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spoke only those things that were told Him of his Father, that He needed to pray, that as the God Matt. xiv. 23. Man He declared “My Father is greater than I.' John xiv. 28. Consider all this, and there is nothing to startle us in the fact, that in his mediatorial person and capacity He knew not the day and the hour of his coming, and therefore could not disclose it.
And the reserve of this knowledge, the keeping of the Church in ignorance on this point, has had, and was intended to have, an important practical influence on it; the very uncertainty of the time of the advent suggesting the necessity of being ever watchful and constantly ready. It is this our Lord so solemnly impresses on his disciples :
on his disciples : "Take ye Mark ziü. 33. heed, watch and pray; for ye know not when the time is.'
THE JUDGMENT ON THE CHURCH AT THE
COMING OF THE LORD.
Matt. xxv. 1.
THE second advent of Christ is to be ushered in by judgments on the members of the Church and on the non-christian nations, at that time living upon the earth. This we learn more especially from the three parables of the Ten Virgins, the Talents, and the Sheep and Goats. The note of time, with which these parables are introduced, marks definitely the period to which they refer. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom. Then, tóte, at that time, the time of which our Lord had just been speaking, the time of his advent; for this chapter is a continuation of Christ's prophetic discourse concerning his coming, and illustrates by three parables what shall take place at that coming
In the first two it is the Church, and the Church only, that is referred to. It cannot be the world at large, it cannot be men in general, Christian and non-christian alike, who are set forth under the appellation of virgins and servants. Under these terms can surely only be included those who by profession, at least, know and follow Christ; they
Judgment on the Church at the Coming of Christ. 107 would be altogether incongruous as applied to the heathen, for instance, who could in no sense be spoken of as virgins with lamps in their hands setting out to meet the Lord, or as servants to whom, before his leaving the world, He committed certain talents. In these two parables, then, the advent of the Lord in relation to the Church is illustrated, while in the third, that of the Sheep.and Goats, its bearing upon the non-christian nations is set forth, as I shall in due course endeavour to show.
The judgments, which these parables disclose, will consist, first, in the discrimination between the wise and the foolish, the faithful and the unfaithful, the good and the bad; and, secondly, in the rewarding of the one and in the punishment of the other. What will be the criteria of these judgments, and what the design and character of the punishments inflicted, must now be considered.
And, first of all, we learn that judgment must begin with the house of God. It is the members of the Christian Church on whom discrimination will first be exercised, and to whom reward or punishment will first be apportioned. The parables of the Ten Virgins and of the Talents teach us this ; in which the Church is presented under two aspects and as judged by two criteria. In the first, the contemplative side of Christianity is set forth, and the Church is exhibited in its inner spiritual life, and as waiting for the Lord. In the second, the active side of Christianity is set forth, and the Church is exhibited as working for the Lord in the way of faithful diligence. In the one, the foolish virgins
Prov, iv. 23.
fail through imprudence or want of forethought; and we are thus warned against deficiency in the inward life and unpreparedness for the coming of the Lord. In the other, the unfaithful servant is cast out on account of deliberate negligence; and we are thus warned against slothfulness and indifference in outward duty. The parable of the Ten Virgins says to us, “ Keep thine heart with all diligence, for
out of it are the issues of life'; that of the Talents 2 P. i. 10, 11. says to us, 'Give diligence to make your calling and
election sure, for if ye do these things ye shall never fall, for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.'
So far, then, we learn the criteria by which the professing members of the Church will be judged at the coming of the Lord, and descrimination made between them. But do these parables afford any intimation as to the respective rewards and punishments assigned to those so discriminated ? see. Roused from their slumber by the cry, made at midnight, ' Behold the bridegroom is coming,' the virgins arose and proceeded to trim their lamps, by raising the wick and pouring in a fresh supply of oil from the vessels in which they carried a reserve for the purpose. Five of them were at once able to do this; for with wise forethought, in addition to the oil in the lamps themselves on starting, they had brought a reserve supply. Not so the others, who, having brought no more oil than was in their lamps at setting out, were unable to replenish them. And they said to their companions, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.' But the wise
answered, saying, 'We cannot do that, lest there be not enough for us and for you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.' So they went to buy oil, but, the time being unfavourable (midnight), before they could get back the bridegroom had arrived.
Meanwhile the wise virgins had gone forth to meet the bridegroom, and joining the procession had entered with him into the festive hall where the marriage feast was to be held; and the door was shut. So, when the foolish virgins came and asked to be let in, they were refused admittance, and were told by the bridegroom that he did not recognize them as belonging to the marriage company.
Now the bridegroom in the parable, it need scarcely be said, represents the Lord Jesus, and the marriage his taking his people to Himself. As so understood, it exactly falls in with other parts of Scripture which speak of the Church as the espoused Bride of Christ, whom at his coming He will receive unto Himself, henceforth to be ever with Him. The tarrying of the bridegroom denotes the delay in the Lord's advent, significantly intimating that it would not be so immediate as the early Church expected and the necessity, therefore, of constant watchful. ness on the part of the Church, because it knows 'neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.' The warning cry of the bridegroom's approach corresponds, as already pointed out, with the appearing of the sign of the Son of Man in heaven; and the interval between that cry and the arrival of the bridegroom, during which the wise virgins met him and went in with him to the