‘Awake, Though That Sleepest’
Sermon 3 – 1742
This sermon may have been inspired by Fr. John Wesley; however, it was preached by none other than his brother Charles Wesley at Oxford on April 4th, 1742. It is indeed worth noting that the first three of the standard 52 sermons have been preached at the University of Oxford. Each sermon had a polemical tone and were railing against the lapsed Christianity of Wesley’s day. Charles’s message does not disappoint for it was Charles’ evangelical statement and his personal identification with the Revival.
The sermon of Charles revolves around Ephesians 5:14
Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
The three major points of Charles’ message was:
- Describe the sleepers to whom they speak
- Enforce the statement of “Awake thou that sleepiest, and arise from the dead’
- Explain the promise made to such as do awake and arise: ‘Christ shall give his light’
It indeed takes a skillful writer to speak with clarity in the midst of endless questions. Reading this sermon was like drinking from a fire hose to the constant questioning of the fire fighter, “Did you get that.”
Wesley speaks first of what he means by sleepers, “By sleep is signified the natural state of man: that deep sleep of the soul into which the sin of Adam hat sat all who spring from his lions… wherein every man comes into the world, and continues till the voice of God awakens him.” This is not just a state of the heathen, but also the “Laodicean Christian’, neither cold nor hot, but a quite rational, inoffensive, good-natured professor of the religion of his fathers.
You can even pick up echoes from the Second Sermon, “Almost Christian” with the reference to he ‘who having a form of godliness, denies the power thereof’,
He ‘fasts twice in the week’, uses all the means of grace, is constant at church and sacrament; yea, and ‘gives tithes of all that he has’, does all the good that he can. ‘touching the righteousness of the law’, he is ‘blameless’: he wants nothing of gladness but the power; nothing of religion but the spirit; nothing of Christianity but the truth and the life.
Wesley concludes that without the Spirit of Christ, we are dead and sons of the devil!
The right response to the “awake, awake” of God is “what must i do to be saved”? Wesley draws out many examples of the dire situation we find ourselves, “The night is far spent, the morning is at hand when thou art to be brought forth to execution. And in these dreadful circumstances thou art fast asleep; thou art fast asleep in the devil’s arms , on the brink of the pit, in the jaws of everlasting destruction.”
“In what state is thy soul?”, “Hast thou oil in thy lamp?”, “Art thou ‘partaker of the divine nature’?”… the questions of Wesley drives his rhetoric forward, calling out to his audience to “arise from the dead”. Wesley finally explains the promise, ‘Christ shall give thee light.’ Even in this final section, Wesley pleads with his audience to hear the Lord’s cry to awake, “O God, ‘in the midst of wrath remember mercy’! Be glorified in our reformation, not in our destruction.”
Not all the dead who walk the earth will arise.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. ~Rev. 3:20~