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the deceitfulness of sin; (Heb. iii. 13;) and let us always remember that every exhortation which we give to others returns with redoubled weight upon ourselves.
MATTHEW XXV. 1-13.
THEN shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish, took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came: and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Let us apply our hearts to the obvious instructions which this well-known parable so naturally suggests. We are under a religious profession: our lamps are in our hands; and we go forth as those that expect to meet Christ; as those that desire and hope to be admitted to the marriage-supper of the Lamb. But, alas, how few are there that are truly prepared for such a blessedness! Would to God there were reason to hope that the Christian church were so equally divided, that five of ten in it had the oil of Divine grace in their hearts, to render them burning and shining lights!
Let even such as have it be upon their guard; for our Lord intimates that the wise as well as the foolish virgins are too apt
to slumber and sleep, and carelessly to intermit that watch which they ought constantly to maintain. There may be, at an unexpected time, a midnight cry. Happy the souls that can hear it with pleasure; being not only habitually but actually ready to obey the summons! Happy they that have their loins girded, and their lamps burning! (Luke xii. 35.)
The foolish virgins saw their error too late; they applied to the wise but their application was vain. And as vain will the hope of those be who trust to the intercession of departed saints, or any supposed redundancy of merit in them, while they are themselves strangers to a holy temper and life. vain will they cry, Lord, Lord, open to us. The door of mercy will be shut for ever, and the workers of iniquity utterly disowned. The day of grace has its limits; and for those that have trifled it away there remaineth nothing but the blackness of darkness for ever! (Jude 13.)
MATTHEW XXV. 14-30.
FOR the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents : behold I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. He also that had received two talents, came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have
gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto to every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
What can excite us to a becoming care and activity in the duties of life, if we are deaf to those various and important motives which this excellent parable suggests? We have each of us received our talents, whether five, or two, or one; and if we be faithful, it matters not much under which of these classes we fall. Our acceptance and reward will be proportionable to our diligence; nor will any be blamed because he has not received five, though many will be condemned for neglecting one.
Yet a little while, and our Lord comes to even now his eye is continually upon us. souls, with what temper, with what courage, with what cheerfulness, shall we appear before him? Let us think of that appearance with awe, but not with terror. Away with every unjust thought and reasoning, (with whatever artifice it be excused, with whatever honourable name it be dignified) that would represent him as a rigorous and severe Master, and produce a servile dread, which would cut the sinews of industry, and sink the soul into a sullen negligent despair.
reckon with us, and Let us ask our own
Whatever our particular snares in life may be, let us think of the doom of the slothful servant, to awaken our souls, and to deter us from every degree of unfaithfulness. And, on the other hand, let us often reflect on that unutterable transport which will overflow the breast of every real Christian, when his gracious Master shall condescend, in so honourable a manner, to commemorate his honest, though feeble, attempts of service; and shall say, Well done, thou good and faithful servant thou hast been faithful in a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord! May that joy be the great object of our hopes and pursuits! and may our daily care in the improvement of every. talent lodged in our hands be a token to us that it will be sure and great!
MATT. XXV. 31-46.
WHEN the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was anhungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an-hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also
unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an-hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink : I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an-hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Let us now behold, with an attentive eye and a solicitous heart, the end of all the living; that awful scene, in which the various dispensations of God to mankind shall terminate in the solemn day, when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and sit on his magnificent throne. All nations and people shall be assembled before him, and we must make up a part of the assembly. The sheep and the goats must then be separated: and, O my soul, amongst which wilt thou then be numbered? Is there an inquiry, is there a care, of greater, of equal, of comparable importance?
Let us view the sentence we must shortly hear, as he who will himself pronounce it has been pleased to give us a copy of it. Can we conceive any thing more dreadful than that which shall be passed on those on the left-hand; to be driven from the presence of Christ as accursed, and to be consigned over to a devouring fire! and this is not only to the tortures of a moment, or an hour (as in some painful executions that have been known here,) but to everlasting fire, yea, to fire prepared for the devil and his angels, where they will be perpetual companions, and perpetual tormentors! should not the thought that he is in danger, in hourly danger, of being sealed up under this sentence, awaken the most stupid sinner, and engage him eagerly to cry out, What shall I do to be saved?— And on whom is this sentence passed? Let us attentively observe it! Not merely on the most gross and abandoned sinners, but on those who have lived in an habitual neglect of their duty: not merely on those who have ravaged and persecuted the saints (though surely their furnace will be heated seven times hotter than that of others,) but even on those who have neglected to relieve them.