Preparedness for the Lord's Coming
George Everard, 1868
"And now, little children, abide in Him; that, when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." 1 John 2:28
It is the part of true wisdom to look ahead, and, as far as possible, to prepare for that which may happen. The traveler setting out on a long journey makes provision for its emergencies. The mariner, marking in the Heaven the first signs of a threatening storm, takes in the sails and has the ship in readiness to meet it. The wise builder digs deep and lays the foundation of his house upon the rock — for he thinks of the day when the floods shall arise and the winds shall beat against it. The king before he goes forth to the battle sits down first and considers whether he be able with ten thousand, to meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand.
It is thus plainly our wisdom to anticipate and rightly to prepare for the great crisis in the world's history, toward which all things are rapidly hastening. For it is impossible to conceive that the present state shall continue beyond the limit which has been set to it by Him who as yet bears with the world for the sake of those whom He is calling out of it for Himself.
Is there not a righteous Judge in Heaven — and yet does iniquity prosper and oppression bear rule. Is not this world fashioned to manifest the glory of its Creator — and yet it is groaning beneath the evils that are perpetrated every day. Are not those who strive patiently and faithfully to serve the Lord, too often despised and neglected — while those who live in open contempt of His authority are among the world's foremost heroes? Hence does not even human reason assure us that all this is only permitted for awhile — and then shall come the day when the Lord will openly manifest His glory and take away the reproach of His people?
And it is worth our notice that all the work which has been carried on by Apostles, Evangelists, pastors, teachers — yes, by the instrumentality of the least of His servants, is in anticipation of His second coming. As when He first came, He sent John the Baptist to prepare the way before Him; so now, and ever since He ascended to the Father, has He been sending forth His messengers, that when He shall next appear, there may be found gathered out of all lands, a glorious Church made fit for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Every sermon that is preached,
every lesson that is given to a flock of little ones,
every word of spiritual counsel spoken to the sick,
every book or tract sent forth to warn the sinner, or for the instruction and nourishment of the Lord's people
— looks onward to the time when the great Shepherd shall appear, and when he who sows and He who reaps shall rejoice together.
And it was the remembrance of this which led the Apostle John so tenderly to exhort those to whom he wrote his Epistle steadfastly to cleave to Christ. He would have them abide in Him, so that both he who had ministered to them, and those who had received his words — might together have confidence when the Lord appeared. "And now, little children, abide in Him; that when He shall appear we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming."
Believers are addressed as "little children." It is a term of endearment. It was often in the lips of Christ, and showed how tenderly He loved those who followed Him. And the Apostle shared his Master's spirit. Those dear to Christ, were also very dear to him. It marks also the simplicity, the trustfulness, the humility — which ought to characterize Christ's disciple. "Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, shall not enter therein."
It tells also of their helplessness. A little child needs perpetual care: even so does the Christian need continually to rely upon the watchful care and the upholding hand of a faithful Savior.
Hence comes the call, "Abide in Him." No other means of safety, no other hope of victory, no other source of strength — can be discovered than this. To abide in Christ is everlasting life — it is assured blessedness when He comes.
"Come to Me!" "Abide in Me!" "Follow Me!" The substance of all duty and all safe walking is contained in these three directions — and they must not be separated one from the other.
Come to Christ! With all your weariness, with all your sin, with all your fear come to Him. This is the first step.
Come unto Me: O precious word!
Jesus, I come to Thee;
To You, my Savior, Friend, and Lord,
I come, I run, I flee.
Follow Christ! Walk ever as He walked! Walk after Him in holiness, in self-denial, in love, in communion with the Father! Without following Christ your religion is but an empty name. He has said, "If any man will serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be."
Do not forget the intermediate step — Abide in Christ! It is as needful as coming to Him at first. Without it also there can be no possibility of your following in His footsteps.
Abide in Him as the only ground of your acceptance. Never attempt to add any merits, any worthiness, any graces of your own, to the perfect satisfaction He has made for your sin, and to that glorious righteousness in which class you can appear before God. You stand perfectly justified in Christ the very moment you truly believe in Him; and you must hold fast the same confidence steadfast unto the end.
Abide in Him as the Fountain of all grace and holiness. Cut off the branch from the stem of the vine, and what can it do but wither and die? What fruit, what clusters can it possibly bear? Even so, without continual faith in Christ, without leaning upon His grace perpetually — it is impossible to grow in holiness, and to exhibit the fruits of the Spirit in your life.
Abide in Him as your strength in every labor of love. If you keep close to Him in the fellowship of the Spirit, He will make all grace abound toward you, that you always having all sufficiency in all things may abound unto every good work. He will open your heart that you shall love the souls He died to save. He will open your lips to speak to others a word in season. He will open your hand bountifully to give of your substance for His cause.
What is meant by abiding in Jesus, may be illustrated by the example of one who lately has been called to his rest, and who for a period of some sixty-four years endeavored faithfully to serve Him. Early in life James Rock was much impressed by a sermon on the cleansing efficacy "of the precious blood of Christ;" and beneath the shelter of that blood, he lived and died. About the same period of his early life, one morning on his way to school he picked up a gold ring. Taking it home, he noticed engraved on the inside the motto, "God's providence is our inheritance." These words also, like the words of the text above referred to, became to him a guiding star. And thus he learned to rely both on the blood that cleanses from sin — and on a Father's providential care.
Amidst the many temptations and perils which beset him when a young man in London, he was kept from making shipwreck of his faith. A spirit of prayer was to him a great safeguard.
For the last fifteen years of his pilgrimage, he was totally blind. One morning he rose with great pain in the forehead and heat in the eyes. The Scripture portion for that morning was, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go." "You shall guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory." Sweet and precious promises! They were the last he was ever to read. From that time his sight failed and he could no more peruse the book he loved, but its cheering hopes never forsook him.
Often have I felt deeply moved at the way in which he would speak to the young of his own experience, while striving to persuade them to follow Christ. With a countenance lighted up with congenial benevolence, he would say, "I cannot look upward as you can to the heavens, and behold the light of the sun by day or the moon and stars by night; but," said he, striking his breast, "there shines here a still brighter light — even the light of God's love in the face of Jesus Christ."
I will add a few words written by him in the year 1858: "It is now fifty-five or fifty-six years ago that I heard the first sermon that made a deep impression on my mind: 'You were not redeemed with corruptible things but with the precious blood of Christ.' This seems to be laid at the foundation of all my spiritual experience, unto this present day. Blessed be God, it never left me, but is at this day even sweeter than when first I heard it, and will, I trust, be ever the crown of my rejoicing throughout eternity. May the Spirit of God enable me to bear a brighter evidence that the power of Christ rests on me, for it is that alone which has preserved me all my life long.
"And here is my confidence for the time to come. Through this it is my privilege to say that God is my heavenly Father, who has provided for my spiritual as well as my temporal needs, in giving His dear Son to die for my soul's salvation, who thus became my Savior and Redeemer; and He has given me His Holy Spirit to reveal both the Father and Son to me, who with Himself is one Jehovah, who together in the eternal covenant of love engaged to save my immortal soul. For by grace we are saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the free gift of God — unmerited, undeserved. I feel at this time as much, yes more, dependent on God's providence and grace than I did when I heard the sermon of which I have spoken, or any time since. The more I can exercise simple faith in Him, the more comfort I enjoy in my soul; taking the plain promises of God just as they stand, and believing them to mean what they say. This I find is the only way of quenching the fiery darts of the Wicked One; and suppressing unbelieving or unhallowed thoughts, corrupt desires, or angry feelings. These precious promises used in faith and prayer, are the weapons of my Christian warfare and will I trust continue to be, through Divine aid, to the end of my days; when, if it be His holy will. Though I am a poor sinner and nothing at all — I hope to sing: Victory! Victory through the blood of the Lamb!"
Like this faithful servant of Christ, evermore abide in Him, and then you will await joyfully the day of His return. What a blessed hope shall it be to you! He comes as the Bridegroom of His Church, to perfect her bliss in His own presence forever. Does not the wife eagerly anticipate the return of her husband after a long voyage; pacing hither and thither along the seashore, to catch the first glimpse of the vessel which shall bring him back to her? And why shall not the faithful Christian, who day by day has worked for Christ, and prayed for His Church, and withstood the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the Devil — why shall he not gladly welcome the Lord when He returns?
He shall have confidence and not be ashamed. True, he has often failed in his service, he can detect unnumbered sins in his every-day walk, but there is no condemnation, for all has been confessed and forgiven.
He shall not be ashamed, for Jesus will not be ashamed to confess His name before the Father. Neither shall he be ashamed of that which he has attempted to do in behalf of souls, for he shall see that his work has not been in vain in the Lord.
But shall none be ashamed at that day? Yes, truly, for then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and many that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake to shame and everlasting contempt.
How shall the man be ashamed, who has despised the Word of God, and by his infidel objections has caused many to fall!
How shall he be ashamed, who has often been exhorted to flee to Christ, and who yet has chosen the path of the sinner!
How shall he be ashamed, who has trusted in his own righteousness and has never put on the wedding garment!
How shall he be ashamed, who has professed the name of Christ — and yet all the while has been a very Balaam or Judas — a white-washed sepulcher full of dead men's bones!
Reader, be faithful, be honest with yourself. What you are, what you have been, what your course has been from the beginning and what it is now — will assuredly be made manifest hereafter. Dare you contemplate it? What would be your feelings if, in the presence of a large congregation, the minister were to stand up and read out the whole story of your life as it is known to God and your own conscience — hiding nothing, extenuating nothing, revealing your most secret thoughts and motives? Could you fearlessly pass through such an ordeal?
If not, what will it be when your life is laid bare at the solemn tribunal of the Great Day? Is it not wiser to let that story be told to your Judge now, while He waits to be your Advocate — that He may take your part when He shall appear, and declare that He has nailed your sins to His cross and taken them all away?
Let the Christian pilgrim patiently tarry a while, trusting still, watching still, working still, suffering still — and the shadows of night shall flee away, and the King shall come in His beauty! "Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like men waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes!" Luke 12:35-37
Be patient! Life is very brief,
It passes quickly by;
And if it prove a troubled scene
Beneath a starry sky,
It is but like the shaded night,
That brings a morn of radiance bright.
Be hopeful! Cheerful faith will bring
A living joy to thee,
And make your life a hymn of praise,
From doubt and murmur free;
While like a sunbeam you will bless
And bring to others happiness.
Be earnest! An immortal soul
Should be a worker true;
Employ your talents for your God,
And ever keep in view
The judgment scene — the last great day,
When Heaven and earth shall pass away.
Be prayerful! Ask, and you will have
Strength equal to your day,
Prayer clasps the Hand that guides the world;
O make it then your stay;
Ask largely, and your God will be
A kindly giver unto thee.
Be ready! Many fall around:
Our loved ones disappear,
We know not when our call may come,
Nor should we wait in fear.
If ready, we can calmly rest,
Living or dying, we are blessed.
"Beloved, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure." 1 John 3:2-3