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THE FOOLISH VIRGINS.
MATT. xxv. 10.
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.
The first words of this verse tell us that there were some that were not ready. They took their lamps--they made a profession; called themselves friends of the Bridegroom ;-and went out to meet him-seemed forward and zealous as any, at first setting out ;—but, having no oil in their vessels, however they might sparkle for a while, it was quickly over. When the outcry was made that the Bridegroom was coming, they were all hurry and confusion : they tried to trim their lamps, but soon found that such unfurnished lamps would no longer stand them in any stead. • What shall they do?'They cringe to those they formerly despised ; and, in the most abject and supplicating manner, beg if it were but a drop of oil. No,' say they, lest there be not enough for us and you. We cannot give grace; and if we could, we have none to spare ; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for your'selves.'-How could they expect any other answer? Had they not been told, again and again, the danger
of delay; that if they had no oil in their vessels with their lamps, they could never meet the Bridegroom with any comfort; that they would one day repent their foolish trifling and sleeping ? But they would not believe it : they put the evil day far from them : they endeavoured to drive away the thoughts of it; and tried to persuade themselves that it would be time enough when the Bridegroom was coming.And now see the consequence :
“ While they went to buy, the Bridegroom came.
But, enough of these un-ready professors, as we have now more pleasing subjects before us :-“ They that were ready, went in with him to the marriage. Here we shall inquire,
: 1. Wherein doth this readiness consist; and then,
II. What is implied in their entering in with Christ to the marriage.
We are, then, to inquire, : 1. Wherein doth this readiness consist.
Now there is an habitual readiness, which is meant when it is said of the wise virgins that they “ had oil in their vessels ;” and there is an actual readiness, implied in “ trimming their lamps.”
1. Habitual readiness, is to have“ oil in their ves. sels”- that is, grace in the heart.
Grace is the one thing needful: it is more neces-, sary than riches; it is more necessary than gifts; it is more necessary than even life itself. We
be poor, and yet happy; we may have a small share of gifts, and yet be happy; yea, life itself may be taken from us, and yet our happiness be unabated : but we cannot be happy without grace. Surely, therefore, they discover the most wisdom, who are
principally solicitous about that. This is their main interest: and they who are inwardly renewed, are effectually secured : having oil in their vessels, and grace in their hearts, they need not be all their life. time, through fear of death, subject to bondage.Let what will happen, they are provided against the most sudden calamity. Should the alarm of the Bridegroom's coining be the next moment, they are safe.
But it may not be amiss to give a more particular account of this habitual readiness ; because we sometiines see persons called away, without having an opportunity of giving their dying testimony to the truth of grace, concerning whom we have, nevertheless, no doubt of their being born again, and heirs of the kingdom. : Those, then, may be considered as having a work of grace upon their hearts, who have been effectually called. The foolish virgins had the external call : the Gospel.came to them, as well as to the others; but, then, it came in word only : hearing, they heard, but did not understand. Whereas to the wise it came, not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurancè.-. "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past, ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now. worketh in the children of disobedience : among whom we all had our conversation in time past, in the lusts of the flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind: but God, who is rich in mercy, for bis great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with
Christ, and hath raised us up together, and made us, sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”
And being thus effectually called by the word, they are justified by his grace that is, they are delivered from hell, and have a title to heaven. Ву sin they had forfeited their claim to eternal life, and had incurred the sentence of death : but Christ redeemed them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them: he magnified the law, and made it honourable : he came and preached deliverance to the captives : and then, leading them by the hand, and adorning them with the robe of his righteousness, he presents them to his father as the purchase of his death : the Father of mercies smiles; embraces them ; and declares them accepted in the Beloved.
Nor is this all: they are also sanctified by the Spirit. And this was as necessary as either of the former. As we just now observed, they were by nature children of disobedience, and children of wrath, even as others. Sin had the dominion in them, and over them : they loved it as dearly, and indulged it as freely, as the rest. But when Christ called them, he called them, not to uncleanness, but to holiness : he opened a fountain for sin and for uncleanness; and presents them to himself not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. Not that the work of sanctification is complete in this life: we have frequent and melancholy instances to the contrary: the best are sanctified but in part: but so far is true of all real saints, that they “ hate every false way;" that there is no sin but what they had a thousand times rather part with than keep :
and no command but what they had a thousand times rather keep than disobey.
If any thing need be added to this, it is, that they persevere herein to the end. They keep up to their first engagements. They do not, as many do, leave all in the first heat of their religious zeal, to follow Christ, and upon second thoughts step back to fetch such a thing, and by and by, another thing; and a day or two hence, another: and so on, till they have got all their old things about them again, and are become as carnal and sensual as ever.
No: 'having put their hands to the plough, they will not so much as look back; but, forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth to the things which are before, they press towards the mark.
This is habitual readiness : and the soul that is thus ready, may die safely at any time.
But besides this habitual readiness, there is also, 2. An actual readiness.
When the lamp is not quite out, it may burn exceeding faint and dull, for want of trimming. Even those among us that fear the Lord, and obey the voice of his servant, may yet walk in darkness and see no light. Inherent grace is not a selfenlightening principle ; but like the moon, which gives light no longer than while the sun is shining upon it. When gracious souls, therefore, have notice of their Lord's coming, they endeavour to put themselves in the best posture to receive him. They bestir themselves, and pray earnestly to the Father of lights to shine upon his own work, and that in his light they may see light; that he would cause the north wind to awake, and the south wind to come and blow upon their spices, that the fragrance