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IV

Ver. 16

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Accordingly, it was to this man personally that the Parable was addressed.

There can be no difficulty in understanding the main ideas under

lying the Parable. The man who made the Great Supper' was » Is. xxv. 6,7 He Who had, in the Old Testament, prepared a feast of fat things.'

The bidding many' preceded the actual announcement of the day and hour of the feast. We understand by it a preliminary intimation of the feast then preparing, and a general invitation of the guests, who were the chief people in the city; for, as we shall presently see, the scene is laid in a city. This general announcement was made in the Old Testament institutions and prophecies, and the guests bidden were those in the city, the chief men—not the ignorant and those out of the way, but the men who knew, and read, and expounded these prophecies. At last the preparations were ended, and the Master sent out His Servant, not necessarily to be understood of any one individual in particular—such as John the Baptist -but referring to whomsoever He would employ in His Service for that purpose. It was to intimate to the persons formerly bidden, that everything was now ready. Then it was that, however differing in their special grounds for it, or expressing it with more or less courtesy, they were all at one in declining to come. The feast, to which they had been bidden some time before, and to which they had apparently agreed to come (at least, this was implied), was, when actually announced as ready, not what they had expected, at any rate not what they regarded as more desirable than what they had, and must give up in order to come to it. For—and this seems one of the principal points in the Parable—to come to that feast, to enter into the Kingdom, implies the giving up of something that seems if not necessary yet most desirable, and the enjoyment of which appears only reasonable. Be it possession, business, and pleasure (Stier), or the priesthood, the magistracy, and the people generally (St. Augustine), or the priesthood, the Pharisees, and the Scribes, or the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the self-righteously virtuous, with reference to whom we are specially to think of the threefold excuse, the main point lies in this, that, when the time came, they all refused to enter in, each having some valid and reasonable excuse. But the ultimate ground of their refusal was, that they felt no real desire, and saw nothing attractive in such a feast; had no real reverence for the host; in short, that to them it was not a feast at all, but something much less to be desired than what they had, and

| Rather the principal meal, which was towards evening.

THE PARABLE OF THE GREAT SUPPER.

251

XVI

would have been obliged to give up, if they had complied with the CHAP. invitation.

Then let the feast—for it was prepared by the goodness and liberality of the Host-be for those who were in need of it, and to whom it would be a feast: the poor and those afflicted—the maimed, and blind, and lame, on whom those great citizens who had been first bidden would look down. This, with reference to, and in higher spiritual explanation of, what Christ had previously said about bidding such to our feasts of fellowship and love. Accordingly, the St. Luke Servant is now directed to 'go out quickly into the (larger) streets and the (narrow) lanes of the City'—a trait which shows that the scene is laid in the City,' the professed habitation of God. The importance of this circumstance is evident. It not only explains who the first bidden chief citizens were, but also that these poor were the despised ignorant, and the maimed, lame, and blind—such as the publicans and sinners. These are they in the streets and lanes ;' and the Servant is directed, not only to invite, but to bring them in,' as otherwise they might naturally shrink from coming to such a feast. But even so, there is yet room ;' for the great Lord of the house has, in His great liberality, prepared a very great feast for very many. And so the Servant is once more sent, so that the Master's house may be filled.'

be filled. But now he is bidden to 'go out, outside the City, outside the Theocracy, 'into the highways and hedges,' to those who travel along the world's great highway, or who have fallen down weary, and rest by its hedges ; into the busy, or else weary, heathen world. This reference to the heathen world is the more apparent that, according to the Talmud, there were com- " B. Bathr. monly no hedges round the fields of the Jews. And this time the direction to the Servant is not, as in regard to those naturally bashful outcasts of the City—who would scarcely venture to the great house-to bring them in,' but constrain' (without a pronoun] 'to come in. Not certainly as indicating their resistance and implying force,' but as the moral constraint of earnest, pressing invitation, coupled with assurance both of the reality of the feast and of their welcome to it. For, these wanderers on the world's highway had, before the Servant came to them, not known anything of the Master of the house, and all was quite new and unexpected. Their being invited by a Lord Whom they had not known, perhaps never heard of before, to a City in which they were strangers, and to a feast for

4 a

" It is most sad, and seems almost incredible, that this constrain to come

in' has from of old been quoted in justification of religious persecution.

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IV

which-as wayfarers, or as resting by the hedges, or else as working within their enclosure—they were wholly unprepared, required special urgency, 'a constraining,' to make them either believe in it, or come to it from where the messengers found them, and that without preparing for it by dress or otherwise. And so the house would be filled!

Here the Parable abruptly breaks off. What follows are the words of our Lord in explanation and application of it to the company then present: “For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of My Supper.' And this was the final answer to this Pharisee and to those with him at that table, and to all such perversion of Christ's Words and misapplication of God's Promises as he and they were guilty of.

THE THREE PARABLES OF GOSPEL-TIDINGS.

253

CHAPTER XVII.

THE THREE PARABLES OF THE GOSPEL: OF THE RECOVERY OF THE LOST

OF THE LOST SHEEP, THE LOST DRACHM, THE LOST SON.

(St. Luke xv.)

CHAP.
XVII

A SIMPLE perusal of the three Parables, grouped together in the fifteenth chapter of St. Luke's Gospel, will convince us of their connection. Although they treat of “repentance, we can scarcely call them “The Parables of Repentance;' for, except in the last of them, the aspect of repentance is subordinate to that of restoration, which is the moral effect of repentance. They are rather peculiarly GospelParables of the recovery of the lost :' in the first instance, through the unwearied labour; in the second, through the anxious care, of the owner; and in the third Parable, through the never-ceasing love of the Father.

Properly to understand these Parables, the circumstances which elicited them must be kept in view. As Jesus preached the Gospel of God's call, not to those who had, as they imagined, prepared themselves for the Kingdom by study and good works, but as that to a door open, and a welcome free to all, “ all the publicans and sinners were [constantly] drawing near to Him.' It has formerly been shown, that the Jewish teaching concerning repentance was quite other than, nay, contrary to, that of Christ. Theirs was not a Gospel to the lost : they had nothing to say to sinners. They called upon them to do penitence, and then Divine Mercy, or rather Justice, would have its reward for the penitent. Christ's Gospel was to the lost as such. It told them of forgiveness, of what the Saviour was doing, and the Father purposed and felt for them; and that, not in the future and as reward of their penitence, but now in the immediate present. From what we know of the Pharisees, we can scarcely wonder that “they were murmuring at Him, saying, This man receiveth “ sinners," and eateth with them. Whether or not Christ

i See Book III. ch. xvii.

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IV

St. Matt. ix. 10, 11

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had on this, as on other occasions, joined at a meal with such persons—which, of course, in the eyes of the Pharisees would have been a great aggravation of His offence—their charge was so far true, that 'this One, in contrariety to the principles and practice of Rabbinism, received sinners' as such, and consorted with them. Nay, there was even more than they charged Him with : He not only received them when they sought Him, but He sought them, so as to bring them to Him; not, indeed, that they might remain

sinners,' but that, by seeking and finding them, they might be restored to the Kingdom, and there might be joy in heaven over them. And so these are truly Gospel-Parables, although presenting only some aspects of it.

Besides their subject-matter, these three Parables have some other points in common. Two things are here of chief interest. They all proceed on the view that the work of the Father and of Christ, as regards the Kingdom,' is the same; that Christ was doing the work of the Father, and that they who know Christ know the Father also. That work was the restoration of the lost; Christ had come to do it, and it was the longing of the Father to welcome the lost home again. Further, and this is only second in importance, the lost was still God's property; and he who had wandered farthest was a child of the Father, and considered as such. And, although this may, in a wider sense, imply the general propriety of Christ in all men, and the universal Fatherhood of God, yet, remembering that this Parable was spoken to Jews, we, to whom these Parables now come, can scarcely be wrong in thinking, as we read them, with special thankfulness of our Christian privileges, as by Baptism numbered among the sheep of His Flock, the treasure of His Possession, and the children of His Home.

In other particulars there are, however, differences, all the more marked that they are so finely shaded, in regard to the lost, the restoration, and its results.

1. The Parable of the Lost Sheep. At the outset we remark that this Parable and the next, that of the Lost Drachm, are intended as an answer to the Pharisees. Hence they are addressed to them: “What man of you ? ’b or what woman?'c just as His late rebuke to them on the subject of their Sabbath-cavils had been couched:

b St. Luke

XV. 4

e ver. 8

The only other alternative would seem, if one were to narrow the underlying ideas in a strictly Predestinarian

But this seems not only incompatible with the third Parable, where all

turns on personal resolve, but runs contrary to the whole spirit of these Para. bles, which is not of the exclusion of any, but of the widest inclusion.

sense.

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