I. SOME PROFESSING CHRISTIANS SEEM TO BE ASLEEP WITH REGARD TO OTHERS. Paul has been bidding us to pay attention to relative duties, and exhorting us to keep the law of love, which is the essence of law; and now he interjects this sentence. So he means that many Christians are in a sleepy state with reference to their obligations to others. True godliness makes a man look to himself, and feel his personal obligations and responsibilities. But there is a danger lest a man should say, “Other people must see to themselves, and I must see to myself.” The principle of individuality might be thus pushed to an unwarrantable extreme. No man can compass the ends of life by drawing a little line around himself upon the ground. There are outgoing lines of life that bind us not only with some men, but, in fact, with all humanity. We are placed, therefore, in a most solemn position; and it is with regard to this that it is high time that we should awake out of sleep.
1. Into what a deep slumber some professing Christians have fallen! How utterly insensible they are to the sins and sorrows of those around them. They say, “What is to be will be, and the Lord’s purpose will be fulfilled; there will be some saved and others lost,” as coolly as if they were talking of a wasp’s nest. As for those that are lost! They dare not injure their logic by indulging a little mournful emotion.
2. Others are prone to be overtaken with an oft-recurring sleep. I know a brother who often takes forty winks in the day-time: you may nudge him, and he will wake and listen to you, but he goes to sleep again in a few minutes if you let him alone. Who can blame the sleeper when it is a question of infirmity or sheer exhaustion? Well, without blaming any for the weakness of the flesh, I take this sleepy habit to be a fit illustration of the state of some Christians. They have fits and starts of wakefulness, and then off to sleep again. At that missionary meeting you woke up when you heard the cry of the perishing heathen; but have you cared much about China or India since then? You do at times get on fire with love for souls, but then after the sermon, or the week of special services has ended, you go to sleep again. Many Sunday-school teachers there are of that kind.
3. Others fall into a kind of somnambulistic state. If we judged them by their outward actions we should think they were wide awake, and they do what they do very well. Persons walk along giddy heights safely enough when fast asleep, where they would not venture when wide awake. And we have known professors going on very carefully, exactly where others have fallen, and have attributed it to the grace of God, whereas in part it has been attributable to the fact that they were spiritually asleep. It is possible to appear very devout, to sing hymns, to hear sermons, to teach in the Sunday School, to pay your religious contributions punctually, maintain the habit of prayer, and yet you may be a somnambulist.
4. A very large number of us are half asleep.
II. IT IS HIGH TIME THAT THEY SHOULD AWAKE. And why? Because —
1. What right have believers to be asleep at all? The Lord has saved us from the sleep which is the first cousin to death — from indifference, unbelief, hardheartedness.
2. A great many opportunities have already slipped away. You who have been converted, say these ten years, what have you done for Christ? You have been eating the fat and drinking the sweet, but have you fed the hungry? If you have been saved a week, and you have done nothing for Christ during that week, you have already wasted more than enough.
3. There were so many people that had a claim upon us, who are beyond our power now, even if we do wake! Have you ever felt the sadness of neglecting to visit a person who was ill until you heard that he was dead? Many are passing away from us and from the sphere of our influence. Your children, for instance. Parents, avail yourselves of your opportunities.
4. We have plenty of enemies that are awake if we are not. Protestantism may slumber, but Jesuitism never does. The prince of the power of the air keeps his servants well up to their work.
5. It is daylight. The sun has risen. We are getting far into the gospel dispensation. Can you sleep still?
6. Our Lord was awake. How did His eyes stream with tears over perishing Jerusalem! The zeal of God’s house consumed Him. Ought it not to consume us?
7. Our own day may be over within an hour or two. The preacher may be delivering his last sermon. You may go home to-night to offer the last prayer at the family altar which you will ever utter on earth. You may open shop to-morrow morning for the last time.
III. THERE IS SOMETHING WORTH WAKING FOR. Paul does not say, “If you do not wake you will be lost.” He speaks in a gospel tone, “Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed.”
1. It is nearer in order of time. How long is it since you believed? Ten years? You are ten years nearer heaven, then. Ought we not to be more awake? The farther we are off from heaven, the less we may feel its influence. Some of you are sixty years nearer to heaven than you were. Would you like to live those sixty years over again? Would you like to go back and clamber again the Hill Difficulty, and slide down again into the Valley of Humiliation, etc.? Rejoice that you are so much nearer heaven. Therefore, keep wide awake, and looking out for it.
2. In point of preparation. If we are getting more ready for heaven, we ought to be more awake, for sleepiness is not the state of heavenly spirits. If thou art more fit for heaven thou hast more love, more pity; then reach out both hands to bring another poor soul to Christ.
3. In point of clearness of realisation. If I can realise that in so short a time my eternal salvation shall be consummated, I cannot any longer neglect a single opportunity of serving my Master. Conclusion: Oh, ye unconverted men, must I read the text as it would have to run if it were written to yon? “It is high time that you should awake out of sleep, for now is your damnation nearer than when you first heard the gospel and rejected it.” God grant you grace to take heed and to believe in Christ.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I have lately read in the newspaper — I am sure I do not know whether to believe that it is true — an account of a youth in France, twenty years of age, who has been lying sleeping for a fortnight, nourished only upon a little gruel given with a spoon, and that he was in the same state a year ago for nearly a month. Whether this has actually occurred to anybody or not, I have known many cases of Christians who have laid like that spiritually.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)