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In this Chapter we have the Parable of the Ten Virgins, and of the Talents, together with an account of the proceedings of the last day.
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. (2) And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. (3) They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: (4) But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. (5) While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. (6) And at midnight 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. (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: and the door was shut. (11) Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. (12) But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. (13) Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
By the kingdom of heaven is not meant heaven itself, for there are no foolish virgins there, such as this Parable describes; but it is by way of comparison, to which the kingdom of grace in this life is said to resemble. The Lord describes ten virgins; five of whom were wise and five foolish. Not that the number ten hath any particular allusion; neither because they are divided into equal parts is it meant to say, that the number of the happy and of the miserable will be equal. But that the Parable our Lord hath judged proper to set forth under these images, maybe the better understood. By the wise, are meant the wise unto salvation. And by the foolish those among the unawakened, careless, and christless professors, who are so foolish as to seek the gain of the world, rather than their own souls.
Now those virgins are alike described as going forth to meet the bridegroom. Christ is the bridegroom of his spouse the Church. By their going forth with their lamps, means going forth under a profession of Christ's religion. They that were foolish, took their lamps, that is, they had a mere profession, but no oil with them; they had none of the unction of God the Holy Ghost upon them; were ignorant of their own lost estate before God, and though professing Christ, knew nothing of his saving power in their hearts. Whereas the wise, having been made wise unto salvation, had learnt their need of Christ and were earnest to seek him.
While the bridegroom tarried, that is, while waiting in ordinances they all slumbered and slept. The Church describes herself in this frame; I sleep, but my heart waketh. Song of Solomon 5:2 . The slumbering of the Lord's people is not the sleep of death, but a deadness, of which God's people find but too much cause to complain. But the foolish virgins were never awakened, from being dead in trespasses and sins. The consequence of Christ's coming, must be supposed, as the Parable goes on to describe, as different as their different states unavoidably could not but produce.
The foolish virgins, destitute of all vital godliness, unawakened, unregenerated, unacquainted with the plague of their own heart, and ignorant of the person, work, and glory of Christ; in all his saving offices, characters, and relations; and having nothing but a lamp of profession, were found in utter darkness, at the Lord's approach. While on the contrary, the wise virgins being furnished with the oil of grace, under the teaching of God the Holy Ghost, and brought into an union with Christ, and communion in all that belonged to Christ, in regenerating, converting, justifying, and sanctifying mercy; thus prepared by the Lord, for the knowledge and enjoyment of the Lord; arise with holy joy, at the bridegroom's coming, and enter with him into the marriage and the door is shut.
The cry of the foolish virgins for admission, represents the state of all those who have no part nor lot in the matter. The Lord hath elsewhere described them, as well as in this parable, as those he knows not, that is, he knows them not, in any way of union or communion with him. And therefore he closeth the Parable with a recommendation to his redeemed, to be always on the watch-tower, unconscious at what day or hour, the Lord will come to take his redeemed home, that they may be found distinguished from those foolish virgins, void of all vital godliness.
"For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. (15) And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. (16) Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. (17) And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. (18) But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. (19) After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. (20) And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. (21) His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (22) He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. (23) His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. (24) Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strowed: (25) And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. (26) His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strowed: (27) Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. (28) Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. (29) For unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. (30) And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."
The Lord illustrates the same doctrine, as before, under another beautiful parable of a bountiful Lord, which is Jesus himself, committing different talents to his servants, and in the close, taking account of their improvement, or misimprovement, of the things committed to their charge. Two servants, to whom great charges were entrusted, are represented as making good use of their time and talents, and in the end receiving the approbation of their Lord. One, and to whom less was committed, is shewn to have proved unprofitable, and is condemned to utter darkness; and the talent entrusted, to this man is said to be taken from him, and given to the servant which had most improved in his Lord's stewardship.
The obvious sense of this, as well as the former parable, renders all observations upon them unnecessary. I would only, therefore, beg it may be properly understood, that the rewards given to the faithful servant, must not be considered in a light contrary to the whole tenor of the gospel, as if any man merited divine Favour. We must not strain the sense to this extent. When we have done all, we are still unprofitable servants. The grace of God cannot be made debtor, to the services of man. The Lord is not moved to bestow his blessings on account of any supposed good in his creatures, neither is he restrained by our ill. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. But the whole is with an eye to Christ. The talents here spoken of, given to the two former servants, were evidently the gifts of grace, and consequently the Lord's, and no merit in the receivers. Both the original stock and increase were the Lord's. Lord! (saith the Prophet,) thou hast wrought all our works in us. Isaiah 26:12 . But the One Talent the unprofitable servant received, could be only the gift of nature, for grace is that good part which cannot be taken away; whereas everything in nature may, and at death must, and will. And the taking this talent from the slothful and unworthy, and giving it to the diligent, means to say, that the souls of the redeemed, who, through grace, abound in spiritual things, shall also if needful, be blessed in the sanctified use of temporal things. All are yours, (saith the Apostle,) whether the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's. 1 Corinthians 3:22-23 .
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: (32) And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: (33) And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (34) Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: (35) For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: (36) Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (37) Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? (38) When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? (39) Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? (40) And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (41) Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (42) For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: (43) I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. (44) Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? (45) Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. (46) And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
Here we enter on that part of our Lord's sublime discourse, on the events of the last day, and in which the Son of God hath been pleased to deliver himself on the momentous subject without a parable. And most magnificent and solemn is the description. And when to this be added the consideration, that every son and daughter of Adam must be present, to receive the things done in the body, whether good or bad, the subject becomes infinitely interesting indeed. There can need no comment however. Every verse is plain. everything described impossible to be misunderstood. And when God the Holy Ghost accompanieth the reading, or the hearing of it, with his grace, it cannot fail of its impression in the heart.
I would only beg to observe, upon it, that what is here represented concerning the proceedings of the last day, refer chiefly, if not altogether, to the Church of the Lord Jesus, and not to the world at large. All nations, indeed, are to be gathered before Christ, but then what is described relates to the Church of Christ, as a Church professing Christ under the double character of the sheep and goats; that is, the elect of God, and the non-elect. So that what Jesus saith to each, is wholly spoken under these different views of character. And in confirmation of this grand and momentous truth, it should be observed, that the sheep on the King's right hand, are called upon, as the blessed of the Father, to come and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. And although, in infinite condescension and mercy, the King goes on to speak of the exercise of those graces he had given them, in acts of mercy shewn by them to his poor people, which are his representatives; yet these things were all subsequent to what was determined upon before the foundation of the world. A kingdom prepared from all eternity; and the persons for whom it was prepared, being known and appointed, their possession of it could not depend upon any of their after-actions in time. This would have been to have put the effect for the cause, and to invert the very order of things in the divine counsel. It is, indeed, very blessed to see, that the Lord, who is himself the sole cause, appointed also the effect. But plainly, the whole is the result of free sovereign grace, and not an atom of merit in man, contributing, in the least degree, to the accomplishment.
Reader! pause over the subject, and ponder well the blessed contents! For what can be so truly blessed, as the contemplation of the provision the Lord made for his people, not only before they were born, but before the foundations of the earth were laid. I know that some dear children of God, yea, perhaps I might have said, by far the greater part of his children, on whom a work of grace is wrought, are looking more to the effect wrought in them, than the Almighty work wrought for them. But this should not be the case.
Time will come, yea many a time circumstances do come, when redeemed souls lose sight of what is called their evidences; and where is their comfort then? Whereas, if we were always looking to the Lord Jesus, and Jehovah's covenant promises in him, and considered the security of this kingdom, which cannot be moved, and which hath been prepared for the Church and every member of Christ's body, from the foundation of the world; these are the Lord's evidences, in which we should find an everlasting source for joy. For so the promise runs. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, (or as the margin of the Bible very properly renders it, peace, peace; that is, peace forever, peace upon peace, uninterrupted, and without end,) whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee. Isaiah 26:3 .
Lord! I would say for myself; and every regenerated child of God! grant to us such blessed stayings upon thee, and arising wholly of what thou hast done, as the sole cause; and not in anything which thy grace enables thy redeemed to perform, for all these can be but the effect. Oh! the unspeakable felicity of a kingdom not founded in time, but in eternity: not the result of man's merit, but God's gift; not depending upon creature attainments, but Creator faithfulness; and founded in the everlasting love of God the Father, the infinite merits, bloodshedings, and righteousness, of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Almighty grace and efficient ministry of God the Holy Ghost. And oh! how sweet are the words of the Lord Jesus, both here and elsewhere, while expressing the rich mercies thus prepared for his redeemed, before the foundation of the world, when he saith: Fear not little flock, for it is your heavenly Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke
I hope the Reader will not be liable to any mistake, from the statement I have ventured to give, in pointing out the cause from the effect. Neither will he, I trust, be led to conceive, that I place no stress upon the effects of vital godliness, because I place so much upon the grand cause of all. This would be to pervert what I have intended. The Lord Jesus himself, is pleased to notice in his people the smallest exercise of those graces he hath given them; and he tells us, that he regards the cup of cold water, when we have nothing warmer to give, if given in the name of a disciple. Well therefore may we regard them also. And as Christ personal is no more upon earth to be ministered unto, as he was in the days of his flesh, Luke 8:3 . it is blessed when we feel a love to Jesus, to minister to any of his poor people, who are members of his mystical body. But still I must contend for the Lord's glory, as the sole cause of all. The foundation of a kingdom, and prepared from everlasting, is wholly in himself: and both the persons for whom this kingdom is prepared, and the graces wrought in them, as testimonies to the same, all originate from the electing, redeeming, regenerating grace of God, in Christ Jesus.
I detain the Reader a moment longer to remark, that from the answer, and given with such seeming astonishment by the redeemed, (called righteous, in the Lord's righteousness,) to the gracious words of the king: Lord when saw we thee an hungred and fed thee, etc. it appears that they had no consciousness of the oneness between Christ and his people, in a manner equal to what it really is. And perhaps no man alive, is, or can be able to conceive the intimate nearness between them. If we were, every child of God, would be more alive than he is, even upon motives of selfishness to minister to one another. One of the fathers of the Church (Cyprian) used to say, that this passage had never been understood; and the redeemed are all of them represented as saying as much, when thus expressing their astonishment!
I do not think it necessary to enlarge, on the awful part of the representation given in this Chapter, of the condemnation of the unregenerate. That the sentence uttered by the king, depart ye cursed; is spoken to such as were nominal Christians, is I think, too evident to be doubted, in that Jesus saith, I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat: which plainly proves that they dwelt among the Lord's people, but had neither faith nor love for him, nor compassion for his members as such. In short the characters are contrasted. The righteous were righteous in Christ's righteousness; and through grace had been savingly called, regenerated, justified, and sanctified; and had been deeply humbled under a sense of their own utterly lost estate, and had sought salvation only in Christ. The goats on the left hand, had neither felt a sense of sin, nor a desire of salvation; they are supposed to have heard of Christ, but valued him not; priding themselves in their own good works, or hoping that these would recommend them to Jesus, and what was wanting, if there were any deficiency, he might make up. So that their unhumbled hearts had never known anything of their own corruption; their acts of charity, if any, had never been given with an eye to Christ: they had lived and died, as they were born, and knew not the Lord. It is of such Christ speaks, when he saith, and these shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into life eternal.
Let both Writer and Reader, ponder well the weighty contents of this Chapter, before they close the book, looking up to the great Author of his holy word, to commission it to their hearts, and to make it a savour of life unto life, that the name of Jesus, may be as ointment poureth forth!
And oh! for grace, to be as the wise virgins, not going forth with the lamp of a mere profession; which from not being fed, nor kept alive by the Lord, cannot but go out in the midnight-hour. Neither may my soul be as the unprofitable servant, whose end could be no other but to be cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth! Oh! precious Lord Jesus! what a relief is it to my soul that when thou shalt come in thy glory, and all thy holy angels with thee, thy redeemed shalt be set on thy right hand; and their introduction into everlasting happiness, will then be proclaimed before a congregated world, to be the result of thy grace, not their merit. Yes! thou glorious Head of thy Church and people, it will be then seen that thou art the sole cause or all their salvation and joy, their everlasting portion and happiness, in time and to all eternity. Lord! grant in my heart all the blessed effects of thy love, that I may love thee and thy members, as streams from the fountain of thy love, and manifest whose I am and whom I serve, in the gospel of God's dear Son: and seeing that all thy redeemed have received a kingdom which cannot be moved, we may have grace whereby as we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 25". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent