Ready and Waiting
And now, brethren, it only remains for me to close this sermon by three words of application, which seem to me to arise naturally out of the parable of which I have been speaking. I heartily pray God to bless them to your souls, and to make them words in season.
1. My first word of application shall be a question. I take the parable of the ten virgins in my hands, and I address that question to everybody here present. I ask, "Are you ready?" Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: "they that were ready went in with the bridegroom to the marriage," - they were ready and none else. Now here, in the sight of God, I ask you every one, "Is this your case?" "Are you ready?"
I do not ask whether you are a Churchman and make a profession of religion; I do not ask whether you sit under an evangelical ministry, and like evangelical people, and can talk of evangelical things. All this is the surface of Christianity, and may be easily attained. I want to search your heart more deeply by far. I want to know whether grace is in your heart, and the Holy Spirit. I want to know whether you are ready to meet the Bridegroom, ready for Christ's return. I want to know, if the Lord should come this week, whether you could lift up your head with joy, and say, "This is our God; we have waited for Him; let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation."
Ah! some will be saying, "This is far too high a standard. This is requiring far too much. This is extravagance. This is a hard saying: who can bear it?" I cannot help it. I believe it is the standard of the Bible; I believe it is the standard Peter sets before us when he tells us to be "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God"; I believe it is the mark at which every believer should be continually aiming, to be found ready to meet Christ.
I want no man to become a hermit and cease to do his duty in the world; I call on no one to leave his lawful calling or neglect his earthly affairs. But I do call on every one to live like one who expects Christ to return, to live like a pilgrim and stranger, to live ever looking unto Jesus and leaning on Jesus, to live like a good servant with his loins girded and his lamp burning, to live like one whose treasure is in heaven and best things yet to come, with his heart packed up and ready to be gone. Now, is this too much to ask? I say decidedly that it is not.
Now, are you ready in this way? If not, I would like to know what good your religion does you. A religion that does not make a man ready for anything is a religion that may well be looked on with suspicion. If your religion does not make you ready, its source is not derived from the Bible.
2. My second word of application shall be an invitation. I address it to every one who feels in his conscience that he has no grace in his heart, - to every one who feels that the character of the foolish virgin is his own. To all such I give an invitation this day: I invite you to "awake."
You know, many of you, that your hearts are not right in the sight of God. In the broadest, fullest sense you are asleep - not merely asleep about the doctrine of Christ's second advent, but asleep about everything that concerns your souls. You are wide-awake perhaps about temporal things; you read the newspapers, it may be, and have your head stored with earthly wisdom and useful knowledge. But you have no heart-felt sense of sin, no peace and friendship with God, no experimental acquaintance with Christ, no delight in the Bile and prayer; and what is all this but being asleep?
How long is this to go on? When do you mean to arise and live as if you had a soul? When will you cease to hear as those who hear not? When will you give up running after shadows and seek something substantial? When will you throw up the mockery of a religion that cannot satisfy, cannot comfort, cannot sanctify, cannot save, and will not bear a calm examination? When will you give up having a faith which does not influence your practice - having a book which you say is God's word, but do not use - having the name of Christian, but knowing nothing of Christ? Oh! when shall it once be?
Why not this very year? Why not this very day? Why not awake and call upon your God, and resolve that you will sleep no longer? I set before you an open door. I set before you Jesus the Saviour who died for sinners on the Cross, Jesus able to save to the uttermost, Jesus willing to receive. God to Him first and foremost if you would know what step to take. Go to Him in prayer and cry, "Lord, save me or I perish; I am weary of sleeping - I would fain sleep no longer." Oh! "awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light."
Sun and moon and stars are all witnessing against you; they fill their place in creation, and you do not. Sabbaths and ordinances are witnessing against you: they are all proclaiming there is a God, there is a judgment, and you are living as if there were none. The tears and prayers of godly relations are witnessing against you: others are sorrowfully thinking you have a soul, though you seem to forget it. The very gravestones you walk past are witnessing against you; they are silently whispering, "Life if short and death is near," all, all are saying, "Awake! awake! awake!" Oh, brethren, the time past may surely suffice you to have slept. Awake to be wise, awake to be safe, awake to be happy. Awake, and sleep no more.
3. My last word of application shall be an exhortation to all who have the oil of grace in their hearts. I draw it from he words of our Lord at the end of the parable. I exhort you to "watch."
I exhort you to watch against everything which might interfere with a readiness for Christ's appearing. Watch against inconsistencies of walk, watch against besetting sins, watch against the harm of false doctrine, watch against formality in the use of spiritual things, watch against slothfulness about the Bible and private prayer. Backsliding begins from within. Watch against bitterness and uncharitableness: a little love weighs more than many gifts. Watch against pride and self-conceit: Peter said, "Though all men deny Thee, yet will not I"; and presently fell. Watch against the sin of Galatia, Ephesus, and Laodicea: believers may run well for a season, then lose their first love, and then become lukewarm. Watch against the sin of Jehu: a man may have great zeal from false motives. It is a much easier thing to oppose antichrist than to follow Christ.
Brethren, believers, let us all watch, and watch more every year we live.
Let us watch for the world's sake. We are the book they chiefly read; they watch our ways. Oh! let us strive to be plain epistles of Christ.
Let us watch for our own sakes. As our walk is, so will be our peace; as our conformity to Christ's mind, so will be our sense of Christ's atoning blood. If a man will not walk in the full light of the sun, how can he expect to be warm?
And, not least, let us watch for our Lord's sake. Let us live as if His honor was concerned in our behaviour; let us live as if every slip and fall was a wound to our Head. Oh! let us exercise a godly jealously for thought, word, and action - motive, manner, and walk. Never never let us fear being too strict. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples."
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 18 - "The Sure Hope")