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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 ;
“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, 1. The melancholy state of the Gentile world. They are de
scribed 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.
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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
a 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
1; 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 ridiculous terrors, unworthy the belief of a rational and religious creature.
Their practices were equally corrupt with their principles. As the most extravagant errors were received among
the established articles of their faith, so the most infamous vices obtained in their practice, and were indulged not only with impunity, but authorized by the sanction of their laws. They stupidly erected altars to idols of wood and stone; paid divine honours to those who in their lives had been the greatest monsters of lust and cruelty ; yea, offered up their sons and daughters as sacrifices to devils. The principles of honour, the restraints of shame, the precepts of their philosophers, were all too weak to keep their corruptions within any tolerable bounds. The wickedness of their hearts broke through every inclosure, and deluged the earth with rapine and violence, blood and slaughter, and all manner of brutish and detestable impurities. It is hardly possible to read the melancholy description of the principles and manners of the Heathen world, given us by St. Paul, without horror and surprise ; to think that man, once the 6 friend of God” and “ the lord of this lower world,” should thus “ deny the God that made him," and bow down to dumb idols, should thus, by lust and intemperance, degrade himself into the character of the beast, which hath no understanding;" and by pride, malice, and revenge, transform himself into the very image of the devil, “ who was a murderer from
a the beginning."
This was the state of the Gentile nations, when the light of the gospel appeared to scatter the darkness that overspread the face of the earth. And this has been the case, so far as has yet appeared, of all the nations ever since, upon whom the Sun of righteousness has not arisen with healing in his wings. Every new discovered country opens a new scene of astonishing ignorance and barbarity ; and gives us fresh evidence of the universal corruption of human nature.
II. I proceed now to consider the compassionate care and kindness of our blessed Redeemer towards mankind, in these their deplorable circumstances. He “sends out his servants”
" to invite them“ to come in,” and accept the entertainment of his house.
God might have left his guilty creatures to have eternally suffered the dismal effects of their apostacy, without the least imputation of injustice, or violence of his infinite perfections. The fall was the consequence of man's criminal choice, and attended with the highest aggravations. The angels that sinned were made examples of God's righteous severity, and are reserved “ in chains” of guilt “ to the judgment of a great day." Mercy, that tender attribute of the divine nature, did not interpose in their behalf, in order to suspend the execution of their sentence or to avert God's threatened displeasure. Their punishment is unalterably decreed, their judgment is irreversible; they are the awful monuments of revenging wrath, and are condemned “to blackness of darkness forever.” Now justice might have shown the same inflexible severity to rebellious man and have left the universal progeny of Adam to perish in their guilt and misery. It was unmerited mercy that distinguished the human race, in providing a Saviour for us; and it was the most signal compassion that revealed the counsels of heaven for our recovery.
But though justice did not oblige the divine Being to provide for our relief, yet the goodness of the indulgent Father of the universe inclined him to show pity to his guilty creatures, who fell from their innocence through the subtlety and malice of seducing and apostate spirits. It was agreeable to the divine wisdom to disappoint the devices of Satan, the enemy of God and goodness, and recover the creatures he had made from their subjection to the powers of darkness.
He therefore gave early discoveries of his designs of mercy to our first parents, and immediately upon the apostacy opened a door of hope for their recovery. He revealed a Saviour to the ancient Patriarchs, under dark types and by distant promises ; made clearer declarations of his will, as the appointed time drew near, for the accomplishment of the promises, and the manifestation of the Son of God in human flesh. “ And when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that he might receive the adoption of
This divine and illustrious person left the bosom of his Father, that he might put on the character of a servant ; descended from the glories of heaven, that he might dwell on this inferior earth; was made under the law, that he might fulfil all righteousness; submitted to the infirmities of human nature, to the sorrows and sufferings of an afflicted life, and to the agonies of a painful ignominious death on a cross, that he might destroy the power of sin, abolish the empire of death, and purchase immortality and glory for perishing man.
While our Lord Jesus resided in this lower world, he preached the glad tidings of salvation, and published the kingdom of God; confirming his doctrine by numerous and undoubted miracles, and recommending his instructions by the charms of a spotless life and conversation. He sent forth his apostles to pursue the same gracious design of gospellizing the people and furnishing them with sufficient powers to proselyte the nations to the faith. He also appointed a standing ministry, to carry on a treaty of peace with rebellious sinners, in the suc