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THE TEACHER'S LIBRARY.
The works on the Parables, by Trench, Bruce, Taylor, Dods, Arnot, Guthrie, Habershon. Thomas Shepherd's Sermons "The Ten Virgins" "is a perfect mine of profound and experimental truth." King's Seeming Unreality of Spiritual Life, pp. 40, 41, 102-4. Tissot's Life of Our Lord, Vol. II., 244-6. Trumbull's Studies in Oriental Social Life, "Betrothals and Weddings in the East." Edersheim's Jewish Social Customs. Knox's Boy Travelers in the Holy Land, gives a good illustration of the marriage customs referred to here.
THE LESSON IN LITERATURE.
The Tract Parley the Porter (Am. Tract Society). Tennyson's Idylls of the King, "The Foolish Virgins,' "" "Too Late." Homer's Odyssey, the return of Ulysses, given well in Ancient Classics for English Readers. Poems, "The Land of Pretty Soon," "The House of Never," very good for children. Peloubet's Suggestive Illustrations. Compare the story of the sibyl's offer to sell the nine books to King Tarquin at Rome. "The Present Crisis " in Lowell's Poems. Shakespeare's Julius Cæsar, "There's a tide," etc. And Macbeth"To-morrow and to-morrow," etc.
THE LESSON IN ART. Statue of The Wise and Foolish Virgins at Wellesley College. By Rinaldi in 1861 for Alphaeus Hardy. The Wise and Foolish Virgins, by Piloty,* Bida,* Blake, Heemskerk. Sculpture around porch of "Bride's Door" into Church of St. Sebaldus, at Nuremberg.
* In Wilde's Bible Pictures.
Jesus had ended his labors with the Jewish Leaders, and now turned his attention to his own disciples.
They had left the Temple, and Jesus had foretold to them its destruction as the result of the refusal of the Jews to repent and accept him as the Messiah.
Apparently in the silence of amazement they go on till they reach the brow of Olivet, whence Jerusalem, in all its glory, bursts on their view. Here they ask Jesus questions concerning the strange things he had said.
1. When shall these things, the destruction of the temple and city, be?
2. What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world, rather, the Age, the old Dispensation ?
After discoursing on these things, Jesus impresses the great essential fundamental truths they most need, by means of three parables, which we study in the first three lessons of this quarter.
THE NEW ERA of the coming again of Christ was at hand. It was the greatest change ever made in the history of the world. It was an era, not merely a single event. There were many steps, crises, stages, or epochs in it. It was absolutely impossible at this time
I. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their "lamps, and went forth to meet 1the bridegroom.
2. 2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
I Eph. 5: 29.
a Or, torches.
2 Matt. 13: 47.
31 Thes. 5: 6.
These stages would come
for the disciples to understand what they would have to meet. unexpectedly.
THE PREPARATION. There was but one thing the disciples could do, they could be prepared for whatever came. They could watch, which does not mean merely to keep awake, but to be prepared, to be ready, to be trained for each emergency, to be always doing their duty, always about their Father's business, always doing what Seneca's Pilot says, in Montaigne's paraphrase, "Oh, Neptune, thou mayest save me if thou wilt; thou mayest sink me if thou wilt; but whatever may befall I shall hold my tiller true.”
I. The Story in its Oriental Setting. "This is one of the most beautiful and touching of the parables. Poetry, painting, and the drama have combined to give it an exceptional hold on the Christian imagination. The weird pathos of the story is unspeakable. The occasion is so happy, the agents so interesting, the issue so tragic."-Prof. A. B. Bruce, Parabolic Teaching of Christ. The story is a picture of an Oriental
THE BRIDE. "When the wedding day arrived the bride put on white robes, often richly embroidered, decked herself with jewels, fastened the indispensable bridal girdle about her waist, covered herself with a veil, and placed a garland on her head.
"THE BRIDEGROOM, arrayed in his best attire, set out from his home for the house of the bride's parents, attended by friends, accompanied by musicians and singers; and, if the procession moved at night, by persons bearing torches."— Trumbull's Studies in Oriental Social Life.
THE PROCESSION. Jarchi, the Jewish Rabbi, says "It was the custom, in the land of Ishmael, to take the bride from her father's house to her husband's, in the night, and to carry before her about ten staves. Upon the top of each staff was the form of a brazen dish; and in the midst of it, pieces of garments, oil, and pitch, which they set on fire. ing these in one hand they carry, in the other, vessels full of oil, with which they replenish from time to time their else useless lamps." "In the utterly dark streets of an Asiatic city every one who goes forth at night is expected, and in modern Jerusalem is strictly required by the authorities, to carry a light." - Prof. Broadus.
THE TIME. "The marriage usually took place in the evening, so that those coming from a distance might not fail to arrive, and those who were occupied during the day might have liberty to attend. During the evening, as he sat among his friends, the bridegroom, as the chief person concerned, signified his desire to move homewards. Upon this the wedding procession was formed. Lanterns and torches were lit to guide him and his companions through the dark silent streets. Those who were waiting to see the procession pass raised the peculiar Oriental cry of marriage festivity, and thus, as the cry was taken up, the fact of his approach was known along the path in front of him. Owing to the stillness of the air, and the slow pace of the illuminated procession, the cry might be heard half an hour before the arrival of the bridegroom.” —Hastings' Dic. of Christ and the Gospels. "Another feature was the scattering of flowers and nuts; all who met the procession were expected to join it or to salute it." Hastings' one vol. Bib. Dic.
THE WAITING VIRGINS. Among those friends of the bride who waited to join the procession were ten virgins. While they were waiting, the time of the procession being ever unknown, they became drowsy and slept in peace, knowing that the shouts and cries of the coming crowd would awaken them in time. They had no anxiety; the wise, because they had faith and were prepared; the foolish, by false security and by ignoring the future.
THE COMING OF THE PROCESSION. The ten virgins had to wait till about midnight, when through the still air came shrill and clear "those peculiar shrill, quavering cries of joy, called Zugâret, which are heard throughout the East on occasions of special rejoicing.
made, Behold, the bridegroom,
6. And Come ye forth
at midnight there was
7. Then all those virgins arose, and 2trimmed their "lamps. 8. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our alamps are gone out.
9. But the wise answered, saying, there be not be enough for us and you: go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. 10. And while they went away to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage feast: and 3 the door was
Not so; lest
Matt. 24: 31; 1 Thes. 4: 16. 2 Luke 12: 35.
11. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open
12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, 5 I know you not. 13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the
Son of man cometh.
(See Rev. 19: 6-9.)" And they heard the cry: Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
The wise virgins trimmed and replenished their lamps with the oil which they had had the forethought to bring with them.
The foolish found their lamps burned out, but they had been too careless to bring extra oil with them. They begged oil of the wise, but they had none left; and advised the foolish to go to the source of supply where they should have gone earlier. While they were gone, the procession reached its destination; those who were ready went in to the marriage festival. And the door was shut. Like Esau the foolish virgins came too late for the blessing. They had thrown away their opportunity.
AN EXAMPLE from Ward's experience given in his History, Literature and Mythology of the Hindoos, “At a marriage, the procession of which I saw some years ago, the bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived at Serampore, to which place the bridegroom was to come by water. After waiting two or three hours, at length, near midnight, it was announced, as if in the very words of Scripture, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him. All the persons employed now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands, to fill up their stations in the procession. Some of them had lost their lights, and were unprepared; but it was then too late to seek them, and the cavalcade moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area before the house, covered with an awning, where a great multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel, were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed upon a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house, the door of which was immediately shut, and guarded by Sepoys. I and others expostulated with the doorkeepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable as at this moment: and the door was shut. I was exceedingly anxious to be present while the marriage formulas were repeated, but was obliged to depart in disappointment."
Lamp from the Ruins of Ephesus.
Tennyson's Idylls of the King contains a solemn and effective poem, a song sung to Queen Guinevere, based on the foolish virgins, one of the saddest in the English language,
"Late, late, so late! and dark the night, and chill !
"No light had we; for that we do repent;
Too late, too late! ye cannot enter now."
"Have we not heard the Bridegroom is so sweet?
"No light! so late! and dark and chill the night! Oh, let us in, that we may find the light!"
Oh, no! too late! ye cannot enter now."
II. Watching for the Coming of the Lord. The Lord was soon to depart by the way of the Cross. But he promised to return. He came back in the resurrection. He came in the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. He came at the destruction of Jerusalem. He is coming in glory at the last day, when his kingdom shall come and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The same principles apply to all whatever may be our understanding of the Promise.
Every crisis of our lives, every opening of opportunity, every crisis of the world or the church, may be called in its degree a coming of the Lord whose providence is over all.
(1) The coming is something of the greatest value and blessing. It is like the wedding festival, full of the best of life. Even in the subordinate comings and crises of our lives, there is always a door, an invitation, to something better than we have had. Even death is a gate to heaven.
(2) The time of the coming is always unknown, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
III. In What Way Are We to Watch? The company of watchers was divided into two classes, the wise and the foolish. The equality of numbers has no bearing on the proportion of persons in real life who are wise or foolish.
THE LAMPS signifies the outward profession, and the possibilities. All had some light, they had religious feelings, they were moved by the influences of the Holy Spirit.
THE OIL is the spiritual life, the heart, which is the source of the flame, the visible manifestations of the Christian spirit. "But this significance was shown only by the burning lamp. An extinguished lamp was an emblem of mourning and death, and could have no place in a festive scene. No greater misfortune could overtake one of those lamp-bearers than the extinguishing of her light. Hence the commendatory distinction classing as wise or 'prudent' those who took oil in their vessels with their lamps." - Prof. A. D. Long.
THOSE WHO TOOK VESSELS OF OIL, a permanent supply, were those who had the living reality of that which they professed, who put into practice, into character, that which shone forth from their lamps.
THOSE WHO TOOK NO SUPPLY OF OIL, had a surface feeling, like the seed sown on rocky soil, which sprang up quickly and endured till persecution or trouble arose (Matt. 13: 5, 6, 20, 21). They had no deep religious feelings, nothing wrought into their character, no abiding principles which led them to live up to their professions and hopes.
WATCHFULNESS consists in being prepared for every emergency, and every duty, as the wise virgins watched by having their lamps continually burning, and a full supply of oil to keep them burning.
"What the Saviour enjoins is not curiosity such as Paul reproved in the Thessalonians (2 Thes. 3: 10-12), straining to be the first to see the returning master, but the wakefulness and diligence that overlooks no duty, indulges no indolence." - R. Glover.
We watch for death, not by continually thinking of it, but by being prepared for it whenever it may come, by doing our duty, by living the life here of the heaven to which death is the door.
We watch for Christ's coming by living all the time as we would like to have him find us living when he does come. The death-bed is the poorest time for repentance, and the oil must be stored up long before that feeds our lamps in these crises of our lives. We cannot go at the last hour and buy.
We are watching for the future life on earth, and the larger future beyond death, if we are doing the things and learning the lessons which prepare us for life.
"The real difference between the wise and foolish virgins lay behind their full or empty oil vessels in their thought of the importance of the marriage feast. To the wise it was the great reality toward which all their deepest hopes were turned. To the foolish it was something of more or less importance in the future, the obvious preparations for which nevertheless got crowded out. Their folly was simply a kind of neglect — the common kind in many a busy life."
ILLUSTRATION. BECAUSE HIS BAG WAS PACKED. "Reader Harris, leader of the Pentecostal League, and an eminent lawyer, got his first lift in life significantly. Employed in the drawing office of the Great Western Railway Company's engineering shops, he found young men were occasionally sent down the line on responsible commissions. Receiving instructions in the morning, they spent the day preparing to start. Shocked at the waste of
time, he filled a bag with traveling conveniences, and took it to the office, to be ready to start at short notice. His companions ridiculed the idea. But one day the chief engineer came in and asked about the bag. The owner said: 'I determined, if I had a chance to go, to be ready.' 'You did? You see that train?' 'Yes.' 'Jump in; I'll telegraph instructions.' From that time Mr. Harris made rapid progress. They who wait for Christ in readiness shall not wait in vain." - London Sunday School Chronicle.
ILLUSTRATION. Congressman Wise of Virginia in his address on Lincoln, said: "Abraham Lincoln had neither the learning, the experience in public life, nor the social advantages of William H. Seward. Nor had he the political training, the polish, or the skilled weapons of debate possessed by his great antagonist, Stephen A. Douglas. What he had was a faith which knew no variableness nor shadow of turning, and a purpose that he boldly announced at the outset and never abandoned under any discouragement until it was carried to success.
"It is a mistake to say he was an unlearned man. He was learned in the things which he made the business of his life."
So Secretary Long says: "Nor is it true that Lincoln had no education in his boyhood. He, indeed, went little to school, yet he learned to read, write, and cipher, and what more does any schoolboy learn to-day? Reading,' says Bacon, summing up education, 'maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.' All these had the youth, Abraham Lincoln. With them he stood at the gate of all treasures, key in hand, as much master of the future as a graduate of Yale or Harvard. He knew the Bible thoroughly, Æsop's Fables, Pilgrim's Progress,' 'Robinson Crusoe,' the lives of Washington and Henry Clay, Burns, and later Shakespeare. He not only read them with the eye, but made them a part of his mind."
All the successes of life are gained on this same principle of watching by being prepared, so that when the time comes one is ready.
ILLUSTRATION. The excellent little story Parley the Porter, published as a tract by the American Tract Society, is an unusually effective illustration for children, as to the duty of watching, the danger of neglect, and the way in which people are put off their guard.
ILLUSTRATION. Homer's Odyssey describes the hero Ulysses as falling asleep just before he reached his home, Ithaca, after a long voyage, and a sailor loosing the winds of Æolus during his sleep was the means of driving him away to many long wanderings.
IV. Character Is Revealed by Crises. It Cannot Be Transferred. power of critical moments to settle destinies has been a favorite theme with the moralist and student of human life. When Julius Cesar, the proconsul of Gaul, crossed the little river Rubicon, which was forbidden by law, men have attributed to him these words: The enemy awaits me; the opportunity invites; the die is cast. was the turning point of his history, and his country's destiny hung on that one event. Some things are done in critical hours that cannot be undone, and left undone that cannot be done. This is a tragic fact of life.
"What is not so apparent is why it should be so; why a man's future and his happiness should be decided by the action of a single critical hour. It does not seem just. A well-known New England essayist, as he looked at Rinaldi's beautiful group in marble, and noticed the pathetic entreaty of the foolish virgin and the uplifted hand, as if to guard her treasure, and the look of deep sadness as the wise virgin refuses her sister's request, expressed a not uncommon feeling on the part of many when they read Christ's story. He said: She should have given her the oil.' The essayist would not have made this remark had he not failed to see that in both the story and the statue the subject is character, and that character is not transferable. You may give a man money or material aid in his hour of need, although whether you ought to do so is often doubtful; but to give him character is not possible, however much you may desire to do so, or however much you sympathize with his distress, as the essayist sym- A STATUE BY R. RINALDI IN WELLESLEY COLLEGE.
The Wise and Foolish Virgins.