1. Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom.
2. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish.
3. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them:
4. But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.
5. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
6. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.
7 Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps.
8. And the foolish said unto the, wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
9. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves.
10. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage; and the door was shut.
11. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us.
12. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not.
13. Watch, therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
What a difference it would make in the professing church, if this, and similar portions of God’s word, were really believed. The invasion of England could not give greater surprise, or alarm, than would be the awakening of the slumbering church to the fact that the Lord was really coming: yet such is the case; and the ignorance and sleepy carelessness of the great mass of professors, but proves the divine inspiration of this parable.
Let it be remembered that this parable was spoken before the present state of things had any existence; and yet, no person could now write a more striking description of the present state of that which bears the name of God on earth. True, it was spoken to the Jews; but its instruction to us is no less solemn.
Now, to come to the point at once, what would be the case with the multitudes who profess the name of Christ, if He should come at this moment? What would mere profession be worth — the lamp without the oil?
It is written, the “foolish took no oil with them.” Yet they took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. How common this is in our day! It is quite enough to belong to some religious society; a name to live, but dead. Perhaps, a beautiful lamp; but no oil, and no light. Is this my reader’s condition? Then, there is not a moment to be lost — no, not a moment; for it is Jesus who says, “Surely, I come quickly.” Rest not a day, nor night, until you know with certainty, that you have oil in our vessel.
These are the words of truth, “Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the son of man cometh.” And again, “The day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace mid safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them.” (1 Thess. 5:2, 3.) Yea, is it not the Lord Himself who assures us, this awful event will take the world with as great surprise as did the flood in the days of Noah, and the overthrow of Sodom in the days of Lot. Now, to say the least of it, does not this subject demand a most serious consideration?
However men may explain away the Scriptures, the fact is the same: we are evidently approaching this great event — the coming of the Lord.
The very world seems conscious that some great event is at hand. If you have not got oil in your vessel, then what a terrible day is at hand. What a test this is! Look at it fully. Test your condition by this great event. Suppose the trumpet sounds, to call the dead and living saints to meet the Lord in the air, in one hour from the time you read these words, (and who can say it will not?) now are you ready to meet Christ? Does the thought give you joy? Are you sure you are His — that your sins are pardoned — that He is your Saviour, your righteousness, your sanctification, your all? Does your heart long to see Him, who has loved you, and given Himself for you? Oh, what joy then to know, in one hour you may see Him, and be like Him! Before God, is this your blessed hope? Or, are you afraid to think of the possibility of this taking place in one hour?
I must speak out, from close observation, and careful comparison of this parable with the actual state of things in this day. It is evident we have arrived at the time when the alarm must be sounded. The Lord grant that the timely warning may be heard.
Is it not fearful to contemplate how few know with certainty, or even wish to know, that they have oil in the vessel. In our day, it seems quite enough to be a member somewhere, and then fall fast asleep. If any one questions the truth of these statements, let him faithfully and affectionately put the question to all the members of any church or society, in almost any town in England; and the answer from at least five out of ten be, “I hope I have oil in the vessel, but cannot say with certainty whether it is so or not.” So let me press home the madness of leaving this solemn question in uncertainty. The moment is fast approaching, when the door being shut, it will be utterly in vain to cry, “Lord, Lord, open unto us!” How fearful the sound of those words, “I know you not.” Who can conceive the everlasting anguish of heart to reflect on a life of self-delusion; — a lost soul to say, I was a professor, a teacher, or a preacher? I often read the parable of the ten virgins. Oh, fool that I was! little did I think my own case was described in that parable.
Oh, my readers, let me ask you, point-blank, Are you saved? Have you the blessed assurance, that God has for Christ’s sake forgiven your sins? Have you received Christ? Let me once more remind you, it does not matter a straw what profession you make; if you have not got Christ, your profession will only aggravate your misery. These are the words of Him whose name you bear, “Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet him.” Oh dead, sleeping professor, “Behold He cometh.” What would you think, if you saw a child trying to stop a railway train? Just as soon will human reason and unbelief hinder the coming of the Son of God. “Every eye shall see Him.” The moment is fixed. What a moment for this world! What a moment for the five wise, and what a moment for the five foolish! What a moment to you and me! Glorified in the presence of Christ; or cast into outer darkness. Momentous question. Oh, sleepy world, awake, awake!
And blessed be the God of all grace, what an awakening there has been, and still is, in so many different parts of the world. Amongst all classes, the mighty power of the Spirit of God has been felt.
Cold professors, empty lamps, have been awakened from the sleep of death. The drunkard, the harlot, the most careless and hardened have been suddenly awakened to the awful sense and burthen of sin. No words can describe the agony of soul through which they have passed. Thousands, and tens of thousands, have been brought to enjoy the blessed certainty of God’s pardoning love and righteousness, the Holy Spirit assuring their hearts that the blood of Jesus cleanseth them from all sin. God has been pleased to use the humblest means in accomplishing this mighty work. I have seen one after another brought to hear the word by a servant girl. She continued in prayer for them, and, in answer to prayer, they were immediately brought to God, and found peace. Little boys have gone into the street, and brought in careless sinners, who have gone out justified from all things. In one place a blind infidel; in another, a cursing old sailor, utterly broken down with the sense of sin, and then filled with the joy of Christ. Old men from seventy to eighty, and little children of six, alike brought to know the certainty of salvation through the blood of the Lamb. Whole families converted! Yes, and though fifty miles, yes, I have known them hundreds of miles apart, yet converted at the same time.
Oh! do not all these things say, “Behold He cometh, go ye out to meet Him?”
One word more as to the lamp. A man must have oil in his lamp, or he cannot have a steady light. Oil first, and then the light. He may light the wick without oil. There may be a great blaze for a moment, but it cannot endure. How soon it goes out!
In like manner a man must have Christ first, then the light; he must have the Holy Spirit first, and then a holy walk will follow. A sinner trying to get salvation by a holy walk is like a man trying to get oil by burning the cotton.
If this is your case, my reader, if you have been seeking salvation by good works or a holy life, if you ever have made a great effort to be a better person, yea and for a time have made a flaming profession that you were a better person, then let me ask you to take an empty lamp, polish well the outside; put in your wick, but put no oil in it; place it on your table at night, light the wick, and sit down and watch it. All! what a flame for a moment; but I think I hear you say, as it goes out, “Ah! that is I; I have done my best to burn, but my lamp is gone out.” Man’s utmost effort ends in darkness. Oh! how many who once appeared flaming lights are now in the darkness of despair; they never had Christ, and therefore could not endure. We cannot alter God’s order. There must be the cause before the effect. The flame would as soon produce oil as good work’s produce salvation. The five foolish virgins found, to their cost, that the one thing they needed was oil. “Give us of your oil,” they say, when it was too late.
What a wail of despair will arise in that day from multitudes who have had the formal lamp of profession, but have never had Christ in their heart. There is a solemn danger in the present day to the children of Christians; they grow up zealously attached to the sect of their parents, and, with an empty lamp, slumber in fatal security; or sincerely striving for a time (without oil) to imitate the light of their parents, they become discouraged by repeated failure. Satan whispers, “It is all a sham;” and they are but too ready to be snuffed out, in infidel darkness.
Anxious, awakened soul, dost thou say, Tell me how I may get oil for my empty lamp — salvation for my perishing soul? How can I be ready to go in and be with Christ, ere the door is shut on all without? Ah! is this the cry of thy wounded heart? Then I have good news for thee. All is done; God hath fulfilled His promise, in that He hath raised up Jesus from the dead. Precious, bleeding Sacrifice, Thou hast finished the work which thy Father gave thee to do. Lamb, once slain, alive again! And oh awakened sinner, however deep the crimson dye of thy sins, through this dead and risen Christ is preached unto thee the forgiveness of sins, and by Him, all that believe are justified from all things. Acts 13:38.
Better news God could not send thee; more sure God could not make it. If God were to appear thee this moment, and speak to thee face to face, He could not say more. It could not be more sure; is the word of God to thee — forgiveness of sins to thee, my reader. Is not this what thy burthened heart wants — to be justified by God Himself from all things? I think I hear my reader say, How can I know with certainty that I am justified from all things?
Tell me two things, and I will tell thee a third.
1st. “Dost thou believe with certainty that Jesus, the Son of God, died on the cross, the sacrifice for sins?”
“Oh, yes, I believe that in my very heart.”
“How knowest thou this? God says it in His word, that is how thou knowest, is it not?”
2nd. “Dost thou believe with certainty that God hath raised up that same Jesus from the dead?”
“Yes, with certainty, I believe that in my very heart.”
"How knowest thou this? By the same bare testimony of God’s word. Then I will tell thee a third thing. That same sure word of God says, “All who believe are justified from all things.” Now, if I am certain of the first and second, why not of the third?
I know Jesus died for sins; God’s word says so. I know God raised Him from the dead; God’s word says so. I believe God. I know, then, that I am justified from all things; God’s word says so. Yes, God says plainly, all who believe are justified from all things. Oh! awakened soul, ponder these words of life. It does not say, he that feeleth, or he that doeth; feeling and doing will come after; it says, “All that believe are justified from all things.”
Do you believe that Jesus died, that Jesus rose again? Then why not believe what God says to you, and to every sinner that believeth? He says you are justified. Oh what deep, unspeakable joy this gives to every soul that believes what God says. Do you, I ask, believe God? Then you can no move doubt the certainty that Christ died, than doubt the certainty that you are justified. Your feelings and doings have no more to do with one than the other. Christ has died the sacrifice for sins. God has accepted the atonement; for He has raised Jesus from the dead. You believe this in your heart, and God declares you are justified. Blessed, unchangeable truth. Have you thus heard the voice of Jesus — the call of God? Jesus says to you, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.” John 5:24. Ah, all here is positive, real, everlasting. Away with doubts and fears; away with a negative, dark, uncertain, false Christianity. To the soul that believes these words of Jesus, all is positive, clear, certain, yea, everlasting truth. Oh, reader! dost thou hear the words of Jesus — dost thou believe on God who sent Him? Then He who cannot lie, says, “Thou hast everlasting life.” Could Jesus speak more plainly, “Hath everlasting life.” Oh, how many souls have been gladdened with these words of late; and why not thy heart; why shouldest thou any longer be in doubt, since Jesus speaks so plainly to thy anxious soul. God in His word and by His Holy Spirit, thus witnesseth to thee; thou needest no greater witness than God. Faith is the gift of God. Dost thou believe God; then surely thou hast heard His word, for faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Yea, for thy comfort will I read thee a verse of God’s soul-sustaining truth, wherein thou mayest see how completely salvation, from first to last, is wholly of God, and therefore cannot fail, “For whom He did predestinate, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified, and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” Rom. 8:30. Solid rock, this, my reader; all, all of God; from beginning to end — all of God. Rest, oh my soul, in God. Hast thou been called of God? Hast thou believed God? Then thy justification is as certain as thy call; and thy everlasting glory as certain as both. Arise, poor drooping sleeper, and awake to the certainties of God; predestinated, called, justified, glorified. Enough, my God, enough. Glory, everlasting glory be to thee, my God; thou art my justifier through the blood of the Lamb.
Once more. Hast thou, my reader, received record of God; “and this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the son, hath life.” 1 John 5:11. Yes, if thou hast believed the record of God, thou hast received Christ; thou art saved; thou hast oil in thy vessel; now for the light; now for a holy life. Stop, don’t mistake; it is no use trying for a holy life if thou art not sure first that thou hast oil in the vessel. The objecting unbeliever will say, “Oh, this man means to say, if we only believe, we may go on in sin, it is no matter; good works and a holy life are of no use at all.” I answer plainly; good works and a holy life are of no more use for salvation, than the burning of the wick is for oil. But I should be foolish indeed, to say the oil was of no use for giving and sustaining light. Nay, without the oil, the wick will not give light; and equally true is it, that without Christ first, without salvation first, there cannot be good works and a holy life. It is thus Paul, and every true servant of Christ, since his time to the present moment, have had to battle against the false, absurd doctrine of works for salvation. The sons of darkness cannot see this, and hence the hue and cry of slander. (See Rom. 3:8.) We fully confess “that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of law.” “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” “Being justified by his grace.” Then, says the Apostle, “I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God, might be careful to maintain good works.” Titus 3:4-8.
This is the simple clear truth of holy Scripture — oil first, and then the lamp burns. Salvation first, God’s free gift, then a holy life. Oil for light, not light for oil. Christ for a holy life, not a holy life, for Christ. This is the immense difference betwixt the truth of Scripture and the lie of darkness; the one sets forth Christ first, the salvation of every believer, and the only power and source of a holy walk; this gives peace, joy, the certainty of salvation, and power for holy works.
The other sets forth works first, with the, vain hope, that if they can be perfectly performed, the soul may then be saved, and sad to say, this is pretended to be the gospel of Christ. Alas! the soul, under such blind teaching, is left like the lamp without oil, in helpless darkness; sometimes a little flickering of hope and then the sinkings of despair.
Has God now delivered thee, my reader, from this awful darkness? Art thou now certain that thou hast oil in the vessel; Christ in thy heart; that his words are true; thou hast eternal life? Oh, has God thus shone in everlasting mercy upon thee? Then “I beseech you, therefore, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Read Rom. 12. It is only to the children of God, who are saved, that the precious precepts of God’s word are addressed. Oh, then, my fellow-believers, we who are saved with an everlasting salvation, at such a cost, let us arise, and trim our lamps. Have we not burnt too dimly? We are called to show forth the praises of Him who hath called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. Oh, how we have failed! What conformity to this world what worldliness! what carnality! what self-will! How little subjection of heart to God. What disgraceful sectarianism. How little real love to all God’s redeemed children. How little seeking to win souls to Christ. How little real secret communion with God, without which, the outside is mere sham. Oh, come, let us return in confession to our loving Father. Let each one, with lowliness of heart, spread out his whole case before Him, who is faithful and just to forgive, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The Lord is at hand. Behold the Bridegroom cometh. The lamp must be trimmed. Now may the Lord take off the charred crust, and so fill us with the Holy Ghost, that the little while before we see our Lord may be spent in the full light of His presence.
Oh, my fellow-believer, the Lamb is worthy of thy whole heart. Yield all to Him, body, soul, and spirit. Yes, all: time, property, thoughts — all, all to Christ. Keep not back part. He kept nothing back. He gave all — Himself for thee. Was ever love like His? Oh happy, saved, pardoned, justified child of God, hear the cry — the midnight cry — Awake, awake! and brightly shine. Christ is thy light, thy life, thy all. By His death and agony; by His tears and groans; by the blood, and by the water that came from His pierced side; by His pierced hands, and pierced feet; by the bowing of His head, and giving up of the ghost by His resurrection and glory by His appearing in the air, to call thee to Himself by His smile and by His welcome; — oh, awake, awake! shake off thy worldly slumber; prepare to meet thy Lord. Behold He cometh, go ye forth to meet Him. Oh, God! grant that the henceforth of our little while may be spent to Thee. May not only our words and actions, but the very motives of our hearts, bear the light of thy countenance. Keep us, oh, keep us, by thy mighty power.
Rejecters of Christ; cold, empty professors; a few more words and tears for you. Think of those words, “and the door was shut,” “I know you not.” Satan’s world is now your choice; what will it afford you in that coming hour? what will property be worth then? what pleasure will sin afford then? what will the applause of men and Satan be worth then? Look that day in the face, and tell me, what is there worth having when compared with Christ? How fearful the choice of the human heart. Hast thou chosen Satan’s world for thy portion here? Then Satan’s hell will be thy doom for ever; and time so short. May God awaken thee from thy fatal sleep.
The form of godliness without the power, will be of no avail at the coming of the Lord; only those who had oil in their vessels went in. Yes, all who have not the Spirit of Christ will be left out; and then, oh think of the fierce day of the wrath of Almighty God. We know not the moment when the blood-bought Church of God shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Many things have doubtless to be fulfilled before the Lord of glory shall come to this earth in judgment on the living nations. But I do not know a single prophecy which has to be fulfilled before Christ comes to take up His saints to meet Him. Let us, then, my fellow believers, be watching and waiting to meet our Lord. Oh, what will it be to see that face; that smile — the warmth and depth of whose love no pen can write, no tongue can tell. Ah, sorrowing, suffering child of God, wait a little while, and thou shalt enter the joy of thy Lord; thou shalt be tempted no more; thou shalt sin no more; thou shalt grieve Him no more. And those that have gone before. It was hard to part, what will it be to meet — to meet to part no more! Oh, what is this world to us, who look for joy, so lasting, so divine? “I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness.” Oh, think, ye poor world-despised children of God, of the glory that awaits you, for ever with, and like, the Lord. C. S.