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bridegroom; agreeable to the style in which John the Baptist speaks of himself, John iii. 29; in which he probably alludes to an ancient custom among the Jews at their nuptial solemnities, at which one of the guests that was most honoured and next in dignity to the bridegroom, was styled the friend of the bridegroom.
There is not an angel in heaven, of how high an order soever, but what looks on himself as honoured by the son of God and Lord of glory, in being employed by him as his minister in the high affair of his espousals with his blessed bride. But such honour has Christ put upon us, that his spouse should in some sort be ours; that we should marry, as a young man marries a virgin, the same mystical person that he himself will rejoice over as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride that we should be his ministers to treat and transact for him with his dear spouse, that he might obtain this joy and in our treaty with her, to be married to her in his name, and sustain an image of his own endearing relation to her; and that she should receive us, in some sort, as himself, and her heart be united to us in esteem, honour, and affection, as those that represent him; and that Christ's and the church's children should be ours, and that the fruit of the travail of Christ's soul should be also the fruit of the travail of our souls; as the apostle speaks of himself as travailing in birth with his hearers, Gal. iv. 19. The reason why Christ puts such honour on faithful ministers, even above the angels themselves, is because they are of his beloved church, they are select members of his dear spouse, and Christ esteems nothing too much, no honour too great for her. Therefore Jesus Christ, the King of angels and men, does as it were cause it to be proclaimed concerning faithful ministers, as Ahasuerus did concerning him that brought up Esther, his beloved queen; "Thus shall it be done to the man that the king delights to honour.”
And seeing Christ hath so honoured us, that our relation to his people resembles his, surely our affection to them should imitate his, in seeking their salvation, spiritual peace, and happiness. Our tender care, labours, self-denial, and readiness to suffer for their happiness, should imitate what hath appeared in him, who hath purchased them with his own blood.
3. Let it be considered, that if we faithfully acquit ourselves in our office, in the manner that hath been represented, we shall surely hereafter be partakers of the joy, when the bridegroom and bride shall rejoice in each other in perfect and eternal glory.
God once gave forth a particular command, with special solemnity, that it should be written for the notice of all professing Christians, through all ages, that they are happy and blessed indeed, who are called to the marriage-supper of the
Lamb; Rev. xix. 9. "And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God." But if we are faithful in our work, we shall surely be the subjects of that blessedness; we shall be partakers of the joy of the bridegroom and bride, not merely as friends and neighbours, that are invited to be occasional guests, but as members of the one and the other. We shall be partakers with the church, the blessed bride, in her joy in the bridegroom, not only as friends and ministers to the church, but as members of principal dignity; as the eye, the ear, the hand, are principal members of the body. Faithful ministers in the church will hereafter be a part of the church that shall receive distinguished glory at the resurrection of the just, which, above all other times, may be looked on as the church's wedding-day; Dan. xii. 2, 3. "Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake, some to everlasting life. And they that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever."— They are elders who are represented as that part of the church triumphant that sit next to the throne of God, Rev. iv. 4. "And round about the throne were four-and-twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four-and-twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold."
And we shall also be partakers of the joy of the bridegroom in his rejoicing over his bride. We, as the special friends of the bridegroom, shall stand by and hear him express his joy on that day, and rejoice greatly because of the bridegroom's voice; as John the Baptist said of himself, John iii. 29. แ He that hath the bride, is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly, because of the bridegroom's voice." Christ, in reward for our faithful service, in winning and espousing his bride to him, and bringing her up from her minority, and adorning her for him, will then call us to partake with him in the joy of his marriage. And she that will then be his joy, shall also be our crown of rejoicing; 1 Thess. ii. 19. "What is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, at his coming?" What a joyful meeting had Christ and his disciples together, when the disciples returned to their Master, after the faithful and successful performance of their appointed service, when Christ sent them forth to preach the gospel; Luke x. 17. "And the seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name." Here we see how they rejoice; the next words show, how Christ also rejoiced on that occasion: And he said unto them, I beheld Satan, as lightning, fall from heaven." And, in the next verse but two, we are told, that "in
that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." So, if we faithfully acquit ourselves, we shall another day return to him with joy; and we shall rejoice with him, and he with us. Then will be the day when Christ, who hath sown in tears and in blood, and we who have reaped the fruits of his labours and sufferings, shall rejoice together, agreeable to John iv. 35, 37. And that will be a happy meeting, indeed, when Christ and his lovely and blessed bride, and faithful ministers, who have been the instruments of wooing and winning her heart to him, and adorning her for him, and presenting her to him, shall all rejoice together.
4. Further, to stir us up to faithfulness in the great business that is appointed us, in order to the mutual joy of this bridegroom and bride, let us consider what reason we have to hope that the time is approaching, when this joy shall be to a glorious degree fulfilled on earth, far beyond whatever yet has been; I mean the time of the church's latter-day glory. This is what the words of our text have a more direct respect to; and this is what is prophesied of in Hos. ii. 19, 20. "And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness, and thou shalt know the Lord." And this is what is especially intended by the marriage of the Lamb, in Rev. xix.
We are sure this day will come; and we have many reasons to think, that it is approaching; from the fulfilment of almost every thing that the prophecies speak of as preceding it, and their having been fulfilled now a long time; and from the general earnest expectations of the church of God, and the best of her ministers and members, and the late extraordinary things that have appeared in the church of God, and appertaining to the state of religion, and the present aspects of Divine Providence, which the time will not allow me largely to insist upon.
As the happiness of that day will have a great resemblance of the glory and joy of the eternal wedding-day of the church, after the resurrection of the just, so will the privileges of faithful ministers at that time much resemble those they shall enjoy with the bridegroom and bride, as to honour and happiness, in eternal glory. This is the time especially intended in the text, wherein it is said, as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee." And it is after in the prophecies spoken of as a great part of the glory of that time, that then the church should be so well supplied with faithful ministers. So in the next verse to the text, "I have set watchmen on thy walls, O Jerusalem, that shall never hold their peace, day nor night."
So Isaiah xxx. 20, 21. "Thy teachers shall not be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers; and thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." Jer. iii. 15. "And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." And chapter xxiii. 4. "And
I will set up shepherds over them, which shall feed them." And the great privilege and joy of faithful ministers at that day is foretold in Isaiah lii. 8. "Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice, with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion."
And as that day must needs be approaching, and we ourselves have lately seen some things which we have reason to hope are forerunners of it; certainly, it should strongly excite us to endeavour to be such pastors as God has promised to bless his church with at that time; that if any of us should live to see the dawning of that glorious day, we might share in the blessedness of it, and then be called, as the friends of the bridegroom, to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, and partake of that joy in which heaven and earth, angels and saints, and Christ and his church, shall be united at that time.
But here I would apply the exhortation, in a few words, to that minister of Christ, who, above all others, is concerned in the solemnity of this day, who is now to be united to, and set over this people as their pastor.
You have now heard, reverend sir, the great importance and high ends of the office of an evangelical pastor, and the glorious privileges of such as are faithful in this office, imperfectly represented. May God grant that your union with this people this day, as their pastor, may be such, that God's people here may have the great promise God makes to his church in the text, now fulfilled unto them. May you now, as one of the precious sons of Zion, take this part of Christ's church by the hand, in the name of your great Master, the glorious bridegroom, with a heart devoted unto him with true adoration and supreme affection, and for his sake knit to this people, in a spiritual and pure love, and, as it were, a conjugal tenderness; ardently desiring that great happiness for them, which you have now heard Christ has chosen his church unto, and has shed his blood to obtain for her; being yourself ready to spend and be spent for them; remembering the great errand on which Christ sends you to them, viz. to woo and win their hearts, and espouse their souls to him, and to bring up his elect spouse, and to fit and adorn her for his embraces; that you may in due time present her a chaste virgin to him, for him to rejoice over, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride. How honourable is this business that Christ employs you in! and how joyfully
should you perform it! When Abraham's faithful servant was sent to take a wife for his master's son, how engaged was he in the business; and how joyful was he when he succeeded! With what joy did he bow his head and worship, and bless the Lord God of his master, for his mercy and his truth in making his way prosperous! And what a joyful meeting may we conclude he had with Isaac, when he met him in the field, by the well of Laha-roi, and there presented his beauteous Rebekah to him, and told him all things that he had done! But this was but a shadow of that joy that you shall have, if you imitate his fidelity, in the day when you shall meet your glorious master, and present Christ's church in this place, as a chaste and beautiful virgin unto him.
We trust, dear sir, that you will esteem it a most blessed employment, to spend your time and skill in adorning Christ's bride for her marriage with the Lamb, and that it is work which you will do with delight; and that you will take heed that the ornaments you put upon her, are of the right sort, what shall be indeed beautiful and precious in the eyes of the bridegroom, that she may be all-glorious within, and her clothing of wrought gold; that on the wedding-day, she may stand on the king's right hand in gold of Ophir.
The joyful day is coming, when the spouse of Christ shall be led to the king in raiment of needle-work; and angels and faithful ministers will be the servants that shall lead her in. And you, sir, if you are faithful in the charge now to be committed to you, shall be joined with glorious angels in that honourable and joyful service; but with this difference, that you shall have the higher privilege. Angels and faithful ministers shall be together in bringing in Christ's bride into his palace, and presenting her to him. But faithful ministers shall have a much higher participation of the joy of that occasion. They shall have a greater and more immediate participation with the bride in her joy; for they shall not only be ministers to the church as the angels are, but parts of the church, principal members of the bride. And as such, at the same time that angels do the part of ministering spirits to the bride, when they conduct her to the bridegroom, they shall also do the part of ministering spirits to faithful ministers. And they shall also have a higher participation with the bridegroom than the angels, in his rejoicing at that time; for they shall be nearer to him than they. They are also his members, and are honoured as the principal instruments of espousing the saints to him, and fitting them for his enjoyment; and therefore they will be more the crown of rejoicing to faithful ministers, than of the angels of heaven.
So great, dear sir, is the honour and joy that is set before you, to engage you to faithfulness in your pastoral care of this