The sun shall be no more your light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light to you…
Let us take two or three instances of those things which are valuable as symbols, but which he is able to do without who has got beyond the symbol and gained the reality which it represents.
1. Take the instance of wealth. There are some men who can do without being rich — plenty of men who have to, but some men who can, can easily, can without discontent or trouble. They love comfort and respectability as much as these their neighbours. What is the difference? Simply this, that they have found that comfort and respectability, while money is their natural symbol, are not dependent upon money, and that one may reach past the symbol, and take the reality, and let the symbol go.
2. Or take another symbol. Praise is good. To be applauded by our fellow. men, to hear our ambitions about ourselves caught up by their testifying cheers, to have our own best hopes for our own lives confirmed by their appreciation of us, that is a true delight for any man. To be able to do without men's praise because we do not feel its value, because morosely and selfishly we do not care what men think, that is bad; that is a sign of feebleness and conceit. To feel it is wretched, and to affect to feel it is detestable. But to be able to do without men's praise because that which their praise stands for is dearer to us than the praise is, and it so happens that we cannot have both of them, that is a wholly different thing. Men's praise stands for goodness. Every man feels that if it does not mean that, if it is "given to iniquity just aa freely as to goodness, praise loses all its value. Praise is the symbol; goodness is the reality.
3. So it runs everywhere. The symbols of the deeper pleasures are the mere animal indulgences — eating and drinking, the lusts of the flesh. They stand for intellectual and spiritual joys. How natural their symbolism is. The Bible talks of "hungering and thirsting after righteousness.'" David says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Jesus tells His disciples about "eating His flesh and drinking His blood." The superficial emotions of the senses stand for and represent the profound emotions of the soul. In the, harmonious life the two will live in harmony. The symbol and reality, the body's and the soul's enjoyment, will be complete together. But when in this unharmonious life which we live the symbol and reality come into unnatural conflict, when either the soul must be, sacrificed to the body or the body to the soul, he who really knows what the soul's happiness is does not hesitate. Here is the power of true self-sacrifice; here is the secret which takes out of it all the bitterness and brutality. Always it is the giving up of a symbol that you may have the reality. In the great sacrifice of all, Christ lays down His life, but it is that He may take it again. Do you think that Christ did not care for life and all that makes life beautiful to us? Surely He did; but He cared more for that which they represent — the living purely, the doing of His Father's will, and the serving of His brethren.
4. I am very much impressed by the truth of all this as concerns the Christian Church. She has her symbols and her ordinances, and she has her true and inner life. Her outward ways of living really belong with her inward power. In a perfectly harmonious world there never could be any conflict. In heaven the outward and the inward Church shall absolutely correspond; but here and now the Church may be so set upon her symbols and her regularities that she shall fail of doing her most perfect work and living her most perfect life. The Christian may be so bound to rites and ceremonies that he loses the God to whom they ought to bring him near. Here it certainly is true that no symbol is doing its true work unless it is educating those who use it to do without itself if need be.
(E. Paxton Hood.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the LORD shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory.