Mark 13:37

The circumstances under which these words were uttered imparted to them peculiar solemnity. Our Lord had left the temple for the last time, and in the waning light was walking home to Bethany, when he sat himself down to gaze with lingering love on Jerusalem. The evening sun was still glorifying her palaces; but the light was fading, darkness was coming; and he talked with his disciples of darker shadows about to fall, which would leave her bereft of the light of God. But he looked beyond that - to the time when he would return from the "far country," and, gathering his servants around him, would give each one recompense according as his work should be. During his absence he has given "to every man his work." This clause suggests several thoughts concerning Christian service.

I. THE UNIVERSALITY OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE. It is appointed for "every man" who is in the Lord's household. God works in us in order that we may will and do of his good pleasure. He gives us love to others, and understanding of his Word, an experience of his faithfulness, mental and spiritual faculties, in order to fit us for serving him. Science teaches us that natural agents are so closely related that they are mutually convertible. Motion passes into heat, heat into electricity, electricity into magnetism, magnetism into animal force, and so on in an endless circle. In the sphere of nature God arouses no force which does not arouse another; and though the primal energy passes on into many manifestations, it does not return to him void. So is it in the spiritual realm. He excites in your heart love to Christ, and that arouses thought about him, speech concerning him, activity for him; and these go forth like advancing waves of influence into the lives of others, and none can foresee the end. The Church is not meant to be like the phantom ship of which the poet sings, manned by a dead crew; but is likened to a living "household," in which all the servants are eager, watchful, and diligent; for their Lord has,given "to every man his work." (Show the variety of capacities distributed amongst the old and young, the rich and poor, and the diverse forms of Christian service to which these point.)


1. Earnestness. Too often this is fitful. It passes from us uselessly when in contact with the worldly, just as electricity passes off when insulation has been neglected. We want insulation of spiritual force. A modern Christian, surrounded by symbols of idolatry, would not always have "his spirit stirred" within him as Paul did at Athens. The present age is enlightened rather than enthusiastic; self-complacent rather than self-sacrificing.

2. Love to Christ and love to souls is the true inspiration of successful Christian service. It is gained at the foot of the cross.

"A life of self-renouncing love
Is a life of liberty."

3. Constancy. Such as Paul had, who, amid temptations to indolence, and amid persecutions which might have made him falter, pressed forward steadfastly. "This thing I do" was the motto of his life. Is it ours?

4. Watchfulness. A special exhortation to this lies in the passage before us. Let us watch

(1) for opportunities of service,

(2) for results of work, and

(3) for the coming of the Lord.


1. There is blessing to be found in doing it. On the inactive mind and irresolute will doubts will gather, as limpets do on a motionless rock. Powers fairly exercised, whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual, develop by use.

2. There is blessing awaiting us when we have done it. It was not without reason that our Lord spoke (ver. 28) of the signs of his coming as being like the indications that "summer is nigh." His advent will be to his people not a winter, but a summer, from which gloom and death will be banished, and in which there will be fruit-gathering after toil, and manifestation of beauty and glory arising from the discipline of the past. That summer the faithful! The world is ripening for it. Our work is preparing for it. Then shall the faithful reap fruit unto life eternal. - A.R.

And what I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch.
I. IN WHAT DOES THIS WATCHFULNESS CONSIST? Consider it in reference to the coming of Christ, and our solemn appearance before Him. In this respect it implies —

1. Thoughtfulness. Sinners are so intent upon buying and selling that they have neither time nor inclination to think of anything else. It would be an interruption and disturbance to them to be told of Christ's coming. Every incident of life should bring it to remembrance. When we rise in the morning, it is natural for us to think, "Perhaps before night I may be at the end of my journey."

2. But watchfulness also implies preparation.


1. Because many are called, and few are chosen, In every field there are tares as well as wheat; in every church sinners and saints are blended together. Watch, therefore, commune with your own heart, and let your spirit make diligent search.

2. Because so many about you are slothful.

3. Because you know not the day, nor the hour, when the Son of Man cometh. Watch, therefore, while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you.

4. Because blessed are the dead which die ill the Lord.

(S. Lavington.)

A prompt resistance of temptation, or a prompt repentance of sin as soon as committed, will commonly extinguish the flames. A few buckets of water dashed on the fire as soon as it kindled in De Koven Street would have saved Chicago from ruin in 1871. Had David exercised, at the right moment, one half of the grace which afterwards penned the fifty-first Psalm, he would have saved his own character and Uriah's life. The same rule of safety applies alike to sin and to fire; the first spark must be extinguished. When a man's whole soul is on fire, and the fabric of his character has been consumed, it is too late for prevention to use its apparatus. The ruined structure may be rebuilt by penitence and prayerful living, but many precious things have perished, never to be restored. A dear friend in St. John writes me that he shall rebuild his house, but the superb library, the pictures, and the keepsakes are gone forever. The reformed inebriate may save the remnant of his life; but the best days of it are in ashes. Wherefore the Omniscient Master has uttered the solemn admonition, "I say unto you all, watch!"

(Dr. Cuyler.)

And the words which the German Commentator wrote over his study door in Hanover, "Always to be ready," become the motto of Christian lives. And this, because the unusual is forever happening. The providences of storm, accident, and disease; of prosperity and loss, life and death — all or any one of them may come in a day. The contingencies of life therefore must needs be reckoned on in all our estimates. The route of our journeying was mapped out, the trunks were packed and the day of our departure fixed; but a child fell sick, or the mail that morning brought a message of death, and our plans were changed. Or, weary with long labour, and with wealth enough and well invested, we plan to spend the afternoon of life in ease and culture; but a panic comes, the bank fails, and debtors default, and unexpectedly we are pushed back again into the treadmill of anxious toil. Or, we counted on the schedule time and a close connection, but the train was a half hour late, and so we missed the boat and lost the holiday.

(W. H. Davis.)

For the smith's apron, the baker's cap, the labourer's blue jeans, and the housewife's gown are all suitable material for ascension robes. And he watches best for his Lord's coming who does the duty and the service which lie next to him, with fidelity to men and love to God. Be that duty with ploughs or day books, in the office with its briefs, or in the school room with its classes, or busy with railroads and mines, with homes or farms, no matter, if the currents of purpose sweep heavenward and the graces of faith and hope and love are in the heart. As Israel Putnam left the plough in the furrow and mounted a field horse when the bugle sounded for the rallying at Cambridge; as the minute men of Middlesex left workshop and farm at Paul Revere's call to Lexington, so the Master would have men work and watch.

(W. H. Davis.)


1. The mind must be awake, the understanding, the rational powers. In order to this it is essential that the powers should be exercised; in other words, that the man should think. To be mentally awake there must be life, spontaneous action, and coherence in the thoughts. But this is not enough. The mind may be awake in one sense and yet dreaming in another. Some men's minds operate too fast, and some too slow. Some attempt to discover what has not been revealed of the future; some think too late. The mind must think seasonably. It must also act upon the proper objects, or it might just as well not act at all. The powers of many are in active exercise, but they are spent on trifles, on puzzles in theology. It thinks to no practical purpose.

2. The conscience as well as the intellect must be awake — the moral as well as the purely intellectual faculties. There must be perception not only of what is true, but of what is right. There must be liveliness of affection no less than of intellect. We must not only feel bound, but feel disposed to do the will of God. When the man thinks in earnest, seasonably of right objects and to practical purpose — when he feels his obligations and his failures to discharge them — when he earnestly desires, and sincerely loves, what he admits to be true and binding — then he may be said, in the highest spiritual sense, to be awake.

II. BE ON YOUR GUARD. The importance of the charge committed to our care. Although essential, it is not enough to be awake. The sentry is awake; but he is more, he is upon his guard — his mind is full of his important trust. The sentry may look for danger only in one quarter, and be overtaken by it from another direction. The danger is a complex one. He may even find the enemy within the city while he looks without. The soul may expose itself to ruin, not only by actually falling asleep, but by want of proper caution when awake — by forgetting the danger or by underrating it — by admitting its reality, but losing sight of its proximity, by looking for it from one quarter, but forgetting that it may proceed from others, by looking at a distance when the enemy is near at hand. If asked, "Who is the enemy against which spiritual vigilance is called for," I reply, "His name is Legion."

III. HOW SHALL WE OBEY THIS DUTY? It is natural to ask, Is there not some safeguard, some tried means of spiritual safety, that will at once secure our vigilance and make it efficacious? Yes, there is such a talisman, and its name is prayer, that settled bent of the affections which makes actual devotion not a rare experience, but the normal condition of the soul.

(J. A. Alexander, D. D.)

Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.

1. We must watch against sin.

2. We must guard against the world.

3. We must watch against the temptations of the devil.


1. We have to discharge all the duties we owe to God, and our fellow Christians and neighbours; to improve all our talents wisely and faithfully.

2. We must watch to do all the good that God has commanded us.

3. We must watch to do good in its proper season.

4. We must watch to do good in the appointed manner.Application:

1. How naturally prone we are to become secure and careless.

2. That without watchfulness we shall become an easy prey to our worst enemy.

3. Without this we can perform no duty that will be acceptable to God.

4. Let us join prayer to watchfulness.

(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

I suppose you never heard of a man of the name of Thomas Bilby. He was the man who wrote that beautiful hymn —

"Here we suffer grief and pain,

Here we meet to part again;

In heaven we part no more.

Oh! that will be joyful,

When we meet to part no more!"He wrote it for me. He wrote it for the first "children's service" I ever held. That was forty-five years ago, since I held my first "children's service." I was at Chelsea. I may be wrong, but I believe that was the first "children's service" ever held in the Church of England. I had heard of "catechising" before, but I had not heard of "children's services." Mr. Bilby wrote that hymn for me, for my first "children's service." He was my infant schoolmaster. Before then he had been a private in the Coldstream Guards, but he became a religious man, was converted while in the army. There were several religious men in the same regiment, and they were very much observed by all the other soldiers, who watched them to see if they acted in any wrong way, because they called themselves Christians. So they watched that little society, these few religious men in the army, and if ever any one of the little band should see another going to do anything wrong, get into a bad temper, use a bad word, or going to fight with another soldier, he would go and whisper to that man, "Watch!" No one else could hear it. Mr. Bilby told me that that was the rule among the Christians in the Coldstream Guards.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Oh! there are so many places where we must watch. There was a city in Italy, I daresay you know of it, where, more than a thousand years ago, the lava from Mount Vesuvius came all over the city, and covered it completely with thick lava. I have been there, and seen it. A thousand years after that happened, it was discovered, the city was excavated, and they dug out many of the things that were therein. Amongst other things that were discovered, there was a man, a soldier, a sentinel at his post. A thousand years before, that man had been killed at his post by the lava, and there he was found, a sentinel still at his post! A lesson to us. A great deal more than a thousand years after, he was found still at his post. Let us be found at our post, wherever God has placed us, when He comes; when this world is covered, as it will be, with fire, may we be found faithful at our posts!

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Oh! the danger may come in a very different way from the way you expect. Did you ever read AEsop's Fables? I will tell you one of a doe that was blind of one eye (have you read the story?); this doe was very cunning and clever, for she knew which eye was blind, and down the path which the doe used to go she always kept her blind eye to the sea and her good eye to the land, because it was from the land the doe thought the danger would come. So the doe always kept the blind eye to the sea and the good eye to the land. One day a poacher, who knew all about that, got a boat and went out in the boat on the sea, and from the boat he shot the poor doe; and as the poor doe was dying, she said, so the fable goes, "Unhappy watcher! poor me! My danger came from where I never expected it, and there was no danger where I did expect it!" You may be like that poor blind doe: the danger comes where you don't expect it! Do you know where to expect the danger? "Watch!" I believe a hare when it lies in the grass always tries to see out of its eyes backwards; he thinks the danger will come from behind, therefore he so fixes his eyes and puts his ears back that he cannot see what is before; he is always looking back. Your danger comes every way. Another thing I want you to watch against is wandering thoughts.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)





(T. Heath.)

Most persons know what watching is. There are few who have not learned it by experience. In nights of sickness or sleeplessness you have watched for the morning. You have watched for the coming of expected friends. If they have been long separated from you, if they have gone to a far country, how anxiously you await the day of their return! It is a work of love to make your home bright and cheerful for them, and sometimes you gather flowers that they may add their greeting to yours. But, alas! how much of this earthly watching ends in disappointment! The ship that is bringing the absent one home goes down, and the longed-for sound of the familiar step and voice is waited for in vain. Ambitious souls lay plans and watch for success. Oftener than otherwise those plans fail and come to nothing. There has been more than one mother of a Sisera, whose son has gone out into the world flushed with the expectation of victory in some field of noble strife. She has looked through the lattice of her humble retirement for the return of his chariot, and for a division of the honour gained, and kept on gazing and expecting, not knowing that he has fallen a captive to temptation, and that his soul was pierced through, nailed to the earth, and dead...Most of our earthly watching is, after all, sad and fruitless. It always is, provided we look only for what this world can bring and preserve in our keeping. But blessed is he that watches for Jesus, and for His coming. That coming will be indeed a blessed morning, the bringing in of an eternal day, one through all of whose sunny hours no more sickness or pain will be felt. It will restore our absent ones to us, in a home better than any here, a mansion bright and fragrant; with flowers fairer than any of earth. It will mark the victorious return of every true soldier of the Cross, and his joyous coronation. It will reveal the multiplied richness and value of every treasure given into the Lord's hand.

(E. E. Johnson, M. A.)

The first advent is the pivot on which all turns for the life below; the second advent will be the point round which all will be grouped for the life above. Faith looks back at the Cross, and finds peace. Hope looks forward to the coronation, and gathers strength. Meanwhile the Master's eye and heart are towards His people, and He gives this motto.


1. The tendency of the body to induce sleep.

2. The influence of the world to beget sloth.

3. The design of the enemy to rob us while we slumber.


1. Waiting.

2. Working.

3. Worshipping.


1. Marry a glorious sight is missed by those who will not watch.

2. The night watches give an insight into depths of space.

3. The morning watches tell of unthought glories in the Sun of Righteousness.

4. The men who watch look out of self.


1. Time is too precious to waste in sleep.

2. A restless conscience.

3. A longing desire.

4. A burning hope.

(J. Richardson.)

I. AGAINST SIN. Put on the Christian soldier's armour to preserve you from the fiery darts of the wicked. Be in earnest. You may be armed from head to foot, and yet false in your Christianity. Some time since I remember walking across the tesselated pavement of a grand hall in the mansion of one of England's noblest born. In a niche I saw, by the light which streamed through the painted glass of an oriel window, a statue. I thought at first it was a man. I walked across the pavement, and drew near to examine the figure. He had upon his head a helmet of iron; the vizor was drawn down over his face, concealing the features; he held on his arm a long shield that reached to the very ground; in his hand was grasped an iron sword, double edged; he wore on his bosom a strong breastplate; his limbs were covered with greaves and rings; his feet were also shod with iron. I drew near, and began to examine this well-protected figure. Presently, to my surprise, I saw something protruding; it was a piece of straw. On walking round, I saw some more straw sticking out through the greaves of the armour. I soon found this was a man in armour — if you will, — but stuffed with straw. And so, there may be many armed with the spiritual panoply — ready to quote texts, apt with religious arguments, apparently respectable and sincere, — whose religion is false, hollow, and worthless. Unless you are watching against all inroads of the enemy, and pressing onward in the battle, you are none of Christ's.

II. AGAINST TEMPTATION. Satan comes in many guises. Be on the lookout. Don't let him deceive you with specious arguments and seductions.

III. FOR SOULS. Seek to turn others into the right way. Draw them by love and with care. Do not let an opportunity slip, or you will regret it forever. There was one whose hand I held in mine; with whom I trod — the narrow way that leadeth unto life? No — the broad road that leadeth unto hell; and he has departed, he has been removed beyond the reach of my voice. I will tell you how it was. Bred early to a knowledge of God, I became a backslider, and I wandered with him for years in the road that leads to hell. I left this country, and wandered over the shores of Mexico, Texas, the West Indies, and through the Caribbean Seas; and then returned home, after having been a long while away. I went to where my friend lived, and asked, "Where is so and so?" The person hesitated. "Where is he? Is he here, or in another part of the country?" The person turned pale. I said, "Tell me — I must have it — where is he?" "Well," was the reply, "he is dead." "Dead!" I felt petrified. Then I demanded, "Where did he die?" The person said, "He went up to London; there he ran a course of dissipation, and then he was suddenly cut off by the hand of God." Now, do you know, I have never lost the remembrance of that. Sometimes I close my door and go on my knees in prayer, and beseech God to blot out the black mark. And sometimes, when I lie down to sleep, I see staring at me through the gloom a pale face that I know — it is the face of that damned man. Aye, methinks, if he might speak, he would curse me; he would say, "God curse you!" "Why?" "Because you might have preached to me Christ Jesus; and now I am lost." Let not this reproach be cast upon you.

IV. FOR CHRIST. With affection. With patience. With perseverance.

(H. G. Guinness.)

There is nothing more certain than death; nothing more uncertain than the time of dying. I will therefore be prepared for that at all times which may come at any time, and must come at one time or another. I shall not hasten my death by being still ready, but sweeten it. It makes me not die the sooner, but the better.

(A. Warwick.)

Men hear these warnings as general discourses, and let them pass so; they apply them not; or, if they do, it is readily to some other person. But they are addressed to all, that each one may regulate himself by them: and so these Divine truths are like a well-drawn picture, which looks particularly upon everyone, amongst the great multitude, that looks at it.

(Archbishop Leighton.).

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