First. The Christian’s work is too curious to be done well between sleeping and waking, and too important to be done ill and slubbered over no matter how. He had need be awake that walks upon the brim of a deep river, or the brow of a steep hill. The Christian’s path is so narrow, and the danger is so great, that it calls for a nimble eye to discern and a steady eye to direct; but a sleepy eye can do neither. Look upon any duty or grace, and you will find it lie between Sylla and Carybdis —two extremes alike dangerous. Faith, the great work of God, cuts its way between the mountain of presumption and gulf of despair. Patience [is] a grace so necessary that we cannot be without it a day, except we would be all that while beside ourselves. This keeps us that we fall neither into the sleepy apoplexy of a blockish stupidity, which deprives the creature of its senses; nor into a raging fit of discontent, which hath sense enough, and too much, to feel the hand of God, but deprives the man of his reason, that he turns again upon God, and shoots back the Almighty’s arrows on his very face in the fury of his froward spirit. The like we might say of the rest. No truth but hath some error next door to it. No duty can be performed without approaching very near the enemy’s quarters, who soon takes the alarm, and comes out to oppose the Christian. And ought he not then to have always his heart on the watch?
Second. The trouble of watching is not comparable to the advantage it brings.
- By this, thou frustratest the designs Satan hath upon thee.It is worth watching to keep the house from robbing, much more the heart from rifling by the devil. ‘Watch, that ye enter not into temptation,’ Matt. 26:41. He buys his sleep dear that pays his throat-cutting for it; yea, though the wound be not so deep but may be cured at last. Thy not watching one night may keep thee awake many a night upon a more uncomfortable occasion. And hadst thou not better wake with care, to keep thyself from a mischief, than afterward to have thine eyes held open, whether thou wilt or not, with pain and anguish of the wound given thee in thy sleep? You know how sadly David was bruised by a fall got in his spiritual slumber;—for what else was he when in the eventide he rose from his bed, and walked upon the roof of his house, like a man walking in his sleep? II Sam. 11:2-6. And how many restless nights this brought over this holy man’s head you may perceive by his own mournful complaints of this sin, which is the foot and sad burden of several mournful psalms.
- By thy watchfulness thou shalt best learn the evil of a sleepy state.One asleep is not sensible of his own snorting, how uncomely and troublesome to others it is, but he that is awake is apprehensive of both. The man asleep is not sensible if laid naked by some that would abuse him, but he that is awake observes, is ashamed, and covers himself. Thus while you are in a spiritual sense awake, thou canst not but observe many uncomely passages in the lives of those professors who do not watch their hearts, which will fill thy heart with pity to them—to see how they are abused by Satan and their own passions, which like rude servants, take this their own time to play their pranks in, when they have made sure of their mistress—grace I mean now laid asleep—that should keep them in better rule. Yea, it will make the blood come into thy face for shame, to see how by their nakedness, profession itself is flouted at by those that pass by, and to see how it is with them. Well, what thou blushest to see, and pitiest to find in another, take heed it befall not thyself. If thou sufferest a spiritual slumber to grow upon thee, thou wilt be the man thyself that all this may come upon; and what not besides? Sleep levels all; the wise man is then no wiser than a fool to project for his safety; nor the strong man better than the weak to defend himself. If slumber falls once upon thine eye, it is night with thee, and thou art, though the best of saints, but as other men, so far as this sleep prevails on thee.
- By thy watchfulness thou shalt invite such company in unto thee as will make the time short and sweet;and that is thy dear Saviour, whose sweet communication and discourse about the things of thy Father’s kingdom, will make that thou shalt not grudge the ease sleepy Christians get, with the loss of such an heavenly entertainment as thou enjoyest. Who, that loves his soul better than his body, had not rather have David’s songs, than David’s sleep in the night? And who had not rather have Christ’s comforting presence with a waking soul, than his absence with a sleepy slothful one? It is the watchful soul that Christ delights to be with, and open his heart unto. We do not choose that for the time of giving our friends a visit, when they are asleep in their beds. Nay, if we be with them and perceive they grow sleepy, we think it is time we leave them to their pillow; and verily Christ doth so too. Christ withdraws from the spouse till she be better awake, as a fitter to receive his loves. Put the sweetest wine into a sleepy man’s hand and you are like to have it all spilled; yea, put a purse of gold into his hand, and the man will hardly remember in the morning what you gave him over night. Thus in the sleepy state of a soul, both the Christian loseth the benefit, and Christ the praise of his mercy; and therefore Christ will stay to give out his choice favours when the soul is more wakeful, that he may both do the creature good, and his creature may speak good of him for it.