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THE TEN VIRGIN S.*

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MONG the Jews the marriage ceremony was always celebrated at nightfall, and the marriage supper was given in the house of the bridegroom, and not in that of the bride. The bridegroom, accompanied by a select number of companions, his friends, goes to the house of the bride, to conduct her thence to her new home. The bride, with a corresponding attendance of companions, awaits his arrival; and then, the two bands united, the bridal procession moves on to the dwelling where the bridal feast is prepared. The ten virgins spoken of in the parable are friends of the bride, and are waiting, either at her house, or some suitable place by the way, for the announcement of the bridegroom's coming, that they may join the marriage procession, go forward with it, and sit down at the provided feast. All the ten have lamps. This in every event was necessary, as it was only by lamp-light or torch-light that the procession could move on. But these lamps of the ten virgins were not, in all likelihood, their own, nor carried by them only for the light they were to yield. As it was customary to provide wedding garments, so was it to provide wedding lamps, such lamps of themselves marking out those that bore them as invited guests. Each of the ten virgins of the parable has got such an invitation to appear on this occasion as an attendant on the bride, and has accepted it; and each holds in her hand the symbol of her character and office. Very likely the lamps were all of one material and pattern. Very likely the ten bearers of these were all dressed alike; and that, looking at them as they took up together their appointed post, you might have seen but little if any difference in their outward appearance or equipment. Yet there was a great, and, as it proved, a radical-a vital difference between them. Five of them were wise, and five were foolish. The wise showed their wisdom in this, that they provided beforehand for a contingency which, however unlikely, they foresaw might possibly occur. The lamp furnished to them had quite enough of oil in it to last all the time that it was thought it would be needed. There was more than enough oil in it to carry the bearers from the one house to the other; and had all

From The Passion Week.' By Rev. Dr. HANNA.

gone as it was at first arranged,-had the bridegroom come at the usual, the set time,-the marriage lamp, with the ordinary supply of oil that it contained, would have been sufficient. But to the five wise virgins the idea had occurred that it was at least within the bounds of possibility that a delay in the bridegroom's coming might take place. Some unforeseen accident might occur, some unthought-of hindrance be thrown before him on his way. To be prepared for such delay, in case it should occur, they took with them other separate vessels beside their lamps, containing a supply of oil in reserve, upon which they might draw in the event of what was in the lamp itself being all consumed. The foolish virgins showed their folly in this, that they were quite satisfied with the provision of oil made for them by their inviters, and never thought of supplementing it by any additional provision of their own. Perhaps the idea of a delay in the bridegroom's coming never occurred to them. It was a thing that but rarely happened. The idea of it would not naturally or spontaneously arise. It would do so only to those who gave themselves purposely and deliberately to think over beforehand all that might happen, in order to be provided for it. Even if the possibility of some delay had occurred or been suggested to these foolish virgins, they would have satisfied themselves with thinking that it never could be so long as to burn out all the oil which their lamps contained. They were quite sure that all would go right; that the bridegroom would come at the right time. They were all too eager about the meeting, and the march, and the spread-out banquet, to allow their minds to be troubled with calculating all the possible evils that might occur, and how they could be most effectually guarded against. But they were mistaken in their anticipations.

'The bridegroom tarried.' Taking the parable as a prophetical allegory, this is one of the many hints given by our Lord, even to the first disciples, that his second coming might possibly be deferred longer than they thought. He would not tell them how long; He would say nothing that should absolutely and wholly preclude the idea of his speedy advent, his coming at any time, to any generation of the living; but yet He would not have them so count upon his coming being at hand, as to make no preparation

for his absence being prolonged, as to commit that species of folly chargeable upon the five foolish virgins.

us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.' It was the only alternative left. But, alas! it failed; for while they were away beating up the oil-sellers, and trying to make a speedy purchase, the bridegroom came. The five that were ready passed on with him in the procession, went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.

burning as brilliantly as at the first. Not so with the foolish virgins. They look despairingly at their fading lights. They have no fresh oil And while the bridegroom tarried, they all to feed their flame. The only resource, in their slumbered and slept,'-the wise and the foolish extremity, is to apply, in all the eagerness and alike. Perhaps there may be a prophetic glance impatience of despair, to their companions : towards that which shall be the condition of the 'Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.' world at the time of Christ's second coming,-to But the wise had been economic, as they had the general surprise with which that event shall been foreseeing. They had enough for themburst upon a slumbering, unexpectant earth. selves, but no such superabundance that they Whatever secondary allusion of this kind it may could safely and prudently supply their neighcarry with it, you will notice that this slumber-bours: Not so; lest there be not enough for ing and sleeping of all is not only what might naturally have been expected under the circumstances, but what is necessary to lead the story on to the contemplated issue. The delay had been longer than any one could have imagined. The bridegroom should have been there soon after the darkness had fallen. At midnight, had the set and common time been kept, not only would the procession have been all over, but the feast nearly finished. It had been with all the virgins a busy day, getting all things ready for so great an occasion. Was it wonderful that, when, hour after hour, there was no signal of the approach, tired nature should claim her due, their excited spirits should fail and flag, their eyes get heavy, and that they should all slumber and sleep? Had there been no such sleeping, had all kept awake throughout, the foolish virgins, by the gradual consumption of the oil within their lamps,-perhaps by noticing also and reflecting on the provision in the separate vessels that their companions had made,-would have become timeously aware of the danger that was at hand, and might have provided against | it. On the other hand, had it been the foolish only who slept, and, while they slept, had the wise been watching at their side, we could not well have excused them if, when the foolish awakened, they had charged their companions with great unkindness, in having suffered them to sleep on, when they must have seen the catastrophe that was impending. We are disposed, therefore, to regard this incident as thrown in, rather in order to conduct the story to its proper close, than as having any distinct and peculiar symbolic signification of its own.

The ten virgins of the parable represent so many of the professed disciples of our Lord. Their common equipment, and their common attitude,-all of them with marriage lamps in their hands, standing waiting the bridegroom's coming,-tell us of that prepared and waiting posture in which all who call themselves by the name of Christ are or ought to be found, as those who are looking for the coming and glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.

It would, however, be unjust to this parable, and it would involve us speedily in inextricable difficulties of interpretation, if we either took the ten virgins as representing the whole collective body of the visible church, or took the difference of conduct here displayed, and the difference of destiny to which it led,-the final separation of the five wise and five foolish,-as typical of those two companies which are to stand, the one on the right hand, and the other on the left, of their great Judge. Christ's object here is much more limited. He is urging throughout this part of his discourse the duty of watchfulness with regard to his approaching advent; and in this parable it is one form or kind of that watchfulness which He desires to inculcate. He does this by showing, in an illusbride-trative instance, what special benefit it may be to him who practises it, and what painful consequences the absence of it may entail. The kind of watchfulness here so strikingly pressed upon our regards, and emblematically exhibited in the conduct of five of the ten virgins, is prudence,-that reflective forethought, which busies itself in providing beforehand for emergencies that may possibly arise; the same virtue, transferred to spiritual things, which distinguishes the wise and the prudent of this world,

At midnight the cry came: 'Behold, the groom cometh; go ye out to meet him.' This cry rouses all the sleepers. All is haste and bustle now, as if there were an eagerness to make up for the previous delay. As they start up from their sleep, the ten virgins all see that their lamps, which they eagerly grasp, are just dying out. With the wise it is a quick and easy thing to clear and cleanse the wick, and to pour in a fresh supply out of their auxiliary vessels. A minute or two so spent, and their lamps are

[January 1, 1867.]

THE CHRISTIAN TREASURY.

who profitably spend many an hour in conjecturing what possible contingencies as to their earthly affairs may arise, and in contriving and arranging how each, if it do happen, should be met.

Among the children of the kingdom, the wise and the prudent are they who, having been called to that marriage supper of the Lamb, and having received the gracious invitation to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, prize the invitation so highly, and are so anxious that nothing should defraud them of the eternal blessedness to which it points, that they give themselves with all diligence to the consideration of all the possible risks that might come in the way of its finally being made good to them, and to the best methods of guarding against them should they occur. They look beyond the present; they anticipate evil before it comes; they strive to secure themselves against surprise; to stand forearmed to meet each enemy. Opposed to them, and answering to the foolish virgins of this parable, are those thoughtless disciples who, satisfied with having got the invitation, and with being ranked among the number of the invited, foresee no danger, take no precaution, and make no provision against it.

'They that were ready went in and the door was shut.' What a surprise, what a disappointment, the five foolish virgins must have met with when they came and found that already the bridal party had entered, the bridal supper had commenced, and that the door was closed against their entrance! They had been invited to this marriage feast, and they had accepted this invitation, as special friends of the bride. The idea of their being excluded from the banquet had never entered into their minds-no, not even after their lamps had gone out. True, they had not taken the same precaution with their wiser companions; but who could have predicted so tedious a delay? True, they had not been able to join the procession at the first; but now they have got fresh oil, and their lamps are burning as brightly as at first. The door is closed against them-surely by inadvertence; it had not been perceived that they still were wanting to complete the company. They knock

the door opens not; they hear the bridegroom's own voice within-the very voice of their inviter. With an eagerness in which fear begins to mingle, they cry out, 'Lord, Lord, open to us.' The only answer they get is, 'Verily, I know you not,'-an answer which too plainly tells them that within that joyous dwelling they never shall set foot.

The warning here strikes home upon us all. We too have heard the invitation of our Saviour, and outwardly have accepted it. Our Christianity may be such as shall stand well enough the scrutiny of our neighbours, and as may open But how many are to us, without any right of challenge, admission to the table of communion. there, among such professors of Christianity, for whom a surprise as unexpected and as terrible is in reserve as met those foolish virgins! The man who never fears that it may be so with him at the last,-who can hear about the door of heaven being shut against those who, up to the last, expected to get in, and no trembling apprehension come upon his spirit that he himself may be among that number,-is the very man in whose person that terrible catastrophe is most likely to be realized. When we know that there is so great a possibility, nay, we may say, so great a probability of self-deception; when we believe that so many have practised that selfdeception on themselves throughout life, and never have awakened from its illusions till they stood before that door of heaven, and found it

'The bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage.' The future, the everlasting blessedness in store for all true followers of Christ, is spoken of here, as so frequently elsewhere, as a royal banquet or feast: Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb.' Scene of unrivalled glory, of exhaustless joy; rich and rare the food provided for the guests in the great banqueting-hall of immortality! Other viands at other feasts soon pall on the sated sense; but for those viands upon which the spirits of the blessed shall for evermore be nourished up into a growing likeness unto God, the appetite shall ever grow quicker the more that is partaken, and the relish be ever the more intense. The companionship at other festivals finally wearies; sooner or later we begin to desire that it should close; but in the hallowed unions and fellowships that shall be there, new sources of interest, new springs of delight, shall be ever opening, each coming to know the other better, and each fresh access of knowledge bringing fresh access of love, and confidence, and joy. Other feasts are broken up; and sad and dreary is the hall where hundreds met in buoyant joy, when, the guests all gone, the lights grow dim, and dark-closed against them for ever,-how diligent in ness and loneliness take the place of the bright smile and ringing laugh. But that marriage supper of the Lamb shall know no breaking up; its tables shall never be withdrawn; its companionship shall never end.

self-scrutiny should each of us now be; how anxious that he possess not the name only, but the disposition, the character, the habits, the conduct of a true follower of Jesus Christ! Let us apply, then, to ourselves those most impressive

none?

Is it that this gate to which our Saviour points us is so strait, the way that He would have us walk in is so narrow? True, the gate is strait; but strait, why, and to whom? Strait

words of Christ: 'Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father that is in heaven. Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy-indeed, impossible to pass through-to all who name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.'

But that door which Christ himself here tells us will be closed at last against so many, is it not now open unto all? Yes. It stands before us, invitingly near, most easy of access, with this blessed inscription written over it, in characters so large that he who runs may read : 'Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' How different in this respect from those other doors at which you see so many of our race stand knocking, the doors that lead to wealth or fame, or ease and pleasure! These doors stand so far back, away from where the multitude are naturally standing, that many, in the rush, and throng, and pressure, never get near them, though they toil to do so all their lives. Close in upon and around each of them what crowds are gathered, knocking so eagerly, so impatiently —often with such impetuous violence! They open, however, to but a few of all this number. For one that finds entrance, there are hundreds that are kept without. Why is it that the great multitude will still keep rushing to these doors that remain shut against so many, while so few try that other door that remains closed against

come to it environed with the thick wrapping of pride and worldliness, and the spirit of selftrust. But strip yourselves of these,—come naked and bare of them, come in all humility, with a broken and a contrite heart,-and you will not find it strait, but most easy of passage. True, the way is narrow-narrow for each individual traveller; but who that ever tried to tread it would wish it to be broader,-to be so wide as to suffer him unchecked to wander away from God, or lapse into any transgression of that law which is so holy, and just, and good? Narrow as it is to each, that way has breadth enough for all to walk in it, without any of that jostling, and striving, and sore competing toil which mark the broader way that so many take.

Enter ye in at that strait gate. Walk ever humbly, diligently, with careful footstep, with watchful wisdom on that narrow way, and then let the alarm rise when and how it may; let the cry strike the ear, 'Behold, He cometh!' No shut door shall be before you. For you, as for your great Forerunner,-for you, because you follow Him,-the everlasting doors shall be lifted up, and the glad welcome given: 'Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.'

Theological and Practical.

CHEER FOR THE TROUBLED CHRISTIAN.

FTEN in this world is the child of God sorrowful. There are many things which make it difficult to be careful for nothing.' Though the dark and angry waves of trouble have become calm by the spirit's contemplation of the blessed words of our Lord, Consider the lilies of the field;' though the soul has rejoiced in the sweetness of that term, 'your heavenly Father; yet again have the bleak winds of adversity raised the waters, and the Christian cries out in anguish: All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.'

How sweet it is to such an one to think of the better land and its occupants! Many are there who have passed through this life; and they were not without trouble.

'Once they were mourning here below,

And wet their couch with tears.'

To them it was not always summer time; the birds did not ceaselessly sing, the land was not

always beautiful. The heavens often gathered blackness, heavy tempest-clouds rolled across the sky, wind howled, thunder roared, lightning flashed, and they trembled. But they have no storm now. They have passed through earth's darkness and anguish. Now they enjoy the blessedness of heaven.

Will not the troubled Christian join them? He will. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.' Earth's night will soon be past; heaven's morning will come. Troubled one! thou wilt then rejoice in the unclouded beams of the Sun of Righteousness. Down in the valley thou didst cast thy burden upon the Lord, and so the steep ascent was climbed. Now, on heaven's mountain-top, far above the storms of earth, thou dost rejoice indeed. In the thick darkness thou didst place thy hand in that of thy heavenly Father, and He hath led thee safely through every danger. The morning star of promise, which thy teardimmed eyes, gazing upward from earth, sometimes beheld, is lost in the full radiance of eternal day. Oh! thy poor cares, thy pitiful anxieties,

which made thee cry, 'My soul cleaveth to the dust,' they are gone for ever. There is no care in heaven.

Leap for joy! Rejoice! rejoice! thou art now on the plains of glory. Eternal blessedness is thine. Hasten, that thy voice may join in the song of the heavenly host. Swell the grand chorus: Salvation unto our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.' 'What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they? These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. . . . And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.' Join that company. Thou art 'ever with the Lord.' S. J.

THE HILL OF BLESSING.

'And He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people.'-Isa. xxv. 7. How often, in connection with the prophecies of the glory of the coming age, we have one special mountain referred to, the mountain of his holiness' (Ps. xlviii. 1); 'the mountain of the Lord's house' (Isa. ii. 2); the mountain of Jehovah' (Micah iv. 2); Mount Zion' (Rev. xiv. 1); and many other places. To Mount Zion the prophet here refers; hence we read just before, Then the moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before his ancients gloriously.' Three times in this chapter is this term used; and it stands connected with the overthrow of all enemies (ver. 10), the provision of all blessings (ver. 6), and divine enlightenment of all nations (ver. 7). These blessings will be complete, universal, and permanent. If we look back on the ages past, what do we behold? Nations sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Deceived by Satan, they think that the veil which is spread over them is an ornament, and that the covering which he provides is a defence, whereas it is in truth the death-covering.' When Israel shall be all saved, then their salvation will be life from the dead to the world. The nations which sit in darkness will see a great light, and their language will be, 'O house of Israel, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.' Then, what discoveries will be made, what delight will be realized, what devotedness will be manifested! In connection with this destruction of the covering of ignorance and the veil of prejudice, this annulling of the death sentence, will be the casting out of him who blinds the minds of those who believe not.' Christ, who was manifested to destroy the works of the devil, will bind Satan, that he shall not deceive the nations any more during the millennium. For all this deliverance and blessing let us hope and pray.

But though we are as yet called to labour now in the midst of all this darkness and delusion, let us not be dismayed or discouraged. Greater

is He who is in us than he who is in the world ;' and, aided by Him who is our light and our salvation, we may so hold fast the word of life, and shine as lights in the world,' as to save some from darkness and death, and prepare them to stand around the Lamb with us on Mount Zion.

O hasten, Lord, the glorious day,
When, throned on Zion's brow,
Thy hand shall rend the veil away
Which blinds the nations now.

When earth no more beneath the fear
Of thy rebuke shall lie;
When pain shall cease, and every tear
Be wiped from every eye.

When Judah thus no more shall roam
Beneath the heathen's claim,
Thy days of splendour shall return,
And all be new again.'

THE HOME OF PERFECT REST. 'To you who are troubled rest with us.'-2 THESS. i. 7. JESUS said to his disciples, and He still says to all his followers, 'Let not your heart be troubled;' and yet his servant here describes them as 'you who are troubled.' But this trouble is outside the ship, not within it. The trouble Jesus forbids is that which arises from guilt, and fear, and care; these weaken the soul and produce cowardice. They are like the rot in a tree, which eats away its strength, and prepares for its fall. But external troubles are permitted and overruled by Jesus; and these are like the winds and storms, which serve to ground and root the tree more securely. They are for discipline and instruction. Thus the Lord prepared the east wind which smote the gourd which for a time sheltered Jonah. It was the prophet's own fault if he did not get more good from the withered plant, than he had got when it was flourishing in leafy glory, and formed a bower over his head.

Paul said, We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed.' No more was laid on him than strength was given him to bear. Look where he would on surrounding trouble, he could see no curse, and therefore felt no fear. Though he went down to the deeps, he rose again to the heights; and from the crested top of the wave of trouble he caught a glance of the haven of rest. Then he shouted to his brethren in tribulation, 'Rest with us is at hand.' The Lord, in whom we have rest now, is coming, and then we shall have rest with Him and with one another for ever. Each wave of trouble rolls us nearer to that rest, endears the thought of it, and meetens us for it.

Let us in all trouble rejoice in hope of this perfect and permanent rest. If we would do this, we must recollect the consolations provided for us in trouble in the promises of God; and, above all, that our God is the God of all comfort to his troubled ones, and loves to have them reposing in Him on their way to endless rest.

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