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true light, which was to arise and shine upon that people. In the regions of Judea did the light of the gospel shine forth, after the appearance of the Sun of righteousness, with healing under his wings; and therefore, when the apostle Matthew mentions our blessed Saviour's going to reside at Capernaum, which is upon the sea-coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim, he immediately adds, ' that it might be 'fulsilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, say'ing, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephtha'lim, by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, .Galilee of
* the Gentiles: the people which fat in darkness saw
* great light: and to them which sat in the region
* and shadow of death, light is sprung up *.' Those parts of the land of Israel which had suffered much in former vexations, being honoured with the presence and instructions of the Messiah, the dimness and obscurity was not such, at the time to which this prediction refers, as it was in times of lighter afflictions. Hence we learn, that when gentle corrections prove ineffectual for reforming a person or people, God, who is righteous in all his ways, proceeds to inflict severe judgments; and the greater the crimes for which he afflicts, the greater is the punishment that he executes. This circumstance, which is worthy of your serious attention, ought* to restrain you from persisting in sin, and continuing in your transgressions.
2 The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the lhadow of death, upon them hath the lkrht shined.
These words represent the happy change which was to be introduced, by ihe promised Messiah, into the land of Galilee, at the time to which this prophecy
* Match, Jt. 14, 1$, 16.
refers, refers, as a blessed presage of its extension unto all the
earth. Concerning the people it is affirmed, that
they walked in darkness. Darkness cannot here denote the absence of natural light, and must not be understood in the literal, but in the sigurative sense, in which it is- often used in scripture, to signify a state of ignorance, sin, and misery. Until the great light, here intended, is seen, people remain destitute of spiritual knowledge, and a proper acquaintance with the truths of the gospel, which seem to them enveloped in obscurity. Ignorance, like a vail, continues upon their hearts, until the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, shine into their minds. In this uncomfortable state, they act under the influence of corrupt principles, emphatically called the power of darkness, committing those enormous transgressions which are justly denominated the works of darkness. From hence arise distresses and miseries of various kinds, which terminate in utter darkness, and everlasting wo, unless prevented by the
illumination' of the true light. In this condition
the people are described as walking, which, in the word of God, frequently denotes the whole course of man's life, in which every action makes a step toward that everlasting state to which we are journeying. Walking is a voluntary motion, the consequence of preceding choice, and deliberate resolution, very different from that which proceeds from violence, when one is drawn, or compelled by force. This circumstance asfords a just representation of those who are in darkness, who, as the wife man observes, leave the path of righteousness, and walk in the way of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and to whom the ways of sin are pleasant. Walking is a continued motion, in which one step regularly follows another, until the ground intended is gone over. In this respect also, it exhibits a just view of people in darkness, who cease not to do evil, are ever repeating their sinful actions, and renewing their transgressions
againll against the Almighty. Once- more, walking is a progressive motion, by which a traveller still goes forward, until he arrives at the end of his journey. In like manner, those who are in darkness proceed as it were down-hill, from evil to worse, until, if divine
mercy interpose not, they are irrecoverably lost.
The people are farther described in the following words:
They that dwell in the land of the Jhadow of death. Of all the events that can befall mankind in this present world, death is the most awful and terrible. It separates the foul from the body, with which it was intimately connected; and deprives it of all the excellencies and advantages of which it was possessed. It pulls down in a moment the curious fabric of nature, and extinguishes life, the greatest of all temporal blessings. The countenance is then changed, the strength is dissolved, purposes perish, learning and wisdom come to nought, and every natural and acquired accomplishment depart for ever. There is no knowledge, labour, or device in the grave, whither we are hasting. Death puts a sinal period to mens worldly businesses, connections, and enjoyments, and to all our opportunities of improvement and service. It dislodges the human foul from its former beloved habitation; and introduces it into a state of consummate happiness or misery, of which the person's present choice, temper, and practices, hath laid the foundation: this gives it a still more solemn aspect, and
more awful appearance. As the shadow gives an
exact representation of the object by which it is formed, by the shadow of death, may be meant the image of death, exhibiting, in dreadful forms, this object of dismay and terror. To dwell in the land of this shadow, denotes that such was the deplorable condition, of its inhabitants, that they afforded an exact resemblance of death, by which men are deprived of all that is esteemed excellent and desirable in this world. Or the expreffion may signify, that they were subjected jested to the power and influence of death, exposed to anxious fears and uneasy distractions of mind, wherewith people are seized in times of imminent danger, when they know not how soon they may become a prey to this king of terrors. Though the land here spoken of, was exceedingly fruitful and pleasant, yet, on account of the miserable condition of its inhabitants, who were involved in spiritual darkness, dead in trespasses, and liable to death of the worst kind, it is said to be the region or shadow of death. In this respect, it afforded a just representation of the whole earth, which is become subject to the dominion of this universal conqueror, and in which we every where behold the images of death.— The people of this description,
Have seen a great light.- upon them hath the light Jhined. The light here intended, is not that which is called natural, which is the life, the beauty, and glory of the universe, whilst it discovers the immense variety of objects wherewith it is stored, manifests the evils and dangers to which we are exposed, and enables to discern innumerable circumstances that, without it, must have eluded our sagacity. By an easy sigure, the term light, in the sacred oracles, is employed to express that divine light whereby spiritual darkness is expelled, and the minds of men are illuminated, quickened, and invigorated. From the application of the pr&phet's words to the Messiah, by the apostle Matthew, in the forecited fourth chapter and sixteenth verse of his gospel, it is evident, that they were fulsilled by the appearance of our blessed Saviour, whose person and doctrine are here intended. As a divine person, he is eternal, essential, and uncreated light, the brightness of the Father's glory; as Messiah, he is the true light which was to come into the world, to be the glory of his people Israel, and a light to enlighten the Gentiles. Under this beautiful description, he was foretold by the prophets; under this sublime character, he is spoken of
by by the apostles; under thig instructive sigure, he speaks of himself. 'I am thelight of the world \ he * that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but 'shall have the light of life *.' His heavenly doctrine is emphatically denominated, by the apostle Paul, 'the light of the glorious gospel of Christ f.' This great light, when it mines into the minds of men, effectually dispels the mist of ignorance, error, and sin, that forms the darkness in which people walked previous to its appearance. It displayeth the wisdom, love, and righteousness of Jehovah in the redemption of transgressors, and layeth open to view the way of peace, into which our feet ought to be guided. Most justly does the person and gospel of Immanuel merit this character; for, like the light of the natural world, they are objects truly glorious, and pleasant to contemplate, exhibiting the wonders of God's purposes, providence, and grace. The propagation of the gospel, when at sirst the day-spring visited this earth, was amazingly rapid in its progress; like the rays of light, quickly extending itself over the face of the'"whole inhabited world. The light of the gospel, like that of the sun, shines at all times with bright and inextinguishable lustre, though not in all places at the same time. Though the light emitted by the Sun of righteousness shine around men, like that which proceeds from the fun in the. sirmament; to perceive its excellence and glory, to behold the wondeii it reveals, and to reap benesit from the discoveries it affords, the eyes of our understandings must be opened. Those who are thus illuminated have indeed seen a great light, which of all things appears to be the most admirable and the most excellent, whilst it enables them to discern those important objects which are most necessary to be contemplated and