The Second Advent and Christian Character

1 Thess. 5:8.---' But Let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation.'

These words are embedded in the memorable passage in the earliest of St. Paul's Epistles where he instructs the Church in Thessalonica concerning the circumstances that will attend the Second Advent of our Lord, and the bearing of that solemn fact upon the present life. 'The day of the Lord,' says the Apostle, 'so cometh as a thief in the night.' To the mass of mankind it will arrive as a great surprise; it is to be a cleaving of the ordinary course of events as sudden as the pangs of travail, and as unexpected as the midnight marauder. But not in this manner should it come upon the Church, prepared by the warnings and promises of her risen and ascended Lord. For her 'the day of the Lord' has been preceded by a day of revelation. Her members are 'sons of light.' And it is for them to live in readiness for the breaking glory of that fuller dawn, which will usher in the eternal morning.

As St. Paul thinks of faith and patience that should inspire the lives of all those who are thus expecting the return of Christ, there rises before his imagination the splendid figure of the Roman sentry, alert and watchful at the post of duty; and he sketches in bold, clear outlines the portrait of the Christian warrior. In him the Apostle sees the very image and embodiment of a life awake---sober, self-governed, equipped for conflict. We are not ignorant,' he says, 'of the issue of our waiting. Let us, therefore, gird ourselves for the struggle in which we must engage. Sober, as those who above all things must abstain from weak indulgence, and guarded from danger by the faith, love, and hope which protects with security from violation or profanation by armor the mind and heart of him who possesses them---thus to be equipped is not only to be strong for battle; it is also to be spiritually prepared for the presence of Him whom we await.'

We are familiar with the taunt of unbelief that Christianity, by the importance which it attaches to the future life, causes men to neglect or to depreciate the life that is now present. The widespread influence of the teachings of asceticism in the Church at some periods of her history may give a faint color of truth to the assertion. But here, at least, on the lips of the original preachers of the Second Advent is a decisive refutation of any such idea. The gospel of Christ opens up to man's hopes the prospect of a future of transcendent glory, and leads him to set his heart upon it as the goal of his existence. But never for a moment does it ignore the living present, or allow him to attempt to cheat the realities which surround him, by indulging in golden dreams. Jesus Christ in His Ascension has lifted the veil from the Unseen, and has bidden us even now 'in heart and mind' to follow whither He has gone before. But he has done this, not that we should relinquish this world, and be compensated for its loss by the promise of a world which is better; but that life here and now should be transformed into the likeness of heaven---or rather, that even now already the life of heaven should be begun. There is no single doctrine of Christianity which is not closely bound up with the present life. Jesus Christ confers upon His Church no spiritual privilege which is not indissolubly united in some form or another with earthly duty.

The truths of Revelation are not like lamps that burn in some great cathedral, serving to disclose the grandeur of the building itself, but shedding not a single gleam of radiance upon the outside world around it; but rather they are like the all-pervading sunshine, which penetrates into every nook and cranny of life, illuminating the dark alleys of the city with the same bright rays that glorify the summer fields and the mountain summits Christianity reveals to us that this world and the next are truly one, and bids us live as if it were so, through the grace of light which has come to us from heaven itself; that we may both fulfill our vocation here and be ready to enter upon higher service there.

In the text the Apostle describes certain features of holiness which Christian people are expected to strive after in view of the Second Advent of our Lord. 'Let us who are of the day.' The Revised Version of the clause changes the simple statement of the authorized Version, 'who are of the day' to 'since we are of the day,' and thus more clearly expresses the idea of a motive which the Greek words certainly contain. Christian holiness is the character and practice of those who live in the broad daylight of a revelation which points forward to a fuller revelation yet to come.

Next, holiness is sober. Here in this apostolic writing we are given indirectly a dark page from the history of sin, which tells of the ancient alliance between night and evil, and of the implacable emnity then, as now, existing between lust and light. Never again was he to renew the old life, or to go back to follow that biding of unrestrained passion which had been so pleasant to gratify under the cover of night. This soberness implies a life which in every part of it is placed under discipline.

Holiness is spiritually equipped for the battle of life: 'Putting on the breastplate of faith and hope, and for an helmet the hope of salvation.' Is not the soldier---marching, fighting, or watching in the conscious fulfillment of duty---'of the day'? And is he not also sober as he is under discipline, and sober also as he is clear-eyed to see and to grapple with danger? But he is also equipped for battle. His armor is faith and love, and the hope of salvation. Faith, turning from self-dependence to personal reliance upon God in Christ; love, forsaking self-pleasing for the devotion of self-surrender in His service; hope, renouncing despair for the prospect of endless blessedness of a presence with Him---these are the spiritual equipment of the warrior of Christ for his long war with evil.

These are the marks of all who seek to be prepared in heart and life for the coming of the Lord. Therefore let each of us reckon with himself, and try his ways, stirring up his heart within him, as if to say: 'Christ is coming Let us be daily living worthy of Him, forming by His grace a character which is holy as He is holy---holy, harmless, and undefiled.'

In Christ, timothy. maranatha