THE MARRIAGE FEAST
Matthew 22:2-3. The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son, and sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
INSTRUCTION and reproof generally irritate those who will not be reformed; but ministers must “speak plainly, whether men will hear or forbear.” They must present the same truths in various shapes, if by any means they may win the souls of their hearers; nor should they be intimidated even by the most imminent dangers. Jesus had spoken a parable that greatly offended the Pharisees: they even sought to take away his life on account of it: but he still persisted in his benevolent labours for their good, and repeated the same offensive truths in the parable before us. In the parable he compares the kingdom of heaven, or the Gospel dispensation, to a king who made a marriage for his son, and sent his servants to invite guests to the marriage-feast. This king was Jehovah: the wedding was between the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s only-begotten Son, and his spouse the Church: and the feast instituted in honour of it, contained all the blessings of grace and glory. The Prophets and Apostles were sent forth in Jehovah’s name to invite all the Jews to a participation of this feast: but their message was despised and their persons injured; so that God would now cease any more to call the Jews, and would send forth his invitations to the Gentiles, whom he would receive with all imaginable kindness, whilst he left the Jews to eat the bitter fruit of their folly.
Now, as we are the favoured people to whom these invitations are sent, I will more distinctly open to you the parable in its different parts, and then execute the commission which is here assigned me.
The union of Christ with his Church is often spoken of in the Scriptures under the figure of a marriage—
[By nature we are in the most deplorable condition. But he of his own sovereign grace sets his heart upon us, and prepares us for himself, and unites us to himself in the closest bonds [Note: Ezekiel 16:4-12.]. The espousals take place now in this world [Note: Jeremiah 2:2; 2 Corinthians 11:2.]; the consummation will be in the world to come [Note: Rom. 19:7.]
In honour of this marriage God institutes a feast—
[But who shall declare how rich this feast is? Truly it is a feast worthy of God, the God of heaven, to provide, and worthy of his most favoured creatures to partake of in the heavenly world. Already, whatever can conduce to the enlightening of the mind, the rectifying of the will, the purifying of the affections, the strengthening, establishing, and comforting of the soul, is dispensed to us as a foretaste of that divine banquet. The love of the Father, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, are imparted to us in the richest abundance. Wine and strong meat are ministered to adults, and milk to the new-born babes, insomuch that there is not a person in the universe who may not find that very food which he most affects, and which his necessities more particularly require.]
And now are his servants sent forth to invite us all—
[As Prophets and Apostles were sent forth in former ages so are ministers appointed now to this very service, to call to the wedding all who have a wish to come; saying, “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the water of life freely.” This, brethren, has been my happy office, which I have most gladly performed from the first instant that I came amongst you. I have not set forth the Gospel as a work to be performed, or a labour to be sustained, but as a feast to be enjoyed, “a feast of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined [Note: Isaiah 25:6.],” “to satiate every weary soul, and to replenish, and exhilarate every sorrowful soul [Note: Jeremiah 31:25.].” In calling you to be guests, we require of you no pre-requisites of goodness and worthiness for the meriting of this distinction: it is offered even to the very chief of sinners, provided they be willing to accept of mercy and all the other blessings of salvation as the free gift of God in Christ Jesus. All is offered to you freely “without money and without price.”]
But what reception has our message met with in the midst of you?
[Some, I am happy to say, have accepted the invitation, and are already partaking of the feast — — — But the generality amongst you have acted, as those in former days, who “made light of” the proffered mercy, and “went to their farm and merchandize” as an employment better suited to their taste. Some, like the Jews in former ages, have evil-entreated the servants of the Lord [Note: ver. 6.]. Others, who have treated the messengers with more respect, have yet shewn the same indifference to the message, satisfying themselves with vain excuses, which nevertheless they must know can never satisfy their God [Note: Luke 14:18-20.] — — — Almost all desire to put off the day of their intercourse with the heavenly Bridegroom, as though it were rather an evil to be dreaded, than a feast to be enjoyed. If the listening to our invitation would suffice, they would be contented to go thus far on the Sabbath-day: but if they must come to Christ and sit down with him at the wedding-feast, they desire to postpone it to some more convenient season, when the cares and pleasures of life shall have lost all their attraction.]
And what must be the issue of such conduct?
[Those who have reviled and persecuted the servants of the Most High, will meet with a suitable recompence at his hands [Note: ver. 7.]. And those who have “made light of” their labour, will never be admitted “so much as to taste of this supper [Note: Luke 14:24.].” It is a fact that they who come not now to this feast, know nothing of God’s pardoning love, nothing of the comforts of the Holy Ghost. They are utter strangers to all spiritual joy. They think all experience of heavenly communications, all manifestations of God’s love, and all foretastes of his glory, to be no better than the dreams of a heated imagination. What hope then can they have that they shall possess all the fulness of these blessings in the eternal world? In their present condition they have no capacity for the enjoyment of the heavenly feast, even if they were admitted to it. But they never can be admitted, nor to all eternity shall they ever “so much as taste” what the favoured guests shall feed upon in the presence of their God.]
But let me once more endeavour to execute my commission—
[Once more in the name of Almighty God I invite you, brethren, to come to the wedding-feast. And O, think who it is that invites you. It is God, and not man: the voice, though the voice of a feeble worm like yourselves, is as truly God’s, as if it came in thunder, or in audible sounds from heaven. And will you turn a deaf ear to him? to him who needs not you, and who invites you only that he may make you a partaker of his own blessedness and glory? Think also to what a feast you are called. In comparison of that, all that this world can give is but as the husks that the swine eat of — — — Think yet further, how vain all your excuses are. What have you to do that can be put in competition with the seeking and securing the salvation of the soul? — — — Think too how bitter your regrets will soon be. Soon you will behold the company that is set down at the marriage supper: but you will behold them at an unapproachable distance: and these reflections will then irresistibly force themselves upon your mind: ‘There I also might have been a happy guest, if only I would have accepted the invitations given me, and obeyed the call of Almighty God: but here am I, banished from the Saviour’s presence, and without a drop of water to cool my tongue. O! wretch that I am! I in vain look to rocks and mountains to fall upon me: they cannot perform for me that friendly office; they cannot hide me from the wrath of my offended God.’ Lastly, Think how painful must be both your state and mine in the day when I shall give up my account of my present labours. To save your souls alive is now the one object for which I minister, and for which I live. And in that day I must give an account of my ministry. But O! what an account will it be? ‘Did you deliver my message to them? Did you invite them to the wedding-feast? Did you press and urge them as it became you? Did you warn them of the consequences of declining my invitation?’ What answers must I give? I can say nothing which will not evince your guilt, and aggravate your condemnation. The Lord grant that such may never be the issue of my labours; but that I may have you all as “my joy and crown of rejoicing in that day!”]
THE SIN OF MAKING LIGHT OF CHRIST
Matthew 22:5. But they made light of it.
WE are apt to condemn the Jews as blind and obstinate, because they rejected Christ in spite of the clearest evidence in his favour. But we ourselves are more guilty than they, because we enjoy much greater advantages for understanding the Gospel than they did, and yet are as regardless of it as they were.
Our blessed Lord illustrated their conduct by a marriage-feast, to which they who were invited refused to come. The same invitation is sent to us; and we, no less than they, “make light of it.”
To bring home a conviction of this upon our minds, we shall shew,
I. What are the blessings which we are invited to partake of—
God is here represented as having made a marriage for his Son—
[The figure of a marriage union is often used to represent the connexion that subsists between Christ and his Church [Note: Jeremiah 3:14.Hosea 2:19-20.]. He is the bridegroom, and the Church is his bride [Note: Isaiah 54:5.Revelation 21:9; John 3:29.]. And the connexion is then formed, when the Church gives up herself to Christ as her head and Lord, and by faith becomes so united to him as to be one flesh [Note: Ephesians 5:30-32.], or, to speak more properly, “one spirit with him [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.].”—]
The feast prepared on the occasion contains all the blessings of grace and glory—
[There is nothing that can nourish or delight the soul, which God has not prepared for the bride on her union with Christ [Note: Isaiah 25:6.]. She instantly becomes related to him, and is considered in all things as his daughter, an object of his affections, and a partaker of his inheritance. Let any one inquire, What is there that my soul can desire in time or eternity? and he shall find it all set before him, that he may freely and richly enjoy it—]
To a participation of this feast we are sent to invite you—
[In one view, they to whom we are sent, are the bride; but in another view, they are the guests. The commission God has given to his servants is, to “go out into the highways and hedges, and to bring in as many as they can find.” To you therefore we come, declaring that no unworthiness on your part shall exclude you, provided you put on the wedding garment, which the Master of the feast has prepared for you. Accept the invitation; and all the blessings of salvation shall be yours. Pardon, peace, strength, and whatever else can comfort the weary, and support the weak, shall become the daily, the everlasting food of your souls.]
To evince how much our message is disregarded, we proceed to shew,
Who are they that make light of the invitation—
Among the numberless classes that might be mentioned, two only shall be selected:
1. They who satisfy themselves with excuses for declining it—
[The persons mentioned in the context, excused themselves on account of their “farms or merchandize.” But their pleas, however satisfactory in their own eyes, were not admitted by God. On the contrary, he declared them to be “unworthy ever to taste of his supper.” Now what excuses has any man more urgent than these? And if these were of no avail in their case, what right have we to think, that the plea of worldly business will be admitted in our favour? If the prosecuting of our worldly business were really incompatible with the enjoyment of God, there can be no doubt which we ought to prefer. He was “a wise merchant, who having found a pearl of great price, sold all that he had and bought it.” But our duties to God and to the world are by no means irreconcileable with each other: and therefore the resting in such vain excuses shews, that we make light of the salvation offered us.]
2. They who do not accept it with all thankfulness—
[Blessings, like those set before us in the Gospel, ought to be regarded as of the first importance. Indifference towards them is a positive contempt of them. If a slave, whom we had ransomed at a great price, and to whom we offered liberty, and affluence, and honour, should express no gratitude, no joy on the occasion, should we not think that he “made light of” our proffered kindness? But what bondage is so dreadful as that in which we are held by sin and Satan? or what liberty is like that of God’s children? or what comparison is there between the riches and honours of this world, and those which are imparted to us on our union with Christ? If then our joy and gratitude excited by the Gospel salvation, be not in some measure proportioned to its value and importance, we cannot but be considered as making light of it.]
Nor will this be thought a venial matter, if we duly consider,
The folly and sinfulness of their conduct—
But what words can sufficiently express this? for they make light of,
1. That which is of the greatest possible value—
[Estimate the blessings of salvation either positively by the price paid for them, or comparatively by weighing them, as it were, in a balance against all other things, and then see what it is that they despise. Only consider, that every one of those blessings was bought with blood, with the blood of God’s co-equal, co-eternal Son, a price infinitely exceeding ten thousand worlds. Is there no guilt, no folly in disregarding things of such inestimable value? Bring into competition with them all that the world can give; and it will be found lighter than dust upon the balance, yea, “altogether lighter than vanity itself.” Well therefore does the Apostle put that unanswerable question, “How shall ye escape, if ye neglect so great salvation [Note: Hebrews 2:3.]?”]
2. That without which they can never be happy—
[The creature, at best, is but “a broken cistern:” in vain shall any one go to it for solid happiness [Note: Jeremiah 2:13.]. “There is not, there cannot be, any true peace to the wicked [Note: Isaiah 48:22.].” Let any man try to make himself happy, while the guilt of all his sins continues to lie upon him, and he is in awful suspense about his eternal state; he may be thoughtless as a child, or stupid as a beast; but he cannot be happy. And if this be the case in the midst of all his gaiety, what will be his situation in a dying hour? At all events, supposing him ever so happy in life and in death, how will he feel himself on his first entrance into the invisible world? Will he who made light of the marriage-feast on earth, sit down with boldness at the “marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven?” Will all those employments to which he was averse in this world, be at once his joy and delight, as soon as he passes into the world above? If he disregarded earthly things, he would have reason on his side; because he might be happy in God, even though he were destitute of every thing else: but to hope for happiness without God is a desperate delusion; and consequently, to make light of the invitations of the Gospel is nothing less than madness itself.]
3. That which they are sure to value, when it will be gone beyond recovery—
[Here men are of very different sentiments; some accounting godliness the one thing needful, and others despising it as enthusiasm and needless singularity. But in the eternal world there is no such diversity of opinion: the saints in glory are fully confirmed in the judgment they had formed on earth; and the wicked in hell are fully convinced of their error; the one know by their enjoyments how good it was to obey the heavenly call; and the other know by their sufferings, what “a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God.” What then is it but madness to make light of that, which we are so sure to value when there remains to us no longer any possibility of attaining it [Note: Wisd. 5:4.]?
Let due weight be given to these considerations, and we shall need nothing more to convince us either of the folly or sinfulness of slighting the invitations of the Gospel.]
[It is to be feared that, after all, many will persist in their infatuated conduct: but we would at least make one more effort to reclaim them; and beg of God to render his word effectual to their conversion.
Know then that the marriage supper is now prepared; and we, as God’s servants, come in his name to invite you to it. We invite you all: the rich, the poor; the old, the young; the moral, the immoral. We announce to you, that all things are ready. Are ye then not ready? If ye say, “We have not a suitable garment;” we declare to you, that the Master of the feast has provided garments for all his guests; and that ye need only be clothed with the unspotted robe of Christ’s righteousness, and ye shall instantly be acceptable in the sight of God. Put away then your excuses: receive thankfully the invitation sent you: and begin to feast upon those spiritual provisions that shall nourish your souls unto life eternal.]
THE WEDDING GARMENT
Matthew 22:11-13. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he said unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
THERE has ever been a diversity of characters in the Church of God. This, though much to be lamented, cannot be avoided. The very zeal which animates the ministers of the Gospel, has a tendency to produce this effect. Their charity prompts them to hope well of those who appear in earnest; and to admit to their communion all who “witness a good confession.” Thus it was that “the wedding (in the parable) was furnished with guests;” but he who searcheth the hearts will distinguish the hypocrites from others, and will deal with men according to their real characters.
This being intimated in the text, we shall endeavour to shew,
I. What we are to understand by the wedding garment—
The wedding-feast is intended to represent the blessings of the Gospel. The garment suited to the occasion must therefore import a meetness to partake of those blessings. In this view we may understand “the wedding-garment” as formed in part of the righteousness of Christ—
[Christ, by his own obedience unto death, wrought out a righteousness which is given “unto all, and put upon all, them that believe [Note: Romans 3:22.].” This is the only righteousness whereby any man can be justified before God [Note: Romans 5:18-19.]. St. Paul himself could find acceptance in no other [Note: Philippians 3:9.]. It is in this that all the glorified saints are clothed [Note: Revelation 9:7.]: in fact, it constitutes their title to heaven [Note: Revelation 5:8. “therefore.”]: and it is in this that all the saints on earth are clothed, preparatory to their ascending to heaven [Note: Galatians 3:27.]. Hence the devout songs of those who have attained this gift: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in the Lord: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels [Note: Isaiah 61:10.].”]
But beyond all doubt it is chiefly formed of our own inherent righteousness—
[Moral qualities are often represented under the figure of a garment [Note: Psalms 132:9; Job 29:14; 1 Peter 5:5.]. By them chiefly we “put on the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Romans 13:14.].” And they beyond all question form the garment which renders us acceptable guests at the wedding feast in heaven [Note: Revelation 19:7-8.]. In fact, it is holiness alone that constitutes our meetness for heaven [Note: Colossians 1:12.]; and makes us “worthy” to partake of all the felicity and glory of that blessed place [Note: Revelation 3:4.]. I speak not of worthiness in a way of merit: that no man can have: but, in a way of fitness and suitableness, every man must have it: nor without it can any soul ever enter into the Divine presence [Note: Hebrews 12:14.]
We must however be careful not to confound these two ideas—
[The righteousness of Christ is necessary to justify us before God: our own inward personal righteousness is necessary to make us meet for glory. We must not separate them; for they cannot exist apart; neither, on the other hand, may we confound them: they must each be used for their respective ends. To disregard inherent righteousness would be downright antinomianism: on the other hand, to blend it in any degree with the righteousness of Christ for our justification before God, would be self-righteousness, and would make void the whole Gospel [Note: Galatians 5:3-4.]. Food and raiment are equally necessary for our existence: but each has its proper office: neither can supply the lack of the other. So it is with imputed and inherent righteousness: neither can be dispensed with, nor can either occupy the other’s place. To be accepted of God we must put on the righteousness of Christ; and to enjoy his presence, we must “put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:24.].”]
Such then being the wedding-garment, I proceed to shew,
The importance of it to every child of man—
A person habited in mean apparel would not be suffered to continue at the wedding-feast of an earthly monarch: much less shall guilty and polluted souls sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb in heaven—
[The king, in the parable, was filled with indignation at the intrusion of the unworthy guest. He ordered him to be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness [Note: The room where the company was entertained being richly illuminated, the person cast out of it is said to be cast into outer darkness. How awfully applicable to those who shall be cast out of heaven!]. This fitly represents the vengeance that will be inflicted on all such intruders. They may come in for a while and join themselves to the Lord’s people; but when the King himself shall see the guests, he will fix his eyes on them: he will cast them out from the place they had so presumptuously occupied. They shall never dwell in the mansions of light and glory above; but take their portion in the regions of darkness and despair, and there bewail for ever their irremediable delusions.]
Nor will their punishment in any respect exceed their guilt—
[The intruder, in the parable, could make no reply to the king’s address [Note: He might have urged, That being brought suddenly out of the highways he had neither time to borrow, nor money to purchase, a wedding garment. But this would have been to no purpose. Opulent persons had large wardrobes for the accommodation of all their guests. Lucullus, at Rome, was famed for having at least two hundred changes of raiment, or as Horace, by a poetical licence, says, five thousand. No doubt, therefore, a proper garment would have been lent him for the occasion, if he had chosen to accept it.]. He knew that he had disregarded the offer of a wedding garment; and presumptuously supposed that his own was good enough for the occasion. Thus he had poured contempt on the liberality and kindness of the king; and was therefore compelled by his own conscience to acknowledge the justice of the sentence passed upon him. Who then amongst us shall expect to imitate him with impunity? To us has our Lord repeatedly offered a wedding garment. Us has he often counselled to receive his robe of righteousness [Note: Revelation 3:18.]. We have been invited to go to him for the influences of his Spirit [Note: John 7:37-39.]. Shall we then expect admission into heaven if we reject his offers? Or shall we accuse him of severity if he cast us headlong into hell? Surely if we rest in any thing short of justification by his blood and renovation by his Spirit, we shall stand self-condemned for ever.]
[As Christians we profess to have accepted the Saviour’s invitation; and to feast at his table here as an earnest of that richer feast above. But have we indeed received Christ as our righteousness [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:21.Jeremiah 23:6.]? Are we also renewed by his Spirit in our inward man [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:16.]? We may easily deceive those who minister to us here below; but “the King, who will come in to see the guests,” can never be deceived. However specious a garb we may have prepared for ourselves, he will easily distinguish it from that which he has given to his people. Nor would he fail to discover the hypocrite, even if there were only one to be found in his whole Church. Surely then it becomes us to guard against self-deception. We may now obtain from him a meetness to feast with his chosen; but if we persist in our delusion, we shall find him inexorably severe.]
2. For consolation—
[Some perhaps are troubled on account of their past presumption; especially, that they have unworthily communicated at the Lord’s table. Well indeed may such guilt fill them with compunction; but, however presumptuously we have acted in past times, we have no reason to despond. A wedding garment is now offered to all who see their need of it. Though we were of the poorest or vilest of mankind, it should not be withheld from us: nor, however many guests may come, will there be any deficiency of raiment for them all. Let all then accept the free invitation of the Gospel, and thankfully put on the garment which the Master of the feast has prepared for them. Thus, though unworthy in themselves, they shall be accounted worthy through Christ, and shall sit down for ever at the marriage feast in heaven.]
AN INQUIRY INTO OUR VIEWS OF CHRIST
Matthew 22:41-42. While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, What think ye of Christ [Note: Before a congregation where less critical accuracy is required, this subject may be treated thus:
I. Propose the question—
What think ye—1. Of his person (he is God, as well as man). 2. Of his sufferings (they were altogether vicarious and expiatory). 3. Of his glory (he is in heaven as a public person, our Advocate, our Head, our Forerunner).
Shew the importance of it—
On our thoughts of him must depend—1. Our devotion to him (which will be proportioned to our admiration of his character). 2. Our interest in him (which can arise only from our knowledge of him, and our faith in him). 3. Our acceptance with him in the last day (if we have low thoughts of him now, he will have low thoughts of us then. Mark 8:38.).]?
THEY who are prejudiced against the Gospel, are ever studious to ensnare the preachers of it with captious, or, as they think, unanswerable questions. To such cavillers we should answer warily, and with meekness of wisdom: nor will it be unuseful, on some occasions, to propose to them in return some question, which shall lead their thoughts into a better channel. Our blessed Lord adopted this method after he had been successively interrogated by Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes [Note: Master, what thinkest thou of paying tribute to Cζsar? ver. 15, 17; of the resurrection of the body? ver. 23–28; of the commandments? ver. 35, 36.]. He returned to each a satisfactory answer, and silenced them at last by proposing to them a difficulty, which, with all their boasted wisdom, they were unable to solve.
Certainly the difficulty of reconciling these two characters of the Messiah was great: yet, if the Pharisees had been duly attentive to all the prophetic representations of the Messiah, they would have known, that there was to be in him an union of the most opposite states, of life and death, of sufferings and glory; and that, consequently, the humble state of Christ, at which they took offence, was no reason at all for their disbelieving his divine mission. To shew them this, was the precise object of our blessed Lord in the question he put to them; and, in accordance with that design, I will shew,
I. That the discordancies of Scripture are no bar to our believing in Christ—
There are, no doubt, in Scripture, very discordant representations of the Messiah—
[Of his person: he was to be the root, and yet the offspring of David, a little child, and yet the mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 22:43-45.Revelation 22:16.] — — — Of his reception in the world: he was to be an object of universal contempt and abhorrence; and yet to be universally admired and adored [Note: Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 49:7; Psalms 22:6. with Psalms 72:8; Psalms 72:10-11.]. Of his end: he was to die an accursed death, and yet to live for ever and ever — — — But the Pharisees noticed only those passages of Scripture which flattered their pride, and raised their expectations of temporal grandeur; and therefore they were “offended” at Jesus, whose condition in the world was poor and mean, and, as they thought, irreconcileable with the office which he professed to bear.]
Yet were these discordancies no just reason for their rejecting of Christ—
[In fact, if these discordancies had not been found in him, he could not have been the Messiah predicted in the Scriptures. Their union therefore in him was rather a reason why the people should believe in him; since it fulfilled every part of the inspired records, and gave to him a claim, which no other person ever did, or could, possess. The miracles which he wrought were such a demonstrative proof of his divine mission as no reasonable being could withstand. And these miracles, taken in connexion with the strict accomplishment of so many, and so apparently opposite, predictions, left no room for doubt on any rational and candid mind, that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.]
But my text leads me further to shew,
That the union of these discordancies in Christ Jesus is the very foundation of all our hopes—
If he had not been man, he could not have lived and died for us; as the Apostle says; “He was made lower than the angels for the suffering of death, that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man [Note: Hebrews 2:9.].” On the other hand,
He must have been God, else nothing that he either did or suffered could have been available for our salvation—
[Supposing him to have been a mere creature, his obedience could not merit any thing for us: for, “all that he could do would be no more than his bounden duty; and, having done it all, he would be only an unprofitable servant.” Nor could his sufferings make any atonement for our sins: for there is no proportion whatever between the sufferings of one creature for a time, and the sufferings of countless millions of creatures to all eternity. However exalted the creature might be; his blood could no more be available for the salvation of the whole world; than the blood of bulls and of goats; of which; we are told; it is not possible that it should take away sins [Note: Hebrews 10:4.].” Nor could his intercession be of any avail for us; seeing that he would have no effectual plea to urge in our behalf. Nor, in fact; could his appointment to govern the world secure to us the blessings we stand in need of; since; without omniscience; he could not know all our necessities; nor; without omnipotence could he supply them.]
But; being God as well as man; he is equal to the work he has undertaken for us—
[His duty gives an infinite value both to his obedience and his sufferings; insomuch that his sufferings were a sufficient atonement for the sins of the whole world; and his obedience formed a sufficient righteousness for the justification of all who should be clothed with it. His intercession too; founded as it is in the efficacy of his atonement; is sure to prevail in our behalf; whilst; as Head over all things to his Church, he can supply out of his own fulness all who call upon him. In him; as God-man; there is such a sufficiency; that no man; however desperate his condition; has any reason to despond; nor; if with a penitent and believing heart he apply to Jesus; has he any reason to fear: for; Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.”]
In the parable of the Sower, our Lord said; “Take heed what ye hear;” and; “Take heed how ye hear.” Thus; in reference to my text; I would ask;
1. “What think ye of Christ?”
[Many alas! think not of him at all. Notwithstanding they call themselves Christians; Christ is as much banished from their conversation and from their minds; as if he had never come from heaven for them; and never borne their sins in his own body on the cross. God; as a Creator, is sometimes acknowledged; and sometimes; under particular providences; as the Governor of the world: but Christ, as a Redeemer, seems quite forgotten: and the very mention of him under that character is sufficient to cast a damp upon all social hilarity; and to bring reproach upon his advocate as an unmannerly enthusiast. But; beloved brethren; we should make ourselves acquainted with the character of Christ as revealed in the prophecies of the Old Testament; and as exhibited in the records of the New Testament. We should view him as “God manifest in the flesh,” and “purchasing the Church with his own blood.” We should view him in his person, work, and offices: for if we know him not as he is delineated in the Scriptures of truth, we can never truly believe in him, nor can we ever finally be saved by him. I charge you then, brethren, to inquire carefully what ye think of Christ, and to compare your thoughts with the revelation of God concerning him.]
2. How think ye of Christ?
[Do you think of him as you ought to think? Do you think of him with an application of him to your own soul? It is of very little use to entertain theories in your head, if you do not get them realized in your heart. You will never know him to any good purpose, unless you apply to him under all his characters for the mercies you stand in need of, and make him all your salvation and all your desire.
I ask yet further, Do you think of him with the adoring gratitude which he deserves at your hands? This is what God requires; and nothing short of this will constitute you Christians indeed. See how the redeemed honour him in heaven: they are singing incessant praises to him as having “loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and made them kings and priests unto God and the Father: yea, to him they ascribe all glory and dominion for ever and ever.” And such should be your state on earth; yea and such will it be to a considerable extent, if you are walking in any measure worthy of your high calling. Begin then this course, if you have not already begun it, and prosecute it with ever-increasing diligence, if you have: so will you be filled with unutterable and abiding joy [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]; so will you also be transformed into your Saviour’s image [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.], and be rendered “meet for the inheritance of his saints in light.”]
CHRIST THE SON AND LORD OF DAVID
Matthew 22:42-46. What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.
THAT there are difficulties in the Scriptures, is certain: but they are greatly augmented by men’s negligence in comparing the different parts of Scripterry with each other, and their indisposition to receive truths which oppose their pre-conceived opinions. Had the character of the Messiah, as drawn in the writings of the prophets, been duly considered, the Jews would have seen that our blessed Lord corresponded with it in every particular; and that, whether he spake of himself as God, or as man, as reigning or as suffering, he was the very person to whom all the prophecies referred, and in whom they were about to be accomplished. Amongst the many things at which they took offence in the discourses of our Lord, that which most inflamed their wrath was his claim to an equality with God. For this they often took up stones to stone him [Note: John 8:58-59; John 10:30-33.]: and for this, at last, they put him to death [Note: Mark 14:61-64 and John 19:7.]. But our blessed Lord had left them wholly without excuse. But a few days before they put him to death, whilst the Pharisees (who had laboured by all possible means “to entangle him in his talk,” but whom, by all his answers, he had confounded) were yet present with him; he, in his turn, put to them this question, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” They, without hesitation, replied, “The son of David.” This was right: to this the prophets all bear witness: and it was agreeable to the sentiments and expectations of the whole nation. Our Lord then asked them, why David, when speaking by inspiration from God, called him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” Here was doubtless a difficulty: but it was a difficulty which, if they had understood the Scriptures, they might easily have solved. They, however, “were not able to answer him a word.”
It is much to be regretted, that, even amongst persons calling themselves Christians, there are many who are at a loss to answer this question; and who, from their inability to reconcile the apparently opposite assertions, are led to doubt, or even to deny, the divinity of our blessed Lord.
That you may be established in this fundamental truth of our holy religion, I will,
I. Solve the difficulty that is here proposed—
The difficulty, no doubt, was great—
[The Pharisees all acknowledged David as a prophet of the Lord: and they were all persuaded, that in this psalm he spake respecting the Messiah, whose future triumphs he predicted. Had they been able to say that those words were not inspired; or that they did not refer to the Messiah; or that our Lord had misapplied them in any respect; though they had not given a solution of the difficulty, they would, in a measure, have extricated themselves from it. But they could not: and it is of great importance for us to bear in mind, that on no occasion whatever did the Jews ever controvert the application which was made of the prophecies, either by Christ or his apostles; and that all the interpretations which have been suggested by Jews of later days, have been invented for the purpose of invalidating the arguments of Christians founded upon them; which arguments, upon a just interpretation of the Scriptures, they were not able to withstand. They saw that David really spoke of one, who, at the distance of a thousand years, was to spring from his loins; and that yet he had called this very person his Lord and Governor. Had he said, ‘The Lord said to my son, Sit thou on my right hand,’ the sense would have been clear and easy: but how could he say, ‘The Lord said to my Lord?’ David himself was the greatest of all the kings of Israel; and yet he speaks of a person who should descend from him at a remote period; and of a person who, as the event proved, was the son of a poor carpenter, as his Lord.]
But, had they understood the Scriptures, they might have solved the difficulty with ease—
[They knew, and universally acknowledged, that the Prophet Micah spake of the Messiah, when he said, “Thou Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be Ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting [Note: Micah 5:2.].” Now here the pre-existent state of Christ is clearly declared; declared, too, in terms that can refer to none but God himself, seeing that he alone is “from everlasting.” This passage alone was sufficient to furnish them with the true answer. But the Prophet Isaiah had spoken more clearly still; and had distinctly declared, that the person who was to be “a child born and a son given, was no other than the Mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.];” and that “the child that should be born of a virgin should be called Emmanuel, God with us [Note: Isaiah 7:14.].” Thus their own Scriptures informed them that the Messiah must be David’s Lord, according to his divine nature, (being indeed the Lord both of heaven and earth;) whilst yet, according to his human nature, which he was to assume from the posterity of David, he was to be truly and properly David’s Son.
In the New Testament, as might be expected, this truth is yet more abundantly confirmed. Our Lord himself spoke of his own existence previous to his incarnation; saying, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Yea, he declared that “he had a glory with the Father before the world was;” and that “He and the Father were One.” Very remarkable are those words which he addressed in a vision to the Apostle John: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord; which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty [Note: Revelation 1:8.].” What can be conceived more expressly declarative of his Divinity than this? To the same effect the beloved disciple himself speaks: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us [Note: John 1:1; John 1:14.].” St. Paul also says, that “being in the form of God, and counting it not robbery to be equal with God, he made himself of no reputation, (he emptied himself, or divested himself of all his glory,) and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men [Note: Philippians 2:6-7.].” From these and other similar passages it is evident, that he is “God manifest in the flesh [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.],” even “God over all, blessed for ever [Note: Romans 9:5.].” And thus you see that he is in truth both “the Root and the Offspring of David [Note: Revelation 22:16.].”
The Pharisees, not understanding this, were unable to return an answer to our Lord: nor, as long as the world shall stand, can any man solve the difficulty, but by acknowledging the Divinity of Christ. If it be said, that the very passage that is cited by our Lord proves his inferiority to the Father, because it is the Father who “exalts him to his right hand, and puts all his enemies under his feet;” I answer, that, as man, and as Mediator, he was inferior to the Father; whilst, as God, he is equal with the Father, and altogether out with him. In his Mediatorial capacity he is doubtless indebted to the Father’s ageney; for who knows not, who acknowledges not, that, as Mediator, he is the Fatte’s “servent,” sent to do his will [Note: Isaiah 42:1.]? But if we are so blind as not to be able to distinguish, between his essential nature as God, and his assumed office as Mediator it is in vain to hope that we shall ever solve the difficulty in the text ourselves, or understand the solution of it which the Scripturcs have afforded us.]
I now come to,
Show the importance of the truth which is thus elicited—
This truth is at the very root of all our hopes, both in this world and the world to come: it is that on which depends,
1. The virtue of his atonement—
[If the Lord Jesus Christ be a more ereature, what virtue can there be in his blood to afone for the sins of men? The Apostle tells us, that “it is not possible for the blood of bulls and of goats to take away ain.” But, if the efficacy of the sacrifice depended merely on the arbitrary appointment of God, he might as well have appointed one creature to make atonement us another: nor was there any such difference between one creature and another, that, whilst it was not possible for the blood of one to expinte even so much as sin, the other should be sufficiont to take away the sins of the whole world. On this supposition, there could be no force whatever in that argument which the Apostle, with so much confidence, addresses to us: “If the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works, to serve the living God [Note: Hebrews 9:13-14.]?” that is, if the blood of one creature availeth for the smallest thing, how much more shall the blood of another creature avail for the greatest? In the argument so stated, there is not only no force, but not even common sense; and the appeal will recoil on the Apostle, to his own confusion. But, admitting the Divinity of Christ, the argument is incontrevertible: for if the blood of any creature can effect the smallest thing, much more will the blood of the Creator, who is God as well as man, effect the greatest. Here the argument is clear, and the appeal absolutely irresistible.
Know, then, what a foundation you leave for your hopes towards God. Know that Christ is a sufficient “propitiation for the sins of the whole world;” that “his blood will cleanse from all sin;” and that “all who believe in him shall be justified from all things.”]
2. The efficacy of his grace—
[The Lord Josus Christ, in his exalted state, is appointed “Head over all things to the Church;” every member of which is to look to him for a supply of all his wants, both temperal and spiritual. But, if he be a creature only, how can he execute this trust? At the very same instant that you are crying to him have for the relief of your necessities, there are millions of others spreading their wants before him in every quarter of the globe: and how can he attend to all? Ubiquity is the prerogative of God alone: a creature cannot be every where present at the same time: it is God alone that filleth all things: So that, if he be not God, you have no assurance that he can help you under your difficulties, and afford you the desired relief. In what a distrossing state would you then be left! and what painful auxieties must corrode your breast! But when you know that he is God as well as man, your fears are all dispelled; for he can hear your every cry, and satisfy your every want. There can be nothing impossible to him, if he be “the Mighty God:” and consequently, whilst living by faith on him, you are assured that “his grace shall be sufficient for you,” and that “no weapon that has been formed against you shall prosper.”]
3. The glory and excellency of his salvation—
[On any supposition, of Christ be only a man, and have by any means effected our salvation, we are unspeakably indebted to him, and to God for him. But still, mothinks, he is richly repaid, in having his sufferings for so short a time compensated with such a reward as the everlasting salvation of millions of the human race. But, if he be God equal with the Father, eternally happy and glorious in himself, and absolutely incapable of being rendered either more happy or more glorious by any acquisition of happiness to us, what do we then owe him for all his inconceivable condescension and love? It is this which constitutes the glory of redemption; the incarnation of God’s co-equal, co-eternal Son; his substitution in the place of sinful man; his vicarions sacrifice upon the cross; his completion of salvation for us by his own obedienco unto death; his ascension to heaven, as our fore-runner; his investiture with all power in heaven and in earth, that he may perfeet both for as, and in us, the work he has begun: this, I say, it is which renders the whole plan of redemption so wonderful, and which forms the one subject of adoration and thanksgiving amongst all the myriads of the redeemed in heaven. Divest it of this, and you despoil God of his honour, and man of his felicity: for I hesitate not to say, that it is from these considerations, chiefly, that heaven itself will derive its chief happiness.]
Let me, in conclusion, call your attention to the duties which this view of the Messiah necessarily brings with it:
Believe in Jesus with your whole hearts—
[If, as you have seen, he is indeed God as well as man, “he is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.” You need not fear to cast yourselves entirely on him. Hear how this very thought is suggested by the Prophet Isaiah, speaking to us in the Messiah’s name: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and none else [Note: Isaiah 45:22.].” Hear, too, what encouragement he further gives you to repose all your hope and confidence in him: “Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isaiah 45:24.].” If Jehovah be your righteousness, who shall condemn you? and if Jehovah be your strength, who shall overcome you [Note: Isaiah 45:24. with Romans 8:33-34.]? Again then, I say, Cast yourselves on him; for “in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and in Him shall they glory [Note: Isaiah 45:25.].”]
2. Serve and glorify him with your whole souls—
[If he be David’s Lord, no doubt he is yours also: and that he is worthy to be obeyed by you, it is needless for me to observe. My text calls me to notice, not so much his worthiness to be served, as your obligation to obey him. If you come to him as a Saviour, you must also take his yoke upon you [Note: Matthew 11:28-29.]. This, I say, must be done: for the Father has pledged himself, that “all his enemies shall be his footstool.” Jesus is “seated at the right hand of God,” and will assuredly prevail over all opposition; and they who bow not to the sceptre of his grace will be “broken in pieces by him, as a potter’s vessel [Note: Psalms 2:9.].” See, then, that he be your Lord, not in word only, but in deed and in truth. See that your whole souls be subjected to his dominion, and that “every thought of your hearts be brought into a willing captivity to the obedience of Christ” — — —]