BROTHER William Smith, of Lewis County, N. Y., has desired our views on the parable of the marriage feast – Matthew xxii. 1-14. The repeated calls of brethren and friends for our views on numerous portions of the scriptures, have certainly had a tendency to make us feel how little we know of divine things; nothing, indeed, only as the Lord by his gracious Spirit is pleased to give us light from time to time, as he is wont to bestow it upon all the subjects of his grace. In view of our own insufficiency to expound the deep and delightful mysteries of the book of God, we feel ready to decline offering our thoughts upon those passages, even when called on by brethren and friends, and to leave the exposition of difficult subjects to those who are far more competent than ourseif. But still we do not feel altogether satisfied to withhold such views as we have, and if we err, let those who are spiritually taught correct us.
The parable in question was spoken by our Lord to certain Jews, who were taking counsel together how they might entangle him in his talk. This parable and those preceding it evidently has allusion to them. By “The kingdom of heaven” spoken of, we think was intended the elements of that kingdom, as existing throughout the old dispensation among the children of Israel, and afterwards brought to light among the Gentiles. The marriage supper we understand to mean the gospel. The preparation of that feast required the slaughter of oxen and fatlings, or the sacrifice of bullocks and lambs, &c., as appointed in the law. The supper could not be announced as ready until the blood of Jewish sacrifices, as required by the law, should cease to flow. Predictions had been made by the prophets of the Lord, that such a feast should he made on that mountain, a feast of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees, and well refined; but the time of it should not be until the vail of the covenant which was over all flesh should be taken away, or until the hand-writing of ordinances should be nailed to the cross. The Jews are represented in this figure as having been bidden to the feast, and so they were. All the types and figures of the good things to come pointed to it. All the Jewish festivals were typical of it; and the voice of all the prophets speaking to the house of Israel, bade them be in readiness to receive the Messiah at his advent, and enter into the marriage chamber, &c. So distinctly were the words of the prophets spoken, and so clearly were they understood, that the Jews were looking for a time to come when they should realize a fulfillment of the words of the Lord; but still they were not able to discern the signs of the times, when these things were actually fulfilled.
This kingdom of heaven is compared to a certain king. It held dominion over the destinies of the house of Israel. And in the figure this king had a son. So is Christ regarded as the seed of the woman. “Unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given.” The marriage was made for this son, even as all the rites and sacrifices of the old dispensation were preparatory to the marriage festival of Christ, with that body which should become dead to the law, and married unto Christ.
At the time appointed when all the fatlings were killed, and the time for the feast had arrived, the king, to whom the kingdom is likened, sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding, and they would not come. The law and the prophets were until John, and when he came he proclaimed to the Jews who had been. bidden, in the sense implied, that the time was at hand. Other servants were also sent out and commanded to go not into Samaria, nor among the Gentiles, but rather to the cities of Judah; and those also proclaimed that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, that the oxen and the fatling’s were killed, and all things were ready for the assembling of the guests who were to witness the nuptial rites of this illustrious marriage. In both instances the Jews were reproved, for in the first, they rejected the counsel of God, not being baptized with the baptism of John, and when the seventy were sent out, they also made light of it; they had unfinished business of their own to do, and were by no means ready to leave the drudgery of the worldly sanctuary for the banqueting house of the King. Some among the Jews betrayed their enmity by raising persecution against, and even slaying the servants which were sent unto them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth, and sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their cities. All this was eventually accomplished; as a nation they were destroyed, and the cities of Judah were literally destroyed in an awful manner.
Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy: “Go ye therefore into the highway,” &c. This accords with the apostle’s words when he asserted, It was necessary that the gospel should be first preached to you; but seeing ye count yourselves unworthy of eternal life, lo we turn unto the Gentiles for so hath God commanded,” &c. This stone must be first refused by the builders, and God would make it the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence to them that stumbled at the word, being disobedient; whereunto they were appointed. After the Jews had fulfilled what was written of them in relation to Christ, and stoning and slaying his disciples, and the messengers which were sent unto them, the great commission was given to the apostles by our Lord Jesus Christ, to go to another people, among the Gentiles, into the highways, and as many as ye find, (they that believe and are baptized.) bid to the marriage. The Jews as a people were utterly rejected, and Gentile sinners are compelled to come in, that his house may be full.
This parable, as we understand it, was designed to set forth what those in the preceding chapter were employed to do, namely, that the kingdom was about to be taken away from the Jews and given to a nation (the Gentiles,) bringing forth the fruit thereof. See chap. xxi. 43.
That part of the parable which relates to the king’s surveying his guests, and the detection, arrest and punishment of him who had not the wedding garment, we defer for want of time and space for another number.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
January 15, 1846
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 613 – 616