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in which the term is used in our text, to watch is to be in a state opposite to stupidity and spiritual sloth, inattention and negligence. We may here consider watchfulness as opposed, in the first place, to stupidity-in the second place, to procrastination-and in the third place, to carnal security.
1. Watching is opposite to stupidity. Man is born as the wild ass's colt.' And most men remain brutishly stupid with regard to the concerns of the soul. They pay less attention to the one thing needsul,' than to the merest trifle of time and sense. They give themselves not the least concern about death, judgment and eternity. “Their inward thonght is, that their houses will continue forever, their dwelling places to all generations.” They expect 'to-morrow will be as this day, and much more abundant in temporal enjoyment.
In opposition to such stupid neglect of the soul, those who may be considered as watching, have been awakened to serious attention to their spiritual concerns. They have been led to consider the inestimable worth of their souls, their constant liability to death, the reality of a future state, the certainty of the general judgment, their lost condition by nature, their perishing need of One mighty to save,' and the indispensable necessity of repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. They have been excited to inquire in earnest, each one; “What shall I do to be saved?"
2. Watching may be considered as opposed to procrastination. There are many, who have, at times, been awakened to serious consideration, who yet are disposed to postpone the concerns of their souls to a future time. They are convinced of their need of preparation for judgment and eternity, and they intend to make preparation before they die, as they have not made up their minds to ' lie down in everlasting sorrow;' but they are far from being disposed to do it at present: they have several things to do first: they are quite too busy and too happy, at present, to think of engaging in the serious, and to them, irksome and gloomy duties of religion.
In opposition to such dangerous delay, those who watch in the sense of our text, give immediate attention to their spiritual interests. They perceive the folly, guilt, and presumption, of putting off religion to a more convenient season,' which there is no reason to expect will ever come. The past time of their lives suffices them' to have served sin and Satan. They have no desire to remain longer at
enmity with God, and in the gall of bitterness and bond of iniquity." They are ready to choose, this day, that they will serve the Lord,' and obey the Gospel of Christ. They make religion their first, as well as main concern. They renounce every salse way, turn from their sinful courses, give God their hearts now, and begin without delay the practice of every known duty.
3. Watching may be considered as opposed to carnal security. Carnal security is the reverse of that good hope through grace, which results from a lively exercise of the Christian affections and a diligent performance of the Christian duties. It is a false security, for which there is no foundation in reason or the word of God. Some feel safe, because they believe there is no future punishment. A deceived heart has turned them aside from the truth, and led them into Deism or Universalism, which are near akin, and equally irrational and unscriptural. Some feel safe, because they imagine that, at some period past, :hey were converted; though they have only a dead faith,' a bare speculative belief, or delusive notion that Christ and salvation are theirs, without accepting the punislıment of their iniquities,' or denying themselves for Christ's sake. Others feel safe, because they pay a decent respect to the externals of religion, while they neglect the weightier matters,' and have at best only the form of godliness, denying the power thereof,' and perhaps even denying the Lord that bought them.'
On the contrary, those who watch, are such as give diligence to make their calling and election sure. They are not disposed either to build their hope upon past experience, without perseverance in holiness, or to rest satisfied with past attainments, without pressing forward towards the mark of perfection. They examine, prove, and know themselves, and guard against the lusts of the flesh, the allurements of the world, and the devices of Satan. They consider themselves as in an enemy's land, and feel the need of much caution, great diligence, and fervent prayer. They realize their dependence upon God, and walk humbly and softly before him; while they trust in his wisdom and goodness to order all events for the best, and are thus prepared to meet him in all the opening scenes of his Providence. They consider themselves as pilgrims and strangers on earth, and neither expect vor desire to be released from their labors and trials, till they arrive at that rest which remaineth to the people of God. I am, in the
III. To show why, since death may come suddenly, -men ough to watch and never be spiritually asleep. * The general reason is, that unless they watch, they are liable to be surprised by death. When the enemy is near, if a sentinel suffers himself to sleep, he is exposed to be taken by surprise. And when men are spiritually asleep, should they be suddenly overtaken by death, as they always may be, they must be exceedingly surprised. This is ihe reason used by our Lord to impress his exhortation in our text: “Watch ye, therefore; for ye know not when the Master of the house cometh--lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping." This must be dreadful to both saints and sinners.
It is dreadful to saints, to be surprised by death. Though the covenant of grace secures the salvation of every saint; yet it must be very shocking even to a saint, to receive a summons to leave the world in an unexpected moment, when off his watch, in a lifeless, inactive state, surfeited with worldly cares, and destitute of spiritual life. The wise virgins, though they had oil in their vessels, were much alarmed, when the cry of the Bridegroom's approach aroused them from their guilty slumbers. And so it must be with all saints, who are suddenly called to appear before God, when spiritually asleep. Saints are not actually prepared for death, unless their souls, as well as their houses, are set in order, and their lamps trimmed and burning. Saints are not actually prepared for death, unless they are weaned from the world, spiritually minded, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness. They are not actually prepared for death, unless they are watchful and prayerful and diligently engaged in all the duties of their high and holy vocation.
But if it is dreadful for saints to be surprised by death, how much more so for sinners. They are in neither accual nor habitual readiness to meet the king of terrors. They are without holiness, and unprepared to see God. They are without an interest in Christ, and the wrath of God abideth upon them. If, in this state of spiritual sleep and spiritual death, their souls are suddenly required of
lem, how awful their condition! There remaineth nothing for them but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation. If a sinner, when suddenly arrested by death, is in a state of stupidity; ihen how dreadful it must be for him to be awakened in hell? If he be procrastinating; then how terrible, to be hurried away in an unexpected moment, to that world, in which there is no placa
for repentance nor room for pardon? If he be carnally secure; then how shocking the disappointment, to be suddenly destroyed, and that without reinedy! Since these things are so; is it not solemnly important, that living men sbould watch, and never be spiritually asleep?
The truly affecting occasion, which has called us to this house of mourning, is calculated to impress deeply upon every mind the appropriate subject to which your attention has been directed. Seldom has a dispensation of Providence occurred, in this or any place, which more strikingly illustrates the total uncertainty of human life, the danger of spiritual sleep, and the importance of watchfulness and prayer and constant preparation for eternity, than that which has so suddenly deprived this family of its head, and this community of one of its most upright, useful and respectable members. Who of us all, on the morning of last Thursday, was more likely, in human view, to live through the day, than he, who now lies before us, a lifeless corpse? What can be more unexpected, than the fatal accident, which, in an awful moment, mangled his limbs, and subjected him to a painful surgical operation, which frail nature was too weak long to survive. Surely, “ Man knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time; when it falleth suddenly upon them.”
We can all see, now, how needful it was, that our deceased friend should have been in a watchful state, a prayerful frame, and actual preparation for death and eternity. That he was so, in some measure, there is ground to hope. Many years ago, his attention was awakened to the truths of the gospel and the concerns of the soul. He became convinced of the native depravity of his heart, and of the necessity of the second birth, in order to see the kingdom of heaven. After a season of mental distress, he became, as he afterwards hoped, reconciled to God. That the change which he then experienced, was of a genuine and saving nature; seemed to be evinced by a life of uniform sobriety and integrity, by a diligent attendance on the means of grace, and by a uniform attachment to the cause of divine truth, sound morals, and pure religion. He frequently contemplated a public profession of his faith, which was hindered, in times past, by diffidence respecting his own experience, and doubts respecting an ordinance of the gospel; and more recently, by the peculiar state of things in this place. The calmness and remarkable fortitude with
which he bore the shock and agony of his last trial, indicate habitual faith and trust in God, and submission to his will. That one possessing so much natural sensibility and acute feeling, should have passed through such an unexpected scene of torture and anguish, without a murmur, and almost without a groan; can hardly be accounted for, without supposing that his mind was stayed on God,' and that he was sustained by divine power and comforted by the Divine Spirit.
This thought must tend greatly to mitigate the pungent grief of the sorrowful Widow. She does not mourn as those who have no hope. May she be enabled to mourn as one who has faith and hope in God, and resignation to his holy, sovereign will. There is no need, if I were able, to paint the scene of suffering through which she has passed. It is still too vividly before the eyes of ber mind. I would rather point her wounded spirit to the only source of consolation—the government of God.
He, who is infinitely wise, and good, and gracious, who doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men,' bas mingled for her the bitter cup of bereavement, because He saw it needful to answer the most benevolent ends. She has reason, therefore, to say as David did; “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because Thou didst it.” If she can cordially say this; instead of refusing to be comforted,' she will, like Job, bless God, when He taketh away, as well as when He giveth. May she cast her heavy burden on the Lord,' and be sustained. May she commit herself and her children to Him, who is the Father of the fatherless, and the widow's God.
How sore the bereavement, wbich in an unexpected hour, has deprived these Children of their earthly father, supporter, and guide? The Lord help them to bear submissively the burden of affliction, in their youth. They have no room to complain of injustice, or wroug; for God has taken his own, in a time and way, that seemed good in his sight. Let them cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils;' and O, let them feel, as they never felt before, that “one thing is needful”—that Religion is all!
The voice of Providence, to each of the mourning Relatives and Friends, is, “Be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.”
The Providence of God concurs with his word in teaching a solemn lesson to all in this neighborhood. Its language is, “The time is short--Your life is a vapour ---Boast not yourselves of to-morrow-There is but a step between