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his outward conduct before men. For faith feacheth only how we must live in the spirit before God; which subject is also treated at large in this same epistle: for Paul, (Rom. xii.) divideth the office of preaching into two parts, doctrine and exhortation; and he applieth himself with earnestness to both, as every one should do who would faithfully discharge the duties of a christian minister. Doctrine is that part of preaching by which men are taught something that was not known before. Exhortation implieth the inciting by words to the practice of what is already known. If we carefully examine the text before us, we shall find that it is not so much the design of the apostle to teach, as to exhort and excite men to the performance of those duties wherein they have already been taught; and in order that his exhortation may be the more effectual, and that it may the more readily find its way to the hearts of those to whom he addresseth himself, he employeth certain elegant and figurative forms of speech. Thus, the words, sleep, darkness, light, waking, armour, works, the day, the night, which he here useth, are all figuratively applied ; that is, they represent certain spiritual things, which bear some resemblance to the natural things signified by these terms.
By sleep, the apostle signifieth a certain spiritual torpor wherein we are dead to good works; and by works of darkness, he signifieth evil works ; for the night is a season in which men are often drunken, and do many foul deeds. On the contrary, to awake out of sleep, denoteth spiritual activity : for when the morning cometh, we cast off sleep, and go about the labours of the day; so when we receive faith, we -rise from our spiritual inactivity, and do good works. he same words which are used figuratively in the xt, are also applied in a similar manner in other arts of scripture : thus, 1 Thes. v. we have these words: “But ye brethren are not in darkness, that
that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day : we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night ; and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breast-plate of faith and love ; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.”
Let us now see what similitude there is between natural and spiritual sleep. He that is asleep, observeth nothing that is passing in the world, but lieth insensible to every thing around him : he neither seeth, heareth, nor feeleth, for all his senses are, as it were, closed up. Instead of realities, his mind is occupied with dreams, false images, and evanescent forms. But when he awaketh, those delusive visions are dissipated, and his mind is again occupied with realities. So it is with him that is swallowed up of ungodliness ; he is spiritually asleep; for he perceiveth none of those spiritual good things which are offered and promised him by the gospel, although they be near at hand; for these things, being discerned only by the eye of faith, are removed from natural vision.
So long as we continue in this sleep of unbelief, we have no sense of those comforts which are to be derived from the gospel. Our minds are totally occupied with the imaginary good things of this world, such as riches, promotions, and sensual pleasures ; which, contrasted with the sublime enjoyments of those who are made alive by faith, are as dreams and vain visions, compared to substantial realities. But when we awake from this sleep, and receive faith, all desires of those worldly honours and pleasures vanish and fade away; even as dreams and visions of the night disappear, when we awake from our natural sleep. We perceive them to be
nothing but vanities and idle delusions, incapable of affording permanent satisfaction. Thus David saith, Psalm lxx. “They have slept their sleep, and they whose hands were mighty have found nothing." And again, Psalm lxxiii. “ As a dream when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when thou awakest thou shalt despise their image.” Thus also the prophet Isaiah, chap. xxix. “It shall be even as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eateth ; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or, as when a thirsty man dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh ; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is faint, and his soul bath appetite : so shall the multitude of all the nations be that fight against mount Zion.” Thus we see in what low estimation, those hold the riches, honours, and pleasures of the world, who have tasted the spiritual comforts which come to us through the Gospel.
Thus far we have spoken of the spiritual application of the words, sleep, darkness, the day, &c. which occur in the text; and endeavoured to show what the apostle signifieth, when he saith, “ It is high time to awake out of sleep.” Let us now attend to the words contained in the latter clause of the same verse : *For now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Here the apostle hath reference to a belief in the promise of God made to Abraham ; Gen. xxii. “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." This blessing promised to Abraham and his seed, is nothing more than that grace and salvation through Christ,, which are offered to the world by the gospel; and so Paul interpreteth it in Rom. iv. and Gal. ii. For Christ is that seed of Abraham, in whom the nations, or as many as believe on him, are blessed. This promise was continually declared and held forth by the prophets ; for they all wrote of the coming of Christ, and of the salvation he should bring by his sufferings. This
promise all the faithful believed, who died before the birth of Christ; and by this faith they obtained salvation. But what they believed would in time be fulfilled, we believe is fulfilled; namely, that.Christ is come ; that the Gospel is revealed and published; and, that the blessing which was looked for, is spread over the world. .Now, as we believe those things are fulfilled, which the fathers once believed should come, our faith is made stronger, and our redemption more certain : and therefore, our salvation is now nearer than when we believed.
Here it may be necessary to observe, that as the fathers had the same faith in Christ, who they believed would come, as those have who believe that he has come, therefore, in many places in the scriptures, those who were before the incarnation of Christ, took upon themselves the person
of those who came after it; and those who came after it, often assumed the person of those who were before it ? hence Paul saith, “Now is our salvation nearer than when we (that is, the Fathers) believed.” We must not, however, understand this as referring to nearness of possession ; for as the Fathers had the same faith, and the same Saviour as we have, salvation was as near to them as it is to us. But Paul hath reference to the nearness of revelation ; those things being fulfilled which were promised, the Gospel being proclaimed and preached to all, and salvation is said to be nearer, than when those things were hidden, or known only to few.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand : The meaning of this passage is, that the night of spiritual darkness, which had hitherto enwrapt the world, is passed away, and that the glorious gospel day has dawned upon us ; that the salvation which was promised to Abraham through Christ, hath shone forth, by the preaching of the Gospel, throughout the whole world ; giving light unto all men, and raising
all out of sleep; showing forth true and eternal things, and enabling us to walk safely, as those who walk in the light. Of this spiritual day, David speaketh, Psalm cxviii. “ This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
The sun that causeth this day, is the Saviour Jesus Christ; for as many as believe in him, receive the beams of his divine grace and righteousness; as God saith, Mal. iv. “Unto them that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings.” And again, Christ saith, John ix. 5, “ As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” The scriptures do also in many other places beautifully set forth the glory of that light which should come into the world by the Gospel.
The Gospel, or glad tidings, is so called, because it is a gracious message of God's good will to man. It is that which quickeneth, maketh joyful, willing, obedient, and ready to do good works. It maketh known all things that are necessary for our good. It teacheth us what God is, what we are ourselves, whence we came, and whither we go. It bringeth to view the past, and openeth to us the future. By this light we are shown how we ought to conduct ourselves in all things, and toward all men.
But notwithstanding so great light come into the world by the Gospel, satan has deceived us, miserable creatures. We have neglected to search for truth by this light, whereby all things would have been made clear and manifest to us, and have sought for it in the speculations of philosophers and heathen men, who have not so much as by a dream known aught of these things ; and thus we have suffered ourselves to be blinded by the traditions of men, and have fallen back again into darkness !
Let us therefore cast of the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. As Christ is the sun, and the Gospel the day, so faith is the light by