George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
He Called for Lights
Then he (the Philippian jailer) called for lights (R. V.), and sprang in, and came trembling--Act 16:29
The Human Heart Protests Darkness
That call of the Philippian jailer is the deepest call of every human heart. It distinguishes man from the dumb beasts. Give a beast its food, it is content. It asks for nothing more; it never questions. It never tries to understand its instincts. Its farthest horizon is present satisfaction. But man is always calling out for light. What is history but the call for light? What is science but the call for light? What is philosophy, with all its groping, but the call for light in the darkness of the prison? On every problem, on every unsolved riddle, on every mystery of earth and heaven, we call for light like the Philippian jailer. Why do men risk their life to reach the Poles--what lures them to the top of Everest--why does the thought of a place unexplored draw men as a magnet draws the steel? It is the human heart protesting against darkness as something alien from its deepest being It is the call for light of the Philippian jailer.
The Call for Light Came After the Earthquake
It should be noted that this call for light came after the moment of the earthquake. The jailer called when everything was shaken. At midnight, generally, men are content with darkness. They are weary; their craving is for sleep. Look down the street when the clock is striking midnight, and well-nigh every window is in shadow. But let there come the rumbling of explosion, or the cry of fire, or uproar in the street, and lights are flashing from a hundred windows. So was it in the jail at Philippi. On ordinary midnight's no one wanted lights. It was when things were shaken, and solid walls were rocking, that the Philippian jailer called for light. And never is the call for light so urgent in the lives of men and in the tale of history as when familiar things begin to reel and tremble. Do you remember the last great war? It was an earthquake worse than that of Philippi. It broke suddenly into our ordered life like some terrific catastrophe of nature. And instantly, from a thousand human hearts, as from the lips of the Philippian jailer, there was a call for light. Why did God permit the war? Could He be sovereign and suffer this to be? Was progress a chimera? Was Christianity only a veneer? Such questions were scarcely vital questions in the quiet and settled years before the war--but after the earthquake came the call for light.
The Call for Light Comes at the Time of Death
You will remember, too, this call was made by a man who was within an inch of death. A moment before he was on the point of suicide. Death was very near to him that night. He had been standing on the margin of the grave. He thought to shuffle off this mortal coil. He faced the grim extremity. And it is when death is near and knocking at the door, or when the open sepulchre is at our feet, that we call for light like the Philippian jailer. What mother did not call for light when her dear boy went off to war? What father did not call for light when his beautiful child was lying in its coffin? More than anything--more than the heaviest cross or the bitterest reverse of fortune--it is the fact of death that inspires the call for light. What does it mean, this silence and this darkness--this borne from which no traveler returns? Are powers given never to be perfected? Are we never to look on our dear dead again? The ceaseless questionings, the dim surmising; these, of which dumb animals are ignorant, are the crown and title of humanity. We are great because we call for light. We are better than dumb, driven cattle. We want to know; we yearn to understand; we crave to penetrate the mystery. If from darkness we came, darkness would content us. Gloom and shadow would be our native air. But God has made us, and we call for light, and so tell of the Light which is our home.
The Servant Who Brings Light
I close by noting in this thrilling story that when the jailer called for lights, he got them. Cannot you see them flashing through the corridors? Who brought them we are not informed. It is one of the ministries of nameless people. Nameless people may do far more good than those whose names come ringing down the centuries. He called, and he was given. He called, and in the darkness torches flashed. He called, and servants heard the call and answered. Now, did you never hear of One who took on Him the form of a servant? Who willingly came down into our prison-house and was among the prisoners as one who serveth? And do you think, if these Philippian servants heard the call for lights and flashed their torches, that this Servant would not do the same? He flashed His torch on suffering He flashed His torch on sin. He flashed it on the hidden heart of God and on the age-long mystery of death. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid; in My Father's house are many mansions. He who has that light wants no other light. It casts its radiance on the murkiest passages. He may still tremble like the Philippian jailer, but in that light he has the power to spring. He has light for duty and for disappointment now; light on the heart of God and on the grave. "I am the Light of the world; he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness."
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