Luke 14Several particulars are here worthy of our observation and imitation.
Note, 1. The freedom of our Lord's conversation with men: he delighted in human society, and was of a sociable temper; we do not find, that whenever he was invited to a dinner, he disdained to go, not so much for the pleasure of eating, as for the opportunity of conversing and doing good.
Note, 2. The house he goes into, and is entertained in, one of the chief Pharisees', who were some of his chiefest enemies; a great instance of our Lord's humanity, humility, and self-denial, in that he refused not the conversation of those whom he knew did not affect him; teaching us to love our enemies, and not to shun conversing with them, that thereby we may gain an opportunity of being reconciled to them.
Note, 3. The day when our Saviour dined publicly at the Pharisee's house, among the lawyers and Pharisees; it was on the sabbath day.
Learn hence, that it is not simply unlawful for us to entertain our friends and neighbors with a plentiful meal on the Lord's day; it must be acknowledged, that feasting upon any day is one of those lawful things which is difficulty managed without sin, but more especially upon that day, that it does not unfit us for the duties of the sabbath. However, our Lord's example in going to a public dinner amongst lawyers and Pharisees evidently shows the lawfulness of feasting on that day, provided we use the same moderation in eating and drinking that he did, and improve the opportunity as a season for doing good, as he has taught us by his example.
Note, 4. How, contrary to all the laws of behavior, the decency of conversation, and the rules of hospitality, the Pharisees watched him, making their table a snare to catch him, hoping they might hear something from him, or see something in him for which they might accuse him: He entered into the house of the Pharisees to eat bread, and they watched him.
Note, 5. Our Saviour chose the sabbath day as the fittest season to work his miraculous cures in; in the Pharisee's house he heals a man who had the dropsy, on the sabbath day. Christ would not forbear doing good, nor omit any opportunity of helping and healing the distressed though he knew his enemies the Pharisees would carp and cavil at it, calumniate and reproach him for it; it being the constant guise of hypocrites, to prefer ceremonial and ritual observation, before necessary and moral duties.
Note, 6. How our Saviour defends the lawfulness of his act in healing the diseased man, from their own act in helping a beast out of the pit on the sabbath day: as if Christ had said, "Is it lawful for you on the sabbath day to help a beast? And is it sinful for me to heal a man?"
Note, lastly, how the reason and force of our Saviour's argument silenced the Pharisees; convincing them, no doubt, but we read nothing of their conversion: the obstinate and malicious are much harder to be wrought upon than the ignorant and scandalous; it is easier to silence such men than to satisfy them; to stop their mouths than to remove their prejudices; for obstinacy will hold the conclusion, though reason cannot maintain the premises: They could not answer him again to those things.
It was observed before, that our blessed Saviour dined publicly on the sabbath day with several Pharisees and lawyers: that which is here worthy of our notice is this; how holy and suitable our Lord's discourse was to the solemnity of that day; may it be the matter of our imitation! It is not unlawful for friends to dine together on the Lord's day, provided their discourse be suitable to the day, such as our Lord's here; for observing how the company then at the table did affect precedency, and taking place one of another; he that before their eyes had cured a man of a bodily dropsy, attempts to cure the person that dined with him of the tympany of pride.
Where note, that it is not the taking, but the affecting of the highest places and uppermost rooms, that our Saviour condemns. There may and ought to be a precedency amongst persons; it is according to the will of God, that honor be given to whom honor is due; and that the most honorable person should sit in the most honorable places: for grace gives a man no exteriour preference: it makes a man glorious indeed, but it is glorious within.
Note farther, the way our Saviour directs persons to, in order to their attaning real honor, both from God and men, namely, by being little in our own eyes, and in lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than ourselves; as God will abase, and men will despise, the proud and haughty, so God will exalt, and men will honor, the humble person: Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Observe here, that it is not an absolute denial of calling brethren and kinsfolk, and rich neighbors: but Christ forbids the bidding of them alone, and requires that the poor be refreshed at or from our table: for when the rich feast one another, and let the poor fast and pine; this is very sinful.
Accordingly our Saviour, observing how the Pharisee that bade him to dinner, invited only the rich, overlooking and neglecting the poor, he exhorts him and the company, that whenever they make entertainments for the time to come, they should not only invite their rich neighbors, and friends. Who can and will invite them again; but remember the poor.
1. That civil courtesies, and hospitable entertainments of kindred and friends, for maintaining and preserving love and concord, is not only lawful, but an expedient and necessary duty; Use hospitality one to another (says St. Peter) without grudging.
2. That though it be not unlawful to invite and feast the rich, yet it is most acceptable to God when we feed and refresh the poor: When thou makest a feast call rather the poor, and thou shalt be blessed. We must prefer the duties of Christian charity before the acts of common civility: blessed are those feast makers, who make the bowels of the hungry to bless them.
3. That God often times rewards our liberality to the poor very signally in this life; but if it be deferred, we shall not fail to receive it at the resurrection of the just: The poor cannot recompense thee, but thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.
One of them that sat at meat with our Saviour in the Pharisee's house, hearing Christ speak of being recompensed at the resurrection of the just, repeated that known saying among the Rabbins, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God: that is, who shall be partakers of the joys of heaven. Here upon Christ utters the parable of the marriage supper, recorded here by St. Luke, with small variation from that which was delivered by St. Matthew, Matt 22:1-14
The first intention of our Saviour in that parable seems to be this, to set forth that gracious offer of mercy and salvation which was made by the preaching of the gospel unto the Jews, and to declare God's purpose of receiving the Gentiles into the fold of Christ, upon the Jews despising and rejecting that inestimable favor. But besides this, it has an aspect upon us Christans, who have embraced the doctrine of the gospel.
Here note, 1. That the gospel for its freeness and fullness, for its varieties and delicacies, is like a marriage supper:
1. It does create the same religion between Christ and believers, that marriage does between husband and wife.
2. It entitles to the same privileges that a conjugal relation does; to the same endearing love and tenderness, to the same care, protection, to the same honor, to the same happiness.
3. It obliges to the like duties, namely, unspotted love and fidelity, cheerful obedience to his commands, reverence to his person, submission to his authority.
4. It produces the same effects; as the effect of marriage is increase of children, so the fruit of the gospel is bringing many sons to God.
Note, 2. That gospel invitations are mightily disesteemed; they made light of the invitation, and offered frivolous excuses for their refusal of it.
Note, 3. That the preference which the world has in men's esteem, is a great cause of the gospel contempt; one had purchased a piece of ground, another had bought five yoke of oxen.
Note, 4. The deplorable sadness of their condition who refuse, upon any pretence whatever, to comply with the gospel tender of reconciliation and mercy: The king was wroth, pronounced them unworthy of his favor, and resolved they should not taste of his supper; but sends forth his servants to invite others to his supper.
Note, 5. The notion under which the Gentiles are set forth unto us, such as were in lanes, streets, and highways; that is, a rude, rustic, and barbarous people; whom the Jews despised, yea, whom they held accursed; yet even these are called accepted, while the Jews, the first intended guests, are excluded by means of their own contempt.
Note, lastly, the means used to bring in the Gentiles to the gospel supper: Go and compel them to come in; not by violence, but persuasion; by argumentation, not compulsion: the plain and persuasive, the powerful and efficacious preaching of the word, with the motions and influences of the Holy Spirit, are the compulsions here intended: not external force, not temporal punishment, nor outward violence. "No man ought by force and violence to be compelled to the profession of the true faith," says Tertullian.
Observe here, how vainly these words are brought to prove, that men may be compelled by the secular arm to embrace the Christian faith.
1. From the nature of a banquet, to which none are compelled by force, but by persuasion only.
2. From the scope of the parable, which respects the calling of the Gentiles, who believed by the great power of God.
Our Saviour by these expressions does not condemn natural love and affection, either to our relations, or our own lives, but only regulates and directs it.
Showing that our first and chief love ought to be bestowed upon himself; we may have, and ought to cherish, tender and relenting affections towards our near and dear relations, but then the consideration of Christ's truth and religion must take place of these; yea, of life itself; and when they stand in competition with these, we are to regard them no more than if they were objects of our hatred.
Learn hence, 1. That no man can be a sincere disciple of Christ, who gives any relation, or outward enjoyment, a preference to Christ in his heart and affections. Christ must be loved above all, or we love him not at all; less love he accounts and calls hatred. That which we can leave for Christ, we hate in comparison of that love which we bear to Christ. It is both impious and impossible to hate father and mother, and ourselves, absolutely: it must then be understood comparatively only; what we love less, we are comparatively said to hate.
Learn,2. That all the disciples of Christ must be ready and willing, whenever called to it, to quit all their temporal interests and enjoyments, even life itself, and submit to any temporal inconvenience, even death itself, all this willingly and cheerfully, rather than disown their relation to Christ, and quit the profession of his holy religion; upon easier terms than these can none of us be the disciples of Jesus.
Our blessed Saviour, by these two parables, advises all his followers to sit down and consider, to weigh well, and cast up beforehand, what it is likely to cost them to go through with their profession of religion: this, he tells us, common prudence will direct men to do in other cases; particularly when they either go to build or fight; as a man that intends to build, will consult whether he is able to defray the charges; and a king that goes forth to war, will consider what strength he has to make opposition: in like manner should persons engage in religion: not rashly, but advisedly, with consideration and judgment.
It is good to remember the issues of action, before we act; before we engage in the spiritual combat, to consider the difficulty of the battle; what proud leviathans we have to conflict with, what mighty giants to contend and strive against, even the world, the flesh, and the devil. But then we must take great care that our deliberation and consideration of difficulties and dangers may not deter us from, but work in us, a steady resolution for the combat, looking up to Christ for his auxiliary aid and strength to render us victorious, who though of ourselves we can do nothing, yet we may do all things through Christ that strengthens us. Phil 4:13
Learn from hence, that such as take up a profession of Christianity, without considering the dangers and difficulties, the trials and troubles, the afflictions and temptations, which may accompany it, will never hold out in the spiritual warfare, but either fall in it, or run from it.
Our Saviour here compares his disciples to salt, thereby denoting their usefulness, salt being one of the most useful things in nature; and pointing out also their duty, which is to season themselves and others with sound doctrine. But hypocritical professors are like unsavory salt; they are neither savory in themselves nor serviceable to others. Our Saviour compares such Christians who have no savor of piety and goodness upon their spirits, to salt, that, having lost its goodness, is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill: that is, being of a brackish nature, it is wholly unfit to manure the ground, and will rather occasion barrenness than any fruitfulness or increase.
Learn hence, that sincere and serious Christians are and will be as the salt of the earth; that is, good and savory in themselves, and endeavoring by exhortation and good example to season others; but hypocriticl professors and apostatizing Christians will be cast out, and trampled upon as unsavory salt.
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