Matthew 25


The parable of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise, and

five foolish, 1-12.

The necessity of being constantly prepared to appear before

God, 13.

The parable of the talents, 14-30.

The manner in which God shall deal with the righteous and the

wicked in the judgment of the great day, 31-46.


Verse 1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven] The state of Jews

and professing Christians-the state of the visible Church at the

time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and in the day of judgment:

for the parable appears to relate to both those periods. And

particularly at the time in which Christ shall come to judge the

world, it shall appear what kind of reception his Gospel has met

with. This parable, or something very like it, is found in the

Jewish records: so in a treatise entitled RESHITH CHOCMAH, the

beginning of wisdom, we read thus: "Our wise men of blessed memory

say, Repent whilst thou hast strength to do it, whilst thy lamp

burns, and thy oil is not extinguished; for if thy lamp be gone

out, thy oil will profit thee nothing." Our doctors add, in

MEDRASH: "The holy blessed God said to Israel, My sons, repent

whilst the gates of repentance stand open; for I receive a gift at

present, but when I shall sit in judgment, in the age to come, I

will receive none." Another parable, mentioned by Kimchi, on

Isa 65:13. "Rabbi Yuchanan, the son of Zachai, spoke a parable

concerning a king, who invited his servants, but set them no time

to come: the prudent and wary among them adorned themselves and,

standing at the door of the king's house, said, Is any thing

wanting in the house of the king? (i.e. Is there any work to be

done?) But the foolish ones that were among them went away, and

working said, When shall the feast be in which there is no labour?

Suddenly the king sought out his servants: those who were adorned

entered in, and they who were still polluted entered in also. The

king was glad when he met the prudent, but he was angry when he

met the foolish: he said, Let the prudent sit down and eat-let

the others stand and look on." Rabbi Eliezer said, "Turn to God

one day before your death." His disciples said, "How can a man

know the day of his death?" He answered them, "Therefore you

should turn to God to-day, perhaps you may die to-morrow; thus

every day will be employed in returning." See Kimchi in

Isa 65:13.

Virgins] Denoting the purity of the Christian doctrine and

character. In this parable, the bridegroom is generally

understood to mean Jesus Christ. The feast, that state of

felicity to which he has promised to raise his genuine followers.

The wise, or prudent, and foolish virgins, those who truly

enjoy, and those who only profess the purity and holiness of

his religion. The oil, the grace and salvation of God, or that

faith which works by love. The vessel, the heart in which this

oil is contained. The lamp, the profession of enjoying the

burning and shining light of the Gospel of Christ. Going forth;

the whole of their sojourning upon earth.

Verse 2. Five of them were wise] Or, provident, φρονιμοι-they

took care to make a proper provision beforehand, and left nothing

to be done in the last moment.

Five were foolish] μωροι, which might be translated

careless, is generally rendered foolish; but this does not agree

so well with φρονιμοι, provident, or prudent, in the first

clause, which is the proper meaning of the word. μωρος in the

Etymologicon, is thus defined, μηορατοδεον, he who sees not

what is proper or necessary. These did not see that it was

necessary to have oil in their vessels, (the salvation of God in

their souls,) as well as a burning lamp of religious profession,

Mt 25:3, 4.

Verse 4. Took oil in their vessels] They not only had a

sufficiency of oil in their lamps, but they carried a vessel with

oil to recruit their lamps, when it should be found expedient.

This the foolish or improvident neglected to do: hence, when the

oil that was in their lamps burned out, they had none to pour into

the lamp to maintain the flame.

Verse 5. The bridegroom tarried] The coming of the bridegroom

to an individual may imply his death: his coming to the world-the

final judgment. The delay-the time from a man's birth till his

death, in the first case; in the second, the time from the

beginning to the end of the world.

Slumbered and slept.] Or, ενυσταξανκαιεκαθευδον, they became

drowsy and fell asleep. As sleep is frequently used in the sacred

writings for death, so drowsiness, which precedes sleep, may be

considered as pointing out the decays of the constitution, and the

sicknesses which precede death. The other explanations which are

given of this place must be unsatisfactory to every man who is not

warped by some point in his creed, which must be supported at

every expense. Carelessness disposed them to drowsiness,

drowsiness to sleep, deep sleep, which rendered them as

unconscious of their danger as they were before inattentive to

their duty. The Anglo-Saxon has hit the meaning of the original

well-[Anglo-Saxon] of which my old MS. Bible gives a literal

version, in the English of the 14th century: forsothe-alle

nappeden and sleptyn.

Verse 6. At midnight there was a cry] The Jewish weddings were

generally celebrated in the night; yet they usually began at the

rising of the evening star; but in this case there was a more than

ordinary delay.

Behold, the bridegroom cometh] What an awful thing to be

summoned to appear before the Judge of quick and dead! The

following is an affecting relation, and fas est ab hoste doceri.

"When Rabbi Jochanan ben Zachai was sick, his disciples came to

visit him; and when he saw them he began to weep. They say to

him, Rabbi! the light of Israel, the right hand pillar, the strong

hammer, wherefore dost thou weep? He answered them, If they were

carrying me before a king of flesh and blood, who is here today,

and to-morrow in the grave; who, if he were angry with me, his

anger would not last for ever: if he put me in prison, his prison

would not be everlasting; if he condemned me to death, that death

would not be eternal; whom I could soothe with words or bribe with

riches; yet even in these circumstances I should weep. But now I

am going before the King of kings, the holy and the blessed God,

who liveth and endureth for ever and for ever; who, if he be angry

with me, his anger will last for ever; if he put me in prison, his

bondage will be everlasting; if he condemn me to death, that death

will be eternal; whom I cannot soothe with words nor bribe with

riches: when, farther, there are before me two ways, the one to

hell and the other to paradise, and I know not in which they are

carrying me, shall I not weep?" TALMUD Beracoth, fol. 29.

Verse 7. Trimmed their lamps.] εκοσμησαν, adorned them.

I have seen some of the eastern lamps or lanthorns, the body of

which was a skeleton of wood and threads, covered with a very thin

transparent membrane, or very fine gauze, and decorated with

flowers painted on it. It is probable that the nuptial 1amps were

highly decorated in this way; though the act mentioned here may

mean no more than preparing the lamps for burning.

The following account of the celebration of a wedding in Persia,

taken from the Zend Avesta, vol. ii. p. 558, &c., may cast some

light on this place.

"The day appointed for the marriage, about five o'clock in the

evening, the bridegroom comes to the house of the bride, where the

mobed, or priest, pronounces for the first time the nuptial

benediction. He then brings her to his own house, gives her some

refreshment, and afterwards the assembly of her relatives and

friends reconduct her to her father's house. When she arrives,

the mobed repeats the nuptial benediction, which is generally done

about MIDNIGHT; immediately after, the bride, accompanied with a

part of her attending troop, (the rest having returned to their

own homes,) is reconducted to the house of her husband, where she

generally arrives about three o'clock in the morning. Nothing can

be more brilliant than these nuptial solemnities in India.

Sometimes the assembly consists of not less than two thousand

persons, all richly dressed in gold and silver tissue; the friends

and relatives of the bride, encompassed with their domestics, are

all mounted on horses richly harnessed. The goods, wardrobe, and

even the bed of the bride, are carried in triumph. The husband,

richly mounted and magnificently dressed, is accompanied by his

friends and relatives, the friends of the bride following him in

covered carriages. At intervals, during the procession, guns and

rockets are fired, and the spectacle is rendered grand beyond

description, by a prodigious number of LIGHTED TORCHES, and by the

SOUND of a multitude of musical instruments."

There are certain preparations which most persons believe they

must make at the approach of death; but, alas! it is often too

late. The lamp is defiled, the light almost out, and the

oil expended; and what adorning is a wretched sinner, struggling

in the agonies of death, capable of preparing for his guilty soul!

Verse 8. Our lamps are gone out.] σβεννυνται, are going out.

So then it is evident that they were once lighted. They had once

hearts illuminated and warmed by faith and love; but they had

backslidden from the salvation of God, and now they are excluded

from heaven, because, through their carelessness, they have let

the light that was in them become darkness, and have not applied

in time for a fresh supply of the salvation of God.

A Jewish rabbin supposes God addressing man thus:-I give thee my

lamp, give thou me thy lamp; if thou keep my lamp I will keep thy

lamp; but if thou extinguish my lamp I will extinguish thy lamp.

That is, I give thee my WORD and testimonies to be a light unto

thy feet and a lanthorn to thy steps, to guide thee safely through

life; give me thy SOUL and all its concerns, that I may defend and

save thee from all evil: keep my WORD, walk in my ways, and I

will keep thy SOUL that nothing shall injure it; but if thou

trample under foot my laws, I will cast thy soul into outer


Verse 9. Lest there be not enough for us and you] These had

all been companions in the Christian course, and there was a time

when they might have been helpful to each other; but that time is

now past for ever-none has a particle of grace to spare, not even

to help the soul of the dearest relative! The grace which every

man receives is just enough to save his own soul; he has no merits

to bequeath to the Church; no work of supererogation which can be

placed to the account of another.

Go ye rather to them that sell, and buy] By leaving out the

particle δε, but, (on the indisputable authority of ABDGHKS, and

HV, of Matthai, with sixteen others, the Armenian, Vulgate, and

all the Itala but one,) and transposing a very little the members

of the sentence, the sense is more advantageously represented, and

the reading smoother: Rather go to them that sell, and buy for

yourselves, lest there be not enough for us and you. Beza, Mill,

Bengel, and Griesbach, approve of the omission of the particle δε

Verse 10. While they went to buy, the bridegroom came] What a

dismal thing it is, not to discover the emptiness of one's heart

of all that is good, till it is too late to make any successful

application for relief! God alone knows how many are thus


And they that were ready] They who were prepared-who had not

only a burning lamp of an evangelical profession, but had oil in

their vessels, the faith that works by love in their hearts, and

their lives adorned with all the fruits of the Spirit.

The door was shut.] Sinners on a death-bed too often meet with

those deceitful merchants, who promise them salvation for a price

which is of no value in the sight of God. Come unto me, says

Jesus, and buy: there is no salvation but through his blood-no

hope for the sinner but that which is founded upon his sacrifice

and death. The door was shut-dreadful and fatal words! No hope

remains. Nothing but death can shut this door; but death may

surprise us in our sins, and then despair is our only portion.

Verse 11. Afterwards came also the other virgins, saying, Lord,

Lord] Earnest prayer, when used in time, may do much good: but

it appears, from this parable, that there may come a time when

prayer even to Jesus may be too late!-viz. when the door is

shut-when death has separated the body and the soul.

Verse 12. I know you not.] As if he had said, Ye are not of my

company-ye were neither with the bride nor the bridegroom: ye

slept while the others were in procession. I do not acknowledge

you for my disciples-ye are not like him who is love-ye refused to

receive his grace-ye sinned it away when ye had it; now you are

necessarily excluded from that kingdom where nothing but love and

purity can dwell.

Verse 13. Watch therefore] If to watch be to employ ourselves

chiefly about the business of our salvation, alas! how few of

those who are called Christians are there who do watch! How many

who slumber! How many who are asleep! How many seized with a

lethargy! How many quite dead!

Wherein the Son of man cometh.] These words are omitted by many

excellent MSS., most of the versions, and several of the fathers.

Griesbach has left them out of the text: Grotius, Hammond, Mill,

and Bengel, approve of the omission.

Verse 14. Called his own servants] God never makes the

children of men proprietors of his goods. They are formed by his

power, and upheld by his bounty; and they hold their lives and

their goods, as in many of our ancient tenures, quamdiu domino

placuerit-at the will of their Lord.

Verse 15. Unto one he gave five talents-to every man according

to his several ability] The duties men are called to perform are

suited to their situations, and the talents they receive. The

good that any man has he has received from God, as also the

ability to improve that good. God's graces and temporal mercies

are suited to the power which a man has of improving them. To

give eminent gifts to persons incapable of properly improving

them, would be only to lead into a snare. The talent which each

man has suits his own state best; and it is only pride and

insanity which lead him to desire and envy the graces and talents

of another. Five talents would be too much for some men: one

talent would be too little. He who receives much, must make

proportionate improvement; and, from him who has received little,

the improvement only of that little will be required. As five

talents, in one case, are sufficient to answer the purpose for

which they were given; so also are two and one.

The man who improves the grace he has received, however small,

will as surely get to the kingdom of God, as he who has received

most from his master, and improved all.

There is a parable something like this in Sohar Chadash, fol. 47:

"A certain king gave a deposit to three of his servants: the first

kept it; the second lost it; the third spoiled one part of it, and

gave the rest to another to keep. After some time, the king came

and demanded the deposit. Him who had preserved it, the king

praised, and made him governor of his house. Him who had lost it,

he delivered to utter destruction, so that both his name and his

possessions were blotted out. To the third, who had spoiled a

part and given the rest to another to keep, the king said, Keep

him, and let him not go out of my house, till we see what the

other shall do to whom he has entrusted a part: if he shall make a

proper use of it, this man shall be restored to liberty; if not,

he also shall be punished." See Schoettgen. I have had already

occasion to remark how greatly every Jewish parable is improved

that comes through the hands of Christ.

In this parable of our Lord, four things may be considered:-

I. The master who distributes the talents.

II. The servants who improved their talents.

III. The servant who buried his talent. And

IV. His punishment.

1. The master's kindness. The servants had nothing-deserved

nothing-had no claim on their master, yet he, in his KINDNESS,

delivers unto them his goods, not for his advantage, but for their

comfort and salvation.

2. The master distributes these goods diversely;-giving to one

five, to another, two, and to another one. No person can complain

that he has been forgotten; the master gives to each. None can

complain of the diversity of the gifts; it is the master who has

done it. The master has an absolute right over his own goods, and

the servants cannot find fault with the distribution. He who has

little should not envy him who has received much, for he has the

greater labour, and the greater account to give. He who has much

should not despise him who has little, for the sovereign master

has made the distinction; and his little, suited to the ability

which God has given him, and fitted to the place in which God's

providence has fixed him, is sufficiently calculated to answer the

purpose of the master, in the salvation of the servant's soul.

3. The master distributes his talents with WISDOM. He gave to

each according to his several ability, i.e. to the power he had

to improve what was given. It would not be just to make a servant

responsible for what he is naturally incapable of managing; and

it would not be proper to give more than could be improved. The

powers which men have, God has given; and as he best knows the

extent of these powers, so he suits his graces and blessings to

them in the most wise, and effectual way. Though he may make one

vessel for honour, (i.e. a more honourable place or office,) and

another for dishonour, (a less honourable office,) yet both are

for the master's use-both are appointed and capacitated to show

forth his glory.

II. The servants who improved their talents.

These persons are termed δουλοι, slaves, such as were the

property of the master, who might dispose of them as he pleased.

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded,

Mt 25:16.

1. The work was speedily begun-as soon as the master gave the

talents and departed, so soon they began to labour. There is not

a moment to be lost-every moment has its grace, and every grace

has its employment, and every thing is to be done for eternity.

2. The work was perseveringly carried on; after a long time the

lord of those servants cometh, Mt 25:19.

The master was long before he returned, but they did not relax.

The longer time, the greater improvement. God gives every man

just time enough to live, in this world, to glorify his Maker, and

to get his soul saved. Many begin well, and continue faithful for

a time-but how few persevere to the end! Are there none who seem

to have outlived their glory, their character, their usefulness?

3. Their work was crowned with success. They doubled the sum

which they had received. Every grace of God is capable of great

improvement. Jesus himself, the pure, immaculate Jesus, grew in

wisdom and favour with God, Lu 2:52.

4. They were ready to give in a joyful account when their master

came and called for them. 1st. They come without delay: they

expected his coming; and it was with an eye to this that they

continued their labour-they endured as seeing him who is

invisible. 2dly. They come without fear; the master before whom

they appear has always loved them, and given them the fullest

proofs of his affection for them: his love to them has begotten in

them love to him; and their obedience to his orders sprung from

the love they bore to him. He that loveth me, says Jesus, will

keep my words. 3d. They render up their accounts without

confusion: he who received five brought five others; and he who

had received two brought two more: nothing was to be done when

their master called; all their business was fully prepared. 4th.

They gave up every thing to their master, without attempting to

appropriate any thing. Their ability was his, the talents his,

and the continued power to improve them, his. All is of God, and

all must be returned to him.

5. Their recompense from their gracious master. 1st. They

receive praise. Well done, good and faithful servants,

Mt 25:21.

What a glorious thing to have the approbation of God, and the

testimony of a good conscience! They were good, pure and upright

within-faithful, using to God's glory the blessings he had given.

2d. They receive gracious promises. Ye have been faithful over a

little, I will set you over much. These promises refer not only

to a future glory, but to an increase of God's grace and mercy

here; for the more faithfully a man improves what God has already

given him, the more he shall have from his gracious Master: for he

giveth more grace, till he fills the faithful soul with his own

fulness. 3d. They receive GLORY. Enter into the joy of your

Lord. As ye were partakers of my nature on earth, be ye

sharers of my glory in heaven. The joy, the happiness

wherewith I am happy, shall be your eternal portion! O, what is

all we can do, all we can suffer, even the most lingering and

cruel martyrdom, in comparison of this unbounded, eternal joy!

III. Of the servant who buried his talent.

He that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid

his Lord's money, Mt 25:18.

1. See the ingratitude of this servant. His master gave him a

talent, capable of being improved to his own present and eternal

advantage; but he slights the mercy of his lord.

2. See his idleness. Rather than exert himself to improve what

he has received, he goes and hides it.

3. See his gross error. He DIGS to hide it-puts himself to more

trouble to render the mercy of God to him of none effect, than he

would have had in combating and conquering the world, the devil,

and the flesh.

4. See his injustice. He takes his master's money, and neither

improves nor designs to improve it, even while he is living on

and consuming that bounty which would have been sufficient for a

faithful servant. How much of this useless lumber is to be found

in the Church of Christ! But suppose the man be a preacher-what a

terrible account will he have to give to God-consuming the

provision made for a faithful pastor, and so burying, or

misusing his talent, as to do no good, to immortal souls!

5. Hear the absurdity of his reasoning. Lord, I knew thee that

thou art a hard (or avaricious) man, reaping where thou hast not

sown, &c., Mt 25:24. See this meaning of σκληρος proved by

Kypke. The wicked excuse of this faithless servant confuted

itself and condemned him. Nevertheless it is on this very model

that sinners in general seek to justify themselves; and the

conclusion turns always against them. I knew thee to be a hard

man. How awfully deceived and deeply depraved must that person

be, who not only attempts to excuse his follies, but to charge his

crimes on GOD himself!

I was afraid-Why? Because thou wert an enemy to thy soul, and

to thy God.-I was afraid-of what? that he would require more than

he did give. How could this be? Did he not give thee the talent

freely, to show thee his benevolence? And did he not suit it to

thy ability, that he might show thee his wisdom, justice, and

goodness, in not making thee responsible for more than thou

couldst improve?

IV. Behold the awful punishment of this faithless servant.

1. He is reproached. Thou wicked and slothful servant! Wicked-in

thy heart: slothful-in thy work. THOU knewest that I reap where I

sowed not. Thou art condemned by thy own mouth-whose is the

unemployed talent? Did I not give thee this? And did I require

the improvement of two when I gave thee but one?-Thou knowest I

did not.

2. He is stripped of what he possessed. Take-the talent from

him. O terrible word!-Remove the candlestick from that slothful,

worldly-minded Church: take away the inspirations of the Holy

Spirit from that lukewarm, Christless Christian, who only lives to

resist them and render them of none effect. Dispossess that base,

man-pleasing minister of his ministerial gifts; let his silver

become brass, and his fine gold, dross. He loved the present

world more than the eternal world, and the praise of men more

than the approbation of God. Take away the talent from him!

3. He is punished with an everlasting separation from God and the

glory of his power. Cast forth the unprofitable servant,

Mt 25:30.

Let him have nothing but darkness, who refused to walk in the

light: let him have nothing but misery-weeping and gnashing of

teeth, who has refused the happiness which God provided for him.

Reader, if the careless virgin, and the unprofitable servant,

against whom no flagrant iniquity is charged, be punished with an

outer darkness, with a hell of fire: of what sorer punishment

must he be judged worthy, who is a murderer, an adulterer, a

fornicator, a blasphemer, a thief, a liar, or in any respect

an open violater of the laws of God? The careless virgins, and

the unprofitable servants, were saints in comparison of millions,

who are, notwithstanding, dreaming of an endless heaven, when

fitted only for an endless hell!

Verse 27. With usury.] συντοκω, with its produce-not

usury; for that is unlawful interest, more than the money can

properly produce.

Verse 29. Unto every one that hath shall be given]

See Clarke on Mt 13:12.

Verse 30. Weeping and gnashing of teeth.] See Clarke on Mt 8:12, a

note necessary for the illustration of this, and the foregoing


Verse 31. When the Son of man shall come] This must be

understood of Christ's coming at the last day, to judge mankind:

though all the preceding part of the chapter may be applied also

to the destruction of Jerusalem.

Holy angels] The word αγιοι is omitted by many excellent

manuscripts, versions, and fathers. Mill and Bengel approve of

the omission, and Griesbach has left it out of the text. It is

supposed by some that our Lord will have other angels (messengers)

with him in that day, besides the holy ones. The evil angels may

be in attendance to take, as their prey, those who shall be found

on his left hand.

The throne of his glory] That glorious throne on which his

glorified human nature is seated, at the right hand of the Father.

Verse 32. All nations] Literally, all the nations-all the

Gentile world; the Jews are necessarily included, but they were

spoken of in a particular manner in the preceding chapter.

He shall separate them] Set each kind apart by themselves.

As a shepherd divideth, &c.] It does not appear that sheep and

goats were ever penned or housed together, though they might

feed in the same pasture; yet even this was not done but in

separate flocks; so Virgil, Eclog. vii. v. 2.

Compulerantque greges Corydon et Thyrsis in unum;

Thyrsis OVES, Corydon distentas lacte CAPELLAS.

"Thyrsis and Corydon drove their flocks together: Thyrsin his

sheep; and Corydon his goats, their udders distended with milk."

These two shepherds had distinct flocks, which fed in the same

pasture, but separately; and they are only now driven together,

for the convenience of the two shepherds, during the time of their

musical contest.

Verse 33. He shall set the sheep, &c.] The right hand

signifies, among the rabbins, approbation and eminence: the left

hand, rejection, and disapprobation. Hence in Sohar Chadash it

is said, "The right hand is given, the left also is given-to the

Israelites and the Gentiles are given paradise and hell-this

world, and the world to come." The right and left were

emblematical of endless beatitude and endless misery among the

Romans. Hence Virgil:-

Hic locus est, partes ubi se via findit in ambas,

Dextera, quae Ditis magni sub moenia tendit:

Hac iter Elysium nobis; at laeva malorum

Exercet poenas, et ad impia Tartara mittit.

AEn. vi. 540.

Here in two ample roads the way divides,

The right direct, our destined journey guides,

By Pluto's palace, to the Elysian plains;

The left to Tartarus, where bound in chains

Loud howl the damn'd in everlasting pains. PITT.

Of the good and faithful servants he approves, and therefore

exalts them to his glory; of the slothful and wicked he

disapproves, and casts them into hell.

SHEEP, which have ever been considered as the emblems of

mildness, simplicity, patience, and usefulness, represent here the

genuine disciples of Christ.

GOATS, which are naturally quarrelsome, lascivious, and

excessively ill-scented, were considered as the symbols of

riotous, profane, and impure men. They here represent all who

have lived and died in their sins. See Eze 34:17, and Zec 10:3.

Verse 34. Ye blessed of my Father] This is the king's address

to his followers; and contains the reason why they were found in

the practice of all righteousness, and were now brought to this

state of glory-they were blessed-came as children, and received

the benediction of the Father, and became, and continued to

be, members of the heavenly family.

Inherit] The inheritance is only for the children of the

family-if sons, then heirs, Ga 4:7, but not otherwise. The sons

only shall enjoy the father's estate.

Prepared for you] That is, the kingdom of glory is designed for

such as you-you who have received the blessing of the Father, and

were holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners.

From the foundation of the world] It was God's purpose and

determination to admit none into his heaven but those who were

made partakers of his holiness, Heb 12:14. The rabbins say,

Seven things were created before the foundation of the world.

1. The law. 2. Repentance. 3. Paradise. 4. Hell. 5. The

throne of God. 6. The temple; and 7. The name of the Messiah.

Verse 35. I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat] Every thing

which is done to a follower of Christ, whether it be good or evil,

he considers as done to himself, see Mt 25:40; Ac 9:4, 5;

Heb 6:10. Of all the fruits of the Spirit, none are mentioned

here but those that spring from love, or mercy; because these give

men the nearest conformity to God. Jesus had said, Blessed are

the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; and he here shows how

this promise shall be fulfilled. The rabbins say: "As often as a

poor man presents himself at thy door, the holy blessed God stands

at his right hand: if thou give him alms, know that he who stands

at his right hand will give thee a reward. But if thou give him

not alms, he who stands at his right hand will punish thee."

Vaiyikra Rabba, s. 34, fol. 178.

A stranger, and ye took me in] συνηγαγετεμε, ye entertained

me: Kypke has fully proved that this is the meaning of the

original. Literally, συναγειν signifies to gather together.

Strangers are sometimes so destitute as to be ready to perish for

lack of food and raiment: a supply of these things keeps their

souls and bodies together, which were about to be separated

through lack of the necessaries of life. The word may also allude

to a provision made for a poor family, which were scattered

abroad, perhaps begging their bread, and who by the ministry of

benevolent people are collected, relieved, and put in a way of

getting their bread. O blessed work! to be the instruments of

preserving human life, and bringing comfort and peace into the

habitations of the wretched!

While writing this, (Nov. 13, 1798,) I hear the bells loudly

ringing in commemoration of the birth-day of E. Colson, Esq., a

native of this city, (Bristol,) who spent a long life and an

immense fortune in relieving the miseries of the distressed. His

works still praise him in the gates; his name is revered, and his

birth-day held sacred, among the inhabitants. Who has heard the

bells ring in commemoration of the birth of any deceased hero or

king? Of so much more value, in the sight even of the multitude,

is a life of public usefulness than one of worldly glory or

secular state. But how high must such a person rank in the sight

of God, who, when Christ in his representatives was hungry, gave

him food; when thirsty, gave him drink; when naked clothed him;

when sick and in prison, visited him! Thou blessed of my Father!

come. Thou hast been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, and now

thou shalt eternally enjoy the true riches.

The Supreme God is represented in the Bhagvat Geeta as

addressing mankind, when he had just formed them, thus: "Those who

dress their meat but for themselves, eat the bread of sin."

Geeta, p. 46.

Verse 36. I was sick, and ye visited me] Relieving the

strangers, and visiting the sick, were in high estimation among

the Jews. One of their sayings on this head is worthy of notice:

"He who neglects to visit the sick is like him who has shed

blood." That is, as he has neglected, when it was in his power,

to preserve life, he is as guilty in the sight of the Lord as he

is who has committed murder. See Kypke in loco.

Verse 37. Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, &c.] This

barbarous expression, an hungered, should be banished out of the

text, wheresoever it occurs, and the simple word hungry

substituted for it. Whatever is done for Christ's sake, is done

through Christ's grace; and he who does the work attributes to

Jesus both the will and the power by which the work was done, and

seeks and expects the kingdom of heaven not as a reward, but as a

gift of pure unmerited mercy. Yet, while workers together with

his grace, God attributes to them that which they do through his

influence, as if they had done it independently of him. God has a

right to form what estimate he pleases of the works wrought

through himself: but man is never safe except when he attributes

all to his Maker.

Verse 40. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of

these my brethren] The meanest follower of Christ is acknowledged

by him as his brother! What infinite condescension! Those, whom

many would scorn to set with the dogs of their flock, are brothers

and sisters of the blessed Jesus, and shall soon be set among the

princes of his people.

Verse 41. Depart from me, ye cursed] Or, Ye cursed!

depart.-These words are the address of the king to the sinners;

and contain the reason why they are to be separated from

blessedness: Ye are cursed, because ye have sinned, and would not

come unto me that ye might have life.-No work of piety has

proceeded from your hand, because the carnal mind, which is enmity

against me, reigned in your heart; and ye would not have me to

reign over you. Depart! this includes what some have termed the

punishment of loss or privation. Ye cannot, ye, shall not be

united to me-Depart! O terrible word! and yet a worse is to come.

Into everlasting fire] This is the punishment of sense. Ye

shall not only be separated from me, but ye shall be tormented,

awfully, everlastingly tormented in that place of separation.

Prepared for the devil and his angels] The devil and his angels

sinned before the creation of the world, and the place of torment

was then prepared for them: it never was designed for human souls;

but as the wicked are partakers with the devil and his angels in

their iniquities, in their rebellion against God, so it is right

that they should be sharers with them in their punishment. We see

here, plainly, why sinners are destroyed, not because there was no

salvation for them, but because they neglected to receive good,

and do good. As they received not the Christ who was offered to

them, so they could not do the work of righteousness which was

required of them. They are cursed, because they refused to be

blessed; and they are damned, because they refused to be saved.

Verse 42. I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat] I put it

in your power to do good, and ye would not. A variety of

occasions offered themselves to you, but ye neglected them all, so

that my blessings in your hands, not being improved, according to

my order, became a curse to you.

Verse 43. I was a stranger] If men were sure that Jesus Christ

was actually somewhere in the land, in great personal distress,

hungry, thirsty, naked, and confined, they would doubtless run

unto and relieve him. Now Christ assures us that a man who is

hungry, thirsty, naked, &c., is his representative, and that

whatever we do to such a one he will consider as done to himself;

yet this testimony of Christ is not regarded! Well, he will be

just when he judges, and righteous when he punishes.

Verse 44. Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, &c.] It is want

of faith which in general produces hard-heartedness to the poor.

The man who only sees with eyes of flesh is never likely to

discover Christ in the person of a man destitute of the

necessaries of life. Some pretend not to know the distressed;

because they have no desire to relieve them; but we find that this

ignorance will not avail them at the bar of God.

Verse 46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment]

No appeal, no remedy, to all eternity! No end to the punishment

of those whose final impenitence manifests in them an eternal will

and desire to sin. By dying in a settled opposition to God, they

cast themselves into a necessity of continuing in an eternal

aversion from him.

But some are of opinion that this punishment shall have an end:

this is as likely as that the glory of the righteous shall have an

end: for the same word is used to express the duration of the

punishment, κολασιναιωνιον, as is used to express the duration of

the state of glory: ζωηναιωνιον. I have seen the best things

that have been written in favour of the final redemption of damned

spirits; but I never saw an answer to the argument against that

doctrine, drawn from this verse, but what sound learning and

criticism should be ashamed to acknowledge. The original word

αιων is certainly to be taken here in its proper grammatical

sense, continued being, αειων, NEVER ENDING. Some have gone a

middle way, and think that the wicked shall be annihilated. This,

I think, is contrary to the text; if they go into punishment, they

continue to exist; for that which ceases to be, ceases to

suffer. See Clarke on Ge 21:33, where the whole subject

is explained.

A very good improvement of the parable of the wise and foolish

virgins is made by Salvian, a very pious writer of the fifth

century, (Epist. ad. Ecclus. Cath. lib. ii.,) the substance of

which, in Mr. Bulkley's translation, is as follows:-

Ego unum scio, &c. "One thing I know, that the lamps of the

foolish virgins are said to have gone out for want of the oil of

good works; but thou, whoever thou art, thinkest that thou hast

oil in abundance, and so did they; for, if they had not believed

themselves to have had it, they would have provided themselves

with it; for since afterwards, as the Lord says, they would gladly

have borrowed, and sought it so eagerly, no doubt they would have

done so before, had they not been deceived by the confidence of

having it. Thou thinkest thyself wise, and these did not imagine

themselves to be foolish: thou thinkest that thy lamp has light,

and they lost their light because they thought they should have

it. For why did they prepare their lamps if they did not think

they should be lighted? In a word, their lamps, I suppose, must

have afforded some degree of light; for since we read of their

being afraid that their lamps should go out, they certainly had

something which they feared would be extinguished. Nor was it a

groundless fear; their lamps did go out, and that pure light of

virginity which appeared profited them nothing, for want of a

supply of oil. From whence we understand that what is but a

little, is in a manner nothing. You have therefore need of a lamp

plentifully filled, that your light may be lasting. And if those

which we light up here for a short time so soon fail, unless

copiously supplied with oil, how much must thou stand in need of

that thy lamp may shine to eternity?"

This writer was a priest of Marseilles, in 430. He bewailed the

profligacy of his times so much, and so pathetically, that he has

been styled the Jeremiah of the fifth century. Were he still upon

earth, he would find equal reason to deplore the wickedness and

carelessness of mankind.

From what our Lord has here said, we may see that God

indispensably requires of every man to bring forth good fruit; and

that a fruitless tree shall be inevitably cut down, and cast into

the fire. Let it be also remarked that God does not here impute

to his own children the good works which Jesus Christ did for

them. No! Christ's feeding the multitudes in Judea will not be

imputed to them, while persons in their own neighbourhood are

perishing through want, and they have wherewithal to relieve them.

He gives them a power that they may glorify his name by it and

have, in their own souls, the continued satisfaction which arises

from succouring the distressed. Let it be farther remarked, that

Christ does not say here that they have purchased the eternal life

by these good deeds. No! for the power to work, and the means of

working, came both from God. They first had redemption through

his blood, and then his Spirit worked in them to will and to do.

They were therefore only workers together with him, and could not

be said, in any sense of the word, to purchase God's glory, with

his own property. But though God works in them, and by them, he

does not obey for them. The works of piety and mercy THEY

perform, under the influence and by the aid of his grace. Thus

God preserves the freedom of the human soul, and secures his

own glory at the same time. Let it be remarked, farther, that the

punishment inflicted on the foolish virgins, the slothful servant,

and the cursed who are separated from God, was not because of

their personal crimes; but because they were not good, and were

not useful in the world. Their lives do not appear to have been

stained with crimes,-but they were not adorned with virtues. They

are sent to hell because they did no good. They were not renewed

in the image of God; and hence did not bring forth fruit to his

glory. If these harmless people are sent to perdition, what must

the end be of the wicked and profligate!

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