1Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
1 CHAPTER XXV.
NOTES ON CHAP. XXV.
Verse 1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven] The state of Jews
and professing Christians-the state of the visible Church at the
time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the day of judgment:
for the parable appears to relate to both those periods. And
particularly at the time in which Christ shall come to judge the
world, it shall appear what kind of reception his Gospel has met
with. This parable, or something very like it, is found in the
Jewish records: so in a treatise entitled RESHITH CHOCMAH, the
beginning of wisdom, we read thus: "Our wise men of blessed memory
say, Repent whilst thou hast strength to do it, whilst thy lamp
burns, and thy oil is not extinguished; for if thy lamp be gone
out, thy oil will profit thee nothing." Our doctors add, in
MEDRASH: "The holy blessed God said to Israel, My sons, repent
whilst the gates of repentance stand open; for I receive a gift at
present, but when I shall sit in judgment, in the age to come, I
will receive none." Another parable, mentioned by Kimchi, on
Isa 65:13. "Rabbi Yuchanan, the son of Zachai, spoke a parable
concerning a king, who invited his servants, but set them no time
to come: the prudent and wary among them adorned themselves and,
standing at the door of the king's house, said, Is any thing
wanting in the house of the king? (i.e. Is there any work to be
done?) But the foolish ones that were among them went away, and
working said, When shall the feast be in which there is no labour?
Suddenly the king sought out his servants: those who were adorned
entered in, and they who were still polluted entered in also. The
king was glad when he met the prudent, but he was angry when he
met the foolish: he said, Let the prudent sit down and eat-let
the others stand and look on." Rabbi Eliezer said, "Turn to God
one day before your death." His disciples said, "How can a man
know the day of his death?" He answered them, "Therefore you
should turn to God to-day, perhaps you may die to-morrow; thus
every day will be employed in returning." See Kimchi in
Virgins] Denoting the purity of the Christian doctrine and
character. In this parable, the bridegroom is generally
understood to mean Jesus Christ. The feast, that state of
felicity to which he has promised to raise his genuine followers.
The wise, or prudent, and foolish virgins, those who truly
enjoy, and those who only profess the purity and holiness of
his religion. The oil, the grace and salvation of God, or that
faith which works by love. The vessel, the heart in which this
oil is contained. The lamp, the profession of enjoying the
burning and shining light of the Gospel of Christ. Going forth;
the whole of their sojourning upon earth.
2 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
2 Verse 2. Five of them were wise] Or, provident, φρονιμοι-they
took care to make a proper provision beforehand, and left nothing
to be done in the last moment.
Five were foolish] μωροι, which might be translated
careless, is generally rendered foolish; but this does not agree
so well with φρονιμοι, provident, or prudent, in the first
clause, which is the proper meaning of the word. μωρος in the
Etymologicon, is thus defined, μηορατοδεον, he who sees not
what is proper or necessary. These did not see that it was
necessary to have oil in their vessels, (the salvation of God in
their souls,) as well as a burning lamp of religious profession,
Mt 25:3, 4.
3They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4 But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
4 Verse 4. Took oil in their vessels] They not only had a
sufficiency of oil in their lamps, but they carried a vessel with
oil to recruit their lamps, when it should be found expedient.
This the foolish or improvident neglected to do: hence, when the
oil that was in their lamps burned out, they had none to pour into
the lamp to maintain the flame.
5While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
5 Verse 5. The bridegroom tarried] The coming of the bridegroom
to an individual may imply his death: his coming to the world-the
final judgment. The delay-the time from a man's birth till his
death, in the first case; in the second, the time from the
beginning to the end of the world.
Slumbered and slept.] Or, ενυσταξανκαιεκαθευδον, they became
drowsy and fell asleep. As sleep is frequently used in the sacred
writings for death, so drowsiness, which precedes sleep, may be
considered as pointing out the decays of the constitution, and the
sicknesses which precede death. The other explanations which are
given of this place must be unsatisfactory to every man who is not
warped by some point in his creed, which must be supported at
every expense. Carelessness disposed them to drowsiness,
drowsiness to sleep, deep sleep, which rendered them as
unconscious of their danger as they were before inattentive to
their duty. The Anglo-Saxon has hit the meaning of the original
well-[Anglo-Saxon] of which my old MS. Bible gives a literal
version, in the English of the 14th century: forsothe-alle
nappeden and sleptyn.
6And at mid night there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
6 Verse 6. At midnight there was a cry] The Jewish weddings were
generally celebrated in the night; yet they usually began at the
rising of the evening star; but in this case there was a more than
Behold, the bridegroom cometh] What an awful thing to be
summoned to appear before the Judge of quick and dead! The
following is an affecting relation, and fas est ab hoste doceri.
"When Rabbi Jochanan ben Zachai was sick, his disciples came to
visit him; and when he saw them he began to weep. They say to
him, Rabbi! the light of Israel, the right hand pillar, the strong
hammer, wherefore dost thou weep? He answered them, If they were
carrying me before a king of flesh and blood, who is here today,
and to-morrow in the grave; who, if he were angry with me, his
anger would not last for ever: if he put me in prison, his prison
would not be everlasting; if he condemned me to death, that death
would not be eternal; whom I could soothe with words or bribe with
riches; yet even in these circumstances I should weep. But now I
am going before the King of kings, the holy and the blessed God,
who liveth and endureth for ever and for ever; who, if he be angry
with me, his anger will last for ever; if he put me in prison, his
bondage will be everlasting; if he condemn me to death, that death
will be eternal; whom I cannot soothe with words nor bribe with
riches: when, farther, there are before me two ways, the one to
hell and the other to paradise, and I know not in which they are
carrying me, shall I not weep?" TALMUD Beracoth, fol. 29.
7Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
7 Verse 7. Trimmed their lamps.] εκοσμησαν, adorned them.
I have seen some of the eastern lamps or lanthorns, the body of
which was a skeleton of wood and threads, covered with a very thin
transparent membrane, or very fine gauze, and decorated with
flowers painted on it. It is probable that the nuptial 1amps were
highly decorated in this way; though the act mentioned here may
mean no more than preparing the lamps for burning.
The following account of the celebration of a wedding in Persia,
taken from the Zend Avesta, vol. ii. p. 558, &c., may cast some
light on this place.
"The day appointed for the marriage, about five o'clock in the
evening, the bridegroom comes to the house of the bride, where the
mobed, or priest, pronounces for the first time the nuptial
benediction. He then brings her to his own house, gives her some
refreshment, and afterwards the assembly of her relatives and
friends reconduct her to her father's house. When she arrives,
the mobed repeats the nuptial benediction, which is generally done
about MIDNIGHT; immediately after, the bride, accompanied with a
part of her attending troop, (the rest having returned to their
own homes,) is reconducted to the house of her husband, where she
generally arrives about three o'clock in the morning. Nothing can
be more brilliant than these nuptial solemnities in India.
Sometimes the assembly consists of not less than two thousand
persons, all richly dressed in gold and silver tissue; the friends
and relatives of the bride, encompassed with their domestics, are
all mounted on horses richly harnessed. The goods, wardrobe, and
even the bed of the bride, are carried in triumph. The husband,
richly mounted and magnificently dressed, is accompanied by his
friends and relatives, the friends of the bride following him in
covered carriages. At intervals, during the procession, guns and
rockets are fired, and the spectacle is rendered grand beyond
description, by a prodigious number of LIGHTED TORCHES, and by the
SOUND of a multitude of musical instruments."
There are certain preparations which most persons believe they
must make at the approach of death; but, alas! it is often too
late. The lamp is defiled, the light almost out, and the
oil expended; and what adorning is a wretched sinner, struggling
in the agonies of death, capable of preparing for his guilty soul!
8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
8 Verse 8. Our lamps are gone out.] σβεννυνται, are going out.
So then it is evident that they were once lighted. They had once
hearts illuminated and warmed by faith and love; but they had
backslidden from the salvation of God, and now they are excluded
from heaven, because, through their carelessness, they have let
the light that was in them become darkness, and have not applied
in time for a fresh supply of the salvation of God.
A Jewish rabbin supposes God addressing man thus:-I give thee my
lamp, give thou me thy lamp; if thou keep my lamp I will keep thy
lamp; but if thou extinguish my lamp I will extinguish thy lamp.
That is, I give thee my WORD and testimonies to be a light unto
thy feet and a lanthorn to thy steps, to guide thee safely through
life; give me thy SOUL and all its concerns, that I may defend and
save thee from all evil: keep my WORD, walk in my ways, and I
will keep thy SOUL that nothing shall injure it; but if thou
trample under foot my laws, I will cast thy soul into outer
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.
9 Verse 9. Lest there be not enough for us and you] These had
all been companions in the Christian course, and there was a time
when they might have been helpful to each other; but that time is
now past for ever-none has a particle of grace to spare, not even
to help the soul of the dearest relative! The grace which every
man receives is just enough to save his own soul; he has no merits
to bequeath to the Church; no work of supererogation which can be
placed to the account of another.
Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy] By leaving out the
particle δε, but, (on the indisputable authority of ABDGHKS, and
HV, of Matthai, with sixteen others, the Armenian, Vulgate, and
all the Itala but one,) and transposing a very little the members
of the sentence, the sense is more advantageously represented, and
the reading smoother: Rather go to them that sell, and buy for
yourselves, lest there be not enough for us and you. Beza, Mill,
Bengel, and Griesbach, approve of the omission of the particle δε
10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut.
10 Verse 10. While they went to buy, the bridegroom came] What a
dismal thing it is, not to discover the emptiness of one's heart
of all that is good, till it is too late to make any successful
application for relief! God alone knows how many are thus
And they that were ready] They who were prepared-who had not
only a burning lamp of an evangelical profession, but had oil in
their vessels, the faith that works by love in their hearts, and
their lives adorned with all the fruits of the Spirit.
The door was shut.] Sinners on a death-bed too often meet with
those deceitful merchants, who promise them salvation for a price
which is of no value in the sight of God. Come unto me, says
Jesus, and buy: there is no salvation but through his blood-no
hope for the sinner but that which is founded upon his sacrifice
and death. The door was shut-dreadful and fatal words! No hope
remains. Nothing but death can shut this door; but death may
surprise us in our sins, and then despair is our only portion.
11 Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
11 Verse 11. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord,
Lord] Earnest prayer, when used in time, may do much good: but
it appears, from this parable, that there may come a time when
prayer even to Jesus may be too late!-viz. when the door is
shut-when death has separated the body and the soul.
12 But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
12 Verse 12. I know you not.] As if he had said, Ye are not of my
company-ye were neither with the bride nor the bridegroom: ye
slept while the others were in procession. I do not acknowledge
you for my disciples-ye are not like him who is love-ye refused to
receive his grace-ye sinned it away when ye had it; now you are
necessarily excluded from that kingdom where nothing but love and
purity can dwell.
13Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
13 Verse 13. Watch therefore] If to watch be to employ ourselves
chiefly about the business of our salvation, alas! how few of
those who are called Christians are there who do watch! How many
who slumber! How many who are asleep! How many seized with a
lethargy! How many quite dead!
Wherein the Son of man cometh.] These words are omitted by many
excellent MSS., most of the versions, and several of the fathers.
Griesbach has left them out of the text: Grotius, Hammond, Mill,
and Bengel, approve of the omission.
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.
14 Verse 14. Called his own servants] God never makes the
children of men proprietors of his goods. They are formed by his
power, and upheld by his bounty; and they hold their lives and
their goods, as in many of our ancient tenures, quamdiu domino
placuerit-at the will of their Lord.
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.
15 Verse 15. Unto one he gave five talents-to every man according
to his several ability] The duties men are called to perform are
suited to their situations, and the talents they receive. The
good that any man has he has received from God, as also the
ability to improve that good. God's graces and temporal mercies
are suited to the power which a man has of improving them. To
give eminent gifts to persons incapable of properly improving
them, would be only to lead into a snare. The talent which each
man has suits his own state best; and it is only pride and
insanity which lead him to desire and envy the graces and talents
of another. Five talents would be too much for some men: one
talent would be too little. He who receives much, must make
proportionate improvement; and, from him who has received little,
the improvement only of that little will be required. As five
talents, in one case, are sufficient to answer the purpose for
which they were given; so also are two and one.
The man who improves the grace he has received, however small,
will as surely get to the kingdom of God, as he who has received
most from his master, and improved all.
There is a parable something like this in Sohar Chadash, fol. 47:
"A certain king gave a deposit to three of his servants: the first
kept it; the second lost it; the third spoiled one part of it, and
gave the rest to another to keep. After some time, the king came
and demanded the deposit. Him who had preserved it, the king
praised, and made him governor of his house. Him who had lost it,
he delivered to utter destruction, so that both his name and his
possessions were blotted out. To the third, who had spoiled a
part and given the rest to another to keep, the king said, Keep
him, and let him not go out of my house, till we see what the
other shall do to whom he has entrusted a part: if he shall make a
proper use of it, this man shall be restored to liberty; if not,
he also shall be punished." See Schoettgen. I have had already
occasion to remark how greatly every Jewish parable is improved
that comes through the hands of Christ.
In this parable of our Lord, four things may be considered:-
I. The master who distributes the talents.
II. The servants who improved their talents.
III. The servant who buried his talent. And
IV. His punishment.
1. The master's kindness. The servants had nothing-deserved
nothing-had no claim on their master, yet he, in his KINDNESS,
delivers unto them his goods, not for his advantage, but for their
comfort and salvation.
2. The master distributes these goods diversely;-giving to one
five, to another, two, and to another one. No person can complain
that he has been forgotten; the master gives to each. None can
complain of the diversity of the gifts; it is the master who has
done it. The master has an absolute right over his own goods, and
the servants cannot find fault with the distribution. He who has
little should not envy him who has received much, for he has the
greater labour, and the greater account to give. He who has much
should not despise him who has little, for the sovereign master
has made the distinction; and his little, suited to the ability
which God has given him, and fitted to the place in which God's
providence has fixed him, is sufficiently calculated to answer the
purpose of the master, in the salvation of the servant's soul.
3. The master distributes his talents with WISDOM. He gave to
each according to his several ability, i.e. to the power he had
to improve what was given. It would not be just to make a servant
responsible for what he is naturally incapable of managing; and
it would not be proper to give more than could be improved. The
powers which men have, God has given; and as he best knows the
extent of these powers, so he suits his graces and blessings to
them in the most wise, and effectual way. Though he may make one
vessel for honour, (i.e. a more honourable place or office,) and
another for dishonour, (a less honourable office,) yet both are
for the master's use-both are appointed and capacitated to show
forth his glory.
II. The servants who improved their talents.
These persons are termed δουλοι, slaves, such as were the
property of the master, who might dispose of them as he pleased.
Then he that had received the five talents went and traded,
1. The work was speedily begun-as soon as the master gave the
talents and departed, so soon they began to labour. There is not
a moment to be lost-every moment has its grace, and every grace
has its employment, and every thing is to be done for eternity.
2. The work was perseveringly carried on; after a long time the
lord of those servants cometh, Mt 25:19.
The master was long before he returned, but they did not relax.
The longer time, the greater improvement. God gives every man
just time enough to live, in this world, to glorify his Maker, and
to get his soul saved. Many begin well, and continue faithful for
a time-but how few persevere to the end! Are there none who seem
to have outlived their glory, their character, their usefulness?
3. Their work was crowned with success. They doubled the sum
which they had received. Every grace of God is capable of great
improvement. Jesus himself, the pure, immaculate Jesus, grew in
wisdom and favour with God, Lu 2:52.
4. They were ready to give in a joyful account when their master
came and called for them. 1st. They come without delay: they
expected his coming; and it was with an eye to this that they
continued their labour-they endured as seeing him who is
invisible. 2dly. They come without fear; the master before whom
they appear has always loved them, and given them the fullest
proofs of his affection for them: his love to them has begotten in
them love to him; and their obedience to his orders sprung from
the love they bore to him. He that loveth me, says Jesus, will
keep my words. 3d. They render up their accounts without
confusion: he who received five brought five others; and he who
had received two brought two more: nothing was to be done when
their master called; all their business was fully prepared. 4th.
They gave up every thing to their master, without attempting to
appropriate any thing. Their ability was his, the talents his,
and the continued power to improve them, his. All is of God, and
all must be returned to him.
5. Their recompense from their gracious master. 1st. They
receive praise. Well done, good and faithful servants,
What a glorious thing to have the approbation of God, and the
testimony of a good conscience! They were good, pure and upright
within-faithful, using to God's glory the blessings he had given.
2d. They receive gracious promises. Ye have been faithful over a
little, I will set you over much. These promises refer not only
to a future glory, but to an increase of God's grace and mercy
here; for the more faithfully a man improves what God has already
given him, the more he shall have from his gracious Master: for he
giveth more grace, till he fills the faithful soul with his own
fulness. 3d. They receive GLORY. Enter into the joy of your
Lord. As ye were partakers of my nature on earth, be ye
sharers of my glory in heaven. The joy, the happiness
wherewith I am happy, shall be your eternal portion! O, what is
all we can do, all we can suffer, even the most lingering and
cruel martyrdom, in comparison of this unbounded, eternal joy!
III. Of the servant who buried his talent.
He that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid
his Lord's money, Mt 25:18.
1. See the ingratitude of this servant. His master gave him a
talent, capable of being improved to his own present and eternal
advantage; but he slights the mercy of his lord.
2. See his idleness. Rather than exert himself to improve what
he has received, he goes and hides it.
3. See his gross error. He DIGS to hide it-puts himself to more
trouble to render the mercy of God to him of none effect, than he
would have had in combating and conquering the world, the devil,
and the flesh.
4. See his injustice. He takes his master's money, and neither
improves nor designs to improve it, even while he is living on
and consuming that bounty which would have been sufficient for a
faithful servant. How much of this useless lumber is to be found
in the Church of Christ! But suppose the man be a preacher-what a
terrible account will he have to give to God-consuming the
provision made for a faithful pastor, and so burying, or
misusing his talent, as to do no good, to immortal souls!
5. Hear the absurdity of his reasoning. Lord, I knew thee that
thou art a hard (or avaricious) man, reaping where thou hast not
sown, &c., Mt 25:24. See this meaning of σκληρος proved by
Kypke. The wicked excuse of this faithless servant confuted
itself and condemned him. Nevertheless it is on this very model
that sinners in general seek to justify themselves; and the
conclusion turns always against them. I knew thee to be a hard
man. How awfully deceived and deeply depraved must that person
be, who not only attempts to excuse his follies, but to charge his
crimes on GOD himself!
I was afraid-Why? Because thou wert an enemy to thy soul, and
to thy God.-I was afraid-of what? that he would require more than
he did give. How could this be? Did he not give thee the talent
freely, to show thee his benevolence? And did he not suit it to
thy ability, that he might show thee his wisdom, justice, and
goodness, in not making thee responsible for more than thou
IV. Behold the awful punishment of this faithless servant.
1. He is reproached. Thou wicked and slothful servant! Wicked-in
thy heart: slothful-in thy work. THOU knewest that I reap where I
sowed not. Thou art condemned by thy own mouth-whose is the
unemployed talent? Did I not give thee this? And did I require
the improvement of two when I gave thee but one?-Thou knowest I
2. He is stripped of what he possessed. Take-the talent from
him. O terrible word!-Remove the candlestick from that slothful,
worldly-minded Church: take away the inspirations of the Holy
Spirit from that lukewarm, Christless Christian, who only lives to
resist them and render them of none effect. Dispossess that base,
man-pleasing minister of his ministerial gifts; let his silver
become brass, and his fine gold, dross. He loved the present
world more than the eternal world, and the praise of men more
than the approbation of God. Take away the talent from him!
3. He is punished with an everlasting separation from God and the
glory of his power. Cast forth the unprofitable servant,
Let him have nothing but darkness, who refused to walk in the
light: let him have nothing but misery-weeping and gnashing of
teeth, who has refused the happiness which God provided for him.
Reader, if the careless virgin, and the unprofitable servant,
against whom no flagrant iniquity is charged, be punished with an
outer darkness, with a hell of fire: of what sorer punishment
must he be judged worthy, who is a murderer, an adulterer, a
fornicator, a blasphemer, a thief, a liar, or in any respect
an open violater of the laws of God? The careless virgins, and
the unprofitable servants, were saints in comparison of millions,
who are, notwithstanding, dreaming of an endless heaven, when
fitted only for an endless hell!
16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents.
17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two.
18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.
19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.
21 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.
22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.
23His 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.
24 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:
25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.
26 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:
27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.
27 Verse 27. With usury.] συντοκω, with its produce-not
usury; for that is unlawful interest, more than the money can
28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.
30 And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
31 Verse 31. When the Son of man shall come] This must be
understood of Christ's coming at the last day, to judge mankind:
though all the preceding part of the chapter may be applied also
to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Holy angels] The word αγιοι is omitted by many excellent
manuscripts, versions, and fathers. Mill and Bengel approve of
the omission, and Griesbach has left it out of the text. It is
supposed by some that our Lord will have other angels (messengers)
with him in that day, besides the holy ones. The evil angels may
be in attendance to take, as their prey, those who shall be found
on his left hand.
The throne of his glory] That glorious throne on which his
glorified human nature is seated, at the right hand of the Father.
32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
32 Verse 32. All nations] Literally, all the nations-all the
Gentile world; the Jews are necessarily included, but they were
spoken of in a particular manner in the preceding chapter.
He shall separate them] Set each kind apart by themselves.
As a shepherd divideth, &c.] It does not appear that sheep and
goats were ever penned or housed together, though they might
feed in the same pasture; yet even this was not done but in
separate flocks; so Virgil, Eclog. vii. v. 2.
"Thyrsis and Corydon drove their flocks together: Thyrsin his
sheep; and Corydon his goats, their udders distended with milk."
These two shepherds had distinct flocks, which fed in the same
pasture, but separately; and they are only now driven together,
for the convenience of the two shepherds, during the time of their
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
33 Verse 33. He shall set the sheep, &c.] The right hand
signifies, among the rabbins, approbation and eminence: the left
hand, rejection, and disapprobation. Hence in Sohar Chadash it
is said, "The right hand is given, the left also is given-to the
Israelites and the Gentiles are given paradise and hell-this
world, and the world to come." The right and left were
emblematical of endless beatitude and endless misery among the
Romans. Hence Virgil:-
Of the good and faithful servants he approves, and therefore
exalts them to his glory; of the slothful and wicked he
disapproves, and casts them into hell.
SHEEP, which have ever been considered as the emblems of
mildness, simplicity, patience, and usefulness, represent here the
genuine disciples of Christ.
GOATS, which are naturally quarrelsome, lascivious, and
excessively ill-scented, were considered as the symbols of
riotous, profane, and impure men. They here represent all who
have lived and died in their sins. See Eze 34:17, and Zec 10:3.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
34 Verse 34. Ye blessed of my Father] This is the king's address
to his followers; and contains the reason why they were found in
the practice of all righteousness, and were now brought to this
state of glory-they were blessed-came as children, and received
the benediction of the Father, and became, and continued to
be, members of the heavenly family.
Inherit] The inheritance is only for the children of the
family-if sons, then heirs, Ga 4:7, but not otherwise. The sons
only shall enjoy the father's estate.
Prepared for you] That is, the kingdom of glory is designed for
such as you-you who have received the blessing of the Father, and
were holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners.
From the foundation of the world] It was God's purpose and
determination to admit none into his heaven but those who were
made partakers of his holiness, Heb 12:14. The rabbins say,
Seven things were created before the foundation of the world.
1. The law. 2. Repentance. 3. Paradise. 4. Hell. 5. The
throne of God. 6. The temple; and 7. The name of the Messiah.
35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
35 Verse 35. I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat] Every thing
which is done to a follower of Christ, whether it be good or evil,
he considers as done to himself, see Mt 25:40; Ac 9:4, 5;
Heb 6:10. Of all the fruits of the Spirit, none are mentioned
here but those that spring from love, or mercy; because these give
men the nearest conformity to God. Jesus had said, Blessed are
the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; and he here shows how
this promise shall be fulfilled. The rabbins say: "As often as a
poor man presents himself at thy door, the holy blessed God stands
at his right hand: if thou give him alms, know that he who stands
at his right hand will give thee a reward. But if thou give him
not alms, he who stands at his right hand will punish thee."
Vaiyikra Rabba, s. 34, fol. 178.
A stranger, and ye took me in] συνηγαγετεμε, ye entertained
me: Kypke has fully proved that this is the meaning of the
original. Literally, συναγειν signifies to gather together.
Strangers are sometimes so destitute as to be ready to perish for
lack of food and raiment: a supply of these things keeps their
souls and bodies together, which were about to be separated
through lack of the necessaries of life. The word may also allude
to a provision made for a poor family, which were scattered
abroad, perhaps begging their bread, and who by the ministry of
benevolent people are collected, relieved, and put in a way of
getting their bread. O blessed work! to be the instruments of
preserving human life, and bringing comfort and peace into the
habitations of the wretched!
While writing this, (Nov. 13, 1798,) I hear the bells loudly
ringing in commemoration of the birth-day of E. Colson, Esq., a
native of this city, (Bristol,) who spent a long life and an
immense fortune in relieving the miseries of the distressed. His
works still praise him in the gates; his name is revered, and his
birth-day held sacred, among the inhabitants. Who has heard the
bells ring in commemoration of the birth of any deceased hero or
king? Of so much more value, in the sight even of the multitude,
is a life of public usefulness than one of worldly glory or
secular state. But how high must such a person rank in the sight
of God, who, when Christ in his representatives was hungry, gave
him food; when thirsty, gave him drink; when naked clothed him;
when sick and in prison, visited him! Thou blessed of my Father!
come. Thou hast been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, and now
thou shalt eternally enjoy the true riches.
The Supreme God is represented in the Bhagvat Geeta as
addressing mankind, when he had just formed them, thus: "Those who
dress their meat but for themselves, eat the bread of sin."
Geeta, p. 46.
36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
36 Verse 36. I was sick, and ye visited me] Relieving the
strangers, and visiting the sick, were in high estimation among
the Jews. One of their sayings on this head is worthy of notice:
"He who neglects to visit the sick is like him who has shed
blood." That is, as he has neglected, when it was in his power,
to preserve life, he is as guilty in the sight of the Lord as he
is who has committed murder. See Kypke in loco.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
37 Verse 37. Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, &c.] This
barbarous expression, an hungered, should be banished out of the
text, wheresoever it occurs, and the simple word hungry
substituted for it. Whatever is done for Christ's sake, is done
through Christ's grace; and he who does the work attributes to
Jesus both the will and the power by which the work was done, and
seeks and expects the kingdom of heaven not as a reward, but as a
gift of pure unmerited mercy. Yet, while workers together with
his grace, God attributes to them that which they do through his
influence, as if they had done it independently of him. God has a
right to form what estimate he pleases of the works wrought
through himself: but man is never safe except when he attributes
all to his Maker.
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
40 Verse 40. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of
these my brethren] The meanest follower of Christ is acknowledged
by him as his brother! What infinite condescension! Those, whom
many would scorn to set with the dogs of their flock, are brothers
and sisters of the blessed Jesus, and shall soon be set among the
princes of his people.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
41 Verse 41. Depart from me, ye cursed] Or, Ye cursed!
depart.-These words are the address of the king to the sinners;
and contain the reason why they are to be separated from
blessedness: Ye are cursed, because ye have sinned, and would not
come unto me that ye might have life.-No work of piety has
proceeded from your hand, because the carnal mind, which is enmity
against me, reigned in your heart; and ye would not have me to
reign over you. Depart! this includes what some have termed the
punishment of loss or privation. Ye cannot, ye, shall not be
united to me-Depart! O terrible word! and yet a worse is to come.
Into everlasting fire] This is the punishment of sense. Ye
shall not only be separated from me, but ye shall be tormented,
awfully, everlastingly tormented in that place of separation.
Prepared for the devil and his angels] The devil and his angels
sinned before the creation of the world, and the place of torment
was then prepared for them: it never was designed for human souls;
but as the wicked are partakers with the devil and his angels in
their iniquities, in their rebellion against God, so it is right
that they should be sharers with them in their punishment. We see
here, plainly, why sinners are destroyed, not because there was no
salvation for them, but because they neglected to receive good,
and do good. As they received not the Christ who was offered to
them, so they could not do the work of righteousness which was
required of them. They are cursed, because they refused to be
blessed; and they are damned, because they refused to be saved.
42For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
42 Verse 42. I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat] I put it
in your power to do good, and ye would not. A variety of
occasions offered themselves to you, but ye neglected them all, so
that my blessings in your hands, not being improved, according to
my order, became a curse to you.
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
43 Verse 43. I was a stranger] If men were sure that Jesus Christ
was actually somewhere in the land, in great personal distress,
hungry, thirsty, naked, and confined, they would doubtless run
unto and relieve him. Now Christ assures us that a man who is
hungry, thirsty, naked, &c., is his representative, and that
whatever we do to such a one he will consider as done to himself;
yet this testimony of Christ is not regarded! Well, he will be
just when he judges, and righteous when he punishes.
44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
44 Verse 44. Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, &c.] It is want
of faith which in general produces hard-heartedness to the poor.
The man who only sees with eyes of flesh is never likely to
discover Christ in the person of a man destitute of the
necessaries of life. Some pretend not to know the distressed;
because they have no desire to relieve them; but we find that this
ignorance will not avail them at the bar of God.
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
46 Verse 46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment]
No appeal, no remedy, to all eternity! No end to the punishment
of those whose final impenitence manifests in them an eternal will
and desire to sin. By dying in a settled opposition to God, they
cast themselves into a necessity of continuing in an eternal
aversion from him.
But some are of opinion that this punishment shall have an end:
this is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an
end: for the same word is used to express the duration of the
punishment, κολασιναιωνιον, as is used to express the duration of
the state of glory: ζωηναιωνιον. I have seen the best things
that have been written in favour of the final redemption of damned
spirits; but I never saw an answer to the argument against that
doctrine, drawn from this verse, but what sound learning and
criticism should be ashamed to acknowledge. The original word
αιων is certainly to be taken here in its proper grammatical
sense, continued being, αειων, NEVER ENDING. Some have gone a
middle way, and think that the wicked shall be annihilated. This,
I think, is contrary to the text; if they go into punishment, they
continue to exist; for that which ceases to be, ceases to
suffer. See Clarke on Ge 21:33, where the whole subject
A very good improvement of the parable of the wise and foolish
virgins is made by Salvian, a very pious writer of the fifth
century, (Epist. ad. Ecclus. Cath. lib. ii.,) the substance of
which, in Mr. Bulkley's translation, is as follows:-
Ego unum scio, &c. "One thing I know, that the lamps of the
foolish virgins are said to have gone out for want of the oil of
good works; but thou, whoever thou art, thinkest that thou hast
oil in abundance, and so did they; for, if they had not believed
themselves to have had it, they would have provided themselves
with it; for since afterwards, as the Lord says, they would gladly
have borrowed, and sought it so eagerly, no doubt they would have
done so before, had they not been deceived by the confidence of
having it. Thou thinkest thyself wise, and these did not imagine
themselves to be foolish: thou thinkest that thy lamp has light,
and they lost their light because they thought they should have
it. For why did they prepare their lamps if they did not think
they should be lighted? In a word, their lamps, I suppose, must
have afforded some degree of light; for since we read of their
being afraid that their lamps should go out, they certainly had
something which they feared would be extinguished. Nor was it a
groundless fear; their lamps did go out, and that pure light of
virginity which appeared profited them nothing, for want of a
supply of oil. From whence we understand that what is but a
little, is in a manner nothing. You have therefore need of a lamp
plentifully filled, that your light may be lasting. And if those
which we light up here for a short time so soon fail, unless
copiously supplied with oil, how much must thou stand in need of
that thy lamp may shine to eternity?"
This writer was a priest of Marseilles, in 430. He bewailed the
profligacy of his times so much, and so pathetically, that he has
been styled the Jeremiah of the fifth century. Were he still upon
earth, he would find equal reason to deplore the wickedness and
carelessness of mankind.
From what our Lord has here said, we may see that God
indispensably requires of every man to bring forth good fruit; and
that a fruitless tree shall be inevitably cut down, and cast into
the fire. Let it be also remarked that God does not here impute
to his own children the good works which Jesus Christ did for
them. No! Christ's feeding the multitudes in Judea will not be
imputed to them, while persons in their own neighbourhood are
perishing through want, and they have wherewithal to relieve them.
He gives them a power that they may glorify his name by it and
have, in their own souls, the continued satisfaction which arises
from succouring the distressed. Let it be farther remarked, that
Christ does not say here that they have purchased the eternal life
by these good deeds. No! for the power to work, and the means of
working, came both from God. They first had redemption through
his blood, and then his Spirit worked in them to will and to do.
They were therefore only workers together with him, and could not
be said, in any sense of the word, to purchase God's glory, with
his own property. But though God works in them, and by them, he
does not obey for them. The works of piety and mercy THEY
perform, under the influence and by the aid of his grace. Thus
God preserves the freedom of the human soul, and secures his
own glory at the same time. Let it be remarked, farther, that the
punishment inflicted on the foolish virgins, the slothful servant,
and the cursed who are separated from God, was not because of
their personal crimes; but because they were not good, and were
not useful in the world. Their lives do not appear to have been
stained with crimes,-but they were not adorned with virtues. They
are sent to hell because they did no good. They were not renewed
in the image of God; and hence did not bring forth fruit to his
glory. If these harmless people are sent to perdition, what must
the end be of the wicked and profligate!