Last week we finished the final question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 107, as explained and applied by the Rev. William Smith. Our posting of those entries was drawn from a rather rare little work that, to our knowledge, has never been reprinted.
But now we must make a decision. Where to go next? Our practice on the Lord’s Day has been to set aside Presbyterian history and post things that would draw our hearts to worship. And while we take a bit of time to make that decision, for today we would like to sample a wonderful little book that would be great to have for morning devotions. I’m speaking of A Basket of Fragments. Notes for Revival, by Robert Murray McCheyne, and please do consider getting a copy. Our post for today provides the first half of this powerful evangelistic sermon:
High Time to Awake Out of Sleep.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Rom. 13:11).
In these words, Paul tells believers that it is waking time; and I would just tell you, dear friends, that same. It is high time for you to awake out of sleep. There is a condition among Christians which may be called sleeping; like the ten virgins, they slumber and sleep. Ah! I fear there are many sleeping Christians among you. It is waking time, believer. Do you know what o’clock it is? You do not seem to know how near sunrise it is.
I will now show you what it is to be sleeping Christians. It is to be one that has come to Christ, yet has fallen asleep in sin. Like the Church at Ephesus, they have left their first love. They do not retain that realization of the Christ’s preciousness—that freshness of believing. They have forgotten the fresh grasp of a Saviour. Si it is with some among yourselves. You may have seen your sins; yet you have lost that fresh conviction of sin you once felt so deeply. You do not see such a beauty in Jesus. The more we look at Him, just the more we would look again. Earthly things pall upon the taste; but it is not so with things divine—they grow sweeter the oftener you use them. So every time you look at Jesus, He grows more precious. The rose is sweet, yet it loses its smell; but the lovely Rose of Sharon grows sweeter and sweeter. Earthly apples lose their taste; but the apple-tree does not so—‘Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love’ (Song. 2:5). Sleepy Christians, you have lost taste for the apples. Oh! Is it not time for you to awake out of sleep? Believer, if you sleep on, you will soon doubt if ever you have come to Christ at all.
To awake out of sleep, then, is to see that divine things are realities. When you are half asleep, you see things imperfectly. Ah! You are not affected by divine realities. Now, what is it to awake out of sleep? To awake out of sleep is to see sin as it is—your heart as it is—Christ as He is—and the love of God in Christ Jesus. And you can see all this by looking to Calvary’s cross. Oh it is an awful thing to look to the cross and not be affected, nor feel conviction of sin—nor feel drawn to Christ! Oh I do not know a more sad state than this! Oh pray that you may be wide awake! Dear friends, our life is like a river, and we are like a boat sailing down that river. We are drawing nearer and nearer to the shores of eternity. Some of you have believed for forty years. Ah! Your salvation is nearer than when you first believed. Your redemption draweth nigh—the redemption of your whole soul—your complete redemption. And the time is coming when we will get it—you will be saved, and then the last stone will be put on with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace! Unto it.’ Then will the crown be put upon your heads for you will be more than conquerors.
Dear friends, I do not know how far the day is spent. This is a dark, dark time; but the day is breaking—the shadows are fleeing away. The river Euphrates is drying up—that shows the day is breaking. The Jews, God’s ancient people, are being brought in, and that shows the day is far spent.
And it is also high time for unconverted men to awake out of sleep. O sinners! You are fast asleep, you are lying dormant—dead! O sleepy souls! It is high time you should awake! Do you know what angels said when they went to and fro upon the earth? They told the Lord, ‘Behold, all the earth sitteth still and is at rest’ (Zech. 1:11). Ah! You are fast asleep. God has given you the spirit of slumber. Do you not remember the message to Amos: ‘Woe to them that are at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1)? And that is the case with many of you. When you come to this house, you are in a place where Jesus has called sleepy souls, and where He has been found of very many. O sleeping souls, it is high time for you to awake! You are living in a dream. Every Christless man will find at last that he has been dreaming. Ah! The time is coming when you shall find that your following after gold is but a golden dream. And is there no pleasure in a dream? Who has not felt that there is pleasure even in dreams? But, Ah! You must awake. Like a man condemned to die (and many of you are condemned already), he dreams of home, of his wife and children; of freedom and pleasure; but, ah! He awakes by the toll of the death-bell, and he finds that—behold it was but a dream! Now, unconverted men, you are taking a sleep; but, like the man, you will awake form a bright dream to a bitter reality.
Dear friends, I often think when I look at your houses as I pass along, and when I look in your faces, that ministers are like watchmen—they see the fire and they give the alarm. Many of you are in danger as one in a burning house. Sometimes you wonder at our anxiety for you. Sometimes you say, ‘Why are you so harsh?’ O poor soul! It is because the house is on fire. Oh then, can we speak too harshly?—can we knock too loudly at the door of your consciences? I remember what a woman once told John Newton on her deathbed: she said ‘You often spoke to me of Christ; but oh! You did not tell me enough about my danger.’ Oh! I fear many of you will tell me the same. Oh! I fear many may reproach me on a deathbed, or in hell, that I did not tell you oftener that there was a hell. Would to God I had none to reproach me at last! God help me to speak to you plainly! It is high time to awake out of sleep, sinner: for now your damnation slumbereth not. Dear friends, it is now more than three years since I first spoke to you, though it just seems like a day since I first came beseeching you to be reconciled to God—beseeching you to come to Jesus. Every day that passes is bringing you nearer to the judgment-seat. Not one of you is standing still. You may sleep; but the tide is going on, bringing you nearer death, judgment and eternity.