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society of publicans (tax-gatherers) as a wicked, execrable kind of men, and did in a manner necessitate them to converse with the worst sort of persons, as being expelled and generally avoided by all others; so that you find them here, ver. 10, and usually in the Gospel, linked together, publicans and sina ners, that is, noted, nefarious sinners, such as harlots, and other scandalously vicious persons. Yet from this stained and illreputed calling, is Matthew called by the holy Lord, to follow him. As he called poor fishermen, and made them fishers of men, to catch men, to save them by their net spread, the word of life preached, so, he calls a rich publican to be a gatherer-in of his tribute and treasure in the world, the souls of chosen sinners, by the publication of the Gospel.

No rank of men is so low, as to be below the condescension of His choice and grace ; and none are so remote, in the reputed or real iniquity of their station or person, as to be without the extent and reach of His saving hand. And He is pleased to give instances of this in choosing whom He will, and making them what He will, that no flesh may glory before Him, but that all flesh may glorify Him, whom no únworthiness or unfitness can prejudice, either in the freedom of His

in choosing them, or in the power of His grace in changing the mind and fitting them for what He calls them to. He hath no need, nor takes notice of our rules, nor judges according to our thoughts. Not only have we here a publican, but afterwards a persecutor, made a most eminent preacher and apostle of Jesus Christ. And His choice and calling wipes out the stain of all preceding sin, though the persons themselves do readily acknowledge it on all occasions, as St. Paul often does, and St. Matthew does here. And indeed it is sincerity and humility for them who are converted, at a great distance of time so to do. But for others to object to them after their conversion, either the meanness or the sinfulness of their former lives, were great uncharity and folly: it were to reckon up to men that which God hath blotted out, who alone is interested in the account.


Herein God is wonderful, who seizeth on some persons in the midst of youthful dissipations, or violent pursuits of the world, and purifies them for Himself ; makes them not only Vessels of honour, but of the first rank, to bear His name to others; makes them eminently holy, gives them great abilities, and, which is the top of all abilities, ardent love, and mighty affection for His service. His spirit, that holy fire, refines gross earth into the pureness of transparent glass, to be the inlet of light to His people.

Now, why is this one taken from the custom-house, and so many others left, both there and elsewhere, round about him ? This is arcanum imperii, a state secret: no reason is to be expected but His good pleasure. Why is such a poor creature in a cottage chosen, and great palaces passed by ? Why are simple and unlettered persons taught the mysteries of Heaven, and great wits left to evaporate themselves upon vain loves, and other like follies ? Why in the same house is one chosen and called, and it may be a servant, and the rest passed by ? Nothing can be given in answer but this; Even so, Father, because it pleaseth Thee.

And he saith unto him, Follow me.] I am not of the mind of a grave interpreter who thinks there were other words added to persuade him, though not related. I am somewhat confident that there was no more said at all, this being our Saviour's usual word of calling others in the same way, and so powerful a word, and of such mighty influence, that there was no resisting it. He arose, and followed him. No chains so strong to hold an earthly mind, as those of gold and silver. He was here in the midst of them, and very heavy ones they were, no doubt; yet, the word makes the soul break loose with a marvellous force from all. Some apprehend, (as well they may,) there was an attractive power in the amiable Jesus who here called him; but surely the word had of His Divine power in it, and reached the heart, and could not be resisted, and drew more strongly than all the receipts, and gains, and involved business of his profession, which could not hold him back. So Elijah but cast his mantle upon Elisha in passing, and he followed. What have I done to thee? said he. . Nothing to look at, yet enough to constrain him to leave all and follow him. So it is in the conversion of any sinners; no weights nor bolts can hold them : they must follow a commanding word, such as that which, in the creation, causes that to be that it commands; a magnetic touch of Jesus Christ, speaking in a word to the heart, so that it must follow him. Oh! happy souls that have felt it !

Ver. 10–13. And as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came, and sat down with him and his disciples. The other Evangelists tell that it was in Matthew's house, and at a great feast which he made ; this himself does not mention. This feast he made both as a respectful entertainment to his new Master, and as a civil farewell to his old friends and fellow-publicans ; and possibly he took the confidence to invite them together with Jesus Christ, hoping that his presence and company might have likewise some happy influence upon some of them ; and it is likely divers of them came uninvited, out of a desire to see Jesus, having heard of this his sudden and powerful withdrawing of one who, no doubt, was a prime man amongst them. However, the mild and gracious Jesus refuses neither the feast nor the company, condescending to the most ordinary customs of life, and in these things affecting nothing of austerity or singularity; and he chose this compliant way as most suitable to his design: He became like us in all things, excepting sin.

But all along, the spirit of pharisaical envy follows him, and lies at the catch for an advantage. Here it seemed fair for them. They accost not himself with it, but his disciples, hoping more easily to unsettle them of their opinion of their Master: How is this? He calls you to follow him as to some eminent way of sanctity, and leads you unto feasting and good cheer, and that with the refuse and impurest sort of men, publicans and sinners. Jesus takes on him the answer, as alone able to give it home. Why? What wonder you to see me in such company? Why, where should a man be, but where his business lies? Were it strange to find a physician in a hospital or infirmary, or any where amongst the sick ? Here is my work and great employment; and you might have read a word applicable to this purpose: I will have mercy and not sacrifice ; that is, rather than sacrifice, or any ceremonial observance, such as this you urge, of abhorring the society of such persons, substantial goodness and duties of compassion and love. And instead of squinting on what you see, go

think on this. You have read it likely, but do not well understand it; study better what it means. Meanwhile know this, that I am prosecuting the great design of my coming into the world, while I am in such company. I came to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Not the righteous ; either them that conceit themselves such, as you do, or any that are really converted already and religious. My present business is not so much with them, as to restore the ungodly, to call sinners to repentance.

I will not now speak of the rules and qualifications of using or avoiding the converse of unholy persons; but doubtless, there lies much, we shall find, as in this instance, in the due consideration of the persons on both sides, what hope there may be of reclaiming them, and what safety of not being corrupted by them, lest, while we think to pull them out of the mire, they drag us into it. Here there was none of that danger at all, and there was the highest power for converting; and the persons even by coming so willingly where he was, seem not to have been the most obstinate and incorrigible. But we should reflect well on ourselves in this case, that our intention be suitable to this, and that we be in some measure hopeful to be able to accomplish, before we attempt such a thing: otherways it will prove fool hardiness, to adventure much of this kind.

But this is the great comfort of sinners, this word: I came to call not the righteous, but sinners. What can a diffident heart say,

that it should not come to Jesus Christ ? Art thou VOL. III.


if one

a sinner, an eminent sinner? Therefore come to him, for he came to thee. It is such that he comes to seek; they are the very objects of his grace. He had nothing else to do in the world, but to save such; he came on purpose for their sakes. His very name tells it: He shall be called Jesus, for he shall save his people from their sins. It is so far from being a just hinderance, that it is the only title to his favourable intentions, that thou art a sinner. Were it not strange


say, I am sick, very sick, therefore I will not make an address to the physician? And to say, I am a sinner, and a great one, therefore I dare not go to the Saviour of sinners --would be equally strange. Oh, no, therefore I will go; he came for me; I am sure he is able to heal me ought to be the language of all such.

But though this is great encouragement to sinners, it is no encouragement at all to sin. He came to call sinners, but it is to call them to repentance. This, the whole gospel and all the doctrine of grace, still presses. If thou bring thy sins to Jesus Christ, as thy malady and misery, to be cured of them, and delivered from them, it is well: but to come with them as thy beloved darlings and delight, thinking still to retain them and receive him, thou mistakest him grossly, and miserably deludest thyself. He came forth from God, to restore souls to God, in order to make us partakers of his Divine nature. The great intendment of the blessed Jesus, and the great redemption he wrought, is, to separate our hearts and sin. We know him not, if we take it otherways. And this says clearly, that though he hath come to us, and stretched forth his hands long amongst us, few of us are come to him. Oh! how few have trod on the neck of their beloved sin, to come to Jesus Christ! This is the great deplorable wretchedness of the land ; not the losses and ravages of war, not the loss of civil liberty, or any thing else that way; this is it, Unrepentance. We turn not by being smitten with the sharpest rod : we turned not by being invited with tender mercies. Look on such as

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