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porary discussion, argument, or mere conversation, nor ought we to read religious books with any such view.
Rather, it is a solemn duty incumbent on us all, and of which we are none of us, perhaps, sufficiently aware, to make a conscience of our thoughts, opinions, and views on these great subjects.
For these subjects are great, touching, and important to every single individual, equally, not to one more than another.
The great truths of the Gospel are not such as any person can reasonably set aside; no person can say, They do not concern me; I shall not trouble myself to inquire about them ; whether the truth be here or there, I neither know, nor care to ascertain.
Now, when people so generally think and act in this kind of manner, it is more necessary, as it is more difficult, for those who are in earnest in their religion to keep a guard on themselves in this respect. For, whatever the world may say or think, we shall certainly have to answer at last for our thoughts and opinions, as well as for our deeds and words.
Hence we see how necessary it is for us to be serious and in earnest in all our thoughts about religious subjects, and in reading or hearing religious books. Possibly we may be mistaken occasionally in some of our opinions ; still, if the heart be humble, reverential, devout, and teachable, by degrees, no doubt, more light will be granted to us; the blessed influence of God's Holy Spirit will preserve us at least from fatal errors; and, if even at the best in this world we are permitted to see things spiritual but as through a glass, darkly, and by reflection; yet, if we indeed strive to be what we ought to be, we may venture to look forward with hope to that day when we shall feel that to be true, which we so often acknowledge—“That in the knowledge of God standeth our eternal life, and in His service is perfect freedom.”
WATCHING FOR THE UNKNOWN DAY.
ST. MARK xiii. 33.
“ Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”
WHEN people expect any thing to happen to them, for which they know they ought to prepare themselves, they naturally begin presently to inquire, when it is likely to come to pass,—they want to know the exact time. And when they do come to know it, very often it becomes a snare to them. The indolent, slothful, careless disposition, which is but too natural to all men since the sin of our first parents, causes us too often to put off those duties for which we do not expect, for a long time, to be called to account. A child, for example, knows the precise time when he will be called on to say his lesson ; and we know how apt he is, therefore, to delay learning it until it is very near the time: a labourer knows that he has a certain piece of work to get through by such an hour, and he lets that hour come on as near as he dares before he begins to work in earnest at all. Many other instances might be given : but these will be sufficient to make you understand that there may be a spiritual sloth also, extremely dangerous to the soul of man, showing itself in this particular form ; that people think they know, more or less, how much time God will allow them, and so think they need not take pains until they are, as they suppose, come near to the end of that time. It would greatly terrify them, could they be convinced that they
were really on the edge of the world which never ends, so unprepared as they know themselves to be ; but they too easily contrive to persuade themselves that they are as yet far enough from that world; that they may sleep, or trifle, or riot on a little more, and yet there will be time sufficient for them to do all their work in.
By this we may understand how great a mercy it is that our Saviour has hid from us the exact time of the Last Day, as HE has that of our own death. How carefully and strictly He has concealed the time when He will come to be our Judge, very many places in the Bible inform us. The Day of the LORD—it was a proverb among Christians— the Day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. Our Lord Himself taught people this saying, where He says, “This know, 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 through. Be therefore ready also; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” St. Peter and St. Paul both took this Parable from Him. St. Peter, to reprove
the unbelief of certain scoffers, says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night: when the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat: the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up.” And St. Paul puts them in mind of it, as of a thing they could not be ignorant of: Of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you; 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.”
But the most remarkable and mysterious place, to show how the ALMIGHTY on purpose hides from us that awful time, is the verse just before the text. “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man; no, not the Angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the FATHER.” Not even the Son knows it, in that He is the Son of Man: it is no part of His Prophetic Mission : as some things were not known to Him when He grew in wisdom and stature, so neither was this, even to the day when He uttered this prophecy to His Disciples. Such seems to be, in part, the meaning of those remarkable words ; but however, it seems plain
that God has some awful purpose connected with His judgments on the wicked, and on that world which has become accursed through them, which makes it necessary to hide the time of judgment. But in the text a more merciful purpose too is not doubt. fully declared : “Take ye heed, watch and pray ;
ye not when the time is.” The time is concealed, on purpose to take away the temptation which I have just mentioned: it is kept back, that people might not, in their irreligious foolishness, fancy that it was far off, and time enough to get ready for it. Just as God, in His good Providence, hides from us the time of our own death, so in the Gospel of His Son He hides from us the time of the Day of Judgment, We know that when persons have reason to think they shall be sent out of the world on this or that particular day, it often seems to work a change in them for the better, as the day draws on; they seem more tender-hearted, and listen more attentively to the warnings of God's Messengers. But still there is no knowing whether such repentance is real or not. We may have a faint hope, but we cannot at all depend on it. In like manner, had we been enabled to foreknow exactly when God will call us out of this state of trial, even if the thought did make us more serious as the time drew on, yet there would be less and less chance of a really good and hopeful repentance, less and less trial of our faith. The seriousness might be a kind of astounding fear, such as seems, alas! to fill the hearts of too many when they are on their death-bed, and to render them even incapable, as far as we can discern, of any real and abiding change of heart. But now the uncertainty of the time of our death leaves us in a manner more at liberty to think of death, or not, as we like; to prepare for it or not, according as we choose rather to attend to the counsels of GoD ALMIGHTY, or to the corrupt whispers of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. God graciously leaves us to choose right for ourselves; that is, of course, by the help of His bountiful grace : but if we knew the exact time to be near, we should hardly be in a condition to choose: if we knew it to be what we call afar off, we should hardly, I fear, be minded to choose right.
And yet, in a certain sense, the ALMIGHTY has made known to us both the hour of death and also the Day of Judgment. He has hidden the exact hour and day, but He has set down certain