« AnteriorContinuar »
The first thing that strikes us is, that the KINGDOM OP HEAven is likened unto ten virgins who intended to take part in the rejoicings of a wedding-feast, and that one half of them from their folly were not able to do so. The KINGDOM OF HEAVEN must therefore here have the same meaning that it has in several other parts of Scripture. It must mean the Church of Christ on earth, into which all by baptism are received.
The number ten among the Jews formed an assembly; there. fore it was a convenient one to give them the idea of a Church.*
And now that we understand this, let us examine the Parable, which wraps up in the dress of an Eastern tale that might easily be true, the awful fact, that unless we wisely watch, we shall have no part in the joy of our Lord.
Christ's glad kingdom when completed, is everywhere in Scripture set before us as a Bridal ;-that one event in our lives that should raise no thoughts but those of love and joy. And Christ is the Bridegroom. Needs there a word more to tell of His protecting love!
He goes to seek His Bride in her Father's house, and brings her veiled to His heavenly home. She is that perfect Church the beauty of whose holiness we may think of and imagine, but in this world, as it now is, shall never see; for till the Marriage Supper of the Lamb she shall not be revealed in all her adorn. ments. He calls His people to the Bridal. They form a part of it. Some are already gone to join the mystic Bride, the heavenly Church. They shall come again with the Bridegroom, with songs and gladness, to be joined by their companions, who on earth are waiting the glad event. Thus time and space
"Thus it was ruled that wherever there were ten Jews living in one place, there was a congregation, and there a synagogue ought to be built.”—Note in Trench, p. 245.
† The bride is not only veiled, but she is carried in a litter, closely curtained round, so that none can possibly see her. Surely this is a beautiful emblem of the perfection of Christ's Church ! still to us ideal, but nevertheless a truth. I Revelation xix. 7-9; xxi, 2-9.
§ Thessalonians iv. 13-18.
divide the marriage party. Some already belong to the Bride; can we grieve for them that they were so early called to share her glory? Oh no--rather grieve for those who have long to wait. Some are waiting for the hour when the Bridegroom shall bring her to his home: these light their lamps (may not this be their baptism ?) and go forth to meet Him. They set out upon that path, (the Christian's life) which they know shall bring them to the meeting. Five of them are wise, and are careful to take oil in their vessels for their lamps; and five are foolish. They forget that unless their lamps are fed with oil, the flame must soon burn low and then go out. They take no oil in their vessels.
The lamps which the Virgins carried, the light they gave, the oil they needed—these all are signs of deepest meaning. A flame of fire among the ancients, was the emblem of the undying spirit. It is often found cut in marble, or in stone, upon their tombs. Among ourselves it is still the same—and can anything be more like spiritual life, than the flame that is ever mounting upwards ?. It has nothing in common with the body ; yet the body is worthless without it. What is the lamp without the flame? It is lighted from above; yet it is fed from within. Oil must be furnished to keep the flame from going out; and the spiritual life of man lighted from God, must be fed with constant care, or it will grow dim, and then it will cease to burn. But how? What is that oil, without which the lighted lamp will go out in darkness ? Surely, that grace of God, which is to be had from God, by all who wish it. Oil seems to be often used in Scripture, to express the help of the Spirit, without which there can be no religious life in man.
Kings and high-priests were anointed with oil in the name of the Lord; and St. John to the true followers of Christ, writes, “But ye have an unction, (that is, an anointing with oil,) from the Holy one, and ye know all things."* We may, therefore, understand that the oil which kept the virgin's lamps burning, means that inward grace of the Holy Spirit given by God to those who live in communion with Him.
1 John ii. 20.
If there is this secret communion, which is best kept up by prayer, the light of the divine life will burn clear and steady in the soul, and the light will be seen of men. It cannot be hid, but it seeks not the praise of man. It sheds a pure and quiet ray, that must lighten all around it, and thus is seen the difference between those who have it, and those who have it not.
Clearly the lamp is that which is outward in the Christian profession, carried equally by the wise and the unwise ; the oil is the inward grace, which makes the reality of religion, that by which the lamp burns. The wise only, take heed to this.
All who profess themselves Christians, set out from one point, the belief that Christ is their Lord—that he loves his people, even as a bridegroom loveth his bride, and that he will come in glory to take them to his heavenly home. Thus are they like the virgins who set forth together to meet the bridegroom. The same in dress and ornament, all are bright and fair, all carry lighted lamps, each step must bring them nearer. How shall we know the foolish from the wise ? Let us turn to the story of the parable.
It is night, and the bridegroom tarries. Behold, they sleep. Each virgin sleeps, with her lamp beside her. The wise and the foolish slumber together. What is this sleep that is mentioned without any word of blame? Does it picture to us that all must lie down in death, and so await the coming of the bridegroom? Or is it rather that quiet of the mind, that rest from anxiety that is the privilege of those whose hope is in Christ? “ This seems more like the meaning of the parable,” for the more exact English of the words, "they all slumbered and slept,” should be, "they all grew sleepy and then slept.” And oh, what a warning there is in this; for the bridegroom tarrieth long. We are apt to think that when once we have set forth to meet him, the work is done; but alas it is not so. It is not enough to have set out well. The grace of perseverance must be our's, or we shall fail in the end.
Mark the sleeping virgins ;-each hour that passes shews the difference between them. They all calmly sleep, but the lamps of five are burning brightly, and there is light about them : Of five the lamps burn low,* dimness and shadow are fallen upon the sleepers, their bridal dress can scarcely now be seen.
Oh God! may we take warning!
It is midnight. Hark! there is a cry made, “behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” This should be a joyful sound. It proclaims the advancing bride. The bridegroom is calling the virgins, her companions, to join the procession and to share her joy. Now is seen the wisdom of the wise. Five of the virgins arise, and with glad hearts they trim their lamps. There is no hurry, no confusion, they have plenty of oil—they are ready to meet their Lord. And the other five! Starting from their sleep they see with terror that their lamps are gone out for lack of oil, and the rejoicing cry that tells that the bridegroom is coming, sounds nearer and nearer. Alas! they cannot rejoice, for they are not ready. They turn for help to their wise and happy companions : “Give us,” they cry, “of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.”
This may not be. We cannot share the grace of God with each other. It must be sought from Him who only can bestow it, and EACH ONE NEEDS THE WHOLE of the Spirit's work, how can we appear before God? The wise make answer, “Not
So, lest there be not enough for us, and for you. But go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” There are yet means of grace, go seek it while there is yet a moment. They knew the way, for at first they must have had some oil, or their lamps could not have burned at all; but they have neglected it in their many cares for other things, they have forgotten the one thing
* See margin, "going out,” verse 8.
needful. They did not even observe that their lamps were burning low, and now, in the hour of need, they “are gone out." All hurry and confusion, these foolish virgins hasten back, the work that should have been done long ago, is still to be done, they are not ready. “And while they went, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was sbut." A striking lesson this against false confidence, against a lazy trust that steeps the soul in slumber, that gives no sign of its life by the light it sheds around. It is written, “Hereby shall ye know that ye are His, by the Spirit that is in you,” and if ye are His, however humble your station, however little influence you may think ye have, yet "you are the light of the world,” of that part of the world (it may be the very smallest corner) with which ye have to do, and Jesus has said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” *
[Read the Parable again.]
Our Lord spake this parable to enforce all he had been saying of the suddenness with which he would come again, not expected, at the moment, even by those who were waiting for Him. He ends it by repeating for the third time in nearly the same words, “ Watch therefore : for ye know neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man cometh."
This repetition seems to call our attention to what may be called the grand meaning of the parable. We have in it certainly a striking picture of the life and death of each one, man and woman, in the Christian Church. The open profession of going to meet the Lord— His long tarrying, the care of some to be found ready so that they can in no wise be taken unprepared, the carelessness of others, and their having in consequence all to do when they should have been ready to meet
* Matthew v. 13-16.