|by J. C. Ryle
THE Book of Jonah tells us that, when the ship in which he was fleeing to Tarshish was almost lost in a tempest, Jonah was down below, asleep.
How strange that sounds! The wind was howling above. The waves were roaring beneath. All around him were at their wits' end with fear. Death was close at hand. Jonah was not ready to die. He was fleeing from the presence of the Lord. Yet Jonah lay fast asleep. Reader are you sure you are not doing just the same thing about your soul? There is a sleep of the soul, as well as a sleep of the body. There are multitudes buried in this soul-sleep, and hanging over the brink of hell. Reader, perhaps you are one.
I dare say you are wide awake about temporal things. You read the newspapers. You have your head stored with earthly wisdom and useful knowledge. But very likely you have no heartfelt sense of sin, no peace or friendship with God, no experimental acquaintance with Christ, no meetness for heaven, no delight in the Sabbath, the Bible, and prayer. And yet you are a sinner, a dying sinner, a sinner going to meet Christ, a sinner going to be judged! What, - I would put it to your conscience as an honest man, - what is all this being asleep?
How long is this to go on? When do you mean to awake, and live as if you had a soul? When will you cease to hear as one who hears not? When will you give up running after shadows, and seek something substantial? When will you throw off the mockery of a religion that cannot satisfy, cannot comfort, cannot sanctify, cannot save, and will not bear a calm examination? When will you give up having a faith which does not influence your practice - having a book which you say is God's word, but treat it as if it were not - having the name of Christians, but knowing nothing of Christ? Oh! reader, when, when shall it once be?
Why not this very year? Why not this very day? Why not at once awake, and call upon your God, and resolve that you will sleep no longer? I set before you an open door. I set before you Jesus Christ the Saviour, who died to make atonement for sinners - Jesus who is able to save to the uttermost - Jesus willing to receive. The hand that was nailed to the cross is held out to you in mercy. The eye that wept over Jerusalem is looking on you with pity. The voice that has said to many wanderers, "Thy sins are forgiven," is saying to you, "Come to me." Go to Jesus first and foremost, if you would know what step to take. Think not to wait for repentance, and faith, and a new heart, but go to him just as you are. Go to him in prayer, and cry, "Lord, save me, or I perish. I am weary of sleeping: I would fain sleep no longer." Oh! wake, thou that sleepest, and Christ shall give thee light.
Sun, moon and stars are all witnessing against you; they continue according to God's ordinances, and you are ever transgressing them. The grass, birds, the very worms of the earth, are all witnessing against you; they fill their places in creation, and you do not. Sabbaths and ordinances, are continually witnessing against you; they are ever proclaiming that there is a God and a judgment, and you are living as if there were none. The tears and prayers of godly relations are witnessing against you; others are sorrowfully thinking you have a soul, though you seem to have forgot it. The very gravestones that you see every week are witnessing against you; they are silently witnessing, "Life is uncertain, time is short, the resurrection is yet to come - the Lord is at hand." All, are saying, Awake, awake, awake! Oh! reader, the time past may surely suffice you to have slept.
Awake to be wise. Awake to be safe. Awake to be happy. Awake, and sleep no more.
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