Read CHAPTER XXVI. OIL FOR LAMPS. MATTHEW xxv. 1-13. of Broken Bread from an Evangelist's Wallet , free online book, by Thomas Champness, on

God’s kingdom is imperfect as yet, for it is not said to be like five, but ten virgins. It is worthy of our careful thought that it is to be made perfect by contraction, not expansion. The King is to say “Depart!” as well as “Come!”

We do not attempt anything like exposition of this solemn and yet charming parable, but rather to notice some of the most easily perceived truths it discovers.

I. A Light is better than a Lamp.

All the ten took their lamps. Very likely there was variety in the shape and material of the lamp, but only five of them had lamps that kept alight, for some of them had no means of replenishment. For anything we know, the lamps of the foolish were as good as the others, may-be better, but the flame and not the frame is the important matter. We cannot have the power without the form. Grace must have the human material, but we may have the human without the Divine. Our Bibles, our Prayers, our Hymns, all these are channels of grace, as the lamp and the wick are essential to the flame, but the lamp may not be lighted, or it may have gone out! It is not a question of John Keble, or General Booth, but is the singing from the heart? The “Amen” may be shouted or intoned, but if not real, it is worse than smouldering wick.

II. We may as well be without oil as not have enough to endure to the end.

All ten lamps were at one time burning. In the margin of verse 10, we read, “Our lamps are going out.” What a lesson to the backslider! You once were a burning and a shining light, but you did not seek grace to help in time of need, and your lamp is gone out. Better never have made a profession if there be not grace to sustain the flame. Aye, and perhaps you, with a lamp which has gone out, you have been a preacher, or a teacher, and have, before now, enforced this very lesson on your hearers. If there is a sight in this world over which angels might weep, it is a preacher without a light. Better go to hell from a race-course than a pulpit!

III. The gates or the palace may be shut while we are calling on the oil seller.

“While they went to buy, the Bridegroom came.” There is an old saying, that “praying breath was never wasted.” But this parable does not teach that lesson. There are not a few who think they can atone for the sins of a long life by crying with their dying breath, “Lord, have mercy on me!” But the truth is, there may be the fear of punishment without any penitence, and cries for dread of hell may not be the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart.

Let us not put off our repentance too long, or while we are sending for the minister to instruct us, death may claim us for his prey. Or while we are saying to the teacher of religion, “What must I do to escape hell?” the fetters may be fastened on our soul. The palace-gate may swing to before we can make the oil-man hear.

IV. That which lets the five wise in to the palace, keeps out the five foolish.

“The door was shut.” The five were in, and then came the other five, to find the gate closed. Then they begin to cry “Open to us!” but in vain. The door makes all the difference. If you enter, it is by the door; if you are shut out, it is the door that closes against you. “I am the door,” said Jesus, and it is yet true. “No man cometh to the Father but by Me.” Yes, Jesus is the True and Living way, and the only one. But if we are lost, it will be the aspect of Jesus which will slay our last hope. It is the wrath of the Lamb which is so dreadful. Have you ever thought of it, my brother, that Christ is to be Life or Death to thee? If he does not shut thee into heaven, He will shut thee out. Shall you ever be one of the group which cry, as their last prayer, “Lord! Lord! open to us!”

Do not be one of those
who pray like Abel
live like Cain.