Imatges de pÓgina
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The good Man lying down in Peace, and sleeping in Safety.

PSALM iv. 8.

I will both lay me down in peace and sleep; for thou Lord only makest me dwell in safety.

THE Psalm, of which our text is the con

clusion, is one of David's devout meditations in a time of great affliction. His piety was not an occasional exercise, but an habitual temper. He set the Lord' always before him, and waited on him all the day. But there were some seasons which he sequestered more especially for serious contemplation, selfexamination and communion with God. Of these seasons the evening was one. When he retired from the busy scenes of life, and was composing his spirit and his flesh to rest, he reviewed the day, repented of its errors, sought God's pardon, and contemplated his presence, grace and power, and thus laid him. self down in peace, and slept in safety.

David considers the season, when he lay down to sleep, as attended with some peculiar dangers; but yet he says, that confiding in God's watchful care, he will lie down in peace.

I. We will shew in what respects the time of our sleep is a time of danger.

This is a gloomy season: If we were not accustomed to its frequent return, it would fill us with horror. The sun withdraws his cheering presence ; the night spreads her sable curtain over half the globe -the business of the day is suspended--the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven retire to rest— silence every where reigns. The distinction of objects, is, in a measure lost-We see not what is before us, and what is near us. Imagination is at liberty to create what evils it can, and to magnify beyond bounds the evils which it creates. In such a state, the mind is peculiarly susceptive of fearful apprehensions.

The night is a season, not only of imaginary, but of real dangers; such, particularly, as the incursion of thieves and the eruption of fires. Occurrences of this kind are most frequent and most terrible in the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men. The thief cometh to kill, as well as to steal. Fire ravages without distinction, nor regards the inhabitant more than the dwelling.

In the time of sleep we are peculiarly impotent and defenceless. The evils, which, in our wakeful hours, might have been foreseen, and prevented or avoided, now come by surprise, take us unprepared, and allow us neither means to resist, nor time to escape.

Sleep locks up our senses, suspends our reason, and divests us of all power to guard our substance, or keep ourselves. If the irruption of evil suddenly rouse us, we wake in confusion, and perhaps as des titute of discretion, as we were while we slept.

Sleep, though necessary to repair and restore our nature exhausted by previous exercise, yet, considered in itself, is a dangerous condition. It is a state so nearly resembling death, that it gives name to that awful change.

Sleep is what we daily experience, and find to be as necessary as our food. But though it is familiar to all, yet who can tell what it is, or what it doeshow it refreshes the body and restores the mindwhence it comes and whither it goes? We spend in sleep a fourth part of our time, and still are less acquainted with it, than with any other change which passes upon us. In every other change, our faculties are awake to examine it: In this our powers are suspended. We are not even conscious of our condition, nor competent to any rational exercise. So little are we acquainted with the nature of sleep, that it still remains a question among philosophers, whether, in that state, the mind always thinks. This is a question, which no man's experience can decide. After we awake, we now and then can recollect some wild incoherent thoughts, which we call dreams; but whether these were the exercises of the mind in profound sleep, or only some feeble efforts of the fainting intellect, as it was passing into a state of inaction, has been debated, nor is it yet agreed.

Concerning the nature of sleep we know but little more than this, that it is a suspension of voluntary motion. The vital involuntary motions, the respiration of the breath, the circulation of the blood, and the digestion of the food, are continued from the same mysterious cause, as when we are awake; but the operations, which depend on the human will, are suspended. In our waking hours, there is a connexion between our volitions and certain mental and corporeal operations. In sleep, this connexion fails.

We still may have volitions; but they are impotent and ineffectual. What forms the connexion when we are awake; and what breaks it when we are asleep, we cannot understand. If in this latter state, we have thoughts, they are not voluntary, but the effects of certain habitual associations formed when we were awake. The power of recollecting, comparing and reasoning, entirely ceases.

Sleep is so striking an image of death, that, if it were rare and uncommon, the sight of it would produce terror in the spectators, and the information concerning it would give anxiety to the subject. To lie for hours together incapable of forethought and reflection of discretion and selfdefence-with the reason suspended, the senses locked up, and the limbs inactive, or n.oving only by a kind of involuntary mechanism, we should deem a very dangerous state. Once delivered from it, we should dread the apprehension of falling into it again. Mysterious is the method which nature takes for its own refreshment.

The scripture teaches us, that there are malignant spirits, who roam about, seeking whom they may destroy. These are called the powers of darkness, and the rulers of the darkness of this world; probably because. in the unguarded and defenceless hours of darkness, they are most watchful to ensnare us, and most active to disturb us. It was in the night, that Satan collected his powers against the Redeemer of the world. It was then that Judas, under this infernal influence, perfidiously betrayed his master. It was then that the suffering Savior was in his greatest agony. It was then that his enemies seized him and carried him before an unrighteous council. It was then that his disciples, struck with unusual terror, forsook him and fled. It was then that the angel was sent from heaven to support him.

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The Psalmist teaches us, that the angels of God are employed continually, and more especially in the season of darkness and sleep, to defend the godly against the subtle arts and pernicious designs of evil spirits. "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. Surely he will deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night, nor for the arrow that flieth by day; for the pestilence that walketh in darkness, nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. Because thou hast made the Lord thy habitation, there shall no plague come nigh thy dwelling, for he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under foot. He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil."

If evil spirits have access to the human mind, as probably they have, through the avenues of the imagination, how easy might it be for them, in our sleeping hours, when the dominion of reason is suspended, to paint on the fancy such alluring, or such horrible images, as should decoy, or affright us to some dreadful action, ruinous to others, or fatal to ourselves. Our only security from their mischievous wiles, is the care of that providence, which never slumbers nor sleeps. "The angel of the Lord encampeth around them who fear him, and delivereth them."

A state of sleep, viewed in itself, and apart from God's merciful protection, appears to be, in many. respects, a state of danger. So the scripture represents it. Hence, to heighten the terrors of the last judgment, it usually describes them as bursting forth on a guilty world, in the time of midnight darkness, VOL. IV.


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