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Behold the Oxen and the Fatlings are killed, and all things are ready, Come unto the Marriage: meaning, that the Sacrifice is lain, the Feast is prepard, and the Table is deck'd with all kind of Provisions; so that there lacketh nothing but the Guests to sit down: and therefore hasten away, and defer not to conie, being so lovingly calld and bidden by God himself; for your Company is expected, and you may be well affur'd of a hearty Welcome to your Lord's Table.
But what Answer did the Guests return to so kind an Invitation? Why, the Answer in St. Matthew was, that they would not come. A rude and ungrateful Answer indeed! for who could have thought that so great Love and Kindness should be so unworthily requited, or so unthankfully rejected ? especially considering
the great Honour of feasting with the Son of God, the unspeakable Pleasure and Delight that must be found in such Company, together with the infinite Benefit and Comfort that attend so heavenly an Entertainment: all which, if duly weigh’d, will afford Motives and Encouragements enough to a chearful and thankful Acceptance. Whereas such a rude Refusal of the Divine Favours must necessarily incense, and so great an Indignity justly raise the greatest Indignation. Which of you in such a case would not be mov'd ? (faith our Church in the Exhortation to the Communion) who would not resent this as a great Injury and Unkindness done to him? And is not the Affront much greater when done to God, than when it is done to Men? And will he (think you take that at our hands, which we are not willing to taže from one another? These are things worthy to be seriously thought of and consider'd by all wilful Absenters from, and Contemners of the Lord's Table.
But the Answer of the Guests here in St. Luke, seems to be a little more modest and mannerly; for they do not make so light of the Invitation, as flatly to deny coming, but offer at some Excuses for their not coming and accepting of it: for 'tis faid, They all with one Consent began to make Excuse; which yet were so Nender and frivolous, as in effect to be no better than a downright Refusal, as may be easily seen by considering of them.
The First said, I have bought a Piece of Ground, and I must needs
go and see it; I pray thee have me excused. A feign'd and frivolous Excuse, and no doubt a false one ton; for whó is fo foolish as to buy a Piece of Ground without seeing it? Do not Men take a strict View and Survey of Land beforė
they use to purchase it? And may not he be justly reckon'd a Fool that does otherwise? Is it a wise Bargain, for the buying a little piece of Ground for a few Years, to sell an everlasting Inheritance ? and for a small spot of Earth, to part with a Kingdom in Heaven ? What is a Man profi. ted, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own Soul? And if the whole World can be no Recompence or Exchange for the Soul, sure to lose it for a little piece of Ground, an inconsiderable part of it, must be a Bargain infinitely more fatal and foolish : so that this must be acknowledg'd to be a very sender and trifling Excuse.
A Second said, I have bought five Yoke of Oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee bave me excused. An Excuse no less frivolous than the former ; for was there no other time for the trying of his Oxen, than when his Lord's Oxen and Fatlings were kill'd on purpose to entertain him ? Is the proving of our Cattle of greater consequence than the approving of our felves to our great God and Master? Ought not the Attractives of his Love, and our Duty, to draw stronger than a Yoke of Oxen? Are Beasts to be minded before and above our Saviour? and is Christ's Yoke of less Consideration than a Yoke of Oxen? Alas! at how low a rate do such Men value the Blood of Christ, who set the Blood of Bulls and Heifers above it? And when God faith, All the Beafts of the Forest are mine, and so are the Cittle upon a thousand Hills; is it not abfurd to prefer the Care of Oxen before the Owner ? so that this too is a very weak and filly Excuse.
A Third faid, I have married a Wife, and therefore I cannot come. This was a more foolish and frivolous Excuse than all the rest : for (as one hath wittily enough obsery'd) he might have brought his Wife along with him, and been the more welcome ; and being a Marriage-Feast, to which they were invited, none could have been more proper' and wel. come Guests than a new-marry'd Couple, who being a little before marry'd to one another, might by this means marry both their Souls to Christ, and thereby live the more happily and comfortably together; it being a much better way of uniting their Affections, to go together to this Feast of Love and Charity in the House of God, than to withdraw from each other into the Places of Discord and Diffenfion.
These are the vain and frivolous Pretences mention'd in the Gospel for absenting from the Lord's Supper. St. Mat
them expresses them by going one to his Farm, and another to his Merchandize, things of infinitely less Concern than those to which they are so graciously invited : and therefore we may well think how little such feign'd Excuses will avail before God; as appears by the next words of the Para. ble: So that Servant came and jewed his Lord thefe things. At which the Master of the House is said to be exceeding angry, and well he might, for their Baseness and Ingratitude in rejecting the Tenders of his Mercy and Goodness upon such slight and trifling Pretences: for who that had provided a rich and costly Banquet, and spread his Table with all man. ner of Varieties, would not be highly offended with such unthankful Guests, as refuse to come and partake of them upon so free and kind an Invitation ? Will slight Excuses pass with you upon such Occasions ? How then can we think that God will take them at our hands? Why, that himself declares in this Gospel, that none of them that were bidden Mall taste of my Supper. None can endure to have his Fa. vours despis’d; and therefore God here strikes such wil. ful Contemners of his Grace out of the List of his Friends, and resolves not to invite them any more, but to give them up to a reprobate Sense, having no feeling of God's Love, nor Relish of Divine Things.
Now this Expositors generally understand of God's utter rejecting of the Jews for their great Perverseness and Infidelity: for tho they were once his peculiar People, dignify'd above all others by many high and noble Privileges ; tho the Covenant, the giving of the Law and the Promises, were all theirs, yea, tho the Messias came from them, and was first fent to them; yet because they thrust Salvation from them, and obstinately rejected all the Offers of Mercy and Pardon made to them, God also rejected them, and left them to the Blindness and Perverseness of their own Minds; in which unhappy State they remain to this day. This is represented here by a sumptuous Supper or Entertainment made for them, and many earnest and importunate Invitations made to them ; God sending his Prophets and Messengers from time to time to woo and intreat them to come in and accept Salvation from him : but their frequent and frivolous Excuses, and at last their final rejecting of all that could be said or done for them, provok'd God utterly to cast them off, and to call in other Persons of meaner Quality and Circumstances to him.
So we here read, that the Master of the House being an. gry, said to his Servant, Go out quickly into the Streets and Lanes of the City, and bring in hither the Poor, and the Maim'd, and the Halt, and the Blind.
This is generally interpreted of the Calling in of the Gentiles, who were before but forlorn Persons and Castaways, excluded from all the Privileges of the Temple, and destitute of all hopes of Favour : Aliens from the Commonwealth of Ifrael, and Strangers to the Covenant of Promise; as the Apostle describes them. These, upon the Rejection of the Jews, were receiv'd into Mercy, and made Partakers of the manifold Grace of God. So Paul and Barnabas told the Jews, It was necessary that the Word of God mould first have been spoken to you, but seeing ye put it from you, and judg your selves unworthy of everlasting Life, Lo? we turn to the Gentiles : for so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a Light to the Gentiles, that thou should it be for Salvation to the Ends of the Earth : Acts 13.46, 47. Christ himself foretold that the Children of the Kingdom, meaning the Jews, fhould be cast out, and that the Gentiles should be receiv'd in their room, according to that Promise and Prediction, Pfal. 2. 8. I will give thee the Heathen for thine Inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the Earth for thy Pofession; which Promise was here parabolically express’d and fulfild in the Master of the Feast's laying aside the Jews, who refus’d the Grace of the Gospel, and commanding his Servant to go into the Streets and Lanes of the City, where the Gentiles were wont to walk forlorn and destitute, and to bring in those who in respect of the Jews were poor in Substance, maim'd in Body, halt in their Feet, and blind in their Eyes; that is, labouring under great Infirmities and Distresses both in Body, Mind and Estate. These he order'd to be brought in to this Gospel-Feast, and for accepting of it he heal'd all their Infirmities of Body and Mind; for we read that the Blind receiv'd their Sight, the Lame walked, the Lepers were cleansed, and the Poor had the Gospel preached unto them. Mat. II.5.
When this was done according to Order, the Servant goes to his Master again, and said unto him, Lord it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room : meaning, that the Plenty of the Provision was such, as might well serve a greater Company, and that his Grace was lufficient for all. Whereupon the Lord sends his Servant again, and bids him go out into the Highways and Hedges, and to
fetch in all the Stragglers and Outlyers, that his House may be filled : shewing, that his House is free to all Comers, that none are excluded for their Meanness and Poverty, but all are invited, Rich and Poor, Base and Honourable, all may come, and find a true Welcome ; for God is not willing that any should perish, but that all Men should be saved, and come to the knowledg of the Truth; 1 Tim. 2.4.
But because some Mens Backwardness may be such as to need a spur, and to require a little awakening, our Saviour here adds with respect to such, Compel them to come in. What may be the Import of that Command, what this Compallion is, and how far it is to be used in such Cases, may be worth our while a little to consider. To which end we may take notice of a twofold Compulsion, the one by Persuasion, the other by Penalties; both which may be useful in many Cases, and in some necessary.
For the first, there is a sort of Violence in the Arts and Methods of Persuasion, and many are drawn to believe and do many things by the mere Force of Reason : this oftimes overpowers the Mind, and by an invisible and invincible Influence carries it captive to the Obedience of Faith. Words sometimes pierce deeper than the Sword, and gain that point by Persuasion, which no outward Force or Compullion could obtain. St. Stephen's Adversaries could not relift the Wisdom and Spirit with which he spake. St. Peter's Hearers were, by the Sharpness of his Discourse, prick'd at the heart, and said unto him, What fall we do? In this sense, to compel them to come in, is by the Force of Argu. ments to draw them unto Christ, and by the Arts of Persuasion to constrain them to come to him,
But where these cannot prevail, (as with the Ignorant and Obstinate they can do little) there they may be driven by Laws and Punishments. Children may be made to learn by the Rod, and the Backwardness of Men may be chastiz'd and quicken’d by good Laws. 'Tis no prejudice to any to be compeld to their Duty, to restrain their Wandrings, and to keep them in the right way: whereas Multitudes are undone by Liberty and Indulgence. To suppress Schismi and Vice by Censures, and the Sanctions of human Laws, hath been ever used in the Christian Church ; and 'tis both a fafe, proper, and wise Course, to awaken and reclaim Offenders by moderate Penalties : Compel them to come in (faith our Saviour) that my House may be fill'd. Christ loves to see a full Table, and delights to have his House