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ject about which he had been discoursing in the last chapter, namely, the period of the destruction of Jerusalem; and his design is to shew, by the conduct and treatment of the ten virgins, the situation of good and bad Christians at that time. The parable is founded upon a custom, which prevailed in Judæa and other eastern countries, of the bridegroom, upon the day of marriage, bringing the bride to his house in the evening. Upon this occasion it was usual for the neighbours and friends, particularly young women, to welcome his arrival, by going forth to meet him with lamps in their hands: for this act of civility they were rewarded, if they came in time, with the honour of being admitted to the marriage-feast, which was always held at night.
2. And five of them were wise, "prudent," and five were foolish.
No inference can be drawn hence, in respect to the proportion which sincere Christians bear to those who are so only by profession: some number must be fixed upon, and five of each is as convenient a division as any.
3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them.
4. But the prudent took oil in their vessels, with their lamps.
The prudent, knowing that the return of the bridegroom was uncertain, took oil, not only in their lamps, but likewise in other vessels, which they carried with them for the purpose; that in case he were longer than they expected, and what they first used were expended, they might be able to supply the deficiency. The foolish neglected this precaution, and carried with them no oil, except what was in their lamps.
5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered, and slept.
By supposing the wise virgins to become drowsy and sleepy, Christ might intend to represent that even
sincere Christians, in waiting for his coming, might grow inattentive to their duty in some degree.
6. And at midnight, "later than was usual,” there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.
Rather, "are going out:" for it appears from the preceding verse that they had just trimmed them.
9. 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.
10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, rather, "to the marriage-feast;" and the door was shut.
11. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, “Master, Master," open to us.
12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
I do not acknowledge you to be my friends: for had you really been so, you would have taken care to have come earlier.
13. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the son of man cometh.
These last words as well as what the parable begins with show that it refers to the coming of Christ, for the destruction of Jerusalem, and not to his coming at the general judgment: for he concludes with the same exhortation which he had subjoined to the account which he gave, in the former chapter, of the signs of his coming in that event: for his language there was, v. 42, "watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come." The intention of the parable is to enforce the necessity of watchfulness, by showing the distinction which will be made in that day, between those by whom it was practised, and those by whom it was neglected. The wise virgins, who carried oil in their vessels as well as in their lamps who were prepared for the bridegroom when he came, and were admitted with him to the marriage-feast, are sincere Christians, who, by the constant practice of the duties of piety and virtue, would secure his favour, and escape the judgments that were coming upon the Jewish nation; for they would always be prepared for his coming: but the foolish virgins, who took no oil in their vessels, whose lamps were going out at the time when the bridegroom appeared, and were obliged to go to buy more; who could not, from this delay, attend the bridegroom, and were therefore excluded from the marriage-feast, are those who profess themselves Christians, but want those substantial virtues which are necessary to recommend them to the favour of Christ, and, when he came, would be disowned and rejected by him, and suffered to perish with others.
1. From what Christ has said, in the close of the last chapter, servants may learn what character they
From here to the end of the book the paging is wrong.
510] Matt. xxiv. 43. to the end. Matt. xxv. 1----15.
deserve, and what treatment they merit, when they perform only what the apostle calls eye-service; if they are sober, industrious and attentive to the duty of their station, only while their master is at home, or while they are under his eye; but as soon as he is gone from home, or they are out of his view, become idle and intemperate; waste his substance in riotous living, in gluttony and drunkenness; and quarrel with and abuse their fellow-servants. Such persons are, in the estimation of Christ, wicked servants and hypocrites. They are men of bad principles, and of deceitful manners, who put on the appearance of industry and fidelity, only that they may obtain greater confidence, and have a better opportunity of gratifying their passions: they deserve the severest punishments, as well as the most ignominious appellations. Let those who are placed in this station of life remember, that if they wish to obtain the character of good and faithful servants, to secure their master's approbation, and to rise to a better and more honourable post in his service, they must be as attentive to their duty in the absence of their master, as when he is at home, and be as careful of wasting his substance, as of wasting their own.
2. Let ut all remember the representation here given of the situation of Christians. They are servants: however elevated their rank, whatever power they possess among men, they are but the servants of God; they have their work and their station assigned them in his houshold; they are to consult his will, and not to follow their own inclinations. Our master is in heaven, and removed from our view. We may hence imagine that he will not know in what manner we behave, and never come to enquire into our conduct: but there is a time fixed for his return, in the counsels of heaven, although concealed from our knowledge; and he will as certainly come to judge all mankind, as he once came to judge and punish the Jews. One event was an emblem and pledge of the other.
3. Let Christians in all ages make the same preparation for the last coming of Christ, as he here exhorts
his disciples to make for his coming to punish the Jews. It was only unremitting obedience to his laws which could save them from the vengeance of the son of man, in the day of his visitation; and it is nothing else which can deliver them from his wrath and condemnation, in the last day. It is not sufficient that we make an outward profession of religion; that we exercise religious affections, and perform religious duties, only for a season, and then neglect them; that we content ourselves with having put oil once into our lamps, and then resign ourselves to sleep: for if the bridegroom come, while we are in this state, we shall be wholly unprepared to receive him: all attempts to get ready at the last moment will be ineffectual: it will then be too late to repent of our sins, to reform our conduct, and to begin a diligent discharge of the duties of life. The season of preparation is past; nothing now remains but that we submit to our doom. If we apply for admission into heaven, Christ will say to us, I know you not; you are not my friends, you possess not the qualities which I require.
If you cannot now bear the thoughts of being thus rejected by Christ, at the last day, resolve to take the only method by which such a calamity can be prevented. Content not yourselves with being called Christians, or with performing your duty at one time; be diligent and unremitting in doing the work which is assigned you. You will thus be prepared for your master, whenever he may come; and you will be entitled to the happiness of that servant, who, when his lord came, was found watching.
Matthew xxv. 14----30.
14. For the kingdom of heaven, rather, the son of man, is as a man travelling into a far country, or, "going from home, who called his own servants, and deliv