Matthew 25:1-2. Then shall the kingdom of heaven 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.
What a division this makes in the visible Church of God! Let as hope that we are not to gather from this that as many as half the professors of Christianity at any time are like these foolish virgins; yet our Lord would not have mentioned so high a proportion if there were not a very large admixture of foolish with the wise: “Five of them were wise, and five were foolish.”
Matthew 25:3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
They thought that, if they had the external, it would be quite enough. The secret store of oil, they judged to be unnecessary, because it would be unseen. They would employ one hand in carrying the lamp, but to occupy the other hand by holding the oil-flask seemed to them to be doing too much,— giving themselves up too thoroughly to the work; so they “took their lamps, and took no oil with them.” They might just as well have had no lamps at all.
Matthew 25:4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
Oil in their lamps, and oil with their lamps. Lamps are of no use without oil; yet the oil needs the lamp, or else it cannot be rightly used. The light of profession cannot be truly sustained without the oil of grace. Grace, wherever it exists, ought to show itself, as the oil is made to burn by means of the lamp; but it is no use to attempt to make a show unless there is that secret store somewhere by which the external part of religion may be maintained.
Matthew 25:5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
Both the wise and the foolish fell into a state which seemed alike in them both. In the case of good men, Christ’s delaying his coming often causes disappointment, weariness, and then lethargy, and even the true Church falls into a deep slumber. In the foolish, the mere professors, this condition goes much further. There being in them no true life, the very name to live becomes abandoned, and before long, they give up even the profession of religion when there is no secret oil of grace to sustain it.
Matthew 25:6. And at midnight
When things had come to the worst,—at midnight”— the coldest and. darkest hour, when everybody was asleep.
Matthew 25:6. There was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
That was a cry which startled everybody; none of the virgins could sleep when once it was announced that the bridegroom was coming. I wish, dear friends, that we thought more of the great truth of the Second Advent. The oftener it is preached, in due proportion with other truths, the better. We need still to hear that midnight cry, “Go ye out to meet him.”
Matthew 25:7. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
They could not sleep any longer; they were fairly startled and aroused.
Matthew 25:8. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil;
Ah, me! now they began to value what they had aforetime despised. They were foolish enough to think that oil was unnecessary; but now they saw that it was the one essential thing, so they cried to the wise virgins, “Give us of your oil.” And hear the dreadful reason: —
Matthew 25:8. For our lamps are gone out.
I do not know any more terrible words than those, “Our lamps are gone out.” It is worse to have a lamp that has gone out than never to have had a lamp at all. “’Our lamps are gone out.’ We once rejoiced in them. We promised ourselves a bright future. We said, ‘All is well for the marriage supper.’ But ‘our lamps are gone out,’ and we have no oil with which to replenish them.” O sirs, may none of us ever have to lift up that mournful cry! On a dying bed, in the extremity of pain, in the depth of human weakness, it is an awful thing to find one’s profession burning low, one’s hope of heaven going out, like the snuff of a candle.
Matthew 25:9. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
It is no easy matter to go and rouse up the seller of oil when the midnight hour has struck. O you who are putting off repentance to a dying bed, you are foolish virgins indeed! Your folly has reached the utmost height. You will have more than enough to do, when you lie there with the death-sweat cold upon your brow, without then having to seek the grace which you are neglecting to obtain today, but which you will value then.
Matthew 25:10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; —
While they were going.
Matthew 25:10-11. And they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
Too late, so that they could not enter.
Matthew 25:12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
“I never knew you,” says Christ in another place; and this knowledge of his is always bound up with affection. He loves no heart that he knows not in this sense. Those whom he knows, he loves. Will he ever say to me or to you, dear friend, “I know you not”? God grant that he never may have cause to do so I
Matthew 25:13. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
Matthew 25:14. For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.
This parable has to do with you who are professors of Christianity. He “called his own servants,” those who, by their own consent, were numbered amongst his household servitors: “He called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.” Not theirs, but his; and therefore to be used for him. If you are Christ’s servant, your abilities are his, he has lent them to you to be employed for your Lord. “He called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.”
Matthew 25:15. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.
He is gone; our Lord has risen; and we, his servants, are left behind to trade with his goods for his glory.
Matthew 25:16-18. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had receded one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
We are grieved to know that there are persons with five talents, and others with two talents, who do as this man did; but the case is put in this way, so as to reach us all. Since most persons have but one talent, they are the most often found each one saying, “I have so little ability, I will not do anything. If I had five talents, I might become distinguished; if I had two, I might be very useful; but with one, I need not attempt anything. I am a private person,— a mother, quite obscure, with my little family around me, what can I do?” It is very often a strong temptation from Satan, to those who have but one talent, to make them think that they may, with impunity, hide that one. And then, you see, the argument cuts the other way. If it be wrong to hide one talent, much more wrong is it to hide two, and far worse to dig in the earth, and bury five.
Matthew 25:19. After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckon with them.
Always remember the reclining. We have heard of one, who went into a house of entertainment, and fed most luxuriously; but, when the landlord brought him the bill, he said, “Oh, I never thought of that!” And there are many who spend their whole lives without ever thinking of the reckoning; yet it must come, and for every hour, for every opportunity, for every ability, for every sin, and for every omission of duty, they must give account. “The lord of those servants cometh, and reckon with them.”
Matthew 25:20-21. And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou delivered unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
I do not doubt that this man had often reckoned with himself,— for he that never reckons with himself may well be afraid of being called to reckon with his God; — and I expect that he had often grieved to think that he had not turned the five talents into twenty. He must have thought that, to gain only five talents more, was very little; but he found his master was well content with what he had done. Do you think, brother, that all of you who have five talents have gained five talents more? You were richly endowed as a youth; have you increased the ability to serve your God? You see, the parable speaks not so much of what they had done for other people, as of what they had themselves gained, and still had in hand. Have you more grace? Have you more tact? Have you more adaptation to your Master’s service? Are you conscious that it is so? I should not wonder if you are mourning that you are not more useful, and more fit to be used. It is well that you should mourn in that way; but when your Master comes, I trust that he will say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Matthew 25:22-23. He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou delivered unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
That is a beautiful reward,— not so much to have a joy of our own as to enter into the joy of our Lord. It is not a servant’s portion that is given to us; it is the Master’s portion shared by his servants. How it ennobles Christian work to feel that it is not simply our work, but work done by the Master through the servant; and the reward shall not so much be our joy as our entrance into our Master’s joy. That is indeed giving to us the best of the best in return for our poor service here.
Matthew 25:24-25. Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: and I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
“I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth.” See, friends, how fear may often be the mother of presumption. Confidence in God begets holy fear; but unholy fear begets a doubt of God, and leads us to desperate rebellion of unbelief. God save us from such fear!
Matthew 25:26-27. His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: thou ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
His lord took him on his own ground, and condemned him out of his own mouth.
Matthew 25:28-29. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents. For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance:
He that has faith shall have more faith. He that has a secret taste for heavenly things shall have a greater love for them. He that has some understanding of the truth of God shall get more understanding of it. God gives to those that have; it is equally true that he gives to those who confess that they have not.
Matthew 25:29. But from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
If you want an instance of taking away from a man what he has not got, you may have seen it sometimes in the case of a person without any education or knowledge, who is quite content to remain in that condition. Rut, on a sudden, he is introduced into learned society; he hears what educated people have to say, and he exclaims, “What a fool I am!” What he thought he had, though he never had it, suddenly goes from him.
Matthew 25:30. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
If we give any description of the world to come which is at all terrible, those who reject the Scriptures begin to cry out that we have borrowed it from Dante, or taken it from Milton; but I take leave to say that the most awful and harrowing descriptions of the woes of the lost that ever fell from human lip do not exceed or even equal the language of the loving Christ himself. Listen: “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” He is the true lover of men’s souls who does not deceive them. He that paints the miseries of hell as though they were but little is seeking to murder men’s souls under the pretence of being their friend. May God give all of you grace to trust in Jesus for yourselves, and then to point others to him, for Christ’s sake! Amen.