THE MAN OF GOD  Or "Spiritual Religion Explained and Enforced"
by Octavius Winslow

Readiness for the Lord's Coming

And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for
our lamps are gone out.—MATTHEW 25:8.

The fall of man has not utterly annihilated all that was originally
lovely in our nature. Among the instincts of our humanity which
still exert a powerful influence within us is the abhorrence which
we feel of what is false and fraudulent. A forged cheque, a counterfeit
will, a false deed, awakens in our minds a feeling of abhorrence; an
instinct of honor and integrity rises up in opposition to the fraud. But
there is something yet more appalling in the thought of a man obtaining
his religion by fraud—stealing his religion—coming into the possession
of what he terms a religion, not properly, nor justly, nor truly.
Now there is this remarkable feature in the Word of God, that while
all its delineations and descriptions carry us back to remote ages, yet
they vividly and indelibly depict characters that exist at the present
moment. They present our nature possessing the same features, the same
principles, which it ever did. Here we have a description of a certain
class of individuals that were possessors of religion; but when the grand
moment arrived which tested its reality, it was found that they possessed
none—and that, following the instincts of their fallen humanity,
they thought of borrowing their hope, their plea for entrance into heaven,
from others.
Now it is the solemn conviction of our minds that this constitutes a
large class in the present day; that there are numbers who have professed
Christ, but who have taken their religion on hearsay; who have it, so to
speak, second hand; who have not themselves passed from death unto
life; have not become regenerated by the Spirit; have not become personally
acquainted with the Lord Jesus; and who have not, in the lamp
of their religious profession, one particle of that sacred oil, that divine
grace; which will be found to burn, and to burn brightly, and to burn
forever, when the summons shall come to call them hence.
Our prayer, dearly beloved, is, that the truth of God which we are
about to illustrate to you may be heart searching; that we may unfold it
with all earnestness and fidelity; that you may be led to ascertain whether
your religion is a heartfelt and experimental religion; whether your hope
is a scriptural and well founded hope; or whether you are not now in
the state of the virgins who said, “Give us of your oil, for our lamps are
gone out.” I wish to direct your attention to— CHRIST’S SOLEMN

The text evidently refers to a surprise on the part of Jesus Christ; and we
wish to illustrate this striking fact, by reference to two or three stages of
the Christian’s experience. There are many cases in the believer’s history
when Christ, as it were, takes him by surprise. Take, for example, conversion.
Real conversion is a surprise of Christ. Who among us—probably
there are but few, if any, who reverting to their conversion, can say
that it was preceded by any very striking indication that the Lord Jesus
was about to bring them to Himself. In the majority of cases, conversion
is a work of surprise; it is preceded by nothing that indicates the
approach of such a moral revolution of the soul. In most instances it is
rapid, as was the case of Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus. Christ
surprised him on his way.
Was it not so with you, my reader? Did not Jesus surprise you, when
first your heart was touched? when first your conscience was roused,
when first your spirit was humbled? when first your will was bent to the
will of God? Was not that a gracious surprise, when Jesus drew near,
dried your tears, and bound up your broken heart? O yes, we must
testify that that was a gracious surprise, when Jesus, in the sovereignty
of His grace, approached and spoke peace to our hearts, light to our
minds, enkindled joy and gladness within.
There are gracious surprises of Christ in the experience of the believer
in subsequent stages of his history, when Christ draws near, and
manifests Himself to his soul. And I trust, beloved, that you are not a
stranger to these. Oh, let not your religion be a religion unmarked by the
gracious manifestations of Christ! What a gracious surprise was it when
Christ joined the two disciples on their journey to Emmaus! Their hearts
were filled with grief and gloom; they were ruminating on scenes which
had just been transacted at Jerusalem; and as in sadness they were wending
their way, Jesus drew near, and walked and talked with them. They
found His company so pleasant, so sweet, that when they reached their
homes they constrained Him that He should abide with them. Ah, how
often, believer, when sad and lonely, Jesus has drawn near and spoken
to you!
What a gracious surprise of the Lord Jesus was it when Mary met
Him at the tomb! While looking for her absent Lord, her heart bursting
with grief, Jesus drew near, and manifested Himself. We might illustrate
this blessed truth by many such examples, all concurring to show
that the child of God is privileged to look for these blessed manifestations,
these gracious surprisals. Let none for a moment suppose that
there might not be that same close communion between Christ and our
hearts now that there was of old.
Then there comes a solemn time when the man of God experiences
surprise in death—that solemn moment when the Lord Jesus sends for
His dear servant, and bids him come home. I suppose that, let Death
come when he may, he takes us by surprise. There may be previous
premonition, there may be the slow decay, the gradual taking down of
the earthly tabernacle—the pain, the fever, the convulsion, all indicating
that life is ebbing—yet when death comes to a man, with a slow,
stealthy footstep, unseen, unheard, it surprises him. Oh, see that he
does not surprise you in your sins, in your rebellion against God! Better
never to have been born than to have been surprised by death in enmity
against Jehovah.
But death to the believer is the surprise of Christ. It is Christ that
comes for him—death’s victim, and yet death’s conqueror. Oh, what a
gracious surprise of Christ, then, will that be, when your Savior stands
by your dying bed, speaks words of comfort to your heart, lights up
hope in your soul, strengthens you by His grace, and assures you that in
treading that lonely valley, He is by your side. Believer, are you fettered
by the thoughts of death? Learn to look at it as the blessed moment
when Christ will come down to His garden, pluck the fair flower, and,
placing it in His bosom, bear it to His paradise on high.
Then comes the great and solemn event, the closing drama in the
world’s history. The Lord Jesus Christ is to come again—the Bridegroom
is to appear, and publicly espouse His beloved Church. It is written
that Jesus Christ shall presently cleave the heavens and appear again,
surrounded by all those who sleep in Him. I speak not of this event
with a view of unfolding the details of that day. With regard to the
mode of Christ’s coming, there may be diversity of opinion; but that
Christ will come publicly to espouse His beloved Church is a fact which,
I suppose, those who differ as to the mode of His appearing are all
united in. And what a glorious, what a sublime, what an awesome fact
is this! Christ is to appear personally; the very Person that was impaled
on Calvary’s cross will be seen cleaving the clouds of heaven. “Every eye
shall see Him.” The eyes that are now fixed upon this page will look on
the face of the coming Savior—the coming Judge. Every individual shall
stand around the great white throne, in the center of which sits the
Lamb of God. What a sublime fact is that!
Do you make the subject of the coming of the Lord one of meditation,
and prayer, and hope? Or, are you found dismissing it from your
mind—perchance from your creed? To us who have gone to the burial
place, and laid our departed ones there, in hope that they slept with
Jesus, that their disembodied spirits were nestling in the bosom of the
Lamb, how precious is this truth! You who weep, and weep in hope that
the coming of Christ will restore them to you again, you shall behold
them in glory, shall rush into their warm embrace, and gaze once more
on the loved ones from whom you parted on Jordan’s bank.
Oh, treasure in your believing heart this blessed hope, and when
next you go and shed the tears of sacred memory over the turf that
covers them, blend with your grief the fond thought, that Jesus will
come again in person; and that those who sleep in Him, He will bring
with Him. Comfort your bereaved hearts with these words.

And, then, when the Lord Jesus Christ shall thus appear, we are told
that the human race will be divided into two classes—represented by
the five wise and the five foolish virgins. Let us for a few moments look
at one of these classes. We are all agreed as to the “wise virgins.” They
are the true sons of God; they are sincere believers in Christ; they are
those who have been wise unto salvation; who have been truly born
again of the Spirit; who have seen the worthlessness of their own righteousness,
and have accepted the righteousness of Christ. In a word,
they are those who have not only confessed Christ, and loved Christ in
the world, but they have received into their hearts the grace of God,
which has renewed them, sanctified, and kept them to the end. These
are the “wise.”
They are the “foolish” who had in their hands the lamp of the Christian
professor, without the golden oil of Divine grace; who, when the
hour came that brought their hope to the test, found themselves deficient:
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our
lamps are gone out.” A religious professor may have much apparent
spiritual life and intelligence—he may be well acquainted with the
Bible—he may be well up in the evidences of Christianity— his intellect
may be illumined—his judgment informed with regard to truth,
and yet may be found to have—borrowed his religion from another.
He has derived it from the reading of religious books, or from the
fellowship of Christians: He has a taste for religious literature, and his
mind is interested and elevated, and yet an hour may come which shall
prove that that man borrowed his spiritual light and knowledge—derived
it, not from the direct teaching and enlightening of the Word and
Spirit of God, but from another’s lamp! He can master the most subtle
points of truth, he can explain difficulties, harmonize discrepancies,
silence skepticism—and yet he does not know this truth experimentally,
“I am a lost sinner, and Christ is a gracious and loving Savior.”
He has received his spiritual knowledge from others, and not from
the experimental teaching of God the Holy Spirit. Beware that you
have not your religion from books, from sermons, from fellowship with
others. Search yourself, and see whether the Divine Spirit has instructed
you– whether Christ has been formed in your heart—the hope of glory.
“And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil”—give us of
your experimental communion with the Savior—“for our lamps are
gone out.” The light which is only in the intellect, the truth which only
informs the judgment, is like the expiring lamp that fails when its bright
shining luster is most needed in the dark valley of the shadow of death.
Oh, how many a man can speak of Christian experience fluently—
can quote the language of pious Christians—seems to have traveled the
various stages of the believer’s life—takes his place at the Table of the
Lord; but when the hour of trial comes, it will be found that that man
has transferred to himself the Christian experience of others, and has
been building himself up with the spurious hope that he was experimentally
acquainted with Christ; whereas the awful discovery bursts
upon him—that he never experienced in his own heart those spiritual
exercises of which he could so glibly speak. Oh, it is an appalling thought,
my reader, how far a man may go in acquaintance with Christian experience,
and yet be destitute of one particle of vital religion!
Now we reach a very solemn conclusion—“Our lamps are gone out,”
or, as the marginal reading is, “our lamps are going out.” Just at the
moment, the solemn crisis of Jesus’ coming, they found their lamp
began to wane, and its light to expire. The light of intelligence, the light
of sacraments, the light of a religious profession; began to grow dim,
until the last spark went out. “Our lamps are going out.” This often
transpires before death. In the day of dark adversity, the day which tries
a man, brings him into trouble, touches him, perhaps; in his health,
perhaps in his property, or yet more deeply touches him in the feelings
of his nature—takes from him a lovely child, a beloved wife, a dear
parent, and the man, thus smarting under the rod of God, disputes His
right to take away his health or property—to come into his garden and
pluck that blooming flower, and break that beauteous stem; his heart
rises in rebellion; and in the dark hour of adversity his lamp fails and
goes out, and the man finds that his religion was not a religion for the
stern, solemn hour of affliction.
Many a man’s lamp, too, goes out in the hour of temptation. It did
well for him when no temptations beset him; but when they present
themselves, he finds his religious principles and hope to fail. The past
few years have presented many examples of men who stood high in
religious profession, but who have come into contact with erroneous
doctrine, false worship, and the temptations to fraud, and the lamp
which burned so brightly has been extinguished; proving that their light
was not derived from real conversion, from a heartfelt experience of the
truth as it is in Jesus.
But if a man’s hope proves itself spurious, a borrowed thing only, it
will most assuredly prove so when life is fast ebbing, and death comes in
its wake. A deathbed is a great and solemn test of our religious profession
and hope. We are fast speeding to that point. In a little while it will
not be what the Church thinks of you; or what the world thinks of you.
The great question will be, “Am I in Christ?” In that hour— that precious
hour to the child of God—how delightful to have the reality, and
not a mere profession; then the light that burned, perhaps, so dimly and
obscurely in your religious life, so faintly indeed that few were attracted
by its beauty, then will that light blaze up and brighten with increased
luster; and the grace that renewed you, the grace that kept you, the grace
that followed you to the last stage of life will then be your happy experience
in strengthening and supporting you, when heart and flesh are
Learn from this subject that if there are multitudes that have borrowed
their religion, this but proves the genuineness of the religion of
others. There are those, and multitudes too, who, thanks be to God,
possess the reality, therefore let not the skeptic, let not the libeler fling
in the face of God’s saints the cruel taunt of the irregularities that mark
the life of some professors. Remember that if there are some who walk
in the light of others, this but proves that others have the real light; so
that you gain nothing by holding up the religious inconsistencies of
those who profess the Savior.
We derive from this subject a most important and instructive inference,
that there is no such thing in the Christian Church as works of
supererogation. It is the doctrine of a false Church, the Church of Rome,
that a man may have grace enough for himself and a little to spare for
another. Our subject teaches that the Church of God is scarcely saved,
is just saved, and that no believer has any measure of grace over and
above what he needs for himself, in order to impart it to others, be they
ever so dear.
In conclusion, see that your light is not borrowed; let it not be a reflected
but a solar light; not taken from hearsay, but a light beaming
down from Jesus, streaming from His cross. And let it be a serious matter
with you, not how you are judged by human opinion, but that you
are walking with Jesus, and that your light is burning brighter and

One word more. Jesus waits to pour this precious oil of saving grace
abundantly into your heart. He welcomes all. Come, then, you who
feel your need; approach in your emptiness and poverty, there is grace
enough in Christ for you, fulness of renewing grace, fulness of sanctifying
grace, fulness of preserving grace, and of that grace that will keep
your hearts loyal to Jesus, and bring you at last to glory.
Believer in Jesus! keep well trimmed, brightly burning, and uplifted
high, the lamp of a true, holy, undimmed profession of Christ. He,
whose appearing you love, will anoint you with fresh oil day by day. We
have need of watchfulness, lest the supplies slack and the light grow
dim. Our Lord has set you upon this holy work of watchfulness: “What
I say unto you, I say unto all, WATCH.” Watch against the world, it is
seductive; watch against the creature, it is ensnaring; watch against Satan,
he is subtle; watch even against lawful things, they may be unnecessary;
watch against your own heart; for it is more sinful, treacherous,
and dangerous than all.
Look for the first signal and sign of His approach, who has said,
“Behold, I come quickly!” O precious thought! O blessed hope! The
certain, speedy coming of our Lord. He comes to end our sorrows, to
annihilate the last remains of sin, to reunite us with the saints in glory,
and to have us with Himself forever. “He that has this hope in him
purifies himself, even as He is pure.” Walk only in the light of Jesus.
Live not upon the grace, or faith, or strength of another. Let your grace,
or your faith, or your love be ever so small, yet, if it be but real, if it be
but true, it will land you in glory. It may be but as the “smoking flax,”
yet there is the divine spark there, and it shall never be extinguished;
while the graceless lamp of Christian profession, which blazed before
men, will expire in eternal darkness when the Lord comes. Oh to be a
real, humble follower of Christ! Lord, let our love be divine, our grace
real, our profession true, our hope a good hope, a living hope, shining
more and more unto the perfect day!