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Mark xiii. 35, 36, 37. Watch ye therefore ; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh; at even or at midnight, or at the cock-crowinsr, or in the morning: lost, coming- suddenly, he find yon sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch. As in a general dispensary, there are medicines for all cases : so in the grand moral dispensary of the Scriptures, while there are recipes for particular complaints, there are some which are always suitable, always in season. The text is one. Whether a 14*
102 SERMO XVI. temporal event of great importance is approaching — whether an event extremely momentous, like death, is at hand — whether the day is coming, which is eternally to determine, our state, — more suitable counsel cannot be given than that which is given m the text. " Watch !" for " the master of the house comcth :" if he finds you sleeping, he finds you in a state of perdition. And that which may be said to any particular class of persons, about to meet such an event as the destruction of Jerusalem, may be said to every one ready to meet a still greater — " What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch."' 1. Let us notice the warning here given : :: The Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to ever)' man his work, and commanded the porter to watch;" for he will shortly return. 2. Let us regard the emit ion : " Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping." 3. Let us attend to the means which we should use, lest we should be found sleeping : i: What I say unto
you, I say unto all, Watch." I. Let us notice the warning here given. o man, but those pitiable creatures, infidels and scoffers, questions for a moment whether death and judgment stand before him ; and therefore he cannot for a moment doubt whether this warning is not of the last importance. Though there arc many remarkable periods in the life of a man. though there are many surprising vicissitudes and revolutions in states and kingdoms, ye\ what are thej all t<> this? Death and judgmenl arc inevitable, surprising, and sudden. Whether a man thinks of it or not, things are in progress — the day is coining on — the decree is
DUTY OF WATCHFUL ESS. 163 past: and though, "of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven," still it is as certainly fixed as the day in which God created man. I do not intend to dwell on this part of my subject. The idea of the day of judgment is firmly fixed in the mind of every thinking man. Yet it is too grand for his comprehension. When, therefore, the poet, the orator, or the painter attempts to exhibit to us the terrors of that day he must fail. The description best calculated to meet the comprehension of man, is given by our Lord, when he speaks of a king coming and separating all nations, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats: placing the sheep at his right hand, and the goats at his left, he says to the one. " Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you ;" and, to the other, " Go, ye cursed, into everlasting fire !" Great use may, however, be made of this awful event, however incapable we are of describing it in detail. Let us give it prominence in our minds, when we would ascertain the weight and worth of the things of time. I hear reports flying through the world. One says,
" This is great : that is noble." Another says, " this or that is of vast importance." But if we would know what is the real value of these things, let us apply them to the standard. Bring those things, which are deemed vast and noble, to the test of the great day; how insignificant is everything called great in this world ! But, as death leaves a man, so judgment must find him. As one single moment, therefore, may place :is in our final state, — as, this very night, our souls may be required of us, — as God has not said to the holiest
X64 SERMO XVI. of his servants, "Thou shalt live an hour," nor "Thou shalt live a minute;'' we may feel the force of this general warning in the text, " What I say unto you, I say unto you all. Watch:" for "the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. Watch ye, therefore : for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh/' Brethren ! multitudes have heard this warning in this place, who are now in full possession of the fact: they now experimentally know these things to be true. Could we ask these persons their sentiments, now that they have entered the eternal world by death, and stand waiting ready for the judgment to come, is there one of them, think you, who would come forward, and say, " While I was living on earth, the preacher was too urgent : lie was too close on the conscience ?" Is there one of them, who sees not now the vast importance of a single Sabbath, or of a single sermon ? Is there one who would not consider neglect of the Bible as the greatest act of rashness, of which a rational creature could be guilty I — That (jod should speak to man. and that man would not hear him ! Is there one, who would not consider a throne of grace as of the highest concern — to have an opportunity of speaking to ( Jod I ( >r do you imagine that any complain that, while living, they watched too painfully/
Oh. let ns listen to this warning, given to us by our blessed Master and Redeemer. In love to the souls of men it was. thai In- left this warning behind him. LI. Lei us notice the caution Lest, coming suddenly, lie find you sleeping."
DUTY OF WATCHFUL ESS. 165 I cannot suppose that there is one of my hearers, who will mistake the meaning of the expression, and think that it is to be taken in a literal sense. The man who is truly alive to God, will be ready to meet his God, though, while asleep in his bed, the " heavens" should "melt with fervent heat," and " pass away with a great noise." The expression is a metaphor taken from sleep. The Scriptures speak of the careless and the wicked as of one asleep, who pays no attention to the most important concerns around him. For instance : a man may find his house safe — all calm and quiet: he retires — lays him down on his bed with great satisfaction — falls into refreshing sleep, as he has done innumerable nights before. While he sleeps safely and sweetly, perhaps a robber plunders the house : he is insensible of the injury: he is asleep: the robber may enter his chamber, and put a knife to his throat : but the man sleeps on ! He may set the house in flames — the man sleeps on! no sense of danger! Or a mighty wind may shake the house to the foundation — but he sleeps on ! I said that the sleeper was all this time insensible; but possibly he may not be wholly so ; for, though unconscious of his danger, he maybe running abroad in delightful dreams — advancing to honour — abounding in wealth — entering into some scene of pleasure — or standing on some rock, where nothing can touch him! How faithful a picture is this of carnal security ! what our Lord here speaks of as the master of the house coming suddenly, and finding his servants sleeping. In this precise state does the thoughtless sinner stand. All the great promises of this book are
nothing ! Its awful threatenings are all as nothing !
166 SERMO XVI. Though Satan is ruining and destroying him, and flames are about to surround him, yet he is insensible — he dreams of nothing but honour, or riches, or pleasure ! Would the enemy of such a sleeper wish him to be disturbed ? " o ! let him sleep on ; for sleeping will be his destruction. Make no noise ! shake not his bed? Let him rest and sleep on !" ay, the poor stupid sleeper would not bear, perhaps, to be roused : he would be offended and feel insulted, if a friend were to alarm him. Is not this the case with every careless sinner? o one offends more than the friend, who would awaken and rouse him, and alarm his conscience. Let me ask another question Would not the real friend of every such sleeper rouse him, whatever might be the consequence 1 though he should put him to pain — though he should excite evil tempers — though he should be thought guilty of rudeness? "Yes!" says he; "at any rate I will awake him: for, if he is not roused, he is lost for ever ! Tell me not of rudeness. Tell me not of the late time of the night. I must awake the man, or he is for ever lost !" Our Lord lays the stress on coming suddenly : lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And though a man may not be arrested by what is called sudden death; though death may begin in what is called "a slight cold ;" yet death has entered the house : he cannot be bribed: he cannot be driven away: he goes forward : and the man is but a dead man, though he appears to be slightly indisposed : death has entered the house, and that slight indisposition will lead on to a fatal close ! My dear hearers, I am speaking of plain facts.
DUTY OF WATCHFUL ESS. 167 Here are no disputable doctrines : here are no nice points of discussion : this is broad ground which respects every man on earth. And if young men sleep at their posts, and if old men sleep on the brink of the grave, shall we administer opiates to them ? Do they not need? ''Awake! thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light?" Oh, may every such sleeper be roused to cry, " Open thou mine eyes, O Lord, lest I sleep the sleep of death !" In such a case as this — infinite in importance — evidenced by daily facts — not one of us secure of life for a moment — every man standing on the brink of eternity — how valuable is wise counsel ! And such counsel we have from Christ : for these are his words : '-'' Take ye heed : watch and pray." Was it needful that his hearers should be thus warned on the approaching destruction of Jerusalem? Of how much more importance is the warning to us, who must soon witness ' : the heavens and the earth passing away with a great noise, and the elements melting with fervent heat," and the " great white throne" set up in the heavens? When death comes on a man, and lodges him in a state in which he must meet judgment, then he will experimentally find that " the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch," for he would shortly return. " Take ye heed," he says, " lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping." To a man awakened by grace, sudden death will be sudden glory ; but take heed, lest he come and find you sleeping and dreaming.
168 SERMO XVI. III. This leads us to the third consideration : the means which we should use, lest we should be found sleeping. "Watch! for yc know not when the
Master of the house cometh." This counsel is exactly suited to our state and condition : for who is able to meet the snares with which we are surrounded, and which are far above even his comprehension ? Who is able to meet the temptations of a practised veteran in destruction, like Satan? Who can understand even his own wanderings? Who can avoid the various errors flying around him, which would deceive, if it were possible, the very elect? What, in such a case, is suited to our character and circumstances? I answer, exertion — vigilance — a mind in arms — " A military discipline of thought" — ever awake — ever ardent for the truth. This becomes the man ! I would here correct a mistake, with which some good men distress themselves. In proportion as men are anxious, they are apt to be jealous. The careless fear nothing: the presumptuous despise danger: but it is the watchful who are frequently found fearful, lest they should be found wrong. "Oh," says such a one, "I see such an event before me. I see my precious soul at stake. "What shall it profit me. if I gain the whole world, and lose my own soul ? or what shall I give in exchange for my soul ] Every thing else is comparatively nothing. When I look' on the world, and see what men are doing, 1 see it to 1»" a miracle of grace, that God should deliver me from their infatuations. They think of nothing: their talk is vanity: they are magnifying straws and atoms : they are like children at play, while that precious soul of man, which must live
DUTY OF WATCHFUL ESS. 1(39 with God, or with condemned spirits for ever, is disregarded." ow this man is fearful, lest he should be off his guard; lest he should lose his impressions; lest he should get too much into the spirit of the world ; lest he should be carried away by its vanities. To such an one, therefore, I would say — " You are in no dan-
ger, while you are anxious. While watching, you may be alarmed : you may fancy that the enemy will rush on you with more power than will be given him : you are ever anxious : and this is the work of God, to keep you awake in the midst of a dreaming world.*' "How, then," say you, "can we perceive when there are morbid symptoms, in such a case as this?" I answer: When you see a man at perfect ease on this subject — when you hear any one talk presumptuously, that, by-and-bye, he will think of repentance, prayer, and watchfulness — when you hear an old man stubborn, and conceited of his zeal in religion because he has some right notions. Do you observe a person, who, instead of seriously thinking of our Lord's declarations, says, "'This is alarming! I cannot bear it ! It gives me offence,*" that man is in a morbid state. Do you hear another say, " ' Let me go first and bury my father : 1 have married a wife :' I have something else first to do?" these are morbid symptoms. Yet, though we are expressly charged to be on our watch, let us not mistake, as if that were sufficient: for, however we may put ourselves on exertion, our vigilance, if we are left to ourselves, will fail. The most active and vigilant general has been sometimes ensnared in an ambush, or blown up by a mine insi15
170 8EBMO XVI. diously prepared under his feet. Vigilance, alone, will not save ! Our Lord has therefore said. Watch and pray. Here is the patience of the saints, in carrying their petitions, day after day, to their great Lord. Here is their wisdom : knowing their weakness, their petition is, " Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe : keep me, and I shall be kept: enable me to watch, and I shall watch. But, if thou leavest me a moment, I fall." Here is the strength of the saints: here they are taught of God to suspect every exertion they can make.
In a word, brethren, while our Lord gives us counsel in this most important concern, he tells us, at the same time, to remember that nothing is done to purpose in Christianity, till we give him the whole glory of sending the truth, and giving efficacy to it by the power of his Holy Spirit. This is peculiar to his character. I can speak to you, but I cannot infuse a principle. The apostle could say, " I would to God that ye were altogether such as I am, except these bonds:"' but the Apostle could not give grace, to render them such who heard him: but our Holy Master, who taught these truths, can give the grace, and must have all the glory; so that from beginning to end, from first to last, we must sing, : " Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, and hath redeemed us to God by his blood I" We must cry after him, then, as he passes by in his ordinances. Like the leper we must call on him, • -J- (8. If aster, have mercy on us:" or, as the sick of the palsy, ire must look to him to say, "Arise: take up thy bed and walk." I will only add this remark, that there is such a thing — Mid 1 wnuld to find that I had not both seen
DUTY OF WATCHFUL ESS. 171 and heard of it in many instances, and marked its direful effects too — there is such a thing as spiritual quackery, as well as medical quackery ; such a thing as healing the hurt slightly; imposing on the sick man; "daubing the wall with untempered mortar, and crying, Peace, Peace." That we should not be deceived in a matter of such importance as this before us, here stands the Great Physician of soul and body. " I give you," as if he had said, " a plain account of what is coming on, and plain counsel how to meet it. You must hope to get forward through time into a blessed eternity, by faith and patience, by watchfulness and prayer." And though it may be scorned by the proud and slighted by the ignorant, yet I pray God that you and I may remember this counsel of Jesus Christ, who best knows how to preach his own
gospel. (; This," says he, " is the method which I set before my disciples. Since they know not when their time ends, since I come suddenly like a master who has taken a far journey from home, let them watch and pray. ' What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.' " My dear hearers, I may be called in a moment to render an account of the advice which I am now giving to you ; and nothing but the special hand of God prevented my being called to give account of my ministry before this day :* but, if I am spared a little longer to speak these words after my Master, let us pray that his grace may rest on us ; and that both minister and people may stir up one another; and that, in the day of his coming, instead of finding us * This sermon was preached soon after Mr. Cecil had escaped imminent danger of death, by his horse falling in frosty weather in the street. J. P.
172 SERMO XVII. sleeping, our lights maybe burning, our loins girded, and we ourselves like men who wait for the coming of their Lord.
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