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SERMON LV

SERMON LV,

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 as 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 Refilled. 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 magnisicence. The propriety and signisicancy of this representation are obvious at sirst 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 fense, as immediately applicable to the Jews at the time when it was spoken.

Jesus was ready to improve every occurrence for prositable conversation; and when one of the guests, made this remark, Blejsed it 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, when the gospel-dispensation was introduced, and those blessings fully revealed, to 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 fend a particular invitation when the feast was ready, and the attendance 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 reVol. III. I i vealed.—

vealed.—But they all, with one consent, 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 that taught so holy a religion, and proposed only a spiritual deliverance. But they cover over their conduct with plausible excuses; as if the guests invited to a banquet should fay, / have bought a piece of ground, and Jmusl needs go andsee it: -or, I have bought sve yoke os oxen, and go to prove them: or, / have married a wise, and cannot come; therefore pray excuse me. These excuses, you fee, are all drawn from the asfairs of this life; which perhaps was intended to intimate, that the pleasures and cares of this world aTe 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 his 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 sight 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 insidelity of the Jews, and determining to reject them for it, said to his servant;" that is, gave the commission to his apostles, Go out quickly into thejlreets 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. Perhaps 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. 1 hey were not in the highways and hedges, like the poor Gentiles, nor yet settled tied'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 sirst 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 sirst preached. And 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 fending the invitation to those poor creatures, when they first had. rejected it, may signify the sirst 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 farther preaching of the gospel among the Gentiles, who were far off from the church, the city of God, and like poor country-beggars, lying,as outcasts upon the public roads. But if we understand the former passage in the sirst 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 servant must signify the sending of the gospel for the sirst 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 bidden, Jhall taste os my supper; that is, " The insidel Jews, though sirst 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 ihould continue in it."

These

These things must suffice to shew you the primary meaning of this parable, as applicable to the Jews of that age; and the reception of the Gentiles into the church in their stead. But I intend to consider it in a more extensive fense, as applicable to us in these latter times.

Before I enter upon the consideration of this passage, it is neceflary 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 represented by a marriage-feast? And, What is meant by the duty here represented by a compliance with an invitation to such a feast?

The blessings here represented by a marriage-feast, are insinitely 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 afflictions 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 apostacy; 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

These blessings are represented to us in a striking and sensible manner in the Lord's Supper; and hence you fee with what propriety it is called a feast. It is a rich entertainment for hungry fouls; 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.

You fee 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 fense of our want of these blessings, 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 greatest absurdity. And how are they offered? They are offered freely; 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 entirely 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 prosits 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 conjunction, and they cannot be separated; and, therefore, in conjunction we must receive them, or not at all: we must

receive 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 consinement, 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 marriagerfeast 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 fake 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 of the gospel in this manner, shall be admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb at the consummation of all things, and be happy for ever.

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 text, to come in 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 sirst 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 hah, and blind, lying as beggars and outcasts in the streets and lanes of the city,

and 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 Iky, 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 helpless beggar on the highway; destitute of pardon; destitute of all real goodness in the sight of God, whatever splendid appearance of virtue you may have in the sight of men; destitute of all qualisications for heaven, as well as of a title to it; destitute of all happiness suited to the spiritual nature, immortal duration, and large capacities of your fouls; 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 righteousness 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 fense; defective in those graces and virtues which are essential members of the new man. Your fouls are incomplete unsinished things. Your understandings without divine knowledge; your wills 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 moral sense, as a body without limbs, or a head without eyes in a

natural natural fense. You are halt or lame; without power of spiritual motion, or tendency towards it; without strength or inclination to walk in the way 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 sine 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. O! 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 deliverance, 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 crying 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 bleflings? But O! the astonishing condescension and grace! to you is the word of salvation sent. Hear the commission sirst given to the apostles, and still continued to ministers of the gospel of a lower rank, Go outgo out quickly, the case is too dangerous to admit of delay. Without immediate provifion the poor outcasts will perish, therefore make haste to sind them out wherever they lie, and think it no hardship or idignity to you to go to the meanest places in quest of them. Go through the

streets once incestuous and excommunicated, but afterwards penitent Corinthian; nay, there are several of the Corinthians, who, as St. Paul tells us, were once fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, effeminate, fodomites, covetous, thieves, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners, yet there they now are, washed, santlified, justified in the name of the Lord fesus, and by the spirit of our God: and there may you also be, though vile as they, ifr with them, you come in at the call of the gospel; for yet there is room. There is, fays St. John, Rev. vii. 9. a great multitude, which no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and nation; multitudes from Europe, Alia, Africa and America; and and yet there is room. There is room for you, poor negroes; and for you, I hope, some vacant feats in heaven are reserved. Therefore I turn to the Gentiles ; for to you also is the word of this salvation sent. You may, with peculiar propriety, be represented by the poor, the blind, the halt, and maimed, in the highways and hedges. To you therefore I am sent with the offer of all the rich blessings of the gospel: and let me tell you, you are in extreme need of them, whether you feel your want or not: you need them more than liberty, than food, than health, than life itself; and without them, you must perish for ever. Come then, let this feast be adorned with your fable countenances, and furnished with guests from the savage wilds of Africa. Do not mistake me, as if I was just now inviting you to sit down at the Lord's table: alas! many have fat there, who are now banished for ever from that Saviour, whom they professed to commemorate ; and shut up in the prison of hell. But I am inviting you to accept of the blessings of the gospel, which I have briefly explained to you. A hearty consent to this, and nothing short of it will save you. Come then, ye poor Africans, come add yourselves to the guests at this divine entertainment; for yet there is room for you, and you are as welcome as kings and princes.

•. 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 sind the blessings of the golpel more than sufficient to supply all their wants. For after the servant 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 feats still vacant; the room is large, and will contain many more; and the provifion is sufficient, more than sufficient, for thousands, for millions 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 fay the virtue of that blood is still as powerful and sufficient as ever, as powerful and sufficient as when it sirst flowed warm from the wounded veins of the blessed Jesus. The mercy of God endureth for ever. It is an inexhaustible ocean, sufsicient 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 reception of all the inhabitants of the earth, and it is a growing structure, which never will be complete, till afl nations are incorporated in it as living stones. In heaven are many mansions, prepared for the reception of many guests to the marri* age-supper of the Lamb; and many of them are as yet empty; and may they be silled up by multitudes from this place! There, I hope, are feats provided for some of you, who are now grangers 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

There

There being so much room left unoccupied in thefoacious apartment, is represented as an excitement to the master of the feast to fend out his servant to invite more guests: for when the servant had made this report, the master immediately orders him to go out into the highways and hedges-, and compel them to come, in, that his house might he filled. He could not bear it, that the feats about his table should be empty, or his provisions be lost for want of guests. So the blessed God will not suffer the death of his Son to be in vain, nor the mansions he has prepared to be empty. That Jesus may fee his spiritual seed, and the travail of his soul, and be satissied; and that the heavenly mansions he has prepared may be furnished with guests, God has appointed the ministry of the gospel, and the means of grace, to be continued from age to age; for this end he exercises a providential government over the world, and manages all its affairs in subserviency to the grand scheme of redemption, for peopling the heavenly world with colonies transplanted from our guilty globe. For this he has continued our sinful world, so ripe for destruction, through the space of near 6000 years; and he will not be defeated in his purpose. IF you and thousands more should refuse, yet his feast shall be furnished with guests. He will fend his gospel where it will not pass for such a trifle as it does among many of us. He will fend it, where thousands of perishing sinners will eagerly embrace it, and obtain eternal salvation by it. But O! how deplorable will be your loss! Since his house shall and must be silled, O! why should it not be silled from Virginia, and particularly from among you, my dear people? Will you not make trial, whether there be not seats prepared in heaven for you? whether there be not room in the arms of divine mercy for you? whether the blood of Christ has not esficacy to procure pardon and life even for you, great sinners as you are? How can I forbear to urge this proposal upon my denr congregation? We meet together in the house of God

on on earth; and many of us sit down together at histable. And O! why should we not all meet together at the great supper of the Lamb in heaven? Why should we not, as it were, make an appointment, and engage to meet one another there, after the dispersion which death will soon make among us? \V hile transported with so agreeable a thought, I feel myself zealous to execute the commission in my text.

Compel them to come in. Overcome them with arguments, subdue them with persuasions and entreaties,; take no denial; never give over till you prevail. This, is the commission of the gospel-ministers: and O! that one of the meanest of them may be enabled to act according to it!

The patrons of persecution, those common enemies of liberty, religion and human nature, have tortured this text to speak in their favour; and it has been their misfortune to be consirmed in their savage sentiment by the opinion of good St. Augustine, who understood it as authorizing and even requiring the propagation of Christianity, and the suppression of erroneous opinions, by the terrors of the secular power. In answer to this, I might observe, that we often sind the word here rendered compel, f used in such a mild sense, as to signify only a compulsion by argument and intreaty. But it is sufficient to observe, that it is evident Christ never commissioned his apostles, nor did they ever pretend to propagate his religion, like Mahomet, with a sword in their hand, but by dint of evidence, and the power of the Holy Spirit:—and indeed, no other arms were sit to propagate a rational

religion.

-J- anazkason.

So Malt. xiv. li. and Mark vi. 47. enagkascn 0 Jesons sous mathetas autou einbenai, Jesus compelled or constrained his disciples to go into a (hip. St. Paul, in his reproof to St. Peter, Gal. ii. 14. tells him, "Why dost thou compel ax constrain \_anagkazeh~\ the Gentiles to act as do the Jews?" In which places, the word signisies to compel; not by violence, but by command, persuasion, or example. And in this fense men are, and ought to be, compelled to embrace the gospel.—.Thus Tenullian, Qui studuerit intclligerc, cogttur et credere.

f eligion. The terrors of the secular arm may scare men into the profession of a religion, but they have no tendency to enlighten the understanding, or produce a real faith; and therefore they are sitted only to make hypocrites, but can never make one genuine, rational Christian. The weapons of the apostolic warfare, which were so mighty through God, were miracles, reasoning, intreaty, and the love of a crucisied Saviour; and these were adapted to the nature of the human mind, to subdue it without violence, and sweetly captivate every thought into obedience to Christ.

These weapons, as far as they may be used in our age, 1 would try upon you. I would compel you to come m, by considerations so weighty and affecting, that they must prevail, unless reason, gratitude, and every generous principle be entirely lost within you. By the consideration of your own extreme, perishing necessity; by the consideration of the freeness, the fulness, and sufficiency of the blessings offered; by the dread authority, by the mercy and love of the God that made you, and who is your constant Benefactor; by the meekness and gentleness of Christ; by the labours and toils of his Use; by the agonies of his death; by his repeated injunctions, and by his melting invitations; by the operation of the Holy Spirit upon your hearts, and by the warnings of your own consciences; by the eternal joys of heaven, and the eternal pains of hell; by these considerations, and by every thing sacred, important and dear to you; I exhort, Iintreat, I charge, I adjure you, I would compel you so come in. You have refused, you have loitered, you have hesitated long enough; therefore now at length come in; come in immediately, without delay. Come in, that these rich provifions may . not be lost for want of partakers, and that God's house may be completely furnished with guests. As yet there is room; as yet the guests are invited; as yet the door is not shut. The number of those who shall enjoy this great salvation is not yet made up. Therefore

fore you may press in among them, and be added to their happy company. But, ere long, the ministry of the gospel will be withdrawn, the servants be recalled, and no longer be sent to search for you. The door of-heaven will be £hut against all the workers of iniquity. Therefore, now is the time to come in.

I-shall only urge, as another persuasive, the awful denunciation that concludes my text , I say unto you, none of those men who mere bidden, and refused the invitation, shall so much as tajle of my supper; that is, none who now refuse to receive the blessings of the gospel, as they are offered, shall ever enjoy any of them; but must consume away a miserable eternity in the want of all that is good and happy.