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fion, or did not bring forth fruits answerable to it, are the foolish virgins.
And that this is the true difference between them, will appear, if we consider how the parable represents them, V 3.,4. They that were foolis took their lamps, and took 110 oil with them ; bụt the wise took oil in their vesels with their lamps : so that they both took their lamps, and both lighted them, and therefore must both be supposed to have some oil in their lamps at first; as appears from x 8. where the foolish virgins said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out. They had, it feems, some oil in their lamps at first, which kept them lighted for a little while, but had taken no care for a future supply. And therefore the difference between the wife and foolish virgins did not, as some have imagined, consist in this, that the wise virgins had oil, but the foolish had none; but in this, that the foolish had taken no care for a farther supply, after the oil whịch was at first put into their lamps was spent, as the wise had done ; who, besides the oil that was in their lamps, carried likewise a reserve in some other vessel, for a continual supply of the lamp, as there should be occasion ; The wife took oil in their veljels with their lamps.
Now, the meaning of all this is, that they who are represented by the wife virgins, had not only embraced the profession of the Christian religion, as the foolish virgins also had done; for they both had their lamps lighted; but they likewise persevered in that profession, and brought forth fruits answerable to it. For by oil in their lamps, and the first lighting of them, which was common to them both, is meant that solemn profeslion of faith and repentance which all Christians make in ban ptism : by that farther supply of oil, which the wife virgins only took care to provide, is signified our constancy and perseverance in this profession, together with the fruits of the Spirit, and the improvement of the grace received in baptism by the practice and exercise of all the graces and virtues of a good life, whereby men are fitted and prepared for death and judgment; which are here represented to us by the coming of the bridegroom.
This being plainly the main scope and intention of the parable, I shall explain the rest of it, as there shall
be occasion, under the several observations which I shall raise from the several parts of it. And they shall be these.
1. I observe the charitable decorum which our blessed Saviour keeps in this, as well as in the rest of his parables; as if he would fain suppose and hope, that among those who enjoy the gospel, and make profession of it, the number of them that are truly good, is equal to those that are bad. For our blessed Saviour here represents the whole number of the professors of Christianity by ten virgins, the half whereof the parable seems to suppose to be truly and really good, and to persevere 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 observe how very common it is for men to neglect this great concernnient of their souls, viz. a dve
preo paration for another world; and how willing men are to deceive themselves herein, and to depend upon any thing else, how groundless and unreasonable soever, ra. ther 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 supply of oil in their vessels, and when the bridegroom was coming, would have furnished them. felves by borrowing or buying of others, x 8.9. 10.
3. I observe, that even the better fort of Christians are not careful and watchful as they ought, to prepare themselves for death and judgment: Whilst the bridegroom tarried, they all fumbered and flept; even the wise virgins as well as the foolish.
4. I observe further, how little is to be done by us, to any good purpose, in this great work of preparation, when it is deferred and put off to the last. Thus the foolish virgins did; and what a sad confusion and hurry they were in, we may fee, v 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 dismal and unfeasonable time of all other. Then all those virgins an rose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said 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 ję rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And how ineffectual all that they could do at that time proved to be, we find, y 10. 11. 12. And whilft they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. Afterwards came also the other virgins, Saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and Jáid, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
5. I observe, that there is no such 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 wise some oil for their lamps; the wise answered, Not so; 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 sufficient to supply their want : but the wise knew not of any that they had to spare, but supposed all that they had little enough to qualify them for the reward of eternal life: Not so, say they, un óls, lest at any time, lest when there should be need and occasion, all that we have done, or could do, should prove little enough for ourselves.
6. and lastly, I observe, that if we could suppose any persons to be so over-good, as to have more grace and goodness than needs to qualify them for the reward of eternal life; yet there is no assigning and transferring of this overplus of grace and virtue from one man to another. For we fee, 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 should be in a condition to merit for another.
All these observations seem to have some fair and probable foundation in some part or other of this parable ; and most of them, I am sure, are agreeable to the main scope and intention of the whole. I shall speak to them severally, and as briefiy as I can.
I. I observe the charitable decorum which our blessed Saviour keeps in this, as well as in the rest of his parables; as if he would fain suppose and hope, that among those who enjoy the gospel, and make profession of it, the number of those who make a firm and sincere profession of it, and persevere in goodness to the end, is equal to the number of those who do not make good their profession, or who fall off from it.
I shall not be long upon this, because I lay the least stress upon it of all the rest. I fhall only take notice, that our blessed Saviour, in this parable, represents the whole number of the professors of Christianity by terz virgins, the half of which the parable seems to suppose to have sincerely embraced the Christian profession, and to have persevered therein to the last: The kingdom of beaven shall 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.
And this decorum our blessed Saviour seems carefully to observe in his other parables : as in the parable of the prodigal, Luke xv. where, for one son that left his father, and took riotous courses, there was another that ftaid always with him, and continued constant to his duty. And in the parable of the ten talents, which immediately follows that of the ten virgins, two are fupposed to improve the talents committed to them, for one
that made no improvement of his. He that had five ta· lents 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 professors of Christianity who took care to fit and prepare themselves for the coming of the bridegroom, is supposed equal to the number of those 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 so far from lessening the number of true Christians, and from confining the church of Christ within a narrow compass, so as to exclude out of its communion the far greatest part of the professors 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 soever, as far as regard to truth, and to the
foundations of the Christian 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 censorious and damn
And for this reason perhaps it is, that our blessed Saviour thought fit to frame his parables with so remarkable a bias to the charitable fide; partly to instruct us to extend our charity towards all Christian churches, and profeffors of the Christian religion, and our good hopes concerning them, as far as with reason we can; and partly to reprove the uncharitableness of the Jews, who positively excluded all the rest of mankind, besides themfelves, from all hopes of salvation : An odious temper, which, to the infinitc scandal of the Christian name and profession, hath prevailed upon some Christians to that notorious degree, as not only to shut out all the reformed part of the Western church, almost equal in number to themselves, from all hopes of salvation, under the notion of hereticks; but likewise to unchurch all the other churches of the Christian world, which are of much greater extent and number than themselves, that do not own subjection to the Bishop of Rome. And this they do, by declaring it to be of necessity to salvation for every creature to be subject to the Roman Bishop. And this supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over all Christian churches, Bellarmine calls the sum of the Christian religion. So that the Roman communion is plainly founded in schism; that is, in the most unchristian and uncharitable principle that can be, namely, That they are the only true church of Christ, out of which none can be saved : which was the very schism of the Donatists. And in this they are so positive, that the learned men of that church, in their disputes and writings, are much more inclinable to believe the salvation of Heathens to be possible, than of any of those Christians 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 essential virtues of the Christian religion, I mean charity, I doubt they have the least share of any Christian church this day in the world. II. I obferve, not from any particular circumstance, VOL.II. S