In discoursing on these words, I shall, with the help of God:
1. Describe the sleepers, to whom they are spoken.
2. Enforce the exhortation, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise
from the dead."
3. Explain the promise made to such as do awake and arise: "Christ
shall give thee light."
I. A Description of The Sleeper
1. And first, as to the sleepers here spoken to. By sleep is signified
the natural state of man; that deep sleep of the soul, into which
the sin of Adam hath cast all who spring from his loins: That supineness,
indolence, and stupidity, that insensibility of his real condition,
wherein every man comes into the world, and continues till the voice
of God awakes him.
2. Now, "they that sleep, sleep in the night." The state of nature
is a state of utter darkness; a state wherein "darkness covers the
earth, and gross darkness the people." The poor unawakened sinner,
how much knowledge soever he may have as to other things, has no knowledge
of himself: in this respect "he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to
know." He knows not that he is a fallen spirit, whose only
business in the present world, is to recover from his fall, to regain
that image of God wherein he was created. He sees no necessity
for the one thing needful, even that inward universal change,
that "birth from above," figured out by baptism, which is the
beginning of that total renovation, that sanctification of spirit,
soul, and body, "without which no man shall see the Lord."
3. Full of all diseases as he is, he fancies himself in perfect
health. Fast bound in misery and iron, he dreams that he is at liberty.
He says, "Peace! Peace!" while the devil, as "a strong, man armed,"
is in full possession of his soul. He sleeps on still and takes
his rest, though hell is moved from beneath to meet him; though the
pit from whence there is no return hath opened its mouth to swallow
him up. A fire is kindled around him, yet he knoweth it not; yea,
it burns him, yet he lays it not to heart.
4. By one who sleeps, we are, therefore, to understand (and would
to God we might all understand it!) a sinner satisfied in his sins;
contented to remain in his fallen state, to live and die without the
image of God; one who is ignorant both of his disease, and of
the only remedy for it; one who never was warned, or never regarded
the warning voice of God, "to flee from the wrath to come;" one
that never yet saw he was in danger of hellfire, or cried out in the
earnestness of his soul, "What must I do to be saved?"
5. If this sleeper be not outwardly vicious, his sleep is usually
the deepest of all: whether he be of the Laodicean spirit,
"neither cold nor hot," but a quiet, rational, inoffensive, good-natured
professor of the religion of his fathers; or whether he be
zealous and orthodox, and, "after the most straitest sect of our
religion," live "a Pharisee;" that is, according to the scriptural
account, one that justifies himself; one that labours to establish
his own righteousness, as the ground of his acceptance with God.
6. This is he, who, "having a form of godliness, denies the power
thereof;" yea, and probably reviles it, wheresoever it is found,
as mere extravagance and delusion. Meanwhile, the wretched self-deceiver
thanks God, that he is "not as other men are; adulterers, unjust,
extortioners": no, he doeth no wrong to any man. He "fasts twice in
a week," uses all the means of grace, is constant at church and sacrament,
yea, and "gives tithes of all that he has;" does all the good that
he can "touching the righteousness of the law," he is "blameless":
he [lacks] nothing of godliness, but the power; nothing of religion,
but the spirit; nothing of Christianity, but the truth and the life.
7. But know ye not, that, however highly esteemed among men such
a Christian as this may be, he is an abomination in the sight of God,
and an heir of every woe which the Son of God, yesterday, today, and
for ever, denounces against "scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites"? He
hath "made clean the outside of the cup and the platter," but within
is full of all filthiness. "An evil disease cleaveth still unto him,
so that his inward parts are very wickedness." Our Lord fitly compares
him to a "painted sepulcher," which "appears beautiful without;" but,
nevertheless, is "full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness."
The bones indeed are no longer dry; the sinews and flesh are come
upon them, and the skin covers them above: but there is no breath
in them, no Spirit of the living God. And, "if any man have not the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." "Ye are Christ's, if so be that
the Spirit of God dwell in you": but, if not, God knoweth that ye
abide in death, even until now.
8. This is another character of the sleeper here spoken of, he abides
in death, though he knows it not. He is dead unto God, "dead in
trespasses and sins." For, "to be carnally minded is death, "
even as it is written, "By one man sin entered into the world, and
death by sin; and so death passed upon all men;" not only temporal
death, but likewise spiritual and eternal. "In that day that thou
eatest," said God to Adam, "thou shalt surely die;" not bodily (unless
as he then became mortal), but spiritually: thou shalt lose the life
of thy soul; thou shalt die to God: shalt be separated from him, thy
essential life and happiness.
9. Thus first was dissolved the vital union of our soul with God;
insomuch that "in the midst of" natural "life, we are" now in spiritual
"death." And herein we remain till the Second Adam becomes a quickening
Spirit to us; till he raises the dead, the dead in sin, in pleasure,
riches or honours. But, before any dead soul can live, he "hears"
(hearkens to) "the voice of the Son of God": he is made sensible of
his lost estate, and receives the sentence of death in himself.
He knows himself to be "dead while he liveth;" dead to God, and
all the things of God; having no more power to perform the actions
of a living Christian, than a dead body to perform the functions of
a living man.
10. And most certain it is, that one dead in sin has not "senses
exercised to discern spiritual good and evil." "Having eyes, he
sees not; he hath ears, and hears not." he doth not "taste and see
that the Lord is gracious." He "hath not seen God at any time," nor
"heard his voice," nor "handled the word of life." In vain is the
name of Jesus "like ointment poured forth, and all his garments smell
of myrrh, aloes, and cassia." The soul that sleepeth in death hath
no perception of any objects of this kind. His heart is "past feeling,"
and understandeth none of these things.
11. And hence, having no spiritual senses, no inlets of spiritual
knowledge, the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit
of God; nay, he is so far from receiving them, that whatsoever
is spiritually discerned is mere foolishness unto him. He is not content
with being utterly ignorant of spiritual things, but he denies the
very existence of them, and spiritual sensation itself is to him
the foolishness of folly. "How," saith he, "can these things be?
How can any man know that he is alive to God?" Even as you
know that your body is now alive. Faith is the life of the soul; and
if ye have this life abiding in you, ye want no marks to evidence
it to yourself, but elegchos pneumatos, that divine
consciousness, that witness of God, which is more and greater
than ten thousand human witnesses.
12. If he doth not now bear witness with thy spirit, that thou art
a child of God, O that he might convince thee, thou poor unawakened
sinner, by his demonstration and power, that thou art a child of the
devil! O that, as I prophesy, there might now be "a noise and a shaking;"
and may "the bones come together, bone to his bone!" Then "come from
the four winds, O Breath! and breathe on these slain, that they may
live!" And do not ye harden your hearts, and resist the Holy Ghost,
who even now is come to convince you of sin, "because you believe
not on the name of the only begotten Son of God."
II. Awake Thou That Sleepest!
1. Wherefore, "awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead."
God calleth thee now by my mouth; and bids thee know thyself, thou
fallen spirit, thy true state and only concern below. "What meanest
thou, O sleeper? Arise! Call upon thy God, if so be thy God will think
upon thee, that thou perish not." A mighty tempest is stirred up round
about thee, and thou art sinking into the depths of perdition, the
gulf of God's judgments. If thou wouldest escape them, cast thyself
into them. "Judge thyself, and thou shalt not be judged of the Lord."
2. Awake, awake! Stand up this moment, lest thou "drink at the Lord's
hand the cup of his fury." Stir up thyself to lay hold on the Lord,
the Lord thy Righteousness, mighty to save! "Shake thyself from
the dust." At least, let the earthquake of God's threatenings shake
thee. Awake, and cry out with the trembling jailer, "What must
I do to be saved?" And never rest till thou believest on the Lord
Jesus, with a faith which is his gift, by the operation of his Spirit.
3. If I speak to any one of you, more than to another, it is to thee,
who thinkest thyself unconcerned in this exhortation. "I have a message
from God unto thee." In his name, I warn thee "to flee from the wrath
to come." Thou unholy soul, see thy picture in condemned Peter, lying
in the dark dungeon, between the soldiers, bound with two chains,
the keepers before the door keeping the prison. The night is far spent,
the morning is at hand, when thou art to be brought forth to execution.
And in these dreadful circumstances, thou art fast asleep; thou art
fast asleep in the devil's arms, on the brink of the pit, in the jaws
of everlasting destruction!
4. O may the Angel of the Lord come upon thee, and the light shine
into thy prison! And mayest thou feel the stroke of an Almighty Hand,
raising thee, with, "Arise up quickly, gird thyself, and bind on thy
sandals, cast thy garment about thee, and follow Me."
5. Awake, thou everlasting spirit, out of thy dream of worldly
happiness! Did not God create thee for himself? Then thou canst not
rest till thou restest in him. Return, thou wanderer! Fly back
to thy ark, This is not thy home. Think not of building tabernacles
here. Thou art but a stranger, a sojourner upon earth; a creature
of a day, but just launching out into an unchangeable state. Make
haste. Eternity is at hand. Eternity depends on this moment. An eternity
of happiness, or an eternity of misery!
6. In what state is thy soul? Was God, while I am yet speaking,
to require it of thee, art thou ready to meet death and judgment?
Canst thou stand in his sight, who is of "purer eyes than to behold
iniquity"? Art thou "meet to be partaker of the inheritance of the
saints in light"? Hast thou "fought a good fight, and kept the faith"?
Hast thou secured the one thing needful? Hast thou recovered the
image of God, even righteousness and true holiness? Hast thou
put off the old man, and put on the new? Art thou clothed upon with
7. Hast thou oil in thy lamp? grace in thy heart? Dost thou "love
the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind and with
all thy soul, and with all thy strength"? Is that mind in thee,
which was also in Christ Jesus? Art thou a Christian indeed, that
is, a new creature? Are old things passed away, and all things
8. Art thou a "partaker of the divine nature"? Knowest thou
not, that "Christ is in thee, except thou be reprobate"? Knowest thou,
that God "dwelleth in thee, and thou in God, by his Spirit, which
he hath given thee"? Knowest thou not that "thy body is a temple of
the Holy Ghost, which thou hast of God"? Hast thou the witness
in thyself? the earnest of thine inheritance? Hast thou "received
the Holy Ghost"? Or dost thou start at the question, not knowing "whether
there be any Holy Ghost"?
9. If it offends thee, be thou assured, that thou neither art
a Christian, nor desirest to be one. Nay, thy very prayer is turned
into sin; and thou hast solemnly mocked God this very day, by praying
for the inspiration of his Holy Spirit, when thou didst not believe
there was any such thing to be received.
10. Yet, on the authority of God's Word, and our own Church, I must
repeat the question, "Hast thou received the Holy Ghost?" If thou
hast not, thou art not yet a Christian. For a Christian is a man
that is "anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power." Thou art not
yet made a partaker of pure religion and undefiled. Dost thou know
what religion [being a Christian] is? --that it is a participation
of the divine nature; the life of God in the soul of man;
Christ formed in the heart; "Christ in thee, the hope of glory;"
happiness and holiness; heaven begun upon earth; "a kingdom of
God within thee; not meat and drink," no outward thing; "but righteousness,
and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" an everlasting kingdom
brought into thy soul; a "peace of God that passeth all understanding;"
a "joy unspeakable, and full of glory"?
11. Knowest thou, that "in Jesus Christ, neither circumcision availeth
anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith that worketh by love;" but
a new creation? Seest thou the necessity of that inward change,
that spiritual birth, that life from the dead, that holiness?
And art thou thoroughly convinced, that without it no man shall
see the Lord? Art thou laboring after it? --"giving all
diligence to make thy calling and election sure," "working out thy
salvation with fear and trembling," "agonizing to enter in at the
strait gate"? Art thou in earnest about thy soul? And canst thou tell
the Searcher of hearts, "Thou, O God, art the thing that I long for!
Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I would love
12. Thou hopest to be saved; but what reason hast thou to give
of the hope that is in thee? Is it because thou hast done no harm?
or, because thou hast done much good? or, because thou art not like
other men; but wise, or learned, or honest, and morally good; esteemed
of men, and of a fair reputation? Alas! all this will never bring
thee to God. It is in his account lighter than vanity. Dost thou
know Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent? Hath he taught thee,
that "by grace we are saved through faith; and that not of ourselves:
it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast"?
Hast thou received the faithful saying as the whole foundation of
thy hope, "that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners"?
Hast thou learned what that meaneth, "I came not to call the righteous,
but sinners to repentance? I am not sent, but unto the lost sheep"?
Art thou (he that heareth, let him understand!) lost, dead,
damned already? Dost thou know thy deserts? Dost thou feel
thy wants? Art thou "poor in spirit"? mourning for God, and refusing
to be comforted? Is the prodigal "come to himself," and well content
to be therefore thought beside himself" by those who are still feeding
upon the husks which he hath left? Art thou willing to live godly
in Christ Jesus? And dost thou therefore suffer persecution? Do
men say all manner of evil against thee falsely, for the Son of Man's
13. O that in all these questions ye may hear the voice that wakes
the dead; and feel that hammer of the Word, which breaketh the rocks
in pieces! "If ye will hear his voice today, while it is called today,
harden not your hearts." Now, "awake, thou that sleepest" in spiritual
death, that thou sleep not in death eternal! Feel thy lost estate,
and "arise from the dead." Leave thine old companions in sin and death.
Follow thou Jesus, and let the dead bury their dead. "Save thyself
from this untoward generation." "Come out from among them, and be
thou separate, and touch not the unclean thing, and the Lord shall
receive thee." "Christ shall give thee light."
The Promise: Awake, Arise and Christ shall give
1. This promise, I come, lastly, to explain. And how encouraging
a consideration is this, that whosoever thou art, who obeyest his
call, thou canst not seek his face in vain! If thou even now
"awakest, and arisest from the dead," he hath bound himself to "give
thee light." "The Lord shall give thee grace and glory;" the light
of his grace here, and the light of his glory when thou receivest
the crown that fadeth not away. "Thy light shall break forth as the
morning, and thy darkness be as the noonday." "God, who commanded
the light to shine out of darkness, shall shine in thy heart; to give
the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." On
them that fear the Lord shall "the Sun of Righteousness arise with
healing in his wings." And in that day it shall be said unto thee,
"Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is
risen upon thee." For Christ shall reveal himself in thee: and he
is the true Light.
2. God is light, and will give himself to every awakened sinner
that waiteth for him; and thou shalt then be a temple of the living
God, and Christ shall "dwell in thy heart by faith;" and, "being
rooted and grounded in love, thou shalt be able to comprehend with
all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height
of that love of Christ which passeth knowledge."
3. Ye see your calling, brethren. We are called to be "an habitation
of God through his Spirit;" and, through his Spirit dwelling in us,
to be saints here, and partakers of the inheritance of the saints
in light. So exceeding great are the promises which are given unto
us, actually given unto us who believe! For by faith "we receive,
not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God" --the
sum of all the promises-- "that we may know the things that are freely
given to us of God."
4. The Spirit of Christ is that great gift of God, which at
sundry times, and in divers manners, he hath promised to man, and
hath fully bestowed since the time that Christ was glorified. Those
promises, before made to the fathers, he hath thus fulfilled: "I
will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes"
(Ezek. 36:27). "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods
upon the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing
upon thine offspring (Isa. 44:3).
5. Ye may all be living witnesses of these things; of remission
of sins, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. "If thou canst believe,
all things are possible to him that believeth." "Who among you is
there that feareth the Lord, and" yet walketh on "in darkness, and
hath no light?" I ask thee, in the name of Jesus, Believest thou that
his arm is not shortened at all? that he is still mighty to save?
that he is the same yesterday, today, and for ever? that he hath now
power on earth to forgive sins? "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are
forgiven." God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven thee. Receive this,
"not as the word of man; but as it is indeed, the word of God;" and
thou art justified freely through faith. Thou shalt be sanctified
also through faith which is in Jesus, and shalt set to thy seal, even
thine, that "God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is
in his Son."
6. Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you, and suffer ye
the word of exhortation, even from one the least esteemed in the Church.
Your conscience beareth you witness in the Holy Ghost, that these
things are so, if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
"This is eternal life, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ,
whom he hath sent." This experimental knowledge, and this alone, is
true Christianity. He is a Christian who hath received the Spirit
of Christ. He is not a Christian who hath not received him. Neither
is it possible to have received him, and not know it. "For, at
that day" (when he cometh, saith our Lord), "ye shall know that I
am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." This is that "Spirit
of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not,
neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and
shall be in you" (John 14:17).
7. The world cannot receive him, but utterly reject the Promise of
the Father, contradicting and blaspheming. But every spirit which
confesseth not this is not of God. Yea, "this is that spirit of Antichrist,
whereof ye have heard that it should come into the world; and even
now it is in the world." He is Antichrist whosoever denies the
inspiration of the Holy Ghost, or that the indwelling Spirit of God
is the common privilege of all believers, the blessing of the gospel,
the unspeakable gift, the universal promise, the criterion of a real
8. It nothing helps them to say, "We do not deny the assistance
of God's Spirit; but only this inspiration, this receiving
the Holy Ghost: and being sensible of it. It is only this
feeling of the Spirit, this being moved by the Spirit,
or filled with it, which we deny to have any place in sound
religion." But, in only denying this, you deny the whole Scriptures;
the whole truth, and promise, and testimony of God.
9. Our own excellent Church knows nothing of this devilish distinction;
but speaks plainly of "feeling the Spirit of Christ" [Article 17];
of being "moved by the Holy Ghost" [Office of consecrating Priests]
and knowing and "feeling there is no other name than that of Jesus,"
[Visitation of the Sick] whereby we can receive" life and salvation.
She teaches us all to pray for the "inspiration of the Holy Spirit"
[Collect before Holy Communion]; yea, that we may be "filled with
the Holy Ghost" [Order of Confirmation]. Nay, and every Presbyter
of hers professes to receive the Holy Ghost by the imposition of hands.
Therefore, to deny any of these, is, in effect, to renounce the Church
of England, as well as the whole Christian revelation.
10. But "the wisdom of God" was always "foolishness with men."
No marvel, then, that the great mystery of the gospel should be now
also "hid from the wise and prudent," as well as in the days of old;
that it should be almost universally denied, ridiculed, and exploded,
as mere frenzy; and that all who dare avow it still are branded with
the names of madmen and enthusiasts [fanatics]! This is "that falling
away" which was to come, that general apostasy of all orders and degrees
of men, which we even now find to have overspread the earth. "Run
to and fro in the streets of Jerusalem, and see if ye can find a man,"
a man that loveth the Lord his God with all his heart, and serveth
him with all his strength. How does our own land mourn (that we look
no farther) under the overflowings of ungodliness! What villainies
of every kind are committed day by day; yea, too often with impunity,
by those who sin with a high hand, and glory in their shame! Who
can reckon up the oaths, curses, profaneness blasphemies; the lying,
slandering, evil-speaking; the Sabbath-breaking, gluttony, drunkenness,
revenge; the whoredoms, adulteries, and various uncleanness; the frauds,
injustice, oppression, extortion, which overspread our land as a flood?
11. And even among those who have kept themselves pure from those
grosser abominations; how much anger and pride how much sloth and
idleness, how much softness and effeminacy how much luxury and self-indulgence,
how much covetousness and ambition, how much thirst of praise, how
much love of the world, how much fear of man, is to be found!
Meanwhile, how little of true religion! For, where is he that
loveth either God or his neighbor, as he hath given us commandment?
On the one hand, are those who have not so much as the form of godliness;
on the other, those who have the form only: there stands the open,
there the painted, sepulcher. So that in very deed, whosoever
were earnestly to behold any public gathering together of the people
(I fear those in our churches are not to be excepted) might easily
perceive, "that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees":
the one having almost as little concern about religion, as if there
were "no resurrection, neither angel nor spirit;" and the other making
it a mere lifeless form, a dull round of external performances, without
either true faith, or the love of God, or joy in the Holy Ghost!
12. Would to God I could except us of this place! "Brethren,
my heart's desire, and prayer to God, for you is, that ye may be saved"
from this overflowing of ungodliness; and that here may its proud
waves be stayed! But is it so indeed? God knoweth, yea, and our own
consciences, it is not. Ye have not kept yourselves pure. Corrupt
are we also and abominable; and few are there that understand any
more; few that worship God in spirit and in truth. We, too,
are "a generation that set not our hearts aright, and whose spirit
cleaveth not steadfastly unto God." He hath appointed us indeed to
be "the salt of the earth: but if the salt hath lost its savor, it
is thenceforth good for nothing; but to be cast out, and to be trodden
underfoot of men."
13. And "shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord? Shall
not My soul be avenged on such a nation as this?" Yea, we know not
how soon he may say to the sword, "Sword, go through this land!" he
hath given us long space to repent. He lets us alone this year also:
but he warns and awakens us by thunder. His judgments are abroad in
the earth; and we have all reason to expect the heaviest of all, even
that he "should come unto us quickly, and remove our candlestick out
of its place, except we repent and do the first works;" unless we
return to the principles of the Reformation, the truth and simplicity
of the gospel. Perhaps we are now resisting the last effort of divine
grace to save us. Perhaps we have well-nigh "filled up the measure
of our iniquities," by rejecting the counsel of God against ourselves,
and casting out his messengers.
14. 0 God, "in the midst of wrath, remember mercy!" Be glorified
in our reformation, not in our destruction! Let us "hear the rod,
and him that appointed it!" Now that Thy "judgments are abroad in
the earth," let the inhabitants of the world "learn righteousness!"
15. My brethren, it is high time for us to awake out of sleep
before the "great trumpet of the Lord be blown," and our land become
a field of blood. O may we speedily see the things that make
for our peace, before they are hid from our eyes! "Turn Thou
us, O good Lord, and let Thine anger cease from us. O Lord, look down
from heaven, behold and visit this vine;" and cause us to know "the
time of our visitation." "Help us, O God of our salvation, for
the glory of Thy name! O deliver us, and be merciful to our sins,
for Thy name's sake! And so we will not go back from Thee. O let us
live, and we shall call upon Thy name. Turn us again, O Lord God of
Hosts! Show the light of Thy countenance, and we shall be whole."
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we can ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages;
world without end. --Amen!"