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in respect of its power over men, what can be compared to mental, moral, spiritual darkness? Its chains are more difficult to rend than chains of brass or iron. Look at Popery! She immures her votaries in a gloomier dungeon than ever held her victims. And throwing her fetters, not over the limbs, but over the free mind of man, what an illustration does she give of " the power of darkness ?” How formidable is that power which compels a man to sacrifice his reason at the feet of priestcraft; and woman, shrinking, modest, delicate woman, to allow some foul hand to search her bosom, and to drag its secrets from their close concealment. Best gift of heaven! God sends them his blessed word, and they dare not open it. Those senses of smell, and touch, and taste, which are the voice of God, declare that the cup is filled with wine, and the wafer made of wheat; but, as if their senses as well as their souls were darkened, they believe that to be a living man's blood, and this to be a living man's flesh! Having eyes, they see not." And, greatest triumph of darkness! they hug their chains; refuse instruction; stop their ears, like the deaf adder which will not hear the voice of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely; and turn away their eyes from the truth, as the owls that haunt some old monastic ruin from the glare of a torch, or the blaze of day. How appropriate to the devotees of a faith so detestable, the words of Scripture—“ If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness !"
Censure, as well as charity, however, should begin
at home; and therefore, to be faithful to ourselves as well as just to others, we ought not to forget that melancholy illustrations of the power of darkness are found nearer at hand than Rome. In the face of all past and much bitter experience, how many among ourselves live under the delusion that, though the happiness they seek and expect to find in the world has, in all bygone time, eluded their grasp, in the object they now pursue, they shall certainly embrace the mocking phantom! How many among ourselves, also, are putting away the claims of Christ and of their souls to what they flatter themselves shall be a more, but what must be a less, convenient season! Contrary to the testimony of all who have ever tried it, do not many of us persist in believing God's service to be a weariness, and piety a life of cheerless gloom? Many regard the slavery of sin as liberty, and shun the liberty of Christ as intolerable bondage. Many fancy themselves to be safe, who, hanging over perdition by life's most slender thread, are “ready to perish.” Talk of the delusions of Popery and the credulity of Papists ! Many among us believe the barest and most naked lies of the devil, rather than the plain word of God. Alas! the feet of thousands here are on the dark mountains; and, unless God shall enlighten them by his Spirit, the dark. ness, which is now their danger, shall prove their death.
Were you, under the tyranny of mortal man, immured in his strongest dungeon, I would not despair of your escape. Within an old castle that sits picturesquely perched upon a noble sea rock, and to whose crumbling walls the memory of other days clings, fresh and green as the ivy that mantles them, there is a sight to strike men with horror. Passing under a lowbrowed portal, where you bid farewell to the light and air of heaven, a flight of broken steps conducts you down into a chill, gloomy vault. In the centre of its rocky floor yawn the jaws of a horrid pit. The candle, lighted and swung into that dread abyss, goes down, and yet deeper down, till, in an excavated dungeon in the rock, it dimly reveals the horrors of a living grave. There the cry for help could reach no ear but God's; and no sound responded to the captive's moan but the dull steady stroke of the billows, as they burst on the face of the crag. Into that sepulchre— where they buried God's persecuted saints—you look to shudder, and to say, " for them hope was none." Yet immure a man in that—in the darkest, strongest dungeon despot has ever built, and give him hope for a companion, liberty for his bosom-wish, a brave heart, a stout hand, and, some morning, his goaler enters to find the cage empty, and the bird flown. But, for you that are under the power of darkness—for you, who are at once the servants and slaves and captives of the Prince of Darkness—for you, whom he first blinds, and then binds, there is no help in man.
There is help in God. Sin never wove, in hottest hell-fires the devil never forged, a chain, which the Spirit of God, wielding the hammer of the word, cannot strike from fettered limbs. Put that to the test. Try the power of prayer. Let continued, constant, earnest, wrestling prayer be made for those that are chained to their sins, and, so to speak, thrust “into the inner prison," and see whether, as on that night when Peter was led forth by the angel's hand, your prayers are not turned into most grateful praises. From the belly of the whale, from the depths of ocean, from the darkness of a perpetual night, God brought up Jonah to sunny shores and lightsome liberty. And let that same God hear from vilest lips the cry of dangerLord save me, I perish—the cry of earnest desire, of lowly penitence, of an awakened conscience, of humble faith, and he shall save them by a great deliverance. He will bow his heavens, and come down. True to his word, he, who never said to any of the sons of men, “Seek ye me in vain,” will deliver from the power of darkness, and translate into the “ kingdom of his dear Son."
Having from these words considered our state of nature under the emblem of darkness, I would now remark
II. That even God's people remain in more or less
darkness, so long as they are here.
1. They may be in darkness through ignorance. Their eyes have been divinely opened, and they can say with the man of old, “This I know, that I once was blind, but now I see." Having received “the truth as it is in Jesus," and abandoned the works of darkness, they are therefore called “the children of light, and
the children of the day.” Yet all of them do not enjoy the same measure of light, nor are they all possessed of equal powers of sight. Skies differ, and eyes differ; and hence those conflicting views which have separated brother from brother, and rent Christ's church into so many most unfortunate and lamentable divisions.
It is easy to understand how this happens. Let objects be looked at through an imperfect light, and how different the appearance from the reality! What mistakes we fall into! In the grey morning, I have seen the fog-bank that filled the valley wear the aspect of a lake, where every wood-crowned knoll lay as beautiful island, asleep on its placid bosom. How often has superstition fled, pale, shrieking from the churchyard, to report to gaping rustics that the dead were walking ; when it was but the pale moonlight struggling through the waving branches of the old elms, that had transformed some grave-stone into a sheeted spectre! And, seen through a mist, the very sun itself is shorn of its glorious splendour, turned into a dull, red, copper ball; while mean objects, regarded through the same false medium, acquire a false dignity--bushes are magnified into trees, and the humble cottage rises into a stately mansion. And do not God's people fall into as great mistakes, when they look at divine truth through their defective vision, and through the mist of those passions and prejudices that are common to our poor humanity ? There should be much more latitude allowed for those differences of opinion which are inseparable from our present state ; but, forgetting to temper the ardent zeal