Waiting and Watching.

Luke 12:36-37.

H. H. Snell.

Christian Friend vol. 14, 1887, p. 104.

"Ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord … Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching."

Our Lord would have us "watch" as well as "wait" for His coming. Both imply spiritual activity. Waiting souls are certainly not sleeping; for waiting according to our Lord's mind must be with girded loins, diligence in His service, and lights burning, thus bearing clear testimony to Him in the power of the Holy Spirit during the darkness of the night.

There seems, however, to be something more earnest and definite in watching than in waiting, though all who are watching are also waiting for Him. We can understand three persons having heard that a well-known friend is expected to land at a certain seaport. One of them seems much interested at the intelligence, but it does not produce any alteration in his walk and ways. He knows his friend is coming, and is satisfied with the knowledge of it. The second man is so affected by the sure tidings of his friend's return that he goes to meet him. He soon finds his way to the seaport, and determines there to remain till his friend comes. He is waiting. Day after day passes, and the friend has not come. Still he waits. Though he is often seen occupying his time and means in self-pleasing, he waits on day by day thinking often of his friend, and his interests. But the third man not only goes to the seaport, and awaits the arrival of his coming friend, but he looks over the sea many times a day, makes every enquiry as to the expected vessel, and carefully inspects the passengers to see if his friend is among them. This one is watching. Our Lord would have the hope of His coming so real in us that it should stir our hearts to go out to meet Him - to be watching as well as waiting, and that not on special occasions merely, but as the posture of our souls continually; thus giving a colour, unconsciously perhaps, yet nevertheless really, to all our ways. Nothing can be more practical or more eminently sanctifying - "He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." (1 John 3:3.) This is more than knowledge of doctrine, for it is divine truth received into the heart in faith, so that the heart goes out after the Lord Himself with longing desire and expectation of seeing Him; it is the "blessed hope" of our souls, and He would have us "abound in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit." "This hope," then, when it is a reality in our hearts, "purifieth" even as He is pure. It purifies not according to the low standard of Christendom's estimate of Christianity, but owns no standard of purity but Christ - "as He is pure." It teaches us to separate ourselves from every thing, whether men call it good or bad, that is unsuited to His mind who is the "holy" and the "true." May He graciously strengthen this hope in us. What need have we to cry in these closing days, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe"?

Those who are able to go back fifty years or more in marking the ways of God, cannot have forgotten the striking effects of the preaching of the Lord's coming at that time. Those who announced the midnight cry, "Behold the Bridegroom cometh, go ye out to meet Him," carried conviction to the hearers by their walk and ways that they were themselves getting ready to meet Him. It was the coming of the Lord Himself they had before them. Then it was not so much a question of doctrine, but of meeting Him. One and another saw it plainly taught in the Word as the blessed hope of the Church, and marvelled that it had been lost so long. Many received the truth in faith, and therefore acted on it. Like the Thessalonian believers, they waited for God's Son from heaven, though their views were very defective as to details concerning it; nevertheless, the Lord Himself was their hope and expectation. So plainly and solemnly was He set forth as quickly coming, both in preaching and teaching, that sinners were aroused in conscience, and cried out, "What must I do to be saved?" and believers almost everywhere were aroused from slumber. Wherever the testimony went forth there was almost always an awakening, though it was resisted by some of the wise of this world, and ridiculed by others. Many believers were so stirred in heart and conscience as to desire in all their ways to be "found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless." It was to them truly a purifying hope. At whatever cost to themselves, they felt the preceptive teaching of Scripture to "do all for the glory of God" must be carried out; so that a deep heart-searching enquiry was awakened in souls in many places as to whether they were ready, not merely as to title, but as to walk and service, to meet the Bridegroom? It was not death they looked for, not judgment, but the Lord Himself, their loving Bridegroom, to take His loved ones to be for ever with Himself.

The effects were such as might have been expected. Many felt they were in positions and circumstances which were not for the glory of God, and gave them up. Godly ministers relinquished valuable livings, and those among them who had "gifts" used them as the Lord opened their path. Military and naval officers resigned their rank and pay. Those who resided in large and expensive houses were content with smaller, to enable them to minister more largely to the Lord's servants and the poor members of the body of Christ. Costly furniture was disposed of. Ladies who before had moved in fashion and elegance, sold their expensive dresses, jewellery, ornaments, and other superfluities, in order to minister with the proceeds to the distressed in the household of faith. Even in the humbler classes, and those whose means were narrow, consciences were exercised that house and household might be so orderly as to have the Lord's approval; and many a household servant had thus the Lord before her in her daily work. No doubt there was also with this failure and mistake, but many of those here referred to were personally known to us; and their devotedness and testimony continued much the same during a long life.

Nor is it remarkable that the hope of our Lord's coming thus solemnly dawning on a heart fresh and fervent toward Him should produce such results; for how could it be otherwise? Again and again have we seen the same thing, when souls have rightly had the possibility of the Lord's coming at any time before them. It must be so as long as the imperishable truth of God declares, "He that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure." Thank God the reality of this has not wholly died out. His Spirit still works, and His word is as authoritative and unalterable as ever. But, alas! instead of some now, who accept the doctrine of our Lord's coming, taking up their cross to suffer with Christ and for Christ in this time of His rejection by the world, they appear to be on good terms with the world, are gratified at their own progress in it, and long to see their children advanced positionally beyond themselves in it, and yet talk not a little about the Lord's coming. It sometimes looks as if they were bringing back again those very things which many faithfully separated from fifty years ago. May God graciously arouse us all not only to truly hold the doctrine, but to be lovingly waiting and watching for Him who says, "Surely I come quickly!" H. H. Snell.