Sermons in Candlesbeing
Two Lectures| Lecture 1 | Lecture 2 |
By C. H. Spurgeon
"The bright shining of a candle doth give thee light"Luke 11:36.
Lecture No. 1.
I am not an adept at lecturing, and when I take to it under constraint, I either signally fail in it, or else the successful production is a sermon in disguise. You cannot drive out nature by command: the old pulpit hand must preach, even though you bid him do somewhat else. It would be no good sign if it were otherwise; for a man must keep to one thing, and be absorbed in it, or he will not do it well. I have preached now for so many years, that use is second nature; and a lecture, a speech, an address, and I fear even a conversation, all have a tendency to mould themselves sermon-fashion. It is just the old story over again of the artist who had been painting red lions all his life. The landlord of a public-house in a certain street desired to have his establishment known as "The Angel", and he commissioned the clever gentleman of the brush to produce one of those flaming spirits. The budding Academician replied, "You had better have a red lion. I can paint red lions against any man, and they seem the right sign for publicans who do a roaring trade." "But" said Boniface, "there are three of your red lions quite handy already, and we want a little variety. I have made up my mind to have an angel. Cannot you arrange it?" "Well", said the artist, "I will see what I can do. You shall have your angel, but it will be awfully like a red lion." So, when I am requested to "lecture", I reply, "I cannot manage it; my business is to preach." But if they press their suit, and I am weak enough to yield, I warn them that my lecture will be wonderfully like a sermon.
I suppose "a lecture" signifies a reading; but enough of my brethren use manuscripts, and I will not compete with them. If I cannot speak extemporaneously, I will hold my tongue: to read I am ashamed.
In a lecture one has the advantage of more freedom than in a sermon. One is permitted to take a wider range of subjects, and to use an easier style than a theological discourse allows. I will use this freedom, but my aim will be the same as if I were preaching. I trust my lecture may possibly impress some minds to whom a sermon would seem too dull a business. By calling this lecture "Sermons in Candles", I claim the right to mingle the severe with the lively, the grave with the gay. In due proportions the mixture may be taken with good effect.
This is how the lecture came about in the first place. It has grown considerably since it was born, as all lively children do. In addressing my students in the College long ago, I was urging upon them the duty and necessity of using plenty of illustrations in their preaching, that they might be both interesting and instructive. I reminded them that the Saviour had many likes in his discourses. He said, over and over again, "The kingdom of heaven is LIKE"; "The kingdom of heaven is LIKE." "Without a parable spake he not unto them." The common people heard him gladly, because he was full of emblem and simile. A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows. One student remarked that the difficulty was to get illustrations in any great abundance. "Yes", I said, "if you do not wake up, but go through the world asleep, you cannot see illustrations; but if your minds were thoroughly aroused, and yet you could see nothing else in the world but a single tallow candle, you might find enough illustrations in that luminary to last you for six months." Now, the young brethren in the College are too well behaved to say "Oh!" or give a groan of unbelief, should I perchance say a strong thing; but they look, and they draw their breath, and they wait for an explanation. I understand what they mean, and do not make too heavy a draft upon their faith by long delays in explaining myself. The men who were around me at that particular moment thought that I had made rather a sweeping assertion, and their countenances showed it. "Well", I said, "I will prove my words;" and my attempt to prove them produced the rudiments of this lecture.
This lecture of mine has proved a boon to several other public instructors, who have largely used it, and possibly have improved upon the original. I am sure they have not been more free than welcome. As I have taken out no letters-patent, I have never called upon them for a royalty for the use of my invention. Still, if their consciences trouble them, I am like Matthew, "at the receipt of custom." I have now resolved to print my lecture; and I hope those gentlemen will not be angry with me for stopping their borrowing, but the rather I trust they will think me generous for having refrained from publishing the lecture for so long a period as five-and-twenty years. These candles have now become "ancient lights", but I do not propose to prevent anybody's building near the premises; for they will not block up my light. These symbols have light in themselves which cannot be hid. My friends can go on delivering their own versions all the same; and if they think fit, they may use the original text also. A man who would deliver the lecture, and sell the book at the close, might drive a good trade. In any case, the subject admits of further variations, and it can never be quite exhausted so long as lecturers have brains, and lectured ones have eyes.
Candles were far more familiar objects in my boyhood than in these days of gas and electricity. Now, fathers show their boys and girls how to make gas at the end of a tobacco pipe; but in my time the greatest of wonders was a lucifer-match. Our lights were so few that they justified the wit who declared that the word "luxury" was derived from lux, the Latin for light. Assuredly, a good light is a high form of luxury. I can never forget the rushlight, which dimly illuminated the sitting-room of the old house; nor the dips, which were pretty fair when there were not too many of them to the pound; nor the mould candles, which came out only when there was a party, or some specific personage was expected. Short sixes were very respectable specimens of household lights. Composites have never seemed to me to be so good as the old sort, made of pure tallow; but I dare say I may be wrong. Nevertheless, I have no liking for composites in theology, but prefer the genuine article without compromise.
Once I thoughtlessly hung a pound of tallow candles on a clothes-horse. This construction was moved near the fire, and the result was a mass of fat on the floor, and the cottons of the candles almost divested of tallow: a lesson to us all not to expose certain things to a great heat, lest we dissolve them. I fear that many a man's good resolutions only need the ordinary fire of daily life to make them melt away. So, too, with fine professions, and the boastings of perfection which abound in this age of shams.
The candle with a rush wick was the poor man's friend. Thrifty labourers' wives made them themselves; and White, in his Selborne, has a letter which gives quite an elaborate account of this economical home manufacture. Good housewives saved the skimmings of the bacon pot, precipitated the salt, and then put a little wax from their bee-hives into the grease. The rushes were gathered in summer, and steeped in water, the rinds removed, and the pith preserved entire. To dip the rushes in the scalding fat required great care; but when the work was done, the labourer's house could be cheered in a small way with candle-light for 800 hours for three shillings. He adds that the very poor, who are always the worst economists, buy a half-penny candle every evening, and thus get only two hours' light for their money instead of eleven. Moral: there should be economy even in rushlights, how much more in consuming the light of life!
In those days it was a youthful joke to send a boy to the shop for a pound of cotton rushes. The grocer, if of an angry sort, was apt to make a rush at the lad, who thus appeared to mock him. It was in these times that we heard the story of the keeper of the chandler's-shop, who told her customers that "candles was riz." "Riz", said her neighbour, "everything is riz except my wages. But why have they riz?" "They tell me ", said the other, "that tallow has gone up because of the war with Russia." "Well", replied the customer, "that is a queer story. Have they begun to fight by candle-light?" That woman had some inkling of the law of supply and demand. She may never have read Adam Smith, but it is possible that she was a Smith herself.
Those were the days when a wit is represented as saying to his tradesman, "I hope these candles will be better than the last." "I am sure I don't know, sir; was anything the matter with those I sent you?" "Matter enough", replied the wit; "they burned very well till they were about half gone, and then they would burn no longer." The catch is that, of course, they burned shorter.
We had practical fun with candles, too; for we would scoop out a turnip, cut eyes and a nose in the rind, and then put a candle inside. This could be judiciously used to amuse, but it might also be injudiciously turned to purposes of alarming youngsters and greenhorns, who ran away, under the apprehension that a ghost was visible. Other things beside turnips can be used to frighten foolish people; but it is a shame to use the light of truth with such a design.
I do not think I ever saw the smoke of a candle employed as Swift suggests, when he says to servants in general, "Write your own names and your sweethearts' with the smoke of a candle, on the roof of the kitchen or servants' hall, to show your learning;" but smudges caused by candle-snuffs were not unusual in slovenly rooms.
No doubt the youths in my audience have found a candle helpful in astronomical observations, when they have smoked glass over a candle to use it in watching an eclipse. Many are the side uses of every useful article.
I have a distinct remembrance of a mission-room, where my father frequently preached, which was illuminated by candles in tin sconces which hung on the wall. These luminaries frequently went very dim for want of snuffing, and on one occasion an old man, who wanted to see his hymn-book, took the candle from its original place: out of his hand he made a candlestick; his finger and thumb he used as a pair of snuffers; and, finding it needful to cough, he accidentally made use of his mouth as an extinguisher. Thus the furniture of a candle was all contained in his proper person.
That wild wit, Dean Swift, in his advice to servants, says, "There are several ways of putting out candles, and you ought to be instructed in them all: you may run the candle end against the wainscot, which puts the snuff out immediately; you may lay it on the ground, and tread the snuff out with your foot; you may hold it upside down, until it is choked with its own grease, or cram it into the socket of the candlestick; you may whirl it round in your hand till it goes out; or you may spit on your finger and thumb, and pinch the snuff till it goes out. The cook may rub the candle's nose into the meal tub, or the groom into a vessel of oats, or a lock of hay, or a heap of litter; the housemaid may put out her candle by running it against the looking-glass, which nothing cleans so well as candle-snuff; but the quickest and best of all methods is to blow it out with your breath, which leaves the candle clean and readier to be lighted." Some part or other of this advice must have been frequently followed, for an extinguisher was not always close at hand.
By the way, a candle blown out did not yield the most delicate of perfumes, neither was a street rendered delicious by having a candle-factory in it. There used to be, in Paternoster Row, an establishment which was odiously odorous, but we were always assured that the smell was not unhealthy. Perhaps it was not; but we confess we should have preferred to avoid the experiment. In the formation of the best of things there may be disagreeable processes. As to the smoke of a candle which is newly put out, we may remark upon it that the failure of a life which should have been a light is a very sickening calamity. If the light of professors of religion is blown out, the result is most unsavoury. How well it is for us that we have to deal with One of whom it is written, "A smoking flax will he not quench"! Even when faith is so low that we are rather an offence than an illumination, he will not quench it, so tender is his love.
When preaching in a low-pitched building crowded with people, I have seen the candles burn low for want of air, a clear indication that we were killing ourselves by inhaling an atmosphere from which the vitalizing principle had almost all gone. I have been afraid of the lights going out, and have thought it better to let the congregation go out rather sooner than usual. To this day ventilation remains an unknown art. The various schemes which have been so much cried up are admirable upon paper; and there they had better remain. Oh, that we could have more oxygen in our places of worship! It would be next to the grace of God for value.
On one occasion, having a candle on each side of me in a small pulpit, I was somewhat vigorous, and dashed one of my luminaries from its place. It fell upon the bald head of a friend below, who looked up with an expression which I can see at this moment, and it makes me smile still. I took no more notice of the accident than to weave it into what I was saying; and I believe most of my hearers considered it to have been a striking practical illustration of the remark which accompanied it, "How soon is the glory of life dashed down!"
Before my time the candles in places of worship offered a sad temptation to ungodly men and boys, who would bring sparrows in their pockets, and let them fly during the evening service. The poor birds made at once for the lights, and no end of confusion was the consequence. German critics and their humble admirers play the part of these sparrows nowadays with the great lights of inspired Scripture.
Outside some of the older meeting-houses there used to be a wooden stand near the grave-yard gate, on which a lantern was placed with a candle within it, to light the way to the place where prayer was went to be made. The natural light was dim in those times; but I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the gospel light was in many a lowly sanctuary far more brilliant than it is to-day in mimic Gothic chapels. The blaze of "modern thought" which pleases lovers of novelty does not guide the perplexed to heaven, nor cheer the passage of the departing through the valley of' the shadow of death.
In our time we have smeared our boots with a tallow candle to keep out the wet when we have had to tramp through the snow and the water; and we have also tallowed our nose when it has been running with a cold. Still, we cannot conscientiously recommend the old prescription (dated 1430?) which wc find recorded in doggerel rhyme:
As high as your thighs;
Wrappe your head up in flanelle
As low as your eyes;
"Take a quart of rum'd gruelle
I take the liberty of suggesting that if the rum were poured into the hot water provided for the feet it would be more likely to be useful than when put into the gruel. The candle will be quite sufficient to make the nose to shine, without setting it on fire with ardent spirits.
I remember reading, when I went to school, a capital story illustrating presence of mind, and it comes to my remembrance, after nearly fifty years. The anecdote is in Chambers' Moral Class Book, and is much too good to be lost.
"In Edinburgh, in the reign of George II., there was a grocer named George Dewar, who, besides teas, sugar, and other articles, now usually sold by grocers, dealt extensively in garden seeds. Underneath his shop he had a cellar, in which he kept a great quantity of his merchandise. One day he desired his servant-maid to go down to the cellar with a candle to fetch him a supply of a particular kind of soap kept there. The girl went to do her master's bidding, but she imprudently did not provide herself with a candlestick, and therefore found it necessary, while filling her basket with pieces of soap, to stick the candle into what she thought a bag of black seed, which stood open by her side. In returning, both her hands were required to carry the basket, so that she had to leave the candle where it was. When Mr. Dewar saw her coming up the trap-door without the candle, he asked her where she had left it. She replied that she had stuck it into some black seed near the place where the soap lay. He instantly recollected that this black seed was gunpowder, and he knew that a single spark falling from the candle would blow up the house. He also knew that the candle, if left where it was, would, in a little time, burn down to the powder. To fly, then, was to make the destruction of his house and property certain, while to go down and attempt to take away the candle, was to run the risk of being destroyed himself; for he could not tell that a spark was not to fall the next instant into the powder. He made up his mind in a moment, and descended into the cellar. There he saw the candle burning brightly in the midst of the bag of gunpowder. He approached softly, lest, by putting the air in motion, he might cause the candle to sparkle. Then, stooping with the greatest deliberation over the sack, he formed his hands into a hollow, like the basin of a bedroom candlestick, and clasped the candle between his fingers. He thus had the chance of catching any spark which might fall: none, however, fell, and he bore away the candle in safety."
Bravo Mr. Dewar! But why did you leave your powder where your maid could run you into so great a risk? Presence of mind is greatly to be commended, but general carefulness may prevent the need of so great a demand upon courage as this case required.
I could multiply my reminiscences, but my business is not so much to lecture upon candles themselves as upon the sermons which lie within them. The Esquimaux consider tallow candles a great luxury; and I have met with a missionary who assured me that in the far North of America he had learned greatly to prefer a candle to a piece of sugar or any other dainty. May not tastes be thus perverted in reference to spiritual things? Is it not often so?
I will not offer you a discussion upon the physical or chemical nature of candles. I will not feed you on candles, for you have not the educated taste of my friend from the Hudson's Bay Territory. No, I will give you candle-light, and not the candles themselves; but if you would know all about them, read a capital set of lectures entitled, Faraday on the Chemical History of a Candle [published by Chatto & Windus].
All this time I have been guilty of a terrible omission: I have not defined a candle; and how can a man know anything, or teach anything, if he is not very careful to describe the subject of his discourse in the most difficult manner conceivable? I regret that I cannot find a regular jaw-breaking definition in any of the dictionaries: they have treated the subject in too light a manner, and have not by any means confounded and obfuscated the word "candle" as it deserves to be confounded and obfuscated. The "Century Dictionary" describes it as "a taper: a cylindrical body of tallow, wax, spermaceti, or other fatty material, formed on a wick composed of linen or cotton threads woven or twisted loosely, or (as formerly) of the pith of a rush, and used as a source of artificial light." This is all very well; but how much more we might have known if the lexicographer had called candles "Nascent possibilities of illumination materialized in oleaginous cylindrical forms"! It is some comfort, that while certain great linguists derive the word from the Latin, candela, which comes from candere, to burn; others take it from the Welsh, which I guess must be llandyllyn, to blaze; and a third party perceive its origin in the ancient Danish, kindil, to burn or kindle. Do you not all feel the better for these learned criticisms? Would you not feel safer still, if I could assure you that luminous and voluminous scientists have had serious doubts as to whether candles were known to the ancients at all; and if so, whether, indeed, there are such things now extant? Alfred the Great is said to have invented lanterns to preserve his candles from the draughts which came into his hall through windows which were innocent of glass; but this is extremely doubtful. Only the fossilized believer accepts the popular belief: the learned critic sees things in another light, or rather does not see them at all. According to the learned Dr. Batseyes, there would seem to have been two Alfreds, one who allowed the cakes to burn, and another who went to battle with the Danes. There does not appear to be any justification for believing that either of these Alfreds could have cared about candles so much as to invent lanterns for their protection. A person who would allow cakes to burn would scarcely be careful of mere tallow candles; and a man who fought with the Danes was far more likely to put the fat into the fire than to preserve it from the wind. What think you of that? There is more in it than in most of the Biblical criticisms which I have met with. I am rather pleased with my historic doubt. With a little effort I fancy I could qualify myself to be a practiser of Destructive Criticism; but I conceive that the game would not be worth the candle, and I should only be doing more of that which is already overdone.
It would be too great a task for me to guide you into every corner in history or archaeology where the candle leads the way. But there are a few odds and ends which may be worth picking up. Candle-ends must not be wasted, but put upon the save-all, and used for a good purpose.
In Chaucer's England one hears little of candles; but in the list of articles of a manor-house of the time we read of "an iron or lantern candlestick," meaning, we suppose, an iron candlestick covered with brass, or a brass candlestick. Ancient candlesticks, such as we are able to set before you, were more solid than elegant, and look as if they might have been copied from an hour-glass. After long research in olden history for some hints about candles, a friend, who noticed our failure, suggested that we should search through a History of Greece; but we did not give him a fig, much less a groat, for his puny wit. Of old, the Shunammitish woman, who had a prophet's chamber, had provided a candlestick for the man of God; but far nearer our own day a domestic candlestick seems to have been a rare thing in this country. Until windows were supplied with glass, naked candles must have been too liable to be blown out to be used without lanterns. Moreover, we suspect that our fathers were not so apt to turn night into day as we are, but went to bed with the lamb, and rose with the lark. They lost somewhat by this habit; but possibly they gained more. The curfew, which put out all lights at an early hour, has been represented as an instrument of tyranny; but in all probability it was a needful social regulation to prevent the frequent fires which fell out in wooden houses, where the floor was covered with rushes, and candles were apt to be carelessly used. On the whole, we do not weep very bitterly over "the good old times", when we sit at ease far into the night, and read by the electric light.
The making of lanterns would seem to have been a flourishing trade in the olden time. Many were made of horn; but we have seen an engraving in which tin or thin iron would seem to be largely used.
Excommunications were pronounced by "Bell, book, and candle." After the formula had been read, and the book closed, the assistants cast the lighted candles, they held in their hands, to the ground, so as to extinguish them, and the bells were clashed without order: the last two ceremonies symbolized the quenching of grace, and the disorder in the souls of the persons excommunicated. Now we understand why
He call'd for his candle, his bell, and his book!
In holy anger and pious grief
He solemnly cursed that rascally thief!"
There was a special warning form of the same terrible punishment wherein the sinner was allowed space for repentance so long as a candle continued to burn. If he expressed no regret till the light was out, he was cast off; but while the candle yet would burn, the vilest sinner might return.
While remembering the holy candles of the Church of Rome, one cannot forget the miracles connected with these humble household luminaries.
We quote from Hone's "Every-day Book."
"Several stories of the miraculous faculties of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris, represent them as very convenient in vexatious cases of ordinary occurrence; one of these will serve as a specimen. On a dark, wet night she was going to church with her maidens with a candle borne before her, which the wind and rain put out; the saint merely called for the candle, and as soon as she took it in her hand it was lighted again, without any fire of this world.
"Other stories of her lighting candles in this way call to mind a candle, greatly venerated by E. Worsley in "A Discourse of Miracles wrought in the Roman Catholic Church, or, a Full Refutation of Dr. Stillingfleet's unjust Exceptions against Miracles," 8vo, 1676. At page 64, he says, 'that the miraculous wax candle yet seen at Arras, the chief city of Artois, may give the reader entertainment, being most certain, and never doubted by any. In 1105, that is, more than 500 years ago (of so great antiquity the candle is), a merciless plague reigned in Arras. The whole city, ever devout to the Mother of God, experienced her, in this their necessity, to be a true mother of mercy. The manner was thus: the Virgin Mary appeared to two men, and enjoined them to tell the Bishop of Arras, that on the next Saturday, towards morning, she would appear in the great church, and put into his hands a wax candle burning; from whence drops of wax should fall into a vessel of water prepared by the bishop. She said, moreover, that all the diseased that drank of this water should forthwith be cured. This, truly promised, truly happened. Our Blessed Lady appeared all beautiful, having in her hands a wax candle burning, which diffused light over the whole church; this she presented to the bishop; he, blessing it with the sign of the cross, set it in the urn of water; when drops of wax plentifully fell down into the vessel. The diseased drank of it, all were cured, the contagion ceased, and the candle, to this day preserved with great veneration, spends itself, yet loses nothing; and therefore remains still of the same length and greatness it did 500 years ago. A vast quantity of wax, made up of the many drops which fall into the water upon those festival days, when the candle burns, may be justly called a standing, indeficient miracle."
This candle story, though gravely related by a Catholic writer, as 'not doubted of by any', and as, therefore, not to be questioned, altogether failed in convincing the Protestant Stillingfleet, that "miracles wrought in the Roman Catholic Church" ought to be believed. It fails with us also.
Even these lying wonders are more pleasant reading than the stories which relate to the use of candles in the conversion of Protestant heretics. They had their choice either to turn or burn, and judicious proselyters gave the obstinate a little taste of flame beforehand, to save them from the greater fire. Here are two precious stories from the famous "Acts and Monuments."
Fox tells us concerning Thomas Tomkins, a weaver, of Shoreditch, who was burned at Smithfield, that Bishop Bonnet kept him in prison at Fulham half-a-year, "during which time the said bishop was so rigorous with him, that he beat him bitterly about the face; whereby his face was swelled. . . .
"The rage of this bishop was not so great against him, but the constancy of the sufferer was much greater with patience to bear it; who, although he had not the learning as others had, yet he was so endued with God's mighty Spirit, and so perfectly planted in the knowledge of God's truth, that by no means could he be removed from the confession of the truth. Whereupon Bonner the bishop being greatly vexed against the poor man, when he saw that by no persuasions he could prevail against him, devised another practice not so strange as cruel, further to try his constancy; to the intent, that seeing he could not otherwise convince him by doctrine out of the Scriptures, yet he might overthrow him by a fore-feeling and terror of death. So he calls for Thomas Tomkins, who, coming before the bishop, and standing as he was wont, in defence of his faith, the bishop having there a taper or wax candle of three or four wicks standing upon the table, took Tomkins by the fingers, and held his hand directly over the flame, supposing that by the smart and pain of the fire being terrified, he would leave off the defence of his Protestant doctrine.
"Tomkins, thinking no otherwise but there presently to die, began to commend himself unto the Lord, saying, 'O Lord! into thy hands I commend my spirit? In the time that his hand was in burning, the same Tomkins afterward reported to one James Hinse, that 'his spirit was so rapt that he felt no pain.' In the which burning he never quailed, till the veins shrank and the sinews burst."
If a bishop acted thus, we do not wonder that the more brutal ones among the bigoted laity did the like. Here is another record from that Fox who spied out and laid bare the doings of Romish devotees.
"On the 2nd of August, 1557, five men and five women were burnt at Colchester, for the testimony and witness of Christ Jesus and his glorious gospel. In the number was one William Mount, of Much Bentley, in Essex, husbandman, with Alice, his wife, and Rose Allin, maid, the daughter of the said Alice Mount.
"At two o'clock on a Sunday morning in March, one master Edmund Tyrrel took with him the bailiff, and two constables, with divers others, a great number. Going into the room where father Mount and his wife lay, they bade them rise, for that they must go to Colchester Castle. Mother Mount, being very ill, asked that her daughter might fetch her some drink. This Tyrrel permitted. So Rose Mount took a stone jug in one hand, and a candle in the other, and went to draw drink for her mother; and as she came back again through the house, Tyrrel met her, and willed her to give her father and mother good counsel, and advertise them to be better Catholic people." Thus they conversed:
ROSE:"Sir, they have a better instructor than I; for the Holy Ghost doth teach them, I hope; and he, be ye sure, will not suffer them to err."
"Why?" said master Tyrrel, "art thou still in that mind, thou naughty house-wife? Marry, it is time to look upon such heretics indeed."
ROSE:"Sir, with that which you call heresy, do I worship my Lord God; I tell you truth."
TYRREL:"Then I perceive you will burn, gossip, with the rest, for company's sake."
ROSE:"No, sir, not for company's sake, but for my Lord Jesus Christ's sake, if so I be compelled; and I hope in his mercies if he call me to it, he will enable me to bear it."
So he, turning to his company, said, "Sirs, this gossip will burn: do you not think it?" "Marry, sir", quoth one, "prove her, and ye shall see what she will do by-and-by?"
"Then the cruel Tyrrel, taking the candle from her, held her wrist, and put the burning candle under her hand, burning cross-wise over the back thereof so long, till the very sinews cracked asunder." Yet the brave Rose endured the pain like a true heroine, and then went and fetched her mother the drink.
How many of us, who preach with much confidence, could have endured the like torture? Let us hope that if we were called to such pain, grace would be given to sustain us under it.
One is soon weary of such quotations, and we will leave them when we have reminded ourselves of the brave word of old Latimer. When standing on the fagots, with his back to the stake, he turned round to his brother Bishop, Ridley, and said, "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man, and we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out": AND SO SAY ALL OF US.
In the City of London, in olden times, the streets being unlighted by public lamps, and thieves being plentiful, a law was made for everybody to put a candle out over his door. As the story comes to me, the law was obeyeda candle was exhibited, but it was not lighted. The letter of the law was darkness, for the spirit of the law was absent.
The watchmen of our city were in the old time the themes of constant jest. They had come to be venerable persons wrapped in capes of many folds, and night-caps of the warmest sort: each one of these had his lantern, with which he emulated in the streets the glow-worms of the country lanes. Stowe represents these guardians of the night as carrying and using bells to give warning to householders to put out fire, and light candle. Nice helps to repose these old gentlemen must have been, especially if they conscientiously obeyed orders, and both knocked at doors and sounded their alarums to wake people out of their first sleep to look to their candles! All very pretty it sounds in the rhyme, but not quite so delightful if heard in the still of night.
And see your horns be clean and bright,
That so your candle clear may shine,
Continuing from six till nine;
That honest men that walk along
May see to pass safe without wrong."
In the days of Henry VIII. the citizens of London did little in the way of hanging out candles, and hence men cut purses in the dark with impunity. Harry's remedy was, "Hang up the thieves, and let honest men keep indoors?" Very thoroughly did he practise his own rule, so that it is recorded that three-score and twelve thousand petty thieves were hung up during his reign. Poor saving this, to spare the hanging out of candles and indulge in the hanging up of men! There can be no doubt that good light is the friend of honesty and the destruction of thieves. This is a parable which we need not wait to expound.
Many bequests have been left for the keeping up of lights, especially in places near the river Thames. I will give you a specimen. John Wardall, by will, dated 29th August, 1656, gave to the Grocers' Company a tenement called "The White Bear", in Walbrook, to the intent that they should yearly, within thirty days after Michaelmas, pay to the Churchwardens of St. Botolph, Billingsgate, £4, to provide a good and sufficient iron and glass lantern, with a candle, for the direction of passengers to go with more security to and from the water-side all night long, to be fixed at the north-east corner of the parish church of St. Botolph, from the feast day of St. Bartholomew to Lady Day. Out of this sum £1 was to be paid to the sexton for taking care of the lantern. It is well in life and in death to minister light to this dark world.
It was a curious way of expressing his appreciation of a politician, when Mr. Alderman White, of Winchester, sent Wilkes, the author of the notorious Number 45, a present of forty-five dozens of candles. Possibly the worthy Alderman had an eye to advertisement as well as to admiration. At any rate, he succeeded; for the wags, one of whom signs himself Will Wickham, immortalized him in their verses.
Sweet muse, wilt thou sing?
What alderman venture to handle?
No subject so bright
As Alderman White,
And his forty-five dozen of candle.
* * * * *
From him the bright name
Of freedom shall flame,
And all who that cause understand ill
May see wrong from right,
By the true patriot light
Of forty-five dozen of candle.
On a theme so sublime,
We must not fail to mention Hogarth's famous drawing of The Politician. That admirable publication, The Penny Magazine in the year 1834, had such an excellent exposition of the picture, that I cannot forbear to quote it in full. "This piece of exquisite humour, is said to have been suggested to Hogarth by a living and well-known character in his day, a Mr. Tibson, laceman in the Strand, who preferred politics to trade, and the Gazetteer newspaper to the ledger and day-book. Never was a ruling passionan intentness on a favourite subjectmore happily portrayed than in the print before us. The mere position or seat of the old quidnunc tells a story! From the way in which he has squared himself in his chair, you may see he is a man determined not to budge until he has conned his dear paper through to the last line, word, and syllable. His short, stout legs, with those broad bases of high-quartered shoes, are set down on the floor like pillars! It would require a dray-horse to drag him from his occupation!
"To throw a full, clear light on his sheet (the only sheet, we may be sure, he ever reads), he has taken his tallow candle from its socket, and, indifferent to the abomination of grease, holds it in his right hand, whilst his left hand grasps his journalthe Benjamin of his heart.
"The ascending flame has set fire to his hat, has literally burnt a hole through its broad brim. The candle has also fearfully burnt down and has guttered; the red-hot wick and the base of the flame are within the eighth of an inch of his finger, and it is difficult to say which part of him will be burnt first, his forehead, his nose, or his unflinching hand. But what of that? He is rapt, and altogether unconscious of his danger, and on he will read until the fire reaches him. Look at his countenance the while! with its deep lines of thought, and the half acute and half solemn compression of his lips! There is many a siege and blockade in the dropping corner of that mouth, and a campaign or a treaty in every wrinkle of that face! * * *
"Thanks to the introduction of narrow-brimmed hats, there is now no danger of our quidnuncs setting fire to their beavers. Their heads, indeed, are sometimes heated by flaming paragraphs; but the heat is all inward. There are political occasions on which the people have to think and to act, as far as they can act legally; but the only way to think and to act rightly is to be cool, and not set their hats or their heads on fire."
In the days of the great Napoleon the rage of English people against Boney knew no bounds. Woodward designed a cartoon entitled "The Corsican Moth", which flying towards the candle is made to say, "It is a very fierce flame; I am afraid I shall singe my wings!" Old George III., just below the candlestick, is muttering "Thou little contemptible insect, I shall see thee consumed by-and-by!" We are glad that no such irrational hate now stirs our population with enmity to France. There is no need for me to moralize upon the moth and the candle; yet it were well if some who have been already injured by vicious courses could have the sense to shun those evils which have already wrought them so much ill.
It brings us back to the dark ages, when we find that, so late as 1836, His Majesty William IV. was dependent upon wax candles for the due delivery of his speech to Parliament. I will give you the passage:
"The opening day of the Session of Parliament, in 1836 (February 4). was unusually gloomy, which, added to an imperfection in the sight of King William IV., and the darkness of the House, rendered it impossible for His Majesty to read the Royal Speech with facility. Most patiently and good-naturedly did he struggle with the task, often hesitating, sometimes mistaking, and at others correcting himself. On one occasion he stuck altogether, and after two or three ineffectual efforts to make out the word, he was obliged to give it up, when, turning to Lord Melbourne, who stood on his right band, and looking him most significantly in the face, he said, in a tone sufficiently loud to be audible in all parts of the House, 'Eh! what is it?' Lord Melbourne having whispered the obstructing word, the King proceeded to toil through the speech; but by the time he got to about the middle, the librarian brought him two wax-lights, on which he suddenly paused; then raising his head, and looking at the Lords and Commons, he addressed them on the spur of the moment, in a perfectly distinct voice, and without the least embarrassment or mistake of a single word, in these terms:
"'My Lords and Gentlemen,I have hitherto not been able, from want of light, to read this speech in thc way its importance deserves; but as lights are now brought me, I will read it again from the commencement, and in a way which, I trust, will command your attention.'
"The King, though evidently fatigued by the difficulty of reading in the first instance, began at the beginning, and read through the speech in a manner which would have done credit to a professor of elocution!"
Ladies and Gentlemen, it would seem to be a wonder, that a King should be able to read without fainting away! When he does his royal best he seems to be nearly as good as "a professor of elocution." This is not saying much. People who try to flatter rulers generally succeed in making them ridiculous. Think of his Majesty's being able to deliver an extempore speech of one sentence! Wonders will never cease.
Let us get to our "Sermons in Candles" in real earnest. We will begin with the candle-light which we find in Holy Scripture.
Our Lord walks among the golden candle-sticks of his churches; but these again are candelabra or lamp-stands. In a country where olive oil abounded so much as in Palestine, there was no need of the candle of our colder climatethe lamp being so readily supplied with the best of fuel. These lamps were of many forms; but what mattered it, so long as their light was good? Many are the methods of the churches, but the main thing is to shine with Gospel light.
In the Word of God, we read of candles in different connections; but my previous remark applies to all the passages. The probability is that they all relate to lamps. That, however, shall not hinder me from speaking upon them. Candles are mentioned in relation to the character and condition of wicked men. Job (18:6) says,"The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him." His light never was that of the Sun of Righteousness, but he set up the candle of creature-comfort, that he might forget the night of his soul. Yet even this was but a temporary light, a mere candle which melted as it shone. God is against the ungodly man, and therefore, in due season, his very light will become darkness, and even his small joy will be gone like a candle which is blown out. In all cases a candle is doomed to cease its shining sooner or later. It comes to an end by gradual and natural consumption, even if all goes well with it; but in the case mentioned in the text, it is quenched by violence, or "put out." How great is the darkness of the sinner in such a case! If the believer has his candlestick of earthly comfort removed out of its place, his God still abides with him; and therefore he rejoices in heavenly light, and does not stumble; but when the ungodly lose their candle, they have lost all; and so Job adds, "The steps of his strength shall be straitened, and his own counsel shall cast him down." When the lamp goes out in the Arab tent, all is gloomy and desolate; and hence the misery which is symbolized by the quenching of the candle is great.
In another place Job (xxi. 17) says,"How oft is the candle of the wicked put out!" Suddenly the glory, the prosperity, yea, the very life of the wicked may come to an end. It has been so in hundreds of cases. Some think the passage means "How seldom!" rather than "How often!" Assuredly, the righteous have often considered providence to be slack in its dealings with the ungodly: but is it not great long-suffering which spares the guilty, in the hope of their repentance? Why should we grudge them a little candle-light, when, alas! they will so soon dwell in the outer darkness?
Job does not restrict this metaphor to the sons of evil, but uses it in reference to his own condition. Hear how he sighs (xxix. 2,3):"Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head!" He had known prosperity, and that was gone! He had enjoyed heavenly fellowship, and that had been obscured. The candle of the Lord is a candle indeed. When that brightness is reflected from our faces, we are as happy as the angels in heaven; but when it is taken away, we sit in a darkness which may be felt. He who has once enjoyed fellowship with God will never again be happy without it. If we had remained in the blindness of nature, we should not have known the glory of divine love, nor should we have been in distress when a conscious sense of it is withdrawn; but now that we are enlightened by divine grace, darkness brings woe to us. When we lose the candle of the Lord, we imitate Job in sighing for its return.
David, who knew full well the brightness of that candle, and also knew the miss of it, jubilantly cries out in Psalm 18:28, "Thou wilt light my candle." The Scotch version well rhymes it:
That it shall shine full bright:
The Lord my God will also make
My darkness to be light."
Believers shall not be left in the dark. If no servant comes to light our candle, the Lord himself will do it. What a mass of meaning can be packed away in one figurative expression! Matthew Henry, without the least straining of the metaphor, reads the passage thus: "Thou wilt revive and comfort my sorrowful spirit, and not leave me melancholy: thou wilt recover me out of my troubles, and restore me to peace and prosperity: thou wilt make my honour bright, which is now eclipsed; thou wilt guide my way, and make it plain before me, that I may avoid the snares laid for me; thou wilt light my candle, to work by, and give me an opportunity of serving thee and the interests of thy kingdom among men."
Solomon spoke of a candle when he said, "The spirit of man is as the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly." Did he not refer to conscience? Did he not mean that conscience is in some respects a divine light"the candle of the Lord"? and in all respects a discovering lightsearching all the inward parts? Take care that you never trifle with this candle. A loss of light in the conscience means decrease of light for our whole manhood. I am afraid that conscience in many persons has become no better than an unkindled candle, not giving light, nor even making darkness visible. I have heard of a man who said, "Conscience! Conscience! I have plenty of conscience." "Yes", said one, "and it is as good as new, for I have never known you use it." In that case it was a candle unlighted, and the old rhyme has it:
What profits it by day or night?"
An enlightened conscience is greatly to be prized, and it should be kept free from everything which might mar its brightness. Milton says:
May sit i' the centre and enjoy bright day."
God grant that we may never do violence to our conscience even in the least degree; for this is to quench our own light!
Solomon mentions the candle in his graphic picture of the virtuous woman, who not only worked by day, but wrought far into the night. He says (Prov. xxxi. 18), "Her candle goeth not out by night." Many would have their hours shortened as to work, and lengthened as to sleep; but she did the very reverse. She lengthened her days by taking hours out of her nights. A wonderful example that woman was! I recollect hearing, when I was a boy, a minister preach about her from this text, "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies." The opening of that memorable discourse was somewhat in this fashion:"'Who can find a virtuous woman?' Why, anyone who chooses to look for her; and the only reason why Solomon could not find her was because he looked in the wrong place. Virtuous women kept clear of a king who had such a multitude of wives. But", said the preacher, "if Solomon were here now, and were made truly wise, he would not long ask'Who can find a virtuous woman?' He would join the church, and find himself at once among a band of holy women, whose adornment is a meek and quiet spirit. If he were permitted to look in upon the Dorcas meeting, he would see many of the sort of whom he once said, 'She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.' If he would adjourn to the Sunday-school, he would there meet with others of whom he would say, 'She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.' We, who serve the Lord Jesus, meet many a time with virtuous women, of each of whom we could say with the wise king, 'Her price is far above rubies.'" The preacher of whom I have spoken interested me by the remark, "Why 'above rubies'? Why not above diamonds? My brethren, the diamond is but a pale and sickly stone, which needs the glare of candle-light or gas to set it off; but the ruby is a ruddy, healthy gem, which is beautiful by daylight. Lovely is the woman whose face is full of the glow of activity in domestic life. That is the kind of woman who makes the housewife in whom the heart of her husband safely trusteth." Whatever one may think of the correctness of the exposition, the sentiment of the preacher was sound and practical.
In Scripture the candle is mentioned whcn the destruction of a city is described. "Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle" (Jeremiah 25:10). When no longer there were days of joyno festivals, no weddingsthen was the city brought low; but when the sound of the grinding of the meal by the millstone altogether ceased in the morning, and the light of the candle was no more to be seen in the evening, then was the city deserted, and left to be a desolation. If you passed a city on a hill, and saw no candle shining from any window, then you knew that the inhabitants had ceased. The description is as graphic as it is pictorial. The fate of the spiritual Babylon, or apostate Church, is set forth in the Book of Revelation, in the most solemn and sweeping terms: "And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. And the voice of harpers, and musicians, and of pipers, and trumpeters, shall be heard no more at all in thee; and no craftsman, of whatsoever craft he be, shall be found any more in thee; and the sound of a millstone shall be heard no more at all in thee; and the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in thee" (Revelation 18:21-23). Who, that has read with care the story of the apostate church, can do other than rejoice with the holy apostles and prophets that God will thus deal with her?
The prophet Zephaniah, in his first chapter, at the twelfth verse, mentions candles in that memorable passage wherein he describes the overthrow of Jerusalem by the Babylonians: "I will search Jerusalem with candles." The same description might stand for the destruction of the city by the Romans; for Josephus tells us that princes, and priests, and mighty men were dragged even out of the sewers, and pits, and caves, and tombs, in which they had hidden themselves from fear of death. The imagery of the prophet well describes the conduct of soldiers when sacking a city. They not only seize all that they can see at once, or with a slight search; but, rightly judging that the people will have hidden their treasures, they ransack their darkest cellars and closets, and pry into their furniture; and, that they may see the better, they light many candles and look into every corner and cranny, so that nothing may escape them. Now, when God comes to search his church he will do it himself"I will search Jerusalem"; and he will do it as minutely as spoilers in the hour of sack. He will find out every hypocrite, "and punish the men that are settled on their lees; that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil." Ah me! if the Lord thus examines our churches; if he comes to close work with men's souls, and searches with candles to find out their condition; shall we be able to endure an investigation so thorough, so minute, so all-discovering?
When we reach the New Testament, we remember our Saviour's words: "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": Matthew v. 15. Grace is meant to be seen: to conceal it is contrary to common sense. Our Lord also speaks of a high degree of grace in Luke xi. 36, "If thy whole body therefore be full of light, having no part dark, the whole shall be full of light, as when the bright shining of a candle doth give thee light?' How blessed to have "no part dark"! To have "the whole full of light"! This is no dim twinkling, but "the bright shining of a candle", or rather of "a lamp", whereby all in the room are made glad. What a beautiful condition of heart! But we ought all to possess it; for darkness is a work of the devil, and all the devil's works our Lord Jesus has come to destroy. God grant that the whole of our being may be irradiated with the brightness of his grace! Then we shall have nothing to conceal, and nothing around us will lie in darkness. Our houses will be lit up with glory, and the bells on the horses, and the vessels of our dwellings will reflect the brightness of our consecrated lives. Alas, that so many who have a measure of divine knowledge and grace, yet have some part of their nature still in the darkness! You cannot help noticing that their sanctification is partial. Perhaps it will be the wiser course to keep our eyes at home, and pray the Lord to enlighten our darkness, that we may, ourselves, shine as lights in the world.
Remember, also, the remarkable parable of the woman who had lost her piece of money. The question is put in Luke 15:8, "What woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it?" In this way must we look for lost souls, with the light of the gospel and the bosom of the law. You must be at some expense if you would find the lost! You must light a candle, and let it be burnt up. You must make a little dust, too; for nothing worth doing will be accomplished without a stir. Yet dust making is not all. Certain people seem to think that you will find all the lost pieces of money by merely making dust enough and noise enough; but they are wrong. There must be more light than dust. Nothing can be done without the light of the candle. Instruction must be given, as well as excitement created. A little dust is a good sign, for it shows that the lethargic order is being disturbed, and old things are passing away; but, at the same time, we must not make so much dust that we cannot see by the light of our candle. Indeed, we must not be content either with the dust or the light; we may not rest till we spy out our lost treasure, and place it in safety. Use the candle more than the broom. Be not negligent as to either; but keep your eye open to find the money.
There is even a connection between candles and heaven, though it is of a negative kind; for there "They need no candle, neither light of the sun": Revelation 22:5. Here on earth creature-comforts yield us their candlelight; but there the Creator himself will fill us with his own presence, and we shall no more need these temporal blessings than a man requires a candle at noon-day. How soon may we be privileged to know how bright is the place where '"the Lord God giveth them light"! Thus the Scripture is not without its "sermons in candles", as I have shown you.
One allusion I will venture to mention, though the word employed is "lamp." David says, "Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path": Psalm 119:105. David drew his comparison from what is seen every night in an Oriental city. He who goes out into the street at night in Eastern towns is bound to carry a lantern with him. You would find it very necessary if you were there, if only because of the dogs who prowl about for their living. They are very fond of shin bones, and they do not like them any the less if they happen to be alive, with a little meat upon them. A light may keep them off. Besides that, there are open gutters, and heaps of filth, and nobody knows the abominations of the unspeakable Turk and his cousins in the East. You must, therefore, when you go out at night, carry a lantern, for your own protection; and the law, also, compels yon to do so. If you are out without a lantern, the police put you down as an individual who is abroad with ill design. The very common lantern, which children are so pleased, is a fair specimen of what are used at this day, and therefore it resembles what David used; for fixings in the East undergo little or no change. The proper use of such a lantern was to guide the feet, and this is the use of the Word of God. Certain brethren hold it up so as to see the stars, hoping to find out what is going to happen next week, or next year. How great they are over seals and trumpets! One admires the depth and the darkness of their research. We may leave them to their discoveries: time will show whether they are correct or not.
Others hold the heavenly light where its only use would be to minister warmth and comfort to the heart: these we do not blame, unless they forget other matters. David made a practical use of the sacred light: he held it where it would shine upon his way, and enable him to keep out of foul places, and walk in a clean path. The Bible is a blessing to us in many ways; but he is wisest who makes it his "Every-day Book", and rules his family life and his business life by its holy precepts. Read the prophecies, prize the promises, but fail not, by God's grace, to practise the precepts.
Many people use their Bibles as lights to be hung up at a Chinese feast of lanterns, for amusement, or for show. Their theology is a brilliant advertisement of their information; their Biblical studies make their conversation attractive; but bona fide practical godliness they fight shy of. They prefer the Book of Revelation to the Sermon on the Mount. Very general is this unpractical treatment of Holy Scripture. have you not heard of the "Golden Rule"? A wonderful precept is that Golden Rule, and I am sure you all admire it. I have been told, that one day the Golden Rule wandered out of church into the Stock Exchange, got its hat knocked over its eyes, and was led out by the beadle, who asked, "What could have induced you to come here? What business have you out of church? You are neither a bull nor a bear." The jobbers and brokers could not do their business with this precious Golden Rule prying about; for its teaching did not allow latitude enough to either buyers or sellers. Perhaps I am mistaken. I am not sure that it was the Stock Exchange; on second thoughts, it may have been the Coal Exchange, or possibly Mark Lane. I am getting a little mixed. I wonder whether it was the Cattle Market, or Covent Garden, or Mincing Lane. Perhaps, after all, I am in error, and it was your shop. But this I do know, that the Golden Rule is always highly respected when it keeps itself to itself; but if it meddles with tradespeople, they say, "Business is business": to which I would reply, "And business has no business to be such business as it often is." The Golden Rule in business generally is, "Do others, or others will do you." But the Word of God speaks in nobler fashion. Scripture lays down by-laws which the most of men treat with respectful negligence: they have no objection to the light and comfort of Scripture in sickness, sorrow, or death; but they want it not in their everyday walks in the City. This is not as it should be. Use you the light of God every day and all the day.
It is time to quit these Scriptural allusions, and come to the work of presenting emblems and illustrations. I will begin by borrowing. I dare say you have seen a little, square, podgy book, as broad as it is long; very much like a smaller Bradshaw's Railway Guide: I refer to Quarles' School of the Heart. If ever you have been shut up in a remote farmhouse, where there was nothing to read except the almanack for the year 1843, when you had read that through three times, and had picked over Buchan's Family Medicine, you were driven at last to this quaint old book of uncouth cuts and rhymes. It is an immortal work, and, despite the critics, it has true poetry in it, though its metaphors are often grotesque and strained. Towards the end you find certain emblems made from candles; and I have put seven of them together to set forth the "Seven Ages of Man." This first candle, long and slender, is the child, which, if spared, has quite a length of light and life before it.
But you will soon be weary of me if I do not bring to an end this first part of my "Sermons in Candles." I will close with a short meditation, from quaint Bishop Hall, and a rhyme from Master John Bunyan. The Bishop, whose wording I have a little altered, has a Contemplation under the heading of
"Well as we love the light, we are wont to salute it, at its first coming in, with winking or closed eyes; as not abiding to see that without which we cannot see. All sudden changes, though for the better, have a kind of trouble attending them. By how much more excellent any object is, by so much more is our weak sense mis-affected in the first apprehending of it.
"O Lord, if thou shouldest manifest thy glorious presence to us here, we should be confounded at the sight of it? How wisely, how mercifully hast thou reserved that for our glorified estate; where no infirmity shall dazzle our eyes; where perfect righteousness shall give us perfect boldness both of sight and fruition!"
Master Bunyan gives us a world of thought in the doggerel rhyme with which I end this first lesson.
Man's like a candle in a candlestick,
We manage candles when they take the fire;
Again, though it may seem to some a riddle,
As candles in the wind are apt to flare,
The candle in the night doth all extol,
But candles that do blink within the socket,
But let us draw towards the candle's end.