ON ST. MATTHEW
Consider first, the wonders of divine grace on the call and conversion of St. Matthew – changed on a sudden, from a worldling, a publican, and a sinner, to be an individual companion and disciple of Christ; and not long after advanced to be an apostle, a pillar in Christ’s church, a preacher, powerful in word and work: a worker of wonderful miracles, a father and converter of nations: an evangelist, or writer of the gospel; and, in a word, a most eminent saint. O! glorify God, who has wrought all these wonders, to manifest to all generations his infinite power, mercy, and goodness; and learn from this example never to despair of the conversion of any one, how remote soever he may seem to be at present from following Christ. The arm of God is not shortened: his power, mercy, and goodness are as infinite now as ever; he is equally both able and willing to call poor sinners, and to convert them to himself. But, alas! our misfortune is, we are not so ready as Matthew was, to attend to his heavenly calls, and to correspond with his inspirations and graces; we prefer the sitting still in the custom-house of the world, entangled in many vain and sinful affections to empty earthly toys; before the rising up without delay to follow Christ who calls us to him. O how pernicious are all those affections, which keep us from Christ?
Consider 2ndly, the lessons St. Matthew gives us in his conversion. 1. By his immediately rising up at the first call, to correspond with his whole heart with the grace of God. How often have we been called to be disciples of Christ? And have we ever yet followed the call in good earnest? This ‘follow thou me,’ with which our Lord called Matthew, is indeed addressed by him to all Christians; inasmuch as we are all called to be his followers: for the very name of Christian implies as much as followers of Christ: and yet how few are there of those that call themselves Christians who truly follow in their lives either the doctrine, or the example of Christ! Our Lord was passing by when he called Matthew, and very probably, had that call been neglected, he might not have favoured him with the like grace another time. What obligations then have we to his bounty and mercy, for his repeated calls to us! But what have we not to apprehend, if we continue to abuse his graces by refusing to correspond with his calls! 2. St. Mathew left all to follow Christ; quitting his worldly business, upon which his livelihood depended, and whatsoever else he seemed to possess in this world. Christ does not call to us to quit the business of our lawful callings, nor to give up at once all our worldly goods, but he insists upon our taking off our hearts from all these things, and our parting with every affection that would keep us from him. He expects we should follow him, not so much by our bodily steps, as by giving him the chief place in our affections, which are as it were the seat of the soul.
Consider 3rdly, that St. Matthew, immediately upon his conversion, made a feast for our Saviour in his house, at which many publicans and sinners were present, who also followed our Lord, St. Mark ii. 15. See the force of good example, and how one perfect conversion draws many others after it. This conversion of souls was a more agreeable feast to the divine charity of our redeemer than any other entertainment St. Matthew could make for him. Christians, reflect that the Son of God expects also to feast himself with you, and to be entertained by you. ‘Behold,’ says he, Apocalypse iii. 20, ‘I stand at the gate and knock; if any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.’ We entertain Christ by inviting him into our inward house, and keeping ourselves at home with him by recollection and mental prayer; we feast him by giving him our hearts, by love, by frequent and fervent oblations of all the powers of our souls and of our whole being to him; and he feast us in return, by giving himself to us. O happy feast indeed, which is in some measure a foretaste of the eternal banquet of heaven!
Conclude to imitate St. Matthew by a ready compliance with all the divine calls and inspirations; and by not suffering thyself to be kept from following Christ with thy whole soul, either by the world, or by any of its painted toys and cobwebs. Let thy example serve to draw others to him; and let the door of thy inward house be ever opened to him to entertain him, but kept close shut to all his enemies, thy vicious and irregular affections.