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[Can any one, it may be asked, love death? We answer, No; not for its own sake; but, as connected with sin, he may. There is an inseparable connexion between life and holiness on the one hand, and sin and death on the other. Could sin and heaven be allied, and enjoyed together, doubtless every sinner would prefer it. But that is impossible. A specific and unalterable option is given us : and every man is perfectly free to choose the one and refuse the other, to adhere to the one and renounce the other. The sinner determines for himself; and by his determination declares his preference: he practically says, “ If I cannot have the gratifications of sin without death, welcome death, welcome damnation; for sin I will have, whatever be the consequence.” Now can one reflect a moment on such a choice as this, and not stand amazed at the folly that determines it? Will it bear an argument? Are not the excuses with which it is veiled, mere vain and empty delusions? And does not every one see the folly of them, the very moment he sets himself to serious consideration? Yet this is the conduct which men call wisdom; but which, if it obtained in relation to worldly affairs, they would call downright madness.] “ Suffer now, Brethren, a word of EXHORTATION,"
while I address myself, 1. To the despisers of true wisdom
[Consider a little more attentively, what it is that you despise. The thing to which you are exhorted is, to seek acceptance with an offended God; to embrace the salvation which he offers us in the Son of his love; and to devote yourselves to him in a way of holy obedience - -- Is there any thing in this that merits hatred and contempt? any thing that should make a man choose damnation rather than submit to it? What if an ungodly world has agreed to call it folly ; is it therefore folly ? Has not God said, " The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom?" Is there a saint in heaven, or on earth, that does not account it wisdom? Yea, is there a soul even in hell itself that is not now of the same mind? We go further still, and ask, Whether they who most deride religion now, will not be convinced of its excellence the very moment that their soul is required of them? “How long then, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?” “ Turn you at my reproof,” says God: “Oye simple, understand wisdom; and, ye fools, be of an understanding heart'” --- Say not, “ It is too soon for me to seek the Lord.” It is never too soon to be wise: and they who seek the Lord in their youth, have peculiar encouragement from
e Mark strongly here God's own appeal, “Why will ye die ? Ezek. xxxiii. 11. compared with Acts xiii. 46. and Prov. xv. 32.
Prov. i. 22, 23. and viii. 5.
him to do so: “ I love them that love me; and they that seek me early, shall find me."] 2. To those who profess to have found it
[Men will judge of religion, not by what the Bible says of it, but by what they see in those who profess it: and one instance of folly in the Lord's people will do more to prejudice them against religion, than a thousand good actions to recommend it. I would therefore strongly urge those who profess godliness, to bear in mind how much the interests of religion depend on them. Real piety consists not in talkativeness or eccentricities of any kind, but in a devout regard to God's honour and authority, and a wise, prudent, circumspect deportment before men. It does not countenance us in an officious assumption of the duties of others, but in a punctual performance of those which belong to our own place and station : “I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudenceh.” The not attending to this declaration has caused much offence in the world: and it becomes us to be very careful of casting stumbling-blocks before men, or “ causing the way of truth to be evil spoken of.” Let us then“ walk in wisdom towards them that are without;" “ giving no occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.” And while we adopt the resolution of David, “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way,” let us remember by whose strength alone we can effect this; and pray with him, “ O give me understanding in the way of godliness !"]
8 ver. 17. h ver. 12. i Ps. ci. 2.
WISDOM's feast. Prov. ix 1–6. Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn
out her seven pillars : she hath killed her beasts ; she hath mingled her wine ; she hath also furnished her table : she hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither : as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled : forsake the foolish, and live ; and go in the way of understanding.
IN the New Testament, parables abound. In the Old Testament, they are comparatively rare. But this comes commended to us by peculiar authority, in that our blessed Lord repeatedly borrowed it, if I may so speak, and adopted it on different occasions, for the elucidating of the truths which he wished to convey a. In order to unfold it to you, I shall notice separately, 1. The feast prepared
In the Holy Scriptures, the term “ Wisdom” is generally used to signify true religion : but sometimes it is a name given to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is, with good reason, supposed to be characterized by it in the chapter that precedes my text", and who, I think, is intended by it in the parable before us. He is “the Wisdom of God";” and “in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledged." and, beyond all doubt, he is the person who, in the parables which he himself has founded on this, both furnishes the feasts and sends forth the invitations.
[Solomon elsewhere speaks of a “ banqueting-house,” where he had been wont to meet his Saviourf; and such buildings have been raised by the great and opulent in all ages, for the entertainment of their guests. This edifice, which was built by Wisdom, was supported by “seven pillars; " which I suppose to intimate, that it was constructed with perfect stability, and adorned with the perfection of beauty. And what is this banqueting-house, but the ordinances of divine grace, which are appointed altogether for the setting forth of this feast, and for the accommodation of all who attend upon it? In them there is room for all : and God will not fail, when they are attended as they ought to be, to manifest himself in the midst of them.] · 2. The feast, too, is prepared
[" The beasts," the sacrifices, " are killed ;” and “the wine,” for the purpose of rendering its flavour more exquisite, is “mingled." The entertainment is, in reality, a feast upon a sacrifice. And what is that sacrifice on which the whole world may feast, but the sacrifice of Christ, “ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world ?” Precisely such a feast was the passover, which Hezekiah kept unto the Lord. He kept it for the space of fourteen days; during which time not less than two thousand bullocks and seventeen thousand sheep were sacrificed, and all Judah were feasted 6. But the Lord
a See Matt. xxii. 1—4. Luke xiv. 16, 17. b Prov. viii. 1,22—31. c 1 Cor. i. 24, d Col. i. 3. e See Note a. i Cant. ii. 4.
& 2 Chron. xxx. 22–26.
Jesus Christ, the true Passover, is sacrificed for all, and will afford an ample feast for all, not for a limited time only, but through the endless ages of eternity. As for the wine, which is so essential to a feast, what is that but the consolations of the Spirit, of which all shall partake who eat of this divine repast? For “ Christ's body is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed h:” and in the ordinances of divine grace, both the one and the other are offered to every child of man. In fact, this is the very feast which the Prophet Isaiah spoke of as to be established under the Christian dispensation : “In this mountain shall the Lord of Hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined i :" and in the ministration of the gospel is this now set forth more amply than if “ all the beasts upon the mountains were slain for us, or the cattle upon a thousand hills."]
Let me, then, without further delay, announce to you, II. The invitation given
For the preserving of the propriety of the parable, Wisdom, as a Queen, is said to “send forth her maidens.” But Christ, whom wisdom represents, sends forth his Ministers to call men to the feast.
The persons invited are, “the simple, and those who want understanding”
[This, I grant, is a humiliating description; and it seems to designate the poor only and the ignorant. But, permit me to say, that it comprehends those also who stand the highest in their own estimation for wisdom and prudence. For who, in the whole universe, betray their folly more than those who “seek to fill their belly with the husks that the swine eat of, whilst in their Father's house they might find bread enough and to spare ?" Yet this is the very state to which the learned, no less than the illiterate, reduce themselves, whilst seeking their happiness in the world rather than in God, and in the perishing vanities of time and sense rather than in the substantial blessings of eternity. I appeal to all of you, whether this be not the conduct of all by nature, and whether experience do not prove to all the folly of it? This is well represented in Scripture, as “ filling our belly with the east wind k:” and I ask of all, whether such conduct do not merit the imputation cast upon it in my text ? I ask, too, whether, to persons of this character, the invitation be not most fitly sent? You cannot but confess, however successful you may
h John vi. 55. i Isai. xxv. 6. k. Job xv. 2.
have been in your pursuit of earthly objects, “ in the fulness of your sufficiency you have been in straits ?."]
To you, then, is the invitation given
[To you, says Wisdom, “ Come and eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” Your past conduct has involved you in guilt and misery ; both of which shall be removed by partaking of the feast provided for you. The sacrifice of Christ was expressly offered as an atonement for your sins; and if you partake of it in faith, your iniquities shall all be blotted out as a morning cloud. “Whoso eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood," says our blessed Lord, “ hath eternal life m:" yes, he has both a title to it, and the very beginning of it in his soul. As for “ the wine that is mingled" for you, not all “the wine in Lebanon ” can afford you such consolation and refreshment as the Holy Spirit will to those who receive his gracious communications.
But, of course, you must forsake those habits which you have hitherto indulged, and separate yourselves from those associates who would divert you from Wisdom's ways. For, “what fellowship can righteousness have with unrighteousness, or what communion can light have with darkness? There is a necessity for you to come out from the ungodly and be separate, if you would have God for your father, and enjoy the privilege of his sons and daughters n." The whole course of your life must be changed: you must not only “ forsake the foolish,” but “ go also in the way of understanding,” approving yourselves worthy disciples of our blessed Lord. In fact, your whole taste must be changed: you cannot “savour the things of the flesh and of the Spirit” tooo : “ you cannot serve God and Mammon” tooP; or “ be the friends of the world and of Jehovah ” tool. If you come to the Gospel-feast, you must “affect only the things which are above "," on which you shall “feast in the presence of your God for ever and ever s."] APPLICATION,
(Let me now address myself to you, my beloved Brethren. I am sent as Wisdom's servant, as the minister of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, with a message of mercy to every one of you. And let it not be offensive to you to be addressed under the character of those who are here invited. You surely will not deny, that you have sought your happiness in the world, rather than in God. Even though you were the greatest philosophers in the universe, this charge would be as
i Job xx. 22. o Rom. viii. 5. r Col. iii. 1, 2.