« PreviousContinue »
fion, or did not bring forth fruits anfwerable to it, are the foolish virgins.
And that this is the true difference between them, will appear, if we confider how the parable reprefents them, 3.4. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them; but the wife took oil in their veffels with their lamps fo that they both took their lamps, and both lighted them, and therefore must both be fuppofed to have fome oil in their lamps at firft; as appears from
8. where the foolish virgins faid unto the wife, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. They had, it feems, fome oil in their lamps at first, which kept them lighted for a little while, but had taken no care for a future fupply. And therefore the difference between the wife and foolish virgins did not, as fome have imagined, confift in this, that the wife virgins had oil, but the foolish had none; but in this, that the foolish had taken no care for a farther fupply, after the oil which was at first put into their lamps was spent, as the wife had done; who, befides the oil that was in their lamps, carried likewife a reserve in fome other veffel, for a continual fupply of the lamp, as there should be occafion The wife took oil in their veffels with their lamps.
Now, the meaning of all this is, that they who are reprefented by the wife virgins, had not only embraced the profeffion of the Chriftian religion, as the foolish virgins alfo had done; for they both had their lamps lighted; but they likewife perfevered in that profeffion, and brought forth fruits anfwerable to it. For by oil in their lamps, and the first lighting of them, which was common to them both, is meant that folemn profeffion of faith and repentance which all Chriftians make in baptifm by that farther fupply of oil, which the wife virgins only took care to provide, is fignified our conftancy and perfeverance in this profeffion, together with the fruits of the Spirit, and the improvement of the grace received in baptifm by the practice and exercife of all the graces and virtues of a good life, whereby men are fitted and prepared for death and judgment; which are here reprefented to us by the coming of the bridegroom.
This being plainly the main fcope and intention of the parable, I fhall explain the reft of it, as there fhall
be occafion, under the several obfervations which I shall raife from the feveral parts of it. And they fhall be thefe.
1. I obferve the charitable decorum which our bleffed Saviour keeps in this, as well as in the rest of his parables; as if he would fain fuppofe and hope, that among those who enjoy the gofpel, and make profeffion of it, the number of them that are truly good, is equal to those that are bad. For our bleffed Saviour here reprefents the whole number of the profeffors of Chriftianity by ten virgins, the half whereof the parable feems to fuppofe to be truly and really good, and to perfevere in goodness to the end, y 1. 2. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unio ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wife, and five were foolish.
2. I obferve how very common it is for men to neglect this great concernment of their fouls, viz. a due preparation for another world; and how willing men are to deceive themselves herein, and to depend upon any thing else, how groundless and unreasonable foever, rather than to take pains to be really good, and fit for heaven. And this is in a very lively manner represented to us in the description of the foolish virgins, who had provided no fupply of oil in their veffels, and when the bridegroom was coming, would have furnished themfelves by borrowing or buying of others, y 8. 9. 10.
3. I obferve, that even the better fort of Chriftians are not careful and watchful as they ought, to prepare themselves for death and judgment: Whilft the bridegroom tarried, they all fumbered and flept; even the wife virgins as well as the foolish.
4. I obferve further, how little is to be done by us, to any good purpofe, in this great work of preparation, when it is deferred and put off to the laft. Thus the foolish virgins did; and what a fad confufion and hurry they were in, we may fee, y 6. 7. 8. 9. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh, go Je out to meet him. At midnight; the most difmal and unfeasonable time of all other. Then all thofe virgins a→ rofe, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish faid unto the wife, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.
But the wife answered, Not fo; left there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that fell, and buy for your felves. And how ineffectual all that they could do at that time proved to be, we find, y 10. 11. 12. And whilst they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was fhut. Afterwards came alfo the other virgins, Saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and faid, Verily I fay unto you, I know you not.
5. I obferve, that there is no fuch thing as works of fupererogation; that no man can do more than needs, and is his duty to do, by way of preparation for another world. For when the foolish virgins would have begged of the wife fome oil for their lamps; the wife answered, Not fo; left there be not enough for us and you. It was only the foolish virgins that had entertained this foolish conceit, that there might be an overplus of grace and merit in others fufficient to fupply their want: but the wife knew not of any that they had to fpare, but fuppofed all that they had little enough to qualify them for the reward of eternal life: Not fo, fay they, unmole, left at any time, left when there fhould be need and occafion, all that we have done, or could do, fhould prove little enough for ourselves.
6. and laftly, I obferve, that if we could fuppofe any perfons to be fo over-good, as to have more grace and goodness than needs to qualify them for the reward of eternal life; yet there is no affigning and transferring of this overplus of grace and virtue from one man to another. For we fee, y 9. 10. that all the ways which they could think of, of borrowing or buying oil of others, did all prove ineffectual; because the thing is in its own nature impracticable, that one finner fhould be in a condition to merit for another.
All these obfervations feem to have fome fair and probable foundation in fome part or other of this parable; and most of them, I am fure, are agreeable to the main fcope and intention of the whole. I fhall fpeak to them feverally, and as briefly as I can.
I. I obferve the charitable decorum which our bleffed Saviour keeps in this, as well as in the rest of his parables; as if he would fain fuppofe and hope, that a
mong those who enjoy the gofpel, and make profeffion of it, the number of those who make a firm and fincere profeffion of it, and persevere in goodness to the end, is equal to the number of those who do not make good their profeffion, or who fall off from it.
I fhall not be long upon this, because I lay the least ftrefs upon it of all the reft. I fhall only take notice, that our bleffed Saviour, in this parable, reprefents the whole number of the profeffors of Chriftianity by ten virgins, the half of which the parable feems to fuppose to have fincerely embraced the Chriftian profeffion, and to have persevered therein to the laft: The kingdom of beaven fhall be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wife, and five were foolish.
And this decorum our bleffed Saviour feems carefully to obferve in his other parables: as in the parable of the prodigal, Luke xv. where, for one fon that left his father, and took riotous courses, there was another that ftaid always with him, and continued conftant to his duty. And in the parable of the ten talents, which immediately follows that of the ten virgins, two are fuppofed to improve the talents committed to them, for one that made no improvement of his. He that had five talents committed to him, made them five more; and he that had two, gained other two; and only he that had but one talent, hid it in the earth, and made no improvement of it. And in the parable which I am now upon, the number of the profeffors of Christianity who took care to fit and prepare themselves for the coming of the bridegroom, is fuppofed equal to the number of thofe who did not.
And whether this be particularly intended in the parable or not, it may however be thus far instructive to us, that we should be fo far from leffening the number of true Chriftians, and from confining the church of Christ within a narrow compafs, fo as to exclude out of its communion the far greatest part of the profeffors of Christianity; that, on the contrary, we should enlarge the kingdom of Christ as much as we can, and extend our charity to all churches and Christians, of what denomination foever, as far as regard to truth, and to the foundations
foundations of the Chriftian religion, will permit us to believe and hope well of them; and rather be contented to err a little on the favourable and charitable part, than to be mistaken on the cenforious and damning fide.
And for this reafon perhaps it is, that our bleffed Saviour thought fit to frame his parables with fo remarkable a bias to the charitable fide; partly to instruct us to extend our charity towards all Christian churches, and profeffors of the Chriftian religion, and our good hopes concerning them, as far as with reafon we can ; and partly to reprove the uncharitableness of the Jews, who pofitively excluded all the rest of mankind, befides themfelves, from all hopes of falvation: An odious temper, which, to the infinite fcandal of the Chriftian name and profeffion, hath prevailed upon fome Chriftians to that notorious degree, as not only to fhut out all the reformed part of the Western church, almost equal in number to themselves, from all hopes of falvation, under the notion of hereticks; but likewife to unchurch all the other churches of the Chriftian world, which are of much greater extent and number than themselves, that do not own fubjection to the Bishop of Rome. And this they do, by declaring it to be of neceffity to falvation for every creature to be fubject to the Roman Bishop. And this fupremacy of the Bishop of Rome over all Christian churches, Bellarmine calls the fum of the Christian religion. So that the Roman communion is plainly founded in fchifmm; that is, in the most unchristian and uncharitable principle that can be, namely, That they are the only true church of Chrift, out of which none can be faved: which was the very fchifm of the Donatifts. And in this they are so positive, that the learned men of that church, in their difputes and writings, are much more inclinable to believe the falvation of Heathens to be poffible, than of any of thofe Chriftians whom they are pleased to call hereticks. The faith of the church of Rome is certainly none of the best: but of one of the greatest and most effential virtues of the Chriftian religion, I mean charity, I doubt they have the least share of any Chriftian church this day in the world.
II. I obferve, not from any particular circumftance,