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were gone out of the synagogue, the gentiles besought, that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath. And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting, and blaspheming. But the gentiles rejoiced, and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as were ordained,” or disposed, or prepared, “ for eternal life, believed.”
All which was often prophetically represented beforehand by our Lord in divers of his beautiful parables. With regard to this event, he also said: “ The first will be last, and the last first.” And after the commendation of the centurion's faith : “I say unto you, That many shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom,” who had so many superior advantages, “ shall be cast out into outer darkness."
Thus I have endeavoured to explain the nature of the violence, which our Lord here speaks of, and have mentioned some instances of it.
To use the words of a pious and pathetic writer, ‘ upon this subject : • Now it was, that • multitudes should throng and crowd to enter in at the strait gate, and press into the kingdom: • and the younger brother should snatch the inheritance from the elder: the unlikely from the * more likely: the Gentiles from the Jews, the strangers from the natives, and publicans and • sinners from the scribes and pharisees. Who like violent men shall by their importunity, • obedience, watchfulness and diligence, snatch the kingdom of heaven from those to whom it was « first offered.'
APPLICATION.. I shall now conclude with a few remarks, tending to illustrate this argument, and to confirm the explication which has been given of the text.
1. From what has been said, we may perceive, that when our Lord says, the kingdom of heaven “suffers violence, and the violent take it by force:” the primary meaning of “ the kingdom of heaven” is “the kingdom of God” under the Messiah, or the gospel-dispensation. But as embracing the doctrine of the gospel, and obeying its rules and precepts, is the sure way to obtain the happiness of heaven; it is also true, that the future happiness is likely to be the portion of those who practise the zeal and resolution here intended.
2. True Christians are the most unlikely of any men, to do any wrong, or violence to others, for the sake of the honours, riches, or other advantages of this world. For they are men, who take the kingdom of heaven by violence. Truth, the principles of religion, improvement in virtue, and the future everlasting happiness, are the things they are most intent upon: for the promoting, and securing of which, they are willing to part with all earthly advantages, if the circumstances of things should require it.
3. It may be observed that the several kinds of violence which have been mentioned, as intended in these expressions, may be all found united in one and the same person. He may resolve to deny irregular appetites and affections, and bring them into conformity to the strictest rules of virtue. He may embrace the principles of religion, contrary to former prejudices, and notwithstanding external difficulties and discouragements. The same person may do all this, and likewise be one of those, who are of low condition, and who had but a mean education; and who also once was involved in a bad course of life.
4. The violence, of which our Lord speaks, may be, and still is often practised in the world. Still some may forsake errors, which had been for a while entertained, and may overcome the prejudices of early age, and gain more generous sentiments, than had been first instilled into them.
Whenever great corruptions are brought into the church of Christ, and the profession of religion, truth is not to be recovered without a great deal of resolution. The giorious reformation made in these parts of the world from the numerous and gross corruptions of the church of Rome, was a work of this kind. The violent then took the kingdom of heaven, and seized truth by force. They improved their sentiments by serious, diligent, and impartial inquiries after knowledge: when their superiors would have kept them in ignorance and error: by exerting themselves in the cause of liberty, and in favour of an open profession of truth: when princes and priests, and the majority of every religious and civil community, to the utmost of their power, supported those errors and corruptions, which had been long before introduced into the profession of Christianity.
a Dr. Jer, Taylor, in his Life of Christ. VOL. V.
5. Once more, for illustrating this point, it may be observed, that the violence, which our Lord here speaks of, is the same thing which is recommended in some precepts, and represented likewise in figurative expressions. For it is the same, as “striving to enter in at the strait gate," and “seeking the kingdom of heaven and its righteouness in the first place.” It is also represented in such parables as these : “ The kingdom of heaven is like unto a treasure hid in a field --the which when a man has found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it,” Matt. xiii. 44, 45, 46.
Let the same laudable disposition of mind be in us. Let the same just estimation of things be the principle of our action. Let us “buy the trutlı” at any rate, but “not part with it," Prov. xxiii. 23, for any worldly consideration whatever. And let us hold fast our integrity, and be steady to the interests of truth, and the rules of virtue, unmoved either by the frowns or the smiles of this deceitful world. So shall we secure the true riches, and that honour, which will never be sullied.
VIRTUE RECOMMENDED UNDER THE SIMILITUDE OF WHITE RAIMENT.
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich: and white raiment,
that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear: and anoint thy
eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. Rev. iii. 18. Virtue
IRTUE is in itself reasonable and excellent: and, impartially beheld in its native beauty, might attract and charm every rational being. But in this imperfect state of the human nature, thoughtless and unattentive, or engaged by mean and worthless objects, or biassed and prejudiced by some sordid affection, or the appearance of present interest; abundance of care and labour, repeated applications, and a variety of methods, are needful to excite their attention to the greatest excellence, and to enlighten and direct them, lest they mistake the truth, and pursue vanity and misery, instead of laying hold of substantial and durable happiness.
Virtues are the habits and dispositions of the mind. But invisible and spiritual things are often represented by expressions borrowed from things corporeal and sensible. There is a kind of necessity of it in the present condition. Such descriptions are of special use to affect the mind, and excite in it a regard to the loveliness of virtue: which, as it is valuable, is represented by riches : as it is ornamental, by a white or splendid garment. And because the practice of it is extremely reasonable, and is founded upon the justest notions and principles, and is therefore the truest wisdom; it is compared to what helps the sight, and enables men to discern things in a clear and proper light. These several representations do all occur in this text.
And, as the practice of virtue is in this world attended with difficulties, and good men are liable to opposition from others; their life is also represented by a warfare, and those dispositions, that are helpful to secure their success and perseverance, are recommended under the notion of armour: as in the well-known passage of St. Paul in the sixth chapter to the Ephesians.
The words of the text are a part of the message of our exalted Lord to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, and in him to the whole church: ver. 17. “ Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." There is a gradation. It is a great thing to be rich. It is still inore, to be increased or abound with goods. But it is the height of prosperity, to have need of nothing. This was their opinion of their state. And so many are apt to think of themselves, who embrace the principles of religion, and profess christianity. They suppose, that they want nothing necessary to salvation, and that they are high in the favour of God.
“And knowest not, that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”.
But notwithstanding that high conceit of your circumstances, you are indeed “wretched, and miserable :” and so unhappy, as to be the greatest objects of compassion. You are “poor," quite destitute of true riches: “and blind,” not having a just discernment of things, and of your own case: “and naked,” wanting that righteousness, which is the proper and best clothing of men and Christians, without which you cannot appear before God with acceptance.
“ I counsel thee." He might command as a master. But he rather adviseth as a friend, concerned for their welfare.
“I counsel thee, to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.” To buy is to secure and obtain by prayer and entreaty, serious care and endeavour, diligent labour and pains. The seeking of wisdom is often compared to merchandise : Says Solomon : “ Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise thereof is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold,” Prov. iii. 13, 14. And he directs men to "buy the truth, and sell it not,” ch. xxiii. 23. And says our Lord himself: “ The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchantman, seeking goodly pearls: who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went, and sold all that he had, and bought it,” Matt. xiii.
“Gold tried in the fire:” that is, the purest gold: true virtue, that true holiness, which is of the highest value: that “thou mayest be rich" indeed, not in opinion and thought only: and mayest" also abound, or “be increased with goods.”
Other texts of scripture will confirm this interpretation. “ Now ye are full,” says St. Paul to the Corinthians, “now ye are rich. Ye have reigned as kings without us. And I wish
did reign, that we also might reign with you,” i Cor. iv. 8. Again : “ Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich,” 2 Cor. viii. 9. And the same apostle directs Timothy to s " charge those who are rich in this world, that they do good, that they be rich in good works, —-laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life,” i Tim. vi, 17.
Thus it is common to represent wisdom and virtue, and abounding in good works, and also the heavenly happiness, by riches and treasure. When therefore our Lord says here, “ that thou mayest be rich,” the meaning is, that these Christians might be truly virtuous, and practise good works, and have a treasure of happiness laid up in heaven.
“ And white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed.” By this figure of “white" or splendid “ raiment” is meant much the same thing that was before spoken of under the similitude of “ gold.” He had told them, that they were “naked,” as well as “poor.” In conformity to that allusive description of their wretched condition, he recommends to them to provide becoming raiment for their covering, even that true righteousness which is most comfortable, and ornamental, and acceptable in the sight of God.
“ And,” finally, “ anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." Seek also of me a clear knowledge and discernment of things, especially of the principles and obligations of religion. Then you will be able to judge rightly concerning your own case, and will understand what God requires of you, and will not take up with an empty profession. only, and rely upon external privileges, as a ground of acceptance with God, and a qualification for the happiness of another life.
• I counsel thee to buy of me white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear.”,
These words, as may appear from the coherence, and the general explication already given of them, will lead me to treat of holiness, or virtue, and the practice of it, under the idea of “ raiment,” or “ white" and splendid “ raiment:" in doing which I shall take the following method:
I. I shall observe some texts of scripture in which this metaphor is used.
I. In the first place I would observe some texts of scripture, where this metaphor is used, chiefly those of the Old Testament, where there are many examples of it, which have in them such beauty and elegance, as must needs reconcile us to the use of it, and convince us of its
fitness and propriety. In this manner is Job's commendable behaviour in the time of his pros perity described : “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me, and judgment as a robe and diadem,” Job xxix. 14. The Psalmist wishes eminent degrees of holiness in these words : “ Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness,” Ps. cix. 17. And describing the transcendent greatness and glory of God, he says: “ The Lord reigneth. He is clothed with majesty. The Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he has girded himself,” Ps. xciii. 1. And,
And, “0 Lord my God, thou art very great, thou art clothed with honour and majesty, who coverest thyself with light as a garment,” Ps. civ. 1, 2. God's appearing for the deliverance of his people, and the destruction of his enemies, is represented by the prophet in this manner : “ Then his own arm brought salvation unto him, and his righteousness it sustained him. For he put on righteousness as a breast-plate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head. And he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak,” Isa. lix. 16, 17. Of such as prosper in their evil designs the Psalmist says: “ Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain, violence covereth them as a garment,” Ps. lxxiii. 5, 6. And men of a malevolent spirit are said to “ clothe themselves with cursing,” Ps. cix. 17.
Thus we see that the dispositions and qualifications of rational agents, with their corresponding behaviour, are often emphatically set forth by images, borrowed from the attire and covering of the body.
II. I am now to show distinctly what is intended by " white raiment.”
And it is manifest, that bereby is not to be understood an outward profession of religion : for this there was among these persons. Our Lord had no need to counsel them to buy this of him. They were a church, and had an angel among them. So far from needing to inculcate upon them a profession of religion, it should seem that they were already too much opinionated upon that account. For which reason they are introduced a3 pleasing themselves therewith, and saying, that they were “ rich, and increased with goods :” though they were indeed “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and naked.”
In a parable of our Saviour, where “ the kingdom of heaven," or the state of things under the gospel dispensation, is likened to a marriage feast which a certain king made for his son, he who had not on a “wedding-garment,” Matt. xxii. 11, is manifestly one who made a profession of religion, and of faith in the gospel; otherwise he had not come to the feast, nor appeared among the other guests. But he wanted holiness of life, or that true faith which produces good works.
Nor are we hereby to understand barely an observation of the positive rites and institutions of the Christian religion. For that may be reckoned to be included in what has been already mentioned, a full profession of religion, in which this church does not appear to have been defective. It cannot be supposed, that by “ gold tried in the fire,” or a “white raiment,” our Lord should intend no more than the observation of some external rites and ordinances. For in the course of his preaching he solemnly and distinctly declared, that “ unless men's righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees, they shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. v. 20. And if religion consist in external rites: if the observation of
any positive appointments be that “ wedding-garment,” which renders men fit for the kingdom of heaven: it may be said, that our Lord has but indifferently consulted the honour and interests of religion, by substituting a small number only of such appointments, and those very plain and simple, in the room of the numerous, expensive and showy ceremonies of the law of Moses. Nor would it then be so hard to be saved, or so difficult to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and to walk in the way to life, as he continually represented it to be in his most excellent discourses.
What is this “ white raiment,” or the “ wedding-garment,” we are expressly told in the eighth verse of the nineteenth chapter of this book of the revelation, where it is said to be “ the righteousness of the saints."
That is a summary and general description of this “ white raiment.” And from the many exhortations to virtue, in the New Testament, conveyed under this similitude, it appears to be composed of all the virtues and excellencies that can adorn the life of a Christian. It is there.
+ That is, “the righteous acts of the saints." So eixa para evidently signifies.' Doddridge upon the place.
fore very frequent for the apostles to speak of “putting off," or laying aside “ evil works" and habits, and “putting on Christ,” the habit or dress of a Christian : which is the “white raiment” here recommended.
So says St. Paul to the Romans : “ The night is far spent. Let us cast off the works of darkness, and put on the armour,” or dress,“ of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day,” with a becoming decency: “ not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof,” Rom. xiii. 12–14. And to the Galatians. “ As many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” Gal. iii. 27, the habit of a Christian. To the Ephesians in like manner. “ That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts: and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness,” Eph. iv. 22, 24. And very particularly, and at large in the epistle to the Colossians : ch. iii. 8—10, and 12-14.
St. Peter has an exhortation to Christian women in this allusive way: “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning, of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel. But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible; even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves. 1 Pet. iii. 3, 4 ; comp. 1 Tim. ii. 9, 10. And he has an exhortation to all in general: “ And be ye clothed with humility,” i Pet. v. 5.
This is the “ white raiment, the wedding-garment,” recommended to Christians, sobriety, modesty of speech and behaviour, tenderness of spirit, bowels of mercy, humility of mind, gentleness, meekness, forbearance, forgiveness, love, and all its works and offices, which are so agreeable and ornamental.”
III. Which brings me to the ground and reason of this allusive way of speaking.
But precise exactness in accounting for such a form of speech should not be expected. Let then these few following thoughts suffice for showing the reason and origin of it.
1. The allusion is partly founded in the ornament that clothing gives the body. In like manner the temper, or the practice of virtue, is exceeding amiable and ornamental, and puts a grace and lustre on men. In places before cited, Job speaks of his putting on righteousness as a diadem. And St. Peter recommends meekness and quietness of spirit as ornamental. SoJomon speaks of Wisdom's rules, and obedience to them, as an “ ornament of grace unto the head, and chains about the neck,” Prov. i.9.
2. This allusion is founded in the fitness and disposition for society which clothing gives to any person. Man, by his reasonable nature, is designed for society. And the first foundation of politeness is laid in the garments that cover nakedness. Without clothing no one is fit for society. A rich and becoming dress procures admission into the best company : nor is one in filthy garments dressed for a wedding feast, or the entertainment of a prince. In like manner envy, pride, conceit, and other evil affections, make men unsociable : whereas humility, meekness, gentleness, and mildness, render men agreeable and entertaining,
Consequently this allusion serves to shew, in a lively and affecting manner, the necessity of real holiness, in order to delightful fellowship with God, and admission to his presence, and the glorious entertainment he has prepared for his people.
As he, who in an improper dress intrudes into a royal entertainment, is turned out for that very reason; so all, destitute of righteousness, will be excluded from the kingdom of heaven. A profession of religion, or a desire of glory and happiness, is not sufficient. Any one may wish to partake in a princely entertainment : but with such wishes there should be also some care to be a worthy and acceptable guest. If we “ follow peace with all men, and holiness, we shall see Godd,” Heb. xii. 14, not otherwise. They who add works to faith, and they only, are justified in the sight of God. And, as St. Peter assures us, if we “ give all diligence to add to faith virtue, and knowledge, and brotherly kindness, and charity, an entrance will be ministered to us abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. i. 5-11.
• They who find this sermon too long to be read at once, may make a pause here.