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consideration of the suddenness of his coming to call every individual to account after death: Therefore, be we also ready ; for in such an hour, as ye think not, the Son of man cometh. Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season 2 Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh shall .find so doing. Perily I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods. As if he had said, you who are the ministers of religion, ought to be particularly careful to discharge the important trust committed to your care ; you are the stewards to whose care the household of the church is committed ; and you would do well to remember, that your example will have a great effect upon the minds of those employed under you. It is your duty to be well acquainted with the stores of the everlasting truths, and to understand how they may be applied to the best advantage: you should also be careful to know the characters of the different persons under your direction, that you may be able to give every one of them his portion of meat in due season: and if I find you thus employed at my coming, I will reward you with the joys of my kingdom, even as an earthly master bestows particular marks of respect on such servants as have been remarkably faithful in any important trust. But on the other hand, if you behave like unjust stewards, who, because their Lord delayeth his coming, abuse their fellow servants, and riot in excess; if you tyranize over the consciences of your brethren, neglect the duties of your function, and give yourselves up to sensual pleasures, I will come upon you unexpectedly, and make you dreadful examples of mine anger, by
the severe punishments which I will inflict upon you: But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming ; and shall begin to smite his fellow-servant, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and ap
oint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall i. weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Having thus mentioned the rewards and punishments of a future state, it was easy and elegant for our Lord to pass from that subject to the consideration of the general judgment, when those rewards and punishments should be distributed in their utmost extent. This could not fail of animating his disciples to a vigorous discharge of their duty; and, by the striking representation of the last judgment here given, must greatly tend to rouse the consciences of men from their lethargy, and consider, before it be too late, the things which belong to their peace.
Then shall the kingdom of heaven, the gospel kingdom, in the last dispensation of it, when the kingdom of grace is going to be swallowed up in the kingdom of glory, be likened unto ten virgins which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish ; they that were foolish, as a proof of their stupidity, took indeed their lamps, but put no oil in their vessels, while the wise, as an instance of their prudence and foresight, took both their lamps and oil in their vessels, knowing that it was uncertain when the bridegroom would arrive, and that they might, in all probability wait long for his coming. Nor were they mistaken, for the bridegroom did not come so soon as they expected: And while he tarried they all slumbered and slept, and at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. Then all these virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give usef yoïr oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the reise 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 narriage : and the door was shut. Afterward
came also the 'other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us. But he answered, and said, Verily I say unto Ayou, I know you not. Watch therefore; for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
To understand this parable aright, we must remember, that it alludes to the customs of marriages among the eastern people. It was usual with them for the bridegroom to bring his bride home in the evening, sooner or later, as circumstances might happen; and, that she might be received properly at his house, his female acquaintance, especially those of the younger sort were invited to come and wait with lamps, till some of his retinue, dispatched before the rest, informed them that he was near at hand; upon which they trimmed their lamps, went forth to welcome him and conduct him with his bride into the house, for which they were honoured as guests at the marriage feasts, and share in the festivities.
Our blessed Saviour compares the candidates for the kingdom of heaven, to ten such virgins; he mentions ten, because this was the general number appointed to wait on the bridegroom; and to these, all Christian professors may be likened, who taking the lamp of Christian profession, go forth to meet the bridegroom; that is, prepare themselves as candidates for the kingdom of heaven, and desire to be admitted into the happy mansions of immortality, with CHRIST the celestial Bridegroom.
The case of Christians is represented to us by this of the virgins, half of whom only were wise, the other half being foolish And we must remember, that there always was, and always will be, a mixture of good and bad in the church, till the great day of separation arrives. The weakness of the foolish is represented by their taking no oil in their vessels with their lamps; that is, the foolish Christians content themselves with the bare lamp of a profession, and never think of furnishing it with the oil of divine grace, the fruit of which is a life of holiness. Whereas, the wise, well knowing that a lamp, without the supply of oil, would be speedily extinguished; that faith, without love and holiness, will be of no consequence, take care to supply themselves with a sufficient quantity of the divine grace, and to display in their lives, the works of love and charity. While all those virgins, though differently supplied, waited the coming of the bridegroom, they all slumbered and slept; that is, all Christians, both good and bad, the sincere and the hypocrite, all lie down together in the sleep of death; and, while the bridegroom delayeth his coming, slumber in the chambers of the dust.
There is a tradition among the Jews, that CHRIST's coming to judgment will be at midnight, which agrees with that part of the parable, at midnight there was a cry made, Go ye out to meet him. But however this be, whether he will come at midnight, or in the morning, it will be awfully sudden and alarming; the great ery will be heard to the ends of the earth; the trumpet shall sound and the mighty archangel's voice pierce even to the bowels of the earth, and the depths of the ocean: Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. All that are in the graves must then awake, and come forth; and all will then begin to think how they may prepare themselves to find admittance to the marriage-supper of the Lamb : Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. But the foolish soon perceived their folly; their lamps were gone out, totally extinguished, and they had no oil to support the flame: in like manner, the hypocrite's hope shall perish. But the wise were in a much happier condition; they had oil in their vessels sufficient for themselves, but none to spare: for, when the foolish virgins would have procured some from them, they denied their request, fearing there would not be enough for both.
We have here a representation of nominal and sincere Christians; the former having only the bare lamp of a profession, have neglected to live agreeably to the precepts and examples of their Master, and have not been solicitous to gain the oil of divine grace, by a constant use of the means assigned; those who have been contented with a mere negative righteousness, with such a justice and honesty as heathens boasted of, to whose charge no heinous crimes can be laid, while, at the same time, no good can be spoken of, as an effect of their faith; and such will fare like the foolish virgins: while the latter, whose wise conduct and zealous endeavours to stock their lamps with divine oil, will, like the wise virgins, enter into the joy of their Lord. . . .
Those that were foolish, going to purchase oil, missed the bridegroom, and behold the door was shut, They at last, however, reached the gate, and with #." importunity cried, Lord, Lord, open unto us.
ut he answered, and said, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not. You are strangers to me; you did not attend me at my coming, and now the door is shut, and entrance forever denied; depart from me all ye workers of iniquity. "
Therefore, how justly did our blessed Saviour bid us all watch, that we may be found ready, whenever he cometh, or commands, by the king of terrors, our attendance before his judgment-seat. Let us not refuse this kind invitation of being constantly prepared to meet the heavenly Bridegroom: let us fill our lamps with oil, that we may be ready to follow our great Master into the happy mansions of the heavenly CaIlad Îl.
However, as this duty was of the utmost importance, our blessed Saviour, to shew us more clearly the nature and use of Christian watchfulness to which he exhorts us at the conclusion of the parable of the