Notes of a Gospel Address on John 9:1-7, 35-41
There is a great deal said about light in scripture. You get it everywhere through Old and New Testament, but possibly more in John’s writings than anywhere else. To have even natural light, the light of the sun, is a great mercy from God. A blind man has usually the sympathy of his fellow men, because it is sorrowful to have to go through the world without a ray of light to guide our steps, and enable us to behold the faces of our dear ones, or the beauties of the creation around us. Light is not only useful, but cheering and gratifying to the heart. To be without it is indeed to be both dark and lonely. It is very wonderful and indescribable. We cannot tell what it is, nor how it acts upon us, but we know that it illuminates all our surroundings, gladdens our eyes, and after the cold and the darkness it puts new life and vigour into the very marrow of our bones. We cannot see it, but we can see by it. We are never uncertain as to the possession of it. If we have light, we do not need anyone to come and assure us about the possession of it; we know we have it, and all the world could not make us think otherwise. We have the witness in ourselves, and need no other testimony.
But the light I wish to speak to you about is not the light of the sun, however interesting the subject may be, but the light of God; that which illuminates the dark, dead, degraded heart of man, quickens the soul into life, and enables the creature to enjoy his Creator revealed in infinite and eternal love. This is the light that came into the world in the Person of the Son of God, and which, like the sun in the heavens, shines for the enlightenment and blessing of every human being. But as in things natural, so in things spiritual, light may shine in all its brilliancy and power, and yet there may be some who get no benefit from its beams, but remain, in spite of its shining, still in darkness. The light of the sun is valueless to the blind, for if light is to be received and enjoyed, sight is needed.
Now God was declared in Christ. He says, “I am the light of the world.” No other could have brought that light but He. The one who would bring the knowledge of God to others, must have that knowledge himself. Men may not think so, and they do not think a revelation necessary, but who could find out God by searching? God left the world to its own wisdom for four thousand years, and by its wisdom it knew not God; nor indeed does it to this day. The truth is, the more men are enlightened by the wisdom of the world, the more God is given up. At one time His power and divinity were known as creation revealed it, but from this knowledge men quickly departed; and today, where the true light which came into the world in Christ is rejected, men are not sure if there be a God at all.
The wisdom of the world does not only come short of the knowledge of God, it leads the heart of man away from Him. It goes on the ground of the competency of the human mind to find out the Creator. It admits the darkness in which men are, but assumes that man is competent to drive out the darkness, without any revelation from God, other than that which is stored up in the things that are made. There is also, added to this, pride of heart, an innate aversion in his disposition to have to do with God. He is naturally lawless and self-reliant, and desirous of being himself a god, is hostile to the revelation of God, because it puts him in the place of a mere creature, and that a sinful one, responsible to the true God, who is righteous, holy and Almighty, and to whom he must render an account of all his actions.
This makes the light disagreeable to him. It wakes up his conscience, brings before him the day of manifestation; recalls to his mind his life of truancy from God, his atheistical ways, his love of self, his uncleanness, his folly, disobedience and dissoluteness; puts God in a new, but true, light before him; it condemns his lust and pride and worldliness; it puts him in his rightful place as a poor devil-deceived, sinful, degraded object, a good-for-nothing child of wrath; and this he cannot do with, therefore he turns away from its searching beams. “This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). Men preferred the darkness to the light. The light was hated.
Thus the light which had been given of God, to drive the darkness out of the world, failed in its object. The darkness remained, and the light became hated and persecuted, and every effort of the world, since the light visited it in the Son of God, has been to drive out that light, so that the darkness may be undisturbed,
By light everything is seen just as it really is; and however painful it may be to be undeceived, and to come to the discovery of our deplorable condition, the disclosure is of infinite and unspeakable value to us, because the true light lets me see, not only what I am, but what God is. In the past dispensations there was but a faint flicker of light, and even men of God saw things but in a very hazy way. That man in his nature was worthless and lost was not known, because this can only be seen in the clear light of God; and until the advent of Christ, the Son of God, into the world, no man had seen God at any time (John 1:18). If I am to see things in their true condition, I must see them in their relation to God; and if I see everything in its disposition toward Him, I see it as it is; I am not deceived about anything. But if I am to have true thoughts as regards myself, or anything else, I must first of all have some little knowledge of God; and if I am to have this, God must desire me to have it, for I am dependent upon His goodness to come out in the revelation of Himself, for if He finds no way of reaching me, I must perish in the cold and darkness, for I could never find any way of reaching Him.
I could understand some one here tonight saying, “If this be so, what about the poor benighted heathen?” I can only say that I do not think God ever left Himself without witness. We are told He does good, gives rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, and fills men’s hearts with food and gladness; and that He gives to all life and breath and all things; and all this that if haply they might feel after Him and find Him, for He is not far from any one of us (Acts 17). He does not tell us that any poor heathen ever, like a blind man groping about in the dark, did feel after God, but He lets us know, that if this did not take place, it was only on account of the inveterate enmity of the human heart to God; for by the abundant expression of His goodness He was enticing him to do so. Man naturally thinks God is hard, austere and exacting, but even by His providence He convicts all of the wickedness and wilfulness of these thoughts. He is kind to the unthankful and to the unholy.
Everything is accomplished by light, if any man is to be turned to God, only light can turn him. The Psalmist says, O send out thy light and thy truth: let THEM lead me; let THEM bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles (Ps. 43:3). The light and truth of God will conduct the soul to Him, but He must send them forth.
Jesus was both the light and truth of God. He was the light of the world. He was here for the Jew as well as for the Gentile. He was here that all might be saved, and if a man is saved, it is by light he is saved, that is, by the knowledge of God. You want salvation from your sins, from the fear of death and man and Satan, from the baneful influences of the world; and what is to save you from these enemies but the light of the knowledge of God?
Paul was sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes, to give them light. What was the object of it? It was that they might turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God. His light and truth go out to lead benighted souls to Himself, that they may be blest.
But this light because it is the revelation of God exposes all that man is, and the proud heart of man rebels against it: In chapter 8 the Pharisees are exposed, and seen to be no better than the woman whom they would have stoned. This they cannot bear. They had gloried in the notion that they were righteous, and such as this wretched adulteress they despised and condemned. But the true light was there in Jesus, and it His presence the secrets of their hearts were made manifest, and instead of bowing to the truth, and welcoming the grace that was there for all in the same person, their vanity was wounded, and without a word of confession or defence they slink out from the glory of that light, into the darkness that was more congenial to them. Their behaviour with regard to the poor transgressor, though it had the appearance of zeal for righteousness, had its source in darkness and evil. This was brought home to their consciences, and they hated the heavenly radiance that made this known to them, though it came to them in the grace of God. Had they only submitted to the searchings of God, they would have learned those searchings to be the searchings of unfathomable love.
I ask you here tonight, do you know anything of this light? Do you know what it is to be under its powerful beams? How good it is to be exposed, and to feel that you are known perfectly, and that the One who has searched you, and, knows you, is the One who loves you perfectly! This is blessed beyond all thought.
In this chapter we find a poor blind beggar in the presence of the Light of the world. He is conscious of his blindness, and all he desires is ability to enjoy the light that God has graciously given to man. His eyes were insensible to the light of the sun. The light was there placed high in the heavens for the blessing of men; there was no tax upon it; it was given to one and all freely by a beneficent Creator. It was no fault of the sun that this man walked in darkness; if there was fault anywhere, it lay in the man himself; his eyes refused to admit the light.
This man’s physical condition sets before us in figure the condition in which all men are spiritually. The light was there in Christ, but what good was it to men who refused to believe in it? Indeed it made such more blind than ever. Jesus says, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see, and that they which see might be made blind.” The leaders among the Jews are those described as “they which see.” These were made blind. They professed that they knew God, but when presented to them in Jesus they knew him not; and by taking the ground of those qualified to judge what was of God, they became more than ever confirmed in their blindness; for what hope can there be of those who set themselves up as competent to judge everything that comes before them, and yet reject the only light there is. In chapter 8 we see this take place, those who see are made blind.
In chapter 9 we have one who sees not, and who is in the confession of his blindness. Light was the thing he needed, and yet every day through all his long life of darkness, the bright orb of day had scattered with lavish kindness its glory upon his path, but it had been lavished all in vain as far as he was concerned; it was no benefit to him. He had no power to take in the light. How very sad! And yet the blindness of some here tonight may be deeper and more to be mourned over than his. He could not take in the light of the sun; you may not be able to take in the light of God.
Perhaps some one present may say, “I hardly know what you mean. I have never done anything very wicked. It is true, I may not be as religious as some people, but my practical life may be as faultless as theirs,” My dear sir, I am not in the least referring to your religiousness, or your practical life, one way or another. I am speaking of the light of God, and how you have been affected by it. I am speaking of that which Jesus brought into this world, what He Himself was in this world, God manifest in the flesh, and I ask you what it has all been to you. Have that kindness and love that shone for man in the life, and above all, in the death of Jesus, reached your poor, cold, dead, sinful heart, and warmed it into life and righteousness, or are you yet unconscious of that great love that has been manifested at such infinite cost? Can you say you have known and believed that love? How sorrowful that you should be in the darkness when the true light is now shining!
This man was a poor blind beggar. He had no light, neither had he any resources in himself.
This is so like man spiritually. He may be endowed with great natural abilities, but what is he without the knowledge of God? He may have a great store of the wisdom of this world; he may make himself a name in this godless scene; but when he stiffens in death, his soul shall pass out into eternal midnight. He would not have the true light, and the mists of darkness must enshroud him forever; for if a man rejects the only light God has given, he must be given up to the gloom he delighted in.
The disciples ask Jesus, “Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” They were all wrong about the whole matter. In this day of grace, the question is not so much your sins, as the light of God in Christ. The question of your sins will come up in the day of judgment, if you reject the grace of God now, but the way God is pleased to look at you is this: He says, as it were, “You will do very well for Me, just as you are; I will make manifest My works in you.” The light of God has come into the world in the Person of Christ, and the whole question is as to whether you will receive or reject that light. In Christ God proposes entirely new terms to man. He speaks in grace to all. He has placed a Saviour at His right hand for all men. This is how His kindness and love have come to light. He came forth from the Father. He is the sent One of God. He died for all, that all might be saved. He made His soul an offering for sin, that your soul might enjoy salvation. He was put to grief, that you might be made glad forever. In the death and resurrection of Christ, God is showing Himself to you, that you might know Him. It is by Christ you must have your eyes opened, if they ever are to be opened. No one could give sight to the blind but Himself: “Since the beginning of the world was it not heard that any man opened the eyes of one that was born blind?” It is by Him God would open your eyes. By Him God would bring heavenly light into your soul. If you believe that God sent Jesus, you see God in His true light. You learn how He has been for you when you were against yourself, when the devil was against you, when the world and sin were against you. Do you not see God to be your true Friend? Has not Jesus come from heaven to make you know this? Has He not become a man? Has He not suffered the judgment that lay upon man? Did He not die and rise again? And who sent Him? God sent Him. Who put Him to grief? Who made Him a sin offering? Who laid upon Him the iniquity of us all? Who raised Him from the dead and exalted Him, and gave Him glory? God did all this in His fathomless grace and love to the souls of men.
See how He opened this man’s eyes. He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and anointed his eyes. I want you to see, first of all, how Christ was humbled, how He went down into death. This is the clay put upon the eyes, and if you get no more than this, better for you had you never known it. Look at the Jews with the clay on their eyes; how irritated! How maddened! How blinded! They would have stoned Him. But I want you to notice one thing more. This man with the clay upon his eyes was sent to the pool of Siloam to wash therein. He went and washed, and came seeing. Siloam means sent. Now I want you to believe that if Christ was humbled, if He suffered on the cross, if He died and was buried, God sent Him. This is where the heart of God is seen and known. “God commendeth His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is how God has expressed His love. If there was a necessity that Christ should be crucified for us, as most surely there was, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
It is not now God giving rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, and the like, seeking by these things to make men believe in His goodness. No, He has sent His Son to die for us, as the expression of His grace and love to all. And not only to die for us, for He has raised Him from the dead, that we may have salvation in Him.
If you get the light of God, it will be the beginning of unspeakable joy and happiness to you, as far as your relations with God are concerned; but in the world you shall have tribulation. This man had many friends and helpers while he walked in darkness, but when he had to do with Christ, all forsook him. If he had committed theft, or murder, he would have found some to compassionate him, and his parents would not have deserted him. It might have been trying to them, but they would have stood by him to the finish. But if he will have to do with Jesus, he must look out for himself. His parents suddenly find out he is of age, and entitled to answer for himself, and the Pharisees cast him out of the synagogue. He is, in a sense, more lonely now than ever he was before; but he is learning what the world is, and what man is in his darkness and unbelief. He is getting acquainted with the state of the heart of man God-ward. The venom of the fleshly mind is displaying itself before him and for Christ’s sake he is the object of attack. He is prepared now for greater light.
Jesus finds him, and says to him, “Dost thou believe on the Son of God?” What a question! The Son of God! Who else could have brought the light of God into this dark world? What other being in the universe could have brought the secrets of the heart of God to you and me? “I that speak unto thee am He.” O the glory of that revelation! O the greatness of that Person! The Son of God. And that poor, rejected, forsaken object of His mercy is in the dust before Him, where I desire to see every soul in this hall tonight.
How good it is to have the light of the knowledge of God! It is the only thing worth pursuing after. You may be rich, or you may be poor; you may be the most noble, or the most humble, but what has been the value of your vain life, if you pass out of this world without the knowledge of God?
Do not reject this light, I beseech you. Do you believe that by Jesus God was telling you all that was in His heart for you? Do you believe God sent Him to be the propitiation for our sins? Do you believe that Jesus is God’s word to you, whereby you may know His grace and love to you, and that He may have the confidence of your heart? May all here believe in that true light.