This Night You Are to Go Forth

From “Wise and Foolish Virgins” (1739)

If Jesus Christ may be our judge they [i.e. the “almost Christian”] 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? At the Day of the Judgment, which he had been discoursing of in the foregoing and prosecutes in this chapter, shall the Kingdom of Heaven, i.e. the state of professors in the Gospel Church, be likened to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went forth to meet the bridegroom…

The Church i.e., true believers, are his spouse. Christ is united to them by one Spirit even in this life, but the solemnizing of these sacred nuptials is reserved until 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 very profession to depart from all iniquity. The pure and chaste in heart are the only persons that will be so blessed as to see God. As Christ was born of a virgin’s womb, so he can dwell in none but virgins souls, made pure and holy by the cohabitation of his Holy Spirit.

But what says Paul? “All are not Israelites that are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6).  All are not true Christians that are called after the name of Christ. No, says our Lord. Five of these virgins were wise, i.e. true believers; and five were foolish, i.e. 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 lamps. They that were foolish took their lamps, i.e. the lamp of an outward profession… But they had no oil in their Lamps, no true principle of grace, no living faith…

“Comfort, comfort, my people says the Lord,” with this. 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… My brethren once more I intreat you, watch, watch, and pray for the Lord Jesus will receive all that call upon him faithfully. Let that cry, “Behold the Bridegroom comes,” be continually sounding in your ears; and begin now to live as though you were assured that this night you are to go forth to meet him.


George Whitefield (1714-1770) was an Anglican priest and evangelist, a leader of the first Great Awakening. As a student at Oxford, he was part of John and Charles Wesley’s Holy Club, committing himself to serious discipleship. After his ordination he became an itinerant evangelist, and is estimated to have preached 18,000 sermons to as many as 10 million people in thirty years of ministry in Britain and the American colonies. This sermon was delivered in his early ministry, at the Moorfields, an open space near the center of London.


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