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Christ enforces his exhortation to watchfulness by the parable of the ten
virgins. MATT. xxv. 113.
en the awful day of judgment, represented it by this parable : 1 Then shall the kingdom of heaven be like the case of ten virgins,
invited to a marriage-feast,* who took their lamps, and went out to 2 meet the bridegroom. And five of them were prudent persons, 3 and five were foolish. They that were foolish, when they took 4 their lamps did not take any oil with them. Whereas the prudent 6 took oil in their vessels, with their lamps. But while the bride
groom delayed his coming, as they were sitting to wait for him, they 6 all slumbered and fell asleep. And in the middle of the night,
there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom is coming, go ye 7 out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose and dressed their 8 lamps. And the foolish said to the prudent, Give us soine of your 9 oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the prudent replied, We can
not do that, lest there be not enough for us and you ; but rather go 10 ye to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went
to buy, the bridegroom came; and those that were ready went in 11 with him to the marriage-feast, and the door was shut.-And some
time after, the other virgins also came, knacking at the door, say: 12 ing, Sir, Sir, open to us. But he answered saying, Truly, I
know you not.-And such will be your case, if you content yourselves
with a mere empty profession of religion, and sink into a careless, negli13 gent conduct. Therefore watch continually, not presuming on pre
parations to be made hereafter, for ye know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of man cometh.t
REFLECTIONS. Let us apply our hearts to the obvious instructions which this wellknown parable so naturally suggests. We are under a religious profession: our lamps are in our hands; and we go forth as those that expect to meet Christ; as those that desire and hope to be admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb. But, alas, how few are there that are truly prepared for such a blessedness! Would to God there were reason to hope that the Christian church were so equally divided, that five of ten in it had the oil of divine grace in their hearts, to render them burning and shining lights!
* Such feasts used to be celebrated in the night. Various Jewish customs on these occasions are here alluded to.
This last clause, in which the Son of man cometh, is not in many ancient MSS. or versions, nor is it quoted by the fathers. But it seems well supplied : as are the words the Son of man in the beginning of the next verse, rather than the kingdom of heaven ; neither of which is in the Greek, which begins, Like a man travelling. Ed.
Let even such as have it be upon their guard; for our Lord intimates that the wise as well as the fioolish virgins are too apt to slumber and sleep, and carelessly to intermit that watch which they ought constantly to maintain. There may be, at an unexpected time, a midnight cry. Happy the souls that can hear it with pleasure; being not only habitually but actually ready to obey the summons! Happy they that have their loins girded, and their lamps burning!
The foolish virgins saw their error too late : they applied to the wise ; but their application was vain. And as vain will the hope of those be who trust to the intercession of departed saints, or any supposed redundancy of merit in them, while they are themselves strangers to a holy temper and life. In vain will they cry, Lord, Lord, open to us. The door of mercy will be shut for ever, and the workers of iniquity utterly disowned. The day of grace has its limits; and for those that have trifled it away there remaineth nothing but the blackness of darkness for ever!
The parable of the talents repeated in a different form. MATT. XXV.
ESUS further urges diligence in preparing for his coming, by 14
another parable. For (the Son of man will be at his finalap, pearing, as a man who, going a journey, called his servants and 15 delivered his effects to them. And to one he gave five talents,
and to another two, and to another one : to every man according 16 to his capacity; and he immediately went away. And he who
had received the five talents, went and traded with them, and pro17 duced five talents more. And in like manner he who had received 18 the two, he also gained two more. But he that had received only
one, went away and digged in the earth, and hid his master's money. 19 o After some considerable time the master of those servants 20 comes, and makes up his accounts with them. And he who had
received the five talents came and brought other five talents; saying,
Sir, thou didst deliver to me five talents, behold I have gained to 21 them five talents more. And his master said to him, Well done,
thou good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful in a few things; I will set thee over many things: enter thou into the joy of
thy master, and share in the banquet prepared for my friends on my 22 return. He also who had received the two talents came and said,
Sir, thou didst deliver to me two talents, behold I have gained two 23 other talents to them. His master said unto him, Well done, thou
good and faithful servant, thou has been faithful in a few things ;
I will set thee over many things : enter thou into the joy of thy 24 master. Then he also who had received the one talent came and
said, Sir, I knew thee, that thou art a severe man, reaping where
thou didst not sow, and gathering whence thou hast not scattered: 25 and being terrified, I went away and hid thy talent in the earth : 26 behold there thou hast thine own. His master answering said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant! Thou kenwest
[didst thou ?) that I reap where I did not sow, and gather whence 27 I had not scattered. Therefore thou shouldst have put my money
to the bankers, and when I came I might have received mine own 28 with interest.— Take ye therefore the talent from him, and give 29 it to him that has ten talents. For to every one that hath, it shali
be given, and he shall have abundance ; but from him that hath 30 not improved it, even what he hath shall be taken away. And casť
ye the unprofitable servant into the darkness which is without : there shall be weeping and girashing of teeth.
REFLECTIONS. What can excite us to a becoming care and activity in the duties of life, if we are deaf to those various and important motives which this excellent parable suggests? We have each of us received our talents, whether five, or two, or one ; and if we bé faithful, it matters 'not much under which of these classes we fall. Our acceptance and reward will be proportionable to our diligence; nor will any be blamed because he has not received five, though many will be condemned for neglecting one. Yet a little while, and our Lord comes to reckon with us, and even now his eye is continually upón uś. Let us ask our own souls, with what temper, with what courage, with what cheerfulness, shall we appear before him? Let us think of that appearance with awe, but not with terror. Away with every unjust thought and reasoning (with whatever artifice it be excused, with whatever hon: ourable name it be dignified) that would represent him as a rigorous and severe Master, and produce a servile dread, which would cut the sinews of industry, and sink the soul into a sullen, negligent despair.
Whatever our particular snares in life may be, let us think of the doom of the slothful servant, to awaken our souls, and to deter us from every degree of unfaithfulness. And, on the other hand, let us often reflect on that unutterable transport which will overflow the breast of every real Christian, when his gracious Master shall condescend, in so honourable a manner, to commemorate his honest, though feeble, attempts of service, and shall say, Well done, thoit good and faithful servant : thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things : enter thou into the joy of thy Lord! May that joy be the great object of our hopes and pursuits ! and may our daily care in the improvement of every talent lodged in our hands be a token to us that it will be sure and great!
Christ concludes tltis discourse with an affecting description of the last
judgment. MATT. xxv. 31, &c.
31 CHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory [at the last 32
day] and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon his glorious throne. And all the nations shall be assembled before him; and he shall separate them from each other as a shep
33 herd separates the sheep from the goats. And he shall set the 34 sheep at his right-hand, but the goats on his left. Then the king
shall say to them on his right-hand, Come; ye blessed of my. Fa· ther, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of 35 the world. For I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat ; I was
thirsty, and ye caused me to drink ; I was a stranger, and ye took 36 me in. I was naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye
looked after me e; I was in prison, and ye came to relieve me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer bim and say, Lord, did we ever
see thee hungry, and fed thee? or thirsty and caused thee to drink? 38 or when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or when 39 did we see thee sick, or in prison, and came to thee for thy re40 lief? And the king answering, shall say unto them, Verily I say
unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these my
brethren, yë did it to me. 41 Then he shall say also to them on the left-hand, Depart from me,
ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his an42 gels ; for I was hungry, and ye did not give me to eat; I was 43 thirsty, and ye did not give me to drink ; I was a stranger, and
ye did not take me in; I was naked, and ye did not clothe me; 44 sick and in prison, and ye did not look after me.-Then shall they also answer
and say unto him, Lord, when did we ever see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, 45 and did not minister to thee? Then shall he answer them saying,
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of tho
least of these, ye did it not to me*. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but thọ righteous into everlasting life.
REFLECTIONS. Let us now behold, with an attentive eye and a solicitous heart, the end of all the living ; that awful seene, in which the various dispensations of God to mankind shall terminate in the solemn day, when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and sit on his magnificent throne. All nations and people shall be assembled before him, and we must make up a part of the assembly. Tre sheep and the goats must then be separated : and, O my soul, amongst which wilt thou then be numbered? Is there an enquiry, is there a care, of greater, of equal, of comparable importance ?
Let us view the sentence we must shortly hear, as he who will himself pronounce it has been pleased to give us a copy of it. Can we conceive any thing more dreadful than that which shall be passed on those on the left hand ? To be driven from the presence of Christ as accursed, and to be consigned over to a devouring fire! and this not only to the tortures of a moment, or an hour (as in some painsil
* Every (attentive] reader will observe, with what majesty and grandeur our Lord speaks of himseif in this section ; which is one of the noblest instances of the true sublime that I have any where read : and indeed few passages, even in the sacred writings, seem to equal it. We can hardly read it without imagining ourselves before the awful tribunal it describes, Vol. I.
executions that have been known here) but to everlasting fire, yea, to fire prepared for the devil and his angels, where they will be perpetual companions, and perpetual tormentors! Should not the thought that he is in danger, in hourly danger, of being sealed up under this sentence, awaken the most stupid sinner, and engage him eagerly to cry out, What shalt I do to be saved !And on whom is this sentence passed? Let us attentively observe it! Not merely on the most gross and abandoned sinners, but on those who have lived in an habitual neglect of their duty : not merely on those who have ravaged and persecuted the saints (though surely their furnace will be heated seve en times hotter than that of others) but even on those who have neg. lected to relieve them.
On the other hand, let us seriously reflect what it will be to be owned by Christ before the assembled world ; and to hear him saying, with a sweet smile, and with a voice of harmony and love, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you
foundation of the world. How infinite is the love that prepared that kingdom for us before we had a being ! How rich the blood that purchased it! How overflowing the grace that bestows it on such mean, such undeserving creatures ! Bless the Lord, O our souls, in the prospect of it! Let men curse, O Lord, if thou wilt thus bless. Let them load our names with infamy if thou wilt adorn them with such glory : let all the kingdoms of the earth, and all the pomp of them, be despised and trampled under foot, when offered as an equivalent for this infinitely more glorious kingdom.
Let us attentively observe the character of those who are to receive it. They are the useful and the benevolent souls: such as have loved the Lord Jesus Christ, not only in his name, and ordinances, and promises, but have lovedl him in his laws, and in his PEOPLE too; and have known him in those humble forms in which he has been pleased, as it were by proxy, to appear among us. I was hungry, and ye fed me ; thirsty, and ye gave me drink; &c. for, inasmuch as ye did it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto me. Amazing words! that the meanest saint should be owned by the King of glory as one of his brea thren! Irresistible argument to those that do indeed believe these words, to stir them up to abound in every good word and work ! Under this impression, methinks, instead of hiding ourselves from those who should be to us as our own' Atesli by virtue of our common union to him, we should not only hearken to their entreaties, but even search them out in those corners to which modest want may sometimes retire, and cast about in our thoughts how we may secure any happy opportunitv of relieving some poor saints for their sakes, and for their Master's, and even for our own.
What if Christ came to us in person as a poor helpless-stranger ? What if we saw him destitute of food and raiment, or in want of any other necessaries of life? Should we not contend for it as an honour, which of us should receive him into our houses? which of us should entertain him at our table ? which of us should even strip ourselves of our clothing to give it to him? And yet he tells us that he is, in effect, with us in his poor members; and we invent a thousand cold ex.