Watch therefore: for you know not what hour your Lord does come.
1 Pet. iv.7. -- "And watch unto prayer."
"Watch." A Christian should watch. A Christian is a watchman by office. This duty of watchfulness is frequently commanded and commended in scripture, Matt. xxiv.42, Mark xiii.33, 1 Cor. xvi.13, Eph. vi.18, 1 Pet. v.8, Col. iv.2; Luke xii.37. David did wait as they that did watch for the morning light. The ministers of the gospel are styled watchmen in scripture and every Christian should be to himself as a minister is to his flock, he should watch over himself. This imports the Christian's condition in this world, and expresses his exercise in it. Watching is a military posture, and insinuates the Christian's case in this world. He is compassed about with enemies, and therefore he must be a soldier, 2 Tim. ii.3. "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." The Christian hath a warfare to accomplish in this world, and therefore the church here is militant, and in heaven triumphant, 1 Tim. i.18. Every Christian should war a good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. What is the reason that when Christ triumphed upon the cross, and conquered all his enemies, and is ascended on high, that he hath not made all believers conquerors? Is the man that sits with Christ in heavenly places, (Eph. ii.6) and he who was dead with Christ, and also risen with him, is he yet a soldier, when Christ hath overcome, and gotten the crown? And the believer, hath he not the victory that Christ obtained? Why then is he put to fight any more? Hath not Christ completely done it? Yes indeed, Christ hath overcome by his own strength, (Col. ii.15) and is now on high, yet he will have the poor pieces of contemptible clay to overcome the Archangel,
(511) the immortal spirits. It was not so much for the prince Gabriel,
(512) the messenger of the covenant, the King of saints, to overcome his own creature, but he hath drawn out a battle and warfare to all his followers, that, in the strength of their victory in him already past, they may be made more than conquerors, and that there may be a perpetual song of triumph and victory in heaven, he hath made the saints strong, and hath made the strong weak. He hath set the poor with princes, and the kings on the dunghill. The Christian's heart and grace are like a besieged city, that is blocked up upon every hand, there are enemies without, and false friends within. Its party is great principalities and powers, &c. (Eph. vi.12) and these go about continually to spy a breach. In the city, what strength can do, what policy can do, will not be wanting. All things of the world besiege the heart, and every sense is a port to let the enemy in. All a man's negotiation and trading in the world, is as dangerous as the proclaiming a public market in a town, for the country, while the enemy is about it. There is a desperate wicked heart within, that hath deceived many thousands, and would surrender the city upon any occasion. Here are fleshly lusts which war against the soul, (1 Pet. ii.11) temptation to sin, and to unbelief. There is a heart within that can conceive and bring forth sin, and needs no temptation, a heart within that can seduce temptation itself, but it follows the tempter and when to all that a foreign power is added, Oh then, who can stand? Christ himself was tempted, but Satan found nothing in him, and had nothing in him, but when Satan comes he finds all in us, and we are like powder to conceive flame. We can even tempt ourselves, as well as be tempted by another. The Christian keeps a house that the enemy surrounds, and if he sleep he will enter, he is here a pilgrim, and is not yet come home, yet he hath a foul and dangerous way to go through. He is like a servant that his lord hath left, and given provision to, and is to come home when he pleases, Mark xiii.33, Matt. xxiv.32. If his master find him sleeping, woe to him. This is his case. What then should his exercise and posture be? He should be a watchman. (1) Watching is opposed to security and sleeping, Matt. xxiv.42, Mark xii.33. He must keep his eyes open, or else he is gone, (1 Pet. v.8) be vigilant, lest the devil attack him. The sluggard's destruction comes as an armed man, because of his "little sleep" and slumber, Prov. vi.10, and Prov. xx.13. Security is the Christian's night, when he ceases from his labour, and the adversary does with him according to his pleasure. But the Christian is in a better condition when he is wrestling with temptation, and getting sore blows. When he is at peace and dwells securely, as the people of Laish, he troubles himself with nothing, but dreams over his days, but that is a decaying condition. (2) To watch, is to observe all things, 1 Sam. iv.13, Luke vi.7. This is a special point of the watchman's duty, to let nothing pass by without observation, whatever object would come in, to ask at it from whence, and whither. The heart is a highway side that all things travel through. If the Christian then be not exact in this to know what comes in, and what is its errand, he may be surprised or he know. He should observe all the motions of the enemy, and be well acquainted with all the subtleties of temptations. He must know his own spirit, or his thoughts, he should also observe all the Lord's motions and dealings with his spirit. It concerns him also to know what is his enemy or friend. Therefore the Christian should get upon the watch tower of the word, and look through the prospect(513) of faith round about him, that he may know what his spiritual condition is. But, (3) The watchman gives warning while it is seasonable, and the enemy far off. He raises the alarm, and all must be in readiness. So ought ye to be. Come to Jesus Christ with all ye observe, inform the Captain of your salvation whose soldiers you are. It is best dealing with temptation far off, and resisting the first motions of sin, for when it comes near hand, it gets many friends within, and it is the watchman's part not to give his judgment of what he sees, but to report only. Do not ye sit down to pass the sentence on any thing, whether it be good or evil, sin or not, but come unto Jesus, and let him speak, for oftentimes we reason according to flesh and blood. (4) There must be no interruption in this watching. He must give diligent heed to it, Mark xiii.33, 1 Thess. v.6. It is a very laborious exercise for a Christian to watch, all his senses will be exercised by it. He must look up, and that steadfastly, he must stand, and when he hath done all, to stand. When he hath overcome he must yet watch, lest he enter into temptation. He is in greater hazard after victory than before, Ezra vi.13. He must watch when he is come out of one temptation lest he enter into another. The greatest disadvantage that armies have gotten hath been after some victory, when they were secure. Therefore we ought to give all diligence, and love not sleep, lest we come into poverty.
From what hath been said, (1) We see how few are in a warlike posture against Satan. Many serve under Satan's colours, and the strong man keeps the house. They watch not against him, but for him, they fight for him, and not against him. Do not many Christians, in profession, even watch for their sin, how to encompass what they would be at? Many wait on all advantages to get their own heart's desires, they watch against God's word, to hold out conviction. These are the children of darkness, in whom the devil reigns. We also observe from this, (2) That even the children of God are seldom found watching. There is much woful security among them and this is the universal complaint, who of you walks as if you were among enemies? Ye walk as if ye were in a peaceable city without gates, as the people of Laish, who dwelt securely. Ye have no friend in all the world, and yet what unspeakable negligence and sleeping is there among you? The flesh is so weak, that ye cannot watch but one hour for Christ. And O! but the intermission of one hour's watching hath brought down many strong ones. This made a breach upon David that could hardly be made up for ever again. From the words, (3) We observe, that prayer is a part of a good Christian's exercise. We may be ashamed to speak or hear of this duty. It is true, indeed, our religion is all compendized in this duty. Yet this duty is so little in practice, that our religion must be but little. We would, then, speak somewhat of prayer, and observe,
1. That it is the distinguishing character of a Christian in scripture. The child of God, and the man that calls upon God's name, is all one and the same thing. The wicked man's name is one that calls not upon God, nor seeks him, but the godly call upon their Maker, Acts ix.11, 1 Cor. i.2. All the saints in scripture have been praying men. The wicked, or natural man, is not an indigent man, he wants nothing, and therefore seeks nothing from God, but the Christian is one who hath nothing in himself, a beggar by birth, one that is cast out into the open field, and he is still seeking to make up his losses. Praying and wanting goes hand in hand together. Prayer then is the first breathing of the new man. What sign of life would ye know him by? Motion is an infallible sign of life and this is the motion of the new creature. Prayer is the stirring of the soul, and going out of itself for bread, it is the sucking of the breasts of consolation. Grace turns a man's face God-ward and Christ-ward.2. Prayer is the pouring out of an indigent man's heart in God's bosom. It is the emptying of the soul, and the landing of it on God's lee shore, Psal. cii.2, 1 Sam. i.10, Psal. cxlii.2, &c. When a pious heart is overwhelmed and sore disquieted, it prays. Prayer emptieth the vessel, and brings the soul above the water again. It is a present ease in the time of trouble. Care and anxiety of spirit plunge the soul over the ears, but prayer brings it again unto dry land, Phil. iv.6. Care burns and drowns a man's requests, but prayer makes them known to God in every circumstance of life. Therefore prayer is called a "making known our requests unto God," and "the lifting up of our souls unto God," Psal. xxv.1, 2. But, 3. Prayer is the provision of a soul, for it is sufficient to do that which carefulness and thoughtfulness undertake to do, and effectuate not, Phil. iv.6. Prayer does all a man's business. He lives by prayer, as Paul lived by Christ living in him, &c. Gal. ii.20. He lived the natural life of a Christian by faith. So David says, "I gave myself unto prayer," he opposes this unto all that his enemies do against him. Not only doth it ease the spirit of the present burden, but prayer does all his business, because it puts it over into a better hand, viz., the hand of him who cares for us, 1 Pet. v.6. It is like a child who is under his father's tutory,
(514) and he does nothing himself, but all is done for him, and he needs to do no more but ask, and have, to seek, and find, to knock, and it shall be opened unto him. Prayer hath the promise of all spiritual and valuable blessings, and the promise is true.4. Prayer speaks a life of indigence and dependence in the creature, and also speaks out the attributes of God, for the supply of all our need, sovereignty, bounty, and good will in God. It is the travelling of the poor creature between his own emptiness and God's all sufficient fulness. It acknowledges that he hath nothing, and that God hath all things he can desire to make him happy. Prayer is an act of homage and subjection to our Creator, and it is also an act of love and reverence, for prayer looks upon God, as a Lord, a Father, and a Master.5. Prayer is the pulse of a Christian, and here ye may find him. If he be vigorous and frequent here, he is well, a decay in this is a woful symptom of a dangerous and dwining(515) condition. This is the fountain of the spirit of life, and the Spirit's breath. For the Spirit helps our infirmities with groans which cannot be uttered, (Rom. viii.26, 27) and according as the Spirit of God dwells in a man, in so far is he a good Christian. If, then, ye would ask how ye should walk here, and thrive in true Christianity, we would only say this, pray fervently and without ceasing. Pray and prosper, and daily be strong, and the Lord shall be with you. He will never fail nor forsake you. Again, consider, 6. That prayer is not so much a duty as a privilege, and if saints knew this, prayer would not so often be a burden unto them. Is there any privilege like this? For prayer is an admission into the secrets of God, it is an emptying of the heart into his bosom. It is a great part of our correspondence with heaven. It is a swift messenger sent thither, that never comes back with ill news. It never returns empty, but accomplishes its intent. Prayer is as it were speaking with God face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, and is it not an honourable privilege, that believers are admitted to him, and may boldly come to him under all their necessities, and have such a sympathizing friend as Jesus? What is wonderful in scripture is, that God hath put that honour upon prayer to be instrumental in obtaining the greatest blessings. Did not the Lord, at the prayer of Moses, dry up the Red sea? Did he not, at the prayer of Elias, withhold and give rain? Did not the prayer of Joshua make the sun to stand still, till he had vanquished his enemies? Wherefore was all this? Could he not have done it unasked? Certainly, but the Lord would put that honour and respect upon prayer in all ages, that it might be a demonstration to all ages and generations, how ready and propense(516) God was to hear prayer. Nay, to speak with reverence, God will submit his own omnipotence to prayer. Command, ask of me, and command me, says the high and holy One, Isa. xlv.11. O but "the effectual fervent prayer" of the righteous avails much, 1 James v.16. It does a man's business, and upon less expenses; it gives a reward in the hand, and the hope of the things sought. Withal, prayer is like Jacob's getting that within doors, without much toil, which careful Esau goes about all the fields for, and toils all day to obtain. Prayer is the most compendious way of remedy of all things else. It always makes up losses either of the same kind, or better; for if the loss be temporal, if the want be bodily, prayer makes it up with access unto God. It pays in gold. If it give not the same coin, yet it is better.
We have spoken something of prayer for this end, that your hearts may fall in love with it. It is the property of a sincere upright man, that he calls always upon God, whereas the hypocrite will not always do it. Count, then, yourselves as much Christians as ye find of the spirit of prayer and supplication in you; for those that call not on God, their portion is very terrible. God will pour out his wrath upon them. God's face is set against such as do not pray. And I believe the multitude of this visible kirk have this brand upon their face, they call not upon God. God hath taken this character to himself, "the hearer of prayer," and those who mock at it, their judgment hasteneth, their damnation slumbereth not.
Parallel VersesKJV: Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.