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THE SLEEPER AROUSED.
EPA, v. 14. “ Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.”
This startling summons is introduced by the apostle in the form of a quotation. The passage of scripture from which the words are taken does not appear. They may, however, have been familiar to the ears of the early Christians, and recognised by them as the words of inspiration, although transmitted to later ages only in their present form. Elsewhere we find the same apostle recalling to the memory of the Ephesian elders “ the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive;"l a me
Acts xx. 35.
morable observation which tradition alone had handed down to the disciples, although now bequeathed to us in the infallible pages of the Bible. Frequently, too, our apostle, in enforcing upon his readers some weighty observation, alleges it as “a faithful saying;” “ It is a faithful saying," observes he; “ for if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: if we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us: if we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” 2 By this, and similar expressions of St. Paul, it would appear not improbable that in those days of incessant persecution and distress there were short but grave sentiments current among the disciples of the cross, which were as watchwords, and served to cheer and stimulate their drooping energies. Unlearned as many of them were, and all alike destitute of the inspired record as now completed in our own happier days, they would carefully cherish such pointed and brief exhortations as might easily be treasured up in the storehouse of their memory, and were calculated to cheer their spirits in the hour of their adversity. Possibly, however, the design of the apostle was not to allege some definite quotation, but to adduce a summary expression of christian truth, and from
? 2 Tim. ii. 11-13.
various portions of the prophetic Scripture to gather up and deliver a general doctrine. The reference so often made to Isa. Ix. 1, as illustrative of the text, and present to the mind of the inspired writer, is foreign to the argument of this epistle: it is to the Jewish church that the words of the prophet are definitely addressed; it is to that outcast people whose glory lies all bedimmed and overshadowed, that Isaiah foretells their future lustre, when their national restoration to their own land shall be followed by their conversion to the Saviour, and the vail of unbelief which now darkens their hearts, and the scales of ignorance which obscure their eyes, shall reveal to their astonished minds the marvellous light of Christ. To the Jewish church it is that the prophet addresses the exhortation, “ Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."
3 Zanchy. In Matt. ii. 23, we meet with a quotation of this nature, on which Lightfoot has the following remark :- The evangelist does not quote one prophet, but all. All the prophets do teach the vile and abject condition of Christ; but none that his condition should be out of Nazareth. Christ seems destined to that abject place, to fulfil in a general sense these prophecies.'Quoted by Townsend in his Arrangement. Similar remarks on this passage may be found in Poole's Synopsis, and Kuinoel.
Whether, however, it be a definite quotation current among the disciples, or a general summary of doctrine, to which the apostle here gives expression, the text in each case enforces the same truth, and equally demands our serious attention.
Now the natural condition of the children of men is here described under two similitudes. Sleep and death are the images characteristic of their state.
The state in which we are born into the world is a state of spiritual slumber. The mental vision is darkened. The understanding is asleep. The sinner voluntarily closes every aperture of his chamber by which the light might break in upon his slumber. He is in darkness, and in darkness he loves to be. As the man whose senses are locked up in sleep is unconscious of the events which are agitated in the external world, so is the unawakened sinner insensible to the circumstances of his condition, indifferent to the unseen realities in the midst of which he is reposing. Infatuated as he is, he little thinks that Samson on the knees of Delilah was safer than he who so peacefully reclines in the arms of this world. The Philistines are upon him, but he heeds them not. The mighty tempest, which heaved the vessel in whose sides lay the sleeping Jonah, presents a less ter
* Eph. iv. 18.
rific front than do the waves and billows of the wrath of God which threaten to ingulf him. The condemned criminal, whose reckless slumber is broken only by the knell which announces the hour of his execution, betrays less stupidity of conscience than the man who indulges in the torpor of indiffereuce, while the vengeance of an offended God is brooding above his head. His judgment lingereth not; his damnation slumbereth not.5 Words cannot express the desperate, yet unconscious, condition of the sinner whose house is enveloped with the devouring flames which with rapid strides are hastening to his chamber, whereas no effort does he exert to flee from the coming wrath.
But darkened as is his understanding, the fancy of the unawakened sinner ranges abroad in the sprightliness of its activity. He walks in the vanity of his mind. He expatiates in a shadowy, fantastic scene, which has no existence save in his imagination. His sleep is beguiled with golden dreams. He concerts plans for future happiness; surrounds himself with imaginary joys; his inward thought is, that his house shall continue for ever, and his dwelling place to all generations :? he calls his lands after his own name. Little thinks he that his cloud-capp'd towers and
5 2 Pet. ii. 3. 6 Eph. iv. 17. ? Ps. xlix. 11,