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The destruction of the unbelieving Jews, and the redemption of the church from the midst of them, were emblematical of the judgments that would be executed, and the salvation that would be vouchsafed, in the last day-Indeed, the two periods are so interwoven in our Lord's discourse, that it is not easy to separate themWe may well therefore fix our attention on those events wherein we are all concerned;

1. The final destruction of God's enemies

[This is foretold in unnumbered passages of scripture; and the judgments, which are now executed in the world, are so many presages of a future retribution Whatever people may imagine, this awful event shall come to pass-The Jews supposed that, because they professed the true religion, they should never experience the threatened calamities-But, when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities, "wrath came upon them to the uttermost"-Thus it shall be with all the ungodly-In vain are all their hopes founded on their external relation to Christ: the word of God will be fulfilled in its season; and sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of it fail"—]

2. The eternal salvation of God's elect


[This is asserted with the same frequency and clearness as the opposite truth: and too often is it questioned by persons through the prevalence of unbelief-There may be indeed great, and, humanly speaking, insurmountable obstacles in the way-As the Christians were inclosed by the besieging army, yet escaped at last through the most unaccountable and impolitic conduct of the Roman general in intermitting the siege, so shall some way be found for the salvation of God's people: they may be hemmed in on every side; yet shall not God's purposes of love be defeated, or the "smallest grain of pure wheat ever fall to the ground"]

This subject may be further IMPROVED

1. In a way of conviction

[It becomes us all to enquire what is to be expected from the signs that manifest themselves in us?-Is the fig-tree budding: and are the trees putting forth their leaves? or, are they stripped of their foliage, and assuming daily a more dead and barren appearance?-Are our graces, though small, growing in beauty and fruitfulness; or are we mere cumberers of the ground, that bring forth no fruit to God?From these things we may know the present and augur the future state,

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of our souls-O let our minds be open to conviction; and let conscience do its office-]

2. In a way of consolation

[We are "not to despise the day of small things"-Let us be thankful if there be "some good thing found in our hearts"-Summer comes not all at once; but, if the symptoms of it appear, we may wait with joyful expectation: and if the good work be begun in our hearts, we may be confident that God will carry it on and perfect it to the day of Christ-]

f Phil. i. 6.


Matt. xxv. 10. And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.

TOWARDS the close of his ministry our Lord insisted much upon the vengeance which should in a little time be inflicted on the Jewish nation, and upon the general judgment which was to be typified by that event -He the rather dwelt on these subjects that he might keep up in the minds of his disciples an expectation of his future advent, and stimulate them to such incessant vigilance as might enable them to behold his face with joy-In the passage before us he compares his final appearance to the sudden return of a bridegroom; and the state of mankind to that of virgins who had been appointed to pay him the customary honours-He mentions two different descriptions of persons who had undertaken that office, and from whose character and end they might derive the most important instruction--We shall be profitably employed while we

I. Compare their character

There was much wherein the wise and foolish virgins appeared to resemble each other

[Both of them professed to be waiting the arrival of the heavenly bridegroom-Both, while the bridegroom tarried, became unwatchful, and were overpowered with sleep-Both were alarmed at the sudden tidings of his approach-And in

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stantly began to put themselves in a state of readiness to meet him-This fitly describes the state of the visible church, in which, the professed intentions of all are exactly similar-All believe that Christ will come again to judge the world; and profess to be waiting for his arrival-All too are apt to be off their guard, and to yield to slothfulness-As for hypocrites, they are immersed in the deepest sleep; and even the best of men are sometimes remiss; yea, their utmost vigilance may be almost called a slumber, when compared with that activity and vigour of mind which they ought ever to preserve-The prospect of death and judgment is awful to persons of every description-Much as the bridegroom's arrival is desired, it is a solemn event to all-Nor can the holiest of men look forward to it but " with fear and trembling"-Often is his approach announced, when we, alas! are but little prepared for his reception-But all agree in preparing for him when he appears to be near at hand-Even hypocrites" in their affliction will cry, Arise and save us"-And all, except the most obdurate reprobates, will feel a desire to meet him with acceptance-]

But notwithstanding this resemblance between the wise and foolish virgins, they widely differed from each other [The wise virgins had taken the precaution to secure oil in their vessels, that in case the bridegroom should tarry, they might have wherewith to replenish their lamps, and not be destitute of it in the hour of need-But the foolish virgins were contented with just so much as would enable them to make a fair shew for the present; nor were they at all aware of the danger to which their improvidence exposed them-Hence when the cry was made at midnight the wise virgins had only to trim their lamps, which, though burning dimly, were yet lighted-But the foolish ones found their lamps extinguished; nor even knew how, or where, they should obtain a supply of oil-Instantly they requested the other virgins to impart to them of theirs; but were advised to go and procure it where alone it was to be obtained-The bridegroom however coming during their absence, the wisdom of the provident, and the folly of the improvident, were made apparent

Now such is the difference that still exists between many professors of religion-Many have really the grace of God in their hearts-These have seen the danger of an unconverted state, and have received that unction of the Holy One, which they stood in need of-They know how strict the scrutiny will be in the last day, and have therefore prayed, that the Holy Ghost might be shed forth abundantly upon them through Christ Jesus-But others there are (would to God they were few!) who have taken up a profession lightly, and who are satisfied with having a form of godliness while they are desti

tute of its power-In an hour of alarm, they fly to the creature rather than to God-Even they who scoffed at religion in a time of health, will send for a minister, or some godly neighbour in a prospect of death-But there they stop, and find to their cost the inefficacy of these means-Had they applied to Christ in due time, they might have “bought oil of him without money and without price"-But the bridegroom's arrival finds them unprovided-And they are left to bewail the bitter consequences of their folly-}

There being no further room for comparison we shall


II. Contrast their end

The wise virgins, who were ready, were admitted with the bridegroom into the marriage feast

[It was customary for the virgins, who came forth to attend the bridegroom, to participate the pleasures of the nuptial feast-This gives a just idea of their happiness who shall be found ready at the coming of their Lord-They shall enter into the chamber where all the guests are assembled-They shall hear the bridegroom's voice, and enjoy the testimonies of his regard-The feast provided by God himself shall refresh their souls; while all the harmony of heaven shall fill them with exquisite delight-Then all painful watchings and anxious expectations for ever cease- -No longer have they any corruptions to contend with, or any drowsiness to regret-Their fears are dissipated, their hopes are realized, and their most enlarged desires are swallowed up in actual fruition-]

The foolish virgins, who neglected their preparation, were for ever excluded

[No sooner was the bridegroom with his retinue entered into the house, than the door was shut-The door, which shut in the one, precluded all hope of admittance to the otherIn vain did the foolish virgins come and cry for admission; all knowledge of them was disclaimed by the bridegroom, and they were left in "outer darkness"-Thus will it be to those who shall be called hence before they are prepared to meet their God-The door of heaven will be shut against themThe supplications, which a little before would have prevailed, will now be disregarded-They honoured not the Lord in their life; nor will he now honour or acknowledge themThey are cut off from all hope of joining that blest society, or of tasting the heavenly banquet-Nor will they merely suffer a privation of happiness-They will be consigned over to the punishment due to their offences, a punishment exqui site, irremediable, eternal-]


E e

The IMPROVEMENT suggested by our Lord will properly close the subject



[The grand scope of the parable is, to shew us the need of watchfulness-And the chief argument to enforce that duty is, the uncertainty of the time when our Lord shall coine-And is there any one, to whom we have not occasion to direct our exhortation?-Ye who, like the foolish virgins, have never yet obtained "the oil of joy and gladness," watch against self-deception-You may make a specious profession of religion, and take occasion from the infirmities of true Christians to think yourselves in as good a state as they-But it will soon appear who they are that have the grace of God in their hearts; and who have only "a name to live while they really are dead"-Perhaps ye think that ye shall have time enough to provide oil when the bridegroom's approach shall be announced-But ye know not whether ye shall have any warning, or whether ye shall be able to obtain it then, if ye neglect the present opportunity-Be assured that if the bridegroom come, he will not stay for you, but will enter with those who are ready, and leave the rest behind him—O think, what will ye do if the door should be shut against you? how will ye bewail your folly!-Be persuaded now to improve your time-Apply for oil to him who "has the residue of the spirit," and will "give the Holy Spirit unto them that ask him"-Go not to the creature, no, not even to the ordinances, as though they of themselves could impart this blessingMinisters and ordinances are, as it were, the pipes through which it shall be conveyed; but Christ, in his person and of fices, is the one source of grace; and out of his fulness must all receivea ye

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As for you, who, like the wise virgins, are endued with grace, still continue to "watch"-You see from your own experience, what need you have of this exhortation-Too often have you slumbered and slept already, and thereby exposed yourselves to many alarms-Henceforth "let your lamps be trimmed, your loins girt, and yourselves in actual readiness to attend your Lord"-Then, at whatever hour he shall come ye shall have no cause to fear-Ye shall behold him with joy, and participate his glory for evermore—

"What we say then to you, we say unto ali, WATCH."]

a Zech. iv. 12-14.

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