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GERARD T. HOPKINS,
At the Friends' Meeting, Baltimore, June 15, 1825.
I think I have, in the present religious meeting, felt the importance of an exhortation or charge, delivered by the great author of the christian religion. "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." I have been led to believe, that there is no portion of sacred writ which involves deeper interests in relation to us, than this. It becomes then an important inquiry, what is this light? As I have been engaged under a feeling solemnity, in considering a question of this kind, it has appeared to me that it may be explained to be, that supernatural, that Heavenly,that indivisible principle, which involves the great eternal, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It is a scripture declaration, that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." He is also called the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world. This principle of divine light, is called by a variety of terms, or denominations, in sacred writ. But they are all the same in nature, the same in operation, the same in effect. It is called the word, nigh in the heart and in the mouth. It is called the word of God, quick and powerful.—It is called the gospel preached in every creature. It is also called the engrafted word, which is able to save the soul. I am aware, my friends,that
however this principle is considered fundamental, in the profession of this religious society-there are, nevertheless, those who have attempted to lesson its efficacy, and even to deny its reality, by attributing it to the mere natural man; hence some have called it a natural light, others, the light of man's natural conscience; and others have gone a step farther, and have told us that it is but a relick of that good which Adam lost in the fall. But,my friends, it is altogether clear, that this Heavenly, this divine principle, is no part of man's nature-It is distinct from the soul of man; it is separate from all its faculties. For man, in a state of nature, is in a state of darkness. Man, as a son of Adam, and as a natural being, is an animal creature. He has not derived from Adam, any other than that which is creaturely; for Adam, as a creature, could not communicate to us, that which he himself had not to communicate. We esteem it a Heavenly gift, emanating from the fountain of light, illuminating our understanding, and furnishing us with a capacity, to distinguish between good and evil. That man, in a state of nature, is in a state of darkness, is evident from many passages in that book of books, the sacred scriptures. "For ye were sometimes darkness (saith the apostle,) but now are ye light in the Lord." And again: "Translated out of the kingdom of death and of darkness, into the glorious liberty of the children of God." And again, it appears to me, to be clearly evident, from the commission which the Apostle Paul received to preach the gospel-"For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in he which I will appear unto thee; delivering thee from the people and from the Gentiles, unto whom, now, I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith that
is in me." Whilst we, as a religious society, profess faith in the reality and energy of the principle of divine light-whilst we make our acknowledgments to the all important doctrine, that we are accountable beings, and, that as we are such beings, it becomes at all times our duty, as it is our interest, to be obedient to the manifestations, obligations and restraints of that Heavenly principle: How important is it then, to us, that we regard that exhortation (which has lost no part of its force,) "While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light." It is deeply interesting to us, in so far, as we know, that we have early received the visitations of divine light; that we are not only believers in the manifestation and visitation of this holy principle, but that we should be obedient to that which is manifested to us, as obligatory on us, in reference to it. And however small the emanation;-however in its early dawn, it may appear to us to be but simply the discoverer of guilt; still we are bound to make acknowledgment, that we have known, that we have felt, that which is not of ourselves. And we are bound to believe, even under those reasonings, which at times take place on the part of many, in reference to it; that it is something superior to us, and that it is something altogether unaccountable to us, by the principles of natural reasoning. However small, I say, in its appearance,it is in a degree light; just as in relation to the outward sun, in the creation, that orb of day, in the hemisphere. We know that as it regards this body of light, there are all gradations of light, from the early dawn till the meridian day. And although the early dawn is faint and glimmering, still it is light in a degree. And there is a capacity on our part, to view objects in proportion to the degree of light. Nor are we accountable my friends, for that which we have not yet seen; but in as far as we have seen, thus far we stand most unquestionably accountable.
The desire of my heart often hath been, as it is at the present moment, in reference to the children of men every where, that when under a conviction, thus internally produced upon our souls by him who hath all power both in Heaven and on earth, who is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, that we may indeed recieve it, that we may be obedient to it. For whatever the portion, whatever the measure, a measure of that divine spirit given to every man to profit withal; whatever I say the measure, it becomes obligatory upon us, and we are bound to be obedient to it. And as we are faithful to its influences, to its manifestations, to its restraints, we shall find that it will lead us further and further into a clear knowledge and discovery, of the divine will, in relation to us; and also of that duty which we owe, both to him and to ourselves.
A doctrine of this kind is very clearly found in the parable dilivered by our blessed Lord-by our gracious redeemer, when personally manifested among men: when he came from the bosom of the father, and in that body prepared, did his will. Here, in that very intersting parable concerning the talents, we see that to one was given five talents, to another was given two, and to another one, to each one according to his several ability, with a uniformity of charge, "occupy till I come." He who received. the five talents improved them, and made five talents more; he also who received the two, improved them, and made them other two. But far otherwise was it, with him, who had received the one. He put it in a napkin and buried it in the earth. He, it was, who had unimproved, the lent that was committed to his charge. But let us remember there was a day of reckoningthere was a solemn account to be rendered. And then was pronounced upon them respectively, this language, "well done," in reference to those who had improved their talents; but unto him who had not improved his talent, the awful denunciation
was, "bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness." How doctrinal is this parable, to show that we are accountable creatures! We shall be called on for an account, in relation to the improvement of the Heavenly visitations of divine grace; of those many mercies and blessings, which have been showered down upon us from Heaven itself. We shall stand accountable too, for the non-improvement of these mercies, and favours and blessings. And how lamentable is the case, when in reference to those who may have made advances in the pathway to blessedness; who may even have made inprovement, in a degree, by the visitation of divine light and life in the soul. For I do not believe in the doctrine, once in grace ever in grace. I believe we may have made high attainments in religious life, and yet, alas! turn aside into darkness. Let us look at the solemen figurative discription by the Lord's prophet." The stars of Heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light, the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. How lamentable is such a state,in which the divine favour is withdrawn, in which the divine light is withdrawn. All is become darkness; and howgreat is that darkness. Let me again say how great is that darkness which hath overtaken those,who have turned aside, who have fallen from grace? But how precious, how inexpressibly precious, is the state of continued improvement of continued advancement in the pathway to Heaven. As these advance from step to step; from gradation to gradation, in the blessed and Heavenly highway, they can make acknowledgements from those points of attainment, which have become theirs; that they are sharers, in degree, of that joy and enjoyment, which is "unspeakable and full of glory." They can look back upon their advances in the religious journey, and are bound to declare, that they now see-that they now understand, that which at an earlier period of divine visitation, they could not adequately comprehend. Ah! that