« IndietroContinua »
part from another, which distinguishes the guest invited, from the guest adınitted, to the feast, is the process of judgment, which, before the transition of the visible into the invisible church, will separate from all who were members of the former in general, those who are destined to be the members of the latter in particular. The wedding-garment which distinguishes the one class of these guests, and its members, from those of the other, is that personal criterion, whatsoever it may be, which will discriminate hereafter the member of the future and invisible, from the member of the present and visible church. The ministers who execute the sentence of exclusion on the reprobate guest ; the outer darkness into which he is thrust; and every other circumstance of tbe parabolic allegory, have all their appropriate meaning, deducible from the above principles of explanation; which will appear hereafter.
The moral of the parable, therefore, considered as twofold, and bearing an equal relation to both the parts of a double economy of things still future, is this ; first, from the rejection of the offer of Christianity by the Jews, to predict the fact, and to elucidate the grounds, of the transition of the distinction of being the members of the visible church, with every privilege present or to come, belonging to that relation, irrecoverably from the Jews, and so far exclusively to the Gentiles; and, secondly, by implying the separation of merely nominal or professing members of the visible church, from the real, before its transition into the invisible, to shew the futurity, and to illustrate the grounds, of that personal distinction even among the Gentiles themselves, considered as successors to the Jews in the relation and privileges of the members of the visible church—which must yet be made, before any who have been members of the visible, during its state of probation, can become members of the invisible, resulting out of it, at the close of that state, and prior to the consummation of all things.
It is with reason that the relative character of the principal personage, in the parabolic narrative, is set forth in one point of view as a king, and in another, as the author of an entertainment of a certain kind; and the corresponding character of the subordinate personages, is described, in reference to the former, as that of his subjects, in reference to the latter, as that of his guests: for the principal personage in the parable is now perceived to be the Lord of heaven and earth; the entertainment in question, to be that state of reward and felicity which he has prepared for the faith and obedience of the members of his true church; and the subordinate personages in the parable, to be that portion of his moral and responsible creatures on earth, whom he designs to partake thereof.
It is with reason, too, that the entertainment of which he is the author, is represented as a feast which commemorates the marriage of his son: for that marriage is the mystical union of the Lord of the church with true and faithful believers, the members thereof; and the festivity which commemorates that marriage is the joy and felicity, of whatever kind and in whatever state of being, which will be the consequence of that union, to all the members of the true church, and will constitute the personal reward and personal happiness of each.
The design of such an entertainment could not but be prior to its execution, and the preparations for such a festivity, by a greater or a shorter interval, could not but precede its celebration : as the purpose of the Father for the glory of his Son, and for the reward of the faith and obedience of the members of his true church, in that state of retribution hereafter which will succeed to their previous state of probation in the present life, though conceived from all eternity, must yet be carried into effect only in time; and must require the previous continued existence of the visible church, in its present state of probation, for its appointed period of being. The image of a supper, then, in general is a significant emblem for the last event in the order of the Divine æconomy, from the first conception to the final consummation of this purpose; and the image of a marriage supper in particular, especially of the marriage supper of a king's son, (as the liveliest expression of extraordinary pomp and magnificence, of unbounded festivity, and of universal sympathy and rejoicing, connected with such an occasion,) is still more significant of that happy consummation, in which the good and faithful of every age and na. tion, from the beginning to the end of the existence of the visible church, are destined to partake, and to find their individual reward and their plenary personal gratification, upon the transition of the visible into the invisible church.
The privilege of standing in the relation of guests at such an entertainment as this, is consequently the greatest privilege which could be offered to the choice of moral and responsible creatures; and the alienation of that privilege is the greatest misfortune which could possibly befall the subjects of such a dispensation : for it is nothing less on the one hand, than the offer of the gift of immortality and happiness, and nothing less on the other, than the loss of the same, to the proper subjects of either dispensation. The offer of the privilege of becoming guests at his own entertainment, to whomsoever made, must be the act of the king; and the offer of the inestimable blessings entailed upon the privilege of standing in the relation of the members of his church, to whomsoever it might be made, must be the act of the author and founder of the church. The promulgation of the invitation beforehand, was the first step towards the celebration of the feast; and the formation of the visible church, to fulfil a certain purpose, and to go through a certain state of being, beforehand, was the first step towards its transition into the invisible, and the consummation of the happiness reserved for its members, by that event. Two orders, but only two orders, of guests were successively provided for the future feast-one before a certain time, the other, after it; and the visible church, from the first moment of its foundation to undergo its preliminary probation, before its transition into the invisible, has had two, but only two states of being, the interval between which was of a marked and determinate nature, and during the first of which the congregation composing its members, consisted of one class or division of mankind, and during the second has consisted of another, and a very different one. The members of the first order of guests might be comparatively fewer than those of the last; and the congregation of the visible church for the first of its two states of being, was confined to a single nation, for the second has been such, as to include the greater part of mankind. The character of the guests of each order in relation to the feast, was that of the guests invited, not of the guests admitted to the feast; and the character even of the destined heirs of immortality, at every period of the existence of the visible church, is still that of the members of the visible, but not yet of the invisible church. The character of a guest invited might be lost, and never be consummated in that of a guest admitted to the feast; and the presumptive relation even of an heir of immortality and happiness, acquired by belonging to the visible church, may be lost before the transition of the visible into the invisible; and the relation of a member of the visible in a particular instance, may never be consummated in that of a member of the invisible.
The first body of guests had already been provided for the future feast, before the action in the parable began; and the Jews were already in possession of the visible church, and presumptively heirs to all the privileges of that possession, before the same point of time in their history, and that of the visible church. The choice of these guests beforehand was implied to be due to some supposed worthiness or fitness of character, qualifying them in particular for the enjoyment of such a privilege, and justifying the reasonable expectation that they