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MARK XV. 33. A D WHE THE SIXTH HOUR WAS GOME, THERE WAS DARK ESS OVER THE WHOLE LA D U TIL THE I TH HOUR. When the remark was made to an experienced observer of the course of God's providence "Good vdll come out of the evil/' his reply was " Did you ever know good that did not come out of evil?** — ^To show the universal application of the principle implied in his question^ would^ in a variety of cases, require a subtlety of refinement, and a remoteness of research, which might not satisfy the mind unaccustomed to such investigations ; but it is the general fact, and blessed be God for the trustfiil faith which it cherishes, that all evil has in it • the germ of good, — that evil prepares for good, — that darkness introduces light, nay often occasions the diffusion of it. The morning sun is more joyful than when it shines with its meridian splendour ; because it is contrasted with the darkness of the night which preceded it.
LIGHT OUT OF DARK ESS. 129 So it is in the moral world ; and our hearts may be prepared for future trials or sustained in our hours of sorrow^ by dwelling on that period of darkness which attended the death of the Saviour of men. It needs not the power of genius to impress the
spirit with the sentiment of the fact so simply and so forcibly described by the Evangelist. Yet does the contemplation of one mind often aid the conceptions of others ; and I would wish to lead you to picture to your imagination the holy city^ when the sixth hour is passing on^ and that terrific darkness is spreading over the heavens, which could have no ordinary cause, and which proved to have enveloped the whole land. Think of the immense population, as full of amazement and solicitude, varied in many by sentiments of horror and remorse, — of solemn suspense, — of breathless watchings,— of fearful expectation, — of agitating dread^ — of holy astonishment, — of gleaming faith, pointing to the Divine approval of the suffering Son of God, — of devout acknowledgment of the hand of Jehovah. — In the gloom of the Sun's eclipse, when total, there is that, which even the lower animals feel with uneasiness and alarm ; and man, when he dismisses for a moment his scientific knowledge, owns that it is unearthly. What must have been the feelings of the millions who had crowded to the pascal festival, what the feelings that entered their hearts, when the sun without visible cause was darkened, and gloom more fearful than night spread over the whole horizon ? I might lead you in thought among the malignant judges of the Saviour, — ^to the wretched Judas who K
130 SERMO IX. had plunged himself into the awful abyss, when condemnation had been passed, and his Master and Friend had been delivered up to the Roman Governor; — I might lead you to contemplate the struggling emotions of Pilate himself, from whose guilty weakness the sentence had been wrested, — to imagine the thoughts which were passing in the mind of the Roman Lady
who, in the dreams of the night, had suffered much on account of the Just one, — ^I might lead you to consider those who had treated with cruel scorn the Man of Sorrows, and mocked and scourged the king of Israel, — I might lead you to consider those who, even when their Messiah was hanging on the cross, had reviled him vnth bitter taunts, and those who had before joined in the clamour for his crucifixion, and who might now be indulging in malicious joy, believing that all their fears were at an end. At an end ? But had he not declared in the Temple, ^'All these things shall come upon this generation" ? And, in the Hall of Judgment, had he not told the High Priest and his accusers that ^^ they should see him sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven*'? Had they not, while hurrying him to crucifixion, heard him foretell impendand overwhelming calamities? Had they not imprecated them upon themselves and upon their children ? And had they not heard him declare vnth solemn dignity, ^^The hour vnll come when all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and come forth to life, or to condemnation ?*' I go not among his deserting or his faithfdl followers; but I say, would there be a breast unmoved among the
LIGHT OUT OF DARK ESS. 131 thousands, and tens of thousands, who could not hut know, that he who had wrought so many miracles of mercy, even in this very city, was then on the cross, in the agonies of nature? Well might they smite their breasts and return ; for must there not have been in every heart a foreboding sadness, when darkness spread over the face of heaven ? Must there not have been a general and fearful gloom on the countenance, as the sun withdrew its brightness ? And think you not that, while this awfiil suspense continued (until the hour of
evening sacrifice), there would be many a one among the priests, whose thoughts troubled him, and whose knees smote one against the other, when ^^ the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom and the earth did quake?'* Think you not, too, that some would utter wild execration and presumptuous daring; even when their spirits were in reality trembling within them ? But I forbear. One thing alone I will add (which we know by the events that succeeded), that, of those whom the interruption of the light of day excited to fear, or awakened to reflection, multitudes dismissed their fears and their reflections when the alarm was over. The darkness passed away. The evening sky had its accustomed glory. The next day's sun shone bright as before. And all, — all but the despairing followers of the Lord, returned again to the usual train of sacred ceremonial, or social intercourse ; — the many heedless of the caU to humbling thought, to repentance, to watchful eflFort to escape from impending evil. k2
132 SERMO IX. Let us apply this to ourselves. Have we not felt darkness over our spirit; — darkness over the world around us ? Have we not felt, when it appeared that through our earthly pilgrimage we should only be guided by the cloud — that God was our only refuge — that our only desire was and must be to secure His favour? Have we not felt, too, — when the darkness has passed away, when the light of happiness has shone on the scenes of time, that in them again we have sought our portion^ — ^that again the influence of those unholy desires has returned, which we thought had lost
their charm, — that again those habits have impeded our progress heavenward, the strength of which we thought had been broken for ever. But to return. The impressive record of the fact (given vnth the simplicity of sublimity) shows that^ by those who witnessed it and shared in its solemn visitations of spirit, it never could be forgotten. When the glorious Sun of the spiritual world had burst from the tomb, and miracle after miracle attested the truth of those who said " this Jesus hath God raised up," would not the thoughts of the believer, in the midst of the brightness which was now diffused through his soul, often in adoring reverence return to the attestation given by the Lord of nature to the truth of him who declared " I am the light of the world ? *' Would not his faith in its overflowing fulness, find an entrance into the hearts of others, who, if they had not themselves seen the Saviour on the cross, if they had not themselves heard the joyful exclamation " The Lord is risen, he is risen indeed,'* if they had not themselves witnessed him
LIGHT OUT OF DARK ESS. 133 ascending on high^ — still must have had their spirits prepared for the truth, by the darkness which overspread the last hours of the crucifixion, — ^Iheir attention called to the claims of the just and holy one then expiring, — and their understandings opened to receive the evidences so extensively afforded by the witnesses of the resurrection^ that the God of their fathers had given him the victory over death and the grave, had exalted him to give forgiveness and everlasting life, and made him Lord over the dead and the living, had appointed him to raise all of them from the tomb, and to judge the world in righteousness ? Let it not be imagined that the darkness produced
only a temporary impression. Are its influences worn out in our own generation ? Will they ever be ? In those still hours, when sorrow or sickness or disappointed hope, or the perception of the vanity of the world that passeth away, or all united as they sometimes are, lead the humble followers of Christ to dwell on the hope that is the soul*s best anchorage ; — ^when conscious imperfection, weakness, frailty, or even sinfulness, bring him to the foot of the cross, that he may feel assured that there is mercy for the contrite in heart, and grace to help in time of need; — ^when the ravages of death in the circle of affection and friendship, filling him with mourning and with sympathy for the mourner, almost compel him to resort to the Resurrection and the Life, to think of him as himself passing through the dark valley on the passage to an endless life, to meditate on the tomb in which he lay who is gone to prepare mansions in the Father's
134 SERMO IX. honse for his faithful followers, to retrace the hour of greatest agony, wh«i he said " O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done," and then to contemplate the sufferings by which he finished the work of man's redemption from sin and the grave ; — ^it will suit the frame of the spirit within to think of the darkness which then overspread every spirit, — ^to view it as calling attention to him who was then enduring the cross, — to -view it as the expression of the Father's love and approbation to the Son, never more beloved than when thus suffering, — to view it as conducting the soul on to the light which ever shineth, though darkness be around our path^ — to remember that darkness lasteth not for ever, — ^that light is sown in it for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart, — ^and, by the solemn and the tranquillizing thoughts which such contemplations pro-
duce, to prepare the mind for the lessons of heavenly wisdom, for trust in God, for resignation, for that faith in the invisible and the eternal which it is the purpose of the Divine dispensations to form in the human heart, and which never enters there with power, without diffusing strength and hope and consolation. All the powers of the human mind should be exercised in this due degree ; and all should be made to contribute towards that faith/ The imagination has her highest as well as her holiest exercises, when, with the objects of dme, she connects the realities of eternity; when from the material, she rises to the spiritual ; when, around the things that pass away^ she gathers sentiments that make them the emblems of
LIGHT OUT OF DARK ESS. 135 that which shall endure for ever ; when^ from the darkness of earth, she conducts the sinking heart to contemplate the light of heaven. 'Tis hers to pluck the amaranthine flowers Of faith, and round the sufferer's temples hind Wreaths that endure affliction's heaviest showers, And do not shrink from sorroVs keenest wind. In that Repository of Divine knowledge, which is open to all, — ^in which we have, as it were, a common experience, — in which we possess common topics for consolation, admonition, guidance, and encouragement, and the extensive and accurate acquaintance with which, presents constant springs for spiritual good, — ^in the records which we possess of the special dealings of the righteous and all-wise Governor, of the holy and gracious Father, — we have abundance to cherish the
belief that the hours of darkness are not to last for ever ; — abundance to strengthen that trust which prepares for hopeful emotion, which of itself raises from the dust the eye that is bowed down, and teaches it to discern the streaks of light that mark the approach of day ; — abundance to lead upward to the Father, whose providence is over all, and without whom not even a sparrow falleth to the ground, — to lead onward to the abode where there shall be light without a doud, where every tear shall be wiped away, and where it will be seen (what it jrields peace now to believe and trust) that the Father of spirits guides his children in the right way to His heavenly mansions.
136 SERMO IX. The faithful readiness to offer up the son of promise^ the sacrifice made in spirit of the only son, was followed by the annunciation of earthly prosperity, and by the assurance that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed. The gloom of the prison, supported by conscious purity and uprightness, became the passage to earthly power. The ark of bulrushes, placed for concealment in the flags of the river^s brink, become the conveyance to the court of Pharoah. The Desert led to Canaan. The prophet's complaint, ^^ I, only I am left, and they seek my life,*' answered not by the hurricane, nor by the earthquake, nor by the fire, but by the still small voice, was followed, when he reverentially owned the word of the Lord, by the declaration, ^' I have left me in Israel seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." " Ye shall weep and lament," said the Saviour when his hour was come, '^ but the world shall rejoice. Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." The darkness spread over the whole land for the space of three hours ; and at the end of it, when he committed his spirit to the Father, the veil of the
temple was rent in twain, and the earthquake burst asunder the rocks : — and all was followed by his resurrection to an eternal life, — ^all was but the commencement of that bright day, whose radiance quickly extended among multitudes whose hearts had before been fiill of darkness, of that Kingdom which shall one day extend throughout the earth, and fill tihie world with the glory of the Lord. He poured out his soul in
LIGHT OUT OF DARK ESS. 137 darkness and suffering ; but in light and gloi^ he ascended to the throne of the Most High/* And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away ; and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
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