Many thing in the parables of our Lord, and especially in the parable of the Marriage of the King’s Son, Matt 22, have been considered quite to the point, in favor of duty faith and universal invitations, and are of course so taken up and handled. But passing by the fact, that parables have always some general design, and are never intended to mean every thing that the distinct words borrowed to make up the figure, would literally imply, we win look and turn our attention to verse 11-13, which contain the general design of this parable, and which must at once exclude all warrant for such sentiments, as having no possible place whatever in our Lord’s intention by the parable, or by any of the terms used to express it.
‘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 a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the King to his servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (1) Here is the wedding garment named; and which is ‘the best robe,’ not wrought by the needy, but brought forth and put upon him, by gift and gracious command, Luke 15:22. It is the righteousness that is imputed without works, and which makes the blessed man, Rom 4:8. It is the garment of salvation, with which the Lord himself clothes his church, and makes her greatly to rejoice in him, Isa 61:10. It is the righteousness of God, Rom 2:21,22, which the Saviour brought in, Dan 9:24, and in which alone Paul most earnestly desired to be found, Phil 3:9. (2) That no man is welcome to this gospel feast of the new testament kingdom of our Lord, without this wedding garment on. (3) That it is a presumptuous self- righteous offence to the king, for any one to expect to come acceptable to this feast, either as proper for the church below, or for heaven above at last, without this wedding garment of imputed righteousness. (4) That, consequently, we can have no warrant from the King to invite any, but those to whom we can in the King’s own name guarantee the certainty of this wedding garment of imputed righteousness; and which we can do as sure as the Lord liveth and is true, to all the characters that are everywhere named and described for us, in connection with the gospel grace and eternal salvation invitations of the holy word; but most decidedly to none others. (5) That we, therefore, can have no warrant for universal invitations, because we cannot guarantee a universal imputation of righteousness; and without this righteousness we can guarantee no acceptance with the Lord by any one word of his mouth. (6) Because the gospel ministry has no such awful malignity in it, as to invite any man into a condition wherein, adding presumptuous offence to all his former sins, he is ordered to be bound hand and foot, taken away, and in wrath cast out, with, ‘How camest thou in hither?’
And the King saith unto him, ‘Friend, how camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment? (1) Here is a man that had not a wedding garment; he had not one on in the former verse, and here he had not got one at all to put on it seems; not one in his faith as a point of belief; not one in his hope of justification to life; not one in his way of expecting to stand complete and without blame before the Lord in the last great day. And according to the general design of this parable, this man was, first, the Pharisees of the Jewish nation, whose self righteousness was thus shown up in true character and condemned. And, next, this man in figure is every professor of religion who has not got the Lord’s imputed righteousness as the only garment of his hope of acceptance before God in his kingdom. (2) ‘How camest thou in hither, not having a wedding garment?’ since there is no way revealed, declared, or meant in the sacred word of eternal truth, of a soul’s acceptance into eternal life but in the Lord’s own imputed righteousness; and so not in the fleshly any way of man’s own pious fancy, but in this the Lord’s own one, and only one peculiar way of grace, and of Christ all in all. (3) The man without the wedding garment is called ‘Friend.’ This was, first, in a way of usual common courtesy, and so was suited to the parable. But next and beyond this, true godliness is a matter of real, vital, and soul friendship between the Lord and his blest and saved people; for salvation is the love of God in works and blessings of grace declared, and true and vital godliness is love in such way divinely begotten in the soul and brought forth *into life toward the Lord; for we love him only because he so first loved us. And, consequently, the professor of religion is a professor of such friendship toward the Lord, and so the more awful the hypocrisy when it is discovered to be after the flesh only, and not in the Spirit, truth, and righteousness of the Lord. (4) ‘And he was speechless.’ Hark, the awful silence! For this is not without its weighty meaning. He could give no answer whatever on the authority of anything in the Lord’s own word, nor by any way in the Lord’s own name; and all else is no speech at all before the Lord. And our Lord declared the man speechless; so that nothing in heaven nor on earth can find or furnish a speech for the man before the Lord, who has not the wedding garment. But if in the counsels of the Lord, or in the word of the Lord, or in the ministry of angels, or in the ministry of John the Baptist, or in the ministry of our Lord, or in the ministry of the apostles, or in the authorized ministry of any of the Lord’s gospel ministers, any authority was divinely given for universal invitations, that would be a speech for such a man, and he might then say, ‘I came because I was told to come;’ but our Lord declares there is no such speech in truth for such a man.
Universal invitations are therefore of men, and not of God; but such as they are, as by many used and contended for, we may suppose them to form a speech after their own kind; and which may be justly considered to be in the following order; ‘in answer to ‘How calmest thou in hither?’ ‘I came because I was invited to come, and should not have come if I had not been invited; but Mr…. came and said that he was thy servant, and had direct commission from thee to invite all to come, and that it was my duty to come, that I ought to come, should come, and must come; or I should be doubly punished in hell, if not exclusively damned for not coming if I did not come after so invited; and I arose and came accordingly.’ But, ‘not having a wedding garment!’ ‘True, Lord, I have not; and am equally ignorant of -what it is; for with universal invitations I have scarcely heard of any such a thing, and never heard of it plain enough to know what was meant by it; and I was never once fully told its indispensable importance for the soul’s life; only that I should and ought to believe and come. For the said Mr ….. never preached one fiftieth part so much of imputed righteousness and of the soul’s most solemn need of it, as in which only possibly to stand before the Lord and live, as he did of universal invitations, with should come, and ought to come, and the eminent piety of coming. And the said Mr… never did profess to say, that the imputation of righteousness was universal; and as without that it could never go with universal invitations; and so universal invitations have always had to go without it; and so invited without the wedding garment, I came without it, and here I am in my profession without it, as I have been taught and guided; and as far as I am wrong in my profession, I have been deceived by Mr… who ought to be ashamed of himself if he knew better; and if he did not know better, he ought to be ashamed of himself for professing to be a teacher and guide of others, when he himself did not know the way.’ ‘Cursed be he that doeth the work of the Lord deceitfully,’ Jer. 48:10.
John Foreman (1792-1872) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Hill Street Chapel, Marylebone, serving this position for close to forty years.