« EdellinenJatka »
SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
THE THREE EXCUSES.
And he sent his servant at supper time, to say to them that were bidden, Come: for all things are now ready. And they all, with one consent, began to make eaccuse.
IN the parable from whence the text is taken, three persons are introduced as excusing themselves from the proffered hospitality of a certain man, who had invited them to a great supper. The first said, to the servant who was sent to summons him to the banquet, I have bought a piece of ground and I must needs go and see it; I pray thee have me excused: and another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused: and another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
Now it is impossible for us not to connect these excuses with what happens amongst ourselves with regard to the Holy Communion. And our Church has done so expressly in that Exhortation which the Minister is ordered to read when he giveth warning for the celebration, “in case he shall see the people negligent to come to the Holy Communion ” _“They,” it says, “ that refused the feast in the Gospel because they had bought a farm, or would try their yokes of oxen, or because they were married, were not so excused, but were counted unworthy of the heavenly feast.”
Such being the case, and this being a time when again the Holy Supper is prepared for us, I trust you will bear with me if I dwell for a little on each of these three excuses, coming, as they do, from three distinct classes of men; types of whom may be found in every congregation.
And, first, let me draw your attention to what takes place before the actual celebration of the Holy Communion. Notice is given of it on the Sunday previous. The Minister declares that he purposes, through God's assistance, to administer to all who shall be religiously and devoutly disposed, the most comfortable Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ-or, as it is expressed yet more earnestly in the other Exhortation to which I have referred, he says—“I, for my part, shall be ready, and, according to my office, I bid you in the name of God, I call you in Christ's behalf, I exhort you as ye love your own salvation, that ye will be partakers of this Holy Communion."
Now this notice, this earnest, affectionate call, may well be put side by side with what is done in the parable. God prepares His feast : He Himself supplies all that is required : the oxen and fatlings are His—there is nothing we can contribute to it--all that is asked of us is, to come and partake of the Lord's bounty. He sends
His servants at supper time, to say to us, Come, for all things are now ready! ‘And how is that message received ? How do we hear the Lord’s invitation to the Lord's Table. Alas! I fear, much as they did in the parable. It calls up in many of our hearts not feelings of pleasure and thankfulness, but feelings of uneasiness, almost, I had said, of opposition. Some few, indeed, there will be in every congregation, who hear the summons gladly; some few who have tasted how gracious the Lord is, and in whose hearts a true love of Him has been enkindled—these rejoice at the invitation, and promise themselves to be there. But not so is it with the greater part of us. Most of us, on hearing the notice, begin within ourselves with one consent to make excuse ! And what are the excuses P. They are the same excuses that were made of old—if not taking exactly the same outward shape, they are in spirit the excuses which the men bidden put forth in the parable. Let us look at them one by one—not judging one another, but judging every man himself only. First, there is the excuse which the possession of property, easy worldly circumstances, brings with it. I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it, I pray thee have me excused. A man rich in this world's goods is apt to have little relish for spiritual things. With everything easy about him, with no desire of body or mind left unsatisfied, he is apt to think and care but little about his soul, and not caring about his soul, he sets small store by that provision which Christ has ordained for its strengthening and refreshment. What he really cares about is his property : to secure this, to increase this, to lay field to field, is at once his chief pleasure and business.—To this he gives his mind, and his best thoughts—but he cares, as I have said, all too little about religion. The urgent invitation to the Lord's Table meets no felt want in his heart. He does not care to remember Christ, because Christ has so little to do with his source of happiness. Unless the eyes of his understanding have been enlightened to know his real condition before God, how poor and destitute, and in need of all things he surely is, it is hard to persuade him of the benefit and blessedness of coming to the Holy Supper-it is almost natural for him to say, being a rich man, I pray thee have me excused !
But again. Take the second excuse--I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them, I pray thee have me excused.
The first, we said, was the excuse of the man of property—this we may call the excuse of the busy man-of those whose time and thoughts are necessarily much occupied with the work of their calling—of the man who depends on his daily toil for a living—the merchant, the farmer, the artisan, the labourer.
When we press persons of this class to come to the Lord's Table, the plea they make for not coming is, that they have not had time to consider it; or time to prepare for it. They do not deny that it is right, meet, and their bounden duty to come—they say that at some future day, when they are less occupied, when they have more leisure, they hope to come—but to come now, with their heads and hands full of other things, with the business of their calling pressing so upon them-business that must be attended to—seems unsuitable, hardly to he expected of them. They answer, if not in so many words, yet in the very spirit of the oxen buyers in the parable—I have something else to think about, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused.
The third and last excuse we may call the excuse of the family man—of such as have home cares. And in this case, we may observe, no apology is made by the man in the parable for declining to be present at the feast. He does not say I pray thee have me excused—but he bluntly refuses—I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.
And is not this also a true picture of what happens still ? A man or a woman, a father or a mother, will tell you, if you ask them, that the reason why they keep away from the Sacrament is, because of the cares and troubles they have at home—“Where there are children,” I have heard them say—“one's temper is sorely tried : one cannot always keep from angry words, from strife and quarrelling—when the children are grown up, and get away from home, perhaps it may be different; perhaps then we may attend ; but while they are young and on our hands, while no day passes that we are not sorely harassed and put out by the care of them, you must not look to see us there: it is out of the questionwe cannot come.”
I might enlarge upon all these three excuses by which men seek to cloke their neglect of their Lord's great