The Wise and Foolish Virgins Described:
William Huntington (1745-1813)
BEING THE SUBSTANCE OF TWO SERMONS, DELIVERED AT MONKWELL STREET MEETING FEBRUARY 14 AND 28, 1797.
The Wise Virgins Described - Sermon 1.
But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps," Matt. xxv. 4
THE intention of this parable is, to shew to the saints the case and state of the church of God towards the close of time, when the Judge will be standing before the door; when the sun of righteousness will be going down over a sinful world; when the shadows of the evening, of the gospel dispensation, will be stretched out, and the midnight cry just ready to be ushered in.
Then, "then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom." By the kingdom of heaven here is not meant ultimate glory, nor the gospel; though both these are called the kingdom: nor is the empire of grace in the heart intended; but the visible crowd of professors, whether real or nominal. The subjects of Christ's kingdom are what is here meant, consisting of two sorts: some real subjects, internally so by grace; and others only externally so in appearance and by profession. The number ten shews the small quantity of professors that will be found in the world at that time; for it will be as it was in the days of Noah and Lot. When the Son of man cometh the world will be very busy, professors very few, and vital godliness at a very low ebb.
The title given them is that of virgins, because of their outward and apparent adherence to Christ, his truth and worship, and to an open profession of his name.
Their "going forth" intends their turning their back upon the world, and joining themselves to, and associating, with, the children of God.
What they had in view at their setting out was, "to meet the bridegroom." This is what they all aimed at. They expected that he would appear as their lover, not as an angry judge, and to be embraced by him, and received into his presence. This was their hope and expectation, as appears by the confusion they were in when shut out, and by their earnest entreaties to be admitted. But they were disappointed of their hopes, and their expectations were cut off; and no wonder, for one half of this company was wrong, at their first setting out, and so they were at their journey's end. For "five" of them were "foolish." These took not their vessels, nor had they any oil with them; and therefore their lamps went out when they had the greatest need of them, namely, at midnight. Nor did the spiritual Aaron, our great high-priest, either trim their lamps, or feed them; and therefore they of course went out; and, when out, they were left in the dark, which to them is an earnest and a prelude to ever-lasting darkness.
My design is to handle these two sorts of virgins separately, that you may see the one from the other. I intend to discourse on the wise virgins at this time, and at some future period I will treat of the foolish. Now for the words of my text.
"But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps." In handling this subject I will endeavour to describe,
II. Their wisdom.
III. Their lamps.
IV. Their vessels.
V. Their oil. And,
Lastly, How they fared at their journey's end.
First, I am to treat of these virgins.
Sometimes it signifies a young woman newly married, and who hath lost her husband by death: "Lament like a virgin girded with sackcloth for the husband of her youth," Joel, i. 18.
This name is often given to a city which hath not been forced by siege, nor taken, conquered, sacked, or rifled. Hence we read, Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans; for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate, Isaiah, xlvii. 1. So we read of the virgin the daughter of Zion, and of the virgin of Israel; and, indeed, "there are threescore queens and fourscore concubines, and virgins without number; but my undefiled is but one; she is the only one of her mother, and the choice one of her that bare her." But the virgins in my text are so called on a religious account, because of their faithful and close attachment to the Son of God, and on account of the purity of their consciences, their lives, doctrines, and worship: they had not suffered themselves to be seduced, defiled and corrupted, from the simplicity that is in Christ.
The virgins here mentioned, which are called wise virgins, are heavenly and spiritual virgins, as the bridegroom they go forth to meet is the heavenly and spiritual bridegroom. They are elected or chosen persons; chosen in Christ, and given to him before ever the world was made, and were secretly espoused to him from all eternity in God the Father's purpose, and in the cordial acceptance of them by Christ himself; on which account he calls himself their husband before they are openly espoused to him. "Fear not, for thy Maker is thy husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name, &C.
But there is an open espousal of them in time, by the power and presence of Christ attending the gospel preached, as saith the apostle; "I have espoused you to a good husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ." Indeed, before Christ is known, we are wedded to the law of works, until we find that the law worketh wrath in us, and ministers death to us; that it is weak through the flesh, and therefore can give us no help; a killing letter, and can give us no life. This makes us die to all hope in it, and it appears a dead letter to us; then, when faith comes, we get from under it, and are no more bound to its rigorous exactions, being redeemed from it by the crucifixion of Christ, and delivered from it by the grace of Christ. "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God," Rom. vii. 4. Hence it is that a poor soul, mourning under his sins, and condemned by the law, is compared to a desolate widow, until Christ betroths the soul to himself: "Fear not, for thou shalt not be ashamed neither be thou confounded, for thou shalt not be put to shame; for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth, and shalt not remember the reproach of thy widowhood any more; for thy maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name," Isaiah, liv. 4. Here we forget the shame of our youth, guilt being, purged away; and, as for Satan, law, and conscience, they can no longer reproach us with being, without Christ, and having no hope in the world, for we are to remember the reproach of our widowhood no more; old things are passed away, and all things are become new. The name of widow is rubbed off, and the name of virgin is given. And when this reproach and shame are purged away, and all our reproachers are silenced, then it is that the union takes place between the heavenly bridegroom and the poor distressed soul; love is shed abroad in the heart, and nothing but love is discovered in the altogether lovely Jesus. This love knits the marriage-knot, cures all our love-sicknesses, and its cruel attendant raging jealousy. Love casts out fear and torment, joins the soul to Christ, and it is bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord our God. Such, saith Paul, are "presented as a chaste virgin to Christ."
This mystical marriage was pointed out under the former dispensation. The high-priest, who was a type of Christ in his priestly office, was strictly forbidden to take any person to wife but a virgin: "And he shall take a wife in her virginity. A willow, or divorced woman, or profane, or an harlot, these shall he not take; but he shall take a virgin of his own people to wife," Levit. xxi. 13, 14. In allusion to this, all the followers of the High Priest of our profession are called "virgins."
But again. This virgin is one who strictly adheres to her marriage covenant, by which "she is betrothed to the Lord for ever, even betrothed to him in righteousness, in judgment, in lovingkindness, and in mercies: yea, I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfullness, and thou shalt know the Lord," Hosea, ii. 19, 20. The covenant of grace, in which she was given to Christ, and in which Christ was given to her, is highly esteemed by her: she knows that, in the ancient settlements, in the divine counsels of old, "a certain man made a marriage for his son," and in the day of her espousals, she sets her seal to the truth of this it is the whore that forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God, whose ways take hold on hell, going down to the chambers of death," but this virgin abides by the doctrines of Christ, and hath both the Father and the Son: she hath God to her father, and Christ to her husband.
Moreover, this virgin is embraced, in all her bridal attire, as a bride prepared for her husband. God imputes the wedding garment of his dear Son to her; her faith apprehends it, and puts it on; God the Father draws her to her beloved, and he receives her as the Father's gift, saying, This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called "Evab," the mother of all living saints, and "Hepbzibah," for my delight is in her. "This is a great mystery; but I speak concerning Christ and the church Loving-kindness crowns her head, imputed righteousness enrobes her person, meekness and quietude adorn her soul, modesty and bashfullness appear in her countenance; and she often blushes at a sight and sense of her own unworthiness. An illuminated understanding and faith are her eyes; the bond of the covenant and its promises the chain of her neck; her shoes are peace, and truth her girdle: and so sure as a bridegroom decketh himself with his ornaments, so sure is this bride thus adorned with her jewels.
Furthermore, her faith and affection to her royal consort are sorely tried. Many of Satan's procurers try hard to degrade and debase her spouse, in older to lessen him in her esteem, and to rival him in her affections; many old pimps sit at the seats of their doors, and lie in wait at every corner, in order to ensnare and beguile her, saying, "Let her be defiled, and let our eye look upon Zion. But these know not the thoughts of the Lord," Micah, iv. 11. Neither Satan, the arch seducer, nor any of his forestallers; neither Jezebel the witch, nor Babylon the whore could ever finally alienate her affections from her covenant Head, or so damp her love as to get her to relinquish her hold of him, to embrace the bosom of a stranger, to follow other lovers, to admire their bed when she saw it, or to discover herself to another, so as to expose herself to be judged, as a woman that breaketh wedlock is judged; nay, so far from it, that she will not suffer lawful love to the creature to grow into inordinate affection without checking it, disapproving and disallowing of it, so as even to cry to her husband about it: "Draw me, and we will run after thee." If thou dost not draw me, I shall be drawn away from thee. She is not like that easy, quiet whore in the city, who was to be stoned to death for her sinful compliance, and for not crying out, Deut. xxii. 24. In short, at the worst of times this virgin can say, "Whom have I in heaven but thee?" And, if misled and detained a captive, yet, as soon as she gets loose, she will say, "I will go and return to my first husband, for then it was better with me than now." I come next to treat of;
II. The wisdom of these virgins. The other virgins are called fools; but these are said to be wise. The first appearance of their wisdom is in learning, to bring distant things near. They dare not cause the seat of violence to approach while they put far away the evil day. The day of judgment and they are daily conversing together, however terrible the meditation, or shocking the appearance. This is one part of the wisdom that God calls for: "O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would but consider their latter end. The wise man foresees the evil and hideth himself; but the wicked pass on, and are punished." To foresee the evil day is to bring it near, to cite ourselves at the bar both of God's law and our own conscience, in order to judge ourselves, that we may not be judged, and that we may accept the punishment of our iniquity, and not be condemned with the world; and to search and see which way a poor sinner may fly from the wrath to come; and, when Christ, "the hiding-place from the storm," is discovered, to betake ourselves, with all our grievances and troubles, and with all our confessions and petitions, to him, in order to embrace him as the only refuse that God hath set before us: and when faith gives us access to love of his heart, we are bid; and under his shadow we shall dwell in safety till every calamity be overpast. That which prompts us to this is the alarm of God in our conscience, which awakens a whole army of terrors and fears about us; and this "fear is the beginning of wisdom," and operates upon us as it did upon Noah when God apprised him of the future deluge: "He was moved with fear, and prepared the ark." We are moved with the same fear, and betake ourselves to Jesus, for fear of being drowned in destruction and perdition.
This wisdom farther discovers itself by making the heart honest and humble, to tremble at, and to come to, the light of divine revelation. The heart that is endowed with this wisdom, and implanted with this fear, moves in concert with the lively oracles of God. If God threatens, the sinner trembles; if God forbids, he tries to forbear; if he contends, he stands mute; if he smites him, he falls under it; if he pleads against him, his unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God; if he says, Come, let us reason together, he keeps his distance; if he sets his sins in order before him, he knows they are not all there; if he fills him with wrath and rebuke, he expects worse; if he writes bitter things against him, he aggravates every circumstance in the hand-writing; if he is inclined to be propitious, he refuses to be comforted; if mercy melts him, he coyly refuses it; and, if God appears pacified toward him, he abhors himself in his own sight for his iniquity. Not so the fool: he hates the light; Prophesy smooth things, prophesy deceits, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us, saith he; heal our wounds slightly; cry peace, peace. "These have rejected the word of the Lord, and what wisdom is there in them?" Jer. viii. 9.
Their highest wisdom consists in this, they know their Saviour, and their interest in him; they know whom they have believed, and that their faith in him hath purified their heart; the blood of and the Spirit bears his witness to sprinkling speaks in them, their sonship; and this is "to be made wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ."
Such a soul knows that there is no other way into the holy of holies, but that which Christ hath consecrated through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; and, as he received him, so he endeavours to walk in him; and everything that has a tendency to stagger, stumble, or impede him in his way; to fetter him, clog him, damp his zeal, or check his diligence; he endeavours to avoid. "The fool believeth every word, but the wise man looks well to his way."
If anything stumbles his judgment, he prays for instruction; if he cannot make straight path for his feet, he waits for God's counsel; if the standard be lifted up, he mends his pace; if his heart be enlarged, he runs; if the sun shines, he lays by every weight, and the sin that so easily besets him, the worst of which is unbelief. "The wisdom of the wise is to understand his way."
Such a soul knows that Gods way is not his way; that it is not obvious to the light of nature; that, unless God shines upon it, it cannot be discerned, although so many eminent men have been employed in casting it up: hence he tries it by the word, seeks direction of the best guides, feels for God's arm, leans on his beloved, and observes the dictates of the Holy Spirit; and, when he has the approbation of Christ and conscience, wisdom's ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace: and this way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath." The wisdom of this poor soul lies in his knowing what is acceptable to God. Without forgiveness of sin he knows there can be no admission to heaven; for "the unclean shall not enter without holiness (by the Spirit) no man shall see the Lord" without an imputed righteousness no acceptance; "the unrighteous shall not enter the kingdom:" and without truth in the heart all religion is vain; for truth must be settled in heaven; but he cannot come there "who loveth and maketh a lie." These things he seeks, after these he follows, and these best gifts he covets, as things that accompany salvation; and all these things he has in Christ, and he enjoys them by virtue of union with him: "And this is the wise man, who builds his house, digs deep, and founds it upon a rock; that when the rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow and beat upon the house, it stands fast, being, founded upon a rock."
Once more: The wise man knows the connexion that Christ sustains, and in what covenant relation he stands to him; that he is made of God unto him wisdom as well as righteousness; and to know him and the power of his resurrection is the quintessence of all wisdom; and all wisdom short of this he deems folly. "If any man will be wise in this world, let him become a fool that he may be wise for all human wisdom is foolishness with God, as it is said, "professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, vain in their imagination, and their foolish hearts were darkened." Which leads me,
III. To describe their lamps. This parable seems to have an allusion to a Jewish wedding, which came on after the espousals. The night being arrived for the young couple to come together, the bridegroom and his friends set off with their lights, from his father's house, to meet the bride; at which time she and her female attendants set off from her father's house to meet him, in order to be conducted to the house which he had provided for her. And so it is here. Christ leaves heaven, his father's house, and comes with all the saints and angels attending him; when the bride, and her companions, shall be brought to him, "with joy and rejoicing, shall they be brought, and shall enter into the king's palace;" namely, the new earth first, "wherein dwelleth rightousness," and shall spend a thousand years with him; at which time he shall present her to himself a glorious church, "having, neither spot nor wrinkle;" and afterwards he will present her unto his Father at the delivering up of the kingdom, and place her at his own right hand. "On the right hand stood the queen in gold Ophir."
The first account we have in scripture of a lamp is in Gen. xv. 17. Abraham was commanded of God to take "an heifer, a she goat, a ram, a turtle dove, and a young pigeon." The beasts he divides in twain, but not the birds. " And when the sun was going down a deep sleep fell upon Abraham," which was followed with", an horror of great darkness. And it came to pass that when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace and a burning lamp, that passed between those pieces. In that same day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying, "Unto thy seed I will give this land." It is thought, by many, that the sufferings of Israel in Egypt were represented by this furnace, and their great deliverance by the lamp. But I believe the slain beasts prefigured Christ; Abraham's darkness and horror, the bondage and wrath of the law; the smoking furnace, the suffering's of Christ under man's crimes and God's wrath; the lamp, the glorious salvation that should follow his crucifixion; for it is his death that ratifies and confirms the covenant of grace, and secures the heavenly country to all Abraham's mystical seed. And for this construction of the words we have the authority of the prophet Isaiah, who quotes this burning lamp, and applies it to the salvation of Christ. "For Zion's sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until the righteous thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth," Isaiah, Ixii. 1.
The brightness, brilliancy, lustre, and glory, of this righteousness, spring from the glory of the great personage that wrought it out; it is the righteousness of God. Glory, and the rays of infinite divinity, attend it to every soul to whom it is imputed; and the time will come "when the righteous shall shine forth (in it) as the sun, in the glory of their Father's kingdom, for ever and ever."
The salvation here mentioned is called "a lamp that burneth." Salvation from guilt and filth, from fear and bondage, wrath, death, hell, and damnation, comes into the soul like a flaming torch: the sun of righteousness arises upon us with healing in his beams, and conveys such divine heat and everlasting light as shall never be quenched nor extinguished; and it is attended with such a flame of heavenly love as melts the soul, kindles in the breast, and makes the heart burn within us. This makes a man a burning and a shining light; yea, it makes a minister a flame of fire. In short, salvation by grace is a lamp that never goes out; for "we are saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation, and shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end."
Some tell us that this lamp is a lamp of profession; but this is saying, nothing, as we have no scripture that calls a profession by that name. The lamp, as above described, is the lamp which these wise virgins took; had they taken any other, they had been just as foolish as the rest. Which leads me,
IV. To describe their vessels. By their vessels I understand their hearts; for religion without the heart is like the white of an egg without salt; it can be no more than bodily exercise, which profiteth nothing. If we draw near to God with our mouth, and honour him with our lips, while our hearts are far from him, in vain we worship him; and to set off for heaven and dream of getting there, while our hearts are set on the things of time and sense, is going without a heart; for "where a man's heart is there is his treasure." God promises to take away the stony heart of our flesh, and to give us an heart of flesh: "Yea, a new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you. I will give them an heart to know me, for I will pardon them whom I reserve; and I will circumcise their hearts to love me, that they may live."
Where there is no heart in religion, there is no faith, for "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and where there is no heart there is no Christ, for he dwells in the heart by faith; and without the heart there can be no grace, for grace is the hidden man of the heart."
Furthermore. God looks with compassion on them, and only them, that tremble at his word; nor will he dwell with any but those that are of a broken and a contrite heart, "to revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite ones." A whole-hearted sinner needs not the physician; nor does the commission of Christ reach him, for he was sent "to bind up the broken-hearted."
These wise virgins knew the deceitfullness, the bitterness, the treachery, and the plaque of their own hearts; and they knew the change that God had made therein. Hence we may see that every thing, which these wise virgins were, and all that they had, came down from the Father of lights. They were all of them by nature sinners, dead in trespasses and sins; but God chastened them, and taught them out of his law, and then he drew them to Christ, that they might find rest in him "till the pit be digged up for the wicked;" and Christ received them as his Fathers gift: this entitled them to the name of virgins.
God revealed his Son in them the hope of glory, and they had "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ:" this made them wise virgins.
He gave them "the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins," which was attended with a feeling sense of the dying, love of Christ, that, having much forgiven, they might love much: this was their lamp, and this made them "wise virgins with their lamps."
God circumcised their hearts to love him, and wrought faith in their hearts to believe in him for life and salvation: this raised their affections above, and sent them out to meet the bridegroom for where should they be but where their hearts and treasures were? They never set out in hope and expectation of meeting the bridegroom till they were furnished with those things that would procure their reception, and make them meet for it. I come now,
V. To treat of their oil. The Jewish high priests, the prophet Elisha, and the kings of Israel, were all anointed with oil to their offices by the command of God; and HE that is now our prophet, priest, and king, was anointed also, and that with the Holy Ghost without measure. The holy penman, in his account of the anointing of Christ, is very particular, as you read "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows," Psalm iv. 5, 6, 7. It is plain that the marriage of Christ is set forth in this psalm. "All thy garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad." Here is Christ, and a company in the ivory palaces making, him glad; and next we have the church and her company mentioned; Kings' daughters were among thy Honourable women; upon thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir." In the next place, he orders her to quit her father's house, and come forth to meet him Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear: forget also thine own people, and thy father's house." He then tells her what a kind reception she shall meet with by so doing: so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty; for he is thy Lord, and worship thou him." Next mention is made of more bridemaids, even from among, the Gentiles; and some of the great ones of the earth, too, shall entreat the queen's favour: "And the daughter of Tyre shall be there with a gift, even the rich among the people shall entreat thy favour." Now he applauds her: "The king's daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold." And next comes her glorious admission into the royal palace: "She shall be brought unto the king, in raiment of needle-work;" and with her are brought the pure attendants that follow her, even the same persons mentioned in my text: "The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought unto thee, with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the king's palace," Psalm xlv. Out of this psalm, and the book of Proverbs, the Lord took this parable of the foolish and wise Virgins. And it is beautiful to see the gradation that appears in this psalm; for, first, here is the chosen spouse set before Christ, at the sight of whom he is much taken. 2. He is anointed to be a priest, to redeem by his sacrifice, and as a prophet to instruct her; and hence he calls upon her to hearken to him. 3. He is anointed to his kingly office, and tells her that the king, greatly desires her beauty, and then gives her the title of queen, suitable to his rank, and promises to bring her to his palace, and there to place her on his right hand. And these things were enforced with the most endearing affection, to induce her to quit her own family and father's house, and go forth to meet her bridegroom.
There were two things in the Saviour's view which rejoiced his heart when the oil of gladness was upon him; the one was, the day of his espousals: "Go forth, O dauahter of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown wherewith his mother crowned him in his day of his espousals, and in the day of the gladness of his heart." The other thing was, the glory that was to be put upon his human nature at his ascension to heaven, and the fullness of joy he was to have there. Hence you hear him speaking: "Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth; my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine holy one to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." This was "the joy that was set before him," for the which he "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Now let us look at the oil of these wise virgins, and see what it is. Solomon makes this flaming oil of the wise to be joy. He tells us that the light of a just man burns with joy, when the "light of the wicked is extinguished: "The light of the righteous, rejoiceth, when the lamp of the wicked shall be put out."
And the prophet Isaiah calls it "the oil of joy;" for, prophesying of Christ, and what he sould do when he came, he tells us that he shall "comfort all that mourn. To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified," Isaiah, Ixi. 3. Hence it appears that the spiritual and heavenly joy, with which the Holy Spirit fills the new-born soul, is this oil which the wise virgins took in their vessels. This appears still more evident, because it is opposed to mouring, and is promised to the mourners in Zion: and nothing can be more desired by poor souls mourning under sin than this joy of the Lord; yea, even the foolish virgins craved it when their lamps went out; "Give us of your oil." Which verifies the saying of the wise man, There is a treasure to be desired, and oil in the dwelling of the wise," Prov. xxi. 20. And this proverb is fulfilled in my text, "for the wise had oil in their vessels."
We know that oil is a furious thing, to burn; and sure I am that nothing, detsroys grief, sorrow, misery, and mourning, more effectually than the joy of the Lord in the heart. This oil makes a man's face to shine, however fallen, sickly, sad, dejected, or gloomy, it might appear before. Prosperity and joy, adversity and pensive consideration, are opposed to each other: "In the day of prosperity be joyful, in the day of adversity consider; God hath set the one against the other." When our spiritual might abates, and our joys flag, we may prophesy as David did, My horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn; I shall be anointed with fresh oil."
Moreover, oil is of a very predominant nature; put it into what you will, unless it mixes, it will be uppermost; and so the greatest felicity of heaven is set forth by it: "In his presence is fullness of joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore." According to Paul, joy is the second fruit of the Holy Spirit of God: "Love, joy, peace." Anointed with this oil, shall the sons of God return to their father's house: "They shall come with songs, and everlasting joy upon their head; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing, shall flee away." The Lord fill us with all joy and peace in believing.
Once more. What can fill the bridegroom's heart so much as joy, when he is going, to take the desire of his eyes home to himself? Or what can fill the bride's heart but joy, when she is going, to the bosom of him who is supreme in her affections? And how doth the scripture set this comparison of, and interweave it with, the soul's espousal to Christ? Thou "shalt no more be termed forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed desolate: but thou shalt be called Hepbzibah, and thy land Beulah for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For, as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee; and, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee," Isaiah, Ixii. 4, 5.
This oil of heavenly joy is an inestimable treasure, and so it will appear to the wise whenever the midnight cry comes. When the children of this world will be in their greatest security, buying, selling, building, planting, marrying wives and giving in marriage; when all on a sudden the archangel, and the trump of God will alarm them all; then to reflect upon the work of regeneration, and to look forward with a good hope through grace, and feel a love to his appearing to see and know that now is an end to all sin and sinning; to all sorrow, sadness, and suffering; and to have nothing before us but eternal felicity, and the bridegroom coming to be admired in all that believe, and to receive the darling of his soul home to himself; this will make the oil burn brighter than ever. I now hasten to shew,
VI. How they fared their at their journey's end. We are informed that "the bridegroom tarried;" he was not quite so quick in his motions as they were in their expectations; and perhaps the cause of this was, somebody had been too busy in fixing the time of his coming, as many speculators have been very forward it fixing, the precise time for many events which God hath not revealed: beyond this time limited by some and expected by others, the bridegroom tarried; "and they all slumbered and slept." Faith was out of exercise, hope was not looking out, nor expectation on her watch-tower: patience had no troubles to exercise it, love was grown cold, diligence was worn out, grace lay dormant, and all the senses became drowsy: nothing awake but poor honest conscience, and he was not attended to. "I sleep, but my heart awaketh. It is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love." Though the spouse was asleep, her heart was not; and, however dead asleep, yet she knew the voice of her beloved and says, "It is the voice of my beloved that knocked." These words of the church Christ himself quotes: "Let your loins be girt about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their Lord when he will return from the wedding, that when he cometh and knocketh they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching," Luke, xii. 36.
"And at midnigt there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him." At midnight was this cry made. The creation of the world is called morning, and the angels who then sang their anthems are called "the morning, stars that sang together," Job, xxxviii. 7. The prophetic age is called noon, Amos, viii. 9. In Christ's days it was called supper time, Luke, xiv. 16, 17. But this cry is at the close of time, and therefore called midnight: and there is an allusion to the midnight cry in Egypt, when the first-born in every house lay dead, and Israel all in perfect safety, "who kept the passover and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the first-born should touch them."
However, God will always have some watchmen on the walls of Zion to give the time of the night, as was the case here; there were some that cried the hour even at midnight for at that time the cry was made: surely "God will not do any thing, but revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets."
Before the flood, Noah was let into the secret of the deluge. Before the destruction of Sodom, Abraham first, and then Lot, was apprized of it. To the destruction that came upon Egypt Moses was privy. Jeremiah was informed of the duration of Israel's captivity in Babylon. Daniel was informed when the Messiah would come. And both Daniel and the Messiah himself gave many broad hints of Jerusalem's desolation. And so likewise of the day of judgment, some watchmen will be informed of that, lest the Lord, coming suddenly, should find his spouse sleeping.
"Behold, the bridegroom cometh." This watch-word was not given to the world, for he is not a bridegroom to them; the warning was given to Zion, and to the inhabitants of that city; and they, and only they, took the warning, and were alarmed and roused up by it.
"Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps." The foolish, as well as the wise, being in communion one with another, received the warnings. But I shall not take notice of them at this time. The wise "trimmed their lamps:" by which it appears that their evidences were begloomed, and their spirits dull; the grace of God in their hearts, and their past experiences, much obscured; their lights very dim, and their love cold; much sin unconfessed and unrepented of, and the great day of accounts put far away. But this cry alarmed them, and awakened all their fears about them: their backsliding reproved them, their base ingratitude stared them in the face; and their carelessness and cold indifference terrified them. This led them to self-examination, and that led them to humble confession: fear moved them, and prayers were fervently put up for pardon, peace, and a revival of the work; when a fresh application of the atonement was applied, meekness and humility were granted, and they restored to the joys of his salvation, and furnished and upheld by his free spirit. They saw that their guilt was purged, and their wedding, garment on truth was about their loins, and love in their hearts; the Spirit's witness within, and a serene heaven without; faith in exercise, and hope in vigour: and, being thus ready prepared, as a bride adorned for her husband, they cry, "Come, Lord Jesus. come quickly!"
And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut." This marriage is not in heaven, or in ultimate glory; for Christ at this time comes to raise the dead who died in faith, and to change the saints that shall at this time be found alive upon earth; and, when the one is changed, and the other raised, they enter into the heavenly Jerusalem, which at this time will be let down out of heaven from God. "They will mount up to meet the Lord in the air;" when he will burn the world, and all the wicked in it, as he did Sodom and Gomorrah; and then "create all things new. The elements shall melt, and the heavens pass away with a great noise; the earth, and all her works, shall be burnt up, and a new heaven and a new earth appear," agreeable to his promise, "wherein dwelleth righteousness." This will be the last jubilee, and the last Sabbath; and now shall "the meek inherit the earth, and the elect long enjoy the work of their hands;" for they will, in this state, outlive all the antediluvians; for "they shall live and reign with Christ a thousand years." This will appear a heavenly country, and Zion "a city that hath foundations, whose maker and builder is God." This will be "the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy city," and the camp of the saints; and the thousand years rest that remains to the people of God, of which the Sabbath was a sign; and here we shall rest from our works, as God did from his. At this time we shall meet all the flock: this will be "the general assembly and church of the first-born, whose names are written in heaven." And at the close of the thousand years the wicked shall be raised and judged; and, when banished and imprisoned, the saints will ascend to ultimate glory, the scaffold will be struck, and time will be no more; but heaven will be the saints' final home, and God will be all in all.
Now suffer a word of counsel and advice. As the midnight cry in Egypt was emblematical of this midnight cry at the end of the world, so God's direction to Israel will serve as a guide to us. Israel was a typical people, and prefigured the whole Israel of God; they were all the sons of God by national adoption: "Israel is my son, my first-born; let my son go, that he may serve me:" and, as such, they represented all the sons of God, who were predestinated to the adoption of children; which preadoption is manifested to them at their believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Every household of Israel was to take a lamb; and every little congreation belonging to the household of faith must by faith take hold of the lamb of God; and this lamb, our passover sacrificed for us, must be eaten; his flesh is meat indeed, and his blood drink indeed. This sacrifice is a sweet entertainment for a restless, disquieted soul, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness, life, pardon, peace, reconciliation with God, and eternal salvation; and will nourish faith and hope: it will satisfy a barren, empty, perisbing, mind; and quiet, compose, and becalm an accusing conscience, and gratify it to the highest decree. This lamb was to be roasted with fire: and the faith of a believer sees and feels the cruse, the burning, fire and smoking jealousy, of a sin-avenging, God revealed in a fiery law, poured forth upon the Lamb of God, who suffered in the room and stead of his people so that he is redeemed from the wrath to come, and delivered from going down to the pit, by the life of Christ, laid down a ransom for many. The blood of the Lamb was to be put upon the two side-posts, and upon the upper door-post of the houses. Christ does condescend to visit his elect while we dwell in the houses of these our earthly tabernacles, and demands entrance by the everlasting doors of our hearts; and when the King of glory comes in, he not only puts a little sweet-smelling myrrh upon the handles of the lock, but with this blessed atonement he sprinkles the heart from an evil conscience; which saving benefit being applied, procures his admittance ever after, and makes his company so desirable. This sacrifice was to be eaten with unleavened bread, which Paul says is "sincerity and truth." Sincerity is opposed to hypocrisy, and truth to falsehood: hypocrisy, malice, and wickedness, is called old leaven. "And thus shall ye eat it, with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand." "The truth (as it is in Christ), received in the love of it," and with it "the love of the truth," or the love that God promises in the word of truth to reveal in us, is, according to Paul, the saint's girdle; "having, your loins girt about with truth." The loins of the mind being girded up, keeps from a loose and scandalous profession, and from embracing the damnable lies and Heresies that abound in our day. To walk humbly with Christ, and to enjoy peace in him, and in our own conscience, is "having our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." The staff must be in our hand. Christ, in his office of a shepherd, has his staff, and, as king of Zion, he hath his rod, or sceptre; of which David speaks. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want," for I am a sheep of his pasture; the Lord is my king, working, salvation in the midst of the earth; and he will magnify this staff by his tender care of me, and shew himself worthy of "a right sceptre," by destroying my enemies and defending me. "I will fear no evil, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." This staff is the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, and by which mighty power we are kept through faith. But the lamb must be eaten with bitter herbs; with bitter herbs shall they eat it." These are not palatable, but profitable; they are not intended to fill the belly, but to purge and strengthen the stomach. When bitter trials cease we get lifeless; and when lifeless, Satan gets little injury, and God gets but little glory. The only remedy against slumbering and sleeping is diligence and watchfullness; for all the time we are diligent our souls gather fatness, and God is glorified, which is what Satan cannot bear. It is when the soul is pressing, forward to Jesus that Satan buffets him; and it is when he would do good that evil is present with him. Let his diligence abate, and Satan is undisturbed; let him cease to do good, and the old man will not so strongly annoy him. This brings on slumbering and sleeping, the offence of the cross is ceased.
A worse slaughter than that of Egypt will be made at the midnight cry, I mean among those who will be found in their first-born state. Let us, therefore, keep the passover and the sprinkling of blood.
Again: Israel was to abide in their houses; and the saint should abide in the house of God, for there the midnight cry will first be made, and there the warning be first given. Once more: At this passover Israel was to begin to reckon time; it was to be the beginning of months unto them; and at the last midnight cry suffering time, sinning time, the devil's time, and the time of sinners plaguing the saints, will be over; and a whole thousand years complete will take place, and run out, before Satan and his adherents come forth to judgment. They shall all be in prison during this term, while Christ will reign before all the antediluvian and postdiluvian saints, and that in a glorious manner; for so it is written: "The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall be removed like a cottage, and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall and not rise again. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth upon the earth. And they shall be gathered together as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison; and after many days shall they be visited. 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," Isa. xxiv. 20, 21, 22, 23. God grant we may be found among this number. Amen