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And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon
Abram ; and lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. If we consider the sketch, given us in scripture, of the life of this patriarch, we shall find that few have had equal manifestations of the divine favor. But the light did not at all times shine on him. He had his dark hours while dwelling in this strange land.
Here we find an horror of great darknefs to have fallen upon him. The language used to describe his ftate, on this occasion, is strong. It expresses more than the want of God's sensible presence. It describes a state similar to that of the psalmist, “ While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted.” His sufferings probably bore an affinity to those of the Savior when the father hid his face from him ; at which period there was more than the withdrawing of his sensible presence, the
powers of darkness were suffered to terrify and afflict him" It was their hour" --God had left him in their hands. So Abram on this occasion.
Jus'r before God had smiled upon him—"Fear not, Abram : I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.". Then all was light and love. 66 The candle of the Lord fhone on his head." When he complained that he had no child to comfort him, or inherit his possessions, God promised him an heir, and a countless progeny-“ Look now toward heaven and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them--So shall thy seed be. And he believed the Lord ; and he counted it to him for righteousness." What an occasion of joy ? What ftrange manifestations of divine favor ? They are scarcely paralleled in the history of man.
But how sudden the reverse ? The same daywhen the sun was going down ; lo ! the brightness disappears, and an horror of great darkness fell
A DEEP sleep fell upon Abram. This was not a natural sleep. There is no probability that he would have given way to weakness, and fallen into a common sleep, while engaged in covenanting with God; binding himself with solemn engagements, and receiving tokens of the divine favor, and the promise of blessings for a great while to come. If he could have slept while receiving such manifestations of the divine friendship, it is not probable that his dreams would have been terrifying: His fituation would rather have inspired joyful sensations, and excited pleasing expectations.
That which for want of language more perti. -nent and expressive, is here termed sleep, seems to
have been a divine ecstasy---such influence of the holy spirit operating on the soul, as locked it up from every thing earthly, and shut out worldly things, as effectually as a deep sleep, which shuts up the foul and closeth all its avenues, so that nothing terrestrial can find admittance,
This was often experienced by the prophets, when God revealed himself to them, and made known his will. Thus Daniel, when the angel Gabriel was sent to solve his doubts, and let him into futurity—"Now as he was speaking with me, I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground.” The holy prophet, filled with fear at the approach of the celestial messenger, could not have fallen alleep, like some careless attendant in the house of God. Yet such is the language used to express his situation at that time, and afterwards on a similar occafion.* The three disciples, who witnessed the transfiguration, experienced similar sensations--sensations which absorbed the soul, and shut out terrestrial objects, which the evangel. ist compares to sleep.
But why was Abram's joy, occasioned by the communications of the morning, so soon turned to horror.
The reasons are with him " whose judgments are unsearchable, and his ways past finding out." We may observe, however, that such is the way of God with man, while here on trial. If at any time a person seems peculiarly favored of heaven, something of a different nature is commonly set over against it. Perhaps to remind him that this is not his rest. We seldom enjoy prosperity without a sensible mixture of adversity ; or without somewhat adverse following in quick succession. “ Even in laughter, the heart is sorrowful, and the end of mirth is heaviness." Neither are fpecial trials or sorrows fent alone ; comforts and consolations are usually joined with them, or soon succeed them. If we consider the matter, we shall observe this in ourselves ; and may often discov. er it in others. We see it in the history of this patriarch, and that of many of his descendants.
* Daniel viii. 18. X. 9.
The pilgrimage of Jacob, how remarkably diversified with good and evil, with joy and sorrow ? That also of Joseph-of Moses-of Daniel ? At times each of these were raised high and brought low-fometimes found themselves at the summit of earthly honor and felicity ; at other times, were cast down, and hope seemed ready to forsake them.
In the history of Job the same things are exemplified in still stronger colors. That holy man experienced the extremes of honor and infamy, joy and grief, hope and terror.
The prophets and apostles, passed through scenes in many respects similar ; their joys and sorrows were contraited to each other. Daniel's mournings and faftings were followed with remarkable discoveries and cheering revelations ; but the divine communications were almost too strong for frail hu. manity ; they filled him with dismay, and had well nigh destroyed his mortal body. 65 He fainted and was Gck certain days.”
Sr. Paul was “caught up into paradise and heard unspeakable words, which it was not possible for a man to utter”—had a view of the ineffable glory of the upper world ; but trials no less remarkable, and very severe, were contrasted to those strange distinctions, and more than earthly joys ! “Left I should be exalted above measure, through the abundance of the revelations, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above meafure.'
St. John suffered fore persecutions—was banished from the society of his fellow Christians, if not from the fociety of men. But divine discov. eries repaid all his sufferings-heaven's ineffable glories were opened to his view! What he witnefled could be but very partially communicated. Language is weak ; only faint hints and general intimations could be given of the “glory which is to be revealed.” But the suffering apoftle enjoyed it, and was supported, yea, enraptured by it.
This life is filled with changes. Good and evil, hope and fear, light and darkness, are set over against each other. The saints, while they dwell in the dust, sometimes walk in darkness, and have their hours of gloom and horror—" The whole creation groaneth and travaileth together in pain until now-Even thofe who have the first fruits of the spirit, groan within themselves, waiting for the redemption of the body. Those of whom the world is not worthy, are often in heaviness, through manifold temptations.”
*. Corinthians, xii. 4