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church will have an indication of Christ's coming, and the attention and expectation of all will be roused; but the trial of character and patience will be, a seeming delay :
“ And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps; and the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves : and while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, lord, open to us: but he answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.”
The persons symbolized by the foolish virgins evidently assume the character of those “ that wait for their Lord;” but they are not thoroughly furnished for the occasion. After all their profession, notwithstanding they go in company with the wise, they are found unprepared at last, and are excluded from the society of the blessed. A deficiency in heart and principle is clearly pointed out in the lamp that shines, but has not wherewith to feed the fame, should continuance and perseverance be required. We may illustrate this from “ the stony ground" and the ground uncleared from thorns, which, in the parable of the sower, receives the seed of the word. This deficiency is represented as discovered, by the day of the Lord coming and finding them not ready; and if the professing church continues that same mixed society which it is at present, how many will it overtake unprepared, unready! Not exactly “ as a thief in the night;" but still after every warning, and after every affected preparation, unready, and off their guard at the decisive moment !
The analogy between the case of the individual as overtaken by the hour of death, and this of the professing world, whom the day of the Son of Man surprises, is so strict and exactly similar, that the parable may very properly and usefully be accommodated to exhort to watchfulness against the hour of death ; since that hour is seen to come upon many, who had begun a profession of religion, and had been warned of its approach, in a state totally unprepared, and without “ those things that accompany salvation." But the primary design of the prophetic parable is certainly to represent the state of the church in the latter days, and to impress upon its members the exhortation before delivered : “ Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares.”*
The second parable, that of the talents, though differing a little in its imagery, is evidently to the same purport and effect as the parable of the pounds, before considered :
“ For (the kingdom of heaven is) as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants' and delivered unto them his goods : and unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to every man according to his several abilities; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and
made them other five talents; and likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one, went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time, the lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them: and so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents, behold, I have gained besides them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He, also, that had received two talents, came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents, behold, I have gained two other talents besides them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things ; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received one talent came and said, Lord, I know thee that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strewed; and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth; lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: thou oughtest, therefore, to have put my money to the exchangers, and then, at my coming, I should have received mine own with usury. Take, therefore, the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath five talents: for unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
I refer to the observations offered on the parable of the pounds. The general purport of the two parables is the same. It regards the ministers and stewards of the manifold gifts of God: they are called “the Lord's own servants,” or “his household slaves :” they are put in trust with some things to manage for his interest — with
their Lord's goods; and in this parable, as in that of the pounds, it is represented as something that may be taken from one, at the great day, and given to another, to his honour and advantage. This, I think, strongly argues, that by pounds and talents are intended that official character, or those especial endowments and gifts, which enable a man, not “ to make his own calling and election sure," as a private Christian and member of Christ, but which enable him to promote the public interest of Christ upon earth. Indeed, the term talents, from its use in this parable, seems to have acquired in our language some such meaning.
The chief difference in these two parables is, the equal pound as committed to all the servants in the former, and the unequal talents in the one now before us. Perhaps our divine Instructor, in the one, had the general trust of the ministry in view, which, as to its essentials, is alike in every minister of God's word; and in the other, the different gifts and qualifications with which his servants, for special purposes, are seen to be endowed. The circumstance, that our Lord should choose to represent the unfaithful servant as the least gifted, and as put in the least trust, certainly is not designed to teach that unfaithfulness is not sometimes found among the greatest of his servants, and among those whose spheres of usefalness might have been the greatest. This erroneous interpretation is corrected by matter of fact. But our Lord's design may be, to caution his servant against a fault, and a very dangerous temptation, but too common to man,that because they have but little that they can do, think it not worth their while to do any thing, while they flatter themselves, perhaps, that had they been intrusted with
more, their diligence would have been as conspicuous as that of others.
We now come to the parable of the shepherd dividing his flock. If the last parable concerned the ministers and stewards of the Lord's household, this certainly concerns every member of the family; for brotherly love, effective in deed, and not existing in word only, is essential to the character of every Christian, let his station and situation be what it may. And as faithlessness to ministerial trust in the shepherds that feed the flock, is decisive of character in the one case; so, in the other, to be destitute of this charity is equally decisive that a man is not one of the sheep of Christ; and this the great day will publicly declare in the face of the whole world.
“ When the Son of Man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations; and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd separateth his sheep from his goats; and he shall set the sheep at his right hand, but the goats on his left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? Aud the King shall answer and say to them, Verily, I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say to them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was an