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crites : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth," (vs. 49-51).
It appears by this passage that one class of servants are proclaiming that Jesus is coming, while others are saying in their hearts, “My Lord delayeth His coming.” The one class are earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, and living according to their faith; the other class are denouncing their fellow-servants, and using, perhaps, the language that so often salutes our ears, “Do not be constantly harping on the coming of the Lord. Strive for the conversion of sinners,” etc. The faithful feel anxious for the welfare of the Church, and are straining every nerve to wake up the virgins ; while the delinquent are beating their fellow-servants, with whom they have been associated in the labors of the vineyard, and lulling to rest the fears of their hearers by contemptuously asserting, there is nothing in it, or this individual or that does not believe it, etc. The faithful feel a sympathy for the scattered flock, and desire to heal “the stroke of their wound: " while it may be said of the delinquent, “Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with wool ; but
feed not the flock," (Ez. xxiv: 3). But in the midst of all this wickedness, the Saviour comes, and finding them off their watch, cuts them asunder, and appoints their portion with the hypocrites : "there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS.
The truths elucidated by the various parables of our Lord, are among the most important instructions contained in the word of life. None of the parables, separately considered, represent the entire economy of Jehovah; but distinct parts of the great whole are brought to view in each, and, when appropriately arranged, constitute a perfect and harmonious system. For example, the Saviour in the 13th chapter of Matthew, (v. 3–8,) presents the simple idea of preaching the word, under the emblem of sower,” sowing seed in his field. In verses 24-30, we have presented a similar figure, namely, that of a man sowing seed in his field, but representing quite another thing. In the former instance, the seed represents the word of God; in the latter, the children of God, who are begotten by that word.
Another parable is given, (v. 31, 32,) showing the character of the kingdom or Church at the beginning, and the perfection of that body at the end.
In verses 47, 48, another feature of the Gospel economy is brought to view under the figure of a net cast into the sea, which gathers of every kind. It will be seen, at a glance, that this parable involves a point in the plan of God not involved in the parables before alluded to. While the net gathers great and small, bad and good, no marvel if in the Church, nay even among ourselves, there be found good and evil, righteous and wicked, at the present time.
But we pass to notice the parable of the virgins, On this subject there is a variety of opinions. One class of expositors apply it to the entire history of the Church, and hence we often encounter the remark,
Why the Church has always been going forth to meet the bridegroom.” A second class assure us the Church has fulfilled this parable since the time of the Protestant Reformation. But this idea does not harmonize with the adverb of time, “ Then,” with which the parable is commenced. The point of time to which allusion is made, is found in the closing part of the preceding chapter. But to the subject.
Matt. XXV. 1-13. " Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. 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. Afterward 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 illustration in this parable is borrowed from the nuptial ceremonies prevalent in the east; and the great moral truths shadowed forth by it, are of infinite importance to all who live at the period of their fulfilment. We conceive it to be an essential principle in the exposition of parables, that we have no authority to introduce other incidents, or circumstances, than those specifically named in the parable under consideration. We are led to this remark from the fact, that some seem to esteem it essential to a right interpretation of this parable, to overhaul all the histories and legends of antiquity that illustrate the ceremonies of oriental weddings. We regard this effort as labor lost. It matters not to us whether the nuptial ceremonies of the east do, or do not agree with the specifications of this parable; whether the proclamation, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh,” was, or was not made by the virgins. All that we have any concern with is, is to mark what points are presented by our Saviour. If He intended to be understood as relating an actual occurrence, let us believe it thus; for all His “words are faithful and true," and need no correction from modern historians. If, on the other hand, He supposes a case to meet the emergency, andüllustrate the movements of the Church at a given point in their history, let us give heed to the following admonition: “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you ; neither shall ye diminish aught from it.” (Deut. iv: 2). And again : “Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar," (Prov. xxx: 6).
But when, and to whom is this subject specially applicable ? " THEN," says Jesus, "shall the kingdom of heaven be likened,” etc. When shall the Church bear this resemblance? It cannot be when the evil servant is cut asunder; for that is subsequent to the coming of Christ, while the movement of the virgins evidently precedes that event. The act of the virgins in going forth to meet the bridegroom, obviously implies an expectation of His immediate coming on the part of the virgins. In the preceding chapter, (verses 45, 46,) we have a specification applying to this subject, both in a moral and chronologieal point of view, to which allusion is had in the adverb of time, “then."
The 24th chapter contains the discourse of our Saviour in relation to his second coming. In vs. 32, 33, he informs us how we may know it is near, and then (v. 46) pronounces a blessing on that servant, who shall be found "giving meat in due season,” that is, making the proclamation, “Behold the bridegroom cometh,” when the Church is in immediate proximity to that event. And this will appear more evident from the 48th verse: “But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, my Lord delayeth his coming.” Why should the one class represented by the evil servant, be saying in their hearts, “ My Lord delayeth his coming" unless the opposite class, represented by the "faithful and wise servant,” giving“ meat in due season," are proclaiming the coming of our Saviour ?