George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Blindness of Vision
When his eyes were opened, he saw nothing--Act 9:8
It Was When His Eyes Were Opened That He Could See Nothing
Blinded by the flash of light from heaven, the apostle was flung prostrate on the ground. It was then that the Savior said to him, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me." For a little space his eyes were shut, as eyes instinctively shut in self-defense. That flash of light from heaven would have blinded him had it burst on the unguarded eyeball. And then in a moment or two the apostle rose and looked around him and scanned the heavens above him, and when his eyes were opened he saw nothing. Half an hour before he had seen everything: the road, the palms, the gleaming city walls. Now he saw nothing--no human face nor form--no battlement--no cloud upon the sky. And the singular thing is that this loss of vision, this forfeiting of the sweet sight of things, came to him when his eyes were opened.
Now that is a very remarkable conclusion; we are tempted to say it is absurd. It is so different from what we might have expected as a consequence of the opening of the eyes. There was a young man once, in Old Testament times, who was sorely frightened by an Assyrian army. And the prophet, in pity for him, prayed to God, "Lord, open the young man's eyes that he may see." And when the eyes of that young man were opened he saw a sight to make any coward brave, for the mountain was full of the chariots of the Lord That is the fitting consequence of vision. It reveals to us what we never saw before. It shows us in common hearts unlooked-for things and in common scenes an undiscovered glory. But here, on the road to Damascus, and at midday, it is the very opposite which meets us; when his eyes were opened he saw nothing The question is, in our own life' s experience is there anything analogous to that? Is there any opening of the eyes which leaves us with a vision forfeited? That is worthwhile pondering a little.
A Little Knowledge Blinds Us
In the first place, let us think of nature and of all that the world of nature meant to men once. There was a bygone time when nature was alive; when every wood had its dryad or its faun:
Rough satyrs danced, and fauns with cloven heel
From the glad sound would not be absent long
Such was the outlook of man on nature once. It was all haunted by mysterious life, in every spring, in every whispering forest, in every glade where shadows lay and lengthened. The great god Pan was moving with his music where the brooklets and the summer winds were calling, and sometimes he was nearer than they knew. Well, all that of course had had to go. Increase of knowledge has banished it for ever. No school child believes in fairies now. And I suggest, to those who have ears to hear, that there are thousands for whom a little knowledge just means that when their eyes were opened they saw nothing.
When We See the Larger Life, We Become Blind to Little Grievances
Putting the matter in another light, suppose we think of the little frets of life, of the little pinpricks and unkindness which most people experience as they journey. There are folk who brood upon such things as these, until they practically see nothing else. They tend and water all their little grievances till their blossoms would take prizes at a show. And what I have noticed of such folk is this, that when through the mercy of God their eyes are opened, of all these little pinpricks they see nothing Their eyes have been opened to what real suffering is. They were only playing before at being miserable. Their eyes have been opened to that larger life which is always given us in Christ. And the beautiful thing about that life is this, that worries which were overwhelming yesterday, somehow have vanished so that we cannot see them in the love commended on the cross. Every rock and ridge is clear and glistening in the Highland burn when it is low. But when the summer rain falls or the winter snow, then they become invisible. And I have found it so in many a man's life when a new tide of being has possessed him; things that were sharp and hard and hurt him yesterday, somehow have become invisible today. "Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us"--they felt the sting of it and thought that He was unfilial. But when their eyes were opened they saw nothing; that filial ingratitude had vanished. So when we see, many a thing vanishes; many a thing which hurt and fretted us, and met us everywhere, and barred the sunshine out, and silences all the music in the dwelling
Years Dim Our Vision toward Things Once Admired
Does not the same thing often happen also with that opening of the eyes which the years bring? We experience it in many different ways. Here, for instance, is a child who thinks the world of a certain picture. It hangs on the wall of the nursery at home and is perfectly beautiful to him. It is only a rough and inartistic daub--a crude, gaudy, glaring oleograph--but to the child it is a joy forever. Then the years pass, and the little brain is educated, and these two little eyes are taught to see--taught to distinguish what is really beautiful from what is only a travesty of beauty--and then the child comes back to that old oleograph which long ago was a very heaven of gladness, and now that its eyes are opened it sees nothing. We can mark our progress by our growing vision. We can also mark it by our growing blindness. Not only do we see more as the years pass; if we are spending them rightly, we see less--less in certain books we thought the world of and in certain societies we held delightful and in certain characters we thought ideal. How many a madly infatuated girl had had the experience of our text. In spite of the warnings of a mother's love, she insisted on idealizing somebody. And perhaps she married him, and then her eyes were opened in the long dusty highway to Damascus, and when her eyes were opened she saw nothing--nothing of the manhood she had dreamed, nothing of the strength that she had conjured; nothing but selfishness where she had looked for service; nothing but coldness where she had looked for love. May heaven be very merciful to such on the desert-road when the ideal has vanished, for it is always a perilous season on life's journey.
When Your Eyes Are Opened, Old Philosophies Vanish
Then our text, as it seems to me, applies again to many of those messages with which the world is ringing. There are faiths and philosophies which vanish when you see. When the sun is shining on you and the world is beautiful, you go, for instance, to hear a certain preacher. You have never been plunged into the depths yet and have never felt your utter need of Christ. And the man is artistic, or he is intellectual, or he has the fire and passion of the orator, and you feel as if you would never want another message. My brother, if the sun were always shining, it may be that that message would suffice you. But this is a strange, grim world, with lightning flashes and storms that cry havoc and waves that cruelly beat. And when these days come and you feel your need of Christ and of an arm to lean on and a hand to save you, no charm of speech--no intellect nor artistry--can reach and grip and satisfy the soul. You want a power to hold you out of hell. You want a love that goes unto the uttermost. You want a heart on which to lean securely though the whole universe should fall in ruin. And whenever through trial and suffering and sorrow your eyes have been opened to see that, then in the fine artistic preaching you see nothing. Nothing to pluck you from the miry clay. Nothing commensurate with sin and hell. Nothing that can be heard across the battle, like the voice of the trumpet summoning to victory. That is why your old and chastened saints who have suffered and struggled, battled, conquered, fallen, feel sometimes that there is not a word for them in preaching which may be exquisite as music.
When the Eyes of the Disciples Were Opened, They Could Not See Jesus
I want also to say in passing that our text has got another application. It applies to the recognition which we give to men--too late. I think of two, long centuries ago, who were joined by a third as they journeyed to Emmaus. And though He opened the Scriptures to them till their hearts were burning their eyes were holden and they did not know Him. And then they invited Him in to share their evening meal, and in the breaking of the bread their eyes were opened, and they knew Him and He vanished from their sight. When their eyes were opened they saw nothing The One who was all the world to them was gone. There was the cup He had drunk from in their company, and there the couch on which He had reclined. Thou son or daughter, here in this church tonight, with a mother who loves thee with all a mother-love, see that thy recognition of her presence be not a gazing at vacancy like that. Thou takest her as a matter of course this evening Thine eyes are holden; thou dost not recognize. Thou dost not dream what pleasure thou couldst give by a little self-sacrifice for her who loves thee so. I bid thee awaken, while the days are flying lest when it is all too late and thou are motherless, thine eyes should be terribly opened and see nothing.
When Our Eyes Are Opened, We Cannot See Our Good Works
I close by suggesting that in the case of Paul, and in the case of many a man since Paul, this is what happens when through the Holy Ghost our eyes are opened to see that we are sinners. There was a Pharisee once who came up to the Temple, and he thanked God he was not as other men. He fasted and was an exemplary person; he was proud of all he was and all he did. And in that same temple was a publican whose eyes had been opened by the grace of God, and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. Nothing of all his fasting and his tithing nothing of all he had ever striven to do. His best was sinful. His life had been a failure. "God be merciful to me a sinner." My brother, when you see nothing, you see Christ. When you see that your best is rags, you see His riches. When you see at last that you have naught to plead, you are ready for all the gladness of His grace.
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