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not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life,” “ give diligence to make your calling and election sure," "seek ye the Lord while he may be found,” and, therefore, I say, be up and doing ; time is short, the stake is great, death is at the door, and if he find you out of Christ, damnation is at his heels. “And I looked, and behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Of your many calls and opportunities, is this all the result? Half awakened, yet unwilling to tear yourself from the arms of pleasure, do you avert your eyes from the light? angry pierhaps at being disturbed, perhaps half sorrowful do you bid us come back at a more convenient season ? Drowsily turning on your deceitful couch, do you say, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep?" Then, in God's name, I ask what shall be the end of these things ? The end of these things is death.
2. Darkness is a state of ignorance.
Conducted under the veil of night to the nuptial couch, Jacob finds in the possession of Rachel, as he supposes, an ample reward for the seven long years of weary work and waiting. She whom his heart wooed and his hands won, is now his wedded wife. He wakes a happy man, neither suspecting how God had punished him for the deceit he practised on his old, blind father, nor how Laban, a greater master of craft than himself, had substituted the elder for the younger daughter. Fancy his confusion, when he turns, by the rosy light of morn, to gaze on his beautiful bride, to find the blear-eyed Leah at his side. Yet a day approaches when, from dreams of wealth and pleasure
many shall awake in rage and unavailing sorrow, to the discovery of a greater mistake. What Jacob's mistake to his who, embracing pleasure, wakens to find himself in the arms of a hideous demon, dragging him down-struggling, shrieking, into the lowest hell ?
But if we would see spiritual darkness represented on a scale in any degree commensurate with the multitude of its victims, and with its destructive power, let us turn to the host of Midian. The memorable night has come when, animated by a divine courage, Gideon leads his three hundred to the bold assault. Silently he plants them around the enemy's lines, waiting till song and revel have died away, and that mighty host lies buried in stillest slumbers. Then, one trumpet blows loud and clear, startling the wary sentinel on his round. Te stops, he listens, and ere its last echoes have ceased, the whole air is torn with battlenotes. Out of the darkness trumpet replies to trumpet, and the blast of three hundred, blown loud and long, wakens the deepest sleeper, filling the ear of night with a dreadful din, and the hearts of the bravest with strange and sudden fear. Ere they can ask what mean, whence come these sounds, a sight as strange blazes up through the murky night. Three hundred torch-fires pierce the gloom, and advance in flaming circle on the panic-stricken camp. Suddenly extinguished, once more all is dark ; then, as if the dust of the whirlwind, or the sands of the desert, or the leaves of the forest, had turned into armed men, ready to burst on that uncircumcised host; in front, on their rear, on either flank, rings the Hebrews' battle cry : “ The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!" For dear life the Midianites draw ; mistaking friend for foe, they bury their swords in each other's bosoms. Wild with terror,
stricken mad with pain, each man seizes his fellow by the beard, giving and receiving mortal wounds. And so, not by the arms of Gideon, so much as by the hand of the darkness, was skill outwitted, and bravery defeated, and that mighty army routed and slain. Such is the power of darkness! Yet what is that dying host to one lost soul !
Ugliness and beauty, friend and foe, are all one in the dark. And so are all roads when the belated traveller cannot see his finger before him, and the watery pool throws off no gleam, and earth and sky appear a solid mass of darkness. Unconscious of danger, and dreaming of a home he shall never more see, he draws near the precipice ; his foot is on its grassy edge, another step, one loud shriek, and there he lies, a bleeding mass, beneath the crag. Nor when night comes down upon the deep in fog, or rain, or blinding drift, can the ill-starred mariner distinguish the rock from the sea, or a wrecker's fire from the harbor lights ; thus showing us how many sinners perish—the darkness is the cause of their death. They are lost, victims to the “ power of darkness.”
The greatest of all mistakes is to miss the path to heaven. Yet see how many, turning from Christ, who says, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," in the darkness of their understandings, and the depravity of their hearts, have missed, and are missing it? Some think that their charities, and public usefulness, and household duties, will save them. Some think, by going the round and lifeless routine of prayers, and preachings, and sacraments, and outward services, that they will certainly secure the favor of God. Some think they may go on in sin, and for a while longer dare the danger, and then put up the
helm--veering round when they like on the other tack ; while many fancy that they are on the road to heaven, when every step they take, and every day they live, is carrying them farther and farther away. Others regard religion as a thing of gloom; they reckon the friends of their souls to be the enemies of their happiness. Infatuated men! they fly from the voice of the Shepherd to throw themselves into the jaws of the wolf. Nay, there are some plunged in yet deeper moral darkness, who remind me of a convict whom I saw in the Hulks—that frightful concentration of villany and crime. He had seated himself ostentatiously on a bench. With no blush burning on his beardless cheek, but with an expression rather of satisfaction in his face, the boy was polishing the fetter on his ankle. Poor wretch, he was vain of its silvery sheen, and raised sad thoughts in us of pity and won der at the darkness of his neglected soul. And yel more dark and dreadful is the state of many who would once have said of the life they now lead, “ Is thy servant a dog that he should do this great thing ?” Gone in iniquity, they boast, with unblushing face, of the victims whom they have seduced ; of the abominable debaucheries which they practise ; of virtue ensnared by their villanous arts; of simple, unsuspecting honesty they have overreached ; of their scorn for religion, of their contempt of its professors, and their loose, licentious freedom from its holiest bonds. They blazon their sins upon their foreheads, and, parading them before the world, glory in their shame.
No man wishes, no man intends, to go to Hell. And who, that was not plunged in the ignorance of deepest darkness, would choose death rather than life, would embrace sin rather than the Saviour, would
of the cup.
wave away the cup of salvation to seize a poisoned chalice, and drink down damning draughts of forbidden pleasure? May God enlighten your eyes lest you sleep the sleep of death! Be not deceived. The tale of the goblet, which the genius of a heathen fashioned, was true ; and taught a moral of which many a deathbed furnishes the melancholy illustration. Having made the model of a serpent, he fixed it in the bottom
Coiled for the spring, a pair of gleaming eyes in its head, and in its open mouth fangs raised to strike, it lay beneath the ruby wine. Nor did he who raised that golden cup to quench his thirst, and quaff the delicious draught, suspect what lay below, till as he reached the dregs, that dreadful head rose up and glistened before his eyes. So, when life's cup is nearly emptied, and sin's last pleasure quaffed, and unwilling lips are draining the bitter dregs, shall rise the ghastly terrors of remorse, and death, and judgment, upon the despairing soul. Be assured, a serpent lurks at the bottom of guilt's sweetest pleasure. To this awful truth may God, by his own word and Holy Spirit, open your eyes! Seeing the serpent, seized with holy horror at the sight, may you fling the temptation from you; and turn to Him, who, with love in his heart, and kindness in his looks, and forgiveness on his lips, and the cup of salvation held out in his hand, cries, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink.” Here, believe me, is peace that passeth understanding ; here are joys that will bear the morning's reflection, pleasures that are for evermore.