Light for Those Who Sit in Darkness
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, September 10, 1871, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; the people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up,"Matthew 4:15-16.
ULL OF LOVE to the place where he had been brought up, our Lord had gone to Nazareth, and in the Synagogue he had preached the gladdest tidings; but, alas, the greatest of prophets end the Lord of prophets, received no honor in his own country. "He came unto his own and his own received him not." Expelled the city by violence, the patient one turned his footsteps another way, yet, even when justly angry, love guided his footsteps. He must go for the Nazarenes had proved themselves unworthy, but whither shall he go? He will go to the outcasts, to that part of his country which was most neglected, to that region where the population was mixed and degenerate so as to be called, not Galilee of the Jews, but Galilee of the Gentiles, where from distance from Jerusalem little was known of the worship of the temple, where error was rampant, where men's minds were enveloped in darkness, and their hearts in the gloom of deathshade. The loss of Nazareth shall be the gain of Galilee. Even his judgment upon a place is overruled in mercy, and even thus to day there are some in this house who have often had Jesus preached to them from their very childhood, but until this hour they have refused obedience to the gospel's command. What if he should now turn away from them; I pray he may not have done so already. Yet, in turning away from them, he will deal with others in mercy. As the casting away of the Jews was the salvation of the Gentiles, so the leaving of these privileged ones shall open a door of mercy and hope to those who have not enjoyed the privilege aforetime. To you who are not familiar with the gospel sound, to you who count yourselves more unworthy than the rest of mankind, to you desponding and despairing ones who write bitter things against yourselves, to you is the gospel sent. As aforetime, the Lord preached to Zabulon and Nephthalim, and the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, even so is he this day proclaimed among you.
Are their portion here below;
Beams of love from eyes of kindness,
Never here on earth they know.
But on high they shall behold
Angels tuning harps of gold;
Rapture to the new-born sight;
Jesus in celestial light!
So, when the spiritual eye has long been dim, and we have mourned and wept for sin, but could not beheld a Savior, light is sweet beyond expression. And, because it is so sweet, there is a necessity within the enlightened soul to tell out the joyful news to others. When a man has deeply felt the evil of sin, and has at length obtained mercy, he cries with David, "Then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee." John Bunyan's impulse when he found the Savior was to tell the crows on the ploughed ground about it, and he lived to do better than talk to crows, for day by day, from generation to generation, his works proclaim the Friend of sinners, who leads them from the City of Destruction to the Celestial glory. Zealous saints are usually those who once were in great darkness; they see what grace has done for them, and for that very reason they feel an attachment to their dear Lord and Master, which they might never had felt if they had not once sat in the valley of the shadow of death. So, poor troubled ones, for these reasons, and fifty more I might bring if time did not fail me, there is hope for you.
III. But now, the best part of our discourse comes under the third head. THE TRUE LIGHT FOR A SOUL IN DARKNESS IS ALL IN CHRIST. Hear ye the text. "The people which sat in darkness saw great light." Now Christ is not only light, but great light; he reveals great things, he manifests great comforts, saves us from great sin and great wrath, and prepares us for great glory. He is, however, a Savior that must be seen. "The people that sat in darkness saw great light." Light is of no use unless it be seen. Faith must grasp the blessings which the Savior brings. "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." We must see the Savior with a glance of faith, then have we light. Let us consider how clearly Christ Jesus himself is the light of every believing eye, and delivers the most troubled soul from its misery. In him is light, and the light is the light of men. Jesus personally is the day-dawn and the morning without clouds.
First, there is light in Christ's name for a troubled sinner. What is it? Jesus. Jesus, a Savior. I am a sinner lost and ruined, but I rejoice, for Jesus has come to seek and to save that which was lost. My sins trouble me, but he shall save his people from their sins. Satan annoys me, but he has come to destroy the works of the devil. He is not a nominal, but a real Savior. We know captains and colonels who have no troops, and never saw fighting, but not so the Captain of our salvation; he brings many sons unto glory. If a man is called a builder, we expect him to build; if a merchant, we expect him to trade; and as Jesus is a Savior, he will carry on his sacred business, he will save multitudes. Why, surely there is comfortable hope here. Do you not see the dawning in the name of Savior? Surely if he comes to save, and you need saving, there is a blessed suitability in you for one another. A prisoner at the bar is glad to meet one who is by profession an advocate, a ship out of its track welcomes a pilot; a traveler lost on the moors is delighted if he meets one who is by trade a guide; and so a sinner should rejoice at the bare mention of a Savior.
There is similar encouragement in the second name, Christ, for it means anointed. Our Lord Jesus is not an amateur Savior, who has come here without a commission from God; he is not an adventurer, who sets up on his own account to do a kind of work for which he is not qualified: no, the Spirit of the Lord is upon him, for the Lord hath anointed him to this work of saving souls. He is Jesus Christ, whom God hath sent. Him hath God the Father sealed. He spake not of himself, but God was with him, and in him. Why, beloved friend, now that I am in the light I can see a whole sunful of splendor in that double name Jesus Christ, and yet I fear that those who are in darkness may not perceive it. Whom God anoints to save, must surely be both able and willing to save the guilty. This name is as the morning star; look at it, and know that day is near. It has such joy in it that misery itself ought to leap with holy mirth at the sound of it.
It is our delightful task to add that there is light for those who sit in darkness in our Lord's person and nature. Mark right well who this Jesus Christ is. He is in the constitution of his person both God and man, divine and human, equal with God and fellow with man. Do you not see in this fact the love of God, that he should be willing to take humanity into union with himself? If God becomes man, he does not hate men, but has love towards them. Do you not see the suitability of Christ to deal with you, for he is like yourself a man, touched with the feeling of your infirmities; of a human mother born, he hung at a woman's breast, he suffered hunger and thirst and weariness, and, dead and buried in the tomb, he was partaker in our doom as well as our sorrow? Jesus of Nazareth was most truly a man, he is bone of our bone and flesh of your flesh. O sinner, look into the face of the man of sorrows and you must trust him. Since he is also God, you therein see his power to carry on the work of salvation. He touches you with the hand of his humanity, but he touches the Almighty with the hand of his Deity. He is man, and feels your needs; he is God, and is able to supply them. Is anything too tender for his heart of love? Is anything too hard for his hand of power? When the Lord himself, that made the heavens and digged the foundations of the earth, comes to be your Savior, there remains no difficulty in your being saved. Omnipotence cannot know a difficulty, and, O sinner, to an omnipotent Savior it is not hard to save even you. A look of faith will give you perfect pardon. A touch of the hem of the Redeemer's garment will heal you at once. Come, then, and trust the incarnate God. Cast yourself into his arms at once.
There is light, moreover, in his offices, and, indeed, a brightness of glory which a little thought will soon perceive. What are his offices? I cannot stay to mention a tithe of them, but one of them is that of Mediator. Your soul longs to speak to God and find acceptance with him, but you are afraid to venture into his terrible presence. I wonder not at your fear, for "even our God is a consuming fire." But be of good comfort, the way of access is open, and there is One who will go in unto the King with you, and open his mouth on your behalf. Jesus has interposed and filled the great gulf which yawned between the sinner and his righteous judge. His blood has paved the crimson way; his cross has bridged each stream; his person is the highway for those who would draw near to God. Now, as Christ Jesus is the Mediator between God and man, and you want one, take him and you will have light at once.
You desire, also, this day a sacrifice, to make atonement for your iniquities; that also you will find in Christ. God must punish sin, every transgression must receive its just recompense of reward; but, lo, Christ has come, and as the scape-goat he has carried sin away; as the sin-offering he has removed transgression. Is not this good news? But I hear you say that your sins are too many and great. Do you then foolishly think that Christ is a sin-bearer for the innocent? That would be ridiculous. Do you suppose that Christ bore little sins only? That is to make him a little Savior. Beware of this. Nay, but mountain sins, heaven-defying sins, were laid on him when he hung upon the tree, and for these he made effectual atonement. Is there no light in all this?
Moreover, to mention only one other office, our Lord is an Intercessor. Perhaps, one of your greatest difficulties is that you cannot pray. You say, "I cannot put a dozen words together; if I groan, I fear I do not feel in my heart what I ought to feel." Well, there is One who can pray for you if you cannot for yourself. Give him your cause to plead, and do not doubt but that it shall succeed. God grant you grace, as you see each office of Christ, to perceive that it has a bright side for sinners. I doubt not, light streams continually from every part of the sun to cheer the worlds that revolve around it; so, from the whole of Christ, there issues forth comfort for poor and needy souls. He delighteth in mercy. He is a Savior and a great one. He is all love, all tenderness, all pity, all goodness; and the very chief of sinners, if they do but see him, shall see light.
Once again, if you want light, think of his character, as the meek and lowly Savior. Little children loved him; he called them and they willingly came, for he was meek and lowly of heart. O sinner, could he refuse thee? Do you think he could give you a hard word and send you about your business, if you were to seek mercy to day? It could not be; it is not in the nature of him, who was both the Son of God and the Son of Man, ever to repel a heart that fain would cling to him. Until he has once acted harshly to a coming sinner, you have no right to dream of his rejecting you, if you come to him.
Think for a minute of his life. He was "separate from sinners," we are told, and yet it is elsewhere said of him, "this man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them." Friend of sinners was his name, and is still. Think of that self-denying life spent among the sick and the sinful for their good. And then think of his death, for here the light of grace is focused; the cross, like a burning-glass, concentrates the light and heat of Christ's love upon the sinner. See him agonizing in the garden for sins that were not his own: see him scourged with awful flagellations for transgressions in which he had no share: behold him bleeding and dying on the tree for his enemies; sufferer for iniquities in which he never was a participator, for in him was no sin. It must be true that God can save me, if Christ has died in the stead of the guilty. This argument has killed my unbelief. I cannot disbelieve, when I see incarnate God suffering for the guilty, the just for the unjust, to bring them to God.
Hands, feet, side, and temples view;
See him bleeding on the tree,
See his heart on fire for you!
View awhile, then haste away,
I wish it were in my power to convey the light which I see in the cross into the mental eyeballs of all my hearers, but I cannot; God the Holy Ghost must do it. Yet, beloved, if ever you get light, it will be in this way: Christ must be a great light to you. Nobody ever found light by raking in his own inward darkness; that is indeed seeking the living among the dead. You may rake as long as ever you will among the embers of your depravity before you will find a spark of good there. Away from self, away from your own resolutions, away from your own prayers, repentances, and faith; away to Christ on the cross must you look. All your hope and help are laid on Immanual's shoulders. You are nothing. Not a rag nor a thread of your own righteousness will do; Christ's robe of righteousness must cover you from head to foot. Blow out your paltry candles, put out the sparks which you have vainly kindled, for behold the Sun is risen! "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee." Ye want no other light than that of Jesus: dream of no other. Give up self, give up self-hope, be in utter despair of anything that you can do, and now, whether you sink or swim, throw yourself into the sea of Christ's love: rest in him and you shall never perish, neither shall any pluck you from his hands.
Down at Jesus' feet,
Stand in him, in him alone,
IV. But, lastly, we would say to every poor soul in darkness, you need be in darkness no longer; for LIGHT IS ALL AROUND YOU: it has already "sprung up."
What a mercy, my dear despairing hearer, that you are not in hell! You might have been there: many no worse than you are there; and yet here you are in the land of hope. This day God does not deal with you according to the law, but after the gospel fashion; you are not come to Sinai this morning, no burning mountain is before you, and no tones of thunder peal from it; you are come unto Mount Zion, where the mediator of the new covenant speaks peace and pardon. I have no commission to curse you, but I have distinct authority from my Master to bid you come and receive his blessing. On Zion's top to-day ye have come to the blood of sprinkling; you might have been called to the blood of your own execution! No devils are around you, but an innumerable company of angels, who wish you well. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. Remember, dear hearers, that to-day the gospel command is sent to you all; you that are most despairing, you are bidden to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. "Prove that," say you. I prove it thus: he bade his disciples go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature; you are a creature, therefore we preach it to you. And what was the gospel? Why, just this: "He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be damned." That gospel, then, comes to youGod commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent. O what mercy it is that the light of the gospel shines around you still! Will you shut your eyes to it? I beseech you, do not so wickedly.
Moreover, the provisions of the gospel, which are full of light and love, are all around you at this moment. If you will now believe in Christ Jesus, every sin that you have committed shall be forgiven you for his namesake; you shall be to God as though you had never sinned; the precious blood shall make you as white as snow. "But that will not suffice," says one, "for God righteously demands obedience to his holy law, and I have not kept his commandments, and therefore am weighed in the balances and found wanting." You shall have a perfect righteousness in one moment if you believe in Jesus, "even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works." Happy is the man to whom Jesus Christ is made wisdom and righteousness, and he is so to every one that believeth." There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." "Ah," say you, "but I have a bad heart and an evil nature." If thou believest, thy nature is changed already, "A new heart also will I give them, and a right spirit will I put within them." "They shall also walk in my judgments, and observe my statutes, and do them." He can change you so that you shall scarcely know yourself; you shall be a new creature in Christ Jesus; old things shall pass away and all things shall become new. He will take away the heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh. "Alas," say you, "even this is not enough, for I shall never hold on in the ways of righteousness, but shall go back unto perdition." Hear, O thou trembler, these gracious words: "I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from; me." And what saith our Lord himself? He saith, "They shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." "The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life." "But what, if I go astray," says one. Then he will heal your backslidings, receive you graciously, and love you freely. "He restoreth my soul." He will not suffer even his wandering sheep to perish, but once again will he put them in the right way. "Ah, but my soul-poverty is deep, and my wants will be too great." How can you say this? Is he not the God all sufficient? Has the arm of the Lord waxed short! Did he not furnish a table in the wilderness? Is it not written, "My God shall supply all your need?" He shall cause all grace to abound towards you. "Fear not thou worm Jacob, I will help thee, saith the Lord." "Ah, but," saith one, "I shall surely be afraid to die, for I am afraid of it even now." "He that liveth and believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live." "When thou passest through the rivers, I will be with thee." Death is swallowed up in victory. Having loved his own which are in the world, he will love them to the end. Thou shalt have such faith in dying moments that thou shalt say: "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" "But you do not mean me," saith one. I mean you that sit in darkness, you that are ignorant, you that are depressed, you that have no good thing of your own, you that cannot help yourselves, you lost ones, you condemned ones, I mean you. And this is God's message to you: "God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved." "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." "He that believeth on him is not condemned." Oh, come, ye guilty; for he is ready to forgive you. Come, ye filthy; the fountain is ready for your cleansing. Come, ye sorrowful, since joy is prepared; his oxen and fatlings are killed, for all things are ready; come to the feast of love. But I hear you say, "I must surely do something." Have done with your doings, and take Christ's doings. "Oh, but I do not feel as I should." Have done with your feelings: Christ's feelings on the cross must save you, not your own feelings. "Oh, but I am so vile." He came to save the vile.
Tarry not to cleanse or mend;
Come, in all thy destitution,
As thou art, and he'll befriend.
By the tempter's vain allurements,
Be no longer thou beguiled:
God the Father waits to own thee
As his dear adopted child."
"But I have been an adulterer, I have been a thief, I have been a whoremonger, and everything that is bad." Be it so, yet it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. All manner of sin and of blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men. It is true that you are much worse then you think you are: you may tell me you are horribly bad, but you have no idea how bad you are: the hottest place in hell is your desert; but it is to you the mercy is sent; to you, O man, to you, O woman, to you who have defiled yourself with all manner of unmentionable enormities, even to you, thus saith the Lord, "I have blotted out thy sins like a cloud and like a thief; cloud thy transgressions; return unto me and I will have mercy upon thee." I cannot say more. I wish I had the power to speak, I was about to say, with the tongues of men and of angels, but I have such a blessed message to deliver to you, that I feel it need not goodly words, the message itself is all that is needed if the Spirit bless it. Oh, do not reject it, I beseech you, you guilty ones! you despairing ones, do not turn from it, put not away from you the kingdom lest you prove yourselves unworthy, and bring upon yourselves wrath unto the uttermost.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. Receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior, now on the spot. May God the Holy Spirit lead you to do this, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONMatthew 4:12-25; and 5:1-12.