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the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
The Lord gives us another aspect of His Church and Kingdom at the last. He describes under the figure of these Virgins, some of whom were wise and some foolish, two types of character which shall “ then," that is, at His second coming, be found therein. And by this He enforces His former lesson of watchfulness,' lest we be found among the unready. There were ten Virgins, as we should say, Bridesmaids; who, according to the manner of the East, where marriages are wont to be celebrated at night, took each a lamp in her hand, and went forth to some previously appointed place to meet the Bridegroom. For the custom in the East was, at their weddings, for the guests to be in readiness and waiting for the Bridegroom, each with a lamp in hand; that when he came, they might join themselves to his procession, escorting him to fetch the Bride from her father's house and conduct her to his own. Ten was “a round number, much in use among the Jews.” ? The wisdom of the wise consisted in their taking with them a supply of oil, to replenish their lamps if need should require. The foolishness of the rest was shown in their neglecting this precaution. “Whatever is merely outward in the Christian profession is the lamp-whatever is inward and spiritual is the oil reserved in the vessels. . . . By the foolish Virgins are meant ... the negligent in prayer, the slothful in work, and all those whose scheme of a Christian life is laid out to satisfy the eyes of men, and not to please Him who seeth in secret.”3 The wise Virgins are they who "feel that it is not a few warm excited feelings which will ... enable them to endure unto the end; for such are but as a fire among straw which will quickly blaze up, and as quickly be extinguished. They feel that principles as well as feelings must be engaged in the work, that their first good impulses and desires will carry them but a very little way, unless they be revived, strengthened, and purified, by a continual supply of I St. Matt. xxiv. 44.
no oil provided in the vessels is ex2 Bloomfield,
actly parallel to having no deepness 3 Abp. Trench, who adds, “ Having of earth.” St. Matt. xiii, 5, 6, 20, 21.
the Spirit of God.”? The slumber which ushers in sleep, and the sleep itself, seems to suggest that to the outward eye there is at times no apparent difference between the wise and the foolish, the ready and the unready. Like passions, the same infirmities, but different characters are there. Among ten sleepers what widely different characters! It will discover itself when they are awake. There is so far one event to the wise and to the unwise ;? but in the morning of the resurrection it will be seen who have lamps only, who have oil also.
THE SAME SUBJECT--continued.
St. Matthew xxy. 6-13.
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. Afterward 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. I
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
The Jews have a tradition that the Messiah will come at midnight, as at midnight there was a great cry in Egypt.3 But indeed we know not the hour any more than we know the day. “It is not necessary to suppose that midnight is here named for any other reason than because that is the time when commonly deep sleep falls upon men.
However in the parable the Bridegroom tarried no longer. The | Abp. Trench.
5 Abp. Trench. 2 Eccles. ix. 2.
6 This tarrying of the Bridegroom, 3 Exod. xii. 29, 30.
Abp. Trench numbers “among the 4 St. Matt. xxiv. 36.
many hints which Christ gave, that
cry awoke all the sleepers. All naturally looked at their lamps, which must be burning bright. This those who had with them store of oil could easily effect. Not so the other, who seek in vain of the rest what these may not part with. For no man may deliver his brother. Saints have no superfluous stock of merit, the benefit of which can be made over to others. “We shall be miserably disappointed, if we think thus to borrow in an easy lazy way, that which must be bought, -won, that is, by prayer and diligent endeavour.”3 What can the wise, who have made provision in time, do for the foolish who have neglected this, beyond recommending them to go and seek that grace which they should have sought before, but which it may now be too late to find ? When the hand of death is on us, what time is there then for attending to that work in which we ought to be engaged
the time of His return might possibly Bp. Butler (Anal. ii. 7) speaks of be delayed very far beyond the ex- the mistake of supposing that "the pectation of His Disciples. It was a Scriptures . . . can have no other or hint and no more. If more had been
further meaning than those persons given, if He had said plainly that He thought or had, who first recited or would not come for many centuries, wrote them ... There is no presumpthen the first ages of the Church tion of their sense of them being the would have been placed at a manifest whole sense of them." disadvantage, being deprived of that Ps. xlix. 7, Pr. Bk. version. powerful motive to holiness and dili- . Art. xiv. Of Works of Supererogence supplied to each generation of gation. the faithful, by the possibility of the Abp. Trench, who adds, “There Lord's return in their time. It is is that which one can communicate not that He desires each succeeding to another, and make himself the generation to believe that He will richer; as one who gives another a certainly return in their time; for He light, has not therefore less light, but does not desire our faith and practice walks henceforth in the light of two to be founded on an error . . . But torches instead of one; but there is it is a necessary element of the doc- also that which ... is in its very trine concerning the second coming nature incommunicable from man to of Christ, that it should be possible at man ... One can indeed point out any time, that no generation should to another where he is to dig for the consider it improbable in theirs. . precious ore; but after all is said, But while the matter was left by the each one must bring it up for himself, wisdom of God in this uncertainty, it and by his own efforts." Alford bids was yet important that after the ex- us observe that those who sell are a pectations of the first ages of the particular class of persons-no mean Church had proved to be unfounded, argument for a set and appointed those who examined the Scriptures ministry—and moreover for a paid should find intimations there that this ministry.” might probably be the case."
all our life? “While they went to buy, the Bridegroom came.” Death may come before we have well begun the business of preparing for it. “ They that were ready went in with him to the marriage." I Those alone are ready who have that always at hand wherewith they may trim their soul's lamp, so that at their last hour they have no more to do but this. All other are but as children who should put off beginning to learn their task till the Master comes to hear them say it. “And the door was shut;” shut to the exclusion of those without; shut for the security of these within; as the door of that ark of old, when Noah and his family had entered, “and the Lord shut him in.” So Heaven is described as the place where neither foe shall come, nor friend depart. In vain the foolish and unready come with prayers, earnest enough but too late. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” No other will He acknowledge as His. As some just gain, so some seem to just miss, the wished-for shore. “Then I saw,” says the Dreamer in the famous Allegory,“ “ there was a way to hell even from the gates of Heaven."
St. Matthew xxv. 14-25.
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 ability; 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 beside 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 beside 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 the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
1 See Milton's Sonnet To a Vir- of them. This knowledge is of netuous Young Lady.
cessity reciprocal; so that Augus? Compare St. John xiii. 10. tine's, though it may seem at first a * Aug. quoted by Abp. Trench. slight, is indeed a very profound re
+ “It is not that the Bridegroom mark, when, explaining •I know you disclaims any outward knowledge of not,' he observes, it is nothing else them, but He does not know them in than, “Ye know me not.'”-Abp. that sense in which the Good Shep- Trench. herd knows his sheep, and is known • The Pilgrim's Progress.
The Lord sets forth another aspect of His Church and Kingdom under this figure of a Master and his Slaves, the men born in his house; who anciently were not mere labourers, but often skilled in various arts; and who, according to the custom of those times, were often intrusted with sums of money to trade with on their lord's behalf.: He was to be absent for a time. They knew he would
. return to reckon with them. The goods were not theirs, but his. A talent, which means strictly a sum of money, has come to signify any mental endowment, any faculty of the mind; 3 which we are to consider as intrusted to us by
1 “While the Virgins were repre- ? Estimated at £243 158., Dict. of sented as waiting for their Lord, we Gr. and Rom. Antt. Table xii. bave here the servants working for 3 “A use which is of course entirely Him."- Abp. Trench.
the growth of this parable, even as it