« PreviousContinue »
thy bed-it is all one whether thou burn on a couch of down or straw. Escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed," betake you to the Saviour, lest—since the blood of Christ cleanseth from all sin, and he died for the chief of sinners, and salvation is without money and without price, and God is not willing that any should perish—thou perish, more in a sense the victim of thy sloth than of thy guiltiest sins.
Ancient Egypt, however, supplies perhaps the best illustration of the connection which subsists between a state of darkness and a state of indolence. God said to Moses, “ Stretch out thine hand toward heaven, that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt. And Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven; and there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt three days.” And how passed these days of darkness? They neither bought nor sold; they neither married nor buried; they neither rocked a cradle nor embalmed a corpse. No hammer rang; no merry wheel went round; no fire burned at the brick kiln; no woman sang “behind the mill;" no busy tread sounded on the pavement, nor cheerful dash of oar upon the water. An awful silence reigned throughout the land. As if every house had been in a moment changed into a tomb, and each living man into a mummied corpse, they sat motionless——the king on his weary throne, the peasant in the field, the weaver at his loom, the prisoner in his dungeon. As in the story of some old romance, where a bold knight, going in quest of adventures, sounds his
horn at the castle gate, and, getting no response, enters to find king, courtiers, servants, horses, all turned into stone—they sat, spell-bound, where the darkness seized them. “They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days."
Still greater wonder! many a man in this world has not risen from his place, I say not for three days, nor for three years, but ten times three years and more. He is no nearer heaven than he was a long time ago. Borne on, indeed, by the ever-flowing stream of time, and ever-downward course of sin, alas ! he is nearer the brink of hell. Perilous indolence! God says, “ labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life," "give diligence to make your calling and election sure," " seek ye the Lord while he may be found," and therefore, I say, be up, and doing; time is short; the stake is great; death is at the door, and, if he find you out of Christ, damnation is at his heels. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Of your many calls, and opportunities, is this all the result ? Half awakened, yet unwilling to tear yourself from the arms of pleasure, do you avert your eyes from the light? angry perhaps, at being disturbed, perhaps half sorrowful, do you bid us come back at “a more convenient season ?" drowsily turning on your deceitful couch, do you say, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep?" Then, in God's name, I ask what shall be the end of these things ? The end of these things is death.
2. Darkness is a state of ignorance.
Conducted under the veil of night to the nuptial couch, Jacob finds in the possession of Rachel, as he supposes, an ample reward for the seven long years of weary work and waiting. She, whom his heart wooed and his hands won, is now his wedded wife. He wakes a happy man. Neither suspecting how God had punished him for the deceit he practised on his old blind father, nor how Laban, a greater master of craft than himself, had substituted the elder for the younger daughter, fancy his confusion, when he turns, by the rosy light of morn, to gaze on his beautiful bride, to find the blear-eyed Leah at his side. day approaches when, from dreams of wealth and pleasure, many shall awake, in rage and unavailing sorrow, to the discovery of a greater mistake. What Jacob's mistake to his, who, embracing pleasure, wakens to find himself in the arms of a hideous demon, dragging him down-struggling, shrieking, into the lowest hell?
But if we would see spiritual darkness represented on a scale in any degree commensurate with the multitude of its victims, and with its destructive power, let us turn to the host of Midian. The memorable night has come when, animated by a divine courage, Gideon leads his three hundred to the bold assault. Silently he plants them around the enemy's lines, waiting till song and revel have died away, and that mighty host lies buried in stillest slumbers. Then, one trumpet blows loud and clear, startling the wary sentinel on
his round. He stops, he listens; and, ere its last echoes have ceased, the whole air is torn with battle-notes. Out of the darkness, trumpet replies to trumpet, and the blast of three hundred, blown loud and long, wakens the deepest sleeper-filling the ear of night with a dreadful din, and the hearts of the bravest with strange and sudden fear. Ere they can ask what mean, whence come these sounds, a sight as strange blazes up through the murky night. Three hundred torch-fires pierce the gloom, and advance in flaming circle on the panicstricken camp. Suddenly extinguished, once more all is dark. Then-as if the dust of the whirlwind, or the sands of the desert, or the leaves of the forest, had turned into armed men, ready to burst on that uncircumcised host—in front, on their rear, on either flank, rings the Hebrews' battle-cry, “ The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!” For dear life the Midianites draw. Mistaking friend for foe, they bury their swords in each other's bosoms. Wild with terror, stricken mad with pain, each man seizes his fellow by the beard, giving and receiving mortal wounds. And so, not by the arms of Gideon, so much as by the hand of the darkness, was skill outwitted, and bravery defeated, and that mighty army routed and slain. Such is the power of darkness! Yet what is that dying host to one lost soul !
Ugliness and beauty, friend and foe, are all one in the dark. And so are all roads when the belated traveller cannot see his finger before him, and the watery pool throws off no gleam, and earth and sky appear a solid mass of darkness. Unconscious of danger, and dreaming of a home he shall never more see, he draws near the precipice; his foot is on its grassy edge; another step, one loud shriek, and there he lies--a bleeding mass, beneath the crag. Nor, when night comes down upon the deep in fog, or rain, or blinding drift, can the ill-starred mariner distinguish the rock from the sea, or a wrecker's fire from the harbour lights. Thusshowing us how many sinners perish—the darkness is the cause of their death. They are lost-victims to the power of darkness.”
The greatest of all mistakes is to miss the path to heaven. Yet see how many, turning from Christ, who says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” in the darkness of their understandings, and the depravity of their hearts, have missed, and are missing it? Some think that their charities, and public usefulness, and household duties, will save them. Some think, by goir the round and lifeless routine of prayers, and preachings, and sacraments, and outward services, that they will certainly secure the favour of God. Some think they may go on in sin, and for a while longer dare the danger, and then put up the helm-veering round when they like on the other tack; while many fancy that they are on the road to heaven, when every step they take, and every day they live, is carrying them farther and farther away. Others regard religion as a thing of gloom; they reckon the friends of their souls to be the enemies of their happiness. Infatuated men! they fly from the voice of the Shepherd to throw themselves into the