FAITH WITH LOVE, AND FAITH ALONE.
1″At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6″At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ 7″Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’ 9″ ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’ 10″But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. 11″Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’ 12″But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ 13″Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.(MATTHEW xxv. 1-13.)
THE LITERAL STORY.
The force of this parable is more apparent, when we consider the peculiarities of an Oriental marriage-feast. “These marriage-festivals lasted, sometimes, several days. But the period of greatest public interest was that when the bridegroom conducted his bride from her parents’ house to her future home, This was usually done at night, when the parties, accompanied by their respective friends, joined in glad procession; and the scene, lit up by countless torches, and enlivened by choral songs, or instrumental music, was particularly exciting and delightful.” Several persons were stationed at the bridegroom’s house, to welcome the procession. And, as the head of the approaching column came in sight, there was a cry made, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh !”
The Jewish rabbi, Jarchi, says, ” It was the custom, in the land of Ishmael, to take the bride from her father’s house to her husband’s, in the night; and to carry before her about ten staves. Upon the top of each staff was the form of a brazen dish; and, in the midst of it, pieces of garments, oil and pitch, which they set on fire. Holding these in one hand, they carry, in the other, vessels full of oil, with which they replenish, from time to time, their else useless lamps.”
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING
In general, the parable treats of the coming of our Lord, and of the judgment accompanying His coming; and in particular, it treats of faith joined with love, as distinguished from knowledge without love.
In the last parable, something was shown concerning the coming of the Lord, and the state of things then existing. We saw that the old conditions of human life would be broken up, and new states induced. And now, in the present parable, we shall see another result of the Lord’s second coming, in separating, into two classes, those who will outwardly receive the new truth; viz., those who will receive the truth into their will, as well as into their understanding; and those who will receive the truth as doctrine, but in their understanding, only.
In the Scriptures, the Church is frequently represented by a woman, or several women. Virgins, being unmarried women, represent the Church not yet in conjunction with the Lord; in spiritual marriage. The Lord is the Bridegroom, and the Church is His bride. As the true bride looks to her husband, and receives into her heart his love and his image, and is loyal to him, in affection, in thought, and in conduct ; so the Church looks to the Divine Bridegroom, receives His image, and is loyal to Him, “For thy Maker is thine Husband; Jehovah of hosts is His name.” Good virgins, therefore, represent the Church, seeking conjunction with the Lord. In the Scriptures we find many things said about “virgin daughters,” of Jerusalem, of Judah, of Zion, etc. Ten “virgins” represent all in the Church; for “ten” frequently represents all, or the fulness of anything. So we have, in the Decalogue, ten commandments, concerning all things of our inward and outward life, and all the good and true principles of the regenerate life.
The virgins” took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.” Lamps, as hollow vessels, to contain material for making light, represent doctrines, knowledges of truth, mental forms, or vessels, to receive and contain the good and true principles of practical life. ” Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” The ten virgins, having lamps, represent those who are in the Church, and who have been instructed in doctrine, and who have some interest in it. Mentally, they “go forth to meet the Bridegroom :” they seek the Lord and heaven, in the light of doctrine.
THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH.
But “five of them were wise, and five foolish.” Heavenly wisdom is in knowing, loving and practising the truth. Foolishness is in not loving or practising the truth that we know. A similar use of the terms “wise and foolish is seen in the first parable, in Matthew vii. 24-26. A “wise” man is one who both hears and obeys the Lord’s teachings; while a “foolish” man is one who hears, but does not practise, the Lord’s truth.
Before the coming of the Bridegroom, in judgment, the wise and the foolish are together, in the external Church. vVe notice this fact in other parables of our Lord: the wheat and the tares grow together, for a time ; and the sheep and the goats are together a while, But the coming of the Lord, in judgment, separates the two classes. And the separation is the effect of their difference in character.
“They that were foolish took their lamps, but took no oil with them.” Oil, which is warm and smooth, represents the love-principle. In the lamp, the light is from the oil, not from the lamp, itself. The lamp is only the means of using the oil, to make light. So the lamp represents the doctrine, the knowledge, which, if filled with the warm oil of love, is a means of enlightenment and of intelligence. We see the character of oil, in its frequent use in the temple-service, in Israel.
But an empty lamp represents empty doctrine, doctrine held intellectually, only, and not filled with the love of good and truth; and hence, not carried out in the practical life. The oil of love feeds the light of spiritual intelligence, but the knowledge which is empty of love cannot maintain genuine intelligence.
The wise are those who receive the truth into their will as well as into their understanding; they take oil to keep their larnps supplied : their love of good and truth maintains their spiritual intelligence. The wise have both religious knowledge and religious life; they know the doctrine, and they keep the commandments; they have a pure heart, an enlightened understanding, and a holy life. The foolish have knowledge, but they do not shun evils, as sins.
THE ABSENCE OF THE BRIDEGROOM.
“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.” In many of the parables, and other sayings of the Lord, we notice this element of the apparent absence of the Lord. “The bridegroom tarried,” away from the watchers ; and the lord of the vineyard “went into a far country;” and, in the parable of “The Talents,” the owner of the money was “a man traveling into a far country.”
In the open-minded life of a spiritual man, the Lord seems to be present, especially in the principles of human life. But, in the many external details of the sensuous life, amid the works and pleasures of the outward mind, the presence of the Lord is not nearly so marked : and, at times, He seems absent. For the outward and sensuous mind is dull and obscure in its perceptions of good and truth.
SLUMBERING AND SLEEPING.
Spiritually, when a man is immersed in sensuous life, he is slumbering and sleeping; he is not wide awake to the inward realities of spiritual life, as he is when In a high and spiritual state of mind. Slumber relates to the dull state of the natural will ; and sleep refers to the obscure state of the natural understanding. So, when men are instructed in the truths of the Word, they are left amid the things of the world, to practise what they have been taught; and thus to confirm these principles, in the life.
Even the wise must live in the world, and must be useful in external things, This natural world is not their final home: and, while here, they cannot enter fully into the felicities of regenerate life. They all, comparatively, “slumber and sleep,” till the Bridegroom comes, to call them more actively into the blessings of conjunction with heaven. Men and nations must pass through stages of growth and development, until they come into conditions ripe for judgment. They must fill up the measure of their character.
But, when their day, or state, draws to a close, a new state begins. This is the “midnight ” spoken of in the parable; it is the end of one day, and the beginning of the next day; it is a time of change; and of judgment.
“There was a cry made.” A cry is the announcement of an event. So, in the natural mind, when its states are ripe for Judgment and new states are about to come, there is an inward announcement, an intimation that the Lord is more than usually present, in His truth, as known in the mind. When the truth stirs up a man‘s mind, it recalls to the man the Divine origin of the truth, and the presence of the Lord in His truth. “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh.”
Literally, a cry is the effect of a strong impression made upon us. But, spiritually, the cry means the impression, itself, the state of the mind, which expresses itself in the cry.
It is midnight in the Church, at the end of an old Church, and the beginning of a new Church, when the people that walked in mental darkness have seen a great spiritual light, and have recognized in that light, the coming of the Lord, to draw His Church into closer relation to Himself.
THE BRIDEGROOM COMING.
The Lord comes, when the Church is ready to receive Him; when “the bride hath made herself ready.” The New-Jerusalem began to descend to men, when men were prepared to receive it. And, in every case, the new and higher condition comes, by bringing a judgment upon the old conditions; and by separating the old from the new.
MEETING THE LORD.
We “go out to meet ” our Lord, spiritually, in our affections, thoughts and conduct, When the light of truth impresses us, we are to go out from the midnight darkness of sensuous life, to seek conjunction with the Lord, in His truth. The Lord comes to us in spiritual principles; and we “go out to meet Him,” in a life according to those principles. Every truth calls us to “go out to meet ” the Lord, in practising that truth.
TRIMMING THEIR LAMPS.
“Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.” To arise, spiritually, is to arouse the will to activity. To “trim our lamp,” is to bring our intellect into activity, to make use of our knowledge. The virgins, in arising, represent the men of the Church lifting up their minds to a higher plane of thought. And, in trimming their lamps, they represent the men of the Church setting their intellectual knowledge in order, according to the doctrine of the Church.
Both the wise and the foolish arose, and both trimmed their lamps. So, in the Church, both the sincere and insincere attend the Church, and learn the doctrines. But the two classes soon show their difference in character. The wise arise to a permanent state of spiritual enlightenment; but the foolish fall away into darkness.
HAVING NO OIL.
The foolish virgins found that their lamps had gone out, and that they had no more oil, “Lamps” are the knowledges of truth, the doctrines known to the memory. And the foolish, in the dull slumber and sleep of sensuous life, having no inward love for good and truth, no heavenly oil, found their minds without any element of life, with which to receive new intelligence. During their life in the world, their love of evil had extinguished their intelligence, and had taken away their interest in the truths of heaven.
Evils in the will and falses in the understanding, and sins in the conduct, unfit a man for any genuine intelligence in spiritual things, and for any inward feeling of joyful response to the corning of the Lord. Even evil men have a certain love of acquiring knowledge. But they have no warm love of the truth itself as a spiritual principle of human life. And when the judgment comes, their merely intellectual interest in the doctrines of the church will not feed their minds, nor promote spiritual intelligence.
But, when the light of truth, at the judgment, shows all men the necessity of a love for good and truth, the foolish begin to cast about, to see how they can attain the measure of spiritual manhood.
ASKING FOR OIL.
They say to the wise, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out.” They seek to trust in the goodness and love which are in others; they rely on a “Vicarious Atonement,” and on a “Justification by faith alone.” But no man can have genuine faith, unless it be inwardly filled with love to God and to man. The faith which is “alone” is a spurious faith. The blood of Christ is the spiritual truth of the Lord, loved; believed, and practiced.
For instance: suppose a dying invalid has healthy blood transfused into his body, from the arm of a healthy man. Is he saved by the blood? Yes; but not by the shedding of the blood; but by the life of the blood ; by blood received, made his own, appropriated, used as his own. Only thus can a spiritually dying man be saved by the spiritual blood of Christ, when he receives the Divine Truth into his own heart, and uses it as his own principal of actual life, circulating through his whole mental system.
And so the wise answered the foolish, “Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.” No creed, no Church, and no Saviour, can give us the oil of love, or goodness, unless, as of ourselves we go and procure it. A man may teach truth to another, but he cannot give goodness. Goodness, love, must be acquired by every man, for himself. Every man must go to the Lord, to procure goodness, in the daily practice of the Lord’s truth. If any man acquires goodness, he must buy it; he must pay for it, by giving up his evils.
In the coming of the Lord to the Church, He will find many in the knowledge of doctrine. But those who have knowledge only, will have empty lamps, and no oil of love to keep their knowledge in daily use. And such cannot enter into the marriage-feast: they cannot be in mental states capable of entering into the felicities of conjunction with the Lord; for conjunction with the Lord, which is regeneration, takes place with a man in the degree in-which there is formed, in his mind, a spiritual marriage of good in his will and truth in his understanding. When these mental partners are united in the mind, heaven is opened to the mind, and the man enters in to the marriage-supper of the Lord.
ENTERING IN TO THE FEAST.
Those who are ready, or prepared, enter in with the Lord, into a heavenly state; and the door of the mind is shut against all things that are not in condition to enter heaven. It is so in our individual life. When we are seeking regeneration, there are many worldly desires and ideas of our natural minds, which intrude themselves, and ask to be admitted to our confidence and esteem. Our spiritual minds arise, and look upward; they acknowledge the Lord, and seek his righteousness. And we begin to experience a new quality of life. Love feeds our intelligence; and we use our knowledge for good purposes. But all our merely superficial pride of knowledge, and other intellectual conceits, seek to pass into our regenerating character. But the door is shut against them, They have no capacity for heaven. The door that is shut is in themselves, in their own character; they shut out the heavens.
Thus, the parable teaches us that heaven can be given to those only who are prepared for heaven; i. e., who are heavenly in character. If any others should be admitted among the angels, such angelic company would not seem heavenly, to the evil. For heaven is not merely a place, but a state, or condition. Men fix their character by their lives. And he who lives himself into the character of a devil, cannot live in the atmosphere of heaven.
“I KNOW YOU NOT.”
Evil men think of a heaven as a desirable place, according to their expectation; and so they may imagine that they desire to be in heaven. But it would not be a heaven to them. And the Lord would say to them, ” I know you not;” i. e., He does not know them as having anything heavenly in their character. “The Lord knoweth the way of the upright;” but He does not know, as His, the way of the evil man. Heaven is a condition of love, faith and obedience. And those, only, can enter into a heavenly condition, who have the oil of genuine love, to keep alive their light of intelligence; who know the truth, and love to live by it. “If ye know these things, blessed are ye, if ye do them.”
The Lord is said not to know those who, spiritually, do not know the Lord, as their Lord, loved and obeyed. ” I know you not ;”. there is nothing in you that responds to My Divine principles of life. You can not live in heaven, because you are not willing to receive the principles which make heaven. For heaven is a pure state of unselfish love, of innocence, and of spiritual intelligence; and you are in an impure state of selfish affections, of doctrines without goodness, of lamps without oil.
From the fact that there were five wise and five foolish virgins, we are not to infer that exactly half of the world, or of Church members, are saved, and half lost. In the interpretation of a parable, we must remember that the lesson intended is in spiritual principles, not merely in external facts. The Lord’s Word treats of spiritual things; and we must draw spiritual inferences from its figurative teachings. The Word does not teach mere natural science, but spiritual science. Its lessons are not about mathematical quantities, but spiritual qualities.
The number, five, represents a part, or a few. Numerically, it is probable that much more than half of the human race will be saved. But they will not all be saved in the same degree of heavenly life. There are many degrees of heavenly life. “In My Father’s house are many mansions.” But no man will enter into any of the heavenly societies, except as a result of regeneration, that is, of shunning evils as sins, and doing good, in the name of the Lord.
“Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.” And here, again, though the literal sense speaks of times, the spiritual sense treats or qualities, and of states of life. The day and the hour are states of affection and of thought, from our will and understanding. We have need to watch, interiorly and exteriorly; to watch our ends, purposes, motives, in our heart; to watch our mental causes, the principles which are operating in our understandings; and to watch our works, or conduct, to see that they are the embodiment of the commandments of our Lord.
In our external life, we are alert and watchful against fire and flood, and against moth and rust, and deadly poisons. And it behooves us to keep spiritual watch against the deadly influence of evils and falsities -and sins, which are likely to sap our spiritual strength. We are to watch, not merely against outward foes, but more especially against our own evil inclinations and false notions.
And, in watching, we are not to be governed by natural fear, which paralyzes activity, but by the love which finds its joy in keeping the Lord’s commandments. If we indulge our evils, we can not tell in what hour or state, of moral and spiritual weakness, we may begin a downward course of life”.
As the sun, with its heat and light, is in every ray that it sends forth to us, so the Lord is in every truth that makes itself known to us. Such a truth is both our Redeemer and our Judge. Our natural mind may not recognize either the Divine influence, or its own dangers. And so, to watch, we must have light. So, in the truth of the Lord’s Word, as taught in the doctrines of the Church, we have lamps of doctrine, which may be filled with the warm oil of a love for the truth, and for the good which the truth teaches; and by these we may clearly see the quality of the things that are within our own natural minds, as well as in our surroundings. “And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1887