Watching for the Morning
"My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning: I say, more than those who watch for the Morning." -Psalm 30:6.
Having dilated upon the waiting posture of the Psalmist's soul, we now approach the consideration of its profound intensity. "My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning: I say, more than those who watch for the morning." The image is exquisitely poetical, as it is singularly expressive. The natural morning is, perhaps, the most beautiful, and to many the most welcome, part of the day. To the languid and weary invalid it is especially and indescribably so. The night, it may be, has been long and dreary; sleep has fled the pillow, pain has tortured the limb, and the whole network of nerves quivers with indescribable suffering. But yet more distressing than this: the mind, in close sympathy with the body, still more acute has been the mental restlessness and disquietude of the night watches. It is an acknowledged phenomenon that, every material object and spiritual conception assumes a more distorted form and a darker hue at night than at any other season. The circumstances of life, the events of providence, the discipline of God, all borrow from its gloom and solitude their shape and complexion.
The physical and the mental thus in the closest and most painful sympathy, oh, how the invalid, weary and exhausted, longs for the morning! How welcome the first trembling streak of light- the first soft blush of day! And when the night-lamp (the moon) expires, and the morning dawns bright and cheering, how exquisitely lovely and welcome its advent! The air laden with a thousand odors, the flowers sparkling as with countless diamonds, all nature robed in virgin beauty, and vocal with the lark's morning hymn of praise, the whole scene presents a picture which the imagination may conceive, but which the pencil and the pen fail to portray. For the advent of this scene the sick one, weary and faint, longs and watches. "Those who watch for the morning."
Passing from this sketch of the natural morning, we are prepared to contemplate the spiritual morning of the soul. There are various spiritual mornings in the history of the Church of God, collectively and individually, on which it may be profitable briefly to meditate. The First Advent of our Divine Lord was the most significant and momentous morning of all that succeeded. What a fact in the history of the world when the "Bright and Morning Star" first appeared, heralding the rising of the "Sun of Righteousness." Up to that moment the moral world was wrapped in the profoundest Egyptian darkness. And yet, at no former or even later period of its history had philosophy, science, and art attained to so pre-eminent a standard of perfection.
Let the history of Greece and of Rome testify. Sensible of the profound degradation of the people, the appalling ignorance and vice into which the most classic and civilized nations were plunged, men arose fired with the intense desire to dispel the one and to reform the other. They speculated, philosophized, and moralized. Science developed its mysteries, are unveiled its splendors, philosophy discoursed, eloquence thundered, and poetry sang, but all to no effect. The multitude remained sunk in stolid ignorance, pagan superstition, and degrading sin. "The world by wisdom knew not God." It was at this crisis, when the wisest of the world's philosophers- Socrates and Plato for example- acknowledged that, as the state of the people then was, there was no human means of reforming them; sighing for a revelation, they expressed a hope, and even an expectation, that God would at some future time make such a discovery of Himself, and such a revelation of His will, as would dispel the cloud of darkness in which they were involved.
It was at this juncture, when the night of the world was the darkest, lo! the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in His wings! Oh, what a glorious morning was this! Then was the magnificent prediction concerning Him fulfilled- "And He shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun rises, even a morning without clouds." "And there were in the same country shepherds WATCHING FOR THE MORNING abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were very afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." Then was heard the angels' advent anthem which broke in the sweetest music over the plains of Bethlehem- "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men."
Let us in faith often go to Bethlehem, and muse upon that wonderful thing that has come to pass- "The Ancient of days" becoming an infant of days! "God manifest in the flesh." May this advent-morning of joy dawn upon us! May this "day-spring from on high" visit our souls, translating us from darkness into light, from the children of the night into the children of the day!
And what is the new creation in conversion but the dawn of morning to the soul? The greatest change in individual character, the most momentous event in its history, is, the advent of the day of grace in the soul. The creation of myriads of worlds is nothing in comparison. God created the universe out of nothing; but in conversion God has to uncreate before He creates the soul anew- to pull down before He builds up, to kill before He makes alive. Until this auspicious era dawns, until this day of grace breaks, all is spiritual darkness; the night of sin, of ignorance, and of enmity against God supremely reigns. The eyes of the understanding are closed, the veil is on the heart, and the whole soul is wrapped in a pall of more than Egyptian darkness. But, the new creation's morning comes. He who at creation's dawn said, "Let there be light" -and light was, -in the new creation speaks the word, "Let there be light," -and light is. Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, rises upon the soul, scatters the clouds of spiritual ignorance, sin, and unbelief; and, lo! the day dawns, and the brightest morning that ever broke upon the soul fills it with the joy and radiance of a new creation. "If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature (new creation): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." With the solemn, startling fact confronting us- "Except a man be BORN AGAIN, he cannot see the kingdom of God," how essential and momentous does this morning of grace in the soul appear!
And when to this positive condition we contrast the negative that, baptism is not conversion; and that, the Lord's Supper is not conversion; and that, a reformation of life is not conversion; that, an intellectual acquaintance with the truth is not conversion; that, works of beneficence and deeds of charity are not conversion- that, with all this the night of spiritual darkness may still envelop the soul, unbroken and unillumined by a solitary ray of spiritual, quickening, saving light with what overpowering solemnity do the Savior's words fall upon the ear- "Marvel not that I said unto you, YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN." "It is the Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing." "So is every one that is born of the Spirit."
But, oh- we repeat- how bright and blessed this day-dawn of grace! If the sunrise in creation is a scene of surpassing loveliness, its beauty and splendor pale before the glory of the new creation in the soul. Its advent may be faint and gradual. For the most part- except in seasons of especial outpouring of the Spirit, when, as it were, a nation is born in a day- conversion begins from the most incipient stage, and by slow and almost imperceptible degrees advances to maturity.
The analogy of nature suggests this idea. It is said that, the darkest period of night is that which borders the closest on the break of day. May not this phenomenon furnish an illustration of our thought? How often does conversion transpire at a time when the subject appears the farthest from the day of grace, and yet, perhaps, in reality the nearest! The cup of iniquity is brimmed and running over; the unhappy servant of sin has reached the end of the tether; Satan, the Pharaoh of this world, has demanded of his oppressed and down-trodden slave, the full toll of bricks without the straw- in other words, some task of heinous iniquity, for the performance of which both the physical and mental powers are in capacitated. Sin has exhausted its powers of invention; iniquity has reached its height of guilt; the world can offer no new attractions of folly; infidelity has achieved its boldest stroke; and the unhappy victim, abandoning all hope of amendment, has made 'a covenant with death, and with hell is at agreement.'
It is then that Jesus of Nazareth passes by. It is then the darkest hour of the moral night that the first ray of the Divine Sun breaks upon the soul. Some startling providence, or some impressive sermon, some personal appeal, or some spirit-stirring volume- perhaps a page of God's own word-has roused the soul from its deep sleep of death, and starting from its unconsciousness and its dreams, wakes to behold the dawn of a new day, a new life, a new creation, a new world! O blissful moment when Jesus thus enters the soul, scattering all the clouds of ignorance and sin, of atheism and unbelief, of self-righteousness and worldly folly; and, creating for Himself a new orbit, henceforth fills and floods its entire being with the life and radiance of his grace, glory, and love.
At creation's dawn the "morning stars sang together for joy;" but sweeter far the music of angels when the 'new creation,' emerging from its chaos of darkness and death, floats into being, instinct with life, glowing with beauty, and melodious with song- God's holiest, greatest, and most sublime work!
"That was a time of wondrous love,
When Christ my Lord was passing by;
He felt His tender pity move,
And brought His great salvation near.
"Guilty, and self-condemned, I stood,
Nor thought His mercy was so near;
When He my stubborn heart subdued,
And planted all His graces there.
"My eyes were sealed, the shades of night
Over all my mental powers were drawn;
He spoke the word, 'Let there be light!'
And straight the day began to dawn."
Perhaps, my reader, you are anxiously watching for this bright morning of grace? The night of your soul has been long and dreary. Sick of sin, of self, and of the world, you sigh, and long and look for the dawn of a new existence, a higher life, another world in which you may no longer live for self, but for God; no more for time, but for eternity. Oh welcome this longing, this watching, this looking, as heralding the daybreak of grace to your soul! The first light of morning is very soft, the first blush of day very faint. So, ofttimes, is it with the day-spring from on high in the soul. And yet, faint and trembling as is the first ray of spiritual light, it yet is as really, as essentially day, as when shining in its noontide splendor.
The most imperfect consciousness of sin, the first serious thought- a sigh, a tear, a desire, an upward glance of the eye- are harbingers of the dawn of that "shining light" in the regenerate soul "which shines more and more unto the perfect day." Wait on, watch on, you Christ-longing, Christ-seeking soul! for you shall not watch and wait in vain. The Savior's promise is- "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you."
Every weeping Christ-seeker shall be a rejoicing Christ-finder; for, 'the Lord has not said to the seeking seed of Jacob, Seek my face in vain.' Pray on, and watch on, until Jesus manifests Himself to your soul, and the Sun of Righteousness has risen upon you with healing in His wings.
And then, there is a more advanced stage of the Christian life the watching for the morning in the night-season of afflictive dispensation. Every child of God has his night of sorrow and of tears. The mournful experience of the Psalmist is often reproduced in that of many of the Lord's people. "I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears." "My sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted." "With my soul have I desired You in the night." "I meditate on You in the night watches."
Who among all God's saints are exempt from this long, dreary night of weeping? The Lord of saints Himself was not. His whole life- from the moment of His birth in the stable, to the hour of His death upon the cross- was one unbroken night of weeping.
"From Bethlehem's Inn to Calvary's Cross,
Affliction marked His road,
And many a weary step He took
To bring us back to God."
"Born of a woman, and made under the law," our Divine Lord, the moment His infant feet pressed our earth, came under the curse, began His work of obedience, and wove the first thread of that seamless, stainless Robe of Righteousness for the full and free justification of His believing people; which, when completed, He dyed in the purple stream of His own heart's blood upon the cross. "He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."
Beloved, you are, perhaps, now in a measure assimilated to your suffering Lord. It is with you a night of grief and solitude, of weeping and watching. God has smitten you. The hand of the Almighty is upon you. What is the cup your Father has given you to drink? Have riches fled? has health faded? have friends changed? has death bereaved? Are earthly hopes blighted? worldly expectations disappointed? human schemes frustrated? Is your path shaded? your life lonely? your actions misunderstood? your motives misconstrued? your work unrewarded? your sensibilities wounded? your spirit crushed? Be it so. Jesus passed through all this before you, and you are but treading the lonely, tearful path He trod; and now, like Him, you are "one that watches for the morning."
Oh how you long for the first ray of light, for the first dawn of day- the morning of joy that will assuredly succeed your night of weeping! Nor shall you watch in vain! Such is the divine promise in which you are permitted and invited to hope. "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." That was a long, dark night of weeping with the dear disciples tossed upon the broken waters of the lake. "It was the fourth watch of the night, and Jesus had not come." But, just when the tempest was the strongest, and the billows were the highest, and the night was the darkest, lo! the form of Jesus was seen in the grey twilight, walking upon the surging billows, and approaching the tempest-tossed vessel; and they cried out for fear, mistaking Him for a ghostly spirit. And then was heard His own familiar and loved voice rising above the tempest,"Be not afraid; it is I," and then in a moment dawned upon them the "morning of joy," and they fell in transport and adoration at His feet.
Thus, beloved, will it be with you. You are whole nights in your watchtower looking for some ray of hope, some means of deliverance, some source of supply, some drop of comfort, some avenue of escape from a present and a crushing trial. You shall not watch in vain. It is recorded of Wellington when on the field of Waterloo, as the battle waged hard, and affairs assumed a critical and threatening aspect, he was heard to exclaim, "Would it were night, or that Blucher had come!" Reversing the time, you, in the heat of the conflict with suffering and trial, with temptations and tears, often exclaim, "Would that it were morning, and that my Savior had appeared!" And so it will be! The Lord will not leave you comfortless. It shall not be all night, all sorrow, all tears. Wait on the Lord, and wait for the Lord, 'as one that watches for the morning.' Joy will succeed your sorrow, laughter your tears, and your long and dreary night will dissolve into the splendor of perfect and endless day. "Men see not the bright light which is in the clouds: but the wind passes, and cleanses them."
Then there is the morning that precedes the night of spiritual and mental darkness. How many a child of the day is walking as in the night; and how truly is he "as they that watches for the morning." Painful as this soul-depth is, the discipline is needful to its growth and maturity. How imperfectly, if at all, should we sympathize with Christ in His soul-desertion on the cross, were we entirely exempt from this discipline of soul-darkness, through which all the children of the light and of the day are called, more or less, to pass.
Tempted in all points like as we, yet without sin, we must touch the Savior at all points of His life. There must, to a degree, be assimilation, coincidence, conformity of the Body with the Head. As in the darkest night the stars glow with softer effulgence, so in the gloomiest days of adversity, temptation, and sorrow, the saints of God- the stars of His right hand- shine all the more- chastened and resplendent in those graces of faith, patience, and love, which, perhaps, are never reflected in such perfection, or are seen to such advantage as when his sky is draped with its darkest hues.
Child of the day, walking in darkness, anxiously watching for the light, be of good cheer! The morning dawns, the day breaks, there is a bright light in your cloud, and soon the darkness will have passed, and you shall ever more walk in the light of God's countenance, the joy of Christ's person, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
"Give to the winds your fears;
Hope, and be undismayed;
God hears your sighs, and counts your tears;
God shall lift up your head.
"Through waves, and clouds, and storms
He gently clears your way;
Wait His time- your darkest night
Shall end in brightest day."
But, the believer, from the lowest depths of his experience, waits and watches for a brighter morning, more glorious and enduring far than yet has broken upon this dark and sinful world. The night-season of death is, to the believer in Jesus, the day-dawn of life: the lowest degree of grace, the germ and the pledge of the highest degree of glory. Death is not really death to him who has life in Christ; it is but the shadow- the substance Jesus met and overcame when He died upon the cross. "Who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." And yet, how the faithful shrink, awed by the thought of death, and appalled by the act of dying!
It was a beautiful experience of the pious sister of Gregory of Nazianzus, when dying. Faintly pronouncing the words of David, "I will lay me down in peace," she fell asleep, safe in the arms of Jesus. What wonders at that moment burst upon her sainted sense! First, and beyond all, the sight of her glorified Lord. The welcome of sister spirits, the melody of rejoicing saints, the anthems of holy angels, the bright seraphic host, the purer, more perfect, and transcendent splendor of the exalted Trinity. The last taint of impurity effaced, the last groan of suffering hushed, the last sigh of sorrow stilled, the last tear of grief wept, the last fear of death quelled. Freed from ignorance and error, anxiety and folly, carnality and worldliness, not a cloud now shades, or a wavelet ruffles, the brightness and serenity of her glorified spirit.
No longer looking forward to death as a sturdy and relentless foe, she looks back upon it as the Israelites upon the pursuing Egyptians, lifeless upon the shore; and thus rises and swells her song of victory- "Sing you to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea." Lord, let me die a death as calmly! my last end as peacefully and hopefully as hers! But, it is not with the night of death- a soft sleep though it be- but with the sun-rise of life, the day-dawn of glory, that we have to deal.
"And is this Heaven? and am I there?" will be the first exclamation of wonder and ecstasy bursting from every new inhabitant the moment it enters! For this morning of glory the believing soul ardently, hopefully watches. How many are nearing its coasts! how many have reached its border! how many are passing it now! Sick and suffering saint of God, don't you long to be there? Are you not ready to say to every object and being that would detain you on these plains of sin and pain and sorrow, in the words of the Divine Angel to the wrestling patriarch, "Let me go, for the day breaks"?
"Only waiting til the shadows
Are a little longer grown;
Only waiting until the glimmer
Of the day's last beam is flown;
Until the night of earth is faded
From the heart, once full of day;
Until the stars of heaven are breaking
Through the twilight, soft and gray.
"Only waiting til the reapers
Have the last sheaf gathered home;
For the summer-time is faded,
And the autumn winds have come.
Quickly, reapers! gather quickly
The last ripe hours of my heart;
For the bloom of life is withered,
And I hasten to depart.
"Only waiting til the angels
Open wide the mystic gate,
At whose feet I long have lingered,
Weary, poor, and desolate.
Even now I hear their footsteps
And their voices far away;
If they call me, I am waiting
Only waiting to obey.
"Only waiting til the shadows
Are a little longer grown;
Only waiting until the glimmer
Of the day's last beam is flown;
Then, from out the gathering darkness,
Holy, deathless stars shall rise,
By whose light my soul shall gladly
Tread its pathway to the skies!"
But, we wait the morning of the Resurrection! The saints of God are called the "children of the resurrection." "If by any means they might attain unto the resurrection of the dead" in Christ, and share with them the splendor and the bliss of that bright morning, they willingly relinquish the worldling's portion- his honors, pursuits, and pleasures to "have part in the First Resurrection, upon whom the second death shall have no power." Do not the generality of the saints deal too imperfectly with the two great Resurrections- the Resurrection of Christ, as sealing and confirming the completeness of His atoning work; and the Resurrection of His saints, as 'having their perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in Christ's eternal and everlasting glory'?
And yet, what truths more divine, what facts more certain, what hopes more precious, than these? Realizing "the power of Christ's Resurrection" in your soul, you will die to sin and live to righteousness, daily ascending more and more into a higher region of the Christian life. Oh, marvelous the life-quickening into deeper holiness that flows from faith's daily apprehension of "the power of Christ's Resurrection!" It must be so. If the believer is dead with Christ, he is also risen with Christ; and if risen with Christ, he possesses the most potent and precious motive to set his mind, not on things on the earth, but "above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God."
Scarcely less influential is the contemplation of his own Resurrection to eternal life, when the trumpet of the Archangel shall sound, and the dead in Christ shall rise first. For this 'morning of joy,' succeeding our 'night of weeping,' let us be as "they that watch for the morning," Standing whole nights in our watch-tower, longing for the first dawn of that bright and blissful day.
The Coming of the Lord- the brightest and most glorious morning of all- supplies a last and magnificent illustration of our present subject. Truly, we have, in our reflections, 'kept the best wine until now.' The Second Coming of Christ is the pivot upon which all the future glory and blessedness of the saints turn. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable." But the personal and "glorious appearing of the great God our Savior" unveils to faith's eye that "blessed hope," for which we wait and long and watch- even the coming of "the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself."
Nor shall the Bride wait long the coming of the Bridegroom. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." All things and all events in the Church and the world point to His near approach. Am I reminded that certain great epochs of time are to transpire, and events in history are to take place, before the blessed hope is realized? Conceded! But, is it necessary that long centuries must roll round before that time and those events arrive? What says the Scriptures touching the events that will precede and herald the coming of the Lord? "He will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth."
Are you calculating the time for the accomplishment of these events- the 'bud and foliage of the fig-tree' -by your own line of measurement? "Beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." Oh, yes He will 'cut short the work in righteousness.' "A nation shall be born in a day." In one night the 'fig-tree' will burst into bud and blossom, and fill the world with its fragrance and its fruit. The Jews will return the remnant according to the election of grace will be converted. The Euphrates will be dried- the time of the Gentiles will come; Antichrist will rise and fall- and then shall appear the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven, and with Him all His saints. "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him."
Then will burst upon the long dreary night of this groaning, travailing creation, the light and splendor and music of the Resurrection morn! "The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
The soul and body, now once more and forever re-united, shall enter glory, and become an inhabitant of that land of which it is said, "And there shall be no night there:" no night of ignorance, no night of suffering, no night of sorrow, and best and brightest of all-no night of SIN, but one perfectly holy and endless day! "Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The MORNING comes." You bright and glorious morning! speed your advent! Dawn upon this dark and sinful world! The saints wait and sigh, pray and watch for Your appearing. "COME, LORD JESUS, COME QUICKLY!"
"Oh, glorious will that gathering be,
From every clime, of every race,
When hearts long lonely then shall see
Him, and each other, face to face!"