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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 glorious 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.
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 righteousness 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 truth," 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 thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. Rev. iii. 18.
VIRTUE 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 graduation. It is a great thing to be rich. It is still more, 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 merchandize; Says Solomon: "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandize thereof is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold," Prov. ïïì. 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. 45, 46.
"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 ye did reign, that we also might reign with you,” 1 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 "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," 1 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 highly 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.
II. I would show particularly what is meant by "white raiment."
III. I shall endeavour to show the grounds and reasons of this metaphorical allusion.
IV. After which I shall conclude with a practical application.
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 prosperity 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, "O 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 hun, 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 hereby 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