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DUTY OF WATCHFULNESS.
MARK, XIII, 35, 36, 37. Match ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house
cometh ; at even or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning; lest, coming suddenly, he find you 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 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 in the text. Watch!' for the master of the house cometh :' 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 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 will shortly return.
2. Let us regard the CAUTION: ‘Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.?
3. Let us attend to the MEANS which we should use, lest we should be found sleeping : What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.'
I. Let us notice the WARNING here given.
No 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 are many remarkable periods in the life of man, though there are many surprising vicissitudes and revolutions in states and kingdoms, yet what are they all to this?
Death and judgment are inevitable, surprising, and sudden. Whether a man thinks of it or not, things are in progress--the day is coming on-the decree is 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.
“This is great: that is noble.”
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 every thing called great in this world!
But, as Death leaves a man, so Judgment must find him. As one single moment, therefore, may place us in our final state, -as, this very night, our souls may be required of us,-as God has not said to the holiest 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
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: he 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 ?- That God 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 God? Or do you imagine that any complain that, while living, they watched too painfully?
Oh, let us listen to this warning, given to us by our Blessed Master and Redeemer. In love to the souls of men it was, that he left this warning behind him.
II. Let us notice the CAUTION: Lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping.'
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
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 may 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 may be 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 sleep
ing. 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! 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 ? “No! let him sleep on; for sleeping will be his destruction. Make no noise! Shake not his bed! Let him rest and sleep on!"
Nay, 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? No 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?" though he should put him to pain--though he should excite evil tempers--though he should be thought guilty of rudeness? 66 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 rude
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
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. TIere are no disputable doctrines: here are no nice