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Our trials, it is true, are not to be spoken of by the side of theirs. But such as they are, let us bear them all the more bravely, from considering the example of our brethren, such as they are let us take them patiently, uncomplainingly, fortifying ourselves with the words— The will of the Lord be done /
God, we are sure, will not try us above what we are able to bear—neither did He try them—He will make a way of escape for us. Yes, and though He make not the escape we hope for—though we be called upon to suffer as they were till the end, yet, doubt it not, a deliverance is prepared for us... It will come at last, all the more welcome because it has been delayed—heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. When the sharpness of death is overcome, Thou dost open the kingdom of heaven to all believers!
TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
ST. MATTHEW xxII. 2.
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king which made a marriage for his son.
THESE are the opening words of the parable which is selected for this Sunday’s Gospel. And there is much in that parable to remind us of one we have already had brought before us by our Church on the Second Sunday after Trinity—the parable of the Great Supper. There is also much that is distinct in both parables, and before I enter upon the one now before us, I think it may be useful to point out wherein that distinction lies.
And, first, I may observe, that the parable in St. Luke xiv. was spoken by our Lord much earlier than the one which comes before us to-day. The Pharisees had not yet evinced all their hatred against Him. Nor did He as yet desire to denounce upon them all the weight of woe which by their conduct they were bringing upon themselves. There is in His words a holding back of the worst, as though He still hoped that they might yet turn to Him and be saved. But in this parable out of St. Matthew no such lingering hope appears. The Lord's words are stern and unsparing. And the terrible future in store for the bigoted and ungrateful Jews is plainly unfolded. On this account—because it is later in our Lord's ministry, because it reveals more of His mind and purpose, this second parable must always be regarded as the fullest lessons for our learning. And next, brethren, let us notice that while the same figure of a feast runs through both parables, still there is great variety in all the attending circumstances. Thus—in St. Luke it is only—A certain man made a great supper. Whilst in St. Matthew it is—A certain king which made a marriage for his son. Again: in St. Luke, only one servant is sent out, while in St. Matthew there are many. Again: there, the invited guests merely excuse themselves and stay away,+here, they maltreat and murder the messengers. There, it is first, the poor and infirm of the city, and afterwards those in the highways and hedges, i. e. the Gentiles who are called to fill up the vacant seats, here, the invitation, slighted by the first, goes forth at once to those who are without. There, the abrupt conclusion is, that those who had first been invited should not partake of the supper-here, there is a quick and sharp punishment inflicted upon the murderers and upon theircity. There, when the guests are gathered together, the parable ends,-here we have a further view; and are shewn that a scrutiny will distinguish between who are worthy and who are not worthy—that though many be called, all are not chosen. These are points of difference in the two parables, and they afford a proof that we have in these records two distinct portions of our Lord's teaching, conveying to us similar, but not the same matter for our learning. Let us proceed to examine more at length the second of these parables—the one provided for our meditation in the Gospel of to-day. Jesus said, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son; and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding ; and they would not come. Here, under the type of a marriage, is signified “the mystical union which is betwixt Christ and His Church.” He is the Bridegroom—His people, the whole collected company of the redeemed, are His spouse. Their union is celebrated by a royal feast—that feast referred to in the Revelation as the marriage supper of the Lamb. But the time of that feast is not yet. It will not be before the Gospel has been preached throughout the whole world—not till the invitation has been sounded far and wide, Come unto the marriage. And next note who are called, and how often. First of all the Jews were called—in many ways, and by many messengers. They were called by God’s servants the prophets, whom He despatched, rising up early, and sending them. They were called by the types and sacrifices of the Mosaic law—by the sure word of prophecy, ever growing clearer and more definite, to come unto Jesus, that they might have life—to see in Him the Lamb of God that should satisfy for sin. But they heeded not the call. They shewed no desire to be saved. They would not come. Still God bore with them, and was slow to anger, and loath to cast away the people He had loved. When Christ had come, and done and suffered all that was written of Him, and so wrought out a complete redemption for fallen man, God in His mercy would have made Israel the first partakers of it—Again he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them that are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner—my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage. These other servants are the Apostles and Evangelists who first, after the Lord's Ascension, preached His Gospel exclusively to the Jews—to the men of Judea, and all that dwell at Jerusalem. And did they now embrace the invitation? Alas! no–They made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise—and not only that, but their rulers and leading men persecuted his messengers even to the death—they took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. Stephen was stoned, James the brother of John, James the Just, and no doubt others also of His Apostles met with a violent death at the hands of their countrymen, for their testimony to Christ. The whole book of the Acts is but an unfolding of our Lord’s prediction respecting the treatment of His servants by the very men whom they sought to save—Behold, I send unto you wise men