PARABLE OF THE TEN VIRGINS.
"Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins which took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom." (Matt. 25: 1).
In this parable the last special movement prior to the coming of the bridegroom is set forth. Notice the language, "Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened;" it is not now, but at some future time it shall he likened. While every other parable is in the present tense, this stands alone as the only exception, "The kingdom of heaven is likened to a sower;" the "kingdom of heaven is likened to a net;" "the kingdom of heaven is likened to a nobleman;" to "three measures of meal;" to a "grain of mustard seed," &c., &c., all in the present tense, and all span the gospel dispensation. But the one of the ten virgins, if Jesus used the proper language, was to be fulfilled at the ending of the gospel. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom, and were disappointed, for he tarries, and they slumber and sleep. Another cry is made, "Go ye out to meet him," and in accordance with that cry he comes, and they that were ready go in with him to the marriage, and the door is shut. "Strive to enter in; for I say unto you, many shall seek to enter in and shall not be able, when once the master of the house has risen up and shut to the door."
It is well known that during the present, century there has been a great advent movement. Commencing perhaps with Wolf, who preached in Europe and Asia, but centering mainly in this country in what is often called the "Miller movement," which culminated on the tenth day of the seventh month of 1844. And we purpose to show that in this special movement the above parable began to be fulfilled.
The fact that there has always been more or less expectation of the coming of Christ, during the whole time of his absence, does not militate against this application, as will he seen when all the details are made to appear.
In the first place, it is certain such a movement as is represented in this parable must occur prior to the second advent. That is, there must be a going forth to meet the bridegroom, followed by a disappointment, for he is represented as tarrying; then another "going out" to meet him, which is to end with success. All this the parable clearly brings out.
Exception may be taken by some to a full application of all
the details of a parable, as many have been taught that parables are given to teach one, and only one leading idea. But it will be observed that wherever Jesus explains a parable, he always makes every part have a full application. See his explanation of the "tares and the wheat," the sower by the wayside, &c., &c. And in Mark 4: 13, he makes the parable of the sower, which is so full of details and so perfect in its application, the sample by which all parables are to be explained. "And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables?" Then he explains the sower, the seed, the wayside, the good ground, the stony ground, the thorns, the birds of the air, &c., making in the explanation an application of every thought expressed in the parable. Can we do better than to follow his instructions, in understanding "all parables?"
The force of the present application of this of the ten virgins will be seen by every reader, I think, when the details are all brought out.
The subject of this parable is the continuation of the subject of Matt. 24, the division of the chapters being only the work of the printer.
In Matt. 24 a connected prophecy from the first to the second advent is given, and of course embracing more or less of the events associated with the destruction of Jerusalem. But we shall not give a detailed application of this chapter, our object being merely to show the locality of the parable with which the next chapter opens. After a reference to the wars and great time of trouble on the church, such as never was before or should be again, he gives the signs which are to precede his advent, such as the darkening of the sun, falling of the stars, distress of nations with perplexity, etc. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened" (verse 20). In another place we have given the reasons for believing that this "tribulation" under the abomination that was to make desolate, refers to the persecutions under the papal church, and which almost entirely ended during the eighteenth century. "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened." This has been applied to the dark day of May 19th, 1780, which has perhaps nearly passed out of the memory of most of those now living, but was a household word fifty years ago. "And the stars shall fall from heaven." This was fulfilled in November, 1833; the peculiarity of which will still be in the memory of some of my readers. "And the
powers of the heavens shall be shaken," we understand to be in the immediate future, and that it refers to the governments of the earth. Then follows the declaration, "so likewise ye [the church] when ye shall see these things, know that it, or he, is near. Verily, I say unto you, this generation [who see these things] shall not pass away till all these things be fulfilled" (verse 33). I am not explaining this chapter to meet criticism, but simply showing the view we entertain of these events which lead to the subject of this article.
The 24th chapter having brought us down to the last generation, the one that was to see the signs, and upon which the end was coming, he says "Then," viz., at that time, "shall the kingdom of heaven, the church, be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom, and five of them were wise and five were foolish."
The lamp is the Bible; "thy word is a lamp to my feet." In the Advent movement of the present century, and which culminated in 1843-4, there has been such a searching of the Scriptures as never has been known in any other generation. This might to some extent be accounted for, from the fact that other generations have not had the Bible as a house-hold book, but the accounting for this or for the darkening of the sun or falling of the stars has no bearing on their application. The question is, Have the facts met the conditions of the prophecy? Has there been, during this generation who have seen these signs, a movement of this kind? Every one is more or less familiar with the history of the advent, or Miller movement, as it is called. That there was a wonderful searching of the Scriptures on this particular subject — a going out to meet the bridegroom — followed by disappointment, confusion and fanaticism. This much, at least, will be admitted by all, whether friends or enemies of that movement. And this is all the parable, from the first to the fifth verse, demands; a going out to meet him, a disappointment, for the bridegroom tarries, followed by a time in which they all slumber and sleep, or were in darkness. And this very movement, and the disappointment which has followed, brought such reproach on the subject of the second advent of Christ, that the bare mentioning of it is received with cold disapproval in almost every church in the land.
"And while the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept, and at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins
arose and trimmed their lamps, And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil, for our lamp are gone out."
Many arguments are given in this book proving that we are now in the time of harvest; hence, that Christ has come the second time and that he was due in the autumn of 1874, his appearing in the clouds being yet future. From the seventh month in 1844 to the seventh month in 1874, was thirty years. The first movement brought to view in this parable, and which was to end in disappointment and the tarrying of the bridegroom, ended in 1844. And all the evidences proving that Christ was due in 1874, also prove that this night of tarrying was one of just thirty years. Hence, if this parable is to be accurately applied in every detail, as Christ himself has taught us to apply parables, the midnight cry ("And at midnight there was a cry made"), should have occurred fifteen years after the 1844 disappointment, or in the middle of this night of thirty years. Now, whether it was accidental, or so overruled, this present movement, based on those arguments proving that he was due in 1874, began just at that point of time; that is, fifteen years after 1844. Hence, we have to believe the midnight cry has been given, and that the parable is now nearly complete.
No one can read this parable, in the light of present truth — that is, that we are at the end of the gospel age — and not see a fitness of the parable to these two movements, the first before the tarrying, and therefore ending in disappointment, the second or midnight cry, ending with the coming of the bridegroom. And even the division named in the parable, and while they were gone the bridegroom came, and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage, and the door was shut. And afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Open to us, all have a fulfilment, since one part of those who have represented this movement fail of seeing the light in this latter message; in other words, remain in darkness, as to the evidences of his coming, and turn away from the investigation of that which first led them to go out to meet the bridegroom. How the prophecy could, in this respect, have a more perfect fulfilment, we cannot imagine. And even something of the manner of his coming is implied in the fact that the foolish virgins appear not to have known when the bridegroom came, since they were absent.
In the application of a prophecy, we do not expect it to take such a character that those who are inclined to oppose, can find
nothing to say against it. If it is fulfilled in such a way that one who is trying to see if it will fit, can see that the facts and the prophecy harmonize, that is the most we have a right to expect. There was not one single prophecy fulfilled at the first advent, in such a way that its opposers could take no exception to it. And yet its friends ought to be able to see a complete and satisfactory fitness. Now, if any one will take the position that this Advent movement has been the counterpart of this parable, and try and see if the 1843 movement prior to the disappointment, does not fill the parable, from verse 1 to 5; and if this last movement, which began in the middle of this thirty years of tarrying, can not be made to fill the latter part, we think they will be successful. I do not mean to say that if you pretend to take a friendly view of these things, while yet really in heart opposing them, you will be able to see. If you love the appearing of Christ you cannot help wishing that these things were true, whether they are, or not. Now, then, begin in that way, hoping that they are true, and then search, and you will not have long to wait before seeing light and beauty in these things.
"And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the seven candlesticks, one like unto the Son of man. . . And he had in his right hand seven stars. . . The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches." (Rev. 1: 13, 20.)
The seven literal churches of Asia, whose names are mentioned in verse 11, were obscure, and judging by the writings of the apostles, did not compare with the churches of Jerusalem, Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Thessalonica, &c., &c., and yet they are used to represent all that the "seven spirits which are before the throne" and the "seven golden candlesticks represented. And we shall find the meaning of their names bear a close relation to the seven stages through which the gospel church has passed; and that in this symbolic prophecy they were chosen merely as representatives of the gospel church, seems more than probable, because of this exceeding prominence given to them. If the seven spirits of God, and the seven golden candlesticks, are to be confined to the seven literal churches of Asia, what did, and do all the churches of
other parts of the world amount to? Nothing, we may answer. The seven golden candlesticks which were before God in the temple, were the fountain, or source, of all the light of the holy place. And as the gospel church is now the temple, the seven literal churches of Asia have been a poor source of light to the Christian world. But the book of Revelation is a prophecy, and not a literal epistle; and these "seven churches" embrace the "things thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" (verse 19), and therefore represent the whole gospel church, which has passed through seven phases corresponding to the meaning of the names of these successive seven, (and also in a certain sense by the particular character in which Christ, its head, is made to appear as each phase of the church is developed).
The seven names which represent these seven phases of the gospel church, are: 1st, Ephesus, which means, "chief, desirable," and represents the first or apostolic phase of Christianity; the 2d, Smyrna, means, a "sweet odor," and represents the church in the first persecution under the Roman emperors, before the corruption and "falling away" of which Paul speaks, began; the 3d, Pergamos, means, "elevated," and refers to the phase of the church at and after the conversion of Constantine, when the self-exaltation, corruption and falling away began; the 4th, Thyatira, means, "sacrificed," and refers to that phase of the church when the "woman fled into the wilderness," where she was to be fed of God; the 5th, Sardis, means, "that which remains," and refers to the church just prior to the great reformation of the sixteenth century, at a time when true piety had been almost exterminated; the 6th, Philadelphia, means, "brotherly love," and refers to the reformation church, from the days of Luther to the beginning of the "time of the end," or 1798; the 7th, Laodicea, means, "judgment," and refers to the church of the "time of the end," which includes the sounding of the seventh trumpet, with its advent proclamation, its time of trouble and day of wrath; its reward of prophets, and saints, and those that fear his name, small and great, and destruction of those who destroy the earth.
The measurement of each of the seven phases of the church have been about as follows: The first reached to about the death of John, the last of the apostles; the second, from the beginning of the second century to the conversion of Constantine in A. D. 312; the third, during the falling away, and prior
to the fleeing into the wilderness, near the beginning of the sixth century; the fourth and fifth, from that to the reformation; the exact line of demarkation not being so clearly drawn between these two, from the fact that the former represents the church in its sacrifice of life and property, and the latter the little remnant, after its almost complete extermination, the change from the one to the other being a gradual work; the sixth, from the beginning of the sixteenth century and the reformation, to the beginning of the "time of the end;" the seventh, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the setting up of the kingdom of God, or glorification of the church, which, if it embraces both those who go in to the marriage, and those who are to be ready "when he shall return from the wedding," would appear to reach to the end of the sounding of the seventh trumpet. The little space left in these pages for this subject will not permit a full application of the history of the church during its seven phases, to the prophecy. We can only give a hint, as it were, for the guidance of the reader.
Please note the character Christ gives to himself while addressing the first or apostolic church. "These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks: I know thy works, and thy labor, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil, and hast tried those which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars," &c. Then compare the account as given by Paul of their labors, their patience, their stripes, their power of discerning spirits, &c. But even that highly exalted church at last lost its first love, and God removed their candlestick, to the second and lower condition. The power of miracles passed away. "If there be prophesy (that is, the gift of prophecy), it shall fail." While only faith, hope and charity abide."
Again, notice the character of Christ addressed to the church of Smyrna, upon whom death and persecution and poverty had come (verse 9), "I know thy works, and tribulation and poverty (but thou art rich). Persecution always purifies the true child of God. "I know the blasphemy of those which say they are Jews, (not literal Jews, but "Israelites indeed.") and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. The same symbols of "Jew" and "synagogue of Satan" occur again in speaking to the Philadelphia church, and clearly refers to the true and the false, those belonging to Christ, and those belonging to antichrist. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the
Spirit saith unto the churches," that is, all the churches of that second phase. They were suffering death, but are encouraged that they shall not be hurt of the second death. With the third, or Pergamos church, they have reached the time of Constantine's conversion, when the power of the empire was made subservient to the church, and Christianity could begin to assume the dignity of civil power. And you will notice the character of him who addresses this church. "These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges: I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is." That is, in the seat of the "dragon," called "the devil and Satan;" or in other words, the seat of empire. How perfect and appropriate is this, when addressed to the Christian church of that day; and how meaningless it would be, if applied to the little church in the village of Pergamos, in Asia, where the "dragon," or fourth empire, never had its seat.
"And unto the angel of the church of Thyatira, write." This church has to forsake all and flee into the wilderness. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass." He can follow them in all their desolate wandering, no matter how wild and dreary the mountain passes may be. "I know thy works, and charity and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works, and the last to be more than the first." At such a crisis, works, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, would be a prominent virtue, "Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her space to repent" (verses 18 to 26). That woman Jezebel was clearly the drunken woman from whom they fled. In their great troubles, driven to the mountains with wives and children suffering cold and hunger, many of those who had fled, were seduced back by offers of life, property and position, in the earlier days of their flight. "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches;" that is, all the churches of that age.
"And unto the angel of the church of Sardis write: These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." To a church almost extinct, "but few names left in Sardis," how comforting to feel that he who held all the churches in his hand was their protector. But so long without the light, the Bible hardly ever seen, living almost entirely by
tradition and memory of what the Christian church should be, no wonder they were almost spiritually dead. "Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die; for I have not found thy works perfect before God" (chap. 3: 2). "And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth: I know thy works. Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it. Behold I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold 1 will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." The door of the reformation was opened, and no man could shut it. The Bible began to be put into the hands of the people, and that woman Jezebel could not stop it. And long before the end of that phase of the church, that synagogue of Satan had indeed been compelled to bow at the feet of the reformation church. Who does not know that the reformers down even to this side of the days of John Wesley, were earnest and devoted servants of God? "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
"And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write: These things saith the amen, the faithful and true witness (verse 14). This, we understand to be the last phase of the church; "neither cold nor hot." This is the church that is to be "spewed out of his mouth." It is the church upon whom the "hour of trial is coming;" the one that is to be weighed in the balance and found wanting; the generation who are to stumble, as did the generation of Jews, who saw the first advent. It is true the church of this present century has done many wonderful things in and for the name of Christ, and they have, through the Bible societies, scattered the word of God far and wide. But how true it is that the earnest personal piety of the reformers has almost disappeared from the church. And yet they are, in their own estimation, "rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing." I do not refer so much to the vast moneyed wealth and the well organized machinery of the church, as to their satisfied feeling that they have truth enough; and that the first principles of the gospel of Christ are sufficient to carry them safely through, while yet careless of, and even opposed to the great dispensational truth
designed for this generation. The trump of God is sounding, the events of the great day are upon us; and instead of the church being satisfied to go back to a few of the first principles for the sake of unity, they should be advancing in light and truth so rapidly that laggards should be left far behind. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed. As many as I love I rebuke and chasten; be zealous, therefore, and repent. ... He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
Confining one'self to first principles, or even to the most comprehensive creed, must necessarily stop all advances in the knowledge of the truth. Supposing your creed to have been made in the fifteenth century, and you now believe anything outside of, or beyond that creed, you cease to be Orthodox. There can be no doubt that every creed from that of the Roman Catholics, to the last and least of the numerous sects, have in them many of the first principles of christianity. They have each and all fenced off a little of the "shining pathway" in which the man of God is to walk. But one who is to walk in that pathway which is to "shine more and more unto the perfect day," must step over those fences with as little regard for them, as for any other obstruction in his path. If I am a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a Methodist, and 1 find that God's word is more beautiful, and the plan of redemption more comprehensive than the framers of my creed then understood it to be, why may I not advance, and thus grow in the knowledge of the truth? Why should man say to me, "thus far shalt thou go but no further?" It is the word of God, and not my fellow man that is to judge me. That there is need of an advance in the knowledge of the first principles of the gospel, we do not hold. But we do hold that if the dawn of the millennium is at hand, and is to be introduced as we think the Bible teaches, by a time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation; by the resurrection of many that sleep in the dust of the earth, by the second coming of Christ, and the beginning of a restitution of all things, and that these things are already upon us, the true church must keep pace with the advancing light, or be left in darkness. Hence, the counsel to buy "eyesalve, that thou mayest see," is not out of place when given to this, the Laodicean church. As many as I love I rebuke and chasten, be zealous, therefore and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock.