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source of natural light. “In the beginning," before the sun was set in the firmament, and when yet " the earth was without form, and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters; God said, Let there be light, and there was light.” As the sovereign Ruler, he continues to sustain and govern his creation; for thus saith the Lord, “ I form the light and I create darkness.”
2. The Lord Jesus Christ is the source of intellectual light. He created mind; he constituted man a rational being, capable of feeling, thinking, willing and acting; for “there is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding:
3. He is the author of spiritual light. Spiritual light in man includes the knowledge of his own moral state, and his right apprehensions of the sovereignty and perfections of his Creator. This point will be particularly noticed in the sequel of the discourse. “He that followeth me,” saith Christ, “ shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” The person who is the recipient of this light, discovers his depravity of heart, and acknowledges his guilt; at God's mercy seat he exclaims in sorrow, “thou hast set mine iniquities before thee, my secret sins in the light of thy countenance :” humbled in view of the degradation of his nature, and the odiousness of his character in the sight of the holy God, he cries out, “ I have heard of thee, by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; therefore, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes !” And his state is comfortless, until in mercy“God shine into his heart, to give him the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The subject suggests a variety of interesting topics, but I shall consider but two: 1st. Man's natural moral darkness; and 2dly, The means by which he becomes enlightened.
I. Without the knowledge of God the world is in spiritual darkness.
“I am the light of the world." By the world, in a moral sense, we understand the race of man. Every individual of mankind, as a part of the world, being naturally destitute of the saving knowledge of God, is in spiritual darkness. For “man by wisdom knew not God.” Original transgression of God's law has brought sin on every man; and where sin is there is opposition to the government of God., This violation of the divine commandment has incurred the penalty of death; for with the prohibition of the use of the symbolical fruit in Eden, the great Lawgiver said, “ in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” Having violated God's law, man has involved himself in the gloom of spiritual death.
That all men must inevitably suffer a temporal death, needs no other proof than our own consciousness of personal infirmity and disease, and our daily observation of the mortality of our species. It is equally certain that he who shall continue in sin, being in a state of spiritual death, will suffer eternal death, or everlasting exclusion from the joys of heaven, and be cast into endless misery, to dwell in the darkness of despair.
That man is spiritually dead is evident by his conduct. If he were alive to God, his principal desire would be to please the giver of life. But, on the contrary, we find that every man has gone in the ways of his own heart, and has done abominable iniquity :” for men's hearts are corrupt; they are “ deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked :” therefore, sinners “call evil good, and good evil; they put darkness for light, and light for darkness.” This is deplorably the case of every unre. newed man:
“ All his hopes
Of folly, plunging in pursuit of death!" If you ask for particular proofs that you are yet in the darkness of spiritual death; be assured that if you have never felt any trouble of soul on account of your sinfulness; if you have never prayed to God for mercy, from a sense of your condemnation, and continued to implore pardon until God has enlightened your mind in the knowledge of Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and spoken peace to your soul; if you do not read the sacred scriptures with diligence, with pleasure, and profit, and love to draw nigh to God in prayer and the institutions of his church, you are yet, undoubtedly, “ alienated from the life of God by reason of the blindness of
your heart.” Do you flatter yourself that God is too good to punish you for being habitually profane in your language, taking God's name in vain, and having been guilty of thousands of nameless vices? Do you think that a few words of prayer, uttered with your lips, without your hearts being affected by a sense of the guilt of sin, will lay God under obligations to forgive you, and bless you forever? How often have you asked God to blast you in everlasting death: and would not the justice of God be as glorious in his answering this prayer, as would be his mercy in granting your unmeaning request of forgiveness ? “ Be not deceived, God is not mocked;" he that soweth to the wind shall reap the whirlwind.” If you do not hate sin and desire to be holy, you are yet in the darkness of death, for “ without holiness no man shall see the Lord.”
But you may have resolved to do better; to reform your life, and try to gain God's favour, by leaving off some of your sinful
practices, whilst you retain others, which you endeavour to persuade yourself are but of little account. This is not enough. Jesus Christ says, “ Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” You must be changed in heart. A mere external and partial reformation will never be the means of your arriving in heaven. This is a deception which has too frequently shipwrecked the hopes of men. “ Their tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast; they could not spread the sail.” Death overtakes the sinner. The grave yawns to receive the desolate victim of Satan's craft. The blackening clouds of the wrath of heaven affright the guilty spirit, which trembles at its doom,
“ And shrieks and hovers o'er the dark abyss !" Do you inquire, “How then can a man be just with God ?” There is a light sufficient to direct the voyager to the desired port. Jesus Christ affirms, “ I am the light of the world.” This leads to the consideration of the second truth proposed : viz.
II. “ Life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel.”
Although light may exist, yet, from ignorance of that light, men may perish in darkness. And if an enemy exhibit false lights to facilitate our destruction, unless we have a certain test by which to determine whether the light be true or treacherous, we shall be in danger of ruin.
God has given us a revelation of himself. This is his testimony, that Jesus Christ is “the true light.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” And for the information of all who inquire the course to heaven, Christ says, “ I am the way, the truth and the life.” This testimony is the gospel which is preached unto men. And therefore, “ Life and immortality are brought to light through the gospel.”
The gospel has the peculiar property, by the application of the Holy Spirit, of opening to the sinner's view his true character. It claims his confidence in its truth, by its first discovering to him his wretchedness, and utter inability to deliver himself from his state of condemnation. It penetrates the dark recesses of his soul, and makes him acquainted with his enmity against God; as a light in a dark place, it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The sins of the penitent soul, which, in an unenlightened state, he considered but trifles, he now beholds as billows, swelling, and threatening to dash him to pieces, and to engulf him in fathomless wo. This personal conviction of the divine authority of God's testimony against the sinner, brings him into a state of humiliation, contrition, and Vol. II.-- Presb. Mag.
submission; urged by a sense of his necessities, he cries to God for mercy; the gospel now shows him the way of life through faith in the Lord Jesus, and he is encouraged by its assurances that there is plenteous redemption in the blood of Christ; he ponders the page of divine truth, and, with increasing interest, contemplates the mystery “into which angels desire to look: ” the life, the obedience, the sufferings, the death of the Saviour of the lost, are subjects which occupy his thoughts and raise his admiration and gratitude; the matchless love of his dying Lord fills his soul; and whilst by faith he looks to the cross, tears of penitence and holy affection mingle in his eyes. But, when he contemplates his gloriously exalted Mediator interceding for sinners, he adores the grace by which he is brought to experience that the gospel is “ the power of God and the wisdom of God unto salvation.” Thus the gospel dispels the moral darkness of the mind of man, and directs the troubled spirit to Jesus Christ, “the Light of the world ;” and cherishes in the bosom of the believer a hope full of a blissful immortality.
I will now close this address with a few practical remarks.
1. Man is a voyager on the ocean of this life; his destination is Eternity; his course is through a dangerous world: in the boundless region to which he is hastening is the Haven of Holy Rest; as a guide to this stormless port, Jesus Christ manifests himself. By this celestial light the spiritual mariner may steer with safety and assurance of an abundant entrance into the desired haven. This light shines with attractive lustre in the gospel; the testimony of God furnishes all that is necessary for information respecting the dangers of the voyage, and affords every facility for escaping them. The faithful ministers of Christ are his commissioned pilots, who admonish unwary men to respect the kindness and counsel of Jehovah. By these, sinners are exhorted to look to Christ “the author and finisher of the Christian's faith;” “ the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Reflecting the glory of their divine Master, they “shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.”
2. In the region of Eternity is also the Gulf of Wo. To this dismal place, they who obey not the gospel of Christ are driven by the tempests of their lusts. Their ignorance of danger is the consequence of their obstinate rejection of the warnings of the word of God and contempt of his counsel ; “ they love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil;" they will not look at the chart, lest in discovering their danger, their ignorance should be exposed; they will not search the scriptures;" “ they will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.” The pilots, the ministers of the gospel, knowing the terrors which will be the result of the presumption of ungodly men, would persuade them seriously to reflect on their condition; they strive to convince them, that now the Sun of Righteousness, the Lord Jesus Christ, in the meridian splendour of his grace, illuminates his word, and sheds his benign rays upon the world. Now is the time for sinners to take a correct observation, and to ascertain their state. In a moment it may be too late, when the Sun of Hope will have sunk below the horizon of mercy, and they be left eternally to mourn in bitterness their neglect of this great salvation. You may now be very near Eternity; it is time for you to try your soundings; look out for the Light which shows the entrance to the Haven of Rest. Does darkness obscure your prospect ? Do gusts of temptation still baffle your efforts to make the heavenly port? Or do false lights, exhibited by the prince of darkness, decoy you to the horrid gulf? Is your course laid heavenward ? Or, are your unhallowed passions and sensual propensities swiftly carrying you down to hell? O, my friends, it is time for you to know in whose employ you have entered; in what trade you are engaged; what wages you are to receive; to what port you are sailing. He who has never devoted his heart to God is led captive by the devil at his will: he is the slave of lust; and “lust when it is conceived bringeth forth sin; and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death,” for, saith the word of truth, " the wages of sin is death!” Look forward-a storm is gathering; it is the storm of Jehovah's wrath ; with terror and destruction it is ready to burst upon the impenitent sinner, for " the wrath of God cometh upon the children of disobedience;" and thus saith the Spirit of the Most High, “ On the wicked he will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup!" Listen not to the enemy, who, hailing you from ahead, amidst the false glare of damning delusion, cries “ All's well !” when you are near, very near eternal perdition : already you are beating on the rocks, and your shattered barque cannot much longer live upon the foaming flood. Raise your signal of distress, and cry for deliverance to Нім,
“ Who rides
upon the stormy wind,
And manages the seas.” He is mighty to save, even unto the uttermost. You have hi. therto been laying your course from the Haven of Rest; you may yet perceive, through the blackness of the storm, a glimmering ray of “the true Light,” which cheers the spiritual navigator, as
“ The hope.beaming star in the desert of night.” It invites sinners who are embarked on the dangerous ocean of this mortal life, thither to bend their course, and to cast their anchor of hope “ within the veil."