Adam and Eve sinned, and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. But they must be stripped of this fig leaf dress before the Lord clothed them with coats of skins which he made (Gen. 3:7-21). Joshua, the high priest, representing Jerusalem, a brand plucked out of the fire, stood before the angel of the Lord clothed with filthy garments, and the Lord commands, “Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by.” The prodigal son returns home in his defilement and rags; he is not fit to enter the house, or sit at the merry feast. But the father saith, “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry” (Luke 15:22-24). This is putting the best robe upon the worst back. But how comely is the prodigal son clothed in the best robe. There he sits at the table beneath the smiles of his loving, pardoning father. So the believer in Christ is altogether loveliness, the perfection of beauty in his robe of imputed righteousness, and diadem of beauty, crowned with the loving-kindness of the Lord. And thy renown has gone forth for thy beauty, O believer, for it is perfect through my comeliness, which I had put I had put upon thee, saith the Lord God (Ezek. 16:14). How wonderful and precious is the language in Ezekiel 16:8-12: “Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and 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. Then washed I thee with water: yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badger’s skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.” But before a vile transgressor comes unto this blessedness by faith in the Lord our righteousness we have to be stripped of all self-made apparel. It is bitter and humiliating that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” and though the sinner patch and mend, and try to cleanse his garments, they remain to his dismay and shame nothing but filthy rags, and filthy rags of self-righteousness can never be worn in the palace of the great King. We cannot he wearing our self-righteousness and Christ’s imputed righteousness at the same time. What! unite our filthy rags with the spotless, lovely, fragrant, everlasting righteousness of the Lord our Redeemer? No, we must have these filthy rags torn off our backs, and then
“Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to thee for dress,
Helpless, look to thee for grace,
Black, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me Savior, or I die.”
Christ Jesus in his obedience and blood is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that’ believeth. His righteousness is unto and upon all that believe. He of God is made unto us wisdom and righteousness, sanctification and redemption, that according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. For, he was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. We are accepted in the Beloved, and are beautiful and glorious in the eyes of the Lord. This is the fine linen, clean and white, the wedding garments of the Lamb’s wife (Rev. 19:7-8). Her raiment is of needlework, her clothing wrought gold (Psalms 45:13-14), all of it the work of the hands of our Lord Jesus Christ, the covenant head and husband of the church. All our weavings are spider’s webs, but the shall not become garments, we cannot cover ourselves with our works before our God (Isaiah 69). But, blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered (Rom. 4:7).
“Jesus, thy blood and righteousness
My beauty are, my glorious dress;
‘Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,
With joy shall I lift up my head.”
A sinner thus arrayed is pardoned, and justified, and in this blessedness can sing, “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10).
Take a glimpse again with me at the prodigal son. See him in his wretchedness in the far-off country; a mighty famine is in the land, and he is in want. All his substance he has spent in riotous living, and he would be willing to fill his belly with the husks that the swine were eating. But no one eared for him, no man gave unto him. The swine fared better than the prodigal son. See him again welcomed with kisses, and in his father’s house he banquets with his father, and all the guests delight themselves upon the best the house affords, and he, clothed in the best robe, eats the feast beneath the loving countenance of his father. All is happiness now, and in his heart he can say, O, my father, thy banner over me is love. What better food is there for a hungry, perishing sinner than Christ crucified? “Even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1Cor. 5:7). Let us keep the feast with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. On his hand is the ring, and this tells him he is not in the house as a slave, or as a hired servant, but he is free, welcome, a child at home; and it signifies that God our heavenly Father’s love is unchanging, everlasting love. And shoes on his feet. These shoes make beautiful even a prodigal, vile, gone astray sinner. The feet and footsteps of that son going astray into a far country were not beautiful. But he has been brought back, and blessed, and beautiful are the feet that are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. In such shoes we can stand before God, and in such shoes we shall never go astray from the path of life, but we shall walk in love, in the footsteps of the flock, as the dear children of God. Oh, there is no satisfaction for contrite souls, for humble, repentant, returning sinners but in Jesus Christ. He changes our estate, gives us “a change of raiment.” He puts off’ our sackcloth, and clothes us with gladness. He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness. Christ is our only storehouse of all good; his fullness is unto all believers the fountain of living waters. Oh the love, mercy and grace of God, our precious Savior is the fountain. He liveth in me, saith Paul (Gal. 2:20). There is no want in our heavenly Father’s house, there is bread enough and to spare, and our Father’s love, and kisses, and forgivenesses are the sweetest part of all our feastings, they season and sweeten all things.
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
SIGNS OF THE TIMES,
Volume 93, No. 11