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Parochial Sermons

The Posthumous Works of the Late Right Reverend John Henry Hobart, D.D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New-York.

Volume Three.

New-York: Swords, Stanford, and Co., 1832.

Sermon XI. The Called and the Chosen.

For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew xxii. 14.

This solemn admonition of our blessed Lord was delivered at the conclusion of a parable, in which, under the appropriate figure of a marriage feast, he set forth the blessings of the Gospel; the earnest calls of God to mankind to accept these blessings; the rejection of these calls by some, and the forfeiture by others, of the blessings promised. One had married a wife, another went to his farm, and another to his merchandise. The pleasures, or the cares, or the business of the world, induced many to reject the Gospel call. And many of those who regarded and accepted it, were not finally chosen, were not finally advanced to the participation of its eternal joys, because they wanted the wedding garment--that spiritual righteousness which is an indispensable qualification for the enjoyment of the holy presence of God in the kingdom of heaven.

Who are the called? And

Who are the chosen?

Are the inquiries which my text naturally leads us to consider.

In a general sense, all men are called to the service of God: they are all bound by the law of their nature to serve him who is the gracious [123/124] Author of their being: they owe him gratitude as their Preserver and Benefactor, who gives them richly all things to enjoy: they are all amenable to him as the omniscient and almighty Judge of the universe which he has made.

Thus bound to obey the Being who made, preserves, and blesses, and who is finally to judge them, it would be contrary to every idea which reason can form of his benevolence and justice, to suppose that he has left his reasonable and accountable creatures entirely ignorant of his glorious attributes, and of the service which they are required to render him. No; the word of God on this point harmonizes with the voice of reason. It represents the Almighty as the benevolent Father of the whole human race, and as accepting, m every nation, those who fear him and work righteousness, according to the measure of natural light or Gospel grace vouchsafed to them. "Jesus Christ" his eternal Son, who undertook the work of propitiating divine justice, offended by man's transgression, is held forth in that blessed Gospel which he promulgated, not only as "the Saviour of those who believe," but as "the Saviour of all men." "Jesus Christ," says the apostle, "is the Saviour of all men, especially of them that believe." Through the infinite efficacy of his merits, and influences of his grace, salvation is rendered possible to those who, though they never heard of his name, seek to obey, according to the measure of light which they have received, that supreme Lord who hath given them life, and breath, and all things. God, the gracious Father of mankind, calls them all to his fear and service.

[125] He calls them by that primeval revelation of his being, attributes, and will, which, though obscured by error and disfigured by superstition, has been extended throughout the earth, and handed down through all ages.

He calls them by the voice of nature, bearing testimony in all her works to the existence, the attributes, and will of that almighty Lord, the knowledge of whom universal tradition had thus preserved.

He calls them by the voice of conscience, the law written on the heart, prompting to good and restraining from evil.

He calls them by the monitions of his Spirit, exerting in their hearts its secret but powerful sway.

Thus does the gracious Father of mankind call them all to his fear and service. No nation, however enveloped in ignorance, or debased by superstition and vice, has totally extinguished the knowledge of a supreme Maker and Lord of all things. His being, attributes, and will, at first proclaimed by revelation, have been preserved by tradition, and confirmed by the voice of reason, of nature, and of conscience.

Even in the wilderness you behold the savage bowing in adoration before the great Spirit whom his fathers worshipped; who hath spread before him the extended forest; who rewards with success his labours in the chase; who preserves him through the summer's heat, and through the winter's cold; and who has provided for him, beyond the distant horizon that bounds his view, a country of rest and peace. Enter the temples embellished by the arts, and celebrated in the strains of pagan genius; in the incense that ascends from the censers of their [124/125] worshippers, in the blood of the victims immolated on their altars, you behold the marks of homage to the divinities who rule the destinies of men; you hear the acknowledgment of guilt seeking to propitiate the offended justice of heaven; you see efforts to secure the favour of that great Being who has prepared, they hope, a place of happiness for the virtuous, and they fear, a place of misery for the wicked. Yes--feeble as was the light that dawned through pagan darkness, it was yet a light which disclosed a portion of the attributes and will of the Lord of the universe; which even darted some faint rays through the darkness of the tomb, and opened the obscure indeed, but cheering prospect of scenes of immortality and bliss.

When we contemplate the delineations of piety and virtue contained in the writings of some heathen moralists; when our hearts glow with admiration at the exalted characters among them who sought to know and to serve the divine Author of their being, not alas! with Christian faith and hope, but with Christian sincerity and zeal--we behold evidences of the truth declared in the volume of inspiration, that "God never left himself without witness," but by the voice of nature, of reason, of conscience, and of his secret spirit, calls all men to serve him, whose offspring they are, whose goodness made, and whose power protects them.

But, my brethren, feeble are the calls of natural reason, of traditional religion, of uncovenanted grace; imperfect must be the degree of holiness which can be attained by the light and aids which they afford, and inferior the rewards that will be bestowed hereafter on the imperfect virtue which has not been cherished by the grace of the Gospel.

[127] Cause then of the liveliest gratitude have they to whom that Gospel is proclaimed, that they are called by a voice more clear, more impressive, more awful, and yet more inviting--the voice of God in his holy word, in the ministry, and in the sacraments and ordinances of his church.

Compared with the full disclosures made in God's holy word of his attributes and will, with the awful denunciations there exhibited against vice, and the alluring invitations there urged to virtue, obscure indeed appears the light of reason, and feeble the remonstrances of natural conscience. This holy word calls us to render homage to the Father of our spirits, not with that sensual worship into which unenlightened reason degenerated, but in spirit and in truth. It calls us to the service, not of a being whose nature, character, and attributes are but faintly discovered by the lights of reason and tradition, but of that Jehovah who has proclaimed himself in majesty and power as the Maker, the Preserver, the Governor, and the Judge of the universe, glorious in holiness, inflexible in justice, and yet infinite in love. This holy word calls us to walk not in a path of duty on which reason casts but a glimmering light, but in the way of God's commandments, where every virtue is displayed in celestial radiance, and every duty exhibited in its full obligation, excellence, and rewards.

The Christian, depressed by the sense of guilt and infirmity, is not left to the feeble suggestions of nature; he is cheered by the divine voice which proclaims that there is a Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world; that there is a Saviour provided for him, infinite in compassion as mighty in power, who hath promised deliverance to the [127/128] captives, and rest to the heavy laden. No longer trembling at the unappeased justice of heaven; no longer held in awful suspense on the interesting question--how God can be just, and yet justify the sinner--he is called to believe in a Saviour who hath brought him near who was once afar off, and propitiating divine justice, sealed mercy on the throne of God.. In the calls of God's holy word, the Christian, assailed by the temptations and overwhelmed by the sorrows of life, hears the divine voice of consolation--all things shall work together for your good. No longer, like the unenlightened heathen, fleeing with trembling hope to an invisible Protector, he casts himself, in the fulness of confidence on that God who has revealed himself an all-sufficient refuge, a very present help in time of trouble. Animated by the calls of God's holy word, the Christian dejected at the view of the shortness and uncertainty of life, (who is not often thus dejected?) and dismayed at the darkness of the tomb, (who is not thus dismayed?) exults in the assurance, that an inheritance among the saints in light awaits him, where this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality. No longer do doubt and fear cloud the prospect of futurity. Life and immortality are brought to light. Heaven is opened to his view. He is the heir of its glories, destined to. live for ever with God.

Thus called by God's holy word, Christians are also called by the ministry of God's holy church.

That sacred society into which Christians are formed, is ruled by officers divinely commissioned to Call them to discharge the high duties imposed on them, and to rejoice in the celestial privileges to which they may lay claim. "To us," saith an [128/129] inspired apostle, "and to your successors, to the end of the world," said our blessed Lord, "is committed the ministry of reconciliation." And we beseech you, as ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, be ye reconciled unto God; walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; set your affections on things above, and let your hearts be in heaven, where your treasure is. This is the inspiring call which the ministers of God's church proclaim to its members. With a humility and meekness founded on the conviction that the treasure committed to them is held in earthen vessels, and that the excellence of the power is in God alone, but with a dignity and firmness excited by the consideration that their commission is divine, that they are the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God; and with a zeal and solicitude cherished by the solemn conviction, that their ministry will prove the means either of life or of death to those whom they address, do the servants of the Most High call men to the service of the Being who made them, to believe in the Saviour who redeemed them, to the faithful discharge of every duty, to the renunciation of every sin, to the exercise of piety to God and love to man, to moderation in prosperity, to contentment in adversity, to forbearance under the injuries, to resignation under the sorrows of life, to careful government of the heart, to holy circumspection of conduct, to that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord, without which Christians will forfeit that heavenly inheritance to which they are called.

Powerfully also are Christians called by the sacraments and ordinances of the church.

[130] These are external symbols, by an appeal to the senses impressing the necessity of the purification of the heart, and dependence on God for spiritual nourishment and strength. But these ordinances are thus not merely the natural means of spiritual instruction. Insignificant as they appear to the eye of sense, they are made by divine power the means of conveying to us those influences of the Holy Spirit by which our darkened understandings are enlightened, and our corrupt hearts renewed. In them the voice of the Most High is heard calling men to the participation of the most exalted privileges, and to the discharge of the most exalted duties. His paternal voice meets us at our first entrance into life. In the sacrament of baptism we are born, not as in our natural birth, into a world of sin and sorrow, but into a spiritual world of holiness and joy, the Zion of the Lord--that Zion which is refreshed by the mercy, and illumined fey the grace of God. We are born not into a society of frail, sinful, and perishing mortals, but into the goodly fellowship of believers, whose weakness is made strong by the strength of the Almighty, whose sins are washed away by the blood of atonement, and whose portion is allotted in the resurrection of the just.

Called in baptism to inherit these exalted privileges, we are also called in this holy sacrament to live as children of God, as members of Christ, and as inheritors of the kingdom of heaven; to put oft the old man, the corrupt nature with which we came into the world, and to put on the new man, that new and holy nature which our spiritual birth in baptism denotes and enforces; to die to sin, as in baptism we professed to do, and to rise again [130/131] with that Saviour, into whose death we were baptized to newness of life.

Nor does the gracious voice of our heavenly Father leave us at our entrance into his fold. It accompanies us through every stage of our Christian course, calling us to duty, conveying to us Strength and consolation.

In the apostolic ordinance of the laying on of hands, we are called to renew the engagements of baptism; its solemn obligations are again impressed upon us, and spiritual strength and succour conveyed to defend us against the increasing trials of our Christian warfare. In the worship of the sanctuary, the truths, the duties, and the privileges of our Christian calling are impressed upon us; our faith in these truths is strengthened, our zeal to discharge these duties increased, and our lively desires excited for the privileges of our high vocation.

God calls us to his service by still more affecting symbols. He lays before us the bread and wine of the altar, the body of his beloved Son broken, and the blood of his beloved Son shed for our sins; and from the altar is heard the voice of earnest and affectionate invitation--Come, sinful mortals, eat of the bread of life, and drink of the waters of salvation--wash away your sins, adorn and strengthen your souls with celestial graces--celebrate the love of him who died for you--consecrate yourselves to him who bought you with his blood, and in the symbols of his death receive the pledges of life for ever.

The call of God is addressed to all men, especially to those to whom the Gospel is proclaimed; but who are the chosen?

[132] Listen to the declaration of our blessed Lord--"Many are called, but few are chosen."

Alas! that the call of nature, of traditional religion, of reason, of conscience, of the Divine Spirit--that the call of God in his holy word, in the ministry, and sacraments, and ordinances of his church, urging men to the belief of truths divine and consolatory, to the practice of virtues celestial and exalted, to the participation of privileges spiritual and immortal, should be disregarded--alas! that "many are called, but few are chosen."

Brethren, that few are chosen, must be referred solely to the fault of man. On the part of God, we have seen every thing has been done that even mercy, more than justice, could demand. God deals with men as free agents; his grace is given to all men to enable them to serve him: God calls, but men refuse to come; he stretches out his hand, but they do not regard; he offers them his counsel, but they will not have it, and his affectionate reproofs they despise. Disobedient to the call of their heavenly Father, they are not worthy of being ranked among his children, of being chosen to the participation of the glories of the heavenly inheritance.

The nations of the earth were called by the voice of nature, of reason, of conscience, to the service of that God, the knowledge of whom had been handed down from the beginning; yet knowing God, they worshipped him not as God, but changed his incorruptible image into an image of corruptible things. Having the law written on their hearts, they effaced its holy impressions, and sought only the will of the flesh, fulfilling the lusts thereof.

And now when God speaks to men, not by the feeble voice of nature, of reason, of conscience, of [132/133] traditional religion, but by the voice of his only-begotten and well beloved Son, there are those who reject his call; who crucify afresh, by their sins, the Son of God; who trample under foot his blood; who do despite unto his Spirit; and who, called to be children of the light and of the day, walk as the children of the night and of the darkness. There are they who, though called, are not, ought not to be chosen.

If those who, deprived of the full and clear voice of instruction in the word, the ministry, and the sacraments of the church, listen to his gracious voice speaking to them in the language of traditional religion, in his works, in his ways, in the monitions of conscience, in the secret suggestions of his blessed Spirit; if, obeying this celestial voice, they seek to serve the Maker in all things as far as they know his will, and to worship him as far as tradition and reason dictate an acceptable worship; if they supplicate, though with uncertain faith, the mercy of the Father of their spirits, and repose, though with wavering confidence, in the goodness of the Parent of the universe, and cherish, though with dubious hope, the prospect of immortality beyond this transitory existence; if they thus seek to serve the Being who made them, according to the measure of light and knowledge which they have received--he who is not a hard Master, reaping where he has not sown, will accept their imperfect but sincere homage, through the merits of him who gave himself a ransom for all--that Lamb of God, the efficacy of whose sacrifice extended through all ages, having been slain from the foundation of the world. And in that celestial house in which are many mansions, he will confer on them [133/134] degrees of glory suited to the degrees of virtue which they have attained.

The highest stations in the kingdom of heaven are reserved for those among professing Christians, the called, the elect of God, who shall finally be chosen by him as his everlasting inheritance.

Those who, called by the word of God, obey its holy dictates in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living righteously, soberly, and godly in the world--those who, called by the ministry of the church, accept the offer of reconciliation, believing from the heart unto righteousness in the Saviour proffered to them, and adorning his doctrine in all things--those who, called by the sacraments of the church, improve the grace there conferred, to the death of sin and to the life of righteousness, and seek to be holy as he who hath called them is holy; these are the few (alas! compared with the multitude of the finally rejected, the few,) whom the Judge of the whole earth shall choose before men and angels to be his people for ever; these are they whom he will advance to a kingdom that shall not be moved, on whom he will bestow an inheritance of glory that fadeth not away.

Ye then who enjoy the light and privileges of the Gospel, distinguished far above the rest of your fellow men is your spiritual condition. For though salvation is possible to those destitute of the external grace of the Gospel, they can attain it but through much uncertainty, through many perplexing doubts and fears. Deprived of the full knowledge of God revealed in the Gospel, and of the way of access to him through a Saviour; of the truths, the precepts, and the promises of his holy word; of the enlightening and sanctifying efficacy [134/135] of his grace in the sacraments and ordinances of his church, they cannot attain in this life that exalted degree of holiness, nor those spiritual consolations and hopes which may distinguish Christiana. Nor hereafter will they be advanced to felicity as exalted as that which, through God's mercy and grace in Jesus Christ, will be awarded to those faithful Christians who have walked worthy of their holy vocation.

Ye then, Christians, are peculiarly the favoured of the Lord--in the highest sense his called, his elect. Distinguished are his grace and goodness to you, in thus translating you from the darkness and misery of your natural condition, into the light and comfort of his grace and favour.

But take heed lest, being called, ye fail finally of being chosen.

This momentous issue depends upon yourselves. God calls you--by his word, his ministry, his ordinances, he calls you. Sincere in his purposes of mercy, he enables you by his grace to obey his call. No secret will opposes his declared will, that all men should be saved. No decree of his power selects certain individuals to salvation, and excludes others; or determines the eternal destiny of the human race, independently of those deeds done in the body, by which he declares all men shall be judged. No; it was the eternal purpose of his mercy in his Son Jesus Christ, to render salvation possible for all men, and finally to choose or to reject them, according to the improvement which they shall have made of the talents and the grace given unto them.

Say not then, O man, that the ways of God are unequal. Lay not, sinner, thy destruction to him [135/136] who calls thee to salvation. But take heed, Christians, lest a promise being made you of entering into God's rest, you fall short--take heed lest, called to be heirs of heaven, ye forfeit its glories. It is possible that, at that great day when the Judge of all comes to choose among his called those who are to be his people for ever, you may. behold Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all those in every age and nation who fear God and work righteousness, in the kingdom of heaven; and you, for whom these blessings of this kingdom were primarily designed--you, the children of the kingdom, for ever cast out. Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure, "for many are called, but few are chosen."

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