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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?" The mercyseat 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 arc 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 tue 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 could not feel, any very satisfactory evidence of their conversion. We saw it; they did not. It happened to them as to Moses. He left the mount of God with the glory of his face visible to every one but himself. This is not a desirable state, certainly, if for no other reason than this, that he fights best, either with men or devils, who fights the battle with hope at his back. What so likely to make you diligent in preparation for glory, as a clear prospect of heaven, and sense of your holy calling? Who that, footsore, worn, and weary, has toiled up some mountain-height, from whose breezy summit he saw his distant home, has not found the sight make another man of him, and—all lassitude gone—send him off on his journey, with bounding heart and elastic limbs? Therefore we say with Paul, "Give diligence, to make your calling and election sure."
Notwithstanding all your pains and all your prayers, have you never yet attained to the joy of faith, to a full assurance of salvation? Be not "swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." Blessed are they whose sky is clouded with no doubts or fears! With music in their hearts, and their happiness blowing like those flowers that fully expand their leaves, and breathe out their fragrance only on sunny days, they will go up to Zion with songs; yet, although not so pleasantly, they may reach home as safely who enjoy the light of the sun, but never see his face. Your last hours may be like hers whom John Bunyan calls Miss Fearing. She was all her lifetime " subject to bondage," and dreaded the hour of death. The summons comes. And when she goes down into the waters, how does this shrinking, trembling, timid one bear herself? Hand to hand, Christian met his enemy in the valley, and so smote Apollyon with the sword of the Spirit, that he spread forth his dragon wings, and sped him away ; yet where that bold believer was in deep waters, and all but perished, this daughter of many fears found the river shallow. She beheld the opposite shore all lined with shining angels, and passed with a song from earth to heaven.
The sun, who has struggled through clouds all day long, often breaks forth into golden splendor at his setting; and not seldom, also, have the hopes that never brightened life broken forth to gild the departing hour. The fears that hung over the journey have vanished at its close. The voice, that never spoke with confidence before, has raised the shout of victory in " the valley of the shadow of death." To the wonder of men and the glory of God, the tongue of the dumb has been unloosed—what gracious things they have said! and the blind have got their sight—what views of heaven they have had! and he, who seemed all his life but a babe in Christ, has started up, like a giant and a strong man armed, to grapple with the last enemy. Standing in the light of life's declining day—with Satan, and the world, and the flesh, and Death himself beneath his feet, he spends his last breath in the triumphant shout, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "Thanks be to God, which giveth me the victory through my Lord Jesus Christ." And thus God fulfils the promise, " It shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light."
line gingAom of ftbrigt.
Translated into the kingdom of his dear Son.—Colossians i. 18.
Inside those iron gratings that protect the ancient regalia of our kingdom, vulgar curiosity sees nothing but a display of jewels. Its stupid eyes are dazzled by the gems that stud the crown, and sword, and sceptre. The unreflecting multitude fix their thoughts and waste their admiration on these. They go away to talk of their beauty, perhaps to covet their possession; nor do they estimate the value of the crown but by the price which its pearls, and rubies, and diamonds, might fetch in the market.
The eye of a patriot, gazing thoughtfully in on these relics of former days, is all but blind to what attracts the gaping crowd. His admiration is reserved for other and nobler objects. He looks with deep and meditative interest on that rim of gold, not for its intrinsic value, but because it once encircled the brow of Scotland's greatest king,—the hero of her independence, Robert the Bruce. His fancy may for a moment turn to the festive scenes in yonder deserted palace, when that crown flashed amid a gay throng of princes, and nobles, and knights, and statesmen, and lords, and ladies, all now mouldered into dust; but she soon wings her flight to the worthier and more stirring spectacles which history has associated with these symbols of power. She sees a nation up in arras for its independence, and watches with kindling eye the varying fortunes of the fight. It rages around these insignia. Now, she hears the shout of Bannockburn; and now, the long wail of Flodden. The events of centuries, passed in weary war, roll by before her. The red flames burst from lonely fortalice and busy town; the smiling vale, with its happy homesteads, lies desolate; scaffolds reek with the blood of patriots; courage grapples with despair; beaten men on freedom's bloody field renew the fight; and, as the long, hard struggle closes, the kingdom stands up like one of its own rugged mountains,—the storms that expended their violence on its head, have left it ravaged, and seamed, and shattered, but not moved from its place. It is the interests that were at stake, the fight for liberty, the good blood shed, the hard struggles endured for its possession; it is these, not the jewels, which in a patriot's eye make that a costly crown—a relic of the olden time, worthy of a nation's pride and jealous preservation.
Regarded in some such light, estimated by the sufferings endured for it, how great the value of that crown which Jesus wears! What a kingdom that which cost God his Son, and cost that Son his life! It is to that kingdom that we have now to direct your attention; and for this purpose, let us consider—'
I. The importance which Christ himself attaches to his kingly claims.
There are crowns worn by living monarchs, of which it would be difficult to estimate the value. The price paid for their jewels is the least part of it. They cost thousands of lives, and rivers of human blood; yet in