The Gospel Feast, and who are welcome Guests, and who not.
MAT. 22. 14.
THis Text though short in words, is vast in sense, and hath this ground for its special observation, that our Saviour used it twice, Chap. 20. 16. And in this place, Pulchra sunt bis dicenda. The first word in the front, For, sheweth its connexion with what was precedent, and is a Parable largely pro∣pounded by our Saviour for this end, to shew the goodnesse of God in offering the word of grace to a people, and the different event of this in the hearers, some rejecting it, and that with great malice; others receiving it, but not in the full power and efficacy of it, which makes our Saviour infer this dreadful conclusi∣on, that may make our ears to tingle, when we hear it, Many are called but few chosen. Think not it was a speech directed onely to the Jews or those that lived in that time. No, its of perpetual truth; and we see it daily experimentally confirmed, that of those who are called few are chosen. My intent is to speak of external calling, as I have spoken of internal; and this Text will give a good occasion. Our Saviour delighted to speak Parables, and that was the custom of wise men in the Eastern parts so to do. For these have a popular way of tea∣ching by the things of sense, representing heavenly matter to the understanding; For by the feast here made, described to be a marriage-feast of a Kings Sonne, where all glory and pomp useth to be shewn, is meant the priviledges and grace of the Gospel that are tendered daily by the preaching of the Word unto you: sometimes that eternal blessednesse and heavenly glory is compared in the Para∣bles to a great feast, made by a chief and mighty man; but here the Gospel∣priviledges vouchsafed in the Word are thus called; which is plain, because one came to this Feast without a wedding garment, and was cast out; which could not be, if this Feast were eternal glory in heaven, for none shall be excluded from thence. So then, you see to what excellent and choice things the prea∣ching of the Gospel is compared. Sometimes it is called The Kingdom of Hea∣ven, sometimes The rich Pearl that a man is to sell all for to obtain, and here to a great Marriage Feast. By which resemblances the Spirit of God would raise up our thoughts and hearts, that we should have an high and great esteem of the Gospel preached. Now though thus great and admirable, yet see the rebellion and disobedience of the persons invited; some matter it not; some make excu∣ses; some maliciously and cruelly handle the messengers: If you ask, Why? what is the matter? What is the wrong done to them? Nothing at all. Its be∣cause he gives this honour to them, to invite them to a Marriage Feast. He doth not come as an oppressour to them, requiring their estates, and goods, and lives, but he tenders them all comforts and refreshments; and for this kindnesse and condescention, they do thus ill requite him; but all do not refuse, for Page 628 there is one who cometh and sitteth down at the Feast, is as confident and bold, as any of the other Guests; till the Master of the Feast come, and expostulates with him for the want of a wedding Garment, and then he is so convinced of his guilt, that presently he becomes speechlesse, upon which his Master adjudgeth him to eternal torments, where there are weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. If you ask, Who is meant by such an one? I answer, All those who do outwardly accept of the faith of Christ, and professe a general obedience to him; but yet in truth, and indeed they do not thorowly and fully walk accord∣ing to Christs rules. As for those who wilfully reject and refuse Christ, not so much as owning any thing of him, they were the Jews and others; but then there are a world of people, who out of custom give an external obedience un∣to Christ, and will be judged Christians, but yet retain nothing of the life and power of Christianity; such are all ignorant and prophane persons, yea and all civil unblameable men in their lives, yet destitute of the Spirit of God, and his grace. Therefore howsoever it be hotly disputed by some, What is meant by this wedding Garment? some saying faith, some good and holy works, yet we may conclude, that by it is meant the whole life of a man ordered in a gracious and sutable manner to the Word of God. It doth not then mean one grace, but the comprehension of all. And as it would be an high contempt and scorn of a great man, and the company invited to a great feast, if a man should not come in decent and fit apparel; So it is an high neglect and dishonour unto God and his people, for thee to take the name of Christ in thy mouth, and to be called by him, to be looked upon as a Christian; and yet to live in any such wayes that Christ doth condemn. Our Saviour having laid down the sinne and punishment of such an one, closeth up all with this Text, Many are called but few are chosen.
Before the words are opened, here is one material Question, Why our Savi∣our * makes this inference, For many are called, and few chosen, seeing in this Parable of those many who came in at the second call, there is one man onely found without a wedding Garment; so that the clean contrary might have been asserted, Many are chosen, and of those who are called few are rejected. But the Answer is two-fold,
First, This may relate to the former part of the Parable, as well as the later; * and then you see all those who were invited by the first call, did refuse, and none did answer.
But in the next place, which is a true Answer, by this One man is represented a multitude of persons of the same way and transgression, it being ordinary in the Scripture by an instance of One, to represent Many of the same kinde; this is necessary for the coherence.
The words themselves absolutely considered contain a vouchsafing of a great mercy, but an exclusion of a greater. The great mercy is in these words, Maxy are called,〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is here put for 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, for otherwise Rom. 11. and in other places 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 and 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 are all one, the Called and the Chosen are all one; but here by those that are called are meant such who are called, and openly refuse, give no consent at all, or else such who do give a general answer, but yet come not up to that fulnesse and exactnesse, which Christ requireth. The exclusion of a greater mercy is, But few are chosen; that is, of those many who have the outward calling, and give a general Obedience to it, there are but few that are elected to eternal life. If then any matter may put you into a serious and ear∣nest trembling about your condition, this hath cause enough to do it. God may give the preaching of the Word, the means of Grace, and people give a formal and expresse con•ent to it, yet few of these be within the number of election. If it had been said, Few or none of those, who reject the Gospel of peace, and means of salvation, are chosen; it had been no wonder but to say thus of those, who have Lord, Lord, Christ, Christ often in their mouths, Oh hard saying! Page 629 Who can bear it? The first Doctrine to be raised from the words is,
That there are many outwardly called, who yet never partake of the power and be∣nefit*of this mercy.
There are those who sit down at Christs feast, yet for want of a wedding gar∣ment are excluded.
To consider this point let us observe, What this outward calling is, and the event of it. And because I have already shewen, wherein the Nature of the outward calling of God doth consist, I shall only take so much as is implied in the similitude this Parable doth hold forth; for when we see Christ himself fish∣ing with such a sutable bait as this is, when he that is truth it self doth use such expressions, Who can but believe? Who can but receive?
And first in that the word of God calling men to Faith and Repentance, is * thus described under the notion of a great Feast, it implieth, There is in it a sa∣tisfaction to every soul, that is spiritually hungry and thirsty. Ho every one that thirsteth, saith our Saviour, let him come and drink, Joh. 7. 37. Christ saith, He is the bread that cometh down from heaven, Joh. 6. 35. He was born in Bethlehem. the house of bread.
Now these expressions imply two things:
1. That there ought to be in all men an hungring and thirsting after Christ, and the priviledges he offers. For if you tell a full man of a great feast, he matters it not; because such an one loatheth the very honey-comb; but a thirsty man, as you see by Samson; or an hungry man, as you see by the Lepers, and those that lived in the time of famine in Israel, Oh what would not they do? How did they rejoyce to have one drop, or one crum? Lazarus was glad of a crum; and thus it is here: A man full of his own righteousnesse, of his own goodnesse, He loatheth all this preaching, he preferreth his husks before the fatted calf. But now take a man destitute of all these, and sensible of his leannesse: Oh how doth his soul thirst and hunger after Christ! Thus Paul a called one judg∣eth all things dung and drosse for the knowledge of Christ: All his former privi∣ledges he renounceth, and None but Christ, none but Christ doth replenish him. Oh while men have their own greatnesse, their own goodnesse and righteous∣nesse, they will never come to this feast. David likewise he speaketh of his hunger and thirst after God, yea that his soul breaketh for the longing it hath al∣wayes unto him; such a disposition is supposed, when the grace of the Gospel is compared to a Feast.
And then in the second place, It doth suppose a satisfying and filling of the soul. That whereas the wiseman observeth, That the eye is not satisfied with seeing; and There are four things which never say, There is enough; yet here, he that thirsteth when he drinketh of this water, he never thirsteth more. That is not, as if he did not desire more grace, and more communion with Christ: Yea the more they taste of this object, the more they long to have, but they never thirst so, as to seek out for a better object; They never say of God, as the Church of her Idols, I will go to my former lusts, and my former sins, for then it was better with me, then since I cleaved to Christ. No, with Peter in his transfiguration, they say, It is good to be here; and which Peter did not, they know what they say. So then in making the grace of God offered to be like a sumptuous feast, it im∣plieth, that there is no spiritual defect or want in thee, but it shall be made up. That grace no more then nature will not suffer any vacuum; Some Philosophers speaking how that Materia appetit omnes formas, yet say that the heavenly matter doth not, because there the excellency of the form doth satiate it. This is much more true in the godly heart, wherein God dwels, there it desireth, to make no more change. Now how great a matter it is to have all thy spiritual longings satisfied, the godly only know.
Secondly, As this phrase supposeth satisfaction of spiritual hunger; so it also in∣tends*pleasure and delight. A feast is matter of joy and comfort. Hence a good Page 630 conscience is called a continual feast, Prov. 15. 15. And the Prophet Isaiah speak∣ing of the precious promises and excellencies under the Gospel, he cals them A feast of fat things, Isa. 25. 6. At thy right hand, saith the Psalmist, are pleasures for evermore; Christ is said To knock at the door (the outward Call here spoken of) and if any admit him, he will come in and sup with him, Revel. 3. 20. So then you see, to be called to the graces and duties of the Gospel, is matter of great joy and comfort; Insomuch that the kingdom of Heaven is said to be in righte∣ousnes, peace and joy in the holy Ghost, yea its called unspeakable joy and full of glory. Oh then how great is the madnesse and folly of all Recusants to this gracious of∣fer! You are prejudiced against godlinesse, as if it brought nothing but melan∣choly and despair, as if it would be rottennesse to the bones, and like the worm to the tree that consumes the very entrails of it. No, its to be called to a feast, to matter of joy and heavenly pleasure; certainly did the jolly worldling and merry voluptuous man, consider these things, how would he defie and with in∣dignation renounce all his former pleasures? he would call them miserable com∣forters, and say, Though they were honey in the mouth, yet they were gravel in the belly. Go to the world, or to thy lusts, What is the feast they call thee to? What are the pleasures they invite thee to? Are they not like that herb which puts a man into a laughter, but kils him therewith? Seeing then that Vi∣ta non est vivere, sed valere, To live is not meerly to live, but to be healthful and chearful, and comfortable: Oh know this can never be, till thou art parta∣ker of this Feast. What though you see ungodly men jolly and merry, having their hearts ease, and nothing troubles them, this is but a blaze? the crackling of thorns; Its but Jonah's Gourd that gives him some refreshment for a season. This is but sweet poison, the stings and torments will be the greater. The poor∣est godly man, that hath no raiment for covering, no food to expel hunger, may yet sit down at this Feast with Christ every day. And there is no evil eye to grudge; but in the Canticles the Spouse bids them Drink, yea drink abundantly, Cant. 5. 1. And if the godly at any time are dejected, go bowed down, have no∣thing but gall to eat, and vinegar to drink, without any comfort, any joy; Its their own fault, their own imperfection. They drink not of this good wine, they feed not on these fat things by faith; and therefore let the godly consider, that its their duty to walk with joy and chearfulnesse; All the while thou walk∣est in diffidence and dejections, thou goest without a wedding garment, thou art not in a sutable posture to a marriage-feast. Thy praying, thy hearing is without a wedding garment, thy mourning disparageth the feast.
Thirdly, Here is by this phrase implied, The great glory and honour that God would put on all those whom he cals. He makes thee his choice friend, and gives thee this token of friendship; David expressing a friend, said, We ate bread toge∣ther. Haman, how did he boast when the King made a great feast for the Queen, And I am invited also, saith Haman. And certainly we cannot be capa∣ble of greater honour, then to be called to this communion and fellowship with God, yea to this familiarity; hence all the faithful, as Abraham, are called Gods friends; Now were faith alive in mens brests, they would never refuse Gods calling, for is it not from slavery and bondage to an heavenly freedom? Is it not from communion with the devil in his works of darknesse, to society with God and his Angels?
Thus you see how eminently this Parable sets forth the priviledges of the Go∣spel in the tender thereof, you would wonder any in the world should refuse, that all did not come in by an holy violence: yet in the next place, see the sad * event, how ill this love is requited: For
First, There are many persons thus outwardly called, that are prophane Atheists, believe none of these things. All these Parables of our Saviour, and all these ex∣cellent resemblances, they make but notions and phantasies. David complained of this, Psal. 4. when he exhorted men to serve the Lord, and to offer unto him Page 631 the sacrifice of thanksgiving; he addeth, Many say, Who will shew us any good? They counted nothing of that David mentioned, to be such a great good that men should run after it. This made the Prophet complain, Who hath believed our report? Oh it is thy atheism, thy unbelief that makes thee not presently answer Gods call. Otherwise thou wouldst cry out with the Church, Draw us and we will run after thee; For want of a divine faith comes all that rebellion and diso∣bedience which is; well therefore is the same word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 rendered unbelief and disobedience.
Secondly, There are the sottish and stupid worldlings who have the Serpents curse*on them, to feed only on the dust of the earth. These make no matter of this graci∣ous invitation; so in this Parable, and in another to this purpose, it is said, When they were called, that they had bought their fields and their oxen, Luk. 14. 19. and so they went to see their earthly possessions; and thus tho Pharisees, who were covetous, are said To deride Christ, Luk. 16. 14. As the earth of all ele∣ments is the heaviest, and inclineth to the centre; so these who minde earthly things have their thoughts and affections furthest off from God, and his calling. These earthly affections do at first resist the very entrance of good affections, and if yet they be received, then they quickly choak them: Never is the Gospel more likely to fall like water spilt upon the ground, then when it meets with an earthy worldly heart: Oh he can finde no savour, no sweetnesse in approaches to God! When will the Sabbath and the new moon be over, say they in the Prophet, that we may buy and sell again? Amos 8. 5.
Thirdly, There are an higher degree of wicked men, who do not only neg∣lect and slight this call of God, But they do wickedly and cruelly abuse and persecute*the very messengers that come to invite them. As here in this Parable, when they were called to the feast, They took the Messengers, and some they mocked, and some they killed: Oh barbarous wickednesse! What is the hurt that is done to them? They are invited to a feast, and for this they stone the Messengers. Thus the Prophets in all ages have been entertained: Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them that are sent to thee! Mat. 23. 37. Yea Christ the Son and Heir, he was put to death for inviting them to this feast: and was this wickedness only in the former times? Is there not that venom and enmi∣ty in many mens hearts? What hurt do the Ministers of God unto thee? Because they would reclaim thee from thy wickedness, save thee from thy lusts; this makes thee imbittered against them; forgive them this wrong.
Lastly, There are those who do not refuse, but come in upon invitation. They sit * down at the feast, none findes fault with them; The messengers they admit him, the fellow-guests they eat with him, Only the Lord, he spieth him without a wedding garment: Now by such an one is meant all those who have an external profession of Christ, and so enjoy all the outward priviledges in the Church, none may prohibit them; yet for all that are without a wedding garment, and at last to be cast out. And this is properly the person externally called that I intend to treat on: As for the other, they are only called on Gods part, there is no manner of consent on their part.
Use of Instruction. How inexcusable all they will be, who refuse God cal∣ling? * Is it not to a feast, to matter of satisfaction, delight, plenty and honour? Why then dost thou reject this Call? Go at the day of Judgement, and say, O Lord, it is true, I was invited, I was convinced, I saw it was better to obey then not; but my present lusts, my present pleasures, they drew me aside: say unto God, unto Christ, unto Angels, I know you were better company, more glory and happi∣nesse there was with you, yet I forsake you to be tormented with the Devil and his Angels to all eternity.