These words, quoted from Luke 12:45, are those of the evil servant, and are said “in his heart.” These inaudible heart expressions had not assumed an articulate form in such a way that others could hear them. They were none the less real, for, after all, the heart is the seat of affection and desire; and in that sense, when the desires are active, it commands the tongue. It is “out of the heart that the mouth speaketh.” Even supposing that no actual language be used, conduct corresponding to the desires of the heart will be displayed. Hence we need to “keep the heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.” We long for the gratification of our hearts’ desires; we labour for them.
Now, to say, in the heart, that the Lord delays His coming is a very plain though silent declaration that His coming is not desired. It is not the commanding object. The seven years during which Jacob had to serve for his wife “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (Gen. 29:20). His heart was in it, and the years fled as days. Love annihilated time. The story explains the great secret of the potency of an all-engrossing object of affection. Let us carefully appreciate this. Very clear it is that no such object governed the heart of the evil servant. He did not love his Lord, nor did he care for His coming.
The coming of the blessed Lord is presented as the primary hope of the church; it appeals not so much to head as to heart. It is a matter of chief interest to the renewed affections. He said, in John 14, “If I go away I will come again, and receive you unto Myself.” This is His actual return for His people in order that they should be with Him where He is. It is not the departure of the individual saint, when he falls asleep, to go to the Lord—as “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” It is His advent, it is the rapture of all that are in Christ to be with Him in the Father’s house. The charm of this familiar passage has attracted the burdened hearts of His pilgrim people throughout all these centuries of waiting; and it attracts and gladdens them today. To be where He is is their hope.
The immediate hope of the coming of the Lord is no mere sentiment—no mere craving for relief from “tribulation,” for suffering is as fully the church’s glory as it is her calling whilst here—but it is her proper and warranted expectation. To “wait for God’s Son from heaven” is the normal attitude of every true believer, whatever his experience or attainments. To be with Him where He is must be the climax of all his desires. If I truly love the Lord—if my heart’s affections centre supremely in him, I shall assuredly wait and watch for His return. I shall be in the spirit of the early Christians, and in the power of those injunctions of Scripture that invariably command the disciple to watch. What else would obedience or affection do?
But we are told that the so-called fathers of the early church—living in the second or later centuries—do not teach the immediateness of that hope. Perhaps so; but the question is, was this hope expunged from the page of Scripture, or had it lost hold upon their hearts? The latter, alas, was the case. They, perhaps good men themselves, had adopted the inaudible language of the evil servant when he said in his heart, “My Lord delays His coming.” It was their heart affection that was at fault. So always.
Dark days and long succeeded. At length, when “the even, the midnight, the cock-crowing” had passed and the morning had well-nigh dawned; when the long and lovely day of salvation had nearly run its course, then a cry was made: “Behold, the Bridegroom comes; go ye out to meet Him” (Matt. 25:6). It was moral midnight, the spiritual darkness was like that of Egypt, when that cry was raised after eighteen centuries of slumber and sleep. It broke in upon a sleeping Christendom and produced astonishing results; many arose and went out, in glad expectation of heart, to meet the Bridegroom in cordial affection. The coming of the Bridegroom was like a voice from the dead, but it was the Bridegroom Himself—the prospect of seeing Him—that thrilled the heart. And a heart filled and thrilled by the love of Christ is the one spring of divine life and power and devotedness and joy.
It was not mere knowledge of “the Second Advent” that appealed to the heart, but the Lord Himself, HIMSELF! Not relief, not crowns nor kingdoms nor glories, but the Lord Himself, that gained His proper place in the heart of that blood-bought bride; for whom He had sold all that He had in order to deliver her from every form of wrath, and fit her to be His companion in suffering today and in heavenly glory for ever.
There is abundant scripture to establish these precious facts, but more—much more than doctrine—is needed to make the coming of the Lord an abiding and operative power in the soul.
Let our most earnest prayer be that we may cherish a growing love for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This will prevent our hearts from the inaudible, but really infidel, words, “My Lord delays His coming,” together with their consequent bad conduct of self-indulgence and strife. All hangs upon heart affection for the Lord.