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AWAKE, THOU THAT SLEEPEST :
SUNDAY, APRIL 4, 1742, BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD,
BY CHARLES WESLEY, M. A.,
Student of Christ-Church.
“Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ
shall give thee light." Eph. v. 14. In discoursing on these words, I shall, with the help of God, First, Describe the Sleepers, to whom they are spoken :
Secondly, Enforce the Exhortation, “Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead : " And,
Thirdly, Explain the Promise made to such as do awake and arise; “ Christ shall give thee Light.”
I. 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 this 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, hc fancies himself in perfect health : fast bound in misery and iron, he dreams that he is happy, and 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 hell-fire, or cried out, in the carnestness 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, accordiug 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, depies the power thereof;” yea, and probably reviles it, wheresoever it is found, as a mere extravagance and delusion. Meanwhile, the wretched self-deceiver thanks God, that he “is not as other men are ; adulterers, unjust, cxtortioners : ” 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; vea, and “ gives tithics of all that he has ;” does all the good that he can : “ touching the righteousness of the law," he is “ blameless :” he wants nothing of godliness, but the power ; nothing of religion, but the spirit ; nothing of Christianity, but the truth and the life.
7. But know yc 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, to-day, 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 sepulchre, 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 to. 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 cyes, he secs not; he hath cars, and hears not.” He doth not "taste and see that the Lord is gracious." He “hath not seen God at any time," nor “hcard his voice," nor“ handled) the word of life.” In vaiu is the name of Jesus “like ointment poured forth, and all his garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.” The soul that sleepetl in death, hath no perception of any objects of this kind. His hcart is past feeling, and understandeth none of these things.
11. And hence, having no spiritual senses, no inlets of spiritual knowledge, the natural man receireth not the things of the Spirit of God; nay, he is so far from receiving them, that whatsoever is spiritually discerned, is niere 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 kinow 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 yc have this life abiding in you, ye want no marks to evidence it to yourself, but edes xos IIxcULLXtos, 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 com'ince you of sin, “ because you beliere not on the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
II. 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 ten;pest is stirred up round about thee, and thou art sinking into the depths of perdition, the gulf of God's judgments. If thou wouldst 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 band 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 Jailor, “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 hạnd, 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, à 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 Christ ?