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The representations which Christ makes of his visible church, from time to time, in his discourses and parables, make the thing manifest which I have laid down.
This is required by the representation which Christ makes in the latter end of Matt. vii.. of the final issue of things with respect to the different sorts of members of his visible church. Those that only say, Lord, Lord, and those who do the will of his Father which is in heaven; those who build their house upon a rock, and those who build upon the sand. They are all (of both kinds) evidently such as have pretended to a high honour and regard to Christ, have claimed an interest in him, and accordingly hoped to be finally acknowledged and received as his. Those visible Christians who are not true Christians cry, Lord, Lord; that is, are forward to profess respect and claim relation to him; and will be greatly disappointed hereafter in not being owned by him. They shall then come and cry, Lord, Lord. This compellation, Lord, is commonly given to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, as signifying the special relation which Christ stood in to his disciples, rather than his universal dominion. They shall then come and earnestly claim relation, as it is represented of Israel of old, in the day of their distress, and God’s awful judgments upon them, Hos. viii. 2. “Israel shall cry unto me, My God, we know thee.” To know does not here intend speculative knowledge, but knowing as one knows his own, with a peculiar respect and interest. These false disciples shall not only claim an interest in Christ, but shall plead and bring arguments to confirm their claim; “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in they name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done many wonderful works?” It is evidently the language of those that are dreadfully disappointed. “Then (says Christ) I will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity:” q.d. “Though they profess a relation to me, I will profess none to them; though they plead that they know me, and have an interest in me, I will declare to them that I never owned them as any of mine; and will bid them depart from me as those that I will never own, nor have any thing to do with in such a relation as they claim.” Thus all the hopes they had lived in, of being hereafter received and owned by Christ as in the number of his friends and favourites, are dashed in pieces.—This is further illustrated by what follows, in the comparison of the wise man who built his house on a rock; representing those professed disciples who build their hope of an interest in him on a sure foundation, whose house shall stand in the trying day: and the foolish man who built his house on the sand; representing those professed disciples or hearers of his word, who build their opinion and hope of an interest in him on a false foundation, whose house in the great time of trial shall have a dreadful fall, their vain hope shall issue in dismal disappointment and confusion.
On the whole, it is manifest that all visible Christians or saints, all Christ’s professing disciples or hearers that profess him to be their Lord, according to the scripture notion of professing Christ, are such as profess a “saving interest in him and relation to him, and live in the hope of being hereafter owned as those that are so interested and related.”—By those that hear Christ’s sayings, in this place, are not meant merely auditors of the word preached; for there are many such who make no pretence to an interest in Christ, and have no such hope or opinion built on any foundation at all; but those who profess to hearken, believe, and yield submission to the word of Christ. This is confirmed by the manner in which the matter is expressed in Luke vi. 47. “Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doth them, I will show you to whom he is like:” i e. Whosoever visibly comes to me, and is one of my professed disciples, &c.
This matter is confirmed by that parallel representation that Christ gives us in Luke xiii. 25-29.. of his final disposal of the two different sorts of persons that are in the kingdom or church of God; viz. those who shall be allowed in his church or kingdom when it comes to its state of glory, and those who though they have visibly been in it, shall be thrust out of it. It is represented of the latter, that they shall then come and claim relation and interest, and cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us;” and “Christ shall answer, and say, I know you not whence you are.” As much as to say, “Why do you claim relation and acquaintance with me? You are strangers to me, I do not own you.” “Then (it is said) they shall begin to say, We have eaten and drank in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.” As much as to say, “This is a strange thing, that thou dost not own us! We are exceedingly surprised, that thou shouldst account us as strangers that have no part in thee, when we have eaten and drank in thy presence,” &c. And when he shall finally insist upon it, that he does not own them, and will have nothing 450 to do with them as his, “then there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth;” then they shall be filled with dismal disappointment, confusion, and despair, when they shall see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, with whom they expected to dwell for ever there, and they themselves thrust out. By this it is evident, that those visible members of the kingdom of God, that hereafter shall be case out of it, are such as look upon themselves now interested in Christ and the eternal blessings of his kingdom, and make that profession.
The same is manifest by the parable of the ten virgins, Matt. xxv.. In the first verse it is said, “The kingdom of heaven (i.e. the church of Christ) is likened unto ten virgins.” The two sorts of virgins evidently represent the two sorts of members of the visible church of Christ; the wise, those who are true Christians; and the foolish, those who are apparent but not true Christians. The foolish virgins were to all appearance the children of the bride chamber; such as had accepted of the invitation to the wedding, which represents the invitations of the gospel, wherein the bridegroom and bride say, Come. They herein had testified the same respect to the bridegroom and bride that the wise had. The parable naturally leads us to suppose, that they were to appearance every way of the same society with the wise, pretended to be the same sort of persons, in like manner interested in the bridegroom, and that they were received by the wise under such a notion. They made a profession of the very same kind of honour and regard to the bridegroom, in going forth to meet him with their lamps, as his friends to show him respect, and had the same hopes of enjoying the privileges and entertainments of the wedding: there was a difference with respect to oil in their vessels, but there was no difference with respect to their lamps. One thing intended by their lamps, as I suppose is agreed by all, is their profession. This is the same in both; and in both it is a profession of grace, as a lamp (from its known end and use) is a manifestation or show of oil. Another thing signified by the blaze of their lamps seems to be the light of hope. Their lamps signify in general the appearance of grace or godliness, including both the appearance of it to the view or judgment of others, and also to their own view, and the judgment they entertain of themselves. Their lamps shone, not only in the eyes of others, but also in their own eyes. This is confirmed because on hearing the midnight cry, they find their lamps are gone out; which seems most naturally to represent, that however hypocrites may maintain their hopes while they live, and while their judge is at a distance, yet when they come to be alarmed by the sound of the last trumpet, their hopes will immediately expire and vanish away, and very often fail them in the sensible approaches of death. Where is the hope of the hypocrite, when God takes away his soul? But till the midnight cry the foolish virgins seem to entertain the same hopes with the wise. When they first went forth with the wise virgins, their lamps shone in their own eyes, and in the eyes of others, in like manner with the lamps of the wise virgins.—So that by this parable it also appears, that all visible members of the christian church, or kingdom of heaven, are those that profess to be gracious persons, as looking on themselves, and at least pretending, to be such.
And that true piety is what persons ought to look at in themselves as the qualification that is proper in coming into the visible church of Christ, and taking the privileges of its members, I think, is evident also from the parable of the marriage, which the king made for his son, Matt. xxii.. particularly the 11th and 12th verses, “And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding-garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having on a wedding-garment? and he was speechless.”—Mr. Stoddard says, (Appeal, page 4, 5.) “Here is a representation of the day of judgment; and such persons as come for salvation without a wedding-garment shall be rejected in that day. So that here being nothing said about the Lord’s supper, all arguing from this scripture falls to the ground.” Upon which I take leave to observe, that the king’s coming in to see the guests, means Christ’s visiting his professing church at the day of judgment, I make no doubt; but, that the guests coming into the king’s house means persons coming for salvation at the day of judgment, I am not convinced. If it may properly be represented, that any reprobates will come for salvation at the day of judgment, they will not do so before the king appears; but Christ will appear first, and then they will come and cry to him for salvation.—Whereas, in this parable, the guests are represented as gathered together in the king’s house before the king appears, and the king as coming in and finding them there; where they had entered while the day of grace lasted, while the door was kept open, and invitations given forth; and not like those who come for salvation at the day of judgment, Luke xiii. 25. who come “after the door is shut, and stand without knocking at the door.” I think it is apparent beyond all contradiction, that by the guests coming into the king’s house at the invitation of the servants, is intended Jews and Gentiles coming into the christian church, at the preaching of Christ’s apostles and others, making profession of godliness, and expecting to partake of the eternal marriage supper. I showed before, that what is called the house of God in the New Testament, is his church. In this parable, the king first sends forth his servants to call them that were bidden, and they would not come; and they having repeatedly rejected the invitation, and evil-entreated the servants, the king sent forth his armies and burnt up their city; representing the Jews being first invited, and rejecting the invitations of the gospel, and persecuting Christ’s ministers, and so provoking God to give up Jerusalem and the nation to destruction. Then the king sends forth his servants into the highways, to call in all sorts; upon which many flocked into the king’s house; hereby most plainly representing the preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, and their flocking into the christian church. This gathering of the Gentiles into the king’s house, is before the day of judgment, and the man without the wedding-garment among them. It fitly represents the resorting that should be to the children church, during the day of grace, through all ages; but by no means signifies men’s coming for salvation after the day of grace is at an end, at Christ’s appearing in the clouds of heaven. Let this parable be compared with that parallel place, Luke xiv. 16-24.. The company gathered to the marriage in this parable, plainly represents the same thing with the company of virgins gathered to the marriage in the other parable, Matt. xxv.. viz. the company of visible saints, or the company belonging to the visible kingdom of heaven; and therefore both parables are introduced alike with these words, “The kingdom of heaven is like unto,” &c. As to the man’s being cast out of the king’s house when the king comes in to see his guests, it is agreeable to other representations made of false Christians being thrust out of God’s kingdom at the day of judgment; the “servant’s not abiding in the house for ever, though the son abideth ever;” God’s “taking away their part out of the holy city, and blotting their names out of the book of life,” &c.
Mr. Stoddard says. “This person that had not a wedding-garment, was a reprobate; but every one that partakes of the Lord’s supper without grace is not a reprobate.” I answer, all that will be found in the king’s house without grace when the king comes in to see the guests, are doubtless reprobates.
If it be questioned, whether by the wedding-garment be meant true piety, or whether hereby is not intended moral sincerity, let the Scripture interpret itself; which elsewhere tells us plainly what the wedding-garment is at the marriage of the Son of God: Rev. xix. 7, 8. “The marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” None, I suppose, will say, this righteousness that is so pure, is the common grace of lukewarm professors, and those that go about to serve God and mammon. The same wedding-garment we have an account of in Psal. xlv. 13, 14. “The king’s daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold: she shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needle-work.” But we need go no where else but to the parable itself; that alone determines the matter. The wedding-garment 451 spoken of as that without which professors will be excluded from among God’s people at the day of judgment, is not moral sincerity, of common grace, but special saving grace. If common grace were the wedding-garment intended, not only would the king cast out those whom he found without a wedding-garment, but also many with a wedding-garment: for all such as shall be found then with no better garment than moral sincerity, will be bound hand and foot, and cast into outer darkness; such a wedding-garment as this will not save them. So that true piety, unfeigned faith, or the righteousness of Christ which is upon every one that believeth, is doubtless the wedding-garment intended. But if a person has good and proper ground to proceed on in coming into the king’s house, that knows he is without this wedding-garment, why should the king upbraid him, saying, “How camest thou in hither, not having a wedding-garment?” And why should he be speechless, when asked such a question? Would he not have had a good answer to make? viz. “Thou thyself hast given me leave to come in hither, without a wedding-garment.” Or this, “Thy own word is my warrant; which invited such as had only common grace, or moral sincerity, to come in.”
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