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You see the feast to which we are invited, namely, the rich blessings of the gospel. And now let us inquire, What is meant by the duty here represented by a compliance with an invitation to a marriage-feast?
It supposes a deep affecting sense of our want of these blesse ings, and of our perishing condition without them : It supposes eager desires after them, and vigorous endeavours to obtain them : It supposes a willingness to abandon every thing inconsistent with them ; and it implies a cordial willingness to accept of them as they were offered ; for to pretend to be willing to receive them, and yet refuse the terms upon which they are offered, is the great est absurdity. And how are they offered? They are offered free. ly; and therefore freely we must receive them, if we receive them at all – We must not offer our own imaginary merit to purchase them ; but take them as free gifts to us, purchased en. tirely by the righteousness of Jesus Christ. They are offered conjunctly; that is, in an inseparable conjunction with one another. Pardon and sanctifying grace, holiness and happiness, deliverance from the power, the pleasures, and the profits of sin, as well as from hell and the punishments of sin, the cross and the crown, self-denial and the most noble self-possession, are proposed to our choice in conjunctions and they cannot be separated ; and, therefore, in conjunction we must receive them, or not at all : we must receive them all or none. To accept the pardon, and reject sanctifying grace ; to accept the rewards, and refuse the work of holiness; to accept deliverance from the punishment of sin, and yet refuse deliverance from sin itself, as though it were a painful confinement, or bereavement ; to accept of Christ as our Saviour, and reject him as our Ruler ; this is the wildest absurdity, and an absolute impossibility. To pretend to accept God's offer, and in the mean time to make our own terms, is to insult and mock him. What God and the nature of things have joined, let not man put asunder,
Hence you may see, that the duty represented by complying with an invitation to a marriage feast, in this parable, implies our embracing the gospel as true, which is opposed to the unbelief of the Jews ; our accepting the blessings of the gospel freely, as the gracious gift of God for the sake of Christ, renouncing all our own imaginary merit ; and our voluntary dedication of ourselves to the service of God, or consenting to be holy in heart and in all manner of conversation. Whoever complies with the
invitations to the gospel in this manner, shall be admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb at the consummation of all things, and be happy forever.
Now, I hope you will know what I mean, when, in the progress of this discourse, I shall exhort you, in the language of my texl, to come to this feast, or to comply with the invitation ; I mean, that you should freely and heartily accept of the blessings of the gospel, as they are offered to you by the blessed God, who alone has a right to appoint the terms.
After these preliminaries, I proceed to the immediate consideration of my text.
The first thing that occurs, is a lively representation of the wretched state of mankind, previous to their being enriched with the blessings of the gospel. They are poor, and maimed, and halt, and blind, lying as beggars and outcasts in the streets and lanes of the city, and by the highways and hedges in the country. What can represent a more pitiable condition, with regard to this world! To be poor, maimed, halt and blind, in a palace, in the midst of all the necessaries and comforts of life, is a most melancholy situation ; but to be poor, maimed, halt and blind, in the streets and lanes, or scattered about in the highways and hedges, as forlorn outcasts, without any covering but the inclement sky, without any bed but the cold ground, without any sustenance but the charity of passengers ; this is the most melancholy situation that can be imagined : and this is the situation in which all mankind are represented, with regard to the eternal world, by one that perfectly knew their case, and who could not but give the most impartial account of it. This is your condition, my brethren, till you accept the rich blessings of the gospel. You are poor, poor as the most belpless beggar on the highway ; destitute of pardon ; destitute of all real goodness in the sight of God, whatever s plendid appearance of virtue you may have in the sight of men ; destitute of all qualifications for heaven, as well as of a title to il ; destitute of all happiness suited to the spiritual nature, immortal duration, and large capacities of your souls : destitute of the favour of God, which is better than life, and without which life itself will be a curse ; destitute of an interest in the rightcousness and intercession of Christ the only Saviour of sinners ; destitute of the sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit, who alone can make you truly holy. And what a poor destitute condition is this! You are maimed and defective, in a moral sense ;
defective in those graces and virtues which are essential members of the new man. Your souls are incomplete, unfinished things, Your understandings without divine knowledge ;
your will without a divine bias towards God and holiness; your affections without a proper tendency towards suitable objects ; and these are as monstrous defects in a inoral sense, as a body without limbs or a head without eyes in a natural sense. You are halt or lame; without power of spiritual motion, or tendency towards it ; without strength or inclination to walk in the ways of God's commandments. You are blind as to spiritual and eternal things; that is, ignorant of the glory of God, and the excellency of Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation through him ; ignorant of the evil and deformity of sin ; and blind to the beauties of holiness. You may indeed have fine speculative notions about these things; but your notions are faint and unaffecting, and have no proper influence upon your heart and practice, and therefore as to all the useful and practical purposes of knowledge, you are stupidly blind and ignorant. 0! what an affecting, miserable situation is this! and what renders it still the worse, is, that you are not sensible of it. The poor, blind, impotent beggar in the streets, or on the high road, is sensible of his condition, longs for deliver ance, and begs and cries for relief from day to day. But alas! you are rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, in your own imagination ; when you are wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. And hence you are so far from cry. ing importunately for relief, like blind Bartimeus by the way. side, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me! that you will not accept relief when it is freely offered to you.
And are not you very unlikely guests to furnish out a nuptial feast ? May not the great God justly leave you out in the invitation of the gospel, and refuse you the offer of its invaluable blessings ? But O! the astonishing condescension and grace! to you is the word of salvation sent. Hear the commission first given to the apostles, and still continued to ministers of the gospel of a lower rank, Go out-go out quickly, the case is too dangerous 10 admit of delay. Without immediate provision the poor outcasts will perish, therefore make haste to find them out wherever they lie, and think it no hardship or indignity to you to go to the meanest places in quest of them. Go through the streets and alleys of the city, and search the hedges and highways in the country; and bring them in; urge them to come ; insist
upon their compliance ; take no denial. Bring them in hitherhither, into the arms of my favour ;-hither, into my church, the grand apartment appointed for the celebration of this magnificent entertainment ;-hither, into the society of the most honourable guests, and into a participation of the richest blessings. Bring them in hither, poor, and blind, and lame, and halt, and maimed, as they are. They are all welcome. Him that cometh unto me, though clothed in rags, and destitute of all things, I will in no wise cast out.
To discharge this benevolent commission, I appear among you this day ; and shall I find none aping you that will comply with the invitation ? Where are the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind ? In quest of you I am sent ; and I am ordered to bring you in. And will ye refuse ? Come, ye poor ! accept the unsearchable riches of Christ. Come, ye blind! admit the healing light of the Sun of Righteousness. Ye halt and maimed ! submit yourselves to him, who, as a Physician, can heal what is disordered, and as a Creator, can add what is wanting, Come, ye hungry, starving souls ! come to this feast of fat things : that is, (to speak without a metaphor) accept the blessings of the gospel now freely offered to you. Ho ! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters ; and him that hath no money, come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price. Will ye rather sit still in the streets and hedges, than be guests at this divine feast? Will ye refuse the invitation, when without these blessings you must famish forever ?
However, if ye refuse, I hope I shall be able to make my re. port to my Master, like the servant in my text ; Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded. “Lord, I have published thy gracious invitations, and persuaded them, in the best manner I could, to come in ; and if they still refuse, themselves must be accountable for it, and bear the consequence.”
But I must indulge the pleasing hope, that some of you will this day accept this gracious invitation ; and such of you may be sure you shall be admitted. Nay, if all this assembly should unanimously consent, they would find the blessings of the gospel more than sufficient to supply all their wants. For after the ser. vant had brought in a numerous company of guests from the streets and lanes, he tells his Lord, yet there is room ; there is room for many more guests. There are many seats still vacant ; the room is large, and will contain many more ; and the provision is sufficient, more than sufficient, for thousands, for mildions more. Yes, my dear brethren, be not discouraged from coming, as if there was no room left for you.
The virtue of that blood which streamed upon mount Calvary about 1700 years ago, which has washed away many millions of sins, from the fall of Adam to this day, through the space of near 6000 years ; I say the virtue of that blood is still as powerful and sufficient as ever ; as powerful and sufficient as when it first flowed warm from the wounded veins of the blessed Jesus.
The mercy of God endureth forever. It is an inexhaustible ocean, sufficient to overwhelm and drown a world of the most mountainous sins, and supply the most numerous and desperate necessities. The church of Christ is sufficiently large for the Teception of all the inhabitants of the earth, and it is a growing structure, which never will be complete, till all nations are incor. porated in it as living stones. In heaven are many mansions, prepared for the reception of many guests to the marriage-supper of the Lamb: and many of them are as yet empy ; and may they be filled up by multitudes from this place! There, I hope, are seats provided for some of you, who are now strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, and from the covenant of promise. I do not mean that you can be admitted there in your present condition : neither you nor I have any reason to hope for this ; but I hope that divine grace may yet prepare you for those mansions sof purity and glory. This hope gives a newspring to my endeavours, and therefore I invite the worst of you, the most impenitent and audacious, the most profligate and debauched among you, to come in. Come, O my guilty brethren ! Come, publicans and sinners, drunkards, harlots, and thieves ; come, sinners of the vilest characters, repent and believe the gospel, you shall be admitted to this celestial feast. O! must it not break the heart of the hardiest sinner among you, to hear, that, after all your aggravated and long-continued provocations, and not withstanding your enormous guilt, that great God whom you have offended, though he stands in no need of you, and might easily glorily himself by inflicting righteous punishment upon you, yet is ready to wash away all your sins in the blood of his own Son, and to bestow upon you all the immortal blessings of his favour ? O! is there a heart among you proof against such a melting consideration as this? Then all the principles of generosity and gratitude are lost and extinct within you!