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The Power of Darkness.
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness. -COLOSSIANS I. 13.
SAILING once along a coast where a friend had suffered shipwreck, the scene which recalled his danger filled us with no fear. Because, while his ship, on the night she ran ashore, was cutting her way through the densest fog, we were ploughing the waters of a silver sea, where noble headlands, and pillared cliffs, and scattered islands, and surf-beaten reefs, stood bathed in the brightest moonshine. There was no danger, just because there was no darkness.
The thick and heavy haze is, of all hazards, that which the wary seaman holds in greatest dread. It exposes him to accidents which neither care nor skill can avert. In a moment his bark may go crashing on the treacherous rock, or, run down by another ship, fill and founder in the deep. Rather than a glassy sea, wrapped in gloom, give him the roaring storm and its mountain billows, with an open sky above his head, and wide sea-room around. And, in a sense, is it not so with a Christian man? Give him the light of heaven-let him enjoy both a clear sense of his interest in Christ, and a clear sight of his duty to Christ, and, in the midst of trials and temptations, how nobly he rides over them! He rises on the waves which
seemed about to overwhelm him, and holds on his course to heaven-safer in the storm than others are in the calm. Enjoying the sunshine of God's countenance within his soul, and the light of God's word on his path of duty, the man is cheerful where others are cast down ; he sings when others weep; when others tremble, he is calm, perhaps even jubilant; and, the Lord his Saviour, because his sun, he adopts the brave words of David, saying, “ The Lord is my light and my salvation ; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid ?”
In resuming the subject of the previous discourse, this leads me to remark
3. That darkness is a state of danger. As locks and bars prove, neither life nor property is safe by night as they are by day. Honesty, having nothing to blush for or to conceal, pursues her business in open day; but crime seeks the cover of the night. And what is that thief, prowling abroad like a fox, and with stealthy foot creeping along under shadow of the wall; what that assassin, searching the gloom, and listening for the step of his victim's approach ; what she, who, issuing from a den of sin, and throwing the veil of night over painted cheek and faded finery, lurks in the streets for her prey-what are these, but types of him who is the enemy of man, and takes advantage of spiritual darkness to ensnare or assault God's children, and to ruin poor thoughtless sinners.
Such danger is there in darkness, that people have perished within reach of home, almost at their own door. So it befell one who was found in a winter morning stretched cold and dead on a bed of snowher glazed eyes and rigid form contrasting strangely
with her gay attire. She began the night with dances, and ended it with death. She leaves the merry revels of a marriage-scene for her home across the mountain. The stars go out, and the storm comes on. Bewildered by the howling tempest, and the blinding drift, and the black night, she loses her way. Long the struggle lasts. At length, worn out and benumbed, she stretches her fragile form on that fatal bed, and, amid dreams, perhaps, of dances, and song, and merriment, she sinks into the sleep that knows no waking. Nor was it when snows were melted, and months or years had gone,
that her withering form was found by a wandering shepherd on some drear upland, in a lone mountain corrie, half buried in a dark and deep morass. No. She met her fate near by a friendly door, and perished in the darkness within a step of safety. Yet not nearer, nor so near it, as many are to salvation, who yet are lost. They die by the very door of heaven. The Apostle tells us how, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” The darkness is their death.
And while no night ever came down so black and starless as that which has settled on the human soul, in respect of its power over men, what can be compared to mental, moral, spiritual darkness? Its chains are more difficult to rend than chains of brass or iron. Look at Popery! She immures her votaries in a gloomier dungeon than ever held her victims. And throwing her fetters, not over the limbs, but over the free mind of man, what an illustration does she give of “ the power of darkness ?” How formidable is that power which compels a man to sacrifice his reason at the feet of priestcraft ; and woman, shrinking, modest,
delicate woman, to allow some foul hand to search her bosoin, and to drag its secrets from their close concealment. Best gift of heaven! God sends them his blessed word, and they dare not open it. Those senses of smell, and touch, and taste, which are the voice of God, declare that the cup is filled with wine, and the wafer made of wheat; but, as if their senses as well as their souls were darkened, they believe that to be a living man's blood, and this to be a living man's flesh!
Having eyes, they see not.” And, greatest triumph of darkness! they hug their chains ; refuse instruction; stop their ears, like the deaf adder which will not hear the voice of the charmer, charm he ever so wisely ; and turn away their eyes from the truth, as the owls that haunt some old monastic ruin from the glare of a torch, or the blaze of day. How appropriate to the devotees of a faith so detestable, the words of Scripture—“If the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness !"
Censure, as well as charity, however, should begin at home; and therefore, to be faithful to ourselves as well as just to others, we ought not to forget that melancholy illustrations of the power of darkness are found nearer at hand than Rome. In the face of all past and much bitter experience, how many among ourselves live under the delusion that, though the happiness they seek and expect to find in the world has, in all bygone time, eluded their grasp, in the object they now pursue, they shall certainly embrace the mocking phantom! How many among ourselves, also, are putting away the claims of Christ and of their souls to what they flatter themselves shall be a more, but what must be a less, convenient season! Contrary to the testimony of all who have ever tried it, do not
many of us persist in beliering God's service to be a weariness, and piety a life of cheerless gloom? Many regard the slavery of sin as liberty, and shun the liberty of Christ as intolerable bondage. Many fancy themselves to be safe, who, hanging over perdition by life's most slender thread, are "ready to perish." Talk of the delusions of Popery and the credulity of Papists! Many among us believe the barest and most naked lies of the devil, rather than the plain word of God. Alas! the feet of thousands here are on the dark mountains; and, unless God shall enlighten them by his Spirit, the darkness, which is now their danger, shall prove their death.
Were you, under the tyranny of mortal man, immured in his strongest dungeon, I would not despair of your escape. Within an old castle that sits picturesquely perched upon a noble sea rock, and to whose crumbling walls the memory of other days clings, fresh and green as the ivy that mantles them, there is a sight to strike men with horror. Passing under a low-browed portal, where you bid farewell to the light and air of heaven, a flight of broken steps conducts you down into a chill, gloomy vault. In the centre of its rocky floor yawn the jaws of a horrid pit. The candle, lighted and swung into that dread abyss, goes down, and yet deeper down, till, in an excavated dungeon in the rock, it dimly reveals the horrors of a living grave. There the cry for help could reach no ear but God's; and no sound responded to the captive's moan but the dull steady stroke of the billows, as they burst on the face of the crag. Into that sepulchre—where they buried God's persecuted saints--you look to shudder, and to say, “for them hope was none.' Yet immure a man in that-in the darkest, strongest dungeon despot has ever