"How camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?"
1. In the verses preceding the text we read, "After these things,
Jesus spake to them again in parables, and said, A certain king made a
supper for his son. And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw
one who had not on a wedding garment. And he saith 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 cast him
into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
2. Upon this parable one of our most celebrated expositors comments
in the following manner: -- "The design of this parable is to set forth
that gracious supply made by God to men in and by the preaching of the
gospel. To invite them to this, God sent forth his servants, the Prophets
and Apostles." -- And on these words, -- "Why camest thou in hither not
having a wedding garment?" he proceeds thus: "The punishment of whom ought
not to discourage us, or make us turn our backs upon the holy ordinances."
Certainly it ought not; but nothing of this kind can be inferred from this
parable, which has no reference to the ordinances, any more than to baptism
and marriage. And probably we should never have imagined it, but that the
word supper occurred therein.
3. However, most of the English annotators have fallen into the same
mistake with Mr. Burkitt. And so have thousands of their readers. Yet a
mistake it certainly is; and such a mistake as has not any shadow of foundation
in the text. It is true, indeed, that none ought to approach the Lord's
table without habitual, at least, if not actual, preparation; that is,
a firm purpose to keep all the commandments of God, and a sincere desire
to receive all his promises. But that obligation cannot be inferred from
this text, though it may from many other passages of Scripture. But there
is no need of multiplying texts; one is as good as a thousand: There needs
no more to induce any man of a tender conscience to communicate at all
opportunities, than that single commandment of our Lord, "Do this in remembrance
4. But whatever preparation is necessary in order to our being worthy
partakers of the Lord's Supper, it has no relation at all to the "wedding
garment" mentioned in this parable. It cannot: For that commemoration of
his death was not then ordained. It relates wholly to the proceedings of
our Lord, when he comes in the clouds of heaven to judge the quick and
the dead; and to the qualifications which will then be necessary to their
inheriting "the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world."
5. Many excellent men, who are thoroughly apprized of this -- who are
convinced, the wedding garment here mentioned is not to be understood of
any qualification for the Lord's Supper, but of the qualification for glory,
-- interpret it of the righteousness of Christ; "which," say they, is the
sole qualification for heaven; this being the only righteousness wherein
any man can stand in the day of the Lord. For who," they ask, "will then
dare to appear before the great God, save in the righteousness of his well-beloved
Son? Shall we not then at least, if not before, find the need of having
a better righteousness than our own? And what other can that be than the
righteousness of God our Saviour?" The late pious and ingenious Mr. Hervey
descants largely upon this; particularly in his elaborate "Dialogues between
Theron and Aspasio."
6. Another elegant writer, now I trust with God, speaks strongly to
the same effect in the preface to his comment on St. Paul's Epistle to
the Romans: "We certainly," says he, "shall need a better righteousness
than our own, wherein to Stand at the bar of God in the day of judgment."
I do not understand the expression. Is it scriptural? Do we read it in
the Bible, either in the Old Testament or the New? I doubt it is an unscriptural,
awkward phrase, Which has no determinate meaning. If you mean by that odd,
uncouth question, "In whose righteousness are you to stand at the last
day?" -- for whose sake, or by whose merit, do you expect to enter into
the glory of God? I answer, without the least hesitation, For the sake
of Jesus Christ the Righteous. It is through his merits alone that all
believers are saved; that is, justified -- saved from the guilt, -- sanctified
-- saved from the nature, of sin; and glorified -- taken into heaven.
7. It may be worth our while to spend a few more words on this important
point. Is it possible to devise a more unintelligible expression than this,
-- "In what righteousness are we to stand before God at the last day?"
Why do you not speak plainly, and say, "For whose sake do you look to be
saved?" Any plain peasant would then readily answer, "For the sake of Jesus
Christ." But all those dark, ambiguous phrases tend only to puzzle the
cause, and open a way for unwary hearers to slide into Antinomianism.
8. Is there any expression similar to this of the "wedding garment"
to be found in Holy Scripture? In the Revelation we find mention made of
"linen, white and clean, which is the righteousness of the saints." And
this, too, many vehemently contend, means the righteousness of Christ.
But how then are we to reconcile this with that passage in the seventh
chapter, "They have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood
of the Lamb?" Will they say, "The righteousness of Christ was washed and
made white in the blood of Christ?" Away with such Antinomian jargon! Is
not the plain meaning this: -- It was from the atoning blood that the very
righteousness of the saints derived its value and acceptableness with God?
9. In the nineteenth chapter of the Revelation, at the ninth verse,
there is an expression which comes much nearer to this: -- "The wedding
supper of the Lamb." [Rev. 19] There is a near resemblance between this
and the marriage supper mentioned in the parable. Yet they are not altogether
the same: there is a clear difference between them. The supper mentioned
in the parable belongs to the Church Militant; that mentioned in the Revelation,
to the Church Triumphant: The one, to the kingdom of God on earth; the
other, to the kingdom of God in heaven. Accordingly, in the former, there
may be found those who have not a "wedding garment." But there will be
none such to be found in the latter: No, not "in that great multitude which
no man can number, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation."
They will all be "kings and priests unto God, and shall reign with him
for ever and ever."
10. Does not that expression, "the righteousness of the saints," point
out what is the "wedding garment" in the parable? It is the "holiness without
which no man shall see the Lord." The righteousness of Christ is doubtless
necessary for any soul that enters into glory: But so is personal holiness
too, for every child of man. But it is highly needful to be observed, that
they are necessary in different respects. The former is necessary to entitle
us to heaven; the latter to qualify us for it. Without the righteousness
of Christ we could have no claim to glory; without holiness we could have
no fitness for it. By the former we become members of Christ, children
of God, and heirs of the kingdom of heaven. By the latter "we are made
meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."
11. From the very time that the Son of God delivered this weighty truth
to the children of men, -- that all who had not the "wedding garment" would
be "cast into outward darkness, where are weeping and gnashing of teeth,"
-- the enemy of souls has been labouring to obscure it, that they might
still seek death in the error of their life; and many ways has he tried
to disguise the holiness without which we cannot be saved. How many things
have been palmed, even upon the Christian world, in the place of this!
Some of these are utterly contrary thereto, and subversive of it. Some
were noways connected with or related to it; but useless and insignificant
trifles. Others might be deemed to be some part of it, but by no means
the whole. It may be of use to enumerate some of them, lest ye should be
ignorant of Satan's devices.
12. Of the first sort, things prescribed as Christian holiness although
flatly contrary thereto, is idolatry. How has this, in various shapes,
been taught, and is to this day, as essential to holiness! How diligently
is it now circulated in a great part of the Christian Church! Some of their
idols are silver and gold, or wood and stone, "graven by art, and man's
device;" some, men of like passions with themselves, particularly the Apostles
of our Lord, and the Virgin Mary. To these they add numberless saints of
their own creation, with no small company of angels.
13. Another thing as directly contrary to the whole tenor of true religion,
is, what is diligently taught in many parts of the Christian Church; I
mean the spirit of persecution; of persecuting their brethren even unto
death; so that the earth has been often covered with blood by those who
were called Christians, in order to "make their calling and election sure."
It is true, many, even in the Church of Rome, who were taught this horrid
doctrine, now seem to be ashamed of it. But have the heads of that community
as openly and explicitly renounced that capital doctrine of devils, as
they avowed it in the Council of Constance, and practised it for many ages?
Till they have done this, they will be chargeable with the blood of Jerome
of Prague, basely murdered, and of many thousands, both in the sight of
God and man.
14. Let it not be said, "This does not concern us Protestants: We think
and let think. We abhor the spirit of persecution; and maintain, as an
indisputable truth, that every rational creature has a right to worship
God as he is persuaded in his own mind." But are we true to our own principles?
So far, that we do not use fire and faggot. We do not persecute unto blood
those that do not subscribe to our opinions. Blessed be God, the laws of
our country do not allow of this; but is there no such thing to be found
in England as domestic persecution? The saying or doing anything unkind
to another for following his own conscience is a species of persecution.
Now, are we all clear of this? Is there no husband who, in this sense,
persecutes his wife? Who uses her unkindly, in word or deed, for worshipping
God after her own conscience? Do no parents thus persecute their children?
No masters or mistresses, their servants? If they do this, and think they
do God service therein, they must not cast the First stone at the Roman
15. When things of an indifferent nature are represented as necessary
to salvation, it is a folly of the same kind, though not of the same magnitude.
Indeed, it is not a little sin to represent trifles as necessary to salvation;
such as going of pilgrimages, or anything that is not expressly enjoined
in the Holy Scripture. Among these we may undoubtedly rank orthodoxy, or
right opinions. We know, indeed, that wrong opinions in religion naturally
lead to wrong tempers, or wrong practices; and that, consequently, it is
our bounden duty to pray that we may have a right judgment in all things.
But still a man may judge as accurately as the devil, and yet be as wicked
16. Something more excusable are they who imagine holiness to consist
in things that are only a part of it; (that is, when they are connected
with the rest; otherwise they are no part of it at all) suppose in doing
no harm. And how exceeding common is this! How many take holiness and harmlessness
to mean one and the same thing! Whereas were a man as harmless as a post,
he might be as far from holiness as heaven from earth. Suppose a man, therefore,
to be exactly honest, to pay every one his own, to cheat no man, to wrong
no man, to hurt no man, to be just in all his dealings; suppose a woman
to be uniformly modest and virtuous in all her words and actions; suppose
the one and the other to be steady practisers of morality, that is, of
justice, mercy, and truth; yet all this, though it is good as far as it
goes, is but a part of Christian holiness. Yea, suppose a person of this
amiable character to do much good wherever he is; to feed the hungry, clothe
the naked, relieve the stranger, the sick, the prisoner; yea, and to save
many souls from death: it is possible he may still fall far short of that
holiness without which he cannot see the Lord.
17. What, then, is that holiness which is the true "wedding garment,"
the only qualification for glory? "In Christ Jesus," (that is, according
to the Christian institution, whatever be the case of the heathen world)
"neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but a new
creation, -- the renewal of the soul "in the image of God wherein it was
created." In "Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor
uncircumcision, but faith which worketh by love." [Gal. 5:6] It first,
through the energy of God, worketh love to God and all mankind; and, by
this love, every holy and heavenly temper, -- in particular, lowliness,
meekness, gentleness, temperance, and longsuffering. "It is neither circumcision,"
-- the attending on all the Christian ordinances, -- "nor uncircumcision,"
-- the fulfilling of all heathen morality, -- but "the keeping the commandments
of God; particularly those, -- "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all
thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself." In a word, holiness is the having
"the mind that was in Christ," and the "walking as Christ walked."
18. Such has been my judgment for these threescore years, without any
material alteration. Only, about fifty years ago I had a clearer view than
before of justification by faith: and in this, from that very hour, I never
varied, no, not an hair's breadth. Nevertheless, an ingenious man has publicly
accused me of a thousand variations. I pray God, not to lay this to his
charge! I am now on the borders of the grave; but, by the grace of God,
I still witness the same confession. Indeed, some have supposed, that when
I began to declare, "By grace ye are saved through faith," I retracted
what I had before maintained: "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
But it is an entire mistake: These scriptures well consist with each other;
the meaning of the former being plainly this, -- By faith we are saved
from sin, and made holy. The imagination that faith supersedes holiness,
is the marrow of Antinomianism.
19. The sum of all is this: The God of love is willing to save all the
souls that he has made. This he has proclaimed to them in his word, together
with the terms of salvation, revealed by the Son of his love, who gave
his own life that they that believe in him might have everlasting life.
And for these he has prepared a kingdom, from the foundation of the world.
But he will not force them to accept of it; he leaves them in the hands
of their own counsel; he saith, "Behold, I set before you life and death,
blessing and cursing: Choose life, that ye may live." Choose holiness,
by my grace; which is the way, the only way, to everlasting life. He cries
aloud, "Be holy, and be happy; happy in this world, and happy in the world
to come." "Holiness becometh his house for ever!" This is the wedding garment
of all that are called to "the marriage of the Lamb." Clothed in this,
they will not be found naked: "They have washed their robes and made them
white in the blood of the Lamb." But as to all those who appear in the
last day without the wedding garment, the Judge will say, "Cast them into
outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
[Edited by James H. Walker II, student at Northwest Nazarene
College (Nampa, ID), with corrections by George Lyons for the Wesley Center
for Applied Theology.]
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal