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MATT. xxii. 2.



BEFORE We attempt to improve any passage of scripture, it is necessary to ascertain its primary application. This is particularly the case with the parables, the greater part of which were delivered for some immediate and particular purpose, which is generally discoverable from the context; but still the facts applied to the illustration of this first object, will bear a much more extensive use, and are capable of being employed as general principles. This therefore is one great part of the business of the preacher, to follow these particular illustrations out, as far as strict analogy will permit, and to found upon them such instructions as may be of more extensive and permanent application. With regard then to the parable which I have selected for our consideration, we may observe that it was obviously delivered with this immediate view;-to admonish the Jews of the danger and destruction that awaited them for their rejection of the gospel; to point out its extension to the Gentile world; and to show the


necessity that whosoever adopted it, whether Jew or Gentile, should do so in deed and in truth. It follows that parable, in which our Lord, tracing out the prediction of the psalmist, compared himself to the head corner stone, which should fall on and grind to powder the chief builders who cast it aside;1 and on that occasion we are told that they would have laid hands upon him, but that they feared the multitude. In this parable, therefore, with a faithfulness and a boldness worthy of our imitation, he addresses the people, and shows them a case where, not the rulers alone, but all the community should be involved in guilt, and visited with punishment, and bring down upon the nation not only the infliction of God's wrath, but the withdrawing of his spiritual mercies; and admonishes them that all to whom these mercies came, should be dealt with according to their actual and real, and not merely their nominal acceptance of them. In fact, this parable, although connected in one unbroken narrative, contains two distinct subjects, the moral or improvement of each of which is applicable to two different classes of persons—the one to the despisers and opposers of the gospel, and the other to its nominal but insincere friends. I propose to go through the parable as it lies before me, making such observations as may seem to arise out of it, after endeavouring in each instance to point out first the primary signification. And may the Holy Spirit be with us all; may he open our hearts, and apply his word power

1 Matt. xxi. 42.

2 Ibid. 46.

fully and effectually to our souls, and enable each of us to take to ourselves that portion of it which may be most applicable to, and most needed by, us individually.

The parable opens thus: "THE KINGDOM OF


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A MARRIAGE FOR HIS SON."3 By the kingdom of heaven is meant the gospel dispensation, which is often so expressed. By THE KING is clearly intended our Almighty Father, from whom all the plans and counsels of divine love and grace, as to the restoration and glorification of fallen man, are described as flowing. By THE SON, likewise, is plainly designed our blessed Lord, "the only begotten of the Father," in and through whom all this purpose of mercy is effected. By THE MARRIAGE, lastly, is meant that wonderful and mysterious union which exists between Christ and his redeemed people, in their covenant relation to him, which is frequently represented in scripture under this figure. Thus the apostle Paul after speaking of it, adds, great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and his church," and therefore Christ is spoken of as "the bridegroom," and the church as "the bride." What present comforts and consolations, what sure protection and preservation-what future riches and blessedness and glory, are all implied in this relationship! All things indeed are ours if we are Christ's, whether things present or things to come. "6 When


3 Matt. xxii. 2.

5 Ephes. v. 32.

"This is a

4 John i. 14.

6 Rom. viii. 38.

we consider what we have been, and what we are thus raised to, what love does it not manifest on the part of God towards us, and what fidelity and affection does it not lay claim to on our part towards him! "THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS LIKE UNTO A CERTAIN KING WHICH MADE A MARRIAGE FOR HIS SON."

This then represents the relation which the church collectively bears to the Lord, but the parable seems to be more applicable to individuals, who are here considered as guests at the feast held in celebration of the marriage; for we read that the king "SENT


DEN TO THE WEDDING." We are told that it was the custom to write the names of the guests upon a list, and to acquaint them that they were expected; and then, when the time came, to summon them by another and special message. Thus the Jews were, in various ways, made acquainted with the fact, that they were specially interested in these things, they were Israel, God's called, the children of the kingdom, "to whom pertaineth the covenant and the adoption." And, that they understood that they were so, is obvious from their whole conduct, the great feature of which was indignation that any should be permitted even to share with them in their privileges. Now, then, as the time approached, the special invitation was sent to them. This was done by John the Baptist, who came, saying, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," "The time is ful

7 Matt. xxii. 3.

8 Rom. ix. 4.

9 Matt. iii. 1.

filled; repent ye, and believe the gospel.." This was done by our Lord himself, and by his seventy disciples, all of whom delivered the same message. But the parable tells us, that "THEY WOULD NOT COME." Notwithstanding the Baptist's tone of reproof, and the Saviour's soft and winning accents of love, they would listen neither to the one nor the other. They steadily resisted every kind and description of call; it was the fixed determination of their will, of that perverse and corrupt will, which "loves darkness rather than light,"3 that they "would not come to Christ that they might have life." But God's patience was not exhausted. He might well have ceased from all further solicitation; but no, "HE SENT FORTH OTHER SERVANTS. "5 These possibly were the apostles of Christ, who went forth after the resurrection, and proclaimed that all his purposes of mercy were accomplished. This would appear from the message that they were to deliver; for they were sent out to expostulate with these ungrateful rejectors of God's offers, to say what God had done. "BEHOLD, I HAVE PREPARED MY DINNER, MY OXEN AND MY FATLINGS ARE KILLED, AND ALL THINGS

ARE READY." They were sent out to show that this was no season even for delay; that God had done all that could be done for them; that he had omitted nothing that belonged to the salvation of his people; that every thing was perfected, the prophecies were fulfilled, the types accomplished, the work of salvation finished, everlasting righteousness brought in,

1 Mark i. 15.

4 John v. 40.

2. Mat. xxii. 3.

3 John iii. 19.

5 Matt. xxii. 4.

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