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their Lord who comes suddenly at the last-these are images which show forth what is daily passing around us; it is in fact our own history—and this, the more private and personal meaning of the parable, quite agrees with the grand and more general interpretation of it, which is this-the Church of Christ, under the figure of the ten virgins, has ever since the first preaching of the Gospel, gone forth to meet her Lord when He shall come in glory. He has appointed the time, though he has left the hour uncertain. The world rolls on, men say, "Where is the promise of his coming?"
The Church has had many false alarms, and from time to time drowsiness falls upon her; but in the Holy Sacrament, in constant prayer, in the possession of the written word, she has the means of grace. By these she can keep up a constant communion with God-by these the Holy Spirit will be ever with her to fill her lamp with oil, and keep her light burning. Though he tarries long, she need never be unprepared. And in the Church of Christ, bright lights have been ever burning, and will burn on even to the end; also there are some belonging to her whose lamps are burning low,—and some have gone out in utter darkness. Look round the world and you will find it so.
But the bridegroom is coming. The hour is at hand, when He will bring His spotless bride, the perfect Church, to establish her on earth. She hath never yet been seen in the perfection of her beauty, but the saints have sung of her glory, and have longed to be joined unto her train. Christ hath redeemed her from all evil, hath adorned her for Himself, and soon will He bring her with the holy angels and the blessed spirits of the redeemed. Then shall the cry of the bridegroom be heard, and then shall the Church on earth in which the light of spiritual truth is burning, arise to join the triumphant train, and all who are the marriage-party shall be gathered to the marriagefeast.
Who are those who knock so loudly, but alas! so vainly at the gate? These are they who had to seek for oil, when their Lord required their presence. It matters nothing now, to say, "We were thy friends, we had gone forth to meet thee." When the bridegroom came, they had no oil in their lamps, and their lights were gone out.
There is light and joy within, but they must remain without. How miserable their fate to be so near, and yet to fall short! Oh! solemn warning to me and to you who read this parable -let us watch, for we know neither the day nor the hour. It was not wind, nor rain, nor damp, that put out the lamps of the foolish virgins, it was the want of oil within; and blessed be God, it is no outward circumstance that can put out our lamps, it is only the want of that inward grace which is freely offered to all who seek for it. God has commanded us to keep our lamps burning, and He has provided us with the means. The only certain way to be ready upon that day, is to be ready every day; and the doom of the foolish virgins shews us that the work which should be the work of a life, cannot be huddled up into a moment. It is a fearful thought that, our lamps having once been lighted, may yet go out. And they will go out, if, satisfied with the name of Christian, we seek no inward Christian grace.
MATTHEW Xxv. 33-46.
The lamp that is daily fed with oil will always burn, and
* It is needless to repeat here the Parable of the Talents, which has been fully considered with that of the Pounds. It is very likely that our Lord, under the same figure as before, gave at this time to His Apostles, and to all who should succeed to their charge, an especial warning to look to the use they made of the trust left in their hands; for that they, having a greater responsibility, would be called to a stricter account.
bright will be the light that is shed around it.
Good works are to the Christian life, that which the flame is to the lamp. They shew the work within, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."* Our Lord had said this, long before He gave the parable of the ten virgins to his disciples. Now He passes on from His warnings of the need of watchfulness and prayer, to a description of that last dread scene which is to fix the fate of men for ever.
The whole of this long conversation, as they "sat on the Mount of Olives, over against the Temple," looking down upon Jerusalem, had been on the subject of His second coming. By many parables and pictures well suited to impress their minds, the Lord Jesus had shown them that they must be always looking for Him. The parting hour was at hand. He knew how severely their faith would immediately be tried. The darkness of night was now gathering round them, but a more awful gloom would soon fall upon them, and upon all who dwelt in Jerusalem. "Darkness over all the land," would hide his agonies on the Cross. Would they then remember that He was assuredly to come again? How solemn was this evening hour!
We can hardly realize the feelings of the disciples, as they listened to Him, when speaking of Himself, He further said—
MATTHEW Xxv. 31-33. "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on the right hand, but the goats on the left."
Yes! the hour was at hand when the Son of man should be betrayed-given up to His murderers; -that was to be imme
*Matthew v. 16.
diately but another hour was also hastening on, when He, the crucified, "should sit upon the throne of his glory," and the inhabitants of the whole earth stand before Him in judgment-on the right hand and on the left. What was it which thus divided them, thus judging them before a word was spoken? We are told, it was done "as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." "The Lord knoweth them that are His;" and this knowledge at once places His people on His right hand. The rest are the goats-not belonging to His flock at all-they might have grazed on the same mountains-they might have drank from the same streams; but they had never known the Shepherd's voice-they had never followed Him. And now the sentence is given, and in such wise that it shall impartially judge "all nations."
Verses 34-45. "Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took
me not in naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.”
We find there re
Let us turn to the book of Revelation. vealed in heavenly vision to the Apostle John the reality of those things of which, on this night, our Lord Jesus spake. The meaning of the marriage of the King's Son, and of the Bride, was plainly shown to him.* And a further light was thrown upon the terrors of the latter days; upon the deliverance and the glory of the Saints, and upon the awful judgmentscene. Let us, with solemn attention, read the description given by the beloved Apostle when, years after he had sat on the Mount of Olives listening to his Lord, he had again beheld Him, but in such glory that he could not look upon Him.† In that heavenly vision Jesus said unto him-"Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter." And he wrote.
By the light of the revelation then made to John, we may be enabled more clearly to understand our Lord's description of the last judgment.
The Apostle, after recounting with fearful plainness the dreadful judgments that shall fall upon God's enemies during the times of the latter days, declares, in the 20th chapter of Revelation, that he saw an angel come down from heaven to bind Satan, that he should no more deceive the nations; and that he shut him up for a thousand years; then the Apostle writes: "And I saw thrones, and they (that is, they for whom they were prepared) sat upon them, and judgment was given unto
+ Ibid i. 12-19.