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EPHESIANS v, 14.
Wherefore he saith, awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
These blessed words of the apostle were undoubtedly spoken, in reference to some of those sublime effusions of the ancient prophets, in which the inspired lips of these messengers of God, had declared the blessings which were to be conferred upon mankind, when the Lion of the tribe of Judah should break the bondage of sin. Their divine annunciations seem to have made a deep impression upon the apostle's heart; they were interwoven as it were with his thoughts, and he brings them forward, on every opportunity, to enlighten, to comfort, or to admonish, his hearers. Well, my brethren, would it be for us, if we thus studied and thus delighted in the sacred word of God; if, as God commanded Moses, we made it a token upon our hands, and as frontlets between our eyes ; not like the Pharisees of old, by transcribing it on slips of parchment, and wearing them on our persons, but by writing it on the tablets of our hearts, and making it, as it really is, the tidings of salvation, and the record of eternal life.
St. Paul had just been commenting on the heinous nature of sin ; on the certain misery and destruction, which will be the portion of all, who indulge in its licentiousness and impurities. He had named some of these vices—vices perhaps, to which the Ephesians were particularly addicted, and which are, alas! but too common in our own land. The solemn declaration with which he enforces his warnings, “For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God,” may strike terror into the heart of many a hearer now, as it did into the souls of the profligates of Ephesus. It is probable, indeed, that libertines of this class, were held in no particular disesteem in that celebrated city; that their guilt was considered as affecting neither their integrity nor their principle; as the result rather of youthful excess or want of prudence, than of a depraved and vicious heart. It is for you to judge, my brethren, whether the same spirit does not too widely prevail at the present day; whether there are not too many
amongst ourselves, on whose heads the denunciation of the apostle will fall like a thunderstroke; men, who think no harm in the commission of criines, which the laws of their country do not punish, or punish but slightly; men, who still maintain their place in society, from whose intercourse no one shrinks, at whom vo finger is pointed in scorn.
Our language is rich enough in terms of reproach and opprobrium; but who brands these licentious reprobates with an ignominious name? Do we not rather seek for mild and doubtful phrases, by which their guilt may be concealed, and almost made, indeed, to look like virtue. We stigmatize the man, who, in some paltry wager, some pitiful artifice at a game of hazard, endeavours to obtain, by unfair and dishonest means, the prize for which he gambles, a villain and a scoundrel; but the wretch who would blight the happiness of the friend who trusted him ; who would steal into the affection of innocence to defile and pollute it; who would leave to shame and sorrow those who confided in his honour and integrity; we term a gay, or a wild, and sometimes, perhaps, as a stretch of severity, a dissipated man. But God speaks in a different language. In his sacred revelations, no veil of mystery is thrown around our vices; their character and consequences are, on the contrary, proclaimed without disguise. We are told, in terms too plain to be misunderstood, that the adulterer and the seducer, the miserable prostitute, and the no less miserable companion of her guilt, will mourn hereafter in torments of eternal anguish, that their dwelling on earth has been in these tents of ungodliness.
On this class of sinners then, as well as on those who barter their hopes of heaven, for a brief enjoyment of the fading treasures of the world, the apostle denounces a fearful vengeance. But from the dark and gloomy contemplation of such fatal enormities, he turns with delight and comfort to those, whom his zeal and teaching had rescued from this gulf of misery and destruction, to walk in the blessed beams of the gospel light. And whilst he gives them many an affectionate admonition to avoid the crimes, wbich are daily perpetrated around them, be not only brings to their grateful remembrance, the blessings which the coming of the Saviour had shed upon them, but he holds out, too, a promise of pardon and mercy, to the most profligate even of their offending brethren, if he will forsake the evil of his ways, and turn in penitence and sorrow to the Lord his God. As the inspired prophet, wrapt in the contemplation of the future glories of the Messiah's advent, bade the children of Zion arise and rejoice, because the Gentiles, those who had hitherto sat in darkness and the shadow of death,
were to come to the light which then should beam around them, and share its sanctifying influence; so did the apostle invite all, who were then wandering in the dark mazes of error and guilt, to awaken from their sleep of death, to fly to the healin grays of that Sun of Righteousness, which had already risen upon the nations, and draw light to their souls from his pure and sacred effulgence. And to this end, my brethren, the endeavours of every faithful minister of God's word are entirely directed. “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews still a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power
of God and the wisdom of God.” In the honest fulfilment of our duty, the words of the first great apostle of the Gentiles seem ever at hand, to guide our thoughts, and furnish us with ample matter for instruction and edification. The exhortation, contained in the text, is one of those blessed admonitions which holds out the hope of mercy, even while they pass the sentence of condemnation; which, wbilst they declare the degradation and wretchedness of our present low estate, point out a way, by which we inay be raised from this gulf of misery and woe, to the blessed inheritance of the saints in light. “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”