The Great Supper
“Then said He unto him, A certain man made a great supper, and bade many; and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready, &c”(Luke 14:16, 17, &c).
[The scope of Parable of the Great Banquet, in Rutherford’s own words is “to show ‘that few obey the gospel of Christ,’ set down under the similitude of a man who made a great supper, and invited many, who, notwithstanding of that, refused to come.” In this rather sumptuous communion sermon on it, Rutherford divides the parable into four part: (1) The Preparation for the Banquet; (2) The invitation Sent Out; (3) The Refusal by the Invited Guests; and (4) the Response of the Lord of the Banquet.” We have already read the first 3 parts in the first and second instalment. In this final instalment, we shall consider the Lord’s response to the refusal by those who are invited to come.]
4. The Response
In the fourth part of the parable, the servant reports his diligence, and it works some effect in the master of the house; it angers him, and, as Mathew says, “He went out and destroyed them, and burnt up their city.”
1. The Lord takes a new course, and will not want guests; He will have His table filled. God’s Supper will not be lost for want of eaters. God, in the beginning of this parable, was as a man: now He is turned as a lion. Mercy is His first offer, Come is His first word: but when that is refused, there is nothing for those but burning and slaying. Those men need not blame God for the burning of their city, for that is not a stolen dint, or stroke. We may think that the servant said, Dear friends, and loving brethren, come and sup with my master; he thinks long for you, he will not eat till you come, he loves and delights in your company, you will be heartily welcome and well entertained. No doubt, although the servant said this, yet he also said: If you refuse to come, God’s wrath will come on you; you shall never taste of His Supper, and you shall seek Him, but you shall not find Him.
God steals not a dint, or decreet against such as are disobedient to the gospel. They are twice or thrice summoned, and the penalty of non-[compliance] set down in the Scriptures before ever God be angry. The gospel is now crying in the ears of the unthankful world, “He that believeth not is condemned already.” He that refuses to come in at supper-time shall not be let in after supper. O! but the gospel makes many fair offers to sinners. The law says, “Do this and live;” but it speaks but once of life: for men having once sinned, the law never speaks another word of life. No, though you should mourn till your eyes fall out of your head, the law cries, “I will hear of no repentance; but away to hell immediately.”
But the second covenant says, “For all that has come and gone, if ye will turn and repent, sin shall not be your ruin” (cf. Jer 3:12-14; Ezk 18). Our Second Husband says, Welcome to Me, although you have played the harlot with many lovers (for love is soon entreated), yet return again unto Me, any time before supper, before the board be drawn. But if ye let the day of the gospel slip, and refuse Christ offered, till after supper, the gospel then turns into a law, and will hear no more of repentance. And why? Because there is not a covenant after the second covenant; there is not another gospel after this gospel; and there is no other collation after the King’s marriage-supper. No, Christ cannot die again: death and He will never meet again; the devil will never get another [assault upon] Him upon the cross.
I will give it to you in a comparison. Our heavenly inheritance was forfeit in Adam, and by our own voluntary transgression of the law; but in comes Jesus, our elder brother, and makes a charter, wherein He serves Himself nearest and lawful heir to the inheritance; whereby He loses the mortgage, redeems and makes all free, and puts us in our place again. But with this clause in the end of the charter, That if we shall sell the land again, and make a new mortgagement, and subscribe not the second covenant, by embracing the gospel, and coining precisely at supper-time,—that is, in the day of the gospel (while the word speaks to us, and the sacraments offer Christ as the body of the new charter to us): it shall serve only for as much blank paper. For Christ will not die the second time; but “the wrath of God abides on you, and ye are condemned already.” And, of all condemnations of ungodly men, this shall be the greatest, even that of those who hear the gospel and obey it not. For the charter is offered them to subscribe, and they refuse to put to their hands. It shall be more tolerable for Turks, who never heard tell of that covenant. Then beware, you who have been at the Lord’s table, that you start and meet Christ precisely at supper-time: for you need not trouble yourself to seek Him in the night. Then, see to it, for if anything be doom in Scotland in the day of God’s account, this will be it, “I waited My supper on you till the meat was like to be lost, and My blood became cold, but your pride kept you back till the board was drawn: now you shall not taste of My supper, and well you deserve such disappointment.” All the quarrel with us will be, we would not agree with Him.
2. The second effect that the servant’s message makes on the goodman of the house is, He commands His servants to go out to the high-ways and hedges, and bring in “the poor, the blind, the maimed, the halt, and the lame.” So although all the world should refuse mercy, God can make a [church] to Himself of the very stones of the field. When the Jews will not come to the Lord’s Supper, He can fill the table with Gentiles; and those that are not a people, such are made a people; those that have not obtained mercy do obtain mercy. You see the Lord holds up the door of the house long: He closes the door on no man. He keeps a great open house both to poor and rich; and indeed the poor, the blind, and the halt, will be at the [head of the table], when the children of the kingdom shall be shut out, and put to the door. Here, in effect, is a description of God’s kingdom. They are poor ones, and have no riches of their own; but Jesus gives them fine gold. They have not a leg to go upon; are halt, &c., but the Lord Jesus bears them up. They have not a hand to hold Christ; but what then? Christ takes fast hold of them. They have not an eye in their head; but what then? Jesus Christ leads them. Now, that is true which Jesus says; he justifies the fact in going to Zaccheus; “He came to seek and save that which was lost” (Lk 19:10).
Multitudes of miscarried Christians cry, Alas! I am a sinner, and can have no part in Christ! Fool, if you are a sinner, you are the man or woman whom He is seeking. I pray you, What is heaven? Nothing but a company of broken-hearted sinners; and there is none of all the sons of Adam, who stand before the throne and the Lamb, but their faces were once blotted. Although they be now kings, they were once slaves; there is none born noblemen in heaven. O! this is a great comfort to the sons of Adam, that those who are most base in their own eyes are greatest in God’s eyes. His calling runs upon babes, and passes by wise men (Mt 11:25). His call runs upon publicans and sinners, and passes by the self-righteous (Lk 16), and upon whores and harlots, and passes by the children of the kingdom: upon the base and off-scourings of the earth, and passes by the disputer of this world. Then, although it be ill to be a sinner, yet it is a glorious thing to be one of God’s sinners, whom the Lord will call. As for the wicked and sinners indeed, they are Satan’s sinners and their own sinners; Christ came not to seek them as His sinners. Now, What are those sinners in the streets and high-ways? Answer. When the Lord calls on us, He finds us not in our house, or under the shadow of God Almighty, but in the streets, without any shelter against the storm; or in the fields, like Judah who is compared to “a swift dromedary traversing her ways” (Jer 2:23-24). “A wild ass used to the wilderness, snuffeth up the wind at her pleasure.” We are “dead in trespasses and sins—and without God in the world” (Eph 2:1,12). “We are cast out in the open field, dying in our own blood, and no eye to pity us” (Ezk 16). Now, those who are beggars in the streets, who never dream that the king will send for them, may make the invitation welcome when it comes. And woe be to them who think we lay money upon heaven, and mortgage grace, if not to buy it at full price; for when Christ comes to us, we can see as much as blind men, catch as much as maimed men, and run as swift as halting men. “And the servant said. It is done, Lord, as thon hast commanded, and yet there is room”—There is here never a word of buying of land, trying of oxen, and marrying of wives, but immediate obedience; at the first word they come to the King’s Supper. We see that where God’s Spirit accompanies the word, the invited cannot but come to the Lord’s Supper. In the next verse, he gives direction to his servant to compel them to come in; wherein, you see, there is a sort of divine violence used in the effectual calling of God’s children. What a long dispute is there between Him and the woman of Samaria. She gives the Lord two or three taunts, yet He will not want her nor leave her, till He say to her soul, “I that speak unto thee am He.” And as Isaac said to Esau, “I have blessed him, and he shall be blessed;” so may the Lord say to this poor land, Blind, lame, halt, and maimed; I have called you, and you shall be Mine; I have taken you, and you shall be taken.
Christ will lay many oars in the water before He want His own: yea, although one of the elect should run to hell, yet He will follow them. And O! but Christ be swift in following those whom He hath chosen. The way to heaven is an unknown way to sinners; but behold the Lord teaches them (Ps 25:9). And when they are taught, they dare not go alone, because of the enemies in the way. Then that same Psalm says, verse 8, “The Lord leads sinners in the way.” Ay, but sinners will not be led, because they do not like the way well: then you shall find the Father and the son drawing and compelling them (SS 1:2; Jn 6:44). And if drawing will not do the turn, you shall find bearing and carrying in the Lord’s bosom (Isa 40:2) and upon His shoulders (Lk 15:5), and upon His heart (SS 8:6).
What is the reason that Jesus will not want any of His own? I answer: There be three causes of this:
(1) That day that the Lord Jesus died for the elect, He bought them with His heart’s blood; with His soul he prized them, and thought them worthy of His life. Now, the Lord Jesus is God unchangeable: you must not think that God buys any of the elect with His blood, and then begins to repent of the bargain.
(3) The Father has given the elect to the Son, and He must render an account of them to the Father, man by man.
The last thing to be considered is, the Lord’s sentence against the recusants—“None of those men who were bidden shall take of my Supper.”—This is a hard word; for in effect it is, They shall never have part in my Christ, shall never see my face. So now those men know not what God is doing, they are home at their farm, their oxen, and their new married wife, thinking no such thing, when God is concluding a black process against them. Eli knew little what the Lord was doing, when He was leading a black process against Him and His house (1 Sam 3:14). And Ahab knows little what God is doing, when He is going down to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard, when the Lord, in the upper court, is giving out a doleful decreet against him. Elihu says of the wicked, “They cry not when He (God) bindeth them” (Job 36:13). We may be laughing, sporting, and making merry upon earth, while there is a black process going on against us in heaven. The destroying angel has gotten a commission to go forth and destroy: happy are they who can see how their process goes forward in heaven. You should see and try how it goes betwixt God and your souls. I pray you, beloved, when you are toiling at your farms, trafficking, or sporting, be asking at God, Lord, how shall it go with me at the last judgment? If you ask at me, How shall we know that, for that is a secret? Indeed, you must go to my Lord Secretary, Jesus Christ, and pray Him to tell you, and write from heaven to you how your case thrives. Say, Lord Jesus, Is there any hope of my action? Many who are careful of their estate on earth, are often at their advocate; they pray him, they write, and send friends to him. Why then should ye not do the same with Christ? Amen. Ω