Click here to learn more!
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins.
The ten virgins
I. We have here two characters contrasted. “Five were wise and five were foolish.” That we may define the difference between them, it is needful that we have a clear conception of the things in which they were alike.
1. They all had some knowledge of, and regard for, the bridegroom, and desired to honour him by going forth to meet him as he led home his bride.
2. They all had lamps which at the moment were burning.
3. That while the bridegroom tarried they all slumbered and slept. Not until his coming was announced did the difference between them develop itself. In all outward things the wise and foolish virgins were alike; the difference between them was internal. The going out of the lamp is commonly understood to mean the making of a profession, while the absence of the reserve store of oil is supposed to signify the want of sincerity in that profession. This seems to unduly narrow the scope of the parable. For the foolish virgins had a real regard for the bridegroom; they had gone far to meet him, and were disappointed at their exclusion. There was genuineness about them as far as they went; only they did not go far enough. Hence I cannot restrict this part of the story to deliberate hypocrites. I regard the foolish virgins as those who have had some feelings of attachment to Christ, and certain impulses Christward to which they yielded at the time; but they were not constant. Their emotion was a real thing, and when they were acting upon it you could not call them hypocrites; but it was not the right thing. They were animated by impulse, not principle. Their religion did not go down to the lowest depths of their nature; it was a thing on the surface. Their seed fell “upon rocky ground where it had not much earth,” etc. They commenced to build a tower, but without counting the cost (Luke 14:28; Luke 14:32).
II. That character is revealed by crisis. A man has only as much religion as he can command in the hour of trial. The minor surprises of life are to prepare us for the last emergency.
III. That character is a personal thing, and cannot be given by one man to another, but must be acquired and manifested by each one for himself. Character is not transferable. I cannot give you my courage to fortify you for duty. How perilous to leave preparation for these testing times till they have come upon us. Every time we perform duty the soul is made stronger. Here the store of oil is obtained. “Add to your faith virtue” (1 Peter 1:5; 1 Peter 1:7).
IV. That lost opportunities cannot be recalled. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Character revealed by crisis
The great truth here taught, therefore, is that character is revealed by emergency. It is in moments of surprise that a man’s true self comes out to view. He is the ablest general who can in an instant find some resource when an ambushed foe starts up before him. He is the most skilful mariner, who, in sudden extremity, can rise to the occasion, and bring his vessel and his crew safely into port. Nothing will more correctly reveal what is in a man, than the coming upon him of some crushing and unlooked-for crisis. Let it be temporal ruin by the failure of all his calculations, or the disappointment of all his hopes; let it be the entrance of the death-angel into his home, and the removal from it of his nearest and dearest earthly friend; let it be his own prostration by some serious illness which puts him face to face with his dissolution: and forthwith the extent of his resources is unfolded, and it is at once discovered both by others and by himself, whether he is animated by unfailing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and sustained by the grace of the Holy Spirit, or whether he has been deceiving himself, and all the while relying on some other support. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
Reserve power the outcome of daily discipline
We all know how true that is in common life. When, in times of danger, some great leader comes suddenly to the front, and shows that he has the very qualities which the occasion needs, it will always be found that he has been preparing him-self-unconsciously, perhaps, but really-for years, by the careful discipline of daily labour, for the work which is now so successfully performed by him. While others were asleep, he was at his toil: and by the study of many earnest months, perhaps also by the labour of many midnight hours, he has been laying up that reserve supply, on which at the moment of necessity he has been able to draw. Thus, though the revelation of his ability may have been sudden, the growth of it has been gradual; and because in times of quiet and safety he kept up the discipline of work, the crisis which swept others into oblivion only floated him into fame. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
You know the story of the ancient sibyl who came to King Tarquin offering for sale nine books which she declared would be of great value to him in the government of Rome. She asked what seemed an exorbitant price, and he would not buy them. On that she retired, and burned three of the books: then she came back, and asked the same sum for the remaining six. He again refused; and she retired, and burned three more, only to come back and ask the same price for the remaining three. Then, by the advice of his councillors, he secured them on her own terms. Now, beneath that old fable there is an important truth; for, the longer we refuse God’s overtures, the less these overtures contain, while the demand upon us is still the same for the remainder. How many more of these books of privilege are you going to suffer to be destroyed? And what a motive there is in all this for immediate acceptance of God’s offer of mercy! (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The ten virgins
I. The characters delineated.
1. That the visible Church is composed of persons of opposite states and conditions.
2. That it is not always easy to distinguish the truly pious from those who are destitute of the root of the matter. All had lamps. Form one thing, inward life another.
3. That one special feature by which all who possess the wisdom which cometh from above are distinguished, is the provision they make, not only for their more immediate wants, but also for future contingencies.
II. The important event announced “While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.”
1. A mournful statement-“My Lord delayeth his coming.”
2. An arousing cry-“Behold, the bridegroom cometh.”
3. A solemn summons-“Go ye out to meet him.”
III. The results which subsequently transpired.
1. A hurried preparation-“Then all those virgins arose,” etc.
2. A sad discovery-“Our lamps are gone out.”
3. A happy entrance-“Went in with him,” etc.
4. An unavailing appeal. (Expository Outlines.)
I. The soul needs light. The fact that Christ died to save sinners is the only torch that can scatter the soul’s gloom.
II. The soul needs a moveable light. These torches are in motion. The gospel can be taken anywhere.
III. No man has any light to spare.
IV. Some people apply for the light when it is too late. (Dr. Talmage.)
The gospel the only true soul torch
Now there are some people who get one thing out of this parable, and there are others who get another thing; but I get this: the soul needs light. If you see the bridegroom’s party coming down the hill, what do you find? Torches. If you see the bridal party coming out of the door, what do you see? Torches. What does the soul in its midnight of sin and suffering need? Torches. Confucius tried to strike a light for China, and he did kindle it; but it went out and left her uncounted millions to make the centuries dismal with their wailing. Zeno, Cleanthes, Aristotle, each struck a light and passed it along from hand to hand, but it went out; and I have to tell you that the universities of the earth, while they have in their chemical laboratories made the blue light, and the green light, and the yellow light, they have never yet been able to make the white light of pardon and peace and hope for a lost world. Peace! where is it? Diving bells have gone two hundred feet down, and not found it in the depths of the sea. Astronomers’ telescopes have swept across the heavens and not found it in the air. From a consuming brand of Calvary I pick up the only light for a lost world. The fact that Christ died to save sinners is the flambeau which, flung on the darkness of your soul, will scatter its gloom as by a daybreak. A good many years ago in Washington there were two Congressioners who met once every week to talk about the immortality of the soul; but they despised the Bible. They found no comfort. Their time expired, and they went home. Years passed along. They both visited Washington, and at the same time, and happened to meet at the President’s levee. They saw each other at the great distance across the room. They pressed their way through the crowd until they came to each other, and, after years of absence, the first thing that one said to the other was: “John, any light?” “No light.” Then this one accosted the other, and said: “Henry, any light? … No light.” They said nothing more; they parted to meet at the judgment: Oh, are there any who have swung off from this grand old gospel, thinking to find rest for their soul? Have you found comfort, peace, joy, heaven? From a score of souls there comes up to me the cry to-night: “No light! no light!” (Dr. Talmage.)
The gospel a moveable light
But I learn, also, from this subject, that the soul needs a moveable light. These torches coming out of the door are in motion. These torches of the bridegroom’s party on the hill are in motion, hoisted, lowered, glancing in and out among the leaves, all moveable. The soul needs a moveable light, and in the gospel of Christ we have it. That gospel is not a lamp-post standing on one street. It is not a chandelier hung in one room. It is not a lighthouse set at one harbour. It is a flambeau-a moveable light-something to be carried. And we need to take it into our homes, and we need to take it into our stores and shops, and into our schools, and into our churches, and in the cellars where the poor freeze, and in the garret where the fevered languish, and into the hospital where the wounded die, and far out in the wilderness where the emigrant struggles. Do you know that the lights of this world are stationery, and that soon you and I will have to start on a road where all these lights will fail us? (Dr. Talmage.)
No grace to spare
“Oh,” says some one in this house: “I had a very good father and very good mother; if there ever was a good woman, she was; and somehow I hope through their piety to get into heaven.” Had they any surplus of piety? None. Had they any goodness to spare? None. You cannot borrow oil out of their lamps. There never was a better man than Jonathan Edwards, but he had no grace to spare for his son Pierrepont, who made an awful shipwreck. President Burr was a holy and consecrated man, but he had no grace to spare for Aaron Burr, whose life was a horrid debauch. And, I suppose, if at the last, all the redeemed of heaven were gathered in a circle, and some poor soul should go round and say: “Have you olive oil to spare? give me some for my lamp?” I suppose they would all answer: “Not so, lest there be not enough for us and for you.” “If thou be wise, thou shall be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shall bear it.” Every man for himself, every woman for herself. (Dr. Talmage.)
I suppose every hour of the day and night there are souls going into eternity unprepared. Oh, what excitement it must be about the death-bed, crying out for a lamp, and for the oil, and for the light; throwing; hands out, throwing them up, throwing them around, until the nurse asks, “What do you want, water?” He says, shaking his head: “No.” “Bathing of the temples?” He shakes his head: “No.” What does he want? Oh, he cannot get his light burning. He must start; he is started; he comes up to the gate of heaven; he knocks; he cries: “Let me in!” He is not admitted. He says: “I want to see the bridegroom.” The voices within say: “You can’t see the bridegroom; he is busy with the guests now.” Says the man: “I must come in; my children are in there. I must come in.” A voice within says: “You refused the grace that would have brought you where they are.” “But,” says the man, “I must come in; all my friends and kindred are in. Hark! now! hear the sound of their voices, and the bounding of their feet. Let me in.” And a voice from within says: “You are too late!” It says to one man: “You are twenty years too late;” to another, “you are over five years too late;” to another, “you are a month too late;” to another, “you are a minute too late; “ and the mob of destroyed ones outside the door take up the chorus, and cry: “Too late!” And the hot wind of the desert sighs: “Too late!” and the bell in the tower of eternal midnight tolls and tolls: “Too late! too late!” And the torches of the silly virgins begin to flicker and hiss in the storm, and one by one they go out, until in the suffocating darkness they cry: “Our lamps have gone out!” And they go wandering through eternity, ages after ages, feeling out for the light, for comfort, for peace, for hope, but finding none, and crying: “Our lamps have gone out!” and then, turning in another direction, and wandering on, age after age, age after age, feeling for hope, and comfort, and light, and Heaven, but finding none, and crying: “Our lamps have gone out!” (Dr. Talmage.)
The gifts of grace are chiefly to be exercised in order to an actual preparation for the coming of Christ by death and judgment
Very miserable is the state of such as these who have grace to get when Christ cometh.
1. All the profession of these virgins is lost.
2. All opportunities and means of grace are now lost, never to be enjoyed more.
3. The door of hope is shut against them.
4. The door of grace is shut.
5. They have now lost their communion with the wise virgins, who are safe within the door.
6. These virgins have now lost their veils. They are discovered to themselves, the king, to the world.
7. These who were in the midnight’s sleep, are now in their midnight’s darkness.
8. All who profess to be the bridesmen must take heed of resting in aught that is common to them with the foolish virgins. What gifts of grace are chiefly to be in exercise in order to an actual preparation for the coming of Christ by death and judgment?
(1) There is always a general and habitual preparedness to meet Christ in hearts that are truly godly, but not always a particular, actual fitness.
(2) That though a state of grace is here supposed, seeing grace cannot be exercised where it is not; yet there may be need to have it cleared.
(3) Maintain your faith in frequent exercise, and make no less conscience of acting daily faith than you do of daily prayer.
(4) This faith doth necessarily work by love.
(5) Keep even accounts with God, and still be perfecting that repentance which is the work of every day; and let there be no old reckonings between God and you.
(6) Be much in the exercise of goodness, mercy, and works of liberality towards Christ in His needy members, according to your opportunity and power.
(7) Exercise diligence and faithfulness in your particular calling. (W. Hook.)
The folly and danger of resting satisfied with the outward form of godliness
I. That true religion consists of a lively principle of grace in the heart. Principle and practice are to work together in religion.
II. That many professed Christians content themselves with the mere outward forms of religion. This danger arises from the natural blindness of the understanding; the natural pride of the heart exposes us to it.
III. That many become conscious of this error and seek to remedy it when it is too late. (J. Mark.)
The misery of dying unprepared
“Our lamps are gone out.”
I. What is implied in this complaint or acknowledgment.
II. Consider how it came to pass that the lamps of some of these virgins had gone out when the cry was heard.
III. Consider when it was that the foolish virgins found their lamps gone out.
1. It was not till after they had burned for a considerable length of time.
2. It was when their light was most needed. The midnight hour.
3. At an hour when they could not be rekindled in time for their intended purpose. (T. Henderson, D. D.)
“The believer’s readiness for the heavenly marriage
I. The marriage.
1. It exhibits the love of Christ to His:people.
2. The security of His people.
3. It furnishes valuable hints to the Church of Christ. How careful should the bride be to manifest her sincere love to the bridegroom.
4. How many times we have appeared weary of His love.
II. The preparation for this marriage.
1. It is not in any man’s excellence in his natural state above others of his fellows.
2. It is not on account of any special dexterity and judicious skill-“The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.”
3. The preparation is by the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit-“Of Him we are in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness,” etc.
III. The end of us all. (H. Allen, M. A.)
The ten virgins
I. The preparation.
1. All were moved by one desire-to welcome the bridegroom, and partake of the banquet. Even the foolish may be right in part.
2. The wise went wholly prepared.
3. The unwise took lamps and vessels, but no oil; perhaps did not examine the vessel. Thought they had enough, etc. The experiment of many seems to be, an attempt at discovering how little religion will suffice for their safety.
II. The discovery.
1. The light gone out! Night dark. Bridegroom coming. Midnight cry. Terrible thing to have no light of truth, hope, etc., in the night of error, sorrow, death.
2. The oil exhausted. Sad for the heart to be without grace in seasons of perplexity and peril.
3. No oil to be borrowed. He who has most religion, has none to spare; and cannot impart grace to empty souls.
4. Oil must be bought. Those who seek grace at last may find those who might guide and comfort full of engagements.
5. The door shut. Could neither meet the Bridegroom or enter in.
III. The appeal.
4. Fruitless. (J. C. Gray.)
The wise and foolish virgins
I. There was A common likeness and resemblance between the wise and foolish virgins, that continued for a considerable time; so that the real differences were not detected till the approach of the bridegroom.
II. That there was a most important and serious distinction. “Five of them were wise and five were foolish.” Their wisdom was shown in making a proper preparation for the future.
III. The delay in the final appearance of the bridegroom.
IV. But though he tarried long, he came at last.
1. At midnight.
2. With a cry.
V. The case of the wise and foolish virgins when the bridegroom came.
VI. The final result. (R. Watson)
The unconverted in danger of mistaking natural emotions for true religion
I. That an unconverted person may make a false profession of religion, as these “foolish virgins” took their burning lamps to do honour to the bridegroom.
2. That an unconverted person, making a false profession of religion, may suppose it to be genuine religion, as these five foolish virgins hoped that their lamps would be burning when the bridegroom came.
3. That those who make such a vain profession are most unwise.
4. That notwithstanding the folly of such conduct many are guilty of it. “Five.” (B. W. Noel, M. A.)
The desirableness of preparation for Christ’s coming
I. The event. It is of great importance.
1. If we consider the extent of the influence of that event.
2. From the estimation in which it was held by Jesus Christ Himself.
3. From the estimation in which it has been held by the wisest and best of the human race.
4. From the great design of it.
5. It will excite the deepest possible interest.
6. The excitement produced by the Saviour’s coming will last for ever.
7. It is not an occurrence of uncertain character.
8. It will be sudden.
II. The preparation.
1. One part of this preparation consists in previous intimacy with the heavenly Bridegroom.
2. Some congeniality of spirit between your souls and the mind of Jesus Christ.
3. A longing desire for His approach.
4. A diligent discharge of all Christ’s commands.
III. The desirableness of this preparation.
1. Out of regard to tranquillity at the time of His coming.
2. Out of respect of gratitude; how much has He done for us.
3. On account of the felicity of being received by Him into the feast.
4. Out of respect to the misery of those not found ready. (E. Hull.)
The trimming of the lamps
I. Our parable teaches that however long and deeply a man may sleep, he is sure to awake at last-“Then.” Is it not true that to every soul comes the time when God calls-calls plainly, audibly, loudly-“Then “? There are such critical moments in the history of lives-moments when we are justified in saying, “Hark! that is the call of God.” Calls of God’s providence are like the calls of the hours-they repeat: themselves with renewed power in every stroke; perhaps I may say that God never startled and terrified any soul with the inevitable twelve until it had been deaf to the repeated calls of the preceding hours. Illness, bereavement, etc. To every soul comes the tremendous and inexorable, Then!
II. There are epochs in an age when all things seem to call to arise and trim the lamps, and when the bridegroom seems so near. Amidst surrounding gloom, voices will seem to mark the epoch and to give the call.
III. Healthiest lives need warning. They all arose. Holiest souls have fears, need vigilance, and must use the means. They arose-they were all on their way to meet the Bridegroom; they all passed for a professing Church; they all testified their love to the Bridegroom; they were all called by His name. How little is implied in professions! Not what I say, but what I am, is my security. Do you never fear for yourselves at last? Does the Master never wake thee at night and say, “Where is thy lamp? I gave it thee to guard?” etc.
IV. However excellent an instrument a lamp may be, it is only an instrument. SO they all arose and trimmed their lamps. The ]amp is the turning point of the parable. Alas! a lamp useless! a lamp without oil! No lamp is its own end-and the profession of Christianity is not its own end, and none of the means employed by God are their own end. Lamps are to give light, and for progress, and duty, and comfort. And the trimming implies, obtaining fresh oil, and removing clogging from the wick.
1. Faith is a lamp; and yet faith may not save. It may be wanting in love which purifies the heart, etc.
2. Knowledge is a lamp. It is only instrumental-not its own end, etc.
3. Experience is a lamp. But it needs the oil. Not what I have passed through can avail for me, not my frames and feelings, but what these are before God.
V. Every privilege brings duties-“They all arose and trimmed their lamps.” They had all slept. From few things are we more in danger than from sleep.
1. There is a state of soul, spiritually so-called-indifference of their danger. Let no one suppose he is in a state of security because he knows no fear.
2. They all slept; but even in that case there must have been a difference. The rest in the unwise, the proof of folly, may be, in the wise, the proof of wisdom. The foolish were resting and trusting in the morning, or in the dark lamp without oil; the wise slept, but their lamp was kindled as a night-light, placed by their bedside for fear of the night. They watched for their Lord.
3. Let us trim our lamps. We have no time to sleep. You have a lamp to trim-a soul, a faith. What vigilance is needed! In every other department of life you are awake. Here you sleep. Arise, and trim your lamps. (Paxton Hood.)
The ten virgins
I. Review the parable in its literal signification.
II. Its spiritual application.
1. The Bridegroom is Jesus. This is one of the general Scriptural representations of the Saviour (Psalms 45:10, etc.; Isaiah 44:5; Matthew 22:1-2; Matthew 9:15; John 4:29). The object of the Bridegroom’s affection is the Church (2 Corinthians 11:2, etc.; Ephesians 5:25). Now to render a union possible between Christ and mankind-
(1) They must have one nature (Titus 2:14; Titus 3:4).
(2) They must have one mind. In our natural state we are alienated, etc. Christ, by the exhibition of His love in the gospel, overcomes this.
(3) In conversion the soul is espoused to Christ (Jeremiah 2:2).
(4) The marriage celebration is reserved for the Second Advent (Revelation 19:7; Revelation 21:2, etc.). Conclusion: Consider the dignified Bridegroom. His glory is supreme, His riches are infinite, His beauty unrivalled, His love unspeakable and passing understanding. Are not His claims then irresistible? Reject Him not. Congratulate believers on their choice and portion. Expostulate with those who have forsaken Him. (J. Burns, LL. D.)
The ten virgins
I. In their professional probationary character-“Who took their lamps.” In this, the profession of Christianity is exhibited. Religion is to be manifested. This profession of discipleship and friendship with Christ-
1. Should arise from love to Christ.
2. Must be public and open before men.
3. Must be constant and continued.
4. It must be sustained by Divine grace. A profession without the grace of God in the soul will be joyless, promiseless, transitory.
II. The delay of the bridegroom, and the virgins in their sleeping state. The early Christians expected His Second Advent in their time. So in many ages since. But the period is not revealed. The virgins “all slumbered and slept.” There are no obvious distinctions between the two classes. But the wise prepared for the future. The others were satisfied with the present-had no supply for the coming exigency.
III. The solemn announcement.
1. The period.
2. The pomp and magnificence of His coming. The event is momentous, and the scene truly sublime. All beings in all worlds will be interested in it.
IV. The awful deficiency of the foolish virgins is discovered. What shall they do? We cannot give grace to each other now. How much less, then!
V. The conclusion of the ceremony and the consummation of the feast. The wise acknowledged, etc. But the foolish labour to supply the deficiency in seeking oil. But “the door is shut.”
1. The door of opportunities and means.
2. The door of mercy.
3. The door of hope.
4. The door of heaven.
1. Let the subject lead to solemn examination.
2. To earnestness, and diligence, and vigilance. (J. Burns, LL. D. )
Preparation for heaven
The design of Christ in the parable is to induce watchfulness-a state of preparation for death which conducts to the judgment seat of Christ.
I. The happiness destined for the follower of Christ. This happiness is heaven, with all its enjoyments, etc. It is described in the text, “Went in with Him into the marriage.” Implies-
1. Christ’s gracious approval of them (John 17:24; Isaiah 42:5; Revelation 19:7; Revelation 19:9).
2. His people will be introduced by Him into heaven as the purchase of His blood, the travail of His soul, and the gems of His crown (John 14:1-2).
3. They will be guests at the marriage feast. This denotes-
(1) The consummation of the union of Christ with His Church, of which they will not only be the observant, but the participant (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19; Ephesians 5:25-27). This union will never be broken; it is an everlasting bond (Revelation 3:12.)
(2) That they dwell in His immediate presence, and in the most intimate fellowship and communion with Him-in a state of eternal rest and joy.
(3) High festive enjoyment (Revelation 7:14).
(4) Social enjoyment. The guests may come from far, but they rejoice together (Hebrews 12:22, etc.).
II. The preparation necessary for the enjoyment of heaven-”They were ready.” Alluding to the wise who took oil, etc. This readiness is illustrated by the wedding garment (Matthew 22:11). What is the nature of spiritual preparation for death and an interview with our Judge, etc.?
1. It is Divine. Not self-righteousness; not external.
2. Spiritual enlightenment to discover our sinful, impure, and perishing state; and the method of God’s salvation through Christ; and to see its superiority to every other promulgation.
3. Faith in the work of Christ.
4. Inherent righteousness, purity, etc., as effected by Divine energy; developed in practical conformity to the will of God.
5. Constant expectation of, and preparation for, the coming of Christ (2 Timothy 4:8; Titus 2:13). This preparation is real and lasting. It is both inward and outward. Not like the foolish virgins (verse 7).
III. The significant import of the declaration-“And the door was shut.”
1. As an intimation of the happiness and security of the wise (Revelation 3:12). Adam was placed in Paradise; but the door was left open, and so he went out again; but in heaven the glorified saint will be shut in.
2. It intimates the doom of the wicked. Heaven will never be seen and enjoyed by sinners. Their probation is ended; their glad time is over. All the means of grace have passed away. The dispensation of the gospel is closed. All instruments employed to convert and to save will be employed no more. The Spirit will strive no more. Hope is for ever past.
1. Be thankful that the means of preparation are propounded by the gospel; “wise” persons Will avail themselves of those means.
2. Let Christians be watchful; trim their lamps; the Bridegroom is at hand.
3. How awful to have the door shut against us I It will either open for us, or close against us. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
I. This demand touches life itself. Your doctor will tell you that the best thing you can do is to keep as fine a reserve of vitality as you can possibly store away, if you mean to give him a chance when some day he has to pull you through the sore conflict between life and death. How often is it said, “Nothing could be done for him because he had nothing to fall back upon; he used up all his life as he went along.” Here then is the first meaning of “ oil “ in my vessel with my lamp.
II. These reserves mean character. We can store up character as we store up life for searching emergencies we store up spiritual substance of manhood.
III. These reserves mean achievement. The power to do the grandest thing possible to your nature, when you feel you must, or some precious thing will be lost. To cube your power out of the latent stores.
IV. We can store up other and better things against the trial of the soul. We can store up faith, hope, love, and whatever makes a Christian. (R. Collyer, D. D.)
Reserve power revealed in emergency
Reserves of life or light, of courage or character, of insight or endurance, or whatever the demand may be, for failing here, it is as when wells fail in a dry time, because they have no deepness or power to reach the perennial spring. That in our common life we may do as well as those about us, or even seem to be doing better, if we are reckless as to these reserves, while others are carefully storing them away. But such times are no test of a man or a manhood, any more than the piping times of peace, when they flame out in scarlet and gold about London, are a test of the Queen’s guards; or than our own men were tested when they went southward through our streets with their music and banners. It is Waterloo and the Crimea, Chancellorsville and Ball’s Bluff, and such grim backgrounds as these against which they must stand, before the matchless manhood of such men can come into bold relief and reveal itself finally. And so we can all run easily enough through our easy-going times, make good headway as we imagine, and hold our own with the best, but these days have no virtue in them to reveal this secret of our reserved power. They are like the main part of a voyage I made once across the Atlantic, in which the weather was so pleasant and all things ran so easily that I suspect the most of us felt about equal to the captain, and concluded it was no great thing to run a steamer after all, when you once got the lines. But when a great storm struck us as we passed Cape Race, and all night long the good ship shuddered and punted through the wild waters, and when, next morning, peering deckward, we saw the faithful fellow standing by the mainmast with his arms twisted about the ropes, swinging in the tempest, watching it with steady eyes, alert and cheerful, though he had been on deck all night, turning his ship round in the teeth of the tempest and the trough of the sea, so that she might escape the awful strain and the avalanche of waters which were filling men with dismay, then we knew our captain. The reserves were coming out. Here was a man nothing could daunt, and who, if the worst had come, would, no doubt, have seen still to our safety so far as he was able, and been the last to leave the wreck. That man had light in him and life equal to the demand-oil, in a word, in the vessel with his lamp, and so he brought the good ship, at last, to her haven, and won the “Well done.” (R. Collyer, D. D.)
Reserve power helpful to achievement
When the great Duke of Bridgewater undertook to construct those canals which lie at the root of the vast wealth of modern England, and had their part in the splendour of this metropolis, he found the strain so hard at last that he was glad to get a note accepted for five pounds. He gave up his princely mansion, lived in a small house, and clad himself so humbly that one day as he was standing by a great pile of his own coal, a boy, thinking he was a common person, cried, “Here, man, give us a lift with this sack!” He loved his bit of humour, so took hold with the boy, and got for his thanks, “Ah, man, thou’s big enough, but thou’s lazy!” He came at last to the end of his reserves of money and courage, and on a Saturday night, sitting with Brindley, who had borne the burden with him, the mighty engineer said, “Well, Duke, don’t be east down, we are sure to pull through.” They did pull through, and Brindley found the strength for it in the last drips of oil in the vessel, but he found it; and the result was the first splendid stroke which set England on her feet, and gave you the port you wanted in Liverpool. (R. Collyer, D. D.)
Reserve of faith
Because, to speak first of faith, we need not merely enough to live on through our ordinary experiences, but stores of it to fall back on and draw on when ruin and disaster seem to have it all their own way. When we wake up suddenly to wonder whether God can be in heaven and we so forlorn on the earth; whether the Christ was not mistaken in His abiding confidence, and all the saints; and what better thing there can be left than just to grit our teeth and bear it. Millions have struck the same troubles, but have risen out of them through their reserves into the very life and light of God. No disaster has overcome them utterly; no trial broken them clean down. It was no matter that the heavens were black as midnight, except for the fierce pain of it-or that “ from out waste nature came a cry and murmurs from the dying sun;” the reserves were there, and they drew on them to the last, and went in to the joy of the Lord. Poor creatures some of them, who could give no reason why they should hold on so and stay so cheerful, any more than the fountain can give a reason for its flowing, or the plant you find in some deserts for its store of cool water! They have been sending out roots far and wide, tapping the secrets of reserved power and storing up the treasure, and now nothing can exhaust them. The old Bible has been drawn on, and the stores open to them outside in thought and life; and, above all things, the inward and inexhaustible fountains of God’s own blessing. No danger of the oil giving out; it burns clear away until they pass beyond the veil. (R. Collyer, D. D.)
Two kinds of parables
Parables are of two sorts.
1. Argumentative; wherein some notable reason is couched, or ground is laid for some excellent encouragement in our converse with God, by showing what falleth out among men. In these argumentative parables, the parts of the parables are not to be strained, but the scope and parable itself is to be regarded.
2. Representative. This sort yields us a notable delineation of some heavenly matter, by laying the scene of it among earthly affairs; for God is feign to lisp to us in our own dialect, and speaks as we can understand. This parable is of the latter sort. (T. Manton)
Scope of the parable
1. The thing compared-the “kingdom of heaven.”
II. The comparison itself-“likened to ten virgins.” Who are described
(1) by their quality or state;
(2) by their number-ten
(3) by their rank or distribution-five wise, five foolish;
(4) by their work or employment-they went forth to meet the bridegroom;
(5) by their preparation for that work-they took their hand-lamps. (T. Manton.)
Oil both in lamps and vessels
I. Profession must not be neglected; both the wise and the foolish took their lamps with them. Burning profession is two-fold, vocal and real; by word and by life.
II. Profession of godliness, though never so glorious, should not be rested in, without a saving work of grace upon the heart to maintain it. Grace must show forth, but withal it must have a bottom within; as a fountain or spring sendeth forth streams to water the ground about it, or the heart sendeth forth life and spirits to every faculty and member, so the graces of the Spirit in believers show forth in their carriage and behaviour, to make their tongue drop that which is savoury, their actions orderly and even, their carriage in all relations and affairs grave and serious. ‘Tis well when all this hath a bottom, that there is a principle of life within, to diffuse this virtue into every part of their conversations. (T. Manton.)
The Spirit as oil
The Spirit doth not give a draught, but the spring; not a dash of rain that is soon dried up, but a well; not a pond, that may be dried up at length, but a fountain that ever keepeth flowing, so that we shall never thirst more. Not a petty refreshment for a season, but His Spirit to dwell in us as a full fountain, to flow forth for the refreshment of himself and others. Though the ocean be in God, yet there is a river in the saints. (T. Manton.)
The mistake of a little religion
It may be good words without practice; or practice without principle. Many talk welt; their notions are high and strict, but observe them narrowly, and you will find them cold and careless; like the carbuncle, at a distance it seemeth all on fire, but touch it, and it is key-cold. “Be warmed, be clothed “ will not pass for charity, nor opinions for faith, nor notions and elevated strains for godliness. You would laugh at him that would think to pay his debts with the noise of money; and instead of opening his purse, shake it: ‘tis as ridiculous to think to satisfy God, or discharge our duty, by fine words, or heavenly language, without a heavenly heart or life. ‘Tis not enough to do good, but we must get the habit of doing good; to believe, but we must get the habit of faith: to do a virtuous action, but we must have the habit of virtue; to perform an act of obedience, but we must get the root of obedience. (T. Manton.)
A form is easily gotten and maintained. Painted fire needs no fuel to keep it in. Vanishing affections are soon stirred. All excellent things have their incident difficulties, and nothing is gotten without diligence, labour, and serious-mindedness. (T. Manton.)
The grace of temporaries is good of its kind, but must not be rested in. ‘Tis like priming the post, to make it receptive of other colours, ‘tis an inchoate, imperfect thing. (T. Manton.)
The reserve of oil
Oil, in Scripture, is the symbol of inward grace. Regarding the virgins as types of Christian disciples, whatever is merely outward in Christian profession is the lamp and light; whatever is inward and spiritual is the oil reserved in the vessels. The lesson is, be watchful and careful over the nourishing of the inner life. The foolish virgins are not hypocrites, but those too easily satisfied with profession, and too negligent of soul-culture. Illustrate-
1. Setting out on profession. Some take up Christian life seriously, others lightly and confidently. Some inquire how it is to be maintained, others rest in present emotions, and vaguely hope all will go well.
2. Waiting on through years of Christian living. Profession has to be tested, and the test is, “keeping on living.” Continuance is the severest of tests.
3. Failing or succeeding when the waiting-time is over. All will be well now, and all will be well for ever, if the life of love, and devotion, and trust, be kept up in our souls. How Jesus will find us when he comes depends on the “ oil in our vessels.” (Selected.)
The certainty of Christ’s coming
I. Reason saith He may come. Argue from-
1. the nature of God.
2. The providence of God.
3. The feelings of conscience.
4. Show the conveniency of such a day.
II. If doubtful to reason, ‘tis sure to faith. Faith argueth-
1. From Christ’s merit and purchase.
2. From Christ’s affection to us.
3. From the affections of His saints to Him, which Christ will satisfy.
4. From the constitution of His Church.
5. From His promise. (T. Manton.)
The use of Divine delayings
The Lord tarrieth sometimes when men think He should come sooner. To come late is many times the best time. God keepeth back His best blessings for a while, and detaineth them long in His own hands before they come to us. Therefore wait His leisure. Expectation is tedious, and reckoneth every minute. Strong desires are importunate, and usually we go by an ill count; not by eternity, but time. The timing of all things is in God’s hand; not left to our foolish fancies, but His wise ordering. The dial sometimes goeth before the sun; so doth our time before God’s time. We would make short work for faith and patience, and so our graces would not be found to praise and honour. (T. Manton.)
These are often elegant in form and elaborate in design. They are covered at the top, where there is a hole for pouring in the oil, while another at the side receives the wick; there is often a handle large enough to pass one finger through, for the purpose of holding it. These lamps are often adorned with graceful designs of heathen deities, or mythological subjects, of animals, and birds, and comic scenes. These were evidently hand-lamps, intended to be carried about the house; but when they were required to burn for a considerable time, they needed to be replenished, and a small eathern jar filled with oil was set near the lamp, as it now is, from which a new supply was added whenever the light grew dim. It was thus in the parable of the ten virgins; when the lamps had burned down with the long delay of the bridegroom, “the wise” virgins were enabled to replenish theirs, which “the foolish” could not do. (Van Lennep.)
The coming of the Eastern bridegroom
In Egypt, as well as other Oriental countries, the same usage still prevails:-“We heard the sound of music and mirth, and running to the window observed the glare of torches in the street. We were told that it was ‘the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride.’ Some of us instantly set out to witness the spectacle of an Eastern marriage. The bridegroom was on his way to the house of the bride. According to custom, he walked in procession through several streets of the town, attended by a numerous body of friends, all in their showy Eastern garb. Persons bearing torches went first, the torches being kept in full blaze by a constant supply of ready wood from a receiver, made of wire, fixed at the end of a long pole. Two of the torch-bearers stood close to the bridegroom, so that we had a view of his person. Some were playing upon an instrument not unlike our bagpipe, others were beating drums, and from time to time muskets were fired in honour of the occasion At length the company arrived at the entrance of the street where the bride resided. Immediately we heard the sound of many female voices, and observed by the light of the torches a company of veiled bridesmaids, waiting on the balcony to give notice of the coming of the bridegroom. When they caught sight of the approaching procession they ran back into the house, making it resound with the cry, ‘Halil, halil, halil!’ and music, both vocal and instrumental, commenced within. Thus the bridegroom entered in, and the door was shut! We were left standing in the street without, ‘in the outer darkness.’ In our Lord’s parable, the virgins go forth to meet the bridegroom with lamps in their hands, but here they only waited for his coming. Still we saw the traces of the very scene described by our Lord, and a vivid representation of the way in which Christ shall come to His waiting Church, and the marriage supper of the Lamb begin.” (Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews.)
The visible Church is the kingdom of heaven
I. In what respect the visible church may be compared to a kingdom.
1. Because it is under kingly government.
2. Because it is a distinct state from any other kingdom or sort of government.
3. Because every kingdom consisteth of divers sorts.
4. Because the same laws bind all sorts of persons within the compass of the kingdom.
5. Because ignorance of laws is not allowed in excuse of wrong-doing.
6. Because in every kingdom there is a statute book, and officers to govern.
7. Because in a kingdom all who violate the laws are called to account and punished.
II. Why is the church called the kingdom of heaven? Because-
1. Its constitution and laws are not of this world.
2. The same King reigns as in heaven.
3. The doctrine, faith, order, rule, and government promote a heavenly life, and so lead to heaven.
4. The saints are the subjects of heaven.
5. The Church is the figure of heaven.
6. The Church ought to show the glory of heaven begun below. (Benj. Keach.)
Figure of Christians as virgins
Apply to both the male and female sex.
1. They are chaste and not defiled.
2. They are commonly the younger sort, and are of yielding or complying temper.
3. They are often (perhaps) tempted, but they yield not.
4. They are often espoused.
5. They delight to be clean and neatly dressed.
6. Virgins espoused have cordial affection, or dear love, to their bridegroom.
7. They love and delight in the company of each other. (Benj. Keach.)
The folly of the foolish
I. In their attaining to some degree of the knowledge of the way of salvation, and yet having no interest in the blessed Saviour.
II. In that they had the means but never used it; a price in their hands, but no heart to improve it.
III. To sleep in harvest, or come to the market when it is over, certainly argues great folly in such persons.
IV. Their folly consisteth in running the greatest hazard, and yet thinking themselves safe.
V. It is not great folly to refuse to cut off a corrupt and rotten member, when told that death will inevitably ensue, or their life must go if it be not done.
VI. Their folly consisteth in believing the father of lies, and in trusting in their own hearts, when nothing is more deceitful.
VII. To value the good opinion, and having the approbation of men above the love of Christ, and the approbation of God, is folly with a witness.
VIII. Their folly consisteth in losing the love, both of God and the world, and in exposing themselves to the wrath of God and men. (Benj. Keach.)
Saving grace likened to oil
Grace is here compared to oil, from the qualities or nature thereof.
1. Oil is of a softening, a mollifying and healing nature.
2. Oil is contrary to scorpions, and expels poison; so is grace contrary also to Satan, that old serpent, and it also expels the poison of sin, and Satan’s temptations.
3. Oil will not mingle or incorporate with other liquid things, but it will be always upper:most.
4. Oil is of a reviving nature, and opens obstructions, causing a man to breathe freely, so grace revives the soul.
5. Oil is of a feeding and fattening nature, as well as beautifying.
6. Oil makes the lamp burn, feeds it, and continues its light; so the grace of God in a believer makes his life, profession, and conversation to burn, and give much light. (Benj. Keach.)
1. Sleep or spiritual drowsiness riseth from those gross vapours which seize on and clog the soul.
2. Slothfulness, or a careless and dull frame, hath a great tendency to produce sleep.
3. Wearisomeness, as when a man is tired out with his work, makes him sleepy in religious duties.
4. A dark and cloudy day easily puts us into a drowsy frame.
5. An apprehension that it is a great while to day, makes a man settle down to sleep again.
6. When a man apprehends no danger, he is apt to slumber in security.
7. Some distempers or diseases which seize upon the body cause an unusual sleepiness.
8. Surfeiting and drunkenness cause immoderate sleep.
9. A sleepy company that a man may be in will infect him with sleepiness.
10. Long watching tends to produce immoderate sleepiness. (Benj. Keach.)
Trimming the lamps
The trimming of the lamp denotes the cleansing of it, and the taking off of the dead ashes that hinder the light, or prevent its burning so clearly as otherwise it would, Now what is this, “but the putting away of all iniquity by faith and unfeigned repentance. Our conversation, or lamp of profession, is subject to gather filth, and the dead ashes of corruption often hinder the shinings of our lives, to the glory of God. Unbelief, deadness, earthliness, and self-confidence is like to a thief in the candle, or dead ashes in the wick of a lamp, and therefore must be snuffed by mortification, lest the spirit of God be grieved and depart from us, as to His quickening and comforting influences. (Benj. Keach.)
The coming of the Lord Jesus
Doctrine: The Lord Jesus will come again, or appear the second time.
1. Prove that Christ shall or will come again.
2. Give some reasons why the Lord Christ will come again.
3. Show how He will appear.
4. Lay down a few of the signs of His coming.
5. Show how we may be said to be ready.
6. Who are they that will not be ready?
7. Show what may be meant by shutting the door. (Benj. Keach.)
Christ’s knowing His own
1. The Lord Jesus did not know them to be His sheep.
2. He knows them not so as to approve of them.
3. Knowledge sometimes refers to love and affections.
4. Knowledge is sometimes taken for intimate communion, and they are such that never had this knowledge of Christ, or Christ of them. (Benj. Keach.)
Works of supererogation
No man can be benefited by another man’s grace and good works (I mean as to his personal and eternal salvation); none has any grace to spare for another, nor, if he had, has he any right or capacity to transfer or communicate it.
I. No mere man in this life can fully and perfectly obey all the commandments of God, for how should a morally imperfect creature yield a full obedience to an every way perfect law?
II. Though we cannot perform full and entire obedience to the law of God, yet this is still due from us to the Author of our being. Though we have lost our power to obey, God has not lost His right to command and require obedience of us.
III. The obedience which God requires of us, is principally and chiefly that of the soul and inward man, and secondarily that of the body and outward man; which latter is of no value, but as it flows from, and is expressive of, the former.
IV. The least defect in our obedience, much more an habitual revolt from God, is death by the original law, the law of innocency given to Adam in and at his creation; and habitual and final disobedience is no less so by the law of grace, the gospel remedying the law; and that with farther aggravation on account of unbelief, and our rejecting the only remedy, which infinite wisdom and love has provided for us, and offered to us.
V. The impotency which we all labour under to fulfil the law of God, and perform His commands, is owing to the corruption of our natures, derived to us from the fall of our first parents, whereby we lost the image of God, and became as unstable and weak as water, naturally disinclined for every, and disabled for any good work.
VI. Though no mere man hath, or ever can, fulfil the law of God, yet our Lord Jesus Christ hath perfectly obeyed it, and hath also suffered the curse due to our transgression of it, in such a way as to render it fit for God to forgive all them that believe on His name.
VII. Though believers cannot perfectly obey all the commandments of God in this life, yet they are aiming at it, and making daily progress towards it. (John Billingsley.)
I. Wherein doth this readiness consist?
1. Habitual readiness is to have “oil in their vessels”-that is, grace in the heart. Those who have a work of grace upon their hearts,
(1) have been effectually called;
(2) are justified by His grace;
(3) are sanctified by the Spirit;
(4) preserve herein to the end.
2. An actual readiness. When gracious souls have notice of their Lord’s coming, they endeavour to put themselves in the best posture to receive Him. They are
(3) watch unto prayer.
II. What is implied in the saints entering in with Christ to the marriage?
1. They shall enter into the nearest relation to Jesus Christ.
2. They shall enter into the joy of their Lord.
III. When Christ and His saints are entered into heaven, there will be neither going out nor coming in for ever. Application-
1. There will be a certain and final separation between empty professors anti real saints.
2. What a grievous loss will they sustain, who do not thoroughly attend to religion!
3. What a mercy it is that the door of the sanctuary is still open. (S. Lavington.)
Points of likeness and unlikeness in the ten virgins
They get the same name, virgins; they wear the same dress; they are on the same errand; they all have lamps; they all have vessels; they all slumber and sleep. They have thus many features in common. Man could not discern the difference, at least for the time. The peril of mere externalism is that which our Lord points out here. No doubt there must be externalism. Religion must have an outside as well as an inside. The lamp must not only have oil, but it must burn; the external must indicate the internal. And we may say that our Lord intimated the necessity of a thorough consistency and completeness in the outward religious life of a man, so that, as a fair external is no excuse for internal unsoundness or incompleteness, so a sound internal is no excuse for an inconsistent life. Our Lord, then, here depicts
(1) a complete externalism;
(2) a beautiful externalism;
(3) a deceptive externalism;
(4) a prolonged externalism;
(5) an unavailing externalism.
Up to a certain point in a man’s life, or character, or religion, externalism may avail; but beyond that it gives way; it exhibits its unprofitableness. This externalism may not always be hypocrisy, but it is imitation. It is not the flower in its natural colour and growth, but painted, artificial Though in most respects they were all alike, yet there was a difference. It was within; it was imperceptible from without; it could only be discovered when the bridegroom came. Only then the want came out in the foolish. Then was it seen who were wise, and who were foolish. That day is the day of certain and unerring detection. It is the day of weighing in the balances. It is the separation of the false from the true Thus a man may be very much like a Christian, and yet not be one. He may come very near the kingdom, and yet not enter in. He may have all the outward features of a Christian, and yet be lacking in the main one. He may have the complete dress of the saint, and yet not be one. He may have a good life, a sound creed, a strict profession; he may be one who says and does many things excellent; he may be a subscriber to all the religious societies in the land, a member of all their committees, or a speaker at all their meetings, and supporter of all their plans; he may profess to be looking for Christ’s coming, and going forth to meet the Bridegroom, yet not necessarily a Christian! He may lack the oil, the Holy Spirit. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
History of a conversion
While spending a week recently in the society of a number of faithful pastors from the Canton of Vaud, one of them, at a public meeting, related to us the conversion of a lady in his parish. She was one of those who live only for this world; the thoughts of her sins had never caused her uneasiness; she was careful and troubled about many things, but neglected the one thing needful. One night, while alone in her room, she saw the lamp which lighted it suddenly go out. Although she was alone, she said aloud (thinking only of the accident which left her in the dark), “There is no oil in the lamp!” The words thus spoken echoed in the room and sounded in her ears, but with a new sense. She recalled the parable of the five foolish virgins who had no oil, and whose lamps had gone out at the coming of the bridegroom; and from that moment, day and night, the word of God remained in her soul, as an arrow remains in the side of a stag who flies away from the hunters. It recurred to her constantly-“No, I have no oil in my lamp! My God I what will become of me?” She was filled with fear; then she began to pray, and continued in prayer until God answered her favourably, and gave her His peace.
They were not lighted lamps, but sparks of their own tinderboxes; fantastical fire, an ignis fatuus, a painted flame, which neither heats nor lights. The glow-worm seems to have both heat and light, but touch it, and it hath neither. Alchemy gold may seem brighter and better than true gold, but it can neither pass the seventh fire, nor comfort the heart as a cordial: so here. A man may live by a form, but he cannot die by it. They that kindle a fire, but not of God’s sanctuary, and compass themselves about with precious sparks, they may walk here for a while in the light of their fire, and in the sparks that they have kindled. But when all is done, this is all they shall have of God’s hand-they shall lie down in sorrow (Isaiah 50:11). (John Trapp.)
Half the virgins lost
An army would be very cautious if they knew beforehand that one-half of them should be destroyed. (T. Manton.)
Wisdom and folly
Now wisdom lieth in providence, and folly in negligence, especially in weighty matters. (T. Manton.)
Righteousness cannot be shared
In point of power, they have no power to transfuse and put over their righteousness to another; as a man cannot divide and part his life between him and another. (T. Manton.)
Christ the only grace-giver
Such a difference there is between the Lord Jesus Christ and the saints. He can give us of His oil, and will do it, will not deny those that seek it humbly and seasonably, and have enough Himself; as the “precious ointment upon Aaron’s head and beard ran down to the skirts of his garments” (Psalms 133:2), so doth Christ the Head communicate His gifts and graces to all His members. (T. Manton.)
The kingdom of heaven on earth
Because here is the very glory of heaven begun, that look as the same sun which fills the stars with glory; the very same beams touch the earth also, so the same glory which shines in heaven shines into the poor Church here (1 Peter 5:10). God hath called His people into His eternal glory. (T. Shepard.)
How the soul comes to be espoused to the Lord Jesus
1. The soul beholding the glory of the Lord Jesus, makes choice of Him.
(1)With the whole soul.
(3) Above all others.
2. The soul hence gives itself, like one espoused to her husband, to the Lord Jesus (Song of Solomon 2:16).
3. The soul hence takes full contentment in the Lord Jesus, as a spouse hath enough, would not change for all the world, as Peter when he had a glimpse of Christ’s day. (T. Shepard.)
1. It is a real love.
2. It is fervent and earnest.
3. It is constant.
4. It is pure.
What His love will do for us:
1. It will set us next Himself in honour.
2. He will enrich thee.
3. He will counsel thee.
4. He will dwell with thee.
5. He will rejoice with thee.
6. He will comfort thee. (T. Shepard.)
Faith is a lamp; and yet faith may not save
It may be wanting in the love which purifies the heart, and it may be the gift of logic and not the gift of God, an intellectual apprehension and nothing more. A man may work out many principles and nothing efficiently; a lamp is for guidance; men are not saved by the lamp, nor without the lamp. Perhaps you remember how an old king of Sweden, walking on the road to Upsala, once had a long conversation with a farmer about religion, and it haunted him, for the farmer spoke of his feelings on religion with so much peace and rest and satisfaction. When the king lay on his deathbed, and his mind was disturbed, the Archbishop of Upsala came to him. “What is faith?” said the king, and the archbishop discoursed to him eloquently and logically. “Ah,” said the king, “that is all very ingenious! But it is not comfortable-it is not what I want; it’s nothing, after all; what I want is the farmer’s faith-nothing but the farmer’s faith will do for me now.” The lamp of faith is only an instrument. It needs the oil; “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” Therefore arise and trim the lamp. (Paxton Hood.)
Knowledge an oilless lamp
Knowledge! Lamp of the ages, observatory of the nations, the torch waving its fires over the race to light it on. Your knowledge pierces the recesses of self, it cannot be a statement coldly shining like a distant beam; it is inner, inner-it is consciousness. Have you any knowledge of which you can really say We know?-knowledge like that I have of the bones of some ancient antediluvian creature, knowledge like that I have of a mummy, an hieroglyph on a Rossetta stone, knowledge of a clime I have never seen, of a distant planet or constellation? This will not do, this is all an oilless lamp-a romance about Jesus of Nazareth will not do; I must know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings. A creed about Christianity will not do. A philosophy of Christianity will not do. Deeper, deeper-“I know whom I have believed.” Oh, be ye sure of this, for there is much of the other, and it is oilless. This knowledge lives-is a part of the very being; therefore arise and trim this lamp. (Paxton Hood.)
And the door was shut.
The shut door
1. Necessary for the sake of the redeemed. One guest who does not enter into the spirit of your festivity robs your friends of their joy.
2. Necessary when we regard the sinner himself.
II. Finality of exclusion. The word here used for “shut” does not mean simply “to close to,” but to shut that it cannot be opened-“to lock.” The door is open now. (D. F. Jarman, B. A.)
The closed door
I. The characters in danger of this great calamity.
1. The mere religious professor.
2. The procrastinating.
II. What is the door which is shut.
1. The door of repentance will be shut.
2. The door of religious opportunity and of hope.
3. The door of “glory, honour, and immorality” will be shut. (D. Moore.)
The door was shut
1. The door of heaven was shut.
2. The door of mercy was shut.
3. The door of hope was shut.
4. The door of hell was shut. (W. Hare, M. A.)
The gates closed
Two readings of the text. I am glad some gates will be closed.
1. The persecutions of this world cannot get through the gate of heaven.
2. The fatigues of life will not get through the gate.
3. The bereavements of life will not get through the gate.
There will be some persons who will come up to that gate at last who will not be admitted.
1. The outrageously wicked and abandoned most certainly cannot get in.
2. The door of heaven will not open to those who are depending upon their morality for salvation.
3. The gate of heaven will not open for the merely hollow professor.
4. All infidels and sceptics will be kept out. (Dr. Talmage.)
1. Let us consider how easily this may happen with respect to outward blessings and opportunities in life. Take education; friendship; wealth; personal capacity; the value of these is often missed till it is too late. Thus as the years pass, we listen in life to the sound of the closing doors as, one after another, they strike upon the ear of the soul and of the conscience.
2. The door is shut for each of us as we draw our last breath. There is no repentance in the grave. (Canon Liddon.)
The door an emblem of separation
A door is a barrier which often separates two very unlike scenes. On one side, for instance, are green fields, and bright sunshine, and running streams, and happy laughter. On the other, the manacled forms of listless prisoners, the dark cell, the moan of despair, the vision of death. Or, outside are wild, sobbing, wintry winds, driving showers of hail and sleet, homeless wanderers, friendless outcasts; inside, bright light, abundant food, a warm hearth, and a cheerful circle of friends. Between such opposite scenes as these there is only a door. The real question in all such cases is, “Can I open that door? Can I pass through it?” If not, all the waters of the sea, all the mountains of the world, could not form a stronger barrier. (G. Tugwell, M. A.)
The door was sheer rejection of the wicked
Dreadful to be read or heard; but much more so to be experienced. Oh, foolish virgins; foolish indeed. All their labour is now lost, and they themselves too. Separated from the wise virgins, their fellows, and from God.
I. The “door” primarily the door of heaven, and with it the door of
II. Awfulness of this.
(1) It is God who shuts the door.
(2) No other way of entrance.
(3) Might once have entered.
(4) Others are in and we shut out.
(1) Terror of wicked.
(2) Happiness of saints.
(3) Distinction between saints and sinners is a lasting one. (B. Beddome, A. M.)
In the spiritual world as well as in the natural world there is a seedtime, and unless you sow your seed in the seed-time it will rot in the ground. What would you think of the farmer who said, “It is not quite convenient for me to sow the corn at the time when the other farmers are sowing it. I very much prefer to enjoy myself, and go my own way, and do what I like. God is a God of love and mercy, and He is also omnipotent, and He certainly would not wish that my wife and children should starve for want of food; so I will sow my seed in the summer, and then God in His omnipotent mercy will cause it to bring forth a harvest, and I shall have a supply, and my wife and children will be provided with food.” Do you think this man’s strange idea about the love of God will alter the facts of the case? I tell you that while he is talking thus he is deliberately violating the laws of God revealed by nature, and as he deliberately violates the laws of God on selfish grounds, without the slightest necessity, and wantonly, that man shall put his seed into the ground and talk about the love of God, and his seed shall rot before his eyes and his children shall die of starvation, the love of God notwithstanding. You must sow at the right time, or it will not spring up. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
Thus, as the years pass, we listen in life to the sound of the closing doors as, one after another, they strike upon the ear of the soul and of the conscience. We hear them proclaiming that a something which once was ours, and for the use of which we still have to answer, is ours no longer. We hear them more often, we hear them louder, as the time flies past; and thus in their frequency and their urgency they lead us up towards a climax when there will be the closing of a door and none beyond it-the door of our individual probation at death, the door of all probations at the last judgment. Place the last judgment in the light of that aspect of life on which we have been dwelling, and it is seen in its essential character and principle to be not an innovating catastrophe as much as the result to which the lesser catastrophes of life steadily point onward. It is the final term of many experiences which lead up to it. As by a continuous analogy it exhibits visibly, and on a scale of unimagined vastness, that judgment of God which is ever going forward invisibly, and, with individuals, bringing to a close first one and then another sphere and department of our responsibility, until the account is sufficiently made up to be closed in whatever sense, until the time has come when all accounts can be closed, and the last hour for the world of moral beings of their probation has clearly sounded in the providence of God. (Canon Liddom)
The feeling of exclusion
The poet Cowper tells us that, when under conviction of sin, he dreamed that he was walking in Westminster Abbey, waiting for prayers to begin. “Presently I heard the minister’s voice, and hastened towards the choir. Just as I was upon the point of entering, the iron gate under the organ was flung in my face, with a jar that made the Abbey ring. The noise awakened rue; and a sentence of excommunication from all the churches upon earth could not have been so dreadful to me as the interpretation which I could not avoid putting upon this dream.”
Have you not felt a fainting of heart, and a bitterness of spirit, when, after much preparation for an important journey, you have arrived at the appointed place, and found that the ship or train by which you had intended to travel had gone with all who were ready at the appointed time, and left you behind? Can you multiply finitude by infinitude? Can you conceive the dismay which will fill your soul if you come too late to the closed door of heaven, and begin the hopeless cry, “Lord, Lord, open to us”? (Win. Arnot.)
The door of doom
A lady, who heard Whitefield in Scotland preach on these words, being placed between two dashing young men, but at a considerable distance from the pulpit, witnessed their mirth, and overheard one say, in a low tone, to the other, “Well, what if the door be shut? Another will open.” Thus they turned off the solemn words of warning. Mr. Whitefield had not proceeded far when he said, “It is possible there may be some careless, trifling person here to-day, who may ward off the force of this impressive subject by lightly thinking, ‘What matter if the door be shut? Another will open.’” The two young men were paralyzed, and looked at each other. Mr. Whitefield proceeded: “Yes: another will open. And I will tell you what door it will be: it will be the door of the bottomless pit!-the: door of hell!-the door which conceals from the eyes of angels the horrors of damnation!”
The duty of watching for the Lord’s coming
Many things should make us look and long for the Lord’s coming. A sense of justice should have this effect. He suffered here; should He not rejoice here? He was put to shame here; should he not be glorified here? He was judged and condemned here; should He not rule and reign here? He laboured here; should He not rest here? Love to Christ should have the same effect. When a friend whom we greatly love is absent, don’t we often think of him? and if we hope that he will soon return, do we not long for it, and count the months and days that intervene? If you are expecting a friend, say from India, does not your nimble mind seem to go with him all the way home? You say, Now he is passing the Sunderbunds, now crossing the Bay of Bengal, now at the Point de Galle, now in the Indian Ocean, now in the Red Sea, now passing through the Desert, now in the Mediterranean, and now sighting our shores. If we did not so often go to the Bible, with a veil upon our faces-an extinguisher upon our heads-we should see that the thought of Christ’s coming was far more present to the mind of the early Christians than it is to ours. (John Milne.)
The benefits of watching for the Lord’s coming
It quickens to care and diligence. He was a shrewd man who said, “The eye of the master is worth a dozen overseers.” I remember once living at a place where a large number of people were constantly employed in keeping the walks, grounds, and gardens in order. The proprietor was absent, and everything had a sleepy, slovenly look. But when tidings came that he would soon return, all became awake, earnest, and active. The pruning, the rolling, the weeding, the sweeping, went on amain; none rested till all was ready; and all were gratified by the look and word of approval, when the master came. And so, if we constantly felt, “I know not the day or hour that my Lord may come,” it would exercise a salutary influence on our whole character and conduct. It would keep us from much sin and folly; it would keep us from wearying and despondency; it would keep us always ready, in that frame of mind, and that employment of time, in which we should like Him to find us. It would keep us from being absorbed with earthly things; it would regulate our affections, connections, and recreations. Shall I go where I would not like my Lord to find me? Shall I tie myself to those whom I must leave behind when the Lord comes? If you were always watching, you would have a constant sense of readiness, and so a constant peace of mind. If you were always watching, it would have an effect on those among whom you live; it would either condemn or awaken them. We know the watchman on the streets at night. He has his lamp; he is on the outlook; he is not sauntering idly along; he has an object. But, you say, would not all these ends be answered by thinking of death, that it will come, and may come at any time,-oh! how suddenly in these last times, both on land and sea? Well, in many respects this would have the same effect. But do you habitually watch for death? Is it always present to your thoughts, influencing your whole character and conduct? If your mind is like mine, you will honestly answer No. Death is not a pleasant object of contemplation,-that death-struggle, that death-dew, that parting with loved friends, that cold, lonely grave! But, blessed be the Lord, He does not bid us watch for death; He bids us watch for Himself. (John Milne.)
Uncertainty of the time of our Lord’s advent a motive for watching
Take heed of slackening the spring, of weakening the motive, by introducing the idea that a long period must elapse, that great changes and revolutions must take place, before the Lord can come. Take heed of this, for it will certainly diminish your freshness, spirituality, love, and zeal. I marvel at the presumption of mortal men, who take it upon them to fix how near, or how distant, that coming is. Christ, when on earth, said distinctly, No man knows it; angels do not know it; I myself know it not. He says, “All that My Father hath showed Me, I have made known to you,” but this a thing which My Father at present has not seen fit to show Me. He has kept it in His own power. We can see the Divine wisdom of this reticence. The element of uncertainty is just the tempering of the spring,-what gives it an unchanging elasticity in all generations. If men knew the exact time, the whole world would be on the qui vive. Flesh and blood could then take cognizance of it; and this high, holy, spiritual motive would degenerate into a mere carnal, sensational thing. (John Milne.)
Who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
Life a journey
1. There is a variety of circumstances which will attend the believer in his journey through life.
2. Moreover travellers need not to be told that the weather during their different journeys is not uniformly the seine.
3. In point of affluence and fortune all the travellers to Canaan are not alike.
4. A passenger to Zion, like most travellers, must expect to meet with different kinds of company on the road.
5. When persons undertake a journey to a distant unknown country it is not unusual to have recourse to a guide.
5. Also a guard is necessary, as the way to heaven is infested with robbers.
6. There is no convenient travelling without a competent supply of provisions. (W. J. Hall, M. A.)
Let us see what Jesus Christ does not say.
1. He does not say that the Master loves those least to whom He gives least.
2. He does not say that the Master acts capriciously, but in wisdom.
3. He does not say that this inequality lasts beyond the time of trial, beyond the present life. Inequality
(1) A fact.
(2) A social bond.
(3) We should contend against all the inequalities of the present life which can hurt the moral destiny of our fellow creatures.
(4) The attitude which God takes towards humanity in the short period which we call history. He appears absent. (E. Bersier.)
The servants at work
1. The commendation of human industry which passed from the lips of Christ.
2. The gifts of God are multiplied in faithful hands. The gospel is life and power: it is prolific. Christ enlarges man. (E. Bersier.)
The account to be rendered
There is an account to be given. Mediocrity has its temptations:
3. Contempt of duty.
4. After indolence the impiety which blasphemes. (E. Bersier.)
I. The office sustained, a servant of God.
1. Diversity of talent.
2. Diversity of sphere.
II. The character attached to the discharge of this office. “Good and faithful.”
1. In a desire to be governed by our Master’s will.
2. Love to our Master’s service.
3. Diligence in our Master’s work.
4. Rejoicing in the Master’s triumphs.
III. The recompense by which the office is to be crowned. A recompense of-
3. Pleasure, “joy of thy Lord.” (J. Parsons.)
The parable of the talents
I. That our divine redeemer is constituted the head and Lord of the Christian economy.
II. That in this exalted capacity he bestows a variety of talents upon the children of men. Time is a talent. Intellectual power is a talent. Moral capacity is a talent. Religious opportunity is a talent. Relative influence is a talent.
III. That he who has imparted these talents righteously demands their improvement.
IV. The period will arrive when he will come to demand an account. While the investigation will be inclusive, it will embrace each individual. It will be impartial. The result will be joyful and solemn. (G. Smith.)
What is it to trade with what God has given us, and how does the increase come?
1. Whatever God commits to us, gift or grace, has within itself a tendency to grow. The secret of worldly success is-
1. To set about at once to make the best use of whatever we have. God often puts a good thought into the mind; do not trifle, but make the best of it. Christ will come again. Love can be thus enlarged, the intellect, memory. Consecrated time becomes larger time. Specially happy the man who has put millions of minds into God’s bank. Money.
2. Make a good investment by investing in eternity.
3. You are sure of good security, the promise and fidelity of God. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Faithful service and its reward
This portion of the Divine word, while bearing on one great truth, was intentionally fitted to a great many truths. Such as the following:
I. As Christians, we are serving an unseen master. Our Lord is here compared to one who hath gone to a far country.
II. He hath gone to receive to himself a kingdom (Luke 19:12; Matthew 25:21, etc.) The conflict is past and the labour is ended. He is exalted to the Father’s right hand, etc. His people acknowledge Him to be their king.
III. In the absence of this heavenly Prince a great and responsible charge is devolved upon his servants (Matthew 25:14.) His servants are charged with perpetuating and administering the affairs of His kingdom. They are the living depositories of His truth. They are not only to conserve the truth, but to diffuse it, etc.
IV. It is a long time ere the lord of those servants cometh and reckoneth with them. In some of its aspects life is short; in others it is long-very long. How long does it sometimes seem to watch with your Lord only one hour? And so, the slothful servant says, My Master delayeth His coming and the foolish virgins sink into sleep; and the soul who is like a bride adorned for her husband asks, “Why are his chariot wheels so long in coming?”
V. The results of were done for Christ remain. When the talents are used they grow by use, and increase for God.
VI. Varied and abundant rewards are reserved for the faithful servants of Christ. He who had gone into the far country comes back invested with honour and power to raise others to honour. He is ableto give rule. Putting aside the imagery, may we not picture what would be the actual blessedness of a faithful servant thus applauded, and thus more than repaid. No commendation like the Master’s “well done.” Every faithful servant shall have praise of God. The holy felicity has within it the means of its own replenishment. It is His joy we go to share. “Be thou faithful,” etc. (S. M’All)
The replenishment of heavenly felicity
In the present world it cannot be denied that sweet as peace is, even peace may be monotonous; and coveted as joy is, it is the very nature of joy to subdue the appetite that gave to it its relish. But it is His joy we go to share. Eternity will seem as natural to you as time seems now. Heaven, with all its effulgence, will not dazzle you, and that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory wilt not for a moment be oppressive to your soul. But surely something of the felicity of that state would form part of your experience if you would only believe that, imperfect as you are, you are really dear to Christ. Oh, do not think that He will begin to love you when you reach a world where there is nothing but love. Your danger, your struggle, your sorrow, attract at least the sympathy of this Friend in heaven. Your services, they are not wholly disregarded. Jesus loves you-loves you as you are, and, in a measure, for what you are as well as for what you shall be. The potter values the clay while it is yet upon the wheel, and when it is far from having reached the shape of beauty he designs to give it. The refiner prizes the silver long before the dross is entirely purged away, and the master’s countenance is reflected there. Oh, thou afflicted one, tossed to and fro and not comforted-poor, timid, heir of heaven-you call yourself only vileness; not thus do you seem to your Saviour. “Since thou wast precious in My sight,” He says, “thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee.” (S. M’All.)
The entrusted talents
This parable, a needful complement to the story of the virgins; outward exertion must be combined with inward character. We must work as well as wait.
I. We have here an explanation of the diversity which exists between individuals in the matter of opportunity of service in the cause of the redeemer. We observe the fact that there is such a diversity. These talents do not denote the original endowments which men bring into the world with them, or the possessions into which they come by birth. These are gifts of God; but the reference here is rather to those opportunities which have been given to men in consequence of their abilities and environment. In His bestowment of spiritual opportunities Christ has regard to the natural abilities and providential surroundings of each man; and as in the sovereignity of God there is a diversity in the latter, so in the gracious administration of Christ, there is like diversity in the former. No man has more opportunities of service than he can avail himself of to the full. If Christ has given you one talent, it is because at present He sees you cannot handle more.
II. That new opportunities come to us with our improvement of those which we already have. By utilizing what we have, we get what we have not. The foundation of colossal fortunes have been laid in the taking advantage of little opportunities. The true method of increasing our sphere is to fill to overflowing that in which we are. So heaven shall give new opportunities of service to men who have made the most faithful use of earth. Faithful service widens opportunity.
III. The result of neglecting opportunity.
1. What is said concerning the man with one talent. It is not alleged that he wasted his master’s goods; he simply neglected his opportunities. He was not notoriously wicked, but left undone what he had ability to do. Life is to be made productive. Many are content to do nothing because they cannot do some great thing. He who buried one talent would have buried five, his failure was in his character.
2. He cherished wrong views of God. All wrongness of conduct is based on a wrong view of God.
Two things are to be said:
1. The more rigorous God is supposed to be, the more surely He will punish unfaithfulness.
2. It is not true that God is thus austere. The love of God must constrain us.
IV. The sentence pronounced on the unprofitable servant. Here is a clear end of probation. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The parable of the talents
I. The parable assumes that all who call Christ “Lord and Master,” will find some work to do for Him, and even some distinctively spiritual work. We have all some “goods” of Christ’s entrusted to us, and some capacity for using them. However inequitably this world’s goods may be divided, in the spiritual realm every man may take and do as much as he can. Who is to hinder us from being as self-denying, as lowly in spirit as we care to be? Our ability is the only measure and limit of our duty as well as of our right.
II. That the term of service is to be followed by a day of judgment, in which every man’s work will be tried, and either approved or condemned.
III. The reward of faithful service will be enlarged capacity and scope for service. The Christian reward is above suspicion; it is the power to do more work. It is a reward after which all must yearn.
IV. The spirit and character of our service will depend on our conception of the Divine character and spirit.
V. That those who have but slender capacities for service may turn them to the best account by associating themselves with others, and helping in a common work. Help to work in some organization.
VI. That the rewards are not arbitrary, but reasonable and meritable. (S. Cox, D. D.)
Great talents and small
I. That becoming a Christian is merely going out to service. It is a voluntary service; not forced.
II. Different qualifications are given to different people.
III. The grace of God was intended to be accumulative. Take the one talent and make it two.
IV. Inferiority of gifts is no excuse for indolence.
V. There is going to be a day of solemn settlement.
VI. That our degrees of happiness in heaven will be graduated according to our degrees of usefulness on earth. (Dr. Talmage.)
Each man has his appropriate gift
You are to understand that there are different qualifications for different individuals. There is a great deal of ruinous comparison when a man says: “Oh, if I only had that man’s faith, or that man’s money, or that man’s eloquence, how I would serve God.” Better take the faculty that God has given you and employ it in the right way. The rabbis used to say, that before the stone and timber were brought to Jerusalem for the Temple every stone and piece of timber was marked; so that before they started for Jerusalem, the architects knew in what place that particular piece of timber or stone should fit. And so I have to tell you we are all marked for some one place in the Great Temple of the Lord, and do not let us complain, saying: “I would like to be the foundation stone, or the cap stone.” Let us go into the very place where God intends us to be, and be satisfied with the position. (Dr. Talmage.)
Better to use one talent well than five wickedly
The man who kindled the fire under the burnt offering in the ancient temple had a duty as imperative as that of the high priest, in magnificent robes, walking into the Holy of Holies under the cloud of Jehovah’s presence. Yes, the men with one talent are to save the world, or it will never be saved at all. The men with five or ten talents are tempted to toil chiefly for themselves, to build up their own great name, and work for their own aggrandizement, and do nothing for the alleviation of the world’s woes. The cedar of Lebanon standing on the mountain seems to hand down the storms out of the heavens to the earth, but it bears no fruit, while some dwarf pear-tree has more fruit on its branches than it can carry. Better to have one talent and put it to full use than five hundred wickedly neglected. (Dr. Talmage.)
Ordinary talents do most of the work
I am glad that the chief work of the Church in this day is being done by the men of one talent. Once in awhile, when a great fortress is to be taken, God will bring out a great field-piece and rake all with the fiery hail of destruction. But common muskets do most of the hard fighting. (Dr. Talmage.)
The grace of God was intended to be accumulative
When God plants an acorn, He means an oak, and when He plants a small amount of grace in the heart, He intends it to be growthful and enlarge until it overshadows the whole nature. (Dr. Talmage.)
I. What was committed to them.
1. It was a responsible trust.
2. It was not alike in the case of all. It differed not in nature, but in amount.
3. It was regulated by a certain principle-“To every man according to his several ability.”
II. What was done by them.
1. The faithful.
2. The slothful.
(1) A spirit of dissatisfaction;
(2) or this servant may have felt that it was in vain for him to exert himself, on the ground that his means were so limited.
(3) Again, this servant may have been one of those timid, over-cautious persons, who, lest they should do wrong, do nothing. We should “add to our faith, fortitude.”
III. The account required of them.
1. It was delayed for a considerable period.
2. Highly gratifying in the case of those who were first summoned.
(1) An emphatic expression of approval.
(2) Promotion to a state of high dignity and honour.
(3) The enjoyment of transporting bliss. The case of the other servant.
3. Unsatisfactory in its nature, and most serious in its results.
(1) A foolish plea.
(2) A withering rebuke.
(3) A peremptory command.
(4) A fearful doom. (Expository Outlines.)
I. The reason of his conduct.
1. He may have believed he could do nothing worth accomplishing with one talent.
2. He may have been envious of others.
3. Dissatisfaction with the distribution of the talents may have caused his inactivity.
4. Want of interest in his master’s success.
5. He may have neglected his master’s work for his own.
II. Whether any of these motives will justify him.
1. Does dissatisfaction with God’s government of the world constitute a just excuse for inactivity? Yes; if it is unjust. I have a right to resent injustice. Is God’s government unjust. Faith says “No.” Vain excuse.
(1) Because God had a right to do what He would with His own.
(2) Because the responsibility was proportioned to the gift.
2. Will his belief that no very great thing could be accomplished with one talent justify him.
(1) You misunderstand God if you think He takes no account of little things.
(2) He not only notices but prizes little things. The two mites.
(3) One-talented men are the true workers of the world.
(4) It is the multitude of them that builds up the mighty result.
3. But is the servant justified in supposing that his own interests must first be considered before his master’s? Certainly there are many who are now pleading this: “I will attend to God’s matters one day-my own absorb my attention now.” No justification in this:
(1) Because God commands you to study His interests first.
(2) Because, you being merely His steward, this is just.
(3) Because, you being the creature of His hands and His servant, it is doubly just.
(4) Because this is the true way to advance your own interests. (See Trench on Parables, p. 281, for an apt illustration.)
III. Conclusion. Have any of you buried talents? Dig them up and begin this glorious career of working. (The Southern Pulpit.)
I. All that we have, and, indeed, all that we are, belongs to God.
1. We have nothing that we can call our own-ourselves, our possessions, etc. We are servants-under authority, etc. God’s authority over us is entire and unlimited.
2. God has entrusted us with “His goods”-
(1) Minds and bodies endowed with numerous and admirable powers.
(2) More or less of worldly substance.
(3) Positions of influence and authority.
(4) The Sabbath, etc.
II. The distribution of the talents in different numbers or proportions.
1. Whether the term “talents” should be applied to all the powers, possessions, and opportunities for usefulness which the Lord of heaven confers upon His servants, or only those which are most eminent and valuable in the possession of each of them, admits of doubt.
2. Their unequal distribution illustrates in various ways the Divine perfections. It manifests His sovereignty, in doing as He pleases with His own; His goodness, as we have no claim or merit; His wisdom, in their adaptation to each.
III. The talents are improvable. They may be increased in value by wisdom and fidelity in their consecration to the Redeemer’s service.
IV. The certainty of the day of reckoning, however it may be delayed. The results of death and judgment and eternity are not the less sure because some wish they were doubtful or uncertain, nor are they the less near because some choose to think of them as distant.
V. The treatment of the good and faithful servants. As their diligence and their faithfulness had been alike, a similar reward is given to each, and both are commended in the very same words. Confessed, unnumbered sins must, from the nature of the case, be rewards, “not of debt, but of grace.” What a generous Master we have! His “Well done!” will be honour and bliss that shall captivate and enrapture as can no earthly delights.
VI. The doom of the servant who had but one talent, and hid it in the earth, is minutely described. The ground of his condemnation. His sin was slothfulness. All his pleas were poor pretences. It was right that he should be deprived, while others were enriched. There can be no valid excuse for not serving God. (T. D. Crothers.)
Fidelity in the service of God
Explain the nature of fidelity.
I. Fidelity requires A knowledge of our obligations, and, therefore, those who wish to be faithful will endeavour to obtain clear and correct views of what they are bound to do.
II. It requires an enlightened view of the grounds of those obligations. Without this there can be no rational desire or fixed purpose to discharge them.
III. It requires superiority over all conflicting tendencies. A man may have a desire to do his duty, and he may have a general purpose to perform it, but then may be too weak to withstand temptation. Fidelity in the service of God requires, therefore:
1. A knowledge of what He would have us do, as men, in all our relations of life, as Christians or as ministers.
2. Such views of our relation to Christ, and our obligations to Him, as shall awaken in us the desire to do His will, and lead us to form the purpose that we will in all cases endeavour to perform it.
3. Such a strength of this desire and such firmness of this purpose as render them actually controlling over our whole inward and outward life.
IV. From this statement of the duty it is plain-
1. That it is a very simple one.
2. It is a very comprehensive duty. It, in fact, includes all others.
3. It is one of constant obligation.
4. It is obviously exceedingly difficult. It supposes the renunciation of ourselves and of the world. (C. Hodge, D. D.)
The master’s approval of the faithful servant
I. His character.
1. A good and faithful servant accepts his position as a servant, with all that is included in that position.
2. He bears the work-burden of his servitude.
3. He renders service with hearty goodwill.
4. He is obedient to his master.
5. He has his master’s interest ever before him.
6. He is profitable to his master.
II. The conduct upon which this character is based. “Thou hast been faithful over a few things.”
III. The commendation and reward. “Well done.”
1. This is real commendation, not doubtful.
2. This is complete and full commendation.
3. This is useful commendation.
It is not an encumbrance, like a robe of state or an official chain of gold, but it is as a strong girdle for the loins. “Enter thou into the joy of the Lord.”
1. The joy of the Lord on His return to His servants.
2. The joy of the Lord in the goodness and fidelity of His servants.
3. The joy of the Lord in commending and rewarding His servants.
4. The whole personal joy of the Lord, so far as it can be shared by His servants.
5. The joy set before Him when He endured the cross.
6. The joy of finished work and completed suffering, of the joy provided in that kingdom which is joy.
This text teaches
1. What the Christians are expected to be-servants.
2. What we are expected to do.
3. What we may expect to obtain.
4. Supplies a present test of character and motive to service, (S. Martin.)
The good and faithful servant
I. The approved servant described.
(1) Good in nature.
(2) Good in principle.
(3) Good in motive.
(4) In fruitfulness.
(1) To God.
(2) To himself.
(3) To others.
II. The approved servant commended. “Well done.”
4. Love. (H. March.)
The good servant
1. He is commended.
3. Admitted to joys unspeakable. (W. Jowett, M. A.)
The faithful servant and his reward
The parable of the ten virgins shows us our duty to ourselves; the parable to the servants our duty to others, etc. The one parable cries “Watch!” The other cries “ Work!”
I. Look at the faithful servant. There are several things respecting him illustrating our own position.
1. He was a “servant;” one who is dependent upon, and responsible to another. Whatever our position, this is the character of every one of us. Men often speak as if God had no claim upon sinners. The man who hid his talent was as much a servant as he who by diligent trading made his five talents into ten. We are all servants, whether we own our Master or not, etc. Ascertain the character you bear.
2. He was entrusted with some of his master’s property. So are we.
3. The talents bestowed upon the servants varied in their number. So it is with us.
4. They are given to us to be used according to the will of the proprietor-we may invest them, or waste them, or hide them.
5. They are entrusted to us for a limited period; the extent of that period is unknown.
II. Let us look at the conduct of the servant. He was not elated with pride because he had more than others, nor was he depressed with envy because he had less. He realized his responsibility, and at once set to work, etc. He was” good “and “faithful,” referring to his character and conduct. While faithful to his master, he was good to his brethren, and the manifestation of his goodness is seen in the revelation that follows, “Faith without works is dead,” etc.
III. Look at the faithful, servant’s reward. Gives his account with joy.
1. Has his master’s approval.
2. He is raised to a higher position.
3. He was admitted to his master’s presence-a honour beyond our comprehension. Apply the subject. (Charles Garrett.)
The unprofitable servant
I. The individual referred to is described as acting in the capacity of a servant. This denotes responsibility. Knows his Lord’s will. He possesses capability.
II. His sin. He did not squander the talent. His sin was knowing to do good and doing it not. He was of a phlegmatic constitution of body and mind. He did not seek the aid of God’s grace. What a lamentable state of mind to wish to get to heaven, and yet to turn in a bad temper from the only path that leads to it! But is God a hard Master? Ask the Christian who experiences in his heart the power of the religion he professes. Ask Nature.
III. His end. “Outer darkness.” (R. Jones, B. A.)
The discharged servant
There is, perhaps, no position more painful for a good and kind master to be placed in, no duty so painful for him to fulfil, as the being compelled to discharge a servant for misbehaviour, whatever the nature of the offence may be. There is something sad, and almost solemn, as the hour of departure draws nigh in which the servant is about to quit the threshold of the home where he has, it may be, served for years. At such a moment sins of omission and commission can scarcely fail to rise up in memory’s glass slowly and upbraidingly before the downcast mind. It is then the obstinacy within relents, the hardness melts, the pride of the heart is abased, when it is too late. How apparent, then, is the folly of disobedience. Then is seen how useless were all those promises of amendment drowned in the opium of forgetfulness, or strangled in the birth by the complicated influences of procrastination. At such an hour, too, the value of the place he is leaving rises up before the mind’s eye in a way never experienced before. As the foot is lingering for the last time on the step of the master’s door, the comforts of a quiet and peaceful.home are then contrasted with the cold and forlorn aspect of things without. Now if this be the case in regard to the affairs of this world, how much more forcibly does it apply to the next scene of existence? Here we must imagine no longer an earthly, but a heavenly Master, about to dismiss, not a servant merely that fills his or her respective place in a common household, but a man considered as a rational and accountable being. (R. Jones, B. A. )
The sin of unprofitableness
I. Unprofitableness implies a mind unlike that of God, and therefore unfit for communion with God.
1. The mind of the unprofitable one is marked by indifference to the welfare of others.
2. The goodness of Deity is not merely negative; it seeks to bless mankind.
II. Unprofitableness will exclude the soul from heaven; it is a frustration of the merciful designs of God. (E. Gibbon, M. A.)
The unprofitable servant
I. The excuse set up by the unprofitable servant for his neglect. It is general. “I know that thou art a hard man.” This is the language of the disobedient heart with reference to the merciful parent of the universe. The service is framed to meet our moral happiness. The ways of wisdom axe ways of pleasantness. The excuse uses an audacious tone; God is unreasonable, and expects the impossible, and does not put forth the needful agencies.
II. The sentence pronounced on him.
1. Supposing there was truth in his accusation, why did he not adopt the course less injurious to his Master?
2. Deprivation-“Take, therefore, the talent from him.” “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness.” (D. Moore, M. A.)
The wicked and slothful servant
I. His profession.
1. The name, “servant of the Lord,” is most honourable.
2. It is a most comprehensive name.
How comes it that any whose dispositions thus widely differ should be found among the professed followers of Christ?
1. They have false notions of what constitutes a genuine servant of the Lord.
2. They have low thoughts of God.
II. His character.
1. He had been slothful.
2. He was therefore wicked.
(1) He was wicked because unfaithful to his trust.
(2) Because cherishing dishonouring thoughts of his Master.
(3) Because he acted contrary to his own avowed convictions.
III. His doom.
1. A just doom.
2. This will be the doom of many.
(1) To every individual is given at least one talent.
(2) Of even one talent a strict account will be required.
(3) This should lead us to self-examination and prayer. (H. March.)
The capacity of religion extirpated by disuse
Many persons read this parable of the talents, I believe, very much as if it related only to gifts external to the person; or, if to gifts that are personal, to such only as are called talents in the lower and merely man-ward relations and uses of life, such as the understanding, reason, etc. But the great Teacher’s meaning reaches higher than this, and comprehends more, namely, those talents which go to exalt the subject in its God-ward relations. The main stress of His doctrine hinges, I conceive, on our responsibility as regards the capacity of religion itself; for this, in highest pre-eminence, is the talent, the royal gift of man. In pursuing the subject presented, two points will naturally engage our attention.
I. The capacity for religion is a talent, the highest talent we have. We mean by a talent, the capacity for doing or becoming something, as for learning, speaking, trade, command. Our talents are as numerous, therefore, and various as the effects we may operate. We have talents of the body, too, and talents of the mind, or soul. All those which can be used, or which come into play, in earthly subjects, and apart from God and religion, are natural; and those which relate immediately to God, and things unseen as connected with God, are religious. The religious talents compose the whole God-ward side of faculty in us. They are such especially as come into exercise in the matter of religious faith and experience, and nowhere else.
1. The want of God-a receptivity for God.
2. Inspiration-a capacity to be permeated, illumined, guided, exalted by God or the Spirit of God within, and yet so as not to be any the less completely ourselves.
3. The spiritual sense, or the power of Divine apprehension.
4. The capacity of religious love.
5. The power of faith a power of knowing God. Their true place and order in the soul is-
(1) At the head of all its other powers, holding them subordinate.
(2) All the other talents fall into a stunted and partially disabled state when they are not shone upon, kept in warmth, and raised in grade by the talents of religion.
(3) All the greatest things ever done in the world have been done by the instigations and holy elevations of the religious capacity. This, therefore, is the real summit of our humanity.
II. The religious talent or capacity is one that, by total disuse and the overgrowth of others, is finally extirpated. Few men living without God are aware of any such possibility, and still less of the tremendous fact itself. On the contrary, they imagine that they are getting above religion, growing too competent and wise to be longer subjected to its authority, or incommoded by its requirements. The teaching of Scripture, “To him that hath shall be given,” etc. This spiritual extirpation is referable to two great laws or causes.
1. To the neglect of the talent or capacities of religion. All living members, whether of body or mind, require use or exercise. It is necessary to their development, and without it they even die.
2. To the operation of that immense overgrowth or over-activity which is kept up in the other powers. Is it wrong to assume that your religious senses were proportionately much stronger and more active in childhood than it is now?
Thus onward the thoughts that crowd upon us, standing before a subject like this, are practical and serious.
1. How manifestly hideous the process going on in human souls under the power of sin. It is a process of real and fixed deformity.
2. There is no genuine culture, no proper education, which does not include religion.
3. Let no one comfort himself in the intense activity of his mind on the subject of religion. That is one of the great things to be dreaded. To be always thinking, debating, scheming in reference to the great question of religion, without using any of the talents that belong more appropriately to God and the receiving of God, is just the way to extirpate the talents most rapidly, and so to close up the mind in spiritual darkness.
4. Make little of the hope that the Holy Spirit will at some time open your closed or consciously closing faculties.
5. This truth wears no look of promise, in regard to the future condition of bad men.
6. How clear is it that the earliest time in religion is the best time. The peculiar blessing and the hopeful advantage of youth. A great share of those who believe embrace Christ in their youth. (H. Bushnell, D. D.)
God blesses those who improve their privileges
I. What is implied in men’s faithfully improving divine blessings.
1. This implies their acknowledging that all their favours come from God. As long as men disregard the hand of the Giver, they will certainly despise His gifts.
2. A proper improvement of Divine favours implies a grateful sense of Divine goodness. The slothful servant did not thank his Master for the one talent.
3. A faithful improvement of Divine favours implies a cheerful and unreserved consecration of them to Him who gave them.
4. Faithfully improving Divine favours implies employing them in the service of God..
II. That those who faithfully improve the blessings which God bestows upon them may reasonably expect further marks of his favour.
1. The faithful improvement of Divine favours affords the highest enjoyment of them. Men never enjoy their talents buried or abused.
2. The faithful improvement of Divine favours in time past prepares men for the reception of more and richer blessings in time to come. Masters bestow their best favours upon their best servants.
3. God has promised to reward past fidelity with future favours.
4. God’s conduct confirms the declarations of His Word. He has in all ages bestowed peculiar advantages upon those who have improved the temporal and spiritual blessings
He has given.
1. All the blessings we possess have been sent in mercy.
2. If God will reward only those who improve His favours in His service, then men are unwise and criminal in converting them to their own use.
3. Men ought to be more concerned to improve God’s favours than to gain the possession of them.
4. Those who abuse God’s favours have reason to expect that He will diminish them. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
Laying ourselves out for God
Therefore you should keep a constant reckoning how you lay out yourselves for God. (T. Manton.)
Christ absent from us
It was needful that Christ, should go from us for a while; for He would not govern the world by sense, but by faith. (T. Manton.)
Diversity in service
Every one hath his service and opportunity to do something for God; all offered to the tabernacle gold, or silver, or brass, or shittim-wood, or goats’ hair, or badgers’ skins. So, as Christ went to Jerusalem, some strewed the way with garments, others cut down branches, some cried “Hosanna”; that was all they could do. (T. Manton.)
Diversity in ability
There is a diversity as to the measure and degrees. Every barque that saileth to heaven doth not draw a like depth. (T. Manton.)
Our account with God
Who made thee to differ? (Rom 12:35). “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things.” The sun oweth nothing to the stars, nor the fountain to the streams. Our account must be answerable to our receipts; there is a proportion of return expected. (T. Manton.)
Diversity of talent helpful to service
God will have this difference for the beauty and order of the whole; variety is more grateful. Hills and valleys make the world beautiful; so do distinct orders, ranks, and degrees of men. All eye or all belly is monstrous.; difference with proportion maketh beauty; therefore one excelleth another, and several gifts and ranks there are for the service of the whole. (T. Manton.)
As divers countries have divers commodities, and one needeth another; one aboundeth with wines, some have spices, others have skins, and commodities in other kinds, that by commerce and traffic there might be society maintained among mankind; so God in His Church hath given to one gifts, to another grace, to maintain a holy society and spiritual commerce among themselves. (T. Manton.)
Use the talent we have
It was a good saying of Epictetus in Arrian, Si essem luscinia, etc. If I were a nightingale, I would sing as a nightingale: Si essem alauda, etc. If I were a lark, I would piere as a lark; but now I am a man, I will glorify God as a man. But alas! how often do men of the best endowments miscarry. (T. Manton.)
Satanic abuse of great talents
The devil loveth to go to work with the sharpest tools. God hath given great abilities to some above others, to enable them for his service. Now the devil, to despite God the more, turneth his own weapons against himself. (T. Manton.)
Talents given for activity
Strength is not to be wasted in sin and vanity, but employed for God. It is better it should be worn out with labours than eaten out with rust. (T. Manton.)
Trading for God, not self
Applause, vainglory, and suchlike carnal motions and ends may set some men on work, and make them prostitute
the service of Christ to their own lusts. This is not to trade as factors for God, but to set up for ourselves. (T. Manton.)
A gift and a trust
As a gift, they call for our thankfulness; as a trust, for our faithfulness. (T. Manton.)
Dread of God natural in the carnal mind
Fear is more natural in the carnal mind, because a bad conscience is very suspicious, and our sense of God’s benefits is not so great as the sense of our bad deservings is quick and lively. (T. Manton.)
A picture of the devil
The best picture that could be taken of the devil would be by the characters of malice, falsehood, and envy. But God is justice itself, goodness itself, mercy itself, as it is expressed in Scripture. (T. Manton.)
The unprofitable are destroyed
(Matthew 7:19), “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” Not only the poisonous, but the barren tree. (T. Manton.)
The sinner self-condemned
Grant the sinner’s supposition, it bindeth the duty upon him, and so he cuts his throat with his own sword. (T. Manton.)
Doing better than excusing
Certainly it is better be doing than excusing. Doing is safe, but excuses are but a patch upon a sore place. (T. Manton.)
You must not lift up your private conceits against the wisdom of God. (T. Manton.)
Nothing idle in nature
In the whole course of nature nothing is idle; the sun and the stars do perpetually move and roll up and down; the earth bringeth forth; the seas have their ebbings and flowings, and the rivers their courses; the angels are described with wings, as ready to fulfil God’s commandment, and run to do His pleasure. It were an unworthy thing, among so many examples and patterns of diligence, for man alone to be idle. (T. Manton.)
The sovereignty of the Divine endowments
Now, most men quarrel with this. But mark, the thing that you complain of in God is the very thing that you love in yourselves. Every man likes to feel that he has a night to do with his own as he pleases. We all like to be little sovereigns. You will give your money freely and liberally to the poor; but if any man should impertinently urge that he had a claim upon your charity, would you give unto him? Certainly not; and who shall impeach the greatness of your generosity in so doing? It is even as that parable, that we have in one of the Evangelists, where, after the men had toiled, some of them twelve hours, some of them six, and some of them but one, the Lord gave every man a penny. Oh! I would meekly bow my head, and say, “My Lord, hast Thou given me one talent? then I bless Thee for it, and I pray Thee bestow upon me grace to use it rightly. Hast Thou given to my brother ten talents? I thank Thee for the greatness of Thy kindness towards him; but I neither envy him, nor complain of Thee.” Oh! for a spirit that bows always before the sovereignty of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Variety God’s law
God gives to one five, and to another two talents, because the Creator is a lover of variety. It was said that order is heaven’s first law; surely variety is the second; for in all God’s works, there is the most beautiful diversity. Look ye towards the heavens at night: all the stars shine not with the same brilliance, nor are they placed in straight lines, like the lamps of our streets. Then turn your eyes below: see in the vegetable world, how many great distinctions there are, ranging from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop on the wall, or the moss that is smaller still. See how from the huge mammoth tree, that seems as if beneath its branches it might shade an army, down to the tiny lichen, God hath made everything beautiful, but everything full of variety. Look on any one tree, if you please: see how every leaf differs from its fellow-how even the little tiny buds that are at this hour bursting at the scent of the approaching perfume of spring, differ from each other-not two of them alike. Look again, upon the animated world: God Hath not made every creature like unto another. How wide the range-from the colossal elephant to the coney that burrows in the rock-from the whale that makes the deep hoary with its lashing, to the tiny minnow that skims the brook; God hath made all things different, and we see variety everywhere. I doubt not it is the same, even in heaven, for there there are” thrones, and dominions, and principalities, and powers”-different ranks of angels, perhaps, rising tier upon tier. “One star different from another star in glory.” And why should not the same rule stand good in manhood (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Talents for small spheres
God hath a deeper reason than this. God gives to some men but few talents, because He has many small spheres, and He would have these filled. There is a great ocean, and it needs inhabitants. O Lord, Thou hast made Leviathan to swim therein. There is a secret grotto, a hidden cavern, far away in the depths of the sea; its entrance is but small; if there were nought but a Leviathan, it must remain untenanted for ever: a little fish is made, and that small place becomes an ocean unto it. There are a thousand sprays and twigs upon the trees of the forest; were all eagles, how would the forests be made glad with song, and how could each twig bear its songster? But because God would have each twig have its own music, He has made the little songster to sit upon it. Each sphere must have the creature to occupy it adapted to the size of the sphere. God always acts economically. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Few talents will have to be accounted for
If you had but little, God required but little of you; why, then, did you not render that? If any man holds a house at a rental of a pound a year, let it be never so small a house for the money, if he brings not his rent there is not one half the excuse for him that there would be if his rent had been a hundred pounds, and he had failed to bring it. You shall be the more inexcusable on account of the little that was required of you. Let me, then, address you, and remind you that you must be brought to account. (C. H. Spurgeon)
Improvement of talents
The right use of the Divine blessings is well represented by his trading or occupying with his Master’s property. This not to be understood in a way of merit, for when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants. But the image of trading fitly sets forth the course of active improvement of every gift, which the true Christian pursues, his diligence and industry in his calling, and the common utility which is thereby promoted. Whatever is bestowed on him, he considers net as his own, but as his Lord’s. He employs it, therefore, with the scrupulous conscientiousness of a faithful servant. He does not waste his gifts in idleness, abuse them to self-confidence and pride, or lessen and destroy them by rash and ambitious schemes. He does not rest with complacency in the barren thought that he possesses them. He does not display them with ostentation. He does not compare himself with others, or endeavour to ascertain whether his talents are more or less than those of his neighbour. He does not interfere with a province not assigned to him, or hinder the work of his fellowservants, or require everything to be done in his own way, or quarrel with those who differ from him in their mode of acting. But his concern is to trade with his talents. Whatever will tend to the discharge of his personal and relative duties, whatever will instruct the ignorant, relieve the distressed, assist the needy, guide the inquiring, comfort the sorrowful, reclaim the wandering, and confirm and encourage the sincere-all this, with a due regard to circumstances, and in the fear of God, he considers his proper vocation. Whatever use he can make of any circumstances in which he is placed, any office he holds, any influence he has gained, any knowledge he acquires, any parts or accomplishments which he possesses, any favour God has given him with others, any occasions or incidents which present themselves he straightway turns to account, even as the merchant traffics with his commodities. Above all, he employs the means of salvation to his own personal benefit. He repents of his sins, and trusts in the sacrifice of Christ for pardon and justification before God. He values the Bible, prizes the Sabbath, derives improvement from pious example, profits by Divine chastisement, and learns from the mistakes and sins of others, and thus uses every advantage for spiritual instruction with fidelity and thankfulness. If he be a minister of the sanctuary he considers all his opportunities for saving souls, all his ability for discharging, his high office, as a solemn trust deposited with him, and for which he must give an account. (Bishop Daniel Wilson.)
It is not only enjoined upon us if we would be Christians to occupy with our gifts, but to multiply them. The industrious servant of God will do this. He learns as he goes on; he gains more experience; he overcomes difficulties. He not only does more than when he first began, but he does things better. He contrives to do more good continually. He does not rest contented with the ordinary plans of others, but enters on undiscovered ground and marks out new regions of usefulness. He looks around him for occasions of doing good to others and getting good himself, of learning or teaching, acting or enduring for God and his neighbour. (Bishop Daniel Wilson.)
The householder and his servants
I. The talents entrusted to the management of the servants.
1. The man travelling represents our Lord, the absolute Owner of all things, Lord and Redeemer of His Church.
2. The servants represent the professed disciples and members of Christ, the visible body of the faithful, particularly the ministers and stewards of His mysteries.
3. The talents represent the various powers and blessings which Christ has assigned to us for the salvation of our souls, the benefit of our fellow-men, and the glory of His name.
II. The right employment of the talents by the faithful servants.
1. The faithful servant of Christ studies to do his Lord’s will, and has a delight in the work.
2. Shrinks from no trouble or danger, estimating all he can do for such a Master as nothing.
3. Aims at approving himself to his Master, not to the world.
4. Laments lost opportunities.
5. Walks wisely in the management of his concerns.
6. Begins immediately, proceeds diligently, works contentedly, and perseveres cheerfully.
III. The faithful servant’s reward.
1. He receives the commendation of his Master.
2. Made ruler over many things.
3. Enters into the joy of his Lord.
IV. The slothful servant.
1. His character. It is not said that he wasted his Lord’s goods; simply that he buried them-made no use of them, and this was enough to condemn him.
2. His doom. (Bishop Daniel Wilson.)
Well used talents prepare for enjoyment in heaven
This parable shows plainly enough that your talents are to be put to use and gain usury for the Lender. They must be kept well rubbed with work if they are to shine brightly in their heavenly setting. I do not believe with those people who seem to think it will be all as one a thousand years hence, whether we cultivate our minds in this life or not, and that it matters nothing how small our knowledge may be. All is good if turned to a right account, and the acquirements of this life may enlarge our spiritual capacities for another. And I cannot help thinking that, to some extent, our power of seeing and appreciating the hidden things of the next life will depend on the exercise and growth of our faculties in this. (N. Macleod, D. D.)
God is never niggardly in His gifts
In considering our life, with its duties and responsibilities, there are two mistakes, into both of which, though they are contradictory the one to the other, we commonly fall.
1. We often feel that very little has been entrusted to us, that our gifts are few, our opportunities of cultivating them fewer still. We need therefore to remember that in the parable even the slave who is least gifted and trusted receives one talent, and that a Hebrew talent was equivalent to some £350-a very large sum to be entrusted to a slave. Our Master is no niggard, He gives liberally to all. All things are ours-the pure, bright heaven, the fruitful earth, the golden splendours of the sun and the silver splendours of the moon, the fragrant flowers and the songs of birds, the social affections, the Word of Life, and the common salvation; and, though the capacity to appropriate and use these heavenly gifts may vary, yet what man is there, capable of using them at all, but will confess that he has received many things, and things of inestimable value, at the Master’s hand?
2. But then, if we acknowledge that we have received many and great gifts, we are too apt to forget that the large sum of good in which we rejoice is made up of many trivial contributions. We need to be reminded that the one talent of the parable was equivalent to sixty mince, to three thousand shekels, to some eighty thousand of our pence, and that the only way to get its full profit out of the talent was to use every shekel and every penny well. Great single opportunities are very rare; we cannot often find a good investment for heavy sums; but we may wisely employ a few pence or a few shekels every day. The talents of the parable may stand for high gifts, such as faith, love, obedience; but we cannot keep these faculties always at their utmost stretch, nor live at the heroic level day after day. It is by a perpetual use of them in the daily round and common task of life, in the discharge of small recurring duties and the endurance of the little temptations which are never absent, that we develop them to the fulness of their stature. And it surely is a very comfortable and helpful thought, that if hour by hour we try to do the work of the hour well, to be honest and diligent in business, to rule our tempers in the home, to help a needy or sympathize with an afflicted, neighbour, to teach our class with patient care, to sing a song of praise with the heart and the understanding-that in the discharge of these and the like trivial duties we are serving God, trading with the Master’s money; that by these small gradual accumulations we are doubling the talent which He has put into our hands. (S. Cox, D. D.)
The man with one talent needed
The world greatly needs men of one talent, and there are ways in which such men are often of surpassing usefulness. Hur was probably a man with only one talent, and yet it was partly through his help that the prayers of Moses prevailed against the enemies of Israel. The heroes of Thermopylae were for the most part also men of one talent, yet the splendour of their glorious heroism still illumines the world. In the case of many a shipwreck the man with one talent, the rough, honest sailor who helps the women and children to escape and then himself remains behind to die is in truth “not far from the kingdom of God,” not far from its inner shrine, not far from the great Cross of Calvary … As a matter of fact, men with one talent are often surprisingly near to the men with five talents. In the realm of the spirit extremes often meet. Men with one talent are often vicarious sufferers. Nature makes experiments on them, as on some worthless body, for the benefit of the whole human race. They are used as stepping-stones on which others may rise to higher things. They act as humble pioneers to the loftiest and most successful pilgrims … It is easy enough to see that there is often something sublime in the devotion of the man with one talent. Great in nothing else, he is often really grand in his unswerving and unlimited loyalty to a nature higher than his own. And this devotion has a vast uplifting influence. (A. H. Crawford, M. A.)
Latent possibilities in the man with one talent
We never really know what our talents are till we begin to use them. The noblest powers are often the most slowly developed. Saul is amongst the prophets sometimes. Elisha is often called from the plough. The dunce acquires undying fame. The very same want of depth in the soil which causes the good seed to spring up quickly also causes it ere long to wither away. When there is little to evolve evolution is a rapid process, but when there is much to evolve the process is a slow one. Cathedrals are not built in a day. The soul is like the phoenix-from the withered ashes of a wasted past it soars aloft into the glad strength of an immortal life. (A. H. Crawford, M. A.)
Encouragement for the man with one talent
All men have at least one talent. The elements of the noble and the sublime exist to some extent in each of us. Even now, in the midst of his humble work, on the rough face of the man with one talent there is cast from time to time the sublime and awful shadow of his inescapable destiny, of that great day of the Lord when all created souls shall be transfigured and glorified by the splendours of the Eternal, when “the dead, small and great, stand before God.” If the poor man with one talent shall hereafter stand there, surely he is good enough to stand hand in hand with any of his brethren now on earth! (A. H. Crawford, M. A.)
Importance of little things
Human endowment and human performance, the “few things,” get their significance from their relation to the “many things”-the great, thronging facts and principles and laws of the kingdom of God. The most persistent and varied activity and the largest achievements of the greatest men are but small in themselves considered, but they are points where the vast economy of the kingdom of God-that something which is vaguely indicated by “many things,” “the joy of the Lord” emerges into the region of our human life and touches it. That which is out of sight is more and greater than that which pushes out into our view. That point of rock which rises out of the hillside is, to the geologist, not merely a distinct stone-it tells him the dip and quality of the great strata underground which buttress the hills. Obedience, responsibility, duty, work, love, trust-all that makes up Christian life here-are sides and manifestations of the unseen, spiritual universe. Godliness has promise, not only of the life that now is, but of that which is to come-has the promise which one part of a thing gives of the other part. Godliness is a part of the life to come. Godliness is God revealing Himself in human character. Follow back godliness and you come to God. The boy who is learning his alphabet is handling the same elements which enter into the plays of Shakespeare or the dialogues of Plato. He has begun upon literature when he has learned A B C. It is a little thing in itself for him to learn twenty-six letters, but it is a very great thing when you consider the alphabet as the medium of the world’s thought. Even so the largest endowment and result are but “a few things,” but they acquire a tremendous and eternal importance as integral parts of the great moral economy of God. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
Faithfulness is on the direct line of mastery
Fidelity tends and leads up to mastery. Success is a thing of stages and aggregations, and it is of vastly more consequence that the man should be rightly pointed-set in the direction of a larger, Divine success, than that he should achieve what he undertakes here. If there is no larger, purer, more spiritual kingdom than this there is no such thing as real success. If there is such a kingdom, and if the earthly sphere of Christian life and work is a part of it, then the success may well lie beyond the line of our human vision, and be too large for our little inch-rules. The great principle holds-fidelity leads up to mastery. You see it illustrated daily. You see the faithful journeyman advanced to the foremanship, the plodding student become an authority; you see men of moderate ability becoming powers in business or in manufacturing by steady devotion to one thing. The thing itself may be small; their perseverance magnifies it: and they themselves grow into the ability to handle larger things through their fidelity to the smaller interest. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
Faithfulness the main thing
This parable turns on moral quality rather than on ability. Its key-note is not five talents, nor two talents, nor one talent, but faithfulness to all three. It is faithfulness, and not amount, which links the talent to the joy of the Lord, the “few things” to the “many.” The amount of ability is not the first thing for us to consider; it is the faithful use of whatever ability we have. To use aright we must be right. Vigorous use of talent is not necessarily right use, for unfaithfulness is vigorous also. (Marvin R. Vincent, D. D.)
The unused talent passes from the servant who would not use it to the one who will
A landlord has two farms lying together-the one is admirably managed, the other is left almost to itself, with the least possible management, and becomes the talk of the whole country-side for poor crops and untidiness. No one asks what the landlord will do when the leases are out. It is a matter of course that he dismisses the careless tenant, and puts his farm into the hands of the skilful and diligent farmer. He enforces the law of the text. In the kingdom of Christ this law is self-acting. To bury our talent and so keep it as originally given is an impossibility. To have just so much grace and no more is an impossibility. It must either be circulating and so multiplying, or it ceases to be. It must grow or it will die. Hence it is that in your own souls you perhaps are finding that, no matter what effort you make, you cannot enter as heartily into holy services and occupations as once you did, but are finding your old joy and assurance honey-combed by unbelieving thoughts. Hence it is that the susceptibility to right feeling you had in boyhood has gone from you. You did not mean to become unfeeling, but only shrank from acting as feeling dictated. But he who blows out the flame finds that the heat and the glow die out of themselves. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
The law of spiritual capital
It is a law with the operation of which we are familiar in nature and in the commercial world. It is he who has even a little capital to begin with, and who makes a right use of it, who soon leaves far behind the man who has none, or who neglects to invest what he has. And the more this capital grows, the more rapidly and the more easily is it increased. After a certain point it seems to increase by virtue of its own momentum. So in certain sicknesses, as soon as the crisis of the disease is past and a little health has been funded again in the patient’s constitution, this rapidly grows to complete recovery. So with popularity, it begins one scarce knows how, but once begun, the tide flows apace. You may scarcely be able to say why one statesman or one author should be so immeasurably more popular than others; but so it is that, when once a beginning is made, tribute flows in naturally, as water from all sides settle in a hollow. It is this same law which regulates our attainment in the service of Christ. However little grace we seem to have to begin with it is this we must invest, and so nurse it into size and strength. Each time we use the grace we have by responding to the demands made upon it, it returns to us increased. Our capital grows by an inevitable law. The efforts of young or inexperienced Christians to give utterance to the life that is in them may often be awkward, like the movements of most young animals. They may be able to begin only in a very small way, so small a way that sensitive persons are frequently ashamed to begin at all. Having received Christ they are conscious of new desires and of a new strength; they have a regard for Christ, and were they to assert this regard in the circumstances which call for its assertion their regard would be deepened. They have a desire to serve Him, and were they to do so in those small matters with which they have daily concern their desire and ability would be increased. Grace of any kind invested in the actual opportunities of life cannot come back to us as small as it was, but enlarged and strengthened. Such grace, then, as we have, such knowledge as we have of what is due to others, to ourselves, and to God, let us give free expression to. Such investments of Christian principle as are within our reach let us make; such manifestations of a Christian temper and mind as our circumstances daily demand let us exhibit, and it must come to pass that we increase in grace. There is no other way whatever of becoming richly endowed in spirit than by trading with whatever we have to begin with. We cannot leap into a fortune in spiritual things; rich saints cannot bequeath us what their life-long toil has won; they cannot even lend us so that we may begin on borrowed capita]. In the spiritual life all must be genuine; we must work our own way upwards, and by humbly and wisely laying out whatever we now possess make it more or be for ever poor. (Marcus Dods, D. D.)
The man with two talents
He has his own peculiar interest as he stands in the little group of three before the master. He is significant, we may almost say, because of his insignificance. As the master puts the money in their hands we can see them look at it, and can guess what they think about it. The man to whom five talents are given is surprised that he should receive so much. He is exhilarated and inspired, or perhaps, on the other hand, he is paralyzed and overcome. The man to whom one talent is given is startled at the smallness of the trust. He, too, feels a positive emotion, Either he is stung to energy and determines that he will do something strong and good even with this little gift, or else he is crushed into despair. Is this then all of which his master thinks him worthy? Both of these men are interesting. They represent extremes. But the man of two talents stands and looks at his trust, and it is just about what he might have expected. It is neither very great nor very small. It does not exalt him, and it does not make him ashamed. He turns away, and goes out to use it with a calm, unexcited face. He is the type of common mediocrity. He is the average man. He presents the type to which we almost all belong. There are none of us probably who are conscious of anything which separates us as notably superior to the great mass of our fellow-men. On the other hand, it is not probable that many of us count ourselves distinctly below the average of human life. We do not lay claim to the five talents; we will not confess to the one. It is as men and women of two talents that we ordinarily count ourselves and ask to be counted by our brethren. Therefore this quiet, commonplace, unnoticed man, going his faithful way in his dull dress which makes no mark and draws no eye, doing his duty insignificantly and thoroughly, winning so unobtrusively at last his master’s praise, ought to be interesting to us all. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
The predominance of mediocrity
The average man is by far the most numerous man. The man who goes beyond the average, the man who falls short of the average, both of them, by their very definition, are exceptions. They are the outskirts and fringes, the capes and promontories of humanity. The great continent of human life is made up of the average existences, the mass of two-talented capacity and action.
1. It is so even in the simplest and most superficial matter of the possession of wealth. The great fortunes, with their splendid opportunities and their tremendous responsibilities, rise like gigantic mountains which everybody sees out of the general level of comfortable life. On the other hand, excessive poverty, actual suffering for the necessaries of life, terrible as it is, is comparatively rare. A part of its terribleness comes from its rarity. The great -multitude of men are neither very rich nor very poor. The real character and strength of a community lies neither in its millionaires nor in its paupers, but in the men of middle life who neither have more money than they know how to spend, nor are pressed and embarrassed for the necessities of life.
2. The same is true in the matter of joy and sorrow. The great mass of men during the greater part of their lives are neither exultant and triumphant with delight, nor are they crushed and broken down with grief. They do not go shouting their rapture to the skies, and they do not go wailing their misery to the sympathetic winds. They are moderately happy. Joy flecked and toned down by troubles; troubles constantly relieved and lighted up by joy; that is their general condition; that seems to be their best capacity. The power of the intensest joy and the intensest pain belongs only to rare, peculiar men.
3. Mental capacity. Most men are neither sages nor fools. Few men are either scholars or dunces.
4. Popularity and fame. Those whom the world praises and those whom all men despise are both of them exceptional. You can count them easily. The great multitude whom you cannot begin to count, who fill the vast middle-ground of the great picture of humanity, is made up of men who are simply well enough liked by their fellow-men. They are crowned with no garlands, and they are pelted with no stones. They have their share of kindly interest and esteem. You cannot well think of them as either losing that or as gaining much beyond it.
5. Character and religion. Here, too, it is the average Shut fills the eye. Where are the heroes? You can find them if you look. Where are the rascals? You can find them too. Where are the saints? They shine where no true man’s eyes can fail to see them. And the blasphemers likewise no one can shut out of his ears. But the great host of men: do you not know how little reason they give you to expect of them either great goodness or great wickedness? You do not look to see their faces kindle when you talk to them of Christ. You do not either look to see them grow scornful or angry at His name. You do not count upon their going to the stake for principle. But you do count upon their paying their honest debts. You have to shut your thoughts about them in to this world, for when you think of them in eternity heaven seems as much too good for them as hell seems too bad. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
Dangers of mediocrity
It is not always an easy thing for men to make up their minds to mediocrity. It is a young man’s right, almost his duty, to hope, almost to believe, that he has singular capacity, and is not merely another repetition of the constantly repeated average of men. To see those dreams and visions of youth gradually fade away; little by little to discover that one has no such exceptional capacity; to try one and another of the adventurous ways which lead to the highest heights and the great prizes, and find the feet unequal to them; to come back at last to the great trodden highway, and plodon among the undistinguished millions-that is often very hard. The fight is fought, the defeat is met, in silence; but it is no less, it is more terrible. The hour in which it becomes clear to a young man that that is to be his life, that there is nothing else for him to do except to swell the great average of humanity, is often filled with dangers. Let us see what some of them are.
1. He has to make up his mind to do without both of the different kinds of inspiration which come to the men who are better off and the men who are worse off than he is. The man of five talents excites admiration and expectation; the man of one talent has an incentive to do great things in spite of difficulties; but to the middle man, the man who is neither very much nor very little-the man who has two talents, but only two-both of these forms of impulse are denied. He is neither high enough to hear the calling of the stars, nor low enough to feel the tumult of the earthquake. What wonder, then, if he often falls asleep for sheer lack of sting and spur? What wonder if he does the moderato things that seem to be within his power unenthusiastically, and then stops, making no demand upon himself since other men make no demand upon him?
2. A want of definiteness and distinctness. Genius, lay its very intensity, decrees a special path of fire for its vivid power. Conscious limitation, on the other hand, knows there is no hope for it except in one direction. Both have the strength which comes by narrowness. But the man who knows himself to be only moderately strong is apt to think that his strength has no peculiar mission. The commonplace man is the discursive man. He has neither the impetuosity of the torrent nor the direct gravitation of the single drop of water. He lies a loose and sluggish pool, and flows nowhither, and grows stagnant by and by.
3. The constant danger of being made light of by other men. Becoming uninteresting to others, he loses interest in himself. He attracts no reverence, and he enlists no pity. He finds himself unnoticed. He must originate out of himself all that he comes to. He hangs between the heaven and the earth, and is fed out of neither. What he does seems to be of no consequence, because it wakens no emotion in his brethren. He has no influence on other men, and so there is no effluence, no putting forth of life from him. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
The advantages of mediocrity
It is in the quality more than in the quantity of talents that their true value lies. Given by God they constitute a true, direct, and sacred connection and channel of intercourse between your soul and His. Forget your brethren and think of Him, and realize your direct relationship to Him. When you have done that you may come back into the mass again and see what are the special advantages which belong to a faithful life lived in the average condition, lived with the average capacities of mare
1. Such a life brings out and makes manifest the solid strength which belongs to the simple qualities of manhood. Types of power which can only be developed in supreme joy or supreme sorrow enthrall our imagination; and then some plain man comes who knows not either rapture or despair, who simply has his daily work to do, his friends to help, his enemies to forgive, his children to love and train, his trials to bear, his temptations to conquer, his soul to save; and what a healthiness he brings into our standards, with what a genuine refreshment he fills our hearts. Behold how great are these primary eternal qualities-patience, hope, kindness, intelligence, trust, self-sacrifice. We do not accept them because we cannot have something finer. They show us their intrinsic fineness, and we do them reverence. The arctic frost! The torrid heat! Behold the true strength, the real life of the planet is not in these. It is in the temperate lands that the grape ripens and the wheat turns calmly yellow in the constant sun.
2. The man conscious of mediocrity has the advantage of displaying in “his life and character the intrinsic and essential life of human nature. He is one with his fellow-men, and it is he who-being faithful, pure, serene, brave, hopeful-has power to make his brethren all that he tries himself to be.
3. May not the average life find a self-surrender to the help of other lives more easy, and make that surrender more complete, just in proportion as it is released from that desire for self-assertion, that consciousness of being something which is worthy of men’s observation, that self-love which must haunt the lives of those who, in any way, on either side, find themselves separated from the great bulk of their fellow-creatures?
4. And is it not true that all that assertion of the intrinsic value of every life which is the very essence of our Christian faith, all that redemption of the soul, in the profoundest and the truest sense, which was the work of Christ, must come with special welcome and appreciation and delight to any man who feels his insignificance and is in danger of losing himself in the vague mass of his fellows? Christ redeems him. Christ says, “Behold yourself in Me, and see that you are not insignificant.” Christ says, “I died for you.” Set thus upon his feet, made a new man, or made to be the man he is, with what gratitude and faith and obedience must that man follow the Christ who is his Saviour! (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
The average man
I. His dangers.
1. He will be surely tempted to ape greatness.
2. He will be tempted to underrate himself.
3. He may lose himself in the crowd.
II. The encouragements.
1. He has the necessary talents.
2. God designed to do most of His work in the world through the average man.
3. The magnificent reward that awaits him. (F. E. Clark.)
A hard man
The servants in our parables seem to have erred from an opposite excess of temperament. His melancholy broodings prevented the unprofitable servant from a right use of his master’s talent; the virgins were over sanguine that their oil would hold out.
I. Observe this man.
1. He has begun with less than the others had. The melancholic mind is apt to exaggerate this fact.
2. Yet he was treated according to his ability. He was not expected to render more than he could.
3. We see the influence of his temperament in disparagement of the largeness of his Lord’s purposes and dealings; he interprets everything after his own spirit. Toil for such a master must be thankless and graceless indeed.
II. Looking at the man, therefore, as representing the peculiar dangers attaching to certain temperaments, I think we see sufficiently the nature of the warning he furnishes us.
1. It is essential to all profitable service of our Master, that it shall be hearty service. What heart can there be in any such labour as shall have no generous thoughts of Him for whom it is done. We must get a better conception of God, and create in our souls a healthful moral incentive to doing right.
2. Again, to be a profitable service, it must be felt also to be a service that shall react upon ourselves. It must improve us as well as glorify God. God puts joy and consolation into any duty; he who does the duty has the joy.
III. The wrong conception of god which gave strength to the melancholy and enervating tendencies of this dark-souled servant in his relations with his master. Have we put this “hard man” upon the throne of the universe? This conception of God is at the bottom of most of the hindrances in the way of Divine faith. It is the “hard man” that comes to throw a false light upon our conception of the atonement; so much suffering for so much sin. Is this the God that Jesus Christ depicted?
IV. The phrases introduced to darken the picture are worthy of notice. “Reaping where thou hast not sown.” “Gathering where thou hast not strawed.” What a contrast to the “Refiner” in Malachi. To the diseased vision all things are distorted.
1. We may all at times have intervals of gloom corresponding to those which our text has suggested.
2. Do not darken your life by fear. “Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.”
3. God is love. (G. J. Proctor.)
In Eastern lands, and ancient times, slaves were artizans, workmen, whose profit belonged to their master. The apostle Paul thought of himself as a slave put in trust, placed under trusts.
I. Christ’s talents. Such we are to regard all gifts, powers, or possessions that are entrusted to us. Our special talent is that one thing in which we stand out distinct from others.
II. Christ’s apportionment of His talents. Two rules decide the apportionment.
1. The talent must match the capacity.
2. The talents put together must secure ability for all the work which Christ wants done.
III. Christ’s expectation concerning His talents.
1. Service by their use.
2. Culture by their use.
IV. Christ’s judgment of those entrusted with His talents.
1. Judgment is the same for all trusts.
2. It is based on quality, not results.
3. The judgment is severe, not on those who tried and failed, but on those who never tried.
4. The reward is simply other and larger trusts. (Selected.)
Trading with talents
A trader either trades with his own, or with another man’s stock, whose servant he is. Now no man hath any stock or talent of his own, but all their talents which they are required to improve and trade with are the Lord’s.
1. Hast thou a rational soul, wisdom, knowledge, and great understanding? It was given unto thee by the Lord.
2. Hast thou riches, or much wealth? It is the Lord’s money.
3. Hast thou acquired parts, great learning? This is also thy Master’s goods.
4. Have you the gospel and the ministration of the word? It is the Lord’s trust.
5. Have you faithful ministers? They are the Lord’s.
6. Have you precious talent of time and the opportunities of time? This you are entrusted with by the Lord.
7. Have you health, strength, and advantages to attend upon the word and means of grace above many? All this is from the Lord.
8. Have you spiritual gifts and saving grace? Those talents you have received from the Lord.
9. Are you fathers or masters, and so have authority over families, children, servants? These are the Lord’s trusts. Traders ought to know the worth of those commodities put into their hands. Traders must not be timorous in laying out their money. Traders should know where to buy, of whom, and who to trade with. Traders must know the terms on which they are to trade. Traders must know in whose name they trade. Traders must trust, or they will have little or no trade at all. Traders must keep their accounts well. Some traders give more attention to their private affairs than to their business. Some traders break, and expose such that are faithful dealers to loss and shame. (Benjamin Keach.)
Our trust of talents
I. God has committed to men a variety of gifts or talents. By what is here called talents, is to be understood all such blessings and privileges as providence favours us with. What God requires from every man is according to what His providence has imparted to him.
II. All our talents, more or less, all the gifts of God to men, may and must be improved. They were conferred for this very purpose. The blessings of providence are no blessings to us if we want wisdom or will to make a right use of them.
III. The reward will be in proportion to the actual improvement which men make of the talents entrusted to them.
IV. In the day of judgment Divine justice will be displayed in such manner as will strike every sinner dumb, as will silence every excuse, and quite confound him. (E. Sandercock.)
The joy of the Lord’s service
When Richard Cameron, one of the noblest of our Scottish martyrs, had fallen mortally wounded on Airdsmoss, he said, “I am dying, happy, happy; and if I had a thousand lives I would willingly lay them all down one after another for Christ. Oh, He is near me; I think I see Him! I am just coming, Lord Jesus.” And he added, “Tell my parents not to weep, but continue steadfast in the faith, and not to fear a suffering lot for Christ.”
The reward of fidelity
I. The different capacities, advantages, and situations of men, are owing in general to the wise providence of God.
II. It is of little importance to us what our station in life is, or what the duties belonging to it; but of the greatest whether we perform or neglect them.
III. It is not of so great moment how long, or how short, our time and service are, as how well we have fulfilled them. (S. Brown.)
Some have abilities superior in kind, others in degree; some excel in strength of body, others of mind; some in judgment, others in imagination and memory; some are fit for contemplation, others for action; some to design, others to execute; some to govern nations, enact laws, and administer justice, others for inferior and private, yet necessary and useful employments. This variety is designed to fill up the various places and offices, which are proper in the great community of the world. (S. Brown.)
Parable of talents
I. That Christ Jesus is the great Lord and Owner.
II. That Christ, at His departure, appointed every man his work; and, at His ascension, gave gifts unto men, to be employed for His glory till He come again.
III. That it pleases the Lord to dispense His gifts variously among His people; to some more, to some fewer, talents. All have some talent. There is diversity, however
(1) Of employments and offices;
(2) In the kind of gifts;
(3) As to the measures and degrees. The account must be answerable to our receipts. (T. Manton.)
Varieties of gifts
Some are able to lay down the truth soundly; others able to apply it forcibly. Some have the gift of prayer and utterance, others are able to inform the judgment and convince gainsayers. Some to clear up doctrines, others to stir affections. Among hearers, some have more wisdom, some more knowledge, some more affection. Amongst the penmen of Scripture there is a great variety; John is sublime and seraphical; Paul spiritual and argumentative; Peter, in an easy, fluent, and mild way; Isaiah more court-like and lofty; Jeremiah more priest-like and grave. Among the saving gifts there is a diversity of graces, though all have all in some measure. The new creature is not maimed, yet some are more eminent, some for one grace some for another. Abraham for faith, Job for patience, Moses for meekness, Timothy for temperance. Every grace working according to the diversity of tempers, some are modest and mild, others bold and zealous; some are mourning for sin, others raised in the admiration of the grace of God in Christ; others exemplary for strictness and weanedness from the delights of the animal life. (T. Manton.)
Hiding, not wasting, God’s trusts
Mark, he not said he did embezzle his talent, as many waste their substance in riotous living, quench brave parts in excess, sin away many precious advantages of ordinances and education and powerful convictions. He did not misemploy his talent, as some do their wealth, others their wit, to scoff at religion, or to put a varnish on the devil’s cause; their power to oppress and crush the good. The precious gifts that many have, are like the sword in a madman’s hand, they use them to hurt and mischief. No such thing is charged upon this evil and naughty servant. ‘Tis fault enough to hide our talents, though we do not abuse them. (T. Manton.)
Modesty not to invalidate talent
It is true that the violet loves the shade, but then it manages to bloom there-to thrive and multiply. It makes itself known by its delicate, agreeable perfume. It does not hide itself in the earth. No flower is more sought for, and in an invalid’s room none more grateful. There are some Christians like towering cedars, some like branching oaks, some like willows by the water-courses. There are others like spring flowers; they are so modest and bashful that you must seek them and bring them into the light. They much prefer the shade. But, as we none of us live to ourselves, such a disposition must not be looked upon with too much favour. Modesty may become a disease. If a lady is so bashful that she never dare venture into the streets without a thick veil over her features, her sensitiveness of organization must be diseased. So in Christian congregations, there is a reserve about some which needs to be broken down. They never emerge into the daylight. They are timid, full of distrust-a distrust which almost amounts to self-excommunication. Now, the subject which suggested itself to my mind as I read these words was this-The temptation to depreciate small abilities and scanty opportunities. (R. Thomas.)
The increase of talent
A merchant going abroad for a time gave respectively to two of his friends two sacks of wheat each, to take care of, against his return. Years passed; he came back, and applied for them again. The first took him into his Storehouse, and showed him the bags of grain; but they were mildewed and worthless. The other led him out into the open country, and pointed out field after field of waving corn, the produce of the two sacks given to him. Said the merchant, as he gazed, “You have indeed been a faithful friend; give me two sacks of that wheat. The rest shall be thine.” I leave you to make your own application of the allegory. (R. Thomas.)
The law of use and neglect in the kingdom of heaven
The other day I met with a curious myth illustrative of this point. It comes from the East, from Mohammedanism; but it is very expressive. A tribe of men dwelt on the shores of the Dead Sea. They had forgotten all about truth, and had taken up with lies; and were fast verging towards the saddest possible condition. Whereupon it pleased a kind Providence to send them the prophet Moses with an instructive word of warning. But no-the men of the Dead Sea discovered that there was no comeliness in this Moses-no truth in his words; they received him with scoffs and jeers. Moses withdrew, but the laws of nature did not withdraw. The men of the Dead Sea, says the narrative, when next he visited them, were all “changed into apes;” sitting on the trees there, grinning now in the most unaffected manner, gibbering and chattering very genuine nonsense. There they sit and chatter to this hour, “only, I believe, every Sabbath there returns to them a bewildered, half consciousness, half reminiscence,” seeming to have some distant idea that once they were of another order, They made no use of their souls, and so they have lost them. Their worship on the Sabbath now is to roost there, and half remember that they once had souls. There is no little truth in this old Moslem myth. They made no use of their souls, and so have lost them. Brethren, that is God’s law. We keep what we use. We lose what we neglect to use. (R. Thomas.)
The pleasure of small abilities
Why is it not possible for us to acknowledge the abilities God has given to others, and render them their due without our coveting them ourselves? We have none of us been overlooked. If He has not given us the greater, He has given us the less, and if not the less then the least, and for each there is the fit and natural sphere of exercise. It is as much pleasure to the linnet to sing its unpretentious song as for the lark to mount high above the corn fields on a bright sunny morning, and pour down its flood of melody on the earth. It is as much pleasure to the sparrow-hawk to steal along the hedgerows as for the eagle to cleave the sky in the wildest storm. If God has given us small capabilities, He has likewise given us the position adapted to them, and in that position we may find the sweetest pleasure and the greatest usefulness of which we are capable. (R. Thomas.)
Talents for service not ornament
Man is not placed upon the earth merely to be a passive recipient of the favours of heaven. He is here in the capacity of a servant; and what is a servant for if not to serve? Some of us imagine sometimes, I fear, that we are here to occupy a kind of ornamental position in the church. I remember to have read of Oliver Cromwell that, on one occasion he was visiting one of the great churches of our land, and discovered in the niches of one of its side chapels a number of silver statues. “What are these?” demanded he sternly of the trembling dean who was showing him round the church. “Please your highness,” was the reply, “they are the twelve apostles.” “The twelve apostles are they? Well take them away at once, and melt them down and coin them into money that, like their Master, they may go about doing good.” Such is the mission that God has given to each one of us. The world we live in is not a great play-ground, but a vast harvest field, where every man, each in his own particular sphere, must thrust in the sickle and reap. None of us can say, like those of whom our Saviour speaks, standing in the market-place, “No man hath hired me.” (R. Morton.)
When the Son of Man shall come in His glory.
-The righteous at the judgment.
I. The kingly character of the lord Jesus.
II. The character of the people of God.
1. Blessed of God.
2. Represented as being at the right hand of God.
III. That to which the people of God are introduced.
1. A kingdom.
2. A prepared kingdom. (B. W. Bucke, M. A.)
The peculiar character of the general judgment
I. Who are to be judged?-“All nations.”
II. The judge of man.
1. The Judge will be righteous in His decisions.
2. The Judge Himself having been the witness of all the moral actions of men will require no evidence.
3. Then why do we live so thoughtlessly?
III. The issue of the judgment. Final separation of the wicked and the righteous. (R. Jones, B. A.)
The last judgment
I. The personal glory and majesty of the judge.
1. He will appear in that nature which He assumed as the Saviour of men.
2. The attributes of a suffering and degraded humanity will not be requisite to identify the Judge.
3. Heaven’s innumerable inhabitants will accompany the Son of Man.
4. Then shall He set up the throne of His glory.
II. The supreme prerogatives of the son of man as displayed in the judgment of the world.
1. The veil has been removed which conceals His dignity.
2. His unsearchable wisdom and power is further exhibited in the separating process.
III. The principle on which the awards of the judgment will be distributed.
1. The Judge speaks from His throne as King in Zion.
2. He proceeds to assign reasons for the Father’s having thus received them.
3. The language of surprise on the lips of the righteous.
IV. The final state of the righteous.
1. Express our solemn satisfaction in the assurance that Christ will sit as Judge of the race.
2. Let us daily demonstrate our love to Christ by abounding in works of mercy.
3. If through self-interest any Christian be undone, he will be found without apology. (J. Dixon.)
I. The vast assemblage.
1. All the holy angels.
2. All nations.
3. All classes.
4. All ages.
5. All characters.
6. We shall be there.
7. All must obey the summons. Each must answer to his name.
II. The final separation.
1. Here, this separation is impossible. The tares grow with the wheat.
2. Here, while many unions are injurious, many separations are painful. There, all will feel that the separation is right.
3. It will be based on character. Here wealth, etc. sunders men. There, all will belong to one of two classes-sheep or goats.
4. Viewed from our present standpoint, many of those separations will be painful,
III. The solemn sentence.
1. Even to the good.
2. Still more to the wicked. There will be no reversal of the sentence.
3. Execution will promptly follow the sentence. (J. C. Gray.)
The great day of the Lord
Contrast the first and last coming of Christ.
I. Its great revelations.
II. Its great account.
III. Its great separation.
IV. Its great decision. (D. Gerok, D. D.)
The final separation
I. Its author.
1. His ability.
2. His prerogative.
II. Its nature.
1. Its exactness.
2. Its completeness.
3. Its consequences in respect to place and employment and interest.
4. Its duration.
III. Its principle.
1. On the ground of character.
2. The test of character being the state of mind and heart toward the Redeemer.
3. The evidence of a right state of mind and heart toward the Redeemer being the treatment of His people. “If we would judge ourselves we should not be judged.” (G. Brooks.)
The final separation
I. The important period referred to. “When the Son of Man shall come.”
1. What this statement implies. It is the certainty of the Saviour’s second coming; no intimation given of the precise time.
2. What this statement announces-It tells us how He will come.
(1) The manner of His appearing-“in His glory.”
(2) His numerous retinue-“and all the holy angels.”
(3) The dignified position He will assume-“Then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory.”
II. The solemn transactions described.
1. The persons who will appear before Him-“all nations.”
2. The division that will take place-“and He shall separate them.”
III. The separate awards pronounced.
1. The righteous.
(1) The ineffable welcome they receive.
(2) The special reasons adduced.
(3) The questions which the favoured throng propose.
(4) The explanation which is given in reply.
2. The wicked.
(1) Their awful doom.
(2) The grounds on which it rests.
IV. The final issue declared-“And these shall go away,” etc. (Expository Outlines.)
The great separation
I. Let us contemplate it as a revealed fact.
II. The nature of this separation.
1. It will be made by the Judge Himself.
2. It will be made wholly on the ground of moral character.
3. It will take place at the judgment day.
4. It will be a separation in place and residence.
5. It will be a separation in interest and employment.
6. It will be eternal.
III. On what ground it will be made.
1. Upon our moral character formed in this state of probation.
2. This has an important bearing upon our earthly friendships.
3. What must be done in order to avoid being separated with the wicked. (G. Coad.)
The great separation
I. The coming.
II. The sitting.
III. The gathering.
IV. The separating.
V. The convicting.
VI. The sentencing.
VII. The executing. (Dr. Bonar.)
Christ come in His glory
The Judge of this world is Jesus Christ. Let us inquire-
I. How Christ cometh to be the world’s Judge; and with what conveniency and agreeableness to reason this honour is put upon Him. To a judge there belongeth these four things-
II. Why is Christ the Judge of the world rather than the Father, and the Spirit, who made us and gave the law to us? These have one common nature, and the operations that are with the Divine essence, are common to them all. There is also an order and economy, according to which all their operations are produced, and brought forth to the creature; according to which order their power of judging fell partly to the Father, and partly to the Son. (T. Manton.)
Doctrine. That Christ’s appearance for the judgment of the world shall be glorious and full of majesty.
I. His personal glory
1. The dignity of His person.
2. The quality of His office.
3. The greatness of His work.
4. The foregoing appearances of Christ. Why will He come in this great glory?
(1) To take off the scandal and ignominy of the cross.
(2) To beget a greater reverence and fear in the hearts of all those that shall be judged by Him.
(3) For the comfort of His people; for Christ is a pattern and pledge of what shall be done in them.
II. His royal attendance-“Holy angels with Him.”
1. Partly for a train.
2. Partly that, by their ministry, the work of the day may be more speedily dispatched. (T. Manton.)
Christ the Shepherd
A shepherd among men is not lord of the flock, but a servant to take charge of them.
I. Christ is a good shepherd.
1. Known by His care and vigilancy.
2. Shown by His pity and wisdom, to deal tenderly with the flock, as their state doth require.
3. Seen in His constantly.performing all parts of a shepherd to them.
4. Proved in His giving His life for them.
II. Christ is a great shepherd.
1. Great in His person; the Son of God.
2. Great in regard to the excellency of His gifts and qualifications.
3. Great in regard of His flock; He is the Shepherd of souls, millions of them are committed to His charge, and one soul is more worth than all the world. (T. Manton.)
The godly are as sheep
1. Sheep are such kind of creatures as naturally gather themselves together, and unite themselves in a flock.
2. They are innocent and harmless creatures.
3. They are obedient to the shepherd.
4. They are poor, dependent creatures
(a) because of their erring (wandering)property;
(b) because of their weakness. (T. Manton.)
The wicked are as goats
They are as goats both for their unruliness and uncleanness. Unruliness; they have not the meekness of sheep; are ready to break through all fence and restraint; so a wicked man is yokeless. They are also wanton and loathsome-‘tis a baser sort of animal than the sheep-therefore chosen to set forth a wicked and ungodly man. (T. Manton.)
Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed.
I. Consider the reference made to the conduct of the righteous.
II. Their station-“the right-hand.”
III. The sentence.
IV. The order of it. The righteous receive their sentence first.
1. The King will bless before He curses. That their slanderers may witness the honour which the King confers.
2. Let us now kneel to Him by whom it shall be pronounced.
V. The language of the sentence-
1. The language of welcome.
2. Of benediction.
3. Of munificent communication-“Inherit the kingdom,” etc.
(1) How astonishing the grace of God to provide such an inheritance for sinful creatures.
(2) How we are indebted to the grace of Christ for giving us a precious acquaintance with these things.
(3) How should we value the Scripture which makes the discovery.
(4) Remember that there is another sentence at that day. (J. A. James.)
Christ inviting His saints to His kingdom
I. The time when this invitation will be given.
1. After our Lord has assembled round Him the whole world.
2. He will give us this invitation before He condemns the ungodly.
II. The character in which Christ will give this invitation-“Then shall the King,” etc.
III. The persons to whom this invitation will be given.
1. Those who have abounded in good and charitable works.
2. They think nothing of their good works.
3. They are those whom the Father has blessed.
IV. The kingdom to which Christ calls his redeemed.
1. It is really a kingdom.
2. A prepared kingdom.
3. A kingdom prepared long ago.
4. It is one which we are to inherit; our possession of heaven will be full and free.
5. We are to inherit this kingdom with Christ our Lord. (C. Bradley.)
I. The perfected nature and being of the righteous. A new body to which they will be united. Its identity with the former.
II. The state and condition in which it will be enjoyed, and to which they will be summoned. It must be a place, and not merely a state. Epithets by which this heavenly country is designated.
III. The inhabitants of this future abode. The great object of their contemplation and source of their happiness, infinitely surpassing all the rest, will be the Deity Himself. Their worship will be of the highest order. They will have the most extensive intercourse, and be in the most intimate fellowship. There will be different orders and societies among them. The happiness of all will be continually progressive, according to the degree in which it is possessed by each. (J. Leifchild, D. D.)
A call to glory
The call is not arbitrary. It signifies-
(3) Sovereignty. (J. Vaughan, M. A.)
The unavailing declinatures of praise and blame
The true principle of Christian benevolence rests on the identifications of Christ with His people; and in the transactions of the great judgment this principle is brought out and wielded by the Judge, to the surprise alike of the righteous and the wicked. The righteous, to their astonishment, hear themselves commended for loving services to the King, which they are quite unconscious of ever having rendered. The wicked, on the other hand, to their amazement and dismay, hear themselves condemned for having refused to the King services which they are quite unconscious of ever having had opportunities to render or refuse.
I. The identification of Christ with his members.
1. Christ for me.
2. Christ with me.
3. Christ in me.
II. Its surprising influence on the judgment.
1. The plea of the unrighteous in exculpation seems to involve-
(1) A professed ignorance of Christ and His people;
(2) a complaint that if they had the opportunity it was not made plain and palpable;
(3) a profession that had they seen their opportunity they would have embraced it.
2. The righteous’ modest declinature of praise. It is to be explained on the grounds, on their part, of a certain want of-
(3) Realization. (M. Martin, M. A.)
The tests of the final judgment
I. The terms of judgment.
(1) Not the mere rightness of a creed.
(2) Not any inwrought impression upon the man’s own mind, if unattended by the outward marks of a converted heart.
(3) That which is furnished in the life.
II. The justice which is manifested in the appointment of these terms. Love to Christ is the principle, without which there can be no present enjoyment and no hope of future glory. Thus we hold it to be a test of final judgment, an evidence of love to the Saviour, to have honoured the people of Christ, especially those without rank or standing in society. All the riches of providential gift are intended to be the materials whereon stated Christian principle shall work. But mark the consideration of the Saviour: He has so brought down this exhibition of charity that it is within the reach of all, a cup of cold water. (S. Robins, M. A.)
I. Consider the union which subsists between the Redeemer and His people, and the happy privilege it implies-“these, My brethren.”
II. The indispensable dories which the brethren of Christ owe to each other. (W. Clarke.)
I. Guard against mistake. Men think that if only they are generous they will be saved. That we cannot be justified by the merit of almsgiving.
II. The lessons here taught.
1. That though men are not justified by our works they shall be judged by them. That the Judge will pay especial attention to works of charity. (A. MeCaul, D. D.)
The objects, source, and dignity of Christian liberality
I. The objects of Christian bounty. The least of the brethren of Christ.
1. Least in consideration.
2. In civil station.
3. In age. The brethren of Christ demand our first care.
II. Its nature.
1. It is essentially humble.
2. It is tender in its exercise.
3. It is appropriate.
III. Its source.
1. Its source is the love of Christ.
2. The magnitude of His love; its activity.
IV. Its dignity. Christ considers Himself your debtor. (T. Robinson, M. A.)
The disabilities of selfishness
1. Selfishness is incompatible with the fundamental principles and purposes of human society.
2. Selfishness is inimical to the proper development and perfection of thy own individual life.
3. Selfishness is a direct contradiction of the entire mission and character of Christ.
4. What emphasis He gives to the least of My brethren, as if He would sternly exclude mixture of motive.
5. The unconsciousness of the selfish man is striking.
(1) It blinds the soul.
(2) It makes sympathy unintelligible.
(3) What grand opportunities for the service of love and reward it loses. We are all familiar with the excuses of selfishness. (H. Allon.)
The Divine law of compassion
Without this principle of love men have not the temper of Christ. His kingdom is meaningless to them. Pure philanthropy owes its noblest spirit to Christ. From what other source could it have sprung?
1. Is it a legacy to us from the ancient world? The temper of humanity could not have been wholly lacking in ancient times.
2. It is impossible that Judaism, so happily conspicuous in ancient times for the tender springs of mercy which God’s hand cleft for it out of the rock of Sinaitic Law, should have slowly leavened Gentile society with the spirit of compassion.
3. If we turn to the voluminous instructions of the great ethical systems, we are no nearer an answer to our question. We are compelled to trace to Christ the development of that spirit of humanity, of which compassion is one of the vital elements. The foundations of the Christian doctrine of compassion.
I. Much stress must be laid on the impression produced by Christ’s earthly life.
II. A second fruitful element was Christ’s revelation of the nature of sin. It was not based on a misconception of the character of those on whom it was poured.
III. This power was given to us by Christ, for He has cleansed and sanctified human nature.
VI. Christ’s revelation of the dignity of man.
V. Christ’s revelation of immortality. Let nothing tempt us to forget the spiritual and supernatural ground on which all adequate sympathy with our fellow men must stand. The most effectual benevolence rests on the mystery of Christian faith. (T. R. Evans.)
There is more in our deeds than we are aware of
Dear people, She law and conditions under which human life grows and works are the same whether we make for good or whether we make for evil. We cannot complain of them in the one case without protesting against them in the other. If we deem the conditions under which our life may go down hill to the pit to be hard and cruel, we must take into account that we are incriminating also the conditions under which our life can now climb upwards towards the blessed hills of heaven. Both stand and ,fall together. If, in this case of sin, we find ourselves to be handling and discharging powers that lie behind and within us, unsuspected, incalculable in range, yet, subject to our will, set loose and in action; so, in the case of goodness, there lie within us and behind us stores of energy immeasurable, beyond belief, such as eye hath not seen nor heart conceived-energies which wait on our little volitions to liberate and discharge themselves also. In both cases we find ourselves to be creatures that move under the influence and pressure of higher and deeper agencies than ourselves. Neither our evil nor our good dates from our own petty life, or has its origin in our tiny scope of will. Both were born long ago; both are ancient and immense; both occupy this dim and unknown background on the surface of which our little day plays itself out. “Kingdoms” they are named of our Lord, kingdoms-a kingdom, on the one hand, of this world, of Satan, worked and pushed and animated and fed, built and bonded together, by principalities and powers, by workers of wickedness in high places; a kingdom charged with mysterious forces and full of dark and dreadful hosts; and, on the other side, a kingdom of God, of heaven, of Christ, of righteousness, set over against the other, with its own patient and unwearied armies, who watch and war there with swords of victory and helms of flame and wide unslumbering eyes; a kingdom behind us, weighted with accumulated glories, and thick with bonded ministries, and rich with memorial honours; a kingdom of Christ, filled with His breath, and fed with His body, and alive with His promise, and aglow with His hopes, and built with His headship, and expanded by His pleadings, and mighty in His intercessions. These are the two kingdoms, on the mere skirts of which we walk, and move and live. (Canon Scott-Holland.)
In the text the thought is not that the just failed to discern the Master in the men they helped, but that Christ is to be the motive of all action. Let us consider for a few moments this ideal of a Christian worker.
I. The beauty of self-forgetfulness. In nature we see this lack of self-consciousness. There is no deeper tint to the bloom of the flower because there is an admiring crowd. The stars look down as beautifully in the silent desert, etc. The sea breaks and scatters its treasures on a dead shore, etc. There is an utter self-obliviousness. How this self-forgetfulness adds to the charms of a child. A saint loses his sanctity when we see that he thinks himself saintly.
II. Self-forgetfulness contributes to power. A traveller says, while climbing an ice-bridge in the Alps, he had to cut in the ice rests for his feet. There was no trouble in doing this so long as his mind was centred on his work, and he forgot self and danger. When he thought of self he trembled, and to tremble there was death. The man who loses all thought of self in a grand work, enlarges his nature until he seems to circle beyond the stars.
III. Self-forgetfulness contributes to happiness. There is joy in an unselfish ministry. Look at the steps by which we attain to this.
1. The first feeling in looking to Christ is that of shame, because of our sinfulness and insincerity.
2. The next thought: “How can I attain to the exalted life of Christ?”
3. Then our thoughts of self are lost in admiration of the excellences of Jesus. Christ becomes enthroned within us, and He is a force that manifests Himself constantly. The Christian shines unconsciously-as the jewel sparkles, as the bird sings. Love thinks nothing of the sacrifice it makes. Told of what it has done, it blushes at what it deems unmerited praise. Self-forgetfulness is the first sign that we are doing work for the God above us. (C. D. Bridgeman, D. D.)
I. The disciples of Jesus Christ are oftentimes found in circumstances which pathetically claim the sympathy of their fellow creatures.
1. For the sake of correction.
2. For the sake of preservation. From what dangers are we snatched by that poverty at which we murmur.
3. For the sake of example to others, and that God may be glorified in them.
4. That we may have an opportunity of exhibiting our love to the Redeemer by extending the necessary relief to them.
II. Jesus so identifies himself with his disciples, as to regard every expression of sympathy with them as an act of kindness to himself.
III. Every act of kindness to a suffering disciple, flowing from the simple motive of love to the Master, he will most assuredly acknowledge and recompense. Here is consolation for the poor; Jesus Christ is the companion of their distress. (J. Gaskin, M. A.)
The principle by which men shall be judged
I. Christ’s identifying himself with men-“We have done it unto Me.”-
1. Who are Christ’s brethren to whom these acts are done, and which are counted as having been done to Him? They are humble afflicted Christians; but the word brother must have a wider meaning; coldheartedness will not be excused because those who we so treated were not of Christ’s family. The spirit of pity is not confined by the knowledge we have that this man or that is one of Christ’s brethren. Christ acknowledges as His brethren men whom nobody ever acknowledged before. We shall not recognize the “ brethren” unless we have the brotherly spirit within us; that will open our eyes and work marvels within us.
II. That our Lord is giving an outline of the principles of judgment by which men shall be tried who do not know and have not known or seen Him. Its connection between Him and His brethren is not arbitrary, it is founded in nature and fact. In all ages, and in all nations, there are circumstances sufficient to test and prove the character of man. Jesus here tears asunder every false covering under which men claim to be accounted religious, when they omit the common calls on mercy and kindness. Great duties are not open to all; go were you will, opportunity for pity can be found. (A. Watson, D. D.)
The final test
I. The person by whom the last trial is to be conducted. It is the King: who is also spoken of as the “Son of Man.” The combined justice and mercy in His appointment, who is to decide our portion for eternity. The equity of the trial depends mainly on the character and capacity of the being who presides. An angel would not guarantee a just verdict; the Omniscient will. Oh for a judge who can have a fellow feeling with us. It is a beautiful arrangement of the gospel that the offer of Judge and Redeemer should meet in the same Person.
II. The test. Relieving or not the distressed. The power of being charitable not limited to the richer classes. So that we show you the lower ranks of society are no more excluded than the higher from the alleged blessedness of givers; and that those who seem to you to have nothing to bestow, may as well abide, at the last, a scrutiny into ministrations to the necessitous, as others who have large indomes at their disposal, and can take the lead in all the bustle of philanthropy. Ay, and we reckon it a beautiful truth, that, from the fields and workshops of a country may be sent to the platform of judgment the most active and self-denying of the benevolent; and that however in this world the praise of liberality is awarded only to those who can draw out their purses and scatter their gold, our labourers and artizans may be counted hereafter amongst the largest contributors to the relief of the afflicted. The donations which they have wrung from overtasked limbs, or which they may be said to have coined out of their own flesh and blood, may weigh down in the balances of the judgment the more showy gifts which the wealthy dispense from their superfluities, without trenching, it may be, on their luxuries-yea, and thus is there nothing to prove to us that there may not be poured forth from the very hovels of our land, numbers who shall as well abide the searching inquiries of the Judge, as the most munificent of those who have dwelt in its palaces, and be as justly included within the summons, “Come, ye blessed of My Father,” though none are to be thus addressed but such as have fed the hungry, and clothed the naked, and succoured the sick. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The reasons for Christ’s sentence
(1) Good works are the reasons of this sentence.
(2) The good works only of the faithful are mentioned, and not the evil they have committed.
(3) Only works of mercy, or the fruits of love, are specified.
(4) All cannot express their love and self-denial in this way. (T. Manton.)
Judgment upon works
1. At the general judgment all men shall receive their doom, or judgment shall be pronounced according to their works.
2. Christ hath so ordered His providence about His members, that some of them are exposed to necessities and wants, others in a capacity to relieve them.
3. Works of charity, done out of faith, and love to Christ, are of greater weight and consequence than the world usually taketh them to be. (T. Manton.)
The surprise of the righteous
These blessed of the Father, brethren of the Son, and heirs of the kingdom, stand amazed that the Son of Man should so overwhelm their trifling services with a glorious reward. Nay, they can hardly recollect any service at all. The ministries were so trifling, and were bestowed on objects so inconsiderable, often with such mixture of bad motives, and such deficiency of good, that it amazes them to find every transient item legible in the book of the Judge, now seated upon the throne of His glory. Mark how He receives them, how He gathers up the bruised, withered, scattered flowers which seemed dying in our hands, and makes of them a garland; binds them on His brow as a diadem; points to them before His angels as an honour. (J. W. Alexander.)
I. Why is the exercise of Christian benevolence so important?
1. Christian benevolence is the image of God-the nearest approach we can make to His likeness.
2. Peculiarly an imitation of Christ.
3. The distinguishing bond of Christian profession.
4. Is the fulfilling of the law, and contains every kind of virtue that has our fellow-creatures for its object.
5. Is the spirit of heaven.
II. Observations on the mode of doing good.
1. Secure the principle of charity by some system.
2. Visit the sick and the poor,etc. (Anon.)
True benevolence of Christianity
“Pagan philosophy,” says Robert Hall, “soared in sublime speculation, wasted its stength in endless subtleties and debates; but among the rewards to which it aspired, it never thought of ‘the blessedness of him that considereth the poor.’ You might have traversed the Roman empire, in the zenith of its power, from the Euphrates to the Atlantic, without meeting with a single charitable asylum for the sick. Monuments of pride, of ambition, of vindictive wrath, were to be found in abundance; but not one legible record of commiseration for the poor.” The primitive Christians, it is evident, taught this lesson of philanthropy to the world. Hospitals were referred to as in existence at the Council of Nice, A.D. 325.
Sins of omission
The wicked are described by sins of omission.
I. Explain sins of omission.
II. Some sins of emission are greater than others.
III. In many cases, sins of omission may be more heinous and damning than sins of commission; partly because these harden more, and partly because omissions make way for commissions. (T. Manton.)
Done to my friends is done to me
Cicero writes thus to Plautius, “I would have you think that whatever friendly service, or good advice, you shall bestow upon my friend Fumius, I shall take it as kindly as if it had been done to myself,”
Kindhess to Christ’s servants
After telling us of the arrival of himself and his companions at a heathen village on the banks of the Orange River, Dr. Moffat says: “We had travelled far, and were hungry and thirsty and fatigued. We asked water, but they would not supply it. I offered three or four buttons that still remained on my jacket for a little milk. This also was refused. We had the prospect of another hungry and thirsty night. When twilight drew nigh, a woman approached from the height beyond which the village lay. She bore on her head a bundle of wood, and had a vessel of milk in her hand. She laid them down, and returned to the village. A second time she approached with other and larger supplies. We asked her again and again who she was. She remained silent, till affectionately entreated to give us a reason for such unlooked-for kindness to strangers. The solitary tsar stole down her sable cheek when she replied, ‘I love Him whose servants ye are, and surely it is my duty to give you a cup of cold water in His name. My heart is full, therefore I cannot speak the joy I feel to see you in this out-of-the-world place!’ I asked her how she kept the life of God in her soul, in the absence of all communion with saints. She drew from her bosom a copy of the Dutch New Testament she had received in a school some years before. ‘This,’ she said, ‘is the fountain whence I drink; this the oil which makes my lamp burn.’”
A rich young man of Rome had been suffering from a severe illness, but at length he was cured, and received his health. Then he went for the first time into the garden, and felt as if he were newly born. Full of joy, he praised God aloud. He turned his face up to the heavens and said, “O Thou Almighty Giver of all blessings, if a human being could in any way repay Thee, how willingly would I give up all my wealth!” Hermas, the shepherd, listened to these words, and he said to the rich young man, “All good gifts come from above; thou canst not send anything thither. Come, follow me.” The youth followed the pious old man, and they came to a dark hovel, where there was nothing but misery and lamentation; for the father lay sick, and the mother wept, whilst the children stood round naked and crying for bread. Then the young man was shocked at this scene of distress. But Hermas said, “Behold here an altar for thy sacrifice! Behold here the brethren and representatives of the Lord!” The rich young man then opened his hand, and gave freely and richly to them of his wealth, and tended the sick man. And the poor people, relieved and comforted, blessed him, and called him an angel of God. Hermas smiled and said, “Ever thus turn thy grateful looks first towards heaven, and then to earth.” (Translated from the German of Krummacher.)
Practical beneficence the true Christian life
To be servant of humanity is to be servant of Christ. The love of God cannot be where compassionate love of man is wanting. From gospel truths such as these start here is made. The exclusive emphasis laid in the text on practical beneficence shows that it alone is accepted as evidence of devotion to Christ. With Christ religion is simply goodness; personal devotion to Him is the very heart of goodness.
I. Christ’s relation to men from which his and our true attitude to them springs-”My brethren.” All are His brethren. The least are included. Their poverty and destitution, pain and sorrow, are His own. Relief of their wants is relief to Him, etc. Those who are Christ’s brethren should be ours. We should be so lifted up into the spirit of His life, that His attitude towards all men becomes ours. Our best love of Christ is evidenced in love to man.
II. Service of the least is, in a special way, evidence of noble love. His greatest love was shown towards the worst of men, and the most genuine evidence of our love to Christ is in our stooping to the least. This attitude to men must spring from a deep interpretive sympathy-from a love which believeth all things-“the enthusiasm of humanity.” Service of God, which separates us from service of the least among the brethren of Christ, is monkish and not Christian. We need faith in self-sacrificing love as mighty to redeem. God’s supreme demand is that we live to bless His children. The Christian principle and life have their place in all the concerns of our daily existence. We need to be continually reminding ourselves that we are dealing with brothers.
III. What is not done to Christ’s brethren is defective of service rendered to him. Every opportunity which business life affords of reaching out to other souls to bless them, and which is neglected, is something positively not done to Christ. The redeeming principle must rule us in our attitude towards all the great social questions which arise for solution to-day-questions between capital and labour, landlord and tenant, seller and buyer. What is needed to-day is not a sentimental adherence to the principle of beneficence, etc., but an enthusiastic devotion to Christ, such that we shall seek with all our might His ends, and even be willing to make sacrifice to the death for their attainment. (R. Veitch, M. A.)
Necessity of good works
Be warned against that fatal fanaticism which has devastated a great part of Christendom in these latter days, which takes its stand upon one half of the truth in order to deny the other half, which calls justification by faith only “the gospel,” just as if judgment according to works were not equally “the gospel,” just as if very fundamental truth revealed in Scripture were not equally a part of the “everlasting gospel.” There was a certain clergyman (in Ireland) who preached all his life that we never can be saved by good works, and that all our good works are as filthy rags, and so on. At last a neighbour remonstrated with him after this manner: “Why do you always preach against good works? there is not one of them in your parish!” Doubtless this anecdote, which might savour of the ridiculous if it were not so sad, is only too true in fact; there are, we must fear, not a few places where justification by faith is preached every Sunday-where neither priest nor people ever do any good works of piety and charity-whence, therefore, both priest and people will certainly go into everlasting fire unless they repent and amend. God forbid I should say that justification by faith only is not true, is not part of the gospel; but I do say-and observation of mankind fully confirms me in saying-that the teaching of justification by faith, as though it were the whole of the gospel, is simply the most ruinous error that could be committed. If that be the gospel which is plainly and clearly laid down in the New Testament, then salvation by faith is the gospel, salvation by works is the gospel, and salvation by sacramental incorporation in Christ is the gospel too. The faithful preacher will preach these doctrines all round, without dwelling on any one or two to the practical exclusion of the others [or other; a faithful Christian will believe them all round, and strive to live by them, not staggered because they seem to be inconsistent, because in human systems they are made to mutually exclude one another, but knowing that what God hath joined together man has no right to put asunder, whether in doctrine or in practice. I do not ask thee for one moment to forget the law by which thou must be justified thy God, the law of faith in Him who freely justifieth the unrighteous; but I do ask thee to remember, O man, the rule by which thou shalt be tried before thy Saviour and thy Judge. Those that treat Him well He will reward, those that treat Him ill He will condemn. (R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
Relation of good works to Christianity
Good works do not make a Christian; but one must be a Christian to do good works. The tree bringeth forth the fruit, not the fruit the tree. None is made a Christian by works, but by Christ, and being in Christ, he brings forth fruit for Him. (Martin Luther.)
Faith to the power of good works is saving faith. (F. B. Proctor, M. A.)
Christ reproaching the wicked
It was I who formed you, and ye clave to another. I created the earth, the sea, and all things for your sakes, and you misused them to My dishonour. Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity, I know you not. Ye have become the workmen of another master, even the devil. With him possess darkness, and the fire which shall not be quenched, and the worm which sleepeth not, and the gnashing of teeth. I formed your ears that you should hear the Scriptures, and you applied them to songs of devils, to harps, to jokes. I created your eyes that ye might behold the light of My commandments, and follow them; but ye opened them for adultery, and immodesty, and all uncleanness. I ordained your mouth for the praise and glory of God, and to sing psalms and spiritual songs; but ye applied it for the utterance of revilings, perjuries, and blasphemies. I made your hands that you should lift them up in prayers and supplications; ye have stretched them out in thefts and murders. (Hippolytus.)
The blessed sometimes think themselves cursed, forgotten, and forsaken
The cloud that casts its cold and its freezing shadow over your home broke into innumerable blessings. Those things that pained you when they touched your flesh no sooner approached the chancel of the soul, the immortal spirit, than they became the very soil on which character grew up, and ripened into happiness and heaven. There is not a line of suffering visible upon your road that has not had parallel with it a line of glory, of happiness, and joy. When you thought you were cursed, you were really blessed; what you dreamt in your ignorance were calamities were the very credentials of the people of God; and if God had not so dealt with you, you had never been in that happy group to whom he speaks those thrilling words, “Come, ye blessed.” Do you see a mother with an infant in her arms? The infant in its ignorance put forth its hands to touch the flame of the candle, as if it were a bright and beautiful plaything. The mother draws back its hand, or puts away the candle; much to the child’s disappointment, but much to the child’s happiness and comfort. So God deals with children of a larger growth, We in our ignorance would seize the flaming thing that would burn to the quick; He in His compassion puts it away, and bids the heart be still; and what you know not now He tells you you shall know hereafter. (J. Cumming, D. D.)
The final separation
I. The division.
1. They shall be divided into two parts-the sheep and goats. There shall be two positions, on the right and on the left hand. There will be no third class. There is no state between being converted and unconverted.
2. They will be divided readily. It is not everybody that could divide sheep from goats. They are extremely like each other: the wool of some sheep in a warm climate becomes so like hair, and the hair of a kind of goat so like wool, that a traveller scarcely knows which is which; but a shepherd who has lived amongst them knows the difference well. The eye of fire will soon separate the sheep from the goats.
3. They will be divided infallibly. Not one poor trembling sheep will be found amongst the goats.
4. That division will be keen and sharp. The husband torn away from the wife.
5. It will be very wide as well as keen. The distance between happiness and misery.
6. The separation will be final.
II. The divider. “He shall separate.” Jesus will be the Divider.
1. This will assure the saints of their right to heaven. He said “Come.”
2. This will increase the terror of the lost, that Christ shall divide them, Christ, so full of love, would not destroy a sinner unless it must be. He also has power to carry out the sentence.
III. The rule of the division. The great division between the sons of men is Christ. He is the divider and the division. The rule of the division is-
2. Actions about Christ.
3. The actions which will be mentioned at the judgment day, as the proof of our being blessed of the Lord, spring from the grace of God. They fed the hungry, but sovereign grace had first fed them. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The reward of the righteous
I. There is much of teaching in the surrounding circumstances. “When the King shall come in His glory.” Then we must not expect our reward till by and by. When the King shall come in His glory, then is your time of recompense. Observe with delight the august Person by whose hand the reward is given-“When the King.” It is Christ’s own gift. The character in which our Lord Jesus shall appear is significant. The King. He will come in His glory; the cross is exchanged for the crown.
II. The portion itself. The reward of the righteous is set forth by the loving benediction pronounced by the Master, but their very position gives some foreshadowing of it. The righteous the objects of Divine complacency, revealed before the sons of men. “The welcome uttered-Come. It is the gospel symbol, “Come ye blessed,” which is a clear declaration that this is a state of happiness; from the great primary source of all good-“Blessed of My Father.” It is a state in which they shall recognize their right to be there; a state therefore of ease and freedom. It is “inherit the kingdom.” A man does not fear to lose that which he wins by descent from his parent. It denotes full possession and enjoyment. The word “kingdom” indicates the richness of the heritage of the saints. It is no petty estate, no happy corner in obscurity; but a kingdom. Your future joy will be all that a royal soul desires. According to the word “prepared” we may conceive it to be a condition of surpassing excellence.
III. The persons who shall come there.
1. Their name-“Blessed of the Father.”
2. Their nature. Sons to inherit.
3. Their appointment.
4. Their doings.
Actions of charity selected-
1. Because the general audience assembled around the throne would know how to appreciate this evidence of their new-born nature.
2. They may have been chosen as evidences of grace, because as actions, they are a wonderful means of separating between the hypocrite and the true Christian. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Charitable actions reveal an inward grace
When you read “for “ here, you must not understand it to be that their reward is because of this, but that they are proved to be God’s servants by this; and so, while they do not merit it because of these actions, yet these actions show that they were saved by grace, which is evidenced by the fact that Jesus Christ wrought such and such works in them. If Christ does not work such things in you, you have no part in Him; if you have not produced such Works as these you have not believed in Jesus. Now somebody says, “Then I intend to give to the poor in future in order that I may have this reward.” Ah, but you are very much mistaken if you do that. The Duke of Burgundy was waited upon by a poor man, a very loyal subject, who brought him a very large root which he had grown. He was a very poor man indeed, and every root he grew in his garden was of consequence to him; but merely as a loyal offering he brought to his prince the largest his little garden produced. The prince was so pleased with the man’s evident loyalty and affection that he gave him a very large sum. The steward thought, “Well, I see this pays; this man has got fifty pounds for his large root, I think I shall make the Duke a present.” So he bought a horse and he reckoned that he should have in return ten times as much for it as it was worth, and he presented it with that view: the duke, like a wise man, quietly accepted the horse, and gave the greedy steward nothing. That was all. So you say, “Well, here is a Christian man, and he gets rewarded. He has been giving to the poor, helping the Lord’s Church, the thing pays, I shall make a like investment.” Yes, but you see the steward did not give the horse out of any idea of loyalty, and kindness, and love to the duke, but out of very great love to himself, and therefore had no return; and if you perform deeds of charity out of the idea of getting to heaven by them, why it is yourself that you are feeding, it is yourself that you are clothing; all your virtue is not virtue, it is rank selfishness, it smells strong of selfhood, and Christ will never accept it; you will never hear Him say, “Thank you” for it. You served yourself, and no reward is due. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Heaven prepared far the saints
If I might so speak, God’s common gifts, which he throws away as though they were but nothing, are priceless; but what will be these gifts upon which the infinite mind of God has been set for ages of ages in order that they may reach the highest degree of excellence? Long before Christmas chimes were ringing, mother was so glad to think her boy was coming home, after the first quarter he had been out at school, and straightway she began preparing and planning all sorts of joys for him. Well might the holidays be happy when mother had been contriving to make them so. Now in an infinitely nobler manner the great God has prepared a kingdom for His people; He has thought “that will please them, and that will bless them, and this other will make them superlatively happy.” He prepared the kingdom to perfection; and then, as if that were not enough, the glorious man Christ Jesus went up from earth to heaven; and you know what He said when He departed-“I go to prepare a place for you.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Hard to see Christ in the poverty of the saints
Do not judge amiss of others. God’s people are a poor, despised, hated, scorned company in the world as to visible appearance; and what proof of Christ is there in them? Who can see Christ in a hungry beggar? or the glorious Son of God in an imprisoned and scorned believer? or one beloved of God in him that is mortified with continual sicknesses and diseases. A pearl or a jewel that is fallen into the dirt, you cannot discern the worth of it till you wash it, and see it sparkle. A prince in disguise may be jostled and affronted. To a common eye things go better with the wicked than with the children of God. If you see the image of Christ in them, you will one day see them other manner of persons than now you see them, or they appear to be. (T. Manton.)
Charity ministers to self-enjoyment
Wells are sweeter for draining; so are riches, when used as the fuel of charity. (T. Manton.)
God rewards charity
The poor cannot requite thee; therefore God will. (T. Manton.)
Destiny determined by serviceableness
The judgment will go according to our serviceableness or otherwise. “Every man according to his works, whether they be good or evil.” We are apt to imagine that true religion consists in extraordinary frames of mind, ecstatic moods. It consists in nothing of the kind, but in the faithful discharge, in the spirit of Christ, of the human duties of our every-day existence. Many are the legends concerning the Quest of the Holy Grail, the traditional Cup of Healing from which the Saviour drank the sacramental wine the night He was betrayed. But the prettiest of them all, prettiest because truest, is that which represents a bold knight of the Round Table travelling far over mountains and through deserts in search of the mysterious Grail. His protracted and exhaustive journeys, however, turned out fruitless. At length, wan in countenance, depressed in spirit, and fatigued in body, he resolved to return to Arthur’s Hall, a sadder but not a wiser man. However, as he was nearing the gate of Camelot, he saw a poor man writhing in the ditch, evidently in the last agonies of death. Moved with compassion, the sworn defender of the rights of the poor and the weak dismounted from his steed, sought a cup of water, and handed it to the suffering man; when lo! the cup glowed as if it were a thing alive, flamed as if it were the sapphire of the New Jerusalem. The knight at last saw the Holy Grail, not, however, in traversing barren wildernesses or performing deeds of prowess, but in succouring the poor and forlorn. “Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of these little ones, ye have done it unto Me.” “Whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” A little gift to a little one-it will be honourably mentioned in the judgment day. (J. C. Jones.)
And these shall go away into everlasting punishment.
The final state of the saints in heaven
There is a state of happiness which the spirits of just men enter into immediately after their separation from the body, But after the resurrection and the general judgment, then the righteous shall go into life eternal.
I. The state of happiness itself. That good men shall enjoy a state of happiness in the world to come is evident.
1. From the light of nature and reason. General notion among the wiser heathens. Universal desire in mankind. The unequal distribution of things in the present state.
2. From Divine revelation.
II. The eternity of this happiness. Testimony of Scripture. (Outlines of Sermons.)
I. The parties sentenced.
II. The penalties awarded.
1. Positive infliction.
2. Incited passions.
3. Bitter reflection.
4. Painful associations.
5. Mutual recognition.
III. The perpetuity determined.
3. Certain. (J. Blackburn.)
Your opinion about “for ever” can have no manner of effect upon the reality of that “for ever.” A party of boatmen on the Niagara river may have a very strong opinion when they are caught by the rapids, that it is very pleasant rowing; but neither their shouts nor their merriment will alter the fact: that the world’s cataract is close at hand. You have a strong opinion that hell-fire is a delusion; that they are superstitious, and cruel, and ignorant who ask you to pause, and awake, and prepare for this coming, this continued retribution; but your opinions will not have the slightest, the remotest, the minutest influence on the tremendous fact. (Reynolds.)
Heaven and hell
I. The everlasting state of the righteous. It will consist of:
(1) Perfect knowledge;
(3) Perfect purity;
(4) Perfect felicity.
II. The eternal state of the wicked. Includes:
1. The privation of infinite good.
(1) They have lost heaven and all its blessedness at once.
(2) They are strangers to the endearments and consolations of friendship.
(3) Nor is there any, the smallest, rest from pain.
2. The infliction of infinite evil. Tormentors in hell:
(4)The sufferer will be his own tormentor;
(6) Anticipation. (T. Raffles.)
The nature of true righteousness
The following four particulars are necessary to entitle us to the denomination and character of righteous men.
I. The establishment within us of good principles, and acting from them.
II. The superior efficacy of such principles within us to the efficacy of all other principles.
III. The manifestation of their superiority by avoiding all habitual guilt, and practicing all known duties; and
IV. A constant endeavour to grow better. (Richard Price.)
I. Eternal life, what it is.
1. It is life in the most perfect existence.
2. It is life in its fullest enjoyment. The intellect in its highest flights, the will in its most entire subjugation, and the affections, shall be fully enjoyed there.
3. It is life in its eternal duration.
II. The persons who are to enjoy eternal life-“the righteous.” They have been stripped of their own righteousness, and are clad in the righteousness of Christ. (J. H. Evans, M. A.)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 25". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent