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Despised Light Withdrawn

by Charles H. Spurgeon

PREACHED AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON,
ON LORD’S-DAY EVENING, MAY 15TH, 1887.

“While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the
children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did
hide himself from them.”-John 12:36.

OUR Savior was very gentle with those who had real difficulties. He would
argue with them over and over again; he would state a truth, and re-state
it; he would cast it into the form of a parable, or he would condense it into
a sentence comparable to a proverb, or he would enlarge and expand it, for
he was gentle with seeking souls as a nurse is with her child. I do not
believe that there is any real difficulty in the hearts of those of you who are
sincerely seeking Jesus that he will despise. He will not quench the
smoking flax, nor break the bruised reed; therefore, come to him with your
doubts and your anxieties, believing that his tender heart so loves you, and
so desires your good, that he will sit at your feet that he may induce you to
sit at his feet; he will come down to your level that he may lift you up to his
level.

I notice, however, that, while it is true that our gracious Master was very
gentle and patient with those who had real difficulties, yet he did not
always answer everybody’s cavil. When the difficulty was raised for the
sake of questioning and disputing, when it was mere quibbling, when the
enquirers were not in earnest, and did not really wish to know the truth, he
often declined to answer them. My Master has no desire to be merely
victor in a debate: he did not come into the world to fight a battle of logic just for the sake of winning it. It is you and your salvation that he is
seeking. So was it in the case of these Jews; when they came with fresh
cavils, saying, “Who is this Son of man?” our Lord, instead of replying to
them, exhorted them to believe and walk in the light while they had it. He
assumed that he was the light; he took that as a thing which had been
proved, he did not go over that ground again; but he let the cavilers know
that he claimed to be the light of life, the light whereby men can come to
God; and he pressed them to cease from questioning, and to begin to
practice real and true dealing with himself. “While ye have light,” said he,
“believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” I am not going,
on this occasion, to attempt to meet any difficulties, or to answer any
questions. The most of you have no difficulties about the way of salvation,
and many whom I address here have done with asking questions about
Christ. The point is, how to come to a practical decision. Spirit of the
Living God, make this the day and this the hour when many shall believe in
the great light, and shall be made the children of light once for all!

I. First of all, I shall call your attention to a very solemn matter which may be described as THE THREATENED END TO A TIME OF PRIVILEGE: 
“while ye have the light.” You have no freehold possession of it; you have the
light, but the time of light will come to an end. Observe the 35th verse,
“Yet a little while is the light with you.” You have it at present, but it will
soon be gone from you. Take heed lest it be gone before you have used it,
for when it has once been withdrawn, darkness will come upon you, and
“he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.”

Now what was this light of which our Lord thus spoke? To the Jews, it
was the light of the presence of Christ. It was a great privilege indeed for
the people living in that age and in that country to have the Son of God
among them bodily. John tells us that there were some few who beheld his
glory, “the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and
truth; “ but the vast multitude were so blinded that, with God himself in
their midst in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ, they did not perceive who
the illustrious Stranger was. He came, and he went away again, and they
knew not who it was that they had rejected, “for,” as Paul said in writing to
the Corinthians, “had they known it, they would not have crucified the
Lord of glory.” That was the light that the Jews had, and which they lost.

Christ has never personally come to you, dear friends, in the flesh, but the
light of his gospel is still with you, and in a sense that is his presence, for Jesus is the very life of the gospel. There is also a light that comes to some
men, I might even say in human form, for there are some ministers whom
God specially appoints as his representatives to bless others. I cannot help
looking back in history to such men as Whitefield and Wesley and their
companions in that great revival period. It was a time of bright light while
they were among the sons of men; they flew like flaming seraphs over this
land, leaving a trail of light behind them, which banished much of the
darkness in which England had been shrouded. It was a great privilege to
have heard those men; and when they were gone, to a large extent, and to
many people, the light went with them.” There are some preachers still on
the earth whom God blesses very greatly in the conversion of souls, men
whom you cannot hear without being profited in your souls. Without
exalting anybody or depreciating anybody, it is a fact that there are some
preachers who do not touch your heart, and do not stir your spirit; they
may be very useful to others, and useful in other directions, but they are
not of service to you. On the other hand, there are those whom God does
bless to your soul, and if you find anywhere, in this Tabernacle, or in any
other house of prayer where Christ is preached, a voice that does really
move you, it is, so to speak, a manifestation of the light to you. Do not, I
beseech you, play with it, or trifle with it, for, whoever the preacher may
be, however humble the instrumentality, if it is instrumentality that is
adapted to your case, it should be honored in your conscience, and it
should be highly regarded in your heart. That light may readily enough be
quenched. The preacher and his hearers may be separated; he may be taken
from you, or you may be taken from him. In either case, it may be a very
sorrowful experience for you to have to look back upon all you heard and
saw in those days when there was an instrumentality exactly suited to your
case, and yet you refused to be moved by it.

We have always with us the gospel of Jesus Christ that you can read in this
Book whensoever you will; but the holy Ghost must go with the gospel to
make it the power of God unto salvation. You cannot see the light that is in
the Word unless the Holy Ghost reveals it to you. Some of you have been
under the influence of the Holy Ghost in some measure and degree. There
have been times when you have seen sin, and have stood aghast at it, when
you have seen the Savior, and have admired his blood and righteousness.
There have been times when you have been strangely inclined to come
away from yourself and your sin, and to come to Jesus, and be saved, You
remember those powerful drawings, those inward strivings. Recollect that this work of the Holy Spirit is but for a time, it lasts not for ever. Those
solemn words are still true, “My spirit shall not always strive with man.” A
day may come when the same preaching that now greatly stirs you, will
have no influence over you, and when the Spirit of God himself will seem
to be entirely absent both from the means of grace and from the Bible when
you read it. Therefore I put before you this serious consideration, that you
are at present favored with the light, but you are only favored with it for a
certain term.

Do not reckon upon always having it, for the light may be removed from
you. My dear hearer, the day may come when you will have to go away
from this country, and be found far off in the bush of Australia, or the
backwoods of America; or you may even in this country be located where
you will not be able to hear the gospel, for what you will hear will not be
the gospel, and you will be obliged to confess that it is not. Therefore,
while you have the light, remember that it is a favorable season for your
decision for Christ. The day may come, as I said before, when the voice
that has thrilled you again and again, and that wakes the echoes of your
soul’s most secret chambers, shall be silent in death; the time may come
when, although your minister and you yourself are left still in the same
place, yet, so far as you are concerned, the Holy Spirit will be gone, and so
the light will have departed from you.

Take heed, I beseech you, lest it really be so; and use the light while you
have it. It may, perhaps, seem to some of you that I am raising a needless
alarm; but indeed it is not so. I do not think that, for many a day, I have
come to this platform to speak to you without being informed, during the
day, of some one or two who have passed into eternity out of this
congregation. Years ago, the bulk of us, as church-members, were young,
and we lost comparatively few by the stroke of death; but, as it is with the
pastor, so is it with the people, we are all getting older. We have entered
middle life, the great mass of us, and consequently our mortality is largely
increasing; and every time we meet we may be positively certain that we
shall never all of us meet again here. Between this Sabbath and next
Sabbath some in the ranks of our membership will have passed into heaven,
and some out of our congregation will have been called to stand before
God. I feel, therefore, like the guard of a train that is just ready to start.
The time is up for us to be off, and the guard’s whistle has been blown, but
there is somebody who wants to talk to me about politics, or there is
another person who wants to discuss a theological difficulty; and I feel bound to say, “Sir, the time is up, we must start at once; will you come on
board, or must you be left behind? While the train is here at the platform,
enter it, take your place, and journey with us to Zion, for now it is time for
us to go. We cannot stop here for ever.” Time and tide wait for no man;
neither will God for ever wait for men to turn unto him and live; but the
hour shall come when all opportunities will be past, when the gate of mercy
will be finally shut. You remember how it was with the wise virgins and the
bridegroom, “they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and
the door was shut.”

God bless that word of warning! He can bless it, however feebly it may
have been spoken.

II. Now, secondly, I take you a little further into our theme; here is AN ACT OF GRACE COMMENDED:
“While ye have the light, believe in the light.” This believing is the most essential act of a man’s life; therefore our Lord said, “Believe in the light.”

First, believe that it is the true light, believe the gospel to be of God. Many
here have proved in their own experience that it is of God, and that “it is
the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.” That Jesus
Christ the Son of God came into this world, and was made man, that as
man he took upon himself the sin of his people, and suffered for us, “the
Just for the unjust, to bring us to God,” is most assuredly true; and that in
his name there is salvation, that in him we have eternal life, is also equally
true. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” even now.
Believe this to be true.

“Well, I do believe it to be true,” says one, “but I am not saved for all
that.” Then, next, I pray the Holy Spirit to help you to go a little further.
Not only believe the gospel to be of God, but believe Jesus Christ himself.
There is a text that is often misquoted; I have many a time heard it said, “I
know in whom I have believed,” but Paul wrote, “I know whom I have
believed.” He had not only believed in Christ, but he had believed Christ. I
want you, dear friend, if you are sincerely seeking salvation, to believe
Christ. Believe him to be what he says he is, believe that everything he says
is true, believe that he himself does save, and can save, and will save you.
So believe him as to hand yourself over to him, and take him to be your
Savior. In a word, as our text says, “while ye have light, believe in the
light.” 

It is essential also that you should believe for yourselves. It is no use for
people to try to believe the gospel for their friends or for their children.
Believe it for yourselves. I notice that some unsaved persons will read with
great interest accounts of conversions, and even feel pleasure in hearing of
this and that man being saved. My dear friend, why not believe Christ
yourself? Why not take him to be your own Savior? Remember that it is
true to you that “he that believeth in the Son hath everlasting life.” May
you be led at this moment to make it true to yourself! You stand in a
banqueting-hall to-night, the tables are delightfully spread with every kind
of food that your hunger can crave, and every drink that is suitable to
quench your thirst; you have been up and down those tables, and admired
the generosity of him that furnished them so liberally; and you have
rejoiced as you have seen others sit down and feast. Now I want you to do
just this. There is the chair for you. What is next? Sit down at the table,
and begin to feast. It is you yourself who will find the gospel true; it is your
own personal participation in this feast that shall be to you your joy and
your salvation. You do not want simply a Savior; knock that little letter “a”
out, and put in the blessed pronoun “my”, and say from your heart, “my
Savior.” Do not merely say, “I believe that there is pardon for sin;” take
Christ to be your own Savior, then you are pardoned, your sin is gone. All
that is said in the Word of God to sinners in general is meant for each
sinner in particular when he comes and takes it to himself by his own
individual faith. There is a passage in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress where
he says:-”These are the generals; come to particulars, man.” That is just
what I want to say to you; all that you have heard, all that we have
preached, may be put down as generals; but if it is to benefit you, you must
come to particulars, you must personally appropriate the general truth, and
say, “This is for me. This I believe. This I will take. This Savior is mine.”

“Still,” says one, “suppose that I should take what was not mine.” That is a
supposition which every honest man might fairly suggest; but, in this case,
so free is the gospel, that you may freely take it, and there will be no
question about whether you had a right to it. See, there is a hungry dog!
He rushes into a butcher’s shop, jumps up, steals a piece of meat, and runs
off with it. It is hardly worth the butcher’s while to run after him, to take it
away; but if the dog has actually eaten the meat, then I am sure that no
sensible butcher will even think of taking it away from him. Now, I would
advise you just to make a snatch at the gospel, and hungrily devour it by a
ravenous faith; and I am sure that no one will ever take it away from you. 

Have you never read that promise of our Lord, “Him that cometh to me I
will in no wise cast out”? I see the Savior standing there, and his different
disciples come to him one after another, and he does not put one of them
away from him. At last, there comes a filthy beggar, leprous as snow; the
white scales are on his brow, and men flee in terror from him; but he comes
right up to the Christ, and tries to get into his arms. Will he not push him
away? No; for he says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out;”
and he embraces this filthy, leprous beggar, and, wonder of wonders, as he
presses him to his breast, the leprosy is healed, the filth is all gone, and his
rags are transformed to shining raiment! Wonders of grace to Christ
belong. Come along with you, then, and try him for yourselves; did he not
himself say, “While ye have light, believe in the light”? If you dare to
believe in that light, you shall make no sort of mistake, for Jesus himself
bids you to do so.

Very often, at the bottom of our unbelief, there lies this thought, “I am,
after all, somebody of importance.” It is the old story of Naaman over
again. He went to the house of Elisha, we are told, “with his horses and
with his chariot.” That equipage was a very important part of the real
Naaman; his horses and his chariot went to show that he was a great man
with his master, and he would have Elisha to know that he was a great man
and honorable, albeit that he was a leper. Such a great man, when he goes
to the prophet’s door, down that narrow street in the city of Samaria, must
still have his horses and his chariot. The coachman thought he never should
get down that lane; but Naaman said, “You must drive right up to the
door. I must go with my horses and with my chariot.” The man of God was
indoors, and Elisha knew how to treat the proud warrior. He did not even
go out to him; but he sent a message to him, saying, “Go and wash in
Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt
be clean.” Naaman thought that Elisha would have come out to him; he
said, “I thought, he will surely come out to me; the proudest man in all
Syria has been glad to unloose the latchets of my shoes. Did I not come to
the prophet’s door with my horses and my chariot? Yet he sent out a bit of
a boy, or a servant girl, with a message to me. Then, besides, he tells me to
wash! Does he think that I do not wash? I, a prince of Syria, want
washing? And if I wanted washing, must I come all the way to Jordan to
wash in that paltry stream? No; there are Abana and Pharpar, back there at
Damascus, the rivers of my very respectable country; may I not wash in
them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” Yet you know that, when he came to a proper state of mind, he did as the prophet bade
him; he washed seven times in Jordan, and his leprosy was cleansed. Thus,
proud sinner, obey the gospel command, “Believe and live,” and thou, too,
shalt be made whole.

III. I want you now to advance another step. I have almost anticipated this third point: “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.” Here is, A RESULT OF FAITH MENTIONED.

They who believe in Christ receive a change of nature. They were born
heirs of wrath, but by grace they become children of light. “Ye were
sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord,” as soon as ye have
believed in Jesus Christ. This new birth, this regeneration, is a great puzzle
to many poor sinners. One asks, “How can I make myself a new creature in
Christ?” Of course, you can do nothing of the kind. This is a miracle; it is
as much a work of God to make us children of light as it was to make light
at the first.

Only God can work this miracle; but mark you this, there never was a soul
yet that truly believed in Christ, but at the same time it underwent the
change called the new birth or regeneration. Christians have often been
asked about which is first, faith or regeneration, belief in Christ or being
born again. I will tell you when you will answer me this question,-When a
wheel moves, which spoke moves first? “Oh, they all start together! “ say
you. So these other things all start together, whether it be the hub of the
wheel, which is regeneration, or the spokes of the wheel, which are faith,
and repentance, and hope, and love, and so on; when the wheel moves, it
all moves at once.

If thou believest in Jesus Christ and him crucified, in the moment that thou
believest, this great change of nature is effected in thee; for faith has in
itself a singularly transforming power. It is a fact in everyday experience
that, when a man comes to believe in his master, he becomes at once a
better servant. A person whom I disliked, because I suspected him,
becomes at once pleasing to me as soon as I trust him. So, faith towards
God in itself produces a total change of mind in the man who has it.

But, beside that, there goes with faith a divine energy which changes the
heart of man. I have heard of an old sinner, who had been in prison many a
day, growing grey in his iniquity, who took a little child up in his arms,
and, as he put his hand upon the boy’s curly head, he said, “There would be some hope for me if I could become like this little child.” Now, that is
exactly what God can do for you. If you believe in Jesus Christ, you shall
receive a new and childlike nature. There shall be created in you something
better than what is called the primitive innocence of infancy; it shall be a
really pure and holy life that shall be given to you, and you shall become a
new creature in Christ Jesus.

Is not this very wonderful? The text says, “Believe in the light, that ye may
be the children of light.” The children of light-what a wonderful picture
that might be if I were an artist and could exercise the power of word
painting which some have! “The children of light.” Why, in the morning,
when the sun first shines forth, those myriads of dew-drops, all brighter
than diamonds of the first water,-these are the children of light! And those
innumerable flowers that open their cups, and sweeten the air with their
dainty perfume,-these are the children of light! And those birds that have
been slumbering away there, during the night, in their hidden corners in the
grove, come out, and begin at once their charming minstrelsy, for they are
the children of the light! I cannot tell you how many and how bright are
these things in nature which are the children of light; but God can make us
by his grace to be like these things, only far better, children of light
spiritually.

What are the children of light spiritually? Well, I have met with some of
them, and it has been a great joy to know them, for these children of light
have a great delight in truth. They are not afraid of it, they love to dive into
it. As children of light they like to know, they wish to know, even the deep
things of God. They do not shut their eyes to the truth about eternity. They
do not refuse to search their own hearts. They are children of light, and
they desire the light to shine. They come to the light, that their hearts, their
thoughts, and their works may be made manifest. They delight to know the
truth; error and falsehood are loathsome to them, but that which is true is
charming to their judgment.

“Children of light.” They are those who move in a world of knowledge.
They have come to know what others do not know. To them, the world is
peopled with invisible beings; to them, eternal things are no dreams, but
they have become realities. Their eyes have been opened to a light that
shines not from the sun; and they move in an atmosphere in which they
behold things, which the telescope cannot reveal. They are children of light, who have come into a world of perception and discoveries to which
others are strangers.

“Children of light.” I will tell you again how you may know them. They
practice truth. They speak the truth. It is said that an ambassador is a
gentleman who is sent abroad to lie for the good of his country. I suppose
that common, saying is so nearly true that we need not correct it; and a
politician is often a gentleman who has learned the art of concealing his
thoughts, or who expresses opinions which he trusts will be in accordance
with those of his constituency! A child of God is a man who says what he
believes, let the world believe it or not. He does not understand “policy.”
He is no mariner who trims his sail to every shifting wind, but believing in
the difference between right and wrong, he chooses the right, and eschews
the wrong, for he is a child of light. He has made up his mind to follow the
right, and the true, and the good, and the gracious, at all costs. Now, that
is what faith in Christ will do for you. It will make you, by the good Spirit
of God, to be a child of light.

A child of light, further, is one who exhibits the mind and character of God.
He is not an earthworm, hiding himself away in the mould; he is not a rat,
which loves to be behind the wainscot except at nighttime; he is a child of
light. He wears his heart upon his sleeve where daws may peck at it, and
they will do so; but that will not affect him. It is not for him to conceal
anything; what has he to conceal? He lives in the sight of the eternal God:
and as for how he appears in the sight of men, ‘what is that to him? Such
an one condemns me; but God acquits me, so let the other condemn if he
will, what does it matter to me? Such a man acquits and applauds me; but
if God condemns me, the acquittal of man is less than nothing and vanity.
A child of light should be very bold for his Lord. You remember that the
times were horribly dark in the days when Farel lived in Switzerland, and
young John Calvin had written his weighty, volumes of treatises called the
Institutes. They were the product of his early days, and he wrote in a
flowing style, either in French or Latin, and he thought, if he wrote books,
and sent them forth, he would have done his part towards the Reformation;
but Farel found out this young writer, and said to him, “You must take up
the work of the Reformers, and carry it on by preaching the truth.” Calvin
replied, “I am a bookish man, I have not the courage and the strength to
stand out in the front of the battle; that is for men like Martin Luther. I am
a studious person, and not so much a man of action.” Farel reasoned with
him, and said, “You must come out, and take the lead in this Reformation fight;” and he asked him, “Are you afraid of losing your life?” Calvin
protested that he had no such fear, he would willingly lay down his life for
Jesus Christ if that were necessary, but he shrank from the tumult of
controversy.” Then Farel pronounced upon him a curse so terrible, if he did
not immediately come and take his proper place, that John Calvin had to
yield, and he never doubted afterwards, but was ever to the front, and
always the bravest of the brave. I have often admired the noble veteran,
Fare], who could not tolerate that this young man, with so much in him,
should simply hold the pen, and keep in the background, but threatened
that the Lord would follow him with all the vials of his vengeance if he did
not take his place at the post of duty. I should like now, if I could, to put
my hand upon the shoulder of some young brother, and call upon him to
come out to serve his Lord. I feel myself tonight like an Elijah to you; and I
charge you, Elisha, quit the cattle, and betake yourself to this prophetic
ministry. God calls you to it, and woe be to you if you start back from it!

Again, a child of light is one who, by God’s grace, is bright, happy, restful,
full of joy, life, fruitfulness. These are the children of light; and if we
believe in Christ, who is the light, and take him to ourselves with all our
hearts, then we shall be the children of light. I do pray that some of you
may become the children of light even tonight. O God, work miracles of
mercy in this house! Jehovah, thou true God, when thou answerest by fire,
then art thou known to be God, and the priests of Baal flee away. If thou
wilt convert men by thine own omnipotent grace, they will worship and
adore thee. If thou wilt not do this, what can our voice do? Pray, O ye
people of God, that he may bring those who have the light to believe in the
light, and to become the children of light! These people to whom Christ
spoke were bigoted persecuting Jews, yet he said even to them, “Believe in
the light, that ye may be the children of light.” Whoever may be in my
congregation tonight,-and doubtless there is a mixed medley here,-there are
none within these walls whom the power of divine grace cannot at this
moment save. Our Lord Jesus Christ is as able to save the most abandoned
as the most moral, and to bring to himself the most skeptical as well as the
most credulous. May that miracle be wrought in our midst by his great
grace!

IV. My last point is, A GRIEVOUS CLOSE TO A SERMON.

Christ himself was the preacher on this occasion; do you therefore infer
that these people believed? Let me read to you what happened when the sermon was done. They gathered about that extempore pulpit from which
Jesus had addressed them; but, on a sudden, they could scarcely tell how,
he was gone! They said one to another, “Where is he?” According to the
latter part of our text, this happened at the close of Christ’s sermon:
“These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide himself from them.”
So, although he had preached as never man preached, though his very soul
had run over at his lips in a mighty cascade of love, yet his hearers were
not converted, but the Divine Preacher had to go and hide himself from
their malicious violence. The preacher on this occasion will not have to do
that. No one will seek his life, or try to do him injury; but it is a sad
reflection that the same result may follow as followed from Christ’s own
preaching. Men may go their way with their eyes blinded, and the question
of Isaiah may have to be repeated again and again, “Who hath believed our
report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”

Do you blame Jesus because these people rejected his testimony? Do you
blame Jesus because he had to escape from their violence? No, no no; a
thousand times, no; and “in that day,” in that last dread day of judgment, I
trust that you will exonerate me from all blame if you are lost, for I have
earnestly exhorted you to believe in Jesus, and in Jesus only. There is
salvation to be had in him; will you have it, or will you not? I would fain
grip your hand, to detain you, as that “ancient mariner”, of whom
Coleridge tells us in his weird poem, transfixed with his glittering eye the
wedding guest, and held him when he wanted to be gone, and I would pray
you to remember that to-night may be the turning-point, the deciding hour,
of your eternal destiny. The scales, I see, are quivering; which way shall
they turn? O thou blessed Christ, cast thy cross into the balance, and turn it
to-night for the salvation of each one before thee; and unto thy name shall
be praise for ever and ever! Amen.

Archived by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
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