After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.
~ Matthew 25:19
But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
~ Luke 12:45
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.
~ Habakkuk 2:3
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
~ Hebrews 10:36-37
And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
~ Matthew 26:40
I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night.
~ Song of Solomon 5:2
And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
~ Matthew 26:43
Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8
Parable of the Ten Virgins, by Thomas Shepard. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
THE PARABLE OF PART SECOND.
OF CARNAL SECURITY IN VIRGIN CHURCHES.
MATT. XXV. 5.
Whilst the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept.
SECTION I. In this parable were noted two things:
First. The church’s preparation to meet Christ, from ver. 1 to 5.
Secondly. The bridegroom’s coming out to meet them, from ver. 5 to 12.
In this second part, which now we are to open, three things are to be attended unto:
1. The delay of Christ’s coming, or the long-suffering of Christ before he come. Ver. 5.
2. The preparation he makes for his coming, a little before it, from ver. 6 to 10, by an awakening cry, which makes all the vir gins look about them.
3. The coming itself; where those that were ready were with joy let in; and those that were unready were with shame shut out.
1. The delay of Christ’s coming. Whence note first, What happened in the interim of his delay, and that is, carnal security, expressed and set out from the lowest and highest degree of it. 1. They “slumbered; ” i. e., fell a nodding or winking, as the word most properly signifies. 2. They “slept;” i. e., now they were buried in their sleep, overcome by it.
Secondly. Upon whom these sleeps and slumbers fell; and that is, “ They all slumbered and slept;” i. e., though for a time they were both awake, yet good and bad, wise and foolish, fell into this senseless and stupid, dull and dead, sluggish and sleepy condition.
Observ. I. That in the last days carnal security either is or will be the universal sin of virgin churches.
Observ. II. That carnal security falls by degrees upon the . hearts of men.
Observ. III. That the spirit of sloth and security is the last sin that befalls the people of God.
Observ. IV. That Christ’s tarrying from the churches is the general occasion of all security in the churches; or the not com ing of the bridegroom when the saints expect him, is the general cause of that security which doth befall them.
Section II. Observ. I. That in the last days carnal security either is or will be the universal sign of virgin churches. When the churches are purged from the gross pollutions of the world, and antichris tian fornications and bondage, then either there is or will be general security. For these virgins, when they first made profession of their virginity by their burning lamps, were for a time all awakened, but at last they all slumbered and slept. This is the temper of the body of the churches.
Matt. xxiv. 38, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be in the days of the coming of the Son of man.”
Luke xviii. 8, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith in the earth?” i. e., an awakening faith.
Hence the Lord forewarns his people of this; (Deut. vi. 12,) “When thou comest to such a land, beware lest thou forget the Lord thy God.”
Quest. But what is this their general security?
Ans. Look as it is in our ordinary sleep, so it is in this general security: there are these six things in it:
1. A man forgets his business, his work he was about; so in a carnal security, men forget the Lord, his works, and his will; that which we most think of while we are awake, we least think of indeed when we are asleep. Take a man awakened indeed; O, then the worst remember the Lord and his covenant. Ps. Ixxviii. 47. But when asleep, the Lord and his errand is least thought of, and hence security is expressed by a forgetting God.” Ps. 1. 21. And hence Jerusalem’s security was in this, “they remembered not their latter end.”
2. A man in sleep fears no evil until it be upon him, awaken ing of him; so this is another ingredient into carnal security, though sin lies upon them, they fear not till evil comes; as Joseph’s brethren, though warning is given them, they fear not; like them in the days of Noah and Lot. And hence, (Job xxi. 9,) ” Their houses are free from fear;” the misery for the same sin is lighted upon another; yet the secure soul fears not, as in Belsbazzar. Dan. v. 22.
3. In sleep all the senses are bound up, the outward senses especially; the eye watcheth not, the ears hear not, the tongue tastes not, the body feels not; so this is an ingredient in carnal security, it binds up all the senses as it did the prophet Jonah’s in the storm; when misery was upon him, he heard not, he saw not, felt not; so when misery, outward or spiritual, is upon a man, he that had quick senses before, his eye sees not, watcheth not; Christians neglect their watchfulness for their friends, the Lord and his Spirit, and coming; nor watch against their enemies that daily besiege them; the ear hears not the voice of the ministry, the voice of providences, the voice of the Spirit within; the soul smells not, tastes not the sweet of any promise, any ordinance, no, nor of the grace of the Lord himself; hence it com mends them not; nay, the soul feels nothing, no evil, no good the Lord doth him; that look as the Lord there said, (Is. xxix. 9, 10,) “ The Lord hath poured upon you a spirit of sleep, and hath closed your eyes;” so that the Lord closeth up all the senses, that a man is now stupid, when he is fallen asleep in security.
4. In sleep there is a cessation from speaking and motion: there a man keeps silence and lies still; so in carnal security, the spirit of prayer is silent. Is. lxiv. 7; Ps. xxxii. 1-3. David calls it a keeping of silence. “Up! why sleepest thou? Seek to thy God,” say the mariners: indeed, men may talk in their sleep; so men may pray in their deep security, yet not thoroughly awakened: and there is a lying still, no progress; so in carnal security the soul stands at a stay, goes not backward, grows not worse, but goes not forward; such a one is compared to the door on the hinge.
5. In sleep, the senses being stupefied, and motion ceased, a man falls a dreaming; some dreams he forgets, some he remembers, and in his sleep fully and firmly believes them; so in carnal security, now a man’s mind dreams of that which is not, and of that which never shall be; a man’s mind is grown vain, and full of fancies and dreams; those things which never entered into God’s thoughts, something a man dreams of the Lord that this is his will and mind, which is not; of the world, that is a goodly thing; of things to come which shall never be.
6. In deep sleep, though a man be awakened, yet he presently is overcome by his sleep; so that is another ingredient into spiritual slumber; sleepiness is predominant over his watchfulness; and thus it was with the disciples in the garden, they slept; the Lord came once and twice, and awakens them, yet they slept till temptation surprised them; scarce any Christian so secure in the chambers of Christ, but he hath some knocks of con science, some cries of the ministry, some woundings from the Lord, and they do awake him, but yet he falls to sleep again.
Section III. We shall now show the reasons why virgin churches in the last days are or will be overcome by security.
Reason 1. Because that in virgin churches there are the strong est provocations to this sin, which are chiefly three.
1. Rest and places of peace, and freedom from hard bondage: Jacob may sleep with his stone under his head, but much more easily under his own vine and fig trees. A man may be secure in the times of trouble, but much more in times of peace, when we have our beds made soft for us, and easy pillows. Friends can boldly desire us to rest, where there is lodging for us: the world thrusts us out of lodging; while the prick is at the breast the nightingale awakes and sings, but when that is taken away it sleeps in the day. In times of persecution Paul is preaching till midnight, and the Lord is remembered in the songs, and sighs, and prayers of the night season; but in times of peace, peace, like Jael’s milk and butter, stupefies all the senses, though destruction be near; hence, (Deut. vi. 12) “ Then forget not the Lord.” Do you think that Noah in the ark, when the waters swelled above the mountains, was secure? No; but when the waters ceased, and he had his vineyard planted, now he sleeps in his drunkenness, because he knew not the strength of wine. In the virgin church, where this sleep is, we suppose this free dom from evil.
2. Because there men are most free from inward pain; for where there is much grief and pain, there is no rest, though all the house about be still; but when the house is still, and the body well, now it is hard but there may be rest; while the Christian doth live under antichristian pollution, his conscience hath no rest, and hence it is awake there. Here (saith the soul I want the ordinances of God; O that I had them! Here I see sin and wickedness abounding, that my child is like to be poi soned therewith; here are such and such superstitions that my conscience can not bear: hence conscience is kept waking. But in virgin churches, where the house is swept of these, now con science is quiet and at rest; now I have got a Levite into my house, God is now blessing me, etc. Now conscience hath laid down its burden, it falls down to sleep; now they cry, “The temple of the Lord,” etc.
3. Because in such churches there is most aptitude in men to spiritual fullness, viz., plenty of the means; there is all the ordinances; in this mountain (Is. xxv. 1) God’s feast is made, and fullness of spiritual gifts and graces, because they have now escaped the pollutions of the world, conquered the enmity of the world; now have come to a good measure of grace, and conquered the way of their enemies, got the better of them; hence, as the Israelites made peace with the Canaanites, not when they were too strong, but too weak for them, so now the soul comes to be at rest, to lay down its warfare, and to yield to a truce, to a league to his lusts and distempers for a time. When men are kept short of food, now they awake; so when the word of the Lord and his ordinances be rare and precious, and hard to find, now a Christian can trudge after them; but when men are full, now they desire rest; so it is here.
4. Because in virgin churches, there men are most apt to be vertaken with weariness; a man that never walked on in holy way may at first setting out delight in Christ; but after he hath done walking in it, now he is apt to faint, especially if he sows much, and reaps for the present but little. And hence, (Gal. vi. 9,) “You shall reap in due season, if you faint not:” now, in virgin churches, these virgins are such persons as have begun to make a profession, and have made a fair progress; O how difficult now is it not to be weary! It is strange to see what short spirits after the Lord, what large after the creatures, we have.
Reason 2. Because they are the more easily overcome by this sin than by any other.
1. Because it is a sin which a man least foresees or fears: the apostle saith, “They that are drunk, and that sleep, sleep in the night;” and yet here men sleep in the open light: why so? Men see it not, men know it not; sleep steals upon a man: it is lawful to sleep; carnal security arises chiefly from the use of lawful things, on which a man’s heart and thoughts are spent; they ate, drank, gave in marriage, they could see no hurt therein. When a man is had before councils, now a man fears to sin, he knows he shall be tempted unto sin; but when the Lord brings the shoulder from under such burdens, now to fear our tables, our beds, our wives, our children, our callings, our professions, and the snares of these, O, it is exceeding hard!
2. Because security is so sweet a sin; 0, sleep is sweet; meat is sweet, but men may be soon full of that; but when sleep comes, many hours are little enough to entertain that; some sins are sweet for a time, as a short meal and away; but sloth is a sweeter sin than any else besides. Let a Christian ask his heart, when he can take no content in pots, or loose company, or queans, and can find none in the Lord, yet this will give him ease, viz., his sloth; when he is weary of the world, and of walking with Christ also, yet sloth is his delight: and hence he cries, ” A little more slumber and sleep, until destruction comes as an armed man.” Prov. vi. 9, 10. When a man delights not in his wife, children, riches, honors, yet is he sometimes contentedly swal lowed up with his sleep and rest.
3. Because Satan doth make his strongest forces ready alway to bring a man first unto this sin, because this makes way for the entrance of all sin and misery; no people so happy as the Israel ites, while they were awakened and up with God; no misery could hurt them, (Jer. ii. 1–3;) but when they forgot him, all misery came in: “while the strong man keeps the palace, his goods be at peace;” it is his care to keep men secure and still.
SECTION IV. Use 1. Let us therefore now examine whether this sin be not our sin in this country, if it be not begun among us: if we be not sleeping, yet are we not slumbering? if we are not virgin churches, why have we the name of it? if we be virgin churches, then make search if this be not our sin: we have all our beds and lodgings provided, the Lord hath made them easy to us; we never looked for such days in New England; the Lord hath freed us from the pain and anguish of our consciences; we have ordinances to the full, sermons too long, and lectures too many, and private meetings too frequent; a large profession many have made; but are you not yet weary? if weary, not sleepy, not slum bering? it may be on you before you are aware, and you not know it; and when so it is, it may be so sweet that you may be loth to see it, that so you may forsake it. Let me knock again: is it not so? Let me come to every man’s bedside, and ask your consciences.
1. Have you not forgot your God, and forgot your work also? the business for which you made this great undertaking. Ps. cvi. 12. When they were saved from the sea, they soon forgat the Lord; hath not the Lord, by a stretched-out arm, brought thee and thine through seas and dangers, and delivered you won fully? are not all his kindnesses forgotten? all your promises forgotten? When the Lord had brought the Israelites out of their captivity, and some hopeful beginnings were, they came for the temple; the dust was precious, but God’s house did lie waste.
Hag. i. 5, 6, “ Consider your ways;” no man prospered scarce in his estate; God did blow upon their corn because they for gat their end. What was your end of coming hither? The ordinances of God, the presence of God; and O, one day there is better than a thousand elsewhere: hath it been so? No, but as it is ver. 9, “Every man turns to his own house:” every man for himself, to their own house, lot, accommodation, provision for children, and in the mean while the Lord’s house lies waste, you build not up that; the souls of thy brethren in church fellow ship, yea, of thy family, are not built up; the Lord’s house is despised now, and it is like the schools of the prophets, and much more. O, thought we, if we had such privileges, how would we improve them! But when we have them, have we the same thoughts? Do we not forget them, like men that come to a place for gold, and find it not without digging, they fall to load their ship with wood or coal, that which it will bear?
2. Have we not shaken off all fear almost of sin and misery? “ Go to the ant, thou sluggard; she fears and provides against a winter.” Do not men think that we have fled too far for the cross to find us, or as if the temple of the Lord was such a den as no foxes or wolves could follow us into? especially when there are causes of fear, when war is proclaimed, and the causes known; and yet they are not feared: how many men have the handwriting of death in their consciences against them! This they confess is nought, they have lived careless, sluggish, and have had some sense of it, yet no awakening fear of the terror of the Lord: when a prince is nigh us, now to commit a little lewdness is great wickedness; where is the man that trembles at the nearness of God to us? when a breach is made, then fear enemies. Divisions and breaches go before falls of churches; where is that spirit of Jehosaphat that feared and proclaimed a fast? When God hath begun to smite, what cause is there to fear! we have been hurt, and yet not laid it to heart; the lion roars, shall not the people fear? I believe we should not have had those Pequot furies upon us, but God saw we began to sleep: where is the man that, with Paul, knows the terror of the Lord, and hence persuades men? When the enemy is ever about us, there is always cause of fear, and yet we fear but now and then.
3. Are not our senses bound up? Look upon men in their fields and conversings, buyings and sellings; where is the daily, weekly watchfulness over our thoughts and tongues? Look to men’s closets; do men there call themselves to account? can they find leisure or need of it? are not men’s eyes closed up, that the glory of God in the Scripture is a sealed thing? men have eyes, but see not; are not men’s ears sealed up? some sermons men can sleep them out; man’s voice is heard, but not the voice of the Son of God: 0, how many men are there that become quite sermon-proof nowadays! Are not men blockish, dull, sense less, heavy under all means? they taste not, smell not; whereas elsewhere, o, how lively and spiritual are they!
4. Is not the spirit of prayer, that lamp, going out in the church of God? The blessedness of all flourishing plantations in the world began by means of that, and shall not continue but as it continues; and if ever cause to seek for prosperity of planta tions, these have need. If God should take away this generation of magistracy and ministry, what would this despised country do? and what would become of your children? Then no schools for them, when no gospel is left among them; then every man’s sword shall be against his brother, and God spreading the place with darkness, which through his presence is made light: what little hope of a happy generation after us, when many among us scarce know how to teach their children manners? How apt are we, like to those Asian churches, to fall into those very sins which overwhelmed them, and ruined them! how many fall off, and in time break forth, that it would make men sick to hear of their pranks! what place more open to temptation of persecu tion and worldly delusions? Go up and down the plantations, where is the man that lays things to heart? who hath the con dition of the country written upon his heart, and presenting it before the Lord, rather than his own good? O, men are silent because asleep! How do sins run through men as water through a mill, and men regard it not! What means, what deliverances have we had! but O, what little thankfulness! 2. Do we make progress? nay, is not our shadow gone back? “I sleep, but my heart waketh;” it should be so, but it is not so indeed.
5. Have we not fallen a-dreaming here? what meaneth else the delusion of men’s brains? what a swarm of strange opin ions, which (like flies) have gone to the sores of men’s heads and hearts, and these are believed also; and more dreams men have that are never spoken; every man hath some drunken conceit that rocks him asleep: dreams are quite contrary to the truth. What meaneth these, if men are not sleeping? First, drunken dreams of the world. Secondly, golden dreams of grace; that these things advance grace which indeed destroy grace; that there is no grace in the saints, no grace in Christ, no human na ture, no promise to evidence grace, no law to be a rule to them that have received grace: who would think that ever any should so fall by a simple woman? But if this be not general, yet look how do .men begin to dream concerning the world? Scarce a man but finds want, or is well; if he wants, O, then, if I had such a lot about me, such an estate, how well then were I! and e contra, they that have it, and now they take their rest. “Take heed” (saith the Lord) “ your hearts be not overcome with cares;” so I say to you.
6. Doth not the Lord often awaken us, yet we fall to sleep again? the Lord awakened us by the Pequot hornet, yet what use is there made of it? doth not the Lord often meet us in an ordinance, but he is soon lost and gone again? Is there a man that hath not had his cross since he came hither, as loss in cattle and estate, a dear husband, child, wife dead? a sore and sharp sickness, etc., he hath been exercised with, etc., but do you not sleep still? If it be not thus, it will come; fear it for time to come; but if it be thus, then I say no more, but know it, you are in your enemy’s hands; and in such an enemy’s hand, that if you mourn not under it, will open the door either to the en trance of some cross sin and temptation, or for some heavy and sudden wrath. It is sufficient for me this day to show you where your hurt lieth…
SECTION V. Use 2. Hence see the reason why men are worse in virgin churches than in polluted places, and why it is so generally; be cause here are more temptations to make them all slumber and sleep; here their beds are made soft, here the storms are past, here they are under the shadow, and out of the sun, and security opens the door for an enemy: no wonder if the city •be taken, though never so strong, if it grow once secure; no wonder if the world be entered, and men are grown more worldly; and if Satan be entered, and men grow more passionate than before; no wonder a man’s work be neglected, if he be asleep, ordinances more slighted than ever before: never shall you see security fall upon a man alone, but it brings its train with it; when the husbandmen sleep, tares will be sown, and when the disciples sleep, temptations will enter; this is that which the Lord testifies of his people. Jer. ii. 2-4. I remember what thou didst in times of straits, in a land not sown; every one that touched you did not offend; but in the seventh and eighth verses, when brought to a plentiful country, they did not so much as say, Where is the Lord that hath done this for us? But yet the Lord questions his people for this, “What iniquity have you found in me?” which question you can not answer without grief here, or con fusion another day. You that are the Lord’s often have heard this complaint, (for this may be your condition as well as Noah and Lot’s,) but now see the cause of it; how hard to awake one hour! how hard to walk with God one day! short awakenings you have, but long sleeps;” (this may be your condition for a time, but you can not continue so forever, if you are the Lord’s. But if you do continue so, especially without bemoaning this unto the Lord, it is a question whether ever there was that oil in your vessel which others have, when not only a man’s acts grow worse, but the very spirit of a man degenerates; when not only the leaves of the vine fall, but the vine itself grows de generate, and hence continueth so; this is a fore evidence of a woful state; (Jer. ii. 20, 21,) “When the yoke was upon thy neck, thou saidst thou wouldst not transgress; but the Lord hath broken thy bands, and now thou art become a strange vine;” remember it will be a heavy indictment against thee to be good in Meshech, but base in Zion; to be then worst when the Lord is best.
Use 3. Hence see one reason why the Lord pursueth many a soul with inward terrors and outward sorrows. Those that are fast asleep, because soft speeches can not awaken them, hence we lay our hands upon them, and sometimes knock them, be cause this is the way to awaken them, and then they hear; so the word and Spirit speak to a man; but such soft, still winds rock them asleep, rather than awaken them; hence the Lord layeth his iron hands upon a man, and knocks by blows; and now, when affliction is upon you, now you can hear; when as the winds and water were ready to tear the ship in pieces, now they inquire, Why were they sent? “And the lot fell upon Jonah,” who was then sleeping; it is easy to awaken out of nat ural sleep, but very hard out of spiritual security: all the terrors of God on Jonah within and without are little enough; but at last he could hear, and run on his errand. Ps. xxx. 6, 7. Why did God hide his face from David? ” he said in prosperity he should not be moved:” this was the reason of it; the Lord sees you have need of it; seldom shall one see an awakening Christian without inward temptations and terrors, or outward sorrows; 0, consider then if the Lord do meet with thee; con sider thy own security thou hast been in, or art apt to fall into. This is the sin you must inquire after and find out; and do not account it hard, though long, though bitter; for never greater misery than for the Lord to say, Sleep on; it is one of the heaviest judgments for the Lord to let a man go on in a secure condition without blows; mark, therefore, unto the end of those blows, to be thoroughly awakened by them; for sometimes when the Lord sends them, a man (if they be not very bitter, if he hath any rest) lays them not to heart; (Is. xlii. 25,) “Fire burn about him;” and in this country I know not what curse befalls men; peace makes men secure, and sorrow makes men discon tented, and sunk, and discouraged, which may be for a fit in a saint; but to continue so, this is that Ahab: 0, when as thou feelest the blow, look now that thou dost awaken, and be thank ful for it, that you meet with that you did never reckon upon, viz., to be frighted out of security thereby.
SECTION VI. Use 4. Of Exhortation. To watch over one another, by “ex horting one another while it is called to-day.” Heb. iii. 13. Let both the watchmen and members of the churches do this; for this is one means appointed by the Lord to preserve the soul from sleeping; (1 Thess. v. 1, 5, 6,) ” Exhorting one another;” as it is in cities, when the watch is apt to sleep, they have their companies that are passing up and down the walls the greater part of the night, and so they are kept walking; and we shall find that as it is in a town where men are all asleep, one bell man, one walking Christian will keep life, and spirit, and the power of godliness in many; and when he sleeps, all are fast. Nothing in the world brings security sooner upon men than sleepy company: officers of the churches watch not over members, nor they one over another, exhorting and crying one unto another to their work, while it is called to-day: 0, then, let ev ery man get up, and fall to this work of mutual exhorting; go and visit one another, go and speak often to one another; and if thou be a child of the light, see that thou endure not thy fellow-servants to sleep in the open day in one duty or another. Know, if God stirs thee, thou wilt awaken others; (2 Cor. v. 10,) “We, knowing the terrors of the Lord, persuade men.”
2. Consider, thy labor can not be in vain here; the best-met tled horse needs spurs; others are asleep.
You will say, If I knew such a sin I would speak, but I dare not.
Ans. It is the case of all the virgins, they have need of it; (Jude 23,) “ Some save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.” Matt. lii.
3. Consider this is one part of your warfare, to keep your watch, whereby you may be made conquerors; you complain you have many sins and temptations arising and prevailing; never do they usually prevail, but when you are secure: first the watch is taken, and then the city is suddenly taken: now look as Paul, (2 Tim. iv. 6, 7,) “ He hath finished his course, and fought his fight, and now expects the crown;” how can you end your days in peace, that can not in some measure find and feel this? The church is the city of the living God; this is taken, and every man in it, unless you be watchful and exhort one another daily, while it is called to-day.” And that I may not speak in the clouds, –
4. Their sin will be yours.
First. Labor to know the state of thy brethren whom thou art to exhort; what their sleepy neglects be, and sins are; it may be thou hast known one hath been very humble, tender, affected under ordinances, made many fair shows and promises of grow ing, and thriving, and sensibly complaining of his own vileness, and now he is in a silent sleep; dost thou know this, and wilt not speak a word to awaken him, for whom Christ shed his blood, who it may be will do thee as good a turn, and make many a prayer for thee? “Barnabas, when he saw the grace of God, exhorted them with full purpose of heart to cleave unto him;” much more should you when you see grace dying. 2 Thess. iii. 11. Paul heard that some were idle; them he exhorts to work: what good might one do?
Secondly. If you do not know, inquire, with a spirit of much love, how it is with them; as David of his brethren, when they were gone into the fields, (1 Sam. xvii. 16:) Do you not decline, do you not stand still? how have you found your heart since last sermon, Sabbath, fast, affliction? have you got any ground against that sin you complained of last year? etc. Suppose you can not do this to all, yet why not to some? Suppose you have no other place than when you meet them in the fields, do it there; (Jude 20.) “Build up yourselves.” etc. Now, here a man must know the height, how high they are built already; how can they lay their stones else? It is one of the heavy curses of God upon the idle shepherd, “He shall not visit the hidden, nor seek the young.” Zach. xi. 16.
Thirdly. If thou knowest nothing from them, then relate thy own condition; this is a most lovely provocation and exhortation unto another frame; for one great cause that hardeneth men in their security is because they see no such living Christianity in the world; but when they do, “Now (Zach. viii.) many shall take hold of the skirt of a Jew, for they shall say God is with you.” Agrippa was almost persuaded and awakened when he heard Paul relate his conversion; although there be many impostors in the world that do so, tell me, Are all things in peace with you? The devil is in you, then. What, hast thou no temptations? Yet many. Dost thou not observe how they pre vail? Yes. Dost thou never get strength against them? Yes. Hast thou no good days after them? Yes, much peace, and life, and presence of God, Hath the Lord given these talents to thee to be hid in a napkin, this treasure to keep and not to spend? Who knows but that the speaking of these may awaken others? These temptations and this condition is mine; these sins I find he makes a great matter of them — Lord, what will become of me, that am hardened under them? this peace they find, my soul is a stranger to it; conscience will work thus: women should speak thus to women, and men to men; others were provoked, by the example of the Corinthians, to help others; so there is a provoking power here.
Fourthly. If this prevail not, speak often to them of the sing of others; in condemning others you condemn them; and this will make them look about them; view the fields, and show them the tares that are grown up by security; and laying down these sins, you strike at the root of theirs: it may be, you can not tell certainly. Acts ii. 40. The Lord made this one means to awaken Belshazzar. Dan. v. 22. God turned thy father into a beast, etc., to live in the woods, yet thou humblest not thyself, etc. How many professors doth God deal so withal?
Fifthly. Enter into covenant and brotherly promise to exhort one another, as David and Jonathan; if any hurt be toward Da vid, Jonathan will speak of it. 1 Sam. xx. Some may in church fellowship be more nearly knit than others, to call one another to account, to tell one another their fears, to know of one another their progress. Canst thou not give an account to man? how wilt thou give an account to God of it? I am persuaded many a man lies smothered to death by means of this. Canst thou not get to the light of a candle? O, then, how canst thou appear before the light of the sun?
Sixthly. Provoke one another to frequency in ordinances, (Heb. x. 23, 24,) and therein consider one another: dost thou see thy brother in doubts or complaints? call him to pray with thee; dost thou see things go ill in churches, and men bite the bit? call to fasting and prayer, three or four together; as Paul, when he saw the ship sinking, then he exhorted them. Acts xxvii. 22. Especially when you see danger near men’s hearts, ready to be lost in the world. In these times suppose only two, or three, or four, should go and pray one half hour together, and tell one another their wants, now help here; in our times it hath been so, one living Christian helps others dying.
What, art thou alive to God and family, where thou canst do but little common good, and art dead to thy brother? it is made a sad sign of a man forsaken of God, if when he thinks he shall sleep his last, and be damned himself, yet he would have others damned also. Tell me, would you have all New England lie in security as well as yourselves? No! Do you not desire it when you use not the means that prevent it; and that is, mutual exhortation? O, therefore, do it; ministers may preach, and every man sleep still, unless some awake and rouse up the rest (as some when others are in bed and fast asleep) that lie a-dreaming: Some there be, that though doomsday were to-morrow, they woulu sleep. O, let me persuade some one or two to fall to his work, lest your security prove your undoing; speak oft one to another, forsake not your assembling, visit one another, pray one for another, warning one another, that you may awake with the Lord one hour.
Section VII. Use 5. Let every man not only exhort his brother, but fear this himself: you have a race to run, many enemies to conquer; sleep not lest you fall short, sleep not lest you be taken captive: lest in exhorting others yourselves prove reprobates: I will not tell you what I fear, but (Luke xxi.) take heed lest your hearts be overcome; be not drunk with some delight, be not filled with vain cares; hence prevent it, as Noah “moved with fear made an ark.”
First. Set a high price upon those awakenings and revivings of heart that God sometimes giveth you; I am sure you find these sometimes. A man that hath nothing to lose will sleep with his doors open in the night; when a man hath a treasure, he will be watchful to keep it; all security comes from an under valuing of the Spirit of grace, and its presence among us; (Prov. iv. 13,) keep her, for it is thy life, and when it is lost, what are you but dead?
Secondly. Consider thy continual danger; if enemies be at the gates, all the town is watching; one would not think the depth of security that is in a careless heart. Ps. xxx. 6. “I said I should never be moved;” he had good days and a thankful heart; then God did hide his face. A man would think Samson should awake when the Philistines are upon him; but here devils be upon thee. 1 Pet. v. 10. If all be well now, yet remember evil days; would you know when? even when men say, Peace.
Thirdly. Know the work you have to do, and make it your main business: when men have weighty business of the world in hand, they can not sleep in their beds; and as the wicked, (Prov. iv. 16,) “ They sleep not without doing mischief;” and so it is their main work.
Fourthly. Call thyself to account daily; let not thy soul long go on without reflecting, What do I do?’ Harts and hawks kept from sleep lose their wildness, but they must be constantly tended and kept watching: so consider the account you must give to God. 2 Cor. v. 9, with 11. Hence (Hag. i. 5) sins were upon them, and they repented not; miseries, and those were not re moved; because they considered not their ways, especially before the great tribunal of God. I am persuaded the reason why men walk in their sleep, and go dreaming up and down the world, is this: they consider not, nor reflecting upon themselves to any purpose; what do I? whither go I? no sermons awaken, you consider not of them.
CARNAL SECURITY COMES BY DEGREES.
SECTION I. That carnal security falls upon the hearts of all men by degrees; for all the virgins here first slumbered before they slept, they first fall a-winking and nodding (as the word signifies) short sleeps, and then startle, and awake again, before they fall asleep for a longer time: a Christian is a slumbering Christian before he is a sleeping Christian.
The truth of this may be seen, not only in these virgins, but also in other examples of security in the Scripture; as the old world. Gen. vi. 2, ” They saw the daughters of men,” they let their eyes wander, and their hearts lust.
2. Then “they took them wives” for to solace their hearts in, to please themselves only, and not the Lord; “they ate, drank, gave in marriage; ” they came not to that hight of wickedness, to commit adultery, or to live in whoredom.
3. Then they became fleshly and sensual; spiritual things are out of taste and relish with them.
4. Noah preacheth, and they slight him; he condemns them, and they regard him not.
5. Then God sets a time; no stronger means to awaken than this, and yet they go on; and now they come to their hight.
Secondly, the Israelites. Deut. viii. 12. 1. “They ate and grew full; ” here is the first spiritual fullness. 2. “Blessing themselves,” in their estates, herds, flocks. 3. “Then proud in heart.” Ver. 14. 4. Then they forgat the Lord,” and all that ever he did for them. Ver. 14. 5. Then men ascribe all which they have to themselves and creatures, (ver. 17, though only in their heart. 6. Then “ cleave to other gods,” (ver. 19,) and here lie so fast asleep, till ” plagues come down upon them.”
” Solomon saw the sluggard’s garden overgrown; ” now as it is in the fields, the weeds do not overgrow all the ground in one day, but they are a long time of growing, but by degrees they overgrow all; that when he awakes (all is overgrown) he knows not where to begin; so it is here.
“Be sober, be vigilant;” security is a kind of spiritual drunk enness; a man is not for that time his own man, not a sober man; now this is by frequent and often sipping; a man he is half gone first, and then he is wholly gone; he hath not presently drunk out all his senses, not dead drunk; so it is here.
SECTION II. Reason 1. In regard of the quickness and power of the life of conscience; whether it be a natural conscience awakened, or a spiritual conscience awakened; it is with conscience as it is with a prisoner in a house; though all in the house sleep, yet he is bound, he can not, and hence he is speaking, and will awaken the house; so conscience hath known, these sins I have watched against, and been humbled for; these duties I have done; but now, now faith, conscience, you neglect them; now you are worse, now fallen: now a man startles, especially when one stands at the door, and calls to conscience, it will awaken; so when there is a word to call, conscience will be crying ever and anon within, especially when any hope or leisure to speak with any as they pass by; so it will take men sometimes in their fields, and talk with them, and chide them; security grows up easily, but the awakening light of conscience can not be soon done out in any man; hence sometimes a man sleeps, and then awakens again; hence, (Rom. ii. 15,) though they had many sins, yet it would accuse and excuse; as those that come out of their own country to dwell in another, or from a great estate in a mean condition, they can not easily forget their friends and relations, but in time it wears away; (Prov. xx. 27,) conscience is God’s candle; it will shine, and is not easily put out.
Reason 2. Because the Lord doth never depart from men but by degrees, and hence security falls upon men by degrees: when God is near unto men, then usually they be awakened, as the Israelites before the mount. Now the Lord, to show the riches of his patience and long suffering, he will not depart suddenly, and leave the soul in a dead and sluggish estate. And hence the cherubim’s glory (Ezek. ix. 10, 11) departed by degrees. Is. xxix. 10, with 13. God doth not so deal, as presently to close their eyes quite up, but they are awakened to draw nigh to God with their lips, which is of God, and then the Lord closeth up their eyes; never can a man be cast into a deep sleep, till the Lord saith, Sleep on, or till God close his eyes: and that he doth not presently; as to the disciples he comes a second and third time.
Reason 3. Because this is the most ready way and method for sin and Satan to bring the soul into a deep sleep; nay, to make them give themselves to sleep, which is that he aims at: look as it is with those that sell things; their scope is not to put off their commodities, but to put them off so as they may have money or money’s worth for them: so it is here; the scope of Satan is not only to bring men into security, to give them ease and peace, (Luke xi. 21,) but to have his money, that the soul may give itself to it: now, as it is in buying of fruits, sugars, wines, or strong waters, they will not buy all presently, nor buy before they see and taste; they know not whether it is good or not, or whether they shall need it at all or not: so here, to lie in such a secure condition as to neglect all means, to be hardened after all sins, this Satan will not offer, nor will men buy, or give them selves to this; they know not whether this be good or not, less will serve them; and hence taste first a little slumber and sleep, and so call for a little and a little more, until a ma beggar, (Prov. vi. 10,) as at first in paradise; first look, then taste, then eat, so here.
SECTION III. Do not think you are out of a state of carnal security, be cause you have many times some quickenings and revivings of heart, because they may be only awakenings between thy slumbers, which, like flashes, suddenly come and suddenly go again, which make thee startle and rub thy eyes, and stir up thyself, but down you fall again; wherever life is in a Christian, it is ever acting for spiritual ends; a man will awaken first with God in the morning, and go first to him in prayer, and he will go from his prayer to his work, not as doing his own work, but as doing the Lord’s work, hoeing, plowing, sowing for him, etc. Now, when the life of Christ doth not act in men, and act men, it is either because there is no life at all, but only the awakening of conscience which soon dieth, or else that living Christian slumbereth at least then; slumber is upon thee, though sleep is not; make it out else any. other way.
Object. If so, (you will say,) who is not then sleeping?
Ans. Take Lot whilst vexed with the Sodomites, he awakens; take Paul while tossed up and down in disgraces and reproaches, his in ward man is renewed day by day, though the outward man die. The saints have some kind of sleeps when they are at their best; but these are sick sleeps; but thine are sweet sleeps to thee. I know Christ may say to his disciples, “ Watch and pray; temptation may be near;” but their eyes may be heavy; their spirit may be willing, the flesh weak; and that it is infinite mercy the Lord will awaken them, a first and second time it may be, by Sabbath awakenings, etc. Many can not tell what to make of themselves, because of their drowsiness and gospel slumber: methinks this may break thy heart, can not you awaken one hour? know, therefore, your sin; it is a hard thing to be fully awakened, to have all heaviness to sleep taken away: the Lord hath taken you here alone to himself; you do by fits watch and pray, but it is only as men asleep, not awake. The Son of man is betrayed, Christ, and the gospel, and ordinances; and can you find in your heart now to sleep?
Use 2. O, therefore, shake off your slumbers and short sleeps, lest you fall to sleep; and for sleeping, be awakened by some dreadful blow; look upon those men. Is. xxix. 10. « God hath closed their eyes;” that is a fearful thing: look upon many professors; all their favor, and heart, and life is almost gone, and they know not that they are asleep, nor all means can not awaken them, or unseal their minds again. God knows how far you may fall, if you give way to a little; especially if God takes away his ministers from you, and that the elders, that have known the works of God, be gathered to their fathers; especially if you know it, and yet go on in your slumbers: if you will not awaken when God cries and calls, you shall slumber and sleep; like the smith’s dog, the harder the master strikes, the faster the dog sleeps, being used to it. I knew a man of great estate, often quickened by the word; but he lost all heat and life again, and he prayed and desired the Lord to keep him, and yet decayed, but he could not tell the reason thereof; at last the word began to grow common, and he slept there also; conscience told him there was some evil toward him which he feared, yet still slept, and continued so; notwithstanding his fears would thus awaken him often: at last an affliction came; he regarded not that, but was impatient and froward under it, till at last all was gone, and then he looked about him; when his house was burned, he was . asleep; he prayed, but lost all by sleeping when he should have watched; so security grew upon him; and hence, no wonder though misery met him: 0, take heed, therefore, of giving way, liberty, or toleration to a sleeping profession, and your slumber ing religion: as men will not tolerate ceremonies, because they are the fruitful seed of the body of Popery, so here, etc.
Section IV. Quest. What are the first degrees of this spiritual slumber?
Ans. 1. When men have lost the satisfying sense of the blessed face and love of God; when hypocrites have lost the imaginary sight of it, and saints the real enjoyment of it; (Ps. xvii. ult.) “I shall be satisfied when I awake with thine image;” sleep first shows itself in closing up of a man’s eyes that he seeth not any thing about him; hence something else contents, and must do it when you feed not daily upon the Lord’s love; and when that, then vain cares. and thoughts (Luke xxi. 34) overcome a man, and then groweth a very worldling, as if he had hope of no other portion; hence no mind after spiritual good things; hence he sleeps at sermons, hence he falls out into a passion, and discontent with his present condition, nay, with every other thing when any cross comes; because these things are sweet to you, and God is not, when discontented: the Lord keep my soul from entering into thy secrets; 0, consider it if you have had the sense of the Lord’s love in sacraments! and some new doubts arise, and you are not satisfied with it; now look to your selves; it is impossible a Christian should do any work without rest. Now, as bodily feeding causeth rest, so doth spiritual feeding spiritual rest; feed and rest here, and it will make you fall to your work; feed not here, rest not here, and you will in something else; and carnal rest will bring carnal neglect.
2. When men have lost all fear of the wrath to come, and the terror of God another day; not always a fear that I shall bear, but a dreadful apprehension what it is. Many Christians lose the sense of God’s love, yet the Lord keeps them in the sense of his anger, and so they are awake; but when both are gone, or this is gone, then there is, and can not but be, the first security. For as it is with children, when their eyes are open to see and con sider the things of the world, now they are begun to be awakened; I never look upon a Christian fully awakened until now, that the Lord lets him see the things of another world; and when this is lost, he begins to sleep. 2 Cor. v. 9, with 11; 2 Pet. iii. 11, 12. Some securelings thought all things were past. “No,” saith he, “there is a time a-coming when all things shall be dissolved; what manner of persons then should we be!” Hence, this being lost, men fear not sin, men prize not mercy, men wonder not if ever they escape; hence men live and hang between doubt and fear, never make sure, because they know not what God’s wrath is. Nay, lastly, hence nothing awakens them, that though they know their misery, yet they will go on, (the highest degree of spiritual security.) 0, then, keep these thoughts awake! what it is to be forsaken of God! what it is to grapple with him!
3. When men have lost their foresight, and hence provide not against an evil day; when Christians keep their profession, and go on sweetly in their course, but to lay up for afterclaps, that they do not; when Christians like grasshoppers sing all the sum mer; but what have they to live upon in the winter time?