JESUS BIDDI G HIS CHURCH WAIT A D WATCH.
BY FRA CIS TRE CH,
Mark xiii. 34 — 37. For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey^ who lefl 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 comethy at even^ or at midnight^ or at the cockcrowing^ or in the morning : lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you I say unto all^ Watch. J UST at the termination of our Lord's ministry, and only a few days before his crucifixion, His disciples took an opportunity of drawing His attention to the outward fabric of the temple at Jerusalem, and to its magnificence. This is mentioned in all the first three Gospels, with the addition of the very language used. One saith unto Him, "Master, see what manner of stones and what manner of buildings are here* !" St. Luke writes, & Mark xiii. i .
JESUS BIDDI G HIS CHURCH WAIT A D WATCH. 257 that " as some spake of the temple, how it was adorned with goodly stones and gifts, He said, As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down/' He knew that God's own purpose in the creation and maintenance of that temple was now drawing to a close, and that henceforward He Himself was to be One living Temple, unto whom all believing souls should look, and in whom all believing souls should spiritually dwell, and glorify their God for ever. Our Lord then spake forth that prophecy, which has been
already, in a measure, fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, under the Roman army, forty years after He thus uttered its doom. But much more than this was in that prophecy. For it told of things even now going on, having their falfilment in the current history of the church, and only to be completed at the return or second coming of Jesus our Lord " in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." These are the matters contained in the text ; or, rather, to speak more accurately, the subject of it is, first, the position which Jesus now occupies towards all the true members of his church ; and, secondly, the position which all its true members either do occupy in respect to Him, or ought to occupy. I shall speak separately on these two points — and may the Holy Spirit guide us, and grant us this day His ftdl blessing ! First, then, what is the position which Jesus, s
258 JESUS BIDDI G HIS CHURCH according to our text, holds or occupies now in respect to His church ? " 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/' Jesus very often sets Himself forth in a similar light — even in that of a great personage departing for a long time, and leaving those under his authority to fulfil their respective duties, in order to prove how they would act under these circumstances. In the twentieth of St Luke's Grospel He speaks this parable : " A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time/' So again in the twenty-fifth of Matthew : " The kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and deli-
vered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one ; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey." ow all these illustrations, together with that of the nobleman going to the distant seat of government, to be invested with the rule of a province, represent the fact that Jesus our Lord was visibly and personally to depart from this earth and from His church for a long season ; and to return again after many days ; and then to judge every man according to his works during the time of His absence from the sight of men. This point is essential to all these separate parables.
WAIT A D WATCH. 259 But each has its own mark and peculiai-ity, quite distinct from the rest in the mode and manner of its teaching. So with regard to the text. While the idea of an absent master, but one to whom all responsibility still remains due, is the same in each parable, here we have Jesus represented as one who left his house or family, " and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch/' ow that the church— I do not mean any one visible body or denomination, but the whole assembly of true believers in Christ — that the church is Christ's household or family, there can be no doubt. It is said expressly so to be. See the third of Hebrews, fifth verse : '' And Moses verily was faithftil in all his house'' (i. e. among the children of Israel, over whom God made him ruler) " as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after ; but Christ as a son over His own house ; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." Many other passages speak of the children of Christ's family ; but this of our text deals with His church as servants of His household, in which light, as well as that of children, we all stand before Him ; and to this view I shall now confine myself
Just as the master of some large establishment, when leaving home, would sanction his servants to pursue their own separate duties and works without his daily, visible inspection and commands ; so when Jesus ascended into heaven He s2
260 JESUS BIDDI G HIS CHURCH gave authority to all His servants, in each successive generation, and in every place, for the fulfilment of His will upon earth. They are to act in His name and for Him. He is their Lord and their Master, who has over them every title and every claim which their creation and their redemption could give : and He is the possessor of all things upon earth, which His servants are to employ and deal with as His. He has a right to their allegiance all unreserved and all undivided ; and all things here are Christ's, so that none can rightfully withdraw any one of them from His ownership. If therefore He commits authority to His servants, they are bound to use and employ it for Him. All bodies are His. All minds and intellects are His. All hearts are His. All time is His. All money is His. All rule and government is His. All our relatives and all our friends are His. Life, death, and eternity — all, all are His — and therefore in all things Jesus has authority, and Jesus intrusts that authority to His servants, and they are bound and privileged to use it in their Master's service, and for His glory ; and most assuredly He will maintain their cause. Moreover, we are told that Jesus gives "to every man His work." Yes ! this is His distribution unto every member of His church. I need not speak here as to what is the great work and occupation of all who call themselves Christians, but as to what it should be ; for it is that with which we, individually and personally, are con'cemed ; and thus it is regarded in the text. " To
WAIT A D WATCH. 261 every man his work'' — as it were in a hive of bees, where all should be workers — where there should be no drones. Idleness is never contemplated as a possible thing among the servants of God. Adam and Eve were to dress and keep the garden. His people have always been called to ample, earnest, persevering work for His name's sake — oah, for instance, as builder of the ark — Moses, as the leader of His people through the wilderness — David, as a warrior, ruler, and king — His prophets, as rising up early and so late taking rest in fulfilling their high office. So too the apostles — so all the saints, of whom Scripture tells — so Jesus Himself. He came "not ta be ministered unto, but to minister." He came^ saying, "I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day. The night cometh, when, no man can work.'' Again : ** My meat is to da the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work.'' Thus He sanctioned by His example that which He ordained and commanded by His Word — "to every man his work." Whether high on whether low in earthly station — whether young or whether old — whether learned or whether otherwise — every one should regard himself or herself aS having at all events one grand,, primary work on earth; that is, to serve Christ j and this precedes every other calling, though it may be pursued in every calling not absolutely sinful in itself, and therefore demanding that we should leave it one, or so arrange and change things in it that it may become so. The text
262 JESUS BIDDI G UI3 CUURCH teaches all this most explicitly when it tells us how Jesus " gave to every man his work/' But one word more on the last clause in His administration: "He commanded the porter to watch."
This, in all probability, specially refers to the office of His ministers. Elsewhere they are termed watchmen. Here they are told of as keeping the door. And this is their post, which they spiritually fill. If taught by the Sph-it of God they will not act as " lords over God's heritage." They will not act harshly with their fellow-servants. They will not shut the door against any one desirous to enter into the family of Christ. Rather, by the preaching of a full, free gospel, they will open it gladly and thankfully at any hour of the day or night to any true pilgrim experiencing his own need of a Saviour, and desirous of being saved. They will act, in the spirit of Good-will the Porter, at the wicket gate in the Pilgrim's Progress, whose word is; "We make no objections against any, notwithstanding all that they have done before they come hither. They in no wise are cast out." But at the same time they will act faithfully. They will not, intentionally, let any single person enter there who has no faith nor trust in their Master. They will so preach the Gospel, and they will so teach privately — and they will so plainly and truly declare the real, true, and only way of salvation, that, so far as in them lies,' none of their hearers may be themselves deceived, or deceive others.
WAIT A D WATCH. 263 by any false pretences or erroneous profession. They will remember who it was that said, " I am the door : by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture/' And in remembrance of this solemn title of their Lord, they, through grace, boldness, and wisdom from above, wiH keep the door, and constantly afl^m to all comers, that, except by faith in Jesus Christ, none shall enter in, so far as they can prevent it. This is the porter's office. This should be the porter's work. Such then is the standing, position and relationship which, according to His own word and description in the text, Jesus now occupies with
regard to His church, and to every one of us who truly belongs to it. We have, in the second place, to see what is the standing, position and relationship which the Church now occupies — I dwell on the word now — ^with regard to Him. "Watch ye therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the mommg." This evidently is a state of expectation — a state of circumspection — a state of diligent attention to allotted work, under the conviction that at any period our Lord may return personally, and in judgment, to inspect His household, and see how they are employed. ow I believe there are many — indeed I know there are — who have allowed that most unscriptural notion to take
264 JESUS BIDDI G HIS CHURCH hold of their minds, that it is not needftil for ministers to press on them this subject of their Lord's second coming, nor incumbent on them, personally, to feel it, as a motive and a principle for them, individually, to act upon. ow I can only say that such a view as this is most inexcusable, or most irreverend. If it proceeds from ignorance of Scripture, and from inattention to the fact, that a large amount of our Lord's own discourses and a large amount of the apostlesi' writings are filled with this subject, as a motive, and as a principle, and for a practical bearing on the hearts and in the lives of His people, then this ignorance is most inexcusable. But, on the other hand, if this is known, and yet an indifference to the subject of our Lord's second coming still remains and prevails ; and if any one ventures to assert that it is sufficient for us to think, instead, of the day of our death, and of the uncertainty of life, then this course is indeed most irreverent to God and His inspired Word, What !
Doth not God know best what we ought to feel, realize, and apply ? Shall He make known what He considers most for the glory of His Son, and what is most befitted to sway and actuate us. His creatures, and shall we neglect it? All I shall now say on the subject is, God forbid ! And let us proceed to examine the command itself, from which I have gone aside for a few moments, but, I am well assured, not without much need of the caution and warning voice for many every where. " Watch ye therefore. " Elsewhere it is written :
WAIT A D WATCH. 265 "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil'' — redeeming it — buying it out, as it were, for higher and for holier purposes than those for which it is spent by the world around. The prophet Habakkuk speaks of himself, as watching what the Lord would say unto him a. So again St. Paul orders us : " Watch ye : stand fast in the faith." Again, " Let us watch and be sober.'' Again, " Blessed is he that watcheth and keepeth his garments." One more quotation: "Let us not sleep" (i. e. spiritually) "as do others : but let us watch and be sober." ow this watching does not in the least mean a state of excited suspense, such as would disable us from the calm pursuit of our respective duties and responsibilities. or has true religion ever that eflfect, however it may be slandered and libelled and charged with the false, imaginary phantoms of its enemies. Some say, religion makes people mad. Rather are those morally mad who are cold and dead on the subject. Jesus has himself provided against such a state of mind, even when telling His people of the most awful and overwhelming things, which they might have to meet and encounter. His exhortation is : " In your patience possess ye your souls." " Be ye not of a doubtful mind" — in a state of suspense, as it were in the clouds^. or, again^ does this order to watch sanction the proceedings of monks and of monasteries, of nuns and of nun-
^ Habakkuk ii. i. ^ Kal fir^ fUTf<opi(f<rB€, Luke xii. 29.
2Q6 JESUS BIDDI O HIS CHURCH neries, of hermits and of anchorites, of men flying from the scenes and daily transactions of life, and quitting their families, their homes, their callings and duties, under the idea that they will more please God by passing their days in solitude afar off, and in abstract contemplation, uninter* rupted from year's end to year's end. Let us be well assured that nothing of this kind — none of these self-invented schemes, which are the delight of the church of Rome — find any sanction either in the text or in any part of God's Word. o doubt Elijah dwelt for a season in the wilderness, but there was a purpose in it : and even to him, in his solitude, God said : " What doest thou here, Elijah ?" and sent him back to his country and his brethi-en, whom for a time he had been tempted to shun. o doubt John the Baptist " was in the deserts until the day of his shewing imto Israel,'' and " was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loms ; and he did eat locusts and wild honey/' But in that God had His own purpose, and that confined to Him. o doubt the saints of old time, as well as of more recent times ^, have "wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." But this was not their own voluntary course. It was that to which persecution drove them. In the Lord's meaning and intent holy watching needs no course like this — ^no such expedients. It means that at all times and in all places — as dawns the morning and as evening d Among the Cevennee, for instance, in Louis XlVth's time.
WAIT A D WATCH. 267 shuts ill — in company and when alone — on Sundays and on all days — at our business and at
our recreation — in youth, in middle age and old age — in health and strength, in sickness, decay, and in the extremities of death, we should, habitually, seek to keep up in our mind, that, as Jesus our Lord once came to suffer, so too He will again come to be glorified ; and we should habitually find it our privilege and our vocation too to live ready for His appearance — ^ready to open unto Him immediately from the very depths of our own hearts. We should be ready to welcome Him there at His summons, should He come, at any time, to knock at the door of the startled world, with His own Almighty hand, and with the archangel's trump, and with the shout of triumphant myriads from the courts of heaven. This, this is to watch, in the Lord's meaning and intent, as the text tells. We must watch, in spirit, over all our conduct and over all our doings, so that at any time we might be able to present them, either as in progress according to God's will, or as completed in the same manner — deeds sealed and acknowledged by the Spirit — fruit that shall remain — the richness of good works. Just take an illustration from ordinary life ! Suppose a manufactory, where many and perhaps some difficult fabrics are in hand. The master may come in at any time, and, very probably, at some unexpected time, to inspect each man's work, and see whether he is performing it carefully and well, or carelessly, and so as not to
2G8 JESUS BIDDI G HIS CHURCH bear close investigation. The one is a workman who will, the other who will not be ashamed at his master's approach and eye. So too in the case of servants — that very similitude employed by the Lord here. A master of a great place and broad estate may have to be away for a long period — yes, so long — of which there have been instances — that some of his household may have died in his absence, and their places have been filled up — but the restoration of the master's health, for which he went and dwelt, for a time, in a distant land ; or the sudden termination of
a far distant war, in which he may have been engaged as a leader and commander in the cause of his country ; or his retirement from duties in another place — or some similar thing, may have brought him ba^k speedily, perhaps unexpectedly. And then it will be, that, just as each servant had made it his endeavour that his master should be pleased with his own special department of work at his coming, so will his work, at the time of trial, be found — and whatsoever we may say of a mere positive command effecting such results, still the heart, and the feeling of a real interest is requisite for things to be done well even in common Ufe. Much more in things which relate to the kingdom of God. Jesus, at all events, will not be satisfied and cannot be satisfied on any principle of an inferior kind as to that done for Him. Other motives, of course, have place in due subordination and degree : but this must be the chief and the uppermost, viz. the desire and
WAIT A D WATCH. 269 the purpose of heart, by God's grace, to manifest in our lives that we do truly love Him, do truly seek His glory in all things, do truly arrange all our ways and doings so as to present ourselves and all concerning us as oflferings at His feet, as works done to please Him, as the obligations of holy and devoted love, at any given moment. It is observable, that, in the language of the text, Jesus especially referred to the four divisions of the night, prevalent among the Jews— the four watches — three hours in each. So too the course of this world is a long and dark night — a night of sorrow, toil, sin, vanity, ignorance, compared with the glory of that everlasting day which shall be ushered in and continued without end by the "Sun of righteousness" — even Jesus Christ at His second coming : but, notwithstanding this, the Scripture thus addresses us, who are enlightened by the Word and the Spirit, and who are the true followers of Christ: "Yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so
cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say. Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child ; and they shall not escape'' — i. e. the careless, the worldly, the deaf to the Gospel, and all who are wilfully ignorant of these things. And now mark that which follows! "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." There is the distinction — God be praised for it! Therefore let us be watching and waiting in spirit and truth for the
27(> JESUS BIDDI G HI« CHURCH retuni of our coming Lord. He has tamed for a long while. evertheless, He wUl not not tarry for ever — and through the long vista, perhaps of troublous days for ourselves, and perhaps of troublous times in pul)lic matters, such as we, as yet, have not had to encounter — and through the valley of the shadow of death — and across the grave, with its darkness, gloom, and corruption, let us look onwards and let us look upwards to the glad sight of our Lord's return in His majesty ! And cheered by that sight, present to the spiritual eye that is within us, let us pursue our remaining way holily, blamelessly, cheerfully, and industriously in the Lord's service ! Let us go on fulfilling all the daily duties of our life, not merely as chance or our own natural disposition may lead — not merely to pacify or just to satisfy our own conscience — not merely with the endeavour just to escape God's wrath and condemnation, but on those very principles, connected with our Saviour, which He Himself laid down and commended to us, of every age and every generation, when He preached to us not less than to those who heard Him : " What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch." or let us be satisfied, without all constant effort on our part to advance the kingdom of Christ in the souls of other men, other w^omen, and other children, without bearing our share, however humble, in that spiritual work, which is more noble, more endearing, and more practical too than all other work
which God has given His children to do. For
WAIT A D WATCH. 271 that which is done on and in the everlasting soul, whether it be our own, or whether it be that of another, by our means and instrumentality, will certainly endure, when the mightiest work of man^s hand shall exist no more — when pyramids shall all have crumbled to the dust, and the earth shall have been convulsed to its very centre. Let us remember and apply these things ; and waiting for our Lord's return, and watching in all things, carry on that work which He has given us to do, the work of prayer and of praise and of all holiness and righteousness in the strength and by the Spirit of God ; and " be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" — and that we shall receive our abundant reward at the hour of His coming in His own majesty ! Oh ! may we wait, and watch, and pray, Look up ; and free from fear. Our Kfe be all deyotedness. Till He, our Lord, appear !
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