Ephesians 5, 14.—Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
If we would profit by the reading of the Scriptures, we must not take partial, superficial views of them. We must not be governed too much by the form in which the truth is clothed. If that form be poetical, we must not regard the passage as mere poetry; or if parabolical, as mere parable; or if historical, as nothing more than history. In like manner it would be a serious mistake to regard the devotional parts of Scripture as mere vehicles of individual sentiment. But the error of this kind, into which we are most apt to fall, has reference to the doctrinal and hortatory parts of Scripture. Our knowledge of the doctrines of the Bible will be small, if we derive it wholly from the formal doctrinal propositions which the book contains. And on the other hand, our views of Christian duty must be limited, if they are formed exclusively upon the strictly preceptive parts of Scripture. The truth is, that the doctrinal and practical run constantly into each other. Every doctrinal statement involves a precept, and every exhortation involves doctrinal instruction. For example, in the doctrine, that except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, what a lesson do we learn as to our own interest and duty. What could be a stronger exhortation to the duty of seeking admittance to God's kingdom by means of the new birth? As an opposite example, take the text which I have read. It consists entirely of an exhortation with a promise to encourage the performance. And yet it is full of doctrinal instruction. While it formally does nothing more than call us to the performance of certain duties, it impliedly teaches us truths to be believed. And as truth is in order to goodness, it is vain to expect that men will practise the preceptive part which lies upon the surface, without comprehending and believing the doctrinal part which lies back of it.
In order to illustrate this whole statement, let us discriminate between the doctrinal and practical elements combined in the text, and inquire first what it calls us to believe, and then what it calls us to do. The doctrinal lessons which it calls us to believe may be reduced to two. It teaches us, first, what is our natural condition; and second, how it maybe changed. Let us look at both in order.
The text impliedly describes our state by several figures, all of which are natural and intelligible. It describes it, in the first place, as a state of darkness. I read this doctrine in the last clause of the verse; and Christ snail give thee light. If the change here scoken of was to consist in the imparting of light, then the previous condition of the soul was one of darkness. This figure is so natural and common in the Scriptures that it needs no explanation. Light in the external world is the element or medium by which we see other objects. Darkness precludes light, not by extinguishing the sense, but by rendering it useless. So spiritual darkness destroys our power of discerning spiritual objects, not by impairing the substance of the soul, nor by destroying any of its faculties, but by rendering them inefficient and unavailable. The objects are still there; and the natural powers of the soul are there; but darkness cuts off all connection between them, and therefore it is as insensible to spiritual objects, as if they had no existence, or as if itself had no capacity to see them.
This, at least, is the case just so far as the spiritual darkness reaches; but in order to present the case exactly, three gradations may be stated, three degrees of darkness, as it affects the soul and its perceptions. The first and highest is that which has been mentioned, and in which the soul has no perception at all of spiritual objects or "the things of God," which are, to it, as though they were not. The second degree is that in which it sees the objects as existing, but is blind to their distinguishing qualities and relative proportions. The third is that in which the qualities are seen, but not appreciated; they are seen to exist, but not seen to be excellent or the reverse. This, if I may use so inaccurate a phrase, is not so much a darkness of the mind as of the heart; a blindness of the affections as to spiritual objects. Now it is not necessary, for our present purpose, to make nice distinctions as to the existence of either of these degrees of darkness in different cases. They may all co-exist in the same case, but with respect to different objects. There are some things of a spiritual and religious nature, of which the natural man may form distinct ideas, and about which he may reason, i. e. about their existence and their attributes. But he is no more able to perceive or feel their excellence, than a blind man to enjoy varieties of colour. Well, there are things of a still higher order which the natural man may see to be real; but he not only cannot see the absolute or comparative excellence of their attributes, he cannot see the attributes themselves. The objects are to him a confused maze without definite figures or proportions. He sees them as trees walking. And above these there are others of the highest excellence which he neither appreciates as excellent, nor recognizes as possessing an existence. He is blind to them. So far as he is affected by them, they might as well not be. And as these last are things which must be known, in order to salvation, it matters little what imperfect vision he may have of other matters. His darkness may be described as total, because it destroys his view of those things without which the sight of others avails nothing. In this sense our state by nature is a state of total darkness.
Now darkness affects only the sense of sight. A man may grope in darkness, he may feel his way, and he may judge of what he cannot see, by hearing, smell, and taste. Such a condition is indeed inconvenient, but it does not destroy the man's perceptions. If, then, spiritual darkness is analogous to natural, though it impair the comfort of the soul by blinding its eyes, it may leave it other means of knowing that which must be known in order to salvation. But observe: a man can grope his way and use his other senses to advantage only when awake. There are somnambulists, indeed, but as a general fact, the man who contrives to live in safety, though in darkness, must be wide awake.
But alas! our text teaches us that our spiritual state is not only a state of darkness, but a state of sleep. This I infer from the command in the first clause: Awake thou that sleep est. Now sleep is more than darkness. Darkness is included in it. To him who is asleep the external world is dark. But what is there besides implied in sleep? The man who is asleep has his senses sealed; not his sight merely, but his other senses. External objects are to him as though they were not. So to the sleeping soul, all that lies beyond this life and its interests, is veiled from view. It might as well not be. But while the senses of the sleeper arc suspended, his imagination is awake and active. The more insensible he is of that which really surrounds him, the more prolific is his fancy in ideal objects. Though dead to the every-day world, he is alive to an imaginary world. So powerful is the illusion, and so vivid the creations of the fancy, that he lives whole years in a single hour, a lifetime in a night. Our spiritual state is also one of dreams. The life of the natural man is but a dream. He sees, he hears, he feels; but the objects of his hearing, sight, and feeling, are imaginary. They are either wholly fictitious, or distorted and falsified by the imagination. That the unregenerate man enjoys a certain kind of pleasure, is not more wonderful than that the dreamer has his pleasures too. That the one despises the enjoyments of religion is no more surprising than the other is unwilling to exchange the joys of sleep for the realities of waking life. In either case the judgment is perverted or suspended. Who does not know that in our dreams we form opinions and conclusions which to our waking minds appear absurd; and yet while we are dreaming, we have no suspicion that they want consistency or truth. Why should we wonder then that souls, which are asleep, form opinions so extravagant, so groundless, so preposterous, and confidently hold them, till the grace of God awakens them and shows them their own folly? Here let us learn too the absurdity of yielding our own judgments, if enlightened by the grace of God, to the contempt or opposition of the sleeping world around us. Will any sane man let his judgment in important matters of the present life be affected by the babble of one talking in his sleep.
I have named as points of similarity between natural and spiritual sleep, the inaction of the senses, the indulgence of the fancy, and the suspension of the judgment. Let me add the inactivity of the whole man, as to external things; the sorrows, joys, and business of" the world around him. The natural sleeper is not more completely paralyzed for secular concerns, than the soul asleep in sin is for the business of eternity. The existence of the sleeper is a blank in either case. This, then, is the meaning of the text, when it describes us as sunk in sleep as well as wrapped in darkness. Not only are our eyes sealed to the truth, and to our own condition, but we are the subjects of perpetual illusion. Darkness alone would be a mere negation; but a darkness full of dreams and visions is a positive infliction. It matters not that the illusions are of a pleasing nature. That can only aggravate the pain of our awaking. Did you ever forget any of the pains of real life in a delightful dream? And do you not remember the convulsive pang with which the truth rushed back upon your waking thoughts? And can you imagine that the anguish will be less when the dream of a whole lifetime is abruptly broken? Or if you know what it is to be aroused by harsh and grating noises from a pleasant dream, do you suppose that your long dream will be agreeably dissolved by the blast of the great trumpet? It is related by one of those who witnessed and experienced a late explosion, that when it occurred he was asleep, and that his first sensation was a pleasant one, as though he had been flying through the air. He opened his eyes, and he was in the sea! May there not be something analogous to this in the sensations of the sinner, who dies with his soul asleep, and soars, as he imagines, towards the skies, but instantaneously awakes amidst the roar of tempests and the lash of waves, upon the ocean of God's wrath? The Lord preserve us all from such a waking, yet it is to this that our condition tends—it is a state of darkness and a state of sleep. According to the ancients, Sleep is the brother of Death; and the resemblance is too obvious to be overlooked.
In all the negative attributes of sleep which have been mentioned, death resembles it. In death the senses are effectually sealed; the functions of the judgment are suspended, and the active powers of the man are in abeyance. It is frequently not easy to distinguish sleep from death. The repose is so profound, the frame so motionless, that one who looks upon it feels that Sleep is indeed the brother of Death. But I need not say that death is more than sleep. And wherein is the difference? He that sleeps may wake again, and the suspension of his senses and his judgment may be terminated by his simply starting out of sleep. But in death, the intellectual and bodily inaction are continuous and permanent. There have been instances in which the body washed and dressed for burial, has amazed its watchers, by resuming its vitality; but in such cases the death was an apparent one. The man once dead never starts again to life by a convulsive effort. As the tree falls, so it lies.
In these two points Death differs from his brother; the suspension of the faculties is permanent, and there is no power of self-resuscitation. ISTow the text teaches that the soul by nature is not only dark and asleep, but dead. It says not only, "Awake thou that sleepest!" but, " Arise from the dead!" And in every point that has been mentioned, this death of the soul is like that of the body. It is sleep rendered permanent, as to the suspension of our ordinary functions; it is a sleep too sound to be disturbed, a sleep from which no one rises of himself, refreshed in feeling and renewed in strength. Even with respect to dreams death may be described as a continued sleep.
"For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause."
But there is one distinction between sleep and death, whether natural or spiritual, that must not be overlooked. In natural sleep, although the senses are inactive, and the judgment in abeyance, and the whole man dead as to external things, the body is still under the conservative dominion of the principle of life. That mysterious power holds the elements of humanity in healthful combination, and the man still lives. But in the sleep of death, this antiseptic energy is gone; the harmonious combination is dissolved; the parts all tend to dissolution, and the whole frame hastens to putrescence. This is a subject too familiar and too painful to be dwelt upon at large. It is sufficient to observe that on this point also the analogy holds good. The spiritual death to which we are all heirs, is something more than a negation of activity. It might be said of the soul, as the disciples said of Lazarus: If he sleeps he shall do well: he may arise from this lethargic state to life and action. But in spiritual death there is a constant tendency to moral dissolution; or rather, since this tendency begins to show itself as soon as we are bom, it is forever growing, the .majority of men exhibit not a mere approach to it, but actual putrefaction. "They are altogether become filthy." If our eyes could be unsealed and disabused of all illusion, we should see ourselves to be by nature inmates of a charnel-housej surrounded by the shapeless remnants of dissolved humanity, inhaling every moment the dank atmosphere of death, and feeling in our own frames the first gnawings of the worm that breeds corruption. Yes, our state by nature is not only one of sleep, but one of death and putrefaction.
This might seem to be all; but we must take another step, and one of great importance. If men are convinced merely that their condition is a wretched and degraded one, they are prone to feel a sort of satisfaction in the fact, as if their misery entitled them to pity and respect. This absurd and pernicious feeling springs entirely from the false assumption that our wretched state by nature is a blameless one; that our depravity is not so much our fault as our misfortune. Hence you will hear men converse fluently about their own corrupt and fallen state, who would repel with rage any specific charge involving moral guilt. To do away this false impression, we have only to observe that, according to our text, the state of man by nature is not alone one of darkness, sleep, and death, but one of guilt. This is implied in the whole exhortation of the text. The sleeper is evidently called on to awake, as that which he was bound to do; and the dead man is summoned to arise, as though he had no right to remain in that condition. Every exhortation to perform a duty involves a condemnation of its neglect as sinful.
But the sinfulness of that estate whereinto we are fallen, is evinced not merely by the form of speech which the apostle uses. It is also apparent from the nature of the case. The will of God is to us the rule of right, and every departure of our will from his, is a departure from strict rectitude, and therefore sin. Now the spiritual darkness, sleep, and death before described, are nothing more than figurative statements of our deadly alienation from the love of God, the defection of our will from his, and consequently our exceeding sinfulness. There is no true test of right and wrong to which we can refer ourselves, that will not show our natural condition to be one of awful guilt as well as misery.
And if a state of guilt, it is a state of danger. For guilt is our exposure to the wrath of God as a consequence of sin. It may be said, however, that this statement is at variance with the figurative language of the text; for though a state of darkness or of sleep may be dangerous, a state of death can scarcely be so called. The evils of this life terminate in death, which cannot therefore be called dangerous. But danger may be predicated properly of all the situations which are figuratively set forth in the text, because they all admit of increase and progressive aggravation. Dark as the soul is, it may yet be darker. It admits, as we have seen, of different gradations. To some objects we are totally blind. Others we see imperfectly, and others still distinctly, but without a just appreciation of their real attributes. Now, by continuance in a state of darkness, our perceptions of this last class may become as faint as those of the preceding; and ultimately both degrees of twilight may be merged in midnight darkness; a darkness which not only destroys vision, but which may be felt, deadening the senses and benumbing all the faculties. There is something dreadful in the thought of such a change, even in relation to the bodily perceptions. To see one source of reflected light after another quenched, and at last to witness the extinction of the sun itself, and the annihilation of all light, is terrible enough. But not so terrible in truth as the removal of all spiritual light, and the gradual advance of darkness, till, like a funeral pall, it overspreads the uerse, confounding all distinctions, and commingling all objects in the chaos of a night that has no twilight and no morning. Oh, it is one thing to imagine such a state of things, while actually in possession of a thousand radiating lustrous points, imparting the reflected light of heaven to our souls; but quite another thing to see them all grow dark in quick succession, and to feel the darkness creeping to our inmost souls.
If such a change be possible, then surely a state of spiritual darkness is a state of danger. And is not spiritual sleep likewise a state of danger? May not that sleep become sounder and sounder, and the sleeper more and more insensible of all surrounding objects? May not the chances of his ever waking become less and less, until the case is desperate? Have you not heard of sick men who have fallen, to appearance, into sweet and gentle slumber, the supposed precursor of returning health, and never waked again? Oh, there are doubtless many spiritual invalids who come to a like end. After a life of irreligion and of vice, they experience a few pangs of compunction, and subside into a state of calm quiescence, equally free from the excesses of gross sin, and the positive exercises of a renewed heart. In this soft slumber they remain amidst the thunders of the law and the gospel, confident of their own salvation, and unmoved by what is said to men as sinners. And in this somnolent condition they remain, until the taking of rest in sleep is followed by the sleep of death. No waking interval seems to show them their true situation, and they are not undeceived until the first flash of eternal daylight forces their eyes open.
Is not spiritual sleep a state of danger then? All this will be readily conceded, but the question still recurs: how can death be properly a state of danger? A man in the dark may be exposed to peril on the margin of a precipice, and so may he who is asleep upon the top of a mast; for both are exposed to sudden death. But when already dead, where is the danger? Is not death a state of safety as to temporal perils % The answer to this question involves a striking difference between natural and spiritual death. The death of the body, as it simply puts an end to all the vital functions, is an absolute and changeless state, admitting no gradations; whereas spiritual death is something positive, and constantly progressive. The man who died yesterday is just as dead to-day as he will be to-morrow. But the dead soul becomes more dead every day and every hour. The process of corruption never ceases, and, if the soul continues dead, never will cease. The worm that feeds upon the carcass of the dead soul is a worm that never dies, and the tire that decomposes it is never quenched. What we call spiritual death in this world sinks from one degree of putrefaction to another, till it gets beyond the reach, not only of restorative, but of embalming processes, imtil it is resolved into eternal death. And even in that lowest pit there is a lower pit of putrefaction and decay, opening one beneath another into that abyss from which reason and imagination shrink with equal horror. Yes, the first is to the second death as a mere point of time to all eternity. The soul that dies once, dies forever, nay is forever dying; not as in the first death with an agony of moments or of hours in its duration, but with a throe of anguish which shall blend with all the dying soul's sensations through eternity. And oh, what an eternity! each thought a pang, and every respiration a mere dying gasp! This is the second death: and will you say that spiritual death, which tends to this, is not a state of danger?
If it be true that our natural state is one of darkness, sleep, death, guilt, and danger, no one who really believes it to be so, can fail to be aroused to the necessity of doing something to obtain deliverance. The real ground of men's indifference to this matter is their unbelief. They do not really believe what they are told as to their state by nature. Where this faith really exists, it shows itself in anxious fears, if not in active efforts. And the soul's first impulse is, to break the spell which binds it, by its own strength. It resolves that the darkness shall be light, that the sleep of sin shall be disturbed, and that there shall be a resurrection from the death of sin; its guilt shall be atoned for, and its dangers all escaped. Such resolutions always have the same result—a total failure in the object aimed at, and an aggravation of the evils to be remedied. To save you from the pain of a severe disappointment, let me remind you, that according to our text, the state of man by nature is not only one of darkness, and sleep, and death, and guilt, and danger, but of helplessness. I say, according to the text, for although this doctrine is not taught explicitly, I read it in the promise added to the exhortation, " Christ shall give thee light." It might, indeed, at first sight, seem, as if our compliance with the exhortation were a condition of the promise which is added. And so indeed it is, but like other conditions in the system of free grace, it is dependent upon that which seems dependent upon it. Repentance and faith are conditions of salvation; but the author of our salvation is the giver of repentance, the author and finisher of our faith. It seems as if God, in divine condescension to the feelings of poor sinners, had thought fit to clothe his own gratuitous bestowments in the guise of acts to be performed by us. He forgives us freely if we repent and believe, but we can just as well make expiation for our sins, as repent and believe without divine assistance. It is as if a father should offer to forgive his child's offence, on condition that he pay a certain sum, and should then produce the sum required from his own purse. When the text says, therefore, "Awake thou that sleep^st, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light," the analogy of gospel truth constrains us to believe, that so the light which is promised in the last clause is the means, the only means, by which the exhortation can be possibly complied with.
Nor is it only from the text that this appears. It results from the very nature of the state in question. Would it not have been a bitter irony to call upon the Egyptians to strike light out of the palpable obscurity in which they were involved? Would it not have been worse than irony to wait till Lazarus should raise himself? Above all, would you tantalize the breaker of God's holy law by promises of pardon, on condition of his perfect obedience for the future, and satisfactory atonement for the past? Does he not know that every effort for the expiation of his guilt adds something to its depth and its enormity? That having his face naturally turned from God, the further he proceeds, the more remote he is from God, and every impulse which he feels, instead of bringing his soul nearer, drives it further from the centre of perfection? What a condition! If it were possible to sit still and do nothing, we should surely perish through our own neglect. And if we exercise our strength, we only stir up a centrifugal impetus which drives us to perdition! Surely this is helplessness in the highest sense. And I appeal to any one who ever was awakened to a sense of sin and the desire of salvation, whether his own heart does not respond to my description. If it does, we have experimental confirmation of the scriptural doctrine, that our state by nature is not only miserable, dangerous, and guilty, but pre-eminently helpless.
But will not this doctrine tend to paralyze the efforts of the sinner for salvation? And what then? The more completely his self-righteous strength is paralyzed, the better. No man can trust God and himself at once. Tour self-reliance must be destroyed, or it will destroy you. But if, by a paralysis of effort, be intended a stagnation of feeling, and indifference to danger, I reply that this doctrine has no tendency to breed it. Suppose it should be suddenly announced to this assembly that a deadly malady had just appeared, and had begun to sweep off thousands in its course; and that the only possibility of safety depended on the use of a specific remedy, simple and easy in its application, and already within the reach of every individual, who had nothing to do at any moment but to use it, and infallibly secure himself against infection. And suppose that, while your minds were resting on this last assurance, it should be authoritatively contradicted, and the fact announced, with evidence not to be gainsaid, that this specific, simple and infallibly successful, was beyond the reach of every person present, and could only be applied by a superior power. I put it to yourselves, which of these statements would produce security, and which alarm? Which would lead you to fold your hands in indolent indifference, and which would rouse you to an agonizing struggle for the means of safety? I speak as unto wise men: judge ye what I say. Oh, my friends, if there is any cure for spiritual sloth and false security, it is a heartfelt faith in the necessity of superhuman help. The man who makes his helplessness a pretext for continuance in sin, whatever he may say, does not really believe that he is helpless. No man believes it till he knows it by experience. The firmest believers in man's plenary ability, are men whose hearts are hard through the deceitfulness of sin. Those, on the contrary, who have been taught to fathom the abyss of their own hearts, and who know what it is to have leaned upon the reed of their own strength until it pierced them, will be forward to acknowledge that our state of nature is not only one of darkness, sleep, death, guilt, and danger, but of utter helplessness.
Here we may pause in our enumeration. Each item in the catalogue has made our state by nature more degraded and alarming, and we now have reached a point, beyond which we need not, and indeed cannot advance. Darkness is bad enough, but its perils may be shunned by men awake. But we are also asleep; and sleep, though it suspends our powers, is a transient state. But alas! our sleep is the sleep of death. Yet even in death some men take pleasure, as a state admitting of no further change. But our death is progressive, and therefore far more dangerous than any state in life. Yet even here we might take refuge in the consciousness of our own innocence, and draw a kind of desperate consolation from the proud thought that we have not brought this ruin on ourselves. But even this poor consolation is snatched from us. We are guilty! we are guilty! This puts an end to all self-pleading, and impels us to escape from a condition which is equally miserable, dangerous, and guilty. But even here we are encountered by a last conviction. We are helpless! we are helpless! This is the death-blow to our hopes, and we despair. Yes, despair may be described as the conclusion to which we are conducted by the text. Not absolute despair, but that despair which is essential to salvation. For there is salvation, even from this lowest depth to which we have descended. The text teaches us not only what our state by nature is, but how it may be changed. Our bane and antidote are both before us. And what is this great remedy? Hear the answer of the text: "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Light, light is the specific for our case. And as light is the opposite of darkness, the description before given of our spiritual darkness, will teach us what is signified by spiritual light, and what are its effects upon the soul.
In the first place, it dispels that blindness of the heart and the affections, which disables us from seeing the true qualities of spiritual objects. That which before seemed repulsive, becomes lovely: that which was mean, is glorious. That which was pleasing or indifferent, is now seen to be loathsome. The beauty of holiness and the ugliness of sin, are now revealed in their true colours. Moral and spiritual objects which before were undefined and indistinct, are now seen clearly, and invested with their true proportions. Things which, through the mist of sin, were magnified, distorted, and confused, fall at once into their natural position and their real size. Nor is this all. The light which beams upon ns, not only rectifies our views of what we saw before, but shows us what we never saw. We are like the prophet's servant, who imagined that his master and himself Avere left alone, until his eyes were opened, and he saw the mountain Vol. n.—2
to be filled with chariots, and horses of fire. Have you ever read, or heard, of the effect produced upon the feelings by the sudden restoration of the sight? Those objects which to us are too familiar to affect us, are to the blind man full of glory. In the moment of his restoration, a whole lifetime of enjoyment seems to be concentrated. But what are these sensations to the feelings of the soul when the scales fall from its eyes, and the curtain is withdrawn from the spiritual world, and the intense light of divine illumination, with gradual dawn, or sudden flash, lights up the amphitheatre by which we are surrounded, and shows us that, instead of standing by ourselves in a contracted circle, we are a spectacle to angels and to devils, and spectators of a uerse!
Light, then, is the remedy ; but how shall we obtain it? We are still driven back upon our helplessness. "We see that light we must have, but we see not how it can be kindled by us. Here the text teaches us another lesson. It teaches us not only that we must have light, but that it must be given to us. Christ shall give thee light. If it comes at all it comes as a free gift. This harmonizes fully with the sense of our helplessness, and indeed confirms it. Think not that I lay too much stress upon this incidental form of speech. This circumstance I hold to be essential to the doctrine. It matters not how sensible we may be of the need of light, nor how intensely we may long for it, unless we know that it can only come to us by being given. Thousands come short of everlasting life, because they trust for light in sparks of their own kindling. The light which we need, is not from any earthly luminary. It is not from any twinkling star, revolving planet, or erratic comet. It is from the sun, the sun of righteousness. And where is he? In what part of the firmament is his tabernacle set?
This is the last question answered by the text. It not only shows us that we must have light, and that this light must be given to us by another, but it shows us who can give it—who alone can give it. "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Brethren, from whatever point you set out when you trace the gospel method of salvation, if you follow the Scriptures, you will always come to Christ. And that way of salvation which conducts to any other point, is not the way for us. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. This world, to the believer, is a dark, perplexing labyrinth, and in its mazes he would lose himself forever, were it not that ever and anon, at certain turnings in the crooked path, he gets a glimpse of Calvary. These glimpses may be transitory, but they feed his hopes, and often unexpectedly return to cheer his drooping spirits. Sometimes he is ready to despair of his escape, and to lie down in the darkness of the labyrinth and die. But as he forms the resolution, an unlooked-for turn presents a distant prospect, and beyond all other objects and above them, he discerns the cross and Christ upon it. Look to Christ, then! look to him for light to dissipate your darkness—to arouse you from your sleep, and to raise you from the dead; for though these figures are not carried out by the apostle, he obviously means that the light here promised is to be a cure, not only for our darkness, but our sleep and death. And, indeed, the perception and enjoyment of light, implies that we are living and awake. If, then, you would have this sovereign remedy for all your evils, look to Christ! Perhaps you have already looked unto him and been lightened. Oh, then, look on, look always; for it is not enough to have looked once. The believer's face must be fixed continually on this source of light, and fastened there forever. Have you not had your hours of darkness, nay, your days, weeks, months and years of darkness, even since you obtained light from Christ? Ah, it was when you turned away your steadfast gaze from the pillar of fire which went before you, that it became to you a pillar of cloud. To all who are now in darkness, I hold up the only source of spiritual light; and in the ears of every one slumbering at ease within the Church of God, I cry aloud, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!"
But its exhortation is not only or chiefly to the believer who is wrapped in darkness. Its voice is still louder to the soul asleep in sin, dead in trespasses and sins, "Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light!" And oh, remember that you cannot shut your eyes upon this light without an aggravation of your future wretchedness—without adding a deeper shade of blackness to the darkness of your grave. It is said, that in some of the great light-houses built on rocks lying mostly under water, the brightness of the lantern attracts multitudes of sea-birds, which dart headlong towards it, like the moth into the candle, and are violently dashed back dead into the sea. And oh, is it not a fearful thought that the salvation of the gospel, that the cross of Christ itself, may be a living, yet not a saving sight—that souls may be attracted by it only to perdition? But that same radiant lantern which sheds its saving beams upon the souls of the elect, shines no less brightly upon those that perish. But, alas ! instead of using its divine light to escape the wrath to come, they only dash against it with insane hostility, and fall back stunned into the dark abyss which washes its foundations. God forbid that you or I should die so terrible a death, and be lighted to perdition by that very blaze which might have guided us to glory.