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none,” knowing that earthly relations, the closest and most endearing, must soon be dissolved ; “ they who weep as though they wept not,” knowing that earthly sorrows, however deep, shall soon be over for ever; "they who rejoice as though they rejoiced not,” knowing that earthly delights, however exquisite, are shadowy, uncertain, short-lived ; “ those who buy as though they possessed not,” knowing that human possessions are insecure and unsatisfactory, that,
as we brought nothing into the world, we can carry nothing out of it," and feeling that “a man's life consists not in the abundance of his possessions ;” “they who use this world as not abusing it,” knowing that we must give account to the Supreme Judge for the use of our property; and that, unimportant as this wealth is in itself, it is awfully important viewed as connected with eternity. The great truth that “the fashion of the world passeth away,” and that “the things which are unseen are eternal,” will be allowed the full influence which a sound, prudent, wise mind perceives it ought to have on the whole of the temper and conduct. This is Christian sobriety.
The substance of the Apostle's exhortation, then, is, ' Exercise a sound mind, a mind enlightened and transformed by Christian truth in reference to both worlds; and exhibit its practical conclusions in your wise and prudent conduct, especially in your habitual moderation in thought, feeling, and action with regard to things seen and temporal, the influence of which intoxicates and infatuates the great body of mankind, and makes them act the part of children and fools.'
$ 2.“ Watching unto prayer." The second duty enjoined by the Apostle is watching unto prayer. Prayer is well defined in our Shorter Catechism to be, “the offering up of the desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins and thankful acknowledgment of his mercies.” This is a primary, essential duty of religion. It is the natural expression of that state of mind and heart, of thought and affection, in which religion consists. It is to religion what breath is to life. It betokens its existence, and it is the means of its continuance. It is very clearly enjoined and very strongly enforced, both by our Lord and his apostles; “ Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you: for every one that asketh, receiveth ; and he that seeketh, findeth ; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.” “ Men ought always to pray," to continue praying, “and not to faint.” “Be careful about nothing: but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your request known to God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” “Continue instant in prayer.” “Pray without ceasing.” “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” “ Is any man afflicted ? let him pray.”1
11 Cor. vii. 29-31.
This important duty is not, however, that which the Apostle here enjoins. His command is not, Pray; but Watch unto prayer. He takes it for granted that they did pray, that they could not but pray; but he is anxious that their prayers should be such as to gain in the highest degree the important ends of prayer. It deserves notice that the word prayer is in the plural form. It is watch unto prayers.? Some have supposed that the Apostle refers here to the four species of devotional exercise which Paul mentions in his Epistle to Timothy, “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.”3 John Huss is probably nearer the truth when he finds emphasis in the mode of expression, and says, “ Watch unto prayers, not to one, but many, for 'men ought always to pray, and not to faint.'” That prayers are to be offered, habitually offered, the Apostle counts certain. He is not a Christian at all who does not pray, habitually
1 Matt. vii. 7,8. Luke xviii. 1. Phil. iv. 6, 7. Col. iv. 2. 1 Thess. v. 17. James v. 13, 16. 2 Εις τας προσευχής.
3 1 Τim. ii. 1. Διησεις, τροσευχας, εντευξεις, ευχαριστιας.
pray. But he is desirous that they should “watch unto prayer.”
The language is peculiar. What is its meaning? what is meant by watching ? what is meant by watching unto prayer? First, what is meant by watching? This is not the word which is most frequently used to express the idea of watching, as a shepherd does his flock, or a sentinel that committed to his charge. In the original signification it refers rather to a physical state of the body and mind, rather than to a moral state of the mind. It is descriptive of that state in which all the faculties are awake and active, as opposed to the state of delusion and stupor which intoxication induces; and answers nearly to our word sober, in the limited sense in which it is often used. It is always, in the New Testament, employed to express a state of mind. What that state of mind is, will best appear in this, as in the previous case, by attending to the comparatively few instances in which the word, and those connected with it, occur in the New Testament. “Awake to righteousness and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak it to your shame;"? that is, shake off the mental delusion and stupor in which the intoxication of error has involved you, that, with clear and excited faculties, you may attend to this most important subject. “Let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober ;"3 the same word as we have here, that is, be wakeful ; let us watch, and, that we may watch, let us be wakeful. “Let us who are of the day be sober," the same word, be wakeful, “not sleep, as do others." “ A bishop must be sober, vigilant," wakeful; same word we have here. “ The bishops' wives," or the female superintendents, it may be either, “ must be,” not slanderers, but “ sober," 5 the same word. It is difficult to see why our translators should have rendered the same word, when used of male superintendents, vigilant, when
Nrfati, not reagopnoati, as ch. v. 7. 31 Thess. v. 6-8.
41 Tim. iii. 2.
21 Cor. xv. 34.
used of female superintendents, sober. In both cases wakeful vigilance is the idea : “But watch thou in all things." Keep awake, and be active in the discharge of all thy duties.
“Speak the words that become sound doctrine, that the aged men be sober,”? vigilant in the margin. The only other places where the word occurs in the New Testament, is in this Epistle: “Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober,"3 where the idea of wakefulness or vigilance seems better to suit the context than sobriety, either in its stricter or more extended meaning.“ Be sober, be vigilant;"4 be wakeful, and not only be wakeful, but actively watch. From all these passages it seems plain that the Apostle's exhortation is, Be wakeful, be on the alert ; look around you ; with excited attention actively exert your mind.
But what are we to understand by being watchful, or watching unto prayer? The phrase has received two translations. Be watchful in prayer, that is, while engaged in prayer; and be watchful, in order to prayer. There can be no doubt that they misinterpret the passage who refer it to the vigils or nightly prayers of the ancient church. This is an interpretation which very properly may take its place alongside of that which would render repent by do penance. The primitive Christians were obliged to have their common “ prayers," as well as “the doctrine” and “the breaking of bread,” during the night, for they durst not assemble during the day. But there does not seem any reference to that here, which was indeed more a mere matter of necessity than of choice; not a duty in itself, but only in the particular circumstances in which they are placed. All that is included in either of the two renderings mentioned, and something more, is expressed in a translation, which, if the words do not demand, they certainly admit. “ Be watchful, or watch in reference to prayer."
Vigilance requires to be exerted in reference to every duty. We need to watch as to the principles in which they originate, the manner in which they are performed, the motives which influence us in performing them, the end we seek to gain by performing them. But there is special need of vigilance in reference to prayer. Christians should be watchful in reference to proper subjects of prayer, to fit opportunities for prayer, as to hinderances from prayer, as to the proper manner of
i 2 Tim. iv. 5. 3 1 Pet. i. 13.
2 Tit. ii. 2. 11 Pet. v. 8.
and as to the results or consequences of prayer.
The attention of Christians should be actively alive to the circumstances, in the world, in the church, in the various spheres of relative duty which they occupy, in their own individual experience, which ought to be made the subjects of prayer; and in every case see that what they pray for be agreeable to God's will, something they are warranted to ask, and which he has promised to grant. They should look at every thing in this particular aspect, that so“ in every thing they may in prayer and supplication make their requests known to God.” They should wakefully observe what may be fit opportunities for escaping from the world to hold communion with God, that they may carefully improve them. Thus did David watch unto prayer, when he said, “ As for me, I will call upon God, and the Lord shall save me. Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and He shall hear my voice."
They should watch against worldliness of mind, and especially against wilful transgressions, remembering that, “ if we regard iniquity in our heart, God will not hear us.” 1
They should watch in reference to the manner of prayer when engaged in it; taking care that it is prayer, and not merely saying prayers; that they serve him who is a Spirit, with their spirits “in spirit and truth ;” that they “present a living sacrifice;” that they “yield rational worship;” that they“ pray in the Spirit,” depending on the promised inAuence of the Holy Ghost as “the Spirit of
1 Psal. ly. 17; lxvi. 18.