Page images
PDF
EPUB

virgins who went forth to meet the bridegroom.” These may be said, in a general way, to represent the professing members of his Church : they all acknowledged the same Lord, for they all went to meet him,and “ all took their lamps. The wise supplied themselves with whatever was requisite; but “ the foolish took no oil in their vessels,” trusting, by some means or other, to be furnished with it at the last. The bridegroom tarried; all the train slumbered :-and the whole body of Christians are, at times, negligent and remiss. But, when the cry announced the bridegroom's approach, they started from their dream, and they who were prudently provided with oil recruited their lamps; but those of the foolish were totally extinguished. They sought in vain to rekindle them—“ Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.” But the wise answered, “ Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” No man, at that solemn hour of reckoning, whatever may be pretended of the merits of saints, can have aught to spare for his neighbour-aught that can supply the deficiencies of another the best will have little enough for himself.

[ocr errors]

The simple virgins went to buy : meanwhile the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut.”

A very great majority, I doubt, of the household of Christ, resemble these weak and dilatory maidens. They take the lamp of revelation ; but, in their hands, it burns dim, and for want of nourishment soon expires; yet they mean, when their Lord shall appear, to awaken the flame, and

go forth to meet him. Though destitute of every thing necessary to light them on their way, they trust to find, in time, what may be sufficient for their use ;--they may borrow, or they may buy, or possibly some spark may fall to answer their purpose, they know not how, or whence,-or amidst the blaze of so much splendour, the dimness of their lamps may not be observed. But should they, after all, be too late to enter with the foremost, their Lord is gracious, ---he will open the gate of mercy to their earnest supplication, and they, in the end, shall be admitted to the feast.

But what, in fact, was the issue ? what was the actual event, as shadowed out by our Saviour in the allegory ? The improvident and halting

attendants return indeed, but the bridal procession has passed by ;-the bridegroom is now at the altar ;-the portal of the temple is closed. The tardy virgins knock, imploring admission

Lord, Lord, open to us :"-He hears their request; but what is his reply?- Mark it !-

Verily I say unto you, I know you not.

Now, apply this parable, and the impressive warning preceding it, to the case in point,—the condition of the slothful and feeble Christian, who hopes, by a protracted and ultimate repentance, to make amends for past misconduct.

The simple virgins are referred to the venders of the commodity of which they stood in such pressing need—“ Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves;" and the time has been when, even in the Christian Church, pardon and absolution were matters of bargain and salearticles of gainful traffic. A powerful hierarchy, (with whose civil and political claims I intermeddle not, but whose religious errors and corruptions, as well as the errors of every other party, must sometimes be referred to, in vindication of truth) that hierarchy, which in the days of ignorance and superstition acquired such unlimited dominion over Christendom, established a lucrative bank, supplied from the superabundant goodness of martyrs and confessors; from which fund they plentifully administered to the deficiencies of such deluded votaries as were willing to purchase remission and security by liberal donations to the clergy. This folly will now be thought sufficiently glaring; and yet among many, who deride such weakness and credulity, a kindred superstition may be found. Enthusiasm, of whatever school, is as blind and credulous as popery. He who thinks to make compensation for fraud and dishonesty by indiscriminate zeal in disseminating the Bible, and propagating a faith which does not influence his own conduct,--and he who resorts to the merits of Christ, to atone for sin, not abjured and abandoned, but for obstinate and continued disobedience, is as far gone in credulity, and adopts as gross an error, as the believer in transubstantiation, or the purchaser of papal indulgences. Surely that doctrine is far from “ the truth as it is in Jesus,” which, quite forgetting all His lessons of morality, disclaims and despises moral virtue, as arrogant self-righteousness ;-wildly dreaming that all will be set right at last, by sending for a Gospel minister, and crying, “ Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out,”—partaking the sacrament—hearing the absolution of a fellow-sinner -and then, by a kind of juggler's trick, the shackles of sin are to fall off, and the ransomed soul find shelter and safety under the shadow of His wings, who is still irreverently styled, as he was of old reproachfully by the Pharisees, “ the friend of sinners.” Yes, the Lord our righteousness is, in the fullest sense,

“ the friend of sinners,"— for he came to call them to repentance; but to those who observe not this call, who repent not in time to turn from their evil deeds, he decidedly professes, “ I know not whence ye are;-depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.”

Purposes and intentions of future amendment, without an immediate and vigorous endeavour to reform, are but mockery of God. An orthodox faith, without concurring holiness of life, is an exhausted lamp, affording neither kindly heat, nor useful light. But," cries the confident disciple of the predestinarian school, “ that lamp will be re-illuminated by a flash from heaven, and burn brighter at the last :- All who are appointed unto life, will, sooner or later, hear the call ; and however careless or licentious a believer

66

« PreviousContinue »