Ver. 1-14. Luke hath this parable, Mat_14:16-24, which hath made divers interpreters think that Matthew hath put it out of its due order; for Luke reports it as spoken long before, and that not in the temple, but at a Pharisee’s house where he was at dinner, and upon occasion of one of them saying, Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. But I know no reason why we may not allow our Saviour to have used the same parable twice, in two differing companies, and upon two different occasions, especially considering there are remarkable differences in Luke’s and Matthew’s relation. I shall therefore leave the consideration of Luke’s relation till I come to that chapter in his Gospel, where I shall meet with it in course, and consider only what Matthew saith. We must remember this is a parable, not an historical narration. The first verse tells us,
And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables: he answered, that is, he began a discourse, so the word very often signifies. Our Saviour hath neither given us any particular explication of this parable, nor any proparabola, or epiparabola, any sentence before or after the parable, guiding us as to the explication, except only that short sentence, Mat_22:14,
For many are called, but few are chosen; which rather guides us in the explication of the four latter verses than of the whole parable: yet it is not hard for us to find out our Saviour’s scope in this parable. It seemeth to be double:
1. To inform those to whom he spake of the destruction suddenly coming upon the Jews, for their rejection of the gospel, and of the calling of the Gentiles.
2. To let us know, that neither Amongst the Jews nor Gentiles all should be saved whom God called by the external ministration of the gospel; but those alone who, belonging to the election of grace, should be found in the day of judgment having on the wedding garment.
So then, the kingdom of heaven here signifies, the way or equity of God in the dispensation of the gospel, or the administration of things in order to the kingdom of glory. The king here mentioned must be he who is the King of kings. The marriage for his son, is the exhibition of the covenant of grace; which whosoever layeth hold on, Isa_56:4, is by faith united to Christ; which union is often expressed in holy writ under the notion of a marriage, Psa_45:10,11 Eph 5:23, &c.: or their union with him in glory, Rev_19:9. The persons bidden were the Jews. The servants that called them to the wedding, were those that were faithful amongst their ordinary teachers, or the prophets, such as Isaiah and the rest, whom they refused to hearken unto. The other servants might signify John the Baptist, and the twelve, and others sent out by Christ, to tell them that Christ was now come, there wanted nothing but their coming to him and receiving of him. Their making light of it, going one to his farm, another to his merchandise, and others taking the servants, entreating them spitefully, and slaying them, signifies the Jews’ general refusal of the gospel, and the particular rage and malice of some of them, shown in their abusing of the Lord’s prophets and messengers, and which he knew some of them would further show against Stephen and James. The king’s sending forth his armies, and slaying the murderers, signified the coming of the Roman armies, and their utter destroying Jerusalem. The sending of the servants into the highways, and inviting all those whom they found to the wedding, signified the apostles going to the Gentiles, and preaching the gospel to all nations; which much enlarged the territories of the church, gathering in many who professed to accept of Christ, but not all in truth and sincerity. The king’s coming to see his guests, signifieth Christ’s coming at the day of the last judgment, with his fan in his hand, throughly to purge his floor. His finding one without his wedding garment, signifieth his finding many hypocrites at the day of judgment. The guests at weddings were either wont to put on their best clothes, (as we usually do), or a particular garment which was then in use, and was worn by those who were invited to weddings. By the
wedding garment here is meant Christ, Rom_13:14, who is at this feast both the bridegroom, and the meat at the feast, and the wedding garment also, in divers respects. It is but an idle dispute, whether faith is meant, or love: neither the one nor the other separately, but faith that worketh by love; whatsoever God requireth of us, that we may be made meet for the kingdom of God: without faith and holiness none can see God. His being
speechless signifies, that those who have lived under the proffers of grace and salvation, and have rejected them, neither believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, nor bringing forth fruits of holiness, will be without excuse at the day of judgment. And the king’s commanding his servants to
bind him hand and foot, & c., signifieth that all such persons as live within the church, under the means of grace, yet die impenitent and unbelievers, having not by a true faith received Christ as their Saviour, and brought forth the fruits of true repentance and holiness, shall get nothing by their being within the church and externally called, but shall be thrown into hell as well as others, the pains of which are here expressed by binding hand and foot, lying in outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth; as in other places by a worm that shall never die, and a fire that shall never go out; all metaphorical expressions, signifying the vexations and intolerable punishment of the damned in hell.
For (saith our Saviour) many are called, but few are chosen. We met with this expression before, Mat_20:16, where the sense of it was not so obvious as it is here. Some by it here understand, a choice unto life eternal; nor without reason, if that be understood by the marriage supper, as it is Rev_19:9; and it appears to be partly at least the sense of it here, in that the person without the wedding garment is doomed to eternal misery. If we by the marriage supper understand a union with Christ here, or the benefits flowing from that, we must by chosen here understand effectually called, being made partakers of that special distinguishing grace which bringeth salvation. The gospel is preached to many whom God doth not favour with his special grace, so as they receive it, convert, and are saved. The former part of this parable doth hint us the reason why the Jews rejected the offers of grace and salvation made to them, viz. the power that the temptations from the world, of pleasure, profit, and honour, had upon them. As the latter part also showeth us the true reason why any are saved to be from the free grace of God, viz. because they are chosen, chosen to eternal life, and particularly favoured to be made partakers of his special and, distinguishing grace.