Rev. George Whitefield Sermon 25

The Wise and Foolish Virgins

Matthew 25:13 "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour in

which the Son of man cometh."

(Text is actually Matt. 25:1-13)

The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, informs us, "That it

is appointed for all men once to die; after that is the judgment." And I

think, if any consideration be sufficient to awaken a sleeping drowsy

world, it must be this, That there will be a day wherein these heavens

shall be wrapped up like a scroll, this element melt with fervent heat, the

earth and all things therein be burnt up, and every soul, of every nation

and language, summoned to appear before the dreadful tribunal of the

righteous Judge of quick and dead, to receive rewards and punishments,

according to the deeds done in their bodies. The great apostle just

mentioned, when brought before Felix, could think of no better means to

convert that sinful man, than to reason to temperance, righteousness, and

more especially of a judgment to come. The first might in some measure

affect, but, I am persuaded, it was the last consideration, a judgment to

come, that made him to tremble: and so bad as the world is now grown, yet

there are few have their consciences so far seared, as to deny that there

will be a reckoning hereafter. The promiscuous dispensations of providence

in this life, wherein we see good men afflicted, destitute, tormented, and

the wicked permitted triumphantly to ride over their heads, has been always

looked upon as an indisputable argument, by the generality of men, that

there will be a day in which God will judge the world in righteousness, and

administer equity unto his people. Some indeed are so bold as to deny it,

while they are engaged in the pursuit of the lust of the eye, and the pride

of life. But follow them to their death bed, ask them, when their souls are

ready to launch into eternity, what they then think of a judgment to come

and they will tell you, they dare not give their consciences the lie any

longer. They feel a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation

in their hearts. Since then these things are so, does it not highly concern

each of us, my brethren, before we come on a bed of sickness, seriously to

examine how the account stands between God and our souls, and how it will

fare with us in that day? As for the openly profane, the drunkard, the

whoremonger, the adulterer, and such-like, there is no doubt of what will

become of them; without repentance they shall never enter into the kingdom

of God and his Christ: no; their damnation slumbereth not; a burning fiery

Tophet, kindled by the fury of God's eternal wrath, is prepared for their

reception, wherein they must suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. Nor is

there the least doubt of the state of true believers. For though they are

despised and rejected of natural men, yet being born again of God, they are

heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. They have the earnest of the

promised inheritance in their hearts, and are assured that a new and living

way is made open for them, into the holy of holies, by the blood of Jesus

Christ, into which an abundant entrance shall be administered to them at

the great day of account. The only question is, what will become of the

ALMOST CHRISTIAN, one that is content to go, as he thinks, in a middle way

to heaven, without being profane on the one hand, or, as he falsely

imagines, righteous over-much on the other? Many there are in every

congregation, and consequently some here present, of this stamp. And what

is worst of all, it is more easy to convince the most notorious publicans

and sinners of their being out of a state of salvation, than any of these.

Notwithstanding, if Jesus Christ may be our judge, they shall as certainly

be rejected and disowned by him at the last day, as though they lived in

open defiance of all his laws. For what says our Lord in the parable of

which the words of the text are a conclusion, and which I intend to make

the subject of my present discourse. "Then," at the day of judgment, which

he had been discoursing of in the foregoing, and prosecutes in this

chapter, "shall the kingdom of heaven, (the state of professors in the

gospel church) be likened unto ten virgins, who took their lamps, and went

forth to meet the bridegroom." In which words, is a manifest allusion to a

custom prevailing in our Lord's time among the Jews, at marriage

solemnities, which were generally at night, and at which it was customary

for the persons of the bride-chamber to go out in procession, with many

lights, to meet the bridegroom. By the bridegroom, you are here to

understand Jesus Christ. The church, i.e. true believers, are his Israel;

he is united to them by one spirit, even in this life; but the solemnizing

of their sacred nuptials, is reserved till the day of judgment, when he

shall come to take them home to himself, and present them before men and

angels, as his purchase, to his Father, without spot or wrinkle, or any

such thing. By the ten virgins we are to understand, the professors of

Christianity in general. All are called virgins, because all are called to

be saints. Whosoever names the name of Christ, is obliged by that

profession to depart from all iniquity. But the pure and chaste in heart,

are the only persons that will be blessed as to see God. As Christ was born

of a virgin, so he can dwell in none but virgins souls, made pure and holy

by the cohabitation of his holy Spirit. What says the apostle? "All are not

Israel that are of Israel," all are not Christians that are called after

the name of Christ: No, says our Lord, in the 2nd verse, "Five of those

virgins were wise," true believers, "and five were foolish," formal

hypocrites. But why are five said to be wise, and the other five foolish?

Hear what our Lord says in the following verses; "They that were foolish

took their lamps, and took no oil with them: but the wise took oil in their

vessels with their lamps." They that were foolish took their lamps of an

outward profession. They would go to church, say over several manuals of

prayers, come perhaps into a field to hear a sermon, give at a collection,

and receive the sacrament constantly, nay, oftener than once a month. But

then here lay the mistake; they had no oil in their lamps, no principle of

grace, no living faith in their hearts, without which, though we should

give all our goods to feed the poor, and our bodies to be burnt, it would

profit us nothing. In short, they were exact, nay, superstitious bigots as

to the form, but all the while they were strangers to, and, in effect,

denied the power of godliness in their hearts. They would go to church, but

at the same time, think it no harm to go to a ball or an assembly,

notwithstanding they promised at their baptism, to renounce the pomps and

vanities of this wicked world. They were so exceedingly fearful of being

righteous over-much, that they would even persecute those that were truly

devout, if they attempted to go a step farther than themselves. In one

word, they never effectually felt the power of the world to come. They

thought they might be Christians without so much inward feeling, and

therefore, notwithstanding their high pretensions, had only a name of live.

And now, Sirs, let pause a while, and in the name of God, whom I

endeavor to serve in the gospel of his dear Son, give me leave to ask one

question. Whilst I have been drawing, though in miniature, the character of

these foolish virgins, have not many of your consciences made the

application, and with a small, still, though articulate voice, said, Thou

man, thou woman, art one of those foolish virgins, for thy sentiments and

practice agree thereto? Stifle not, but rather encourage these convictions;

and who knows, but that Lord who is rich in mercy to all that call upon him

faithfully, may so work upon you even by this foolishness of preaching, as

to make you wise virgins before you return home?

What they were you shall know immediately: "But the wise took oil in

their vessels with their lamps." Observe, the wise, the true believers, had

their lamps as well as the foolish virgins; for Christianity does not

require us to cast off all outward forms; we may use forms, and yet not be

formal: for instance, it is possible to worship God in a set form of

prayer, and yet worship him in spirit and in truth. And therefore,

brethren, let us not judge one another. The wise virgins had their lamps;

herein did not lie the difference between them and the foolish, that one

worshipped God with a form, and the other did not: No: as the Pharisee and

Publican went up to the temple to pray, so these wise and foolish virgins

might go to the same place of worship, and sit under the same ministry; but

then the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps; they kept up the

form, but did not rest in it; their words in prayer were the language of

their hearts, and they were no strangers to inward feelings; they were not

afraid of searching doctrines, nor affronted when ministers told them they

deserved to be damned; they were not self-righteous, but were willing that

Jesus Christ should have all the glory of their salvation; they were

convinced that the merits of Jesus Christ were to be apprehended only by

faith; but yet were they as careful to maintain good works, as though they

were to be justified by them: in short, their obedience flowed from love

and gratitude, and was cheerful, constant, uniform, universal, like that

obedience which the holy angels pay our Father in heaven.

Here then let me exhort you to pause again; and if any of you can

faithfully apply these characters to your hearts, give God the glory, and

take the comfort to your own souls; you are not false but true believers.

Jesus Christ has been made of God to you wisdom, even that wisdom, whereby

you shall be made wise unto salvation. God sees a difference between you

and foolish virgins, if natural men will not. You need not be uneasy,

though one chance and fate in this may happen to you both. I say, once

chance and fate; for, ver. 5 "while the bridegroom tarried," in the space

of time which passed between our Lord's ascension and his coming again to

judgment, "they all slumbered and slept." The wise as well as foolish died,

for dust we are, and to dust we must return. It is no reflection at all

upon the divine goodness, that believers, as well as hypocrites, must pass

through the valley of the shadow of death; for Christ has taken away the

sting of death, so that we need fear no evil. It is to them a passage to

everlasting life: death is only terrible to those who have no hope, because

they live without faith in the world. Whosoever there are amongst you, that

have received the first-fruits of the spirit, I am persuaded you are ready

to cry out, we would not live here always, we long to be dissolved, that we

may be with Jesus Christ; and though worms must destroy our bodies as well

as others, yet we are content, being assured that our Redeemer liveth, that

he will stand at the latter days upon the earth, and that in our flesh we

shall see God.

But it is not so with hypocrites and unbelievers beyond the grave; for

what says our Lord? "And at midnight:" observe, at midnight, when all was

hushed and quiet, and no one dreaming of any such thing, "a cry was made;"

the voice of the arch-angel and the trump of God was heard sounding this

general alarm; to things in heaven, to things in earth, and to things in

the waters under the earth, "Behold!" mark how this awful summons is

ushered in with the word BEHOLD, to engage our attention? "Behold the

bridegroom cometh!" even Jesus Christ, the desire of nations, the

bridegroom of his spouse the church: Because he tarried for a while to

exercise the faith of saints, and give sinners space to repent, scoffers

were apt to cry out, "Where is the promise of his coming? But the Lord is

not slack concerning his promise, as these men account slackness." For

behold, he that was to come, now cometh, and will not tarry any longer: he

cometh to be glorified in his saints, and to take vengeance on them that

know not God, and have not obeyed his gospel: he cometh not as a poor

despised Galilean; not be laid in a stinking manger; not to be despised and

rejected of men; not to be blindfolded, spit upon, and buffeted; not to be

nailed to an accursed tree; he cometh not as the Son of man, but as he

really was, the eternal Son of the eternal God: He cometh riding on the

wings of the wind, in the glory of the Father and his holy angels, and to

be had in everlasting reverence of all that shall be round about him. 'Go

ye forth to meet him;" arise, ye dead, ye foolish, as well as wise virgin,

arise and come to judgment. Multitudes, not doubt, that hear this awakening

cry, would rejoice if the rocks might fall on, and the hills cover them

from the presence of the Lamb: what would they give, if as they lived as

beasts, they might now die like the beasts that perish? How would they

rejoice, if those same excuses which they made on this side eternity for

not attending on holy ordinances, would serve to keep them from appearing

before the heavenly bridegroom! But as Adam, notwithstanding his fig-

leaves, and the trees of the garden, could not hide himself from God, when

arrested with an "Adam, where art thou?" So now the decree is gone forth,

and the trump of God has given its last sound; all tongues, people,

nations, and languages, both wise and foolish virgins, must come into his

presence, and bow beneath his footstool; even Pontius Pilate, Annas and

Caiaphas; even the proud persecuting high-priests and Pharisees of this

generation, must appear before him: for says our Lord, "then, (when the cry

was made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh!) in a moment, in the twinkling of

an eye, the graves were opened, the sea gave up its dead, and "all those

virgins, both wise and foolish, arose and trimmed their lamp," or

endeavored to put themselves in a proper posture to meet the bridegroom.

But how may we imagine the foolish virgins were surprised, when,

notwithstanding their high thoughts and proud imaginations of their

security, they now find themselves wholly naked, and void of that inward

holiness and purity of heart, without which no man living at that day shall

comfortably meet the Lord! I doubt not, but may of these foolish virgins,

whilst in this world, were clothed in purple and fine linen, fared

sumptuously every day, and disdained [1. To consider unworthy of one's

regard or notice; treat with contempt or scorn: to disdain a coward. 2. To

consider unworthy of one's position or character; refuse scornfully: to

disdain to beg for food. --n. A feeling or attitude of superiority and

dislike; proud contempt.] to set the wise virgins, some of whom might be as

poor as Lazarus, even with the dogs of their flock. These were looked upon

by them as enthusiasts and madmen, as persons that were righteous over-

much, and who intended to turn the world upside down: but now death hath

opened their eyes, and convinced them, to their eternal sorrow, that he is

not a true Christian, who is only one outwardly. Now they find (though,

alas! too late) they, and not the wise virgins, had been beside themselves.

Now their proud hearts are made to stoop, their lofty looks are brought

low; and as Dives entreated that Lazarus might dip the tip of his finger in

water, and be sent to cool his tongue, so these foolish virgins, these

formal hypocrites, are obliged to turn beggars to those whom they once

despised: "Give us of your oil;" O! impart to us a little of that grace and

holy spirit, for the insisting on which we fools accounted your lives

madness; for alas! "our lamps are gone out;" we had only the form of

godliness; we were whited sepulchers; we were heart-hypocrites; we

contented ourselves with desiring to be good; and though confident of

salvation whilst we lived, yet our hope is entirely gone, now God has taken

away our souls: Give us therefore, O! give us, though we once despised you,

give us of your oil, for our lamps of an outward profession, and transient

convictions, are quite gone out. "Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith

the Lord." My brethren in Christ, hear what the foolish say to the wise

virgins, and learn in patience to possess your souls. If you are true

followers of the lowly Jesus, I am persuaded you have your names cast out,

and all manner of evil spoken falsely against you, for his name's sake; for

no one ever did or will live godly in Christ Jesus, without suffering

persecution; nay, I doubt not but your chief foes are those of your own

household: tell me, do not your carnal relations and friends vex your

tender souls day by day, in bidding you spare yourselves, and take heed

lest you go too far: And as you passed along to come and hear the word of

God, have you not heard many a Pharisee cry out, Here comes another troop

of his followers! Brethren, be not surprised, Christ's servants were always

the world's fools; you know it hated him before it hated you. Rejoice and

be exceeding glad. Yet a little while, and behold the bridegroom cometh,

and then shall you hear these formal scoffing Pharisees saying unto you,

"Give us of your oil, for our lamps are gone out." When you are reviled,

revile not again: when you suffer, threaten not; commit your souls into the

hands of him that judgeth righteously: for behold the day cometh, when the

children of God shall speak for themselves.

The wise virgins, in the parable, no doubt endured the same cruel

mockings as you may do, but as the lamb before the shearers is dumb, so in

this life opened they not their mouths; but now we find they can give their

enemies an answer: "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you; but go

ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." These words are not

to be understood as though they were spoken in an insulting manner; for

true charity teaches us to use the worst of sinners, and our most bitter

enemies, with the meekness and gentleness of Christ: Though Dives was in

hell, yet Abraham does not say, Thou villain, but only, "Son, remember:"

and I am persuaded, had it been in the power of these wise virgins, they

would have dealt with the foolish virgins, as God knows, I would willingly

deal with my most inveterate [firmly established by long continuance]

enemies, not only give them of their oil, but also exalt them to the right

hand of God. It was not then for want of love, but the fear of wanting a

sufficiency for themselves, that made them return this answer, "Not so,

lest there be not enough for us and you:" For they that have most grace,

have none to spare; none but self-righteous, foolish virgins think they are

good enough, or have already attained. Those who are truly wise are always

most distrustful of themselves, pressing forwards to the things that are

before, and think it well if after they have done all, they can make their

calling and election sure. "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and

you; but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves." These

words indeed seem to be spoken in a triumphant, but certainly they were

uttered in the most compassionate manner; "go ye to them that sell, and buy

for yourselves;" unhappy virgins! you accounted our lives folly; whilst

with you in the body, how often have you condemned us for our zeal in

running to hear the word of God, and looked upon us as enthusiasts, for

talking and affirming, that we must be led by the spirit, and walk by the

spirit, and feel the spirit of God witnessing with our spirits, that we are

his children? But now you would be glad to be partakers of this privilege,

but it is not ours to give. You contented yourselves with seeking, when you

should have been striving to enter in at the strait gate. And now go to

them that sell, if you can, and buy for yourselves.

And what say you to this, ye foolish formal professors? For I doubt

not but curiosity and novelty hath brought many such, even to this despised

place, to hear a sermon. Can you hear this reply to the foolish virgins,

and yet not tremble? Why, yet a little while, and thus it shall be done to

you. Rejoice and bolster yourselves up in your duties and forms; endeavor

to cover your nakedness with the fig-leaves of an outward profession and a

legal righteousness, and despise the true servants of Christ as much as you

please, yet know, that all your hopes will fail you when God brings you

into judgment. For not he who commendeth himself is justified, but he whom

the Lord commendeth.

But to return; we do not hear of any reply the foolish virgins make:

No, their consciences condemned them; like the person without a wedding-

garment, they are struck dumb, and are now filled with anxious thoughts how

they shall buy oil, that they may lift up their heads before the

bridegroom. "But whilst they went to buy," ver. 10, whilst they were

thinking what they should do, the bridegroom, the Lord Jesus, the king, the

husband of his spouse the church, cometh, attended with thousands and

twenty times then thousands of saints and angels, publicly to count up his

jewels; "and they that were ready," the wise virgins who had oil in their

lamp, and were sealed by his spirit to the day of redemption, these having

on the wedding garment of an imputed righteousness, and a new nature, "went

in with him to the marriage."

But who can express the transports that these wise virgins felt, when

they were thus admitted, in holy triumph, into the presence and full

enjoyment of him, whom their souls hungered and thirsted after! No doubt

they had tasted of his love, and by faith had often fed on him in their

hearts, when sitting down to commemorate his last supper here on earth; but

how full may we think their hearts and tongues were of his praises, when

they see themselves seated together to eat bread in his heavenly kingdom.

And what was best of all, "the door was shut, and shut them in, to enjoy

the ever blessed God, and the company of angels and the spirits of just men

made perfect, without interruption for evermore. I say, without

interruption; for in this life, their eyes often gushed out with water,

because men kept not God's law; and they could never come to appear before

the Lord, or to hear his word, but Satan and his emissaries would come also

to disturb them; but now "the door is shut," now there is a perfect

communion of saints, which they in vain longed for in this lower world; not

tares no longer grow up with the wheat; not one single hypocrite or

unbeliever can screen himself amongst them. "Now the wicked cease from

troubling, and now their weary souls enjoy an everlasting rest."

Once more, O believers, let me exhort you in patience to possess your

souls. God, if he has freely justified you by faith in his son, and given

you his spirit, has sealed you to be his; and has secured you, as surely as

he secured Noah, when he locked him in the ark. But though heirs of God,

and joint heirs with Christ, and neither men nor devils can pluck you our

of your heavenly Father's hand, yet you must be tossed about with manifold

temptations; however, lift up your heads, the day of your perfect, complete

redemption draweth nigh. Behold the bridegroom cometh to take you to

himself, the door shall be shut, and you shall be for ever with the Lord.

But I even tremble to tell you, O nominal Christians, that the door

will be shut, I mean the door of mercy, never, never to be opened to give

you admission, though you should continue knocking to all eternity. For

thus speaks our Lord, v. 11. "Afterwards," after those that were ready went

in, and the door was shut; after they had, to their sorrow, found that no

oil was to be bought, no grace to be procured, "came also the other

virgins;" and as Esau, after Jacob had gotten the blessing, cried with an

exceeding bitter cry, "Bless me, even me also, O my father;" so they came

saying, "Lord, Lord, open to us." Observe the importunity of these foolish

virgins, implied in the words, "Lord, Lord." Whilst in the body, I suppose

they only read, did not pray over their prayers. If you now tell them, they

should "pray without ceasing," they should pray from their hearts, and feel

the want of what they pray for; they would answer, they could not tell what

you mean by inward feelings; that God did not require us to be always on

our knees, but if a man did justly, and loved mercy, and did as the church

forms required him, it was as much as the Lord required at his hands.

I fear, sirs, too many among us are of this mind: nay, I fear there

are many so polite, so void of the love of God, as to think it too great a

piece of self-denial, to rise early to offer up a sacrifice of praise and

thanksgiving acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. If any such, by the

good providence of God, are brought hither this morning, I beseech you to

consider your ways, and remember, if you are not awakened out of your

spiritual lethargy, and live a life of prayer here, you shall but in vain

cry out with the foolish virgins, "Lord, Lord, open unto us," hereafter.

Observe farther, the impudence, as well as importunity of these other

virgins; "Lord, Lord," say they, as though they were intimately acquainted

with the holy Jesus. Like numbers among us, who because they go to church,

repeat their creeds, and receive the blessed sacrament, think they have a

right to call Jesus their Savior, and dare call God their Father, when they

put up the Lord's prayer. But Jesus is not your Savior. The devil, not God,

is your father, unless your hearts are purified by faith, and you are born

again from above. It is not merely being baptized by water, but being born

again of the Holy Ghost that must qualify you for salvation; and it will do

you no service at the great day, to say unto Christ, Lord, my name is in

the register of such and such a parish. I am persuaded, the foolish virgins

could say this and more; but what answer did Jesus make? He answered and

said, ver. 12, "Verily, I say unto you:" He puts the VERILY, to assure them

he was in earnest. "I say unto you," I who am truth itself, I whom you have

owned in words, but in works denied, "verily, I say unto you, I know you

not." These words must not be understood literally; for whatever Arians and

Socinians may say to the contrary, yet we affirm, that Jesus Christ is God,

God blessed for ever, and therefore knoweth all things. He saw Nathaniel,

when under the fig-tree: he sees, and is not looking down from heaven his

dwelling-place, upon us, to see how we behave in these fields. Brethren, I

know nothing of the thoughts and intents of your hearts, in coming hither;

but Jesus Christ knows who came like new-born babes, desirous to be fed

with the sincere milk of the word; and he knows who came to hear what the

babbler says, and to run away with part of a broken sentence, that they may

have whereof to accuse him. This expression then, "I know you not," must

not be understood literally; no, it implies a knowledge of approbation, as

though Christ has said, "You call me, Lord, Lord, but you have not done the

things that I have said; you desire me to open the door, but how can you

come in hither not having on a wedding garment? Alas, you are naked! Where

is my outward righteousness imputed to you? Where is my divine image

stamped upon your souls? How dare you call me Lord, Lord, when you have not

received the Holy Ghost, whereby I seal all that are truly mine? "Verily, I

know you not; depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared

for the devil and his angels."

And now, he that hath ears to hear, let him hear what manner of

persons these were, whom Jesus Christ dismissed with this answer. Remember,

I entreat you, remember they are not sent away for being fornicators,

swearers, Sabbath-breakers, or prodigals. No, in all probability, as I

observed before, they were, touching the outward observance of the moral

law, blameless; they were constant as to the form of religion; and if they

did no good, yet no one could say, they did any one any harm. The only

thing for which they were condemned, and eternally banished from the

presence of the Lord, (for so much is implied in "I know you not") was

this, they had no oil in their lamps, no principle of a true living faith

and holiness in their hearts. And if persons may go to church, receive the

sacrament, lead honest moral lives, and yet be sent to hell at the last

day, as they certainly will be if they advance no farther, Where wilt thou,

O drunkard? Where wilt thou, O swearer? Where wilt thou, O Sabbath-breaker?

Where wilt thou that deniest divine revelation, and even the form of

godliness? Where wilt you, and such like sinners appear? I know very well.

You must appear before the dreadful tribunal of Jesus Christ; however you

may, like Felix, put off the prosecution of your convictions, yet you, as

well as others, must arise after death, and appear in judgment; you will

then find, to your eternal sorrow, what I just hinted at in the beginning

of this discourse, that your damnation slumbereth not: sin has blinded your

hearts, and hardened your foreheads now, but yet a little while, and our

Lord will ease him of his adversaries. Methinks, by faith, I see the

heavens opened, and the holy Jesus coming, with his face brighter than ten

thousand suns, darting fury upon you from his eyes! Methinks I see you

rising from your graves, trembling and astonished, and crying out, who can

abide this day of his coming!

And now what inference shall I draw from what has been delivered? Our

Lord, in the words of the text, has drawn one for me; "Watch therefore, for

ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."

"Watch," that is, be upon your guard, and keep your graces in

continual exercise. For as when we are commanded to watch unto prayer, it

signifies that we should continue instant in that duty; so when we are

required to watch in general, it means that we should put on the whole

armor of God, and live every day as though it was our last. And O that the

Lord may now enable me to lift up my voice like a trumpet! For had I a

thousand tongues, or could I speak so loud that the whole world might hear

me, I could not sound a more useful alarm than that which is contained in

the text. Watch therefore, my brethren, I beseech you by the mercies of God

in Christ Jesus, watch; be upon your guard; awake, ye that sleep in the

dust: for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man

cometh. Perhaps today, perhaps this midnight, the cry may be made: "for in

a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the trump is to sound." However,

supposing the final day of judgment may yet be a great way off, the day of

death is certainly near at hand: for what is our life? "It is but a vapor,"

but a span long, soon passeth it away, and we are gone. Blessed be God, we

are all here well; but who, out of this great multitude, dares say, I shall

go home to my house in safety? Who knows, but whilst I am speaking, God may

commission his ministering spirits immediately to call some of you away by

a sudden stroke, to give an account with what attention you have heard this

sermon. You know, my brethren, some such instances we have lately had. And

what angel or spirit hath assured us, that some of you shall not be the

next? "Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein

the Son of man will come;" And it is chiefly for this reason, that God has

hidden the day of our deaths from us. For since I know not but I may die to

morrow, why, O my soul, may each of us say, wilt thou not watch to day?

Since I know not but I may die the next moment, why wilt thou not prepare

for dying this? Many such reflections as these, my brethren, crowd in upon

my mind. At present, blessed be the Lord, who delights to magnify his

strength in a poor worm's weakness, I am at a stand, not so much about what

I shall say, as what I shall leave unsaid. My belly, like Elihu's, is, as

it were, full of new wines; "out of the abundance of my heart my mouth

speaketh." The seeing so great a multitude standing before me; a sense of

the infinite majesty of that God in whose name I preach, and before whom I

as well as you must appear, to give an account, and the uncertainty there

is whether I shall live another day, to speak to you any more: these

considerations, especially the presence of God, which I feel upon my soul,

furnishes me with so much matter, that I scarce know where to begin, or

where to end my application. However, for method-sake, by the divine

assistance, I will branch it into three particulars.

And FIRST, I would remind you that are notoriously ungodly, of what

our Lord says in the text: For though I have said that your damnation

slumbereth no, whilst you continue in an impenitent state; yet that was

only to set you upon your watch, to convince you of your danger, and excite

you to cry out, "What shall we do to be saved?" I appeal to all that hear

me, whether I have said, the door of mercy should be shut against you, if

you believe on Jesus Christ: No, if you are the chief of sinners; if you

are murderers of fathers, and murderers of mothers; if you are emphatically

the dung and offscouring of all things; yet if you believe on Jesus Christ,

and cry unto him with the same faith as the expiring thief, "Lord, remember

me, now thou art in thy kingdom;" I will pawn my eternal salvation upon it,

if he does not shortly translate you to his heavenly paradise. Wonder not

at my speaking with so much assurance: For I know "it is a faithful and

true saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the

world to save (all truly affected and believing) sinners: Nay, so great is

his love, that I am persuaded, was it necessary, he would come again into

the world, and die a second time for them on the cross. But, blessed be

God, when our Lord bowed down his head, and gave up the ghost, our

redemption was finished. It is not our sins, but our want of a lively faith

in his blood, that will prove our condemnation: if you draw near to him by

faith, though ye are the worst of sinners, yet he will not say unto you,

"Verily I know you not." No, a door of mercy shall be opened to you. Look

then, look then, by an eye of faith, to that God-man whom ye have pierced.

Behold him bleeding, panting, dying upon the cross, with arms stretched out

ready to embrace you all. Hark! How he groans! See how all nature is in

agony! The rocks rend, the graves open; the sun withdraws its light,

ashamed as it were to see the God of nature suffer; and all this to usher

in man's great redemption. Nay, the Holy Jesus, in the very agonies and

pangs of death, prays for his very murderers; "Father, forgive them, for

they know not what they do." If then you have crucified the Son of God

afresh, and put him to an open shame, yet do not despair, only believe, and

even this shall be forgiven. You have read, at least you have heard, no

doubt, how three thousand were converted at St. Peter's preaching one

single sermon, after our Lord's ascension into heaven; and many of those

who crucified the Lord of glory undoubtedly were amongst them, and why

should you despair? For "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for

ever." The Holy Ghost shall be sent down on you, as well as on them, if you

do but believe; for Christ ascended up on high to receive this gift even

for the vilest of men. Come then, all ye that are weary and heavy laden

with the sense of your sins, lay hold on Christ by faith, and he will give

you rest; for salvation is the free gift of God to all them that believe.

And though you may think this too good news to be true, yet I speak the

truth in Christ, I lie not, this is the gospel, this is the glad tidings

which we are commissioned to preach to every creature. Be not faithless

then, but believing. Let not the devil lead you captive at his will any

longer; for all the wages he gives his servants is death, death often in

this life, death everlasting in the next: But the free gift of God, is

eternal life to all that believe in Jesus Christ. Pharisees are and will be

offended at my coming here, and offering you salvation on such cheap terms;

but the more they bid me hold my peace, the more will I cry out and

proclaim to convicted sinners, that Jesus, David's Son according to the

flesh, but David's Lord as he was God, will have mercy upon all that by a

living faith truly turn to him. If this is to be vile, I pray God, I may be

more vile. If they will not let me preach Christ crucified, and offer

salvation to poor sinners in a church, I will preach him in the lanes,

streets, highways and hedges; and nothing pleases me better, than to think

I am now in one of the devil's strongest holds. Surely, the Lord has not

sent me and all you hither for nothing; no, blessed be God, the fields are

white ready unto harvest, and many souls I hope will be gathered into his

heavenly garner. It is true, it is the midnight of the church, especially

the poor church of England, but God has lately sent forth his servants to

cry, "Behold the bridegroom cometh:" I beseech you, O sinners, hearken unto

the voice! Let me espouse you by faith to my dear master; and henceforward

"watch and pray," that you may be ready to go forth to meet him.

SECONDLY, I would apply myself to those amongst you, that are not

openly profane, but by depending on a formal round of duties, deceive your

own souls, and are only foolish virgins. But I must speak to your

conviction, rather than your comfort. My dear brethren, do not deceive your

own souls. You have heard how far the foolish virgins went, and yet were

answered with "Verily I know you not." The reason is, because none but such

who have a living faith in Jesus Christ, and are truly born again, can

possibly enter into the kingdom of heaven. You may, perhaps, live honest

and outwardly moral lives, but if you depend on that morality, or join your

works with your faith, in order to justify you before God, you have no lot

or share in Christ's redemption: For what is this but to deny the Lord that

has bought you? What is this but making yourselves your own Saviors? Taking

the crown from Jesus Christ, and putting it on your own heads? The crime of

the devil, some have supposed, consisted in this, that he would not bow to

Jesus Christ, when the Father commanded all the angels to worship him; and

what do you less? You will not own and submit to his righteousness; and

though you pretend to worship him with your lips, yet your hearts are far

from him; besides you, in effect, deny the operations of his blessed

spirit, you mistake common for effectual grace; you hope to be saved,

because you have good desires, and a few short convictions; and what is

this, but to give God, his word, and all his saints, the lie? A Jew, a

Turk, has equally as good grounds whereon to build his hopes of salvation.

Need I not then to cry out to you, ye foolish virgins, watch. Beg of God to

convince you of your self-righteousness, and the secret unbelief of your

hearts; or otherwise, whensoever the cry shall be made, "Behold the

bridegroom cometh," you will find yourselves utterly unprepared to go forth

to meet him: You may cry "Lord, Lord;" but the answer will be, "Verily, I

know you not."

THIRDLY, I would speak a word or two by way of exhortation to those

who are wise virgins, and are assured that they have on a wedding garment.

That there are many such amongst you, who by grace have renounced your own

righteousness, and know that the righteousness of the Lord Jesus is imputed

to you, I make no doubts. God has his secret ones in the worst of times;

and I am persuaded he has not let so loud a gospel cry to be made amongst

his people, as of late has been heard, for nothing. No, I am confident, the

Holy Ghost has been given to many at the preaching of faith, and has

powerfully fallen upon many, whilst they have been hearing the word. You

are now then no longer foolish, but wise virgins; notwithstanding, I

beseech you also to suffer the word of exhortation, for wise virgins are

too apt, whilst the bridegroom tarries, to slumber and sleep. Watch

therefore, my dear brethren, watch and pray, at this time especially; for

perhaps a time of suffering is at hand. The ark of the Lord begins already

to be driven into the wilderness. Be ye therefore upon your watch, and

still persevere in following your Lord, even without the camp, bearing his

reproach; the cry that has been lately made, has awakened the devil and his

servants; they begin to rage horribly; and well they may; for I hope their

kingdom is in danger. Watch therefore, for if we are not always upon our

guard, a time of trial may overtake us unawares; and instead of owning,

like Peter we may be tempted to deny our master. Set death and eternity

often before you. Look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith,

and consider how little a while it will be, ere he comes to judgment; and

then our reproach shall be wiped away; the accusers of us and our brethren

shall be cast down, and we all shall be lodged in heaven for ever, with our

dear Lord Jesus.

LASTLY, what I say unto you, I say unto all, watch; high and low, rich

and poor, young and old, one with another, I beseech you, by the mercies of

Jesus, to be upon your guard: fly, fly to Jesus Christ, that heavenly

bridegroom; behold he desires to take you to himself, miserable, poor,

blind and naked as you are; he is willing to clothe you with his

everlasting righteousness, and make you partakers of that glory, which he

enjoyed with the Father before the world began. Do not turn a deaf ear to

me; do not reject the message on account of the meanness of the messenger.

I am a child; but the Lord has chosen me, that the glory might be all his

own. Had he sent to invite you by a learned rabbi, you might have been

tempted to think the man had done something; but now God has sent a child,

that the excellency of the power may be seen not to be of man, but of God.

Let the learned Pharisees then despise my youth: I care not how vile I

appear in the sight of such men; I glory in it. And I am persuaded, if any

of you should be married to Christ by this preaching, you will have no

reason to repent, when you come to heaven, that God sent a child to cry,

"Behold the bridegroom cometh!" O! my brethren, the thought of being

instrumental in bringing one of you to glory, fills me with fresh zeal.

Once more I entreat you, "Watch, watch and pray:" For the Lord Jesus will

receive all that call upon him faithfully. Let that cry, "Behold the

bridegroom cometh," be continually sounding in your ears; and begin now to

live, as though you were assured, this night you were to "go forth to meet

him." I could say more, but the other business and duties of the day oblige

me o stop. May the Lord give you all an hearing ear, and obedient heart,

and so closely unite you to himself by one spirit, that when he shall come

in terrible majesty, to judge mankind, you may be found having on a wedding

garment, and ready to go in with him to the marriage.

Grant this, O Lord, for thy dear Son's sake!