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THE ECLIPSED LUMINARY. " If, therefore, the night that is in thee be darkness, how great is that
darkness ?”—Matt. vi, 23. Our Savior, in this connexion, brings an illustration from the eye. If thine eye be single, that is, if it be sound, healthy, thy mhole body will be full of light. The individual will perceive clearly, and walk correctly : he will be, not only a light to himself, but a safe guide to others.
But if the eye is diseased-double, wavering, then the whole body is full of darkness. Every thing is confused, and the individual not only stumbles himself, but all who depend upon him, or follow him, stumble likewise.
The light in a person, strictly speaking, is reason and conscience-bis intellectual and moral nature.
The conscience corrected, and the heart purified by truth, enable him both to see and to shine. The light of truth, of conscience, and a holy character, extinguished, and darkness put where there was, and where, from the very nature of the case, there should be light-but instead of the light, becomes truly very great darkness. The principle then is simply this : if where light was and light should be, there is put darkness, the darkness is very great. To one who has always been blest with vision, who has looked freely forth upon all the beauties and wonders of nature and art, and who has always directed at will his own steps, but whose sight should be suddenly destroyed, and darkness at once fill and surround him-to him who is the subject of the calamity, and remembers the
contrast, how great the darkness. Or take the case of one who has been spiritually enlightened-enlightened from above, who was filled with light, and became a body of light to others, let all that light be put out, and darkness take its place, how great is the darkness ?
This is the sentiment I propose to illustrate at the present time. That the Christian when he ceases to shine and darkness comes in the place of his light, it is very great darkness. This is a case which not unfrequently occurs. It is often an actual condition of things. But if a true Christian, the dimness, the darkness are but temporary ; the foulness will be purged out, the cloud will pass away, and he will yet shine on earth, and shine yet brighter in heaven.
It is a sad truth, implied in our text, and stated in our proposition, that the Christian does become darkness in the world sometimes; and the process is an easy one, and easily explained. If his faith is not corrupted, the great objects of his faith pass from his view ; rather he turns away from them; they are lost sight of for a season. Then his conscience falls into slumber, the heart grows callous and is soon defiled. Thus becoming corrupt and worldly within, he is irregular and disobedient without ; his conduct is a departure from the spirit and the precepts of the gospel ; his life is wanting in all the clear manifestations of Godliness. While the fact of the change is thus sad, the effects of it are far more so.
The Christian changed from light to darkness—how great is that darkness! This appears, if we consider,
I. In the first place, the mere negative loss, in his forbearing to let his light shine. He has been made a luminous body, but he has ceased to shine. How much need of his light in the scene in which he moves. How much darkness to be removed , how little moral light shed for its removal ; how much good he would do, by steadily shining ; how much did he do in the days of his soundness and integrity. The world are reminded of truth and duty, and the way to gain God's favor and final acceptance. They are made to see that there is difference between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not. They see the power of the religious principle—the excellence and the loveliness of true piety. Impressions are made that are abiding. Some are convinced and won to the way of life : the clear and beautiful shining of that disciple at once draws them, and illumines the way of their return to God. Many may be, yea, ofien are, drawn to the path of peace, by the attractive radiance of the pure, faithful disciple.
Another consideration, is the great expense at which he was prepared to shine. He who was the brightness of the Father's glory, and who is now the light of the world, came down to the earth, and died upon the cross, that the sins of that disciple might be blotted out, that the Spirit might be sent to renew his nuture, and so fit him to reflect the beams of the Son of Righteousness, and be a living light in his sphere. But when he ceases to shine, all that expense is so far lost. Christ's object in dying for him, and changing him by his Spirit, was not to save his single solitary soul, but that he should be an agent in saving others. But when he ceases to shine, he ceases to do any good in the world. All the blessed effects, we have considered, cease. There is a great and sad loss-a loss in part of the Savior's death for him, and the Savior's work of renovation upon his heart-a loss utterly, of all the good impressions and saving reformations, which might and ought to have been produced, by the power of his shining—the light of his example. In view, then, of the negative consideration, the mere loss experienced, we may begin to exclaim, how great the darkness ! But the exclamation becomes more emphatic when we consider,
II. In the next place, some of the positive evils in the case. It is not a simple subtraction of so much good which might have been done ; because there is no neutrality in influence. He that is not for Christ is against him. If we gather not with him, we scatter abroad. If we shed not light, we shed darkness, and how great must be that darkness.
Because it is a very conspicuous darkness—a darkness peculiarly visible. It is so, on account of the change which has occurred. Yesterday, it is remembered, he was a shining body; to-day, it is seen, he is obscured, and sheds no rays. A change, so great as from light to darkness, is a very notable charge. Multitudes who gave little heed to the shining of that Christian, are all eagerness and wonder the moment he ceases to shine ; thus it become a peculiarly visible darkness.
It is an incongruous, unnatural darkness, inasmuch as it is a body of light, so to speak, radiating darkness. How strange ! what has happened? Who can account for so monstrous a phenomenon ? Were it the darkness of night, it would not be thought of ; it would be congenial, and all would go to their repose. But it is the darkness of an eclipse; how much greater in its effects, than the darkness of the thickest night. To have the sun pass out of sight in the order of nature, is a trifle. But to have him turn into blackness in his meridian position, to have night, as it were, issuing from the face of the King of day, fills all minds with amazement.
When the Christian becomes darkness, it is the darkness of an eclipsed luminary ; and we know that men will gaze at such a sight-all eyes will centre there. How wonderful was the scene of the sun's momentary, utter extinction, which occurred early in tbe present century. All eyes, at that in
stant, were directed upward—the interest growing more and more intense, as the darkness spread over the disk of the great luminary, until the last ray went out, when an involuntary shuddering, seized every heart. The light that was in the sun then became darkness; and who that saw it has forgotten, and yet who can describe, how great was thot dark
The vividness of the impression which this sort of darkness makes, is another consideration to be put into the estimate. It so infixes itself in the memory--the world gaze and never forget: they carry, it may be, the recollection to hell with them, and there curse forever the memory of these eclipsed luminaries.
It is a darkness the wicked love to look at and feed upon ; they seem to have an intense relish for it. Like the owl at heavy mid-night,they strain and distend their utmost capacity of vision, that they may drink in the congenial gloom. Not only do they love an interpretation of the Bible, which blots out all the distinctive glory, and searching meaning of this book, they love much more, a comment in the life of the disciple, which contradicts the voice, or mitigates the light issuing from these holy pages.
But I have not said the whole about this darkness :--not only is it a conspicuous darkness ; an incongruous, unnatural darkness; an impressive darkness; an attractive darkness ; it is injurious upon the course of the world--fatal to the souls of men.
We have seen, first, that it is a sight, which brings all eyes to behold it ; then it brings destruction upon multitudes who do behold it.
The influence of the lapsed, obscured christian, goes to accomplish all this mischief, because it tends to unsettle the minds of men as to the truth of religion, and of all the great doctrines of religion. His own principles become unsound, and this is the darkening of his own mind ; then he diffuses these unsound principles, and so darkens others. His standing, as a disciple of Christ, enables him to do it. He gives currency to error---to false doctrine, as he could not do in other circumstances ; for he is clothed with a species of authority, for his work of corruption and ruin. He strikes a heavy blow, and it falls upon the very foundations. The sentiment is deposited in the breasts of many, to work there silent and deadly, that there is no reality in religion ; it is an empty cheat; this great spiritual change so much talked about,is nought but delusion: it has no power upon the character---nothing permanent in the results.
But his influence goes not only to corrupt the principles of men, it corrupts also the practice. Such an one leads the way in bad practice. He authenticates and gives currency to disobedience---the breaking down of God's laws. If he is a sabbath breaker, he brings, so far as he can, the authority of Christ and his religion, to sanction sabbath breaking ; if fraudulent, to sanction fraud ; if impure, to sanction impurity. So he propagates his misdeeds : he rears up and draws after him a train to do as he does ; and then to shelter themselves from rebukes without, and goadings within, under the wing of his religious profession--under the authority of his christian life.
It is true the Bible speaks differently, yea oppositely: if these followers of the blind guides would go there, they would de instructed and corrected. But the christian's lifethe spirit, the conduct of the professor of godliness, is all the bible multitudes ever read. Here the page they gaze upon ;
here the text they quote; here the authority they bow to : they get their impressions and notions here, and so walk according to this rule. Some are made skeptics; the lapsed christian's life, the argument--the dark demonstration, which has turned them into infidels, and profane and bitter revilers. Others say, 'if that be religion, we wish to have nothing to do with it; if that be a state of grace, the Lord grant that we may live and die in a state of nature. Others are put perfectly at rest on the great question of salvation. They think they see so little difference between men of the church and men of the world, there is very little ground for alarm. If the former are safe, the latter cannot be in any great danger. God certainly will not predicate opposite destinies, upon distinctions of character, too small and too faint to be seen. Others, who feel some solicitude about their souls, and try somewhat for a better state, know not whither to go, nor what they must become. The way is all dark to them. They wander wearily about, and find no savior, no hope. They fix their eye, it may be, upom some dim, doubtful disciple, in order that their case may be an easy one, and then settle down on something short of Christ. There can be no questủon, but one false hope begets another; a low, uncertain character for godliness, propagates its kind. The consequence is, that many, who seem to set out for heaven, lose their way, and lose their souls. How sad, that the person who should have illumined his path, and led him onward, and upward, was the dark impediment, over which he stumbled and perished. Had that christian been a light in his sphere, that friend, that neighbor, would have gone to heaven : his light being darkness, that friend, that neighbor, went to hell. How great was that darkness.
Suppose, now, that all the christians in a given place were like him--the entire church in that place obscured--all her light put out, all distinctive truth blotted from her creed, and silenced in her pulpit, and wiped from the life of her members; and error and dishonesty and all forms of ungod