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not discovered, while its probable consequences might have been guarded against, and was found out at last only when it was too late to repair its effects : it is manifest that such a representation, even though allegorical in other respects, was adapted to lead to a certain practical and moral inference, concerning the duty and expediency of being always on the guard against surprise; that is, to the doctrine of vigilance or watchfulness in general. Nor is such a practical application inconsistent with the nature of an allegory: for the application, even in such cases, is not the result of the allegory, but of the matter of fact adumbrated thereby. A parabolic allegory is a concealed prophetical history of some kind or other; and if that history is such as to supply no moral and practical inference, the allegory supplies none; if otherwise, the allegory through the matter of fact of which it is the vehicle, conduces to it. For example; let the subject of the parabolic allegory in the present instance, be the future coming of Christ in general, to call every nominal member of his church, to his individual account setting forth the certainty of the fact of that coming, while it illustrates the uncertainty of the time of it, by such a representation as the above; the necessity of being always on the watch, to be always prepared for such an event, is the direct moral and practical consequence, with reference to all who are personally concerned in that coming, deducible from it.
It appears accordingly from the epimuthion, or final observation subjoined by the Speaker to his own narrative, in the words of verse 13, that the preceding history was either expressly designed, or naturally adapted, to recommend the duty of vigilance, with such an object, and upon such grounds.“ Wake “ ye, or watch ye, therefore,” which is the practical inference from the narrative; “ because ye know “ not the day, nor the hour, wherein the Son of man “ is coming ;" which is the ground of the inference, placing the necessity of being always on the watch, against such an event as the coming of the Son of man, on the uncertainty of the time when it may happen, combined with the certainty of the fact that it must sometime happen 8.
& The generality of the commentators on the prophecy upon the mount, appear to be of opinion that the moral of the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins is to be sought for in the doctrine of the approaching coming of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem ; in which case, it might inculcate on the hearers the duty of watchfulness, but solely for the sake of avoiding the evils impending on their unbelieving countrymen, and solely for the benefit of the Hebrew Christians, as the persons exclusively concerned in the observance of the injunction. Perhaps there is no better reason, a priori, for this opinion, than the circumstance that the parable is inserted in the midst of a discourse, consisting mainly of prophetical matter, and that matter, in a great measure, relating to the future visitation of the Jews. But it has been shewn that there is much besides in the same discourse, which, however naturally deducible, on the principle of association, from this topic, embraces disclosures much more remote in the prospect, much more comprehensive in the scope, and much more generally concerning in the application, than the particular visitation of the Jews. The place of the parable in the order of the discourse, would be presumptively an argument that it belongs to the number of these ulterior, though kindred topics, rather than to the prior and original subject from which they took their rise.
The words which our Saviour himself subjoins to the parable, at verse 13, shew it to be designed with a specific reference to some future coming of Christ; the fact of which was to be looked upon as certain, the time of the fact was left uncertain. This coming may just as reasonably be understood of a coming
But the moral of the parable, considered even in this point of view, is not to inculcate the duty of
of Christ in person, as of a coming not in person ; and if there is good ground for expecting such a coming of Christ in person, some time or other, however near or however remote, perhaps more so. Compared with either of those personal advents of Christ, which scripture gives us reason to expect, the advent which precedes the establishment of his personal kingdom on earth, and the advent to the general judgment of the last day, the coming to the destruction of Jerusalem, might be a coming of Christ εν δυνάμει, but it could not be so, έν παρουσία-whereas a coming of Christ in person, must be one in both.
If the parable indeed is to be considered allegorical in its structure, like the rest of its proper class, it would be the most incongruous of all suppositions, that an event like the celebration of a marriage festivity, the most joyous and pleasing of the images of social life, should be regarded as the type of one of the most disastrous and melancholy occurrences which the world had yet witnessed, or should ever witness; and that the character and agency of the bridegroom, the principal party in the celebration of a marriage festivity, should stand for the character and agency of Christ, whether open or concealed, as the minister of vengeance upon the impenitent and unbelieving Jews.
On this principle, too, the company of virgins who are supposed to be assembled together in common about the person of the bride, and waiting beforehand in common for the coming of the bridegroom, must stand as the representatives of the Jewish community in the complex, or of the Christian portion of it in particular. If of the former, what becomes of the common expectation of the coming of the bridegroom, in which both classes of the virgins partook alike? if of the latter, what becomes of the distinction of wise and unwise among the virgins themselves? The Christian portion of the Jewish community might be prepared to expect the coming of Christ in due time, for the visitation on their country; but the unbelieving part could not possibly be so: and as to the distinction between one part of the virgins and the rest, it was due to the fact that, in a common expectation of the coming of the bridegroom some time, one part had adopted a precaution which made them ready simple vigilance, or of what is properly to be understood by the term. Had that been the case, the
for his coming at any time, the other part had not ; to which distinction, what analogy can be found in the case of the Hebrew Christians generally, as forewarned of the coming of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, and agreeing beforehand in the expectation of that event ? unless it can be shewn that a part of them neglected to do something, naturally arising out of that expectation, and necessary to give effect to the benefit of the warning in their own behalf, which the remainder did not: that a part therefore were prepared for the event when it happened, but the rest were not; that a part consequently were involved in the consequences of not being prepared for it when it happened, while the rest escaped them.
In fact, the only point of view in which this parable could be regarded, so as to avoid these inconsistencies, yet to make it bear upon the general argument of the prophecy, would be that of a simple moral example, inculcating the expediency of being on the watch, under any circumstances and for any purpose, provided some evil consequence might thereby be avoided, which otherwise was liable to be incurred. There might be so far an analogy between the case of the virgins, waiting for such an event as the arrival of the bridegroom in the parable, and that of the Hebrew Christians, waiting in expectation of the coming of Christ to the destruction of Jerusalem, each with a view to certain personal consequences from the event itself; that the ex. ample of the former might be proposed to the latter, on the principle of a warning, rather than an encouragement, lest something should happen to them, in consequence of their sloth and supineness, with regard to the event which they were to expect, like what was seen to befall the unwise virgins, through their improvidence and neglect, with respect to the coming of the bridegroom.
But a moral analogous to this, it has been shewn, may be de. ducible from the parable, supposing it strictly prophetical, and consequently allegorical, throughout. In the mean time, that the parable is not a simple moral example, that it is, and was always, designed to be figurative in its structure—that the material image itself—the celebration of the marriage festivity-is
wise virgins, whose conduct supplies the example of this vigilance, could not have been described as fall
the standing parabolic metaphor for the state of reward and retribution hereafter, proposed to the faith and obedience of Christians in a state of probation here, may be justly inferred from the analogy of the two parables of the great supper, and of the wedding-garment, respectively, which so closely resemble this. That the character of the bridegroom in particular was from the first intended to represent our Saviour Jesus Christ, may be shewn by a comparison of the parable, from verse 10 to the end of the account, with Luke xiii. 23–30, the answer to the question, ei ólíyou oi owcóuevo.. This passage of St. Luke's Gospel was considered at large, vol. iii. 449—459. I refer to it at present, to remind the reader, that with a mixture of historical simplicity, it contained a predominance of strictly allegorical matter, which might naturally have been wrought into a parable like the present, and even as it stands, substantially agrees with the conclusion of the parable of the virgins, and is only more circumstantially expressed. And this is no doubt one of the reasons why St. Luke, who had already recorded that answer, omits this parable in his account of the prophecy on the mount. The historical matter, mixed up with the allegorical in the above instance, resides in the words supposed to be addressed to the master of the house by his excluded guests, “We have eaten and drunk in thy pre“sence, and thou hast taught in our streets.” The person to whom such words could be addressed, under any circumstances, must be our Saviour; they by whom they could be addressed to him, must at least be believers in him, and believers, properly speaking, of his own day. Nor indeed is it possible to compare Luke xiii. 26, 27, in the account of what is supposed to pass, on this occasion, between the master of the house and these excluded guests—and Matt. vii. 22, 23, in the account of what our Lord declares shall be said to him by many nominal Christians, and shall be answered by himself in return, at the day of doom ; and not perceive that the language of the two accounts is almost verbatim the same, its substance and purport one, and therefore the occasions the same also; the Master of the house, in St. Luke's description—is the Judge of Christians in St. VOL. V.