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SERMON III.

FOR THE EPIPHANY.

ON THE TRUE LIGHT.

1 JOHN II. 8.-" The darkness is past, and the true light

now shineth.

IT is observable that every christian is disposed to admire the blessed consequences, - to acknowledge the inestimable benefits of Christ's incarnation; though too few, unhappily, manifest either a proper attention to those consequences, or a grateful sense of those benefits, by striving to fulfil the end of his coming : for Christ came to destroy all works of darkness, which are the works of Satan. He came to take away all sin, and to purify to himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. Yet how few christians labour to promote these noble views and excellent intentions ? How few abandon their sins and guilty pleasures? How few are zealous for the honour of God, or really anxious for their own salvation ? Most of us profess to glory in the name of christians, and to boast much of our privileges upon that account: we are very ready to think ourselves honoured with the title, but lamentably remiss in observing the duties of our profession. We are exceedingly desirous of the heavenly inheritance, yet are indolent and negligent in our pursuit after it. We profess to have a strong faith, and heed not how much we are required to believe, so that we may be excused from acting consistently with our belief; but surely the lives of such nominal christians accord not with the glorious schemes of the Son of God. No!—They entirely frustrate the end of his coming, and miserably deceive themselves : for Christ came to abolish all hypocrisy and formality; and to introduce sincerity and truth; he came to improve our morals, to make us more virtuous and more holy. Since his appearance in the world, those who have engaged in his service are under the most cogent obligations to walk worthy of their vocation; to lead far different lives from the Gentiles, who were not favoured with the same enlightening revelation,—the same means of grace,—the same hope of eternal glory. As we have put on the Lord Jesus, and assumed his faith, so should we strive to imitate his perfections: as salvation is freely offered and generously brought to us by the Son of God himself, so all christians should embrace and receive it with

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thankfulness and gratitude, with love and obedience. These are the fruits of that faith which purifieth the heart; that faith, by which we are justified; that faith, through which, by the free grace of God, we are saved. Examine yourselves then, my brethren, whether ye be in the faith ; prove your own selves; and if

you

have indeed that faith which worketh by love, “the spirit itself will bear witness with your spirit, that ye

are the children of God; and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, if so be that ye suffer with him, that ye may be also glorified together.” But, let us seriously call to mind the imminent danger we are in, if we find not this witness in ourselves, that we have this sound, this saving faith: for surely, since the darkness of heathenism is past, and the true light of gospel truth now shineth, we are utterly inexcusable and most severely punishable, if we do not awake to righteousness and sin not; if we do not walk as the children of the light.

This expressive metaphor of darkness is frequently used in holy scripture; and by it the inspired writers always intend to express not merely the general depravity of the whole race of mankind, but more especially that ignorance and error,—that state of mental blindness, perverseness, and proneness to sin, which so distinguished the gentile world, till God was pleased

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to reveal himself in the fullest manner by the incarnation of his son Jesus Christ. Saint Paul tells the converted Gentiles that they were sometime darkness; not only dark, but darkness itself. And most of the prophets and apostles use the same expression whenever they would represent the miserable state of Heathens. The evangelical prophet (Isaiah ) speaking of the benefits of Christ in relation to the Gentiles, says, “he came to them that sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to open the blind eyes: to draw them out of darkness into his marvellous light:” and in another place, the coming of our Saviour is compared to a light shining in darkness; so that by darkness we must understand all sin and wickedness; that unhappy state of ignorance, error, and delusion, with which the gentile world was overwhelmed for so many ages; and indeed, with the strictest propriety, may they have been said to be in darkness, or to walk in darkness. For, on examining their lives and conversations, we find them immersed in every kind of vice and sensuality. They wandered like strangers in a solitary desert place, without a guide; they were unstable, and fluctuating from one opinion to another; they were carried to and fro by every wind of doctrine; and continually exposed to the cunning craftiness of their pretended wise men, whereby they lay in wait to deceive. They were perpetually stumbling and falling like travellers in the night : so that the words of Isaiah may very properly be applied to them, “they searched for truth, as a blind man gropeth for the wall, and stumbled at noonday as in the night.” This is the darkness so often alluded to in holy scripture; the removal of which is foretold by the prophets, at the coming of Christ, who is therefore called “the Light of the World.”

It is the property of light to discover and make manifest those things which were before dark and obscure; and, in a metaphorical sense, it beatifully signifies knowledge and understanding: it implies all manner of instruction, the opening and unfolding any doctrine or principle of religion ; it denotes a guide, a way to truth, and sometimes life itself. Thus God, by Saint John, is called “Light;" that is, the fountain and cause of light, natural and spiritual. And our blessed Saviour says, “I am the Light of the World; that is, I am the way, the truth, and the life: I teach the only plain and safe way to happiness; I publish the most pure precepts of religion and worship, and exhibit the only true life,-life eternal. The disciples were honoured by their Lord with the same title, because they ministerially and instrumentally diffused the light and knowledge of the Gospel to all nations.

By the word light, according to this scriptural sense, must be understood a full and clear

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