Chapter 1.

Heavenly Light in a Christian Household.

Read Ephesians 1 and Colossians 3.

The Christian household, in the true sense of the word, has, like the house of every Israelite in Goshen (during those terrible days of the increasing judgments of God upon Egypt) two essential and characteristic qualities, that distinguish it from every house of an "Egyptian." First — it is under the shelter of the Blood of the Lamb; and secondly, it is filled with heavenly light.* Only it is in the reverse order to that of the Israelites in Goshen, where the light in their dwellings (from a cause apparent enough) preceded the sprinkling with the blood. With the Christian family it is the reverse. The sprinkling of blood (by faith in the Blood of Jesus Christ, Heb. 10:22) is the first thing. Then comes the light from glory by the spirit of glory. The passage in 2 Cor. 4:6, (so often misquoted and misunderstood) does not refer to the sprinkling of the blood, but comes, (at least the second half of that verse,) after John 3. It is quite true, that divine light as well as life is at work in the soul, as soon as God begins His work of grace there. But God shining in our hearts is not necessarily, nor is it in practical experience, always simultaneous with His giving the light of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. It is: "Has shined in our hearts, to give, not giving — the light (lit: for the shining forth) of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." — Faith in the incarnate Son of God, — faith in the crucified Son of man, — faith in the risen-One, and faith in the ascended and glorified-One, though it is the same faith and the same object, are often confounded and displaced in a way subversive of the gospel. It is not: light from glory leading life to the cross, but: life, by faith in the crucified and risen-One, receiving through the Spirit, light from the glorified-One. (Eph. 1:13).

{*As to Goshen I need hardly say, that the light in the houses of the Israelites, during those three days of darkness all around, was no natural light of their own provision. Neither fire nor candle could dispel that darkness, for it was judicial, not merely natural, like that produced by a fog. Else the Egyptians would not have failed to make use of it. The light in the houses of the Israelites was heavenly; it came from above, from the Father of lights."}

But my object just now is not doctrinal light, all-important as that is, especially in these latter days, but the light of practical walking in the truth, as it shone in the household of a Stephanas and of "the elect lady." — Now, just as the light that was in the dwelling of every Israelite in Goshen, was, as I said above, not a mere earthly light (such as the light of fire or of a candle), but light from heaven, which shone into every chamber and every corner of the house, and filled not only the house, but the hearts of its inmates with its assuring and cheerful influence, whilst darkness lay upon, and filled the houses and hearts of the Egyptians in Goshen with its awful weight and foretaste of a still greater darkness and judgment to come: so will be the light, shining in a godly Christian family and household. It is heavenly in its origin and character. It has nothing in common with the earthly light of mere natural fairness, kindness and amiability. Most thankful we are to a merciful creator God, for having given to man a conscience (though in consequence of man's fall), i.e. the knowledge of good and evil, right and wrong, and for having implanted in man's heart natural affections, without which life (especially family-life) in this world of sin and sorrow would be unbearable, and far be it from me to utter one single word, that might, even in the remotest way, appear to slight natural affections, often so painfully dormant in many a Christian family, and the absence of which is one of the characteristics of apostasy. — But such an earthly light is no divine, no heavenly light in a Christian sense. All that is divine, is also truly moral, but not everything that is moral is also divine. The sun is a light, but not every light is sunlight. There are heavenly lights, and there are earthly lights. The household of an unconverted family, lit up with the most pleasant and brilliant illumination of natural amiability, contains but earthly light. It does not, nor can it keep out darkness. However amiable, sociable and kind the parents of such a family may be, and let the children be ever so obedient and well behaved, the servants well trained and submissive — it is a godless and Christless household, and no soul has ever been brought to the knowledge of the living God and His Christ by the will-o'-the-wisp of natural family-respectability. On the contrary, many precious souls have been led into the swamps of evil doctrine and infidelity by it, for it is a well-known fact, that Satan, who transforms himself and his ministers into angels of light, always takes care to shrine with the halo of natural respectability and amiability such families, the heads or members of which are infidels or heretics. Such an earthly lurid illusive light is not the heavenly serene pure light, that shines in the true Christian household! It does not keep out the darkness, but only increases and serves it. The Egyptians had no doubt plenty of fuel, lamps and candles in their houses, but that did not exclude the darkness.

In the case of a London fog, when sun and daylight disappear, people have lights of their own in their houses, to keep out the darkness. But these are poor lights that only remind us of darkness. Just so is the light of natural respectability, kindness and amiability, or of human religion, and of natural science, "falsely so called," in an unconverted household. It only makes the Christian, on entering such a house, realise all the more painfully the spiritual darkness, that is, the absence of divine light in such a home. He may pray, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, would shine in their hearts for the shining forth of the knowledge of His glory in the face of Jesus Christ. But his feelings in such a family would much resemble those we should experience in a house during a regular London fog, when sun and daylight have disappeared. The poor light, lit in one or two rooms, whilst the rest of the house lies in darkness, only reminds one of the absence of the heavenly light, and makes one long for its appearance, to extinguish all the rush-lights of man's contrivance, and fill every room in the house with its blessed, and yet freely, because divinely granted presence.

But on the other hand, how sad and solemn, if in a believer's house the light shines dimly, sometimes hardly discernible, or is hidden altogether under the "bushel" or under the "bed," so that darkness prevails. Oh, who can tell the number of precious souls that have been stumbled away from the light of the gospel and of divine truth by the inconsistencies in the families and households of professing Christians! That day will make it manifest, when the Lord will come, "who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts." What an awful weight of responsibility rests upon those who like the evil servant, who buried his talents and whose end was outer darkness, hide the light and thus turn it into darkness! What can, what must be the end of such professors, whose houses are lanterns without light? Will it be the "Father's House" with its "many mansions," resplendent with the light of glory? Can it be that heavenly city, with its streets of pure gold, lit up by the glory of God, and where the Lamb is the light thereof?

But I am convinced of better things of you, beloved, though I speak thus. Only let us remember, in these dark days more than ever, the words of Him, who, as long as He was in the world, was "The light of the world ":

"Ye are the Light of the world. A city, that is set on an hill, cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

But how is it, Beloved, that our domestic life often falls so sadly short of being the expression and reflector of our heavenly relationship? Is it not because we have so little entered, in the power of an ungrieved Spirit, into a fuller and deeper realisation of our heavenly relationships, either from want of sound and solid instruction in the truth, or from our own culpable neglect of prayerful meditation upon that word which is truth?

Let me take a household article for an illustration.

The pendulum of a clock rests upon a pivot above, else it would not move below. Now the pivot, on which it is suspended, is within the clock, invisible; but there above is the starting-point for the visible movement of the pendulum below. If anything is wrong up there (from want of oil, or through rust, etc. the pendulum stops, or moves irregularly, and with a moaning noise, below. It was for this reason that I referred my Christian reader, at the head of this chapter, to the first chapter of the Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians, and the third chapter of his Epistle to the Colossians. You will find, that throughout the epistles of the inspired Apostle, the Holy Ghost takes pains, if I may say so, first of all, to set before the soul the full truth of a settled relationship, resting upon our Blessed Saviour and His work, and as unchangeable and unmoveable, as are Christ and His work. Then, as flowing from it, and in the closest connection with it, comes the responsibility (as to practical walk), becoming such a relationship, and its natural result — if realized by the power of the Spirit. Our God and Father, blessed be His name! has placed us, and all His dear children, even the feeblest babe in Christ, upon divinely solid, everlasting foundations. With Him, the Father and God of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our Father and God, there is "no variableness," nor even a "shadow of turning." The light of the moon changes, and the moon turns; but there is no such thing with the "Father of Lights," nay, not even a shadow of turning.

Or, can that Blessed, Beloved One, at God's right hand, in whom we are accepted, ever change? He is "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and for ever." Or is there any change as to that blessed Spirit, the earnest of our inheritance, by whom we are sealed? He is the eternal Spirit, and "shall abide with us for ever." Or is there any change as to the kingdom to which we belong? It "cannot be moved." Or can the Word of God ever change? When this world, with its lying vanities and vain glories, will have relapsed into nonentity, the Word of God must stand. "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away; but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever."

Thus, as to the certainty, or stability of our relationships, all is safe, safe for ever. In the beginning of Ephesians we have the counsels (and wisdom), the power, and the love, and the grace of God; His divine counsels in unerring wisdom — who can frustrate them? His divine power in resurrection-deliverance — who can resist it? His divine love in giving — who can shut it up or chill it? His divine Grace in forgiving — who dare to confine or impugn it? For that grace is not only divinely sovereign, and divinely rich, but it "reigns through righteousness," the claims of which the Just One, who died for the unjust, to bring us unto God, has fully met upon the Cross. Thus, in the Ephesians, all is eternally safe and settled; and as to our heavenly relationships — because it is all on the the part of God — His counsels, His power, His love, His grace, entirely independent of man, who is "dead in trespasses and sins," and therefore all is perfectly and eternally safe. "For ever Thy Word is settled in heaven."

But, beloved, let us remember well, that it is not the mere certainty and our assurance, by faith, of our heavenly relationships, but the daily realisation of them in the power of the Holy Spirit, that enables us to reflect them in our earthly relations. In the same measure, for instance, as Christian parents fail to "behold" (a word for the eye, not of faith only, but for the "eye of the mind," i.e., the heart) "what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be the children* of God," they will fail to manifest and reflect this love in their earthly relationships towards their children; and just as much, as the christian child has realized its relationships to that blessed "Father and God" — not only as a "dear child" (Eph. 5:1), but as an "obedient child" (1 Peter 1:14) — (a relationship announced to us by the lips of the Blessed Son, after He had procured it for us by His obedience unto death), just as much such a child will, by "Christian" (not merely educational) obedience be a light to all in the house and to the comers in. And so it is with the other relationships, such as husbands and wives, masters and servants. We shall more fully enter upon this when speaking of them. It is just in the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians, where we get our heavenly relationships, our heavenly blessings, and our heavenly position, that our earthly relationships, and our relative duties in them, under grace, are most fully dealt with. And in the same measure, I repeat, as we are at home in our blessings up there, and hold Christ the Head, we shall fill our place in our respective relationships down here. As risen with Christ, we are to seek things above, and they are all summed up in Christ, at the right hand of God, in those opening verses of Col. 3, so full of resurrection and ascension power. A Christian who is not at home in Rom. 8 and in the Ephesians (I do not speak of mere intellectual attainments), will not shine much in a Christian home here below, and if the head of a Christian family, or any other believing member of it, does not know how to behave as the head or a member of his family, he only shows that he does not hold the Head above, nor realize his being a member of Christ. And in the same measure as we realize, what is the meaning of that truth, that we shall be like Christ, for we shall see Him as He is, — it will be seen in the assemblies and in our houses, that we are Christ-like in our daily lives here below, and our light will shine for the glory of God in the "house of the living God," and in our dwellings. We little think how often our "manner of behaviour" at home betrays how little we are at home there above, and how loosely we hold that blessed head at the right hand of God.

{*The word in the original is "children," not "sons." — "Child," expresses the nearness of relationship in affection, "Son," more position and right of a child.}

But before entering more fully upon the Christian family relationships on earth, which are all of them relationships of obedience and love, I would offer a few remarks on those three great divine principles, namely: Order, Obedience, and Love.