Christians Should Awake Out of Sleep Because their Salvation is Near. *
It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. - Romans xiii:11.
The sacred writers suggest many considerations to excite Christians to activity in the cause of God. Sometimes they refer to the example of Christ, and zealously urge that it be copied. At other times, they dwell on the criminality of spiritual sloth and inaction. Occasionally they allude to the fact that multitudes, once on earth, are now inheriting the promises in heaven, and exhort the saints below to walk in the footsteps of their predecessors to glory. In the text, another consideration, different from all these, is presented - and its operation should be powerful - now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.
It is high time to awake out of sleep, on account of the nearness of our salvation.
I. THE SLEEP REFERRED TO CLAIMS OUR ATTENTION.
The term sleep is, in the Scriptures, used in several senses. It is often employed literally.
* Preached on the first Lord's Day in January, 1857.
In a number of passages it denotes death; as when Jesus says, "Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; I go that I may awake him out of sleep." In the text it signifies a state of apathy and inaction. It is used figuratively. And why this figurative application of the term? I answer, because of the resemblance between natural sleep and moral lethargy among professed Christians. Let us trace this resemblance in two particulars:
1. Those who are literally asleep are in a state of unconsciousness and insensibility. - They are not affected by what is taking place around them. Danger may impend over them, but they know it not. The very houses in which they slumber may be in flames, yet they are ignorant of it till their slumbers are broken. So is it with Christians in a state of spiritual stupor. They are, to a lamentable extent, unconscious of their obligations to God; they are comparatively insensible to the solemn responsibilities of the Christian profession. The Savior's dying love makes but a superficial impression on their hearts; the glories of heaven attract their souls feebly, if at all; the realities of eternity are scarcely considered realities; the claims of duty are not deemed imperative; and sin is, in some degree, connived at. Alas! how culpable is the sleep which involves all this!
2. Again, in sleep there is inaction. - The giant lies motionless then; his great power is unexerted; his energies are dormant. It is manifest that persons while asleep can not perform the
active duties of life. So, my brethren, moral lethargy disqualifies for moral action. Christians, while under the influence of spiritual sleep, are of necessity inactive in the cause of God. They are unprepared for energetic effort in the kingdom of Christ; they can not labor to advantage in the vineyard of the Lord. Did you ever see an active Christian asleep? Never. Spiritual insensibility and religious activity are wholly incompatible. How deeply it is to be deplored that Christians fall into the guilty slumbers of which I speak! How many of them are now asleep! Look abroad on our churches, in town and country, and what do you see? Ministers and people, with few exceptions, slumbering and sleeping like the virgins of our Lord's parable. How much talent is professedly, but not practically, consecrated to the service of God! How much time is not only unemployed in doing good, but positively misemployed! How little of the abundant wealth of the churches is laid on the altar of God! How little attention is paid to the cultivation of the piety of the heart! How spasmodic the efforts made by Christians for the salvation of impenitent sinners! All these unfavorable indications show the depth and the extent of that sleep from which the text urges us to awake.
II. THE REASON WHY CHRISTIANS SHOULD AWAKE OUT OF SLEEP - THE NEARNESS OF SALVATION.
"Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." It is here assumed that faith in Christ
sustains an important relation to salvation. It introduces us into a saved state, but salvation is partly present, partly future. Salvation in heaven is referred to in the text, and this salvation, near when we believed, is nearer now than then. It is nearer than ever before. We are every moment approaching death and eternity - death and eternity will bring us into complete possession of salvation; therefore, we are every moment approaching salvation. "With this fact the revolution of another year is adapted to impress us. Where now is the past year? Gone never to return - gone as irrecoverably as if numbered with the years before the flood. Brethren, many of the days allotted to us on earth have passed away. We have approached the suburbs of the grave. We are very near the world of spirits. We are ascending Mount Zion, and will soon reach its bright summit. We are making our way to the kingdom of heaven. Who will sit down in that kingdom with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, before the close of the year 1857? What brother will hear angelic songs, and join in the doxologies of the redeemed? What sister will see the Savior's face, and witness the manifestations of his glory ? Who will hear the eulogium " Well done, good and faithful servant? Who will exchange the sorrows of time for the bliss of eternity?
Our salvation is nearer than when we believed. Let us, then, awake out of sleep. Would we have the bright vision of heavenly glory to break
upon us while we are asleep? "Would we have our slumbers interrupted by the call of the Master, "Come up higher?" Would we not be ashamed to enter heaven thus? Let us now awake out of sleep in view of the nearness of our salvation. Let us act consistently with our transporting prospects and our exalted destiny. Let us, in anticipation, catch the spirit and sing the songs of heaven.
I speak to no Christian to-day who does not intend to do something, more for the cause of God before the shades of death darken the evening of life. You all hope that your days to come will be more useful than your days past. Let me urge you to do quickly what you purpose to do. Death will put an end to all opportunities of usefulness on earth. Will you not be more faithful in the performance of your duties this year than ever before? Will you not love God more? Will you not love his cause more? Will you not love one another more? Will you not love the souls of the impenitent more, and labor more faithfully for their salvation? Let every brother and sister say, "By the help of God I will try to Ire instrumental in saving some soul during this year." Let us, Christian friends, begin to live to some valuable purpose. Let ua live for him who died for us. Let us live under the impression that our salvation is nearer than when we believed - that the dark night of this life is far spent, arid that the bright day of eternity is at hand. Let these considerations prompt
us to awake out of sleep, shake off sloth, and work for God while it is called to-day.
III. A REALIZING PERSUASION OF THE NEARNESS OF SALVATION WOULD HAVE A HAPPY EFFECT ON CHRISTIANS.
1. It would detach their thoughts and affections from the things of the world. - They would feel that they have no home on earth, "no abiding place," "no continuing city," below the sun. Unfortunately for us, we often become too much engrossed with the vanities of the world. These vanities, too, are frequently invested with a delusive luster, yet we forget that it is delusive. Now, if we were properly impressed with the nearness of our salvation, we would look on all earthly things as trivial. Their glory would fade away, and we would "use the world as not abusing it."
2. It would cherish an ardent attachment to heavenly things. - We would think often of the place to which we are going. We would anticipate its employments, its bliss, its glory. Our treasure being in heaven, our hearts would be there also. Our affections would take hold of celestial objects with a grasp that no earthly influences could relax. How would our spirits soar in imagination to the bright realms above, expecting soon to inhabit those realms in reality!
3. It would destroy the fear, of death. - Nature recoils from death, and would have the bitter cup to pass untasted.
"The pains, the groans, the dying strife,
Fright our approaching souls away;
Still we shrink back again to life,
Fond of our prison and our clay."
But if we were fully persuaded of the nearness of our salvation - that it is just beyond death - we would gladly pass through the dark valley for the sake of the glory to which it leads. We would then contemplate death, not as an enemy, but as the porter of heaven, commissioned to usher us into the presence of our Lord. Then would we begin to feel the import of Paul's language, "To die is gain." Then would it be sweet to breathe away our lives on the bosom of Jesus.
1. This subject, by way of contrast, presents an awful thought. The damnation of sinners is nearer than ever before. Listen, ye impenitent! When you committed the first transgression, you entered in at the wide gate, and ever since you have been walking in the broad way that leads to hell. Every step takes you nearer to the gulf of despair. Nearer to destruction, how awful! Will you not flee from the wrath to come? Delay not. You have seen the beginning of the new year; you may not see its close. The sun, whose bright face you have often seen, may soon shine on your graves. "Behold, now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation."
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC; via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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