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holiness in Christ, was, and is, prior to our nature alliance with Adam. And you, who have known "the wormwood and the gall" of a state of sin, in the Adam-fall transgression, while laying under the pangs of a wounded conscience, until relieved by Christ, will best know how to value this unspeakable blessing of grace-union with Christ. There is not in the history of a child of God, either in the Old Testament or the New, no, nor in the thousands since, but what, more or less, have found cause to subscribe to the blessed truth. I might exemplify it in the records of the faithful in all ages; but I have particularly selected the instance of Abraham, on account of the honourable testimony given to this patriarch, by way of illustration. With him were deposited the promises. He is dignified with the name of the great "father of the faithful:" yea, the Lord himself called him "Abraham, my friend!" (Isaiah xli. 8. James ii. 23.) To behold this man, this friend of God, under the state the text describes him, will come home to the soul, if sent by the Lord with peculiar strength of argument. "And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram and lo! an horror of great darkness fell uponhim!" I beseech the spiritual church of Christ which are here present, to look with me, unto him, “with whom is the residue of the Spirit,” that our meditation of this subject may be wholly under his unction.
In order that we may omit nothing, which may serve to explain to us the great and leading truths contained in the doctrine of the text, it will be proper to begin the history of Abram, where the Lord himself hath begun his scriptural account of this man. The first call of Abram opens at the xiith chapter where we read, "Now the Lord hath said unto Abram, get thee out of thy country, and from thy
kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. And I will make of thee a great nation; and I will bless thee, and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing." (Gen. xii. 1-3.) As the state of an holiness, above all created holiness, in which the church was chosen in Christ, was wrought without any act or merit on the part of man; so the call of grace to the knowledge and enjoyment of this blessedness, is wholly of God. "If we love him, it is because he first loved us." (1 John iv. 19.) In the prosecution of the chapter it is related, that Abram did as the Lord commanded him: and God the Holy Ghost in another Scripture, hath given this testimony to Abram's faith, "that he went out, not knowing whither he went." (Heb. xi. 8.)
In the chapter from whence my text is taken, (and some years had passed in Abram's life, since the former) we read, that " after these things, the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not Abram, I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward!" By "the word of the Lord," in this place, must be meant the uncreated Word, even One of those almighty Recorders in heaven mentioned elsewhere by John, (1 Epis. v. 7.) for there was no written word of Scripture at this time. Besides, the blessing proposed could be promised by none but God. And I pray you to observe that the prior promise was to make Abram great, by giving him this and that. But here God proposeth to give himself! Oh! the grace of the Holy Three in One! (Isa. xliii. 21. Ps. iv. 3.)
The patriarch availed himself of this unparalleled goodness, and reminded God of his present childless state. To correct which, "the Lord brought him forth abroad, (that is, in his vision) and said, look now toward heaven, and tell the stars if thou be able
to number them. And he said unto him, so shall thy seed be. And he believed in the Lord, and he counted it to him for righteousness. Here I pause to observe the mistake which some of the Lord's people have made respecting this faith of Abram, in supposing that it was the patriarch's faith which was counted to him for righteousness. But not so. For if Abram's faith, or any other man's faith was counted for righteousness, so might any other good deeds of the creature. The Lord Jesus hath given the key to open and explain this, as well as all the other eventful things in Abram's life, when saying to the Jews, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it and was glad.” (John viii. 56.) The spiritual sight the patriarch had of Christ beheld him in his incommunicable salvation, as the righteousness of his people. It was this Abraham believed: and this righteousness was counted to him, being one with Christ, as his own. And that this is what God the Holy Ghost by this Scripture taught is confirmed by another Scripture. For the Holy Ghost by Paul, when speaking of Abraham's faith, saith that this man "being fully persuaded that what God hath promised, he was able also to perform; therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness." And then the Lord adds, that "this was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him; but for us also to whom it shall be imputed." What shall be imputed? Abraham's faith? Ah! no; his faith can be no recommendation of ours. But the Lord explains it himself. "To whom it shall be imputed;" that is Christ's righteousness shall be imputed, "if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead." (Rom. iv.)
If this be a disgression, I hope, through grace, it will not be an unprofitable one. But to return to the history of Abraham. It should seem that this vision,
in which the word of the Lord came to Abraham, must have been before day break, for the sun had not risen to obscure the stars of the sky. And it appears probable also, that the whole day after was taken up in communion between the Lord and his servant. But on these points I would speak cautiously. The chief object I have in view, and for which I have invited your present attention, is to the consideration of the very solemn things contained in the bosom of this Scripture. "And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram: and lo! an horror of great darkness fell upon him." It is not unfrequently in the spiritual world, as it is in the natural, when the sun sets; or (to use the very solemn language of the Lord by the prophet) when the Lord fulfils that threatening: "It shall come to pass in that day saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon; and I will darken the earth in the clear day." (Amos viii. 9.) When this is the case, the soul is brought into the midst of various enemies. "Thou makest darkness, and it is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God." (Ps. civ. 20, 21.) And when the soul is thus enveloped in darkness, what advantage doth Satan, aided by the world and our inherent sin, take, to drive even sometimes to despair the people of God! (Job ii. 7, 8. 2 Cor. vii. 5.)
"A deep sleep fell upon Abram." Perhaps, not unlike that which Adam was exercised with, and from the same cause: where it is said, "the Lord caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam." (Gen. ii. 21.) I presume not to speak decidedly, where the Holy Ghost hath not explained. But, "comparing spiritual things with spiritual," may we not suppose that the Lord sealed up the faculties of the body, while
calling Abram to the exercise of the soul, that nothing might arise to interrupt the divine instruction? (2 Cor. xii. 2, 3.) Next follows the solemn account, for which I have desired your attention at this time to the subject: (and which again and again I pray the God of all grace, for grace to guide us through) "lo! an horror of great darkness fell upon Abram."
What I propose as the Lord shall be pleased to direct, is in the first place,to consider the cause which wrought on the spiritual mind of the patriarch, and in like manner cannot fail to operate on all the spiritual seed of Abraham, when by the work of God the Holy Ghost upon the heart, a deep soul conviction of sin, and the tremendous consequences of the wrath to come, arise to our contemplation. "An horror of great darkness!"
I shall then hope, under the same divine aid, to shew you another cause for this horror of great darkness in the patriarch's soul, (and the same more or less must be in all his spiritual seed when taught of God) in the contemplation of the sufferings of Christ in the accomplishment of salvation, for his church and people. This I gather from our most glorious Lord's gracious declaration, when he said, "Your father Abraham saw my day afar off." In beholding with the eye of faith, as enabled by the Lord, the day of Christ, he beheld the glories of his person, in his own inherent, essential, and underived GODHEAD: and no less he saw him in his suretyship engagement in the human nature he had assumed, and taken into union with his GODHEAD. And the marvellous acts of suffering of Christ in the accomplishment of salvation, thus viewed by Abraham, induced "an horror of great darkness" to fall upon him. When I have gone very briefly over both these branches of soul exercises, I shall in the last place, from that inexpressibly sweet declaration of Christ,