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PREACHED IN NEWARK, JUNE 12, 1744,
ORDINATION OF MR. DAVID BRAINERD,
A MISSIONARY TO THE INDIANS
BORDERS OF NEW YORK, NEW JERSEY AND PENNSYLVANIA,
BY EBENEZER PEMBERTON, A. M.
PASTOR OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH
IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK.
LUKE XIV. 23.
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.
God erected this visible world as a monument of his glory, a theatre for the display of his adorable perfections. The heavens proclaim his wisdom and power in shining characters, and the whole earth is full of his goodness. Man was in his original creation excellently fitted for the service of God, and for perfect happiness in the enjoyment of the divine favour. But sin has disturbed the order of nature, defaced the beauty of the most disconsolate circumstances of guilt and misery.
The all-seeing eye of God beheld our deplorable state; infinite pity touched the heart of the Father of mercies; and infinite wisdom laid the plan of our recovery. The Majesty of heaven did not see meet to suffer the enemy of mankind eternally to triumph in his success; nor leave his favourite workmanship irrecoverably to perish in the ruins of the apostacy. By a method, which at once astonishes and delights the spirits above, he opened a way for the display of his mercy, without any violation of the sacred claims of his justice; in which, the honour of the law is vindicated, and the guilty offender acquitted, sin is condemned, and the sinner eternally saved. To accomplish this blessed design, the beloved Son of God assumed the nature of man in our nature died a spotless sacrifice for sin; by the atoning virtue of his blood "he made reconciliation for iniquity," and by his perfect obedience to the law of God, "brought in everlasting righteousness."
Having finished his work upon earth, before he ascended to his heavenly Father, he commissioned the ministers of his kingdom to "preach the gospel to every creature." He sent them forth to make the extensive offers of salvation to rebellious sinners, and by all the methods of holy violence to "compel them to come in," and accept the invitations of his grace. We have a lively representation of this in the parable, in which our text is contained.
The evident design of it is, under the figure of a marriage supper, to set forth the plentiful provision, which is made in our Lord Jesus Christ for the reception of his people, and the freedom and riches of divine grace, which invites the most unworthy and miserable sinners, to partake of this sacred entertainment. The first invited guests were the Jews, the favourite people of God, who were heirs of divine love, while the rest of the world were "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise:" but these, through the power of prevailing prejudice, and the influence of carnal affections, obstinately rejected the invitation, and were therefore finally excluded from these invaluable blessings.
But it was not the design of infinite wisdom, that these costly preparations should be lost, and the table he had spread remain unfurnished with guests. Therefore he sent forth his servant "into the streets and lanes of the city," and commanded him to bring in "the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind"-i. e. the most necessitous and miserable of mankind; yea, to "go out into the highways and hedges," to the wretched and perishing Gentiles, and not only invite, but even "compel them to come in, that his house might be filled."
The words of the text represent to us,
J. The melancholy state of the Gentile world. They are described as "in the highways and hedges," in the most perishing and helpless condition.
II. The compassionate care, which the blessed Redeemer takes of them in these their deplorable circumstances. He" sends out his servants" to them, to invite them to partake of the entertainments of his house.
III. The duty of the ministers of the gospel, to "compel them to come in" and accept of his gracious invitation. These I shall consider in their order, and then apply them to the present occasion.
I. I am to consider the melancholy state of the Heathen world while in the darkness of nature, and destitute of divine revelation. It is easy to harangue upon the excellency and advantage of the light of nature. It is agreeable to the pride of mankind to exalt the powers of human reason, and pronounce it a sufficient guide to eternal happiness. But let us inquire into the records of antiquity, let us consult the experience of all ages, and we shall find, that those who had no guide but the light of nature, no instructor but unassisted reason, have wandered in perpetual uncertainty, darkness, and error. Or let us take a view of the present state of those countries that have not been illuminated by the gospel; and we shall see, that notwith
standing the improvements of near six thousand years, they remain to this day covered with the grossest darkness, and abandoned to the most immoral and vicious practices.
The beauty and good order every where discovered in the visible frame of nature, evidences, beyond all reasonable dispute, the existence of an infinite and Almighty Cause, who first gave being to the universe, and still preserves it by his powerful providence. Says the apostle to the Gentiles, (Rom. i. 20.) "The invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead." And yet many, even among the philosophers of the Gentile nations, impiously denied the eternal Deity, from whose hands they received their existence; and blasphemed his infinite perfections, when surrounded with the clearest demonstrations of his power and goodness. Those who acknowledged a Deity, entertained the most unworthy conceptions of his nature and attributes, and worshipped the creature, in the place of the Creator, "who is God blessed for ever." Not only the illustrious heroes of antiquity, and the public benefactors of mankind, but even the most despicable beings in the order of nature, were enrolled in the catalogue of their gods, and became the object of their impious adoration. "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things." Rom. i. 23.
A few of the sublimest geniuses of Rome and Athens, had some faint discoveries of the spiritual nature of the soul, and formed some probable conjectures, that man was designed for a future state of existence. When they considered the extensive capacities of the human mind, and the deep impressions of futurity engraven in every breast, they could not but infer, that the soul was immortal, and at death would be translated to some new and unknown state. When they saw the virtuous oppressed with various and successive calamities, and the vilest of men triumphing in prosperity and pleasure, they entertained distant hopes, that, in a future revolution, these seeming inequalities would be rectified, these inconsistencies removed; the righteous distinguishingly rewarded, and the wicked remarkably punished. But after all their inquiries upon this important subject, they attained no higher than some probable conjectures, some uncertain expectations. And when they came to describe the nature and situation of these invisible regions of happiness or misery, they made the wildest guesses, and run into the most absurd and vain imaginations. The heaven they contrived for the entertainment of the virtuous was made up of sensual pleasures, beneath the dignity of human nature, and inconsistent with perfect felicity. The hell they described for the punishment of the vicious, consisted in