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SERMON XXII.

LUKE, Chap. XIV, ver. 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.

In the parable, of which these words are a part, the unspeakable happiness of the kingdom of God, as begun in the hearts of believers in this world, and to be consummated in the world to come, is represented under the figure of a great Feast, or Supper, to which multitudes were bidden; and the excuses, which they offer for not coming, strongly describe the various obstructions which the Gospel would meet with in its reception among men; from the time of its first promulgation, to that blessed period when the dispersed among the highways and hedges of remotest nations shall hear its Divine call, and “ all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ !"

To this last universal invitation, or call, our text clearly points; as, in the verses connected with it, we may find a reference to the various preceding calls and dispensations in the gospel economy. Thus, at the 17th verse, when the Master of the House “ sent

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“his servant at supper time to say to those who “ were [before] bidden, come, for all things are now “ready;" we may understand the sending of John the Baptist to give the Jews, who were before bidden, a particular notice to prepare themselves, [by the baptism of repentance] for the immediate reception of the Messiah, and the coming of his kingdom, which was to be speedily preached and first offered unto them! And again, in the sending out a second time to tell them “ the supper was ready and to bid “ them come in,” we are led to consider the special offers of this kingdom, which were made to them by the apostles and seventy disciples; while the excuses which they make (“ one having bought a piece of “ ground, another five yoke of oxen, and another

having married a wife,”) strongly describe that love of the world and of the things it contains, which had got such fast hold of them, as to leave no room for the spirit of the Gospel, or the words of its messengers to work upon them. Still farther, in the progress of the parable, when the “ Master of the house, being

angry” (at the excuses made by the Jews) rejects them, as unworthy of his heavenly feast because of their carnal and hard hearts, and commands his servant to“ go out quickly" (lest the supper should be lost) “ into the streets and lanes of the city and to

bring in the poor and the maimed, the halt and the “blind;" we may consider the further extension of Christ's commission to his Apostles after his resurrection, to preach to the dispersed Jews as well as the Gentiles in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, and in all Judea, &c.

But room being still left at this great Feast, the Lord of the table, who is all benevolence and mercy, being desirous that his whole house should be filled, delivers, in the last place, the truly comfortable and glorious commission in the text

“Go out into the highways and hedges, and “ compel them to come in, that my house may be « filled."

Go, my servants, since the Jews, through the hardness and carnality of their hearts, have rejected the repeated invitations which I have given them ; since the disperst of their nation and the neighbour. ing Gentiles are not sufficient to fill my whole house, nor to answer my everlasting purposes of love to mankind, in sending them a Saviour and publishing to them the means of Salvation and Glory—“Go out, therefore, into the highways and hedges*"-Go ye into all the world, and preach the everlasting Gospel to every human creature, without respect of persons, kindreds or tongues. Publish to all nations the joyful tidings of Salvation, teaching them and

baptizing them, in the name of the Father, and of " the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Place before them, in the strongest and most affecting manner, my free overtures of love and grace. Describe to them, in the most fervent and rapturous manner, that divine Feast of joy, that everlasting Supper of bles. sedness which I have made ready for true believers in my kingdom of glory. Be earnest and zealous in this great work! Take no refusal from them; but by

St. Mat. xxvii. 19. St. Mark, xvi. 16.

labouring “ in season and out of season—compel “ them to come in that my house may be filled!”

Oh words of everlasting importance to the whole Christian world! Oh words of unspeakable joy to all the sons of men—but to us especially, whose lot may be truly said to have been cast among the highways and hedges in those remote parts of the earth, which never till lately heard the divine call of the Gospel; and to which its joyful sound did at length reach, in consequence of the gracious commission given in the text; which will, therefore, be a very proper subject of our further meditations on this day!

We are assembled to introduce our Liturgy and Public Worship, in that form, and with those alterations, which the change of our civil condition, and other local considerations, appear to have rendered necessary, according to the sense and determination of the representative body of our Church from a number of these United States; and our hope and prayer to Almighty God is that the same, as now offered, and as it may be further improved; may by His Grace and Holy Spirit, become instrumental, through all the rising states and future empires of this American world, in compelling many to come into the sheepfold of Christ and be saved. I shall, therefore, consider the text in a twofold view; First negatively, in respect to those means which it will not justify in the propagation of Christianity; and then positively, in respect to those means which it not only justifies but clearly commands.

And first, although the words, go out and com" pel them to come in,” be strongly authoritative;

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yet, unless we contradict the whole tenor of Christ's : Gospel, which is all meekness and love, we cannot explain them as justifying any sort of outward violence or persecution, to bring men to embrace the true Faith. What is here translated “ compel" is elsewhere understood for strong entreaty or persua.. sion. Thus in the 24th chapter of this Gospel, Jesus is said to have been constrained (or compelled] to tarry at a certain village. Lot also is said to have constrained the angels to stay with him; Jacob to have constrained Esau to accept his presents; the sons of the prophets to have urged Elisha to send a number of men to look for the body of Elijah, till he was compelled to comply with their request, although he had refused them before and knew their journey to be in vain, having, with his own eyes, seen his master taken up into heaven. St. Matthew says the Kingdom of Heaven may suffer violence, and the violent take it by force; and St. Paul tells the Corinthians that he had become a fool in glorying, but that by their deportment, to him, they had compelled him to it, &c.

It is impossible, therefore, .to believe that the same Scriptures, which enjoin every man “ to be

persuaded in his own mind and ready to give a " reason for the hope that is in him," should, at the same time, enjoin a tyranny to be erected over mens' reason and conscience; or direct their bodies to be injured or destroyed, for the conviction or illumination of their minds. Every man must answer for himself at the great tribunal of his judge, and therefore every man is enjoined to prove his own work, VOL. II.

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