Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 4:7 - 4:7

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Peter 4:7 - 4:7


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NEARNESS TO DEATH A MOTIVE TO WATCHFULNESS

1Pe_4:7. The end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

THE office of the Gospel is, not to fill the mind with notions, but to renew the heart, and sanctify the life. It is true indeed, that the smallest conformity to its precepts will cause us to be loaded with obloquy and derision by an ungodly world [Note: ver. 4.]: but it furnishes us with very sufficient motives to disregard the censures of men, and to devote ourselves unreservedly to God [Note: This seems to be the meaning of the verse before the text.]. The nearness of death and judgment is of itself an irresistible argument for maintaining an indifference to earthly things, and for exerting ourselves to the uttermost to secure a happy eternity. Such is the scope of the Apostle’s words; in commenting on which we shall notice,

I.       The declaration—

[It is possible that St. Peter, in speaking of “the end of all things,” might have some reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, which was fast approaching, and to the consequent annihilation of the Jewish polity. But it is more probable that he referred to the end of the world, which was generally represented as so near, that St. Paul was obliged to rectify the mistake which had arisen in the minds of the Thessalonians with respect to it [Note: 2Th_2:2-3.]. We may however justly consider it as relating to the hour of death, which is to every man “the end of all things” here below. Death terminates our joys and honours, how elevated soever they may be — — — It puts a period also to our hopes and prospects, be they ever so bright and well-founded — — — It incapacitates us also for carrying into effect all our purposes and endeavours. We may have seen the vanity of earthly things, and have formed a resolution to withdraw our affections from them, and to prosecute with care the things belonging to our everlasting peace: we may have actually begun to execute our purposes: we may have begun to pay more attention to divine ordinances, than we have done in past times, and to read some religious books, and to cultivate an acquaintance with some pious characters, in hopes of getting instruction from them, and of furthering thereby our eternal interests: but death will cut short all these good beginnings, and leave us cause to bewail to all eternity that we had deferred the concerns of our souls so long. The very instant death comes, there is no more room for repentance; no more shall the tidings of salvation through a crucified Redeemer sound in our ears; no more will the Holy Spirit strive with us to bring us to God; the time for repentance is past; the offers of salvation are closed; the day of grace is come to an end; and nothing remains for the soul but to weep and bewail its folly in hell for ever and ever — — —

This period is nigh “at hand” to every one of us. If our life were prolonged to the age of Methuselah, the space would be only as the twinkling of an eye in comparison of eternity [Note: 2Pe_3:8.]: but it is contracted to a very narrow span; nor can we be sure that it shall continue even to the expiration of the present day: so justly may it be said in reference to all of us, “The end of all things is at hand.”]

The consideration of this solemn truth may well prepare us for,

II.      The exhortation grounded upon it—

1.       Be sober—

[Sobriety does not merely import temperance with relation to meat and drink, but moderation with regard to our desire of earthly things, or our enjoyment of them. Our minds are apt to be very strongly fixed on the things of time and sense; we are fascinated with the prospect of some pleasure, some honour, some emolument, for the attainment of which we labour day and night, and in the possession of which we are ready to say, “Soul, take thine ease.” But should we do thus, if we considered how transient our enjoyment of them will be? Should we not rather sit loose to the things of this world, seeking them as though we sought them not, and using them as though we used them not [Note: 1Co_7:29-31.]? Let us then cultivate this spirit [Note: Php_4:5.]. We need not on this account relax our diligence in our earthly vocations; for diligence is our bounden duty [Note: Ecc_9:10.], and will consist very well with the devoutest frame, and most ardent exertions in the Lord’s service [Note: Rom_12:11.]: but “the affections must be set on things above, and not on things below [Note: Col_3:2.].”]

2.       Watch unto prayer—

[Prayer is indispensably necessary for the salvation of the soul. Without prayer, we can obtain nothing from God, no pardon of sin, no strength for obedience, no preparation for eternity. If we live without prayer, we shall die without hope. But it is no easy matter to persevere in prayer. We can complain to a fellow-creature with ease and fluency: but the moment we attempt to express our wants in prayer to God, our minds wander to the very ends of the earth, and our mouths are shut before him. Any trifling occurrence is sufficient to divert us from prayer: and we postpone this duty from time to time, under the idea of having some more favourable opportunity for the performance of it. But would it be thus with us, if we were duly impressed with the shortness and uncertainty of time? Even the most abandoned malefactors will weep and pray when their execution is drawing nigh: and should not we, if we felt that “the end of all things is at hand?” Let us then watch against every thing that may either divert us from prayer, or distract us in it: yea, let us watch that our prayers be such as our necessities require, and such as God will accept. Let them be offered up with constancy, with fervour, and with faith. And the nearer we approach to our latter end, the more “abundant let us be in supplication and thanksgivings.”]

Application—

[To the elder part of this assembly one would think it should be needless to add any thing on this subject: for they who have already lived out half their days, must feel (one would imagine) that their “time is short.” But, alas! even the aged need to be reminded of this obvious truth, and to be stirred up to improve their few remaining hours. Yes, even they often become more worldly with their advancing years, and manifest as great a backwardness to spiritual duties as they did in the earlier part of their existence. If one of this character be present, may God impress upon his mind a sense of his guilt and folly, and awaken him from his slumbers, ere it be too late! — — —

To the younger part, who dream of months and years to come, it is more obviously necessary to repeat the warning in the text. You are apt to think and say, “It is time enough yet for me to seek after God.” But “have you made a covenant with death?” have you been assured that neither disease nor accident shall cut you off in the bloom of life? Look around you, and see how many of your own age are gone within your remembrance [Note: Here any recent deaths may be adverted to, and the circumstances of them, if peculiar, be specified.]. And what if death had seized on you, instead of them; where had you been at this moment? I entreat you, if you have any regard for your own souls, consider this. Put the question to your conscience, and answer it faithfully in the sight of God: and then look at the direction given you by God himself: “Be sober,” and moderate in your attachment to the things of time; and “watch unto prayer,” that you “may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”