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and expelled guest was condemned to wander. We are required by every rule of fair criticism to explain and limit the expression by the allusive spirit in which the parable is related; and we are forbidden, I think, by our religious reverence, as well as by our natural sensibilities, to force the text into a severer meaning. Mistake me not. I have no wish to colour over the guilt of him who had not on a wedding garment, and I shall not attempt to appreciate the exact degree of rigour in his punishment. Far be it from me to soothe the fears of any sinner; but in pointing those fears to their proper object, and stretched up to their proper tone, I give them a fuller, a more permanent, and a more salutary effect. I attend to the real constitution of human nature, and I do not contradict the letter or the spirit of the word of God.
I must desire you moreover, to mark the various gradations, and discriminating circumstances of guilt recorded in the parable. Upon those to whom the invitation was offered, and by whom it was first refused, we do not hear that any punishment was inflicted. When the deity did not suffer his gracious purpose to be impeded by the unfeeling and unthankful conduct of his creatures, he repeats his invitation in stronger terms, and behold, the ingratitude of man seems to rise in proportion to the goodness of God. The second offer was not merely rejected, but the rejection is accompanied by overtacts of most unmerited and violent cruelty to those who delivered it. Even the crime which is mentioned last in the order of the narrative, was not the
blackest in point of criminality. Great, doubtless, was the guilt of coming without a wedding garment; but the guilt of slaying the king's servants was greater. Accordingly the punishment of the one was only to be driven ignominiously from the feast; but the punishment of the other was, that the king sent forth his armies and destroyed them.
Now as you do not suppose the torments of eternity to be meant by the latter words, is it fair and consistent to suppose them implied in the former, which are less severe?
The plain truth is, that in neither case the future judicial dispensations of God are directly pointed out; but this most intelligible and most useful lesson is conveyed to us-that when the Deity holds forth his favours in vain-when we refuse to accept them-or when, having accepted, we proceed to abuse them, they are withdrawn from us; and according to our different degrees of guilt, God exercises different degrees of severity.
History records some facts by which we may understand the penalties incurred by those who slew the king's servants; and it were easy to state a supposed case, by which we may judge of the sentence denounced against him, who had not on the wedding garment. God has given to us, who are among the last that were admitted to the feast, the bright and steady directions of the Gospel; but should he suf fer us again to be plunged in the thick darkness of heathen idolatry, or guided (as countries once professing Christianity are) by the baleful and glimmering light of Mahometanism, would you not
think our situation deplorable, though our country should not be destroyed, as that of the Jews was, by a host of invincible enemies, and visited with all the dreadful calamities of war. Surely you would shudder at the prospect of being driven from the feast, though the king should not send his armies among you.
As a further proof that the text does not allude to the last and solemn judgment of all mankind, we may observe, that as one only came in without a wedding garment, the number representing those, who in the gentile world may fall short of the divine favour is not sufficient; but if we carry back our attention to all the guests who were summoned, and suppose the punishments to be of a temporal nature, then the number of those who resisted the summons, justifies the proportion stated in my text, between those who are called and those who are chosen.
After these remarks on the affairs to which the temporal judgments of God were directed, and the gradations by which they are discriminated, I should proceed to explain what my text does mean, as a general inference from the whole, were it not proper for me previously to observe what it does not mean, considered as connected only with the fate of the person who had not a wedding garment. Where then, let us ask, do we hear that the man was predestinated to his offence; or that he is condemned for any involuntary and inevitable sin? He knew that he ought to have had on a wedding-garment-he came without it, and the fault was palpably
and solely his own; but he was not cast out in consequence of any arbitrary and irreversible decree on the part of the king. He that asked meant to have entertained him; he that called would also have chosen him, if he had been properly prepared. But, exclaims the predestinarian, he that is once called is saved for ever; for the call is accompanied by appropriate and unequivocal indications that it comes from God-by an unshaken affiance that our sins are forgiven-by an efficacious grace that sanctifies our actions. In opposition to all these groundless assumptions, and all this senseless jargon, I bring forward the plain declaration of the text, and distorted, even as the predestinarian himself would wish to have it, in its application, and referred only to the case of him who had not a wedding garment-for he certainly was called, and he as certainly was not chosen. Now if you do not allow the distinction, that a man may be called and yet not be chosen, you abandon, or rather demolish, a text which stands among the strongest outworks of predestination, and perhaps is more tenable than the citadel itself. If you do allow the distinction, and add that God professes to call those whom he does not intend to choose that he who foresees and determines the event, has also prepared the train of causes, which are to produce it that he excites hopes which he will not permit us to gratify, and sports with the weakness of his creatures under the colour of punishing their sins to what does this amount? My indignation and horror at the doctrine do not carry me, I hope, beyond the reverence which is due
to the Being who is the subject of it, when I say that it imputes to the deity the forms of judicial proceedings without the spirit of justice itself-the baseness of treachery without its dexterity-the malignity of cruelty without the provocations or interests which impel other beings to be cruel-the wantonness of oppression without the dignity of power.
Were we to grant the premises that the concluding words in the parable, have a retrospect only to the person who was found not to wear a wedding garment and his companions, the reasons already adduced are sufficient to crush every consequence that favours the vulgar notions of unconditional election. And surely we do not press our analogical argument too far, when, in conformity to the preceding circumstances of the parable, we contend that the whole relates, not to the final doom of mankind, but to the religious dispensations of the Deity, in the publication of a law, the privileges of which some men are, and some are not permitted to share -which to some is communicated earlier, and to others later—which by some is embraced, and by others rejected-which to some, from their moral qualifications is, and to others from the want of them, is not the instrument of salvation.
The inconsistencies of ignorance leagued with spiritual pride are endless, and weary reason itself in the career of its triumphs over error. Let us, however, point out one more instance in which the text, upon the principles of those who mistake it, fails to justify the mischievous use to which it is often ap