The Sleeper Aroused!
William Nicholson, 1862
"What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise and call upon your God — perhaps God will think upon us, that we may not perish." Jonah 1:6
The circumstances connected with these words are very interesting:
Jonah rejected the commission of God to preach repentance to the Ninevites. He fled from the presence of the Lord, verse 3.
A terrible storm arose, and placed the lives of the mariners in jeopardy, verse 4.
Their hearts failed them; they apprehended nothing less than shipwreck.
But in the midst of danger so appalling, Jonah was fast asleep, verse 5.
The text is the address of the captain to the disobedient prophet.
It is a solemn thing to disobey the voice of the Lord. No sinner can elude his all-searching eye. "Be sure your sin will find you out!"
The judgments of Heaven are often employed to alarm and convert the sinner. The state of Jonah, and the address of the captain, may fitly represent the sinner's carelessness and indifference to Divine things, in the midst of the most imminent peril, and also the loud and earnest call of the Gospel, to "arise and call upon God" for mercy. "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light!" Ephesians 5:14
I. The State of the Sinner Illustrated by That of Jonah."O sleeper."
What is the character of a sinner, but that of a sleeper? That sleep is induced by sin, which has blinded his mind to spiritual things . . .
turned his affections from God to the creature,
perverted his judgment,
and defiled his affections.
While "God is not in all his thoughts," he sleeps on the lap of sensual indulgence, and drowns his senses by the cup of intoxication, and continued draughts of worldly pleasure. He is a "lover of pleasure more than of God."
This character or state therefore implies,
1. Insensibility. A person asleep is generally insensible to everything around him. Nocturnal marauders may enter his house — conflagration may seize it — dangers the most alarming may be impending — and he not know it. Announce to the sleeper the most interesting news — try to charm him with the softest music — he hears it not; he is fast locked in the embraces of sleep.
And such is your state, O sinner! You are condemned, under the curse of the law — and yet are insensible of your state. Sinai emits its lightning's flash against you, and peals forth its awful thunders — but they affect you not. Others quail under them, and cry, "What must we do to be saved?" But the law has no terrors for you. You see not — you hear not. This is your character: "Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart!" Ephesians 4:18
2. Delusion. During sleep, dreams are often delusive. Vagaries, phantoms, rapidly flit across the mind and leave no impression. Sometimes, however, the vision is enchanting, and the impression left is strong. But the opening of the eyes, and a little reflection, prove those golden dreams to be delusion. "As when a hungry man dreams that he is eating, but he awakens, and his hunger remains; as when a thirsty man dreams that he is drinking, but he awakens faint, with his thirst unquenched." Isaiah 29:8
So it is with the sinner. He calls . . .
Pleasure is his all.
Wealth is his God.
Sensual gratification, merry-making, are his chief good.
What a delusion!
For this, did your Creator form you? Did he create your intellectual faculties to be thus prostrated at the shrine of sin? Man, you are deluded! Earthly vanities cannot satisfy your soul — they cannot smooth for you the pillow of death. A little longer, and then, O sleeper — death will take the veil from your eyes, and all the past will appear to you as a delusion.
3. Danger. To sleep in some situations would be perilous. For a sentinel to fall asleep at his post would be hazardous. A drunkard may fall asleep, and open his eyes no more. How many have lain down at night — and a heart attack, before morning, has forever closed their eyes!
And is not spiritual sleep a state of danger? While you are careless and indifferent . . .
time is advancing,
your body is decaying,
your faculties are wasting,
sin is withering you,
death is coming,
then the judgment,
And what if death comes while you are asleep? Sins unforgiven, guilt not removed — no title to heaven — your soul not saved! "The wages of sin is death!" "The end of these things is death!" "What do you mean, O sleeper?"
II. The Expostulation."What do you mean, O sleeper? Arise and call upon your God!"
1. This expostulation is necessary. The captain apprised Jonah of his danger. It was an act of humanity. The sinner must be apprised of his danger, because he is insensible of it, as Jonah was to the storm that was threatening the ship. To warn men, Christ established the Gospel ministry. "Go preach the Gospel to every creature." Acts 26:17, 18; Colossians 1:28.
2. It is expressive of anxious solicitude for man's welfare. The captain of the ship was in the first place anxious for his own safety — next for the crew on board. The servants of God must feel the danger of sinners; they must pant for their deliverance — they must save them "with fear, pulling them from the fire!" "Knowing, therefore, the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men."
What is profession, preaching, gifts, talents, without "the heart's desire." Romans 10:1. All who have been eminent for usefulness have deeply felt the delusions and dangers of the impenitent.
3. It expresses reproof:
"What do you mean, O sleeper?
The storm is raging,
the elements are conspiring,
the waves and billows roll and dash against the vessel,
we shall shortly be engulfed,
we have not long to live,
eternity is at hand,
and you are sleeping!
O stoic! O man of apathy!
What do you mean, O sleeper?"
Such was the import of the captain's address to Jonah. And sinners, why are you so indifferent to danger? How irrational! What madness! "Truly there is but a step between you and death!" Would a person sleep . . .
if he knew his house was on fire,
if he knew his child was at the point of death,
if some deadly disease had just commenced its ravages upon his body — without instantly seeking a remedy?
Would a man in poverty be indifferent if it was announced to him that his fortune was about to be reversed — that distinguished honors were before him?
What infatuation to be insensible to the greatest of all danger — to be indifferent to substantial happiness, and when a scepter, a crown, and a kingdom are offered to you! But even then, you close your eyes, and stop your ears, and say, "A little more sleep, a little more slumber!"
4. It is expressive of warning. If you do not rise from your lurking place — you will certainly perish. And if sinners repent and believe not, they will be lost. If the Gospel proves not "a savor of life unto life — it will be a savor of death unto death." Sinners must be warned faithfully, solemnly, earnestly, constantly.
III. The Duty Enforced."Arise, call upon your God!"
The Duty implies,
1. Serious attention to the expostulation. The ear must be obtained, and the mind engaged, or no good can be done. Jonah gave attention. The earnestness of the captain excited it.
2. Sensibility of danger, and deep anxiety to escape it. Like the Philippian jailer, convinced and anxious to flee from the wrath to come. Without such conviction, there can be no repentance and faith.
3. Repentance and confession of sin. This was the case with Jonah "Pick me up and throw me into the sea — and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you." Jonah 1:12
"Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon!" Isaiah 55:7
4. Earnest prayer, or calling upon God in the exercise of faith. "From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God!" Jonah 2:1. He prayed in faith. "Then I said, I am cast out of your sight — yet I will look again toward your holy temple," ch. 2:4-9.
In the temple expiatory sacrifices were offered — sacrifices typical of Christ the great One Sacrifice. His faith rested there, and brought him to say, "Salvation is of the Lord!" The sinner must look to Christ, the "Hiding-place" from the storms and tempests of wrath. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
5. Lastly. The result was gracious. Jonah was pardoned and restored to his duties. So shall the sinner be — pardoned, justified, adopted, and enjoy all the privileges of God's people. He shall arise from his sleep, and serve the Lord in "newness of life," and become a chosen vessel for the Master's service.