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“OUR LAMPS ARE GONE OUT.” THE sacred writings, and particularly the parables of our Lord, receive much illustration from the usages of the east at the present day. “The manners of the east," says Morier, " amid all the changes of government and religion, are still the same: they are living impressions from an original monld; and at every step, some object, some dress, or some custom of common life, reminds the traveller of ancient times, and confirms the beauty, the accuracy, and the propriety of the language, and the history of the Bible.” If we look, for instance, at the parable of the ten virgins, we find that even now the bridegroom goes in procession to convey his bride to her home at midnight, or late in the evening ; that the bride is attended by young females, generally ten in number, and that she is awakened by cries from without, “ The bridegroom cometh ;" still torches are borne by the attendants, who carry " oil in their vessels with their lamps ;' those who are APRIL, 1847.
ready, enter in with the procession to the marriage feast, after which the door is shut.
A missionary in the East Indies has furnished us with an account of an eastern wedding, in which it would almost appear that the parable of the ten virgins took place before his eyes. He says, “ The bridegroom came from a distance, and the bride lived at Serampore, to which place he was to come by water. After waiting two or three hours, at length, near midnight, it was announced, as if in the very words of Scripture, · Behold, the bridegroom cometh ; go ye out to meet him.' All the persons employed now lighted their lamps, and ran with them in their hands to fill up their stations in the procession. Some of them had lost their lights, and were unprepared, but it was then too late to seek them. The cavalcade moved forward to the house of the bride, at which place the company entered a large and splendidly illuminated area, before the house,' covered with an awning, where a multitude of friends, dressed in their best apparel, were seated upon mats. The bridegroom was carried in the arms of a friend, and placed on a superb seat in the midst of the company, where he sat a short time, and then went into the house, the door of which was immediately shut, and guarded by sepoys. I, and others, expostulated with the door-keepers, but in vain. Never was I so struck with our Lord's beautiful parable as at that moment, and the door was shut.'”
The lamps used on such occasions are called in some parts of the east mesh-'als. A mesh-'al is formed of a staff, with a round frame-work of iron on the top, in which are placed linen rags, or tow. To keep the light of the torch from going out, it is necessary, from time to time, to moisten the rags with oil. When it is proclaimed that the bridegroom is at hand, the attendants arise, and “trim their lamps.” We may imagine the distress and dismay of the foolish virgins when they found they had no oil : it was then too late to repair their neglect, and, in the bitterness of their disappointment, they raise the mournful cry, “Our lamps are gone out!” How impressive the lesson we are taught by these words! May we have grace to heed it ere we are called, at an hour we least expect, to go forth to meet the heavenly Bridegroom.
" Our lamps.” How many are there now who appear as the professed friends of the Bridegroom, and who are found in the society of the bride, the church! They carry their
lamps; they have a show, a profession. They join with the people of God in their worship; they are united to them by many friendships ; they co-operate with them in their works of benevolence. Their views of Divine truth are correct; their lives are free from reproach. But where are the oil and the light? “They come unto thee,” said the Lord to his prophet, "as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness,” Ezek. xxxiii. 31. It is to be feared there are many in the professing church of Christ in the present day whose conduct too plainly answers to that of the foolish virgins. They are numbered with the church, but they are sleeping in the midst of it. They have a “ form of godliness," but where is the power? They have “ a name to live," but they are careless, and cold, and dead.
“ Are gone out.”, But with many, were they ever lit up ? Or, if there appeared a faint glimmer of light, it has long since been extinguished. No oil of grace now is found in their empty lamps; no unction of the Spirit refreshes their souls. Where is the deep sense of the evil of sin which marks the experience of the true believer? Where the godly sorrow of heart which leads to tears of penitence in secret ? When does the anxious spirit cast itself at the foot of the cross? How is the life of faith in the Son of God manifested by works of evangelical obedience? The lamps are still held boldly on high ; but they are gone out, and the holders of them strangely know it not. It is not until they hear the cry that they think of trimming their lamps, and then they find they have no oil in the vessel. Their vain hope, their false comfort, and their empty profession are now at an end.
At what hour is the delusion exposed ? At midnight ; when the cry is heard, “ Behold, the Bridegroom conieth; go ye out to meet him.” At a time when it is too late to repair their fatal error. They had not thought of an hour of need, and it comes upon them ere they are aware. They had been sleeping; their dreams had been pleasant; and they now awake to discover their awful mistake. They apply to their friends to lend them of their oil, but they have none to spare. They hasten to buy, but there is none to be obtained at that season of the night. How many counterparts to this conduct are to be found! When, at an unexpected hour, the startJing summons of death is heard, the soul is aroused from its
vain confidence: it is the darkness of midnight, and there is no oil in the vessel for the lamp. " An external profession," says an old divine, “may carry a man far, but it will not carry him through: it may light along this world, but the damps of the valley of the shadow of death will put it out.” : “ The door is shut.” The door of mercy, the gate of heaven. They stand without; and as they knock, their cry is heard, “Lord, Lord, open to us.” The only answer that reaches their ears adds to their despair: “I know you not." The church looked upon you as one of its professing members; but I, the Searcher of hearts, never knew you; depart.” There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Reader, do you carry a lamp? See to it, then, that there is oil in the vessel. Watch the lamp well, lest it should go out when most you need it. “Let your light shine before men." Live under the influence of the love of Christ, and ever seek the unction of the Holy Spirit, to keep the flame of piety alive in your heart.
Have you not a lamp? “No,” say you, "I make no profession of religion. I am no hypocrite." Does this pretext satisfy your conscience? Will it enable you to meet the hour of death in safety? If there be danger in making a false profession, is your danger less in making no profession at all? Or do you suppose that, as life is passing away you shall seek the salvation of your soul ? “ Be not deceived." “ Now is the accepted time.” Jesus now offers grace to repent, and power to believe. Look to him, for that Divine grace which will support you in life, and cheer your dying hours. J. A.C.
“IT IS SWEET TO BELIEVE IN JESUS.” The following short history is related with the hope that it may, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, be rendered useful to others. It is an account, given in her own words, of one whose life and death fully bore out her own sweet and dying testimony—that there is no real happiness out of Christ.
"I can remember," says the writer, Fanny D-, 6 very little of my father, who was a merchant, and engaged all day long away from home ; but my mother was most kind and indulgent. My first sorrow, and almost the first event in my life of any importance, was occasioned by the illness of my eldest sister, then about thirteen years of age. Being very fond of me, I was permitted to be with her a great deal. Her sufferings were often very severe; notwithstanding which, she was for some time patient and cheerful, but gradually became weak and low spirited, and would frequently burst into tears, and weep long and bitterly. One day, when we were quite alone, she drew me tenderly towards her, and made me promise to read a chapter every day in my little Bible ; which I accordingly did, for I loved her very dearly, and was touched by her earnestness.
" If I live,' said she, we will read it together. But if I die.-Oh! Fanny, Fanny, I am so afraid to die.'
“Shuddering at her wild looks, I hid my tearful face in her bosom, and tried to comfort her in my childish way. weeping all the time at the thought of losing this dear sister.
“That same evening, when my mother, in order to soothe her, lay down beside her on the bed, she put her thin arms about her mother's neck, and whispering softly told the cause of the grief that pressed so heavily on her heart; that she feared she was a very great sinner.
6. Poor innocent child, exclaimed my mother, kissing her affectionately, “what could have put such a thought into your head? You have ever been most gentle and obedient, and the joy of my heart. I only wish I was as fit to die as you are.'
“My sister suffered herself to be. soothed by her loving words and caresses, but it was only for a time. Not long afterwards, she was seized with a succession of fainting fits, and thought herself dying. Her wild cries for mercy rang in my ears for months. Oh, mother, mother,' she kept continually repeating, what will become of me? What must I do to be saved?' While my poor mother knew not how to answer her, and could only wring her hands and weep.
" No one seemed to remember that I was present, until the nurse, happening to notice me, at length took me in her arms, and carried me out of the room.
6. God grant, my poor child,' said she, that you may never forget this scene.' And her prayer was heard ; for, to this hour, every eircumstance connected with it comes back to my mind as vividly as though it were but yesterday.
" It was many weeks before I saw my sister again, in consequence of my mother's fears lest the fever from which she suffered might prove contagious; and, when allowed to go to her, I could not help bursting into tears at beholding her so