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and now that the ransom is paid, the jailor must needs let his prisoner go.
Fourthly, The marriage-contract is drawn up already, and signea by the Bridegroom, bearing his consent to match with the captive daughter of Zion: ye bave it in this Bible, yo have it in our text, and the words following, “ I will betroth thee unto me for ever, yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto ine in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord.” This is his word, this is his writ, which he hath sealed with his precious blood. He cannot, he will not deny it; and he hath sent it to you, that ye for your part may consent to it, and so the blessed match is made betwixt Christ and you.
QUESTION, “ But why is this marriage-contract drawn up before the bride's consent be obtained, yea, and without consulting her at all ?” ANSWER, This is highly reasonable, we have no ground to complain of it; for we have nothing to contract on our part. We have nothing to bring with us, no, not so much as to cover our nakedness; for all our father's house go in rags, Rev. iii. 17. Nay, we are worse than nothing; our father Adam left us with a burden of debt, poverty, and wants, yea, and a burden of the curse besides, Gal. iii. 10. And well may we increase the debts, we can never pay one farthing of the old or new accounts. But our Lord seeks no portion with us, whatever our case be, he is willing to betroth us to himself, Isa. lv. 1, " Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money.” Nay, he will have nothing with us, nor have we any thing worth his taking off our hands. And if we do not come to Christ content to receive all freely, witbout presuining to give for what we are to get, we may fear we meet with Simon's entertainment, “ Thy money perish with thee,” Acts viii. 20. Were a prince to marry a beggar's daughter, and she should present herself to the inarriage in her beggarly attire, patched up after the best fashion of her father's house ; would he not say, Take her away, and strip her of these garments, she shall bring none of them to me : they are suitable to the quality of her father's house, but not of my spouse ; they would be a stain to my honour : clothe her with change of raiment on my own expense ? The application is easy: we are nothing, we can do nothing, we have nothing to commend us to Christ; and if we pretend to any thing of that kind, we dishonour the Royal Bridegroom. There is no reason then we should have any thing ado in the marriage-contract, but to bless God that it is brought to our hand, and sign it with our whole hearts.
Besides, had our advice been taken to the framing of it, we see so
little into our own true interest, we would certainly have marred it, inserting some clause that would at length have ruined us. Finally, It is one of the articles of the covenant, that Christ shall gain the sinner's consent, John vi. 37, “ All that the Father giveth me, shall come to me.” And so saith our text, “ I will betroth thee unto me."
It may be, some are saying in their hearts, “ O that I knew my name were in that marriage-contract, how joyfully would I then siga it! but I fear it is not to be found there.” In answer to this, consider there are (if I may speak so) two copies of it, the one close sealed, and the other opened. 1. There is a sealed copy thereof laid up in heaven, under the custody of the Bridegroom and his Father: in this are to be found the names and sirnames of all that already are, or ever shall be, espoused to Christ; and behold the seal thereof, 2 Tim. ii. 19," The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” 2. There is an open copy thereof, let down to earth, and lodged in the bride's hand : this ye bave in the Bible, which is the book of the covenant. It bears not the names of those that are to be espoused to Christ, but runs (as it were) in that form, “ We, under subscribers,” &c. Now, the Royal Bridegroom has signed this, and it is incumbent on you to sign it likewise, consenting to take Christ as he is offered to you in the gospel; and so the espousals are made, Isa. xliv. 5, “ One shall say, I am the Lord's: and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob: and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord.” Now, upon this, I offer these two things.
1st, A view of the sealed copy is the peculiar privilege of those that are espoused to Christ, by subscribing to the open copy; “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him: and he will shew them his covenant,” Psalm xxv. 14. And to require a sight of that which is laid up in heaven, before ye have by faith complied with the design of that which is lodged in your own hands, is to endeavour to overturn the settied order and method of grace. But, “ Shall the earth be forsaken for thee? and shall the rock be removed out of his place ?” Job xviii. 4. Even these that are espoused to Christ, though they shall get a full view of it in heaven, where it is laid up; yet it is but a slender view they get of it now: at best, sometimes, the Lord opens it a little to the believer, so as he can see to read his own name in it, but cannot see the name of his wife or child therein, though their names be really in it, as well as his own. And it may be, some of the saints never see so much as their own names in it, till they come to glory, being," through fear of death, all their lifetime subject to bondage," Heb. ii. 15.
2dly, Though your name be not in the open copy, yet we can say,
it is indorsed and directed to you, and every one of you : therefore ye have a sufficient warrant to sign it for yourselves. What is your name? Wilt thou answer to the name of thirsty sinners? Then read your uame, and see how it is directed to you, Isa. lv. 1. every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat, yea, come, buy wine and milk without money, and without price.” Wilt thou answer to the name of willing sinner? Then it is directed to you, Rev. xxii. 17, “ Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Art thou called heavy-laden sinner? Arise then, the Master calleth thee, Matth. xi. 28, “ Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Is thy name whorish backslider ? “Thou hast played the harlot with many lovers, yet return again unto me, saith the Lord,” Jer. iii. 1. Art thou a lost sinner? “The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost,” Luke xix. 10. Nay, art thou the chief of sinners ? Even to thee is the word of this salvation sent; “ Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief," 1 Tim. i. 15. But, whatsoever artifice ye may use to disown these, or any of these to be your name; surely ye are men, sous of men; ye cannot deny that to be your name : therefore it is directed to you, and every one of you; “ Unto you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men,” Prov. viii. 4. But to proceed,
Fifthly, The proxies for the bridegroom are sent forth to make suit for sinners their consent to be espoused to him ; “ Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us,” 2 Cor. v. 20. And surely this must be glad tidings to those who are willing to be espoused to our Lord, Isa. lii. 7, 8. impowered to treat with you, in his name, for this blessed match ; to declare unto you that he is willing to be yours; and we call unto you, according to the tenor of our commission, Matth. xxii. 4, “ All things are ready; come unto the marriage.” Despise not our call : for he is great who hath said, “ He that heareth you, heareth me : and he that despiseth you, despiseth me,” Luke x. 16. And, by the refusal of his word in our mouths, ye run the dreadful risk of eternal ruin, Mark xvi. 15, 16, “Go preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not, shall be damned.”
Sixthly, The bridegroom has already put on his marriage-robes : the Son of God hath clothed himself with the robes of humanity, that he might be a suitable match for the children of men : Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same," Heb. ii. 14. Such was
the distance betwixt God and his guilty creature, that the sinner could never have joined hands with a God, but with an incarnate God. The bride could never have been able to look on the glorious bridegoom, in his unveiled divine glory and majesty, without being confounded at the sight: therefore was his wedding-garment taken off on earth, namely, the veil of his flesh, wherewith he hath covered himself, in view of the marriage. Look on it with joy, 0 captive daughter of Zion. Behold! it is a dyed garment, and of the right colour for a marriage robe ; which, in this case is only red, bloodred, Isa. Ixiii. 1, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the wine fat?” Let thy soul then say unto him, as Ruth said to Boaz, Ruth iii. 9, “ Spread thy skirt over thine handmaid,” (that is, make me thy spouse) “ for thou art a near kinsman.” It was an ancient ceremony in marriage for the man to throw the skirt of his garment over the woman's head, in token of his appropriating her unto himself, her subjection to him, and the protection he owed her : it is applied to the spiritual marriage, Ezek. xvi. 8, “I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness : yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine ;" or, “ thou wast to me,” i. e. married to me; for so marriage is espressed in the Old Testament language, Lev. xxi. 3; Deut. xxiv. 2; and xxv. 5. And thence that phrase is brought into the New Testament, Rom. vii. 4.
Now, no skirt but a bloody skirt could serve this gracious purpose. The bride is a criminal, and without shedding of blood is no remission,” Heb. ix. 22. Therefore there can be no marriage with the Son of God but under a covert of blood. The rays of divine wrath would pierce through any other covert, and separate the parties. And therefore the chariot, (of the marriage covenant) wherein Christ's spouse is carried to his Father's house, hath a covering of purple, Cant. iii. 10. Now, this purple covering is no other than the blood of our slain Redeemer, which covers the soul from the storm of God's wrath, as the covering of a chariot defends from storms that come from above. Behold then a crucified Saviour, meet to espouse guilty sinners to himself.
Seventhly, The wedding-garment for the bride is ready, being purchased at the expense of the bridegroom. It is the white raiment of Christ's righteousness, which, with the espousals, is offered unto all that hear the gospel, Rev. iii. 18. It is Christ's active and passive obedience to the law, imputed to every believing soul, upon its espousals to Christ. This is that glorious raiment which beantifies
the soul in the sight of God, where with Christ's spouse is arrayed, as the lilies, with that which they toil not, neither do they spin for, though there were sore toil and bloody sweat at the making of it. Thus her wedding-garment is taken off in heaven, even as his was taken off on earth : a blessed evidence of a design of perfect peace betwist heaven and earth in the way of a marriage covenant.
Eighthly, The tent for the espousals is set up, even the church. The tabernacle of the Most High God has mercifully visited our ends of the earth, and therein erected a church, which is the tabernacle he has set for the Son of righteousness, as a bridegroom, there to espouse sinners to himself. This tabernacle, which has stood long amongst us, God hath been threatening to pull down, because of our misimproving the preached gospel; which calls us to tremble, and to comply in time with the espousals offered : and indeed several of the cords thereof are broken already ; but had not the Lord been on our side it had been lying all along on the ground by this time. Thanks to our gracious God, it is yet standing : but woe to those who shall not be espoused to Christ before the tabernacle be removed
Ninthly, The feast and seal of the espousals, namely the holy sacrament we are now to partake of at his table, is ready, that the espoused bride may feast and rejoice in her Lord and husband. Though the table be not in heaven, yet the provision given to the believing communicant at the table is from heaven, even the flesh of Christ, which is meat indeed, and his blood, which is drink indeed; Jesus Christ, with all his benefits, being represented, sealed, and applied to believers by this ordinance. This holy feast is the seal of the marriage covenant, whereby Christ seals the covenant to us, 1 Cor. xi. 25, “ This cup is the New Testament in my blood.” The bridegroom's seal is a red, bloody seal, like his marriage-robe.
QUESTION. But what need is there of a seal to the Lord's covepant ? ANSWER. God's naked word is as good security as his writ, and his writ as good as his seal : but the difficulty singers And in believing requires them all: and therefore the Lord has graciously condescended to give us all we could require of the most faithless man on earth, that we may believe him; his word, his writ, his seal, yea, and his oath too, Heb. vi. 17, 18. Some of you find no difficulty in believing the covenant, and your welcome to Christ. I dare not commend unbelief, or the least doubt of God's word : it is very dishonouring to God, though Christ's spouse is often found slow of heart to believe. But I fear the unacquaintedness of many with the difficulty of believing the covenant, and their welcome to Christ, proceeds rather from a spirit of pride and blindness, than