Joseph Augustus Seiss.

The parable of the ten virgins : in six discourses, and a sermon on the judgeship of the saints online

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THE

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AND

A SEEMON

ON

THE JUDGESHIP OF THE SAINTS.

BY

JOSEPH A. SEISS, D.D.

A UTHOR OF s

"LAST TIMES," "GOSPEL IN LEVITICUS," "LECTURES ON IIEBREWS," ETC.



PHILADELPHIA: . . .

SMITH, ENGLISH & CO., 23 NO&T^ ^iXTTT ST.

BOSTON: GOULD & LINCOLN.— NEW YORK: silj£li)i\Y i'ci

1862.



159674



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1862, by
JOSEPH A. SE1SS, D.D.,

the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania.



STEREOTYPED BY L. JOHNSON 4 CO.
PHILADELPHIA.



. * * » •



PREFACE.



The following Discourses, on the Parable of the Vir-
gins, were preached in St. John's Lutheran Church, Phila-
delphia, during the months of January and February
last, in the course of the author's ordinary pulpit minis-
trations. Their publication has been solicited by many
persons, of different denominations, who listened to them
when delivered. They are given to the public in the
hope that they may be of service to those who may favor
them with a serious perusal. The subject is one which
ought to command attention in these solemn times. It
is here treated with a view to elicit a clearer understand-
ing of the Savior's meaning in this parable. The inter-
pretation given differs from that commonly entertained ;
but the grounds on which it rests appear to the writer suffi-
ciently firm and conclusive to satisfy him of the truthful-
ness of its leading features, and of its claims to be received
as an integral part of the great revelation of God. The
light that has been followed is that of a solid and straight-
forward exegesis, unswayed by theories or mere human au-
thorities. The results reached are believed to be in all



4 PREFACE.

respects in perfect harmony with the Scriptures generally,
and in no way in conflict with the analogy of faith. To
that Divine Master in whose service these Discourses have
been prepared, they are also humbly and devoutly dedi-
cated, with the prayer that His blessing may be upon them
and upon those who read them, and that their publication
may be to His praise, and contribute to prepare many for
His glorious appearing and kingdom.
Philadelphia, March, 1862.

P.S. — The Sermon appended to these Discourses is very
closely related to them in subject-matter, though written
and delivered at an earlier period. It may be considered
a part of the exposition of the same general subject,
though founded on other portions of Sacred Scripture. It
is given in the same service, and with the same intent and
prayer, as the Discourses with which it appears.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.



FIRST DISCOURSE.

PAGES

the subject proposed — adjustment of the picture —

christ the bridegroom "the kingdom of heaven"

who are the virgins — a portrait of the church

difference between the two classes the tarrying

of the bridegroom mistakes about the time of

Christ's return — answer to the scoffs based upon

THEM 7-36

SECOND DISCOURSE.

THE DROWSINESS OF THE VIRGINS THE DIFFERENT VIEWS

OF IT WHAT IT REPRESENTS TRACED THROUGH THE HIS-
TORY OF THE CHURCH — THE MIDNIGHT CRY — ITS QUICKEN-
ING EFFECT THE TRIMMING OF THE LAMPS THE DIS-
COVERIES WHICH SHALL BE MADE BY CHRISTIANS WHEN
THE MOMENT OF CHRIST'S RETURN ARRIVES — AN APPEAL
UPON THE SUBJECT 37-59

THIRD DISCOURSE.

CONTRAST BETWEEN THE FIRST AND LAST PARTS OF THIS

PARABLE THE DEFICIENCY OF THE FOOLISH VIRGINS HOW

IT WAS PROPOSED TO REMEDY IT — THE FOLLY OF TRUST-
ING TO THE GOODNESS OR INTERCESSIONS OF OTHERS IN
MATTERS OF SALVATION — THE ADVICE GIVEN TO THE FOOL-
ISH VIRGINS THE FREE AND ABUNDANT PROVISIONS OF

GRACE 60-80

1* 5



CONTENTS.



FOURTH DISCOURSE.

PAGES
THE CRISIS OF THIS PARABLE — THE COMING AGAIN OF CHRIST
THE GREAT HOPE OF THE CHURCH — THE OBJECT AND SUR-
ROUNDINGS OF THAT EVENT — READINESS FOR IT — THE MAR-
RIAGE-FEAST 81-104

FIFTH DISCOURSE.

THE FATE OF THE FOOLISH VIRGINS — COMMON IMPRESSIONS

REFUTED — THEY WERE NOT LOST — AUTHORITIES QUOTED

A SURVEY OF FACTS BEARING UPON THE PROPER EXPLANA-
TION DIFFERENT CLASSES OF THE SAVED "CHURCH OF

THE FIRST-BORN" — SOME " SAVED" WITH " LOSS" — WHOLE

CASE OF THE FOOLISH VIRGINS REVIEWED NO ONE SAFE

WITHOUT AIMING AT THE HIGHEST HONORS 105-127

SIXTH DISCOURSE.

THE APPLICATION — DUTY OF WATCHFULNESS — THE OBJECT TO

WHICH IT IS TO BE DIRECTED — WHAT IS IMPLIED IN IT

GENERAL STATEMENT OF THE LESSONS INCULCATED BY THIS
PARABLE — CONCLUSION 128-154

APPENDIX— A SERMON.

THE JUDGESHIP OF THE SAINTS — ITS REALITY — ITS NATURE

THE SAME AS THAT OF CHRIST NOT TO BE USURPED IN

THIS LIFE — REFLECTIONS ON THE SUBJECT — "REMARKS ON
ISAIAH XXXII. 1" 155-189



THE



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IN SIX DISCOURSES.



first jpontTO.



THE SUBJECT PROPOSED — ADJUSTMENT OF THE PICTURE — CHRIST

THE BRIDEGROOM "THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN" WHO ARE

THE VIRGINS — A PORTRAIT OF THE CHURCH DIFFERENCE

BETWEEN THE TWO CLASSES — THE TARRYING OF THE BRIDE-
GROOM — MISTAKES ABOUT THE TIME OF CHRIST'S RETURN

ANSWER TO THE SCOFFS BASED UPON THEM.



" Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten vir-
gins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bride-
groom," &c. — Matt. xxv. 1-13.

We have in these words one of the Savior's
most interesting and impressive parables. It was
spoken on Mount Olivet, but a few days before his
death. I call attention to it, at this time, with a
view to devote a few Sabbath evenings to its more
particular exposition. It is not a neglected portion
•of revelation. From Augustine and Luther down
to the present, many have spoken and written upon
it. Books and commentaries for its explanation are



8 THE PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS.

not few. It has seemed to me, however, that it is
not understood as it ought to be. It also touches
upon fields of doctrine, experience, and hope concern-
ing which the popular mind needs more instruction
than it receives. I have, therefore, imposed upon
myself the task of re-stating its import, and of pro-
ducing a fresh account of its principal teachings
and contents. Should I even fail to establish the
conclusions which the terms and implications of the
parable appear to me to require, the cause of truth
may nevertheless be the gainer by a reopening of the
questions involved, and a resurvey of the field.

The material circumstances of this parable pre-
sent an Oriental wedding-scene, such as was fre-
quent in those days.* It has been debated whether
it describes the bridegroom's going to receive his
bride, or whether it be the larger and more joyous
procession of his return with her to his own house.
It most likely includes both. Some of the most
valuable versions of the New Testament specify it as
the latter. f The narrative itself makes the pro-
cession terminate in the house of the bridegroom.

It has also been made a question whether the
virgins here spoken of were the attendants of the
bride, waiting with her at, or going forth with her
from, her father's house, or young women of the
neighborhood, who were to join the procession as

* See 1 Maccabees ix. 37. „

f The Syriac, the Vulgate, the Coptic, the Cranmer Bible,
Van Ess, Alioli, Knapp, and three of the MSS., all read " Bride-
groom and the Bride."



FIEST DISCOURSE. 9

soon as it readied them, and who were, therefore,
obliged to wait at some convenient station until that
time. But it matters very little how we decide this
point. The first would seem to be the more natural ;
and the last would agree very satisfactorily with the
things meant to be represented. Perhaps the Savior's
silence respecting this particular was intended to leave
the mind of the hearer free to take in both suppositions
and to interpret the parable as if both were true.

There is no question, however, that the Bride-
groom is Jesus Christ. To this all interpreters
agree. There are many other passages of Scrip-
ture in which he is so represented. David, and
Solomon, and Isaiah, and John the Baptist, and the
apostles, have all referred to him under this interest-
ing figure. His Bride is the Church, to which he
has given his promise, and to which he has be-
trothed himself for a blessed and eternal union.
Hosea beautifully represents him as coming to his
believing people, and saying to each, " I will be-
troth thee unto me forever; yea, I will betroth thee
unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in
loving-kindness, and in mercies. I will even be-
troth thee unto me in faithfulness : and thou shalt
know the Lord." (Hosea ii. 19, 20.) This engage-
ment he has made with all his Church, in the pro-
mises and ordinances of his gospel, on condition that
each shall be ready when he comes.

The time for the fulfilment of these engagements
is the period of his return to the earth. It usu-
ally requires two visits to effect a marriage, — the



10 THE PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS.

one in which the proposal is made and the pre-
liminaries arranged, and the other in which the
marriage actually takes place. So Christ comes
twice to the Church. The visit in which he made
the proposal and arranged all the preliminary re-
quisites is long past, and is all presupposed in the
parable before us. The other is yet future, when he
will come to receive his people, and to convey them
to the place which he has gone to prepare for them,
that they may be ever with him.

The subject of this parable plainly is, the Church, —
the congregation of believers, — with reference to the
experiences and qualifications necessary to secure
the high honors of the world to come. It refers to
a state of things preceding the second advent of
Christ and having special regard to that great
event. It is "the kingdom of heaven' which is
meant to be illustrated, — not, indeed, in every aspect
in which it is viewed in the Scriptures, but in the
condition in which it is found in the times anterior
to Christ's return, and the estate of its subjects with
respect to that return. Properly, " the kingdom of
heaven" embraces all that the gospel proposes, both
in its means and in its end, whether in this world or
in that which is to come. It includes all the pro-
visions of grace, the whole economy of administra-
tions by which salvation is conveyed to us, the
experiences which it works in us, the system of re-
medial appliances under which it brings us, and all
the rewards and glories in which Christ's media-
torial dealings are to eventuate. It is the most



FIRST DISCOURSE. 11

comprehensive conception contained in any one
phrase in the entire word of God. It sometimes
embraces more, and sometimes less, as the kingdom
in its fuller sense, or particular sections or phases
of it, are the subject of remark. In the parables it
is generally used with reference to the Christian
State, in which Christ is king and the saints are his
subjects; in which laws of government are enacted,
and proper officers appointed for their explanation
and execution; and which consists in God's adminis-
trations in and over a class of people united under
one Head, distinguished from all other orders of
men, and on their way to a perfect and eternal
empire, to be more fully manifested hereafter.

It is called the kingdom of heaven, in distinction
from earthly empires or confederations. Its sub-
jects are born from on high, and have a celestial
citizenship. It originates entirely from above, and
has its head and centre in a celestial King, although
located upon earth. The word, laws, and ordinances
of it are all from heaven. There is also some re-
semblance between it and heaven. It embraces
many heavenly elements. It is also very near
to heaven, — the next thing to it, the suburbs of
it, — and includes whatever upon earth is most
heavenly. And it is this kingdom, as made up of
purified souls hoping, looking, and waiting for the
coming of their Lord to complete their bliss, which
the Savior has here set before us.*

* " The kingdom of heaven is the body of believers in Christ ;
who are brought, by renovation by the Spirit, into the relation



12 THE PARABLE OP THE VIRGINS.

It has been doubted by some whether the ten
virgins in this parable represent the whole Church
of Christ, or only that portion of it which shall be
found on the earth at his coming. It seems to me
that the latter is the proper acceptation, without,
however, entirely excluding the former. All must
agree that the parable relates particularly to " the
last times," which include, in general, the entire space
between Christ's ascension and second coming, but
more especially that portion of it lying immediately
before the second advent. It was in answer to ques-
tions concerning the Savior's second coming and the
end of the world, that it was given. (Matt. xxiv. 3.)*



of children and heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ; in
■whom, therefore, he dwells by his Spirit, and of whom such as
have died are at his second advent to come with him, and be
invested with authority as priests and kings, and reign with him
over the living nations of the earth, through their endless gene-
rations. It is this kingdom, in some of its stages or character-
istics, that a chief part of the parables are employed to illustrate."
— Theol. and Lit. Journal, vii. 242.

* For an explanation of this chapter, see my Last Times, First
Lecture. The following are Dean Alford's remarks upon the
subject: — "The question was concerning the time, and the sign
of these things happening, viz. : the overthrow of the temple and
desolation of Judea, with which, in the then idea of the apostles,
our Lord's coming and the end of the world were connected.
Against this mistake he warns them, vv. 6, 14, Luke v. 24, and
also in the two first parables in our chapter xxv. For the under-
standing of this necessarily difficult prophetic discourse, it must
be borne in mind that the whole is spoken in the pregnant lan-
guage of prophecy, in which various fulfilments are involved.
(1.) The view of the Jewish Church and its fortunes, as repre-
senting the Christian Church and its history, is one key to the inter-



FIRST DISCOURSE. 13

It is part of a discourse which is mostly taken up with
an account of the last things. The whole context is
engrossed with the signs and circumstances of the
end of the present order. And the parable begins
with the remark that " Then' — at that time — the
kingdom of heaven shall be like unto these ten vir-
gins. It seems also to be implied in the narrative
that these virgins were but one company in a grand
procession made up of many similar companies, —



pretation of this chapter. Two parallel interpretations run through
the former part as far as ver. 28 ; the destruction of Jerusalem
and the final judgment being both enwrapped in the words, but
the former, in this part of the chapter, predominating. Even in
this part, however, we cannot tell how applicable the warnings
given may be to the events of the last times, in which, appa-
rently, Jerusalem is again to play so distinguished a part. From
verse 28 the lesser subject begins to be swallowed up by the
greater, and our Lord's second coming to be the predominant
theme, with, however, certain hints thrown back as it were at the
event which was immediately in question, till, in the latter part
of the chapter and the whole of the next, the second advent, and, at
last, the final judgment ensuing on it, are the subjects. (2.) Another
weighty matter for the understanding of this prophecy is, that
(see Mark xiii. 32) any obscurity or concealment concerning the
time of the Lord's second coming must be attributed to the right
cause, which we know from his own mouth to be, that the divine
Speaker himself, in his humiliation, did not know the day nor the
hour. All that he had heard of the Father, he made known unto
his disciples, (John xv. 15;) but that which the Father kept in
his own power (Acts i. 7) he did not in his abased humanity
know. He told them the attendant circumstances of his coming.
He gave them enough to guard them from error in supposing the
day to be close at hand, and from carelessness in not expecting
it as near." — Greek Testament, Matt. xxiv. 3. See also GreswelVs
Parables, v. 197-443.

2



14 THE PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS.

the last to fall in before the place for the feast wag
reached.

Whilst in general, therefore, they may be taken
as representing the Church universal, they stand more
particularly for that portion of it coming last before
the great marriage of the Lamb. It would seem as
if Christ would have us contemplate the Church of
each age as a company of virgins, each in its turn
falling in to fill out the great concourse of the re-
deemed on their way to be at once the attendants
and the Bride of their Lord. Those who lived in
former ages and died in true faith fall in first ; for
" we which are alive and remain to the coming of the
Lord shall not go before them which are asleep ; . . .
the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thess. iv. 15,
16.) The stress of this parable must, therefore, be
taken as falling upon those last days immediately
preceding the second advent, but not in such a way
as to exclude a general reference to the universal
Church of all ages. The Church is essentially one
in all periods and departments, just as the anatomy
or physiology of one man is essentially that of all
men in all time. That which properly describes it
in one age must also in a general way describe it
in every age. And in some sense, as Bengel well
observes, " Each generation which lives at this or
that time occupies, during that period of their life,
the place of those who are to live at the time of the
coming of the Lord."*



* Gnomon, 1 Thess. iv. 15.



FIRST DISCOURSE. 15

" Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unio ten virgins,
which took their lamps and went forth to meet the Bridegroom.'"

Let me ask you, then, to look for a moment at the
representation which the Savior here gives of his
Church.

First, it is a company of virgins ; that is, it is
made up of a community of people who are chaste
and pure, beautiful and loving, — of people with a
pure faith, beautified with grace, and knowing nothing
of the unclean loves of ! idolatry and wickedness. If
ever they were tempted to spiritual harlotry, they
are now thoroughly purged from all such unholinesses.
And if they are not wholly cleansed in fact, they cer-
tainly are by profession, and must become so in
reality before they can be rated as the true virgins
of faith.

In the next place, these virgins are all betrothed,
— under engagements to one who will presently come
to claim them as his Bride. They have pledged their
deepest and purest affections to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Abjuring all others, they have plighted to be his, and
to be faithful to him. In the solemn services and
sacraments of his house, they have acknowledged
him as rightfully entitled to their affections, and
given out before God and angels that they have
acceded to his gracious proposals, and stand obligated
to him, as their Lord, to be ready to go with him
whenever he shall demand them. And whosoever
is in any way unfaithful to these engagements does
but play the harlot, and is no longer one of the



16 THE PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS.

chaste virgins whom the Savior will accept and re-
ceive.

Still another feature in the case of these virgins
is, that they all had turned their backs upon the
world, and gone forth to meet the Bridegroom.
Christ has given promise to his Church to return
very soon to fulfil all his engagements with it.
When he last was present with his people, he said as
he left them, " Let not your heart be troubled. I
go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and
prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive
you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be
also." And even after his departure, he sent word
back, " Surely, I come quickly : Amen." (John xiv.
1-3 ; Eev. xxii. 20.) As the result of these promises,
it is one distinguishing mark of his people, that, as
they become betrothed to him, they are at once led
to look out for his return, and to be concerned every
day to be ready for a speedy fulfilment of his words.
Thus Simeon of old was waiting for the consolation
of Israel. (Luke ii. 25.) Hence says the Apostle
Paul, in the name of the Christians of his time,
" Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we
look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." (Phil,
iii. 20.) He also commends those of his brethren
who " come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ, 11 (1 Cor. i. 7,) and presents
it as the whole office of the gospel to teach us to
deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live
soberly, righteously, and godly in this present evil
world, looking for that blessed hope, — the glorious



FIRST DISCOURSE. 17

appearing of the great God, even our Savior Jesus
Christ. (Titus ii. 12, 13.) A condition of waiting,
looking, watching, expecting, hoping, anticipating,
desiring, and hastening to join the Savior on his
return, is everywhere spoken of as a characteristic
attitude of the true people of God ; whilst deficiency
and weakness in this spirit of going forth to meet
him is continually put down as a great diminution
of the vitality of one's faith, and as a damaging blot
upon one's fitness for that glorious event. It would
seem, from the way in which the Scriptures speak of
the matter, as if all the living powers of piety were
linked with this condition of mind and spirit, and as
if all the high blessings of ultimate glorification with
Christ were reserved exclusively for those who put
themselves in the posture of looking for and loving
his appearing. " Christ was once offered to bear the
sins of many ; and unto them that look for him shall
he appear the second time, without sin, unto sal-
vation." (Heb. ix. 28.) " There is laid up a crown
of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge,
shall give . . . unto all them that love his appearing."
(2 Tim. iv. 8.) Hence, says a very earnest and
spiritual-minded commentator on this parable, "the
Church and people of God, after they are truly
espoused to Christ, and made in any measure ready
for Christ, are no more of this world, but look out
of it, and verily expect the second coming and glo-
rious appearing of Christ."* «



* Shepard on the Ten Virgins, p. 189
2*



18 THE PARABLE OF THE VIRGINS.

It is also to be noted that these virgins took lamps
with them, partly to meet the necessities of the case,
— for such processions occurred only in the night, —
and partly to meet the requirements of a custom
which added greatly to the grandeur of the occasion.
There have been many sharp words as to what
these lamps were intended to denote. Some insist
that they represent hearts and spiritual graces. I
can find no authority for this in Scripture. The
taking of our hearts and particular endowments also
seems to me not to be sufficiently distinguishing to
answer to that by which these virgins so conspi-
cuously witnessed that they had been called to the
wedding and meant to go. Whether a. man be a
child of God or not, he never fails to take with him
his heart, and whatever gifts may appertain to him.
These lamps were something distinguishing. They
were the most prominent and manifest marks by
which their bearers exhibited their distinctness from
all others, and evinced what they were about. They
were their particular external tokens as invited
guests. The Scriptures also tell us that "he that
trusteth in his own heart is a fool." (Prov. xxviii.
26.) Man needs a higher and better illumination
than can come from such a source. The only proper
spiritual lamp of which I know is that of which
the Psalmist speaks, when he says, "Thy word is
a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path."
(Ps. cxix. 105' also Prov. vi. 23.) And whosoever
would make his way to the marriage of the Lamb,
must take that "word,-" -and appropriate well its



FIRST "DISCOURSE." 10

blessed revelations, as his most distinguishing pos-
session and preparation for a place at the glorious
banquet. Nor is that " word" to be heard, read, and
learned only : it needs to be professed and lived. To
take it, is not only to handle it externally or intel-
lectually, but inwardly and practically to digest it, —
to have it incorporated with our being, so as to be
the bearers of it in our entire character, words, and
works. Hence also the churches are called candle-


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