George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Anguish of the Light
But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions--Heb 10:32
Battle After Illumination
This is a very remarkable conclusion to a verse that suggests the blessings of the light: it is one of those suggestive anticlimaxes that are so familiar to students of the Scriptures. No blessing is nobler than illumination. It tells of the benediction of the light. It speaks of a life that has arisen from darkness and moved into the glorious shining of the sun. And yet, when we expect to hear of summer's gladness and to catch the sound of music in the blue heaven, we hear of battle with its blood and misery and the cry and agony of wounded men. After illumination a great joy? We should have looked for some conclusion such as that. After illumination a great sense of liberty and a peace that the world cannot take away? Scripture does not deny these blessed consequences, but in its splendid fidelity to all experience it says that after illumination may come battle.
Illumination of the Intellect
Think first then of the illumination of the intellect and of all that follows on the light of knowledge. That is not always liberty and power: sometimes a conflict which is very terrible ensues. When Eve in the virgin paradise of God ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, her eyes were opened and she was illuminated with the light that never was on sea or land; and yet that light did not bring peace to Eve, neither gladness nor any rest of heart, but only the sorrow of a weary struggle. The more we know, the more we want to know. The more we know, the more we cannot know. And doubts are born and speculations rise and much that once seemed certain grows unstable until at last, wearied and perplexed, not through the power of darkness but of light, a man begins to realize how grim is the struggle that succeeds illumination.
Nor is that consequence less notable in the lesser field of personal experience. There are those who can recall the struggle that followed the clear shining of the light. Take for instance a young man, a student, who has been trained in a pious home. There he accepted without serious questioning the faith of his father and mother. Their character commended it to him--he saw it lived and therefore felt it true--and in a faith that never had been shaken, he joined in worship and bowed his knee in prayer. There are many who never lose that childhood's faith. They grow as the lily and spread their roots as Lebanon. It is no necessary witness of superiority that a man should have come to his own by way of agony. But often, with ail that light of knowledge which the years bring to most of us today, there falls a different story to be written. Illumination comes by what we read; it flashes upon us in our college lectures. And the world is different and God and man are different from all that we cherished in our childhood's days. And then begins that time of stress and strain, so bitter and yet so infinitely blessed, through which a man must fight his way alone to faith and peace and character and God. There is a strife that is nobler than repose. There is a battle more blessed than quiescence. There is a stress and strain which comes when God arises and cries to a young heart "Let there be light." All which, so modern that it seems but yesterday, is yet so old that Scripture understands it, hinting not vaguely in our text of the struggle that succeeds illumination.
Illumination of the Heart
Think next of the illumination of the heart. The illumination of the heart is love. Just as the light of the intellect is truth, so the light of every heart is love. Without love the heart is always dark, and with love the heart is always light. The commonest dwelling becomes a palace with it, and there is sunshine for the dreariest day. And all the wealth and joy of fame and whirl of fashion can never irradiate this heart of ours like love. He who dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and he who dwelleth in God is in the light. The luster of the heart is always there, but it is unlighted until love comes in. And now call to remembrance the former days in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions. Many years ago some of you mothers here gathered your firstborn child into your arms, and there was such gladness in those eyes of yours that every neighbor saw your life illuminated. And now as you look back upon it all and think of all that has come and gone since then, you know the sorrows that have followed love. What sleepless nights--what hours of weary watching--what seasons of agony when death was near! What struggle to do that which was hard to do when wills were rebellious and lips untruthful. All this has followed the illumination that came when the love of motherhood was born, and all this is the anguish of the light. Let a man love his work, and in that light he shall be led to many a weary wrestling. Let a man love his land, and in that light he shall take up burdens that are not easily borne. Let a man love his risen and living Savior, and in that light his life shall be a battlefield as he wrestles daily not with flesh and blood but with the principalities and powers of darkness. Love has its triumphs, but it has its tortures. Love has its paradise and it has its purgatory. Love has its mountains of transfiguration, and its olive gardens where the sweat is blood. Love is the secret of the sweetest song that ever was uttered by human lips, and love is the secret of the keenest suffering that ever pierced the heart.
lllumination of the Will
Then observe how true this is of the illumination of the will. For our will like our intellect has its great hours when in the light of heaven we see light. It may be we had been groping in the darkness not seeing clearly what our duty was. And choice was difficult, so much depended on it: there was so much to win, so much to lose. And then it may be in one radiant hour never to be forgotten through the years, we heard as it were a voice behind us saying, "This is the way: walk ye in it." Very probably we had prayed about it, for it is in such seasons that men learn to pray. We cried, "It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps: Lord, lead me, for I know not which way is best." And then, perhaps by some word from friendly lips or by some providence or disappointment, clear as the sun shining in the heavens we saw what for us must be the path of duty. Such hours of high and resolute decision are among the greatest hours of human life. There is not a power or faculty we have that is not illuminated by the glory of them. And yet the struggle and torment that preceded them when we were stumbling and groping towards a decision may not be half so terrible and searching as the struggle and the strain that follow after. Never are things renounced so sweet to man as in the season when they are renounced. Never is the alternative so winning as in the hour when it has been rejected. Never do things given up appeal to us so sweetly and so subtly and so secretly as in the season when we have turned our back upon them and set our faces bravely toward the dawn. The most difficult task in life is not to win; the most difficult task is to keep what we have won: never to falter from the verdict of our high and radiant hours when the shadows deepen, never to go back on our decisions, never to listen again to any voices which in our worthiest and purest moments we knew to be the voices of the enemy. That is the reason why all great decisions ought to be reinforced by prayer. There is no weapon on earth like prayer for helping us to keep what we have won. For prayer unites us to the living Christ, touches the vilest of us with the touch of heaven, and brings to our aid that power of perfect living which was witnessed long ago in Galilee. Tasks in hours of insight willed must be through days of gloom fulfilled, but in the gloomiest day a man may lift his heart up and draw for his need out of the grace of Jesus.
Illumination of Conscience
And in closing I want you to take our text in regard to the illumination of the conscience. Do you remember when conscience was illuminated what a great fight of afflictions you endured? That may have happened many years ago when you were young and ardent and impressionable, and yet so unsearchable are the ways of God that perhaps it is happening to some of you now, after many prayerless, careless, and hardening years. You recall how David after a great sin hardened his heart and justified himself. And then by the word of Nathan the prophet there flashed on his conscience the light of a holy God. Whereupon that mighty soul, after he was illuminated, broke out into that penitential agony which has come ringing down the ages and shall ring on forever: "Create within me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." That is not the crying of despair nor of the soul that has forfeited the everlasting mercy: it is the eternal crying of the human conscience that has been irradiated by the light of God. My brother and sister, if God has so come to you, He will never leave you nor forsake you. He has a purpose of peace towards your soul that has been destined from the bosom of eternity. He has begun His saving work in you which only awaits the fullness of response to result in the blessedness of power and in the rest and liberty of heaven.
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