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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 tares 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 One word more, and I have done. Recollect that the criminal had nothing whatever to say in his defence. “He was speechless." Now, my brethren, you have entered this day into the palace of the Great King, and most assuredly if he should come in to see the guests there is not one amongst this congregation that would escape his eye; no, not if any could seek a hiding place in the lowest depths of the ocean, or in the central caverns of the earth. For all, therefore, there is but one question: Were he to come suddenly, without a note of warning or preparation, as he came to the hundreds of our slaughtered countrymen-if he were to come now to us, in what garment would he find me arrayed ? Now, in answering this question, I would say to the veriest worldling here present, tax all your ingenuity in order to impose upon yourself, try all you can in order to be deceived by others, make the powerful simplicity of God's word as weak and as unmeaning as you cando all that can be done by philosophy and vain deceit to neutralize and thwart the energy of Scripture truth, and then ask, in your own acceptation of the phrase, provided you are not an idiot or a madman, are you possessed of the wedding garment? Are you as holy as, bearing the name of Christ, you yourself think you ought to be, were you your own judge? On your own interpretation of the principles of the Bible, would you pronounce your own acquittal? Would you not rather, in the presence of the Holy One, be speechless, self-accused, self-convicted, self-condemned? My brethren, there is not an honest trifler, a candid worldling here, who would not judge himself as God would judge him, who would not be condemned out of his own mouth. Oh! then, make the inquiry before the king shall enter in. God in his mysterious providence may visit Britain with the pestilence, as he hath visited India with the sword; but in whatever way he may come, oh! leave not the putting on of the wedding garment till the time when you shall require its protection. “Now," when it “is the accepted time," “now,” when it “is the day of salvation,” draw nigh to him who is ever ready to draw nigh in mercy unto you; and let this be the confession of your lips, and let this be the conviction of the heart—“ Father, I have sinned against heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son."
A LECTURE FOR LITTLE-FAITH.
“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth.”-II Thessalonians i. 3. “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet." Whether we shall praise God or not, is not left to our opinion. Although the commandment saith not, “ Thou shalt praise the Lord,” yet praise is God's most righteous due; and every man, as a partaker of God's bounty, and especially every Christian, is bound to praise God, as it is meet. It is true, we have no authoritative rubric for daily praise; we have no commandinent left on record specially prescribing certain hours of song and thanksgiving; but still the law written upon the heart, teacheth us with divine authority that it is right to praise God; and this unwritten mandate hath as much power and authority about it, as if it had been recorded on the tables of stone, or handed to us from the top of thundering Sinai. The Christian's duty is to praise God. Think not ye who are always mourning that ye are guiltless in that respect; imagine not that ye can discharge your duty to your God without songs of praise. It is your duty to praise him. You are bound by the bonds of his love as long as you live to bless his name. It is meet and comely that you should do so. It is not only a pleasurable exercise, but it is the absolute duty of the Christian life to praise God. This is taught us in the text,—“We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet.” Let not your harps then hang upon the willows, ye mourning children of the Lord. It is your duty to strike them and bring forth their loudest music. It is sinful in you to cease from praising God; you are blessed in order that you may bless him; and if you do not praise God you are not bringing forth the fruit, which he as the divine husbandman, may well expect at your hands. Go forth then, ye sons of God, and chant his praise. With every morning's dawn lift up your notes of thanksgiving; and every evening let the setting sun be followed with your song. Girdle the earth with your praises; surround it with an atmosphere of melody, so shall God himself look down from heaven and accept your praises as like in kind, though not equal in degree, to the praises of cherubim and seraphim.
It seems, however, that the apostle Paul in this instance exercised praise not for himself but for others, for the church at Thessalonica. If any of you should in ignorance ask the question why it was that Paul should take so deep an interest in the salvation of these saints, and in their growth in faith, I would remind you, that this is a secret known only to the men who have brought forth and nourished children, and therefore love them. The apostle Paul had founded the church at Thessalonica; most of these people were his spiritual offspring; by the words of his mouth, attended by the power of the Spirit, they had been brought out of darkness into marvellous light; and they who have had spiritual children, who have brought many sons unto God, can tell you that there is an interest felt by a spiritual father, that is not to be equalled even by the tender affection of a mother towards her babe. “Ay,” said the apostle, “I have been tender over you as a nursing father;" and in another place he says he had “travailed in birth," for their souls. This is a secret not known to the hireling minister. Only he whom God hath himself ordained and thrust forth into the work, only he who has had his tongue touched with a live coai from off the altar, can tell you what it is to agonize for men's souls before they are converted, and what it is to rejoice with No. 205.
Penny Pulpit, No. 2,969.