Slumbering and Sleeping

A warning given by J.K. Popham in a sermon in 1900 on the wise and foolish virgins.


“They all slumbered and slept.”

Ah, there is much in that word of Solomon; the sluggard calls for a little more sleep and a little more slumber, a little more folding the hands to sleep (Proverbs 6:9-10).

And what follows?

So his poverty cometh like an armed man, as one that travelleth (Proverbs 6:11).

There the lazy creature is. Ah, I know him.

Do you?

He thinks it much to take his hand out of his bosom and convey food to his mouth, so indolent is he. Slothfulness and poverty are companions, and rags are the complement. Therefore, when you look at your soul covered with rags, when you perceive death and poverty and emptiness in your spirit, turn – and God help you, O believer in this sleep, this slumber – turn and rise from your bed.

She said of old when the Lord came near: “My children are with me in bed” (Luke 11:7); “I have put off my coat; how shall I put it on? I have washed my feet; how shall I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:3). You know the result; and some of us have experienced it…

This is part, and only part, of the slumbering and sleeping of the wise virgins. They have vessels of oil, but the lamps are almost gone out. It is dark night; God absent; truth, more or less, absent; hence this condition. One more point and then I will turn to the second part.

There was a time when some of us felt a warm, burning zeal in our souls for the honour of God; it was dear to us. If anyone impugned the truth, O how it stirred us; if anyone seemed to contravene any word of God and go in any way that appeared to tarnish His honour, how it stirred us up!

“Do not I hate them … that hate Thee? and am not I grieved with those that
rise up against Thee?”

(Psalm 139:21)

But now how is it?

Ah, the spirit of the age is a deadly spirit. A man may now almost profess anything so long as he is sincere; and so long as his conduct is moderately straight, nothing must be said, nothing.

O may we care for God’s honour more than for anything else – for the Person, the immaculate, the mysterious, the glorious, the complex, the immortal Person of Immanuel, God with us.

May we hold the immortality of His sacred humanity from the moment He was conceived.

May we contend for and hold fast these merciful truths, without which we must be undone for ever and ever.

Well, do you care for these things as you once did?

I am speaking to the wise virgins, God’s people.

Do you care for the honour of God as you once cared for it?

Now I just commend these considerations, these points to you. If you are inside these remarks, call them charges if you will, do this – seek grace to fall under them; do not resist, do not object that the man is in a bad spirit, that he is gloomy. Any sort of thing the devil will cause you to say, if he can, to blunt the edge of truth, and take off the point of conviction; but O fall down, and confess, confess.

We turn now to the next part, the sleep of the foolish virgins, this is the sleep of death. They are dead in sins, dead in a profession, dead in formalities.

Some here have that form of truth which we hold here, by reason of their constant attendance.

Such everywhere are to be found.

The land is full of these virgins. But as to any conviction of their state, any cry for mercy, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” as to such exercises, they are dead, fast asleep.

O sinner, if the Bridegroom comes in some judgment, in some providence, or in the hour of death and awakens you only then, it will be a most awful awakening – a terrible awakening, never again to be lost in slumber. Never again will your conscience be soothed in guilty slumber; never again will your mind be eased by the soporific [sleep-inducing drug] of a wicked sleep, never.

This is the sleep of death, the sleep of sin, the sleep of error; it is the sleep of guilt, the sleep of an unbroken condition of death, of alienation from God, from the life of God by wicked works. May the Lord awaken such sleepers in mercy and for the purposes of mercy, if it can be His holy will.

“At midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him.”
(Matthew 25:6)

There is coming a time when there will be an awakening. May the Lord in His kindness awaken His poor, sleeping saints to a closer exercise, a more gracious believing, a warmer love, a more vigorous hope. If it can be His gracious will, may He do it for me and for you, my beloved friends.

I am often in these days depressed and discouraged. We are in dark days. There is no denying it on the part of those who see things in the light of God’s truth, who see and know what vital religion is. The Bridegroom is tarrying. There is a grievous withholding of the Holy Ghost, of gracious fear, of heavenly communications; and the sad effect, the guilty effect upon us, is this sleeping and slumbering.

May the Lord have mercy upon us poor, miserable creatures.

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