From “The Marriage Feast of the King’s Son,” Sermons Preached in Country Churches (1873)
We hear of some coming there without a marriage garment, and being, therefore, thrust out. I have told you already what this wedding garment is not. It is not a man’s own goodness, that God does not expect him to bring. What is it then? It is the goodness, and mercy, and love of God himself. When he made that great marriage for his Son, when he united him to our flesh and blood. He showed forth in him all his own goodness, and love, and truth; as St. John wrote, “We saw his glory as of the only begotten Son of God, full of grace and truth.” He showed it forth in him, that we might say, “This is what we want; this is what we have not in ourselves.” When we say this in our hearts we begin to believe in God’s love and righteousness, or, as the Scripture says, to put our trust in him, So we become partakers of all these good things of God, just as we take in the meres and the distant hills with our eyes, though they are so much greater than we are.
But if a man will not trust in God’s love and righteousness ; if he does not think that God is loving and righteous; if he does not wish to be like God in his love and righteousness; if he had rather be just what he is in himself, then he will not put on the wedding garment which God has provided him, and God, who sees all of us that come to that feast, and reads the heart of each one of us, sees that we do not come there to seek him; that we come there for some other end than that; for some low miserable end of our own; and so his light does not shine in on us. He leaves us in the darkness we have chosen; and we grow worse and worse, darker and darker, for having mocked him and trifled with him.
You say, “That is very dreadful.” Surely it is. It is dreadful to distrust God who is all good, and to trust in ourselves in whom apart from God there is no good at all. It is dreadful to think highly of ourselves. If you think that, come to this feast that you may confess God’s infinite goodness, which is manifested in his Son, his goodness in marrying that Son to our nature, that we might be clothed with his spotless garment of justice and love, come and own how empty you are that he may feed you with the food of eternal life. Depend upon it. he will send none away who desire that food. He will cast none into outer darkness who seek for his light.
Frederick Denison Maurice (1805-1872) was an Anglican priest and theologian, a prolific author who was professor of theology at Kings College, London, and Cambridge. An early leader of the Christian Socialist movement, he founded several educational institutions for working people. Sermons Preached in Country Churches, a collection of sermons Maurice preached during his summer travels, was published posthumously by his wife. He is commemorated on the Episcopal Church’ liturgical calendar on April 1. The text is slightly adapted for contemporary readers.