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cross the mountains, and ford the river, and travel waste and pathless moors through the mists of the thickest day. What although errors, like exhalations from the swampy ground, have risen up in many churches to obscure the heavenly light? Where there is genuine love to Jesus Christ, and God, and man, may we not cherish the hope that there is truth enough to conduct to heaven the steps of every pilgrim who is honestly and earnestly inquiring the way to Zion ? 66 There shall be a highway out of Egypt.” They shall come from the east and from the west, and from the north, and from the south," — from various climes, and from diverse churches,—"and shall sit down in the kingdom of God.” Nor do I despair of any getting to that heavenly kingdom, who, though belonging to churches that are dimly lighted, can discern upon the altar the one sacrifice for sin.
2. God's people may be in darkness through sin.So long as you walk in the path of his holy commandments you walk in light, walk at liberty; you have Jesus' arm to lean on; heaven lies straight on the road before you; and, on your path, however rough or steep, there streams perpetual sunshine. In the light of God's word, and in the beams of his countenance, the believer has that which imparts a genial warmth to his heart; every object, as in a sunny day, looks bright and beautiful; and the clouds, which occasionally sweep over him and discharge their burden on his head, are spanned, as they pass away, by a bow of hope. “Light
is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.”
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation !” the cry of one who has wandered from the paths of purity and peace, leads us to speak, in such cases, of God withdrawing the light of his countenance. But is it not more strictly true, that, in turning aside from the paths of holiness, we have withdrawn from that? It is he that descends into a pit who leaves the light, not the light that leaves him. So it is with the saint--the deeper he sinks into sin, the darker it grows. God will not smile on his child sinning; and that which would happen to our world, were its sun withdrawn, befalls his unhappy soul; a chilling cold follows on the darkness, and, but for restoring grace, death itself would follow in their train. The heart, that once sang like a bird, is now mute; the beauties of religion are lost to sight; sacraments, prayers, pious services, cease to afford their wonted pleasure; the joys of salvation — that once flowed through his heart, like silver streams among flowery pastures-are congealed into stillness, silence, and death; the soul itself grows benumbed, and is seized with a lethargy that would end in death, did not God send some Nathan to break the spell, and to rouse the sleeper. Then, conscience awakened and alarmed, in what darkness does he find himself ? The sun is down; nor does a single star cheer that deepest night. His mind is tortured with dreadful doubts. He recalls the days of old, but only to fear that he was a hypocrite or a self-deceiver. Where the scriptures speak of
castaways, of the unpardonable sin, of the impossibility of a renewal again unto repentance, he seems to read his doom, written by God's own finger in letters of fire. Nor is the poor penitent backslider saved from utter despair, but by clinging to the hope of mercy through the all-cleansing blood of Jesus. Led by this blessed angel to " the throne of grace," encouraged by this blessed promise, “I will heal their backslidings and love them freely," he throws himself in the dust to cry, “ Hath God forgotten to be gracious ?" “Is his mercy clean gone for ever?"
“Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Be merciful unto me, O God; be merciful unto me.”
These are the words of David, when under remorse for most terrible crimes. But never fancy that you are in no danger of losing the light of God's favour, unless you fall into a pit as deep, into sins as gross and grievous, as that good man committed. Beware of so great an error. No object, in its own place the most innocent, nor man, nor woman, nor husband, nor wife, nor child, nor bosom friend—nothing beneath the sun, not the heaven above it, with its holy pleasures, and high society, and welcome rest, may be allowed to come in between our affections and Jesus Christ. Let any object whatever interpose between me and the sun, and a shadow, more or less cold and dark, is the immediate consequence; as happens when the moon, forgetting that her business is to reflect the sunbeams, not to arrest them, rolls in between our world and him, to turn day into night, and to shroud us in the gloom
of an eclipse. Even so the deep shadow of a spiritual darkness may be flung over a congregation, who, allowing the pulpit to come in between them and the cross, think too much of the servant and too little of the Master. May not that account for the scanty fruit of a ministry from which much might have been expected ? God will not give his glory to another; and they who in their regards set the servant before the Master, place the preacher in a position to intercept that blessing, without which Paul may plant and Apollos water, but there is no increase. When Alexander offered to do Diogenes any favour he might ask, the philosopher, contemplating in the sun a far nobler object than the conqueror of the world, and setting a higher value on his beams than on the brightest rays of royalty, only begged the monarch to step aside, nor stand between him and the sun.
However rude such answer on the part of the cynic, it were a right noble speech from you to any and every object that would steal your heart from Christ. Let him, who is all your salvation, be all your desire. Is he not "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person?” Fairer than the children of men, more lovely than the loveliest, he is "the chiefest among ten thousand”— he is “ altogether lovely.”
3. God's people may be in more or less darkness as to their spiritual state. It is easy to account for such a case as David's. There, spiritual darkness was both the consequence and the chastisement of a sad spiritual declension. It is not always so.
There are cases of
religious desertion and despondency that do not admit of being thus explained. Without any sensible falling away, the shadow of Calvary has spread itself over the believer's soul; and, filling him with awful horror, has wrung from his lips that most bitter cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" seat and the cross are lost in darkness. The Sun of Righteousness undergoes an eclipse. Nothing is seen but the lightnings, and nothing heard but the thunders of Sinai — flash follows flash, and peal thunders upon peal, while his sins rise up in terrible memory before him. Were such your case, God has provided for it. “Who,” says he," is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light; let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” In these cases God has not left his people comfortless. If, perhaps, like Peter, sinking in the waves of Galilee, the lightning flashing on their foaming crests, and the thunder crashing above his head, you have lost all sensible hold of Christ, it does not follow that Christ has lost saving hold of you. You may retain your hold when you lose your sight of him. God's people are to hang on him in their seasons of deepest distress. His promises are a Father's arm; and, clinging to these, trusting to him when you cannot see him, you may hope against hope, and even rise to the faith of one who said, " Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."
But the spiritual state of some unquestionably pious people is not occasionally, but always more or less dark. I have known such. They could not find, at least they