We are here taught a lesson of sobriety and godliness in ourselves. Our main care must be to look to ourselves. Four things we are here taught, as a Christian’s directory for his day’s work: when to awake, how to dress ourselves, how to walk, and what provision to make.
I. When to awake: Now it is high time to awake (Rom. 13:11), to awake out of the sleep of sin (for a sinful condition is a sleeping condition), out of the sleep of carnal security, sloth and negligence, out of the sleep of spiritual death, and out of the sleep of spiritual deadness; both the wise and foolish virgins slumbered and slept, Matt. 25:5. We have need to be often excited and stirred up to awake. The word of command to all Christ’s disciples is, Watch. “Awake—be concerned about your souls and your eternal interest; take heed of sin, be ready to, and serious in, that which is good, and live in a constant expectation of the coming of our Lord. Considering,” 1. “The time we are cast into: Knowing the time. Consider what time of day it is with us, and you will see it is high time to awake. It is gospel time, it is the accepted time, it is working time; it is a time when more is expected than was in the times of that ignorance which God winked at, when people sat in darkness. It is high time to awake; for the sun has been up a great while, and shines in our faces. Have we this light to sleep in? See 1 Thess. 5:5, 6. It is high time to awake; for others are awake and up about us. Know the time to be a busy time; we have a great deal of work to do, and our Master is calling us to it again and again. Know the time to be a perilous time. We are in the midst of enemies and snares. It is high time to awake, for the Philistines are upon us; our neighbour’s house is on fire, and our own in danger. It is time to awake, for we have slept enough (1 Pet. 4:3), high time indeed, for behold the bridegroom cometh.” 2. “The salvation we are upon the brink of: Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed—than when we first believed, and so took upon us the profession of Christianity. The eternal happiness we chose for our portion is now nearer to us than it was when we became Christians. Let us mind our way and mend our pace, for we are now nearer our journey’s end than we were when we had our first love. The nearer we are to our centre the quicker should our motion be. Isa. there but a step between us and heaven, and shall we be so very slow and dull in our Christian course, and move so heavily? The more the days are shortened, and the more grace is increased, the nearer is our salvation, and the more quick and vigorous we should be in our spiritual motions.”
II. How to dress ourselves. This is the next care, when we are awake and up: “The night is far spent, the day is at hand; therefore it is time to dress ourselves. Clearer discoveries will be quickly made of gospel grace than have been yet made, as light gets ground. The night of Jewish rage and cruelty is just at an end; their persecuting power is near a period; the day of our deliverance from them is at hand, that day of redemption which Christ promised, Luke 21:28. And the day of our complete salvation, in the heavenly glory, is at hand. Observe then,”
1. “What we must put off; put off our night-clothes, which it is a shame to appear abroad in: Cast off the works of darkness.” Sinful works are works of darkness; they come from the darkness of ignorance and mistake, they covet the darkness of privacy and concealment, and they end in the darkness of hell and destruction. “Let us therefore, who are of the day, cast them off; not only cease from the practice of them, but detest and abhor them, and have no more to do with them. Because eternity is just at the door, let us take heed lest we be found doing that which will then make against us,” 2 Pet. 3:11, 14.
2. “What we must put on.” Our care must be wherewithal we shall be clothed, how shall we dress our souls? (1.) Put on the armour of light. Christians are soldiers in the midst of enemies, and their life a warfare, therefore their array must be armour, that they may stand upon their defence—the armour of God, to which we are directed, Eph. 6:13 A Christian may reckon himself undressed if he be unarmed. The graces of the Spirit are this armour, to secure the soul from Satan’s temptations and the assaults of this present evil world. This is called the armour of light, some think alluding to the bright glittering armour which the Roman soldiers used to wear; or such armour as it becomes us to wear in the day-light. The graces of the Spirit are suitable splendid ornaments, are in the sight of God of great price. (2.) Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, Rom. 13:14. This stands in opposition to a great many base lusts, mentioned Rom. 13:13. Rioting and drunkenness must be cast off: one would think it should follows, but, “Put on sobriety, temperance, chastity,” the opposite virtues: no, “Put on Christ, this includes all. Put on the righteousness of Christ for justification; be found in him (Phil. 3:9) as a man is found in his clothes; put on the priestly garments of the elder brother, that in them you may obtain the blessing. Put on the spirit and grace of Christ for sanctification; put on the new man (Eph. 4:24); get the habit of grace confirmed, the acts of it quickened.” Jesus Christ is the best clothing for Christians to adorn themselves with, to arm themselves with; it is decent, distinguishing, dignifying, and defending. Without Christ, we are naked, deformed; all other things are filthy rages, fig-leaves, a sorry shelter. God has provided us coats of skins—large, strong, warm, and durable. By baptism we have in profession put on Christ, Gal. 3:27. Let us do it in truth and sincerity. The Lord Jesus Christ. “Put him on as Lord to rule you, as Jesus to save you, and in both as Christ, anointed and appointed by the Father to this ruling saving work.”
III. How to walk. When we are up and dressed, we are not to sit still in an affected closeness and privacy, as monks and hermits. What have we good clothes for, but to appear abroad in them?--Let us walk. Christianity teaches us how to walk so as to please God, whose eye is upon us: 1 Thess. 4:1; Walk honestly as in the day. Compare Eph. 5:8; Walk as children of light. Our conversation must be as becomes the gospel. Walk honestly; euschemonos—decently and becomingly, so as to credit your profession, and to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour, and recommend religion in its beauty to others. Christians should be in a special manner careful to conduct themselves well in those things wherein men have an eye upon them, and to study that which is lovely and of good report. Particularly, here are three pairs of sins we are cautioned against:—1. We must not walk in rioting and drunkenness; we must abstain from all excess in eating and drinking. We must not give the least countenance to revelling, nor indulge our sensual appetite in any private excesses. Christians must not overcharge their hearts with surfeiting and drunkenness, Luke 21:34. This is not walking as in the day; for those that are drunk are drunk in the night, 1 Thess. 5:7. 2. Not in chambering and wantonness; not in any of those lusts of the flesh, those works of darkness, which are forbidden in the seventh commandment. Downright adultery and fornication are the chambering forbidden. Lascivious thoughts and affections, lascivious looks, words, books, sons, gestures, dances, dalliances, which lead to, and are degrees of, that uncleanness, are the wantonness here forbidden—whatsoever transgresseth the pure and sacred law of chastity and modesty. 3. Not in strife and envying. These are also works of darkness; for, though the acts and instances of strife and envy are very common, yet none are willing to own the principles, or to acknowledge themselves envious and contentious. It may be the lot of the best saints to be envied and striven with; but to strive and to envy ill becomes the disciples and followers of the peaceable and humble Jesus. Where there are riot and drunkenness, there usually are chambering and wantonness, and strife and envy. Solomon puts them all together, Prov. 23:29 Those that tarry long at the wine (Prov. 23:30) have contentions and wounds without cause (Prov. 23:29) and their eyes behold strange women, Prov. 23:33.
IV. What provision to make (Rom. 13:14): “Make not provision for the flesh. Be not careful about the body.” Our great care must be to provide for our souls; but must we take no care about our bodies? Must we not provide for them, when they need it? Yes, but two things are here forbidden:—1. Perplexing ourselves with an inordinate care, intimated in these words, pronoian me poieisthe. “Be not solicitous in forecasting for the body; do not stretch your wits, nor set your thoughts upon the tenter-hooks, in making this provision; be not careful and cumbered about it; do not take thought,” Matt. 6:31. It forbids an anxious encumbering care. 2. Indulging ourselves in an irregular desire. We are not forbidden barely to provide for the body (it is a lamp that must be supplied with oil), but we are forbidden to fulfil the lusts thereof. The necessities of the body must be considered, but the lusts of it must not be gratified. Natural desires must be answered, but wanton appetites must be checked and denied. To ask meat for our necessities is duty: we are taught to pray for daily bread; but to ask meat for our lusts is provoking, Ps. 78:18. Those who profess to walk in the spirit must not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, Gal. 5:16.
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