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ness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you,
For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be counted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man."
It appears, too, from St. Matthew's report, that the parable instructing the steward to watch, was repeated by our Lord on this occasion :
Chap. xxiv. 45. “ Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord has made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Verily, I say unto you, that he shall make him ruler over all his goods. But if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming, and shall begin to smite his fellow-servants, and to eat and drink with the drunken, the Lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for bim, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
In the former conversation, it was “appoint him his portion with the unbelievers” — adjudge him to be an unbeliever. “ A steward of the mysteries of God,” a “minister of the word,” who is an unbeliever, while he ministers in his office, cannot but be a hypocrite in the discharge of all his sacred functions !
The twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew, containing the parables of the ten virgins, of the talents, and of the shepherd dividing his sheep from his goats, comes next to be considered.
This chapter, be it remembered, is a continuation of the same discourse of our Lord which he delivered sitting on the Mount of Olives, to the four disciples who had
come' unto him privately to demand what would be the signs of his coming and of the end of the world,—that is, the end of the present order and dispensation of grace and providence, which, it was known, was one day to give place to the times of the Messiah, when a new order of things would take place, which, in the language of the Jews, and of the Scriptures themselves, was called " the world to come.”
The meaning of these three parables has been much misconceived for want of attending to this circumstance
that they are parts of the prophecy respecting the signs of Christ's coming and of the end of the world.
Matt. xxv. 1. “ Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. At the time referred to in the prophecy
-“ in the day when the Son of Man is revealed”— the coming of his kingdom, in regard to his waiting family upon earth, may be thus compared. It may be compared to a party of the relations of a new married couple, who are gone forth in the evening with their lamps, to meet the bridegroom bringing home his bride in the accustomed manner. To the careless world — to the apostates, who “ will not have this man to reign over them” - the kingdom of God may be likened to the coming of a thief in the night; but these virgins represent the professed people of God, the household of waiting servants. They are apprized that their Lord is coming; they know not the hour, but they have a sufficient intimation to cause them to prepare for the occasion.
Of these virgins, however, that represent the professing church, and affect to be waiting for their Lord, nay, trim their lamps and go out to meet him, prepared,
as it should seem, to receive him with due congratulations, as about to appear to their joy and salvation; of these ten virgins, a moiety is inconsiderate, and know not what they mean.
“ And five of them were wise, and five were foolish."
The wisdom or the folly was seen in this :
“ They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps."
The lamp clearly indicates a disposition to honour the bridegroom at his coming, as one of his friends, as one " that loves his appearing.” This, in the circumstances supposed, when the church had received intimation that the coming of the Lord was near at hand, would be the profession of all. Every professor, at the time referred to, will take his lamp; but not all upon a real, and true, and fixed principle of faith in the approaching Saviour. This appears illustrated in the sequel of the parable:
“ And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”
The representation is, he does not come quite so soon as expected; the whole party had been roused, and went forth animated with the expectation of soon seeing the bridegroom: but there occurs a delay, which tries their patience. The expectation is not kept up by repeated renewals of the indication of his approach; so that, as might happen through the infirmity of nature in servants waiting for their master, “ all slumbered and slept.” This, there is little doubt, is intended for a true historic picture of the church in the last days. The
church will have an indication of Christ's coming, and the attention and expectation of all will be roused; but the trial of character and patience will be, a seeming delay :
“ And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him! Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps; and the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone 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 : and while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, lord, open to us: but he answered and said, Verily, I say unto you, I know you not. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh."
The persons symbolized by the foolish virgins evidently assume the character of those “ that wait for their Lord;" but they are not thoroughly furnished for the occasion. After all their profession, notwithstanding they go in company with the wise, they are found unprepared at last, and are excluded from the society of the blessed. A deficiency in heart and principle is clearly pointed out in the lamp that shines, but has not wherewith to feed the fame, should continuance and perseverance be required. We may illustrate this from “ the stony ground" and the ground uncleared from thorns, which, in the parable of the sower, receives the seed of the word. This deficiency is represented as discovered, by the day of the Lord coming and finding them not ready; and if the professing church continues that same mixed society which it is at present, how many will it overtake un“But they shall proceed no further; for their folly shall be manifested to all men, as theirs also was.”
This last description of the artful seducer imposing upon the weak and credulous, has seemed to suit so well the prevailing influence of the Romish superstition, that few expositors have extended their thoughts further. But if we are right in distinguishing between the corruptions of the latter and of the last days, we must understand these verses of the seducers of this last period. In this last period, indeed, it is no where intimated in Scripture that the delusions of popery are at an end. It would sufficiently answer to the predictions of prophecy, if, in this mature age of the apostasy, that abject superstition, once arrayed in glory, but now driven from the high places of the earth, and superseded by infidel philosophy among the great and learned, were sent to seek its victims among the weak and ignorant, by the more grovelling arts of the less noble seducer. But, certainly, we must class with this remnant of the old dominant superstition, whatever, in these last days, under the semblance of religion, opposes " the truth as it is in
, Jesus,” or is artfully imposed on the weak and illiterate under its name. Surely the prophetic picture before us is,- The stronger part of mankind are become daringly irreligious and unprincipled; and among the more lowly and weak, where you would hope for a more favourable reception of the Gospel, there the false system of some artful seducer or deluded fanatic opposes you, and supplants the truth.
We seem warranted, indeed, to conclude, that these corruptions increase in the professed church more and more towards the time of the end ; “ Evil seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.”