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FOHN 111. 19. And this is the condemnation, that light is come in
to the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because (or for] their deeds were evil.
WHAT a strange, alarming declaration is this ! Light is come into the world: the Sun of Righteousness is risen upon this region of darkness ; therefore it is enlightened ; therefore it is bright intellectual day with all its rational inhabitants : therefore they will no longer grope and stumble in darkness, but all find their way into the world of eternal light and glory. These would be natural inferences: this event we would be apt to expect from the entrance of light into the world. But hear and tremble, ye inhabitants of the enlightened parts of the earth! hear and trenible, ye sons of Nassau-Hall, and inhabitants of Princeton ! The benevolent Jesus, the Friend of human nature, the Saviour of men, whose lips never dropped an over-severé word, or gave a false alarm : Jesus himself proclaims, This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, &c.
This is the condemnation ; that is, this is the great occasion of more aggravated condemnation at the final judgment, and of more severe and terrible punishments in the eternal world ; or, this is the cause of men's condemning themselves even now at the bar of their own consciences.
That light is come into the world-Jesus, the Sun of the moral world, is risen, and darts his beams around him in the gospel. And this furnishes guilty minds with materials for self-condemnation ; and their obstinate resistance of the light enhances their guilt, and will render their condemnation the more aggravated ; and the reason is, that
Men love darkness rather than light. They choose ignorance rather than knowledge ! The Sun of righteousness is not agreeable to them, but shines as a baleful, ill-boding luminary. If they
did but love the light, its entrance into the world would be their salvation ; but now it is their condemnation. But why do they hate the light? Truly, light is sweet, and it is a pleasant thing to the eyes to see the sun : and no light so sweet as this from heaven : no sun so bright and reviving as the Sun of righteousness ; and why then do they not love it ? Alas! there is no reason for it, but this wretched one,
Because their deeds are evil. And evil deeds always excite uneasiness in the light, and afford the conscience matter of self-accusation, therefore they wrap up themselves in darkness, and avoid the painful discoveries of the light.
The text directs us to the following inquiries :
What is that light which is come into the world? What is the darkness that is opposed to it? What are the evidences of men's loving darkness rather than light ? What is the reason of it? And in what respects the light's coming into the world, and men's loving darkness rather than light, is their condemnation ?
I. What is that light which is come into the world ?
The answer to this, and the other questions, I shall endeavour to accommodate to our own times and circumstances, that we may the more readily apply it to ourselves. * The light of reason entered our world as soon as the soul of
man was created; and, though it is greatly obscured by the grand apostasy, yet some sparks of it still remain.
To supply its defects the light of revelation soon darted its beams through the clouds of ignorance, which involved the human mind, on its flying off to so great a distance from the Father rof lights. This heavenly day began feebly to dawn upon the first pair of sinners, in that early promise concerning the seed of the woman: and it grew brighter and brighter in the successive revelations made to the patriarchs, to Moses, and the prophets, till at length the Messiahr appeared, as an illustrious sun after a gradual, tedious twilight of the opening dawn.
The light of human literature has also come into the world, and shines with unusual splendours upon our age and nation ; and lo! it illuminates this little village, and extends its beams through the land.
But it is not light in any of these senses that our Lord principally intends, but himself and his blessed gospel; a more clear and divine light than any of the former.
He often represents himself under the strong and agreeable metaphor of light. I am the light of the world, says he : he that followeth me shall not walk in darkne88. John viii. 12. I am come a light into the world, thal whosoever believeth in me, should not abide in darkness. John xii. 46. Light is a strong and beautiful metaphor for knowledge, prosperity, comfort, and happiness; and these are the rays which the blessed Jesus diffuses around him :--but, wherever he does not shine, all is sullen and dismal darkness. Hell is the blackness of darkness forever, because he does not extend to it the light of his countenance. That country where he does not shine, is the land of darkness and the shadow of death ; and that heart which is not illuminated with the light of the knowledge of his glory, is the gloomy dungeon of infernal spirits ; but wherever he shines, there is intellectual day, the bright meridian of glory and blessedness.
His gospel also is frequently represented as a great light; and no metaphor was ever used with more emphasis and proprie. ty. It is the medium through which we discover the glory of the Deity, the beauties of holiness, the evil of sin, and the reality and infinite importance of eternal, invisible things. This is the light that reveals the secrets of the heart, and discovers ourselves to ourselves. It is this that gives us a just and full view of our duty to God and man, which is but imperfectly or falsely represented in every other system of religion and morality in the world. It is this that discovers and ascertains a method in which rebels may be reconciled to their offended Sovereign, and exbibits a Saviour in full view to perishing sinners. Hail ! sacred heaven-born light! welcome to our eyes, thou : brightest and fairest effulgence of the divine perfections ! May this day spring from on high, visit all the regions of this benighted world, and overwhelm it as with a deluge of celestial light! Blessed be God, its vital rays have reached to us in these ends of the earth; and if any of us remain ignorant of the important discoveries it makes, it is because we love darkness rather than light! Which leads me to inquire,
II. What is that darkness that is opposed to this heavenly light?
Darkness is a word of gloomy import; and there is hardly any thing dismal or destructive, but wbat is expressed by it in sacred language. But the precise sense of the word in my text,
is, a state of ignorance, and the absense of the means of conviction. Men love darkness rather than light ; that is, they choose to be ignorant, rather than well-informed : ignorant particularly of such things as will give them uneasiness to know ; as their sin, and the danger to which it exposes them They are wilfully ignorant : and hence they hate the means that would alarm them with the mortifying discovery. They would rather be flattered than told the honest truth, and know their own character and condition ; and hence they shut their eyes against the light of the gospel, that would flash the painful conviction upon them. Though the light of the gospel shines round you, yet are not some of you involved in this darkness? This you may know by the next inquiry.
III. What are the evidences of men's loving darkness rather than light?
The general evidence, which comprehends all the rest, is their avoiding the means of conviction, and using all the artifices in their power to render them ineffectual.
It is not impossible to characterize such of you as love darkness rather than light, though you may be so much upon your guard against the discovery, as not to perceive your own character.
Though you may have a turn for speculation, and perhaps delight in every other branch of knowledge, yet the knowledge of yourselves, the knowledge of disagreeable duties, the discovery of your sin and danger, of your miserable condition as under the condemnation of the divine law, this kind of self-knowledge you carefully shun; and, when it irresistibly flashes upon you, you endeavour to shut up all the avenues of your mind, through which it might break upon you, and you avoid those means of conviction, from which it proceeds.
You set yourselves upon an attempt very preposterous and absurd in a rational being, and that is, Not to think. When the illboding surmise rises within, “ All is not well : I am not prepared for the eternal world : if I should die in this condition I am undone forever :" I say, when conscience thus whispers your doom, it may make you sad and pensive for a minute or two, but you soon forget it: you designedly labour to cast it out of your thoughts, and to recover your former negligent serenity. The VOL. II.
light of conviction is a painful glare to a guilty eye; and you wrap úp yourselves in darkness, lest it should break in upon you.
When your thoughts are like to fix upon this ungrateful subject, do you not labour to divert them into another channel ? You immerse yourselves in business, you mingle in company, you indulge and cherish a thoughtless levity of mind, you break out of retirement into the wide world, that theatre of folly, trifling, and dissipàtion ; and all this to scatter the gloom of conviction that hangs over your ill-boding minds, and silence the clamours of an exasperated conscience ! You laugh, or talk or work, or study away these fits of seriousness ! You endeavour to prejudice yourselves against them by giving them ill names ; as Melancholy, Spleen, and I know not what ; whereas they are indeed the honest struggles of an oppressed conscience to obtain a fair hearing, and give you faithful warning of approaching ruin : they are the benevolent efforts of the Spirit of grace to save a lost soul. And O! it would be happy for you if you had yielded to them, and cherished the serious hour !
For the same reason also, you love a soft representation of christianity, as an easy, indolent, inactive thing; requiring no vig. orous exertion, and attended with no dubious eonflict, but encouraging your hopes of heaven in a course of sloth, carelessness, and indulgence. Those are the favourite sermons and favourite books which flatter you with smooth things, putting the most favourable construction upon your wickedness, and representing the way to heaven as smooth and easy.
Orif you have an unaccountable fondness for faithful and alárming preaching, as it must be owned some self-fatterers have, it is not with a view to apply it to yourselves, but to others. If you love the light, it is not that you may see yourselves, but other objects : and- whenever it forces upon you a glance of yourselves, you immediately turn from it, and hate it.
Hatred of the light, perhaps, is the reason why so many among us are so impatient of public worship; so fond of their own homes on the sacred hours consecrated to divide service ; and so reluctant, so late, or so inconstant in their attendance. It is darkness perhaps, at home; but the house of God is filled with light, which they do not love.
This also is one reason why the conversation of zealous communicativo christians, who are not ashamed to talk of what lies