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tempt, with which its bleflings are usually refifed, is a decisive proof of our extreme depravicy: there is scarcely any thing in life, which is not preferred 10 grace and salvation.
The parable further declares, that the servants, who carried their lord's messages, were treated with scorn and violence; and some of them fuffered death. This was, exactly what the holy Prophets and Apostles met with from the Jewish nation. Jesus, therefore, held up to his hearers a true picture of their persecuting spirit and that of their countrymen: and, while he represented the king as utterly destroying his murderous subjects, and reducing their city to alhes, he virtually predicted the divine judgments coming upon them, for their rejection of tñe Gospel. Others, however, “ have obtained mercy through their unbelief*.”
The invitation to the marriage was enlarged. The sovereign, determined that his preparations should not be ineffectual, called in the strangers and miserable outcasts upon the highways, till the feast was furnithed with guests. Thus the Lord God has sent the glad tidings of salvation to sinners of the Gentiles, even to those, who through their ignorance and profaneness seem at the greatest distance, and in a state the most deplorably wretched. The ministers of the Gospel are now commissioned to “ bid to the marriage, as many as they shall find.” Whatever, then, may have been your character or condition, we entreat your attendance, and assure you, that the Lord wil graciously receive you. O refuse not, as others have done to their perdition.
But if you accept the invitation, you must comply with the rules prescribed, and be properly habited, while you fit down to this entertainment: for
a wedding garment” is provided for each guest.
God himself proposes to “
with the robe of righteousness,” which will render you beautiful in' his fight : you cannot stand in his presence without it. He will minutely survey the perfons, who profess a readiness to partake of his feast, and such are all the outward members of his Church. One is represented as fingled cut from the rest, not being clothed with the veftinent required. He was called forth and examined concerning his pretentions to be admitted to that high banquet : 'and, having nothing to urge in his own defence, he was cast out with extreme disgrace. The all-piercing eye of God will detect every hypocrite, who may be numbered among his people. It is not enough to join the assemblies of the saints : have we put on Christ?" If we are unwilling to appear in his righteousness, and presume upon our own worthiness, we cannot be acceptable guests: nor can we escape conviction. 66 How camelt thou in bither?” is a question, which will confound thousands, who feemed to pay a respect to the Gospel. What, then, is our habit? Are
, ? we “ clothed with the garment of salvation?” If otherwise, an awful condemnation awaits us: must be excluded froni God and happiness, and consigned to a place of endless and inexpressible torment, anguish, and despair. Ah! what « searchings of heart” become us, fince few, in comparison, obtain the efficacious influence of that grace, which is tendered to them in the Gospel!
Thele folemn admonitions of Jesus did not conciliate, but rather the more exasperate, his enemies. Yet they were afraid to take away his life by foree; and, therefore, by various schemes they endeavoured to find some plaufible pretext for doing it. Accordingly, they proposed fubtle questions, merely that they might draw from him such answers, as would furnith them with a heavy charge against him. The Pharisees left him, and, having consulted together on
the best method of effecting their design, joined the Herodians in laying a snare for him *. There men were of different parties and principles, and yet they could agree in the same diabolcal purpose. They came with fair, but feigned, profeflions of regard, and requested our Lord's decision, as !o the lawfulness of paying tribute to Cetur, the Roma.i Emperor. Probabiv, they were confident of involiing bin in a very serious difficulty: if he had diffuaded them from fubinitting to the tax, they might have accused him as an enemy to the governme!lt; or, if he had commanded it, they might have incensed the people against him, as hostile to their liberties.
But how vain are all human devices, in opposition to God! Jesus perceived their malevolent intentions, and sharply reproved their hypocrisy. He replied with peculiar wisdom, so as to make them julge and condemn themselves in their own cause. They were forced to confess their subjection to Cesar, lo long as they received the current coin, which was stamped with that Emperor's image. He inferred, therefore, without entering into political debates, that they should " render to Cesar the things which were Cesar’s.” A conclusion undeniably just: and equally just was the caution, which he subjoined, that God also has demands upon us, which ought, at least, to be as much regarded and complied with, as those of our earthly governors. They were altonished at the prudence and propriety of this answer, and obliged for that time to abandon their purpose.
Let us, then, attend to our Lord's decision, and feriously consider what we owe both to God and the king. These duties are not incompatible with each other: we cannot plead, that we truly “fear God," if we do not “ honour the king.” Are we giving
* Mat. xxii. 1.5-22. Mark xii. 13-017. Luke xx. 20–2604
that reverence and support, which are due to persons in authority? Do we utter no contemptuous speeches against thein? Do we not study fraudulent methods of evading the taxes, which are imposed, or pay them with a peevith discontent ? Surely, such a conduct is disgraceful to the profession of religion. But, though we have maintained our loyalty and fubmiffion to the reigning powers, have we not neglected the God of heaven? Has He no rights, no claims upon us? Or, shall we presume, that he will not assert them? ". Will a man rob God?": Would not the attempt imply confummate ignorance, pride, and fool-hardiness? Yet we all have done it. We have not admired his perfections, honoured his government, obeyed his law, or believed in his gospel, as we ought. We have not rendered all proper reverence and attention to his name, his fabbaths, his house, or ministers. “Enter not into judgment with thy servants, O Lord!”
On the same day, a different set of men attacked the Saviour* The Sadducees, who denied, a future ftate, came and started a difficulty against the resurrection of the body, which they ridiculed. They urged, that seven brethren, having been married in fucceflion to the same woman, could not all claim her as their wife in the world to come. declared, that their opinions evinced an ignorance of the scriptures, and of the mighty power of God; since that power can easily restore life to the dead, however improbable the event may feern, and the fcriptures expressly affert, that they shall rise. He argued, that all the distinctions and relations, which subsist among us on earth, will have no place hereafter. There may be a knowledge of those, to whom we are now closely united; but all thofe partial attachments and connections, which bind us to one
* Mat. xxii, 23-33. Mark xii. 18--27. Luke XX. 27-40.
another, will then be done away, as inconsistent with the perfection of the heavenly state. Their cbjection, therefore, fell to the ground. He fewed all, , .
) even from the books of Mofes, which they profesico to receive, that Jehovah had given fufficient intimations of a future state, by calling himself the God of Abrahain, Ifaac, and Jacob, long after those patriarchs were deceased : we may thence conclude, that departed faints are not perished; but that, as God is their God, their spirits are now with bim, and their duft fall awake again, to live in his presence for ever. Thus they were completely vanquished, and dared not to renew their atrack.
Do not modern free-thinkers, like the ancient Sadducees, betray their ignorance and perverleness by the difficulties which they start on the subject of religion? We would, therefore, address them in the words of Jesus, “ Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” We entreat you to relinquish your vain speculations, which will certainly turn to your own confusion. If you will gratify your captious disposition, and fondness for disputation, innumerable questions may be raised on every point, which do not admit an eafy folution. And, while you refuse to abide by the fimple declarations of God's word, and suffer your corrupt reason to give in its arrogant decisions, you may perish in your own imaginations.
But, though the Sadducees declined the contest with Jesus, the Pharisees set upon him again, as if they were confident of succeeding better * One of their learned doctors came forward with a question, intending to try his knowledge of divine revelation. It seems to have been disputed among them, which was the most important and necessary precept: fome preferred ceremonies, and others facrifices,
* Mat. xxiii 34, 8c. Mark xii. 28–37. Luke XX. 41-44.