Summary: This Sermon (#5) is from the Rev. Andrew Lee’s SERMONS published in 1803 by Isaiah Thomas,Jr. at Lisbon, Connecticut. Transcribed by Fredric Lozo, October 2004.
The entire book Andrew’s Lee’s Sermons is available free at Project Gutenberg as e-Text #15031.
Abrams Horror of great Darkness.
"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 darkness to have fallen upon him_. The language used to describe his state, 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.
JUST before God had smiled upon him--"Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward." Then all was light and love. "The candle of the Lord shone on his head." When he complained that he had no child to comfort him, or inherit his possessions, God promised him an heir, and 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 strange manifestation of divine favor? They are scarcely paralleled in the history of man. BUT how sudden the reverse? The same day--_when the sun was going down_; lo! the brightness disappears, and _an horror of great darkness fell upon him_.
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 situation would rather have inspired joyful sensations, and exciting pleasing expectations. THAT which for want of language more pertinent and expressive, is here termed sleep, seems to have been divine ecstasy--such influence of the holy spirit operating in the soul, as locked it up from everything earthly, and shut out worldly things, as effectually as a deep sleep, which shuts up the soul 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 asleep, 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 occasion.* The three disciples, who witnessed the transfiguration, experienced similar sensations--sensations which absorbed the soul, and shut out terrestrial objects, which the evangelist compares to sleep.
* Daniel viii,18, x.9.
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 special trials or sorrows sent alone; comforts and consolations are usually joined with the, or soon succeed them. If we consider the matter, we shall observe this in ourselves; and may often discover it in others. We see it in the history of this patriarch, and that of many of his descendants.
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--sometimes found themselves at the summit of earthly honor and felicity; at other times, were cast down, and hope seemed ready to forsake them.