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1 Thess. ir. 17.
marriage, is just that interval during which the saints shall be caught up, as St. Paul tells us, to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall come with Him when He comes.
While to all alike the advent of the Lord will be more or less sudden, some will instantly be ready when the sign of it appears. This readiness, in the case of the wise virgins, consisted in their having
not only their lamps lighted but oil to replenish 1 John ii. 20, 27. them. This denotes the preparation of grace, of
' which oil is the recognized scriptural emblem. The parable teaches that the truly prepared ones will not only have grace, so as to enable them to sustain now the profession of persons waiting for their Lord, but such as shall enable them to respond with alacrity to the cry, 'He cometh '; to lift up their heads with joy when the sign of his coming appears. Theirs is the grace, not of present emotion only, not of a correct creed merely, but of a heart truly trusting, deeply loving, calmly waiting. It is the grace of those who really 'abide in Christ' and who consequently shall ‘have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at his coming
The reward of these wise prepared ones was that, meeting the bridegroom on his way, they went in with him to the marriage; under which figure is set forth the felicity of the saints when the Lord shall come and associate them with Himself * Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.'
But what of those foolish ones who were not ready at once to go forth and meet the bridegroom, but had to go away and get oil ? Their punishment
John ii. 28.
Rev. xix. 9.
was exclusion from the marriage feast. But what does this mean? Does it mean, as some commentators gravely explain it, that they whom these foolish virgins represent are to be sent away into everlasting torments? The idea is as gratuitous as it is ghastly. What! qan it really be believed that to these virgins, who had set out with the others to meet the bridegroomi, and like them had lamps in their hands, that over and above the shame and loss of not being admitted to the marriage, was added the tremendous penalty of endless torture ? There is absolutely nothing in the parable to warrant such a notion, and it is one utterly repugnant to our ideas of a God of justice and of love; the supposed punishment being so utterly disproportioned to the offence. But then, it may be asked, what else can be meant ; for if the being admitted to the marriage means the going to heaven, what can the exclusion from it mean but the being sent to hell ? But it is just here the error lies, out of which arises this dreadful inference. I quite admit that if the object of Christ's second coming were to hold an immediate assize of all the living and the dead, and at once to assign eternal bliss to some and eternal pain to others; if this were so, then I admit it would be an almost necessary inference, that if admission to the marriage denoted the one, exclusion from it would denote the other. But this is not so. We have seen that at the end of this era of his kingdom the Son of Man is coming to introduce another era of it, that He is coming to reign visibly and personally on the earth, and that his saints, the saved ones of this era, are to reign with Him. We have seen, too, that this
reigning of the saints with Christ means their being associated with Him in the accomplishment of the great purpose of his kingdom, the bringing in of righteousness and peace, and the ultimate subjection and reconciliation of all things unto God. As, then, the meeting of the wise virgins with the bridegroom, and their going in with him to the marriage, symbolizes the saints meeting the Lord and coming with Him to share in the glories of the mediatorial reign, so the non-admission of the foolish virgins sets forth the shame and loss of those who, by their lack of grace, not being prepared to meet the Lord, shall not be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man, and to participate in the administration of his kingdom during the millennial era. More than this, as far at least as this parable is concerned, cannot be inferred.
But let us next examine the parable of the Talents, comparing with it the very similar parable of the Pounds. In these the Church is set forth under another phase, on its active not its contemplative side, as working rather than waiting for the Lord. The members of the Church are represented as servants entrusted with certain talents, which their Master expects them to make a diligent use of, and to be prepared to render an account of at his return. Here the coming of the Son of Man is spoken of as a day of reckoning, a day in which He will cause his servants to give an account of their stewardship, and will reward or punish them according to their work. In the parable of the Talents, the two servants who had made a diligent and profitable use of their Master's property are thus alike com
Luke xir. 11–27.
mended and rewarded : Well done, good and faithful servant; thou bast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord. In the parable of the Pounds a further point is brought out, namely, the proportion of the reward to the service; that servant whose pound had gained ten pounds being made ruler over ten cities, and he whose pound had gained five pounds being made ruler over five cities.
What, then, is to be understood by that joy of thy Lord' into which the faithful servants were bidden to enter ? Literally interpreted, as part of the parable, it probably denotes the feast at which, in company with their Lord, they were invited to sit down. As to the spiritual significance couched under it, obviously the 'enter thou into the joy of thy Lord' imports something that Christ is to be gladdened with, and which his servants are to share with Him. And does not the expression itself seem to point to that joy which we are told was 'set Heb xii. 2. before ' Christ, and for which He'endured the cross, despising the shame'; the joy of recovering a lost world, and restoring it to the favour of God; the joy for which his soul was made an offering for sin Isa. liii. 10, 11. and by which the travail of his soul was to be satisfied; the joy for which He emptied Himself of his glory, was made man, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; the joy that in his name every knee should come to bend, and every tongue should be brought to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father? And is not this the very joy that is set before his
saints, as the joy into which they are to enter at his coming, when they are to come with Him, and to reign as kings and priests upon the earth ; the joy of taking part in the administration of that kingdom which embraces within its scope the regeneration of the world and the restitution of all things? It was not, therefore, a mere figure of speech, it was not without some literal significance, that it was said to the faithful servant, 'Have thou authority over ten cities; I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'
Mark, now, the punishment of the slothful and unfaithful servant. “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into the darkness which is without. Thrust out from the light and glory and blessedness of the millenial kingdom, deprived of the talent which he purposely did not use in his Master's service, we can imagine the remorse and vexation, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, which this unfaithful servant would now become a prey to. As in his case the fault is greater than that of the foolish virgins, so stronger terms are used to express his punishment. Theirs was the fault of unthoughtfulness and imprudence; his of deliberate negligence. Coming too late, they knock and are not admitted to the marriage. 'I know you not,' is the answer of the oridegroom. But in the other case the sterner sentence goes forth: 'Cast ye the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness,'—the darkness, that is, outside the lighted festal hall in which the Master entertained his good and faithful servants. “There,
' it is added, as expressing the chagrin and intense