« PreviousContinue »
of the bodily senses, it was natural that LIGHT, the source and harbinger of animation, activity, and utility, should be adopted as the emblem of all that is excellent and happy. In no writings shall we find this striking allusion applied in so great an extent as in the holy scriptures. It is there exhibited as the representative and companion of Truth, which we know by experience affects the mind, as light does the eye, on its perception, with a pleasure not to be described. As an external influence, we find it denoting comfort, deliverance, instruction, direction. As an internal feeling, joy and gladness, hope, wisdom, knowledge, and improvement. As expressive of personal worth, it signifies virtue, reputation, example-good men are the light of the world, children of light and of the day." It has a reference not only to present but to future happiness—" light is sown for the righteous”—the heavenly felicity is the ❝inheritance of saints in light." It rises still higher when it is represented as an adjunct of the Deity"He covereth himself with light as with a garment"
He dwells in unapproachable light." But the language of the apostle John (whose words I have read as a part of my text) exceeds that of all others in boldness and energy—" GOD IS LIGHT.” He is, and has in himself, every thing of which light, unmixed and most refined, can be supposed to convey the idea. In his essence there is not the least tincture of imperfection or obscurity. It is in its figurative application to the Divine Being himself, and his communications to the human race, that I mean to consider the term in the subsequent part of this dis
We may then discern a beautiful and appropriate analogy between the element of light and the spirituality or omnipresence of God. We know of nothing that comes nearer to our ideas of spirit. Its particles are minute beyond all conception. Its motion has been estimated at 200,000 miles in a second of time. Its rays are darting and crossing each other, in every possible direction, without causing confusion in the appearance of the objects from which they proceed. It is diffused through every part of the universe. The sun and stars emit it, the planets receive and enjoy it; and nothing appears more reasonable than to conclude, that the most remote systems and their inhabitants, however they may be supposed to differ from us in other respects, are so constituted, that light is as necessary to their existence and happiness as it is to ours. It is therefore the inseparable companion of that Providence which giveth unto all life and breath and all things." Again-It fitly represents the divine purity. A critical analysis of the other elements (even of the air we breathe) discovers a combination of various ingredients; but no operation to which light has been subjected exhibits any thing more than a diversity of colours, each of them pure and essential light; all, like the distinct perfections of the Deity, contributing to form one bright, uniform, beautiful, and beneficial emanation. The other elements are liable to perpetual change and fluctuation within themselves. Light, like its eternal and immortal Archetype, who is without variableness or shadow of turning, knows no such change; and, when interposing obstacles are removed, never fails to visit our eyes in all its native and undimi
nished splendour. Light, in its nature and effects, is opposed to all fallacy and imposture. The Lord is "a God of truth and without iniquity" he keepeth truth for ever"-" his faithfulness never faileth." The source of light, ever since his creation, has been unceasingly diffusing it all around him; yet, for any thing we know to the contrary, his substance has suffered no diminution, but he still pours forth the blessing in streams which cannot fail, but at the will of Him who first opened their fountain. So the goodness of the Lord flows on in an uninterrupted, unexhausted, and inexhaustible current; it is from everlasting to everlasting." But-let me forbear-the similitude, delightful and impressive as it is, fails while we attempt to support it-nor is it within the reach of the human powers, however assisted, by research or by comparison to find out God. Here we lose ourselves in light ineffable. All the glory of the most glorious of created things is no more than the shade of the great Creator's; and our bodily eyes are not more dazzled and oppressed in an attempt to gaze upon the Sun, when shining in his strength, than those of the mind, when we would conceive of the Divinity-consummate, absolute, full-orbed, in his whole round of rays complete." Here, Light, of all things the purest and most ethereal, is too gross to be the vehicle of perfect knowledge. Although inconceivably subtile and refined, it is yet as truly matter as the ground we tread upon; and therefore of a nature, totally distinct from, and infinitely inferior to spirit. Although Light pervades every part of space, yet its sources are countless in number, and widely distant from each other. But of intellectual light, and moral perfection, there is only ONE Foun
tain, and none of his peculiar glories giveth he to another. Light may be turned out of its direct course by reflection from an intervening body, or refraction through a different medium; but the divine counsels move on towards their accomplishment without variation or irregularity. However intense at the point of emission, light becomes weaker in proportion as it increases its distance, till at length its rays are too scattered to produce any effect on the organs of vision—but the power and presence of Jehovah are the same in every imaginable point of infinite space. Finally-it is within the compass of possibility that the light which shone out of, may again be absorbed in darkness-yea, "the stars may fade away and the sun himself grow dim with age”—but “the Lord, the everlasting God, fainteth not, neither is weary" The High and Lofty ONE who inhabiteth eternity," hath neither beginning of days nor end of years!
But if Light, in its metaphorical sense, be so happily applied as to furnish some suitable, though imperfect views of the divine nature and attributes, may we not also derive some instruction from the negative proposition stated by the Apostle- In God is no darkness at all?" It is said indeed of the Most High, that clouds and darkness are round about him"-that his way is in the sea, and his path in the deep waters, and his footsteps are not known." But these, and such like expressions, refer only to the contractedness and feebleness of the human powers, which are unable to comprehend the counsels and purposes of an infinite mind. As well might we suppose that the Sun does not shine, when hid from our view by thick vapours, or when sunk below the ho
rizon, as that there is any thing in God that answers to the idea of darkness, whether natural or moral.— Possibly indeed, to understand what God is not, rather than what he is, may be best adapted to the faculties of all created beings-certainly to ours in their present state. Limited as they are, there are nevertheless some points of mathematical, physical and moral truth, in relation to which we are in no danger of erring; and we may safely conclude that if any thing contradictory to them be applied to the nature and perfections of the Supreme Being, it must have the properties of that darkness of which in him there can be none. Thus the original idea of UNITY is perfectly simple, unambiguous, and familiar to our reason. However we apply it, the same may be said of it as of light, that what it is cannot be mistaken for what it is not. Being propounded to us by revelation, in the clearest and most explicit terms, as a definition or an attribute of the divine essence, our deliberate judgment receives, embraces, and adheres to it with complete conviction and satisfaction. Here is nothing dubious or obscure—nothing beyond the reach of our clearest conceptions of reality and certainty. To believe otherwise, on any human authority, is either quietly to close the eyes of our understanding, or to be involved in a mist and darkness, out of which it is confessedly not in the power of those who have led us into it to deliver us.
Again-If we view God as the Creator of mankind, it is impossible to separate the act of giving existence from benevolence, without casting a dismal shade over the character of an omnipotent being. What can excite greater horror in our minds than the bringing into life with the purpose of making for ever misera