Coming Events and Present Duties
Being Plain Papers on Prophecy
J.C. Ryle, 1879
What Time Is It?
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light." Romans 13:12
Reader, you and I are in a world which is rapidly rolling on towards the day of judgment. There is an hour before us all when the earth and its works shall be burned up, and the inhabitants thereof shall all stand before the bar of Christ. There is a day to come whose issues are of greatest importance. Surely it befits us to think of that day. Are we ready for it? Is it possible that we may live to see it? Is it near, or is it far off? What time is it?
Come with me this day and consider the thoughts of an inspired Apostle on this solemn subject. He says, "The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and put on us the armor of light." These words ought to come home to our consciences like the blast of a trumpet. They ought to rouse our sleeping minds to a sense of the eternal realities which are before us. They call upon us to lay aside all trifling, lingering, and carelessness about our Christianity. They summon us to a close walk with God.
There are four things brought before my mind by the words just quoted:
1. You have here the present condition of the world. It is night.
2. You have the condition of the world which is yet to come. It will be day.
3. You have the particular time in which our lot is cast. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand.
4. You have the duty of all believers who know the time. They ought to cast off the works of darkness and to put on the armor of light.
Upon each of these four points I have something to say.
First of all, let us consider the present condition of the world.The Apostle Paul calls it "night." "The night," he says, "is far spent." I have no doubt, that word seems strange to some people. They think it surprising that our present time should be called "night." They are living in days of learning, science, civilization, commerce, freedom, and knowledge. They see around them things which their forefathers never dreamed of — railways, manufacturing plants, gas, electricity, steam engines, education for all, and inexpensive books. I know it all, and am thankful for it.
Nevertheless I say that in the things of God, the world is still in a state of "night." I believe that God looks down on this globe of ours as it rolls round the sun, and as He looks upon it, He pronounces it "very dark!" I believe that the angels go to and fro, and make report of all they see on our earth, and their constant report is, "very dark!" And I am sure that believers in the Lord Jesus in every land are of one mind on this subject. They cry and sigh because of the abominations they see around them. To them the world appears "very dark!"
Is it not dark in heathen lands? There are two-thirds of the whole world in open rebellion against God and His Christ. Two out of every three inhabitants of the globe have no Bible, no Gospel, no knowledge, no faith, no hope! They are cruel, deceitful, immoral, earthly sensual, devilish, idolatrous, superstitious! Surely that is night!
Is it not dark in many professedly Christian countries? There are two-thirds of all the professing Christians on earth who are unsound in the faith. Their religion simply is not Scriptural. They have added to it many things which are not to be found in the Bible. They have left out of it many things which the Bible has plainly commanded. There are millions who give honor to the Virgin Mary and dead saints — instead of Christ. There are millions of baptized people who know nothing of the Bible, and have not the slightest idea of the salvation contained in the Gospel. Surely that is night!
Is it not dark in our own country at this present day? How much of sin there is in Protestant Britain — and how little of God! How much of open infidelity, heathenish ignorance, drunkenness, swearing, cheating, lying, covetousness — is weekly crying against us before the Lord Almighty! How many people in Great Britain go to no place of worship at all! How many go to church and chapel merely as a matter of form! How few are really in earnest about the salvation of their souls! How few have any evidence to show of a saving faith in Christ and a real work of the Spirit in their hearts! Surely even among ourselves it is night.
Is there not much darkness under the eyes of every true believer? Go to the most godly, quiet, and orderly parish in our land at this moment. Ask any well-informed child of God residing in it how many true Christians it contains, and what is the proportion of the converted to the unconverted. Mark well the answer he will give. I doubt if you will find a parish in Great Britain where one third of the people are converted! And if such be the report of parishes which are like the green tree, what must be the state of things in the dry? Surely it is night!
Reader, it is useless to deny these things. As humbling as it may be to the pride of human nature, the word of the Apostle is strictly true — the time present is night! An unconverted man may not perceive it. A graceless man may not comprehend it. The blind eye sees no difference between noon and midnight. The deaf ear makes no distinction between discord and sweet music. The mortified limb has no feeling either of heat or cold.
But I do believe that God's children can enter into the meaning of the expression. The people of the Lord Jesus Christ find by experience, that it is night.
It is a cold time to believers. They meet with much to chill and dampen their zeal — and little to cheer and warm their hearts. They have to put up with many crosses and disappointments. They see iniquity abounding, and their own love is apt to become cold. And why? It is night!
It is a lonely time to believers. They find little company on the way that leads to Heaven. Here and there they fall in with one who loves the Lord Jesus and lives by faith. A few of God's children may be found in one town, and a few in another. But on the whole, the children of the world seem like the Syrian army, which filled and country — and the children of God are like a few scattered sheep in a wilderness! And why? It is night.
It is a dangerous time to believers. They often stumble and scarcely discern their path. They often stand in doubt and know not which way to turn. They sometimes are unable to see their tokens and lose sight of their landmarks. At best they travel on in continual fear of enemies. And why? It is night.
Reader, I ask you to ponder these things. If time present be night, you will not wonder if we ministers warn Christians to watch and pray. You will count it no strange thing if we tell you to live like soldiers in an enemy's country, and to be always on your guard.
Reader, sit down and ask yourself whether you find this world in which you live to be night or day. Is time present, a time of conflict — or a time of ease? Do you feel that your best things are here in this life — or that your best things are yet to come? I offer these questions to you as a test of your spiritual state. I place them before you as a gauge and measure of your soul's condition. I tell you plainly, if you never found this world a wilderness and place of darkness — it is a bad sign of your state in the sight of God!
The true believer will find the words of his crucified Lord to be strictly true, "In the world you shall have tribulation" (John 16:33). The true believer, like his Lord and Master, will be made "perfect through sufferings." The true believer will mourn over the world he lives in, as a world in rebellion against its rightful king. Sin will grieve him. Ungodliness will make him heavy of heart. Like Lot in Sodom, his righteous soul will be daily vexed with much that he sees and hears. He will long for the time when the day shall dawn, and the shadows flee away. For the present he will feel it is night.
Reader, is it your night or day?
Let us consider, in the second place, the condition of the world which is yet to come.The Apostle Paul calls it "day." "The day is at hand." The time here spoken of is the time to which every true Christian ought to look forward it is the time when the Lord Jesus Christ shall come again. The present state of things in the Church of Christ shall undergo a mighty change — a change so great that it shall be like the turning of night into day.
The world we live in is not to go on always as it does now. The darkness of sin, ignorance, and superstition is not always to cover the earth. The sun of righteousness shall one day rise with healing in his wings. The Lord Jesus shall come again with power and great glory. He shall return as a morning without clouds, and then it shall be "day." There is a time coming when the devil shall be bound and shall no longer rule in this world (Rev. 20:1, etc.). Sin and all its consequences shall be cast out. The groaning creation shall at length be refreshed (Acts 3:19). The wicked shall be shut up forever in their own place, Hell. The saints of the Most High shall at length possess Heaven. There shall be a new Heaven and a new earth, wherein shall dwell righteousness. Surely that will be "day."
There is a time coming, when believers shall have joy and gladness — and sorrow and sighing shall flee far away.
Every tear shall be wiped away,
every cross laid down,
every anxiety removed,
every bitter cup taken away!
Persecution, temptation, sickness, mourning, parting, separation, and death — shall be at end! Surely that will be sunshine. It will be "day."
There is a time coming when the whole family of Christ shall be gathered together. They shall rise from their narrow beds and each put on a glorious body. They shall awake from their long sleep refreshed, strengthened, and far more beautiful than when they lay down. They shall leave behind them in their graves, every imperfection, and meet without spot or wrinkle, to part no more. Surely that will be a joyful morning. It will be "day."
There is a time coming when believers shall no longer see through a glass darkly — but face to face. They shall see as they have been seen, and know as they have been known. They shall cease to wrangle and dispute about outward matters, and shall think of nothing but eternal realities. They shall behold their crucified Lord and Savior with the eye of sense — and no longer follow Him by faith. They shall see one another free from all corruption, and misunderstand one another's motives and conduct no more. Surely that will be "day."
I see here great comfort for every believer in Christ who reads these pages. There is a day before you — a glorious day. You sometimes feel now as if you walked in darkness and had no light. You have often a hard battle to fight with the world, the flesh, and the devil. You sometimes imagine that you will never win your way home, and must faint along the way. Your flesh and heart are ready to fail. You are sorely tempted to give up and to sit down in despair. But take comfort in the thought of things yet to come. There is a good time before you. Your day has yet to dawn.
I see here great reason why many professing Christians should tremble and be afraid. There are many, too many I fear, to whom the time to come will be anything but day. There are many . . .
whose happiness is evidently all below,
whose treasure is all on earth,
whose brightest time is now, and
whose gloomiest prospects are hereafter.
The further they look onward — the darker everything appears!
Old age looks dark;
sickness looks darker still;
death and judgment look darkest of all!
Beloved reader, if this is your case, I warn you plainly there must be a change. Your views, your tastes, your inclinations, your affections — must be renewed and transformed. You must learn to view the world that now is, and that which is to come — in a very different light. Go and sit at the feet of Jesus, and ask Him to teach you this lesson. Ask for the enlightening Spirit to anoint your eyes that you may see. Ask for the veil to be taken away, that you may behold everything in its true colors.
I know well that Satan labors hard to prevent men thinking of a better world than that in which we now live. He strives to turn away their eyes from the coming day. He would gladly persuade them that it is impossible to do their duty in this life — and at the same time to set their affections on things above. He whispers to people that we ministers want them to become gloomy hermits, or fanatical haters of mankind — and that if they listen to us they will become unfit for all the relations of life. Against all suggestions of Satan — I warn every reader to be on his guard. I bid no one neglect the duties of his station, or forsake the post which God has called him to fill. I encourage no one in moroseness and churlishness — as if there was nothing to be thankful for in this world. I praise no one who refuses his affections to those with whom he is united by love, friendship, and relationship.
I only ask that the believer in the New Testament should live by a New Testament standard — that he should look for the coming of the day of God, and wait for the Son of God from Heaven, and love his Lord's appearing.
Reader, I abhor all extravagance and fanaticism on the subject of things to come. I have no good opinion of any religion which makes a man neglect his business or cease to love wife, children, relatives, and friends. I only ask that we should take scriptural views of things as they are — and things as they yet will be. I ask that we should see our present evils — and mourn over them; that we should see our future good things — and long for them. Let us honestly confess that sin is around us — and long to be delivered from its presence. Let us honestly confess that holiness is one day to spread over the earth — and long for it to come. Let us never be ashamed to allow that it is "night" and that we want it to be "day."
Tell me, can that man really hate sin — who does not desire to see it swept away from the earth? Can that man love holiness — who does not long for the time when all shall know the Lord? Can that man be truly united to Christ by faith — who does not wish to see Christ and to be with Him? Can that man be a saint — who does not thirst after the unmixed company of just men made perfect? Can that man be in earnest who daily prays "May Your kingdom come" — and yet is content that the world should go on as it is without any change? Oh, no! no! These things are impossible! God's true children will want to be at home. They will wish for the day.
Reader, if you mean to be saved, you must learn to view time present as "night" — and time to come as "day." You must learn to regard the other side of Death — as the home of your soul; and this side — as a desert land. Time present must be your wilderness, your battlefield, your place of trial. Time to come must be your Canaan, your rest, your Father's house — or else you had better never have been born.
In the third place, let us consider the particular times in which our lot is cast.The Apostle Paul tells us, when he says, "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand." I believe these words mean that the last order of things has arrived — the last stage in the history of the Church has come. The law and the prophets have done their work. The Messiah promised at the fall, has appeared and provided a complete salvation. The last revelation of God's will has been made. The way of life has been laid open to all mankind. No further message from Heaven to earth is to be expected before the end. No more books of Scripture are to be written. We have reached the last watch of the night. We have nothing to expect now, but the sunrise and the morning!
Reader, these words, which were true eighteen hundred years ago, are, if possible — more true at the present time. They are words which should come home with increasing power to the Church of Christ every year. "The night is far spent — the day is at hand."
I am one of those who think "the day" may not be so far off as some seem to suppose. I am unable to put away the idea of the Lord's return in glory, as an event which "of course" cannot be in our times, as some men say. I rather think I see tokens of the sun being near the horizon. At all events, I desire to keep in special remembrance James' words, "The Judge stands before the door!" "The coming of the Lord draws near!" And Peter's words, "The end of all things is at hand!" (James 5:8,9; 1 Peter 4:7).
I am no prophet, and may easily be mistaken. I may die, and you may die, before Christ comes and the day dawns. But I appeal to every thinking man, whether there are not "signs of the times" which deserve serious attention. I ask him to notice the things going on in the world, and to consider well what they are intended to teach.
Does any reader ask what I mean by "signs of the times"? Let him weigh well the following points, and he will see what I mean.
1.What shall we say to the missions to the heathen which have been set on foot in these latter days? Seventy years ago the Protestant Churches seemed thoroughly asleep on the subject of missions. There was hardly a single missionary sent forth to the heathen from the whole of Great Britain. The idea of preaching the Gospel to savages and idolaters was ridiculed. The first promoters of missions were treated coldly by many who ought to have known better. But now the feeling is completely changed. We are employing hundreds of missionaries in every quarter of the globe. And what says the Scripture? "The Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations — and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14).
2.What shall we say to the surprising interest taken in the Jewish nation in these latter days? Seventy years ago, to be a Jew was a taunt and a bye-word and a proverb. No man cared for the souls of the children of Abraham. They were a people despised, and scorned, and trampled underfoot. It might truly have been said, "This is Zion, whom no man seeks after" (Jeremiah 30:17). But now the feeling is completely changed. The spiritual interests of Jews are a subject of deep concern to true Christians. The civil rights of Jews are cared for even to an extreme. The very city of Jerusalem has weight in the councils of kings. And what says the Scripture? "You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. For the LORD will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory!" (Psalm 102:13-16).
3.What shall we say to the wonderful spread of knowledge and communication between nations in these days? Seventy years ago, to find a poor man who could read, was rather an uncommon thing. In a few years a man who cannot read, will be a rare sight. Seventy years ago there were few who ever traveled beyond the bounds of their own county. Now everyone can move in every direction, and our population is like a swarm of bees disturbed. Steam navigation and railways have altered the character of society. Time and space are made nothing of. Seas, mountains, and rivers are no longer obstacles. God separated the nations in the day of Babel. Man is working hard to make them all one again. And what says the Scripture? "Close up and seal the words of the scroll, until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge!" (Daniel 12:4).
4.What shall we say to the wars and shakings of nations which we have seen in these last seventy years? The mightiest empires on earth have been shaken to their very foundations! Kings, and princes, and great men have been driven from their high position by scores, and been made wanderers on the face of the earth. There has been no accounting for it by any human reasoning. These movements have taken place in the face of increased knowledge, civilization, and desire of peace. And what says the Scripture? "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there shall be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:7,8).
5.What shall we say to the drying up of the Mohammedan power? Two hundred and fifty years ago, men doubted whether the Turks might not overrun all Europe! No army seemed able to resist them. Province after province fell into their hands. When Martin Luther in his sermons wanted an illustration of boundless worldly power, he would choose for his example "the Turkish empire!" But now all is changed. Without much outward violence, the Mohammedan strength has gradually dwindled away. There has been a collapse, a consumption, a worm at the heart of all their might. In spite of all the help of their allies, the Turkish empire is like a man sick of a sore disease. He may rally for a time by the help of strong remedies, and by the admission of new elements into his constitution — but he will never again be an exclusive, persecuting, purely Mohammedan power. The days of total, intolerant Mohammadanism seem past and gone forever.
And what says the Scripture? I quote symbolic prophecy with reverence, and readily allow I may be wrong in its application; but the passage I refer to is very remarkable: "The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty. "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed." (Revelation 16:12-15).
6.What shall we say to the increased attention to unfulfilled prophecy, which has appeared in these latter days? Seventy years ago there were few who paid any attention to the subject. The passages in Scripture which speak of things to come were comparatively neglected, or perverted with curious ingenuity from their simple meaning. Now, on the contrary, the current of public feeling runs strongly in favor of prophetic study. Books on the subject are eagerly bought up. Lectures on the subject are listened to with increased attention. In spite of the divisions which preterism and futurism have created, in spite of the discredit which Millerites in America and Irvingites in England have brought upon the whole subject — the study of unfulfilled prophecy still holds its ground. (Preterism is the system of prophetic interpretation held by those who consider the greater part of the prophecies in Revelation as fulfilled and past already. Futurism is the system of those who consider the same prophecies to be as yet unfulfilled.)
But what says the Scripture? "The words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9). The words seem to be unfolding. The seal seems to be breaking. Can the end be far off?
Reader, I place these points before you and ask your serious attention to them. I know we are all poor judges of our own times. We are apt to exaggerate the importance of events that take place under our own eyes. I dare say if we had lived in Cromwell's days, or under the first French revolution — we would have thought the end of all things was close at hand. But still, after every allowance, I think the points I have mentioned deserve solemn consideration. I regard them as signs of our times.
I am far from saying that there may not be wonderful changes yet before the end. I think it possible there may be a time of trouble and conflict yet, "such as never was since there was a nation" (Daniel 12:1). I believe there may yet be tribulation for the people of God, "such as was not since the beginning of the world" (Matthew 24:21). But come what will, I see a deep meaning in the words, "the night is far spent, and the day is at hand."
I see in these words, the strongest motive for diligence in the work of doing good to souls. Let us make more haste to spread the Gospel over the world. Let us take more pains in endeavoring to sow truth at home. Let us labor, if possible, to pluck more brands from the burning. The time is short. The night is far spent. The day is at hand.
I see in these words the strongest consolation for the believer in Christ Jesus. Oh, for the heart to lay hold on it more and more!
Yet a little while, and believers shall part forever with sickness and disease! The sick and wearied ones who have mourned over their seeming uselessness to the Church; the weak and infirm who have had the will to labor but not the power; the feeble and bedridden who have waited long-drawn years in quiet chambers until their eyes know every crack and speck on their walls — all, all shall be set free! They shall each have a glorious body like their Lord's.
Yet a little while, and mourning believers shall part forever with their tears! Every wound in their heart shall be completely healed. Every empty place and gap in their affections shall be entirely filled up. They shall find that those who have died in the Lord, were not lost but gone before. They shall see that infinite wisdom arranged every bereavement by which one was taken and another left. They shall magnify the Lord together with those who were once their companions in tribulation, and acknowledge that He did all things well and led them by a right way!
Yet a little while, and believers shall no more feel that they are alone. They shall no longer be scattered over the earth, a few in one place and a few in another. They shall no longer lament that they see so few to speak to, as a man speaks with his friend — so few who are of one mind and travel with them in the one narrow way. They shall be united to the general assembly and Church of the firstborn. They shall join the blessed company of all the believers of every name, and people, and tongue! Their eyes shall at length be satisfied with seeing. They shall see a multitude of saints that none can number — with not one wicked person among them!
Yet a little while, and working believers shall find that their labor was not in vain. The ministers who have preached and seemed to reap no fruit, the missionaries who testified of the Gospel and none seemed to believe, the teachers who poured into children's minds line upon line and none seemed to attend — all, all shall discover that they have not spent their strength for nothing! They shall find that the seed sown can spring up after many days, and that sooner or later in all labor there is profit.
Ah, reader, when shall these things be? Truly we may say, "Lord, God — you alone know." A thousand years in His sight are as one day, and one day as a thousand years. But we do know that yet in a little while, He who shall come, will come and will not tarry. Yet in a little while, and the last sermon shall be preached, the last congregation shall break up. Yet in a little while, and carelessness and infidelity shall cease, perish, and pass away. The believers among us will be with Christ — and the unbelievers will be in Hell. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand!
And now, in the last place, let me speak of the particular duty of all believers in connection with the truths we have just considered. Practical duty is put before us in plain words, "Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light."
Reader, the word "therefore" is often used by the Apostle Paul in a very striking and forcible way. Take a few examples and you will at once see what I mean. When he finishes the doctrinal part of the Epistle to the Romans and begins his practical exhortations, what is his language? "I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God" (Romans 12:1). When he has preached the resurrection of the body to the Corinthians, how does he wind up his argument? "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain!" (1 Corinthians 15:58). When he has laid a mighty foundation of doctrine for the Ephesian Church, how does he proceed to address them on practical duties? "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation with which you are called" (Ephesians 4:1).
And here, as in other places, the word "therefore" comes in upon us in a very searching and forcible way. "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of darkness."
Reader, I love to observe how closely the doctrine of Christ's second coming and kingdom is bound up with personal holiness. I marvel that any can regard the second advent and reign of the Lord Jesus as merely speculative matters, or denounce them as unprofitable subjects. To my own mind, they seem eminently practical — or else I have read my Bible to very little purpose. Does not the Apostle Paul say to the Philippians, "Let your moderation be known unto all men: the Lord is at hand!" (Philippians 4:5). Does he not say to the Colossians, "Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life shall appear — then shall you also appear with Him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth" (Colossians 3:25). Does not he bid the Hebrews to "Exhort one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25). Does not Peter say, "We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness. Therefore beloved, seeing that you look for such things — be diligent that you may be found of Him in peace without spot and blameless" (2 Peter 3:13, 14).
These texts appear to me to speak with no uncertain voice. I know not how their force can be evaded. They make the coming of Christ and the day of glory, into an argument for increased holiness. And it is just in the same way that Paul says, "Let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light."
Reader, how are you to "cast off the works of darkness?"Listen to me and I will tell you. You ought to lay aside everything in your life and habits, which will not bear the light of Christ's appearing. You ought to make it a principle of conscience, to do nothing you would not like to be found doing when Jesus comes again to gather His people together. This is a searching test indeed! The application of it must be left to every man's own heart. Each must judge for himself. Each must prove his own works. Each must set up an assize within him, and honestly bring his ways to a trial. Oh, for a will to deal fairly and justly with ourselves! Oh, for a daily readiness to judge ourselves that we be not judged of the Lord, and to condemn ourselves that we be not condemned at the last day!
I ask every reader of this address to bring the light of the day of Christ to bear upon his inner man. Set your years, and months, and weeks, and days, and hours in the full blaze of that day — and whatever thing you find within which is akin to "darkness" — pluck it out and cast it away! Keep up no questionable habit. Make no compromise with doubtful practices. Break down every idol, whether great or small. Cut down every grove and cleanse out every chamber of imagery. Cling to nothing which would cost you a blush under the eye of Christ. Away with it at once, lest He come suddenly and put you to shame! Oh, that He may never say of any reader's heart in that day, "this heart professed to be a temple of the Holy Spirit — but you have made it a den of thieves!"
Reader, try all your employment of time by the test of Christ's second coming. Place in this balance — your amusements, your books, your companions, your manner of conversation, your daily behavior in all the relations of life. Measure all by this measure, "The night is far spent and the day is at hand. Am I living as a child of the night — or as one who looks for the day?" Do this, and you will cast off the works of darkness.
But how are you to put on the armor of light?Listen to me once more and I will tell you. You ought to aim at every grace and habit which befits a believer in Christ, and a child of God, and a citizen of a heavenly kingdom. You ought not to leave eminent holiness and spirituality to a few, as if none but a few favored ones could be eminent saints. You ought to labor to wear the armor of light yourself — the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of hope, and the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14-17).
Wherever you may live — and whatever may be your trials; however great your difficulties — and however small your helps; nothing should prevent your aiming at the highest standard — to behave like one who believes that Christ is coming again! You should resolve, by God's help, so to live that the day of Christ shall find you needing as little change as possible! You should seek to have . . .
your tastes so heavenly,
your affections so spiritual,
your will so subdued,
your mind so unworldly —
that when the Lord appears, you may be thoroughly in tune for His kingdom!
Ah, reader, I fear that some believers will be far less ready for the day of Christ than others. I suspect that some will have a far more abundant entrance into Heaven than their brethren — more boldness, more confidence, more felt readiness for the company of their Lord. Oh, that everyone into whose hands this address may fall, may so walk with God that, like Enoch, he may be only translated from a lower degree of communion with God — to a higher one; from walking by faith — to walking by sight. This would be putting on the armor of light.
Let there be light in your heart continually: Christ dwelling there by faith — felt, known, and experienced by your soul.
Let there be light in your life continually: Christ reflected there, followed, imitated, and copied. Seek to be a light in the world and nothing less — a bright light, a clear light, a light that men can see afar off. Do this and you will put on the armor of light.
Live as if you thought that Christ might come at any time. Do everything, as if you did it for the last time. Say everything, as if you said it for the last time. Read every chapter in the Bible, as if you did not know whether you would be allowed to read it again. Pray every prayer, as if you felt it might be your last opportunity. Hear every sermon, as if you were hearing once and forever. This is the way to be found ready. This is the way to turn Christ's second appearing to good account. This is the way to put on the armor of light.
1. And now perhaps this address has fallen into the hands of some careless, thoughtless, unconverted person. Reader, are you that man? Then, remember these words: "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand." What are you doing? You eat, you drink, you sleep, you dress, you work, you buy, you sell, you laugh, you read — but you do nothing for your soul! Hell is opening its mouth for you — and you are careless! Christ is coming to judge the world — and you are unprepared! Time hurries on, and you are not ready for eternity. Oh, awake to a sense of your danger — and repent this day! Awake and call upon your God before it is too late to pray. Awake and seek the Lord Jesus Christ before the door is shut — and the day of wrath begins. Alas, you may be thought wise and clever in this world — but living as you do — you act the part of a madman!
2. But perhaps this address has fallen into the hands of one who is undecided and halting between two choices. Reader, are you that man? Then remember these words: "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand!" What are you doing? You hear, you listen, you wish, you desire, you mean to, you intend to, you hope, you resolve — but you go no further! You see the ark — but you will not go in. You see the bread of life — but you do not eat it. You wait. And yet times marches on. The devil is saying over you, "I shall have this soul before long!" Oh, come out from the world, and linger no more! Take up the cross. Cast away vain excuses. Confess Christ before men. Beware, I say, lest you make up your mind too late. Again I say, beware!
3. But perhaps this address has fallen into the hands of some true believer. Reader, are you that man? Then remember these words: "The night is far spent, and the day is at hand." I ask you to live as if you believed the words we have been considering, and to show the world you think them true. The nearer you draw to home — the more wakeful you ought to be. The more you realize the second personal coming of the Lord Jesus — the more lively ought your Christianity to be.
Ah, reader, it is but too true, as Legh Richmond said on his deathbed, "We are but half awake! We are but half awake!" The best of us need to have our hearts stirred up by way of remembrance. Let us rub the sleepy eyes of our mind and look the speedy coming of our Master full in the face. Let the time past suffice us to have been drowsy and lazy servants! For the time to come, let us work like those who feel "The Master will soon be here!"
When I was a schoolboy, I remember that I would wake up, however tired with a long journey, when I began to draw near home. As soon as I saw the old hills, and trees, and chimneys — the sense of weariness was gone and I was all alive. The prospect of soon seeing much-loved faces, the joy of thinking of a family gathering — all this was able to drive sleep away. Surely it ought to be the same with us in the matter of our souls!
The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Yet a little while and He who shall come will come and will not tarry. So then, let us cast off every work of darkness. Let us put on the whole armor of light. Let us be ashamed of our past drowsiness. Let us awake and sleep no more. "The night is nearly over — the day is almost here. Therefore let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light!" Romans 13:12