(Bonar, “Religion Without the Holy Spirit”)
“The five who were foolish took no oil for
their lamps.” Matthew 25.3
This parable has many sides and aspects.
It is prophetical; it is also practical.
It suits all ages, but especially the last days.
It suits the world, but especially the church of God.
It is searching and sifting.
It is also quickening and comforting.
It suits us well in these days of . . .
fashionable religion and
It is a parable for the church.
It comes in to the inner circle of Christian
profession, and sifts it, divides it.
There are points of likeness between the two classes.
They get the same name, virgins;
they wear the same dress;
they are on the same errand;
they both have lamps;
they both slumber and sleep.
They have thus many features in common.
The peril of mere externalism is that which our
Lord points out here. This externalism may not
always be hypocrisy, but it is imitation. It is not
the flower in its natural color and growth, but
painted, artificial. Let us watch against an
artificial life, and an artificial religion. What
does it profit now? What will it profit in the
day of wrath? The name, the dress, the lamp,
the outward show, will all go for nothing in
that day of universal discovery and detection.
Though in most respects they were all alike,
yet there was a difference. It was within; it
was imperceptible from without; it could only
be discovered when the bridegroom came. Up
until then all were completely similar. Only
then the deficiency came out in the foolish.
Then was it seen who were wise, and who
were foolish. That day is the day of certain
and unerring detection. It is the day of
weighing in the balances! It is the separation
of the false from the true.
The difference was confined to a single point,
the lack of oil. The oil is the Holy Spirit. Thus
a man may be very like a Christian, and yet
not be one. He may come very near the kingdom,
and yet not enter in. He may have all the outward
features of a Christian, and yet be lacking in the
main one. He may have the complete dress of
the saint, and yet not be one.
He may have a good life, a sound creed, a strict
profession; he may be one who says and does
many excellent things; he may be a subscriber
to all the religious societies in the land, a member
of all their committees, or a speaker at all their
meetings, and supporter of all their plans; he
may profess to be looking for Christ’s coming,
and going forth to meet the bridegroom, yet
not necessarily a Christian!
He may lack the oil, the Holy Spirit.
A religion without the Holy Spirit profits nothing.
There is the religion . . .
of the intellect,
of the sense,
of the imagination,
of the flesh,
of the creed,
of the liturgy,
of the catechism,
But what are these without the Spirit?
Christianity without Christ, what would that be?
Worship without God, what would that be?
So religion without the Holy Spirit, what would that be?
The five who were foolish took no oil for their lamps.
“Sir! Sir!” they said. “Open the door for us!”
But He replied, “I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.”