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darkness, 'hate this light, because it reproves their evil deeds;' and therefore the word of God is a stranger both to their eyes at home, and their ears in this place. Hence it comes, that we so often speak here almost to empty walls, that what we say is so little minded by those, whom the accidental goodness of the day, or a want of something else to do, suffers to saunter hither; and that, when we endeavour to carry the word of God to them, who so seldom think it worth their while to come to it, we find them and their families shocked and disobliged, at the first glimpse of its light which we discover to them.
As this sort of people make a dreadful majority at present, we may say of this light, as St. John did, at its first appearance, 'that it is a light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.'
But my business at present being only to speak to those who will hear, who have already opened their eyes, and it is to be hoped, their hearts too, to the light of the gospel, let me call upon such persons, in the bowels of charity, to consider, that, as they see this glorious light, shining both within them and about them, “it is now high time,' at least for them, to awake out of sleep.' In respect to them, the night is not only far 'spent' but entirely past; “the day is not only at hand,' but fully risen, or far advanced. Let then reflect that those who know their Master's will, and do it not,' must expect to be punished with many stripes ;' and that, now they have received the light, they ought to walk worthy of that light,' taking all possible care for the time to come, to avoid those works of darkness, which they find condemned by the light of Scripture, and particularly by the apostle, in the passage immediately following my text.
And first; as to walking worthy of this light, the apostle bids us 'walk honestly,' or rather, as it is in the original,
decently, and laudably, as in the day.' In order to this, we are exhorted by him ‘to put on the armour of light;' for it is now day, and we are to enter upon action. As we are immediately to take the field against the enemies of our souls, it is necessary we should be defended by the armour of piety and virtue, and girded with the weapons of our warfare; which St. Paul elsewhere, pursuing the same allegory, calls *the breast-plate of faith and love, and the helmet and hope
of salvation. Ye, brethren,' says the apostle, are not in darkness. Ye are the children of light, and the children of the day; we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night, and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night.'
Being thus prepared, we are called upon to adorn the Christian profession, by a life of true holiness; that others, admiring in us the beautiful and blessed fruits of our religious principles, may be won to an earnest desire of cultivating the like in themselves; which will have a much more powerful effect in convincing them of the truth and excellence of Christianity, than ten thousand arguments and demonstrations in its favour. He who leads the best life, is the best disputant for his religion; for ‘it is not with enticing words of man's wisdom,' that this cause of God is to be supported, but in demonstration of the Spirit, and of power. This spirit and power, which were demonstrated in the days of the apostles by inspiration, by speaking languages which they never learned, by healing of sicknesses, and raising the dead, may still be proved by the miracle of a good life in every true Christian. Is any man really a Christian? Hath he received the light of the gospel ? • Let his light then so shine forth before men, that they may see his good works, and glorify his Father which is in heaven.' How can the conscience of him, whose soul and heart are placed in the midst of so clear and glorious light, give way to thoughts, or enter upon actions, severely 'reproved by that light?' Does he not see his way? Why then does he go astray? Is it not day? Why then does he stumble almost at every step? Why does he fall into the grossest acts of sin? And dash all his hope of salvation to pieces?
It is certainly true, that he who is really a Christian, may, through the extreme infirmity of his nature, often fall into sins, and sometimes into the grosser acts of sin; but he can never rest in a uniform course of sin, till he hath stripped himself of his Christian principles; nor can he rise to a steady and uninterrupted life of virtue, till he hath mortified and subdued the corruptions of his nature. The Spirit warreth against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit, till one of those adversaries hath obtained an absolute conquest over the other; after which the whole man becomes either the servant of God, or the slave of the devil.
In some minds this battle is fought with infinite violence; for, on the one side, corruption and sin are deeply rooted, while the adversary of the soul is intrenched amidst inveterate habits, and almost irresistible temptations; and, on the other, the arm of God is almighty. Hence it is, that, as in a fire, for some time after a great addition of new fuel, the signs of an outrageous struggle between the contending principles are discovered; but when God hath obtained the victory, then all is kindly heat, and glorious light. Then it is that God, and his holy religion, are glorified, that the angels above find the very joys of heaven enlarged, and that men here below, being guided by the light, and warmed at the fire, of this converted sinner, are, as it were, carried forward with new strength and resolution, up the steep path of true holiness.
Let us not, in the name of God, lose the benefit of the blessed light, which he hath afforded us. As it discovers to us every step of the road, from thence to his glorious palace, let us not be discouraged at the thorns and briers that beset the entrance; for we may plainly see that, a little farther up, those briers are turned to vines, those thorns change their prickles for roses; and while the patience of the happy travellers is converted into joy, their garinents begin to whiten, their faces to shine with amazing brightpess, and now they are lost to our sight in glory, 'which the eye is not able to behold, nor the ear to hear, nor the heart to conceive.' He that hath eyes to see, cannot, amidst so much light, fail to choose a road that leads so directly to God, for therein only he can walk, as in the day.'
But as there are many new lights, and false lights, set up in the world, it will not be amiss to point out to the ignorant the distinguishing characters of the true light,
Whatsoever discovers to us the foulness and heinousness of our sins, and severely reproves them, is true light; for whatsoever maketh manifest is light.'
Whatsoever teaches us to be cautious in giving up our minds to every pretended guide in religion, who, for his own interest, would lead us into his own prejudices, is true light; for we are bid by our Saviour, ‘of ourselves to judge what is right, to search the Scriptures, and try the spirits of such men, as we would a tree, by their fruits.'
Whatsoever pulls down our pride, teaching us to distrust our own misguided understandings, dispersing the mist of craft and false knowledge, setting us upon our guard against the dictates and motions of our false hearts, and, unmasking our deceitful pleasures, presents them to us in their own natural deformity, is light.
Whatsoever turns our minds to a close and diligent attendance on God's word, which is 'a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths,' is itself also light.
Whatsoever teaches us not to depend upon our own righteousness, but in a deep and true repentance, on the merits and righteousness of Christ, which is all we have to plead in the sight of God, is light.
Whatsoever enables us to make true distinctions between pleasure and happiness, between want and having a little, between riches and having enough, between realities and appearances, between a pleasing evil and a disagreeable good, is light.
Whatsoever refines our sentiments, opens, enlarges, and gives liberty to, our thoughts, still carrying them upward to spiritual entertainments, and rational delights, still raising our affections from things below, and placing them on things above, still turning the attention on a future life, and alarming our hopes and fears with a near and lively view of immortality and eternity; this, whether it is affliction or meditation, whether it is the conversation and example of good men, or whether it is the word and grace of God, is true light.
From recommending it to us, to 'put on the armour of light, and to walk as in the day,' the apostle proceeds to caution us against an opposite kind of course, exhorting us .to cast off the works of darkness,' of which he mentions only three.
The first is ‘rioting and drunkenness,’a vice that cannot bear the light, nor harbour but where there is thick darkness, a darkness to be felt grievously at last, even by the drunkard himself, in sickness and in sudden death; or, at least, by his unhappy family, in confusion and poverty. Where there is even natural reason, the light is too strong for such a monster of deformity. A reasonable soul cannot but abhor its foulness, and loathe the senseless and low enjoyment it affords. It even seems to be sensible of its own ugliness, and therefore always carries its cloak with it. It conceals its foulness in the stupidity it raises. It screens itself from shame, by banishing all sense of shame; and is the only vice that can be said to hide in itself.
But if it cannot bear the star-light of common sense, how shall it endure the brightness of the gospel ; whose precepts tend so directly to refine our sense of pleasure, to improve our understandings, to discountenance all intemperance, particularly this, from whence vices of all other kinds, and of the blackest nature, such as lust, violence, and murder, draw their fuel !
If he, who is drunk, looks not like a man, how shall he look like a Christian? What a figure must he make, when viewed by the light of Christianity, whose face, pale and distorted, resembles death; whose eyes goggle like those of a fool, or stare like those of a madman; whose limbs totter under his body, and whose reason staggers under his soul! And all this, which, if sent upon him by Providence, would seem a judgment sufficient to punish all his other sins, the effect of his own choice, frequently his own deliberate act and deed, in which he rejoices, in which he triumphs, as if it were a glorious exploit.
It is wonderful, that such sights do not make more converts to sobriety, and that what looks so abominable and so shocking in others, should ever please in ourselves. It is amazing that creatures, who are so unable to govern themselves, when in the enjoyment of all the little reason they have, should hasten to strip themselves of that little, and plunge into a condition, which, before they are thoroughly drunk, they are ashamed to be seen in, by those who are not as absolutely brutes as themselves; for all are to be turned out of company, who will not shake hands with reason and humanity, as well as they. This is that darkness, that night, of which the apostle speaks, when he says, “they that be drunken, be drunken in the night;' which night of their pleasure shall God, according to the burden of Babylon, turn into fear: and then shall come upon them the saying of Isaiah, 'Woe unto them that rise up early in the