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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 25

 

 

Verse 1

Matthew 25:1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven, &c. — Our Lord, having fully informed his disciples of the circumstances and general season of his coming to destroy the Jewish place and nation, that lively, earnest, and strong figure of his future coming to judge the world; he passes, as we have seen, by a natural transition, to a declaration of that dread event; of the watchfulness necessary thereto; and of the punishment to be inflicted upon those who should neglect so to watch and prepare for their Lord’s coming. Referring to these events, he here proceeds to say, Then — When the Lord shall thus come to execute judgment on the Jewish nation, or to judge mankind in general, and punish the wicked servant, shall the kingdom of heaven — The gospel kingdom, or the state of things in the visible church, particularly the character, conduct, and lot of the subjects of that kingdom; be likened unto ten virgins — Or may be represented by the character, conduct, and fate of virgins at a wedding. In order to understand this parable, we must remember that here is an allusion to the customs of the Jewish marriages, as well as those of the other eastern countries. “With them it was usual for the bridegroom to bring home his bride in the evening, sooner or later, as it might happen. And that she might be received properly at his house, his female friends of the younger sort were invited to come and wait with lamps, till some of his retinue, despatched before the rest, brought word that he was at hand; upon which they went forth, with their lamps trimmed and burning, to welcome him, and conduct him with his bride into the house. And for this service they had the honour of being guests at the marriage-feast.” To ten such virgins our Lord compares the candidates for the heavenly kingdom, the complete number of all Christian professors: he mentions ten, because this, it seems, was the general number appointed at their weddings to wait upon the bridegroom. And he compares professors to virgins, to signify the purity required in the Christian character, or perhaps merely because the allusion in the parable so required it. Which took their lamps, &c. — The lamp means a religious profession, and every one may then be said to take up this lamp, when admitted into the outward church by baptism; and went forth to meet the bridegroom — The bridegroom means the Lord Jesus in this parable, as well as in that recorded Matthew 22:2, &c.; and every one that professes to expect and prepare for his coming, whether to call men hence by death, or to summon them to his bar. may be said to go forth to meet him.


Verses 2-4

Matthew 25:2-4. And five of them were wise — Prudent and provident; and five foolish — Inconsiderate and careless. These latter took their lamps — Took up a profession of the true religion; but took no oil with them — No more than kept them burning just for the present. None to supply their future want, to recruit their lamps’ decay. They did not receive or maintain the saving grace of God, did not get or keep faith working by love, an interest in and union with Christ the good olive, or the life of God in their souls. But the wise took oil in their vessels, &c. — Together with the lamp of an external profession, they secured and maintained vital godliness, through the indwelling of the Spirit of God, and living in the Spirit, they walked in the Spirit, seeking daily, a fresh supply of spiritual strength, till their faith was made perfect.


Verse 5

Matthew 25:5. While the bridegroom tarried — That is, before they were called to attend him; they all slumbered and slept — That is, all Christians, so called, good and bad, sincere and hypocrites, those who really love and wait for the bridegroom, and those who only profess to do so; lie down together in the sleep of death: all, while the bridegroom delays to come, slumber in the grave, with respect to their bodies, and sleep till the great call, that shall awake them to different situations. This is undoubtedly the meaning of this clause, if by the coming of the bridegroom we understand Christ’s coming to raise the dead and judge mankind, which seems evidently to be primarily intended thereby. But if we also consider it as referring to calamities coming on the Jews, or to his calling us hence by death, the spiritual slumbering and sleeping of the professors of Christianity must be intended, and the meaning of the clause must be, that while Christ defers to come in these senses, instead of accounting his long-suffering salvation, (2 Peter 3:15,) and improving it accordingly, they become unwatchful, remiss and careless, lukewarm and indolent. So it was with the professors at Laodicea and Sardis, who are therefore called upon to be zealous and repent, to be watchful, and to strengthen the things which remained, which were ready to die; Christ threatening that if they would not watch, he would come unexpectedly as a thief cometh. And even the wise, who have oil in their vessels, and their lamps burning; who have saving grace in their hearts, and whose conduct is generally exemplary, while Christ delays to call them hence by death, too often, like the church of Ephesus, leave in some degree their first love, lose their watchful spirit, and abate of their zeal and diligence in doing well, and their patience in suffering ill.


Verses 6-8

Matthew 25:6-8. And at midnight — In an hour quite unthought of, and the most alarming. Perhaps the tradition mentioned by Jerome, which asserted that Christ would come to judgment at midnight, might be borrowed from hence; though certainly it is a very absurd one, since that can be the case only under one meridian at a time. There was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh — As Christ’s coming to judge the world will be at a time the least expected; so then a great cry will be made, for the apostle assures us, he will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God, 1 Thessalonians 4:16. At this great cry, which will be heard to the ends of the earth, these virgins all awake, and begin to trim their lamps, to examine themselves, and prepare to meet their God: and now the foolish first perceive their folly: they find their lamps extinguished, and they have no oil wherewith to supply them: they find themselves destitute of vital religion, of union with Christ, and the graces of his Spirit, and that they have only a name to live while they are dead. Thus the hypocrite’s hope shall perish. And the foolish said unto the wise — Whom before, perhaps, they had despised and derided as needlessly provident; Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out — They were therefore once lighted and burning. As if they had said, The light that was in us has become darkness, and the warmth of our love and zeal has become cold and dead, and we are utterly unprepared to meet the bridegroom. What a time was this to make such a discovery! whether the time of being overtaken with some unexpected judgment, the time of death, or that of Christ’s second coming be intended. Reader, Unto which of the saints wilt thou turn? Who can help thee at such a season?


Verse 9

Matthew 25:9. But the wise answered, saying, Not so — The words, not so, are not in the Greek, which is only, μηποτε ουκ αρκεση ημιν και υμιν, lest it should not be sufficient for us and you. They begin the sentence abruptly, showing thereby their surprise at the state of those poor wretches who had so long deceived them, as well as their own souls. Lest there be not enough — It is sure there is not: for no man has more holiness than is sufficient for himself. Go ye rather to them that sell — Without money, and without price: That is, to God in Christ. And buy — If ye can. O no! The time is past, and returns no more. But this clause, Buy for yourselves, seems, as Dr. Doddridge observes, “merely an ornamental circumstance; and it is strange that any popish writers should consider it as favouring their doctrine of a stock of merits in the church, founded on works of supererogation; since, if it referred to them at all, (which there is no reason to imagine,) it would rather expose than encourage any dependance upon them.” Observe, reader, now only is the accepted time, and the day of salvation, when we may come to God through Christ, in the use of the means of grace, and buy for ourselves the divine oil, which will never fail us: nay, we are counselled and exhorted to do so: and if we despise and reject these counsels and exhortations, while they may be useful, our cries and wishes will be as surely rejected another day, and our vain attempts to purchase when the bridegroom is coming will issue in an eternal exclusion from his kingdom.


Verses 10-12

Matthew 25:10-12. While they went to buy — While they made some unsuccessful efforts to obtain oil, and light their lamps; the bridegroom came, and they that were ready — They who had put on the wedding- garment, who had an interest in Christ’s obedience unto death, and were renewed by his Spirit, who had recovered the divine likeness, the whole image of God stamped upon their soul; who had done and suffered the whole will of God unto the end, while they had kept themselves unspotted from the world: they, (to speak in the language of Christ,) whose loins were girded, and their lamps burning, and themselves like unto men waiting for their Lord, went in with him to the marriage — For blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, they rest from their labours, and their works follow them: and those that are found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless, in whatever way he comes to them, shall enter into the joy of their Lord, and sit down at the marriage-feast with patriarchs and prophets, and all the company of heaven. And the door was shut — The door of salvation, of pardoning mercy, and divine acceptance; the door of repentance, faith, and holiness; of grace and glory. This is always shut at death. It is universally acknowledged among Protestants, that as death leaves us judgment finds us. And surely then it is shut, when the final sentence is passed at the great day, and the eternal Judge has fixed the states of mankind for ever. Then all entrance into the heavenly city will be for ever precluded, and he that is filthy must remain filthy still. Afterward came also the other virgins — After the door was shut and bolted against them by the irreversible decree of Heaven, they came to enter, that is, they came too late, and therefore when they would have inherited the blessing, they were rejected, and found no place for repentance. For he answered, &c. — He was heard answering from within, I know you not — Ye pretended to be my friends, and to do me honour: but you have not acted as friends, nor do I acknowledge you as such.


Verse 13

Matthew 25:13. Watch, therefore, &c. — See, therefore, that your mind be always awake and watchful, and that you maintain an habitual readiness for the coming of the bridegroom, not presuming on preparations to be made hereafter, lest you meet with a sad disappointment: for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh — To receive his prepared people to himself, and for ever to exclude the backslider, the hypocrite, and the sinner, from the glories and joys of his heavenly kingdom; or when he cometh to call you hence by death, or to summon you to his bar. Remember your life is a vapour, which appeareth for a little while, and then vanisheth; work while it is day, before the night come when you cannot work. Take care especially that you have oil in your vessels, and that you keep your lamp burning, for unless you attend to these things you watch in vain; these being the great, and indeed the only distinguishing difference between the wise and the foolish virgins here spoken of. Upon the whole, in this parable the characters and final judgment of the subjects of the kingdom of heaven are described, that is to say, of persons who have enjoyed the outward dispensation of the gospel, and by professing themselves to be Christians, pretended to honour Christ. Some, with the fair light of an outward profession in their hands, have the principles of the divine life in their hearts, a stock of oil to keep that light continually burning, both pure and clear, by which means they persevere in holiness to the end. But others, having the blaze of a profession, and nothing to keep it alive, it must needs end in smoke and darkness, failing them when they have most occasion for it. The midnight cry, raised at the coming of the bridegroom, shows, not only that the day of judgment will take place when by the generality it is not looked for, but how suddenly and unexpectedly some are called away by death, so that little or no preparation can be made for the awful event in the confusion and perplexity of a death-bed sickness. In this parable, therefore, our Lord has taught us that unless we persevere in grace, having it always in possession, and even in exercise, as occasion requires, we shall be excluded from the abodes of the blessed without remedy, though we may have expressed considerable zeal and diligence in the service of Christ for a time: also, that the grace of other men, and their piety and virtue, will stand us in no stead at the hour of death or at the day of judgment. To conclude, as the parable represents the suddenness with which Christ frequently comes to call individual persons off the stage of life, it shows us both the folly and danger of delaying true and vital religion to a deathbed, and powerfully enforces habitual watchfulness upon all men, in every age, from the consideration of the uncertainty of human life; and strongly enforces the advice of Eliphaz, Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace; and more especially the declaration and exhortation of Christ, Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown: for, if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.


Verse 14-15

Matthew 25:14-15. For, &c. — To show us more clearly the nature and duty of Christian watchfulness, to which he exhorts us in the preceding verse, our Saviour immediately subjoins another parable, wherein he represents to us the different characters of a faithful and slothful servant, and the difference of their future acceptation. Like the former, the present parable is intended to stir us up to a zealous preparation for the coming of our Lord, by diligence in the discharge of our duty, and by a proper employment and a careful improvement of our talents: as well as to unmask still more fully the vain pretences of hypocrites, and to demonstrate that fair speeches and outward forms, without the power of godliness, will stand us in no stead at the last day. The kingdom of heaven is as a man, &c. — The words kingdom of heaven are improperly supplied here. The sentence should rather run thus: For he (namely, the Son of man, mentioned in the preceding verse) is as a man travelling into a far country — Alluding to Christ’s withdrawing his bodily presence from his church when he ascended into heaven, or to that long-suffering by which he waits for the fruit of our works: who called his own servants τους ιδιους, his own, because created by his power, preserved by his providence, and purchased by his blood; and delivered unto them his goods — The goods of which he was the sole proprietor. Unto one he gave five talents — As being able to traffic with them; to another two — As not being sufficient to manage more; and to another one, as being still more infirm. So Origen. A talent being in value about 187l. 10s., he who was intrusted with five, received 937l. 10s.; and he who had two, 375l. sterling. And who knows whether, all circumstances considered, there be a greater disproportion than this in the talents of those who receive the most and those who receive the fewest? By the talents here we are to understand gifts or endowments conferred for a spiritual end, powers of body and mind, abilities natural and acquired, health, strength, long life, understanding, judgment, memory, learning, knowledge, eloquence, influence, and authority over others, wealth, privileges, or offices, civil or religious, and indeed every power and advantage of which a good or bad use may be made. To every man according to his several ability εκαστω κατα την ιδιαν δυναμιν, to each according to his individual or respective capacity, namely, to manage the sum, and according to the prospect there might reasonably be of his improving it. Or, according to the prudence, ability, and activity which he knew each to be possessed of.


Verses 16-18

Matthew 25:16-18. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded, &c. — Thus the servants of Christ should consider the gifts or talents which they have received, whether by nature or by grace, as being intrusted with them for the sole end of their serving God and their generation with the use of them; and made them other five talents — Thus he who endeavours to use the gifts of God according to the design of the giver, is sure to find them increased; and that both because the exercise of any power or ability, gift or endowment, has a natural tendency to increase it, and because the divine blessing never fails to crown human diligence, when that diligence is used in the fear of God, in obedience to his will, and with a single eye to his glory. “He who lives not solely to his own profit,” says Theophylact, “but whether he have prudence, or riches, or power, or whatever influence or art he hath, endeavours thereby to serve and be useful to others, ο τοιουτος διπλασιαζει το δοθεν αυτω, this is the man who doubles that which is given to him.” Likewise he that had received two, &c. — He went immediately and traded with the talents he had received, and his improvement was in the same proportion; he gained other two. But he that had received one — Being displeased, probably, that he had received no more, or being seized with servile fear, without so much as attempting to make any proper use or improvement of his talent; went and digged in the earth, &c. — Buried his talent, instead of employing it according to the design of his master, who had intrusted him with it. He did not mis-spend or mis-employ it; did not embezzle or squander it away, but he hid it. Here we have the characteristic of a slothful servant, of one who has received from God an excellent gift, and yet suffers it to remain useless and unemployed, and therefore unimproved; like money laid up in a bag, which, if properly used and dispersed, might be of much advantage, as well to the possessor as others, but while so locked up, is at once unprofitable to the owner and to all besides. And the sin of this slothful servant was highly aggravated in this, that the talent intrusted to him was not his own; he hid his lord’s money. Had it been his own he might have asked, Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? but, in truth, whatever abilities and advantages men, as the creatures and servants of the living God, possess, they are not their own: they are but stewards of them, and must give an account to their lord, whose goods they are. It was, moreover, an aggravation of this servant’s slothfulness, that his fellow-servants were busy and successful in trading; their zeal and assiduity should have provoked his; and, incited by their example, he should have gone and done likewise. It will be a high aggravation of the offence of slothful professors, who have suffered the gifts of God to remain unimproved, that their fellow-servants have, with the same means, and the same opportunities, acted with the fidelity required, and gained to the talents committed to them a sufficient increase to obtain their Lord’s approbation and applause. Reader, art thou thus slothful? Art thou burying the talent God hath lent thee?


Verse 19-20

Matthew 25:19-20. After a long time — Namely, of trial and long-suffering, and at an hour when they thought not of it; the lord of those servants cometh — Returned and summoned them to give an account of their several trusts. Thus, though the heavens have received the Lord Jesus till the time of the restitution of all things, he will surely come and reckon with his servants, and require of them a strict account of the use which they have made of their privileges and advantages, gifts and endowments; and will say to each of them, Give an account of thy stewardship, for thou mayest be no longer steward. So he that had received five talents — brought other five — Having doubled his blessings and gifts by the proper use of them; saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me, &c. — He acknowledges, (as did also the second, to whom two talents had been delivered,) that from the Lord only had proceeded his blessings and advantages; that they were the Lord’s talents; and that, of consequence, he was accountable to the Lord for his use of them, and for all their increase, and was to depend on the Lord’s bounty for all his reward. Observe, reader, this is the main thing on which the fidelity of us all depends: for if we do not acknowledge God’s property in us and whatever we have or are; — if we think we have an independent right to dispose of ourselves or talents just as we see fit, without reference to the great Lord of all, we do as much as we can toward divesting him of his absolute sovereignty and supremacy; we disclaim his service, and set up for ourselves; presume, impudently presume, to trade upon our own bottoms, even with the very privileges and talents with which our Lord himself hath intrusted us for his own glory. This is a much greater evil than it may be at first suspected, and far more common than we in general apprehend. Behold, I have gained five other talents — Thy gifts have been wonderfully increased by being used according to thy direction and for thy glory. Here we have a second mark of fidelity in a true servant of Christ. As he acknowledges the Lord’s absolute propriety in him, so he diligently improves the talents intrusted to him. And this he perseveres to do, notwithstanding all the inconveniences, difficulties, and impediments he meets with, or even the long absence of his Lord. Still he keeps his eye intent upon his business, and still applies himself diligently to his work, never weary of this well doing, for he knows in due season he shall reap if he faint not; and that he must be faithful unto death if he would receive the crown of life. But these proofs of fidelity will always be attended with a third, namely, a readiness to give up his account. When a man is assured that he has acted with a single eye to his master’s advantage, it is with satisfaction that he submits his account to his master’s inspection, as thereby his honesty is proved, and fidelity clearly manifested. And so it is with the sincere Christian: it is with joy that he goes to meet his Master, and to give up his account, as having the testimony of his conscience that it has been his desire and endeavour to be faithful to his trust in the use and improvement of his talents, and that with simplicity and godly sincerity he has had his conversation in the world. Then with delight he hears of his lord’s return, and, not doubting of his approbation, goes forth with joy to meet him.


Verse 21

Matthew 25:21. His lord said unto him, Well done — “The original word, ευ, well done, has a peculiar force and energy, far beyond what we can express in English. It was used by auditors or spectators in any public exercise, to express the highest applause, when any part had been excellently performed.” — Doddridge. Good and faithful servant — Those that own and honour God now, he will own and confess hereafter, and their diligence and integrity will be found to praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ. 1st, Their persons will be accepted. He that now knows their integrity will then bear witness to it; and they that are now found faithful, will then be declared to be Song of Solomon 2 d, Their performances will be accepted, Well done. Christ will call those, and those only, good servants, who have done well; for it is by a patient continuance in well doing that we seek for and obtain this glory and honour: and it is on condition of our doing that which is good, that we shall have praise of the same. Thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler, &c. — It is usual, in the courts of princes and families of great men, to advance those to higher offices who have been faithful in lower. Christ is a master that will prefer his servants who acquit themselves well. He has honour in store for those that honour him, — a crown, a throne, a kingdom. Here they are beggars: in heaven they shall be rulers and princes. Observe, reader, the disproportion between the work and the rewards. There are but few things in which the saints are serviceable to the glory of God, but many things wherein they shall be glorified with God. The charge we receive from God, the work we do for God in this world, is but little, very little, compared with the joy set before us: put together all our services, all our sufferings, all our improvements, all the good we do to others, all we obtain to ourselves, and they are but a few things, next to nothing, not fit to be named the same day with the glory to be revealed. Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord — The joy which he himself has purchased and provided for his servants; the joy of the redeemed, bought with the sorrow of the Redeemer; the joy which he himself is in possession of, and which he had his eye upon when he endured the cross and despised the shame, Hebrews 12:2; the joy of which he himself is the fountain and centre; for it is joy in the Lord, who is our exceeding joy. Into this joy glorified saints shall enter, that is, shall have a full and complete possession of it; as the heir, when he comes to age, enters upon his estate. Here the joy of our Lord enters into the saints, in the earnest of the Spirit, but shortly they shall enter into it, and shall be in it to all eternity, possessing fulness of joy and unspeakable pleasures for evermore.


Verse 22-23

Matthew 25:22-23. He also that had received the two talents — said, Behold, I have gained two other talents — Here we see that he who had received only two talents, gives up his account as cheerfully as he who had received five; for our comfort and reward in the day of reckoning will be according to our faithfulness, not according to our usefulness; our sincerity, not our success; according to the uprightness of our hearts, and not the degree of our opportunities. We may, therefore, well rest contented with the talents our Master has allotted us, how few or small soever they may be, especially considering, 1st, that they are intrusted with us by him who knows infinitely better than we do what we are capable of managing, and who gives to all his servants according to their ability, or according as he knows they are able to cultivate or improve more or fewer: and considering, 2d, that if more and greater talents had been vouchsafed us, more care, caution, and diligence would have been requisite, and our account would have been more difficult. But these considerations should not only make us easy in every situation of life, but should incline us to constant activity in our sphere, be it what it may. Men frequently deceive themselves, (and the delusion is specious,) by supposing if they were in such a state, and had such and such opportunities, how much they could do, what good they might effect; by which means they are led frequently to overlook the advantages and means of good in their own state, and are carried out in fond desires after that imaginary one; falling short of which, they do no good at all. So the tempter gains his end. It is our wisdom to improve the present state, the present means, the present hour. All is in God’s hand, and he best knows where and how his servants may or may not be subservient to his glory, and there can be no doubt but he will dispose of us accordingly. “Some,” says Henry, “make it an excuse for their laziness, that they have not the opportunities of serving God which others have: and because they have not wherewithal to do what they say they would, they will not do what we are sure they can, and so sit down and do nothing: it is really an aggravation of their sloth, that when they have but one talent to take care about, they neglect that one;” as is represented in the next character.


Verse 24-25

Matthew 25:24-25. He which received the one talent came — “This may intimate that we are accountable for the smallest advantages with which we are intrusted; but it cannot imply that they who have received much will ordinarily pass their account best; for it is too plain a fact, that most of those whose dignity, wealth, and genius give them the greatest opportunities of service, seem to forget they have either any Master in heaven to serve, or any future reckoning to expect; and many of them render themselves much more criminal than this wicked and slothful servant, who hid his talent in the earth.” — Doddridge. I knew that thou art a hard man — Here we have another, and no less certain mark of a slothful and wicked servant, his entertaining hard thoughts of his master. I knew, &c. — No: thou knewest him not. He never knew Christ who thinks him a hard master. Reaping where thou hast not sown — Requiring more of us than thou givest us power to perform. So does every obstinate sinner, in one kind or other, lay the blame of his own sins on God. And I was afraid — To risk thy money in trade, lest by some accident or other it should be lost, or miscarry under my management, and thou shouldst show me no mercy. Or rather, Lest, if I had improved my talent, I should have had more to answer for. So, from this fear, one will not learn to read, another will not hear sermons. Lo, there thou hast that is thine — If I have not made it more, as others have done, yet, this I can say, I have not made it less: and this, he thinks, may serve to bring him off, if not with praise, yet with safety. Observe, reader, many go very securely to judgment, presuming upon the validity of a plea that will be overruled as vain and frivolous. This servant thought that his account would pass well enough, because he had not wasted his lord’s money. As if he had said, “I was no spendthrift of my estate, not prodigal of my time, not a profaner of thy sabbaths, nor an opposer of good ministers and good preaching. Lord, I never despised my Bible, nor set my wits on work to ridicule religion, nor abused my power to persecute any good man; I never drowned my parts nor wasted God’s good creatures in drunkenness and gluttony; nor ever, to my knowledge, did I do an injury to any one.” Many that are called Christians build great hopes for heaven upon their being able to make such a plea; and yet all this amounts to no more than, There thou hast that is thine, as if no more were required, or would be expected.


Verse 26-27

Matthew 25:26-27. Thou wicked and slothful servant — Wicked, because slothful. Observe well, reader, slothful servants are wicked servants, and will be reckoned with as such by their Master: for he that is slothful in his work, and neglects to do the good that God has commanded, is brother to him that is a great waster, by doing the evil that God has for bidden, Proverbs 18:9. He that is careless in God’s work, is near akin to him that is busy in the devil’s work: Satis est mali nihil fecisse boni. It is evil enough to have done no good. Omissions of duty are commissions of sin, and must come into judgment as such. Slothfulness makes way for wickedness, and when the house is empty, the unclean spirit takes possession of it. Thou knewest — I reap where I sowed not? — That I require impossibilities! This is not an allowing, but a strong denial of the charge. Thou oughtest therefore, &c. — On that very account, on thy own supposition, to have improved my talent, as far as was possible. To have put my money to the exchangers, &c. He mentions this instance of good management, because it was the lowest that could be, and was attended with the least trouble; to intimate that, though the servant had not pursued that particular sort of trade in which he ought to have employed the talent, yet if he had been at any pains at all to improve it, though it had been little, his lord would have accepted it. And then I should have received mine own with usury — συν τοκω, with interest, or produce. “Anciently, the import of the word usury was no other than profit, whether great or small, allowed to the lender for the use of borrowed money. As this practice often gave rise to great extortion, the very name at length became odious. When Christian commonwealths judged it necessary to regulate this matter by law, they gave to such profit as does not exceed the legal, the softer name of interest; since which time, usury has come to signify solely extravagant profit disallowed by law; and which, therefore, it is criminal in the borrower to give, and in the lender to take. As it is not this kind of profit that is here meant, the word usury is now become improper.” — Campbell. Observe, reader, though the parable represents but one in three unfaithful; yet, in a history that answers the parable, we find the disproportion quite the other way; when ten lepers were cleansed, nine of the ten hid the talent, and only one returned to give thanks, Luke 17:18-19. The unfaithful servant was he that had only one talent, but doubtless there are many that have five talents, and bury them all; great abilities, great advantages, and yet do no good with them: but Christ would intimate to us, 1st, that if he that had but one talent was reckoned with thus for burying that one, much more will they be accounted offenders that have more, that have many, and bury them. If he that was but of small capacity was cast into outer darkness, because he did not improve what he had as he might have done, shall those be spared that trample under foot the greatest advantages? 2d, That often those who have least to do for God, do least of what they have to do. 3d, That the hard thoughts which sinners have of God will be so far from justifying their slothfulness, that they will rather aggravate and add to their guilt; so that in the day of final accounts, they will be left quite without excuse; all frivolous pleas will be overruled, and every mouth will be stopped.


Verse 28-29

Matthew 25:28-29. Take therefore the talent from him — Ye angels, the ministers of my will, take from him the blessing which he has thus abused, and give it unto him which hath ten talents — As a further token of my acceptance and favour. The master, who in disposing of the talents at first acted as an absolute owner and bountiful benefactor, now acts as a judge, and takes the talent from the unfaithful servant to punish him, and gives it to him that was eminently faithful, to reward him. And this may be applied, 1st, To any of the blessings of this life, such as wealth, honour, authority over others, health, strength, &c. Men are intrusted with these, that they may use them for the glory of God, and the good of their fellow-creatures: and he that conscientiously uses them for these ends, (which is signified in the next verse by having them; that is, having them to a good purpose,) shall have abundance, perhaps, of these things themselves, but if not, abundance of comfort in them, and of better things; but from him that hath not — That is, that hath these things as if he had them not, not doing good with them; they shall be taken away. Giving to the poor, and in other ways doing good with our talents, is trading with what we have, and the returns will be rich. The meal in the barrel, and the oil in the cruise will be multiplied, 1 Kings 17:14; but those that are niggardly and uncharitable will find that those riches which are so acquired and hoarded, Will perish by evil travail, or are kept by the owners thereof to their hurt, Ecclesiastes 5:13-14. And it often happens that Providence strangely transfers property from those that do not do good with it to those that do. And other gifts and endowments are frequently taken from those who do not employ them according to the design of the great Master, and are given to others who are disposed to make a better use of them. 2d, We may apply it to the means of grace. They who are diligent in improving the opportunities and advantages they have, may expect to have them continued and increased; but they who know not and improve not the day of their visitation, shall have the things that belong to their peace hid from their eyes. In proof of this, see what God did first to Shiloh, and then to Jerusalem, and to the churches of the Lesser Asia, mentioned Revelation 2., 3. 3d, We may apply it to spiritual gifts. He that hath these, and doth good with them, shall retain them and find them greatly enlarged, for they will improve by exercise, and brighten by use: but as to those who stir not up the gift that is in them, who do not exert themselves according to their capacity, their gifts rust and decay, and die away like a neglected fire.


Verse 30

Matthew 25:30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant — Who has so wickedly abused my goodness; into outer darkness — The darkness which is without the heavenly city, even the horrible darkness of hell. There, instead of the light and joy possessed by those who are admitted to the marriage- supper of the Lamb, shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth — Through the worm that dieth not, and the fire that is not quenched. There shall be the weeping of the careless, thoughtless sinner, and the gnashing of teeth of the proud and stubborn. See notes on Matthew 8:12; Matthew 13:42; Matthew 22:13. But why does this servant meet with this punishment? What had he done? It is true he had not done good. But neither is he charged with doing any harm. Why, for this reason, for barely doing no harm, he is consigned to outer darkness. He is pronounced a wicked, because he was a slothful, an unprofitable servant. So mere harmlessness, on which many build their hope of salvation, was the cause of his damnation! Observe this well, reader; slothful servants, who do nothing with respect to the purpose of their being sent into the world, nothing to answer the end of their birth and baptism, who are no way serviceable to the glory of God, or the good of others, will be reckoned with as unprofitable servants. A slothful servant is a withered member in the body, a barren tree in the vineyard, an idle drone in the hive, that is good for nothing. In one sense, indeed, we are all unprofitable servants, Luke 17:10. We cannot profit God, Job 22:2; but to others, and to ourselves, it is required that we be profitable; and if we be not, Christ will not own us as his servants.


Verse 31

Matthew 25:31. When, &c. — The same great truth, that there is no such thing as negative goodness, which was shown, 1st, in the parable of the virgins; 2d, in the still plainer parable of the servants who had received the talents; is here shown a third time, in a direct unparabolical declaration of the manner in which our Lord will proceed at the last day. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, &c. — With what majesty and grandeur does Christ here speak of himself! giving us one of the noblest instances of the true sublime. Indeed, not many descriptions in the sacred writers themselves seem equal to this. We can hardly read it without imagining ourselves before the awful tribunal it describes. He styles himself the Son of man here, because, when he appears as the great Judge, he will appear in the human form, and as very man, as he is, being to judge the sons of men. For by being of the same nature with those whom he judges, and having shared with them in human infirmity, he is the more proper for the office of their judge. But no one that reads this can reasonably suppose that he who speaks thus is a mere man. He is termed the Son of man, too, because his wonderful condescension in taking upon him our nature, and becoming the Son of man, will be recompensed by his exaltation in that day. For he shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory as mediator. His first coming was under a dark cloud of obscurity; but his second will be in a bright cloud of glory. Doubtless if his disciples understood and believed what he here declares concerning his future glory, it would help them to meet with fortitude the offence of the cross, and prepare them for the approaching scene of his humiliation and sufferings. To manifest his glory still more, all the holy angels, who had long been subject to him as his ministering servants, shall now come along with him, and that not only for state, as his attendants, but for service, as ministers of his justice. They shall come to summon the court; to gather together the elect, to sever the wicked from the just, to be witnesses of the saints’ glory, Luke 12:8; and of the sinners’ misery, Revelation 19:10. Then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory — A throne high and lifted up, and conspicuous to the eyes of the whole assembled world; the throne of judgment, very different from the throne of grace, upon which he now sits, with his Father, and to which we may come boldly.


Verse 32-33

Matthew 25:32-33. Before him shall be gathered all nations — That is, all the individuals of all nations and ages; not only all that are found alive at the time of his appearing, and are changed in a moment, and rendered immortal, that they may be capable of enjoying eternal happiness, or of suffering everlasting misery, but all that had ever lived from the beginning to the end of time. All of every clime, country, and place, great and small, even from the remotest corners of the world. And he shall separate them one from another — According to their different characters, (which he most perfectly knows,) with as much ease as a shepherd divideth his sheep, which belong to his flock, from the goats, which may be mingled with them, and places them in distinct companies. And he shall set the sheep — The righteous, whom he will own as such, and who are termed sheep on account of their innocence, meekness, and usefulness; on his right hand — In token of his favour to them, and of the further honours he purposes to bestow upon them. And the goats — That is, the wicked, called goats because of the exorbitancy of their lusts; on his left — To intimate his displeasure against them, and their final removal from among his people; nor shall the haughtiest and mightiest sinner be able to resist that appointment by which he is placed in this situation. “I cannot imagine,” says Dr. Doddridge, “a more magnificent image than this; the assembled world distinguished with such unerring penetration, and distributed into two grand classes, with as much ease as sheep and goats are ranged by a shepherd in different companies.” The wicked and the godly in this world dwell together in the same kingdoms, cities, churches, families, and are not with certainty distinguishable always one from another: such are the infirmities of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners, and one event frequently happening to both; but in that day they will be separated and parted for ever: for the Lord both knows them that are his, and them that are not, and he can and will separate them: and the separation will be so exact, that the most inconsiderable saint shall not be lost in the crowd of sinners, nor the most plausible sinner hid in the crowd of saints, Psalms 1:5; but every one shall go to his own place. Dr. Whitby thinks, that there is an allusion here to the received custom of the Jews in capital causes, to place them who are to be acquitted on the right hand, in the sanhedrim, and those who were to receive the sentence of condemnation, on the left.


Verse 34

Matthew 25:34. Then shall the King say, &c. — In Matthew 25:31 he had only called himself the Son of man, but he now changes the appellation, taking the title of king with great propriety, when he is speaking of himself as exercising the highest act of kingly power, in passing the final sentence on all men as his subjects, whereby their state shall be unalterably fixed for ever. And this title adds unutterable beauty to the condescending words he is represented as speaking on this great occasion. Come, ye blessed of my Father — Here we see that while Jesus asserts his proper dignity as Lord of all, he represents himself as acting in subordination to his Father in his kingdom, addressing the righteous as persons blessed of his Father — inherit the kingdom prepared for you — Purchased by my blood for you, and all others who have believed in me with the faith which wrought by love. Does it not appear probable from hence, that they are mistaken who suppose that mankind were created merely to fill up the place of the fallen angels? The present state of good men is at best but a melancholy banishment from their native country; an exile in which they are frequently exposed to manifold temptations, to persecutions, to poverty, to reproach, and to innumerable other evils. But that they may bear all with unwearied patience, courage, and constancy, “they are given to know by this sentence that they are beloved, and blessed of God as his own children; that there is no less than an eternal kingdom prepared for them, even from the foundation of the world; and that they are the undoubted heirs of this eternal kingdom. Well may such bear with the violence of their oppressors, knowing what an exceeding and eternal weight of glory awaits them!” Macknight.


Verse 35-36

Matthew 25:35-36. I was a hungered, and ye gave me meat, &c. — All the works of outward mercy here mentioned suppose faith and love, and must needs be accompanied with works of spiritual mercy, such as instructing the ignorant, alarming the careless, encouraging the disconsolate, comforting the distressed, strengthening the weak, confirming the wavering, reclaiming the wicked, edifying the righteous. But works of this kind could not be mentioned by the Judge in the same manner: he could not say, I was ignorant, and you instructed me; I was in error, and you recalled me to the truth; I was in sin, and you brought me to repentance. But how astonishing is it to hear the great Judge declaring, that all the good offices which men have ever performed, supposing they performed them in obedience to his will, and with a single eye to his glory, were done to him! It is as if he had said, “In the whole of your conduct you have imitated the goodness and benevolence of my Father, and therefore I now declare you blessed and beloved of him, and appoint you to inherit this kingdom. Moreover, that you may know how acceptable acts of kindness and charity are to me, I assure you that I reckon every thing of this kind as done to myself. It was I who was a hungered and athirst, and a stranger and naked, and sick and in prison. It was I whom you clothed and lodged, and visited and comforted in prison.” The word επεσκεψασθε, rendered, ye visited, properly signifies to take the oversight and care of any thing that requires diligent inspection and attendance; (compare James 1:27;) and it strongly intimates that such an attendance on the poor in their illness is a very acceptable charity: and this is what many may have an opportunity of doing, who have very little money to spare.


Verses 37-40

Matthew 25:37-40. Then shall the righteous answer, &c. — The righteous, with great surprise, ask, with reverence and humility, when all this happened, since they never had seen him in want of their assistance, nor could remember that they had ever bestowed aught upon him. It cannot be supposed, however, that either the righteous or the wicked should answer in the very words here mentioned. But what we learn here from is, That neither of them have the same estimation of their own works which the Judge hath. And the King shall answer — Inasmuch as, &c. — “This is unspeakably astonishing! The united wisdom of men and angels could not have thought of any thing more proper to convey an idea of the warmth and strength of the divine benevolence to men, or offer a more constraining motive to charity, than that the Son of God should declare from the judgment-seat, in presence of the whole universe assembled, that such good offices as are done to the afflicted are done to him. Having in the days of his flesh suffered injuries and afflictions unspeakable, he considers all the virtuous distressed as members of his body, loves them tenderly, and is so much interested in their welfare, that when they are happy he rejoices; when they are distressed he is grieved: Ye have done it unto me — O wonderful condescension of the Son of God! O astonishing stupidity of men, who neglect altogether, or are persuaded with difficulty to do good to Christ! That Jesus should call the poor, even among the heathen, his brethren, is a great honour to the human nature, and shows the divine benignity in an amiable light. This happy relation arises from the manhood which he still possesses in common with men, and from the poverty, affliction, and other miseries of mankind, that he was exposed to while he lived in the world. He calls good men, more especially, his brethren, because they are children of the same Father, (namely, God,) after whose image they are formed by the influence of his Spirit. It is this conformity of natures, human and divine, which makes men Christ’s brethren; for which reason, in whatever person it is found, he will acknowledge the relation, without regard to any circumstance whatever that is out of the person’s power.” — Macknight.


Verses 41-43

Matthew 25:41-43. Then shall he say to them on the left hand — In this account of our Lord’s proceedings at this awful time, the absolution of the righteous is represented as taking place before the condemnation of the wicked, to show that God takes greater delight in rewarding than in punishing. Depart from me — In this world they were often called to come to Christ, to come for life and rest; but they turned a deaf ear to his calls; justly, therefore, are they bid to depart from him, who would not come to him. Depart from me, the Fountain of all good; from me, the Saviour, and therefore from all hope of salvation; I will never have any thing more to say to you, or do with you. But if they must depart from Christ, might they not be dismissed with a blessing? with one kind and compassionate word at least? No: Depart, ye cursed — They that would not come to Christ to inherit a blessing, must depart from him under the burden of a curse, the curse of the law, due to every one that breaks it; and that of the gospel, which belongs to all that disobey it. But observe, Christ calls the righteous the blessed of his Father; for their blessedness is owing purely to the grace of God: but the wicked are called only, ye cursed, for their damnation is entirely of themselves. Into everlasting fire, prepared — Not originally for you: you are intruders into this everlasting misery; but for the devil and his angels — This declaration of our Lord, compared with Matthew 25:34, where the kingdom of heaven is expressly said to be prepared for the righteous, seems to have been intended to teach us that God’s original design was to make men happy, and that their becoming miserable is the effect of their own voluntary iniquity and perverseness, in rejecting the counsel of God against themselves. No sooner was man created, than a state of consummate felicity was formed for him and his posterity. But the fire of hell was prepared for the devil and his angels, namely, after their fall: and because wicked men partake with devils in their sin of rebellion against God, they are doomed to share with them in their punishment. Perhaps, also, the fire of hell is here said to be made for the devil and his angels, to intimate the greatness of the misery to which sinners dying in sin shall be consigned. The punishment which they shall suffer is of the heaviest kind, being the punishment of devils.


Verses 44-46

Matthew 25:44-46. Then shall they answer, Lord, when saw we thee a hungered, &c. — So their endeavour to justify themselves will remain with the wicked even to that day! Perhaps, however, it may not be intended here to signify that the wicked shall make this answer in words: it is probably, rather, to be considered as the language of their hearts, which Christ perceiving, shall reply to as in the next verse. Multitudes will, no doubt, remember that they had often heard what reply will be made to such a plea: God grant that none who read it here may be in the number of those to whom it will be made! These shall go away into everlasting punishment — So the word κολασιν properly signifies, and not destruction, or annihilation, as some would understand it; and the righteous into life eternal — Either, therefore, the punishment is strictly eternal, or the reward is not; the very same expression in the original being applied to the former as to the latter. It appears, that the Judge will speak first to the righteous in the audience of the wicked; and then to the wicked, who shall go away into everlasting fire in the sight of the righteous. Thus the damned shall have no view of the everlasting life, but the righteous will see the punishment of the ungodly. It is not only particularly observable here, 1st, that the punishment lasts as long as the reward: but, 2d, that this punishment is so far from ceasing at the end of the world, that it does not begin till then. To conclude, the issue of the judgment, as it is represented in this paragraph, is awful beyond description. If the meaning of this last short sentence were fully understood and duly considered, what an impression would it make upon the minds of men! Everlasting punishment! Eternal life! What is there that is not comprehended in these words? And how miserable are they who dare to venture their souls on the supposition that the important word αιωνιος, which is the same in both places, signifies a limited duration in either!

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 25:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-25.html. 1857.

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Tuesday, December 10th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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