Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision:
Have you ever reflected upon the wonderful gift of sight? The Bible is also full of spiritual seeing — looking. I need not quote any passage, though I might quote a hundred in succession. There is a spiritual vision, and by that vision we see spiritual things. It is a very strange fact that some persons should find it so difficult to believe that there is a spiritual vision. People will believe in material vision, in the optic nerve, and not believe that there is a spiritual vision. The Apostle Paul had many a vision of one kind or another. Do you not remember how Christ Himself lived on earth; and He is our Example, is He not, most of all in the spiritual life? "Verily, verily, I say unto you, the Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father doing: for what things soever He doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner." Thus He represents His inner life as a constant looking to a pattern and reproducing that pattern. That is spiritual vision. One of the most influential thinkers of the present day — and he belongs to Switzerland, Professor Secretan — wrote quite lately a sentence something like this: "Never shall I forget that night in December when, under the light of the stars, the love of God shone into my heart." And that was when he was quite a young man. Have you had your vision? Do you know what it is to have a vision of God? To have a sight of spiritual things? The Apostle Paul had that sight of Christ. He did not need to be told who it was. We are apt to think that Paul was entirely and exclusively passive in that matter. He shows us that he was not: "I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision." God does not want simply to pour love into us and through us, and then receive it again. He wants to be loved by us. Paul was not disobedient. Very likely he had some temptation even then to disobey. He may have said to himself at the first instance, "What is this? Can this be Christ indeed?" Then he began to think of consequences. "What is that dazzling brightness? Perhaps the sun itself has been acting upon me in such a way that I have that sort of thing which is called 'a vision,' but is an entirely different thing. Christ is the enemy of Moses, the enemy of the temple. Besides, if I do proclaim myself a disciple of the Nazarene, what becomes of me? All my prospects go. I will take time to think about it. Things will be seen in a clearer light tomorrow." Paul might have found very many reasons. But he did not resist. He was obedient. What would he have lost? Now we come to ourselves, and I say, Have you had your heavenly vision? The question is, Have you now a sight of Christ in your soul? Not the name of Christ in the Bible or Prayer book, but a sight of Christ in your soul. Do you know the difference between having the light of Christ in your heart and not having it, as we know the difference between having the sunshine and the rain? Do you know that it makes a difference to you? One of you young men, when you began to reflect, you met that history of Christ in the Gospels, and you could not help saying, "Why, if moral power is anywhere, it is in that Man. If moral beauty is anywhere, there it is. And if God is anywhere to be found, He is in the heart and life of Jesus Christ. And I wish I was more like Him." Were you obedient to that vision? But if you were obedient to the vision you got another vision. When you tried to follow in the footsteps of Christ, you were conscious of the infinite distance between Him, the Holy One, and you, full of uncleanness. Then you turned to Christ again. Then you heard the voice of John the Baptist saying, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." Then you have a vision of One hanging upon a Cross for you, and you feel that the majesty of God's law was never more revered and honoured than on that Cross. And again, that the infinite love of God through Christ crucified is poured upon you in boundless streams of mercy. What a vision that was! Were you obedient to that vision? But if you have been obedient to the heavenly vision, then you have another vision after a while. You have found that Christ is not only the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world, but that He is, and claims to be, your Lord and Master. By His redemption He has not only delivered you, but purchased you. You are bought with a price. You are willing enough to have your sins forgiven and give some of your heart and time and gifts to Christ. But what, shall He have everything? Is He nay Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ? Shall I accept Him as my Master? If I do so, then I cease to belong to myself. And you have trembled, as well you might, at the thought of being disobedient. If you obey, what then? Then you find that the Lord is the gentlest of masters, far gentler than those who love us best. But then, again, after a little time you have another vision. Then He reveals Himself as He who is not only your Lord, but your Life. Then He shows you that He first of all gives you that which He asks of you. Every one of His precepts is bound up with a promise. You will observe that we have considered Christ in succession first as Leader, then Christ as Lamb, then Christ the Lord, then Christ the Life. And, perhaps, I may say that there has come to us here another vision — another vision of duty and of blessedness.
Parallel VersesKJV: Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: