Only Half Awake!
James Smith, 1856
When the holy, active, and useful Legh Richmond was near his death, realizing the solemnities of eternity and the condition of the world, and looking over his own efforts, he said to a Christian friend, "Brother, we are only half awake! None of us are more than half awake!" How solemn and affecting such a statement, from such lips, under such circumstances! No doubt but things appear very different when viewed from a dying pillow, when seen in the light of eternity — to what they do when viewed under other circumstances. Was Richmond only half awake? Was it his opinion, when dying, that his most active friends were only half awake? Then how is it with us? Let us, for a few moments, reflect on his dying words, and try to rouse ourselves up; for surely, as the Apostle said, "It is now high time to awake out of sleep!"
Where are we?In a world populated by sinners; by sinners who are immortal; by immortal beings under sentence of eternal death; by souls who are perishing for lack of knowledge, who are doomed to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire, who can never escape their deserved doom but by the Lord Jesus Christ, who cannot be saved by Jesus without a personal application to him, who are not likely to apply to him unless they are warned of their danger, exhorted to flee from the wrath to come, and lovingly invited to flee to him for deliverance. We know their state; we are fully aware of their danger; we see them dropping into Hell daily! We profess to be Christians; but we are scarcely half awake!
Where are we? On the borders of eternity! A few more steps — and we step off the stage of time, into another and eternal state. We are not sure of one hour! Time is but a brief introduction to eternity. Life is intended to be a period of preparation for death and judgment. We are here today; we are gone tomorrow! The place that now knows us — will soon know us no more. Ought we not, then, to realize our solemn situation? Ought we not to be wide awake to our duties, responsibilities, and dangers? Surely we ought; but to these things we are not more than half awake!
What are we here for?As sinners — to secure a saving interest in Christ, to obtain the pardon of our sins, the renovation of our natures, the justification of our persons; in a word, to make our calling and our election sure.
As Christians, we are here — to witness for God, to bear testimony to the truth. Our witness should be personal — individual. Our testimony should be clear, distinct, and constant. We should witness that God is love, that salvation is a free gift, that sinners must not necessarily go to Hell — but that whoever believes in Jesus "shall not perish — but have everlasting life." We should testify to sinners that their works are evil, that they deserve eternal death, that God is reluctant to punish them, that he waits to be gracious unto them, that he rejects no applicant, that if they perish, it will be because they choose death in the error of their way.
Every sinner with whom we are acquainted should hear these things from us. We should speak to them seriously, affectionately, frequently, prudently. We should so bear witness as to convince them of the truth and importance of what we say. We should so testify as to produce the impression upon the mind, "That man or woman thinks that I am in danger, is concerned for my safety, and is in real earnest to do me good!" If we were wide awake, this would be the case; but, alas! the best of us are only half awake.
What is required of us?As the servants of God, we are required to be wakeful, and to work. We were asleep in sin — and we would have slept on until we awoke in Hell — but God, in his mercy, aroused us! We have indulged in spiritual sloth since, and like the "ten virgins" we have "all slumbered and slept." But God calls to us by his Word, by his servants, and by his providence, saying, "Awake! you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light." Unless we are awake — we cannot work; and if we do not work for God and souls — we do not answer the end of our new creation and merciful emancipation.
While our souls find rest in Jesus from guilt, slavish fear, and carnal cares — we should work to win souls, to honor Jesus, and glorify our good and gracious God. Every day should be a working day with the Christian, nor should he consider himself entitled to cease from labor while anything remains to be done. Every idle day, every waking hour in which we are not working for God, or preparing to work for him — witnesses to the fact "we are only half awake."
As the disciples of Jesus, we should be watching; watching the movements of our Master's foes, watching for opportunities to benefit our Savior's friends, watching to see what there is for us to do, and ready to do it as soon as it is presented to our eye. We should be watching for our Redeemer's return, for he has said, "Behold, I come quickly!" "I will come as a thief in the night!" "Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame."
Can we watch — if we are not awake? Are we properly affected with the Lord's command, if we are not watching? If we really believed that our Savior would come soon, suddenly, unexpectedly — would we indulge in sleep? Surely not! Our negligence and unwatchfulness say, that "None of us are more than half awake!"
What, then, is our condition?Only "half awake," when we ought to be wide awake.
We are only half awake to our responsibilities. The Bible teaches us that we are responsible for the use and abuse of every talent given to us, for improving and neglecting every opportunity to do good, and assures us that when Jesus comes, he will reward every one of us "according to our works." If we heartily believed this — could we be so sleepy?
We are only half awake to our duties. Look at our family duties, how are they discharged? Look at our duties to the Church; how are they performed? Look at our duties to the world; how are they fulfilled? Look at our duties to God; how are they attended to? Alas! we are not awake. Our love is not half awake; our zeal is not half awake; our faith is not waif awake. But shall we always live at this poor sleepy rate? Or shall we attend to the Apostolic exhortation, "Let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober!"
My poor, dear, sleepy brethren! When shall we wake up? Shall we be
like the lazy dog, "lying down and loving to slumber?" Slumber! shall we
slumber . . .
when the night is coming,
while souls all around us are perishing,
while the Church needs our best energies,
while the world is wide awake,
while Satan is wide awake,
while Hell is filling,
while eternity is fast approaching,
while God is calling to us, and
the Scripture admonishes us?
Slumber! What! when Jesus is coming, when preparation for the judgment is needed, when laurels way be won, when the plaudit of the Master may be gained? If we continue to sleep — we shall soon, from our dying pillow, look back with regret and bitter sorrow on our present folly, and in tones of sadness condemn our sinful sleep?
If there is mercy for men,
if there is love for Jesus,
if there is zeal for God,
if there is hatred to sin,
if there is opposition to Satan in our bosoms
— let us wake up, thoroughly wake up, and keep one another awake, too!