Page images

limits, beyond which He has assured us they cannot be delayed. We know that the days of man, which were at first near a thousand years, and seem afterwards to have lessened by degrees, are now come down, taking one life with another, to seventy at the outside. “ The days of our age are threescore years and ten; and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years, yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow, so soon passeth it away, and we are gone.” As much as to say, that they who shall live longest must not reckon upon living beyond seventy ; and even if they do, must not reckon upon doing more of their life's work, making their account more favourable, after that time, for then they must expect to fail both in mind and body. Thus, though no person living can say exactly in what year he shall die, yet we can all certainly name a year, in which every one of us now living will be out of this world, and waiting for their last account, if they have not already come to it. To make sure of taking it far enough off, let us say a hundred and ffty years. A hundred and fifty years, hence, we may feel certain, every one of us, and all our brethren, who are now breathing the air of this world, will have ceased to do so,—their souls will have been parted from their bodies, and they will be in the region where is no repentance, nor any such prayer as can change an evil lot to a good one. Can we not imagine this to ourselves, if we will have a little faith, as easily as a person condemned to die can realize to himself where he shall be this day month, or fortnight, or week ? Surely, if we will, we may: not that in any case it is an easy matter to throw our hearts and minds forward, and in hope or fear imagine ourselves in the Paradise of God, or in the prisons of darkness; it is not an easy matter for men unaccustomed to such meditations : but it may be done, by God's grace and help ; we may, if we choose, employ our leisure hours—the hours, for example, that we lie awake in our beds—in musing what our condition must needs be, when a hundred or a hundred and fifty years more shall have passed over this world, if it last so long. We shall either rest with Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, or with the rich man we shall lift up our eyes, being in torments. We shall be with Christ, which is far better than even an Apostle's condition in this imperfect world ; or we shall be with the souls of the unrighteous, reserved unto the Day of Judgment to be punished.


Though we can none of us say at all on what day this will begin to be our state, yet we can presently, any one of us, name a day, which, when it comes, will find us in one or the other of these conditions.

And as it is with regard to our own lives, so also, in some measure, with regard to the Day of Judgment. Neither man nor angel knows exactly when it will be; yet certain events are foretold, a course of things is declared in the writings of the Apostles, which having come to pass, the end will very soon

As God has given us tokens, which all men understand, of the gradual approach of the unknown hour of death, so has He given tokens, plain enough to believers, of the no less certain, yet more silent and gradual, approach of the unknown Day of Judgment. The tokens of coming death, all men know, are the changes which befal the bodies and minds of men-our hair turns grey, our strength decays, our sight, hearing, speech, is apt to fail us; our limbs tremble, our energy and activity is gone; we cannot remember things as we used to do. In like manner there are tokens of the old age of the world, such as are described in the prophecies of our LORD and of St. John: great afflictions, false Christs and false prophets, wars and rumours of wars, famines and troubles, the truth persecuted, iniquity abounding, the love of the greater part waxing cold. Whenever we see any of these things, -and surely the youngest and the most inconsiderate of us all must have seen and heard of too much of this sort of sign,

-we see a token of the coming of our LORD, as surely as we see in grey hairs a token of old age in any particular person. A great deal of the news that many of us" listen after, and read so eagerly, is such as ought to put us in mind continually that the coming of the LORD draweth nigh: that, as it is in one of the books called Apocryphal, the world hath lost its youth, and the times begin to wax old.”

Now what the use of such decay in each particular person is, we see very well : namely, that being reminded by it how soon he himself shall be dust and ashes, he should make haste to wean himself from a world, in which his stay will be so short ; and, in like manner, when we see by the prophecies the sure decay and end of the world itself, and of all the great things in it, this ought to make us very careful, not to be carried away by any of those things : not to set our hearts upon any thing, not to seek to be happy in any thing, except what we have reasonable hope will stand the fire of the Day of Judgment. Every war, every plague, every disturbance in a country, every bad season, every gross wickedness, is a token of the coming of our LORD, a reason why we should set our faces towards Him.

Thus our faith is, in one sense, helped by the very things, which in another way try it most severely. The wickedness of the world, and the love of most waxing cold, is a great temptation of course to us all : but let us look at it with an eye of faith, and we shall see in it a sign of Christ's coming to judgment: that great event, the expectation of which, more than any thing besides, must help him who recollects it to resist temptation.

Our Lord has taught us, by the parable which presently follows the text, how we should ever have our eyes and ears open, and see and hear every thing with a relation towards that great day. We should never consider any thing barely as it is itself, but always how far such and such an use of it will turn to our good or harm in the Day of Judgment. He compares HIMSELF to 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. He is indeed gone a far journey, into Heaven, the Heaven of Heavens, the very throne of God. He is far away out of our sight, and the time of His return is uncertain. He left it so on purpose, that we might be always ready. The time of His return is quite uncertain, but our work and duty is not at all so. He has left it quite plain : He gave authority to His servants, and to every man his work: is, HE set over the rest the Ministers of His Holy Word and Sacra. ments, and assigned both to them and to us all certain duties, which He would have us be doing when He comes again. HE assigned to most men the honest labour of their hands; to chil. dren, dutiful obedience to their parents, and to all who are in their parents' place; to servants, that they should be faithful to their masters; to masters, that they should be careful of their servants; to the rich, that they should be open-hearted; to the poor, contented ; to the young, that they keep themselves pure, humble, sober-minded; to the old, that they daily exercise themselves more and more in those graces, and in penitence for former breaches of them :--this is the kind of work which the Master of our House, the Church, has given to every one of us; and HE has especially commanded the porters, those who stand in the Apostles' place, keeping the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, these He has especially commanded to watch. And not them only, but the word " watch,” which is said especially to them for all our sakes, is said also to every one of the household for his own sake. Every one, besides his own proper business in the family, has this command given him, to be watching and waiting for his LORD, to be attentive and awake at all times, that he be not found sleeping at that particular time when his LORD shall return to call him to account.

If we were literally and outwardly so situated as our LORD has supposed in this parable, if our condition was that of servants, waiting in the night for an earthly master, and if our mind was that of loyal and dutiful servants, willing to please him, what would our conduct be? Should we not be continually looking up, and lifting up our heads when we began to grow weary, and running to the door, and watching every sound, whether we could distinguish his step at a distance? Should we not count the hours and watches of the night, from even till midnight, from midnight until cock-crowing, and from cock-crowing until the morning ? Should we not keep our loins girded, our dress in order, and our lights burning, and feel afraid and ashamed at the thought of his coming suddenly and finding us sleeping ? Would it not stay our sharp words, our dishonest deeds, our boisterous sports, our wanton liberties, our idle curiosity, our thoughtless neglect of our tasks ? Should we be glad for our master, coming (as He will) without warning, to hear us speaking unkindly and railing at one another, the first thing when he opens the door? Had we not rather he found us busy about his work, than employed on our own selfish pleasure, diverting ourselves, with little or no care who are put out of their way by it, or how his business is neglected ? And of course, above all things, we should be unwilling for him to find us in the act of dishonestly taking what was either his or the property of a fellow-servant : we should sink into the earth rather than be found in any kind of impurity or unchastity, in rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and wantonness. And though we were free from such

gross sins, yet surely we should not choose for Him to come, when our whole mind and thoughts were taken up with unprofitable fancies, childish inquiry into matters which have no concern to His service or our duty. All these things would naturally be avoided, by servants really watching for their Lord, as well as that general irreligion, which He here calls going to sleep.

Now, are we avoiding them all ? Here is another Advent come, a solemn time for humbling ourselves in preparation for another Christmas : and we are so much nearer the great and dreadful Day. Have we made any good and sufficient preparation for it? Are we in a way to do so ? Have we waked up ? Are we looking about us ? Are our loins girded about, and our lights burning? Or are we rather going on in an idle, careless, self-satisfied way, as if we had found out some way to be safe without continual watching and prayer ; as if we might safely be unconcerned, while every year that passes by, every clock that strikes, every sun that sets, nay, every breath that we draw, has a voice given it from God to warn us of approaching judgment ? Friends, neighbours, Christian brethren, I beseech you think on these things; for, depend on it, the best of us has a great deal to do, and the youngest will find he has but a short time.

« PreviousContinue »