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An Exposition Of The Gospels by The Most Rev. John Macevilly D.D.

In this chapter, our Lord exhorts all the faithful to the constant and vigilant performance of good works, and stimulates them thereto by the parable of the ten virgins, of whom five were wife, and five more unwise (1–13). He next points out the necessity of good works, corresponding with the graces and talents God bestows on us, by proposing the example of the worthless servant, who was condemned for having neglected to do good, and turn to profitable account the talent confided to him (14–30). He next describes the last Judgment, the sentence to be passed on the elect and reprobate, the reasons assigned in both cases, which point out the necessity of performing works of mercy, in order to gain heaven and escape hell. Finally, He describes the execution of this irrevocable sentence (31–46).

1. “Then,” at the final coming of the Son of man, when He shall appear unexpectedly, to judge the living and the dead—for, it is of this subject our Lord is treating in the foregoing—“shall the kingdom of heaven,” that is, His Church, gathered from all portions of this world, “be like to ten virgins,” &c., that is to say, something shall take place in His Church, on the occasion of His last coming, similar to what is about being stated in the following parable of the ten virgins, “who, taking their lamps, went out to meet the bridegroom and the bride.” “Went out,” may refer to their preparation to go forth; for, it was only afterwards they did so (v. 6), “go ye forth to meet him.” Or, it might be said, that our Redeemer here mentions, by anticipation, and in a general way, the fact which is afterwards more particularly detailed. “To meet the bridegroom and the bride.” The Greek copies have only, “to meet the bridegroom.” And this would seem to accord better with the usage then prevailing, to which there is reference here, of young virgins remaining at the house of the bride, expecting the coming of the bridegroom, who, on his part, was also accompanied by his male attendants, to fetch her from her father’s house to his own, or some other place, where the marriage feast was celebrated. Hence, the phrase, ducere uxorem, to signify, marrying a wife. On this occasion, the young maidens went forth to meet the bridegroom on his approach to the house of the bride, and accompanied him thither. Moreover, we have only the bridegroom mentioned (verse 6), “Behold the bridegroom cometh … meet him.” However, the Vulgate has the words, “bride and bridegroom.” They are also quoted by the most distinguished of the holy Fathers (St. Hilary, St. Augustine, St. Jerome, &c.); and the words may be explained, of the bride and bridegroom leaving the bride’s house for that of the bridegroom, accompanied by these virgins. It might be also said, that the words, in the application of the parable, may refer to the same person, viz., our Divine Redeemer, who, since His Incarnation, may be regarded both as Bridegroom and Bride, under different relations, as St. Hilary expresses it. For, he says, as the Spirit is bridegroom to the flesh, so is the flesh bride to the Spirit. The number, “ten” is used in SS. Scripture, to denote or symbolize an indefinite multitude. It would appear, too, that “ten” was the usual number of bridal attendants in Judea. The “five wise virgins,” are termed such, because they made prudent provision for the future. The others are termed, “foolish,” for the opposite reason. It is not meant, that the number of reprobate and elect is equal. It is only meant to convey, that even among those having an exterior of piety, who observe purity, and practise certain external acts of piety, nay, even of mercy, adds St. Augustine, symbolized by the burning lamps, there shall be found some excluded from the heavenly banquet.

The literal meaning of the parable hardly needs any explanation. Torches were generally carried on the occasion of nuptial celebrations, which took place at night. A bundle of rags, wound round the end of an iron rod, is said to have served as a torch, the oil being, from time to time, replenished, by dipping the rod in a vessel (Kenrick). The chief matter for explanation is, the scope and application of the several parts of the parable. Regarding the scope of the parable, there can be but very little difficulty. It manifestly is—as appears from verse 13, “Watch you therefore,” &c.; as also from verse 44 of the preceding chapter—to stimulate us to continued vigilance, and preparation against the coming of our Lord to judgment. It is to this the foregoing examples of the householder, of the faithful servant, &c., manifestly tend. And, although it directly refers to the General Judgment, it also includes the particular judgment, of which the general shall be but a public ratification. Hence, it refers to the coming of our Lord, at the hour of death, which is included under coming at the last day. As to the application of the parable—by “the kingdom of heaven,” is meant the Church, composed of good and bad. Now, we cannot distinguish between both. But then, the parable of the ten virgins shall be clearly illustrated; and although the reprobate, who shall then have been condemned to hell, could not be called the members of the Church; still, they are termed such, having been members during life, before God’s judgment was made manifest and executed upon them.

The “ten virgins” are understood by some (Chrysostom, Theophylact, &c.), of those who really were virgins; but some were virgins only in body, their souls not being replenished with sanctifying grace and charity. The others, designated “wise,” were virgins in soul and body. These expositors say, that the object of the parable is to show, that however exalted the virtue of virginity may be, still, it will not suffice, without the works of mercy and charity. But the most generally received opinion is that of St. Jerome, who holds, that, while the word includes virgins as a particular in a general, and hence applied to them by the Church in the Gospel of the Mass for Virgins, it refers generally to all the faithful who are called “virgins,” on account of the integrity and sincere purity of their faith, whose hearts are not sullied with the prostitution of idolatry, nor their bodies with the sinful pleasures of lust. On the other hand, the Scripture is wont to call heretics and infidels by the name of harlots and adulterers.

The “spouse,” denotes our Lord, who shall come at judgment to espouse His glorious Church, and with her celebrate the eternal nuptials in His heavenly kingdom.

By the “lamps,” is commonly understood, the light of faith which all these are supposed to be gifted with, probably accompanied with external good works; for, as to those who had lived immoral lives, they can hardly be said to be in expectation of, or care for, the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom. The difference, however, between the wise and unwise virgins in this interpretation, arises from the difference of intention with which their works were performed. The works of the one class were done purely for God, and from motives of charity; whereas, those of the other, were done from motives of gaining human applause and through empty vanity, like the Pharisees of old, for which they already “received their reward.”

By “the oil,” wherewith the “wise virgins trimmed their lamps,” are commonly understood, good works, without which the “lamp is extinguished,” or “faith is dead.” All had “lamps,” that is, faith; but only those who had the oil of charity, or good works, were admitted to the nuptial feast—faith, without good works, being insufficient for salvation.

The vessels for containing the oil, mean, the souls or consciences of the faithful. To take oil in their vessels, means, to treasure up an abundance of good works against the coming of our Lord, to “lay up treasures to themselves in heaven, where neither the rust nor moth doth consume,” &c. (6:20).

The delay of the spouse,” refers to the time between our Lord’s Ascension and the General Judgment. And St. Chrysostom remarks, that our Redeemer wishes to convey to His disciples, that He would not come immediately, as some of them erroneously imagined. The word has reference also to the impatience of the virgins who were awaiting Him. For, although the longest time, relative to eternity, is but very short; still, the ardour of His disciples seemed not to be satisfied with anything short of His immediate approach. At the same time, our Redeemer did not wish to convey to them expressly that His coming would be deferred, for fear of rendering them secure or remiss. However, His coming at the death of each was necessarily speedy, as well as uncertain; and thus, they should not fail to prepare themselves. “They slumbered and slept.” “Slumbering,” which precedes perfect sleep, denotes, the infirmities and sickness, which usher in men’s death, which is expressed by, “they slept.” Between the final coming of our Lord and His first coming, the faithful, yielding to the necessities of nature, shall “have slept.” Death is frequently represented in SS. Scripture, as a state of sleep; since, men are to be once more roused and resuscitated at the General Resurrection. Others, understand, slumbering and slept, to express, that men shall have ceased to think of our Lord’s coming, so that He will come when they are not expecting Him.

6. “At midnight … a cry,” &c. By “cry,” is meant, the Archangel’s trumpet, which St. John (5:28), calls, “the voice of the Son of God.” “Midnight,” denotes, that His coming shall be concealed from men, and that the summons shall be sent forth when least expected, or, this may be an ornamental part of the parable. (SS. Jerome, Chrysostom, &c.) Others infer from this, that Christ will come to judge the world, at the hour of midnight. St. Jerome tells us, that this was an Apostolical tradition. Hence, formerly at the vigil of the Pasch, the people were not allowed to leave the church till after midnight, from an impression, that Christ would come to judgment, at that hour, as He came at the same hour formerly to slay the first-born of the Egyptians, and liberate the Hebrew people. However, all this regarding the hour of Christ’s coming is very uncertain; for, our Redeemer Himself says, “You know not the day nor the hour.”

7. The trimming of their lamps, by all these virgins, after being roused from sleep, denotes, that after all the faithful shall have been resuscitated by the trumpet of the Archangel, they shall proceed to meet their Judge, and, consulting memory, to examine their consciences, regarding the account they are to give for the actions of their entire lives.

8. This is one of the ornamental parts of the parable, having no further significance or illustration; for, on the last day, the reprobate will know well, that the just cannot impart to them any portion of their merits; that each one shall be judged according to his own works, whether good or evil. The words, however, convey to us, the straits and despair to which the wicked shall be reduced on beholding the inevitable damnation to which they are doomed, without any prospect of alleviation or reprieve, from the intercession of friends, or the merits of God’s saints, and the unavailing regrets in which they shall indulge at that hour, for not having availed themselves, during life, of the means of securing their salvation.

The words, “our lamps are gone out,” show, that without the oil of good works, charity, which is the flame that emanates from the lamps, is lost; inasmuch as, without performing good works, which are prescribed by God’s Commandments, we forfeit God’s grace and friendship. Hence, we must be ever employed in good works, if we wish to preserve and keep alive the holy flame of Divine charity.

9. This, also, is ornamental, and merely intended to complete the literal narrative. If it has any meaning at all, it conveys to us, that at that hour, the just, however they might assist sinners during life, can give no assistance to them, now that the time of mercy and merit is past; that even the just shall tremble for their own salvation. The words may also convey, the reproaches which the reprobate shall meet with on that day, for having, during life, performed their actions to please men who “sell” the oil of flattery, and adulation, and foolish passing applause, which are of no avail, but rather a subject of regret at judgment. “But, let not the oil of the sinner fatten my head” (Psa. 140:5). In the literal reading of this verse there is supposed to be an ellipsis, and the words, “we fear” (φοβουμεθα), understood thus—“(we fear) lest there be not enough,” &c. (Beelen.)

10. This is, like the preceding, ornamental. At the same time, it conveys to us, the fruitless regrets of the reprobate, when, too late, and the time of merit is passed, for not having performed the good works, whereby they might have earned the kingdom of heaven. The coming of the bridegroom represents, the coming of Christ to judgment. The entrance of those who were ready, denotes, the admission of the elect to the joys of heaven, “the nuptials of the Lamb” (Apoc. 19:7). “The door was shut,” expresses, that the time of doing good is past, and “the night come when no one can work.”

11. In this verse is conveyed, the despair and anguish of spirit of the reprobate on seeing themselves for ever banished from the glory and beatific vision of God. This anguish is most pathetically described by the Wise man. (c. 5:1, &c.)

12. “I know you not,” signifies, the knowledge of love, benevolence, and approbation, as if He said: Although well known to Me, still, I do not wish to have any intercourse with you. I disown yon, as My children and friends. I reprobate and reject you from the pure joys of My eternal kingdom (see 7:23).

13. This is the great lesson, which the entire parable is primarily intended to inculcate, and to which the preceding parables, from v. 42 of the preceding chapter, as also the following parable, and the several parts of each parable have reference. To the words of this verse, is added, in the Protestant versions, “Wherein the Son of man cometh.” But, these words are rejected by the best critics, and omitted in the chief MSS. They were, most likely, introduced from the margin, as more clearly completing and expressing the sense. For, the words, even in our version, mean: You know not that last day, nor that last hour, when the Lord shall come unexpectedly, like the midnight thief—the hour upon which depends an eternity of happiness or misery. According to the preparation we shall have made, and the vigilance we shall have employed to be always ready and to have the oil of charity and good works always burning in our hearts, with our consciences always pure before God, shall our doom be determined.

But, it may be asked, how can the inference, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., be deduced from the example of the ten virgins, since, all are supposed to have slept, the “wise,” as well as the unwise? Resp. The example of the wise virgins is not proposed to us in this sense: that as they kept a bodily watch, we should watch spiritually; but only in this sense, that as they prudently provided against the uncertain coming of the spouse, so, we should prudently provide against the uncertain coming of our Lord, in such a way as not to be caught unprepared; this we shall escape, by constantly watching in the performance of good works. Hence, our Lord in this sense, infers, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c., as if He said: In order that no such misfortune as befell the unwise virgins may befall you, so that that day should find you unprepared, and thus subject you to exclusion from My kingdom, prepare against that uncertain day. In other words, watch continually in good works, and be not remiss, as you must be persuaded, that any preparation you may make on that day, shall come too late. It is, of course, to be observed, that although our Redeemer directly refers to His coming at the General Judgment, He also includes His coming at the death of each, when the final doom of every man is to be decided, and the sentence to be solemnly and publicly repeated at the General Judgment, already irrevocably pronounced.

We are admonished, therefore, not to live negligently, content merely with the light of faith; but, that we should provide ourselves with the oil of charity and good works, before the arrival of the hour of death; so that, when the Spouse shall have arrived, and demanded an account of our actions, we may have sufficient oil to trim our lamps which shall light us into the banquet-hall of the heavenly kingdom.

14. “For even,” &c. The object of the following is the same as that of the preceding parable, viz., to impress us all with the necessity of constantly watching in the performance of good works, tending to our own and our neighbour’s sanctification, and Gods glory, by the good use and employment of the means placed at our disposal, for which we must one day render an exact account. The particle, “for,” shows this parable to have reference to the foregoing moral conclusion, “Watch ye, therefore,” &c.

Even as a man going into a strange,” &c. There is nothing expressed in the following part to complete the sense, corresponding with the particle, “as.” Hence, commentators supply it thus, “for the kingdom of God,” or, “the Son of man,” coming to exact an account of us in judgment, is the same as, or God acts, as “a man going into a strange,” &c. Others say, it is not an elliptical, but rather, an unfinished construction, or an anacoluthon. This parable is similar to that recorded by St. Luke (19:12), regarding the pounds, referred to a different time and occasion. But, whether it be same with it, is disputed among commentators. Some, with SS. Ambrose and Jerome, assert, that it is; that, although there may be some immaterial differences, both as to the time and place to which both narrations refer the event; still, it is substantially the same, and tends to the same object and purpose. Others, with St. Chrysostom, maintain, they are different, uttered on two different occasions. That in St. Luke, was delivered before our Redeemer’s final approach to Jerusalem. This, in St. Matthew, after it, in the week following Palm Sunday. They note several other points of difference, in the parable itself, which may be seen on examining both passages. In St. Luke, there is mention made of men who refused to be subject to their king, and on his return, were ordered to be slain. This suited the passage in St. Luke, where he taxes the infidelity of the Jews; but not this passage, where in all the parables adduced, our Lord only desires to stimulate all the faithful to vigilance. In St. Luke, the same amount of money (a pound, mna), is given to all; here, a different, sum is given to different persons. Doubtless, however, the scope and object of both parables are the same.

By “the man who went into a strange country,” it is agreed by all, is meant, our Divine Redeemer, whom St. Luke designates, “a certain nobleman” (19:12).

By His “going into a strange country,” which, St. Luke says, was for the purpose of “receiving for Himself a kingdom, and returning,” is commonly meant, His ascending into heaven, to receive royal honours, the homage of angels and saints, at the right hand of His Father, whence He is to come, at a future day, to judgment.

By “His servants,” whom He called together, are, most probably, meant, all Christians. For, to all of them, He confided His goods in a lesser or greater degree, and of all of them, shall an exact account be demanded. To them, He refers in the foregoing parable of the “ten virgins.” It refers, most likely, in a special way, to the pastors of His Church, whom He has placed there, and gifted in different degrees, as is recorded by St. Paul (1 Cor. 12:4–30; Eph. 4:11–14). By the goods He gave his servants, are meant, the gifts, both in the order of nature and of grace, given us by God, to advance His glory, and our own and our neighbour’s salvation. The giving of these goods conveys, that all that we have comes not from ourselves; but, from the bountiful hand of God. The same is expressed by the talents in next verse, the unequal number of which marks the unequal distribution of God’s gifts, which He dispenses at will.

15. “To one five talents,” &c. St. Luke says, he gave his ten servants, ten pounds, or, ten definite sums of money. For, this is the original meaning of the word mna, from the Hebrew root, mana—he numbered—a piece to each. By the talents are meant, the several gifts of God, without which we can do nothing, embracing—1st. Grace, properly so called, with faith, hope, charity, and the other virtues. 2nd. The graces called, gratis datæ, such as the power of working miracles, episcopacy, priesthood, prophecy, &c., given for the benefit of others. 3rd. External gifts and goods of fortune, such as wealth, station, &c. All those, God distributes unequally to different persons, according to His good will and pleasure. All these gifts, are by His ordination, to be employed for the ends they are intended to advance, viz., God’s glory and the salvation of souls. As regards the literal meaning of the parable, it is to be observed, that in the East, it was customary to intrust even slaves with the management of some money or goods, to stimulate their industry.

To every one according to his proper ability.” How can this be, since the very ability or capacity for employing those gifts profitably, must come from God, and be His gift? Some commentators say, these words are merely ornamental, and without any direct meaning in the parable; that they merely convey, what men ordinarily do in the distribution of their property. They distribute it, having a due regard to the capacity of their servants, their industry and ability to derive profit from it. For, it is a point of faith, that, so far as grace, properly so-called, is concerned, it is not given, in the first instance, according to or in consideration of one’s natural capacity or merits; and that nature, however good, is no disposition for grace. This is a point of faith defined against the Pelagians; others say, it has an application in the parable, and applies to what are called gratiæ, gratis datæ, and to conditions of life, such as Magistracy, Episcopacy, Priesthood, &c., the blessings of the second and third order already referred to. For, these states of life are frequently arranged by God, in accordance with the previous dispositions and capacity of those whom He selects for them, and before bestowing any permanent gift or office on any individual, the Almighty bestows on him a capacity or disposition, whether natural or supernatural, to render him fit for the duties annexed to it. This He does frequently, but not always, as the example of Jeremiah alone proves. The words also convey, that in exacting an account of the gifts bestowed on us. He does not ask an account for anything beyond what we can do. He requires nothing impossible, but only what is within our reach, whether in the natural or supernatural order. It also conveys, that, in the unequal distribution of His gifts and vocations, God confers none beyond our strength; but, that He regards each one’s power and capacity, so that no one can complain, that more was imposed on him than he could bear.

And immediately he took his journey,” refers to our Saviour’s ascension into heaven. St. Luke (19) tells us, that before leaving, he enjoined on his servants, “trade till I come,” viz., by labouring zealously during life to increase, by good works, the fruit of the talents confided to them, and to present this fruit to him on his return. St. Luke also adds, that the citizens of this man refused to have him reign over them, which refers to the obstinate rejection of our Redeemer by the Jews, who would have no king but Cæsar; their persecution of Himself and His Apostles after His Ascension. And that he ordered them (19:27) to be slain in his presence, which refers to the total ruin of the Jews by Titus, which was but a type of the eternal ruin of those who continued in their obstinate unbelief.

16. “And he that had received the five talents … gained other five.” As regards the servant himself, the gaining of five talents means, that by the proper use of the gifts and graces bestowed on him by God, he gained, in the proportion of the gifts bestowed on him, an increase of grace, which is the seed of glory, and the measure of the rewards whch he afterwards received. As regards the Master or Almighty God, the “five talents” mean, that this servant laboured strenuously to promote God’s glory, in the work of self-sanctification, and the salvation of his brethren.

17. The observations made in the foregoing, apply equally to the present verse. The man who “received the two talents,” gained an increase proportioned to the amount of goods confided to his management. In St. Luke, the master is represented as giving the same amount to each of his ten servants, who are commanded to traffic upon it till his return, some of whom gained in the proportion of ten talents; others, five, &c. Here, the amount given is said to be unequal.

Some commentators understand, by the “servant,” who, after receiving “five talents,” gained “other five,” the Apostles, including St. Paul, whose gifts were so great and whose labours so very successful and remarkable: and by those, who received two and gained other two talents, the other ministers of Christ, who received less than the Apostles, and were faithful in discharging their ministry, and serving the Church according to the measure of their gifts and graces. It is, at the same time, to be remarked, that the test of our fidelity in the discharge of our duties, is not the success that may attend us, but our labours. Hence, St. Paul in stating that God’s grace was not vain, in him, says, the proof of it is, that he had laboured more than all the others (1 Cor. 15); and in reference to other Evangelical workmen, each of whom acts according to the gift he received from God, the Apostle only regards them, as labouring in planting and watering; the increase must come from God, and the reward of each is not according to his success, but, “according to his labour” (1 Cor. 3:8).

18. The idea expressed by “digging in the earth, and hiding his lord’s money there,” is conveyed by St. Luke (19:20), thus: “kept it laid up in a napkin.” The meaning of both phrases is the same, viz., that he kept it unemployed and laid by unprofitably, without securing the expected gain. It may happen, and oftentimes does happen, that those who are blessed with “five talents,” gifts of the highest order, leave them unemployed, nay, abuse them, as often as those do, who receive but “one,” or gifts of lesser value. But, our Redeemer instances the abuse or neglect of grace in the man who received but “one talent,” in order to convey to us, more forcibly, the greater guilt, and, consequently, the heavier punishment of him who neglects or abuses greater gifts, from which greater profit would be expected, when the man who received but lesser gifts is represented as very criminal, and deserving of the severest punishments. Our Lord also wishes to show, how inexcusable the servant is, since he did not require extraordinary exertions to produce the gain proportioned to the talents he received. Hence, his indolence had no palliation.

If such be the guilt and punishment of the unprofitable, idle servant, what shall be the guilt of those who not only neglect God’s graces, but positively abuse them, squander them extravagantly, and turn them against the master himself, by converting them to the worst purposes, to promote the reign of the enemy of God, and of souls, turning against Him the very arms with which He supplied them.

19. “And after a long time,” which is expressed by St. Luke (19:15), “he returned, having received the kingdom.” The words refer to the account to be rendered by each one in judgment, of the mode in which he employed the several gifts of God, both general and particular. The “long time” refers to the long interval between Christ’s Ascension and the General Judgment, although the sentence passed at the General Judgment, is but a more solemn and public ratification of that which occurs immediately after the death of each one; hence, it refers to the period of each man’s life. The words also convey, that God gives every one ample time to employ the gifts bestowed on him profitably, before exacting an account; and that, unlike certain severe, exacting masters, He will not exact the fruit of His gifts before the proper time. It also refers to the patience and long-suffering of God, in His dealings with His creatures.

20–23. The servant who received “five,” as well as he who received “two talents,” acknowledge that it was owing to the gifts of their master they gained anything whence it is inferred, that the chief principle in the performance of good works is the grace of God, “Not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10); and this is more clearly expressed by St. Luke (19:16), “thy pound hath gained ten pounds.”

Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things.” The goods and graces confided to us during life, however great in themselves, as the seeds of future glory, are still but trifling, in a comparative sense, compared with the great bliss, and ineffable happiness in store for God’s elect, the exceeding great magnitude of which is expressed in the words. “over many things,” and is more fully conveyed in the words, “enter into the joy of thy Lord,” which shows, the ineffable delights and eternal enjoyment of the saints, when they shall become, as far as their finite capacity will permit, sharers in God’s own beatitude, heirs of His kingdom, and co-heirs with His eternal Son Jesus Christ, the predestined model of His elect, and the first-born among many brethren, sharers with Him in “the joy of their Lord,” which neither “eye hath seen nor ear heard,” &c. The words, “place thee over many things,” are differently expressed by St. Luke (19), “have power over ten … five cities,” in allusion to the mode of acting often resorted to by kings, in rewarding their faithful servants with governments, more or less important, according to their merits and capacity. It is deserving of remark, that the same praises, the same reward, are liberally bestowed on the servant who gained only two talents, as on him who gained five. “Well done … enter into the joy,” &c., because, as St. Jerome remarks, “the Lord does not so much regard the amount of gain, as the fulness of desire”—“non tam considerat Dominus lucri magnitudinem quam studii voluntatem”—and our reward is proportioned, not to the fruit of our labours, but to the labour itself.

24. The servant who received but “one talent,” and left it unprofitably idle, wishes to excuse himself for his neglect, and casts the blame on his master, and thus adds the sin of pride to that of sloth, when he should have humbly acknowledged his fault, and craved pardon and forgiveness. “A hard man,” that is, a man of a severe, harsh, grinding disposition, bent on acquiring lucre by every means, no matter how iniquitous or oppressive. Interpreters generally regard these words as ornamental, or introduced for the purpose of completing the full literal sense of the parable, rather than as having any particular meaning in its application; for, it is not likely the damned will thus address our Redeemer in judgment, their own conscience, and knowledge of their crimes, bearing testimony against them. It may, however, be said, on the other hand, that, not unlikely, the damned will, on that day, in a fit of madness and despair, rise against their Judge, and, with blasphemous impiety, upbraid Him as the cause of their miseries, and, in hell, shall eternally blaspheme Christ and His saints. Perhaps, in this sense, the words of this verse may not be without application in the parable. The words, also, convey, that the reprobate shall be without excuse on the Day of Judgment. “Reapest where thou hast not sown,” is a sort of common adage, expressive of cruel exaction, and grinding injustice.

25. Being afraid, in consequence of the reputed unrelenting harshness of his master, lest, if in trading, he either lost the principal, or secured not the expected amount of gain, he should doubly exasperate him, this foolish servant deemed it the safer course to remain idle, and not endanger the talent intrusted to him.

26. “Wicked and slothful servant.” “Wicked,” that is, malicious in imputing his own guilty and slothful conduct to his master. “Thou knowest,” &c., that is, taking you at your word, admitting what you say to be true. It is an argumentum ad hominem, founded on the servant’s own expressed admission or confession, which is more clearly conveyed by St. Luke (19:22), “Out of thy own, mouth I judge thee, thou wicked,” &c. The words are an illustration of what is termed a rhetorical synchoresis, involving no real admission; but, an argument scoffingly conceded, for the purpose of retorting more pointedly. If thou knewest that I reaped where I sowed not, thou shouldst know that I would strictly exact fruit where I sowed, as I have done in committing to you my money.

27. On the supposition which you make, you ought, at least, to have adopted the easiest, least laborious, and least dangerous means of acquiring interest, by confiding it to “the bankers,” &c. These words are no argument, either in favour of usury or against it, even if we speak of usury in the worst sense of the word, since the whole passage is spoken by synchoresis, in the sense already explained. At all events, they would convey no approbation of usury, since, what our Redeemer really wished to convey is, that the servant should have exerted himself, in some of the ordinary ways, for procuring gain from the talent of his master. Our Lord no more approves of illicit usury here, than He does of the dishonesty of the unjust steward (Luke 16), or the lies of the Egyptian midwives (Exod. 1:19). What is commended in the former case, is the industry and wisdom exhibited by the unjust steward; and in the latter, the humanity manifested in the rescuing of the Hebrew children. So it is, also, in the present instance, even supposing synchoresis out of the question in the passage.

28. “Take ye away, therefore,” &c. The master tells his attendant servants to take this talent, and give it to the man who had “ten talents.” He thus shows, the injustice of the charge of griping avarice preferred against him by his wicked servant, since, far from appropriating to himself the talent taken from the unprofitable servant, he hands it over to the servant, who turned to the best account the ten talents confided to him. The words are partly ornamental, and partly applicable to the subject of the parable. They are applicable, so far as the taking away of the talent is concerned, since, Almighty God oftentimes, in this life, deprives men both of the gifts of grace and of nature, which they abuse. He always deprives the man of sanctifying grace who abuses His graces, by the commission of mortal sin; and, on the Day of Judgment, He shall take away from the reprobate the gifts they neglected or abused.

But, “the giving of it to the man who had ten talents,” is merely ornamental, and has no particular application in the parable, save that it may convey, that the saints in heaven shall derive additional joy from considering the good use they made of their talents, compared with the reprobate, and shall be filled with happiness, so complete, as if all the gifts of the reprobate were transferred to them. Should the words have reference to this life, and to the private judgments of God, on His faithful servants, and His idle servants, the words may have application in this sense, that, while God deprives the wicked of His graces, in punishment of their sins and negligences, He increases the gifts and graces of His faithful servants, which, if not specifically, shall be generically the same as the gifts withdrawn from sinners. St. Luke relates, that the attendant ministers of the Master seemed to wonder at this arrangement. Hence, they said, “Lord, he hath ten pounds?” as if to say, is it not more natural to give it to him who hath only “five pounds?” Hence, our Lord concludes the parable, in the following verse, with the general saying, which applies to the subject matter.

29. “For, to every one that hath,” &c. (see 13:12), that is, to every one that, by co-operation, with grace, acquires further graces and talents, “it shall be given,” that is, grace and glory, shall be given as a reward. Or, “hath,” may mean, who properly uses the talents given him; for, strictly speaking, he who uses and employs his talent, has it; while as regards the sluggard, who uses it not, it is the same as if he had it not, at all.

That hath not,” may mean, as above, hath not increased or derived any gain from it, or who uses it not, suffering it to he useless and idle. “That which he hath not,” viz., the talent, the graces he gained nothing from, or which he did not properly use.

That also which he seemeth to have,” that is, which although he actually possessed, yet acted in relation to it, as if he had it not, or made no good use whatever of it, so as to advance the interests of Him who gave it.

Shall be taken away,” the very lights, whether natural or supernatural, with which he was favoured, shall be taken away from him, on the Day of Judgment, and sometimes this happens even in this life.

30. And by God’s just judgment, this useless servant, shall be, for ever, cast into darkness, and condemned to the fire of hell.

If such be the rigours of God’s judgment upon the merely unprofitable servant, who, so far as the parable goes, is not charged with any positive crime, but only with criminal apathy and neglect in not employing profitably the talents confided to him, what shall be the rigours of Divine judgment on those, who squander God’s favours, and by positive crime, and a sinful course of scandalous life, turn against Him the gifts He gave them, and employ them in the service of His enemy.

The three preceding parables, employed one after another, by St. Matthew, denote three distinct classes among the faithful, who shall be condemned. The first, relative to the servant, who maltreated his fellow-servants, and dilapidated his master’s goods (24:48), refers to those who openly lead impious lives.

The second, regarding the ten virgins, denotes, those who, apparently religious, are still not sufficiently watchful to provide for themselves, and fail to refer their good actions to God’s glory, such as hypocrites.

The third, regarding the parable of the talents, denotes these idle, indolent Christians, who, by a kind of impious prudence, become negligent, and charge their criminal torpor on Almighty God Himself, whom they pretend to fear. In the first parable is taxed open impiety and immoral conduct; in the second, imprudent negligence; in the third, negligence, seemingly prudent. If we join together the foregoing four parables, we shall find matter for special instruction. In that of the householder (24:43), we are reminded of observing diligence, which, however, being insufficient, we are warned in that of the unfaithful servant, of the necessity of fidelity; in that of the virgins, of the necessity of prudent provision for the future; and in that of the talents, of the necessity of labouring advantageously for the interests of our heavenly Master. We should, therefore, be vigilant, faithful, prudent, and profitable, while preparing for the coming of our Lord to judgment (Jansenius Gaudavensis).

31. In the preceding parables of the talents, ten virgins, &c., our Redeemer wished to inculcate vigilance in preparing for His coming judgment. Now, laying aside all figurative language, He clearly and graphically describes the mode in which He is to exercise judgment.

When the Son of man.” As man, Christ will judge the world, “and He hath given Him power to do judgment, because He is the Son of man” (John 5:27). It is in His human form, now regarded with contempt, that the just and the impious shall behold Christ clothed “in the majesty and glory,” which is due to Him, as the true Son of God.

Shall come,” that is, make His appearance visibly. There is a tacit contrast here between His first coming, in lowliness, and His second, in power and majesty.

He shall not come alone. He shall be accompanied by “all the Angels.” So that, heaven being, for a moment, vacated, all the Angels shall descend with the Judge, as attendants, to add to the solemnity of the scene, and to act as messengers of His will, and to execute His decrees (Zach. 14:5).

Then He shall sit on the seat of His majesty,” that is, shall appear as a glorious Judge in the exercise of His judiciary power. He already sits on the right hand of Majesty on high. That glory is now concealed from the world. But then, it shall be visibly seen by all mankind. The imagery is borrowed partly from the custom of kings, who come, accompanied by the princes of their court, to enact laws, or solemnly dispense justice; and partly from Eastern usage, in keeping the sheep and the goats asunder.

The word, “sit,” is allusive to the posture of kings and judges in dispensing justice. Hence, the words are more expressive of His judicial power than of His bodily posture. What “the throne of His majesty” is, is not easily ascertained. Some understand it, of the bright cloud on which He shall appear seated. Others, of the choirs of Angels, upon whose shoulders, He shall be borne in triumph. Hence, some of them are called “thrones,” their functions, or office, being, to uphold the majesty of God.

32. “And all the nations shall be gathered”—by the ministry of Angels—“together before Him.” “All nations,” embracing all men, of every age and nation, without exception. The words, “all nations,” carry more weight than, all men. It adds to our ideas of the majesty of the Judge, to proclaim Him as the Judge of all nations, without distinction of Jew or Gentile, Christian or unbeliever. “He is appointed by God judge of the living and of the dead” (Acts 10:42).

They “shall be gathered together,” in some determinate place, which is generally supposed to be the Valley of Josaphat, and the surrounding districts (Joel 3:2), sanctified by the laborious life, preaching, Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of our Lord. We are informed by St. Paul, that the just shall be snatched into the air to meet the Judge, when, doubtless, they shall receive, at His right hand, the sentence of approval. The wicked shall remain at His left, on the earth.

And He shall separate them,” &c. This He shall do by the ministry of Angels, as the shepherd returning home at evening, separates the sheep and the goats, that were, during the day, allowed to roam through the same pastures, just as the wicked are, during life, undistinguished, even in God’s Church, from the elect.

33. He compares the elect to “sheep,” on account of their innocence, simplicity, meekness, and beneficence; the wicked to “goats,” because of the offensive smell, the lascivious, impure nature, the quarrelsome dispositions of these animals.

He shall place the sheep,” that is, the elect, “on His right,” as the more honourable place, viz., in the air, whence they shall ascend to heaven. The “right hand,” is the symbol of happiness, glory, and triumph. “The goats,” or reprobate, “He shall set on His left,” the symbol of misery, servitude, and opprobrium. They shall also occupy a lower position on the earth, whence they shall be swallowed down to hell, that shall open wide its jaws to receive them for ever. This sitting at the right hand and at the left, denotes the election of the one, and the reprobation of the other. This division was typified by the ordinance of Moses, commanding the Israelites, after entering the land of promise (Deut. 27), that these six tribes, whose fathers were born of the freedwomen, wives of Jacob, viz., Lia and Rachel, would stand upon Mount Garazim to bless the people; and the other six, whose fathers were born of handmaids, except Reuben, whose crime with his father’s wife, caused him to be numbered with those descended from handmaids, would stand towards, or, near Mount Hebal, to curse, that is, to answer, Amen, as it is commonly understood, to the maledictions, to be pronounced by the Levites. This was done, as we read (Josue 8:33).

34. “Then shall the king say,” &c. Having called Himself, “the Son of man,” and exhibited Himself, under the figure of a “shepherd,” He now assumes the title of “King,” it being the part of a king to dispense rewards and punishment, and exercise judiciary power, and also to invite others to a participation of His kingly state and power.

Come, you blessed of My Father,” &c. He commences the general judgment with His elect, as the most honourable; and, moreover, to show that God is more prone to dispense blessings, than to utter maledictions; more disposed to reward than to punish.

Come,” from darkness to light; from servitude to the liberty of the sons of God; from labour to rest; from war to peace; from death to life; from the society of the wicked to the company of angels. “COME,” and be eternally united with Me; inebriated with the plenty of My house, and ingulphed in the torrents of My delights.

Ye blessed of My Father.” “Blessed,” by Him to whom, by appropriation, belong power and predestination, “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places” (Ephes. 1), through the merits of My blood. This blessedness includes their predestination, in the first place; and next, the spiritual blessings of justification actually conferred on them, together with the future blessings of glorification and happiness, now about to be conferred on them; “whom God loved and predestined, BEFORE the world; called FROM the world; cleansed and sanctified IN the world: and now shall exalt and magnify AFTER the world” (St. Augustine, Soliloquies).

Possess.” (The Greek word, κληρονομησατε, signifies, to possess, by hereditary right, as Sons of God, His heirs and co-heirs of His Son.)

The kingdom,” of heaven, the empyreal heaven, with all its ineffable delights, the society of the Blessed and Angels, possessing for ever, the qualities of glorified bodies and beatified souls.

Prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” In this, is conveyed more than is expressed. It means, prepared for them from all eternity, in the predestinating decrees of God, which is clearly expressed by St. Paul in other words, “He hath chosen us in Him BEFORE the foundation of the world” (Ephes. 1:4). Hence, this preparation of the kingdom means, the predestination of men for that kingdom. It also may mean, actually prepared at creation. For, God created the empyreal heaven, to be the eternal abode of the Saints. The Sonship of God, conferring a right to His inheritance, is merited by adults. Hence, they receive the crown of glory in heaven, not only by right of inheritance, generously granted by God; but, also as the reward of merit. While infants can only have the title of inheritance, as sons of God, adults must also have the twofold title of inheritance and merit.

35, 36. In these two verses are recited six corporal works of Mercy, to which is likewise added a seventh from Tobias (12:12), viz., burying the dead. Hence, we commonly reckon seven corporal works of Mercy. Our Redeemer selects out of the entire catalogue of good works, whereby the elect merited heaven, these works of Mercy, to show, how much He values the exercise of mercy, and to impress upon His followers, that, whatever else they may do, however heroic their other actions may be, if they omit showing mercy, they can never be united with Him, who is Mercy itself; nor can they, otherwise, obtain admission into the kingdom of His mercy.

If we do not love our neighbour whom we see, “how can we love God whom we see not?” (1 John 4:20). It is true, that among the elect, there shall be many on whom this duty cannot devolve, having been themselves poor and miserable; themselves the objects of corporal mercy and compassion. But, our Redeemer instances this among the many other examples of virtue and good works, to show its great importance; and because, it is the virtue most necessary for upholding society, and binding its several members more closely together.

He says, “I was hungry,” &c., to convey to us, that, as head of His mystical body, He was sharer in the sufferings of all the other members, and alleviated in their exemption from suffering; and He shows the merit of succouring the poor, when it is Christ Himself we are succouring. St. Paul beautifully explains this union of the members of Christ’s mystic body. (1 Cor. 12:12, &c.) “I was hungry,” &c. I, who am your Creator, your God, your Redeemer. I, the great source, from which proceed all blessings, as well in the natural as in the supernatural order. I, who endured so much to save you from the eternal torments of the damned. “And YOU gave ME to eat,” shows, the great merit of exercising the works of mercy; since, it is not man, but God, we are relieving. That wretched, ragged—nay, sinful beggar, is the representative of Jesus Christ, and whatever we do for him, our Lord will regard as done for Himself. These seven corporal works of Mercy, expressed by the words, visito, poto, cibo, redimo, tego, colligo, condo, include the spiritual works of Mercy, also, which are so clearly marked out, and so strongly commended in SS. Scripture, viz., to correct the sinner, to give counsel to those in doubt, to instruct the ignorant, to console the sorrowful; to bear the imperfections and injuries of our neighbour; to pardon our offenders; to pray for the salvation of our neighbours. These are expressed in the words, consule, castiga, solare, remitte, fer, ora.

Whether our Redeemer is to utter those words, sensibly, in presence of the elect and reprobate, it is hard to ascertain. The Judgment shall not take place, like the Resurrection, in the twinkling of an eye, ictu oculi. For, it is described in such a way as would imply some delay. “The judgment sat, and the books were opened.” (Dan. 7:10; Apoc. 10.) Most likely, this opening of the Books, refers to the particular knowledge disclosed through the conscience of each one, in displaying his actions (Rom. 2:16). It is most likely, that, while the power of God shall make known to each one, by a sort of particular judgment, through the medium of his own conscience, what are his particular deeds, his merits or demerits; and, shall have this made known in particular to all the rest of mankind, He shall sensibly utter the sentence of approbation and condemnation, and address it in general terms, to the assembled human race. It also seems to be most generally agreed upon, that, while our Redeemer shall utter, in a loud voice, the sentence of the elect and of the reprobate, He will not utter, in a similar voice, the motives of His sentence, “I was hungry,” &c., but that these shall be made known privately, by a sort of spiritual instinct or revelation.

That the infants who died without baptism shall appear, on this occasion, and see the glory of the Judge, seems to be generally agreed upon; but what their judgment or amount of privation is a matter not generally agreed upon; nor, indeed, can it be determined. That they shall not be admitted to the kingdom of heaven, is quite certain. It is commonly held they shall enjoy, for ever, the greatest natural felicity, ever enjoyed on this earth, united to God by natural love and knowledge of Him. (St. Thomas Q.D. 33. Q. 2 art. 2 ad. 5.)

As regards infidels, it is commonly supposed, that, as “he who doth not believe is already judged” (John 3:18), the infidels shall appear to receive the sentence of eternal damnation, without any particular investigation into their lives, however wicked in other respects. The form of judgment, recorded by St. Matthew, regards the faithful, of whom some shall be rewarded for their good works; others condemned for their wicked works, or omission of good works. Ven. Bede reckons four classes of men at the last judgment. 1. Those who shall exercise judgment, and not themselves be judged, viz., the Apostles. 2. Those who shall neither exercise nor undergo judgment, their sentence of condemnation having been already pronounced, viz., the impious and unbelievers. 3. Those who shall undergo, and shall pass judgment—viz., the multitude of the faithful who obeyed the Gospel. 4. Those who shall not themselves judge, but shall undergo judgment, and be condemned, viz., the wicked Jews, who lived before the Gospel law, and the wicked Christians, who disobeyed the Gospel.

37–39. This is expressive of the astonishment of the elect, on seeing themselves so munificently rewarded for their comparatively trifling deeds of charity; and of their humility, in seeming to be unconscious of having done anything good, referring all to His grace. It is not likely, that the just shall utter such words on the occasion; but, the words are introduced to give our Lord an opportunity of subjoining the following important declaration.

40. “As long as you did it,” &c. “As long.” Inasmuch as you did it; so far, as you did it “to one of these least ones,” among Christians, who, from their lowliness and wretched condition, whether voluntarily undertaken, as in the case of the voluntary poor; or, whose lot was cast in humble and distressful circumstances, whom He now calls His “brethren,” deigning to exalt them to a brotherhood with Himself. From the very beginning He was pleased to address them, as such: “Whosoever shall do the will of My Father … he is My brother,” &c. (12:50); also, “I will declare My name to My brethen” (Heb. 2:12).

41. “Depart from Me,” you, who are so unlike Me, and never studied to become assimilated to Me in your lives. “Depart,” far away, so as never to see My face. “From Me,” who am Justice, Sanctity, Life, the Supreme Good, the Sovereign Beatitude. I can no longer endure your presence. “You cursed,” hateful to God, and execrated by Him. He does not say, “cursed” of My Father, as He said of the just, “blessed of my Father,” to show, that God is not the author of their misery, as He is of the happiness of His elect. They themselves were the authors, the cause of their own misfortunes, owing to the wicked lives which they led. The words, “Depart from Me,” refer to the pain of loss, which is reputed by many to be the greatest torment of the damned.

But, where are they to go from Him? “Into everlasting fire.” These words denote, the pain of sense. “Fire,” to last, not merely for a time; but, for ever. “Prepared for the devil and his angels.” Although the antithesis is very marked in the other parts of the sentence, “Come, ye blessed;” “begone, ye cursed;” “possess the kingdom;” “depart into everlasting fire;” still, it is not fully carried out in these words. For, in reference to His elect, He says, “prepared for you,” in order to show, the beneficent designs of God in their regard; and to convey, that if they obtain heaven, as the reward of merit, this is attributable to the predestinating mercy and grace of God. But here, He says not, “prepared for you;” but, “for the devil and his angels,” to show, that, so far as He is concerned, God did not wish for their damnation, but rather for the salvation of all; and that they brought it upon themselves to be involved in the fate of the demons. It was not God prepared this torture for them. It was they themselves that did so. The words, “Depart from Me,” express the pain of loss, “into everlasting fire,” the pain of sense, and the eternity of both. The words also convey the unspeakable severity of the pains of the damned; since, they are to be sharers in the inconceivable tortures, which these fiends of hell have earned for themselves. The fire of hell was “prepared for the devil and his (associate) angels,” antecedently, to the sin or creation of man.

42, 43. Here is assigned the cause of their condemnation, viz., their omission to succour Him. The words, as regards the reprobate, are very striking. “I was hungry.” I, who gave you all you had, or hoped to have. I, to whom you were indebted for everything. “I was hungry,” and suffering in every way; and with the means of relieving Me within your reach, you refused to do so. You refused to pay Me back even the tithes of what was my own. In the words which express the cause of the condemnation of the reprobate, two things are to be observed:—

Firstly. That they are represented as condemned for mere sins of omission; and if such be the severity of the sentence against those who omitted doing good, what shall be the punishment of those who never ceased to do evil? If he be condemned, who neglected to solace the afflicted, what shall be his punishment who added affliction to affliction, who persecuted the poor and the needy?

Secondly. The comparatively trifling things required of the reprobate, in order to escape damnation. Even though they might have committed other grievous sins beyond number, still, if they had shown a merciful, beneficent disposition to relieve those in distress, they would, most probably, have inclined God to forgive them, to grant them, in consideration of their merciful deeds, grace and mercy in turn, full time and grace for repentance. Having shown no mercy, they dried up the fountain of mercy, and received a judgment without mercy, in consequence.

It may be laid down as a general truth, founded on experience, that, in the end, a good death awaits those who show mercy to the poor. Indeed, the experience of God’s dealing with His creatures would show this to be generally true. So that we may say, that the final conversion of great sinners, the grace of true repentance accorded to them, was owing to their having themselves shown mercy; that although God had reason to condemn them, considering their many outrages, which provoked His anger, yet even in His anger He remembered their deeds of mercy, and spared them accordingly.

Let us hear St. Augustine on this subject: “Scriptum est, ‘Sicut aqua extinguit ignem, ita eleemosyna extinguit peccatum,’ proinde illis, quos coronaturus est, solas eleemosynas imputabit. Tanquam dicens; difficile est, si examincm vos, et appendam vos, et scruter diligentissime peccata vestra, non inveniam unde vos damnem. Sed ite in regnum. ‘Esurivi enim et dedistis mihi manducare.’ Non, ergo, itis in regnum, quia non peccastis; sed quia peccata vestra eleemosynis redemistis” (St. Augustine, Ser. 33, de diversis). So that the words of our Lord are literally fulfilled. It is because, they ministered to His wants, in His suffering members, that those, who were wicked before, are now saved, and crowned with glory. The same may apply to all the just, who received the grace of final perseverance, on account of their deeds of mercy, which they would forfeit had they neglected to show mercy.

Hence, whether we consider those among God’s elect, who were once sinners, or those who preserved their innocence, it may be said, that, while their salvation was the immediate result of God’s infinite mercy; it was remotely, in every case, the result of their mercy to the poor, which influenced God to favour them with a judgment of mercy.

It is, unfortunately, equally true of those who are hard-hearted towards the poor, however observant in other respects, that, in almost every case, they die a bad death, and receive “a judgment without mercy, as they themselves did not show mercy.”

44, 45. They shall thus arrogantly question Him, in a fit of despair, charging our Lord with being an unjust judge, condemning them unjustly. This they shall not do in words, but in their thoughts, their conscience bearing testimony against them. For, our Redeemer would not permit them thus to gainsay His just judgment. The just and the reprobate shall both utter these words, but from quite different feelings; the former, from feelings of humility, which made them seem unconscious of the good they did, and of gratitude to God, for all His mercies, to which they ascribe their salvation; the latter, out of feelings of pride and despair, endeavouring to make excuses for their sins, “ad excusandas excusationes in peceatis.” Had they the smallest feelings of charity; had they the bowels of commiseration, they would not have failed to see, in the afflicted poor, the image of Him, who Himself became poor to make us rich, nor would they have refused Him any assistance, in the persons of the poor, who gave even the last drop of His precious blood for them.

One is touched, says St. Chrysostom (Hom. 80 in Mattheum), with compassion on beholding a beast die of hunger, and we are borne naturally to relieve him; and yet, without emotion, we hear our Lord and Master calling for bread, in the person of His starving poor, and are insensible to the pressing wants of our brother, purchased by the blood of Christ. We are deaf to the voice of God, who demands of us, to succour His poor members, only for the purpose of bestowing His treasures on us. We appear indifferent to the praises and crowns which the Son of God will bestow in the midst of the assembled nations: and to the ineffable glory with which the just shall be clad as their recompense. What tears should suffice to deplore such blindness and insensibility? What excuse for these miserable wretches, upon whom, neither the fear of punishment, nor the hopes of eternal goods, can make any impression?

This dialogue between our Lord and the damned, although it shall not take place in words, is introduced to give us an idea of the heinous nature of the crime of inhumanity to the poor.

46. The sentence of the Judge shall not be in vain. It shall be executed without delay, without appeal, without any diminution or remission of punishment.

And these”—the last-named class, the reprobate—“shall go into everlasting punishment.” The earth shall open, and hell swallow them down into its seething furnaces of lurid fire and burning brimstone for ever, before the just ascend into heaven. (This is implied in the order of narrative given here), in order to increase the felicity of the just, by the contrast of their happiness with the misery of the reprobate, and by the consideration of their escape from these dreadful torments, owing to the gratuitous mercy of God, which they shall unceasingly magnify and extol for all eternity.

In this verse, is contained a clear refutation of the errors of Origen, and of the Anabaptists, regarding the eternity of the pains of hell. For, it is said here, the damned will go into eternal punishment, as the just into life everlasting. The Greek word for “everlasting” is the same in both (αἰώνιον).

The eternal duration of punishment for a sin committed in an instant may seem strange, but, even human laws visit certain crimes committed in an instant with exile, or death, which is a sort of eternal exclusion from society (St. Augustine, Lib. 21, c. 11); and in reference to the eternity of God’s punishment, we should bear in mind—1. That the will of the sinner is such, that he would sin eternally, if he could. 2. That the offence is offered to an eternal God, a God of infinite majesty. 3. That sin deserves punishment as long as its guilt remains unexpiated; and, as in hell there is no redemption, no grace, no expiation, the guilt of sin remains for ever. Hence, God, who must hate sin, must punish it as long as it remains, that is to say, for eternity.

This applies as well to believers, as to unbelievers. For, it is to believers, the sentence, or rather, the cause of the sentence, applies; since, it is not to the want of faith, but of good works, the damnation of the reprobate is ascribed in this passage.

Thus shall have ended the terrible “day of the Lord,” this last of days, after which there shall be no longer days, nor years, nor times, nor seasons, nor ages. Time is now closed for ever. An awful eternal silence shall reign over what was once the face of Nature. All that shall remain of this immense creation shall be a boundless chaos. Man shall have entered the house of his eternity. We should all provide against this dreadful moment, which awaits all, not by mere wishes, not by mere barren desires of conversion; but, by labouring to perform the good works which the Sovereign Judge shall, on that day, demand at our hands—good works of charity and beneficence, towards “these least ones”—His afflicted poor, we should “make sure our vocation and election” (2 Peter 1:10).

At present, in regard to every one, may be repeated the words of Moses to the Jewish people, “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, benediction and malediction” (Deut. 30:19). To us in this life is proposed to choose between the joys of heaven and the pains of hell; the broad and the narrow way. Upon the choice we shall make now while we have time, while the day for working lasts, must depend, the term of either eternal happiness or eternal woe we shall arrive at in eternity, “Janua cœli, ora pro nobis.”








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