Augustin Marlorat (1506-1562) on John 8:11, “Go, and sin no more”

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When the scribes and Pharisees had brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, he said to them in John 8:7,

“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”

I am sure you have seen people use these words of Christ, ripped out of their context, as an escape from reproof and accountability.  Of course, Christ was not speaking here against all forms of reproof and punishment, but rather was exposing the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. As the Huguenot Augustin Marlorat (1506-1562) says on this text in his A Catholic and Ecclesiastical Exposition of the Gospel of John:

“This is not a precise and simple interdict and prohibition by which Christ forbiddeth sinners to do their office in correcting and punishing other mens offences, but he only reprehendeth hypocrites, who being too severe and cruel Judges of other men, do quietly passover their own sins. No mans sins therefore shall be a lette unto them, but that he may correct other mens faltes, and punish them also so often as nede shall require, so that he hateth as well in him self as in another, that thing which is to be condemned. Yea every man ought to beginne here, and to aske his conscience, and to be a witness and Judge against him self, before he come to other men.

And so it shall come to pass that we shall warre against sins withoute hatred against any man. In these words therefore due correction and the autority of the sword against offenders is not taken away; only the mallice of the Pharisees and Elders, is reproved, and restrained.”

Grace and forgiveness is not a license to continue in sin. After Christ had rebuked the scribes and Pharisees and they had left, he turned to the woman caught in adultery and said (John 8:10-11):

“Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” [emphasis added]

Marlorat comments:

“Notwithstanding least any man should think that the same free remission of sins, was a giving of liberty to sin, he [Christ] by and by addeth a restraint from sin. Hereby we gather what is the end of the grace of Christ: namely, that the sinner, being reconsiled to God, may worshippe and serve the aucthour of his salvation in innocensy and holiness of life.

For the Gospel remitteth sins, not because it is lawful to sin, but to the end we might repent and walke in neweness of life. For by the same word of GOD, when pardon is offered unto us, we are called to repentance.

They therefore which are receyved into the grace and favour of GOD, and whose sins are forgiven them must take heede that they take not unto them selves liberty: and being taken out of the handes of their enemies, let them see that they serve GOD their deliverer, in holiness and righteousness before him all the dayes of their life.

And in that, that Christ sayeth not, Gooe thy way, and committe no more Adultery, but, Go thy way and sin no more, we are taught how necessary, Innocency, Righteousness, and holiness, is to those that repent: in so muche that we should not only abstaine from sins, but also from all show of evel.”

In short, justification is to be followed by sanctification. The Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 32 summarizes this well:

Question 86. Since then we are delivered from our misery, merely of grace, through Christ, without any merit of ours, why must we still do good works?

Answer: Because Christ, having redeemed and delivered us by his blood, also renews us by his Holy Spirit, after his own image; that so we may testify, by the whole of our conduct, our gratitude to God for his blessings, and that he may be praised by us; also, that every one may be assured in himself of his faith, by the fruits thereof; and that, by our godly conversation others may be gained to Christ.

Question 87. Cannot they then be saved, who, continuing in their wicked and ungrateful lives, are not converted to God?

Answer: By no means; for the holy scripture declares that no unchaste person, idolater, adulterer, thief, covetous man, drunkard, slanderer, robber, or any such like, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) on Ephesians 1:4-6

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Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) was a Swiss-Italian Reformed theologian and the first person to translate the Bible into Italian from the Hebrew and Greek. He is also known for his commentary on the Bible, translated into English under the title Pious and Learned Annotations upon the Holy Bible. Below is his commentary on Ephesians 1:4-6. I have slightly modified the structure for greater clarity:

Ephesians 1:4-6. 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Verse. 4.

According as] viz. According as God by his election from everlasting framed a new body of human race (opposite to the first whereof Adam was head, in whom all men have sinned and are dead) and appointed Christ to be its head, that in him it might be all gathered together, and by him made partaker of his grace, life, and glory: so he bringeth this his decree to pass in his appointed time; bestowing all his favours upon his Church by Christ in this sacred communion: see Ephes. 3. 11. 2 Tim. 1. 9.

In him] he showeth hereby, that this election is free, and undeserved, and not in regard of any good foreseen in us.

That we should] viz. that in the kingdom of heaven, after our sanctification hath been brought to perfection, we may enjoy the sight of his face, and steadfast conjunction with him in perfect charity: see Ephes. 5. 27. Col. 1. 22. Or that we should be holy] he doth not say, because we were holy, or that he did foresee we would be so; for our holiness is so far from being the cause of our election, that rather it is an effect of it, because God hath called them whom before he had elected, and afterwards justified, &c. Rom. 8. 30.

Verse. 5.

Adoption of children] viz. To become his children. In this verse two causes, why we are elected or predestinated to salvation; the first is Gods good pleasure, as the efficient cause; the other is Jesus Christ, as the material cause; and in the verse following, he shows the final cause; namely, the honour and glory of God.

To himself] Fr. For himself; viz. to make us his, and eternally unite us to himself; Or, for his glories end: as Rom. 11. 36.

Verse. 6.

Of the Glory] Namely, of his glorious and admirable favour, by which he hath powerfully brought to an end the work of mans salvation: see Rom. 9. 23. 2 Cor. 4. 4.

In the beloved] namely, for the love, and in regard of Christ only who hath all the Fathers love, not only as he is everlasting Son, but also as he is perfectly obedient, and just in his human nature, and quality of Mediator, Mat. 3. 17. John 1. 16. & 3. 35. & 10. 7. Rom. 15. 15.

Matthew Henry (1662–1714) on Isaac’s question in Genesis 22:7 – “Where is the lamb?”

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7. Without any ruffle or disorder, he talks it over with Isaac, as if it had been but a common sacrifice that he was going to offer, v. 7, 8.

(1.) It was a very affecting question that Isaac asked him, as they were going together: My father, said Isaac; it was a melting word, which, one would think, would strike deeper into the breast of Abraham than his knife could into the breast of Isaac. He might have said, or thought, at least, “Call me not thy father who am now to be thy murderer; can a father be so barbarous, so perfectly lost to all the tenderness of a father?” Yet he keeps his temper, and keeps his countenance, to admiration; he calmly waits for his son’s question, and this is it: Behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb? See how expert Isaac was in the law and custom of sacrifices. This it is to be well-catechised: this is, [1.] A trying question to Abraham. How could he endure to think that Isaac was himself the lamb? So it is, but Abraham, as yet, dares not tell him so. Where God knows the faith to be armour of proof, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent, Job ix. 23. [2.] It is a teaching question to us all, that, when we are going to worship God, we should seriously consider whether we have every thing ready, especially the lamb for a burnt-offering. Behold, the fire is ready, the Spirit’s assistance and God’s acceptance; the wood is ready, the instituted ordinances designed to kindle our affections (which indeed, without the Spirit, are but like wood without fire, but the Spirit works by them); all things are now ready, but where is the lamb? Where is the heart? Is that ready to be offered up to God, to ascend to him as a burnt-offering?

(2.) It was a very prudent answer which Abraham gave him: My son, God will provide himself a lamb. This was the language, either, [1.] Of his obedience. “We must offer the lamb which God has appointed now to be offered;” thus giving him this general rule of submission to the divine will, to prepare him for the application of it to himself very quickly. Or, [2.] Of his faith. Whether he meant it so or not, this proved to be the meaning of it; a sacrifice was provided instead of Isaac. Thus, First, Christ, the great sacrifice of atonement, was of God’s providing; when none in heaven or earth could have found a lamb for that burnt-offering, God himself found the ransom, Ps. lxxxix. 20. Secondly, All our sacrifices of acknowledgment are of God’s providing too. It is he that prepares the heart, Ps. x. 17. The broken and contrite spirit is a sacrifice of God (Ps. li. 17), of his providing.

– Matthew Henry (1662–1714), Commentary on Genesis 22:7

Gerald Bray on biblical genealogies

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The genealogies of the Bible may be found in such books as Genesis, Numbers, Ruth, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the two Gospels of Matthew and Luke. If we would be honest, many of us often find these passages of Scripture rather boring or unprofitable, and often only glance over them in our reading. The only two significant things many of us usually associate with biblical genealogies are the verification of Jesus as a descendant of David and stemming from the tribe of Judah (as prophesied in the Old Testament), as well as Ruth, a Moabite woman, forming part of Jesus’ bloodline, foreshadowing the inclusion of the Gentiles under the covenant of grace. Gerald Bray briefly offers some insights into biblical genealogies in his book God Is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology, p. 59:

“What do the genealogies reveal about God? They tell us that He is a faithful Lord, who keeps His covenant from one generation to another. Whoever we are and however far we may have descended from the source of our human life in Adam, we are still part of God’s plan. Over the centuries we have developed differently, we have lost contact with one another, and we have even turned on each other in hostility, but in spite of all that, we are still related and interconnected in ways that go beyond our immediate understanding or experience. 

Secondly, what do the genealogies say about us? They say that from the world’s point of view, most of us are nobodies. We live and die in a long chain of humanity, but there is not much that anyone will remember about us as individuals. Yet without us, future generations will not be born and the legacy of the past will not be preserved. We are part of a great cloud of witnesses, a long chain of faithful people who have lived for God in the place where he put them. Even if we know little about our ancestors, we owe them a great debt of gratitude for their loyalty and perseverance, when they had little or nothing to gain from it or to show for it.

Finally, what do the genealogies say about God’s dealings with us? They tell us that we are called to be obedient and to keep the faith we have inherited, passing it on undiminished to the next generation. They remind us that there is a purpose in our calling that goes beyond ourselves. Even if we are not celebrated by future generations and leave little for posterity to remember us by, we shall nevertheless have made an indispensable contribution to the purpose of God in history. So the genealogies bring us a message from God, even if they appear on the surface to be barren and unprofitable. All we have to do is ask the right questions, and their meaning will be quickly opened to us.”

Gordon D. Fee on true exegesis

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Earlier this year, in preparation for my class sermon on 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (Paul on the Lord’s Supper) before my classmates and professors, one of the commentaries I used was Gordon D. Fee‘s The First Epistle to the Corinthians of the New International Commentary on the New Testament series, which I found extremely helpful. Along the way I came across a great quote on exegesis from Fee in another source, which I believe must always be kept in mind when doing exegesis and sermon preparation:

“We bring our exegesis to fruition when we ourselves sit with unspeakable wonder in the presence of God, contemplate His riches, pray that they might be poured out on our own friends and family; and stay there in contemplation long enough that our only response is doxology: ‘to our God and Father be glory for ever and ever, Amen.’ Until we have done this, I would venture, we have done our exegesis only tentatively. We have been mere historians.

To be true exegetes we must hear the words with our hearts, we must bask in God’s own glory, we must be moved to a sense of overwhelming awe at God’s riches in glory, we must think again on the incredible wonder that these riches are ours in Christ Jesus, and we must then worship the living God by singing praises to His glory.”

– Gordon D. Fee, “To What End Exegesis? Reflections on Exegesis and Spirituality in Philippians 4:10-20,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 8 (1998), 88

Jerome (c. 347-420), Fulgentius of Ruspe (c. 465-533), Theodoret (c. 393–457), John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Marius Victorinus (4th century) and Ambrosiaster (c. 366-384) on Ephesians 2:8-9

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

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“Paul says this in case the secret thought should steal upon us that ‘if we are not saved by our own works, at least we are saved by our own faith, and so in another way our salvation is of ourselves.’ Thus he added the statement that faith too is not in our own will but in God’s gift. Not that he means to take away free choice from humanity… but that even this very freedom of choice has God as its author, and all things are to be referred to his generosity, in that he has even allowed us to will the good.”

– Jerome (c. 347-420), Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.2.8-9

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“The blessed Paul argues that we are saved by faith, which he declares to be not from us but a gift from God. Thus there cannot possibly be true salvation where there is no true faith, and, since this faith is divinely enabled, it is without doubt bestowed by his free generosity. Where there is true belief through true faith, true salvation certainly accompanies it. Anyone who departs from true faith will not possess the grace of true salvation.”

– Fulgentius of Ruspe (c. 465-533), On the Incarnation, 1.

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“’You are saved by grace’. For it is not because of the excellence of our lives that we have been called but because of the love of our Saviour.”

– Theodoret (c. 393–457), Epistle to the Ephesians, 2.4.5.

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“So that you may not be elated by the magnitude of these benefits, see how Paul puts you in your place. For ‘by grace are you saved’, he says, ‘through faith.’ Then, so as to do no injury to free will, he allots a role to us, then takes it away again, saying ‘and this is not of ourselves.’ Even faith, he says, is not from us. For if the Lord had not come, if he had not called us, how should we have been able to believe? ‘For how’, he says, ‘shall they believe if they have not heard?’ So even the act of faith is not self-initiated. It is, he says, ‘the gift of God’.”

“God’s mission was not to save people in order that they may remain barren or inert. For Scripture says that faith has saved us. Put better: God willed it, faith has saved us. Now in what case, tell me, does faith save without itself doing anything at all? Faith’s workings themselves are a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. What then is Paul saying? Not that God has forbidden works but that he has forbidden us to be justified by works. No one, Paul says, is justified by works, precisely in order that the grace and benevolence of God may become apparent!”

– John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Homily on Ephesians, 4.2.8, 9

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“The fact that you Ephesians are saved is not something that comes from yourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not from your works, but it is God’s grace as God’s gift, not from anything you have deserved. Our works are one thing, what we deserve another.”

– Marius Victorinus (4th century), Epistle to the Ephesians, I.2.9

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“All thanksgiving for our salvation is to be given only to God. He extends his mercy to us as to recall us to life precisely while we are straying, without looking for the right road. And thus we are not to glory in ourselves but in God, who has regenerated us by a heavenly birth through faith in Christ.”

– Ambrosiaster (c. 366-384), Epistle to the Ephesians, 2.10

John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Jerome (c. 347-420), Marius Victorinus (4th century) and Fulgentius of Ruspe (c. 465-533) on Ephesians 1:4-6

“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:  5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,  6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” – Ephesians 1:4-6

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“What he means [with ‘he hath chosen us in him’] is this: The one through whom he has blessed us is the one through whom he has elected us… Christ chose us to have faith in him before we came into being, indeed even before the world was founded. The word ‘foundation’ was well chosen, to indicate that it was laid down from some great height. For great and ineffable is the height of God, not in a particular place but rather in his remoteness [i.e. transcendence] from nature. So great is the distance between creature and Creator.”

“’You have been elected’, he says, ‘in order to be holy and unblemished before his face’… He himself has made us saints, but we are called to remain saints. A saint is one who lives in faith, is unblemished and leads a blameless life.”

“…to become virtuous and to believe and to advance, this too was the work of the One who called us…”

“So that our love for him may become more fervent, he desires nothing from us except our salvation. He does not need our service or anything else but does everything for this end. One who openly expresses praise and wonder at God’s grace will be more eager and zealous.”

– John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), Homily on Ephesians, 1.1.4, 5, 6.

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“It is asked how anyone can be saintly and unblemished in God’s sight… We must reply [that] Paul does not say he chose us before the foundation of the world on account of our being saintly and unblemished. He chose us that we might become saintly and unblemished, that is, that we who were not formerly saintly and unblemished should subsequently be so… So understood it provides a counter-argument to one who says that souls were elected before the world came to be because of their sanctity and freedom from any sinful vice.”

– Jerome (c. 347-420), Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.1.4.

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“God in his love has predestined us to adoption through Christ. How could God possibly have Christ for his Son by adoption?… We speak of ourselves as heirs of God the Father and heirs through Christ, being sons through adoption. Christ is his Son, through whom it is brought about that we become sons and fellow heirs in Christ.”

– Marius Victorinus (4th century), Against the Arians, I.2.

“We, being such as we are, are surrounded and held fast by vice and libidinous sin. When we are set free by him, acquitted of sin and pardoned for our sins, we are also adopted as his sons. All this is therefore to the praise of his glory and grace – his glory because he can do so much, and his grace because he offers this to us freely.”

– Marius Victorinus (4th century), Epistle to the Ephesians, I.I. (4) 5-6.

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“The eternal firmness and firm eternity of God’s predestinating will consist not only in the ordaining of works. God also knows in advance the number of the elect. No one of that number may lose his eternal grace, nor may any outside that total attain the gift of eternal salvation. For God, who knows all things before they come to pass, is not confused about the number of the predestined, any more than he doubts the effectiveness of the works he has ordained.”

– Fulgentius of Ruspe (c. 465-533), On the Truth of Predestination, 3.6.

Richard Bauckham on “The Lord God the Almighty” in the Book of Revelation

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The Greek word παντοκρατωρ (pantokrator), generally translated into English as “omnipotent” or “almighty”, is one of my favourite words I learnt a few years ago in Greek class. When I think of the word pantokrator my mind immediately jumps to the one verse I associate it with most: “Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.” (Rev. 19:6).

Earlier this year during the first semester, I was in a second-hand bookstore in Cape Town (wherever I go I am always on the look-out for second-hand bookstores because I have often found theological gems – together with books of philosophy, history, world religions and poetry – at bargain prices, books that many others simply do not grasp the worth of). Among many other books I bought that day was The Theology of the Book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham. I received Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony as a gift from a dear friend a few months prior to this and knew I had to take this book. It was an absolute bargain at only R10 (for my international readers, that is about the cost of a 1 litre Coke). I thought I wasn’t going to get around to reading it any time soon because I had so many books lined up already, but as Providence would have it, it turned out that this book is a prescribed work for our New Testament module. As I mentioned, the Greek word pantokrator is of interest to me, and as I read Bauckham’s book I was particularly interested in what he had to say regarding God’s omnipotence in the Book of Revelation:

“THE LORD GOD THE ALMIGHTY

This designation occurs seven times in Revelation (1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 19:6; 21:22), four of these in close association (1:8; 4:8; 11:17) or close proximity (16:5-7)to the designation we have just discussed [“The One who is and who was and who is to come”]. A shorter form, ‘God the Almighty’, is used twice (16:14; 19:15), keeping the number of occurrences of the full expression to no more than the significant number seven.

This designation is also connected with the divine name, since it is a standard translation of the expanded form of the divine name: YHWH elohe has sebaot (the LORD, the God of hosts) (e.g. 2 Sam. 5:10; Jer. 5:14; Hos. 12:5; Amos 3:13; 4:13). John also uses it (as comparison of Rev 4:8 with Isa. 6:3 will show) as equivalent to the shorter form YHWH sebaot (‘the LORD of hosts’), which is very common in the Old Testament prophets because it indicates Yahweh’s unrivalled power over all things and therefore his supremacy over the course of historical events. Its use in Revelation testifies to John’s desire to continue the prophetic faith in God. The Greek pantokrator (‘almighty’) indicates not so much God’s abstract omnipotence as his actual control over all things.”

– Richard Bauckham, The Theology of the Book of Revelation, p. 30

The last thing Bauckham says here is what especially intrigued me about the word pantokrator back in Greek class. I felt that the English translation of “omnipotent” or “almighty”, though not strictly speaking wrong, was lacking a bit of the real meaning of the word, which would more literally be translated as something like “all-ruling” (pan = all; krateo = to rule) or more loosely “he who holds sway over all things” – indicating not only that God possesses all power in an abstract sense (that he is almighty), but also that he actually exercises that power in his providence and governing of the world, as in the sense of “…our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Ps. 115:3)

J.C. Ryle (1816–1900): God’s elect are safe

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“Those whom God has chosen to salvation by Christ, are those whom God specially loves in this world. They are the jewels among mankind. He cares more for them than for kings on their thrones, if kings are not converted. He hears their prayers. He orders all the events of nations and the issues of wars for their good, and their sanctification. He keeps them by His Spirit. He allows neither man nor devil to pluck them out of His hand. Whatever tribulation comes on the world, God’s elect are safe. May we never rest until we know that we are of this blessed number! There breathes not the man or woman who can prove that he is not one. The promises of the Gospel are open to all. May we give diligence to make our calling and election sure! God’s elect are a people who cry unto Him night and day. When Paul saw the faith, and hope, and love of the Thessalonians, then he knew ‘their election of God.’ (1 Thess. 1:4; Luke 18:7.)”

– J.C. Ryle (1816–1900), Expository Thoughts on the Gospels, on Matthew 24:15-28, p. 320

Thomas Shepard (1605–1649): Only those prepared here will enjoy Christ hereafter

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Thomas Shepard (1605–1649) was an American Puritan minister and a significant figure in early colonial New England. The first time I heard (or rather read) about Shepard was when I read Jonathan Edward’s (1703–1758) Religious Affections, in which Edwards references Shepard extensively. The following is an excerpt from his work The Parable of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). It’s a bit long but definitely worth the read:

“Observe: Those only who are ready and prepared in this life for Christ, shall enjoy eternal and immediate communion with Christ; those only who are fitted shall partake of his fellowship; for of all these virgins (though many of them were otherwise very well qualified) only those which were ready did enter in with the bridegroom, which readiness in these wise virgins was not, nor is not, any Popish preparation, either meritorious, or congruous or wrought by the power of corrupted or adorned nature; but divine and glorious, wrought by the power of Christ, out of his eternal love to the vessels of glory, as an antecedent, not moving cause of this eternal fellowship; it is the first degree of our resurrection with Christ. Rom. ix. 23, ‘Vessels of glory prepared unto glory;’ the same word which is used here, there are two ends God hath appointed all men to, either to be vessels of wrath; who are those? verse 22, ‘Those that are fitted for destruction;’ others of glory; who are those? ‘Prepared unto glory.’ 2 Cor. v. 5, with 8. How comes Paul and all the saints to know, and groan for to be out of the body, and to break the cage, and to be with the Lord? one reason is, they are wrought and moulded, and fashioned for that condition by the hand of a merciful God, even as one may know what vessels are for especial use, by their metal, and curious engravings upon them.

REASON 1: MEN ARE UNFIT FOR HEAVEN

Because all men’s souls are naturally unfit and unprepared to enjoy communion with Christ; it is said, (Rev. xxi.) unclean ‘Nothing enters into the new Jerusalem on earth, which is unclean, and defileth;’ and, (Heb. xii. 14,) ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ Now, naturally all men are defiled, and unclean vessels, and under the power of their sins, loathing angels’ food, the grace of Christ, and weary of the fellowship of Christ; and, therefore, they must be prepared for the Lord first; this is one reason why preparation to every holy duty is needful, and so needful, that let men perform any holy duty, wherein they draw near to Christ without a heart prepared, (Ps. x. 17,) their performances are rejected, or not blessed; and hence Rehoboam, though he did maintain the worship of God at Jerusalem, ‘yet he prepared not his heart,’ (2 Chron. xii. 14;) and hence Hezekiah mourns, and begs pardon for this, ‘that he is so purified according to the purification of the sanctuary.’ Now, to a holy duty, and communion with Christ here, this is needful; sore eyes can not behold the sun without grief; sick bodies loathe the best food; if the Lord should let a carnal heart into heaven with that heart he hath, and not change his nature, he would not stay there if he could escape; but having his swinish nature, he would be in his mire again; and the government of Christ being a bondage to him, he would break bonds, and break his prison, if he knew where to fly from the presence of the Lord; and hence, no work so wearisome as Christ’s now, no time so uncomfortable and tedious as abiding under Christ’s wings in his ordinances now. 1 Cor. xv. 50, ‘If flesh and blood can not enter into the kingdom of heaven, much less corruption.’

REASON 2: PREPARATION IS A WORK OF GRACE

In regard of the rich grace and wisdom of his love toward his people; for who sees not, but that it is a curse to be unready as these foolish virgins, who were therefore shut out? O, therefore, it is grace and mercy to make ready, and indeed an answer to prayers, and a comfort against all fears of the saints, who are then desirous to be with the Lord when they are indeed ready; readiness for Christ doth not destroy grace, but being a fruit of God’s grace, advanceth it. Rom. ix. 23, the apostle makes it the first fruit of glory, that the saints are ‘prepared unto glory;’ glory of mercy is the end, preparedness thereto is the means, or way leading to that end; if God appoints the end, his wisdom leads also first to the means which lead at Last to the end; if out of his rich grace he appoints the end, out of the same grace, by this other, he leads to this end; and though you think it not now grace, you shall say it is so another day, when, with these foolish virgins, you shall say, ‘O that I were ready!’ I know not almost which is greatest love, to prepare for glory, or to bring into the possession of it; to make a vessel of poisonous dross a vessel of gold, or when it is so, to fill it; for the Lord to look upon a man when he is in his blood, and then to wash him; when a man is as water spilt upon the ground, and a broken vessel of no use, now for the Lord to pity, and fit for use, it is exceeding rich grace.

REASON 3: THE BRIDEGROOM PREPARES THE BRIDE

In regard of the honor of the Lord Jesus, it was one part of the honor of Christ to have John go before him, and (Luke i. 17) ‘to prepare a people ready for the Lord.’ As it is part of a prince’s honor to have his bride ready, and attired to welcome and entertain him, when he shall return to her, she owes this honor to him, and he expects this honor from her; so the Lord Jesus deserves this honor from all his people to be in readiness for him. Suppose these virgins had turned harlots, and gone a-whoring from him till his very coming, and then had been taken in, what might the world think? Doth he love the fellowship of harlots? for a man’s heart to go a-whoring from the Lord, after the world, or lusts, to die so, is to disgrace the Lord Jesus; and hence (Phil. iii. 17 to the end) there are two sorts of men professing godliness; some mind ‘earthly things,’ others look and mind ‘a Saviour from heaven;’ the one disgrace Christ, and are enemies to him; and hence Paul weeps for them; the other are his friends. And are princes so far respected as all things are ready for them? and is the Lord worthy of no such respect, so as that his people should be unready? No, know it as he said, (Mal. i.) ‘He is a great King.’

The particulars wherein this readiness consists I have spoken of in the first part of the parable, and shall now only speak of them in the subsequent uses.

APPLICATION

Terror and astonishment of heart to all those that are wholly unready, that have no readiness at all to meet, or to have fellowship with the Lord Jesus; if those that are ready be received in, then those that be unready shall be shut out.

There is a number among us, young and old, of all sorts almost among us, that swarm up and down towns, and woods, and fields, whose care and work hitherto hath been like bees, only to get honey to their own hive, only to live here comfortably with their houses, and lots, and victuals, and fine clothes, etc., but not to live hereafter eternally. Suppose the Lord should stop thy breath, and cut thee off, what would become of thee? I trust to God’s mercy, I hope I should go to Christ, though I am not assured; but are you ready for Christ? Yes, I hope I am; O, poor wretch ! why cost hope so? if thou never hadst one hour’s serious thoughts, What will become of me? or, How shall I be ready? feeling thy unreadiness and unfitness thereunto. Or if thou hast had any thoughts, never west possessed with any strong fears of eternity, and separation from the Lord Jesus, which hath damped thy mirth, and sunk thy heart, and perplexed thy thoughts, and made thee think with terror upon thy conscience, What will become of me? nor made thee desirous to ask others that question, as it is commonly one of the first, though but a common work, to think of dying presently: I have lived long without God and Christ in the world, and die I must shortly, and what will become of me then?

But you have slept quietly enough in the night, and sung care away and cast fear away in the day, and thy heart never had one hour’s fit of shaking and trembling at eternity to come, when it is the nature of true fear ever to have the eye upon what it fears, till it is taken away; and if difficulty attend the same, to remove it; it can not be quiet, but will cry for help, if possibly help may be had; this you never did: no, thou never hadst so much as these foolish virgins, viz., to be awakened at all, but a spirit of slumber hath been upon thee; God hath given thee eyes, but thou canst not see; ears, and thou canst not hear; thou sayest (it may be) that thou cost hope thou art prepared; alas! thou hast not a virgin’s name, much less nature, nor cost thou not deserve it neither; thou hast not forsaken thy loose company, nor yet come to the company of the wise, neither cost thou desire it, or think thyself unworthy of it; thy lamp is out; nay, thou never hadst any light at all, never madest profession at all, as if one ready for Christ; but O, poor wretch, all is yet to do with thee! if so, then remember that if thou diest now, thou shalt never have communion with Jesus Christ in glory.

OBJECTION: WHAT IF I HAVE NOT YET RECEIVED CHRIST?

Answer: I know it is the misery of men, they can make nothing of this till they feel it: but two things I will say:-

1. Do but consider, what if thou shouldst be deprived of the light of the sun; nay, only of bread, only that one creature, and have clothes, sun, friends, all other blessings but that, would it not be a woe with a witness? would it not cut a man’s heart to hear him cry bread, bread, a little bread, for the Lord’s sake, to save my life! there is but a drop of the sweetness of Christ in that. O, what a misery will it be to pine away, and famish under wrath in chains of darkness, and to cry, O, a little refreshing from the presence of Christ, and canst not get it, but to live ever tormented without that, when thy soul shall cry, Lord, thus long have I been tormented without thee, till my spirits are weary, and my heart faint; now, O, now a little mercy,-O, no.

2. That though thou seest it no great matter to be separated from Christ now, yet when the heavens shall be in a flaming fire, and the earth shall give up the dead that be in it, and Christ shall appear in infinite glory, admired of angels, blessed of saints, crowned of God, comforting his-elect, ‘Come, O, come, ye blessed;’ then you shall think this separation something. O that you would now go home and mourn, and look up to the Lord, that he would make thee ready a vessel of honor, and acknowledge it is righteous with him if he should never do it!”