And the sixth angel poured out his vial on the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up…
How comes a thief? He comes secretly and unexpectedly; secretly, lest he be discerned, and then with all advantages of surprisal, that he may not be taken himself while he is taking others. So Christ is said to come to judgment. He comes suddenly and unexpectedly. When people will take no warning He watches the time of their destruction, so that here you have "the goodness and the severity of God" (Romans 11:22): first, His goodness is showed in that He will give warning in all dangers; but here is His severity also: when warning will not be taken, then He comes with judgment. Christ here says "He will come as a thief in the night," and this His coming is by reason of our unfaithfulness. And His coming is sudden, unless to some of His children that He prepares by warning. When He came into the world at His first coming there were but a few "waited for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25): the rest did not. When He comes to any man or nation in His judgments doth He find faith? No; He finds them blessing themselves that to-morrow shall be as to-day. All that have spiritual life, labour to be waking Christians and then watching Christians. What is the difference between men but that carnal men are sleepers and spiritual men are waking? And what is the difference of Christians that are good and that are not? The one is a watchful Christian and the other not so. Wherein is one better than another? As the one is more careful to avoid sin than another. To come, therefore, to some directions how to carry ourselves, and among others remember this: we should have this waking and watchful consideration that we have a soul immortal, and that we are for eternity; and whatever we do in the flesh that shall be ever with us; and how that shortly we are going to the tribunal seat. In all these respects we should labour to be watchful at all times, because that time in which we take liberty to ourselves may be the time of our surprisal. We should therefore watch at all times, in prosperity and adversity. We should watch against all the sins of our persons and the sins of the state we are in. Besides, if we use this course, we shall bring our souls to that awe as that they shall not dare to offend God, by reason they must come to be examined. And how will our souls be willing to be judged before Christ, when we are unwilling to set ourselves before ourselves? If we use this it will bring a holy awe upon our souls, because they know they must come to examination for every sin. But mark what follows: "Blessed is he that watches and keeps his garments close lest he walk naked."
1. First, know we have no garments of our own. Now it is thus in spiritual things. We have no garments of our own since the fall; but before we had. We have none now but original corruption that spreads over the soul. Besides that, men living unto years have another nature worse than the leprosy, custom. Here is all the clothing we have of ourselves; but for any spiritual good we must fetch it from Christ (Revelation 3:18).
2. Now the second thing is this, we having none of ourselves, therefore we must have garments; and when we have them we must keep them clean and close: "Blessed is he that keeps his garments close." For the first must be garments for defence; so in spiritual things there must be garments to defend us from the wrath of God, else we lie as naked to God's wrath as a man in a storm being naked lies open to the storm. We must have garments of amity and friendship now. Again, we must have garments for distinction. Now, garments do distinguish Christians at the day of judgment. Garments that are coverings must be all over of equal extent. They cover the whole man. So head, hands, and heart, all must be sanctified as well as justified. So that those that look upon a Christian should see nothing in him but somewhat of Christ, His words, His callings, His thoughts. And we must be clothed not only with garments, but armour, because we live in the midst of our enemies, by which we may perceive the necessity of the putting on of the one as well as the other. Now, as we must have garments and must keep them close, so also we must keep them from stains. The persons where these graces are may be defiled, but the graces are pure. We should, therefore, labour to keep our actions unspotted. The righteousness of Christ is an excellent garment, but it must be put on; and if we have Christ we have all. There is another thing intended in this Scripture. These are dangerous times, and there are spiritual cheaters abroad in the world. Therefore we should keep our profession close, and keep our truth and our judgments close, and get love into our affections; for we shall be set upon, and if we walk at large, then heretics and seducers will come between us and salvation, because our garments are not close. If a man will have any good by religion, he must cleave to religion. "Lest they walk naked, and men see their shame." All shame arises from this, that we do not keep our garments close. So long as truth and Christ by truth have a place in the soul, so long we are safe. Now to give some directions how to keep our garments close.
(1) Labour for convincing knowledge, because all grace comes into the soul by the light thereof. Grow, therefore, in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; and often propound queries to our judgments about the Word and sacraments. Am I able to maintain this truth I have been brought up in? And do I find them true to my soul, &c.
(2) Those that will have good gardens will have flowers of every kind, so a Christian must have graces of every kind. We must put on whole Christ for justification and sanctification, and we must add grace to grace; and when we have put on every grace we must keep them clean, and not defile our profession.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.