
And toil, and seek salvation there;
Flaming and red, shall pass one by
But I'll retire beneath the cross :
Jesus, at thy dear feet I lie ;
THE GOSPEL INVITATION.
A SACRAMENTAL DISCOURSE.
LUKE xiv, 21-24. Then the master of the house being angry,
said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done es thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden, shall taste of my supper,
SO vast and various are the blessings proposed to our acceptance in the gospel, that they can never be fully represented, though the utmost force of language be exhausted for that purpose in the sacred writings. Among other lively images, this is one in my context, where the gospel is compared to a feast, a marriage-feast of royal magnificence. The propriety and significancy of this representation are obvious at first sight ; for what is more rich and elegant, and what more agreeable to mankind, than such an entertainment !
Though it is my principal design to consider this parable in its general secondary sense, as applicable to the evangelized world, yet I shall hint a few words upon its particular primary sense, as immediately applicable to the Jews at the time it was spoken.
Jesus was ready to improve every occurrence for profitable conversation ; and when one of the guests made this remark, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God, or in the reign of the Messiah ; he takes occasion to let him and the rest of the company know, that the kingdom of God under the Messiah would not be so acceptable to the world, particularly to the Jews, as might be expected ; but that they would generally reject it, though they pretended so eagerly to expect and desire it.
He said unto him, A certain man made a great supper ; that is, the great God has made rich provisions through Jesus Christ of
all blessings necessary for the complete salvation and happiness of a guilty world : and he bade many ; that is, he invited the whole nation of the Jews to a participation of these blessings, when they should be revealed ; invited them beforehand, by Moses and the prophets, and by John the Baptist. And he sent his servant at supper time ; that is, he sent Christ and his apostles, wben the gospel dispensation was introduced, and those blessings fully revealed, 10 say to them that were bidden, that is, to the Jews, who had been invited by his former messengers ; alluding to the custom of those times, when, besides the general invitation to nuptial entertainments given some time before, it was usual to send a particular invitation when the feast was ready, and the attend. ance of the guests was immediately expected; Come, for all things are now ready. Embrace the long expected Messiah, who has now made his appearance among you, and accept the blessings he offers you now, when they are fully revealed.But they all, with one conseni, began to make excuse ; that is, the Jews in general rejected the Messiah, and the blessings he proposed to their acceptance. The true reason was, their natural aversion to one who taught so holy a religion, and proposed only a spiritual delivere ance. But they cover over their conduct with plausible excuses; as if the guests, invited to a bar quet, should say, I have boughi a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it : or, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and go to prove them : or, I have married a wife, and cannot come ; therefore pray ercuse me. These excuses, you - sec, are all drawn from the affairs of life ; which perhaps was in-tended to intimate, that the pleasures and cares of this world are the reason why the Jews and sinners in all ages reject the invitations of the gospel. It is also observable, that the excuses here made are very trifling and not plausible. What necessity for viewing a piece of ground, or proving oxen, after the purchase ? That ought to have been done before the purchase. Could a man's being newly married be a reason against bis going with his - bride to a place of feasting and pleasure ? No ; these excuses are - silly and impertinent ; and Christ may have represented them in this light, on purpose to intimate, that all the objections and excuses which sinners plead for their non-compliance with the gospel, are trifling, and not so much as plausible.
Then the master of the house being angry; that is," the great God resenting the obstinate infidelity of the Jews, and determining to reject them for it, said to his servant ;" that is, gave the VOL. II.
commission to his apostles, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, where beggars sit to ask charity, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. Perbaps this may refer to the sending of the gospel to the Jews that were dispersed in heathen countries and their proselytes, when their countrymen in the Holy Land had rejected it. They were not in the highways and hedges, like the poor Gentiles, nor yet settled in the houses in Jerusalem, but are very properly represented as beggars in the streets and alleys of the city ; not in such abandoned circumstances as the Gentiles, nor yet so advantageously situated as the Jews in their own land, under the immediate ministry of the apostles. The first invitation is represented as given to persons of fashion, to intimate the superior advantages of the Jews. resident in Judea, to whom the gospel was first preached. those dispersed among the Gentiles are represented as lying in the streets and lanes, as poor, maimed, halt, and blind beggars, to signify their miserable condition in common with all mankind, without the blessings of the gospel ; and their disadvantageous situation, compared with the Jews in and about Jerusalem. Or perhaps sending the invitation to those poor creatures, when they first had rejected it, may signify the first preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles, upon the Jews rejecting it. . And then the servant being ordered to go out again, not into the streets and lanes of the city, as before, but into the highways and hedges, may signify the fartier preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles, who were far off from the church, the city of God, and like poor countrybeggars, lying as outcasts upon the public roads. But if we understand the former passage in the first sense, as signifying the publication of the gospel to the Jews dispersed among the Gentiles, and to their proselytes, then this second mission of the ser. vant must signify the sending of the gospel for the first time to the Gentiles, after both the Jews resident in their own country, and those scattered in other nations had rejected it. The parable concludes with a terrible denunciation against those who had refused the invitation : None of those men that were biddon shall taste of my supper : That is, “ The infidel Jews, though first invited, shall never enjoy the blessings of the gospel ; but my church shall be furnished with members from among the poor outcast heathens, rather than such should continue in it."
These things must suffice to shew you the primary meaning of this parable, as applicable to the Jews of that age ; and the re
ception of the Gentiles into the church in their stead. But I intend to consider it in a more extensive sense, as applicable to us in these latter times.
Before I enter upon the consideration of this passage, it is necessary I should clear up an inquiry or two, which may reflect light upon the whole.
What are those blessings of the gospel which are here répresented by a marriage-feast? And, What is meant by the duty here represented by a compliance with an invitation to such a feast?
These blessings, here represented by a marriage-feast, are infinitely rich and numerous. Pardon of sin ; a free and full pardon for thousands, millions of the most aggravated sins : the influences of the Holy Spirit to sanctify our depraved natures, to subdue our sins, and implant and cherish in our hearts every grace and virtue ; freedom from the tyranny of sin and Satan, and favourable access to the blessed God, and sweet communion with him, through Jesus Christ, even in this world : the reviving communications of divine love, to sweeten the affections of life ; and the constant assistance of divine grace to bear us up under every burden, and to enable us to persevere in the midst of many temptations to apostasy ; deliverance from hell, and all the consequences of sin ; and a title to heaven, and all its inconceivable joys : in short, complete salvation in due time, and everlasting happiness, equal to the largest capacities of our nature. This is a short view of the blessings of the gospel. But the riches of Christ are unsearchable ; and human language can never represent them fully to view. But from the little that we know of them, do they not appear perfectly suited to our necessities ; and such as we would ask of God, should he give us leave to ask what we please ?
These blessings are represented to us in a striking and sensible manner in the Lord's Supper ; and hence you see with what propriety it is called a feast. It is a rich entertainment for hungry souls ; and the blessings which it signifies, and the conveyance of which it seals to believers, satisfy the most eager desires, and fully support and cherish the spiritual life. This, indeed, is not the feast primarily intended in this parable ; for the Lord's Supper was not instituted when this parable was spoken ; yet most of the things contained in it may very properly be accommodated to this ordinance.