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sumptuousness, and magnificence, and a greater number and variety of guests.
It is not without reason, that we have been thus particular in attempting to define the precise import of the principal or fundamental image-that of the banquet, described as a supper-which forms the groundwork of the parabolic history. By the discovery of this import, a clue is furnished to the direct understanding of the rest of its circumstances, whether personal or material. Thus, if the banquet is the ultimate state of felicity in another life, which is promised as the reward of the faith and obedience of Christians in this life, the invitation which precedes its solemnization, and conveys the privilege of being present at it, is the promulgation of the Christian scheme; and the acceptance of that invitation is the first step necessary to constitute a professing Christian, or a member of the visible church. The master of the house, the principal personage in the solemnity, who both forms the design of celebrating the banquet, and issues the invitation to such as he wishes to partake in it, may well be considered to stand for Christ himself, the Author and Finisher of the Christian scheme. The subordinate personages, in the history of the transaction, both the servants of the householder and the guests of the master of the feast, find each their counterpart; the former in the apostles of Christianity, the latter in those, to whom the offer of the gospel was successively made. The guests who decline the invitation are consequently those, by whom the offer of Christianity was rejected; and those who accede to
the invitation, are those by whom the gospel-overture was accepted.
Now the guests were distinguished into three several orders, to each of whom the same invitation was severally repeated; so that, if the invitation itself is the first offer of Christianity, the same promulgation of the Christian scheme, to correspond to the suppositions in the parable, must have been thrice repeated, and to three distinct classes of persons. Now with respect to the matter of fact, or the actual course of the event in the promulgation of the gospel, we are not left to conjecture. No part of the Christian history is better ascertained than the times and modes of the several advances, from the first beginnning to execute, down to the complete revelation of, the counsel of God, and the developement of the œconomy of providence in the dispensation of the gospel, from first to last.
Our Saviour declared to his apostles, in the course of the last conversation which he had with them before his ascension, that they should be his witnesses, both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the end of the earth: a declaration, which plainly described beforehand the order of succession, to be illustrated in the propagation of the gospel on a wider and wider scale; beginning with Jerusalem and Judæa, then passing into Samaria, and lastly extending over all the earth. The testimony of the Acts of the Apostles, which record the actual consummation of the Christian scheme, and the gradual enlargement of the pale of the church by one step after another, confirms the truth of this prediction, and shews that the propagation
r Acts i. 8. Harm. P. v. 15.
of the gospel both began and continued in the way, and after the order, thus defined; being for a time confined to the Jews of Jerusalem and of the mother country alone; next, being extended to the Samaritans, as well as to them; and lastly, but not until the last, being thrown open indiscriminately to the Gentiles.
We may conclude, then, that the guests of the first order in the parable, to whom the invitation was first given, are the Jews, and the Jews of our Saviour's time, to whom the offer of Christianity was first made: those of the second order, to whom the same invitation was next repeated, are the Samaritans, to whom the overture of the gospel was next made after the Jews: those of the third, to whom the invitation was extended after it had been offered to the second, are the Gentiles, to whom the offer of Christianity was communicated next in order to the Samaritans. These conclusions, if they are correct, will be confirmed by the coincidence which, on that supposition, cannot fail to subsist between the circumstances of the parabolic history, as we have already considered them, and their counterparts, the particulars of the real history, connected with the propagation of Christianity-its origin, its circumstances, and its final effect.
As, first, the principal personage by whom the banquet was to be celebrated, and from whom the invitation to partake in it proceeded, agrees to the character of Jesus Christ, the Author of the Christian scheme; by becoming subject to which the members of his church are placed in a state of salvation, and are rendered capable of attaining to, and sharing in, the reward, proposed to their faith and obedi
ence, which is to be dispensed hereafter to his meritorious servants, by the ordainer of the scheme himself, their Lord and Master Christ.
Two invitations were supposed to precede the solemnity, one at the time of forming the design of it, the other at the hour fixed for its celebration: the former, in all probability conveyed by the master of the feast himself, the latter, by his servants in his stead. The personal ministry of Jesus Christ in the order of time, was prior to that of the apostles; and in the purpose to which it was directed, was subordinate to their's. The business of the former was to make known the approach of the future dispensation before it arrived, and to prepare the contemporaries of his preaching for its reception; that of the latter was to announce its arrival, and to carry it into effect. Enough was said upon this subject, in the explanation of the last parable. If, however, the personal office of our Lord, as a preacher or as an apostle himself, was to announce the fact of the Christian dispensation, and to announce it as something future; an intimation that the kingdom of heaven, that is, the Christian religion, was ready to be established-attended by a call on the Jews its hearers, to expect it, and to prepare for it, accordingly; (which might so far answer to the supposition of an invitation to the banquet, in the parable, given before the time of its celebration, and given by the master of the feast, to those whom he designed to be his guests;) did actually proceed from our Saviour himself.
The persons, whose agency was employed at the time of the solemnity, to repeat the original invitation, and to summon the guests to attend, stood to
the master of the house in the private relation of his domestics; and to his guests, in the general one of his emissaries, and of the bearers of his commands to them. Both these relations accord to the apostles of Christianity; the former, as to those who were properly the servants of Jesus Christ, the latter, as to those, whom their very name of apostles implies to have been his missionaries to the rest of mankind, through whose instrumentality the gospel-terms of salvation were conveyed to all whosoever received them. The personal relation of all these servants to their common master was one and the same; and their official relation to his guests, as his common emissaries, and as employed by him on a common errand to them, was the same also. In like manner, the apostles were all alike the servants of Jesus Christ; and the office of the apostles was every where the same, to publish his gospel, and to make converts to the Christian religion, wherever they
The guests of none of the three orders represented individuals, but classes of individuals; among the chief of whose personal distinctions from each other, was greater or less proximity of situation to the scene of the transaction in the parable, and greater or less closeness of personal relation to the master of the feast. Taken together, they made up the complex or aggregate of persons, who under the various circumstances of the case, were capable of partaking in the supposed entertainment, or could be represented as respectively invited to it. The Jews, the Samaritans, and the Gentiles were integral divisions of mankind; differing from each other not only in comparative remoteness of situa