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and the Lord's eyes are looking on us! How we should cleanse ourselves and keep ourselves from every evil thing!—How humble should we be; how devoted, and how earnest in our Master's cause. How watchful against everything that can be offensive in his sight, and how faithful and courageous and steadfast in doing his will!
We need not be told to stimulate us in the warfare to which we have been called, that the centuries are looking down upon us, or that the eyes of the world are turned towards us. A mightier thought than was ever invoked on battle-fields to inflame the ardor of men rushing to any carnal strife, should rouse and animate our souls. Jesus is here, and the eyes of Jesus are beholding us!
We are indeed a spectacle with angels and with men, but this is little in comparison with the fact that we are living and acting day by day, under the eyes of him who loved us and gave himself for us, and who so soon shall sit in judgment on our works. Oh let us carry this word of Jesus-Lo, I am with you, wherever we go, whatever we do. At home, abroad, preaching, praying, giving, counselling together, toiling any where, any hour for the advancement of the Redeemer's cause, let it ring upon our ears and penetrate our hearts. Lo, I am with you. Let it strengthen our courage, let it inflame our zeal, and constrain all the affections of our souls, until that blessed day shall come when, having been with us on earth, and found us faithful, he shall admit us to be with him, and behold his glory in his kingdom.
BY REV. RUFUS W. CLARK,
CHRISTIANS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
TRUTH from the lips of the Saviour comes decorated with all the beauties of nature. His teachings are never dry, arrogant or scholastic. He does not speak merely for effect, does not gratify idle curiosity, does not seize great occasions, for all occasions or opportunities for imparting instruction are great, whether one person or a thousand persons are present. Truth flows from him as the pure stream flows from the fountain, winding around the
hills, through quiet valleys, and over the extended plain. The light of nature and the light of revelation seem to meet and blond in the person of Jesus. His doctrines have floated down to us over the stream of time, embodied in images, similes and parables of exquisite beauty. The morning light, the evening sky, the fowls of the air, grass of the field, lilies of the valley, mountain summits, vineyards, pools, gardens, are the decorations of his theology, the alphabet of his instructions. His teachings, too, are baptized in the element of sympathy. They are alive with affection. He speaks from the heart to the heart. Hence he is adapted not to a select few, but to all classes, climes and ages. The schools of philosophy and the humble peasant, the prince upon his throne and the inmate of the cottage alike sit at his feet. He holds no monopoly of learning, creates no aristocracy. acknowledges no privileged classes. The dividing wall between Jew and Gentile he breaks down. The arrogance of a haughty priesthood he spurns and tramples under foot. The icy framework of formalism he shatters into a thousand pieces. False religions are in his sight whited sepulchres. Hypocrisy is his detestation. His words are revolutionary. His doctrines are more potent than empires, have survived empires, will make of the whole earth one vast empire.
He so speaks, too, that while addressing his disciples, he seems to be addressing us. The lapse of eighteen centuries does not detract one iota from the freshness and power of his words. What he meant for those who listened with the outward ear, he meant for all his disciples of every age and country. And succeeding generations will hear his words, will pass them from one to another, until they strike the generation that will, under the pressure of the past, execute his purposes and fulfil his prophetic utterances.
In defining the position, duties and responsibilities of his disciples, Christ uses various images, among which one of the most appropriate and beautiful is that which we have selected for our text. This Christian is denominated the light of the world. Let us trace the analogy.
In the first place, light exists not for itself, but for beings endowed with the power of vision. Its mission is one of pure benevolence. It is one of the most beautiful emblems of benevolence that exists; for it lives for all mankind, exerts its power for all sentient beings, shines upon all worlds, upon mountains, hills, valleys and plains. It paints every object with beauty, spreads over the universe pictures and scenery of exquisite loveliness. It is the royal artist, commissioned by the great King to adorn his palace, grounds, empire. The commission it holds, bears the royal signet. Of all the physical elements there is none that so awakens my curiosity and enthusiasm as light. Its nature philosophers cannot describe to me. Some say that it consists of
minute, luminous particles. Others speak of it as the product of undulations in the atmosphere, or in the subtle ether supposed to pervade all space. It is as full of mystery as of beauty, and the mystery increases as I endeavor to trace my consciousness of the element. We say that the light falls upon the pupil of the eye, thence travels along the nerve of light and reaches the brain, the seat of consciousness. Then that which seems to be around me, is really within me. The stars, that appear to be in the Heavens, are luminous spots upon my brain. The landscape is a series of minute pictures hung in the chambers of the soul. All that we call vision is only a process of daguerreotyping. The atmosphere is full of these floating images, and we catch them on the nerve of light, as they are caught upon the plate of the daguerreotypist. Multiply the plates to any extent, and you catch an equal number of these fugitive images. Multiply the spectators to any extent, and the vision of each is a faithful plate, and memory gives permanency to the impression. I do not wonder that pagans, without a knowledge of the author of light, have worshipped the sun. If there is a possible excuse for any idolatry, there is excuse for this.
But though light is not a deity, nor a conscious agent, yet it seems almost to have a moral nature, or at least a moral influence. It is a promoter of virtue, as darkness is the promoter of vice. Whether under ordinary circumstances those living on the sunny side of a street are more virtuous than those living on the shady side, we will leave for neighbors to decide. But it is a well established fact, that in dim, poorly lighted and ventilated apartments, there are the seeds of vice. From such come the materials for New York mobs, midnight incendiaries, thieves and assassins.
Light, too, though not inspired, is the revealer of natural religion. It renders visible the objects that teach us and all mankind the invisible attributes of the Deity. It is the flame that perpetually burns upon the altar of natural religion, burns to light the nations in the pathway to happiness and glory. And here the analogy to the Christian is marked and apparent. The Christian, like the light, exists not for himself. The very essence of Christianity is doing good to others. Its law is the law of benevolence. The unchristian heart is bound up in selfishness. Wealth and honors are sought for personal gratification. The plans, pursuits, toils of life, all revolve around one common centre. The doors of the mind are opened only to guests that bring gifts to lay upon the altar of self. Approach such a man, and before he will look upon you, he must put on the spectacles of a sordid, exclusive, monopolising self-interest. If he can make anything out of you, use you or your friends for any private ends, he will assume the garb of friendship, be polite, show attention. If you cannot contribute to him; if there are no points where you and his selfishness touch, then you are no more to him than a block or
To contribute to your happiness he would not so much as lift a finger. Were your life in danger, perhaps he might start; but he would be moved as much by a desire to save his own reputation as your life. You have met with such persons in your business transactions. I have met with such men who impart no more light than comes from the dim phosphoresence on the dry wood of a rotten tree. A thousand of them, put together, are not equal even to one candle, and that hid under a bushel.
Then, there is another class, referred to by the inspired writer when he says, "The way of the wicked is as darkness." Their vices, crimes, infidelity, atheism, constitute the world's night, often a night without a single star visible. Such men are the clouds that overshadow the nations, the fog that rises up, and obscures the landscape, and hides all objects of beauty and sublimity. They constitute the moral pestilence that walketh in darkness. They serve to keep alive the principle of moral evil. If they have any light, it is only such as the midnight thief carries in a dark lantern.
Now Christianity enters the soul to dissipate this darkness, to renovate the moral faculties, to render the whole soul luminous with virtue and holiness, that it may shine. "The entrance of thy word," says the Psalmist, "giveth light." Selfishness is dethroned, and benevolence occupies the seat of power. The converted, illumined soul, lives not for itself, but for others. It has risen from the low marsh of sordid desire and base selfishness, and ascended towards the heavens where it can be seen.
And the amount of light that a Christian sheds around him is a fair criterion of the amount of genuine religion in the soul. If the flame is there, its rays will be seen, and it is one's duty not only to let his light shine, but to hold up the torch of a holy influence, that its light may be seen as far as possible. Too many shed simply a reflected light. They are more like the moon than the sun. How should we get along with our business, with study, with the crops, if we had only moon-light? How rapidly will the gospel progress among the nations if there is only moon-light shed from tle church?
Some persons occasionally appear very brilliant. They will attract attention as the fire-works on the Fourth of July. But who would think of lighting the world by pyrotechnic exhibitions? Were this our sole reliance for light, what pyrotechnist would take the contract? The necessities of the moral world are precisely those of the physical world. To roll the moral darkness from the earth, the sun, the church must shine. It must shine from an elevated position, encircling the nations with its brilliancy and splendor.
In the next place, the analogy between light and the Christian holds in respect to purity. Of all the natural elements what can compare with the light for purity. Water, air and other elements
upon which life depends, may become impure; but who ever heard of impure light? It may become dim, may gradually fade away, but the quality remains unchanged. Though the light shines upon all objects, upon the diamond and carrion, upon the garden of roses and the marshy fen, still it retains its purity. It does not in the least partake of the nature of the objects upon which it shines. Indeed, from the very character of its office, light must be pure: for how else could it render visible the material objects by which we are surrounded. Were the ocean perfectly pure and transparent, all the objects at its bottom, aquatic plants, coral formations, as well as the fishes that play in its waters, might be clearly seen. But the least impurity gives to a large body of water, where the depth is great, the appearance of an opaque substance. The ocean of light, however in which the earth is bathed, is not simply transparent, but is the very essence of purity. And it seems to struggle to impart its purity to every object upon which it rests. It paints the distant landscape in pure and attractive colors. It tips each wave with golden rays, and strews the ruffled lake with sparkling diamonds. If the lake is at rest it makes it a mirror, reflecting the shore, the heavens, clouds, birds. Even the particles of dust that arise and float in its beams, are converted into minute stars.
Equally is purity the essence of the Christian heart, the substance of the moral light that emanates from a holy example. It cannot be counterfeited, any more than the earth can be lighted by a false sun in the heavens. A sham Christian is as impossible as a sham Universe. How is the law of gravitation to act upon the mere semblance of planets? How can the sun keep up the appearance of shining, if there is no real fire in the orb? Hypocrisy may accomplish its ends for a season, but in the long run it is sure to reveal itself. It will come out in the countenance, in the discovered motive, in the private transaction. Everything is against it, in nature, in providence, in the circumstances of daily life. A thousand vigilant police are on its track. It is with this as with vice. A forcible writer says: "The league between virtue and nature engages all things to assume a hostile front to vice. The beautiful laws and substances of the world persecute and whip the traitor. He finds that things are arranged for truth and benefit, but there is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge, squirrel and mole. You cannot recall the spoken word, you cannot wipe out the foot-track, you cannot draw up the ladder, so as to leave no inlet or clue. Some revealing circumstance always transpires. The laws and substances of nature-water, snow, wind, gravitation-become penalties to the thief." So with the false in any department or profession. If the character is only a shell or an appearance, i will in the end pass for only what it is worth. If there is a lie i