« Prev Chapter XXXVII. Next »

Chapter XXXVII.

He Who Does Not Follow Christ In Faith, Holiness, And Continued Repentance, Cannot Be Delivered From The Blindness Of His Heart, But Must Abide In Eternal Darkness; And He Cannot Have A True Knowledge Of Christ, Or Fellowship With Him.

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all: if we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.—1 John 1:5-7.

That we may the better understand the nature of light and darkness, it is necessary first to give heed to the description of the light, as it is originally.

2. “God is light,” saith St. John. But what is God? God is a spiritual, eternal, and infinite Being; God is almighty, merciful, gracious, righteous, holy, true, and the only wise God. God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is unspeakable love and faithfulness; He is one in three Persons; He is the Sovereign Good, and good essentially. And this is the true and everlasting light. Whence every one that departs from God, from his love, his mercy, his righteousness, and his truth, departs also from light itself, and must consequently fall into darkness; for without God there is nothing but everlasting darkness. O how dark, therefore, is that soul in which God doth not dwell! Now if God be light, then the devil must certainly be darkness; and if God be love, then the devil must be nothing but hatred and wrath, enmity and envy, malice and uncharitableness, sin and wickedness. Whoever, therefore, turns himself to sin, turns himself to darkness and to the devil. Neither can he be delivered, till he turn back again, from darkness to light, from sin to righteousness, from vice to virtue, from the devil to God. Acts 26:18. And this is the work of a true and living faith which purifies the heart. Acts 15:9. For he who believes in Christ, daily repents and turns from sin and the devil to Christ Jesus. For even as Adam by sin turned himself from God to the devil, so we ought to withdraw again, by true repentance and faith, from the devil to God.

3. Hence it follows that man, without being converted from sin to God, can never be truly enlightened. “For what communion hath light with darkness?” 2 Cor. 6:14. Impiety and impenitence are wholly darkness, and, consequently, can have no fellowship with the light of the knowledge of Christ. So that it is absolutely impossible that those should be enlightened by the Spirit, and the light of eternal truth, who live in darkness and impenitence. To this purpose, 123 St. Paul says concerning the Jews: “When they shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away” (2 Cor. 3:16); that is, their darkness, blindness, and ignorance shall be removed, and Christ shall give them light.

4. The greatest blindness, or thickest darkness that covers the minds of men, is the sin of unbelief, with the fruits resulting from it; such as pride, avarice, wrath, and the whole train of sensual lusts and pleasures. Wherever these take possession of a man, it is impossible that he should know Christ, the true Light of the world; much less can he savingly believe in him, trust in him, and obtain by him everlasting life.

5. For how should that man know the humility of the heart of Christ, whose own heart abounds with pride and high-mindedness? How should he be acquainted with the meekness of the heart of Christ, who is full of bitter wrath and envy? How should he understand his marvellous patience, who delights in revenge, and is hurried about with a multitude of unruly passions? But he who does not understand the humility, meekness, and patience of Christ, does not know Christ himself, nor believe in his holy name. For truly, if ever thou desirest to attain a sound knowledge of Christ, thou must obtain, by faith, the same heart which is in Christ; thou must experimentally perceive in thy heart, his meekness, his patience, and his humility. It is then that thy knowledge becomes solid and substantial. As a fruit is known by the taste, so Christ, the tree of life, is known by tasting. Whenever thou tastest by faith the humility of Christ, his meekness and his patience, thou then eatest of his fruit, and shalt find rest for thy soul. Thou enjoyest in Christ the favor and consolation of God. This is the only way to true rest and tranquillity of mind. For the grace and comfort of God cannot enter into a heart that is void of faith, and destitute of the meekness and humility of Christ. It is to the humble that God gives grace. 1 Pet. 5:5.

6. But how is it possible that Christ should profit a man who does not desire to have the least fellowship with him? For, in truth, all those that live in the darkness of sin, have no fellowship with Christ, be their pretences what they will. For thus says St. John: “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another.” 1 John 1:6, 7. And in the following chapter he explains it more fully: “The darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother, is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:8-11.

7. As long, then, as a man continues in that dark and terrible cloud of sin, it is impossible that he should be enlightened by Christ, the true Light of the world, and be thereby brought to a saving knowledge of God. Whoever will attain to a true knowledge of God and Christ, must firmly believe that God is nothing but grace and love. Now, no man can know what love is, but he that has, and practises it, the knowledge of a thing being the result of a man's experience, 124 of his feelings, and of the works of truth which he performs. Whoever, therefore, does not exercise love (whatever words he may use about it), continues an utter stranger to the nature of love; and what he is pleased to call love, is nothing but show and pretence. And as Christ himself is nothing but love and humility, meekness and patience, and every true virtue, so a man that is not frequent in the performance of these and the like virtues, is altogether ignorant of Christ and of the truth. He is but a superficial pretender to, and a vain usurper of, His holy name, let his boasts be what they may. The Word of God is nothing but spirit. Whoever, therefore, does not live and walk in the Spirit, in no wise understands what the Word of God is, though he may dispute and argue copiously about it. How shall a man tell us what love is, who never performed any act of love? How shall a man give an account of the nature of light, who, having been constantly confined to a dark dungeon, has never seen the light himself? Now, the light in man is faith and charity, according to the saying of Christ: “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.

8. In a word, the holy life of Christ is nothing but love and charity. No sooner do we, by faith, learn from him true love and humility, meekness and patience, as he himself has engaged us to do, than we are transformed into his image, and enlightened with that true and eternal light, which he himself is; according to that exhortation of St. Paul: “Awake thou that sleepest (namely, in sins and the lust of the flesh), and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.” Eph. 5:14.

9. From all this it follows, that in the case of as many as do not awake from their spiritual lethargy, that is, from the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, the pride of life, and other pleasures that attend them, their souls cannot be enlightened by Christ, since they love darkness rather than light, and thereby unfit themselves for a reception of the divine light.

10. It also hence appears that those, on the other hand, who truly embrace the life of Christ, and follow him in faith, are by him graciously enlightened, according to his promise: “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me (in faith and love, hope and patience, meekness and humility, fear of God, and in prayer, etc.) shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12. Therefore, the true followers of Christ, and these only, freely enjoy the light of life, and are alone endued with true illumination and sound knowledge of Christ. And it is on account of this Christian faith and life, that true believers are called by the Apostle, a light in the Lord. “Ye were,” saith he, “sometime darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord” (Eph. 5:8): here he means the principle of faith, and those Christian virtues that attend it. And again, “Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness,”—“putting on the breast-plate of faith and love, and for a helmet, the hope of salvation.” 1 Thess. 5:5, 8. Christ denies that the world (that is, carnal and unregenerate minds), can ever “receive the Spirit of Truth.” John 14:17.

11. That there might be a perfect 125 and absolute example given to men, and a complete idea of virtue and goodness, the Son of God became also Man, and by his unspotted and holy life was made the public Light of the world, that so all men might follow him, believe in him, and receive light from him. Since, however, false Christians own with their lips that Christ is the safe and great exemplar of virtue, and yet do not follow him in their life and actions, it is manifest, that the heathens who esteemed virtue, put the Christians to shame. The most eminent of them, such as Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, have highly recommended the study of virtue, and freely confessed, that “if virtue could be seen with bodily eyes, it would appear fairer, and with a more glorious lustre than even the morning star.” But, truly, none have had a fuller view of the beauty of virtue, than those who by faith have seen Jesus Christ, that unerring pattern of righteousness. These are those that have “handled the Word of life” (1 John 1:1), as St. John tells us. And, surely, if heathens have been so much absorbed by the love of virtue, how much more should a Christian love the transcendent beauty of Jesus Christ, who is virtue itself, and composed of nothing but pure love, and unspotted meekness; nay, who is God himself?

12. It was not without cause, therefore, that St. Paul preferred the love of Christ to all other knowledge or science: and with him we ought to pray that we may experimentally “know this love of Christ which passeth knowledge” (Eph. 3:19), that so we may thereby be “filled with all the fulness of God.” Now there is no man that has the love of Christ in him, but he must necessarily also love the humility and meekness of Christ, and from sincere love to him readily embrace them. By this means he is still more and more enlightened, and day by day transformed into the image of Christ, “as from glory to glory.” 2 Cor. 3:18. And the reason of this is evident; for God delights to give grace to the humble (1 Peter 5:5), as the Scripture tells us: agreeably to what St. Bernard says, “The rivers of grace flow downwards, not upwards.” They visit and refresh the valley, but will not rest upon mountains, or upon anything that is high and lifted up. How should then the grace of the light and knowledge of God come to a man that walks not in the humble and holy light of Christ, but in the way of Lucifer? For if there be any faith in us, and if this be attended with suitable fruits and practice, it will not leave us “barren and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:8. In an humble soul Christ lives, and then also his Spirit rests upon it (the spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord), as truly as it rested upon Christ himself. For in whomsoever the light and the life of Christ dwell, in him is also Christ himself, who is the very light and life of a Christian. And this also is the reason that the gifts and graces of the divine Spirit rest upon a true Christian, as well as upon Christ himself, according to the prophecy of Isaiah. Ch. 11:1-3.

13. Hence St. Peter, speaking to the Jews, exhorts them to repent (or to be renewed in their minds): “and ye shall,” says he, “receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Acts 2:38. Whence it plainly appears, that those who are in a state of faith and repentance, are the only men duly prepared for receiving 126 the divine Spirit, the true enlightener of hearts.

14. Whoever, therefore, desires to be delivered from the blindness of his heart, and from eternal darkness, yea, from the devil himself, let him faithfully follow Christ in true faith, in unfeigned conversion, and in a thorough newness of life. The nearer we are to Christ, the nearer we are to the eternal light; the more closely we adhere to unbelief, the more we adhere to darkness and to the devil himself. For even as Christ, faith, and all the virtues, are nearly allied and belong together, so in like manner, are the devil, unbelief, and all the vices, and works of darkness, so nearly combined, as to render it impossible to conceive of one without the other.

15. Consider the apostles of the Lord. They followed their Master in faith, in contempt of the world, denying themselves, in renouncing their possessions, and in living together in unity of the Spirit. By this means they were enlightened from above, and filled with the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:1, etc. With these terms the rich young man in the Gospel being unwilling to comply, he continued shut up in the darkness of the world, and was not enlightened unto eternal life. Luke 18:23. For “if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15. And “he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth: because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” 1 John 2:11.

16. All the sermons of Tauler refer to this subject. He makes it appear, that without the sincere exercise of faith, without a serious course of mortification, without self-denial, without a narrow search into one's own heart, and without the inward, calm sabbath of the soul, no man can obtain or enjoy the divine light.

17. In short, in proportion as the works of darkness are destroyed in a man by the Spirit of God, in that proportion is he illuminated; and again, in the same degree as the corrupt nature, the flesh, and the world, pride, and the lust of the eyes, domineer in a man, in that degree darkness is left in him, and the less of grace, of light, of the Spirit of God and of Christ, is he possessed of. Therefore it remains, that without unfeigned repentance, and a daily repentance, no man can be truly enlightened from above.

18. Whoever yields too much to one sin, undoubtedly opens a door to many others. Sin never comes alone, but, like a noxious weed, spreads itself on every side, and gains more ground every day. And as the darkness becomes greater accordingly as the sun retires, so as the holy life of Christ departs from us, the darkness and sin increase, till at length the man is swallowed up in eternal darkness. On the contrary, if a man devote himself to the practice of one virtue, he gains thereby an opportunity of practising all the rest in time, and cannot but daily proceed from one to another. This admirable connection is represented by St. Peter as a chain, in which all the rings are linked together, and none is suffered to separate from another. “Add,” he says, “to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity;” superadding one virtue continually to another, and crowning all at last with this promise: “If these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither 127 be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8. To sum up all in a few words: Whoever is not earnestly bent on the exercise of such heavenly virtues as these, certainly knows not Christ, and is void of all saving knowledge: whereas, if a man by faith grow in virtue, he also grows in Christ himself. On the contrary, the wrathful, the covetous, the proud, the impatient, do not grow in Christ, but in the devil.

19. It is the apostle's command, that we should grow up “unto a perfect man.” Eph. 4:13. As a child gradually grows up to the stature of a perfect man, so a Christian ought daily to grow in the practice of faith and virtue, till he become a perfect man in Christ. But “he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” 2 Pet. 1:9. As if the apostle had said: Christ by his death has indeed taken away our sins, and blotted them out; not that we should continue in the service of sin, but that, dying to sin, and living to Christ, we should show forth the fructifying power of the death of Christ. Without this order practically applied to the mind, it is manifest, that the purging away of our old sins, and the atonement made for them, can profit us nothing. Our sin is never forgiven until we entirely quit it, repent of it, and embrace Christ with an unfeigned belief. If we preserve but one sin alive, the mortifying of all the rest, if that were possible, would avail nothing; but we should be condemned to eternal death, without any hope of expiation or forgiveness. Thus, a man may be damned for the sin of wrath alone; whereas, if he had seriously corrected and quitted it, he would have obtained pardon not only for that, but even for other sins of which he stood guilty. But neglecting to do this, he is one of those that are “blind,” and “he forgets that he was purged from his old sins!” 2 Pet. 1:9.

20. By this we are given to understand the necessity of repentance, and a thorough change of life: for although Christ died for our sins, and abolished them with the price of his blood, yet can we never partake of that merit, unless we repent. Without repentance this precious blood profits nothing. And though every man has a promise of pardon for his sin through the merit of Christ, yet that promise belongs not to the unbeliever, nor to the impenitent, but to those only who truly repent and reform their lives. Those sins shall not be remitted, which a man will not leave; but those only which he is willing to quit, and for which he heartily grieves. And here the word of the Lord is verified, “The poor have the Gospel preached to them;” that is, remission of sin, and life everlasting consequent upon it. Matt. 11:5. Let us suppose a man, who, for many years, has been the servant of covetousness, after the example of Zaccheus; or of lust, as Mary Magdalene; or of wrath and revenge, as Esau. Let us also suppose that this man, as soon as he heard that either these sins were to be entirely left, or that the death and blood of Christ would else profit him nothing, becomes a true suppliant to God, and cries out to him: “Oh God! how am I grieved for this! O Lord, be merciful, be merciful!” and then forms a new resolution, desists from his sin, craves pardon and grace, and believes in Christ. Then all his former offences are, of grace, freely remitted 128 to him. No merit of his own is regarded, but solely the death and the blood of Christ shed for him. This is the only way in which a returning sinner is to obtain mercy. Whereas, he that does not fully resolve to abandon his former sins, his covetousness, wrath, usury, pride, lust, etc., will hope forever in vain for a remission of sin, being condemned to everlasting confusion and anguish. He shall be obliged to satisfy for himself the justice of God, and yet will never be able to perform it. On earth he was destitute of that faith which purifies the heart (Acts 15:9); and so his sin and lust, which have not been mortified here, shall forever torment him there. It is for this reason, that St. Paul so earnestly inculcates, “that they which do such things, shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal. 5:21. And therefore either the loss of this heavenly kingdom must certainly follow, or the narrow way of self-denial must be heartily chosen.

21. Wherever this unfeigned conversion to, and faith in, God, are wrought in the soul, there pardon and divine grace are freely bestowed. And where these are, there is Christ also; without whom no grace can be obtained. Where Christ is, there are likewise his precious merit, and the full ransom which he has paid for our sins, and which is appropriated to the penitent soul. Again, where these are, there is righteousness; and with righteousness, is peace; and with peace, sweet serenity of conscience. It is then, that righteousness and peace kiss each other in the soul. Ps. 85:10. This clearness of conscience is attended with the Spirit of God himself; who being a Spirit of joy, will surely pour forth the “oil of gladness” (Heb. 1:9), and quicken the soul with a foretaste of life eternal itself, which shall be joy and glory without end.

22. This is that light of eternal life, that eternally triumphant joy, with which those only are crowned that live in Christ, and exercise daily repentance. This is the beginning of a spiritual life, as the death of Christ is the basis and foundation on which it is raised. On the contrary, where there is no repentance, there is no pardon of sin; where there is no inward remorse or spiritual sorrow, there grace cannot have a place. Where these are wanting, there Christ himself is wanting, together with the whole extent of his merits and satisfaction, be the pretences of the false Christian ever so fair and specious. Where this satisfaction is not thoroughly applied to the soul, there is no righteousness, and consequently no peace, no good conscience, no comfort. Where there is no comfort of heart, there is no Holy Ghost, no joy, no calmness of mind, and no life eternal; but death, hell, condemnation, and everlasting darkness.

23. Behold, O man! how true it is, that none of those who refuse to follow Christ in their lives, by an unfeigned repentance, can ever get rid of the blindness of their hearts, and of everlasting darkness.

« Prev Chapter XXXVII. Next »





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |