0 / 0
"Let your light so shine before men that they may see
your good works, and glorify your Father which is
in heaven."—Matt. 5:16 .
WE NOTICE that our Lord's statement in this text draws a particularly sharp line of demarcation between the Church and the world. He is not their Father, but our Father; it is not their light, but our light. The Lord was addressing the Apostles in particular and all the "overcomers" of that time. But He gives us elsewhere to understand that we who believe the testimony of the Apostles are counted in as the same class, so that these words are applicable to us also today. This statement implies that the class which the Lord acknowledges as His disciples have some special light that marks them out as light-bearers. This light that has come to us is the illumination referred to by the Apostle Paul in other places. This illumination that we have received is the light of the Holy Spirit.
One does not receive this light when he says, "I will lie no more; I will cheat no more; I will blaspheme no more." If anyone were in a state of alienation from God it would be very proper for him to turn from these sins. But turning from sin would not make one a child of God. We know a great mistake is generally made in the world by thinking thus. There is only one way of coming into this relationship of sons, and that is the way that the Scriptures set forth—faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, full confidence in the Divine arrangement of which He is the Center, a faith which works, a faith which would lead us to the point of full consecration—baptism into His will. It is the strait gate and narrow way.
No one is in the family of the Lord at the present time unless this person has entered through the strait gate into the narrow way. Such begin to be marked by the Holy Spirit, which illuminates their hearts and minds, giving them a clearer light on things in harmony with righteousness. This illumination, this light which is in us, the Lord says we should be careful lest we lose it. If that light should go out, we would be in greater darkness than we were before.
In another place it is written, "Quench not the Spirit." (I Thess. 5:19). It could be extinguished entirely. We are, therefore, to keep it as an evidence that we are children [R4993 : page 96] of God. And if this light be in us we should not keep it secret, not put it under a bushel. We should not say, "We know not the Man"—we know not Jesus. For if any one is ashamed of Him, He will withdraw the light from such a one. One who is ashamed of Him and His cause is ashamed of everything that is right. Such have no right to be in the Church; for the Church are to be the Body of Christ and joint-heirs in the Kingdom of glory and in the work of judging and uplifting mankind.
So, then, we must not be ashamed and hide our light from the masses of men. We have a new illumination. We are to set our light upon a candlestick that all within the house—our own family, our own household, our neighbors—may see it burning; that they may all know that we have a light upon the character and Plan of God; that we see the difference between sin and righteousness, justice and injustice.
Whoever holds up a light must of necessity confess the light he is holding. Of some our Lord said that they confess with their mouths, but deny in their lives. We are to let our light so shine that it will bring honor to the Father's name. This means that our whole lives are to be in conformity with the professions we are making, so that others will see and say, "Well, that man believes what he preaches. It is good that such a person lives in our neighborhood." They may not always prefer us for companions, for wherever the children of the light go, it has a reproving influence.
Let us not be surprised, then, if when our neighbors have a reception and entertainment they say, "We will omit their names, for we shall have some wine and some good times, and we do not want them in." We are not to expect the world to love us. We are not to marvel if it goes to the other extreme. Yet not all of the world will hate us. Some will criticize and find fault; others will notice a consistency and say, "It looks to me as though this is genuine."
We are living epistles, "known and read of all men." (2 Cor. 3:2.) The light is conspicuous because the darkness is general. We are not to consider this text as being in conflict with that which says we are not to let our left hand know what our right hand does, nor do our good deeds to be seen of men. There is a difference between doing our good deeds to be seen of our neighbors, and in doing them to be seen of our Father. The person who is doing his good deeds to be seen of men will be noticed by people in general, who will say, "Well, I do not believe that he means half he says. He is a hypocrite."
But the person who is living to glorify the Father will not do good to win applause for himself. Whatever he does in the way of charities, or in visiting the sick, etc., he will prefer to do it in an unostentatious manner, making as little show about his good deeds as possible. Consequently, the result will be beneficial to himself and to [R4993 : page 97] the person to whom he ministers, for he does these things for the glory of God.
The latter part of the text says, "and glorify your Father which is in heaven." It was not the Master's expectation that the little light which the disciples would let shine would have a convincing effect upon the world, and that they would all fall down and bow before the Father. Even if the whole world knew about the narrow way, only a few would be willing to undertake to walk in it. Therefore the Lord hides these things from the world, and reveals these secret things respecting the great "high calling" to the meek, to the humble, to those to whom the knowledge would be most advantageous.
How do the world, then, glorify the Father which is in heaven? How would men glorify our Father? We answer that there is a difference between vicious, worldly people and well-meaning worldly people. We are inclined to believe that the majority of mankind, who are in alienation from God and who have no ear to hear the message of the "narrow way," have, nevertheless, an appreciation of righteousness. And if without too much cost they could be righteous, just, generous and all that would be noble, as represented in perfect humanity, they would like to be so. Many of the world have an appreciation of nobility in others. They would like to have it themselves. The difficulty is that the cost of righteousness is more than they are willing to pay.
This class say, "We approve the righteous way, but at the present time it is too difficult. To walk in it would mean the blighting of all our hopes and prospects. We would have to consider whether we could make such transactions as would bring us prosperity. These things are too difficult now. If there was just as much reward to do right as to do wrong, we would prefer it. We honor God. We honor the principles of righteousness. We see some of the principles of righteousness exemplified in these peculiar people. They are of God. We appreciate these things. Indeed, it is the ideal life. They glorify God. Evidently God is a righteous God; and we hope He will not do too much harm to us. But we cannot let go of the things of this world. Perhaps we may become saints before we die. Who knows?" So they have the idea that they will be neither too saintly, nor too bad!
The influence of light is christianizing, civilizing, uplifting and produces a regard for right, an appreciation of right and wrong, a respect for God. But we are not to think that the building of cathedrals, etc., has had an enlightening influence in the world, nor that the members of these institutions have the light. They admit, themselves, that they are not saints. Only a small number in the world have been saints.
But this minority has had an influence all down through these eighteen hundred years—and it is having an influence today. Look at Jesus and the Apostles! See how the light from their lives and conduct has had an enlightening influence upon the world in leading men to honor our Father! Every one of the Body of Christ all down the Gospel Age has had light, has had influence to some extent and has had something to do with scattering the darkness and inculcating reverence for the Heavenly Father.
We see an illustration of this in the Apostle Paul, who was suffering for righteousness' sake. He was before the Roman Governor; and as St. Paul reasoned of righteousness, temperance and the coming judgment, or retribution, Felix trembled. He apprehended; he was convinced. He said, "Here is a man who is living in harmony with these principles of righteousness. The life of this man Paul shows what right is, and that my life is wrong. And if the Lord is to reward right-doing and punish wrong-doing, this Paul will get good things from God. But what shall I get?" So he trembled.
There is a natural dread in mankind because they know that they deserve punishment. The Scriptures tell us that there will be a righteous recompense of reward. St. Paul's words were a great blessing to Felix, for that light which was shining out of Paul's life and words led Felix to see his wrong condition. He might have thought, "It will be altogether right for God to give me some punishment for my sins."
Again, as the Apostle was reasoning before Agrippa and Festus, Agrippa said, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian." St. Paul said, "I would to God that, not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds." (Acts 26:28,29.) Having the thought pass before his mind, however, did not make Agrippa a saint. But he had heard the things which led him to appreciate his own fallen condition. He saw that St. Paul was suffering for right-doing and that he was suffering for wrong-doing. He saw that God is a God of justice.
Another Scripture somewhat along the same line reads, "Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles that...they may glorify God in the day of visitation." (I Pet. 2:12.) This shows us a distinction between the day of their visitation and the day of our visitation. This Gospel Age, the present life, has become the day of our visitation, when in the Divine favor it is the time of forgiveness of our sins and of our being brought into relationship with the Father.
No one can have these blessings now except he can exercise faith; otherwise he does not have his day of visitation now. "We who believe" and "enter into rest" are having our "day of visitation." God has come to us now, and has adopted us into His family. And His Plan is that if it so be that we are willing to suffer with our Lord, we shall also reign with Him in glory. This is our visitation day of honor.
Will the remainder of mankind have a day of visitation and honor? Most assuredly so; they will have opportunity to avail themselves of the redeeming work of our Savior. If their ears are not open now to hear and their eyes to see, the day will come when this will be so; if not now, in the blessed opportunity we have, then it will come by and by. But if we have our day of visitation and neglect these things; if after having put our "hand to the plow" and having received of the good Word of God, we look back; and "if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the Truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" of the Lord.—Heb. 10:26,27.
But those who do not share in this "day of visitation" will have an opportunity of coming into harmony with God later. If they cannot be reached by the gentle methods mentioned and the visitation by which God is calling out the special class now, they will have an opportunity in the next Age, when judgment will be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet; when all the righteous recompense of reward will be brought to bear, to give each one according to his course.