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by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His power, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour—unto Him be all glory and power ever more. Amen.
THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
John, viii. 12.—" I am the Light of the world."
This is one of those short, pregnant statements of our Lord characteristic of this Gospel, which impress us at once by their brevity, their beauty, and their largeness of meaning. Statements of a similar kind — of equal terseness and force — occur to every one: " I am the Good Shepherd."* "I am the Resurrection, and the Life."t "I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life." J What divine audacity is there in such sayings! and how little can we suppose them to be the sayings of a mere teacher or prophet! They have no parallel in the words even of the greatest teachers. One and all imply something which the most powerful and enlightened, conscious of their own capacities to communicate truth or
* John, x. 11. t Ibid. xi. 25. J Ibid. xiv. 6.
to do good, would scruple to arrogate to
themselves. They might claim respect for the
truth they speak, and summon man to attend to'
it with a voice of authority. But no human
teacher merely would dare to make himself the
centre of all truth, and the centre of the world.
Yet this is what Christ expressly does. Not
merely what He says is true or good—not merely
are His words, words of authority. But He is
Himself the source of all Divine knowledge and
blessing. "No man knoweth the Son, but the
Father; neither knoweth any man the Father,
save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son
will reveal Him; " * "No man cometh unto the
Father, but by me,"t—texts from the first and
the fourth Gospels which we have purposely
brought together in order to show that whatever
differences may otherwise characterise the Christ
of St Matthew and the Christ of St John, in
this respect they are alike, that they equally
claim to stand before all others with God. They
arrogate a pre-eminence which, if it has any
meaning at all, is superhuman and exclusive.
It is the same Divine voice which speaks in both
—the voice of no mere Teacher, but of a Revealer—one who is in Himself Light and Life. "I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life."
* Matthew, xi. 27. t John, xiv. 6.
Not only is the manner of the text peculiar —having in itself a divine emphasis — but the image of light employed in it is specially made use of in this Gospel to characterise our Lord's work and mission. In a subsequent passage in the twelfth chapter,* He Himself again says, "I am come a light into the world." And in the opening of the Gospel the mind of the Evangelist seems to dwell with a lingering fondness on the same conception of the Divine Logos of whom he speaks so grandly. "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men."t "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."\
We may be sure that there is a fine propriety in the use of this language. It is not merely that light is the most beneficent element of nature, and therefore one of the most striking symbols of Divine goodness. This, no doubt, it is; and this general meaning is also summed up in the use of the figure by St John. Men have always acknowledged with thankful reverence the glory and the freshness of the dawn, and the bright circuit of the sun, "rejoicing as a strong man to run a race." The rise of religious thought in its higher forms is everywhere associated with the clear heaven stretching in brilliancy or calm beauty over the earth, and quickening its bosom with life and movement and gladness. It was the splendour of the sun shining in his strength, and the moon walking in her brightness, which more than anything else in the early years of our race awakened the depths of wonder in the human imagination, and the secret of trust in the human heart; and while we deplore, we can understand the special worship of which they were the objects. All that man imperfectly or ignorantly signified by this worship, is no doubt present in the thought of the Gospel when Christ is spoken of as the " Light of the world." All ideas of beneficence, of hope, of life, and of happiness in nature which had gathered around the great source of fight, to the Jewish and other minds were embodied in the application of the symbol to Christ. He was thought of as an illuminating centre for the world of nature as of men—as the "day-spring from on high," whose advent was to bless all creation.
* John, iii . 46. + Ibid. L 4. X Ibid. i. 9.