An Evening-Lecture.

Mr. Byles's SERMON From JOH. III. 2. The same came to JESUS by Night.


THE Visit to JESUS by Night. AN Evening-Lecture.


Joh. xx. 19.

The same Day at Evening — where the Disciples were assembled—came JESUS and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.

BOSTON, Printed and Sold by ROGERS and FOWLE, at the Head of Queen-street, near the Town-House. 1741.


AN Evening-Lecture.


The same came to JESUS by Night—

THESE Words are spoken of Nico­demus, a Man of Honour and Au­thority among the Jews, and se­cretly a Disciple of our Lord JESUS. The same came to JESUS by Night, to hear about his Soul, and the Mysteries of the Kingdom. 'Twas Nicodemus's Fault that he feared to profess CHRIST openly; that he chose the Darkness to approach him undiscovered: But it was his Hap­piness that he came at all; and it was in­finite Compassion in our Lord that he accepted the cowardly Visit, and instructed the weak, but sincere Disciple. I should [Page 6]be glad if the Arguments brought by some to vindicate Nicodemus from the Imputa­tion of Cowardize in this Visit, were of more Significance. The Words are big with Entertainment and Instruction: And from the various Hints which they afford us, I propose to give you an useful and brief Discourse.

The same came to JESUS. The DOC­TRINE is, That for us to come to JESUS CHRIST is our Interest and our Duty.

It is our Duty. So Nicodemus was con­vinced, when he made his serious Ap­proach. He was convinced that he was the great Teacher come from GOD. And therefore he knew that he ought to wait upon him for Instruction and Wisdom.

And as this was the Duty of Nicodemus in his Day, so it is no less ours at this Distance. We are under the same Ob­ligations, and our Lord JESUS is still the same Prophet and Teacher that he was then. Indeed we cannot go to CHRIST as Nicodemus did, and have the Pleasure and the sacred Curosity to hear from his Lips the divine Language. He is now gone to his Father, and is no more [Page 7]visible on Earth. But yet have we his Spirit to lead us into all Truth: and they are His Instructions, which the Spirit gives us. And we are equally obliged to repair to him now for this spiritual Instruction as Nicodemus of old. Joh. xvi. 7,—14. It is expedient for you that I go awny: For if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart I will send him unto you.—He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. CHRIST then speaks as much to us by his Spirit, as if we saw his Face, and heard his Voice, as they did when he was upon Earth. And we are as much obliged to attend the gentle Whispers and obey them. In every di­vine Institution we are to seek that we may find him.

And as this is our Duty, so it is our Interest too. Nicodemus found it so when he came desirous to learn, and went home instructed, wise unto Salvation. Our Duty and our Interest are inseperably linked to­gether, by the Law of Nature, and the GOD of Heaven. Heaven and eternal Happiness will be the future Reward of our Obedience to the divine Commands: Nor is this all, nor shall we wait so long for a Recompence; for they carry their [Page 8]own Wages in them, and IN keeping of them there is great Reward. The believing, humble Soul, that comes to JESUS CHRIST, shall find a blessed Peace and Satisfaction attending, and succeeding the sacred La­bour. A divine Ease, and Relief of Mind, will be the sweet Consequence of a Visit to JESUS. Matth. xi. 28, 29. Come unto me all ye that Labour, and are heavy la­den, and I will give you Rest — and ye shall find Rest unto your Souls. This then is the First Doctrine observable in the Words: and happy if we obey it.

The Exhortation here is, Let us come to JESUS CHRIST, as Nicodemus in the Text; and be incouraged by the Reception he found. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to instruct us in the Mysteries of Godliness; and be afraid to grieve and sin away his Influen­ces. Whenever we find the blessed Spi­rit at work upon us, let us cherish the holy Thoughts, and labour to keep them alive in us. We must find a Time every Day for Retirement to pray for this, and the better to attend to it. If we seek him he will be found of us, but if we forsake him, he will cast us off forever. He has said, My Spirit shall not always strive with Man. And woe to us if he depart from us. Nay, [Page 9]he has limited it to a certain Day; where­fore, To Day if ye will hear his Voice, har­den not your Heart, lest he swear in his Wrath ye shall not enter into his Rest. Be­hold now is the accepted Time, behold now is the Day of Salvation. Escape for thy Life this Night, for to morrow thou shalt be slain. And now does the Saviour incourage our Labours, I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me. Nicode­mus went to CHRIST in Body; but we cannot. He is gone away above our as­pectable Skies: And where he is gone, thi­ther we cannot come, till Death shall give us Wings to fly as the Eagles towards Heaven. But though we cannot approach in Person to his bodily Presence, yet we can come to him as truly and as effectu­ally as Nicodemus. Let us then do so, by Repentance, Faith, Prayer, and Meditation.

But to proceed to another main Branch of the Text: The same came to JESUS by Night. The DOCTRINE is, No Season is improper or unsuitable for our solemn Ap­proach to JESUS CHRIST. Our Lord accepted and rewarded the Visit of Nico­demus, though he chose the Night to be­friend his Cowardise, and came in the un­seasonable Hours of Darkness. Tired and [Page 10]spent as our LORD was won't to be with the Affairs of the Day, he sent not the feeble Disciple from him, but redeemed Time from his natural Rest, to discourse with, enlighten and instruct him. That we may reap the Benefit of this Passage in sacred Record, I have formed this Doctrine for you, That at every Season we are wel­come to our LORD JESUS.

1. There is no Season improper for us in which to believe on JESUS CHRIST: that is, to come to him by Faith. Faith in JESUS CHRIST is the great Doctrine of the Gospel. And as it is to be preach­ed to all Nations; to all Men, in every Place, so at every Season too: In Season, and out of Season And the Practice is like the preaching: it should be univer­sal in Time, Place and Person. The youngest is not too young for this, nor the eldest too old. The first Essay at Under­standing and Will should be employed in believing on CHRIST, and the Acts should be continued and repeated to the latest Gasp of Breath. Those who have never yet savingly complied with the Offers of the Gospel, are obliged to do it now: So long as you have an Inclination to do it, you may safely conclude the Season for it [Page 11]is not over. In every various Circum­stance of Life: In the Sunshine of Pros­perity, or in the Gloom of Affliction, like Nicodemus in the Night, Faith in JESUS CHRIST is your Duty, and should be your Practice.

2. There is no Season improper for us in which to come to CHRIST by Repen­tance. The Discourse between Nicode­mus and our blessed Saviour in the Night, turned upon Repentance and Conversion. They were the mysterious Doctrines of Regeneration which were the Subject of Debate between our LORD and the young Disciple. It naturally, methinks, leads our Thoughts to this, that the most improper Season is still proper for our Con­cern about Repentance and the New-Birth. This besure was the Sentiment of the Psalmist, when he thought that the Night was better improved in devoting himself to GOD, than in the soft Refresh­ment of Slumber and Sleep. Psal. cxxxii. 4. I will not give Sleep to my Eyes, nor Slumber to my Eye-lids, till I find out a Place for the LORD, an Habitation for the mighty GOD of Jacob. 'Tis dangerous delaying one Night.

[Page 12] 3. There is no Season improper in which to come to CHRIST by Prayer. Prayer is a coming to GOD, and to CHRIST who is GOD. 'Tis called a drawing near to him; and a seaking him; and coming before him. They that be far from thee shall perish: But it is good for me to DRAW NEAR to GOD. O that I knew where I might FIND HIM, that I could COME NEAR even to his Seat, I would order my Cause before him, and fill my Mouth with Arguments. Let my Prayer COME BEFORE thee as Incense, and the lifting up of my Hands as the Evening Sa­crifice And as Prayer is a coming to CHRIST, and to GOD the Father by him, so this Way of sacred Access is ne­ver impertinent or unseasonable. We are commanded to pray without ceasing: To pray always with all Prayer. We are in­couraged that the Ears of the LORD are always open to our Prayer; and that the Prayer of the upright is his Delight. Even in the darkest Times we are allowed to pray. Nay the darker the Season, the more necessary the Prayer. Is any afflicted? Let him pray. Nicodemus in the Darkness of the Night; and Jonah in the Darkness of his Affliction, and in the Belly of Hell, may both alike approach to GOD. — WATCH and pray.

[Page 13] 4. There is no Season improper for us in which to come to CHRIST by Meditation. In our Thoughts we may travel from Earth to Heaven in a Moment. Our Souls may approach to CHRIST, in the Twinkling of an Eye. We have no need, like Nicodemus, to wait for the Night for this: But a thousand Times every Day we may lift our Thoughts to Heaven. So was the Law of GOD sweet, to the devout Psalmist; and his Meditation all the Day. Night as well as Day, this was his dear and happy Em­ployment. In it does he meditate Day and Night. So Isaac went out to meditate in the Field at Even Tide. Thro' the dark and solitary Hours of the Night, holy Contem­plation may find us sweet Employment. Psal. lxiii. 5, 6. My Soul shall be satisfied— when I remember thee on my Bed, and medi­tate on the in the Night Watches. Not Nicodemus himself sitting at the Feet of JE­SUS, might conceive diviner Satisfaction! The Believer conversing with his LORD in holy Contemplations, amidst the Shades and Darkness, has Light arising in his Dark­ness. He may triumph in the Glooms and the Solitude, and raise his Songs in the Night.

And to assist our Meditations in the Night, see how full of Subjects the holy Scriptures appear, to cultivate and adorn [Page 14]the Work. How many wonderful Trans­actions have happened in this Season, to distinguish the Shades and render the Night glorious. Should we, like Abasuerus, lin­ger through the Night without the Com­fort of a Slumber, we have nobler Records than of Media and Persia to entertain and delight our Thoughts. Let us reflect back upon the sacred Pages on such Scenes as these, as the Night slowly slides away, and the Morning forgets to dawn. So let us, like Nicodemus, pay a Visit to our LORD by Night. This is the best Way not to possess Nights of Vanity, when it may be wearisome Nights are appointed unto us. Why need we say, Would GOD it were Morning! In Evening Time it shall be Light. The Night shall be Light round about me, and the Darkness shall shine as the Day.

What a glorious Night was it when our Father Israel seized the strugling Angel, and wrested the Blessing from his Grasp?

How solemn and memorable was the Night, in the Mixture of Salvation and Ruin, which instituted the ancient Pass­over? GOD marched through the Dark­ness; and the Pestilence stalked before him: Round about all the First-born gave a Gasp, and stretched out Breathless: While the Destroyer saw the Blood upon the sprink­led [Page 15]Door-Posts, & smiled and passed over: A Night much to be remembred throughout all Generations.

How illustrious was the fatal Night, which poured the Red-Sea upon the Ar­mies of Egypt, and landed Israel on the opposite Shore. With what a terrible Magnificence might you then have seen the Shekinah blaze through the Ranks of Israel, and confound Pharaoh with its tre­mendious Gloom? Before, the Waves broke, divided, and fled away in haste, to open a Path for the favourite People: Be­hind, they tost, and foam'd, and roar'd; they watched the Signal from the Rod of Moses, and rush'd thundring down.

'Twas in the Night that the Angel was commissioned against the Host of Assyria. He flash'd out swift as a Ray of Light, si­lent as a lambent Flame, but refistless and distructive as the feather'd Lightning. An hundred and fourscore and five Thousand Souls were lick'd up in a Moment; and the Field look'd pale with Corpses. What a dismal Night did the whole World lie in, till the Gospel spread its Light, and the Day-Star arose. They sat in Darkness and saw no Light. O the wondrous Night that gave the Saviour to the perishing Earth! O the Glories of that illustrious Hour! [Page 16]'Twas to you, ye admiring Shepherds, that the heavenly Messenger brought the joy­ful Tydings! They were watching their Flocks in the Night, when, all on a sud­den, a Light broke from Heaven round the Mountains, and the Voice of Gabriel pro­claimed the Saviour born. Then was heard the Musick of Paradise tuneful round the Sky; and Glory to GOD in the Highest, trembled on a Million of Strings.

'Twas on the fatal Night (—that same Night in which he was betrayed—) that he sat retired in the upper Chamber with the Twelve, and instituted for us the sacred Supper, the dear Memorials of his dying Love.

A few dark Hours after you might have seen him lie in his bitter Agony, bleeding on the Ground, praying and weeping, with the Cup of trembling in his Hand: The dear JESUS, who had spent so many Nights in Prayer to GOD!

'Twas the same execrable Night (but blessed Hours for us) that they came to seize him with Lanthorns and Torches; and poured upon him Indignities and Torments.

The next Day there was a miraculous Night while there was Darkness over the whole Land, and the mourning Skies were hung in black at the Anguish of his Crucifixion.

[Page 17] The Night after, he lay, a pale, bloody Corps, among the awful Mansions of the dead. And what a proper Meditation does this naturally lead us to, on our own Death and Grave?

In the Night, how easy may be the Tran­sition of Thoughts, to that long Darkness between us and the Resurrection: That refreshing Sleep in the Dust, which CHRIST has consecrated for us, and will raise us from. A Land of Darkness, as Darkness it self, whose Light is as Darkness. But O blessed Dawn after the long Darkness! The Me­ditation may transport us; and like Paul and Silas, we may raise our Voice of Har­mony and Praise in all the Terrors of the hideous Night. Are there not twelve Hours in a Day, let us work while the Day lasts, for the Night cometh wherein no Man can work.

But to draw toward a Close. Let us often redeem our Hours in the Night, to meditate upon that dismal, glorious Hour, when our LORD shall come again. Behold he cometh as a Thief in the Night. At Midnight will the Cry be heard; and a general Horror run through every human Breast. Now shall the Shades scatter away, and the Hea­vens glitter with an unknown Glory. O tremendious Night! O awful Shades and [Page 18]Darkness, dispell'd by devouring Fire, and pursued by dazling Destruction! And who can say when this solemn Scene of Things must come on? Perhaps this Night; perhaps all on a sudden the Judge may break in upon the secure World. Watch therefore, for ye know not the Day, nor the Hour; whether at Even, or at Midnight, or at the Cock-crowing, or in the Morning.

But, to add no more: In the Night, how naturally may we transfer our Thot's to the Place of Darkness: The Hell pre­pared for wicked Men and devils. Here is a Night without any Hope of a Morning to end it; or a single Ray of Light to re­fresh it. A Night consisting of Darkness and Fire: But as the Fire affords them no Light, the Darkness allows them no Rest. And as the Volume of Revelation affords us Matter for Contemplation in the Night, so also does the Volume of Nature.

See the dark Earth and the dusky Skies, brightened by Star-light, or silver'd over by Moonshine: And when ye see the blue Ether; the Stars twinkle at a Distance; and the Moon, the fair Empress of the silent Shades, serenely gleeming, reflect in­ward and say, LORD, when I behold the Heavens, the Work of thy Fingers, the Moon and the Stars which thou hast ordained; [Page 19]what is Man, that thou art mindful of him? and the Son of Man that thou visitst him?

Think too on the kind Providence that preserves you every Night. The Pestilence may walk in Darkness innocently by me, and I am not afraid of the Terror by Night. I lie down in Peace & sleep: I awake, for the LORD sustained me. His holy Ministers attend my Curtains and guard my Slum­bers. There stood by me this Night, the An­gel of GOD whose I am, and whom I serve.

It were easy, you see, to enlarge; and to add many other pertinent To­picks for Meditation in the dark Hours, by which, like Nicodemus, we might come to JESUS by Night: But here I shall stop.

I might add a third Doctrine. That Fear in a good Cause is a dishononourable Thing. 'Twas Nicodemus's Weakness that he came to our LORD by Night. He was afraid of the Jews, and ashamed of Reproach and Persecution: and it is re­corded to all Generations, as a Blemish upon the good Man's Character. We learn by it not to be like him in this: Never to be ashamed in a good Cause, or afraid to profess it openly. Though we are not to be ostentatious in Religion, yet we are never to be ashamed of it. We must let our Light shine before others. There is [Page 20]a happy Medium betwixt Impudence and Bashfulness: and as they are both ill-breed­ing in civil Life, so they are both detestible in Religion. But I shall not enlarge here. I could not have done Justice to my Text without hinting at this; I have done it the rather, because this is a Crime too common, especially among young People, to be asha­med in Matters of Religion. Things that are most worthy and honourable they per­form with a most awkward Air, and are willing to put the amiable Name of Modesty upon this ungraceful Blush. Modesty, it is true, is very charming: but a Shame in Mat­ters of Religion, is dastardly and clownish, and far from this fine and delicate Temper. There is as much Difference between Mo­desty and Bashfulness as between Courage and Frenzy. Fortitude the Virtue of an Angel; Rashness the Rage of a Brute. How mean is it for a Person, educated in a Christi­an Land, to be asham'd to pray in a Family, or ask a Blessing at a Table; ashamed of what my Brother!— to acknowledge thy Maker! So that while a hypocrital Showy­ness is to be avoided, yet on the other Hand we are to remember, that our LORD has said, He that is ashamed of me & of my Words before Men, of him will I be ashamed before my Father who is in Heaven. Nicodemus was [Page 21]changed from this coward Temper, uponhis understanding what the New-Birth meant: And went afterward and boldly honoured the dead Body of JESUS. Joh. xix. 39.

Thus I have finished the Doctrinal hand­ling of the Words. I shall now conclude with a brief Improvement of the Second Doctrine.

Is it as we have heard? Did Nicodemus come to JESUS by Night? And does it preach to us our Duty to approach to our LORD at every Season? Let us then receive the Word of Exhortation, & practice the Duty. Let us wait upon the blessed Saviour Day and Night, and his Praise be continually in our Mouth. In our darkest Hours let this refresh us, and brighten all the Shades: In every Affliction, and every Temptation, and every Darkness; in every Day, and the Gloom of every Night. Let us use ourselves to the noble Comfort; and so learn Expert­ness in it. Let us furnish our Minds with innumerable Subjects pertinent for Contem­plation in every Kind of Darkness. And let us repair to CHRIST as the Sun of Righte­ousness: A Light unto the Gentiles, and the Glory of his People Israel.

This, I hope, has been your intent at this Season. CHRIST has met you in this Dis­course: and like Nicodemus, you have come [Page 22]to him by Night: O may you go away en­lightned & renewed as he did. Happy will this Night then be, memorable & blessed; and with Joy will you look back upon it through the Ages of eternal Day.

But, my Brethren, if you refuse and rebel, at your own Peril be it. Better had you not come hither this Night, than going away, continue Strangers to CHRIST. The gol­den Opportunities will become a Curse: and the higher your present Privileges are the deeper will be your future Fall: Even from this Sermon you'll sink but the lower into Ruin. So while Paul continued his Speech till Midnight, the sleepy Eutychus fell headlong from the third Lost, and was taken up dead, Act. xx. 8, 9. From succeeding Days and Nights here upon Earth, you must quickly be banished to perpetual Night; to Blackness of Darkness for ever: The outer Darkness, where is weeping and wailing and gnashiug of Teeth. And in Chains under Darkness, you'll be reserved to the Judgment of the great Day. This must be your Con­dition quickly: How quickly you cannot say. The Day goeth away, the Shadows of the Evening are stretched out. Thon Fool, this Night may thy Soul be required of thee.

On the other Hand: If you will indeed be perswaded truly to come to CHRIST, [Page 23]you will find the most blessed Success & Joy. At present you'll come to him in the Night: The Darkness of this World: But in a little Time the dark Minutes will all be over and endless Light will dawn. Weeping may endure for a Night, but Joy cometh in the Morning. You'll leave the Darkness of Earth for the Inheritance of the Saints in Light. For truly, Light is sown for the Righteous, and Joy for the upright in Heart. The Night is far spent, the Day is at Hand. There you'll set in eternal Sunshine, without a Night, and without a Cloud. 'Tis true, you must walk thro' the Valley of the Shadow of Death to arrive at this: But all on a sudden the Day will break and the Shadows flee away, the Shadow of Death will be turned into the Light of the Morning. Angels shall convey your Souls to Paradise, the fair Regions of Everlasting Day.

And anon your Body shall ascend glitter­ing from the Grave: and tho' it is sown in Dishonour, it shall be raised in Glory. You'll sing over your sleeping, but quickning Dust, Arise and shine, for thy Light is come, and the Glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. Then shall you shine as the Brightness of the Fir­nament, and as the Stars for ever and ever. O how different this magnificent Glory, from the Gloom of the present World! [Page 24]Here we need the Moon and Stars to brighten the Shades; and the Sun itself shines at a Distance, and with Intermissions, and through Clouds. And to supply his absent Beams we have Recourse to the little Arts of Lamps and Candles. But of that World we read, Rev. xxii. 5. xxi. 23, 24, 25. There shall be no Night there, and they need no Candle, neither the Moon to shine in it; neither the Light of the Sun: For the LORD GOD giveth them Light, and the Glory of GOD did lighten it, and the LAMB is the Light thereof. And the Nations of them which are saved, shall walk in the Light of it.


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