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word of which is verified in that man, who is not yet brought to the gospel of the
of God. For first, it is night with him. His mind is without the knowledge of God, and of immortality; and Nature can give him no information about either of them: so that he may be truly said to sit in darkness, even the worst of all darkness, which is that of the understanding. The apostle therefore, speaking to enlightened Christians, reminds them of that state, out of which they had been called : “ Ye “ brethren, says he, are not in darkness, that “ that day should overtake you as a thief in " the night): ye are all the children of light, s and the children of the day: we are not “ of the night nor of darkness.”
As the night is a time of darkness, it is also a time of sleep: “ Peter was sleeping.” When man is in the darkness of nature, he is like a person in a deep sleep; insensible of every thing real that is round about him, and, under the delusion of a dream, he sees nothing of his true situation, but is amused with all those shadows, which variously please and torment the short miserable lives of men. « Let us not
sleep, saith St. Paul, as do others.” We Christians are awake; the world is asleep, and Jies dreaming of happiness under all the real
circumstances of misery. For they are not only asleep, they are under the custody of him that hath the power of death, and cannot rise up if they would. They are under close confinement in the worst of prisons, and are bound with two chains, the one of sin, the other of death, neither of which can be broken by the strength of man; and as for any succour, it is kept at a distance, by a guard of keepers before the prison door: there sits the strong man armed, to watch his captives, and prevent their rescue or their escape. There they must remain, fast bound in misery and iron, till a stronger than he comes upon him, takes from him his armour wherein he trusteth, and sets his prisoners at liberty.
Now we have seen the misery of man, we are next to behold the wonderful work of his deliverance by the manifestation of his Redeemer : for it follows in the text and behold the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison. The first appearance of our great Deliverer was attended with the same circumstance. When the glad tidings of his birth were revealed to the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem, the glory of the Lord shone round about them. At this dark season of the year, he left the throne of his glory, and
for us men and for our salvation, entered into the dungeon of this sinful world, where his first act was to give light to it: from the hour of his birth, a light began to shine in this prison. A star, appearing in the East, pointed him out as the light that was to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the Glory of his people Israel. Soon after his conception of the Blessed Virgin, the tongue of Zachary was loosed, to declare, that through the tender mercy of our God, the Day spring from on high had visited us, to give light to them that sat in darkness; which words do very exactly describe the posture and circumstances of men in a prison. Worse than the midnightdarkness of a dungeon, was the blindness of the Jews, and the ignorance of the heathens. According to the strictest sense of these words of the prophet, darkness had covered the earth, and gross darkness the people, when the Lord arose, and his glory was seen upon them. Under the ministry of Christ himself, the Jews received the light of knowledge; and by the preaching of his apostles, this light of instruction was spread abroad from Mount Sion into all the quarters of the earth; till the light of the gospel became as universal as the light of the sun, which visits every side of the globe, and nothing is hid from the heat thereof.
The consequence of this light, is liberty; and thus it follows in the history of our apostle's deliverance: “ he smote Peter on the side, and “ raised him up, saying, arise up quickly.” Thus must every believer be smitten, before the great work of his redemption can succeed. The gospel doth not address itself to the head and to the wit: it strikes at the heart and the affections. If the soul is insensible of the stroke, and will not be convinced of its misery, the wretched prisoner sleeps on and takes his rest : he is either in love with the sordid life of a dungeon, or lies dreaming that he is in a palace. The heavenly light shines round about him ; but his eyes are not open to make any use of it: he loves his darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil. Oh, what a heart must that be, which neither feels the stroke, nor hears the voice of the heavenly messenger, who is sent for its deliverance! But happy is the broken and the contrite heart, which feels its own misery, and answers to the call of heaven: blessed are the eyes, which awake, to see anc rejoice in the glory of that light, which truth diffuses round about them! The prisoner, who has this sense of things, rises and stands upright, as Peter did when the Angel had smote him: he hears the voice which speaketh to him
by by the prophet, awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. Blessed and holy is he that hath
in this first resurrection from sin to grace: over him the second death shall have no power.
The words which the Angel used to St. Peter, will admit of an useful application to us all : “ arise up quickly:" for if our salvation is an escape, no time is to be lost: life and death may depend upon the present moment; and he who hears not the first call, may hear the last trumpet as the second, when the hour of deliverance, and the day of grace, is over.
If reformation is put off to a convenient season, that season, as we are taught by woeful experience,
And where must the blame be laid? God is not obliged to wait the idle man's leisure: he will be justified, and the sinner will be lost. If Peter had desired the Angel to wait while his sleep was out, he had been left to the consequences of his imprisonment; and would soon have been carried out to gratify the malicious Jews with the spectacle of his execution. You think he would have acted like a madman, if he had neglected to rise up and follow the Angel immediately: and do not you think, that any man would be mad in the like circumstances ? He would certainly : but thou, who