Suppose a man to have been dead, and to have been buried lik e others i n some great necropolis, some city of the dead, i n the catacombs. A n angel visits him , and by mercy's touch he lives.
Now, can you conceive that man's first emotion when he begins to breathe? There he is i n the coffin— he feels stifled, pent up. He had been there twent y years, but he never felt inconvenienced unti l now. He was easy enough, i n his narrow cell, i f ease can be where lif e is not. The moment he lives he feels a horribl e sense of suffocation, lif e wil l not endure to be so hideously compressed, and he begins to struggle for release. He lift s wit h al l his might that dreadful coffin lid ! What a relief when the decaying plank yields to his pressure!
So the ungodly man is content enough i n his sin, his Sabbathbreaking, his covetousness, his worldliness, but the moment God quickens hi m his sin is as a sepulchre to the living , he feels un utterably wretched, he is not i n a congenial position, and he strug gles to escape. Often at the firs t effort the great black li d of blas phemy flies off, never to be replaced. Satan thought it was screwed down fast enough, and so it was for a dead man, but lif e makes short work of it, and many other iniquities follow.
B ut to return to our resurrection i n the vault: the man gasps a minute, and feels refreshed wit h such ai r as the catacomb affords him ; but soon he has a sense of clammy damp about him , and feels faint and ready to expire.
So the renewed man at firs t feels littl e but his inability , and groans after power, he cries, " I want to repent; I want to believe i n Jesus; I want to be saved." Poor wretch! he never felt that before—of course he did not—he was dead; now he is alive, and hence he longs for the tokens, signs, fruits , and refreshments of life .
Do you not see our poor friend who has newl y risen? he has slipped down fro m that niche i n the wall, where they lai d him , and finding himself i n a dark vault, he rubs his eyes to know whether he really is alive, or whether i t is al l a dream, it is such a new thing ; and as b y the littl e glimmering of light that comes in , he detects hundreds of others lyin g i n the last sleep, and he says to himself, "Great God! wha t a horrible place for a livin g man to be in ! Can I be myself alive? "
He begins to wander about, searching fo r a door, by which he may escape. He loathes those winding-sheets i n which they wrapped him ; he begins stripping them off; they are damp and mildewed; they do not suit a livin g man. Anon, he cries out; perhaps there is some passer-by who may hear him , and he may be delivered from his confinement.
So a man, who has been renewed by grace, when he partly discovers where he is, cries out, "Thi s is no place for me." That giddy ballroom—why, i t was wel l enough for one who knew no better. That ale-bench was suitable for an unregenerate soul— but wha t can an hei r of Heaven do i n such places? Lord , deliver me. Give me light and liberty. Brin g m y soul out of prison, that I may liv e and praise thy name.
The man pines for liberty, and i f, at last, he stumbles to the door of the vault and reaches the open air , methinks he drinks deep draughts of the blessed oxygen! H ow glad he is to look upon the green fields and the fresh flowers. You do not imagine that he wil l wish to return to the vaults again; he wil l utterl y forsake those gloomy abodes; he shudders at the remembrance of the past, and woul d not for al l the worl d undergo again wha t he has once passed through; he is tenderly affected at every remembrance of the past, and is especially fear f u l lest there should be others lik e himself newly quickened, who may need a brother's hand to set them at liberty ; he loathes the place where once he slept so quietly.
So the converted man dreads the thought of going back to the joys whic h once so thoroughly fascinated him . "No," saith he, "they are no joys to me. They were joys wel l enough for m y old state of existence, but now, having entered i n to a new life, a new world , they are no more joys to me than the spade and shroud are joys to a livin g man, and I can only thin k of them wit h grief, and of m y deliverance wit h gratitude."