ON THE PARABLE OF THE MARRIAGE FEAST. MATT. xxii.
Consider first, how our Lord here likens the kingdom of heaven, (that is his spiritual kingdom, which he came from heaven to establish, and which is to bring our souls to heaven,) to a marriage feast which a great king makes for the wedding of his son. To this feast many are invited who refuse to come; many take no notice of the invitation, but go their ways — one to his farm, another to his traffic; many afflict and persecute even to death the messengers that are sent to call them to the wedding. All these, then, are rejected and condemned; and in their place the poor, the blind, and the lame are gathered together from the highways and from the hedges, and are brought in to be guests at the royal feast. But the man that presumed to come without having a wedding garment is ordered to be bound hand and foot, and to be cast out into the exterior darkness, here there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. So far the parable; now let us see how it is to be applied, and what sacred truths we are to learn from it. The Son of God came down from heaven to wed himself to our human nature by the mystery of his incarnation, and to every one of our souls in particular, by a happy union of grace and love. This is the wedding which the great king of heaven and earth makes for his only Son. The marriage feast with which this wedding is celebrated is begun here upon earth by grace, in the souls of as many as sincerely come to Christ with faith and love, and shall be perpetual hereafter by the eternal enjoyment of him in his heavenly paradise. To this marriage feast both Jews and Gentiles were long ago invited by the apostles and other messengers of God; and all nations are still invited to the same, as well by apostolic preachers sent amongst them for their conversion, as by many other ways by which God daily calls souls to his love and service, in order to their salvation. Happy they that duly correspond with these heavenly calls and readily come to this feast, to which they are so lovingly invited by so great a king! But then they must take care to come with the proper dispositions, signified by the wedding garment; without which they must not expect any part with the bridegroom in his everlasting banquet.
Consider 2ndly, the infinite goodness of God, manifested to us in this parable, by his inviting us all to this heavenly feast – considering what this feast is, what kind of entertainment he has here prepared for us – and how very wretched and undeserving we are of any such favour. But O, the strange stupidity of so many poor thoughtless mortals who daily slight and neglect this divine invitation! O how blind, how miserable, how wicked are they to prefer these worldly toys, this farm, this traffic, these empty, airy bubbles before this divine banquet, where God desires to feast their souls with himself by the sweet blessings and communications of his graces here, and by the inebriating them hereafter for all eternity with the plenty of his house, and making them drink of the torrent of his pleasures at the very head of the fountain of life.
Consider 3rdly, the dreadful consequences of neglecting or rejecting these heavenly invitations, by which we are called to the marriage feast of the Lamb. Alas! our all is here at stake: our whole happiness for time and eternity absolutely depends upon our coming to his feast. We shall be perpetually miserable if we are excluded from it. And shall we be so wretched as wilfully to exclude ourselves by refusing to come when we are so pressingly invited by the king of heaven? Will he not highly resent this contemptuous treatment; this slighting of his gracious calls; this preferring the vanities and lying fooleries of the world before him and his banquet? O, there is nothing moves him more to indignation! ‘Tis this crying sin is the principal cause of the reprobation of all that are lost. And therefore our Lord concludes this parable with that terrible sentence, that many are called, but few are chosen, to excite us to a diligence and fervour in corresponding with grace, and to convince us that if we are not of the number of the elect the fault is entirely ours, in not answering the calls of heaven, but preferring mere baubles, even the idols of our passions, before that marriage feast to which he so graciously invites us.
Conclude, O my soul, to secure at least thy own eternal welfare by a ready compliance with all the gracious calls of heaven, and by being quite serious and in earnest in hastening to this feast of grace, to which thou are invited. But remember to take along with thee the wedding garment of divine love, with a happy and holy resolution and determination of dedicating and consecrating what remains of thy life to thy God; of flying all known and wilful sin more than any other evil whatsoever; of being faithful until death; and of labouring to advance every day more than before in the way of God and true life. With this wedding garment thou shalt be both a welcome and an eternal guest; without it, thou shalt be sentenced to be cast out into the exterior darkness.