Westminster Assembly

Westminster Assembly

Acts 6:4

"But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the Word."



1 Timothy 4:6-16

" If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives' fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach. Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." 1 Tim 4:6-16 (KJV)

" SLEEPY SAINTS" By A.W. Pink Oct. 1948 Studies in the Scriptures

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Went forth to meet the bridegroom” (Mat 25:1) denotes a craving for fellowship with and a definite seeking after Him, and where they be absent, it is vain to think we are among those who “love his appearing” (2Ti 4:8). Those words refer to the exercise of the believer’s graces, so that he can say, “My soul  followeth hard after thee” (Psa 63:8).  Of faith, acted upon its Object, viewing Him as His person and perfections are portrayed in the Word. Of hope, expecting to meet with Him, for Him to manifest Himself unto us (Joh 14:21), as well as being for ever with Him. Of love, which desires its Beloved and cannot be content away from Him.

 It is for the affections to be  set upon “those things which are above, where Christ  sitteth on the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), resulting in a stranger and pilgrim character on earth (1Pe 2:11).
It is a going out of self, absorbed with the One who loves us and gave Himself for us. Only so can He be
experientially encountered, beheld with delight, fellowshipped. That “went forth to meet the bridegroom”
(Mat 25:1) is such a going forth of the affections and exercise of our graces upon Him as made Paul to say,
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but
loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phi 3:7-8).

“While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept” (Mat 25:5). How pathetic! How searching
and solemn! The season of His tarrying was the time of their failing. They did not continue as they began.
Their graces were not kept in healthy exercise. They ceased to attend unto the great business assigned them.
They grew weary of well-doing (2Th 3:13). Instead of occupying our heads with the “prophetic” fulfilment
of the verse, we need to bare our hearts and suffer them to be searched by it. Instead of saying, Those
words now accurately describe the present condition of Christendom as a whole, we need to inquire how
far they pertain to each of us individually. Far more to the point is it to ask myself, Am I a slumbering and
sleeping Christian? Nor is that question to be answered hurriedly. If on the one hand, I need to beware of
thinking more highly of myself than I ought, or pretend all is well with me when such is not the case; on the
other, God does not require me to act the part of a hypocrite, and in order to acquire a reputation for humility, claim to be worse than I am. Peter was not uttering a presumptuous boast when he said unto Christ,
“Thou knowest that I love thee” (Joh 21:15-17). But Judas was an imposter when he greeted Him with a
kiss (Luk 22:48).

But before we can truthfully answer the question, Am I spiritually asleep?, we must first ascertain what
are the marks of one who  is so. Let us then, in order to assist the honest inquirer, describe some of the
characteristics of sleep. And since we are not making any effort to impress the learned, we will be as simple as possible. The things which characterize the body when it is asleep will help us to determine when the
soul is so. When the body is asleep, it is in a state of inactivity, all its members being in repose. It is also a
state of unconsciousness, when the normal exercises of the mind are suspended. It is therefore a state of
insensibility to danger, of complete helplessness. Spiritual sleep is that condition wherein the faculties of
the believer’s soul are inoperative and when his graces no longer perform their several offices. When the
mind ceases to engage itself with divine things, and the graces be not kept in healthy exercise, a state of
slothfulness and inertia ensues. When the grand truths of Scripture regarding God and Christ, sin and grace,
heaven and hell, exert not a lively and effectual influence upon us, we quickly become drowsy and neglectful.
A slumbering faith is an inactive one. It is not exercised upon its appointed Objects, nor performing its
assigned tasks. It is neither drawing upon that fullness of grace which is available in Christ for His people,
nor is it acting on the precepts and promises of the Word. Though there still be a mental assent to the truth,
yet the heart is no longer suitably affected by that which concerns practical godliness. Where such be the
case, a Christian will be governed more by tradition, sentiment, and fancy, rather than by gratitude, the fear
of the Lord, and care to please Him. So too when his hope becomes sluggish, he soon lapses into a spiritual
torpor. Hope is a desirous and earnest expectation of blessedness to come. It looks away from self and this
present scene and is enthralled by “the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1Co 2:9).
As it eyes the goal and the prize, it is enabled to run with patience the race set before us. But when hope
slumbers, he becomes absorbed with the objects of time and sense, and allured and stupefied with present
and perishing things. Likewise when love to God be not vigorous, there is no living to His glory; self-love
and self-pity actuating us. When the love of Christ ceases to constrain us to self-denial and a following of
the example He has left us, the soul has gone to sleep.

Where those cardinal graces be not in healthy exercise, the Christian loses his relish for the means of
grace, and if he attempts to use them, it is but perfunctorily. The Bible is read more from habit or to satisfy
conscience than with eager delight, and then no impression is left on the heart, nor is there any sweet meditation thereon afterwards. Prayer is performed mechanically, without any conscious approach unto God or communing with Him. So in attending public worship and the hearing of the Word: the duty is performed
formally and without profit. When the body sleeps, it neither eats nor drinks: so it is with the soul. Faith is
the hand which receives, hope the saliva which aids digestion, love the masticator and assimilator of what
is partaken. But when they cease to function, the soul is starved, and it becomes weak and languid. The
more undernourished be the body, the less strength and ability has it for its tasks. In like manner, a neglected soul is unfit for holy duties, and the most sacred exercises become burdensome. Thus, when a saint finds
his use of the means of grace wearisome and the discharge of spiritual privileges irksome, he may know
that his soul is slumbering Godwards.
In the parable itself, four causes of spiritual sleep are indicated.
1. Failure to remain watchful. In its wider sense, “watching” signifies an earnest taking heed unto ourselves and our ways, realizing how prone we are to “turn again to folly” (Psa 85:8). So long as the saint be
left in this world, he is in constant danger of bringing reproach upon the holy Name he bears, and becoming
a stumbling-block to his brethren. Watchfulness (the opposite of carelessness) is exercising a diligent concern and care for our souls, avoiding all occasions to sin, resisting temptation (Mat 26:41). It is to “stand
fast in the faith, quit you like men” (1Co 16:13)―be regular in our duties. When we be lax in serving the
Lord, in mortifying our lusts, and less fervent and frequent in prayer, then slumber has begun to steal over
us. Ultimately, it respects “looking for that blessed hope” (Ti 2:13), which is a very different thing from
awaiting the fulfilment of prophecy or the accomplishing of an item in God’s “dispensational programme.”
It is far more than expecting an important event, namely, the second advent of Christ Himself; and that implies delight in Him, yearning after Him, practical readiness for His appearing: Luke 12:35-36.

2. The Bridegroom’s delay resulted in lack of perseverance on their part. Since we know not how soon
or how long deferred will be our call to depart from this world, we need to be unremitting in duty, in a state
of constant readiness. Not only a desirous expectation, but a “patient waiting for Christ” (2Th 3:5) is required of us. “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching…And if he
shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants…And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he
would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through” (Luk 12:37-39). It was because
Moses tarried so long in the Mount that Israel grew weary of waiting and gave way to their lusts―a warning to us not to relax our vigilance. How long had the Old Testament saints to wait for His first advent!
“Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it…Be ye
also patient; stablish your hearts” (Jam 5:7-8), exercising faith and hope. See Luke 21:36.
3. Intimacy with graceless professors. The wise virgins failed because  they were in too close contact
and fellowship with the foolish ones. That is confirmed by the divine warning, “Be not deceived: evil
communications [the verbal form of that Greek word is rendered ‘communed with’ in Act 24:26] corrupt
good manners,” which is immediately followed by “Awake to righteousness, and sin not” (1Co 15:33-34),
showing us that intimacy with the Christless produces lethargy. “We are more susceptible of evil than
good: we catch a disease from one another, but we do not get health from one another. The conversations of
the wicked have more power to corrupt than the good to excite virtue. A man that would keep himself
awake unto God, and mind the saving of his soul, must shake off evil company”―Thomas Manton (1620-
1677). See Psalm 119:115. It is not the openly profane, but the loose and careless professor who is the
greatest menace to the Christian. Hence, “having a form of godliness, but denying [inaction] the power
thereof: from such turn away” (2Ti 3:5).

4.  Inattention to the initial danger: They “slumbered” (a lighter form) before they slept! How that
shows the need for taking solemn and earnest heed to the beginnings of spiritual decline! If we yield to a
spirit of languor, we shall soon lapse into a sound sleep. One degree of slackness and carelessness leads to
another: “Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep” (Pro 19:15). Once our zeal abates and our love cools, we
become remiss and heedless. If we do not fight against a cold formality when engaged in sacred exercises,
we shall ultimately cease them entirely. All backsliding begins in the heart! Sin stupefies before it hardens.
If we cease to heed the gentle strivings of the Spirit, conscience will become calloused. “David, when he
fell into adultery and blood, he was like one in a swoon…We have need to stand always upon our watch.

Great mischiefs would not ensue if we took notice of the beginnings of those distempers which afterwards
settle upon us”―T. Manton.
Other causes of spiritual sleepiness which are not directly indicated in the parable are specified in or
may be deduced from other passages. For example: “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and
quicken thou me in thy way” (Psa 119:37). The apposition of those two petitions clearly connotes that an
undue occupation with worldly things has a deadening effect upon the heart. Nothing has a more enervating
influence on the affections of a believer than for him to allow himself an inordinate liberty in carnal vanities. Again, “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any  time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and
drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares…Watch ye therefore, and
pray always” (Luk 21:34-36). Gluttony not only dulls the senses of the body, but renders the mind sluggish
too; and thereby the whole man is unfitted for the discharge of spiritual duties, which call for the engaging
and putting forth of “all that is within [us]” (Psa 103:1); equally so do carking cares which engross the attention and stupefy the understanding render the affections torpid. Yet more searching is it to observe that
“be sober” precedes “be vigilant” in 1 Peter 5:8. Sobriety is freedom from excesses, particularly a sparing
use made of the lawful comforts of this life. Any form of intemperance breeds inertia. If, then, we are able
to keep wide awake, we must be “temperate in all things” (1Co 9:25).

The consequences of spiritual sloth are inevitable and obvious. Space allows us to do little more than
name some of the chief ones. (1) Grace becomes inoperative. When faith be not exercised upon Christ, it
nods and ceases to produce good works. When hope languishes and becomes inactive, the heart is no longer
lifted above the things of time and sense by a desirous expectation of good things to come. Then love declines and is no longer engaged in pleasing and glorifying God. Zeal slumbers and instead of fervour, there
is heartless formality in the use of means and performance of duties. (2) We are deprived of spiritual discernment, and no longer able to experientially perceive the vanity of earthly things and value of heavenly,
and the need of pressing forward unto them. (3) A drowsy inattention to God’s providences. Eyes closed in
sleep take no notice of His dealings with us, weigh not the things which befall us. Mercies are received as a
matter of course, and signs of God’s displeasure are disregarded (Isa 42:24-25). (4) Unconcernedness in the
commission of sin, so that we cease mortifying our lusts and resisting the devil. Spiritual stupidity makes us
insensible to our danger. It was while David was taking his ease that he yielded to the devil (2Sa 11:1-2).
(5) The Holy Spirit is grieved, His gracious operations are suspended, and His comforts withheld. (6) So far
from us overcoming the world, when our spiritual senses be dulled, we are absorbed with its attractions or
weighted down by its cares. (7) We are robbed by our enemies (Luk 12:39)―of God’s providential smile,
of our peace and joy. (8) Fruitlessness: see Proverbs 24:30-31. (9) Carnal complacency: peace and joy being derived from pleasant circumstances and earthly possessions, rather than Christ and our heritage in
Him. (10) Spiritual poverty: see Proverbs 24:33-34. (11) Indifference to the cause and interests of Christ: it
was while men slept Satan sowed his tares, and abuses crept into the church. (12) A practical unpreparedness for Christ’s coming: Luke 21:36; Rev 16:15.

Let us now point out some of the correctives. (1) Spiritual sleepiness is best prevented by our faith being engaged with the person and perfections of Christ. It is not monastic retirement, nor the relinquishment
of our lawful connection with the world, but the fixing of our minds and affections upon the transcendent
excellency of the Saviour, which will most effectually preserve us from being hypnotized by the baits of
Satan. A believing and adoring view of Him who is “fairer than the children of men” (Psa 45:2) will dim
the lustre of the most attractive objects in this world. When the One who is “altogether lovely” is beheld by
anointed eyes, the flowery paths of this scene become a dreary wilderness, and the soul is quickened to
press forward unto Him, until it sees the King in His beauty face to face. (2) Especially will a keeping fresh
in our hearts the unspeakable sufferings of the Saviour draw us away from threatened rivals, and inspire
grateful obedience to Him. “For the love of Christ [particularly His dying love] constraineth us” (2Co
5:14). (3) By praying daily for God to quicken and revive us. (4) By being doubly on our guard when
things are going smoothly and easily. (5) By maintaining a lively expectation of Christ’s appearing (Heb
9:28). (6) By attending to such exhortations as Hebrews 12:2-3, allowing no abatement of our vigour. (7)
By putting on the whole armour of God (Eph 6:13-18).


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