The way to avoid sleeping when poisonous gas fills the room is to run for fresh air and to breathe deeply. We owe it to God and to our salvation to run for fresh oxygen for the soul in this present crisis. What is to stop us all from a radical re-appraisal of our present life-style?

Sleep is a remarkable phenomenon. It is a kind of animated death. In sleep we are
oblivious to the real world. The thief may be at the door, or the fire already running
up the curtains of the bedroom. But when asleep we neither notice, or know, or care.
On the other hand, in the dreams of sleep, we care for what is unreal and delusive.
Men flee from savage beasts, or fall from cliffs, or sail to treasure islands. Our attention
is taken up with what is fictional and fictitious.

Just so is the sleep which comes upon men’s souls in ages when the gospel is weak. Armies of heresies threaten the church and people of God; but the church’s watchmen are so fast in slumber that they neither realise nor care. When here and there a faithful voice is raised in warning, there is a general outcry and a demand for the maintenance of silence. Or there may happen some scandalous abuse which threatens to mar the church’s reputation and her credibility. But when sleep has laid the faculties of the soul to rest, men resent the unpopular question and seek to smother the healthy spirit of enquiry. Nothing is so unwelcome to a sleepy man as the alarm which summons him from his bed.

When soul-drowsiness is widespread, men are all taken up with childish dreams and empty trifles. They make great sound and bluster about small matters of procedure and right order. But they may as easily overlook the great matters of justice, mercy and truth as those Pharisees who ‘strained at a gnat and swallowed a camel’ (Matt. 23:24). The cry is for more sleep, and woe be to him who tries to wake them!

None who is even half-awake needs to wonder what the explanation is for the state of our modern societies. True religion is banished from the schoolroom and from the media. The slaughter of aborted infants proceeds like a daily holocaust, Governments meet to legislate away the Sabbath and to decriminalise sodomy. Leprosy is breaking out in every limb of the body politic and there is no physician to heal us. Scarcely a voice is raised in high places to call us to repentance. Such voices as there are are either not heard or else not heeded. Poor nations! Alas, that so great a civilisation as ours should be so deep in spiritual slumber!

It is not surprising that evangelical Christians at this hour should feel numb with battle fatigue. It is no great miracle if they too, catching the general spirit of drowsiness, are tempted to give in to unresisted slumber at this hour. But this is what we must at all costs refuse to do.

By some means or other Christians must contrive to stay awake and on their feet in these days. If, in order to do so, we must cast out the television set or cut off our right arm, we had better do so. To fall asleep at this hour is treason to Christ and to our own souls. It is to lose our ‘full reward’ (2 John 8), or, worse still, to lose our reward and our soul altogether.

The way to avoid sleeping when poisonous gas fills the room is to run for fresh air and to breathe deeply. We owe it to God and to our salvation to run for fresh oxygen for the soul in this present crisis. What is to stop us all from a radical re-appraisal of our present life-style?

Instead of meeting for merely social purposes, might we not as Christians meet to read good books to one another? The time which we have formerly devoted to easy viewing and listening, might we not devote, in part at least, to secret prayer or family prayer or neighbourhood prayer? The hours which have been spent cruelly criticising the preacher could in future be put to better use in the careful study of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms. Some of the energy formerly spent in excessive recreation and socialising might be more productively spent visiting the widows in their affliction ( James 1:27) and in comforting the downcast.

Above all others, preachers must cry to heaven for grace to stay awake at this hour. Let them plunge their heads in the cold waters of God’s truth till their dreams of worldly ease are thrown aside. Never did the world more urgently need an awakening ministry than now. Never was there a more crucial hour for lifting high and blowing loud on the gospel trumpet. All heaven watches as we strive to keep awake while all others sleep. It will stand to our eternal credit if we keep at our post. Sooner than we think perhaps may come the dawning of a new and better day. The wakeful servant must one day sit in honor at his Master’s table (Luke 12:37).

— Maurice Roberts