The True Light!
George Everard, 1868
"I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." John 8:12
It is not an uncommon thing in changeable weather, to notice the sky overcast with black clouds — but as we have looked upon it, the glorious sun bursts forth in his might, and within a little while, all around is once more basking in his beams, while scarcely a trace remains of the dark shadows which but lately had covered the earth with gloom. Even thus is it with our world as we now behold it, and as it shall be by and by. Meanwhile there is light shining through the darkness, and in the case of all who welcome it, the light shines more and more unto the perfect day.
But what are these dark clouds that cast such deep shadows over our earth?
There is the most appalling ignorance. The god of this world has blinded men's eyes, that they see nothing aright. In far off lands men have changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into an image made like unto corruptible man and to four-footed beasts. The 'great spirit' that is dimly seen, is not a God of love but one whom the worshiper regards only with an awful dread.
And even in lands favored like our own — what fearful ignorance exists as to the most necessary truths. How few have the least conception of . . .
the fallen state of man,
the demands of the law,
the impossibility of an entrance into Heaven without a thorough renewal of heart,
the way by which sin can be forgiven,
the solemn importance of an eternal state,
the true character of the God we worship!
There is again sin, sin everywhere.
It defiles the mansions of the great — and it is found producing its bitter fruits within the homes of the poorest.
It breaks up the peace of families.
It brings poverty, where there might be plenty.
It creates jealousies, heart afflictions, strifes, secret sorrows and anxieties that no tongue can describe.
It weighs upon the conscience until the burden is often felt to be intolerable.
It produces a dark night within the soul, that no human means can remove.
In parts of our country the smoke arising from the furnaces or factories near will often, through the state of the atmosphere, descend again and bring a partial midnight even at noon-day. Just so, sooner or later sin comes back, troubling the heart, driving away all true peace, and making within a darkness that may be felt.
There are likewise sorrows, griefs, distresses of various kinds, to which all are exposed. Sometimes the cloud of sorrow rests on one home, sometimes on another — but in turn it visits all. And where trouble has been the longest absent — it often comes with the more sudden and terrible force.
Very touchingly did an African woman express her deep woe on hearing of the death of her husband in battle. She cast down on the ground the infant that she carried at her breast, she tore her garments from the upper part of her body, and looking upwards to Heaven she exclaimed, "Cease you winds, that my sighs may be heard. Cease you raindrops, let my tears water the earth!"
And even where there is no manifest cause for it, where a bystander might imagine that all was well — yet there is many a one that goes forth to meet the calls of the day with a thick cloud oppressing the spirit. Neither sun, nor moon, nor stars appear, earthly comforts have lost their attraction, a black pall overspreads the soul, and it seems to the tried one as if no ray of hope or joy could ever penetrate. This may arise through some physical infirmity — the mind sympathizing with a feeble constitution. Or it may arise through perplexing difficulties in providence, or through great temptations. Or possibly there may be a secret grief or fear of which others know nothing. But whatever the cause is, none but such as have experienced it, can tell how great is that darkness.
To all this must be added yet one thing more. DEATH is ever standing by the door. All generations of mankind are traveling along the same road, and at the end of their course, an open grave waits to receive them! On every forehead, whether that of the little child all blithe and mirthful, or that of one wrinkled by age — may be seen as it were inscribed the words, "Dust you are — and unto dust you shall return!" At every turn we are reminded that in the midst of life, we are in death — and that even now the swift arrow may be on its way that shall bid us cease from all earthly toil. And is there not a shrinking, and dread, a drawing back from the blow of the destroyer? The most sensitive natures ever feel it the most — yet with all, there is a fear of the last enemy that it is hard to overcome.
And where sin has been indulged, where the world has been set up as an idol within the temple of the heart — doubly fearful must be the thought of that summons which forever robs a man of the world, and calls him to a strict account for his sins.
May I ask the reader to pause here for a moment. Especially if your course is not far advanced, would I press upon you this one point, that you would not hide from yourself your own true condition, and the realities of the world in which you live. Put not away from you, the thought of sin, and sorrow, and death — until they force themselves upon you.
It is the character of English people to look the greatest difficulties in the face, and thus to learn how to overcome them. And be assured that true peace is not to be found in building castles in the air, in regarding life as a bright midsummer holiday — but in recognizing the evils that pertain to it and learning how best to meet them.
And where shall we turn but to One, even Jesus? Surveying in all its reality, the moral darkness of our world — His eye piercing to the very depths of human consciousness and of the gloom and evil that lurks there — in sight of it all, the Incarnate Redeemer proclaims, "I am the light of the world!"
Yes, He is the only true light; He is indeed the very Sun of righteousness that would arise with healing on His wings. He is the day-spring (or sun-rising) from on high that has visited us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Jesus, the Sun of our souls! Oh, what rich grace is unfolded in this thought!
The sun is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the Heaven, and his circuit into the ends of it, and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof. It rises upon the climates where a long, cold winter of many months has held the earth in its icy bands, and brings there untold joy. It shines the same hour over far remote regions, and scatters its bright beams over vast islands and continents. It shines alike within the palace of the monarch and the cottage of the lowliest. It makes the earth burst forth with vegetation and fruitfulness. It calls forth the laborer to his daily toil, and awakens each morning myriads of songsters who fill the air with their joyous strains. With its rising, there comes into being a sportive crowd of insect life which spend their little day in its warmth.
O blessed Savior, Your grace is inexhaustible. You have enriched all who have looked to You, with grace and mercy — and yet You are none the poorer, but as rich as ever for those that come to drink in Your light and life.
With You is the light of forgiveness for the dark and guilty conscience.
With You is the light of love for the desolate, the bereaved, the cheerless.
With You is the light of hope, when it would seem to the eye of sense as if everlasting despair would settle down upon the soul.
With You is the light that brings fruitfulness, making the barren soul put forth all heavenly graces and virtues.
With You is the light that makes men joyful, even in the dark valley of the shadow of death, and can fill the soul with gladness when every earthly light is extinguished forever.
With You is the light which in that better world shall shine upon Your saints and make them joyful forever in Your presence!
Reader, come to this light and welcome the life and comfort and hope its cheering beams impart. Let a man go and hide himself in some underground cavern, or in some dark, damp cellar — then the glorious sun may be shining without — and yet no benefit can he receive from its light and warmth. And if you refuse Christ, if you go into some dark cave of unbelief or earthly-mindedness or cherished sin, and there abide — do not blame the Savior of mankind if you taste not the joy of His salvation; it is not His fault, but your own. It is not He who refuses to bless you — but you who turn away from the grace He bestows.
And let it not be forgotten, that it is only for a while this light is offered to sinners. Hearken to the words of Jesus: "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going." John 12:35
One Sunday afternoon some years ago, I took these words as the subject of exhortation to my flock. In the church was a man of the world, who yet seemed to give great attention to the message. Little did I then think how suitable to him was this word of the Master. It was his last sermon. The next Friday he set off on his way, but he never reached his destination. He sank down by the way-side, and was taken home dead!
Who shall say how long, dear reader, the light may shine for you? If you still prefer the dazzling lights of earth, and shut out the light that comes from Heaven — then how soon may everlasting darkness come upon you! Oh, delay not to receive Christ while He is near to shed the beams of His heavenly light upon your path through this dark world.
There is a good old proverb worth remembering: "By the street of By-and-by we arrive at last at the house of Never." There are few who have not purposed one day to turn to God — yet the day of grace has closed, and they have died without repentance or faith.
But let me say to the Christian reader: Not only come to the light, but abide in the light, and walk in the light. I have noticed old men bring out a seat on a bright spring morning, and sit down in the warm beams of the morning sun. Oh, that Christian people would more frequently bask in the cheering beams of the Sun of righteousness. Oh, that by meditation and prayer and faith — we could more delight ourselves in Him we love. Great would be the benefit. Not only would we more abound in joy and consolation, but sin would lose its power. As the rays of the sun have a tendency to put out the fire on the hearth, so would this Divine light extinguish the fire of evil desires, and unholy passions and tempers.
"O that God would awaken me out of the sleep of indolence, and so kindle that fire of Divine love that this flame may always burn within me. O that I had the wood with which that fire might be continually nourished, that it might never more be quenched but always increase within me. O Lord, give me, I beseech you, that love which can never cease, which will kindle my lamp and not extinguish it — that it may burn in me and enlighten others. O Christ, our dearest Savior, kindle our lamps, that they may evermore shine in Your temple, that they may receive unquenchable light from You — the Light that will enlighten our darkness, and lessen by us the darkness of the world. My Jesus, I beg You, give Your light to my lamp, that in its light the most holy place may be revealed to me in which You dwell as the eternal Priest, that I may always behold You, desire You, look upon You in love, and long after You. It belongs to You to show Yourself to us Your suppliants, O Savior, full of love — that we may know You, love You alone, think of You day and night — that Your love may fill our souls, and that this love so great may never more be quenched by the many waters of this earth, as it is written, Many waters cannot quench love."
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
Look unto Me, your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in this light of life I'll walk
Until traveling days be done!