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Thoughts upon Our Call and Election.
MANY are called, saith our Saviour, Mat. xxii. 14. but few chosen. Oh dreadful sentence. who is able to hear it without trembling and astonishment! If he had said, that of all the Men that are born in the World, there are but few saved, this would not have struck such fear and horror in us; for we might still hope, that though Turks, Jews, and Heathens, which are far the greatest part of the World, should all perish, yet we few in comparison of them, who are baptized into his Name, who profess his Gospel, who enjoy his Ordinances, who are admitted to his Sacraments, that all who are called to him, might be chosen and saved by him; but that of those very Persons who are called, there are but few chosen: What a sharp and terrible Sentence is this! Who can bear it? Especially considering by whom it was pronounced, even by Christ himself. If a meer Man had spoken it, we might hope it was but a human Error; if an Angel had uttered it, we might think it possible he might be mistaken; but that Christ himself the eternal Son of God, who is Truth, and Infallibility itself, that he should assert 263it, that he who laid down his own Life to redeem ours, that he who came into the World on purpose to call and save us, that he in whom alone it is possible for us to be chosen to Salvation, that he should say, Many are called but few chosen. This is a hard saying indeed, which may justly make our Ears to tingle, and our Hearts to tremble at the hearing of it. And yet we see our Saviour here expressly saith it, and not only here neither, but again, Mat. xx. 16. Whence we may gather, that it is a thing he would have us often think of, and a matter of more than ordinary importance, in that he did not think it enough to tell us of it once, but he repeated it in the same words again, that we might be sure to remember it, and take especial notice of it, that many are called, but few chosen.
IN which words, that we may understand our Saviour’s meaning aright, we must first consider the occasion of them in this place, which in brief was this. Our Saviour, according to the custom that obtained in those days amongst the Wise Men of the East, delighting to use Parables, thereby to represent his heavenly Doctrine more clearly to the understanding of his Hearers, in this Chapter compares the Kingdom of God to a certain King that made a marriage for his son, and sent his servants to call 264them, that were bidden to the wedding, v. 2, 3. Where, by the King he means the eternal God, the universal Monarch of the World, who intending to make a Marriage betwixt his Son and the Church, styled the Spouse of Christ, he first sent to his Guests before bidden, even the Jews, the Seed of Abraham his Friend, and at that time his peculiar People. But they not hearkening to the first Invitation, he sends to them again, v. 4. Yet they still made light of it, having it seems, as we most have, other business to mind, and therefore went their way, some to their Farms, others to their Merchandize, v. 5. By which our Saviour intimates, that one great reason why Men accept not of the Overtures of Grace made unto them in the Gospel, is because their Minds are taken up with the Cares of this World, looking upon their Farms, their Trades, and Merchandize, as things of greater moment than Heaven and eternal Glory. Yea, some of them took the Servants which were sent to invite them, and treated them spitefully, and slew them, v. 6. Why, what is the matter? what Injury have the Servants, the Prophets, the Apostles, or the Ministers of Christ done them? What do they come to oppress them, to take their Estates from them? To disgrace, or bring them into bondage? No, they only come to invite them to a 265Marriage Feast, to tender them the highest Comforts and Refreshments imaginable both for their Souls and Bodies. And is this all the recompence they give them for their kindness, not only to refuse it, but to abuse them that bring it? Well might this glorious King be angry and incensed at such an affront offered him as this was and therefore He sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city, v. 7. as we all know he did to the murdering Jews, who soon after this were destroyed, and their royal City Jerusalem burnt. But now the Feast is prepared, shall there be none to eat it? Yes, for seeing they who were first bidden were not worthy to partake of his Dainties, he orders his Servants to go into the high ways and bid as many as they could find to the marriage, v. 6. 9. The Jews having refused the Gospel, God sends to invite the Gentiles to it, who hitherto had been reckoned Actions to the Commonwealth of Israel, strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world, Eph. ii. 12. But now they also are bidden to the Wedding, they are called to Christ, and invited to partake of all the Privileges of the Gospel. For the Servants having received the command, went out into the high ways, even into all the by-places and corners of the World, and gatherer together 266all as many as they found, both bad and good, and the wedding was furnished with guests, ver. 10. But amongst these too, when the King came to see his Guests, he saw one that had not on a wedding Garment, ver. 11. Under which One are represented all of the same kind, who have not on their wedding Garment, that is, who walk not worthy of the Vocation wherewith they are called, not being cloathed with Humility, Faith, and other Graces suitable for a Christian. All which, notwithstanding they were invited, yea and came in too upon their Invitation, yet they are cast out again into utter Darkness, Matth. xxii. 12, 13. And then he adds, for many are called, but few chosen; as if he should have said, The Jews were called but would not come, the Gentiles are called they come, but some of them are cast out again; so that of the many which are called, there are but few chosen. For many are called, but few chosen.
WHICH short, but pithy Saying, of our blessed Saviour, that we may rightly understand, we shall first consider the former part of it, Many are called, and then the latter, but few chosen. That we may apprehend the full meaning of the first part of this Proposition, Many are called, there are three things to be considered.267
1. WHAT is here meant by being called,
2. HOW Men are called.
3. HOW it appears that many are called.
AS for the first, what we are here to understand by being called. We must know that this is meant only of God’s Voice to Mankind, making known his Will and Pleasure to them, calling upon them to act accordingly; and so inviting them to his Service here, and to the Enjoyment of his Presence hereafter.
BUT to explain the Nature of it more particularly, we must consider the terminus a quo, and the terminus ad quad, what it is God calls us from, and what it is he calls us to; both which we shall speak to, jointly or together.
1. HE calls us from Darkness to Light, from Error and Ignorance to Truth and Knowledge: As he made us rational and knowing Creatures at first, so he would have us to be again, so as to understand and know him that made us, and that gave us the power of understanding and knowing; and not employ the little Knowledge we have only about the affairs of our Bodies, our Trades, and Callings in this World, nor yet in learning Arts and Sciences only, but principally about the concerns of our immortal Souls, that we may know him that is the true God, and Jesus Christ 268whom he hath sent; without which, all our other Knowledge will avail us nothing. We are still in the dark, and know not whither we are going; out of which dark, and by consequence uncomfortable as well as dangerous Estate, God of his infinite Mercy is pleas’d to call us, that we should shew forth the Praises of him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light, 1 Pet. ii. 9.
2. GOD calls us from Superstition and Idolatry, to serve and worship him. For we are called to turn from Idols, to serve the living and true God, 1 Thess. i. 9. Thus he called Abraham out of Chaldea, and his Posterity the Israelites out of Egypt, Places of Idolatry, that they might serve and worship him, and him alone. Thus he called our Ancestors of this Nation out of their heathenish Superstitions, to the Knowledge and Worship of himself, and of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. And thus he called upon us to flee from Idolatry, 1 Cor. x. 14. not only from Heathenish or Popish, but from all Idolatry whatsoever, and by consequence from Covetousness, which God himself tells us in plain Terms is Idolatry, Col. iii. 5. And so indeed is our allowing our selves in any known Sin whatsoever; for we idolize it by setting it up in our Hearts and Affections, instead of God; yea, and bow down 269to it, and serve it, though not in our Bodies yet in our Souls, which is the highest kind of Idolatry which God calls as from.
3. HENCE he also calls us from all manner of Sin and Profaneness to Holiness and Piety, both in our Affections and Actions. For as the Apostle saith, God hath not called us to uncleanness but to holiness, 1 Thess. iv. 7. Where by Uncleanness he means all manner of Lusts and Corruptions which defile the Soul, and make it unclean and impure in the sight of God. These God doth not call us to, but from. It is Holiness and universal Righteousness that he calls us to, and commands us to follow. This is the great thing that Christ in his Gospel calls for, For the grace of God which is in his Gospel, hath now appeared to all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, Tit. ii. 11, 12. He now commandeth, all men every where to repent, and turn to God, Act. xvii. 30. Hence he is said to have called us with an holy Calling, 2 Tim. i. 9. And as he who hath called us is holy, so ought we to be holy in all manner of Conversation, 1 Pet. i. 15. Thus therefore we all are called to be an holy People, a People zealous of good Works, a People devoted wholly to the Service of the living God. In 270brief, we are called to be Saints, a People consecrated unto God; and therefore, as every Vessel in the Temple was holy, so we being called to be the Temples of the Holy Ghost, every thing in us should be holy; our Thoughts should be holy, our Affections holy, our Words holy, our Desires holy, every Faculty of our Souls, every Member of our Bodies, and every Action of our Lives should be holy, every thing within us, every thing about us, every thing that comes from us should be holy, and all because our Calling is holy; and we ought to walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith we are called, Eph. iv. 1.
4. GOD calls us from all carnal and temporal things, to mind Heaven and eternal Glory. He sees and observes how eager we are in prosecuting of this World’s Vanities, and therefore calls upon us to leave doting upon such transitory and unsatisfying Trifles, and to mind the things that belong to our everlasting Peace; not to be conformed to this World, but transformed by the renewing of our Minds, that we may prove what is that good, that acceptable, and perfect will of God, Rom. xii. 2. To set our Affections upon things above, and not upon things that are upon earth, Col. iii. 2. To seek the Kingdom of God, and his Righteousness in the first Place, 271 Matth. vi. 33. Hence it is stiled an heavenly calling, Heb. iii. 1. and an high calling, Phil. iii. 14. because we are called by it to look after high and heavenly things. He that made us hath so much Kindness for us, that it pities him to see us moil and toil, and spend our Strength and Labour, about such low and pitiful, such impertinent and unnecessary things, which himself knows can never satisfy us, and therefore he calls and invites us to himself, and to the Enjoyment of his own Perfections, which are able to fill and satiate our immortal Souls.
5. HENCE lastly, we are called from Misery and Danger to a state of Happiness and Felicity. As he called Lot out of Sodom, when Fire and Brimstone was ready to fall upon it, so he calls us from the World and Sin, because otherwise Wrath and Fury will fall upon our heads. Or as he called Noah into the Ark, to preserve him from the overflowing Flood, so he calls us into his Service, and to the Faith of his Son, that so we may escape that flood of Misery which will suddenly drown the impenitent and unbelieving World. And therefore we must not think that he calls and invites us to him, because he stands in need of us, or wants our Service; no, it is not because he cannot 272be happy without us, but because we cannot be happy without him, nor in him neither, unless we come unto him. This is the only reason why he calls us so earnestly to him, For as I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live: Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die, O house of Israel! Ezech. xxxiii. 11. Let us not stand therefore pausing upon it, and considering whether, we shall hearken to God’s call or no, nor say severally within our selves, How shall I part with my Profits? How shall I deny my self the Enjoyment of my sensual Pleasures? How shall I forsake my darling and beloved Sins? But rather say, how shall I abide the Judgment of the great God? How shall I escape if I neglect so great Salvation as I am now called and invited to. For we may assure our selves, this is the great and only end why God calls so pathetically upon us to come unto him, that so we may be delivered from his Wrath, and enjoy his Love and Favour for ever.
THUS we see what it is that God calls Mankind both from and to; he calls them from Darkness to Light, from Idolatry to true Religion, from Sin to Holiness, from Earth to Heaven, and from the deepest Misery to the highest Happiness that they 273are capable of. The next thing to be considered is, how God is pleased to call us, for which we must know that
1. HE hath vouchsafed to call some with his own Mouth, as I may so speak, even by immediate Revelations from himself. Thus he called Abraham and Moses, and several of the Patriarchs of the Old Testament. And thus he called Paul, Christ himself calling from Heaven to him, Saul, Saul, why. persecutest thou me? Act. ix. 4. And it is observable, that whosoever were thus called, they always obeyed. But this is not the Calling here spoken of.
2. GOD calls all Mankind by his Works and Providences. All the Creatures in the World are as so many Tongues declaring the Wisdom, Power, Goodness, and Glory of God unto us, and so call upon us to praise, honour, and obey him. And all his Providences have their several and distinct Voices; his Mercies bespeak our Affections, and his Judgments our Fear. Hear ye, saith he, the rod, and who hath appointed it, Mich. vi. 9. The Rod, it seems, hath a Voice, which we are bound to hear. But though many, yea all the World be called this way, yet neither is this the Calling our Saviour means, when he saith, many are called, but few chosen.274
3. LASTLY, therefore God hath called many by the Ministry of his Word, and of his Servants the Prophets, the Apostles and their Successors declaring it, and explaining it to them. Thus God spake to our fathers by the Prophets, rising up early and sending them to call Sinners to Repentance, by shewing them their sins, and the dangerous consequents of them. As when he sent his ProphetIsaiah, he bids him Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy Voice as a Trumpet, and shew my people their Transgressions, and the house of Jacob their Sins, Isa. lviii. 1. And they being convinced of, and humbled for their sins, then he sent his Prophets to invite them to accept of Grace and Pardon from him, saying in the Language of the same Prophet, Ho! every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy and eat; yea come buy wine and milk without money and without price, Isai. lv. 1, 2, 3. And God having thus at sundry tines, and in divers manners spoken in time-past unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds, Heb. i. 1, 2. who therefore said with his own Mouth, that he came not to call the Righteous, but Sinners to Repentance, Matth. ix. 13. Hence 275as soon as ever he entered upon his Ministry, he called to Mankind, saying, Repent, and believe the Gospel, Marc. i. 5. and Come unto see all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, Matth. xi. 28. And when he was to depart hence he left order with his Apostles, to go and call all Nations, and teach them what he had commanded, promising that himself would be with them to the end of the World, Matth. xxviii. 19, 20. By vertue therefore of this Commission, not only the Apostles themselves, but all succeeding Ministers in all Ages to the end of the World, are sent to call Mankind to embrace the Gospel, and to accept of the Terms propounded in it. So that when we his Ministers preach unto them, or call upon them to repent and turn to God, they must not think that we come in our own Name; for as the Apostle tells the Corinthians, We are Ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God, 2 Cor. v. 20. Hence in Scripture we are called also κήρυκες Heralds, and our Office is κηρύοσειν to proclaim as Heralds, the Will and Pleasure of Almighty God unto Mankind, to offer Peace and Pardon to all that have rebelled against our Lord and Master the King of Heaven, if they wilt now come in, and submit themselves unto 276him, if not, in a most solemn and dreadful manner, to denounce his Wrath and heavy Displeasure against them. So that as the Angel was sent to call Lot out of Sodom, when the Lord was going to rain Fire and Brimstone from Heaven upon it; So God being ready every Moment to shower down his Fury and Vengeance upon the impenitent and unbelieving World, he sends us to call Men out of it, to open their Eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, from the power of Satan unto God, Act. xxvi. 18. and to invite them to his Court, to live with him and be happy for ever.
AND that this is the proper meaning of our blessed Saviour, in this Place, where he saith many are called, is plain from the Parable whereon there Words are grounded; where the King is said to have sent his Servants to call the Guests which were bidden to the Marriage Feast, and put Words into their Mouths, telling them what to say, ver. 4. as he hath given us also Instructions how to call and invite Mankind in his holy Word. And when of the many which were called, there would but few come, hence our Saviour uttered this Expression, that many are called, but few chosen. From whence it is clear and obvious, that our Saviour means not such as 277were called immediately from God himself, for they were but few, nor yet such as are called by the works of Creation and Providence, for so not many only, but all are called; but he means such as are called by his Word, and by his Servants and Ministers reading, preaching, and explaining of it.
AND verily that many have been and still are called in this sense, which is the next thing I promised to shew, I need not stand long to prove. For our Saviour having commanded his Apostles to go and call all Nations to his Faith, which is the proper meaning of that place, Mat. xxviii. 19. it cannot be denied but that the Apostles presently dispersed themselves, and preached the Gospel to all Nations, which they did so effectually, that in few Years after, even in St. Paul’s time, The mystery of the Gospel was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith, Rom. xvi. 26. and in St. John’s time, some were redeemed out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, Rev. vii. 9. Yea, so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed, that the Ancients compared it to Lightning, that immediately dispersed it self, and was seen all the World over. So that in less than two hundred Years, ab ortu solis ad occasum lex Christiana suscepta est, The Christian Religion 278 was received all the world over from East to West, as Lacantius who then lived asserts. From which time therefore, how many thousands of millions of Souls have been called to the Faith of Christ, by the preaching of his Gospel. And not to speak of other Nations, how son did the Sun of Righteousness arise upon these Western parts of the World, and particularly upon this Nation, wherein we dwell, several of Christ’s own Disciples and Apostles, as Simon Peter, Simon Zelotes, James the Son of Zebedee, Joseph of Arimathea, Aristobulus, and St. Paul himself, being all recorded by Ecclesiastical Writers, to have preached the Gospel to this Nation. Be sure in less than two hundred Years the Christian Faith was here received, Tertullian himself saying expressly, Britannorum inaccessa Romanis loca, Christo subdita, The Romans could scarcely come at Britany, but Christ hath conquered it. And soon after him, Arnobius., saith, that the Gospel, Nec ipso Indos latuit à parte orientis, nec ipsos Britannos à parte occidentis, Was not conceal’d either from the Indians in the Eastern part of the World, nor from the Britons themselves in the West. And since the Gospel was first here planted, how many have been called by it to the Faith of Christ? Yea through the Mercy of the most high God, how many at this 279moment are called all the Nation over? And to come still closer to our selves, all that read this have I doubt not been often called heretofore, and now are called again. For in the Name of the most high God, and of his Son Christ, I pray and beseech you all as strangers and pilgrims, to abstain from fleshy lusts which war against the soul, 1 Pet. ii. 11. to repent of your Sins, and believe the Gospel. I call and invite you also to accept the offers of Grace and Pardon which are made you in Jesus Christ, to sit down with him at his own Table, and feed by Faith upon his Body and Blood, that so you may partake of the Merits of his Death and Passion, and so live with him for evermore. Thus you are all called, but I fear there are but few chosen.
HAVING thus explained and proved the first part of this Proposition, that many are called, we must now consider the meaning, truth and reasons of the other part of it, but few are chosen,. Πολλοὶ γάρ εἰσι κλητοὶ, ὀλίγοι δὲ ἐκλεκτοί.. For many are called, but few chosen; that is, there are but few which are so approved of by God, as to be elected and chosen from the other part of the World, to inherit eternal Life. That this is the main drift and scope of our blessed Saviour in these words, is plain from the foregoing Parable, which gave 280him occasion to pronounce them. For there all that were first called refused to come to the Marriage Feast which they were invited to, and of them which came some had not on their wedding garment; that is, although they came in to the outward profession of the Gospel, yet did not walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith they were called, and therefore they likewise were excluded, upon which our Saviour adds. these words, For many are called, but few chosen. From whence it is easie to observe his meaning in general to be only this, that although many were called to partake of the Privileges and Graces of his Gospel, yet seeing of those who were called, many would not come at all, and of those who come, many do not come so as the Gospel requires of them, with their wedding garment on; hence of the many who are called, there are but few chosen to partake of the Marriage Feast, that is, of the glorious Promises made in the Gospel, to those that come aright unto it. Few, not absolutely in themselves considered, but few comparatively in respect of the many which are not chosen; or rather few in comparison of the many which are called. For if we consider them absolutely in themselves, they are certainly very many, our Saviour himself saith, Many shall come from the East and 281West, and shall sit down with Abraham, &c. Mat. viii. 11. And in the Revelations you read of many thousands that were sealed of every Tribe, Yea, There was a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, and kindred, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne and before the Iamb, cloathed with white, and palms in their hands, Apoc. vii. 9. Insomuch that for all the numberless number of fallen or apostatized Angels, St. Austin was of opinion, that there will be as many Men saved, as there are Angels damned, or rather more. For, saith he, upon the fall of the Angels and Men, he determined to gather together by his infinite Grace, so many out of the mortal Progeny, ut inde suppleat & instauret partem quæ lapsa est Angelorum, That be might from thence make up and restore that part of Angels which was fallen; ac sic illa dilecta & superna Civitas non fraudetur suorum numero civium, quinetiam fortassis & uberiore lætetur. And so that beloved City which is above, may not be deprived of the number of its Citizens, but perhaps rejoice in having more, Aug. de Civ. Dei, l. xxii. c. 1. which notion he grounds upon those words of our Saviour in this Chapter, For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are ἰσάγγελοι, as the Angels of God in heaven, 282Mat. xxii. 30. Or as the words may be interpreted, they are equal to the Angels, and equal in number to the fallen, as well as in quality to the elect Angels, as that learned and pious Father expounds it. But howsoever that be, this is certain, that the number of Men chosen and saved, will be very great, considered absolutely in themselves, and yet notwithstanding; if they be compared with .the many more which are called, they are but very few, Christ’s flock is, as himself stiles it, μικρὸν ποίμνιον, a very little, little Flock, Luk. xii. 32. that is, in comparison of the vast multitudes of Souls that flock after the World and Sin. As in a Garden there are but few choice Flowers, in comparison of the Weeds that grow in it; there are but very few Diamonds and precious Stones, in comparison of Pebbles and Gravel upon the Seashore; in the richest Mines there is far more dross than Gold and Silver: So is it in the Church of Christ; there is but little Wheat, in comparison of the Tares that come up with it; Christ hath a great many hangers on, but few faithful and obedient Servants; there are many that speak him very fair, and make a plausible profession of the Faith and Religion which he taught, but where shall find one that praaiseth it? If there be here one and there another, 283two or three in a Parish, or perhaps in a whole City, what is this to the innumerable company of such as are called by him, and baptized into his Name, and yet leave him to follow after the World and Vanity: Oh what just ground had our Saviour to say, Many are called, but few chosen?
BUT to demonstrate the truth of this Proposition still more fully, and as clearly as possibly I can, I must first lay down one Principle as a Postulatum, which I suppose all will acknowledge to be true, and that is this, that whatsoever profession a Man makes of the Christian Religion, it will avail him nothing without the practice of it; or if you will take it in our Saviour’s own words, Not every one, saith he, that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father which is in heaven, Mat. vii. 21. Or as the Apostle expresseth it, For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified, Rom. ii. 13. That is, it is not our hearing and knowing our Duty that will stand us in any stead before God, but our doing of it; it is not our believing that we may be saved by believing in Christ, whereby we can be saved without actual believing in him, without such a Faith whereby 284we depend upon him, for the pardon and salvation of our immortal Souls, and consequently for the assistance of his Grace and Spirit, whereby we may be enabled to obey his Gospel, and to perform all such things as himself hath told us are necessary in order to our everlasting Happiness: And whatsoever Faith we pretend to, unless it comes to this, that it put us upon universal Obedience to all the Commands of God, we may conclude it will do us no good, for it is not such a Faith as Christ requires, which always works by Love; conquers the World, subdues Sin, purifies the Heart, and sanctifies the whole Soul wheresoever it comes. It is such a Faith as this which is the wedding Garment, without which no Man is chosen nor admitted to partake of those celestial Banquets, which Christ our Saviour hath provided for us. And therefore no Man can have any ground at all to believe or hope himself to be defied or chosen to eternal Salvation, that is not holy in all manner of Conversation; God himself having told us expressly, that without holiness no man shall see the Lord, Heb. xii. 14. So that having God’s own word for it, we may positively and confidently assert, that no Man in the world can upon just grounds be reputed as chosen by God, that doth not in all things to the utmost 285of his power, conform himself, and adjust his Actions to the Laws and Commands of God. So that how many soever are called, how many soever come in to the outward profession of the Christian Religion, yet none of them can be said to be chosen, but such as are real and true Saints. And how few those are, is a matter which we have more cause to bewail than to prove. Howsoever, that we may see that we have but too much reason to believe this Assertion of our blessed Saviour, that many are called, but few chosen, I desire we may but consider the estate of Christendom in general, and weigh the Lives and Actions of all such as profess to believe in Christ, view them well, and examine them by the Gospel Rules, and then we shall soon conclude that there are but few chosen; or to bring it home more closely to our selves, who are all called, and take out from amongst us all such Persons as come not up to the terms of the Gospel, and we shall find that there are but few behind, but few indeed who can be discerned and judged by the light either of Reason or Scripture to be chosen by God to eternal Life. For take out from amongst us,
1. ALL atheistical Persons, who though they are baptized into the name of Christ, and so are called to the Faith of Christ, yet 286neither believe in Christ nor God, such Fools as say in their Heart there is no God, Psal. xiv. 1. For all will grant, that they are not chosen by God, who do not so much as believe that there is any God to chuse them. Neither can it be imagined that the all wise God should chuse such Fools as these to be with him, who will not so much as acknowledge him to be. And yet how many such Fools have we amongst us, whose practises have so depraved their Principles, that they will not believe there is any God, because they wish there was none? And when these ate taken from amongst the called, I fear the Number of the Chosen amongst them will be much lessened.
2. TAKE out from amongst us all ignorant Persons, that understand not the common Principles of Religion, nor the Fundamental Articles of that Faith which they are called to: For that these are not chosen, is plain, in that though they be called by Christ, yet they know not what he would have them do, nor yet who it is that calls them. And therefore as God would have all Men to be saved, so for that end he would have them come to the knowledge of the Truth, 1 Tim. ii. 4. that is, he would have them know all such Truths as himself hath revealed to them in his Gospel, as necessary to be known in order to 287their eternal Salvation, without which knowledge it is impossible for a Man to perform what is required of him; for though a Man may know his Duty and not do it, no Man can do his Duty unless he first know it. And therefore gross Ignorance and saving Faith, cannot possibly consist or stand together; for saving Faith is always joined with, or puts a Man upon sincere Obedience to all the Commands of God. But how can any Man obey the commands of God, who neither knows that God whose Commands they are, nor yet what these Commands are which God would have him to obey? No certainly, a blind Man may as well follow his temporal Calling, how intricate soever it be, as he that is grossly ignorant, the high Calling of a Christian; for he is altogether uncapable of it, and so not only unworthy, but unfit to be chosen to it. Hence God himself hath told us, that he is so far from chusing such as live and dye in this manner without understanding, that he will never shew them any Mercy or Favour. For it is a people, saith he, of no understanding, therefore he that made them will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them will shew them no favour, Isa. xxvii. 11. Neither doth he ever blame Mankind for any thing in the World more than for not 288knowing, and therefore not considering him that made and feeds them, Isa. i. 2, 3. Hos iv. 1. And that we may be still farther assured that he chuseth no such Persons to dwell with him, as do not know him and his Commands, he hath given it us under his hand, that he rejects them, saying, My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me; seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children, Hos. iv. 6.
THAT therefore no Persons that are grossly ignorant, and live and die in that Condition, are chosen to eternal Salvation, I suppose, the Premises considered, all will acknowledge. But alas! how many such Persons are there in the World, how many amongst our selves? How many who are very cunning and expert in the management of any worldly Business, but are mere Novices or rather Idiots in matters of true Religion? Or as the Prophet words it, Who are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge, Jer. iv. 22. How many such ignorant and sottish People are there in every corner of the Land? and in this City it self! where they do, or may hear the Word of God read and expounded to them every day, and yet all them seriously 289of the Grounds of the Christian Religion, and the Reason of the Hope that is in them, and they are no more able to give a satisfactory or rational answer, than if they had never heard of any such Book as the Bible in the World, or had been born and bred in the remotest Corners of America, where the sound of the Gospel never yet came. But all such, how many soever they be, though they be called, they must stand aloof off, for so long as they are such we may be confident they are not chosen. Insomuch that should we take away no other from the number of the called, but only such as know not what they are called to, it would appear but too clearly to be true, that of the many which are called, there are but few chosen.
3. TAKE, out from amongst us all vicious, profane, debauched and impenitent Persons, all that make a mock of Sin, and that jear at Holiness, that live as without God in the World, as if they had neither God to serve nor Souls to save; as if there was neither a Hell to avoid nor Heaven to enjoy, and therefore make it their business to gratifie their Flesh, and to indulge their Appetite with carnal and sensual Pleasures, looking no higher than to be fellow sharers with the Brutes that perish such as in their bewitching Cups stick not 290to fly in the face of Heaven it self, and dare challenge God himself to damn them, that make lying their usual Dialect, and swearing their pleasing Rhetorick; and are so far from being troubled for these their Sins, that they take pleasure and delight in them, so far from being ashamed of them, that they make them their Pride and Glory, and so make it their Pleasure to displease God, and their highest Honour to dishonour him that is Honour and Perfection it self. For that no such Persons as these who live and dye in such notorious Crimes upon Earth, are chosen to live with God in Heaven, none can deny that believes the Scriptures to be true, which in plain Terms assure us of the contrary. Know ye not, saith the Apostle, that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10. And St. John tells us, that only they who do the Commandments enter into the City of Heaven: but without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, Rev. xxii. 14, 15. So that all such Persons without timely 291Repentance, are most certainly excluded from the number of the chosen. And how many are there amongst us, who allow themselves in some such Sin or other; or rather where shall we find a Man that doth not? But to all Persons that continue in such Sins, I may say, stand you by, you have no ground as yet to think that you are chosen, but have rather all the reason in the World to believe, that if you go on in such a sinful course, you will never know what Heaven or Happiness is. But when all such are taken out of the number of the called, what a pityous scouting will be left behind! In plain terms, we have just cause to fear that ignorant and dissolute Persons make the greatest part of those who are called Christians.
4. TAKE out from amongst us all hypocritical and false hearted Persons, that seem indeed to be honest and good Men, but still retain same secret Sin or other which will as certainly keep them out of Heaven as the mot notorious or scandalous Crime that is: such as our Saviour compares to whited Sepulchres, which outwardly appear very beautiful, but are within full of dead Mens Bones, and of all uncleanness, Matth. xxiii. 27. Such whose outward Conversation is altogether unblameable; so that no Man can charge them with Theft, 292Perjury, Drunkenness, Uncleanness, and the like; but in the mean while, they are malicious, uncharitable, censorious, proud, self-conceited, disobedient to Parents or Magistrates, Covetous, Ambitious, and the like. And so tho’ they be free from those Sins which others are guilty of, yet they are guilty of as bad Sins, which the others may be freed from. To which also may be added all such as make indeed a greater shew of Piety, and seem mighty zealous for the little Circumstances of Religion, but neglect the weightier Matters of the Law, the Love of God, Mercy, Justice, and the like. But for all the vain Hopes and high Conceits that such Persons may have of themselves, they are far from being such as the Gospel requires them, and by consequence from the number of the chosen here spoken of. For the Pharisees were such Persons as these, and yet our Saviour himself tells us, That except our righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, we shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom of God, Matth. vi. 20. And when he tells us elsewhere, That except we repent we must all likewise perish, Luke xiii. 3. his meaning is, not that we must repent of some, or many, or most, but of all our Sins, and so repent of them as to turn from them; and so turn from all Sin, as for the 293future to be holy in all manner of Conversation, otherwise our Saviour himself assures us, that he will never save us, but we must perish without remedy.
LET any Man consider this, and then tell me what he thinks of the Number of the chosen, whether it be not very small indeed, in comparison of the many which are called. For not to speak of other parts of Christendom, all the People of this Nation are called to the Faith of Christ; and how many they are I cannot say we all know, for it is past any Man’s knowledge. But where is the Man amongst us all, that doth not harbour same secret Lust or other in his Bosom; yea, of the many Men in this Nation, where is he that can say with David, I have kept my self from mine Iniquity? Or to use the words of the Prophet, Run ye to and fro through the streets of this city, and see now and know, and seek if ye can find a man, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth, that serveth the Lord with a perfect heart and a willing mind. I do not deny but there are a great many professors of Religion amongst us, who would fain be accounted more strict and holy than their Neighbours, so as to be reckoned the Religious; as the Friers and Nuns are in the Church of Rome; But are they therefore to be esteemed the 294elect and chosen of God because they fancy themselves to be so? Or rather is not their Pride and Self-conceitedness an Argument, that they are not so? Blessed be God for it, I have no Spleen nor Rancour against any of them, but heartily wish they were as truly good and holy as they would seem to be. But what? Is not Pride a Sin? Is not Self-conceitedness a Sin? Is not Irreverence in God’s worship a Sin? Is not Disobedience to Magistrates a Sin? Is not Uncharitableness or Censoriousness a Sin? Certainly all these will be found to be Sins another Day. And therefore whatsoever pretences Men make unto Religion, if they allow themselves in such Sins as these, they are as far from being in the Number of the chosen, as the most dissolute and scandalous Persons in the World, But when these two are removed from the Number of the called, how few of them will appear to be chosen.
5. YET once again. Take out all such as believe not in our Lord Jesus Christ, but being morally honest and faithful in performing their Duty to God and Man, trust more in their own good Works than to his Merit and Mediation. For that all such are to he excluded, is plain from the whole tenour of the Gospel, which assures us, that there is no Salvation to be had 295 but only by Jesus Christ; nor by him neither, but only by believing in him. But if Christ should come this Day to Judgment, would he find Faith upon Earth? Verily, I fear, he would find but very little if any at all amongst us: He might I believe; find some pretty strict and circumspect in obeying of his other Laws, or at least endeavouring to do so. But for a Man to do all that is required of him, and yet to count himself an unprofitable Servant; for a Man to do all he can and yet rest upon nothing that he hath done, but to depend wholly upon another, even upon Jesus Christ for Life and Happiness, this is hard indeed to Flesh and Blood, and as rare to find as it is to find a Rose amongst the Weeds and Thistles of a barren Wilderness, or a Diamond amongst the Gravel upon the Sea shoar; here and there I believe there may be found one, but so rarely, that they can scarce be termed any, be sure but very few in comparison of the many which are called.
NOW let us put these things together and we shall easily grant that this saying of our Saviour was but too true, that many are called but few chosen. And to bring it closer to our selves, we are all called to repent and believe the Gospel: Now take out from amongst us all ignorant Persons 297that then should be the reason that so many of them should be called and invited to the chiefest Good, the highest Happiness their Natures are capable of, yet so few of them should mind or prosecute it, so as to be chosen or admitted into the Participation of it? What shall we ascribe it to, the will and pleasure of Almighty God, as if he delighted in the ruin of his Creatures, and therefore although he calls them, he would not have them come unto him? No, that cannot be; for in his revealed Will, which is the only Rule that we are to walk by, he hath told us the contrary in plain terms, and hath confirmed it too with an Oath; saying, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he should turn from his way and live, Ezek. xxxiii. 11. And elsewhere he assures us, that he would have all Men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth, 1 Tim. ii. 4. And therefore if we believe what God saith, nay if we believe what he hath sworn, we must needs acknowledge that it is his will and pleasure, that as many as are called, should be all chosen, and saved. And indeed if he had no mind we should come when we are called to him, why should he call us all to come? Why hath he given us his word, his Ministers, his Ordinances, and all to invite and oblige 298us to repent and turn to him, if after all he was resolved not to accept of us, nor would have us come at all? Far be it from us, that we should have such hard and unworthy thoughts of the great Creator and Governor of the World; especially considering that he hath told us the contrary, as plainly as it was possible for him to express his mind unto us. I do not deny, but that according to the Apostle, Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world, Acts xv. 18. And that there are several passages in Scripture which intimate unto us God’s eternal Election of all that are truly pious, to live with him for ever. But it is not for us to be so bold and impudent, as to pry into the secrets of God, nor so curious as to search into his eternal and incomprehensible Decrees; but we must still remember the words of Moses, That secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but these things which are revealed belong unto us, that we may do all the words of his law, Deut. xxix. 29. Whatsoever is necessary for us to believe or do, in order to our eternal Salvation, is clearly revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, and therefore what we there read belongs unto us to know, neither are we to look any farther than to his revealed Will. But God in the Scriptures doth plainly tell us, not 299only in the places before quoted, but elsewhere, that he is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to Repentance, 2 Pet. iii. 9. This is the revealed Will of God, which we are to acquiesce in, and rest fully satisfied with, so as to act accordingly, without concerning our selves about things that are too high for us, and no way belong unto us. And therefore it is not in his secret, but revealed Will, that we are to search for the reasons of this Proposition, that many are called, but few chosen.
NOW in consulting the word of God, to find out the reasons of this so strange Assertion, that many are called, but few chosen, I know no better or fitter place to search for them, than this Parable, which gave our blessed Saviour the occasion of asserting it; in which it is very observable, that he meddles not at all with any reasons a priori, deduced from the eternal Decrees of his Father, but he only suggests to us the reasons a posteriori, drawn from the disposition and carriage of Men, why so many of them are called, and yet so few chosen.
FOR the opening whereof we must know, that the end and intent of this Parable, was only to shew the entertainment which his Gospel had then, and should still meet 300with in the World; many refusing to embrace it at all, and of those who embrace it, many still walking unworthy of it. So that the Issue and Consequence of it will be, that though many be called to it, there are but few chosen. And he hath so worded the Parable, that we need not look any farther for the reasons of this his conclusion from it, they being almost clearly couched in the Parable it self, which that we may the better understand, I shall open and explain them particularly, so as to make them intelligible, I hope, to the meanest Capacity.
THE first reason therefore why so many are called, but so few chosen, is because they who are called to Christ, will not come unto him; for this is the first reason which our Saviour himself in the Parable assigns for it; The King, saith he, sent his servants to call them that were bidden to the marriage, and they, would not come, Mat. xxii. 3. And they would not come, so that that the great fault is still in the wills of Men, which are generally so depraved and corrupt, that though they be called never so oft, and cannot but in reason acknowledge that it is their interest to come, yet they have so strange an averseness to the Holiness and Purity of the Gospel which they are called to, that they 301will not come unto it only because they will not; for here, they who were first bidden, give no reason of their refusal, only it is said, they would not come. And good cause why, for when we have searched into all the reasons imaginable, why Men do not fully submit themselves to the Obedience of the Gospel, they will all resolve and empty themselves into this, that they will not because they will not. Let Ministers say what they can, let the Scripture say what it will, let God himself say what he pleases, yet Sinners Men are, and Sinners they will be, in spite of them all, as the Prophet rebuking the People for their Sins, said, But thou saidst, there is no hope; No, for I have loved strangers, and after them will I go, Jer. ii. 25. And so it is to this day, we tell them of their Sins, and the dangerous consequences of them; we tell them that they must not love the World, but seek the Kingdom of God and his Righteousness in the first place; we tell them from Christ’s own Mouth, that except they repent and forsake their Sins, they must perish; but they say in effect, that we had as good hold our tongues; for they have loved the World, and after it they will go, they have found pleasure in the commission of their Sins, and therefore they will commit 302them; Christ calls them to come unto him, and they know no reason why they should not, but howsoever they will not come. If we were but once willing, the work was done; for what our Wills are really inclined to, we cannot but use the utmost of our endeavour to attain. But the mischief is, Men read the Gospel, they hear Christ calling upon them to believe and obey it, but their Wills are still averse from it, there is a kind of antipathy and contrariety within them, against such exact and real Holiness as the Gospel requires from them. So that if they perish, they must blame themselves for it, it is their own choice, they chuse and prefer their Sins with all the Miseries which attend them, before the Gospel of Christ, with all the Glory and Happiness which is offered in it; and therefore as God said to his People, Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die; O house of Israel? Ezek. xxxiii. 11. So say I to these Men, repent and believe the Gospel, for why will ye die, why will ye perish eternally? Have you any reason for it? none in the world but your own Wills. Christ hath told you in plain terms, Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out, Joh. vi. 35. But if you will not come unto him, who can help that? Are not your selves only in the fault? Will not your 303blood be upon your own heads? What could Christ have done more for you than he hath done? What could he have suffered more for you than he hath suffered? How could he call you to him more plainly or pathetically than he doth? But if after all this, you will not come unto him, you must even thank your selves for all the Torments you must e’er long suffer and undergo. And this is indeed the case of the greatest part of Mankind, that though they be called and invited to partake of all the Merits of Christ’s Death and Passion, yet they will not come unto him. And this is the first and great reason why so many are called, and yet so few chosen, Joh. v. 40.
2. The second reason is because Men do not really believe that they are invited to such glorious things as indeed they are, as our Saviour himself intimates in the Parable. For when they who were bidden, would not come upon the furst Invitation, as not believing the Message which these Servants brought them, the King sent forth other Servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, behold I have prepared my dinner, my oxen, and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready, come unto the marriage, Mat. xxii. 4. When the first Servants were not believed, he sent others with fuller Instructions, 304giving them orders to acquaint the Guests, that all things were now ready, and to assure them that it was to a Marriage-Feast they were invited. But it seems, whatsoever the first or second Servants could say, it was to no purpose, they would not believe them, and therefore sent them away as they came; whereby our Saviour exactly discovers to us the entertainment that his Gospel always did, and still would meet with in the World. Before his own coming into the World, he sent his Prophets to invite Mankind to accept of the terms propounded in it, and to call upon them to repent and turn to God, that their Sins might be blotted out, and their Souls admitted into the grace and favour of Almighty God, and so partake of eternal Glory, which the Prophets called Men to, under the notion of a Feast, 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, Isa. xxv. 6. which they called all Men to, saying, Ho, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, Isa. lv. 1. But how their Message was received, the same Prophet declares, saying, Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed, Isa. liii. 1. and so it is since. For when the Prophets could not be credited, God afterwards sent his Apostles, 305and still to this Day is sending Servant after Servant to invite Men to Grace and Pardon, to Heaven and eternal Happiness. But we his Ministers may still say with the Prophet, Who hath believed our report? We tell Men, that unless they repent and turn to God, Iniquity will be their ruin; we tell them also, that if they believe in the Lord Jesus they shall be saved, and if they be holy here, they shall be happy hereafter. But what signifies our telling them of these things, if they believe not what we say? And yet who doth? Men give us the hearing, censure what they have heard, and that is all the use they make of it, never really or firmly believing any one truth that we make known or expound unto them; and this being the case not only of some few, but of the greatest part of Mankind, hence it comes to pass that so many are called and so few are chosen, even because they who are called do not believe it, and so it is all one with them whether they be called or no. Be sure God chuseth none but such as believe the word he sends unto them; for as the Apostle saith, God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, Jac. ii. 5. If they be not rich in faith, they are not for his purpose; and seeing there are but few that 306are so; hence of the many which are called, there are but few chosen.
3. ANOTHER reason why of the many, which are called there are so few chosen, is because they have no real esteem or value for the things they are called to; as it is in the Parable, when the Servants were sent to call upon them to make haste to the Feast because all things were ready, it is said that they made light of it, v.5. They did not think it worth their while to go, though it was to a Feast, to a Marriage Feast, yea to the Marriage Feast of so great a Person as a King’s Son; no, not though they were invited by the King himself unto it. Thus it was in ancient times, and thus it is still; the King of Heaven sends to invite Men to his Court, to lay aide their filthy Garments, and to put on the Robes that he hath prepared for them, that they may be holy as he is holy, and so live with him and be happy for ever. But they make light of such things as these, they can see no such Beauty in Christ, why they should desire him, no such excellency in God himself, why they should be in love with him; and as for Heaven, they never were there yet, and therefore care not whether they ever come there or no; though they be called, they matter not whether they be chosen to it or no; and 307hence likewise it is that of the many which are called, there are so few chosen.
4. ANOTHER reason is, because they who are called are generally addicted to the things of this Life, they have the Serpent’s Curse upon them, to feed upon. the Dust of the Earth, and therefore slight all the Overtures that are made them of Heaven and eternal Happiness. As our Saviour himself intimates in this Parable, saying, that when they were invited they made light of it, and went their way, one to his Farm, another to his Merchandise ver. 5. Thus we read of the Pharisees, that they being covetous, when they heard the Words of Christ, they derided him, Luc. xvi. 14. And thus it is to this Day, though Men be called to Christ, they are so much taken up with worldly Businesses, that they can find no time to come unto him; but away they go again, one to his Trade, another to his Merchandise. These are the things that most Mens Minds are wholly bent upon, and therefore they will not be persuaded to leave them to go to Christ. It is true, if he called them to great Estates, if he called them to a good Bargain, if he called them to Crowns and Scepters in this World, theta they would all arise which should be chosen first. But the 308things that he calls us to are quite of another nature; he calls us to repent of our sins, to believe in him, to contemn the World, to have our Conversations in Heaven. But these are things which Men do not love to hear of; as being contrary to their earthly temper and inclinations; and therefore we who are God’s Ministers may call our hearts out before they will set themselves in good earnest to mind them. Or to bring it home closer to us, how often have we all been invited to that spiritual Feast, the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, but how few are there that come unto it, when the whole Congregation is called to partake of it? Scarce one in twenty think it worth their while to stay, to have their share in it. What can be the reason of this, but that our Minds are taken up with other things, which we fancy to be of far greater Concernment to us than all the Merits of Christ’s Death and Passion. And therefore it is no wonder that so many of us are called, and so few chosen, seeing we our selves chuse the Toys and Trifles of this transient World, before all these real Joys which in the Gospel we are called and invited to.
5. IN the next Place, many of them which are called, have so strange an antipathy to God and Goodness, that they do 309not only neglect and slight their heavenly, in companion of their earthly Calling, but they hate and abuse such as are sent to call them, as our Saviour himself intimates, ver. 6. O barbarous Cruelty! What hurt, what injury is done unto them? They are invited to a Feast, and for this they are angry, and kill the Messengers which are sent to invite them. Thus it hath been in all Ages. This was the Entertainment, this the Requital that most of the Prophets received for the divine Message they brought to Mankind, Mat. xxiii. 37. Yea Christ himself, the Son and Heir of God, was put to death for inviting Men to Life and Happiness, and so were his Apostles too: And so it is to this Day. There is still a secret malice and hatred in Mens hearts against such as sincerely endeavour to preach the Gospel clearly and fully unto them. We tell them of their Sins, we acquaint them with the Danger they are in, we call upon them to forsake and avoid them, we invite them to Christ, and so to Heaven and eternal Happiness; and for this many of them are angry with us and incensed against us. They may forgive us this wrong, I can assure them we intend them no Evil, but all the Good we do or can desire to our own Souls; and whatsoever the Success be, it is still 310our Duty to call upon them, to advise them of their Duty, and if possible reclaim them from their Sins, and if they be angry with us for that, as many are, they cannot wonder at our Saviour’s saying, that many are called, but few chosen.
6.THE last reason which our Saviour gives in this Parable, why many are called, but few chosen, is because of those who are called, and come too at their Call, many come not aright, which he signifies by the Man that came without his Wedding garment, ver. 11, 12, 13. where although he mentions but one Man, yet under that one is comprehended all of the same kind, even all such Persons as have the Gospel preached to them, and so are called and Invited to all the Graces and Privileges proposed in it, all such as profess to believe in Christ, and to expect Happiness and Salvation from him, yet will not come up to the Terms which he propounds in his Gospel to them, even to walk worthy of the Vocation wherewith they are called, Eph. iv. 1. And indeed this is the great reason of all why of so many which are called there are so few chosen, because there are so few which do all things which the Gospel requires of them. Many like Herod will do many things, Marc. vi. 20. and are almost persuaded to be Christians, as Agrippa 311was, Act. xxvi. 28. How zealous are some for, how violent are others against, the little Ceremonies and Circumstances of Religion, and in the mean while neglect and let slip the Power and Substance of it? How demure are same in their Carriage towards Men, but irreverent and slovenly in the Worship of Almighty God? How devout would others seem towards God, but are still careless and negligent of their Duty towards Men? Some are all for the Duties of the first Table without the second, others for the second without the first. Some are altogether for Obedience and good Works, without Faith in Christ; others are as much for Faith in Christ without Obedience and good Works. Some would do all themselves, as if Christ had done nothing for them; others fancy that Christ hath so done all things for them, that there is nothing left for themselves to do: And so betwixt both their sorts of People, which are the far greater part of those who are called, either the Merits or else the Laws of Christ are slighted and contemned. But is this the way to be saved? No, surely: If I know any thing of the Gospel, it requires both Repentance and Faith in Christ, that we perform sincere Obedience to all his Laws, and yet trust in him, and him done, for Pardon, 312Acceptance, and Salvation. And whosoever comes short of this, though he be called, we may be sure he is not chosen; though he come to the Marriage Feast with those that are invited, yet wanting his Wedding Garment, he will be cast out again with Shame and Confusion of Face. So that it is not our doing some, or many, or most of the things which the Gospel requires, that will do our Business, unless we do all to the utmost of our Skill and Power. But where shall we find the Man that doth so? What ground have we to acknowledge that our Saviour had but too much cause to say, Many are called, but few chosen; which I fear is but too true, not only of others, but our selves too.
I say not this to discourage any one: No, it is my hearty Desire and Prayer to the eternal God, that every Soul of us might be chosen and saved. But my great Fear is, that many think it so easy a matter to go to Heaven, that if they do but say their Prayers, and hear Sermons now and then, they cannot miss of it, and therefore need not trouble themselves any farther about it. But they must give me leave to tell them, that this will not serve their turn; if it would, most of those which are called would be chosen too. 313Whereas our Saviour himself tells us, in plain terms, the contrary. And yet this should be so far front discouraging of us, that it should rather excite us to greater Diligence about it than heretofore we may have used, as our Saviour himself intimates in his Answer to this Question, Luc. xiii. 23, 24. And verily, what greater Encouragement can we have than to consider, that though there be but few chosen, yet there are some? For why may not you and I be in the number of those few as well as others? Are not we all called to Christ? Are not we all invited, yea commanded to believe in his Name, and obey his Gospel, that so we may partake of everlasting Glory? Let us then all set upon that Work in good earnest which we are called to. Let us but fear God, and keep his Commandments, and believe in his Son for his Acceptance of us, and then we need not fear but though of the many others which are called there are but few chosen, yet we few who are all called shall be all chosen; chosen to live with God himself, and Jesus Christ, and to sing forth his Praises for evermore.314
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