IT is my deliberate opinion that this wedding guest who sat down in the lowest room was none other than our Lord Himself. I think I see enough to justify me in believing that this parable was no parable but was an actual experience of our Lord Himself. I feel as sure as if I had seen Him do it, that He sat down in the lowest room when He entered that supper chamber. The two sons of Zebedee chose out the chief rooms for themselves, their mother encouraging them to do it. Go up yonder, she said. There are two seats at the head of the table, go up at once and take them. And they went up, their mother pushing them up. But Mary and her Son sat down at the foot of the table. The more I imagine myself present at that marriage, the more convinced I become that our Lord was that humble-minded man Himself. At any rate, whether our Lord only invented and composed this parable, or actually Himself experienced it, at any rate, it has all been performed by Him and fulfilled to Him by this time, in every jot and tittle of it, first in His earthly life, and then in His heavenly life. For did He not sit down in the lowest room in the over-crowded inn? And as His birth was so was His whole life on earth down to the end of His life in the lowest of all this earth's low rooms. Till a Voice came from the head of the table, which said to Him, Friend, come up higher. And now, as this parable says, He has worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with Him. Yes; I for one am to delight myself, and impress myself, and instruct and rebuke myself, with believing that our Lord's whole earthly life, and now His whole heavenly life, was all enacted, in small, at that wedding supper to which He was called and with Him His twelve disciples.
"A new commandment give I unto you," said their Master to His disciples at the last supper of all. But at this present supper now spread before us He gives both His disciples and us this new commandment of His also. "When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, go and sit down in the lowest room." And then, like the Shorter Catechism, He annexes His reasons, which, when drawn out, are such as these. No man can ever say to you, Give this man place; no man can ever say to you, Sit lower down, if you have already chosen for yourself the lowest seat. No man can humiliate you and clothe you with shame if you are always clothed with humility. But on the other hand, if you are always and everywhere exalting yourself: if you are always scheming for yourself, and are always choosing out the best seats for yourself, depend upon it you are laying up shame and humiliation for yourself. If you are constantly pluming yourself on your own performances, and on your high deservings of praise and what not at all men's hands, depend you upon it your humiliation will not tarry. You will be disappointed, superseded, over-looked, over-stepped, and over-ridden, absolutely every day. It will seem to you, and not without good grounds, as if all men were in one plot against you, for so they are. If they can help it, you shall with shame begin to take the lowest room. But if I were you, I would outwit them. I would lay this wise commandment of our Lord's to my heart if I were you, till I had completely outwitted them. When you are next bidden to anything, begin to sit down in the lowest room; yes, in the very lowest room you can get. Begin at once to humble yourself everywhere, and in everything. Put on the sackcloth of humility immediately and always. Set less and less store by your own talents, attainments, performances, and deserts; and set more and more store by all other men's talents, deserts, and performances. Pooh-pooh your own heart when it says to you,-What a grand man you are! When it says to you,-What a grand sermon that is you have just preached! What a grand book that is you have just published! What a grand run in the race-course that was with all men's eves upon you! And what a grand leap that was, leaving all your rivals far behind you! Turn upon your puffed-up heart and tell it that nobody is thinking about your grand sermons, or your grand books, or your grand runs, or your grand leaps; nobody but yourself. Only, all your competitors in preaching and in leaping, they, indeed, are thinking almost as much, and almost as often, about you as you are about yourself. Only, in a very different way. And in a way that, if you knew it, would make you take down your top-sail, as Samuel Rutherford says. My friends, expect nothing for yourselves and you will not be disappointed; demand nothing for yourselves and you will be continually surprised how praise and promotion will pour in upon you, and that at the most unexpected times and from the most unexpected people. How does Jupiter occupy himself on Olympus? asked Chilo at Æsop. In humbling the high, was Æsop's answer, and in lifting up the low. Just as Peter has it, who was present at that supper-table. "Yea, all of you be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
Only, there is humility and humility. And the best kind of humility is that kind which Thomas Shepard, so far as I know, was the first to call "evangelical humility." Jonathan Edwards has now made this borrowed phrase famous in some of the golden pages of his Religious Affections. Hear then, what this master in Israel says:-"Evangelical humility is the sense that a Christian man has of his own utter insufficiency, utter despicableness, and utter odiousness: with an always answerable frame of heart. This humility is peculiar to the true saints. It arises from the spirit of God implanting and exercising supernatural and divine principles: and it is accompanied with a sense of the transcendent beauty of divine things. And then, God's true saints all more or less see their own odiousness on account of sin, and the exceedingly hateful nature of all sin. The very essence of evangelical humility consists in such humility as becomes a man in himself exceeding sinful but now under a dispensation of grace. It consists in a mean esteem of himself, as in himself nothing, and altogether contemptible and odious. This indeed is the greatest and the most essential thing in true religion." My brethren, you will not be long troubled with that guest choosing out the chief rooms for himself. If you would have all the chief rooms to yourselves, and to your children, frequent those feasts, and engineer to get your children invited to those feasts, to which none but Thomas Shepard's disciples are invited.
Parents are terribly perplexed at present as to what is the proper education for their children; and for their sons especially. Shall they take the ancient or the modern side of the University? Shall it be the classics, and almost nothing else, as was the old way? Or shall it be a commercial education almost exclusively? And one adviser advises the one way, and another adviser advises the other way, till many anxious parents are driven distracted. Whichever side you determine on, be sure that your sons take Moral Philosophy in the curriculum. If it is Latin and Greek, and the old culture, that you decide on, be sure they take Æsop with it as above. Or if it is a military or a commercial education, still take Æsop as above, even if it is only in translation. Whether they are to be men of all literature, or men of one book only, and that the ledger, see to it that they mix all their books with humility. That will make your sons true gentlemen, whichever side they take in education. And that will make your daughters true ladies, whatever school and college, whatever course you decide on for them. Housewifery, like their mothers and their grandmothers, or a degree, like their fathers and their brothers. I will not quarrel with your choice for them if only you mix it well with humility. If your sons have the head and the heart to read Shepard and Edwards-and it will need all the head and all the heart you can give them to read those two masters-then I will prophesy your sons' prosperity from either culture; the ancient or the modern. And if you bring up your daughters to respect the servants and to share their work; to rise early in the morning, to make their own beds, to decorate their own rooms, and to brush their own boots, then they can add a University degree to that with the applause of all men, both young and old. If they are but popular downstairs, I will read their names in the Scotsman and the Times with a pride almost as much as your own. Only begin their education while they are yet infants; or, at any rate, little children. It so happens that just as I am composing these lines for you I have come in our morning worship on this children's hymn for your children and mine:-
Day by day the little daisyLooks up with its yellow eye,Never murmurs, never wishesIt were hanging up on high.And the air is just as pleasant.And as bright the sunny sky,To the daisy on the footpathAs to flowers that bloom on high.God has given to each his station:Some have riches and high place,Some have lowly homes and labours;All may have His precious grace."All our humility on earth will come to its head in heaven," says Samuel Rutherford. Till the only difficulty at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb will be to get the chief rooms at that Supper to be filled with their proper guests. It will be somewhat like that Highland Communion at which I was present. Friends, come up higher! the minister pled with his people. But with all his authority, and with all his promises and pleas, he could not overcome his people's shame and pain of heart that day. And all the assisting minister could do, with all his fresh promises and pleas and encouragements, it was long before the Lord's Table was even half filled that day. And so, somewhat, will it be with ourselves at the Lord's Table above. Our eyes will seek for them, and, as soon as we enter the supper-room, we will see men and women already seated there, the sight of whom will so awaken and inflame our old sin and shame, that we will turn to flee: only, by that time, escape will be impossible, for the door will be shut. The sight of the Table and of Him who sits at the head of the Table, and of some of the guests already in their seats there, and a thousand other things, will all rush in upon us till we shall fall down as dead. "And he laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not: I am the first and the last. I am He that liveth and was dead, and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen: and have the keys of hell and of death." Friend! He will say to us, as He lifts us up in glory as He used to do in grace. Friend! and this word of His will at once revive us. And we will sit down humbly just where He seats us. No one else will have taken our place. Wherever at His Table our place is it will be ours alone, and no stranger will intermeddle with it. And, to borrow a word from this night's scripture, it will be with shame that we will sit down in the place prepared for us. Only, it will be with a sweet, holy, heavenly, blessed and beatific shame. Friend! He will say, go up higher. Then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.