Ready and Waiting
See here what solemn thoughts the Lord Jesus Christ's return should raise in every mind. Think for a moment how little prepared the world is for such an event. Look at the towns and cities of the earth, and think of them. Mark how absorbed are men in the business of their callings. Banks, shops, law, medicine, commerce, railways, banquets, balls, theaters, - all and each are drinking up hearts and souls, and thrusting out the things of God. Think what a fearful shock would be the stoppage of all these things, - the sudden stoppage which will be in the day of Christ' appearing. Yet one day it shall be.
Look at the rural parishes of such a land as ours, and think of them. See how the minds of the majority are buried in farms and allotments, in cattle and corn, in rent and wages, in digging and sowing, in buying and selling; and then fancy the awful effect of a sudden cessation of all these things, - the final cessation which must be when Christ comes again to finish all things. Yet remember one day it shall be. Picture these things to your mind's eye; picture your own home, your own family, your own fireside, - picture, above all, your own feelings, your own state of mind. And then remember that this is the end to which the world is hastening; this is the way in which the world's affairs will be wound up. This is an event which might possibly happen in your own time; and surely you cannot avoid the conclusion that this second coming of Christ is no mere curious speculation, but is of vast importance to your soul.
Ah! some will say, I have no doubt: "This is all mere foolishness and nonsense. This is all extravagant fanaticism. Where is the likelihood, where is the probability of all this?"
Do not say so. Men said the same in the day of Noah and Lot; but they found to their cost that Noah and Lot were right. Do not say so. The apostle Peter foretold that men would talk so in the latter days. Do not fulfill his prophecy by your unbelief.
Where is the foolishness and fanaticism of that which I have been saying? I calmly say the present state of things will come to an end one day. Will any one deny that? Will any one say we are to go on as we do now for ever? I calmly say that Christ's coming will be the ending of the present state of things. I have said so because the Bible says it. I have calmly said that Christ's coming will be a sudden event, whenever it may be, and might possibly be in our own time. I have said so because thus and thus I find it written. If you do not like it, I am sorry for it. One thing only you must remember: you are finding fault with the Bible, not with me.
4. Learn, in the last place, that Christ's coming will make an immense change to all members of Christ's Church, both good and bad.
I draw that from the concluding portion of the parable, from the discovery of the foolish virgins that their lamps were gone out, from their anxious address to the wise, "Give us of your oil," from their vain knocking at the door when shut, crying, "Lord, Lord, open to us," from the happy admission of the wise who were ready to the marriage supper, in company with the bridegroom. All these points are food for thought. But I have no time to dwell on them particularly. I can only take one single broad view of all. To all who have been baptized in the name of Christ, - converted or unconverted believer or unbeliever, holy or unholy, godly or ungodly, wise or foolish, gracious or graceless, - to all, the second coming of Christ shall be an immense change.
It shall be an immense change to the ungodly, to the mere nominal Christian.
They will see the value of real heart-religion if they never saw it before; - "Give us of your oil," they will cry to the godly, "for our lamps are gone out."
Who does not know that spiritual religion never brings a man the world's praise? It never has done, and it never does. It entails the world's disapprobation, the world's persecution, the world's ridicule, the world's sneers. The world will let a man go to hell quietly, and never try to stop him. The world will never let a man go to heaven quietly - they will do all they can to turn him back. Who has not heard of nicknames in plenty bestowed on all who faithfully follow Christ? - Pietist, Methodist, saint, fanatic, enthusiast, righteous overmuch, and many more? Who does not know the petty family persecution which often goes on in private society in our own day. Let a young person go to every ball and theater and racecourse, and utterly neglect his soul, and no one interferes; no one says "Spare thyself," no one says "Be moderate - remember your soul." But let him begin to read his Bible and be diligent in prayers, let him decline worldly amusement and be particular in his employment of time, let him seek an evangelical ministry and live as if he had an immortal soul, - let him do this, and the probability is all his relations and friends will be up in arms. "You are going too far," "You need not be so very good," "You are taking up extreme lines," - this is the least that he will hear. Alas that it should be so, but so it is. These are ancient things. As it was in the days of Cain and Abel, as it was in the days of Isaac and Ishmael, even so it is now. They that are born after the flesh will persecute those that are born after the Spirit. The Cross of Christ will always being reproach with it. If a man will become a decided evangelical Christian he must make up his mind to lose the world's favors; he must be content to be thought by many a perfect fool.
But, brethren, all this will be at an end when Christ returns. The light of that day will show everything in its true colors; the scales will fall from the poor worldling's eyes. The value of the soul will flash on his astonished mind; the utter uselessness of a mere nominal Christianity will burst upon him like a thunderstorm. The blessedness of regeneration and faith in Christ and a holy walk will shine before him like "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Peres" on the wall. The veil will fall from his face; he will discover that the godly have been the wise, and that he has played the fool exceedingly; and just as Saul wanted Samuel when it was too late, and Belshazzar sent for Daniel when the kingdom was departing from him, so will the ungodly turn to the very men they once mocked and despised, and cry, "Give us of your oil, for our lamps have gone out."
But again, the ungodly will seek salvation earnestly when Christ returns, but not find it. They will find that opportunities once let slip shall never be regained. They will seek the oil of grace, they will knock at the door for admission, they will cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us," but all in vain.
Who does not know that thousands are urged to pray now, who never attempt it? They mean to do so one day, perhaps; they fancy it will never be too late to seek the Lord.
~J. C. Ryle~
(continued with # 16)