« AnteriorContinuar »
Judgment, we must of necessity beware of two things; the first of these is the love of ease and pleasure. Surfeiting and drunkenness, that is, selfish fleshly pleasure, has a tendency so to overload a Christian's heart, as quite to unfit him for earnestly watching for Christ. The second is the love of gain, which, together with the cares of life, as I before said, so engage the mind of many of us, that we begin to think of this life as all that we are concerned about, and thus our minds become really unfit to receive the most concerning truths of religion : such, for instance, as the knowledge God has vouchsafed us of the great changes, the everlasting things, that are drawing near us.
Therefore, he who would be found watching, he who would be placed at the Right Hand in that last awful separation of the sons of men, must be sparing in the enjoyment of the pleasures of life, and must be very vigilant that his heart be not entangled with its cares.
And unless we thus take care that the flesh and the world do not distract or harden our hearts, it is vain to expect that we can fix them as we ought, in constant, earnest expectation of Christ's Coming
And a continual looking for the Coming of our LORD JESUS Christ to judgment is the very principal part of our religion. So at least St. Paul says, Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God and our Saviour JESUS Christ 6.” And when in the Lord's Prayer we daily say, “Thy kingdom come,” whatever else we pray for, we do certainly pray for this full and final establishment of His glorious kingdom.
By constantly praying and endeavouring to be prepared for our Lord's Coming, we may be fit to use such a prayer, but not else. Again, therefore, I say, beware of fleshly pleasures ; beware of worldly cares; for both these effectually hinder us from preparing ourselves for the Judgment.
Then be always trying to set before yourself that last great and awful scene. Think, if you had seen the vision as St. John did,-seen the sheep and the goats for ever separated one from another; had seen the chosen and accepted servants of Christ raised to heavenly glory; and the idle, the self-deceiving,
6 Titus ii. 13.
the lukewarm, cast out with the profane and the unbelieving, into torments without end or hope; do not you think you would be without excuse if you ever forgot, ever ceased to bear in mind, in all your doings, the fearful vision you had seen?
Then consider God's own Son has given you His Divine Word and Testimony of the truth of all this. Will you not believe HIM? If the Bible be God's Word, are you not as much without excuse in not preparing for Judgment, when you read of it there, as if you had seen it yourself in a vision ? Nor is it true that we cannot act upon what we have not seen ourselves, for we do often, in the commonest matters of life, take for granted and act upon a number of things we do not see. It is not because we have not seen a vision of the Day of Judgment, that the expectation has little power over us, but because we have not used ourselves to think earnestly and often about it, and because our thoughts have been used to dwell on other things. And for this soul-destroying evil there is but one remedy, one method of cure, which I have already described : first, the denying and deadening of the flesh ; secondly, separation from the world, I mean, from the cares of the world; and, lastly, a constant habit of seriously thinking on these great changes that are drawing on, with a careful endeavour to make these thoughts practical, and to live always suitably to them. This is the only way to be of the blessed number of those whom the LORD, when He cometh, shall find watching.
MATTHEW xxiv. 42.
“Watch therefore : for ye know not what hour your LORD doth come.”
If we would but open our eyes to see, and our hearts to understand, then we could not fail to observe, that the truth of what we hear or read out of God's word is daily confirmed and proved to us by the events that happen all about us. For instance, our Saviour warns us against laying up “ treasures where moth and rust do corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal'.” And do we not continually witness the speedy waste or loss of goods laid up by men with the labour and care of many years? Some unforeseen accident, some act of violence or fraud on the part of a neighbour, makes a man poor in a moment, when he has been long and earnestly striving to raise himself to wealth. Thus we ourselves are allowed to see the moth and rust corrupt, and the thieves break through and steal, that we may the more fully be convinced of the reasonableness of our Saviour's warning, and that our hearts may be weaned from the love of worldly wealth. Somewhat in the same way, our own experience proves too, as certainly, and most sadly, how well He knew us, Who taught us to “watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation?;" for whenever we become careless about ourselves, and neglect the duty of prayer, some temptation is sure to come upon us, and before we are aware, we have fallen into some grievous sin.
Now, in like manner, the same Teacher and God of Truth hath said to us, in another place, from which I have taken my text:"Watch, for ye know not what hour your LORD doth 1 Matt. vi. 19.
2 Ibid. xxvi. 41.
come.” “But know this, that if the good man of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.”
Therefore be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.”
Your attention was called to this passage in the very last sermon that was preached from this pulpit', and you were taught how we should understand it, not only of the sudden Coming of Christ to judgment, but also of the unexpected way in which death often comes upon us, at the very time we are least looking for it. God hath thought it good to make His own comment on that text during the last week. He has made awfully clear, at once, both its truth, and the justice of that explanation of it which was then made to you. One of those that heard that sermon with you, was, within four-and-twenty hours after, seized with an illness, which, (after she had lingered on two days speechless, and for the most part of the time, to all appearance, insensible,) ended in her death. She was here with you last Sunday afternoon, apparently as well as any of you; but her body is now in the grave, her soul in another world. It is perfectly plain that there is just as much likelihood that a death as sudden might happen to any one of us. We
may be here to-day, and next week in the grave; or rather, we may be, any of us, to-morrow, or before to-night, in another world.
A person in my situation, as a minister, has frequent occasion to observe how often, how very often, death comes suddenly ; at least, people have no direct and certain warning of its approach, no time in which they heard themselves called upon to prepare for its immediate approach.
In the richer classes, the friends of the sick are too apt to defer telling them of their danger, till it becomes too late to get ready to meet it. In many cases, sick people themselves will cling obstinately to whatever little hope may remain, and letting their minds dwell rather on this little hope of life, turn them away from the necessity of preparing themselves for death. In other instances, again, the very first sign of great and immediate danger that appears, is the failing of reason. So that to depend upon the chance of repenting on a death-bed is, indeed, to trust to what is most uncertain, in a matter where our condition for everlasting is concerned, and where we ought to depend on nothing but what is quite secure. A day, an hour, may bring any one of us, it may be, to death itself, or it
3 This sermon will be found in the second volume of this series, Sermon xxxviii.
may be into a state of insensibility, and in that we may continue till death. We too, any one of us, may be senseless to-morrow; our bodies may be in the grave by next Sunday. And surely this is a very awful condition to be in, when we consider that after death is the judgment. As soon as we die, either our spirits will be taken by the Angels to Abraham's bosom, like Lazarus, or else, like that wretched man of whom our Saviour tells us in the same part of the Gospel, we must lift up our eyes in torments, and long in vain for a drop of water in that unquenchable flame wherein the wicked are tormented after death, even before the Day of Judgment.
It is very possible that, before next Sunday another of us may pass into that unseen world, of endless rest, or endless misery. It is most likely, before a year is past, some of us will be gone there. Who, we cannot even guess ; but experience teaches us that death often comes upon those first who seem least likely to die. But all this is, as we know, but little considered. Young people too often turn away their minds altogether from all thoughts of this kind, for fear they should spoil their pleasure and gaiety. And this is much to be regretted, because the minds of young people are, in many respects, more apt to be moved by such considerations. As we grow older, our hearts too often become hardened ; middle-aged persons, and old persons too, frequently form a habit of talking in very serious and solemn words about sudden death and of the Judgment after, without themselves trying to be fit to die. There are, indeed, some, who are considerably distressed by apprehension and alarm about sudden death, who do not take more pains than other people to be strengthened by God's Holy Spirit and a good conscience against the terrors of death. To be afraid of death is one thing; to be preparing oneself for death is another. But unquestionably, their state is most lamentable, and affords least room for hope, who do not think of death at all, who have neither fear nor well-grounded hope.