And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.
The Storm and Strife of Life.
I. It was with the clearest prevision of the course of the development of Christendom that the Saviour uttered this dark prediction. He knew that strife would sunder, and famine would waste, and sword would slay with a tenfold force and fierceness; and in a measure through that very Gospel of peace which He sent His disciples forth in peril of their lives to proclaim. He knew that the new impulse, the new inspiration, which His Gospel offered would fire with a new intensity every passion of man's heart, would set the evil as well as the good under the strongest stimulus; would stir them up to fight out their battle with sterner purposes and larger resources; and thus, so profound was the problem of redemption, prolong through ages that discord which it was the deepest desire of His heart to destroy. The action of Christianity in healing sin-struck humanity is like the stimulating treatment in fever. Feed the system; kindle new strength. The disease will be fed as well as the vital power. The pain will be sharper, the battle will be sterner; but if there be vis vitæ in the system, under the stimulus it will conquer at last. And man will conquer through Christ, though the pain be sharper and the conflict longer than any but the Saviour dreams; for the vis vitæ, the vital power in humanity, through the Incarnation, is Christ—Christ in you, in the world, the hope of glory; which hope, unless man wilfully renounces it, God lives to fulfil.
II. Our great comfort under the burden and the strain of our pilgrimage is that the Lord is its Prophet, the Lord who came to share it that He might lift it, that it might not crush but train us, might not exhaust but educate our powers, and strengthen us to win the inheritance of glory. Sadly enough, we may be sure, the Lord prophesies this lot of tribulation to man and to mankind, for He was touched to tears even by human sorrows which a word could heal. But the fact that His lips utter the prophecy robs it of all its terror. The strife may live on and grow; the load may live on and grow, but the life grows with it, stronger, larger, with wider horizon, with firmer standing ground, with more far-reaching arms, with more glorious hopes.
J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i., p. 370.
References: Matthew 24:6.—F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 49. Matthew 24:11.—J. H. Hitchens, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 228. Matthew 24:12, Matthew 24:13.—C. Girdlestone, Twenty Parochial Sermons, 3rd series, p. 135; J. Keble, Sermons on Various Occasions, p. 328.
Matthew 24:13Final Perseverance not Inevitable.
When our Lord says that none can pluck from the Father's hand those who are His, He does not say that they who are His may not themselves break or fall away from Him. What else is the meaning of that terrible question: "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?" When St. Paul says that God's gifts are without repentance on God's part, he does not add that they cannot be rejected by man, since this had already been the case, with the very generation of Jews about whom he was writing to the Romans. The grace of God does not make our final perseverance inevitable. It makes it possible, probable, morally certain, if you will, but morally and not mechanically certain. God who has made us free respects the freedom which He has given us. He does not crush it even by His own merciful gifts; and grace no more absolutely assures Heaven than does natural will, or the force of habit conquer the road to it. And this leads me to ask what are the causes which make endurance to the end difficult in so very many Christian lives.
I. There is, first of all, what our Lord calls, "the persecution that ariseth because of the word." In some shape or other this is inevitable. Persecution is in any case friction; and as we all know, friction, if only it be continued long enough, brings movement to a standstill, until there be a new supply of the impelling force. Men who have done much for Christ have given way at last under the stress of relentless persecution.
II. And then there are, as our Lord says, the false Christs and the false prophets. Our faith is undermined by people who talk and write in the very best English, and who have so much about them that is winning and agreeable that we cannot believe what is really going on. We cannot go on breathing a bad air, and be as we were when we lived high up on the mountain, unless we take very great precautions. Not to take them under such circumstances as these is to be in a fair way to forfeit perseverance.
III. And then there is the weariness which steals over thought and heart with the lapse of time. Human faculties, after all, are finite. They spend themselves and they fall back into lassitude and exhaustion. After great experiences, there is—I do not say a relapse, but a condition of less keenness of insight, less tension of will, less warmth of affection, less conscious effort of intelligence and of sanctified passion; and lookers on say that the excitement has passed, and that common sense has resumed its sway, and the soul, too, knows that something has passed from it inevitably, no doubt, from the nature of the case. And with this knowledge there comes depression; and this depression is in its way a trial, permitted, as we may believe, in order to make our service of God more unselfish than it would be if it were sustained throughout life by an uninterrupted sense of ecstasy. But it is a trial under which some men have failed. And then it may be the case that all is lost, and that perseverance is forfeited.
IV. And once more, there is the trifling with conscience, not necessarily in great matters, but in a number of little matters—omission of morning and evening prayers, or their curtailment; neglect of a regular review of conscience; carelessness as to the object upon which money is spent, and as to the proportion in which it is given to works of religion and mercy; recklessness in intercourse with others, especially if they are younger or less well informed. These and like matters help forward and dull the inoperative condition of conscience, which is in itself preparatory to a great failure. Perseverance is likely to be secured by three things especially: (1) By a sense of constant dependence on God; (2) by prayer for perseverance; (3) by keeping the mind fixed as much as possible on the end of life and on that which follows it.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, No. 1,143.
Matthew 24:14I. The King is our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The seat of His kingdom is the soul.
III. The spirit of His kingdom is wise and beneficent and holy. Every kingdom has its peculiar character.
IV. The progress of His kingdom is unostentatious. It is irresistible, yet noiseless, like many of the mightier forces in Nature.
V. The boundaries of His kingdom are the boundaries of the dwellings of humankind.
G. Brooks, Five Hundred Outlines of Sermons, p. 5.
References: Matthew 24:14.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 338, vol. v., p. 269; New Manual of Sunday School Addresses, p. 260. Matthew 24:15.—B. Warfield, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 40. Matthew 24:24.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vi., No. 324. Matthew 24:26.—J. H. Thom, Laws of Life after the Mind of Christ, p. 131. Matthew 24:26, Matthew 24:27.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 304; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 32. Matthew 24:27.—D. Fraser, The Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 221.
Matthew 24:28The Law of Divine Judgment.
I. When a wild beast falls in the desert, or a beast of burden on the highway, there is no stir in the heavens for a time. But, far above human ken, the vulture is floating poised on his wings; and looking downwards his eye soon distinguishes the motionless thing—for he hunts by an eyesight unequalled in power among all living things, and like a stone he drops through miles of air. Others floating in the same upper region, see their brother's descent and know its meaning. One dark speck after another grows swiftly from the horizon, and in a few minutes fifty vultures are round the carrion. That illustrates—and with astonishing power and sharpness—for the disciples had often witnessed such a scene—the suddenness, the usefulness and the necessity of judgment. Inevitable, swift, unerring, as the vulture's descent on the carcase is the judgment-coming of the Son of Man to corrupt communities and corrupted men.
II. From all this we now infer the law of judgment. It is this: Wherever there is entire moral corruption then there is final punishment; wherever there is partial corruption, there is remedial punishment. God in His capacity as Governor of the world, as Educator of mankind, is bound to destroy corruption. It is necessary that the vultures should devour the carcase, lest it pollute the air and breed a pestilence. It is necessary that corrupted nations should be blotted out, lest they infect the world with evil which may delay the whole progress of mankind. And our own sense of justice goes with the destruction. Nor, when we are wise, do we think that such justice shows want of love. We know that the weak man who shrinks from exacting deserved punishment is often the most cruel when his own interests are touched; and we can trust ourselves in the hour of our trouble best to One whose justice we are so sure of, that we know that if our trouble was caused by wrong-doing He would make us feel that wrongness before He would relieve the trouble.
S. A. Brooke, The Spirit of the Christian Life, p. 57.
References: Matthew 24:28.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 223; vol. ix., p. 97; D. Fraser, The Metaphors of the Gospels, p. 233. Matthew 24:29.—R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 347. Matthew 24:29-34.—E. C. Gibson, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 292.
Matthew 24:35The Immutability of the Divine Word.
When the words of the text were uttered the eye of the Saviour was resting on scenes whose stability promised to be of world-long life. The hills round about Jerusalem looked like Nature's thrown-up fortress to guard from desolation or from the tooth of time, some favoured work of man. But that work cannot live always, says the holy Speaker, nor any other. The seeds of desolation and waste are in everything the eye looks upon. Riches, honours, comforts, friends, youth, beauty, genius, strength; the prospering enterprise, the unfolding hope, the fellowship of kindred minds, and the hallowed, domestic ties, how slight is our hold on these things. Our lesson is to "use the world as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world passeth away." The words of Christ shall not pass away:
I. Because of the eternal power and Godhead of Him who spake them. The doctrine of our Saviour's Divinity is our life. It stamps all His teaching with the impress of infallible truth; it gives to all His promises the force of a present and felt reality. The matters to which Christ's words relate are too vital to our soul's happiness to be received on any authority which is not Divine.
II. Again, the words of Christ shall never pass away because they form the last of that series of communications vouchsafed by God to a lost world, never to be reopened, never to be added to, never by angel's or prophet's voice to be urged again. Christianity always claims for itself the distinction of being a final dispensation; those which went before it never did—not the Patriarchal, not the Levitical, not the Prophetical. Each was to usher in something better than itself, being a figure for the time present. All the revelations which went before pointed to Christianity, terminated and were absorbed in it.
III. The words of Christ shall not pass away because they are founded in eternal truth and in the fixed counsels of the immutable God. As God cannot change, so neither shall the word of truth change. It is everlasting, like Himself; it is a great unity, like Himself. Christ is emphatically the truth; His words contain in them an infinite and Divine essence. Omnipotence spoke them; almightiness accompanied them; immortality dwelt in them;—they could neither turn, change, nor fail.
IV. There can be no passing away of Christ's words because of their connection with His own final glory as Mediator. The words of Christ have a mission, and He is glorified when that mission is fulfilled. He conquers when we conquer; He is honoured in the success of His work, in the triumphs of His truth, in the power of His grace over rebellious wills, in the diffused and extending reign of sanctity and love and righteousness and peace. "On His head were many crowns," said the beloved Apostle. They were His rejoicing, His recompense, the travail of His soul, the promised seed He should have to serve Him, the proof that His word had not returned unto Him void—had not passed away.
D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,209.
The Permanence of Christ's Words.
Let us try to observe some characteristics of our Lord's reported language which may enable us to understand the confident prediction of the text.
I. That which strikes us first of all in the words of our Lord Jesus is the authority which speaks in them, or rather which is their very soul. One evangelist says that our Lord's public teaching was so acceptable because "He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes." The scribes were anxious to bring their countrymen to look at the law in the light of the traditional interpretations of which they were the guardians and exponents; but if the scribes were to do this, it was not enough for them to say, "This is right, and that is wrong." They found themselves confronted with the difficulties which present themselves to any merely human teacher entrusted with the task of recommending a doctrine which he believes to be true to the attention, to the convictions, of the human mind. He knows how solid, how many-sided, is the resistance which awaits him; he feels his way gently; he explains tentatively. He lays siege, as it were, to a fortress which he is bent on capturing, and as if he were directing an intellectual battery against its outworks and defences; and where argument seems to fail him he appeals—perhaps to sentiment, to feeling, to passion. This is what the scribes did in their way. They were masters of a kind of reasoning, which, however little suited to Western or to modern tastes, was in its way subtle and effective. It was the instrument with which they worked, and they only succeeded at all if they could get people to attend to it. With our Lord it was otherwise; He, generally speaking, takes no account whatever of those means of producing conviction which in merely human speakers command success. He does not reason—at least as a rule; He affirms a truth, knowing that it is the truth, and leaving it to make its own way in the soul of man. He feels that He has an ancient welcome prepared for Him within the soul of man; that He possesses the key to its wants and its mysteries; that within it, as no other teacher can be, He will be at home, and will be owned as its rightful Lord.
II. A second characteristic of our Lord's words is their elevation. His teaching rises above the ripest and largest wisdom of the whole ancient world—the best and truest sayings which the conscience, without the light of revelation, has left for the guidance of human life. As we listen to Him we are conscious always and everywhere of a matchless elevation. He is far above His countrymen, far above the wisest wisdom of the time, far above the wisest wisdom of the ages that have succeeded, or of which He has not been directly or indirectly the author. As we listen to Him we feel that He speaks and lives in an atmosphere to which we poor sinful men only ascend at rare intervals and by considerable efforts. As a Teacher, no less than as our Redeemer and Lord, He invites the praises of His Church—"Thou, O Christ, with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father."
III. A third characteristic of the words of Christ is their awful depth. Many of them were addressed to the people, and they were correspondingly simple in form. They were without any of the apparatus of learning, or of the pretence of culture. Each hearer felt at first as if he fully understood them, and saw all their bearings, and had sounded their meaning, and had only to lay up in his heart and mind what was at once so simple and so encouraging. But when they were laid up in memory, and taken down in writing, it was soon seen that there was a great deal more in them than had appeared to be the case at first. It was seen that beyond and beneath the first or superficial meaning there was a second, at once deeper and most adequate, and perhaps there was a third. Our Lord's words have depths in them which are explored sometimes by divinity, sometimes by the experience of a life, but which always elude complete investigation. They have about them that character of infinitude which belongs to the more than human mind from which they proceed. Their depth is seen in their extraordinary and enduring ascendency over the best of men at the distance of these many centuries. He still has the power of pouring his own Divine enthusiasm, for the highest good of mankind, into the souls of others by means of these imperishable words.
H. P. Liddon, Penny Pulpit, p. 1, 121.
The Perpetuity of the Words of Christ.
I. Here we have a fair and bold comparison of two things: one which seems the slightest and most evanescent you can think of; another which seems the very ideal of all that is substantial and durable. Here are on the one side a few words, and on the other side the great solid world. What more fleeting, we should say, than a few articulated syllables, vibrating each on the ear for its second, and then dying away? what more everlasting than this gigantic world we live on? Yet the Saviour dares the comparison. He invites the comparison between the endurance of the words He utters and the endurance of the stars, the earth, and the ocean.
II. It is approaching towards two thousand years since the days of Christ's three years' ministry on earth. Ages are measured out since He spake with His human voice those words of wisdom and mercy, the like of which never man spake; and it is many a day, indeed, since His words, in their prosaic literalness, have passed away, have ceased to stir the audible pulses of the air, have passed to silence. Yet, though no magic was impressed on the syllables which flowed from the lips of the Redeemer to arrest their natural passing away, still it is true and certain that they have not passed away, and cannot pass away while the world stands. For one thing, they have not passed away, in this sense—that when they were spoken the simple narrative of the evangelists took and perpetuated them; and in these four Gospels we have the words of Christ preserved.
III. But it is a little thing to say that Christ's words were perpetuated on paper. We should not set much store by the fact that upon printed pages by millions and millions the words of our Redeemer have outlived the storms and the wear of ages; we should not mind much about that if it stood by itself; but take it with this, that these words are so marvellously adapted to the needs of our immortal nature that those who have once felt their power, would feel it was parting with life to part with them. Earthquakes, deluges, might sweep this world, but you must unpeople it before the words of Christ could pass away from it.
IV. Though the last Bible perished, as perish it may in the wreck and ruin of this world; though the blessed words of Jesus were to do what they never can—fade away utterly from the remembrance of the glorified soul; even then these words would live on in the effects they had produced. They would live and last in heaven, in the souls they had brought there; in their justification before God, in the purity of their renewed natures, in their changeless and never-ending peace.
A. K. H. B., Graver Thoughts of a Country Parson, 3rd series, p. 310.
References: Matthew 24:35.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 115; Homiletic Magazine, vol. xvi., p. 174; H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 97; A. Mursell, Ibid., vol. xx., p. 181.
Matthew 24:39The Moral of Accidents.
I. They who search those common Scriptures, the newspapers, will find many things that will trouble their hearts too much, if these hearts be susceptible and sympathising, unless they also search the Holy Scriptures. If we find God in the Holy Scriptures, then we may find a reason for much that happens in the world, or a reason for believing that there are good ends to be answered by accidents, even the most woful and destructive, although we may not be able to discover what these are. We do not get rid of accidents by protesting that they ought not to happen, and that, in our opinion, they never would happen if there were a God and He cared for the world. But if there be a God, and if He does care for the world, then faith in Him will help us when neither prudence nor science can. And this faith will at the same time make our prudence and science more serviceable to us, for it will instruct us to reason thus, we ought to think that, as accidents happen by God's permission, they have a meaning and a lesson for good; let us then seek this out; let us increase our knowledge of Nature's law, let us exercise fuller care in our obedience to it. When we are considering sad things that happen we should think: (1) How many accidents are but slight as to the hurt they do in comparison with the service of the lesson they teach; (2) from how many things "going to happen" we are saved when loss and danger appear imminent; (3) how manifest and honourable are the works and courage of man in averting accidents, and in lessening the harm they do; (4) how incessant is the beneficial operation of the great natural laws, and how varied in kind is their benefit; (5) how careless and untrue is the work of many men, how needful is it that they should have a warning they would heed; (6) how certain is it that unfaithfulness in work will bring disasters, small and great, which are misnamed when we call them accidents, for though we knew not, we might have known, that they were sure to happen.
II. Many men have lost their lives by accident; no man ever lost his soul by accident. And yet the accident that cuts short a man's life may bring his soul into a sad, disgraced condition, whence he has had ample opportunity to have saved it.
T. T. Lynch, Sermons for My Curates, p. 3.
References: Matthew 24:39.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 823; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 308. Matthew 24:40-42.—T. J. Rowsell, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,665; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iii., p. 49. Matthew 24:41.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xii., p. 114.
Matthew 24:42Who are they that watch? What are the marks, it may be asked, that we are awake, and, according to our duty, looking out always for the coming of Christ, and of death as his messenger?
I. To this question there is one plain answer; no man can be said to be watching, no man has any reasonable ground for thinking he is ready unless he is careful how he lives. We must, it is certain, be constantly taking pains with ourselves, or else we are not even trying to be ready. And unless we look often unto the state of our lives and hearts, to see whether we be ready, and to correct whatever is amiss, we are by no means likely to be well prepared. For we cannot see God, we cannot be prepared for death, without following after holiness; and no man can be said to follow after holiness who does not try to get the better of his bad habits and wrong dispositions, and we cannot get the better of these without trouble and pains and self-denial—and these must be long-continued. In short, we cannot be ready to meet death with a good hope in Christ, unless we are His disciples in deed as well as in name; and He Himself has said that no man can be His disciple who does not bear His cross and come after Him.
II. Again, it is plain that no one can keep himself prepared who is not used to think often and earnestly about those great changes that are coming upon us: such as death itself, and the state after death, the God who shall judge us, and the hope we have of standing in that judgment. A person must give his mind frequently to these things, or he cannot keep his heart disentangled from this world and fixed on a better; and I need hardly say that it is above all things necessary that we should keep ourselves indifferent to fleshly pleasures and worldly pursuits, or else we shall be sure to forget the coming on of death. It is in this way that most people do become so thoughtless about the shortness and uncertainty of life. Their hearts are engaged in pleasure or business belonging to this life, and they hope they may continue long in this world, till at last they persuade themselves they shall. They will not hear the voice of that heavenly love which is graciously warning us: "Watch ye therefore, and pray always."
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 277.
What is Christian Watching. Partially I can answer that questions by two remarks:
I. First of all, in Christian watching there is implied a vigorous exercise of a Christian conscience. (1) When we wish to quicken and increase the power of conscience, we must do so by teaching it to be more and more keen in perception, Conscience must stand before us, as a watcher on a ship stands, guiding the bark of the soul through the wild waves and the thick darkness of this deep night of life, and crying out to us, from moment to moment in the voice of the great Lord whose echo it is: "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." (2) But conscience requires more than to be keenly perceptive; it requires also to be wide in its range of vision—it must omit nothing. It must not fret over trifles, but it must not leave them out; it must recollect, it must learn increasingly to recollect that attention to the little things of every day is an element in that attitude of a Christian which the Lord calls watching. (3) You must exercise conscience to assist you in wise decision. (4) Conscience must also finally and above all things be peremptory in command, conscience may be wrong, it may make mistakes, but it must never be disobeyed. To disobey conscience is to commit the last disloyalty—it is to learn to be untrue to yourselves. (5) Conscience needs illumination. It needs the illumination that comes from prayer, from the Scripture, from the wise advice of patient and experienced friends. It needs more; it needs reinforcement; it needs the presence of the Lord of conscience; it needs to feed upon the power of Christ.
II. There is another point in Christian watching which I must note. It is not only by the exercise of conscience; it is by a patient practice of thoughtfulness. To take thought and make it pass into a permanent form; to lay hold upon will and make it act in one definite direction,—to do that is to set the life sweeping onward, like a resistless current, in one direction; it is to place the whole soul in one steady attitude; and this definite directing of the current of life, and this steady fixing of the attitude of soul—this and nothing else is what our blessed Redeemer calls watching. "Watch, therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
W. J. Knox-Little, Characteristics of the Christian Life, p. 47.
References: Matthew 24:42.—T. Wallace, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 131; Parker, Inner Life of Christ, vol. iii., p. 165.
Matthew 24:43-44The Uncertainty of Life the Great Reason for Holiness.
I. With all our consciousness that there is great mercy in the concealment of the future, we cannot question that there would be far more preparation for death under an arrangement which gave notice when life would terminate, than under another which leaves it wholly uncertain. Why, then, is this information withheld? Though we may not be able to show why God draws a veil before coming days, we may certainly determine enough to induce us to be thankful rather than oppressed. For you must readily perceive that the character of the existing dispensation would be altogether changed, were we enabled to foresee whatever could happen. It would no longer be a dispensation of faith, but a dispensation of sight. It is evident enough that walking by faith is no better to us than would be walking by sight. We find it intensely difficult in our ignorance to submit ourselves to God, in whose hands we are. What would it be if we had acquaintance with the future, and so were in a measure independent; and could make our plans with certainty as to their issue. The wife would be a widow while her husband lived, the child would be an orphan while yet blessed with parents if the funeral were foreknown and the day of separation clearly revealed.
II. It is practically of very little importance whether we can give satisfactory reasons why the future should be hidden, and for the declaration that the unveiling it would produce far greater preparedness for the termination of life. It might on the whole, be advantageous, or it might on the whole be disastrous, that the day of death should be known; but the arrangement to which we are to conform is one in which the day is absolutely unknown; and it must be our business rather to labour at acting agreeably to the circumstances in which we are placed, than to determine what effect would be wrought were those circumstances changed. The goodman of the house is not informed in what watch the thief will approach. No matter, then, whether or not the being informed would make him more vigilant in securing a successful resistance. He cannot gain the information, and the only question therefore is—What can be done now that, search how we will, tomorrow eludes our inquiry? The answer to this is contained in the last verse of our text, in the exhortation which Christ founds on the statement in regard to the dispensation: "Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2,501.
The Second Coming of Christ is spoken of in divers passages as an event that will take the world unawares—come when men are not expecting it—when they are immersed in the cares and pleasures and business of life, in such an hour as they think not. But why need we speculate as to the precise hour of that Advent? Death is to each of us the Lord's coming. Death closes our day of probation. Death puts a stop to preparation. Death seals our eternal destiny. As the tree falls, so it lies; as we die, so shall we rise in the judgment, fit or not fit, ready or not ready, to meet the Lord. And what is it to be ready? In what consists the preparation for Christ's coming, for death, for judgment—which all will allow ought now to be made.
I. We must be rooted and grounded in religious faith. We must have a strong grasp upon the righteousness of Christ; we must be joined to him by a lively faith; we must have wrought in us a settled conviction of His power to usward.
II. "To every man his work." We have, then, each one of us here a work to do in this world—a work which Christ has set us. Our work, God's ordained work for us, is that which lies at our feet—the daily task we have to do. We need not look out for other fields, we need not cast about for what are called (often miscalled) larger spheres of usefulness. Let a man labour diligently in his calling; let him put his heart into his daily task, be it the commonest or apparently the least interesting task; let him work at it with a will, as doing it under God's eye, not as mere pleasure, but as the servant of Jesus Christ, and he may rest assured his labours will not be in vain in the Lord.
III. Again, to be ready for Christ, to be in any sort prepared for His coming, we must have fought and conquered our besetting sin—the evil to which we are most inclined; the bad habit we have contracted; the lust in which we may have indulged. That soul is altogether unfit to meet its God that is living in any known wilful sin.
IV. Once again, I must not omit that which is the very essence of Christian preparation, the having in us the mind that was in Him; some portion of His blessed spirit, the spirit of brotherly kindness, and of charity. "All our doings without charity are nothing worth. Charity is the bond of peace, and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before God."
R.D. B. Rawnsley, Village Sermons, 3rd series, p. 1.
References: Matthew 24:44.—C. Girdlestone Twenty Parochial Sermons, 2nd series, p. 291; W. Hay Aitken, Mission Sermons, vol. ii., p. 247. Matthew 24:45-51.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. vii., p. 165.
And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.
And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.
But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.
And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)
Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:
Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.
And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.
For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.
Behold, I have told you before.
Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.
But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.
Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.
Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?
Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.
Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.
But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;
And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;
The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,
And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.