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Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness.—Colossians i. 13.
The stories of subterranean caves, where brilliant diamonds, thickly studding vaulted roof and fretted walls, supply the place of lamps, are fancies—childhood's fairy-tales. Incredible as it may appear to ignorance, on whose admiring eyes it flashes rays of light, science proves that the diamond is formed of the very same matter as common, dull, black coal. It boasts no native light; and dark in the darkness as the mud or rock where it lies imbedded, it shines if with a beautiful, yet with a borrowed splendor. How meet an emblem of the jewels that adorn the Saviour's crown!
Besides, like many a gem of man and woman kind, the diamond is of humble origin. Its native state is mean. It lies buried in the deep bowels of the earth; and in that condition is almost as unfit to form a graceful ornament, as the stones that pave our highways, as the rudest pebble which ocean, in her play, rolls upon the beach. Unlike many other crystals, it is foul, encrusted with dirt, and inelegant in form—flashing with none of that matchless lustre which makes it afterwards appear more like a fragment struck from star or sun, than a product of this dull, cold world. That it may glow, and sparkle, and burn with many-colored fires, and change into a thing of beauty, it has to undergo a rough, and, had it our sensibilities of nerve
and life, a painful process. The lapidary receives it from the miner; nor, till he has ground the stone on his flying wheel, and polished it with its own dust, does it pass into the hands of the jeweller to be set in a golden crown, or become the brightest ornament of female loveliness. Through a corresponding preparation Christ's saints have to go. Are you saved? you have to be sanctified. Are you redeemed? you have to be renewed. You are polluted, and require to be purified; and, as all know who have experienced it, at a great cost of paiu and self-denial, sin has to be eradicated—utterly destroyed; in respect of its dominant power, cast out. This fulfils the prayer, "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly;" and for this, as forming that meetness for the inheritance, which was the subject of my last address, the saints are now either offering up prayer on earth, or, better far, praise and thanks in heaven.
But as the gem, ere it is polished, must be brought from the mine and its naturally base condition, so, ere those whom Christ has redeemed with his blood can be sanctified by his Spirit, they must be called and converted; they must be brought into a new condition; or, in the words of my text, " delivered from the power of darkness," and "translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son." This, which is the subject before us now, calls our attention to the greatest of all changes. I say the greatest • one even greater than the marvelous transition which takes place at the instant of death—from dying struggles to the glories of the skies. Because, while heaven is the day of which grace is the dawn; the rich, ripe, fruit of which grace is the lovely flower; the inner shrine of that most glorious temple to which grace forms the approach and outer court,— in passing from nature to grace you did not pass from a lower to a higher stage of the same condition—from daybreak to sunshine, but from darkest night to dawn of day. Unlike the worm which changes into a winged insect, or the infant who grows up into a stately man, you became, not a more perfect, but " a neio creature" in Jesus Christ. And with deepest gratitude to Him who, filled with pity, and for "his great love wherewith he loved us," left heaven to save us, let us now consider our original state—" look unto the rock whence we are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence we are digged."
I. Look at our state of nature and sin as one of darkness.
In its essential nature, sin is as opposed to holiness as darkness is to light; and as different, therefore, from holiness, as a starless midnight from the blaze of noonday. Our natural state is therefore, because of its sinfulness, represented by the emblem of darkness. How appropriate and how expressive the figure! Hence, in describing the condition of the heathen, those who neither know God, nor Him whom to know is life eternal, the Bible says, The darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people. Hence, those ancient prophets who lived in the morning of the church—and in the rosy east, and clouds already touched with gold, saw a sun beneath the horizon hastening to his rise— hailed Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel. Hence also, inasmuch as he reveals saving truth, redeems from sin, and shines upon the path he himself has opened to heaven, Jesus stood before the multitude, and said, as he raised his hand to the blazing sun, " I am the light of the world." Jesus! Thy people's shield, thou art also thy people's sun; a shield that never broke in battle, and a sun that never sets in night; the source of all the knowledge that illumes, and of all the love that warms us; with healing, as well as heating virtue in thy beams, thou art " The sun of righteousness with healing in his wings."
To that emblem of our Saviour, so splendid and yet so simple, science imparts additional appropriateness, if the theory be true that accounts for those vast stores of light and heat which we extract from dead dark coal. The coal, which we raise from the bowels of the earth, once grew upon its surface. Some ten or twenty thousand years ago, it formed the giant forests where mighty monsters ranged at will over an unpeopled world. After this rank vegetation had incorporated into its substance these elements of light and heat which the sun poured down from heaven, God, provident of the wants of a race not yet created buried it in the earth; and thus furnished the earth with ample stores of fuel for the future use of man. So, when the sun has set, and the birds have gone to roost, and the stars have come out in the sky, and the door is shut, and the curtains are drawn, and peace and happiness smile on the bright family circle, it is sun-light that shines from the lustres, and sun-heat that glows on the hearth. But whether that speculation of science be true or false, to Jesus we can trace all the light direct or derived, which illuminates the world. Heavenly fountain of the love that warms and the truth that enlightens mankind, he rose like a sun on this cold benighted earth; and will be the centre around which heaven itself shall roll when tides have ceased to flow below, and suns to shine above. "The city had no need of the sun, neithei of the moon, to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof."
But, turning from the Saviour to contemplate the sinner, I pray you to observe, that our state by nature is one not merely of darkness, but of double darkness. It is always dark, pitch dark, even at noonday, to the blind ; not blazing sun, or shining stars to them. With God "the night shineth as the day," but to the un. happy blind, "He maketh the day dark with night." Yet strong as this figure is, it does not adequately represent the full misery of our condition. We had neither light nor sight. That we may be saved, do you not perceive that two things, therefore, must be done for us? We require a medium to see by, as well as eyes to see with; to the revelation of the Gospel must be added the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, in other words, we must have in Christ an object for faith to see, and in faith we must have eyes to see Christ. Inhabitants of a Christian land, we possess one of these, —like the Hebrews in Goshen we have a light in our dwellings; and so far we differ from the heathen, for they have neither light nor sight. They live in darkness so gross, that they do not distinguish purity from pollution. They have no more idea of the way of salvation than the blind have of colors. They do not know God. Some worship a cow; some a serpent; some a stone; some the very Devil. In them, reason crouches to adore a beast; and man, made in the image of God, bows his erect form and noble head before a lifeless block. When, from the study of that instinctive and unerring wisdom with which the lower animals— the stork in the period of her migrations, the bee in the construction of its cell—act in their allotted spheres, we turn to this amazing, and all but incredible sense