So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.
The expression is supposed to refer to the manner in which the ancients selected men for recruiting their armies. The honour of being chosen was esteemed the reward of superiority; and, among the Romans, was as follows: — The consuls summoned to the capital, or the Campus Martius, all citizens capable of bearing arms, between the ages of seventeen and forty-five. They drew up by tribes, and lots were drawn to determine in what order every tribe should present its soldiers. That which was the first order chose the first four citizens who were judged the most proper to serve in the war; and the six tribunes who commanded the first legion selected the one of these four whom they liked best. The tribunes of the second and third legions likewise made their choice one after another; and he who remained entered into the fourth legion. A new tribe presented other four soldiers, and the second legion chose four. The third and fourth legions had the same advantage in their turns. In this manner each tribe successively appointed four soldiers, till the legions were complete. They next proceeded to the creation of subaltern officers. whom the tribunes chose from among the soldiers of the greatest reputation. When the legions were thus completed, the citizens who had been called, but not chosen, returned to their respective employments, and served their country in other capacities.
I. That God in communicating His benefits to men, acts in a sovereign manner, making the last first, and the first last.
II. That in bestowing His rewards on mankind, God does not render unto men according to the amount of the means they participate, but the use they make of them.
III. That the bestowment of rewards on this principle is most expressive of the goodness and justice of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.