Great Texts of the Bible
Watch and Pray
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.—Mark 14:38.
These words of Jesus, spoken in the Garden of Gethsemane, by their very association with His tragic experience in that place, have an extraordinary impressiveness. That solemn night and that succession of memorable events—the Supper at which bread and wine became sacramental and symbolical with an imperishable meaning; the walk from the city across the brook Kedron, along a way here, perhaps, illumined by the pale light of a waning moon, there darkly shadowed by massive wall or thick-leaved olive tree; the pause in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Master’s withdrawal and mysterious agony; the flaring torches and multitudinous tread of the Temple police, accompanied by the Roman cohort which Judas guided; the arrest, the hurried mockery of a trial, and the overwhelming fear and doubt, sickening into despair, that oppressed the disciples as the strange drama hastened to its close in the Crucifixion—these are inseparably associated with these words: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Their setting makes them vivid and unforgettable. It gives them, too, an added urgency, as if something of the anguish that wrung the praying lips of Christ still clung to His speech.
How sad the Saviour’s heart was under the olive trees the disciples could not know; but the sadness was deepened when, coming back to them for a moment, He found them so little like Himself as to be all asleep. A sin of infirmity, no doubt; but what a revelation of the infinite distance separating them from Him! This sleep could perhaps be explained, naturally enough, by reaction of mind after the tense excitement of the day—the passover and supper in the upper room, the long discourse, the wonderful prayer they heard Him offer, the hymn they had sung together, the walk in the darkness to the garden, and the slumberous murmurs of the night wind in the olive trees; and yet it takes us by surprise. We could have expected something better than this. The Master evidently expected something better too. Even His generous excuse for them does not hide His disappointment. Even the palliation that they were “sleeping for sorrow” does not hide it either, for there is an accent of surprise in His words, “Why sleep ye?” “Simon, sleepest thou?”
The words are very sorrowful and touching. They show an ineffable depth of tenderness and compassion. He uttered no reproach, no sharp complaint, at their unseasonable slumber; but only, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?” and He turned away all thought from Himself to them; and, for their own sakes, bade them “watch and pray,” for that their trial was at hand. In this we have a wonderful example of the love of Christ. How far otherwise we should act in such a case, we all well know. When any seem to us to be less keenly awake to the trial we may happen to be undergoing, we are above measure excited, as if some great wrong were done to us. There is nothing we resent so much as the collected manner of those who are about us in our afflictions. If they still seem the same when we are so changed—even if they can still be natural, feel common interests, and take their wonted rest, we feel exceedingly aggrieved, and almost forget our other trial, in the kindling of a sort of resentment.
The word “temptation” has come to be associated exclusively with that which is evil. We seldom speak of tempting a man to good. There is a colloquial use of the word, as when the lady of the house, presiding over her dinner-table, on which, more as an adornment than for use, are various mysterious confections, asks her guest, “Cannot I tempt you with a little of this soufflé?” in which case the word has a suggestion in it that there is a debate in the mind of her guest as to the wisdom of making an experiment with something of doubtful and mysterious character. Ordinarily, however, the word temptation conveys the idea of inducement in the direction of that which is evil.
The exhortation to watch and pray implies that there is danger. And danger there is on all sides of us. There is (1) the danger of letting our opportunities slip—our opportunities of improvement, our opportunities of laying up treasure in heaven, our opportunities of benefiting those we love, our opportunities of promoting our Master’s glory—and therefore we must watch. There is (2) the danger of our being corrupted, and of the Church being corrupted, by false teachers—the danger of false doctrine arising and spreading, and we are to watch and stand fast in the faith. There is (3) the danger of being drawn away of our own lust and enticed, and we are to watch—keeping our hearts with all diligence, and keeping under the body. There is (4) the danger of becoming wordly-minded—the danger of being overcharged with the cares of this life, of being deceived by riches, of giving our hearts to the world, and we are to watch. There is (5) the danger of being deceived and overcome by the many spiritual enemies who compass us about, and the danger of being devoured by the great adversary who goeth about like a roaring lion, and therefore we are to be vigilant—we are to watch. And lastly and chiefly, there is (6) the danger of being found unprepared by our Master at His coming, and we are exhorted again and again to watch for His return.
1. The need of Watchfulness comes from the subtlety and the surprise of temptation. Opportunities of promoting our own spiritual progress, the good of others, and God’s glory, often present themselves unexpectedly, and just as unexpectedly pass away, and therefore we must watch. Errors in doctrine or in practice frequently arise from a very small beginning, and from what appears harmless in itself, and often have taken deep root and spread widely before men have discovered their true nature; and therefore we must watch. Very frequently, too, temptation presents itself at an unexpected time, and in an unexpected form, and we must watch. And then our enemies are ever surprising us. They come suddenly and without the slightest note of warning. They may attack us on our right hand or on our left, and that at any moment, for we see them not. And then they come ever in disguise, and are constantly approaching us in some new dress. Their weapons, too, they are constantly changing, and their mode of attack; and they are ever watching for favourable opportunities, and are constantly attacking us when we are least prepared for them. And they are many—their name is legion; they are powerful—they are subtle—they are malignant—they are unsparing. Surely we ought to watch—not being ignorant of Satan’s devices. He seizes upon every favourable opportunity, and we ought to watch. Esau was returning from the field, faint, for he had long fasted; he saw his brother preparing pottage, and thought not of an enemy; but the enemy was there, and, taking advantage of this opportunity, with his brother’s tongue asked him to sell his birthright. He sold it—and then he felt that an enemy, the great enemy, had done it. But his birthright was gone—for ever gone. He sought to have it restored, but never could regain it, though he sought it carefully and with tears.
I suppose all you boys have read Baxter’s Second Innings. In that fascinating little book every boy is represented as a batsman who is being bowled at with various sorts of bowling—“swifts,” “slows,” and “screws.” The object is, of course, to find out where is his weak point, to get past his defence, and lay low his wickets, which are honour, truth, and purity. The boy’s only chance of playing a strong sound game is to watch every ball very closely. The danger is always that he will get careless and slack; and then, in the moment when he is taking it easy, in comes a swift ball when he was counting on a slow one, and in consequence he comes to grief. You remember the illustration which Henry Drummond gives, in the book, of a boy who, being off his guard for a moment, yields to a swift and sudden temptation, and says what is not true. Sometimes a false word slips off the tongue in this way, which you would give a whole term’s pocket-money to recall. You did not remember to do what the Bible suggests—put a watch upon the lips.1 [Note: C. S. Horne.]
Sometimes boys and girls, and men and women, keep steady watch against the big faults, but let the little ones go unheeded. Do you remember Baxter’s surprise when his captain reminds him that he has to guard something besides wickets. “What?” says Baxter. “Bails,” says the captain. Now, bails are very little things; but if the bowler succeeds in removing a bail the batsman has come to grief as much as if his middle stump had been uprooted. You must not talk as if the little faults do not matter. They do. They are “the little foxes that spoil the vines.” You must try to guard all your life from temptation. Blessed is he that watcheth and prayeth; that never sleeps at his post; that never suffers, and causes others to suffer, from his neglect of duty.1 [Note: C. S. Horne.]
One time, when our soldiers were fighting against Indians in America, a sentry at a very important point was found one morning dead at his post. The guard had heard no sound, and they could not imagine how any one could have come so close to the sentry as to kill him. They thought he must have fallen asleep at his post. Another man was put in his place, and next morning he too was found dead there. So the officer selected a sharp man, and said to him: “Now, let nothing escape you. Shoot at anything that moves. If a dog goes by, shoot him.” For an hour or two the man heard nothing stirring. But at last a little twig snapped, and it seemed as if something were softly treading on dry leaves. The sentry’s heart beat fast, and he strained his eyes, but could see nothing. After a second or two he was certain something was coming near to him. He called out, “Who goes there?” but no one answered. The next moment he saw something black and was going to fire, but noticed that it was a small bear moving near a bush a few yards off. So he lowered his rifle, and was going to laugh at himself at the thought of how near he had been to raising an alarm about a little bear. But suddenly the sentry remembered the words, “Shoot anything that moves, whatever it is!” and he lifted his rifle and let go at the bear. The bear fell, and the guard ran to where they had heard the report. On examining the bear they found it was a bear’s skin. with a wounded Indian inside it. This Indian, night after night, had approached the sentry, crawling along the ground in the dark skin of the bear, and when near enough had suddenly sprung up and killed him.2 [Note: S. Gregory.]
I remember a storm that raged over the country some years ago, and that tore up by the roots and levelled to the ground thousands upon thousands of trees in the central counties of Scotland. And the strange thing about it was this: that, although the wind was undoubtedly very strong, yet it was not one bit stronger than the wind of many a previous storm which these trees, now so numerously uprooted, had successfully withstood. Why, then, did they fall on this occasion? The answer is, that the wind came from an unusual quarter. It was a storm from the north-west, a direction from which a gale comparatively rarely blows. Had it come from any other quarter of the compass, these trees, accustomed to it, would have remained firmly fixed in the soil; but it assailed them on a side on which they had not sufficiently rooted, and so had not sufficiently guarded themselves.1 [Note: J. Aitchison.]
2. The need of watchfulness and prayer springs from the manifoldness as well as the subtlety of temptation. Temptation is made possible by what is in a man, and it is made real by what is about a man. The susceptibilities to it live within him; the incitements, provocations, inducements, live around him, as it were, in the very air he breathes. It is the adaptation of the outer to the inner, and the openness or sensibility of the inner to the outer, that constitutes the strength of temptation and creates the need of watchfulness. The sentinel eye must be at once outward and inward, prospective and introspective, jealous lest the inner and the outer enemy secretly meet, suddenly agree, and immediately seize and defile the citadel of the soul. The inner conditions that make it possible and the outer forms that make it actual may be reduced to three classes or kinds—social, moral, and intellectual.
(1) It is a fact of experience, if anything is, that while there are many temptations which beset us all, there is generally one which our own individual nature is specially inclined to; which, if we give way to it, seems, as it were, to swallow up all other temptations. At least, if we examine the other temptations, they seem all to converge on the one point; their distinctive character is lost in that of the “besetting sin,” just as when the plague raged at Athens, all other diseases, we are told, seemed to lead up to and to end in it. What that besetting sin is, each must find out for himself and, having found it out, watch.
The temptations which we encounter vary according to our temperament and situation. Some seem to seek us, as if there were a diabolical intention lurking in our environment. It is not difficult to account for man’s belief in a personal devil and evil spirits. Some temptations seem to rise within us out of the darkness that underlies consciousness. We cannot account for them. They grapple us unawares. They are like foes that fire upon us from some hiding-place within our citadel. Bunyan’s description of an experience which Christian had while passing through “the valley of the shadow of death,” while exaggerated and almost fantastic, has in it, nevertheless, a note of reality. “I took notice,” he says, “that now poor Christian was so confounded that he did not know his own voice; and thus I perceived it: Just when he was come over against the mouth of the burning Pit, one of the wicked ones got behind him, and stept up softly to him, and whisperingly suggested many grievous blasphemies to him, which he verily thought had proceeded from his own mind. This put Christian more to it than anything he had met with before, even to think that he should now blaspheme Him that he loved so much before; yet if he could have helped it, he would not have done it. But he had not the discretion neither to stop his ears nor to know from whence those blasphemies came.”1 [Note: P. S. Moxom.]
Enter not—εἰσέλθητε—suggests a territory of temptation to be specially avoided, where the force of allurements to sin is particularly felt, and where the flesh is peculiarly weak. The petition, “Lead us not into temptation,” suggests a similar thought, as also the language about our Lord’s being led up or driven into the wilderness to be tempted, as though even He would not venture unbidden upon such dangerous ground. There certainly is such territory, and it is found wherever the world, the flesh, or the devil is specially prominent and dominant. Hence the emphatic warnings against these three foes.2 [Note: A. T. Pierson.]
Lead me, O Lord,
In still, safe places;
Let mine eyes meet
Sweet, earnest faces;
Far from the scenes
Of wordly fashion,
Of faithless care,
And noisy passion.3 [Note: M. F. Butts.]
(2) Again, experience has taught us that in the spiritual combat we cannot be too watchful against those sins which we think we have no temptation to commit. It is by these that the penitent too often falls. St. Peter knew he was impetuous and impulsive and impatient; but unfaithful to his Lord he could not be. “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee.” And ere the cock crowed, he wept bitterly over a bitter fall. Satan may be a very wicked being, but he is a wonderfully good general. He is neither omnipotent nor omniscient, nor omnipresent, but he can use his opportunities. He will not long waste his power on the part which you know is weak, where all your sentries have been doubled, but he will turn to that where you think yourself secure, where you never have been attacked. So it was that the virgin fortress of Babylon fell before the conquering Cyrus. The walls were manned, the sentinels were at their posts, every attack failed; yet secretly—no watch was set where Euphrates and the brazen gates seemed to mock at danger—the enemy entered and surprised the citadel.1 [Note: A. L. Moore.]
There are temptations that we seek. We put ourselves in their way, either perversely and with the nascent intention to indulge in sin; or, since they lie in the pathway of some worthy enterprise, with the determination to take the risk for the sake of the end; or, ignorantly and heedlessly, with our foolish eyes closed to danger.2 [Note: P. S. Moxom.]
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” This was spoken in reference to a nation, but it is also applicable to him who seeks to be God’s free man in earth or heaven. We cannot train our spiritual eyes too keenly to see the danger in supposedly unimportant things, which may open the doors of temptation and lead to ruin. In training the inner eye we should learn to observe that which is significant in a reconnoitre and relate it to our safety. A young Western farmer frequented the village bar-room and hitched his team by the saloon. After his conversion he never visited the bar-room, but continued to hitch his team in the same place. The trained and watchful eye of a good old deacon noticed this, and after congratulating the youth upon his conversion said: “George, I am a good deal older than you, and will be pardoned, I know, if I make a suggestion out of my wider Christian experience. No matter how strong you think you are, take my advice and at once change your hitching-post.”3 [Note: C. R. Ross.]
(3) Again, experience has taught us to be especially watchful when any special effort has been made, or any victory won by the power of God in us, when we have felt God’s nearness, and been for the moment lifted up above the ordinary life of conflict. Our greatest sins often follow closely on our highest resolutions, simply because new efforts against the enemy always stir up the enemy to new efforts against us. The very making of a resolution, and offering it to God, is an appeal against the strong one to Him who is “stronger than the strong.” Even in our Blessed Lord’s case, there seems to have been a mysterious connection between His fasting and His temptation. For fasting, self-restraint, self-discipline, is a preparing the soul for fight, a strengthening it against the moment of trial, and the devil fears it—feels that each act of self-restraint gives strength to what he would overcome, and his only hope is in immediate attack. The soul that fights may be overcome; the soul that prays, never. The sinner who loves his sin is safe in the bondage of evil,—the sinner who resolves in God’s strength to fight, has already struck a blow for liberty.
It is strangely full of warning to me that the three men who here could not watch for one hour were the same three who had been, more closely than any, associated with the Master many times before: who, alone of the band, had been with Him on the holy Mount, and had seen His glory there; who alone had been witnesses of His power in raising the daughter of Jairus to life; one of them, too, the man who had made loudest profession of willingness to die for Him; another, the man who most profoundly loved Him, and at the supper leaned upon His breast.1 [Note: G. H. Knight.]
There is no commandment of Jesus which seems to be more frequently on His lips than this: Watch. If the reader will be at the pains to read the following passages in succession; Luke 21:34-36; Mark 13:33-37; Luke 12:35-40; Luke 21:8; Matthew 26:40-41; Mark 14:37-38; Matthew 24:42; Matthew 25:1-13; he will be sufficiently impressed with the insistence which the Master lays upon this difficult duty. On this occasion the command took the form: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” In the other instances it applies to that Parousia which He foretold as a certain, though indefinite, fact.
Let us see (1) What watching demands of us; and (2) How we may watch most successfully.
i. What is it to Watch?
1. It is to learn. One of a man’s first duties is to get acquainted with himself, to find out his tendencies and his peculiar weaknesses, and thus, his chief danger. Learn your temptabilities. Many fall because they do not know the peculiar infirmities of their own natures. Not all are tempted by the same enticements to evil or in the same degree. What tempts one may but slightly or not at all tempt another. Much of our misjudgment of men and of our lack of sympathy with them arises from our failure to recognise clearly differences of temperament and circumstances. Some men are specially vulnerable on the fleshly side. They may have generous natures, full of kindly impulses and much love of the beautiful and the good, but they are strongly sensuous and passionate. In that direction lies their chief danger. They are never tempted to be deceitful or cruel, but they are constantly tempted to be lustful. Other men are comparatively free from sensual tendencies, but they have an instinctive greed for money, and money-getting is, for them, a perilous business. They are tempted by avarice. Unconsciously they are yielding, day by day, to impulses that at last will make their hearts as hard as flint. Others are susceptible on the side of jealousy and envy, and the victories over them of their peculiar temptation are making them cruel and bitter, and driving out of their natures all love and sweetness. Here is a man who has a fiery temper. This is his vulnerable side. He lacks self-control. He is like a tinder-box, ready at a touch to burst into flame. He never premeditates evil to his fellow-men, but temptation comes, and instantly he utters the stinging word, or gives the swift blow that wounds a fellow-creature sometimes past healing. There is a woman who is weak in the instinct of truthfulness. She exaggerates easily. She does not mean to lie, but she is tempted, and almost involuntarily her tongue weaves falsehood. The wisdom born of experience says: Learn your peculiar weakness and guard that. He is not watchful who does not watch himself. Do nothing simply because others do it. Many have sunk into moral ruin because they failed to keep the solid ground of individual safety.
2. To watch is to avoid. We cannot avoid all temptations; nor, probably, would it be best for us if we could. St. James says: “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations.” This is heroic doctrine, but, evidently, by “temptations” the apostle means not merely enticements to evil, but also other forms of trial; for he goes on to show that trials develop patience, or patient endurance (ὑπομονή), and patience, when it is perfect, produces a fully matured character. There is a powerful ministry of good in trial. It is to character what fire is to oil, what drill and discipline are to an army. But the trials that develop character will come without our seeking. We may let Providence take care of that. The part of wisdom for us is to avoid temptations—to utter the prayer and to live in the line of its suggestion: “Lead us not into temptation.” Many temptations we can avoid; and, when we are bidden to “watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation,” we are bidden to shape our course, to choose our business, to elect our companions, to control our pleasures, our reading, and our thoughts, with a view to our peculiar tendencies or susceptibilities, so that we shall not encounter unnecessary and probably disastrous enticements to sin.
One dark night I had to cross the Irish Sea. As the steamer drove along over the waves I walked the deck talking to the seamen and looking out across the dark water. One of the men told me of the great care taken to prevent accident, and he said, “At the present moment there are nine men on the look out on this vessel.” Nine men were—watching!1 [Note: S. Gregory.]
3. To watch is to resist. Obviously, when temptation is felt and recognised, we should resist. But how many fall who meant to resist simply because they are not prompt in resisting. They dally with temptation when deliberation is both treason against God and their own souls and an invitation to defeat. He is already half conquered who begins to consider and argue. Safety lies in instant action. Never attempt to argue down a temptation. Take it by the throat, as you would a venomous serpent. Have no parleys with the tempter. Instant decision saves many a man, who, if he think the matter over, yields and is undone. It is in vain that you watch, unless you fight when the enemy comes. It is but mockery for you to post sentinels to guard the approaches to the citadel if, when the foe approaches, you pause with wide open gates to talk, for while you are debating he seizes your weapons and binds you hand and foot.
Dangers are no more light, if they once seem light; and more dangers have deceived men than forced them: nay, it were better to meet some dangers half-way, though they come nothing near, than to keep too long a watch upon their approaches; for if a man watch too long, it is odds he will fall asleep.1 [Note: Francis Bacon.]
ii. The Conditions of Success in Watching
1. Live habitually in the Presence of God.—There is an Oriental story of a contest between two spirits, one of the upper and the other of the lower world. So long as the conflict was maintained in the air, the evil genius lost his strength, and was easily mastered; but as soon as, in the various fortunes of the fight, he touched the earth, his strength returned, he rose to a gigantic size, and the heavens grew dark with his power. It is so with us in our conflict with evil. We do not long resist temptation when we carry on the conflict on its own ground; our spasmodic efforts then soon yield to its persistent pressure. It is by rising to a higher level that we gain strength, while the temptation is weakened. It is by living on this higher plane of thought, and moral purpose, that we are prepared to encounter temptation. In the season when you are led astray, had you been watching with Christ, had your mind been occupied by better thoughts and purposes, the temptation would hardly have risen up to that higher region to assail you. While the vivid apprehension of God’s presence is in the mind, we are not likely to yield to the sin. Who is there that can consciously and deliberately step over that one thought into a sin? Before we commit the wrong, that thought is put aside, and we descend to the lower level, where the temptation has its home, its associations, and its strength.
2. Occupy yourself with His Service.—It is said that whenever any one consecrates himself to the worship of a certain Hindu deity, the priest does a very cruel thing. He severs the nerve that enables the worshipper to shut his eyes, so that his eyes ever after remain open. It is a cruel thing to do, for God intended that the eye should have rest and that the eyelid should cover and shield it in the hour of weariness; but there is, nevertheless, a meaning in the action of the priest. It is that those who are consecrated to the service of that particular god should always be watchful and on the alert in his service. We might well learn that lesson in the service of Christ without submitting to any such treatment.
And everywhere, here and always,
If we would but open our eyes,
We should find through these beaten footpaths
Our way into Paradise.
Dull earth would be dull no longer,
The clod would sparkle—a gem;
And our hands, at their commonest labour,
Would be building Jerusalem.
Jesus conquered His temptation in the garden by meeting it with prayer. The disciples succumbed to their temptation because they met it without prayer. In a temptation to rebellion against the Father’s will, the Lord’s resource was prayer. In a temptation to cowardice, that ought to have been theirs. Prayer would have made them conquerors, as it made Him; and therefore when temptation of any kind, from any quarter, in any form, at any time, comes to me, I will listen to my Master’s voice, “Why sleepest thou? Rise and pray.”1 [Note: G. H. Knight.]
1. Prayer offers many advantages. Relating to temptation, two are prominent.
(1) The first advantage is not a direct answer to prayer but is found in the fact that during the prayer-moment one has time to mobilise his moral forces for battle. In the heat of temptation the fate of a character hangs on seconds. The prayer-moment offers an opportunity in which all our moral reinforcements may rush to our aid and save the day. The youth who prays before he touches his lips to the wine finds that the prayer-moment has given him a great advantage, for all the spiritual reserves within him rush forth to defend his honour. The value of the time element in the critical moment of temptation cannot be computed.
(2) The second advantage is a direct answer to prayer. In response to our request God sends us spiritual forces, for He is aware we may fall before the allurements of sin. He who walks the highway of righteousness must have Divine support. Spiritual leaders insist that too great stress cannot be placed on prayer during severe strain. Nevertheless, many who succeed in business ventures by their own ability consider themselves able to face any proposition; therefore they eliminate God and confront temptation alone. No greater mistake is possible.
Have you and I to-day
Stood silent as with Christ, apart from joy, or fray of life, to see His face;
To look, if but a moment, in its grace,
And grow, by brief companionship, more true,
More nerved to lead, to dare, to do
For Him at any cost? Have we to-day
Found time, in thought, our hand to lay
In His, and thus compare
His will with ours, and wear
The impress of His wish? Be sure
Such contact will endure
Throughout the day; will help us walk erect
Through storm and flood; detect
Within the hidden life sin’s dross, its stain;
Revive a thought of love for Him again;
Steady the steps which waver; help us see
The footpath meant for you and me.
2. We need to cultivate the habit of praying, with special reference to temptation. It is not enough that we pray when the agony of strife is upon us; we should make our special weakness the subject of constant confession and prayer. No one is so secure as he who knows his frailty, and brings it often before God in earnest petition. The lips that are most accustomed thus to pray will most quickly find utterance for the urgent cry that marks the crisis of moral struggle.
3. But prayer is more than petition; it is also communion and companionship with the Divine. It promotes familiar companionship with Christ, and this shuts out evil. Temptation has no prevailing power with him who makes every day of life a humble yet friendly walk with his God.
Regarding prayer not so much as consisting of particular acts of devotion, but as the spirit of life, it seems to be the spirit of harmony with the will of God. It is the aspiration after all good, the wish, stronger than any earthly passion or desire, to live in His service only. It is the temper of mind which says in the evening, “Lord, into Thy hands I commend my spirit”; which rises up in the morning “To do Thy will, O God”; and which all the day regards the actions of business and of daily life as done unto the Lord and not to men,—“Whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” The trivial employments, the meanest or lowest occupations, may receive a kind of dignity when thus converted into the service of God. Other men live for the most part in dependence on the opinion of their fellow-men; they are the creatures of their own interests, they hardly see anything clearly in the mists of their own self-deceptions. But he whose mind is resting in God rises above the petty aims and interests of men; he desires only to fulfil the Divine Will, he wishes only to know the truth. His “eye is single,” in the language of Scripture, and his whole body is full of light. The light of truth and disinterestedness flows into his soul; the presence of God, like the sun in the heavens, warms his heart. Such a one, whom I have imperfectly described, may be no mystic; he may be one among us whom we know not, undistinguished by any outward mark from his fellow-men, yet carrying within him a hidden source of truth and strength and peace.1 [Note: Benjamin Jowett.]
Watch and Pray
We are commanded both to watch and to pray. And there are some people who believe in doing one thing, but not the other. They believe in watching, but not in praying. These are so-called men of the world. They go to business every day, and are very keen in dealing with others. They are always on their guard against being taken in, and pride themselves on their watchfulness. When they retire at night, I have no doubt that they rejoice over the fact that no one has been able to take them in, and sometimes, I fear, they pride themselves in having watched their opportunity and taken somebody else in. There are many who believe in watching in that sense.
Then there are those who believe in praying, but not watching. They do not believe in being on the alert, and thus using the power of watchfulness which God has given them; but they can pray by the hour. Now, our Lord would have these two things united, “Watch and pray.” There is, no doubt, much need of watchfulness in life, for there are dangers on every hand, and if there is need of watchfulness in daily life, there is still more need of it with regard to our spiritual life.1 [Note: D. Davies.]
Prayer without watching is hypocrisy, and watching without prayer is presumption.2 [Note: W. Jay.]
He who watches constantly looks out for danger, and avoids the way that leads to it. He who prays looks up for higher help and strength.3 [Note: A. T. Pierson.]
A man who had been a missionary in Asia once told me this incident. One day, while travelling over a desolate stretch of country, he observed, just beyond an abrupt bend of the road before him, a flock of sheep huddled about a shepherd so close that they pressed against his legs. My friend was puzzled by the sight at first, but as he passed a large mass of rock that had obstructed his gaze, he saw, at a little distance down the road, a huge Asiatic wolf, gaunt and hungry, that looked with greedy eyes on the sheep, but shrank back in fear of the shepherd with his knotty staff. The trembling flock knew the place of safety.4 [Note: P. S. Moxom.]
A pupil was remarkable for repeating her lessons well. Her schoolfellow, rather idly inclined, said to her one day, “How is it that you always say your lessons so perfectly?” She replied, “I always pray that I may say my lessons well.” “Do you?” said the other; “well then, I will pray, too”: but alas! the next morning she could not repeat even a word of her usual task. Very much confounded, she ran to her friend, and reproached her as deceitful: “I prayed,” said she, “but I could not say a single word of my lesson.” “Perhaps,” rejoined the other, “you took no pains to learn it.” “Learn it! Learn it! I did not learn it at all,” answered the first. “I thought I had no occasion to learn it, when I prayed that I might say it.”
Work while it is called to-day,
Watch and pray!
With both thine hands right earnestly,
As in sight of God most high,
Thy calling ply.
Watch! it is the Master calls thee;
Pray! it is His ear that hears;
Up! shake off thy chilly fears!
Mindful that whate’er befalls thee
Leaves thee further on thy way,
Watch and pray.
Watch! for demons haunt around thee,
Sin and harm beset thy path;
Yet be sure that nothing hath
Power to hinder or confound thee,
So thou faithfully alway
Watch and pray.
Pray! lest watching make thee weary;
Praying thou shalt never fail,
Though the night be long and dreary,
Though the dawn be faint and pale,
Brightens fast the perfect day:
Watch and pray.1 [Note: H. G. Tomkins.]
Watch and Pray
Aitchison (J.), The Children’s Own, 63.
Alexander (J. A.), The Gospel of Jesus Christ, 262.
Davies (D.), Talks with Men, Women, and Children, 6th Ser. 286.
Fraser (J.), University Sermons, 41.
Gregory (S.), Among the Roses, 136.
Horton (R. F.), The Commandments of Jesus, 273.
How (W. W.), Plain Words, i. 180.
Knight (G. H.), The Master’s Questions to His Disciples, 290.
Manning (H. E.), Sermons, i. 223.
Moore (A. L.), Some Aspects of Sin, 3.
Nicholson (M.), Redeeming the Time, 55.
Pierson (A. T.), The Making of a Sermon, 162.
Reichel (C. P.), Sermons, 162.
Ross (C. R.), in Drew Sermons on the Golden Texts for 1910, 271.
Watson (A.), Christ’s Authority, 91.
Christian Age, xxvi. 306 (Vaughan).
Christian World Pulpit, xv. 116 (Beecher); xxviii. 60 (Farrar); xl. 227 (Gladden); xlv. 219 (Creighton); liv. 342 (Thomas); lviii. 179 (Moxom), 390 (Stalker).
Churchman’s Pulpit, pt. viii. 264 (Peabody).
Clergyman’s Magazine, i. 280 (Richardson).
Contemporary Pulpit, 1st Ser. ii. 379; 2nd Ser. v. 245 (Vaughan).
Homiletic Review, iv. 281 (Courtney).