It will be a day known only to the LORD, without day or night; but when evening comes, there will be light.
I. THE DAWN. Ordinary light seems withdrawn. Things are seen dimly. Discouragement and fear. Ready to say, "Darkness shall cover us." Call for faith. "God is light." "He will bring the blind by a way that they know not, making darkness light before them" (cf. Isaiah 1:10).
II. PROGRESS. Still uncertainty. Neither wholly day nor night. Alternations. Now the sun seems about to break forth, now the gloom returns. Hopes and fears. But on the whole advance. Faith still finds firm footing. Rope brightens. Love never fails. Amidst all the conflicts with science and philosophy, Christianity abides in its power. There is promise of the "perfect day."
III. THE CLOSE. "Evening." After long waiting and many disappointments, When most needed and least expected. Not in the order of nature, but of grace. When the shadows are lengthening and the sun going down, the light shines forth with a sweet and beautiful radiance. Glorious ending to a dark and cloudy day. The history of the Church, and the experience of individual Christians, afford many illustrations. The promise sometimes finds a tender and comforting fulfilment in the last hours of the dying believer. Bunyan tells us of Mr. Fearing, that, at the entrance of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, he was "ready to die for fear." But to him the valley was quiet from troublers. Then Greatheart notes, as something very remarkable, at the departure of this pilgrim, "The water of that river was lower, at this time, than ever I saw it in all my life; so he went over at last not much above wet shod." - F.
At evening time it shall be light
(George H. Hubbard.)
1. In what does the light of the evening hour consist? In the evening of life comes the final and distinct realisation of the little value of this world. A true man outgrows, step by step, what he was; at last, if he live long enough, he outgrows the world.
2. To pass from this life to that in front, will be to go from ignorance and imperfection unto a wider knowledge and a deeper wisdom. The evening brings the time when the servant of God shall see and know many of the secrets of the universe, and read through and through what had long been dark mysteries to him. How many things there are which we do not understand!
3. It must bring great peace at last, to look back upon the life, and consider its moral and its lesson. One thing comes clearer and clearer out; the steady, never failing presence and providence of God.
4. Many have feared lest they might, somehow, lose their faith. That is the darkest of all spectres to a Christian. How blessed then to know at last that, whatever mistakes are made, whatever sins are committed, we are saved from that gravest error, that heaviest and most hopeless sin, the denial of the Catholic faith.
1. From the history of the Church at large. Especially the time of the Reformation.
2. This rule holds equally good in the little as well as in the great. We know that in nature the very same law that rules the atom, governs also the starry orbs. It is even so with the laws of grace. "At evening time it shall be light" to every individual. There are our bright days in temporal matters. After them we have had our sunsets. Times of trouble, but they passed into times of deliverance. If God prolong, thy sorrow, He shall multiply thy patience.
3. From the spiritual sorrows of God's own people. God's children have two kinds of trials, trials temporal and trials spiritual. Illustrate from the scene of Bunyan's pilgrim meeting Apollyon.
4. To the sinner when coming to Christ this also is a truth.
5. We shall all get into the evening time of life. In a few more years the sere and yellow leaf will be the fit companion of every man and every woman. Is there anything melancholy in that? Did you ever notice how venerable grandsires when they write a letter fill it full of intelligence concerning their children? The grey-headed man thinks of his children and forgets all besides. If he has served God, he has another light to cheer him. He has the light of the remembrance of what good God has enabled him to do.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. In God's dealings with His children, it very often happens that signal blessing and deliverance come just when they are needed most, but expected least. Show the prevalence of this law in the Almighty's treatment of believers individually. How often the case has proved so as regards the collective Church. The least acquaintance with the history of the world will bring before us a host of instances in which the oppressed and persecuted, sometimes the cold and apathetic Church of God found better days dawn when they were least looked for, and so found the fulfilment of the promise, that "at evening time there should be light." The humble Christian's life is the best sermon upon this text, and his own memory the best preacher. Illustrate by times of conversion and renewal; seasons of great trial — losses, disappointments, bereavements. Or the time of death — as the evening advances, as the hours go on in which the light that had lasted through the day might naturally grow less, how often it is that that unwearied light does but beam brighter and clearer! It is not indeed always so. Such a thing has been known as a true Christian dying in absolute despair, but in such a case disease is unusual and the mind unhinged. Perhaps with many Christians the death is as the life was: the evening is what the day was, "not clear nor dark." Is then the text not true? No, far from that. The light does come; and it comes at evening: but evening is the close of day; and the light may perhaps not beam forth until day has entirely closed. Not upon this side time may the blessed promise find its fulfilment. "At evening time there shall be light," if not in this world, then in a better.
(A. K. H. Boyd, D. D.)
Homilist.This old promise has received a thousand fulfilments, is receiving fulfilments every day, and will to the end of time. Nations that have fallen under the shadows of evening have often realised this truth. When the foot of the conqueror was about stamping on their heart, and the night of despair was settling on them, deliverance has come, light has broken on the darkness. Churches that have passed into twilight, and about sinking into the night of extinction, have in unnumbered instances experienced the truth of the promise. The world at large had a grand fulfilment of it in the advent of Christ. Evening had settled on the pagan and Jewish world, the lights of the old philosophies and religions were all but quenched, when the Divine Logos rose like a sun into the heavens. But we may mention a few instances in individual life where fulfilments of the promise are abundant.
I. In the PROCESS OF REPENTANCE. In passing through repentance, through the regions of a godly sorrow for sin, what darkness gathers around the soul. All the stars of hope, and the lights of self-righteousness are extinguished, and sometimes deep and horrible is the darkness that overcasts the heart. But then comes the light, Christ appears, "thy sins are all forgiven."
II. In the EVENTS OF LIFE. How often the good man in passing through the world is brought into darkness purposes broken, plans frustrated, hopes blasted, and he knows not whither to look. Just when it is not only evening with him, but almost midnight, light breaks forth, his heart is cheered, his path is made clear, and his energies are renerved.
III. In the ARTICLE OF DISSOLUTION. Death is felt to be an evening with man. "The valley of the shadow." Most look forward to it as a terrible night; but the Christly, when the evening has come and the shadows have fallen densely all around, have found the breaking of the night. It was so with Dr. Johnson, who through life, it would seem, looked forward to the last hour with horror and alarm; but when the evening came, light came, joy seized his withered veins, and one bright gleam shone all around his heart. All men wish to die in the light. Goethe cried out in dying, "More light, more light"; and all will have it the centre of whose soul is the light of the world.
1. That the day of severe affliction shall be followed by an eventide of calm and renewed confidence in his Father-God. In our day of trial we are too prone to centre all our thoughts in the scene immediately around us, and forget that our greatest affliction may be the harbinger of the greatest blessing.
2. That the day of temptation shall be followed by an eventide of triumph and repose.
3. That the day of providential bereavement shall be followed by an eventide of submission. At such times how hard it is to say "Thy will be done"!
4. That the believer generally realises the fulfilment of this promise in the evening of life.
1. Of our Christian sorrows. The night-blooming assurances of Christ's sympathy fill all the atmosphere with heaven.
2. In the time of old age. It is a grand thing to be young. Mid life and old age will be denied to many of us, but youth — we all know what that is. But youth will not always last. Blessed old age, if you let it come naturally, and if it be found in the way of righteousness.
3. In the latter days of the Church. It is early yet in the history of everything good. Civilisation and Christianity are just getting out of the cradle.
4. At the end of the Christian's life. Life is a short winter's day. Baptism and burial are near together. But thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory. At evening time it shall be light.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
1. At the evening time of retrospect it shall be light. The Christian often looks back in his pilgrimage to the land whence he has come, not with feelings of regret at the step he has taken, but of thanksgiving that God has led him from the regions of death to the realms of life. These meditations on the past are sometimes disturbed by distressing doubts. But "at evening time it shall be light."
2. At evening time of conviction it shall be light. Conviction is the wrestling of fact with feeling. We do not always feel equally convinced of our acceptance with God. But God has promised, if you wait patiently on Him, to renew the strength of your languishing convictions.
3. At evening time of anticipation it shall be light. The Christian's home is not below, but above. The future is at best a land of shadows, the symbol of the uncertain and unreal. When the darkness grows deepest, the light begins to glow. The application of this balm of Gilead rests with each of you.
(G. Victor Macdona.)1. The primary application of these words. The chapter is eminently prophetic. It refers to Israel as a people, to Canaan as their land, Jerusalem as their capital, and our Lord Himself as their King. I believe in the literal restoration of Israel to their own land.
2. The figurative meaning we may attach to these words. The words "evening" and "light" are expressive of two states: they are opposite terms, meaning opposite things. "Evening," or darkness, is figurative for woe or sorrow, while "light" stands for joy, prosperity. At the time when things seem to have come to their worst, then prosperity begins to dawn, and the dismal past be succeeded by a bright and happy future. This is exemplified politically and religiously in secular and sacred history. Illustrate from experience of Israel in Egypt. From the condition of England in the time of King John. That was the darkest moment of English history. The darkness of sin brought forth the light of redeeming love. Sin gave cause for a Saviour. When the Saviour came, did the brightness immediately shine forth? No. Again sin darkened the world's light. The Saviour's love only excited the sinner's hatred, and He who loved the sinner was murdered by those whom He loved. But resurrection morn dispelled the darkness of crucifixion night. Learn that it is our duty to cheerfully expect the future to be happier than the present.
Homiletic Review.The prophet refers to spiritual, not natural light; and his prophecy is, that in the experience of the believer in Christ, when, in the natural course of things he may expect spiritual darkness, behold light!
1. A long and fearful sickness overtakes the child of God. A fearful darkness gathers in his sick chamber. Wife and children are dependent upon him. As weeks and months painfully wear away the gloom deepens. Sun, moon and stars, one by one go out. When, in the course of nature, he faces death, suddenly the clouds disperse and the chastened soul rejoices in a light of peace and joy full of heaven, and goes forth, as it were, redeemed from the grave.
2. It is true of the whole discipline of life. The reference is to the end; at evening, etc. A long and weary pilgrimage may have to be taken; a severe and oft-repeated series of sorrows, losses, disappointments, first be endured. The light does not flash on him at the beginning; submission does not come with the first use of the rod. No; he must go through the scene — endure to the end. And, if he endure, just when the darkness seems to be settling down upon him, and the last ray of joy and hope seems about to be quenched, at the evening time it becomes light!
3. Millions of deathbeds bear glorious testimony to this truth. Instead of a great darkness, celestial radiance! Instead of dismay, a peace unspeakable!
I. THE AMBIGUOUSNESS OF PROPHECY. Many of the prophecies have been literally fulfilled. But there is not a fulfilled prophecy on record which, prior to its accomplishment, was not more or less dark, obscure, or enigmatical in its meaning. What idea could the guilty pair in Eden form of their promised deliverer from sin and guilt? From the nature of prophecy it could have been but a sort of twilight knowledge of the Christ which ancient believers derived from it. The entire Old Testament dispensation was a day, known it is true to the Lord, but to His people it was "not day nor night." But as with all other days of nature, providence, or grace, that also had an end. The clouds that had covered the horizon of the moral world for long centuries broke at last. The evening of the Old Testament day, which witnessed the coming of the Son of God, was the brightest period of time that the world had seen since the fall of man! Turn to unfulfilled prophecy. How will it be realised; and when? The twentieth chapter of the Apocalypse has given occasion to hundreds of conjectures and theories of the millennium. But the Gospel dispensation, in regard to unfulfilled prophecy, is "neither clear nor dark," — it is "not day nor night." But "at evening time it shall be light." Presently all will be clear, and the Divine idea and purpose will be fully revealed.
II. GOD'S GENERAL ADMINISTRATION OF HUMAN AFFAIRS. It is often unintelligible. The government of an empire is too intricate to be understood by any but the emperor himself. We are confused and perplexed when we attempt to trace out and explain God's government of the world from its beginning to the present day. We do not know often what He intends or means in His dealings with our race. The light is neither clear nor dark, — the light of providence. But the revolution of years is silently bringing nearer and nearer the evening time of the moral world. Then there will be adjustment of contrary things. Then we may well be patient, and trust in God.
(W. H. Luckenbach.)Hobbes, the deist, said as he gasped his last breath, "I am taking a fearful leap into the dark"; that Cardinal Beaufort said, "What! is there no bribing death?" Men with the Christian light have met death in another way. When Melanchthon was asked if there was anything he desired, he said, "No, Luther, nothing but heaven." Dr. John Owen said at last, "I am going to Him whom my soul loveth, or rather, who has loved me with an everlasting love." John Brown of Haddington could say, "I am weak, but it is delightful to feel one's self in the everlasting arms." George Washington could say, "It is all well." Walter Scott, as he sank in the slumber of death, "Now I shall be myself again." Beethoven, as he could almost catch the melody of the mystic world, "Now I shall hear." Wesley could cheerily meet death with the words, "The best of all is God is with us." Locke, the Christian philosopher, exclaimed at dying, "Oh, the depth of the riches of the goodness and knowledge of God!" Stephen said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Paul, "having a desire to depart"; and, "to die is gain."
1. This is a promise for the evening time of the world. The morning of the world was a bright and glorious sunrise. In the beginning God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And when He had finished His wide and wise creation, "God saw that it was good." But soon the dark cloud of man's sin overspread the earth. Light was shut out. Darkness reigned. Out of that darkness the world has been gradually emerging, until, through all the tears and tyrannies of the centuries, it has come into the noonday splendour of the Christian civilisation of our century. And it is distinctly Christian. It was the historian Froude who said: "All that we call modern civilisation, in a sense which deserves that name, is the visible expression of the transfiguring power of the Gospel." Our highest literature is swayed by the purest influences of Christianity. The scientific spirit of research and investigation, so conspicuous a fact and so important a factor in our modern life, owes its stimulation to the encouragement of Christianity. Christianity has created the laboratory as well as the library. Christianity is the parent of education. It has founded schools, established colleges, endowed seminaries. To benighted lands and to blighted homes Christianity has sent the teacher with the preacher. Our civic liberties and our social order are based upon Christianity. Burn the Bible, proclaim "there is no God," write over your cemetery gates "Death is an eternal sleep," and there is no power in all this land that will stay the ravages of that beetle-browed hag — infidelity's twin sister in every age and in every land — Anarchism. I know that there are historians of discontent and prophets of calamity who cannot enjoy the splendour of the world's midday, and who are ever telling us that the former times were better than these. They discount all inventions and all advancement by claiming that the morality of the present, if as strong, is no stronger than the morality of the past. They are right in holding that all advancements go for naught if the people are not better than they were. The test of the world's advancement and strength is not that the grandson rides today in the Pullman ear, while the grandfather rode yesterday in the stage coach. The test is, Is the grandson a better man than the grandfather was? This world has not seen a brighter era since the gates of Eden were closed upon man than the last days of the nineteenth century. And the twentieth century will be better. Christ Jesus is to reign in this world. He has not yet ascended HIS throne. He is now on His Father's throne. When He went into Heaven He sat down at His Father's right hand, "henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool." When His enemies shall be subdued, then, rising upon them as upon His footstool, He shall ascend His throne and reign. And it shall come to pass that in the evening time of the world it shall be light.
2. The promise pertains to the Church of God. The Church of God has had two organisations in the world — the theocratic organisation of the Old Testament dispensation, and the spiritual organisation of the New Testament dispensation. Through all the Old Testament we can trace a gradual unfolding of the Church's life and power. This unfolding was not in a continuous advance. The whole history of the Old Testament Church shows a succession of onward marches, and then of quick retreats — progressing, retrograding, standing still for a while, then progressing once more, and again falling back. But in no instance did she fall back as far as she had been, and so her history was, on the whole, one of advance and growth. So with the Church of the New Testament dispensation. The Church was born on Pentecost — that was the sunrise of the Church, and it was glorious. From Pentecost the disciples went forth to tell the story of Him who had been crucified, who rose and ascended into heaven, and as the story spread the Church grew. Then came opposition and hatred and persecution, but the Church advanced through all until she entered the darkness of the Dark Ages. The heavens were shut, and a black cloud of superstition spread over the earth. Rome sat upon her ebon throne and stretched her rod of cruelty across the nations. It seemed as if the evening time of the Church had come. In that time every lamp of prophecy had ceased to shine He who thundered in the streets of Rome had been burned at the stake, Savonarola had received the martyr's crown at Florence, the black clouds of ignorance, superstition, and vice shut out the sunlight of God's love from the world. It was evening time, but God said, In the evening time it shall be light. He kindled a beacon in the soul of a young monk in the monastery at Erfurt. As the monk mused the fire burned, and out from Erfurt went Martin Luther to proclaim God's message; and Rome shook, the Vatican trembled, the gates of brass were opened, the rod of cruelty was sundered, Germany was delivered, and civil and religious liberty were secured to the world. There came a time in England when religion became a formality, and when all good men trembled for the Church and longed for the mighty Puritans, who would crush the giant forces of evil beneath their onward progress. It was evening time, and God had said, "It shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light." Four young Oxford students — William Morgan, Robert Kentham, Charles and John Wesley — met for prayer and Bible study. They were called by their fellow students "Bible Moths," "the Holy Club," and "Methodists," because they were so methodical in all studies and their work. One resistance after another the Church has overcome; at times pressed back, but ever pushing onward, multiplying her victories and extending her dominions. No more hospitals, for there are no more sick; no more asylums, for there are no orphans; no more prisons, for there are no criminals; no more almshouses, for there are no poor; no more tears, for there is no sorrow. The long dirge of the earth's lamentations has come to an end in the triumphal march of the blessed redeemed Church; the New Jerusalem is with men, her children are gathered home, and across that city of a redeemed humanity earth's grandest outburst of hope and welcome breaks antiphonal from wall to jasper wall. The sunset glow; the evening time of the Church, and at evening time it shall be light.
3. This promise is for all human experience. The great promises of God, which apply to the whole kingdom of the redeemed, may be appropriated by each individual member of that kingdom. In Nature the laws which control the great forces direct the minute elements. The law that rules the grain of sand on the seashore governs the planets in their course. It is so in the realm of grace. "At evening time it shall be light" to the Church; "at evening time it shall be light" to every individual believer. In the matter of the experience of the believer in Christian service it is true that "in the evening time it shall be light." The majority of the men who have lived and laboured to make this world better have received the scorn and obloquy of the world. John Wesley was howled down by the mob to whom he preached; they threw bricks at him, they spat upon him, but where is there a more honoured name today? Light at evening time. Wendell Phillips was scorned and spurned for his advocacy of the slave. Boston would not hear him, but in less than a generation afterward Boston built a monument to his honour, and men who would not defile their lips with his name taught their children the pathway, to his tomb. "At evening time, it shall be light."
4. The promise brings its helpful message to every believer in his season of adversity and trouble. Very few people in this world escape the time of adversity. The bright, sunshiny day of prosperity is pretty certain to have a nightfall. "It was good that I have been afflicted," cries David. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away," exclaims Job. "Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing," says Paul. "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," exclaims John in apocalyptic vision. At evening time it shall be light. Ten thousand saints of God have found it so in the evening time.
5. The text has a message for old age. Sometimes men look forward to it with trembling. It is a mistaken notion that youth is the time of gladness and old age the time of sadness. America's beloved artist, Horatio Greenough, a few days before his death, said: "I have found life to be a very cheerful thing, and not the dark and bitter thing with which my early days were clouded." At evening time it was light. At eighty years of age Albert Barnes stood in the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and said: "The world is so attractive to me that I am very sorry I shall have to leave it so soon." Dr. Guthrie, past eighty, said: "You must not think, that I am old because my hair is "white"; I never was so young as I am now. At evening time it was light. New lights shall burn when the old lights are quenched; new candles shall be lit when the lamps of life are dim. At the evening time of his life the Christian has many lights that he did not have before. There is the bright light of experience; the pleasing light of sweet memories; the cheering light of service done for God and humanity. The scientist tells us that no physical force is ever wasted. We whisper into the telephone, and the vibration, though it be less than one one-hundred-thousandth part of an inch, affects a diaphragm a thousand miles away, and our exact voice is heard by the listening ear in Chicago. So they tell us that the light from the farthest fixed star has been travelling steadily undiminished for more than a million years to greet our upturned eye tonight, and to reassure us that "the hand that made it is Divine." If it be true of physical forces, how much more is it true of moral and spiritual forces, that they are never lost! What a halo of glory this casts about the old age of a man, out from whose life have poured forth the streams of holy and sacred influences! At evening time it shall be light. John Bunyan was right when he located Christian old age in the land of Beulah, in full sight of the ripe fruitage and the ravishing, prospects of the Celestial City. The infirmities of old age are only the land birds lighting on the sails, telling the weary mariner that he is nearing the haven." "And it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light."
6. This promise is for the time of the death of the believer. "It is a dark passage through which you are passing now," said a young man as he sat beside his dying mother. And her whole countenance lighted up as she said: "Oh no, my son; there is too bright a light at the other end to have it dark," and she passed out, and up, and into the palm and to the crown and to the throne. At the evening time it was light. Paul drew near the end, and he said: "The time for the weighing of the anchor has come. I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day." Take the promise with you into the future. Remember that if sorrow camps with you overnight, joy cometh in the morning.
(J. F. Carson, D. D.)
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