The Bright Shining of a Candle

"The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness. If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, AS WHEN THE BRIGHT SHINING OF A CANDLE DOTH GIVE THEE LIGHT" (Luke 11:34-36).

What sort of an eye have you got? I ask you to consider the question well and face it fairly. It is certainly plain from these solemn words of the Lord that a very great deal depends upon the answer to the question; everything in fact. It is plain also that there are two sorts of eye, and not three: first the single eye, which means a good eye that can bear the light, or an evil eye, an eye that shrinks from the light, that cannot bear it. When David said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps. 139:23-24), he spoke as a man who had a single eye, that did not shrink from the light; when those Scribes and Pharisees went one by one from the presence of the Lord, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last (John 8), they showed how men act who have the evil eye, the eye that cannot endure the light.

Now let us consider this matter, being assured that the whole secret of free and vigorous Christian living lies in it. The light is not something that we possess in ourselves, it does not exist in the eye. The eye is the organ that admits the light from without, and it must be a good and sound eye that does not shrink from the light if the light is to be of any use to us. The thing of first importance is the light, the candle, of which the previous verse speaks; the light and the eye go together, we must not divorce the one from the other, for the Lord has joined them together, and what the Lord Jesus has joined together let no man put asunder. First the light and then the eye. He said, "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light." The candle is first lighted, then everything depends upon the eye, whether it can bear the light of it or not. What is the light? No, we will not put it that way for we want to make an appeal to the heart as well as the conscience. We ask, WHO IS THE LIGHT? for it is a Person. The Light, the Candle that has been lighted for us by God's own hand is the Lord Himself, our Saviour. It is Himself of whom He spoke in the parable. "I am the light of the world," said He, on another occasion. "He is the bright shining of a candle that doth give thee light," and since He has come every man is tested by Him. It is made manifest by His coming into the world whether our eye is good or evil.

This is a great theme and we must pursue it, for light is good. How those great men of Old Testament times longed for it! When Moses cried, "Show me Thy glory," he was yearning for the light, and when David prayed "O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go to the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy" — he was praying for the light, but I do not suppose that he knew how his prayer would be answered, or that God's light and truth would come forth in the person of God's beloved Son, but so it was, for He was the true Light that coming into the world shineth for every man (John 1:9, N.Tr.), and He is the truth for all those whose eye admits the light.

But let us work back a little further in our Scripture, that we may understand it better, and miss nothing of its solemn meaning to us. It was an evil generation to which the Lord came and in which the light shone (v. 29), its eye could not endure the light, it did not perceive that He was the light, so it asked for a sign. The light was shining, yet it asked for light, for that is what a sign meant, something that would make plain to them who the Lord was, and leave them in no doubt about it. It was as though a man came into a room at midnight in which a candle shone brightly and declared that he must have a sign, some definite proof that it was a candle. But why were they like that? The light that shone made their evil eye to smart and they did not like it, they wanted something that would make them comfortable in their sins, something that would suit themselves and not God; their way not His, their will not His. So they rejected the light that shone so brightly and showed them how evil they were, and just so far as that disposition lurks in the heart of any of us and we yield to it, so far have we the evil eye, an eye that does not want the light.

The Lord quotes the cases of the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba as condemning that generation. Jonas carried light — a partial glimmer it was — to the great, pagan city of Nineveh. That light shone in the dense darkness of their idolatry and sin, and lo, they admitted it to their hearts. They had the single or good eye; the light exposed their corruption and sin, they acknowledged it, and repented of it at the preaching of Jonas. They were honest with God and He was gracious with them. He never turned His face away from a man who bowed before Him in true self-judgment, in repentance. But no man ever did that who had not a sense in his soul that there is forgiveness with God that He may be feared. The light that exposes the sin, reveals the God who can pardon it. But in the men of Nineveh we have the negative side of things, we see in them what the light delivered them from; in the Queen of the South we have the positive side. She came out of the darkness of her native land to the great light that shone in Israel, and no selfishness, no national pride kept her from owning the light that was there in Solomon's wisdom, her eye admitted it and the light illuminated her; every hard question that troubled her vanished as she listened to Solomon, and she was filled with wonder and worship to God, as the story in 1 Kings 10 shows. And I may remark, by the way, that those who have the single eye and admit the light are ever wondering, the light is so marvellous, and the things that they see in it are so great that they must wonder, and while they wonder they grow and worship.

But a greater light than ever shone in Nineveh or Jerusalem is shining now, for a greater than Jonas and Solomon has come, even the Lord Himself. He is the light. Have we seen Him? Do we love Him? He is the great test. Have our eyes admitted the light, and has it searched us and illuminated us, until our whole bodies are full of light, having no part dark?

There are two sides to this wonderful illumination, at least so it seems to me. There is the measure of our blessing in it, and there is the character of our practical living. God's purpose is that the last should be consistent with the first, nothing but this could suit Him. Alas, that we should so often be satisfied with less than this! As to the first, the true light is now shining; happy indeed are all those who have the eye that does not shrink from it. Of old a great light shone at Sinai, but Israel could not bear it, it exposed what they were and condemned them. It showed what God's just demands were, but they neither could meet those demands nor did they desire to do so. Hence we read that Israel could not steadfastly look to the end of it. The light made their eye smart, they could not endure it; the end of it was condemnation, and Moses, who represented it to them, and in whose face the light of it shone, had to put a veil over his face. All this we learn from 2 Corinthians 3. But a greater light is shining in the face of Jesus. God in the fullness of His nature and character is revealed there. The light that will fill the universe of bliss, so that there will be no part dark within the limitless bounds of it, shines now in Jesus' face. Can we look into His face with unveiled face? Yes, for, wonderful fact, that light shines not for our condemnation but for our salvation. The rays of light that shine from Him are life-giving, not death-dealing, and if we look we live, and into our hearts the light shines to give the knowledge of God, and "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." We have the light of life and walk no more in darkness; and what a treasure this is!

The light condemns what we are as men in the flesh and brings us to true self-judgment, that Christ may be everything to us — wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We see this illustrated for us in men of olden tines. It was when Job had seen the Lord, when he said, "Now mine eye seeth Thee," that he cast his own righteousness in the dust and said, "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42). And Daniel also beheld the glory of the Lord in a vision, and said, "I saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned into corruption" (Dan. 10). But these men had the single eye, they did not refuse the light, they let it search them and show them what they were and the end was blessing for them both; like the men of Nineveh they owned the truth as to themselves, and the light that showed them themselves also showed them that God was greater than their sin and corruption and was a God of blessing who had a great care for them.

This self-judgment there must be; "I know that in me, that is in my flesh good does not dwell" (Rom. 7, N.Tr.) is the soul's confession when the eye admits the light, but we may also behold the glory of the Lord and discover that the righteousness that we do not possess in ourselves is in Christ for us, and is ministered to us from the glory into which He has gone, and that we become the righteousness of God in Him, for He was made sin for us with this end in view. Those who have admitted the light, and been searched by it, have ceased from the weary and useless struggle to be what they feel they ought to be, they have given up the disappointing search for goodness in the rubbish of their own lives and they have turned the eye to Christ. They have changed ashes for beauty and mourning for the oil of gladness. They have had the ashes and the mourning of repentance and self-judgment, for the light has shown them what they are, and they have been honest with God about it, but they have also seen the glory of the Lord who is greater than Solomon, and in Him their need is met, by Him their hearts are filled.

So the light reveals the blessing and the measure of it, but what then? Why, it must become also the measure of our practical living. We are glad to have seen with the eye of faith the great salvation that is in Christ for us, and the perfect righteousness that is ours in Him, but God would have us consistent with that in our lives and work, and for this we must admit the light. How often we would cling to our own way, how often we would like to hide something of self in our bosoms, some secret ambition, some hope that in some future and favourable time we might attain to something that our hearts have desired and which we feel the light condemns now. We cannot be comfortable in the light when such is the case, and we need the warning, "Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness."

God must have reality, He would have us to be honest with Him at all times and about everything, and we are that as Christ is our standard. If I have an eye for my own gratification and pleasure it will not bear the light and is so far evil, for that is self, and no man can serve two masters. The light exposes self and selfishness and shows us Christ instead, and when we are right and the eye is single, the test is, not is this right or that, but is it Christ. What a wonderful thing it must be to have the whole body full of light, having no part dark, all clear and open and honest before God, and so a conscience void of offence before men. It was so with Paul when he said, "For me to live is Christ." Then the bright shining of the Candle gave him light, and so it may be with us, and if so ours will be the path of the just that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. God grant that we may so love the light and rejoice in it that we may ever say, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."