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death, even the death of the cross; by the terrors that encompassed thy soul; by the sufferings which thou didst endure in thy body; by the bitter agony of thy death; have mercy on us, and keep us against the dismays of that solemn season! Amen. Amen.
CONTRAST BETWEEN THE FIRST AND LAST PARTS OF THIS PARABLE
-THE DEFICIENCY OF THE FOOLISH VIRGINS-HOW IT WAS PRO
POSED TO REMEDY IT-THE FOLLY OF TRUSTING TO THE GOODNESS
OR INTERCESSIONS OF OTHERS IN MATTERS OF SALVATION-THE ADVICE GIVEN TO THE FOOLISH VIRGINS—THE FREE AND ABUN
DANT PROVISIONS OF GRACE.
“ Then those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone [marg. going] out. But the wise 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.”—Matt. xxv. 7-9.
THERE is a marked contrast between the manner in which the coming of the Bridegroom is represented in the first part of this parable, and that in which it is made to appear in the latter part. In the one case, every thing seems calm, with plenty of time on hand; in the other, all is excitement and hurry. The point at which this difference occurs, is that at which the midnight cry is made. Itself arrayed in the attributes of an anxious and hasty alarum, it throws every thing into commotion, and introduces a period in which the whole face of things is changed. The Bridegroom, who had tarried so long, now moves with all possible expedition. The virgins that once trimmed their lamps at their leisure, and went forth with composed deliberation, now find themselves pressed to the last extremities of haste. And the whole scene rushes forward with such unexpected suddenness that, with all the haste possible, the Bridegroom comes, and passes before one-half of them can make ready to join him as they anticipated.
This is the uniform representation of the Scriptures concerning this matter. Even in the Old Testament we find it written, “The Lord shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in." (Mal. iii. 1.) Christ himself says that "the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not,”—in a day when many a servant "looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware,” (Matt. xxiv. 50,) and that “as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth." (Luke xxi. 35.) And to the Thessalonians (v. 1, 2) Paul says, “Of the times and seasons ye have no need that I write unto you; for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." Hence, also, those many exhortations to watch, to be sober, and to be continually on the look-out, that that day may not come upon us "unawares;” implying that it will be precipitated upon us with great suddenness, and that, when it once arrives, every thing will be hurry and proceed with great quickness.
It is this suddenness of the Bridegroom's coming, and the haste by which every movement will then be characterized, which constitute the background of the picture of alarming discovery and consequent
confusion and distress which now comes before us in the case of the five foolish virgins.
The awakening midnight cry had been given. The great clamor of the Bridegroom's immediate proximity was ringing in every ear. The drowsiness which once hung over them was effectually dissipated. Every faculty was now intent upon the one great absorbing thought of being ready to meet the longexpected one and to go in with him to the feast. All hands alike were busy with trembling haste trimming up their lamps. Never were wicks cleansed and stirred with more anxiety and despatch. Never was so much made to depend upon having them at once burning fresh and bright. It was a moment of intense concern,—the last critical moment,-a moment on which the whole question of admission to the festival for which they came out was to turn,-a moment which would admit of no protraction or delay,—a moment when all must be ready, or fail in partaking of those nuptial joys and honors to which they aspired. And just in this moment of busy haste and required preparation, five of these maidens found that their oil was exhausted and their lamps about to expire. Strange and vexatious discovery to be made in a time of such exigency! So vivid is the picture that we can almost see the expressions of mingled hope and consternation of each as she draws up the wick anew, and nurses the feeble flame, which brightens a little only to burn the less.
“ And the foolish [virgins] said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are going out."
Here now arises one of the most important inquiries in the interpretation of this parable, -namely, what that lack in some Christians is which is represented by the deficiency of oil in the lamps of these virgins. It has been a popular impression that these improvident virgins represent false Christians, unregenerate and dead members of the visible Church, hypocrites and self-deceivers. I have already adverted to some of the reasons why I cannot so understand it. Hypocrites and unregenerate persons are not "VIRGINS,"* no matter how much they pro
* Professor Trench asserts that nothing can be argued from this term in the interpretation of this parable. But it is an assertion which cannot be maintained. This word is as much a part of the record as any other, and quite as prominent in the description. It is also one of the most univocal, significant, and carefully-guarded words by which the New Testament designates true Christians. In its literal sense it is found outside of this parable only in Matt. i. 23; Luke i. 27, ii. 36; Acts xxi. 9; 1 Cor. vii. 25–28, 34, 36, 37, where it is employed to denote untouched purity. In its tropical sense it is used but twice, and in each case accompanied with a fulness of description, besides, which leaves no room for its application to any other than real Christians. The first is 2 Cor. xii. 2, where it is employed to denote persons “espoused” to Christ,—Christians “uncorrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ,”—such as are fit to be presented to Christ as his Bride. The other instance is Rev. xiv. 4, where it is used to designate those who are “not defiled,” “ which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth,” who are “redeemed from among men,” in whom is “no guile,” and who are “ without fault.” These passages give God's own explanation of the word, and show that in the mind of the Holy Ghost it denotes a flower of chastity and pureness which is not mere profession or semblance, but reality. Neither the word of God nor the language of man knows any thing of a bastard or spurious vir