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FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT.
St. Mart. xxiv. 23, 27.
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ or there, believe
him not. Por as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be.
AGAIN, brethren, Advent is come round to us with its name of solemn warning. For Advent means comingthe coming of our Lord Jesus Christ-His coming in past time as a child in great humility, and His coming in time yet to be with power and great glory to be the Judge of both quick and dead.
It is with His second coming that we are most concerned at this season. What our Church seeks to impress on our minds above all things in all these Sundays in Advent, is the return of Jesus Christ to judge the world. That is the leading thought throughout our services, Christ is coming-His day is near the Lord is at hand. Other messages are also brought to us in Adventother instruction provided for our learning, but the message of messages is this, The day of the Lord is drawing nearer : the night of waiting is coming to its close : but a little while and He that cometh will come: and when He cometh His fan will be in His hand, that He may thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner, and burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
And such a message as this is full of warning-warning to old and young, to rich and poor, to master and servant. To all it speaks of getting ready, of making preparation, of looking well to our ways; of casting off the works of darkness, of putting on the armour of light, of walking honestly, soberly, righteously, godly; of living so that we may not be afraid to die—inay not find our heart fail us when the sign of the Son of Man is seen ; but may rather hail it with an awful joy, lifting up our heads in gladness because our redemption draweth
Such being the case, brethren, how shall we be better employed this morning than in contemplating the Christian's preparation for death and judgment-in considering what manner of men we ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness, who in a few years, or few months, or even a few hours, may be called hence and have to stand before the Son of man?
And here let me say, before we proceed further, that when I speak of the Son of man coming, and of His day day being at hand, I mean not that we are likely with our own eyes, and while living on this side the grave, to witness it. When the end of this world shall be I know
not, nor do I venture to offer any opinion about it. It seems to me worse than useless—an intruding into things too deep for man—to attempt to fix, as some have fixed in our own day, the exact period of the Lord's Second Advent. His own words in my text, appear to discourage such an attempt: Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo here is Christ, or there, believe him not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth unto the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
I would not then that we should credit too easily what we may hear now-a-days of the speedy close of the existing order of God's creation. I would not that we be shaken in mind or troubled, as that the day of Christin its final and complete sense,-is at hand. Such prophecies have been made in all ages since the beginning of the Gospel, and in all ages have been proved vain. Better surely to leave unsearched what is past our finding out. Better to abide waiting in all humbleness for the appearing of our Lord, but asserting nothing of His actual approach. Enough to know that in His time He will come : but whether in our day, or in the day of our descendants centuries upon centuries hence, is a question best left undetermined - Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, no, not the Son Himself, but the Father only.
What, then, you will ask, is the use of Advent? Why take such pains to announce that Christ is coming, if we have no certain clue to guide us in determining the time of His appearing ? Because, brethren, in one sense we may and can calculate with certainty about His Advent. The day of our death is to us severally, the Lord's Day. Then for good or for evil our state of probation is over—the things done in the body are ended—the stewardship we had received may be no longer ours—the Master is come and we are called to the reckoning. And about this day we are not left in any great doubt. We know when it must be at the furthest. We have, as we advance in life, clearer and clearer the sentence of death in ourselves. God gives us first one sign and then another of our approaching end. If we are young and in the enjoyment of health we are still liable to accidents and illnesses which may bring us down at any moment to an early grave. Then is it not high time to awake out of sleep 3 Is there not in the solemn name of the season a note of warning for us all? With but a few years at the most to remain—with death in a multitude of shapes pressing upon us to overcome us—sudden death, death by accident, death by disease, death in the natural course of old age—what folly to delay for a single hour the necessary preparation What a risk do we run of being caught unawares, and its tremendous consequences, who keep no look out—no patient watch for Christ; who are not faithful and zealous in His charge entrusted to us; do not live as those who must soon see their Judge, and give an account each of himself to God! And this leads me to speak of the preparation—the getting ready for death and judgment, which no wise Christian will neglect. What that is may be learnt from the Epistle so well chosen for our meditation at this time. I will but point out some particulars, recommending you to study the whole passage yourselves, and to lay the whole of it to heart.
First of all, the Apostle's advice to us as mortal and responsible creatures, is this, Owe no man anything but to love one another.
Owe no man anything. So far all will be agreed. The man of this world who is guided only by worldly principles, will feel disturbed at the thought of dying with his affairs unsettled. He has paid his way all along, and he would not like that any man should reflect on his memory for leaving debts behind him. The principle is a good one as far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. Money is but a poor and most imperfect measure of human obligations of what a man owes to his brother man. He who comforts himself on his death bed with the thought that he has paid his debts, because he owes nobody a farthing, runs hazard of being grievously deceived. Debts there surely are of which he has taken no account-debts that he might have discharged had he cared to do so—debts to his wife and children ; debts to his dependents ; debts to the poor and ignorant ; debts to his country; debts to God; debts deferred too late—which he can not wipe off in his last illness as mere money debts, by a writing of discharge—which have been accumulating year by year to an overwhelming amount, and now stand written against his name in the Book of Remembrance of the Almighty !
Those, I think, are the debts which the Apostle had