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MATTHEW CHAPER 25
Matthew 25:1-13 The parable of the ten virgins,
Matthew 25:14-30 and of the talents, which a king distributed among his servants, to be improved by them.
Matthew 25:31-46 A description of the last judgment.
For the understanding of all parables, I have formerly showed, that parables are similitudes brought from some earthly things, or actions, to illustrate some heavenly doctrine, or spiritual mysteries, and insinuate them into our practice. For the right understanding of all parables, the first and principal thing to be attended to is the scope and main end of the parable. What heavenly doctrine it is which our Saviour by that earthly similitude designs to illustrate, or what practical thing it is which he designs by that parable to press, I have showed. Our Saviour sometimes more particularly showeth this, expressing what he meant by the several things and actions mentioned in the parable. This he did, Matthew 13:1-58, in the parable of the sower, and of the tares of the field. But in most parables he doth not so; but from something going before or coming after gives us light enough to know what his main design was, and leaveth to us by that to interpret the several parts of the parable. Here he hath left us a sufficient light to know his meaning:
From his discourse in the latter end of the foregoing chapter, where he had been pressing the duty and prudence of watchfulness, from the uncertainty of the time of his coming. It is manifest that he is pursuing the same design still, by the επι παραβολη, or the saying with which he closes this parable, Matthew 25:13,
Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh. This watchfulness we had interpreted by an opposition to sin, both of omission and commission: taking heed of having our hearts overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, Luke 21:34,Luke 21:36; taking heed of smiting our fellow servants, eating and drinking with the drunken; discharging our trusts faithfully, ministers giving to the household of Christ their portion in due season, Matthew 24:45,Matthew 24:49; being ready for the coming of Christ, Matthew 24:44; praying, Luke 21:36. This our Lord had pressed there particularly on ministers; he is here in this parable pressing the same duty on all; and in this parable further opens the duty of watchfulness, not only as opposed to slumbering and sleeping, but as comprehending a getting of ourselves ready, as he had said, Matthew 24:44; and this readiness he also further openeth in this parable, under the notion of having not only lamps, but oil in our lamps.
To these purposes he takes up this parable, which we shall not so well understand without understanding their usual rites and customs at weddings, which were these:
1. Their marriages were ordinarily in the night.
2. They usually had young men that attended the bridegroom, and young virgins that attended the bride at her father’s house. The young men attended the bridegroom. These were called the children of the bride chamber, or the friends of the bridegroom or bride, Mark 2:19; John 3:29.
The wedding being in the night, there was need of lamps. When the bridegroom came, the bride maids, who were attending the bride, went forth to meet the bridegroom, with lamps lighted, to conduct him and his companions into the house, and to her who was to be the bride.
When they were entered the door was shut, and the marriage proceeded. Our Saviour now, to quicken his auditors to the watchfulness before spoken of, supposes such a marriage, and ten virgins, the usual number at such solemnities. He supposes these ten virgins to have been half of them wise and half foolish: the wisdom of the one he makes to lie in getting their lamps ready and furnishing themselves in time with oil to feed them, that they might not go out, either while they waited for his coming, or in their conduct of him. The folly of the others he makes to lie in their want of this care, so as when the bridegroom came their lamps were out: they would have borrowed oil of the others, but they had none to lend them, so as they were shut out of the door of the bridal house, and though they knocked could obtain no entrance.
It is not hard now to apply the several parts of the parable to the end for which this parable is brought, provided that we do not expect that similitudes should run on four feet, or that every minute circumstance in a parable should be fitted in the explication.
The kingdom of heaven (which in Scripture always signifies that of grace or glory) here signifieth that of grace. The state of the church is likened to ten virgins: these ten virgins are professors; their lamps and their going forth to meet the bridegroom, signify their joint profession of the gospel, and their expectation joyfully to meet Christ, who is the bridegroom here meant. Psalms 45:14; John 3:29.
Five of them were wise, and five foolish. This signifieth the difference of professors; some have lamps, make a profession, but have no truth of grace; others have the root of the matter in them, a true faith and love, which feeds men’s profession.
The bridegroom’s tarrying signifies Christ’s delaying to come to judgment. Their slumbering and sleeping signifies the infirmities of the best, who sleep, though their hearts wake; and the deeper security of others in their sinful state. The coming of the bridegroom at midnight signifieth Christ’s coming in a dark time of troubles and afflictions, or at a time not looked for. The virgins trimming their lamps upon the cry made, signifies the care of pious souls, more especially upon any notices of Christ’s coming, to prepare themselves for the meeting and reception of him. The foolish virgins late discerning that their lamps were out, and that they wanted oil, lets us know that hypocrites and formal professors will too late know that profession without a root of faith and true regeneration will serve them in no stead. Their asking the wise virgins to lend them some of their oil, with their refusal, because then they should not have enough for themselves, lets us know the woeful shifts that hypocrites will at last be put to, and how vain their hopes are, who hope to be relieved from the grace and good works of others. Their going to buy oil, and their being shut out before they returned, and knocking in vain, and in vain crying, Lord, open to us, lets us know, that as the tree falls so it must lie; that after our buying time in this life, mentioned Isaiah 55:1,Isaiah 55:2, is expired, our state will be determined; that we are concerned to take the counsel of Solomon, Ecclesiastes 9:10, Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, especially for our souls, to do it with thy might; for here is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the place, whither thou goest.
Therefore we are all concerned to watch, that is, to look that we have not only lamps, but oil to feed our lamps, and to keep our lamps burning, because we know, that the Bridegroom Christ will come, and we do not know at what time he will come, to the general judgment, or our particular judgment; for when we die, we can do no more to make ourselves ready for the great coming of Christ to judge the world, but must appear before him as we go out of this world. No oil after the determination of our lives will be to be bought, no further preparation of ourselves is to be made, as our life leaveth us judgment will find us.
There is much the same parable Luke 19:12, but the difference is so great in the narration, and the time, and circumstances, and scope seem so different, that the best expositors think it another, and spoken at another time, though there be much of this in that: I shall therefore leave the consideration of that in Luke, until I meet with it in him, (though some interpreters do think this the same with that), and only consider this, as it is before us in this evangelist. By
the kingdom of heaven, is doubtless here to be understood the economy of God’s providence in his gospel dispensations. The
man travelling into a far country, is Christ ascending up to heaven, who, when he ascended up on high gave gifts unto men, Ephesians 4:8. By
the goods, which the man is said to have delivered to his servants, are to be understood the gifts which God giveth to men, being himself (as to his glorious presence, and his principal residence, which is in heaven, at a great distance from us) as a man in a far country; for I see no reason to restrain these gifts to such as flow from Christ as Mediator, but rather choose to interpret it generally of all the gifts of God, whether of providence or grace. Whereas it is said, Matthew 25:15, that this man divided his goods to his servants unequally,
to one five talents, to another two, to another one, to every man according to his several ability, it signifieth only God’s unequal distribution of his gifts to the sons of men, according to his own good pleasure; which is true both concerning natural parts, as wit, understanding, judgment, memory, as concerning those which the heathens call good things of fortune, as riches, honours, aud dignities; Christians call them the good things of Providence; under which notion also come all acquired habits, or endowments, such as learning, knowledge, moral habits, &c., which though acquired are yet gifts, because it is the same God who gives us power to get wealth, as Moses speaks, Deuteronomy 8:18, who also gives men power to get knowledge, and upon study and meditation to comprehend the natures and causes of things, and also to govern and bridle our appetites: or the gifts of more special providence, or distinguishing grace. I take all those powers given to men, by which they are enabled to do good, or to excel others, to come under the notion of the goods here mentioned, which God distributeth unequally according to his own good pleasure, and as seemeth best to his heavenly wisdom, for the government of the world, and the ordering of the affairs of his church; of all which God will have all account one day, and reward men according to the improvement, or no improvement, which they have made of them in their several stations.
This part in the parable only showeth the different use that men and women make of those gifts, whether of common providence or of grace, especially common grace, which the Lord bestowed on them. Some make a great use of them for the profit of their Master, for the end for which God entrusted them with them, to wit the glory of his holy name, and the salvation of their souls. Others make no use at all of them for those ends.
God, in the day of judgment, will call all men to account for those gifts which he hath given them, how they have used the days of life, the measures of health, their knowledge, wit, memory, understanding, their wealth, estate, honours, dignities, relations, all their natural or acquired habits, all their enjoyments, &c., for the honour of his name, and the advantage of their own souls.
This part of the parable teacheth us only these things:
1. That some persons in this world make a very good use and improvement of those gifts and good things which God hath entrusted them with, according to the measure with which God hath entrusted them.
2. That those who do so shall in the day of judgment have a liberal reward in the kingdom of glory, called here
the joy of their Lord.
That God doth not expect an equality of service from all, but a service proportionable to those gifts which God hath given men; and those shall go to heaven who have made a due improvement of the gifts with which God hath blessed them, though it be not proportionable to the service which others, of greater parts, and who have had greater advantages and opportunities, have made: if men have but two talents, yet if they gain other two, they shall go to heaven at last, as well as those who have had five, and improved them to the gaining of other five.
We must take heed of concluding from this part of the parable, that those who have most given them ordinarily do make the best improvement of them, for daily experience teacheth us the contrary, neither is the parable brought to instruct us in any such thing.
We must remember that we are in a parable, which (as other similitudes) cannot be expected in all things to agree with what it is brought to illustrate. This part of the parable doth chiefly instruct us in these two things:
1. That it is the genius of wicked men to lay the blame of their miscarriages upon others, oft times upon God himself. The unprofitable servant here pretends that the dread of his lord, as a severe man, was that which kept him from labouring, and making an improvement of the talent with which his master had intrusted him. Thus many think that if there be an election of grace, or any thing of special and distinguishing grace, and man hath not a perfect power in his own will, he shall have something to excuse himself by before God hereafter, for his not repenting, and believing God in such a case, condemning men for unbelief and impenitency, should reap where he did not sow, and gather where he did not straw.
2. Men in their excuses which they fancy, instead of excusing will but accuse and condemn themselves. The lord of the unprofitable servant tells him that the fault lay in his own sloth and wickedness, and his dread of his lord’s security was but a mere frivolous pretence and unreasonable excuse; for if he had dreaded any such thing, he would have done what he could, he would have put out his money to the exchangers, and then he should have received his own with increase.
And shall not God as justly another day reply upon those who think to excuse their lewd and wicked lives, their impenitency and unbelief, from their not being elected, not having a power of themselves to repent and believe, nor receiving his efficacious grace. O you wicked and slothful wretches! Did you suspect or fear you were not elected? Why then did you not give all diligence to make your calling and election sure? Do you plead the want of power in your own wills to repent and believe, and that I did not give you a special, effectual grace? But had you not a power to keep from the taverns and alehouses? To keep from lying, and cursing, and swearing, and open profanation of my sabbaths? Had not you a power to read, to hear, to pray? If you had to your utmost used the talents I gave you, and I had been warning in my further necessary influences of grace, you might indeed have said something; but when you made no use of the talents you had, why should I trust you with more? Faith comes by reading, hearing, praying; you had a power to these things, these talents you had. Why did you not read, hear, pray, that you might believe? If you took me to be so severe a master, why did not you do what was in your power to do, that you might find me otherwise? If you had done what lay in your power to do, in the use of those talents which I gave you for that end, you might then have blamed me if I had not given you more; but you never tried my kindness in such a case. So that you are not ruined by any severity of mine, but by your own sloth, neglect, and wickedness. Thus much this parable teacheth us, that God in the recompences at the last day of judgment will be found just, and sinners will all be found liars, and their damnation will be of themselves.
God often in this life deprives men and women of those gifts which he hath given them, and they do not make use of for the glory of his name, and the good of their and others’ souls, the great ends for which he hath entrusted them with them. But this seems not to be here intended, this text referring to the day of judgment: all therefore that we are to understand by this is; That no man’s gifts, whether of nature or providence, of what advantage soever they have been to him in this life, will be of any profit to him in the day of judgment, unless he hath in this life used them to the ends for which God gave them. In that day he will lose all; and the glory of heaven shall not be the portion of them that have had great talents of learning, wit, riches, honours, spiritual gifts, or any thing of that nature, but of those only who have used these things to the honour and glory of God, and to the advantage of their own and others’ souls. For all those that have been unprofitable, hell will be their portion at last, where their misery will be, as of those that live in extreme darkness, continual weeping and gnashing of teeth. The substance of what is in Matthew 25:29 we met with Matthew 13:12,
To him that hath shall be given, & c.; but I think the proverbial speech here is applied differently from the application of it there. There, him that hath seemeth to signify, him that hath an actual possession; for it is said before,
Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. So that I take that text to contain a promise of the increase of grace to those that have the seed of God; whereas the appearances of it in others shall not last, but vanish away. Here, plainly, him that hath signifieth, him that maketh a good and true use of what he hath; and thus the parable expounds it. So as the sense is, He that hath any talents from God, and maketh use of them, and improves them for the honour and glory of God, shall be rewarded with further gifts of grace or glory. But if a man hath not, that is, hath, but is as if he had not, making no use of what he hath for the glory of God, those gifts and talents which he hath shall be of no profit and advantage, but miserable disadvantage to him at last.
Our Saviour having spoken much before of his spiritual kingdom, which he exerciseth in his church, cometh now more plainly to tell them what kind of a kingdom he should further set up and exercise in the end of the world; far different from that which the Jews dreamed of, and his own disciples seemed to have some expectations of.
When the Son of man, he who now appeareth to you in the form of a servant, and only as the Son of man, shall come in his glory, a glorious manifestation of himself; he now appeareth clothed with flesh, but he shall appear in his glory, and all the holy angels with him; he shall come with ten thousand of his saints, Jude 1:14, with his mighty angels. 2 Thessalonians 1:7. Then shall he sit (after the manner of great princes) upon the throne of his glory; he shall appear in great splendour: and before him shall be gathered all nations, that is, all persons that ever were or at that time shall be in the world; the quick and the dead, Acts 10:42 2 Timothy 4:1; 1 Peter 4:5. He shall send forth his angels, and say to them, who are his reapers, Matthew 13:30, Gather together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn. He by his angels shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd, who feedeth both sheep and goats together, at night separateth them one from another. So the saints of God, who are like sheep for whiteness, gentleness, innocency, and feed in this world together with stinking and lascivious goats, the wicked of the world, compared to goats for the filthy qualities by which they resemble them; yet at the day of judgment Christ shall separate them.
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand. The right hand is the place of honour and dignity, and the place for favourites: then Christ shall exalt his saints to great honour and dignity, and show them his favour.
But the goats on the left; wicked men shall rise to shame and contempt. The right hand men of the world shall be at the left hand of Christ. It shall be then seen, that because they are people of no understanding, he that formed them will show them no favour.
The King, that is, he who was before called the Son of man, who shall then sit on the throne of his glory; he shall say to his saints, to those on his right hand, those whom he designs to honour and to favour,
Come, ye blessed of my Father; you whom my Father hath blessed with all spiritual blessings in me, who were also blessed in his eternal thoughts: for there was a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; you have not purchased it by your works; no, it was prepared for you before ever you were. You were blessed in my Father’s eternal thoughts, so he prepared a kingdom for you; and you have been blessed since with all spiritual blessings through me, so you are now prepared for it. Therefore come and now inherit it, as that which you are foreordained and born unto, as that which is freely given you, not purchased by you.
The recompences of the last judgment are according to the tenor of our good works, and the desert of evil works. The King here gives the reason of his gracious rewarding sentence,
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat. This doth not imply any desert, much less any worthiness of equality between the work and the reward; but that evangelical works, the products of unfeigned faith and love, qualify us by the covenant of grace to receive it. The causes of the reward are either, the original cause, the most free and rich mercy of God, or the meritorious, the most perfect righteousness and sacrifice of Christ; and the good works here recited are infallible signs that the performers of them are the objects of the Divine favour in predestination, and are truly united to Christ. Besides, in the gospel, which is the law of grace, God has established a necessary connection between faith, that works by love, and the blessed reward; and accordingly evangelical works are the condition of our title, that qualifies us to obtain the kingdom of glory, freely promised for Christ’s sake to obedient believers. And in this respect the dispensing the reward may be said to be an act of justice, namely, in the faithful performance of the promise; as in the forgiving sins, which is an act of pure mercy, God is said to be faithful and just, 1 John 1:9. Our Lord here reckons but one species of good works, instead of many, as is usual in Scripture, and he rather chooseth to instance in works of charity than of piety.
1. He knows the hardness of men’s hearts; and;
2. That the poor they should have always with them, especially such as would live godly, and so be more than others out of favour with the world.
3. He knew how acceptable these were to his Father, and had a mind the world should know it, Isaiah 58:7; Ezekiel 18:7; Micah 6:8; Matthew 9:13; 1 John 3:17. And hereby declares, that acts of charity to the souls makes us fit subjects for the Divine mercy in the day of judgment, 2 Timothy 1:18.
The answer, Matthew 25:37, Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, &c., only teacheth us this, That at the great day the best of men shall blush and be ashamed to hear God speak of any good works they have done, and be swallowed up in the admiration of God’s free and infinite grace, in rewarding any thing which they have done at so liberal a rate.
And the King shall answer and say unto them, &c. This only confirmeth what we had, Matthew 10:42, that Christ looketh upon acts of kindness done to the meanest godly persons, and will reward them, as if they had been done unto himself; so that though our charity must not be limited only there, yet it must be chiefly shown to those of the household of faith: other charity may be showed in obedience to the command of God, and have its reward, but none can so properly be said to be done to Christ, as that which is done to those who are his true members.
The great King and Judge of the whole earth had before given sentence for those on his right hand, who are now possessed of their kingdom, and sit with him to judge the world. He now comes to sentence the goats at the left hand, whose judgment is to eternal misery; lying in two things:
1. In a departure from God, so as never more to have any favour from him.
2. In a sense of pain and misery, exceeding that which fire causeth to a body consuming with it.
In this life wicked men are capable of some presence of God with them, and receive several favours from God, in gifts of common providence and common grace; which might serve either as encouragements to allure them, or means to help them, in turning to God: but having abused these, the righteous God in that day will totally depart from them, and they shall receive no more tokens of kindness and favour from him; and whereas, by the advantages they had from such a presence of Divine providence, as God was pleased in this life to allow them, they lived in some degrees of pleasure and liberty, which they were not thankful for, they shall at that day be condemned to eternal torments. Nor shall the justice of God be impeached for disproportioning eternal torments to temporary sinnings; for the infiniteness of the Majesty offended, to which satisfaction is due, is to be considered, and is so amongst men, who think it reasonable to recompense a prince or nobleman for an injury done to them with ten thousand pounds, which they would not recompense to an equal with so many shillings.
Beside that, every sinner hath sinned in suo infinito, to the utmost line of his time, and wanted nothing but more time to have sinned more, for he had a will to have sinned infinitely. This everlasting fire is said to be prepared for the devil and his angels; not because it was not also prepared for men, but the evil angels were condemned to it before man had sinned, so that man comes but into a share with the evil angels; and by this God also lets us know that they are the children of the devil by evil works, John 8:44; 1 John 3:8. Having determined their punishments, and pronounced their sentence, he comes to justify himself in it: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat, &c. For here may be interpreted as a causal; for though none merits his own salvation, yet every sinner’s destruction is of himself, and he meriteth his condemnation. The mentioning only of sins of omission, and those only as to acts of charity, doth not only teach us that sins of omission are enough to damn us, but that omissions of acts of charity to the distressed members of Christ are such sins, as, if not repented of, and washed off with the blood of Christ, are enough to condemn us to the pit of hell; and such things as God doth keep in mind, and will in a more special manner reckon with men for. I cannot pass by a reflection which I find almost all interpreters make upon this text: If those in the day of judgment shall be sent to hell who do not feed the poor members of Christ, and give them to drink when they are thirsty, what shall be done to those who pluck the bread out of their mouths which they have got in the sweat of their face, and spill the drink which their own labours or others’ liberality hath given them to drink? If those shall have their portion with the devil and his angels who give not entertainment to them when they are banished and strangers, what shall become of them who are instruments of their banishment, and to make them strangers? If it shall go so hard with those that clothe them not when they are naked, what shall become of those who any way help to strip them naked? If those shall not escape the vengeance of God who do not visit them when they are sick, and in prison, where shall they appear who cast them into prisons, and are means of those diseases that shorten their lives, by their barbarous usages of them? Those that smite their fellow servants had need be sure that it be not for well doing. Our Lord here tells us, that the wicked in that day will say, When saw we thee an hungred, &c. they did not deny that they had refused to give bread to the hungry; but they deny that they ever saw Christ an hungred, and did not feed him. Persecutors have always ill names to give the servants of God, pretending still a great reverence for God and Christ. But mark our Lord’s answer, and that with an oath:
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. It is no matter what you thought of or called those to whom you showed no mercy; you see they are here at my right hand. You might have known them to be my sheep, you saw them hear my voice, and following me: you, in casting them into prison, cast me; in starving them, you starved me; and in stripping them of their goods, you stripped me. Therefore, go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
So then it seems they shall rise as well as the other; though they live in the lands of the Grand Seignior, or the Great Mogul, they shall not (as some filthy dreamers have thought) have such a quiet sleep in the graves, but that the sound of the last trump shall awaken them. Nor are they out of the jurisdiction of him that shall be the Judge both of the quick and the dead. Nor shall they escape a judgment without the law, because they have sinned without the law: For the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, Romans 1:20. They shall perish (as they have sinned) without the law, Romans 2:12. They shall go into everlasting punishment, not a punishment for a time, as Origen thought.
But the righteous, those who shall be so adjudged, being made so in this life by the imputed righteousness of Christ, and accepted as such for their holy and sincere conversation, though in many things imperfect, shall go
into life eternal; which doth not signify a mere eternal existence, (for so the worst of men shall live eternally, or else they could not be capable of eternal punishment), but a happy and blessed estate, which shall never have an end: and thus eternal life always signifieth in Scripture, being opposed to eternal death, everlasting fire, the worm that never dieth, &c. Thus endeth Christ’s kingdom of grace; or rather, thus shall begin his kingdom of glory; all his enemies being put under his feet, and none remaining but this glorious King, and those who shall be his true subjects. Of which kingdom shall be no end.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 25". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent