'And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.'--John.
The Plantagenet kings of ancient England had white and scarlet for their livery; white and green was the livery of the Tudors; the Stuarts wore red and yellow; while blue and scarlet colours adorn to-day the House of Hanover. And the Prince of the kings of the earth, He has his royal colours also, and His servants have their badge of honour and their blazon also. Then He commanded that those who waited upon Him should go and bring forth out of His treasury those white and glittering robes, that I, He said, have provided and laid up in store for my Mansoul. So the white garments were fetched out of the treasury and laid forth to the eyes of the people. Moreover, it was granted to them that they should take them and put them on, according, said He, to your size and your stature. So the people were all put into white--into fine linen, clean and white. Then said the Prince, This, O Mansoul, is My livery, and this is the badge by which Mine are known from the servants of others. Yea, this livery is that which I grant to all them that are Mine, and without which no man is permitted to see My face. Wear this livery, therefore, for My sake, and, also, if you would be known by the world to be Mine. But now can you think how Mansoul shone! For Mansoul was fair as the sun, clear as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners.
White, then, and whiter than snow, is the very livery of heaven. A hundred shining Scriptures could be quoted to establish that. In the first year of Belshazzar, King of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions of his head came to Daniel upon his bed. And, behold, the Ancient of Days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool. My beloved, sings the spouse in the Song, is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand, and altogether lovely. Then, again, David in his penitence sings, Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. And what is it that sets Isaiah at the head of all the prophets? What but this, that he is the mouth-piece of such decrees in heaven as this: Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. The angel, also, who rolled away the stone from the door of the sepulchre was clothed in a long white garment. Another evangelist says that his countenance was like lightning and his raiment white as snow, and for fear of him the keepers did quake, and became as dead men. But before that we read that Jesus was transfigured before Peter and James and John on the Mount, and that His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. And, then, the whole Book of Revelation is written with a pen dipped in heavenly light. The whole book is glistening with the whitest light till we cannot read it for the brightness thereof. And the multitude that no man can number all display themselves before our eyes, clothed with white robes and with palms in their hands, so much so that we sink down under the greatness of the glory, till One with His head and His hairs white like wool, as white as snow, lays His hand upon us, and says to us, Fear not, for, behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
'I also saw Mansoul clad all in white, And heard her Prince call her His heart's delight, I saw Him put upon her chains of gold, And rings and bracelets goodly to behold. What shall I say? I heard the people's cries, And saw the Prince wipe tears from Mansoul's eyes, I heard the groans and saw the joy of many; Tell you of all, I neither will nor can I. But by what here I say you well may see That Mansoul's matchless wars no fable be.'
'And to her it was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white; for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.' We need no exegesis of that beautiful Scripture beyond that exegesis which our own hearts supply. And if we did need that shining text to be explained to us, to whom could we better go for its explanation than just to John Bunyan? Well, then, in our author's No Way to Heaven but by Jesus Christ, he says: 'This fine linen, in my judgment, is the works of godly men; their works that spring from faith. But how came they clean? How came they white? Not simply because they were the works of faith. But, mark, they washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. And therefore they are before the throne of God. Yea, therefore it is that their good works stand in such a place.' 'Nor must we think it strange,' says John Howe, in his Blessedness of the Righteous, 'that all the requisites to our salvation are not found together in one text of Scripture. I conceive that imputed righteousness is not here meant, but that righteousness which is truly subjected in a child of God and descriptive of him. The righteousness of Him whom we adore as made sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, that righteousness has a much higher sphere peculiar and appropriate to itself. Though this of which we now speak is necessary also to be both had and understood.' Emmanuel's livery, then, is the righteousness of the saints. Emmanuel puts that righteousness upon all His saints; while, at the same time, they put it on themselves; they work it out for themselves, and for themselves they keep it clean. They work it out, put it on, and keep it clean, and yet, all the time, it is not they that do it, but it is Emmanuel that doeth it all in them. The truth is, you must all become mystics before you will admit all the strange truth that is told about Emmanuel's livery. For both heaven and earth unite in this wonderful livery. Nature and grace unite in it. It is woven by the gospel on the loom of the law--till, to tell you all that is true about it, I neither can nor will I. Albert Bengel tells us that the court of heaven has its own jealous and scrupulous etiquette; and our court journalist and historian, John Bunyan, has supplied his favoured readers with the very card of etiquette that was issued along with Mansoul's coat of livery, and it is more than time that we had attended to that card.
1. The first item then in that etiquette-card ran in these set terms: 'First, wear these white robes daily, day by day, lest you should at some time appear to others as if you were none of Mine.--Signed, EMMANUEL.'
Now, we put on anew every morning the garments that we are to wear every new day. We have certain pieces of clothing that we wear in the morning; we have certain pieces that we wear when we are at our work; and, again, we have certain other pieces that we put on when we go abroad in the afternoon; and, yet again, certain other pieces that we array ourselves in when we go out into society in the evening. After a night in which Mercy could not sleep for blessing and praising God, they all rose in the morning with the sun; but the Interpreter would have them tarry a while, for, said he, you must orderly go from hence. Then said he to the damsel, Take them, and have them into the garden to the bath. Then Innocent the damsel took them, and had them into the garden, and brought them to the bath. Then they went in and washed, yea, they and the boys and all, and they came out of that bath, not only clean and sweet, but also much enlivened and much strengthened in their joints. So when they came in they looked fairer a deal than when they went out. Then said the Interpreter to the damsel that waited upon those women, Go into the vestry, and fetch out garments for these people. So she went and fetched out white raiment and laid it down before him. And then he commanded them to put it on. It was fine linen, white and clean. Now, therefore, they began to esteem each other better than themselves. For, You are fairer than I am, said one; and, You are more comely than I am, said another. The children also stood amazed to see into what fashion they had been brought. William Law--I thank God, I think, every day I live for that good day to me on which He introduced me to His gifted and saintly servant--well, William Law used every morning after his bath in the morning to put on his livery, piece by piece, in order, and with special prayer. The first piece that he put on, and he put it on every new morning next his heart to wear it all the day next his heart, was gratitude to God. And it was a real, feeling, active, and operative gratitude that he so put on. On each new morning as it came, that good man was full of new gratitude to God. For the sun new from his Almighty Maker's hands he had gratitude. For his house over his head he had gratitude. For his Bible and his spiritual books he had gratitude. For his opportunities of reading and study, as also for ten o'clock in the morning when the widows and orphans of King's Cliffe came to his window, and so on. A grateful heart feeds itself to a still greater gratitude on everything that comes to it. So it was with William Law, till he wakened the maids in the rooms below with his psalms and his hymns as he went into his vestry and put on his singing robes so early every morning. And then, after his morning hours of study and devotion, Law had a piece of livery that he always put on and never came downstairs to breakfast without it. Other men might put on other pieces; he always clothed himself next to gratitude with humility. Men differ, good men differ, and Emmanuel's livery-men differ in what they put on, at what time, and in what order. But that was William Law's way. You will learn more of his way, and you will be helped to find out a like way for yourselves, if you will become students of his incomparable books. You will find how he put on charity, 1 Cor. thirteenth chapter; and then how, over all, he put on the will of God; till, thus equipped and thus accoutred, he was able to say, as it has seldom been said since it was first said, 'I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my judgment was to me as a robe and as a diadem. The Almighty was then with me, and my children were about me. When I washed my steps with butter, and when the rock poured me out rivers of oil!' So much for that livery-man of Emmanuel, the author of the Christian Perfection and the Spirit of Love. As for the women's vestry in the Interpreter's House, Matthew Henry saw the thirty-first chapter of the Proverbs hung up on that vestry wall, and Christiana making her morning toilet before it with Mercy beside her. Who would find a virtuous woman, let him look before that looking-glass for her, and he will be sure to find her and her daughters and her daughters-in-law putting on their white raiment there.
2. 'Secondly, keep your garments always white; for if they be soiled, it is a dishonour to Me. I have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments, and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.' Even in Sardis, with every street and every house full of soil and dishonour to the name of Christ, even in Sardis Emmanuel had some of whom He could boast Himself. Would you not immensely like at the last day to be one of those some in Sardis? Shall it not be splendid when Sardis comes up for judgment to be among those few names that Emmanuel shall then read out of His book, and when, at their few names, two or three men shall step out into the light in His livery? Some of you are in Sardis at this moment. Some of you are in a city, or in a house in a city, where it is impossible to keep your garments clean. And yet, no; nothing is impossible to Emmanuel and His true livery-men. Even in that house where you are, Emmanuel will say over you, I have one there who is thankful to My Father and to Me; thankful to singing every morning where there is little, as men see, to sing for. There is one in that house humble, where humility itself would almost become high-minded. And meek, where Moses himself would have lost his temper. And submissive, where rebelliousness would not have been without excuse. Mark these few men for Mine, says Emmanuel. Mark them with the inkhorn for Mine. For they shall surely be Mine in that day, and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.
3. 'Wherefore gird your garments well up from the ground.' A well-dressed man, a well-dressed woman, is a beautiful sight. Not over-dressed; not dressed so as to call everybody's attention to their dress; but dressed decorously, becomingly, tastefully. Each several piece well fitted on, and all of a piece, till it all looks as if it had grown by nature itself upon the well-dressed wearer. Be like him--be like her--so runs the third head of the etiquette-card. Be not slovenly and disorderly and unseemly in your livery. Let not your livery be always falling off, and catching on every bush and briar, and dropping into every pool and ditch. Hold yourselves in hand, the instruction goes on. Brace yourselves up. Have your temper, your tongue, your eyes, your ears, and all your members in control. And then you will escape many a rent and many a rag; many a seam and many a patch; many a soil and many a stain. And then also you will be found walking abroad in comeliness and at liberty, while others, less careful, are at home mending and washing and ironing because they went without a girdle when you girt up your garments well off the ground. Wherefore always gird well up the loins of your mind.
4. 'And, fourthly, lose not your robes, lest you walk naked and men see your shame'; that is to say, the supreme shame of your soul. For there is no other shame. There is nothing else in body or soul to be ashamed about. There is a nakedness, indeed, that our children are taught to cover; but the Bible is a book for men. And the only nakedness that the Bible knows about or cares about is the nakedness of the soul. It was their sudden soul-nakedness that chased Adam and Eve in among the trees of the garden. And it is God's pity for soul-naked sinners that has made Him send His Son to cry to us: 'I counsel thee,' He cries, 'to buy of Me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear. Behold!' He cries in absolute terror, 'Behold! I come as a thief! Blessed is he that walketh and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.' Were your soul to be stripped naked to all its shame to-morrow; were all your past to be laid out absolutely naked and bare, with all the utter nakedness of your inward life this day; were all your secret thoughts, and all your stealthy schemes, and all your mad imaginations, and all your detestable motives, and all your hatreds like hell, and all your follies like Bedlam to be laid naked--I suppose the horror of it would make you cry to the rocks and the mountains to cover you this Sabbath night, or the weeds of the nearest sea to wrap you down into its depths. It would be hell before the time to you if your soul were suddenly to be stripped absolutely bare of its ragged body, and naked of all the thin integuments of time, and were for a single day to stand naked to its everlasting shame. And it is just because Jesus Christ sees all that as sure as the judgment-day coming to you, that He stands here to-night and calls to you: I counsel thee! I counsel thee! Before it be too late, I again counsel thee!
5. But the Prince Emmanuel is persuaded better things of all His livery-men, though He thus speaks to them to put them on their guard. Yes, sternly and severely and threateningly as He sometimes speaks, yet, in spite of Himself, His real grace always breaks through at the last. And, accordingly, his fifth command runs thus: But, it runs, if you should sully them, if you should defile them, the which I am greatly unwilling that you should, then speed you to that which is written in My law, that yet you may stand, and not fall before Me and before My throne. Always know this, that I have provided for thee an open fountain to wash thy garments in. Look, therefore, that you wash often in that fountain, and go not for an hour in defiled garments. Let not, therefore, My garments, your garments, the garments that I gave thee be ever spotted by the flesh. Keep thy garments always white, and let thy head lack no ointment.--Signed in heaven, EMMANUEL.
* LECTURE DELIVERED IN ST. GEORGE'S FREE CHURCH EDINBURGH