“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
“For many are called, but few are chosen.”
~ Matthew 22:11-14 :: KJV
It is most needful in times of religious excitement, to remind men that godliness does not consist in profession, but must be proved by inward vitality and outward holiness. Everything will have to be tested by a heart-searching God, and if, when he comes to search us, we are found wanting, we shall be expelled even from the marriage feast itself; for there is a way to hell from the very gates of heaven.
The wedding garment is simply mentioned here as being a test of loyalty to those who came to the marriage feast, and as a mode by which rebellion was avowed and loyalty made apparent. Here was a man then who came into the gospel feast, and yet refused to comply with the command which related to that feast. He willfully preferred self to God, his heart was full of enmity and pride, he despised the gifts of grace, he scorned the rule of love, he stood a defiant rebel even at the banquet of mercy which his king had spread.
His sin lay, first of all, in coming in there at all without the wedding garment. If he did not mean to be of one heart with his fellow guests and his lord, why did he come? If a man does not intend to yield himself up to God’s will, why does he profess to be of God’s church? If a man is not saved by the righteousness of Christ, why does he profess to be a believer in Christ? If he will not be obedient to Christ’s holy will, why does he pretend to be follower of Christ? It is a grave mistake for any person to imagine that he can be in the church of God to his own advantage unless his heart is renewed, unless he means what he declares, and sincerely loves the rule under which he professes to put himself.
But this is certain, that the king detected at once the absence of what was requisite to the marriage feast. It was not the presence of anything offensive, but the absence of something which was requisite. He did not say to the unworthy guest, “Thou hast rags upon thee,” or “thou art filthy.” or “thou hast an unwashed face”; he enquired solely into the absence of the peculiar badge which denoted a loving guest. God will judge, and does continually judge his church upon this question, the absence of what is absolutely necessary to being a Christian, the absence of honouring the Son, and obeying the Father. O soul, if thou art a professor of religion, and yet dost not love Jesus, and dost not fear the great King of kings, thou lackest the wedding robe, and what dost thou here? The King will see at once that thou lackest it. Thy morality, thy generosity, thy high sounding prayers, ay, and even thine eloquent discoursings, these cannot conceal from him the fact that thy heart is not with him. The one thing needful is to accept loyally the Lord as King.
Notice however, one thing, and that is, that the king, when he thus turned a judge, dealt with this man only about himself. “How camest thou in hither?” Did I hear a whisper in some one’s mind, “Well, if I am unfit to be a church member, there are a great many others who are in the same condemnation.” What is that to you? See to thyself! When the king came in to see the guests he did not say to this man, “How came yonder persons here without the wedding garment?” His dealings were personal with him alone: “How camest thou in hither, not having on the wedding garment?” Professor, look to thyself, look to thyself. Let thy charity begin at home. Cast out the beam from thine own eye, and then mayst thou see clearly to cast out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. He fixed on the one man, made him his entire audience, and directed to him the solemn question, “Friend, how camest thou in hither?” Ah, my dear hearers, as the pastor of this church it has been a very great joy to me to see our numbers increased; many have been added to us, and many have gone forth from us to form other churches; my joy has been constant in God concerning this matter. Our beloved brethren associated with me in office have done their best to keep any of you back who have sought membership in whom we could see no fruits corresponding. We have not used our office deceitfully; as in the sight of God we have tried to be neither too severe nor too lax, but for all that I cannot but know that there are some of you who are not Christians though you bear the name.
Search ye yourselves; do not from this tabernacle descend into hell; let your prayer be, “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men.” I am as concerned about myself as about you, that I should be found “accepted in the Beloved;” lest after having preached to others I myself should be a castaway! Do let it be a matter of solemn anxiety with each one. If you have never come to Jesus, come now; if you have never sought holiness of life, seek it now. If you have never had the wedding garment, it is yet procurable; go ye to him who freely gives it, the Lord will not refuse you; go to-day and he will accept you.
Have I anyone here in such a condition of heart, that while he has been sinning by making a false profession, and knows it, yet he sullenly refuses to confess his fault? Yield thee, man! Yield at once. Fall at the King’s feet at once. Even if you are not a hypocrite, if you have any suspicion that you are, fall down and say, “My King, make me sincere; I submit myself to thy will, and am ready to put on the wedding badge; if there is any method by which I can honour thy Son, I cavil not at it; let me wear his colours, and be known by all men to be truly a lover of the great Prince.”
Do you say, “the sermon has nothing to do with me, I never made a profession, I shall go home easy enough.” Come hither friend, I must not let you go. There is a vagabond brought before the magistrate accused of theft, he says he is perfectly innocent, but he is convicted and has to suffer for it; after him comes a bragging fellow, who says, “I do not make any profession of being honest, I rob anybody I can, and I mean to do so, I do not pretend to keep the law.” Why, methinks the magistrate would say, “I condemned the one who did at least pretend to something decent, but to you I give double punishment, you are evidently incorrigible, and your case needs no consideration.” You who do not say you are Christians, who confess you are not, you avow yourselves the enemies of Christ; get no comfort therefore out of this parable I pray you, but yield yourselves to the Saviour, and believe in him, for he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.
~ C. H. Spurgeon’s notes on the “Wedding Feast Parable” as preached on February 19th, 1871
May we forever be checking and double checking ourselves so that there is no fault found within us. That our repentance is pure and that our love for God be genuine.