Abbildungen der Seite

Too many are unheeding, though not unconscious of the lesson to be learned from the destruction of the first invited; and too many imitate their contumacy, if not their cruelty, who dwell in this professed metropolis of the Christian world. Among a population, of which no small part is not even nominally Christian, and a very considerable part practically heathen, around this very edifice, and around every other consecrated temple of the living God within this thronged and teeming city, dwell a mixed multitude who, if not actually worshippers of Dagon or of Moloch, of Baal or of Ashtaroth, of Brahma or of Juggernaut, are yet the idolators of their own lusts, the bondsmen of their own passions, the sport of their own vanities, the slaves of their own gold, the vassals now, and hereafter to be the victims of their own intemperance and excess. Of these, however, I speak not now: I have to do here only with you who have entered within, passing over those who are lingering and loitering without. of yourselves it may be asserted that you at least have beard the invitation; you have accepted it; you have been brought into the king's palace, most of you in unconscious infancy, by the open door of baptism; you have recognized and ratified the obligation by your voluntary attendance in the house of prayer to-day; you thus avow yourselves the soldiers of Christ your captain ; you acknowledge yourselves the subjects and the servants of Christ your king; and accordingly, when he is pleased to confer upon you the high privilege of inviting you to become his guests, it is quite clear that with the relation is connected a responsibility, and out of the privilege must arise a duty.

II. This, then, we are next to consider : for the parable having first described our condition and defined our relation to the king, goes on to declare our duty as arising out of it. Our condition is that of subjects, our relation that of guests; and having as subjects obeyed the king's command, and having as guests entered into the king's palace, we are to be habited as guests, and the only proper habit of the guest is that which is termed in the parable the wedding garment. Here, then, in order to the right understanding of our Lord's teaching, we must advert in passing to a remarkable custom of the Eastern nations. It seems that on occasions of great public or religious festivals, whether solemnized by sacrifices in the temple of a god, or celebrated with banquets in the palace of a king, the worshippers in the one case and the guests in the other were to be arrayed with suitable garments-garments which were provided either at the cost of the prince, or, as the case might be, out of the endowments and revenues of the temple. Thus you will recollect that when Jehu proclaimed a solemn assembly to Baal, and sumnioned all the votaries of the idol to the temple of their god, even from the remotest parts of the realm, so that the house of Baal was filled from one end to the other, he said to him that was over the vestry, “ Bring forth vestments to the worshippers of Baal,” and numerous as they were, this was no unwonted or unforeseen requisition; "he brought forth vestments for them all.” Now, this illustrates the parable. The wedding garments were provided by the king at his own cost; they were not left to be furnished by the guests themselves, who, having been summoned thus unexpectedly from the highways and the bedges, the streets and the lanes, could not be expected to come in gar

ments meet and fitting for the royal banquet. Nothing was wanted from them but what might be done in a moment—10 pause in the vestibule, and array themselves in the vestare provided by the master of the feast. Hence it is manifest that the appearing at the banquet without a wedding garment must be either an act of great presumption or an act of gross insubordination. It were an act of great presumption for a guest to presume that his own garments, even if unsullied and untorn, were good enough to appear at the banquet of the king; and it were equally an act of gross insubordination to refuse to obey the king's command. Nor will our view of the case be materially changed, if we resolve it into an act of indifference, and disregard of all with whom he had entered into the palace, and with whom he was associated at the board.

The question for ourselves, therefore, is, What are we to understand by the wedding garment ? He who appeared without it was, equally with others, an invited guest; but then he knew full well that the condition of the invitation was, that he should array himself in the wedding garment. And just so it is with ourselves. The invitation, “Come in to the marriage,” “ Enter into the kingdom of heaven," “ Lay hold on eternal life,” is addressed to all who are made Christ's by the covenant of baptism; but still “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." The wedding garment, then, is the influence of the Spirit of God realised within the heart, is the principle of love manifested and reflected in the life by the practice of holiness. Now, it is a primary and essential element of Christian doctrine, thal, as our church declares, “we have no power by nature to do good works and such as are acceptable to God.” Baptism does not of itself give us this power; it only places us in a condition to attain it by the use of appointed and accredited means. Baptism is the entrance into the palace; it brings us, according to ihe similitude of the parable, into the wardrobe or repository of the wedding garments; it presents to us the key by which we may open it, if we will; but it does not compel us to take one out and to array ourselves therein, that so we may be made meet to appear in the presence of the king. Baptism imparts both creating and co-operating grace; but it does pot exercise a constraining and controlling power. It brings us in by the open door, but it does not bring us through: that is for the wedding garment alone. “No man can say that Jesus Christ is Lord but by the Holy Ghost." So that if the wedding garment be holiness, it is holiness by the Spirit of the Lord, holiness through grace given in answer to prayer, holiness that works by faith and works in love; it is holiness blended with humility, which can appeal to the heart-searching God, when we have left least undone, as one who seeth that we put not our trust in anything that we do-holiness, that takes delight in ascribing all the glory to God, and at the best of times and in the best of acts looks not to the works of righteousness which we have done, but only to the mercy of God in Christ, only to the mediation of the Lord Jesus, by which that mercy is extended to ourselves. Consequently we are to regard our Christian baptism, the highest privilege which man possesses, not only as a sacrament once received, as a seal once impressed, as an acknowledgment once made, as an homage once rendered, but as representing to us our profession, which is to follow Christ, and be made like unto him, that as he died and rose again from the dead, so should we who are baptized die from sin and rise again unto holiness. And this “fine linen,” this “righteousness of the saints,” is a luminous and a resplendent vesture; it shines before men; believers arrayed in it are the light of the world; they walk as children of light, and in them is exemplified, amidst a world that lieth in wickedness and in darkness, the beautiful language of the wisest of mankind—“The path of the just is as the shining light that shineth more and more unto the perfect day."

Here, then, comes the all-important question, my brethren-Are you arrayed in this wedding garment of holiness ? Have you this proof of Christ abiding in you by the Spirit which he hath given you? Do you thus, as to the principle of your actions, live in the Spirit, and as to the actions themselves walk in the Spirit ?—for this alone is the armour of light, the panoply of proof, in which you can encounter the last enemy with hope to overcome, in which you can abide what the parable goes on to declare the immediate presence of the King, when it shall be manifested in that light which will penetrate through all disguises, and make manifest the counsels of every heart. Oh! never let us forget that the outer darkness into which the guest was cast who lacked the wedding garment was the same with that reserved for those who had repulsed the king's servants with contumely, and rejected his invitation with contempt. There will be no difference in the end between those who altogether refuse to retain God in their knowledge, and those who profess to know him with the service of the lip, but deny him in the tenor of the life.

III. The trial, which we are next to consider as foreshadowed in the parable to each of ourselves, come when and how it may, will verify the solemn words of the prophet Malachi—“ Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” Until that trial come, however, as in the banquet, all are mingled together, those that have wedding garments and he that hath none; and for a time, in the terms of the parable, the concourse was so great, or the garment worn by the insubordinate and presumptuous guest bore such a close resemblance to the vestment provided by the king, that the servants of the Lord did not perceive, perhaps did not even suspect the difference. Those who possess the fashion, the partial conformity and recognition and observance of certain external disguises, the mere form of godliness without the power, may pass current with man, who judges by outward appearance, while the eye that pierces and perforates the walls of the whited sepulchre discovers therein but

dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” “In the visible church,” as one of our Articles teaches us, “ the evil is ever mingled with the good;" and as one who is greater than the church hath taught us, “ the lares and the wheat grow together unto the time of harvest.” The intruder, therefore, for a time is not discovered; Saul is counted as a prophet; Judas is numbered with the apostles ; Simon is honoured as a mighty one, and Demas passes for a saint. But only until the king comes in to see the guests. He does indeed behold chem even now; for he is at once in every division and compartment of the great palace of the universe. “ The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” But neither the good nor the evil are now conscious, as they will then be, of the present eye of the Lord. Faith knows it now indeed; but sense will fully perceive it then. “Behold he cometb," and then “ every eye shall see him," as now every heart is seen by him ; he will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the heart.” “Who may abide the day of his coming, and who shall stand when he appeareth ?” “If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear ?"

My brethren, there is not a worshipper in the Lord's house, there is not a guest at the Lord's table, there is not now, there never has been one, among all the generations of mankind, who could endure that light which no man can approach unto, when the King shall come “ to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired of all them that believe.” There is none that could endure that light, were it not that the garment in which they shall meet him is one pro pared and provided by himself. “ We are counted righteous before God only through the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ, and not through our own works or deservings." His righteousness is imputed to us, and he hath borne the penalty, though pure from the polluting sin. But then to put on Christ, and to be prepared to meet God in judgment, is not the outward concealment and suppression, but the inward subjection and annihilation of sin. The holidess without which no man shall see the Lord is holiness of heart, and the essential part of it is a resolve to abstain from sin, even though the willingness of the spirit be counteracted by the weakness of the flesh. “Let him that nameth the name of Christ depart from all iniquity.” And what will the trial be to those who are not apparelled thus, who have been wise in their own eyes, and righteous in their own sight, while regarding iniquity in their heart, who have left undone the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, and have thrown over their defiled garments a robe of specious but fictitious white, which possessed no cleansing, healing, purifying properties, and when it is stripped off by the unsparing band of death will be exhibited and exposed before angels and before men in all their native defilement and deformity? Oh! surely it cannot be too frequently or 100 earnestly impressed, that the indulgence, the harbourage of any wilful sin, vitiates all the efficacy, sullies all the purity, and will, if persisted in unto the end, forfeit and cancel all the privileges and benefits of Christian baptism; so that as one leak may sink a ship one sin may destroy a soul. Let us, then, look well to our hearts, out of which are “ the issues of life;" let us look well to it, lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble us, lest any deliberate transgression stain and diminish the purity of the baptismal wedding garment. “If I regard iniquity in my heart," said the psalmist, “ the Lord will not hear me;" and how could there be meetness or preparation for heaven without prayer ? Let us, then, “ lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset us ;" for we may read the doom of the inconsistent, the undecided, the unholy, the impure, in the indignant question of the king—“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment ?" And we may infer how justly that sentence was merited from the consternation and confusion of the intruder, shamed into silence by the witness of an accusing conscience-—“And he was speechJess."

IV. This, then, is the last lesson of the parable, prefiguring and predeter

mining the eternal destiny of all who shall be found in the presence of the Great King destitute of the only true wedding garment, the holiness which is by the Spirit of the Lord. What will it then avail to have presented ourselves, as you are now doing, in the courts of the Lord's house, if after having done this, or rather, having seemed to do this, we have but dishonoured him and deceived our own soul by a mere barren lip service, the homage of mere attitudes and prostrations, which appeared to honour him with the bodily exercise, but profited the soul nothing, that tribute, that nobler tribute being withheld which he expressly claimed, and with which alone he will be content, “My son, give me thine heart ?” What will it then avail to have cried, “ Peace, peace, when there was no peace,” to have called Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” while we did not the things which he said, drawing nigh to God with the lips, while the heart was far from him ? Should we be provided with any answer to the question, “Who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?” Nay, could we find any apology or excuse for having been forgetful hearers only, and not doers of the word? Could the slothful servant plead any exemption from the doom that should involve also the wicked servant ? Is it not a sad and fearful truth, that the man who does nothing for his own soul does everything against it—that he who does nothing for it excepting in the church, as though religion were a thing of times and places, does everything against it in the world? Ah! my brethren, the wedding garment is not a garment to be worn or laid aside at pleasure. The king may enter in at any moment, and he who is not then apparelled in the appointed vesture will be as though he had never been arrayed in it at all. But why should it ever be put off? It may be kept just as white and just as pure, just as unsullied and just as undefiled in the world of business as in the sanctuary of the Lord itself. Go where he will, do what he may, the true believer creates around him his own atmosphere, and it is an atmosphere of holiness. toil of the godly is righteous,” while “ the very ploughing of the wicked is sin.” Can we doubt that Paul the tentmaker, earning his daily bread at Corinth by the skill of his hand and the sweat of his brow, was as much an object of interest to the holy angels, and of approval to his Divine Master, as when he was pleading before the tribunal of Areophagus, or imprisoned in the loathsome depths of a noisome dungeon? The apostle's robes were unsullied and unstained, the wedding garment shining and resplendent still. Though the iron had entered into his soul, he was not the less fit to appear as a guest at the banquet of the king of heaven.

Let this, my brethren, be your own conviction in respect to present obligations and present duty. The garment is not kept pure by going out of the world, but by avoiding the pollution that is in it; and of all worshippers in the Lord's house, of all who have knelt this day at the table of the Lord, that man is the most acceptable worshipper, that man is the most worthy communicant, who hath striven during the course of his secular life to adorn the doctrine of God his Saviour in all things, to preach the gospel by honesty and integrity in the midst of the world of business, who has been as a light in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, and hath borne among them a practical testimony to his Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

6. The very

« ZurückWeiter »