ON THE PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS, MATT. xxv.
Consider first, that these ten virgins, in this parable, represent to us the state of Christians in this mortal pilgrimage. We are all, by our vocation or calling to the Christian faith, appointed to go forth, with our lamps, to meet the bridegroom: because the business of a Christian in this life is to make the best of his way, by the help of the light of faith, towards his God and a happy eternity; and to be always in readiness for the coming of Christ, the great bridegroom of our souls. The lamps with which we are to go forth to meet Christ are the light of faith and all the divine truths of the Christian religion; the oil with which these lamps are to be kept burning are the works of faith, that is, the good works prescribed by the gospel, and particularly the works of mercy and charity, and the love of God above all things. Where this oil is wanting the lamps are extinguished, because faith without good works is dead. And thrice unhappy they who at the approaches of that uncertain hour of their departure hence, when they shall be called upon as in the middle of the night, to go forth to meet the bridegroom, shall find no oil in their lamps! Alas, where shall they then go to buy it? In all appearance, before they shall be in a condition to procure any, the bridegroom will come, and take along with him those whom he finds ready to his wedding feast; and shut the door against the rest, never, never to be opened, to all eternity!
Consider 2ndly, that all Christians belong to one or other of those two companies represented in this parable under the denomination of wise and foolish virgins. The good are truly wise, because they are wise according to God; and they are wise in order to eternity; inasmuch as they wisely provide for eternity. But O, how truly foolish are the wicked and all the children of Babylon, who continually forget both God and eternity! For what greater folly or what greater madness can there be, than to believe as Christians, and to live as infidels; to expect to go to heaven by the road that leads to hell; to be daily preferring darkness before light, slavery before liberty, misery before happiness, Satan before God; by preferring the state of sin before the state of grace? In a word, what can be more foolish than blindly to exchange all that is really good, both in time and eternity, for the very worst of evils, and such as will never have an end? And yet, alas! as we daily see, the number of such fools as these is infinite. But the folly that is here particularly censured in this parable, is that of Christians who make no provision of the oil of good works for the nourishment of their lamps, but go out to meet their Lord with expectation of being admitted by him to his eternal feast with Christian faith, without Christian charity; with believing in God without loving God, and keeping his commandments. Ah! my soul, take good care thou never be so foolish.
Consider 3rdly, that the great lesson designed for us in this parable is expressed in those words with which our Lord concludes, ‘Watch ye, therefore, because ye know not the day nor the hour.’ The bridegroom in the parable came in the middle of the night, that is at a time when he was least expected; according to what he has often signified, that he will come ‘like a thief in the night,’ and that we shall not know the hour of his coming. Nor that he desires to surprise us, for if he did he would not so often warn us; but that he desires we would always watch, and be always ready, that so we may never be surprised. ‘What I say to you,’ said he to his disciples, ‘I say to all: Watch,’ and again: ‘Blessed are those servants whom the Lord, when he cometh, shall find watching. Amen, I say to you that he will gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and passing he will minister to them.’ Luke xii. 37. O! who can express or conceive the greatness of these heavenly rewards, of these highest honours, of these never-ending joys, signified here by our Lord’s ministering in this manner himself to the servants whom he shall find watching? But O, the dismal case, on the other hand, of all them that instead of watching, and being always ready, are quite asleep as to all that relates to God and their souls; and are not awakened, either with the love or fear of God, till death opens their eyes, when ’tis too late; and then, like the foolish virgins, they find the door shut against them, and are sent away, with ‘I know you not,’ into the exterior darkness.
Conclude to bear always in mind this indispensable duty of watching, so frequently inculcated by the Son of God; that so thou mayest never be surprised and sleep in death; carrying always with thee the lamp of faith to enlighten thee; but never forgetting that this light must be kept in with the oil of good works.