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power to search the heart, can | Christ is to be none of his, but to exercise church discipline no far- | be solely actuated by motives atther than external evidence will tainable by carnal men. Such warrant them. Nor was the pa- inferior motives, however, are rable of the ten virgins ever in- sometimes so imposing that the tended to impair Christian love by fatal deficiency is only perceived making good men suspicious of one by Him from whom nothing can be another; but the salutary lesson hid. The true friends of Christ, furnished by the failure of the however, are not to be hermits ; foolish virgins, is designed to make but are to be like a conspicuous us turn our eyes inward, and to city on a hill. “Let your light,” say each one for himself, “ Lord, says Jesus, “so shine before men, is it I ?"
that they seeing your good works, As it was no part of the Savi- may glorify your Father who is in our's object to teach what would heaven.” Mat. v. 10.
Still mogratify idle curiosity without doing tives are secret, and a Christian's any real good, he did not give us private life is secret: and, therea clue to the actual number either fore, if to honourable publicity of true Christians or of false pro- spirituality of mind is attached; fessors; but he secured all that is and if there is also a private walkimportant to us as individuals by ing with God, and a series of godly selecting mere specimens for illus- transactions in which a professor tration. Hence in comparing reli- does not let his left hand know gious professors to a party of vir- what his right hand doeth, then he gins, our Lord adopted such a has, in his expedition, something round number of that class of fe- secret to accord with that all-immales as would naturally be invited portant supply of oil which the to grace the ceremonies of a nup-wise virgins took timely care to tial day: and then, as there was secure. no reason for preponderance, he At the outset of a Christian protook one half of the virgins as a fession one striking feature is joy. specimen of his real friends who For till an individual is hardened wisely make their calling and elec- by a course of iniquity, he is, like tion sure; and the other half he fallen Adam, subject to fearful aptook as a specimen of his pretend-prehension: and whenever this ed friends who, however wise they apprehension is suddenly removed, may be in other respects, are fools joy is the result, whether it prowith regard to those“ better things ceeds from the influences of the that accompany salvation.” divine spirit in concurrence with
The diversity of character pre- correct views of gospel truths, or sented to our contemplation by whether it proceeds from delusive the procedure of the ten virgins, is impressions aided by a misconcepillustrative of a profession that is tion of the sacred oracles. Much, accompanied by the sanctifying therefore, must depend upon subinfluences of the divine Spirit con- sequent tests. Il joy only protrasted with a profession that be- duces what persecution can degins, proceeds, and ends with na- stroy, it either comes from the tural principles. “To be led by earth, or is fostered by him who the Spirit of God” is “to have an transformis himself into an angel of unction from the Holy One,” and light. Or should it be apparent an earnest of eternal salvation : that the world retains its hold on whereas not to have the spirit of our affections, and that heaven is chosen merely as the better of two ble charms, and enables the Chrisplaces when, contrary to our wishes, tian to
pursue that holiness we must cease to enjoy the fame without which no man shall see the world awards to literature, to the Lord.” wealth, to what is genteel, or to Holiness indeed is not the cause what is even vulgar and degrad- of future blessedness, though it is ing; then our joy is no more than its harbinger.
So the morning what Judas might have possessed. twilight is not the cause of day, If, however, our joy is inseparable and yet no day ever arrives withfrom Christian love, and is accom- out it. The fact is, the same sun is panied by all those ramifications of the cause of both. So sovereign holiness which accord with the grace, in perfect consistency with circumstances in which we are itself, never performs the latter placed; then we know by the fruit part of its grand object without that the tree is good. It is a great the former part being first realized, mercy therefore for a true Christian He, therefore, that would bail the to be put to the proof. “ If,” effulgent day, must welcome the says the apostle, “ye are without increasing twilight, “ growing in chastisement whereof all are par- grace and in the knowledge of our takers, then are ye illegitimate Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” children and not sons." Heb. xii. 8. 2 Pet. iii. 18. But " count it all joy," says James, Thus the ramifications of holi“when ye have to pass through ness when viewed as a means condivers trials.” Trials, indeed, in ducing to an end, evince that wellthemselves are no evidence of true directed forecast which is called godliness: but if by the furnace of wisdom. Yea, even the ant, thougit tribulation dross is separated, and guided by instinct only, is extolled gold more and more pure is found for her wisdom, because “she to remain ; then there is the best provideth her meat in the summer, of all attainable evidence that a and gathereth her food in the harprofession is comparable to that of vest. Such then is the forecast the wise virgins. On this ground, of five of the virgins, and such is Paul hailed trials. “ We glory,” the reason why they are called says he,“ in tribulations, knowing wise. that tribulation worketh patience, On the other hand, if we substiand patience, experience; and ex- tute the reveries of a vain mind for perience, hope.” Rom. v. 3, 4. a scriptural fleeing to Christ, and Thus instead of dishonourably for living by faith on him from day evading the trial like the false to day, we are awfully deluded. professor, the faithful friend of Whilst the Gospel too that would Christ endures as seeing IIim who set us right is at any moment acis invisible; and this endurance cessible, to refuse to avail ourfurnislies experimental evidence, selves of such a criterion, or to and such evidence conduces to a make void its dictates by grossly strong and well-grounded hope. fallacious principles of interpretaSuch is the happy effect of divine tion, is to display that kind of proinfluence on an auspicious profes- cedure for which five of the virgins sion. For the Divine Spirit by are charged with folly. imparting the evidence of things Nor should it be forgotten that not seen in connection with a su- he who attempted to mislead the preme love to those things, clothes Saviour by quotations of Scripture, invisible realities with inexpressi- may still attempt to make truth
answer the purpose of error. Hence, not a good hope through grace.
with thee.” Happy then are those who dig In conformity with these views for truth more than for hid trea- it becomes our imperative duty to sures, and whose investigations are say, “Let not him that girdeth on accompanied by an humble, a teach- his harness boast himself as he that able, and a devotional spirit. Such putteth it off.” 1 Kings xx. 11. In persons come as little children to the clearer light of celestial day, the approving Saviour, and, like saints will contemplate the bright Mary, choose the “good part," sun of sovereign grace without any sitting at his feet and hearkening to necessity for intervening clouds to his word. But the false professor dim its effulgence. But, in the does not so regard the words of present world, if we would be safe, Christ. He beareth them indeed, we must be imitators of the probut “ he doeth them not.” Not-phets and apostles, and of the noble withstanding his boasted acquisi- army of martyrs. They heard, intions, therefore, he is rejecting the deed, the voice of their Illustrious solid rock, and is building on the Leader encouraging them with the sand a house which, however mag. prospect of final victory. But his nificent it may be, will have a cheering words had their approdreadful and irrecoverable fall priate effect in imparting additional amidst the conflict of elements and courage, in stimulating the warriors the crash of worlds.
to renewed efforts, and in conducLet us therefore try our hope by ing to the very thing promised, scriptural tests, and see with what even that signal triumph over all feelings and actions it co-operates. opposition in which true Christians “ Every man,” says John, “ that may say, “In all these things we hath in himself the hope of being are more than conquerors through like God, purifieth himself, even as him that loved us." He is pure.” ] John iii. 3 But Thus happily does the time of hope that is not impaired by sin is probation proceed and cease with
those who are truly wise ; and then transitory is even the longest pecomes on a period when their riod of the separate state when blessed spirits are absent from the compared with eternity, that it is body and present with the Lord. nothing, and less than nothing. It But as this view is taken in the is no wonder, therefore, that he preceding parable, in which no ac- who comprehends eternity at a count is taken of the body, our glance, should sometimes speak Lord suppressed what he had just like himself, and account the actual taught, in order to supply what he bliss and woe of separate spirits as had in that case omitted. To lose unworthy of being named, and sight of separate spirits, therefore, should, on such occasions, refer and to contemplate saints and sin- solely to his second coming, as the ners slumbering side by side in the commencement of a period of remansions of the dead, is but to tribution. forego the view of one side of a As on one occasion Jesus spoke descriptive medal while we are in- of the righteous and the wicked as tently gazing on the other. Under jointly participating in the resursuch circumstances, therefore, we rection, and as in his representation are presented with a view of very of the sheep and the goats, all manopposite characters in a state of kind appear to be present at the similarity. For to say that the same time; it might be inferred that slumbering and sleeping of the wise true Christians and false professors virgins is religious declension, is leave their graves at one and the to say that however true Christians same instant. But the general acmay differ from false professors at count is to be elucidated by the first, yet that by beginning in the account that enters into detail. spirit and ending in the flesh, they When, for instance, we read in become like them at last, and that Gen. v. 2. “ Male and female crethus the Christian pilgrimage con- ated he them,” we have a general sists in receding from the heavenly account from which we might imacountry, instead of pressing for- gine that our first parents began wards towards it. But, in confin- their existence together : but the ing our attention to the grave, we detail in Gen. ii. shews that Adam have facts to bear out the declara- was first formed and then Eve. So tion in which it is said, “ They all though we read that all that are in slumbered and slept.” For in the the graves shall come forth, yet house appointed for all living, there that general account will admit of is no apparent distinction between two distinct acts of Omnipotence the foolish who are to rise to with as much propriety as the exshame and everlasting contempt, pression, “ Male and female creand the wise who are to shine as ated he them.” the stars for ever and ever.
The fact appears to be, that after All the slumbering and sleeping, the millennium and the subsequent however, is transitory. "While period of hostility against the saints, the bridegroom tarried,” and no the first act of Omnipotence will be longer, " they all slumbered and the resurrection of the PIOUS DEAD. slept.” Death, therefore, having, "The dead in Christ,” says Paul, like sleep, the prospect of an awak- “ shall rise first: and then we who ing, is itself called a sleep. Thus are alive and remain shall be caught our Lord denoininated transitory up together with them in clouds death when he said, “ The damsel (or prodigious multitudes) to meet is not dead, but sleepeth :” and so the Lord in the air." i Thes. iv.
16, 17. In reference likewise to rious resurrection the moment the
“ We shall all be out his reward. “Behold,” says changed,” says Paul, “in a mo- he, “I come quickly; and my ment, in the twinkling of an eye, reward is with me, to give to every at the last trumpet.” From these man as his work shall be.” Rev. views we perceive that the angels xxii. 12. Nay, even good men are who may be sent to gather God's so rewarded according to their elect from the four winds, will take works, that he who receives one them from their unconverted com- pound and gains five, has five panions. Thus in that hemisphere cities assigned him; wbile he who that may happen to be dark at the receives the same sum and gains sound of the last trumpet, two will ten pounds, has ten cities assigned be in one bed, of whom one shall him. No good man, indeed, will be taken, and the other left to pe- consider this a warrant for envious rish in the last conflagration : and competition with others; but, in in the enlightened hemisphere, two proportion as he is wise, he will shall be in the field, and of them be a competitor with himself, likewise one shall be taken and the knowing that even a cup of cold other left. Then will be seen what water, given in a riglit spirit to one neither men nor angels ever previ- of Christ's disciples, will not lose ously beheld, an association of all its special reward. Thus at last whom the Saviour will delight to the faithful friends of Christ are honour. For as to the dead that welcomed to the regions of unsulare raised, they are expressly call- lied bliss, and are so honoured by ed “the dead in Christ;" and, as Him in the presence of the holy to those who are changed, the angels, as would baffle all mortal apostle gives us to understand that attempts to describe. This is to they are to be Christ's companions be admitted, like the wise virgins,
“ And so,” says he, as guests to the splendid marriage“ shall we ever be with the Lord.” feast, and to be graciously and 1 Thes. iv. 17.
for ever acknowledged the select In such a goodly company are friends of the bridegroom. comprised the dead, small and But where will the imitators of great, whose names are written in the foolish virgins be all this time? the Lamb's book of life; and, de- Alas! their unfitness to attend the ducting from this risen multitude Saviour will prevent their ascendthe infant race of mankind, the rest ing with the multitude that are to are those persons
who are compar- be for ever with the Lord. They able to the wise virgins. Such must wait therefore for another religious professors, therefore, as scene. For when all good men are the real friends of the great that may be living at the last day Redeemer, are prepared for a glo- shall quit this mortal state without