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obvious to require pointing out, yet differs from it in the following respect; which is sufficient to discriminate them asunder. The moral of the former parable was twofold; partly to account for the transfer of the offer of the gospel, with all the privileges, present or to come, entailed by its reception, from the Jews to the Gentiles; whereby the former ceased to be, and the latter became the visible church and people of God: partly, to define the rule of acceptance according to which even the Gentiles, considered as substituted to the Jews in this relation of the people of God, should yet be judged, before the transition of the visible into the invisible church. The moral of the latter parable is single ; and without any special reference to the case of the Jews as contradistinguished to Gentiles at one time, or to that of Gentiles as distinct from Jews, at another, in such and such respects, applies to the case of the possessors of the relation of the nominal people of God, in the abstract ; that is, to the members of the visible church, as such—though more especially considered as Christians, and by the nature of their profession itself, as subjected to a scheme of probation on Christian and evangelical principles. The second order of guests in the former parable corresponds to the company of virgins in the latter ; and both answer to the idea of the congregation of the visible church, such as will be its resulting amount, at the end of the existing scheme of probation, when every member of the future and invisible church shall previously have been subjected to, and previously have undergone his proper individual trial, as a member of the prior and visible. This is an effect which can be produced, only in the course of time, and that time the appointed duration of the visible church; but to the eye of Omniscience it may be considered as good as produced, from the very first contemplation of the scheme of probation, and the first institution of the visible church. Nor where the congregation of this church in the abstract, as the aggregate amount of such and such a number of moral and responsible human beings, successively subjected to a certain preparatory trial, through a certain determinate space of time, with a view to a certain resulting effect, at the end of the time—is made the subject of a proper parabolic representation, under any image whatever; would it be correct to say that the existing amount of the number at a given time, while the scheme of probation is still in the course of continuance, and the aggregate amount of responsible beings
successively subjected to it, is still in the course of formation, can be meant by this representation—and not the resulting amount at the end of the whole time, and the sum of the number as collected from the items or details of its particular parts. In other respects, the wedding-garment, in the former parable, would answer to the oil-vessel in this ; and each be the criterion between a nominal member of the visible church, at a given time, and a real one.
The silence of the parable with respect to any distinct agency of such a person as the bride, over and above that of the virgins, her supposed attendants, and the guests at her wedding-feast, may be due to this circumstance; that the mystical bride, in the consummation of such a mystical ceremony as the union between Christ and his true church, can be nothing distinct from the mystical guests at that feast ; in other words, the mystical bride of the parable is the wise part of the company of virgins, her attendants. Certain it is, that the presence and attendance of the virgins are considered as necessary to the course and consummation of the marriage solemnity, as those of the bride ; and therefore that they are supposed to go forth at first, expressly to meet the bridegroom, and are called forth at last, expressly to come and join his train. As to the circumstance, that the number of the wise virgins is supposed to be exactly equal to the number of the unwise, both collectively standing for the aggregate amount of nominal and real believers, who shall ultimately be found to have been previously members of the same visible church; how far it is literally to be construed, I cannot undertake to say. The number of the real may bear the proportion of equality to that of the nominal, and it may not : but some definite proportion it must bear, though what in particular, time only can shew. The answer of our Lord to the question, Are they that are saved few? indi. rectly expressed as it is, would lead to the inference that they who are saved are few, in comparison of those who are not, rather than that they are many. Meanwhile, such reasons as might account for this particular supposition, that the number of the wise virgins was equal to that of the unwise, much more was not less than it, without implying more to be intended thereby than a simple regard to historical propriety, and the decorum or probability of the narrative, were assigned in their proper place. VOL. V. LI
Be this, however, as it may, it is more to the purpose to observe, that no representation could have shewn more plainly than does the parable, that professing members of the visible church, or if we will, professing Christians, being adumbrated by the company of virgins in general; professing Christians, with respect to every thing that does not depend on themselves, and is not resolvable into the difference of their personal dispositions and characters, are placed in circumstances exactly the same, considered as those of a state of trial ; equally favourable or equally unfavourable for a common result, affecting both the real and the nominal alike—the attainment of a common salvation. We might challenge any one to point out a particle of difference in the duty, the obligations, the opportunities, the hopes, and prospects, of one class of the virgins compared with the other, from the first, to account for the difference in the fortunes of each at last-if it be not the distinction of personal principle, which disposed the one to make a better use of common means and opportunities with a view to a common end, while they were still in their power, than the other did—if it be not that personal prudence and circumspection, which discriminated the wise, and that personal quality of thoughtlessness and improvidence, which was as characteristic of the foolish.
Unless then it can be shewn that the one, in the exercise of their natural prudence, were not voluntary agents, or the other, in acting according to their natural thoughtlessness, were necessarily involuntary ones; it will follow that the ultimate attainment of a common privilege, in which all hoped to partake beforehand, depended as much on the personal prudence and cir. cumspection of the wise, as its ultimate loss on the personal thoughtlessness and improvidence of the foolish. We may learn hence, that as the Christian vocation is addressed indifferently to all, and the Christian reward is proposed indiscriminately to all ; so the vocation is not addressed to any, as what they may not accept, nor the reward proposed to any, as what they may not attain to, more or less of themselves. They who disobey the call, or fail of the reward, are accountable for the consequences, as free agents. God is innocent of the blood of all men. He desires the salvation, he commands the obedience, and he promises to reward the obedience, of every man: but the man is bound to cooperate in the work of his own salvation, as becomes a moral and responsible being; and so far as his own cooperation is concerned he is bound to act as if every thing depended on himself. If any, under such circumstances can attain to the desired effect, all may ; and consequently none who is previously placed in a state of probation, can become a castaway and perish at last, but through his own fault. He has failed to do what depended upon himself beforehand ; and is most justly to be denied what depends upon God, at last.
MATTHEW, XXV. 14–30. HARMONY, IV. 79.
MATTHEW, xxv. 14-30. 14 “ For as a man that was going abroad, he called his proper “ servants, and committed unto them his possessions. 15 And “ to one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another “ one; to each of them according to his proper ability: and im“ mediately went abroad. 16 And he who had received the five “ talents, went and wrought therewith, and made five other “ talents. 17 In like manner, he too who had received the two, “ himself also gained other two. 18 But he who had received “ the one talent, went his way and digged in the earth, and hid “ away the money of his lord. 19 Now after a long time cometh “the lord of those servants, and holdeth a reckoning with them. “ 20 And he who had received the five talents, came to him, and “ brought to him other five talents, saying, Lord, five talents “ thou hast committed unto me; see, other five talents have I “ gained unto them. 21 And his lord said to him, Well done, “good and faithful servant; for a few things wert thou faithful, “over many things will I appoint thee; enter into the joy of “ thy lord. 22 And he also who had received the two talents, “ came to him, and said, Lord, two talents thou hast committed “ unto me; see, other two talents have I gained unto them. “ 23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant ; “ for a few things wert thou faithful, over many things will I