Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life."
I. THIS SIMILITUDE EXHIBITS THE GLORY AND POWER OF CHRIST IN HIS OWN NATURE. Light is a form of universal force, proceeding from the sun, the vast reservoir of power, and acting by the motion of the ethereal medium in wave-like vibrations. Artificial light is only the same force stored up in the earth, and liberated for purposes of illumination. The sun may therefore be regarded as, for us, the centre and source of all light. By its rays we know the glories and beauties of earth and sea; and to them we are indebted, not only for knowledge, but for much enjoyment and for many practical advantages. If, then, anything created and material can serve as an emblem of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, this majestic luminary may well fulfil this purpose. He who first said, "Let there be light!" gave to mankind the great Sun of Righteousness who has arisen upon the world. None but the Divine Lord and Saviour of mankind could justly claim to be "the Light of the world."
II. THIS SIMILITUDE EXHIBITS THE BLESSINGS WHICH CHRIST BRINGS TO THE WORLD.
1. The world of humanity is in the darkness of ignorance, and the Lord Jesus brings to it heavenly knowledge. Christ is the true Light, instructing men who are very ignorant of God, of his designs of mercy, of the prospects of the future, and indeed of everything that is most important for man as a spiritual being to be acquainted with.
2. The world of humanity is in the darkness of sin, and the Lord Jesus brings to it the light of forgiveness and holiness. As when a dark dungeon is thrown open, so that the sunlight streams into it; so was it with the world when Christ came to the dark places of the earth, and irradiated them with his holy presence. They who sometime were darkness now became light in the Lord.
3. The world of humanity lay in the darkness of death; the Lord Jesus brought to it the light of life. Vitality is hindered by darkness, and is fostered by daylight; the plant which is pale and sickly in the cellar grows green and healthy when exposed to the sunshine. Mankind when in sin are liable to spiritual death. Christ introduces the principle of spiritual vitality, and they who partake of it, and pass from darkness into glorious light, bear in abundance the blossom of piety and the fruit of obedience.
4. The world of humanity is in darkness and danger; the Lord Jesus brings the light of safety. He is a Lamp to guide the searchers, a Lantern to light upon the path of safety, a Torch to those who explore the cavern, a Pharos to those who sail the stormy seas, a Harbour light to guide into the haven of peace, a Pole star to direct the wanderer's course, a Pillar of fire to light the nation's desert march. So our Saviour warns men of spiritual perils, directs their steps into spiritual safety, directs in circumstances of difficulty and perplexity, brings to eternal peace.
III. THE SIMILITUDE REMINDS US OF OUR DUTY WITH REFERENCE TO CHRIST.
1. To admire and adore the light. The old Persians worshipped the rising sun; Christians may well worship their glorious Lord.
2. To walk in the light. Let it be remembered that the sun shines in vain for those who conceal themselves from his beams; and that even to admire is not enough, if we fail to make use of the heavenly shining to guide our steps aright.
"Thou Sun of our day, thou Star of our night,
Then spake Jesus again unto them.Deuteronomy 31:10, etc.), because they would not learn the End of the law, which was Jesus Christ! Thus they were shone upon by the light of Divine revelation, and boasted of being a people of light, and yet remained in darkness. Different is the case with the true followers of the light. Their fellowing consists in faith, and faith makes Christ to dwell in their hearts (John 12:36, 46; Ephesians 3:17); and because they then have the light of life, they no longer walk in darkness, neither in the love, nor in the terror of it; they no longer walk in sins, nor in death, no more according to the pleasure, no more in the power of the devil.
(R. Besser, D. D.)
I am the Light of the world.
(C. Vince.)shopheroth, into which the people, and especially the Pharisees, used to cast their gifts. In this court, and therefore close beside Him, were two gigantic candelabra, fifty cubits high and sumptuously gilded, on the summit of which nightly during the feast of tabernacles, lamps were lit which shed their soft light over all the city. Round these lamps the people, in their joyful enthusiasm, and even the stateliest priests and Pharisees, joined in festal dances; while, to the sound of flutes and other music, the Levites, drawn up in array on the fifteen steps which led up to the court, chanted the beautiful psalms which early received the title of "Songs of Degrees." In allusion to these great lamps, on which some circumstance of the moment may have concentrated the attention of the hearers, Christ exclaimed to them, "I am the Light of the world."
I. THE GREAT ASSUMED TRUTH WHICH LIES UNDERNEATH THE WHOLE VERSE is the fall of man. The world is in a state of moral and spiritual darkness. Naturally men know nothing rightly of themselves, God, holiness, or heaven. They need light.
II. THE FULL AND BOLD MANNER OF OUR LORD'S DECLARATION. He proclaims Himself to be "the Light of the world." None could truly say this but one, who knew that He was very God. No prophet or apostle ever said it.
III. HOW OUR LORD SAYS THAT HE IS "THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD." He is not for a few only, but for all mankind. Like the sun He shines for the benefit of all, though all may not value or use His light.
IV. THE MAN TO WHOM THE PROMISE IS MADE. It is to him "that followeth Me." To follow a leader, if we are blind, or ignorant, or in the dark, or out of the way, requires trust and confidence. This is just what the Lord Jesus requires of sinners who want to be saved. Let them commit themselves to Christ, and He will lead them safe to heaven. If a man can do nothing for himself, he cannot do better than trust another and follow him.
V. THE THING PROMISED TO HIM WHO FOLLOWS JESUS — deliverance from darkness and possession of light. This is precisely what Christianity brings to a believer. He feels and sees, and has a sense of possessing something he had not before. God "shines into his heart and gives light." He is "called out of darkness into marvellous light" (2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 2:9).
Homilist.Christ as Light is —
I. WONDROUSLY REVEALING. Light is a revealing element. When the sun goes down and darkness reigns, the whole of the beautiful world is concealed, all on ocean and land is hidden. The sun arises, and all stands forth to view. What does Christ reveal? God, a spiritual universe, a moral government, a future state of retribution, a remedial system by which fallen humanity can be restored to the knowledge, the image, the friendship, and the enjoyment of the eternal Father. Men have appeared here in different ages and regions who have been called lights. Prophets; John the Baptist; the apostles; some of the heathen sages; and many of the modern philosophers and scientists. But Christ is the Light. Other lights are borrowed; He is the original Fountain. Other lights only reveal dimly a few things in some narrow space; He reveals all things fully through all regions of moral being. Other light shone a little, and, like meteors, went out; He burns on forever — the "Light of the world."
II. HUMANITY GUIDING. "He that followeth Me," etc. The sun may shine in its noontide radiance, and yet men may walk in darkness; they may shut their eyes or keep in cells or caverns. It is so with Christ. Though He is the moral Sun of the world, the millions "walk in darkness." Christ is to be followed —
3. Spiritually. Men who follow Him thus will always be in the "light."
III. SPIRITUALLY QUICKENING. The natural sun is the fountain of life to the world; his beams quicken all. Christ is the Life of the world. "In Him was life." He quickens the intellect, the conscience, the soul. There is no spiritual life apart from Him. Conclusion: — How great the obligation of the world to Christ I What would this earth be without the sun? Its condition would be wretched beyond conception; and yet it would be better off than humanity without Christ. Were all that Christ has been to humanity, and still is, to be withdrawn, into what a Stygian condition it would sink. "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift!"
I. IN WHAT SENSE IS CHRIST THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
1. The light He communicates is not derived. Christ is not a reflector, but the Spring and Source. None ever taught Him wisdom; eternity did not increase His knowledge, "God is Light" and Christ is God.
2. He is the Medium through which it is revealed to men. When the world through sin had become exposed to the withdrawal of all heavenly light, then by Christ's interposition was a gentle ray preserved. This grew till in His own Person He brought the full and living manifestation of glory.
II. THE CHARACTER OF THE LIGHT.
1. Christ brought into the world knowledge. No small advance had been made in knowledge before Christ came — art, science, and philosophy had flourished. But the knowledge of God and futurity had almost died out. And the advances of the human intellect would seem to have been permitted to prove that men by searching could not find out God.
2. Christ brought into the world holiness. Light and purity, darkness and unholiness are synonymous terms. "Ye were once darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." The wisdom of the world may exist with the grossest passions, but the "Light of the world" cleanses as well as instructs.
III. THE RELATION OF THE LIGHT TO THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL. "He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Following the course of the sun, we cannot but have the "light of life." As the flowers, drawn by the attracting power of the sun's rays, turn round and follow the great light of day in his course in the heavens, drinking in with avidity every beam, developing new beauties, giving forth fresh odours with every ray of light received, so the Christian, drawn by the magnetic influence of Divine love, living in constant intercourse with the source of all inspiration, following closely the light of truth which radiates from the eternal sun, develops fresh beauties of character, gives forth the sweet perfume of true nobleness of life, adorning the doctrines of Christ the Saviour.
I. THE PURITY OF THE LORD'S PERSONAL CHARACTER. A ray of light is the cleanest thing we know, and though it may pass through the most polluted medium, it comes out of it as immaculate as when it entered it. Christ was from the very first "a holy thing." There are spots on the sun, but nothing ever appeared to mar the beauty of His holiness, by the constant emanation of His own purity, he kept the evil from approaching Him. Now this purity consisted not so much in the absence of all sin as in the presence of all excellence. Just as the white light of the sun is composed of the seven primary colours, each in its own proportion, and having its own properties, so the holiness of Christ, when analyzed, reveals the presence in its normal degree of each of the virtues. His love contributed warmth, His truth imparts its sharp actinic influence, whereby the correct outlines of all subjects on which He shone were clearly defined! His humility gave its violet beauty to mellow the lustre of His character; His courage lent its yellow tinge to complete the harmony; while His meekness contributed its soft green hue, and His justice brought the fiery red, which burned in His withering denunciation of all hypocrisy and wrong. Peerless as the sun in the firmament shines the character of Jesus Christ. No keen-eyed sceptic has ever been able to detect in it a flaw.
II. THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE REVELATION WHICH HE MADE. His advent chased away darkness, and brought new truths into view. We have been so long accustomed to the lustre of His beams, that it is difficult to estimate how much we owe to Him in this respect, for the things which we now teach to children were far beyond the reach of the educated minds of antiquity.
1. Look at the views which He has given us of God. By that one utterance "God is a spirit" etc. He threw a flood of light on questions which had puzzled the wisest heathens. That we are not idolators we owe entirely to the light which Christ has shed for us, on the spirituality, omnipresence, supremacy, and fatherhood of God.
2. Look at the matter of atonement, and see what radiance He has cast on that dark subject. When He came into the world, victims were smoking daily upon altars, and everywhere they were at once the expression of a want and confession of a failure. They gave inarticulate witness to the longing of men's souls for acceptance with God, on the ground of expiation, while their continued repetition acknowledged that they who offered them could not rest long in their offering. But Christ offered Himself, and it was at once seen by all who believed on Him, that His sacrifice met the case, for His resurrection demonstrated that it was accepted by God, and so they could rest perfectly content. This accounts for the fact, that wherever Jesus was received sacrifices disappeared.
3. Look how the revelation brought by Christ has illuminated the future life. He has "brought life and immortality to light by the gospel." The immortality of the soul was a wish rather than an object of faith among the most of the ancients, and they knew nothing whatever about resurrection. But when Christ rose from the tomb He left its portal open; and when He ascended He took possession of heaven in His people's name. Absence from the body is now presence with the Lord.
III. THE BENEFICENT INFLUENCES THAT RADIATE FROM CHRIST. There are few natural agents more valuable than the light.
1. It ministers largely to health. Even the plants cannot thrive without the sunshine, and a shrub taken to the bottom of a mine speedily withers; while the very weed that grows in the cave turns ever with a wonderful instinct towards the light. So it is a common aphorism that the sunny side of the street or house is healthier. Christ gives health to the soul by bestowing upon it regeneration, while the influence of His instructions strengthens the intellect, gives sensitiveness to the conscience, stiffens the will, settles and centres the affections, and broadens and deepens the character.
2. It contributes materially to happiness. Everybody knows a difference between a clear and a dull day. The one, as it were, electrifies the system, and we go forth into it with joyous exhilaration; the other is heavy and depressing. We are ill at ease with ourselves and cross with everybody else. So again, we know a difference between day and night. The light has that in it which somehow keeps us up, but darkness has become a common metaphor for heaviness of heart. Now Jesus is the Author of joy. He takes away from us sin which is the source of all sadness. He adds the gladness of fellowship with Himself to all our other delights; and when the joys of earth grow dim, He remains to be to us as full of satisfaction as He was before.
3. It contributes to our safety. Unless we see where we are going we may stumble or fall, to the serious injury of our bodies; and so, especially when the way is rough and dangerous, it is always better to travel in the daytime. In moral things, it is just as essential that we see what we are doing. We must mark the tendencies of things, lest we should take a wrong direction. We must look well to our little steps of daily conduct, lest we should be tripped up, and bring dishonour on our Lord and on ourselves. And for this reason it is of the greatest importance that we keep near to Jesus. Safety lies in walking in His light. It is not earthly philosophy; it is not worldly prudence; it is not caution or canniness that will keep a man secure. All these are in the main but modes of selfishness, and selfishness is always like a mole burrowing in the dark and trapped at last by the higher art of the hunter. But Christ's light is love, the love of God and our neighbour.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH WE BECOME PARTAKERS OF THE BLESSINGS WHICH CHRIST BRINGS. We are enlightened by opening our eyes to the light. In the morning we raise our blinds, and let in the blessed sunbeams, whereby our hearts are gladdened and our homes are brightened. And in the same way we are to become illuminated by the rays of the Sun of Righteousness. We must open our eyes and behold His glory; we must open our intellects to receive His instructions; we must open our hearts to let Him into our affections; we must open our lives to let Him rule over our actions. Here our great duty, as also our great difficulty, is to be simply receptive.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. THE SYMBOLISM. What was the meaning of those great lights that went flashing through the warm autumn nights of the feast of tabernacles. All the parts of that feast were intended to recall some feature of the wilderness wanderings; and the lights by the altar were memorials of the pillar of cloud and fire. Jesus, then, declares Himself to be in reality, for all, and forever what that pillar was in outward seeming to one generation.
1. It was the visible vehicle of the Divine presence. It manifested and hid God, and was thus no unworthy symbol of Him who remains after all revelation unrevealed. The fire is ever folded in the cloud, and the thick darkness in which He dwells is but the "glorious privacy" of perfect light. That pillar, a cloud to shelter from the scorching heat, a fire to cheer in the blackness of night, spread itself above the sanctuary, and "the glory of the Lord filled the Tabernacle," and when that was replaced by the Temple "the cloud filled the house of the Lord," and there, dwelling between the cherubim, types of all creatural life; and above the mercy seat that spoke of pardon, and the ark that held the law; and behind the veil where no feet trod save those of the priest bearing the blood of atonement once a year — shone the light of the visible majesty of present Deity.
2. But centuries had passed since that Light had departed. Shall we not, then, see a deep reference to that awful blank, when Jesus, standing before that shrine which was in a most sad sense empty, pointed to the quenched lamps which commemorated a departed Shekinah, and said, "I am the Light of the world." He is that because in Him is the glory of God. The cloud of the humanity "the veil, that is to say, His flesh," enfolds and tempers; and through its transparent folds reveals while it swathes the Godhead. Like some fleecy vapour flitting across the sun and irradiated by its light, it enables our weak eyes to see light and not darkness in the else intolerable blaze. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt," etc.
II. THE PRIVILEGE AND DUTY.
1. Christ, like that pillar, guides us in our pilgrimage. Numbers 9. dwells upon the absolute control of all the marches and halts by the cloud. As long as it lay spread above the tabernacle, there they stayed. Impatient eyes might look and impatient spirits chafe — no matter. And whenever it lifted itself no matter how short had been the halt, footsore the people, or pleasant the resting place — up with the tent. pegs immediately, and away. There was the commander of their march — not Moses nor Jethro.
2. We have in Christ a better Guide through worse perplexities than theirs. By His Spirit, example, Word, providence, Jesus is our Guide — gentle, loving, wise, sure. He does not say "Go," but "Come." "I will guide thee with Mine eye" — not a blow, but a look of directing love which heartens to and tells duty. We must be near Him to catch it and in sympathy with Him to understand it, and be swift to obey. Our eyes must be ever toward the Lord, or we shall be marching on unwitting that the pillar has spread itself for rest, or dawdling when it has gathered itself up for the march. Do not let impatience lead you to hasty interpretations of His plans before they are fairly evolved. Take care of "running before you are sent." But do not let the warmth of the camp fires or the pleasantness of the shady place keep you when the cloud lifts.
3. All true following begins with or rather is faith (chap 12:46). Faith the condition and following the operation and test of faith. None but they who trust follow Him. To follow means the submission of the will, the effort to reproduce His example, the adoption of His command as my law, His fellowship as my icy; and the root of this is coming to Him conscious of darkness and trustful in His light.
III. THE PROMISE. In the measure in which we fulfil the duty the wonderful saying will be verified and understood by us.
1. "Shall not walk in darkness" refers(1) to practical life and its perplexities. Nobody who has not tried it would believe how many difficulties are cleared away by the simple act of trying to follow Christ. It is a reluctant will and intrusive likings and dislikings that obscure the way oftener than real obscurity in the way itself. It is seldom impossible to discern the Divine will when we only wish to do it. And if ever it is impossible, that is the cloud resting on the Tabernacle. Be still, wait and watch.(2) But "darkness" is the name for the whole condition of the soul averted from God. There is the darkness of ignorance, impurity, sorrow, thickening to a darkness of death. To follow Christ is the true deliverance, and the feeblest beginnings of trust in Him, and the first tottering steps that try to tread in His bring us unto the light.
2. "Shall have the light of life," a grander gift — not the light which illuminates the life, but like similar phrases, "bread of life," "water of life," — light which is life. "In Him was life," etc. "With Thee is the foundation of life, etc." The pillar remained apart, this Guide dwells in our souls. Conclusion: Christ, like His symbol of old, has a double aspect — darkness for Egypt, light to Israel. Trusted, followed, He is light; neglected, turned from, He is darkness.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)Matthew 5:14): — A startling combination! The two ends of a chain of teaching, of which the middle links are supplied by the apostle who speaks of "Christ in you," and of the saints as "light in the Lord."
I. WHEREIN DOES CHRIST'S LIGHT DIFFER FROM OURS?
1. As ordinary white light — the light of the sun — is an exquisite blending of all hues of light, so Christ combines all the varied features of goodness in Himself. He is the Unity of all enlightening, cheering, quickening qualities.
2. But as the light is broken up and reflected, so the scattered rays of goodness are reflected from each disciple in his own character and ministry amongst his fellows.
II. WHEREIN IS OUR REFLECTED LIGHT AS CHRIST'S?
1. It may reveal, as He did, the Father.
2. It may guide and cheer, as He did, the sons of men.
3. As His exposed the evil in men, so may ours expose and shame those who come into contact with us.
4. As He, like light, coaxes the plant to thrive, causes men's natures to bloom and bear fruit, so may we develop men's latent capacities for goodness by contact with us.
5. As His light was diffused, so may ours go forth-upon unknown ministries.
(W. Hawkins.)I. CHRIST IS THE LIGHT FOR LIFE WHICH GUIDES.
1. Christ is such grading light because He is the Light. Moral guidance shines from Him, because He is the one perfect specimen of moral living.
2. Christ is such a guiding Light because He is a light so placed that all may see it.
II. CHRIST IS THE LIGHT WHICH NOURISHES AND MAKES STRONG THE TRUE LIFE IN EVERY MAN. Christ promises, if He be followed, a man shall have the light of life. Here is a pale leaf. Why is it so pale? It has been denied the sunlight. Put it in the sunlight, and it will grow green and strong. Here is a leaf of noble resolution. But it is very pale and sickly. What will give it strength and colour? Bring it into the shining of Him who is the Light.
III. HOW WE MAY ENTER INTO THIS GUIDANCE AND INVIGORATION. "He that followeth Me," etc. Some one has said: "Nobody who has not tried it would believe how many difficulties are cleared out of a man's road by the simple act of trying to follow Christ." No doubt there will still remain obscurities enough as to what we ought to do, to call for the best exercise of patient wisdom; but an enormous proportion of them vanish like mist, when the sun looks through, when once we honestly set ourselves to find out where the Light is guiding. It is a reluctant will and intrusive likings and dislikings that obscure the way for us, much oftener then real obscurity in the way itself. It is seldom impossible to discern the Divine wilt, when we only wish to know it that we may do it.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)
I. HE BRINGS GOD NEAR AND MAKES HIM REAL TO MAN. Every scientific discoverer half acknowledges that He interprets the arrangements of a single intelligence. And yet it is easy to leave out of view the higher relations of scientific thinking; to stop with force and law, and not go on to the Agent who is assumed in both. But this Atheism, now so fashionable, brings darkness into the mind. It may not interfere with a limited department of research, but it is always held at the expense of liberal thinking. It may now and then perfect man as an observing machine, but it has never yet brought a ray of light to the intellect or glow to the heart. Christ teaches no science, no philosophy, and yet He is a Light to both, not by what He teaches but by what He is. He simply manifests God as living and personal, and fills the universe to the believing mind and loving soul with a sense of His presence. He not only tells us of a Father in heaven, but says: "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." And thus Christ holds the attention of men in every science to truths concerning God which science assumes and confirms.
II. HE CONFIRMS MAN'S CONFIDENCE IN MAN'S POWER TO KNOW THE TRUTH. Christ teaches caution, docility, and a certain quality of self-distrust; but He couples with it the quality of clear and tenacious conviction. He knows nothing of that fashionable scepticism which suggests that knowledge is but uncertain guess work, that thinking is a changing product of a material organization, that the truths of one generation are the dreams of the next. The capacity of man to know the truth, his obligation to defend it, and if need be to die for it is positively enforced by Christ. It is said that Christians are committed to a creed and therefore incapable of new ideas. To one conviction they are committed, viz., that truth is possible and that man is bound to attain it.
III. HE ASSERTS FOR MAN HIS TRUE DIGNITY AND HIS RIGHTFUL PLACE IN THE UNIVERSE. In nothing has Christ wrought so signal a revolution as in this, and that not by teaching a new philosophy, but by living a new life and consecrating that life by His death. He came to save man because man was lost, yet could be exalted to wisdom and holiness, and therein declared the intrinsic worth of the lowliest in the judgment of God. He consorted with publicans and sinners, not because He sympathized with what they were, but because He knew what they might become. Before Christ man's insignificance was contrasted with Nature's greatness; or when set in other relations the old thinkers argued "the state, the race remains; the individual perishes — let Him go. What is one among so many when God will forget every one of us?" Christ has reversed all these estimates. He emphasized each man's personality by recognizing his responsibility. As responsible he is capable of personal rights as the condition of the exercise of his moral freedom, and the development of his character. As such he is king over nature, being made in God's image. His education is the supreme end for which nature exists and society goes on; and this education is the story of redemption. What we call Christian civilization is either flower or fruit of faiths in respect to man's place in nature and the plan of God. It is proposed to change all this. Man is the product and slave of nature, and at length its victim. Personality and character are poetic abstractions; right and wrong are the outcome of social forces; conscience the reflex of average judgments of our community; the right of the individual non-existent as against society; our protests against injustice irrational. That this new philosophy must be inhuman in its tendency need not be argued. May God spare us when insane enthusiasts or maddened criminals act it out. After the scenes of horror shall be over and society begin to reorganize itself, Christ will be the light of its schools of thought.
IV. HE IS THE LIGHT OF HUMAN CULTURE IN THAT HE BOTH STIMULATES AND REFINES IT. So far as art and literature are concerned, we may concede that Greece gave to the world the perfection of form; but Christ breathed into those forms a living soul. In manners Christ has done still more. The graces of modern life are the products of the unselfish, sympathizing, forgiving, patient, Son of Man. No sooner is Christ received into any community than the unbought graces of life are a natural consequence. But culture has its dangers. It degenerates as soon as it becomes an end and not a means. It is substituted for duty or made an excuse for sin often with terrific results. Some of its devotees are too dainty in their tastes to do the work of life, and not a few sink into unmanly fastidiousness. Christ reforms these abuses; in His school no man liveth or dieth to Himself, and man is refined by the presence and approval of his Maker.
V. HE MAKES CLEAR AND POSSIBLE TO MAN ANOTHER AND A BETTER LIFE. He has not demonstrated it to reason, but has verified it as a fact "Because I live," etc. In former times men were esteemed profound, aspiring, brave and strong according as they reflected about another life. In these, man is counted shallow if he accepts it; sordid if he derives motives from it; cowardly if he cannot brave death without it; and weak if he cannot substitute for it the immortality of his thoughts as repeated in other minds. This seems unnatural and inhuman. It is the cant of a clique to attempt to silence the outcry of every longing of man with the sneer of sentimentalism. All this is a striking proof that the risen and personal Christ is as much needed as ever as the Light of the world. And when science becomes more simple and earnest, and culture more sincere and humane, both will turn to Him.
VI. HE GIVES WORTH AND SIGNIFICANCE TO THE LIFE WORK OF EVERY MAN. There is a strong tendency to depreciate the present life; and if there is no God but nature, and he locked in the bands of fate; if knowledge is guesswork, and man the sport of agencies that feel not, life is at best a dull farce or a weary tragedy, and the sooner the play is over the better. But Christ teaches differently. Under the light which He cast no event is insignificant, no joy empty, no sorrow to be spared. The hopes and regrets, the successes and defeats are all steps of discipline for immortality. To every individual a place in life is assigned, if he will occupy it, and success assured if he will rightly estimate success. Every life which Christ guides by His light, and cheers with His smile, and crowns with His reward is thoroughly worth living for its experience and its rewards.
(Noah Porter, LL. D.)
I. BY LIGHT WE GENERALLY MEAN SCIENTIFIC TRUTH when the word is used in other than a material sense. But one of the most original features of Christ's teaching is that He never learnt science nor professed to solve its problems.
1. Christians have been often mistaken here, and the irritation of scientists, when Christians interfere with their demonstrations, is legitimate. They demand independence, and the demand should be conceded. But they must also grant independence in the domain of the moral and religious order which has its own laws and evidences. Christianity is never called upon to anathematize science — rather let it increase under the Divine benediction.
2. But we cannot be mistaken — the whole progress of science has not shed one ray of light on the problem of problems. We are told that we should be indifferent here, and Positivism enjoins humanity to enclose itself between the cradle and the tomb, and know nothing beyond. But it cannot succeed. In our time, when all that can distract, absorb, enchant is multiplied, man doggedly raises the problems of the invisible world. All become acquainted with anguish and need consolation, and ask, therefore, for light.
3. An answer is necessary, and that answer the intellect reduced to its own forces is incapable of finding. With what courage and perseverance it has striven all history attests. Has science ever consoled anyone? When your conscience is troubled will you ask for a philosophical consultation? When you are near a death bed will you call in a savant? This century has made an idol of science with the inevitable result (Psalm 115:5, 6).
II. HERE CHRIST APPEARS. His light has not been poured on scientific problems — that domain God has left to the intellect — but He has illumined the spiritual world. How? By His teaching? What then does He teach? Himself. He is not so much the Prophet as the Truth; the light bearer as the Light.
1. He has revealed what God is. Not that He delivered discourses about God, or gave metaphysical definitions of God; but He has shown Him to us - "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" (Hebrews 1:8; Colossians 1:15). Moses had revealed the only, the holy, the all-mighty, the just God; Jesus reveals the God who is Love. What could be added to the idea?
2. A new ideal of humanity has appeared in Jesus. He never taught a systematic and scientific morality; but simply replaced the moral world on its right axis — the love of God and the love of man. For the first time was seen in Him a life absolutely fulfilling the moral law — a life in which there is not a word, thought, movement, which is not inspired and filled by the love of God and man. In Him was seen for the first time the admirable assemblage of all the virtues which seem opposed and which ordinarily exclude one another; authority and simplicity, majesty and humility, strength and gentleness, horror of evil, and tender mercy, purity without asceticism, and familiarity without vulgarity, so that, as the diverse colours which the prism decomposes — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet — form the splendid white, to all these diverse traits, which make up the figure of Christ, are blended into so vivid a harmony that it is imprinted on the conscience of humanity forever. In Him is seen man as he ought to be.
3. He has thrown light on the abyss which separates man from God. The more luminous His holiness, the more obvious our imperfection. He makes us discern the evil we have done, and the good we have neglected. Never before Him was our nature so surely judged (Luke 2:35).
4. But the light would leave us without hope, did it not reveal a love in God greater than our revolt, a pardon greater than our iniquity; but the text nowhere is truer than as it falls from the Cross, at whose foot the sinner divines and receives a grace worthy of God, because it secures His justice while revealing His mercy; he there sees sin both judged and remitted. All other religions and philosophies must compound with evil and attenuate it; the religion of the Cross alone dares to see it, because it alone can crush it.
(E. Bersier, D. D.)
I. ONE, and throughout the extent of our planetary system, it is the one source of light. Towards it each planet, with its satellites, turns every portion of its surface to receive light. There is but one Saviour — without whom every soul is wrapt in darkness, but from whom all believers obtain all blessings.
II. THE BRIGHTEST LUMINARY. In His splendour the moon and stars pale. Jesus in all things has the preeminence, and is "the chiefest among ten thousand." The man of the world walks by taper light; the Christian by sunlight. What are 10,000,000 tapers to the sun?
III. OF PRODIGIOUS MAGNITUDE. Our earth is 25,000 miles round and has a surface of 200,000,000 square miles. But what is it to the sun? about one to a million! The highest mountain bears the proportion to the whole earth of a grain of sand to an 18-in. globe; man less, animals still less. What then the tiny flower and the insects that float in the sunbeam. Yes the light that streams 97,000,000 miles gladdens and enlightens all. But greater still is its Creator — Jesus — who is rich in mercy to all who call upon Him.
IV. EMINENTLY BEAUTIFUL AND BEAUTIFYING. Pure light is proved to consist of seven opposite colours — so in Jesus there is a combination of all excellences. He is "all fair." The beauties of the landscape are derived from the sun; the variety of hues that meet the eye are painted by Him. So saints are beautiful through the comeliness that Jesus puts upon them, varying as it does in character, differing as it does in position.
V. MOST BENEFICIAL. Light, heat, and fertility flow from his beams. Blot out the sun and our earth would be destroyed. Without him what would be the blessing of sight? So without Jesus we should have no spiritual knowledge, no happy love to God or man, no fruitfulness. Conclusion —
1. We may gather some thoughts of Jesus from the laws of light, or the modes of its operation. Is the sun an unexhaustible fountain of light? In Jesus there is an infinite fulness of grace. Does the light travel with amazing rapidity? How swiftly do the thoughts of Jesus flow out towards His servants — "Before they call I will answer." Does light travel only in straight lines? Jesus is a holy Saviour; His eyes look straight before Him in the prosecution of His Father's purposes. Is the angle of reflection always equal to the angle of incidence? The Christian knows that the light he receives from heaven, he will find it his honour and happiness to reflect on earth. Is light a radiant force, and does a small approximation to its centre bring an increase of influence? So in proportion to our nearness to Christ will be our realization of His grace.
2. Reflect on what is popularly called the rising of the sun. See how he climbs higher and higher. Even so was it with Jesus. Mark the first streak of light in the first promise — broader streaks in those succeeding to Abraham, Jacob — then the types and ceremonies; then the great prophecies, until Christ could proclaim the text. So with the preaching of Christ to nations, and His reception by individuals.
(J. M. Randall.)Light is —
1. Every morning it removes the dark veil from the face of nature, and enables us to go wherever our duty calls us.
2. What blanks there would have been in science, philosophy, and poetry, if there had been no Newton, Bacon, Milton; but what a famine of knowledge there would have been regarding God and man, etc., without the Bible. Other books speak to us on these subjects, but, like the light of every star, their light is borrowed. The Bible has been the means of suggesting more thoughts, and expanding more minds, than all other books combined. The artist, historian, poet, novelist, scientist, traveller, are all indebted to it. Every syllable has been carefully examined, and out of this examination vast libraries have been formed. If all the rays of mental light which have streamed from it could be brought back to it, and if it were to be totally eclipsed, as the sun has been, what would be the condition of the world of mind?
3. To whom are we indebted for the Bible? To Christ! If He had not lived and died the New Testament could not have been written, nor the Old, since the latter is to the former what the germ is to the fruit. He is the Alpha and Omega of its subject matter, and the cause of its existence.
1. In the morning it appears to come from the east, it travels at the rate of 90,000,000 miles in eight minutes; and in the evening seems to retire in the west. Where does it come from and go to? How shall we account for its inconceivable speed? For thousands of years it has punctually visited our planet; why does it continue as fresh as on the day of its creation? What is it? Newton says that luminous particles actually proceed from the sun; and Huyghens, that the sun only occasions a disturbance of the ether which extends in the same manner as a wave spreads itself on the surface of a lake; but no one can give a thoroughly satisfactory answer. It is a mystery.
2. Christ was human — but He was also Divine; and as we think of Him existing from eternity, as incarnate, as swaying the sceptre of the universe, and upholding all things, the mystery is deep indeed. We are advised to renounce His Divinity as a means of clearing the mystery; but that would only deepen it. A mere boy astonishing learned rabbis, a mere man stepping into the first rank of the world's teachers, working miracles, penetrating the future, giving away His soul for sinners as willingly as He gave them advice, bursting the barriers of the tomb! — to reject His Divinity is to plunge into Egyptian darkness! —
3. What then shall we do? Because of the mystery turn infidels, or stand in suspense — perplexed and miserable? The mystery of light does not disturb our equanimity; we place it among matters which our reason cannot just now grasp. Inasmuch, however, we cannot live without it, we welcome it. In the same way let us do with the mystery of Christ — a human leader, saviour, will not do for us; He must be Divine or we are lost. Let us trust Him and leave the mystery till removed by the perfect light of heaven.
1. Who loves the darkness? Not the little child, who fears it. Not the virtuous youth, who, although he may have nothing to do, when evening comes wishes for a light; not the righteous old man. Those only love the darkness whose hearts are set on evil deeds. "Truly the light is sweet," etc. In its presence flowers open themselves, landscapes smile, and birds sing.
2. It is thus an emblem of that felicity the blessed God wishes every man to have; but it will never come to us as pleasure comes to the beasts of the field. We must go in quest of it. Whither? To wealth, honour, fame, etc.? These will only disappoint; but if we go to Christ He will give us every element of happiness in abundance — pardon, comfort, strength, heaven.
1. The water as it proceeds from its distant home is clear as crystal, but becomes impure; the snow in a little time becomes mixed with the muddy soil; the winds, pure in their origin, become unwholesome passing through pestiferous regions; but the light — stainless it comes to us, chases away the darkness from St. Giles's as freely as from Windsor Palace, enters abodes of sickness as cheerfully as abodes of health, and having brightened and beautified every object pursues its way as pure as when it came.
2. What a true image of Jesus! For twenty-eight years He resided in Nazareth, a place proverbial for wickedness. He was tempted of the devil, and mingled with the most sinful, yet what was the result? The nearer we approach a work of art the less we admire it, and the closer we come to some men the more imperfect they appear; but the more we inspect the character of Jesus the brighter does it shine. He came into the world pure, continued in it pure, and returned pure. This was the testimony of His enemies, His friends, Himself.
3. To resemble Jesus in this is the principal duty of His followers — Ye are the light of the world," "Let your light so shine," etc. Were this duty discharged the moral darkness of the world would be swiftly chased away.
(A. McAuslane, D. D.)
(I. Williams, B. D.)
(W. H. Van Doren, D. D.)
(H. W. Beecher.)Exodus 13:21 and Numbers 9:15-23).
I. AS TO ITS NATURE. That fire in the heart of the cloud was prophetic of our Lord's Deity, enfolded and enshrined in His humanity.
II. AS TO ITS FUNCTIONS. The work of the fire-cloud was threefold.
1. It led. — The wilderness was a trackless waste to the hosts of Israel, and they were absolutely dependent on the cloud to show their path, and to find out a resting place each night.
2. It shielded.
3. It gave light.
III. AS TO THE CONDITIONS. "He that followeth Me..." We must put Christ first. He must hold the position of Leader and Guide. Which way is He taking? We may generally ascertain this as we endeavour to answer one of the following questions:
1. What is the law of Christ?
2. What is the will of Christ?
3. What would Christ do under the circumstances? If we are not sure, we must wait till we are; but knowing, we must follow at all costs.We cannot follow Jesus except we leave all — our own judgment and wisdom, our schemes and preferences, our predilections and fancies.
1. Shall not walk in darkness.
2. But shall have the light of life.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
I. LIFE. The light of the sun has no power to make dead things alive by shining upon them. Suppose we take a dead body, or plant, and lay it down where the light of the sun can shine on it; the light has no power to give life when it does not exist; but it can help to preserve it. The light of the sun is needed in order to keep everything alive. If the light were taken away, everything would die. And for this reason, Jesus might well say of Himself, "I am the Light of the world." He is more necessary for the life of our souls than the light of the sun is for the life of our bodies. The light which shines from Jesus is made up of the truths taught us in the Bible about His character and work. The light which shines from Jesus has the power of giving life to souls that are dead, as well as of keeping them alive when it is given. When ministers preach the gospel, or when Christian people read it, or preach it to others, they are scattering light from Jesus, the Sun of Righteousness. And the light thus scattered has the power of giving life to souls that were dead in sins.
II. GROWTH. If the light were taken away from plants, and they were kept in the dark, they would not grow, Suppose you have a lot of potatoes in your cellar. If there is no window the potatoes will rot. But if there is a window those potatoes will begin to grow over towards the window. As you see them straggling across the cellar floor, it looks as if the potatoes were stretching out their arms towards the light, and begging it to come and help them to grow. And it is the same with the flowers and the trees, and with every other kind of vegetable. Each, in its place, is dependent on the light. None of them can grow without it. Here is an acorn. What a tiny little thing it is! Yet, there is a big oak tree stowed away in this little cup. But, then, that tree can never get out of the acorn and grow up to its proper size without the help of the sunlight. It needs the light to make it begin to grow. Then it springs up a tender little sprouting thing, which an infant's foot could crush. But every year it grows higher, and broader, and stronger. And, as it goes on increasing in size and strength, the trunk depends on the branches, and the branches depend on the leaves, and the leaves depend on the sunlight for all they need to make the tree grow. And just in the same way our souls depend for their growth on the light that Jesus gives. A young Christian, just converted, is like an acorn just beginning to grow. A mature Christian, who has reached what the Apostle Paul calls "the stature of a perfect man in Christ," is like the tree that has grown up to its full size out of the little acorn. The tree can only grow by the help of the light which the sun gives, and the soul can only grow by the help of the light which Jesus gives.
III. BEAUTY. Light is one of the most beautiful things that God has made, and it makes other things beautiful. All the beauty that we see in the world around us we owe to the light. Suppose you go into a garden full of flowers on a dark night. How many colours will you see among the flowers? Only one. Black. Suppose you go and look at a gallery of beautiful paintings in the dark. How many colours will you see? Only black. Suppose you look at a great mass of clouds in the western sky at the close of the afternoon. They are all of one colour; and this is a dark grey, almost black. There is very little beauty in those clouds. But presently the sun gets behind them. He pours a flood of light over them and through them; and what a change takes place in a moment. What different colours are there! How beautiful they are! And what has made this change? The light has done it. All those beautiful colours are made by the light. And Jesus may well be called "the Light of the world" on this account. Like the light, He is beautiful in Himself, and He makes others beautiful. Jesus is a glorious sun, and the light that He gives comes to us like sunbeams, that spread brightness and beauty everywhere.
IV. SAFETY. There is danger in darkness. We cannot see the evils that threaten us then, nor how to escape them. It is under the cover of darkness that thieves go forth to rob, and murderers to kill, and all sorts of wicked people to do bad things (John 3:20), Our merchants and shopkeepers have found out there is safety in light; and they are putting this knowledge to a good use. When I was a boy, I remember that at night the jeweller's stores, and others that had valuable things in them, used to have heavy wooden or iron shutters to the windows; and these would be fastened with locks, or great iron bolts or bars. And all this was done for safety. But now many of those stores have no shutters at all to them; and others only have a thin wire grating over them. But, if you stop and look through one of those windows at night, you will find that the gas is lighted in the store, and kept burning. If a thief should get in there and begin to steal, he would be seen by the watchman, or the people going by. And so the thieves stay away. They are afraid to go into a shop where the gas is burning. This shows us that there is safety in light. And Jesus may well be called "the Light of the world," because He brings salvation wherever He comes. And salvation means safety. When we learn to know Him, and trust in Him, we are safe (Proverbs 18:10; Psalm 91:4; Matthew 23:37). But He does this for all who love Him. When we learn to know Him and trust Him, it is just as if a beam of light had shined down on our path to show us the way to a safe hiding place.
(Richard Newton, D. D.)
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
1. There can be no doubt, "shall by no means walk," etc.
2. There can be no limit, "he that followeth."
3. There can be no halting, "he that followeth." The light ever points the way; it is he who day by day follows it who cannot miss the way. Perception of truth attends its practice. The true journey of this life is here presented as a constant activity; in John 7:37 the source of this action is found in a constant receptivity.
I. CONCENTRATION. He came for one great end — the glory of God and the good of man — and from that He never turned His eye. It was a life with one grand master idea; and that is what every life requires. Few lives are dedicated to one object which satisfies our aspirations. Give your life a goal, a worthy one, the one Christ had. Without this your life will be weak, desultory, wasted.
II. HUMILITY. From first to last it was a descent — from heaven to the grave — yet all the while it was a constant ascent. The secret of men's want of peace, influence, and power, is that they do not go low enough. Follow Christ in His continual self-abasement.
III. SYMPATHY. This was intense. He threw Himself into every heart, every circumstance. That sympathy was the key of His influence and the basis of His power. Follow that. Live less in your own narrow and selfish circle; go out into the larger sphere of other people's hearts.
IV. LABOUR. Christ never played with life. From early morning to late evening, in private and public, physically and mentally, Christ worked, not as a duty merely, but as a privilege. None can be said to live indeed who do not work, like Him, for God and man.
V. LOVE. Life and love with Christ were one and the same — from him who lay upon His bosom to His very murderers — all were the objects of His love. What we have to do is to put more love into life, not dreamy love, the love that is only felt, but is silent and inactive, but love that shows and sacrifices itself, in the home, church, business, all life. Conclusion: Wherever two ways meet, and you cannot tell which to take, ask yourself honestly, "Which would the Master take?"
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)1. Every promise has its condition. Here light is the promise; following is the condition.
2. The promise exactly meets our need. In every point life wants brightness — more light — the mind clearness, the will definiteness, the path guidance, the heart joy, the hope vividness.
3. All nature teaches the essential union between "light" and "life." Take away light and all creation pines. Therefore "light" was the first creation because necessary to all else. And as at the beginning so at the end. "No night there."
4. Following Christ gives the light of life. The measure of the light we receive will depend on the nearness of the following. All who follow Christ will catch some rays; but only those who keep very close may claim the promise in its fulness. The secret of this is that Christ Himself, not His doctrines, is the fountain of life and light; and note that the rays which are in Christ attract as much as they emit — draw the follower while they cheer and vivify him — just, in fact, as the sun acts on the tangible system, and is at once its magnet and its light.
5. Remember that there are latent beauties in everything. What they need is some ray to bring out to view the hidden grace and delicate colours. But how does following Christ bring this light to life?
I. THE IMITATION OF CHRIST BRINGS LIGHT TO THE PRACTICAL LIFE. We have but to copy the great Pattern and this alone would make the path so clear that we should never be left in the dark as to what we ought to do.
II. FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST BRINGS LIGHT TO THE INTELLECTUAL LIFE. Persons who become more religious become more intelligent. Minds naturally weak and dull are made tolerably clear by the simple power of their piety. It may be through the habit of concentration of thought on the beauty of Christ, through the tendency of the Christian life to disencumber the intellect from the carnal hindrances and obscurity of sin; from the power of Christ's Spirit; but in some way the process is sure.
III. LOVING CHRIST BRINGS LIFE TO THE EMOTIONAL LIFE. There is a talent in love, and love to Christ clears it of imperfection and strengthens it. He who follows Christ follows a path which is all love, and this love exercises and refines all the other affections, and directs them towards their true objects.
IV. FAITH IN CHRIST BRINGS LIGHT TO THE RELIGIOUS LIFE. How many real Christians are in darkness because of the imperfection of their faith! This only can bring the consciousness of pardon and acceptance, make hope bright, and kindle joy, and this consciousness, etc., will be in proportion to the quantity and quality of faith.
V. COMPANIONSHIP WITH CHRIST WILL BRING LIGHT TO THE LIFE OF HEAVEN. "The Lamb is the light thereof." "In Thy light shall we see light."
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
Clerical Library.Thomas a Kempis, shut in the monastery of St. Agnes, in the fifteenth century, began his immortal treatise "On the imitation of Christ" with the sentence, "He that keepeth My words shall not walk in darkness, saith the Lord." And according to his faith was it unto him. In the superstitious darkness of that day, leading an obscure life, celebrated for his skill and diligence in copying pious books, Kempis did not walk in darkness. His devout book shows that he walked in light; and the Father, who sees in secret, set the candle upon a candlestick, so that the light of the German monk's meditations has enlightened the hearts of men in every nation of Christendom unto this day. It was in Bedford gaol, with no hope of release, that John Bunyan drew that noble portrait of the brave Christian, who kept heart in the Shadow of Death, and overthrew Apollyon; and there he had that vision of the Delectable Mountains. No circumstances can darken the soul of him who walks in the light.
(H. C. Trumbull, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
(H. B. Hooker.)
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