Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.…
I. OUR PARABLE TEACHES THAT HOWEVER LONG AND DEEPLY A MAN MAY SLEEP, HE IS SURE TO AWAKE AT LAST — "Then." Is it not true that to every soul comes the time when God calls-calls plainly, audibly, loudly — "Then "? There are such critical moments in the history of lives — moments when we are justified in saying, "Hark! that is the call of God." Calls of God's providence are like the calls of the hours — they repeat: themselves with renewed power in every stroke; perhaps I may say that God never startled and terrified any soul with the inevitable twelve until it had been deaf to the repeated calls of the preceding hours. Illness, bereavement, etc. To every soul comes the tremendous and inexorable, Then!
II. THERE ARE EPOCHS IN AN AGE WHEN ALL THINGS SEEM TO CALL TO ARISE AND TRIM THE LAMPS, AND WHEN THE BRIDEGROOM SEEMS SO NEAR. Amidst surrounding gloom, voices will seem to mark the epoch and to give the call.
III. HEALTHIEST LIVES NEED WARNING. They all arose. Holiest souls have fears, need vigilance, and must use the means. They arose — they were all on their way to meet the Bridegroom; they all passed for a professing Church; they all testified their love to the Bridegroom; they were all called by His name. How little is implied in professions! Not what I say, but what I am, is my security. Do you never fear for yourselves at last? Does the Master never wake thee at night and say, "Where is thy lamp? I gave it thee to guard?" etc.
IV. HOWEVER EXCELLENT AN INSTRUMENT A LAMP MAY BE, IT IS ONLY AN INSTRUMENT. SO they all arose and trimmed their lamps. The ]amp is the turning point of the parable. Alas! a lamp useless! a lamp without oil! No lamp is its own end — and the profession of Christianity is not its own end, and none of the means employed by God are their own end. Lamps are to give light, and for progress, and duty, and comfort. And the trimming implies, obtaining fresh oil, and removing clogging from the wick.
1. Faith is a lamp; and yet faith may not save. It may be wanting in love which purifies the heart, etc.
2. Knowledge is a lamp. It is only instrumental — not its own end, etc.
3. Experience is a lamp. But it needs the oil. Not what I have passed through can avail for me, not my frames and feelings, but what these are before God.
V. EVERY PRIVILEGE BRINGS DUTIES — "They all arose and trimmed their lamps." They had all slept. From few things are we more in danger than from sleep.
1. There is a state of soul, spiritually so-called — indifference of their danger. Let no one suppose he is in a state of security because he knows no fear.
2. They all slept; but even in that case there must have been a difference. The rest in the unwise, the proof of folly, may be, in the wise, the proof of wisdom. The foolish were resting and trusting in the morning, or in the dark lamp without oil; the wise slept, but their lamp was kindled as a night-light, placed by their bedside for fear of the night. They watched for their Lord.
3. Let us trim our lamps. We have no time to sleep. You have a lamp to trim — a soul, a faith. What vigilance is needed! In every other department of life you are awake. Here you sleep. Arise, and trim your lamps.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.