Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Thessalonians 5:8 - 5:8

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Charles Simeon Commentary - 1 Thessalonians 5:8 - 5:8


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DISCOURSE: 2204

THE DUTIES OF MODERATION AND WATCHFULNESS

1Th_5:8. Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.

THE exact season of the day of judgment is wisely hid from our eyes. If it were revealed to us, there is no reason to think that we should make a right improvement of that knowledge. The uncertainty of its arrival is far better calculated to excite our diligence in religious duties, because, while we are told that it will come as surely, as irresistibly, and as unexpectedly too, as a thief in the night, or as travail upon a woman with child, we see the necessity of continual watchfulness and preparation for it. The world at large indeed will rest in supineness and security, in spite of every warning that is given them: but they who profess to fear God should manifest a different spirit, and, as persons apprised of their danger, should ever stand upon their guard. To this effect the Apostle exhorts us in the text; in discoursing on which we shall consider,

I.       The description given of believers—

The careless world are in a state of intellectual and moral darkness—

[The light of divine truth has not shined into their hearts, nor have the clouds of nature’s darkness been dispelled. “They call evil good, and good evil; and put darkness for light, and light for darkness [Note: Isa_5:20.].” Their lives too abound with deeds of darkness; “nor will they come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.”]

As contrasted with them, believers “are of the day”—

[They have been “brought out of darkness into the marvellous light” of the Gospel, and are enabled to “discern between good and evil.” Their dispositions also are changed, so that they desire to “walk in the light, even as God is in the light;” and they “come to the light, that their deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” They see indeed much in themselves for which they have reason to be ashamed: but they would gladly attain to such purity of heart, that their inmost thoughts and principles, no less than their actions, should bear the minutest inspection of all their fellow-creatures.]

But that they are prone to relapse into their former state, is strongly intimated in,

II.      The exhortation addressed to them—

The children of darkness are represented in the preceding context as addicted to sloth and intemperance [Note: ver. 7.]; in opposition to which vices, believers are exhorted to “be sober,” that is, to exercise,

1.       Moderation—

[They who know not the vanity of earthly things may reasonably be expected to run to excess in their attachment to them, and their anxiety about them. But it ill becomes those who have been enlightened by the Spirit of God, to set their hearts upon such empty, unsatisfying, transient enjoyments. God would have them to “be without carefulness,” like “the birds of the air, that neither sow nor gather into barns.” He expects them to “set their affections rather on things above,” and to put forth the energy of their minds in the pursuit of objects worthy the attention of an immortal spirit. And though they may both rejoice and weep on account of present occurrences, yet they should “rejoice as though they rejoiced not, and weep as though they wept not, because the fashion of this world passeth away [Note: 1Co_7:29-31.].”]

2.       Vigilance—

[Others yield to sloth, because they see no occasion for activity: but believers know what numerous and mighty enemies they have to contend with: they see too, how short and uncertain their time is for accomplishing the work which God has given them to do: and of what infinite importance it is that, whenever called to appear before God, they should be able to give a good account of their stewardship: surely then they can find no time to loiter. They should rather exert themselves with all diligence; and, “whatsoever their hand findeth to do, they should do it with all their might.”]

This exhortation is at once illustrated and enforced by,

III.     The particular direction with which it is accompanied—

Believers, whatever they may have attained, are yet in a state of warfare—

[Their enemies, though often vanquished, are still ready to return to the charge: nor will they fail to take advantage of any unwatchfulness on our part: they know the places where we are most open to assault; nor have we any security against them but by guarding every pass, and standing continually on our watch-tower. Without such precautions the strongest would be overcome, and the most victorious be reduced to a miserable captivity.]

There is, however, armour, whereby they may become invincible—

[Faith, hope, and love, are the principal graces of the Christian; and, while he keeps them in exercise, they are as armour to his soul. Faith sees the things that are invisible, as though they were present to the bodily eyes: love fixes our hearts upon them: and hope both appropriates them to ourselves, and enables us to anticipate the enjoyment of them. Having these for our helmet and our breast-plate, our head and heart are secured. In vain does Satan suggest, that there is nothing beyond this present world, or nothing better than what he offers us, or that, if there be, we at least have no part in it. These fiery darts are instantly repelled; and we determine to continue our conflicts with him, till he is bruised under our feet.]

This armour therefore every believer must put on—

[In vain shall we hope to maintain our moderation and watchfulness, if we be not clothed with this divine panoply. Every day must we put it on afresh; or rather we must rest on our arms day and night. Nor must we use it only in the hour of conflict: we must, like good soldiers, habituate ourselves, to the use of it, even when we are not sensible of immediate danger, in order that, when called to defend ourselves, we may be expert and successful in the contest. We must be careful too that we never separate these pieces of armour; for, whether our head or heart were unprotected, our vigilant enemy would assuredly seize his opportunity to inflict a deadly wound. It is on the union of our graces that our safety depends. Whether we lay aside our faith, our love, or our hope, we are equally in danger. Let us then put them on daily, and preserve them in continual exercise, that we may fight a good fight, and be “more than conquerors through him that loved us.”]

This subject being altogether addressed to those who “are of the day,” we need only add a few words to those who “are of the night”—

[The warning given them in the context is well worthy of their deep attention. It is said, that “the day of the Lord shall overtake them as a thief in the night.” They He down in security, concluding that, because the ruffian has not hitherto disturbed their midnight slumbers, he never will: but at last he comes upon them to their terror, and spoils them to their confusion. Thus will the day of judgment, or, which is the same to them, the day of death, come upon the ungodly; and they will lose their souls, which it, should have been their daily labour to secure. Even believers need to be exhorted to sobriety, and must be vanquished, if they follow not the directions given them: what then must the unbeliever do, if he continue in his supineness? What hope can there be for him? Let all arise from their slumbers, and arm themselves for the battle. “It is high time for all of us to awake out of sleep: let us therefore put off the works of darkness, and put on the armour of light:” and let us war a good warfare, till “death itself is swallowed up in victory.”]