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The Seed of Light
Psalm 97:11Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
Light and gladness. It is natural to desire them, and God does not crucify nature. He only trains and corrects it. This text tells us that light and gladness are for the upright, and the next verse bids the righteous rejoice. An eagle desires the air, and a fish the water. Is it strange? A child of God is a child of light, begotten of Him who is light and in whom is no darkness at all. If he longs for the light, is that strange?
But what about the peculiar way in which this promise of light and gladness is put? Light and gladness are "sown." A startling figure that, and a grand one too. God gives light and gladness to His children just as He does other things, germinally, in the seed form; not all at once, in floods, but with a large reserve into which the man is to work his way. As life moves toward God, it unfolds this seed and lets out more and more light, until eternity develops the full harvest of light.
With this figure of sowing seed are naturally associated two thoughts — hiding and diffusion: and the two inevitably run together, because, in the natural process, hiding is with a view to diffusion. The process of growth is distributive, not only in the final scattering of the seed, but in that, in the unfolding of the seed, something beautiful and promising is developed at every successive stage, in the blade and in the ear, no less than in the full corn.
I. If, then, light and gladness are to be looked for in Christian life, it is important to remember that they are growths, and that, as such, THEY CARRY WITH THEM A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF CONCEALMENT AND DELAY.
Let us consider some illustrations of this. God hides away light and gladness in certain things which, for the time, give no hint of what is within, even as the rough acorn gives no visible promise of the grandeur and leafage of the oak. And here be very careful to note that when God gives us these seeds, He expects us to look for our light in them. None the less, because the acorn is hard and rough, must you look for your oak in your acorn. You will not find it by turning away to something smoother and softer.
One of the very first things to which God introduces us on our entrance into His kingdom is duty. God knows that in all duty there is light which faithful doing will bring out. Often, however, He shows us very little or none of the light and promise, but only the dark furrows of duty in which the light is sown: and He says to us, "Your work lies up and down along those furrows, to keep them free from weeds, to drive away the birds, to keep the earth loose, and to watch and wait until the light shall appear."
The same truth appears in the providences of God. They are full of light, but it is sown light. We understand well enough how God hides the diamond and the topaz in the dark and overlays them with hard and coarse crusts; how He shuts up the crystal in the heart of the rough geode; and we doubt not that human skill and labour can bring them forth from their wrappings and make them blaze in the coronets of kings.
Why will we limit these facts to nature merely, to God's economy on its lower side, and not see that God carries up the same facts to a higher level, and applies the same method in His spiritual economy, and conceals light and joy beneath the hard incrustations of sorrow and pain? All of you remember the story so graphically told by the Scottish poet, of the wizard buried in the abbey aisles with a lamp upon his breast; and how, when the stone was removed after many years, the light from that lamp blazed up and lighted the tomb and the magic volume in the dead hand.
So it is that sometimes we go back after many days to the grave when we buried, as we thought, all the gladness and light of our lives, to find in the hand of the dead a lamp and a lesson-book. A hard providence of God is a seed with a rough and prickly husk, but it is a seed of light, sown by Him who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, and who will shine in His people's hearts to give the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
The truth applies equally to the process of winning Christian knowledge and faith. We are like children at school. Study and thought and books are full of light to you now; but when you were a child, light came to you under cover of duty, by way of rules and formulas; through labour when you saw more gladness in sport; through strict discipline when you thought that complete freedom would be perfect gladness. Would it be strange if God should deal with you in similar wise in acquiring the knowledge of His truth and will?
II. But let us look at the other thought — that of DIFFUSION OR DISTRIBUTION.
Concealment or reserve in God's economy is with a view to revelation. Christ said, "There is nothing hidden but in order that it should be revealed," and though, as we have seen, God's revelations unfold gradually, that very fact results in the distribution of His revelations along the whole line of an individual life or of a nation's history. That is one aspect of the truth. A grain of wheat is wheat, not only in the full corn, but in the blade and in the ear likewise, and in the growth of the seeds of light they unfold into light all along the way of the upright.
Though something is hidden, though all godly living includes patient waiting, yet God does not condemn His children to walk in darkness all their days, and only then let in upon them the light of heaven in one overwhelming flood. The perfect day is at the end, it is true, but still the path of the just shineth more and more.
The word is a lamp unto the feet in their daily walk. And therefore the hard duties and the hard providences, while they hide light, yet do not keep in all the light. There is self-denial, for instance. No doubt it will be a good while before it will cease to be hard, or will bring its full reward: but meanwhile the practice of it is not without its gladness and light.
Take the grace of Hope. Hope has a hard fight for life in some natures; and the climb to even low slope of hopefulness is a distressing one. Yet when one of God's desponding children does manfully grapple with his despondency and resolutely work his way upward, saying, "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God. I shall yet praise Him" — light breaks in along the line of that struggle.
Some of you have stood on a rocky platform among the high Alps and watched the coming of dawn. You saw the saffron light deepen behind some monster peak, and soon the first sunbeam appeared above the crest; and as it darted forth, it struck and was flashed back from a great snow-field which blushed and kindled under its touch. Another beam shot over to a cluster of ice-needles, and each one of them became a point of dazzling light. Then a long ray leaped over to that peak, far up in the calm ether, awful in the loneliness of its virgin snow, and the great cone glistened and sparkled over its whole surface, and threw back the light to another peak, and flash answered flash, and the threads of light crossed and twined until the heaving sea of hills was bathed in glory.
So every Christlike effort, every Christian grace resolutely carried into practice, not only emits light, but multiplies the light at every point where it touches. Faith nerves itself for a timid venture and throws out its one feeble ray toward a hard task or a hard trial or a hard problem; and behold the thing brightens, and in its own brightening throws light on some other duty or trial, on some great snow-field of lonely sacrifice and patience.
In short, the more faithfully and persistently one addresses himself to doing God's will, the more points his experience affords from which the goodness and love and faithfulness and power of God are reflected. And these points enlighten each other.
Each experience takes up the light furnished by the smallest, and reflects and helps to distribute it over the whole area. Righteousness is light and gladness though its way lie through sorrow and sacrifice: and you who are pursuing that road in faith and hope may take this for your comfort that you are going forward to inevitable gladness.
God has already wrought out great goodness before your eyes; but that is nothing to the goodness which He has laid up for them that fear Him.
(M. R. Vincent, D.D.)