Christ's Coming Is At Our Midnight
By WILLIAM BRIDGE, Preacher of the Word of God at Yarmouth.
In PARLIAMENT Assembled at WESTMINSTER.
According to your command, I have presented these notes to your view, somewhat concerning the Kingdom and coming of Christ: an argument as unwelcome to some as it is welcome to others. Kings, princes, and rulers sometimes startle at it, but they need not; for Christ means them no harm: if they will throw down their crowns at his feet, he will set their crowns on their heads and his own too. The Jews feared and refused to receive Christ and his Kingdom, lest they should lose their own Kingdom; and thereby they lost both their God and their Kingdom, as Augustine observes. But whoever lost his sceptre by submitting to Christ's sceptre? I may truly say, the power of Christ is more cumulative than privative. In helping Christ to his throne, you shall help yourselves to your honours and greatness. I will not say that Christ has need of you; he has no need of us. But if that which the Schools teach be true, namely, that one is helped by another, either by the addition of new strength and virtue, or by the exercise of what was formerly given, then Jesus Christ may, in some sense (and that according to Scriptural phrase, Judges 5:23), be said to be helped by you. Great confederacies will be raised against him when he comes to his Kingdom (Psalm 2:1-2). But God, who sits in Heaven, laughs at those combinations (v. 4), and despite them, will set his King upon his holy hill of Zion (v. 6). "And to him that overcomes will I give to sit down with me on my throne," says our Saviour, "even as I have overcome and sit with my Father on his throne" (Revelation 3:21). Therefore, most Honourable, do not be overcome by evil, do not be overcome by difficulties, oppositions, or combinations of men; but overcome evil with good, and do what is in your power to bring this blessed King Jesus to his throne and inheritance. So that, as all the earth in due time shall, England in a special manner may become the Kingdom of our Lord Christ, and we may all say, "the Lord God omnipotent reigns among us."
I could not deliberate for long in such a short time on which part of God's Word I should preach to you. But knowing the trouble of these times, and that the more you meditate on Christ's coming and Kingdom, the more your hearts will be upheld in times of trouble, I chose to preach on this topic, which I now present to you. I beseech the Lord to bless it to you and you to this Kingdom. Only be strong and of good courage, fear not, neither be dismayed, and the Lord your God will be with you as he has been before. This shall be the prayer of
Your humble Servant in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, WILL. BRIDGE.
CHRIST'S COMING IS AT OUR MIDNIGHT
Matthew 25, verse 6. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh. In this parable, you have the state and posture of the Church a little before and at the coming of Jesus Christ. Then shall the Kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten Virgins, verse 1. Sometimes the Doctrine and grace of the Gospel are called the Kingdom of heaven: The Kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, etc. This cannot be meant here because in the Gospel, there are not ten Virgins. Sometimes the state of glory above is called the Kingdom of heaven: That is not meant here because there are no foolish Virgins. Sometimes the Church of Christ under the New Testament is called the Kingdom of heaven; for there God appears, manifests himself, and it is heaven on earth: and this is what is here called the Kingdom of heaven. Which Kingdom is described by the Governor, King, and Head thereof: And by the subjects of that Kingdom. The Subjects are described by their Agreement and Disagreement. First, they agree in this, that they are all Virgins; though some foolish, yet Virgins, not defiled with men or the pollutions of the world: it's possible a foolish and unsound heart may go thus far in Religion, to be free from the pollutions of the world, yes, through the knowledge of Christ, says the Apostle Peter. Secondly, they agree in this, that they all have their Lamps, good and bad, wise and foolish under Ordinances, which are the Lamps whereby the golden oil of the sanctuary is emptied into our hearts. Thirdly, they agree in this, that they are all expectants, wise and foolish await the bridegroom's coming: they all think to receive good and have a good day by the coming of Jesus Christ: this is far, yet thus far may a foolish Virgin go. Fourthly, they all agree in this that they had oil in their lamps: indeed, verse 3. it is said that the foolish Virgins took no oil with them; but verse 8 they say, Our lamps are gone out: So that once they had, but they had not enough, and so none; parts and gifts, and common graces a man may have, not only his lamp but some oil in it for a time, yet be a foolish Virgin. Fifthly, they agree in this, that they keep Company, have Communion and fellowship together in the Church; yes, so far that the foolish are not known until Christ's coming: so smoothly may a foolish Virgin carry it, yet remain foolish. Sixthly, They all agree in this also; that they hold out their profession, with lamps, and waiting until the bridegroom comes. So that possibly, a man may be a Professor of the Gospel and bear up his Profession among the best, even to the last, yet be unfound at heart, and a foolish Virgin. Thus far they agree.
But Secondly, though these Virgins agree in many things, yet they disagree in the point of wisdom: for the wise got enough oil to last until the end; the foolish did not: there was a deficiency of oil, verse 8.
Secondly, you have here the description of the King, Governor, and Head of this Kingdom, who is described by the manner of his coming. First, he comes as a Bridegroom. Secondly, he comes conspicuously. Not as in the days of his flesh when he came more hiddenly; behold a great cry, etc.
Thirdly, he comes suddenly, unexpectedly, in the darkest time; he comes at midnight.
Now, Christ's coming is either spiritual and invisible (John 14:18), "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you," or visible: and that either at the day of judgment or else at the calling and conversion of the Jews when he will appear in the clouds and come to set up his Kingdom in this world in a more glorious manner than ever. So, Revelation 1:7 says, "Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him," referring to the Jews, "and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him, even so, Amen." This relates to Zechariah 12:10-14, "I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son," etc. In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, and the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart, etc. This cannot be understood of the day of judgment, because then the families of David, Nathan, Shimei, Levi shall not mourn separately, and their wives separately. I take this parable to be understood of this coming of Christ to set up his Kingdom, not of his coming at the day of judgment, for in Matthew 24, the Disciples asked three questions to our Saviour Christ (verse 3): "Tell us, when shall these things be?" referring to the destruction of the Temple; "and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" To the last, he answered first (as is usual in Scripture) negatively (verse 6): "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, but the end is not yet." Affirmatively (verse 14): "And this Gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness to all Nations, and then shall the end come." To the first question, he answered second (verse 15, 16). And to the second, he answered third and last, because he intended to speak most about that. So he proceeds to speak of his coming and the signs thereof in the later part of Matthew 24 (verses 37, 39, 40, 44, 46, 50), and this continues into the beginning of Matthew 25, "Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven be like unto ten virgins." In this parable, he still speaks of his coming as before, for in verse 13, he concludes the parable with, "Watch ye therefore, for ye know not the hour wherein the Son of man cometh."
Furthermore, Christ comes not as a Bridegroom but as a Judge at the day of judgment. If you look into the 19th, 21st, and 22nd chapters of the Revelation, where mention is made of the glory of Christ's kingdom in the latter times, you find that the converting Jew, who sings the Hebrew song Hallelujah, is called the Bride, the Lamb's wife, saying, "Come Lord Jesus." At the eighteenth and nineteenth verses of the nineteenth chapter, mention is made of a great battle. However, there is no fighting or battling at the day of judgment; that is not a time for feasting or suppers either. But at weddings and marriages, there were and are great suppers, which we read shall be at this time (verse 17). As the wise enter, so do the foolish, and those who tell and make lies are shut out. Therefore, finding all these things fitting so well with this parable at the coming of Christ to set up his Kingdom, I lean towards thinking that it cannot be understood as referring to the day of judgment but rather to the time when Christ will appear at the conversion of the Jews to establish his kingdom on earth in that glorious and blessed manner as all the Prophets bear witness to.
Because all the victories and deliverances that Christ works for the churches in the meantime are steps toward this kingdom and coming of his, sometimes in Scripture, they are called his coming. In Matthew 17, his transfiguration is referred to as his coming in his Kingdom, for in Matthew 16:28, Christ says, "There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the son of man coming in his Kingdom." Then, in Matthew 17:1, it is said, "And after six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them." In three Gospels, this account of the transfiguration is linked to that statement, "There are some standing here, which shall not taste of death till they see the son of man coming in his Kingdom," with the words, "And after six days, Jesus took Peter, etc." Our Lord and Saviour Christ had already come when he spoke those words, but he was to come in a more glorious way and manner to establish his Kingdom. His transfiguration was a foretaste of that glory and coming, and that is why it is called his coming in his Kingdom. So, all these great deliverances and victories that Christ accomplishes for his Church, being previews and harbingers of his coming in his Kingdom, may also be called his coming; indeed, they are like steps he takes on his way to his Kingdom.
But says the text, He comes at midnight; that is, at a time when he is least expected, suddenly, and when we are in the darkest hours. And so the observation is this.
Christ comes at midnight: [Doctrine] Although his coming is highly anticipated, yet he will arrive at a time when he is least expected; when he comes as a Bridegroom, he comes at midnight, during a time when he is least expected, in the darkest hours; Christ comes at midnight.
"Behold," says Christ, "I come as a thief." Thieves come in the darkest hours, a time when they are least expected; so will Christ's coming be.
To elucidate this truth, I shall endeavour to demonstrate,
First, that our Lord and Saviour Christ will come again. Secondly, that he will come at midnight. Thirdly, provide some insight into why he prefers to come at midnight rather than otherwise. Finally, draw a conclusion and make an application to our present situation.
First, our Lord and Saviour Christ will come again.
- Consider his coming in a spiritual sense; although he is currently absent from your soul, he will come again (John 14:23). "If any man love me, my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him."
Secondly, take his coming in a personal, visible sense at the day of judgment; he will come again (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
Thirdly, take his coming as his appearance in the clouds when he will come to establish his Kingdom; he will come again before that great day. If you examine the Scriptures, you will find that his coming and his Kingdom are closely connected, as seen in Daniel 7:13-14.
In many Scriptures, you will find his coming and his Kingdom mentioned together. If you look into Revelation 11, you will find it speaking of times yet to come: "The Kingdoms of this world are become the Kingdoms of our Lord, and his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (verse 15). "And we give thee thanks, O Lord, God Almighty, because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned" (verse 17). This cannot be understood to refer to the day of judgment, for at that time, the nations are not angry, and the Temple door is not opened, as stated in verse 18 and 19.
I want to clarify my position here; I do not believe that Christ will come and reign on earth for a thousand years, as I do not see how the Saints can do without him in heaven for so long. Nor do I think that his coming is solely a spiritual one into the souls of his followers, filling them with his spirit to the point that they no longer need ordinances. In those glorious times, there may be no Jewish Temple, but the Gospel Temple, symbolized by the Temple door, will remain open. In the book of Zechariah, which clearly speaks of the glory of the future times, it is explicitly mentioned three times in that chapter that people will go up to keep the feast of Tabernacles, an allusion to the Jewish ordinance. Why only the feast of Tabernacles and not Passover and Pentecost? Many reasons can be given, but I believe one of them is that the feast of Tabernacles had been more neglected than the others. In Nehemiah 8, it is said that they had not kept that feast from the time of Joshua, the son of Nun, until that day, which was almost a thousand years. The Holy Spirit, foreseeing the degeneration and neglect of ordinances in our later times, mentions here that they shall observe the feast of Tabernacles, emphasizing the restoration of those ordinances that had been most defaced and forgotten. But I will stick to the words of Scripture.
Christ will come in the clouds again, and the poor Jews will see him. Those who were once called "Forsaken" will be called "Beloved," and the King's bride. This will happen when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, when Christ establishes his Kingdom in the world – his Kingdom of power, not patience. He will rule from sea to sea and come not riding on an ass's colt but in the clouds, with thousands of Angels ministering to him. This will be the time when foolish virgins are shut out from his glory, and the wise professors are taken in. In the meantime, even though it may seem like our Lord and Saviour Christ has temporarily forsaken the Churches, he will come back to them with delivering and conquering mercy: "Behold, I come quickly; hold fast that which thou hast" (Revelation 3).
Obj. But how can it be shown that Christ will come at midnight?
Answer: I shall provide a glimpse of it in all his comings because the same Spirit is present in one as in another.
In his spiritual coming when Christ first arrives with his converting grace and causes his converting mercy to touch a person's soul, he comes at midnight. Job 33 states, "God speaks once, yea twice, yet man perceives it not; in a dream, in a vision of the night when deep sleep falls upon men, in slumbers upon the bed, then he opens the ears of men and seals their instruction" (verses 14-16). When a person is deeply asleep in their sins, thinking little of any good unless it's to oppose it, Christ comes and imparts some instruction to their soul. Thus, he comes at midnight.
When Christ arrives with his comforting mercy and causes his comforting grace to touch a person's heart, he comes at midnight, at an unexpected hour. As the Spouse says, "I sought him, but I found him not. I sought him on my bed, in private, and found him not. I sought him in the streets, in the public ordinances, but I found him not. It was but a little that I passed from the watchmen, but I found him whom my soul loveth." She finds him where she least expected and did not anticipate. In Psalm 42, David expresses his distress and sorrow, but he also says, "The Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day time, and in the night his songs shall be with me." God is often known as "The Lord our maker, who giveth songs in the night" (Job 35). There is a story of Master Robert Glover, mentioned by Master Fox in the Book of Martyrs. He experienced a period of feeling deserted by God while in prison. On the night before his execution, after much prayer and no comfort, he suddenly felt the presence of Christ and exclaimed, "He is come, he is come, he is come." This man was in the dark for a long time, but Christ came at the darkest moment. Christ comes at midnight when he brings comfort.
When Christ arrives with outward delivering mercy for an individual or a people, he also comes at midnight. It is said of Israel that they left Egypt at midnight. God had promised deliverance for a long time, and they all expected it, but who would have expected it at that time? In the last chapter of Zechariah, we read that the great deliverance promised for the Churches will happen in one day, known to the Lord, not day nor night, but at evening time, it shall be light. We usually expect darkness in the evening, but when we anticipate darkness the most, God has promised great light.
And regarding Christ's coming at the end, you know what He says, "I will come in an hour when you look not for me." Consider, for a moment, the great deliverance and victory that the Lord has now granted you. Was it not at midnight? Reflect on the days of your past troubles. Were you not in a much darker condition? Were not all of you bewildered? When were your enemies more formidable, and your friends more discouraged? A night, truly, a dark night had fallen upon us. However, Christ has now come with a timely and almost miraculous victory and deliverance. This is the way of Christ: He never comes to His people as a Bridegroom except when He comes at midnight. Christ's desire is for His people to watch and wait for Him.
Christ loves that His people should stay awake for Him and watch for His coming. He waits to show mercy to those who wait for His mercy. In a household, the more a person is loved and esteemed, the more the occupants will stay up and watch for their return when they are away. Those who don't love them say, "I will go to bed; I won't wait any longer. Let them come whenever they please." But those who love them say, "I will watch; I will wait; I will stay up for them, even if they don't arrive until midnight." Does it not show love for one person to stay up and wait for another? Should we not have love in our hearts to stay awake, watch, and wait for Christ? Christ loves to see our love in action. Thus, He says, "Though I intend to save and help such a person, I will wait, and I will wait for a long time. I will let a night, a dark night, descend upon them so that I can see their love in waiting for me."
Christ loves to show mercy to His people in a way that hides pride from them. He does not want His people to be proud of His mercies. Therefore, the text in Job 33 says that He imparts instruction in the night to hide pride from man. When a person is awake, they assess things with their reason. If reason approves, then they accept it; if reason does not approve, they reject it. However, in a dream or a deep sleep, the mind accepts things without reasoning. In matters of faith, the less reason and the more faith, the better. Faith should precede reason. Faith dignifies a work. When a person heavily relies on their own reason to initiate a matter, they are more prone to pride. In a dream or deep sleep, there is less reason involved. Thus, Christ comes to us in such a state to hide pride from us.
Christ loves to come in a way that is most welcome to His people. Often, the less expected His arrival, the more welcome He is. And when is He less expected than at midnight? If a person is in extreme misery, and a friend comes to visit them, they not only welcome the friend but are amazed by their love. They say, "Oh, Sir, could you find it in your heart to come to me now? What, now at midnight? This is true love!" Christ comes to be admired by all who believe. Therefore, when His people are in the dark, during a dark night, He chooses to come, especially then. At such times, a person's heart melts with love for Christ. They think, "What a gracious Savior I have! He found it in His heart to show me mercy in this dark condition, at this unexpected time!" Christ's timing is not like ours, and His thoughts and times are not like ours. He is the good Samaritan, who pours wine and oil into the wounds of His servants. However, He first lets the priest and the Levite pass by, along with other means and sources of help that we usually expect comfort from. When we receive no help from them, Christ says, "Now is the time for Me." By that time, all other sources of help have passed by, and it is midnight. But Christ declares, "Even if it is midnight, it is all the same to Me, for I create light, and My thoughts and times are not like man's. Even though man may offer help and succor in the daytime, I will come at midnight." Oh, what glorious dispensations of love and mercy are seen here!
What is the outcome of this doctrine? [Question] What if Christ does come at midnight?
This doctrine primarily concerns two groups of people: [Answer] those whom He comes against and those for whom He comes.
There are some foolish virgins whom Christ comes against. He will approach them at midnight, catching them in their beds, fast asleep in their sins and at their most secure. You may have heard of the lamentable incident in Norwich, where a group of men rose up and threatened to destroy the godly community there. However, the Lord arranged things in His providence so that those whom they intended to harm were spared, while the attackers perished. Nearly two or three hundred of them (if the accounts are correct) were killed or injured when the building they were in exploded or collapsed. Three godly families, totaling about twenty individuals, were in separate rooms of the same house that was destroyed, and miraculously, not one of them suffered any harm. In contrast, those who perished were like spectacles of divine wrath, as if God were saying from heaven, "These are the people I intended to spare, and those are the people I meant to punish." But oh, the poor souls who perished in the thunder of God's anger, did they ever imagine that Christ would come upon them at such a midnight hour? The deliverance and victory before you are remarkable: If the accounts are accurate, you have put eight thousand of the enemy to flight, with fifteen hundred killed, three thousand taken prisoner, and the rest scattered. But oh, the deceived individuals who initiated this uprising, did they ever anticipate that Christ would come so swiftly, at such an unexpected hour, as if it were midnight? Reflect on all your wars; has not Christ come at midnight throughout? Christ is on His way to His Kingdom, and every step He takes will be at midnight, both for those He comes for and those He comes against. But woe to those He comes against; it is a dreadful thing to be suddenly cut off and caught in our sins. This is a judgment threatened for the latter days when Christ will come quickly, dealing swiftly with people in judgment, like a thief in the night, catching the foolish virgins while they are fast asleep.
Therefore, I earnestly urge and beseech you in the Lord to consider the principles you stand upon, the beliefs you hold, and the cause you support. I ask you, do you not think that God is involved in all these wars, that the outcome of battles is solely in God's hands? Some of you, who are not friends of Parliament or the cause of God that they champion, have tried various methods, like Balaam once did, to curse Israel. At one point, you climbed one hill and built an altar, hoping to curse God's people from there. When that failed, you moved to a second hill; and when that proved unsuccessful, you climbed a third mountain. At times, you attempted to use your skilled and experienced soldiers to achieve your aims. When that didn't work, you returned home and tried to sow division among us, stirring up suspicions between brethren. Yet, even that did not succeed as you wished. Now, you have resorted to a third mountain, trying to incite rebellion in the counties, but you still cannot curse them from there. Therefore, after all these efforts, do you not believe that God is against you? Can you truly think that God is with you after all these consecutive defeats that have befallen you? Have you not read the Scripture that says, "The Lord is known by the judgment which He executes; the wicked are snared in the works of their own hands"? Have you not been ensnared by your own deeds? Have not your actions led to your undoing? And will you continue to plot, scheme, and design? What more do you plan to do? Well then, go ahead, deliberate, conspire, devise, unite, form alliances, and do your utmost. But remember this: even after you have done everything and believe you have the upper hand, when it seems that all is in your favour, Christ will come upon you at midnight, at a time and hour when you least expect Him. And it will be a darker night than you have ever seen. For our Lord and Saviour Christ, both in His final coming and in these preceding appearances, always comes at midnight. Therefore, be wise, O you princes, nobles, rulers, judges, gentlemen, and others: Kiss the Son, lest you perish in the way, for Christ is on His way to His Kingdom.
Secondly,  This doctrine also provides solace for those for whom Christ comes. Why should any of God's people despair or be disheartened, saying, "Christ has now departed, and I will never see Him again; He has hidden Himself, and I shall never behold His face again"? No, He comes at midnight, that is His time, a time when He is least expected, a dark time, the darkest time, the sleepiest time, the coldest time, a time when all your candles are out, and your comforts extinguished, when you cannot see your hand, your working hand, your praying hand, when you think all is lost and gone, and you will never see the light and comfort again. It is precisely at this moment that Christ says, "This is My time; it is now dark, and night, and midnight for My servant, now will I go and comfort and deliver him." Why should any godly person be disheartened, regardless of their circumstances? Shall Christ come at midnight, and shall I be discouraged because I am in the dark? O my soul, remember this: Christ comes at midnight; in all His comings, He always comes at midnight. To confirm that this is Christ's consistent pattern with all His people, consider what is said in Hosea 6:3, "Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord: his going forth is prepared as the morning, and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." But you may say, "I am a poor ignorant creature, I do not know or understand God's intentions and will in these events and transactions abroad." Even so, the Lord replies, "You shall know Him, if you follow on to know Him." Or perhaps you say, "I am in a sad and dark condition, overshadowed by some affliction." Even in that case, Christ will come, and He will come as the morning. Just as surely as the morning arrives, so will Christ come. And although it may be a dark night, you confidently say, "Morning will come again," so you may be equally sure of Christ's coming, for the text declares, "he will come as the morning," meaning that it is certain. However, you might fear that you will faint in the meantime, that He will delay His coming. But no, He will come in due season, like the former and latter rain. Just as the former and latter rain come in their appointed times, so will Christ, and with it, all your comforts will be renewed and refreshed. Why, then, should any of God's people be discouraged?
But let us suppose that the Lord Jesus has graciously appeared to us in a dark condition. [Question] When we least expect Him, as He has done for this Kingdom, what are our duties that flow from this?
First, [Answer] If Jesus Christ has appeared to you in the dark and come to you even at midnight, [Duty 1] then trust in the Lord forever; and I say it again, trust in the Lord, trust in the Lord at all times. One night is over, but another night may come, and it could be even darker. Night and day follow their courses. But if Christ comes at midnight, why should we not trust in God at midnight, in the darkest hour? As the Psalmist says, "What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord." Faith hastens Christ's arrival; therefore, the Apostle writes, "Looking for, and hastening the coming of the Lord." In English, it is translated as "hastening unto," but according to the Greek, it may be more accurately rendered as "looking for, and hastening the coming of the Lord." Our expectation of His coming actually speeds up His arrival. Faith mitigates our hardships and restrains the hands of our enemies. I have read in the life of Tyndale that he once heard of a certain juggling conjurer in the Low Countries who claimed he could conjure a dish of food from any king's table in the world. He frequently invited friends to dinner, boasting that he could do this. Master Tyndale decided to witness this act but resolved to believe the opposite. And he did. When the group gathered, and the conjurer attempted his trick, he was so hindered by Master Tyndale's faith that he cried out, "I cannot do it; there sits the man who hinders me and holds my hands." I say, faith will restrain the hands of wicked and devilish individuals, and unfortunately, we have many of them to contend with in these times. Oh, that you would use your faith more and more! Do you not have sufficient reason for it? Christ comes at midnight; why then should you not believe, no matter how dark your circumstances may be?
Secondly, if Christ comes at midnight, [Duty 2] then why should those engaged in Christ's work and service be shaken or unsettled?
We often abandon God's work and are not consistent in it due to opposition, which makes us fearful. But if Christ will come and acknowledge us, and come at a time when we least expect Him, in the darkest hour, then why should people not continue with unwavering constancy even in their darkest fears? Luther relates a story about Augustine's mother (which Augustine also mentions) who was deeply troubled because her son Augustine had been a Manichean for seven or nine years. She prayed continuously for him, and one night she received what she believed to be a word from God in response to her prayers. It said, "Qualis tu, talis ill; As thou, so he." She was greatly encouraged and told Augustine that she had received a promise from the Lord that he would be converted from his error. However, he interpreted the words differently, suggesting that she would be converted to his opinion. But she remained steadfast in her conviction, and he eventually adopted her viewpoint. Indeed, there is nothing more convincing to an adversary than witnessing someone who remains steadfast in what is good. A Christian, especially a Christian magistrate, should be like Christ, who, when He is on a path of mercy, will not be swayed from it by men. Isaiah 27:4 says, "Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them; I would burn them together." In verses 2 and 3, He expresses His great love and care for His Church: "A vineyard of red wine; I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment, lest any hurt it; I will keep it night and day." But in this vineyard, there may be many briers and thorns that afflict God's people. True, but the Lord says, "Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them." It's as if He's saying, "Indeed, these wicked men are like briers and thorns, tormenting and afflicting my people, and they band together like briars and thorns. But even if they rise up against Me on the path of My mercy towards My people, they will not divert Me from My course; I will pass through them. And though they rise, it will be to their own destruction; they shall burn together, and I will make it happen, for I, the Lord, will pass through them." Now, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, I hope, is on the path of mercy towards this poor Kingdom. But surely, He is also on His way to His own Kingdom. Though wicked men may obstruct and hinder us, they shall never hinder Him; He will pass through them. Therefore, strive to be more and more like Christ, continue on your path. Even if He comes late, He will certainly come; He comes at midnight.
Thirdly, [Duty 3] if Jesus Christ has come to us even at midnight, why should not all of us go forth to meet Him with expressions of gratitude? The more abundant, full, free, and continuous a mercy is, the more it warrants thankfulness. Christ has been in the field for you, fighting your battles for many years. Lately, our divisions and sins have been so great that I feared they would drive Christ away from the field. But now I see that He still supports your cause and your forces. He remains in the field, marching forward as if determined not to leave until He conquers this entire Kingdom with His love. He has now given you a taste of His intentions and love in this victory—an opportune, astonishing, unexpected, midnight victory. Oh, wondrous God! Should we not now praise Your name? We read about Jehoshaphat's dire and dark situation due to his enemies. But when he cried out to the Lord, the Lord heard and delivered him and his people. They held a day of thanksgiving in the open fields and named the place Berachah, which means "the valley of blessing." (2 Chronicles 20:26)
In Joshua's time, the people of Israel faced great distress due to the Amalekites attacking them when they were vulnerable. However, the Lord fought for His people, defeated their enemies, and completely destroyed them. In response, Israel erected an altar and named it Jehovah-nissi, meaning "The Lord my shield." Similarly, during Samuel's time, they found themselves in dire straits because of their enemies. They cried out to the Lord, and He delivered them, annihilating all their adversaries. They then set up a stone and named it Eben-ezer, signifying "The stone of help," saying, "Hitherto the Lord hath holpen us." Later, when they were brought very low and plunged into a dark state, sold into the hands of their enemies, the Lord raised up saviors like Deborah and Barak, delivering them from all their foes. In response, they composed a Psalm of praise, the 5th chapter of Judges, attributing all glory to God Himself, acknowledging the instruments He used, not reviling them but honouring them. They also condemned and cursed those who failed to assist the Lord and commended the tribes and regions that willingly offered themselves for the Lord's service. They prayed against the enemies of the Church, and as a result, the land enjoyed forty years of rest. May you also experience such an outcome, not just forty years, but many times forty years of rest as a consequence of the praises on this day.
However, please note that there was always some monument of praise erected—sometimes a stone, sometimes an altar, but always one monument or another. Do we not have an altar, a stone, or a name of God to celebrate now? Is there no present of thankfulness to offer to our God on this day? Are there no acts of mercy to extend? No friends of Christ to support? Shall we make no progress and remain stagnant as if in a daze? Shall we not capitalise on this deliverance and victory? Why should we not all reflect on how we can make the most of this mercy? What can we do now for God and Christ that we haven't done before? Do you have nothing in your possession? Nothing at all? Then let us bring the awareness of our own nothingness, for the more humble we are after victories, the more thankful we become for victories. And if you have nothing in your hands to offer God for this victory, then bring the victory itself and dedicate it to God. Just as you give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar because his image is on it, doesn't this victory bear the image of God in many ways? When David was delivered from his enemies, he rebuked himself for his previous unbelief and regained his focus on God. Similarly, let us return to our rest in God. When delivered from his adversaries, as described in Psalm 118, he withdrew his trust from man, saying, "O my soul, trust not in Princes, not in man, nor in the sons of men, trust not in Princes." In the original Hebrew, "Ingenuous men" is used for Princes, as Princes should indeed be ingenuous. If anyone is trustworthy, it should be ingenuous men. Yet, having been delivered from men, he withdraws his trust from them and says, "O my soul, trust not in men, nor in the sons of men, not in Princes, not in ingenuous men." Furthermore, in that same Psalm, he calls upon others to praise the Lord. Let us follow his example in his words: "O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever: He stilleth the rage of the sea, and the tumults of the people, for his mercy endures forever. Who hath owned your cause again, and your forces again, for his mercy endures forever; who hath remembered you in your low condition, for his mercy endures forever; and hath visited us with his love at midnight, for his mercy endures forever: O give thanks unto the God of Gods, for his mercy endures forever. Praise the Lord."
If Christ comes at midnight, then it seems His personal coming is not far off. I cannot say it is midnight in that respect, but surely it is very late, it is very dark, and it has been dark for a great while.
We read of two sorts of signs that precede the coming of Jesus Christ: Some are more remote and transient, while others are more immediate and occur just at His coming. Those that are more immediate and occur just at His coming are mentioned in Matthew 24:29-30, which says, "Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from Heaven, and the powers of the Heavens shall be shaken, and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in Heaven; and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of Heaven with power and great glory." These signs are yet to come.
But those signs that are more remote seem to have already taken place. The Apostle mentioned that before the coming of Christ, the man of sin shall be revealed, and this has occurred. Before the coming of Christ, false prophets shall arise and claim, "I am Christ," and others will also falsely claim to be Christ; this has happened. Before the personal coming of Christ, there shall be wars and rumors of wars, and this has happened. Before that day, there shall be great divisions, even in matters of religion, with some saying, "Lo, here is Christ," and others saying, "Lo, there is Christ," and this is already occurring. Immediately before and at His coming, people shall be mistreating their fellow servants, eating and drinking with the drunken, and this is happening as well. The wise and the foolish virgins shall all be asleep, and was there ever a time when both the wise and foolish were more asleep than now? When people go to sleep, they draw their curtains, extinguish their lights, and block out any more light from entering; and it seems to be the case now. When people are asleep, their senses that were once alert become dulled—they cannot see, hear, taste, or smell. Sleep is the binding of the senses. Was there ever a time when people's senses were more bound up, compared to when they were once active, than now? Are there not some who used to pray, hear, and read but no longer do so, forsaking all duties, ordinances, and means? What a great slumbering is taking place! Has there ever been such a deep sleep among professing believers as we see today? If ever the wise and foolish virgins were asleep, it seems to be in our days. Shall we also sleep? Will you not rather watch and pray? Watch and pray, pray and watch. What I say to one, I say to all: watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.
Consider a few awakening observations from this Parable.
First, from this parable, you may observe that a profound sleep will come upon all professing believers immediately before the great coming of Christ. I call that profound sleep which is universal. This Parable pertains to the Churches, for it says, "Then shall the Kingdom of Heaven (not the Kingdom of the world) be like ten Virgins," and all ten shall be asleep, both the good and the bad. In another place, our Saviour says, "Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Again, I call it profound sleep when it occurs in the midst of light. It is difficult to sleep when a candle is held to one's eyes. In the time before Christ's coming, much light and truth shall break out as Antichristian error diminishes, and yet, even then, both the good and the bad shall fall asleep.
I call that desperate (again) which shall be in the midst of trouble. It's a hard thing for a person to sleep when they are suffering and afflicted. In the times before Christ and when He comes, people shall be mistreating their fellow servants, and yet, even those who are mistreated shall be asleep. Oh, what desperate times of slumbering shall the latter times be! Do we not all have cause, then, to watch and pray?
Secondly, if you examine this Scripture or Parable, you find that those who fall asleep immediately before the coming of Christ shall never wake again until Christ comes. "And they all slept" (says the text of the ten Virgins) "and waked not until the Bridegroom came."
Now if you go to a very drowsy person and say, "Sir, be careful not to fall asleep, for if you do fall asleep, you will never wake again," will he not be cautious about falling asleep? This shall be the case with the sleepers of these latter times. At other times, people may sleep and wake, and wake and sleep, but if people fall into a spiritual slumber immediately before the coming of Jesus Christ, they shall sleep until He comes and shall not be awakened except by His coming. Oh, Lord, who would not watch and pray, lest they enter into temptation!
Thirdly, if you observe this Parable, you shall find that there are two sorts of sleepers, and accordingly, two outcomes of their sleeping.
Some slept (like the wise Virgins) but kept their oil; their oil was not spent. These, when the Bridegroom came, entered into His joy.
Others there are who sleep and have spent their oil. They had oil but used it up. When the Bridegroom comes, they are shut out. Even though they call, "Lord, open," He answers, "I do not know you." So in the latter days, there shall be two sorts of professing believers. One group shall sleep and slumber, but they shall retain their graces, their oil, their principles. Even if they are found asleep when Christ comes, He will forgive them for their slumbering because they still have their oil.
Then there shall be others who not only fall asleep but lose their principles. They will say, "I used to believe that a person was obligated to observe the Sabbath, to live righteously, and to be conscientious in every word and thought. But now, I see there is more liberty." They shall lose their principles, their oil, and their convictions. These poor souls shall never wake again, and when Christ comes, even if they cry to Him for mercy, they will not obtain it. He will say, "No, you have lost your principles, your oil, your convictions. You are foolish Virgins; you shall never enter into my joy." Who would not then watch and pray? What I say to you, I speak to my own soul and to every person here present. Oh, let us all watch, for the Son of Man comes, and He comes at midnight. Even if it is not midnight now, it is already late.
And since all these things are so, allow me, Honorable and Beloved, to leave you with an exhortation that is no different from what the Psalmist presents to you in the 24th Psalm: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." Gates, as you know, are where the Magistrate sits. The Temple door was called the Everlasting door, in contrast to the door of the Tabernacle, which was only temporary. The Psalmist here speaks of Christ's Kingdom and Lordship on earth in verse 1: "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof, the world and they that dwell therein." Then He will have a Church and a precious people. "Who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in His holy place?" he asks in verse 3, and answers generally: "He that hath clean hands and a pure heart." More specifically, at verse 6, "This is the generation of them that seek Him, that seek Thy face, O Jacob."
The Children of Israel had two names; sometimes they were called Israel when they were in a more flourishing and strong condition, and sometimes they were called Jacob when they were in a low and weak condition. "Fear not, O worm Jacob," they were called. Now, says the Psalmist here, "The earth is the Lord's, and Christ shall reign, and the poor, despised Israel, who are now in a low condition and called Jacob, shall be converted and ascend unto the hill of God." Therefore, my advice and counsel to you are that as the Lord Jesus makes any approach to your towns, cities, kingdoms, and churches, you should receive Him and not shut your gates and doors against Him. "O all you cities, towns, and magistrates, lift up your heads! Lift up your heads, O ye gates! And all you temple-men and churches, lift up your everlasting doors, that this King of glory may come in. And if you ask who it is, it is the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle; therefore, lift up your heads." And because this exhortation is of great consequence, and people are slow to receive it, I exhort you to it again at verse 9: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, even lift them up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in." May the Lord grant that we may all lift up our heads and gates in such a way that this King of glory may come among us, not as a judge to condemn us, but as our Bridegroom to love us.