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Often and often has Christ said this, and yet who regards it? The generality are as careless and secure, as if he had never condescended to warn us. He has called to us, publicly and loudly, in national judgments. Every fresh calamity that has come upon us, has thundered in our ears, “ Watch.” But though the Lord's hand has been stretched out, and his voice has been crying both to city and country, yet who regards it? We are, for the most part, as intent upon business, or immersed in pleasure, as if it were a time of the greatest prosperity.
He has sent the same message to us privately, by the gloomy harbingers of death.
Grave after grave has opened in quick succession, and called upon us to watch, and yet who regards it? They who have attended a funeral, soon forget all that they have seen. They take their ease, eat, drink, and are merry; and soon become as indifferent as if they had never attended to these frequent solemnities.” It is a wonder that the patience of God is not exhausted, and that he does not say, in awful indignation, “ Sleep on now, and take your rest, until death, judgment, and
hell surprise you. I will call to you no more. National judgments, and domestic trials, will not awake you. Let him that is sleepy, be sleepy still. I will give you up as persons that hate to be roused or reformed.” Thus he might have said : and thus, if his thoughts had been as ours, he certainly would. But he is God, and not 'man; and therefore, if many kind endeavours to awaken you have proved insufficient, he has sent me again, to say to you, ye heed; watch and pray ; for ye know not when the time is : 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 fore, for
know not when the master of the house cometh ; at even, or at midnight, or at cock-crowing, or in the morning ; lest coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.”
I shall first inquire in what this watchfulness consists; and secondly, on what account it is necessary. This is a matter of universal concern. No one will be able, on his return from this place, to say that there was nothing in the Sermon adapted for hiin; for what is said to one, is addressed to all who are present. It calls too for immediate consideration ; for we have not a moment's security from death. As “ he which testifieth these things, saith, Surely I come quickly," we should always be ready, having our Joins girded, and our lights burning; while we ourselves are like them that wait for their Lord, when he will return from the wedding ; that when he cometh, and knocketh, we may open to him immediately.”
I. In what does this watchfulness consist? I shall not attempt to treat of this subject in its fullest extent, but consider it with reference to the coming of Christ, and our solemn appearance before him. In this respect, watchfulness implies, first, thoughtfulness. Sinners are so intent upon buying and selling, and getting gain, or they are so pleased and happy in the enjoyment of what they have gotten, that they have neither time nor inclination to think of any thing else. It would be an interruption and disturbance to them to be told of Christ's coming. They never think of it, but when they cannot avoid it, and it will be no wonder if, coming suddenly, Jie find them sleeping. But it is otherwise with the watchful Christian. He considers it as a material part of his duty to “ keep himself in the love of Ged, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life." If it were a doubtful matter, whether Christ would come or not, it were enough to make every one of us thoughtful. But when we consider, that it is as certain as our present existence, and that he will then decide our state for eternity, it is almost strange that we can think of any other subject. Every incident should bring it to remembrance. When we rise in the morning, it is natural for us to think, “ Perhaps before night I may be at the end of my journey. My sun may go down at noon, and I may be hurried away, as others have been, without any warning. Or, if I should not die, I may be seized with that sickness to-day, which may shortly end in my
death." So when we lie down at night, we should say,
Perhaps I shall never get out of my bed. I may
be dead before morning, and my next awaking may be in eternity." When we are attending on the means of grace, we should think, “ Perhaps this is the last time in which I shall join with the people of God in this service below. Before the next Sabbath, I may be worshipping with angels in the temple above." In such a manner as this, we should improve every incident of life, and take all opportunities to impress upon our hearts, the thoughts of Christ's certain, and perhaps speedy approach. But watchfulness also implies preparation. “ Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent, that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless."
Indeed, without this, it signifies nothing how much we think of the coming of Christ; we might as well be attending to any other business. The great end of keeping this infinitely important day in our thoughts, is to prepare us for it, that, let it come when it will, it may not take us by surprise. Let us, therefore, yield up ourselves to Christ, and in dependence upon his
grace, endeavour to be fervent in spirit serving the Lord. He who has commanded us to watch, has bidden us work : and has furnished us with employment, which might occupy every moment. Let us observe the duties which are incumbent upon us in our general conduct, and in our particular relations to our families, the church, and the world; and let us act with diligence and faithfulness, as the servants of Christ, who came not to be ministered to, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
II. But it is time to consider on what account this watchfulness is necessary.
First, because many are called, and few are chosen. In every field there are tares as well as wheat; and in every church, sinners and saints are blended together. We may be exact about the form of godliness, and yet be condemned for want of its power. Watch, therefore, commune with your own hearts, and let
your spirit make diligent search. Judge every grace and every duty by the word of God, and if they will not stand that test, suspect and reject them. Look back to the time when you first entered into covenant with Christ: inquire into the motives, the manner, the fruits, and the consequence of it; and consider what proofs you have given, in your general conduct, that you have been really born again. You cannot be too circumspect and cautious in this matter. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Self-love may prompt you to form partial opinions, and pass lightly over particular circumstances, which are rather untavourable to you. Watch, therefore, against this; and, after all, trust not to your own "heart, nor lean to your own understanding; but laying all open to the penetrating eye of God, say, “ Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts, and see if there be any
wicked way in me; and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Secondly, be watchful, because so many about you are slothful. Indeed, the generality are so, though there are duty and dangerenough to keep them always awake. Multitudes have not begun to “ work out their salvation.” They have not taken a step towards Sion, nor set their faces thitherward. They have never had a serious thought about their souls, but are lying in wickedness on the brink of destruction, and