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LUKE XIV. 24.
None of those men which were bidden shall taste of
It is perfectly true, that the first and immediate meaning of these words relates to the Jews as a nation. They declare, that the people who were first called into the kingdom of God, were to be cast out from it altogether, because they had refused to obey the call. It certainly does first relate to the Jews; but this is not the meaning in which it concerns us now to attend to it. But as the threatenings and promises of the Old Testament are said by St. Paul to apply to Christians, who were, by faith, become the children of Abraham, and partakers of the covenant for good and for evil; so the warning parables of our Lord, in the New Testament, apply to us, and to our children after us: and it is the wisdom of every successive generation to understand them as referring, not to the sins and follies of their fathers, but to their own.
Therefore, the parable of the “marriage supper" should be understood as relating to ourselves. But even thus it is capable of being applied in more than one signification. You may have often heard sermons preached upon it, in which the marriage supper in the parable was understood of the sacrament of the Lord's supper : and the excuses made by the several persons in the story, for refusing to come when they were invited, have been compared with the various excuses so often made amongst us, for refusing to obey Christ's call to the holy communion. And this is a very sound and useful way of making the parable profitable to our own edification. I am going, however, to takeit now in rather a different sense; not as relating particularly to the communion, but generally as it expresses these following points, in the dealings of God with them :—first, His calling them to their own true happiness, and giving them a season wherein the doors of his mercy stand freely open to them :secondly, the obstinacy with which they neglect this call, and like any thing else better : --- and thirdly, the great punishment which they incur, being after a time utterly shut out from happiness, and being placed in a far worse state than if the call had never been made to them at the beginning.
Still, while taking thus the general principle of the parable, it would be unwise not to illustrate it by the peculiar circumstances of those who hear me. One congregation is not like another; and it seems to me, that we should choose, as far as possible, such points to dwell upon, as our hearers may feel not only to concern themselves, but to concern themselves particularly. God's call to you, therefore, is not exactly the same as it is to others; your reasons for not listening to it are not exactly the same with the reasons of others; and although the final punishment of disobedience be indeed the same to all, yet the more immediate and earthly one is different, inasmuch as it varies according to the particular nature of that good thing which God offered, and which we declined to accept.
God's call, addressed to the soul of every man, is a call to him to be happy for ever; and this is the same thing as calling upon him to be holy, for holiness and happiness are one in God, and they are one also in
the children of God. Holiness in God's creatures consists in their drawing near to God, and becoming like unto him. No man hath seen God, however, at any time ;—but the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, man has seen: and although now we, in this generation, see him no longer with our bodily eyes, yet, with the story of his life and character handed down to us from those who did see and hear him, and with his Spirit ever dwelling amongst us, and revealing him to all those who desire him, we do, for all practical purposes, see and know him still. To be like Christ, then, is to be like God: he who has the image of the Son, the same has also the image of the Father. Now in Christ, the main point of imitation to us is this, that in all things he did the will of him who sent him, and laboured to finish his work. This he began from boyhood, and in this he persevered even till that moment when all was accomplished, and he resigned his spirit into the hands of his Father on the cross. To him, God's call was to be the great prophet of his people, to go about doing good, to teach them the knowledge of the Most High, to prepare men's minds for that kingdom of heaven, which by his blood was to be purchased, and preached to all mankind. This was to him, so far as he was man, God's special call;for his death, as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, belongs to his nature as he was both God and man: and here, therefore, there is no place for our imitation. As, then, Christ laboured all his life, beginning in his boyhood, to obey God's special call to him, so we can best imitate Christ by labouring all our lives to obey God's special call to us. Now this call is made known to us, not by a miracle, nor by a voice from heaven; but partly by the circumstances of our age and outward condition, and partly by the different faculties and dispositions of our minds. For instance, your youth points out to you one especial call of God, to obey your parents and teachers, and to improve yourselves for the duties which you will hereafter have to perform as men. And your outward circumstances, your birth and condition in life, point out to you another especial call of God;that is, they point out to you what particular duties you will have hereafter to perform, and what sort of improvement is particularly required of you. Generally, to all young persons God's call is to improve themselves ;