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The language of the apostle is clearly figurative. He intends not to refer to the natural sleep or death of the body. Christ indeed is the resurrection and the life ; and in the great day of judgment, every soul that has ever lived on earth, must come before his throne for pardon or for vengeance. But although the sentence be not passed, until we have visited the chambers of the grave, yet is it fixed and determined in God's unchanging councils, ere we have shaken off our tabernacle of mortality; and if we do not turn from our sins and follies here, there will be no place før penitence hereafter. This, then, is the time to which every exhortation in the Bible is intended to apply. The menaces, indeed, of punishment recorded there, will be carried into effect in another state alone; but the incentive to obedience, which they were designed to afford, can act effectually upon our souls only whilst the door of mercy is open to receive us. This reflection is an awful one; and it seems at first sight difficult to conceive, how the servant can be found slumbering, when he knows neither the day nor the hour when the master cometh. Such, however, is the melancholy fact, and much is it to be feared, that of the multitudes of living souls'who exist and move around us, few, comparatively speaking, are they, who devote the present time to the due consideration of the alternative which eternity will offer. How many are there, even in the narrow circle of our own knowledge, who seem to live as though they never thought of dying, as though the mercies of redemption were valued not, or needed not, by them. Nor are they few in number, whose souls are polluted by the same crimes, from which the apostle warned his Ephesian converts; and yet we hear not of many of these victims of profligacy, who are won from their career of sin, and bring the offering of their penitence and tears before the throne of their Redeemer.
This, then, is the sleep from which we are exhorted to awaken—this the death from which we are warned to arise. And the very words in which the state of the sinner is described, are such as should excite all our fears, and call forth all our care. He is said to be asleep, to be dead. Now, what is sleep? What is death ? In the first, there is a cessation of every active and discriminating principle within us. The judgment is entirely benumbed. God's glorious sun may shine brightly upon us; the fair streams and pleasant pastures with which his mercy decks our land, may look cheerful around our dwellings ; but we are 'unable to rejoice in the gladdening beams of the one, or cast our eyes with delight upon the bright visions which the others unfold. And yet, though a mist, a dark and delusive one, enwraps our senses, yet they are not without perception, however wild and fanciful it be. During the hours of slumber, indeed, the imagination is not unfrequently in full activity—unchastened and unrestricted by the reasoning powers—but roaming ever through scenes the most visionary and extravagant, and engaging in enterprises the most aimless and absurd. Yet, whilst our senses are thus enveloped in the veil of sleep, the strange and fantastic shapes which hover around our pillow, do not appear either revolting or improbable. We are perfectly satisfied, at the time, of the reality of the phantoms we seem to behold, and give ourselves
up, as it were, entirely to the influence they do for the moment exercise over us, whether it be for joy or sorrow. Nor is it until the hour of waking comes, that we perceive the emptiness and vanity of those spectral visitations, which so lately beset us with their phantasies.
And does not the state of the unrepentant sinner, but too closely resemble the picture here delineated. Is there not a sleep upon his soul, which palsies every faculty, and shuts out the light of God's grace from his heart. The sun of the gospel sheds its beams of gladness around him, but they bring him no joy, no comfort; the river of life which flows by God's throne, is opened to his view, but it holds out no charm no hope to him. Dreams more vain and deceitful
than ever haunted the slumbers of the night, influence his conduct and direct his course : dreams of some fancied good which will ever elude his grasp; of some happiness which he can never attain. Look at the votary of pleasure or the worshipper of mammon; what is the object of their search, the end of their labours? Are they not pursuing a phantom which is continually fleeing before them? Are they not seeking for happiness, in a path wbich can lead them only to misery? And remember my brethren, that pleasure and profit are the great snares which beguile men to destruction ; and that their fatal influence operates alike on all ranks and classes of mankind. We are all buried in the lethargy of sin, when our bearts are filled with other thoughts than those of piety; when our minds are set on other pursuits than those of godliness. They sleep a fearful sleep, who are guilty of the hideous crimes which the apostle enumerates, and not they only, but those also who entertain no mistrust of themselves, no sense of their own utter unworthiness and depravity, no desire to please God, no hope nor wish for assistance from bim. Every man, whose whole soul is not under the influence of grace from above-every man who trusts in the merits of his own righteousness, and hopes to be accepted by the perfection of his own obedience, is in a dream so perilous, that if he be not roused in time, he will awaken only to the knowledge of his error, when the day of judgment and of vengeance comes.
But lest the name of sleep present no sensation of terror to the sinner's heart, he is exhorted to arise as it were from the dead. Surely, my brethren, this will alarm you. If, in your state of impenitence, you are likened to the dead, that state can be no safe resting-place either for ignorance or indifference. There is something awful in the very thought of dissolution ; something that harrows the soul in contemplating the fearful change, which the blighting stroke of the destroyer works upon his victims. How soon does the worm of corruption prey upon the frame, from which the spark of life has vanished. How soon does that body, which was of late so vigorous in its strength, so proud in its health and manhood, become a dark and festering mass of decay and ruin. And this, my brethren, is an exact, though most appalling illustration of the state of the sinner in his impenitence. The mouldering and loathsome tenant of the charnel-house, is not so foul and offensive to our sight, as the sinner is in the sight of God, before his heart is softened, and bis soul moved to remorse and contrition. This reflection may well make the most hardened pause for a moment, and consider what must be the consequences to himself, if he continue