The only use we can be, as being in a dark world, is to be light in it. It is important to be clear as to this fact. If I am not manifesting light I am of no use here.
A soul becomes a vessel of light through the shining into it of light. "Because the God who commanded that out of darkness light should shine has shone in our hearts." (2 Cor. 4:6, N.T.) He is speaking in this passage of the preaching of the gospel, which is veiled by the god of this world in the thoughts of the unbeliever. It is clear that light comes by the gospel, but then light abides in the receptive vessel and goes out from it, and no one is a contributor to this scene of darkness but one from whom light goes out.
Now light has shone in "for the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (N.T.) This was God's object in sending in the light, that there might be a shining out of it. You see many cannot preach, and it is not the preaching of the gospel, it is "the shining forth of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It is GOD who has shone in, and HE shines out, but He can only be known as revealed in Christ. "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Christ has maintained THE GLORY OF GOD, where man only seeks the glory of man. The light is "THE GLORY OF GOD." "The glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." (Rev. 21:23.) This light begins to shine here, but it shines exclusively and without obstruction there. "Among whom ye appear as lights in the world." (Phil. 2.) Here the light is seen coming out. Again, "Once were ye darkness, but now light in the Lord: walk as children of light." (Eph. 5:8.)
Light is the vessel itself, and is also in the vessel here for the glory of God. That is the only vessel of light here. You will understand it better it you ponder the Lord's words. He was the vessel of light for God here, and He says, "He that speaketh from himself seeketh his own glory, but he that, seeks the glory of Him that sent him, the same is true, and unrighteousness is not in him." (John 7:18, New Trans.) I am here for my own glory, or I am here for God's - which is it? for we have been sent into this scene just as Christ was sent into it. "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." (John 20.)
I think we shall find that the mainspring of light is love. This was seen in God. Love was and is His nature, and God desires that He may be known to man. "God is love," and to make Himself known He must dispel the darkness in which man is as to Him. This He has done most fully on the cross, but in doing it HE becomes known. He approaches man in the gospel by the Spirit (1 Peter 1:12), and then by the Spirit He makes the heart of the receiver of the gospel His own abode. "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which He hath given to us." (Rom. 5:5.)
If the mainspring of light is, as I think, love, and we have the privilege of being lights here, it is manifest that when love goes light goes. I think that love is the internal principle of light. Light is more what is seen outside, but there must be a sustaining power within. That power, I believe, is love. We are light here just in proportion as we are abiding in love. "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (1 John 4:16.) No one can thus dwell without being a light in this dark scene for God, only the love in question is GOD'S LOVE. As I am kept in it, I am, and without effort (for there is no effort in light itself), a light in the world where all is yet dark.
I come now to the proof of my second point, "When love goes light goes," and I think I can show this satisfactorily to you from Scripture.
In Matthew 25 ALL the virgins went forth to meet the Bridegroom. It was what marked individual saints, I have no doubt, in the early days of Christianity. Jesus was gone, but HE WAS COMING AGAIN! (Compare 1 Thess. 1:10, 2 Thess. 4:16, etc.) The whole of their conduct took its form from this hope. Then the light shone brightly out from them in this dark scene: "So that we [the apostles] have no need to say anything." (1 Thess. 1:8.) So it was also in the early converts at Philippi: "Ye appear as lights in the world," and "We await the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour."
But the world slept on in its night, and when all around is "sleep," our tendency also is to sleep. The virgins all slept, the watching for Him (which would have kept them awake) declined, and the light in the lamps became very dim, They needed trimming, but there was none to do it until love again resumed its sway. "Behold the Bridegroom" is not a word for the intellect, it is a word for the heart. And it sounded, and is still sounding. It awoke the sleeping, who should have been witnesses. "Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps." Each virgin got up, having a light of her own, to attend to. Herein we read the history of the individual soul, and as love was lost, so light disappeared!
Again, in Revelation 1:12-20 we find that a collective company - the Church - was set on earth as seven golden lamps, to sustain a light here for God. What was the first-mentioned germ of defect which obscured this light? It was this, "Thou hast left thy first love." This is the word to Ephesus in Revelation 2:4. It was no somewhat, this, to Him, it was everything. And what was the Church's first love? It was her love to Him. But there was something which came before her love to Him, and which produced it, and that was HIS LOVE! The source of love is not in man, it is in God, and we only love as we have the consciousness of HIS love. "We love Him, because He first loved us." (1 John 4:19.)
The apostle said, "Ye are not straitened in us," and we can say, "We are not straitened in HIM." "He abideth faithful." It is very important to remember this. Do you and do I wish to be a little light for Him amid this dark and heartless world? The way is plain. We must keep ourselves in, and keep in ourselves, the sense of GOD'S LOVE. There is no other way, I think, to manifest light here. "Keep yourselves IN THE LOVE OF GOD, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life." The sense of God's love is surely the best and only light for this dark day. H. C. Anstey.