Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.
MURDOCH CAMPBELL (1901-1974): Someone asked [Margaret MacKenzie] to explain the request of the foolish virgins when they said to wise―Give us of your oil. She replied, “Did you ever hear of godless persons on their death bed asking the Lord’s people to pray for them. Well, that is the meaning of their cry.”
WILLIAM GUTHRIE (1620-1665): The Bible, which ranges over a period of four thousand years, records but one instance of a deathbed conversion―one that none may despair, and but one, that none may presume.
J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): It is mournful to hear what people sometimes say about what they call deathbed evidences. It is perfectly fearful to observe how little satisfies some persons, and how easily they can persuade themselves that their friends are gone to heaven. They will tell you when their relation is dead and gone, that “he made such a beautiful prayer one day—or that he talked so well—or that he was so sorry for his old ways, and intended to live so differently if he got better—or that he craved nothing in this world—or that he liked people to read to him, and pray with him.” And because they have this to go upon, they seem to have a comfortable hope that he is saved. Christ may never have been named—the way of salvation may never have been in the least mentioned. But it matters not; there was a little talk of religion, and so they are content.
THOMAS BROOKS (1608-1680): Though true repentance is never too late, yet late repentance is seldom true.
J. C. RYLE: Now I have no desire to hurt the feelings of any one who reads this paper, but I must and will speak plainly upon this subject. Once for all, let me say, that as a general rule, nothing is so unsatisfactory as deathbed evidences. The things that men say, and the feelings they express when sick and frightened, are little to be depended on. Often, too often, they are the result of fear, and do not spring from the ground of the heart.
RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): Even the stoutest sinners will hear us on their death-bed, though they scorned us before. They will then let fall their fury, and be as gentle as lambs, who were before as untractable as lions. I find not one in ten of the most obstinate scornful wretches in my parish, but when they come to die, will humble themselves, confess their faults, and seem penitent, and promise, if they should recover, to reform their lives.
J. C. RYLE: Often, too often, they are things said by rote; caught from the lips of ministers and anxious friends, but evidently not felt. And nothing can prove all this more clearly, than the well-known fact, that the great majority of persons who make promises of amendment on a sick-bed, if they recover, go back to sin and the world. When a man has lived a life of thoughtlessness and folly, I want something more than a few fair words and good wishes to satisfy me about his soul, when he comes to his deathbed. It is not enough for me that he will let me read the Bible to him, and pray by his bedside; that he says, “he has not thought so much as he ought of religion, and he thinks he should be a different man if he got better.”
WILLIAM SECKER (died 1681): Many think not of living any holier, till they can live no longer.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): What insanity is it that persuades multitudes to defer the effort to repent till their deathbeds? Do they imagine that when they are so weak that they can no longer turn their bodies they will have strength to turn their souls from sin? Far sooner could they turn themselves back to perfect physical health.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Perhaps this sinner hopes that one day, when he cannot any longer enjoy his sin, he will meanly sneak out of it, and try to cheat the devil of his soul; but, meanwhile, he prefers the pleasures of sin to obedience to God, and unbelief to acceptance of his salvation.
JAMES JANEWAY (1636-1674): He that saith he will be good tomorrow, saith that he will be wicked today.
J. C. RYLE: Repentance and faith are the gifts of God, and are not in a man’s own power; and that if any one flatters himself he can repent at his own time, choose his own season, seek the Lord when he pleases, and, like the penitent thief, be saved at the very last—he may find at length he is greatly deceived. And it is good and profitable to bear this in mind. There is an immense amount of delusion in the world on this very subject. I see many allowing life to slip away, all unprepared to die. I see many allowing that they ought to repent, but always putting off their own repentance. And I believe one grand reason is, that most men suppose they can turn to God just when they like. They wrest the parable of the labourer in the vineyard, which speaks of the eleventh hour, and use it as it never was meant to be used…They talk of the thief that went to paradise, and was saved, and forget the one who died as he had lived, and was lost.
PHILIP DODDRIDGE (1702-1751): Most ungrateful and foolish is the conduct of those who take encouragement from the penitent thief to put off repentance to a dying moment—most ungrateful in perverting the grace of their Redeemer into an occasion of renewing their provocations against Him—and most foolish to imagine that what our Lord did in so singular circumstances, is to be drawn into an ordinary precedent.
GENERAL T. J. (STONEWALL) JACKSON (1824-1863): It has been a precious experience to me, that I was brought face to face with death, and found that all was well. I then learned an important lesson, that one who has been the subject of converting grace, and is the child of God, can, in the midst of the severest sufferings, fix the thoughts upon God and heavenly things, and derive great comfort and peace: but, that one who had never made his peace with God would be unable to control his mind, under such sufferings, so as to understand properly the way of salvation, and repent and believe on Christ. I felt that if I had neglected the salvation of my soul before, it would have been too late then.
C. H. SPURGEON: Death weakens the mind. The approach of death destroys some of the mental power, and takes away from us for a season some of those spirits by which we have been cheered in better days. It makes us lie there, languid, and faint, and weary.
MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): In the affairs of our souls, delays are dangerous; nothing is of more fatal consequence than men’s putting off their conversion from time to time. They will repent, and turn to God, but not yet; the matter is adjourned to some more convenient season, when such a business or affair is compassed, when they are so much older; and then convictions cool and wear off, good purposes prove to no purpose, and they are more hardened than ever in their evil way.
RICHARD BAXTER: And the longer you delay, the more your sin gets strength and rooting. If you cannot bend a twig, how will you be able to bend it when it is a tree?
BROWNLOW NORTH (1810-1875): It will be hell to a man to have his own voluntary choice confirmed, and made unchangeable…He who never thirsts for God here will thirst for Him before he has been dead a minute.