“Out Of Darkness Into Light”
“That You may say to the prisoners, Go forth; to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.”
THIS, of course, is a prophecy of what the Messiah would do. The Lord Jesus Christ, when He came among the sons of men, was to open the prison doors and to say to the prisoners, “Go forth,” and to those who, in addition to being in prison, were in a dark cell, shut away from the light, He was to say, “Show yourselves.”
What wonders Jesus Christ has worked! There are many of us who are living proofs of what Jesus Christ can do, for, when we were in prison, He said to us, “Come forth,” and we are now free as the air, our spirits are buoyant and full of gladness and rejoicing! Some of us also sat in darkness–gloomy, thick, Egyptian night–but when Jesus came to us, that darkness fled away and now we walk in the Light of God as He is in the Light, and we have fellowship with Him, and with His Father, too, through the ever-blessed Spirit. Wonders of Grace belong to Christ! He has already worked enough to keep His redeemed amazed throughout all eternity with the splendor of the achievements of His Grace! Though He were never to work another miracle of mercy, He has already done enough to set all Heaven in amazement throughout all the ages that are yet to come, such a wondrous Savior has He proved Himself to be!
The liberty which Jesus gives to prisoners is something very marvelous. To be a prisoner for life must be a horrible thing–to be immured in a dungeon for all one’s days must be almost worse than death. Yet there is a slavery of the soul that is worse than wearing chains upon the wrist! There is an imprisonment of the heart that is far more terrible than being shut up within stone walls or iron bars. When Jesus comes to the soul, He delivers us from that direst of all bondages, fetches us out from that most cruel of all slaveries, the bondage of the spirit, the slavery of the heart!
Then we are told that if there are any who are in a worse state than that of mere captivity, namely, in darkness as well as in bondage, the Lord Jesus Christ comes to them and says, “Show yourselves; rise, and come out of the darkness; hide away no longer, come forth into the light, and enjoy it.” And when He speaks, His Words are effectual! When He says, “Come forth,” they come forth, and when He says, “Show yourselves,” they show themselves! He speaks and it is done, for every Word of Christ is the fiat of Omnipotent Love.
Now I am going to try and deal with those who are, spiritually, in the dark, in the hope that the time has arrived when they are to come forth out of the darkness and to show themselves. My business will consist, then, in two things. First, I want to find out the characters mentioned in the text. And, secondly, I will repeat the exhortation that it contains.
- First, I have to try to FIND OUT THE CHARACTERS mentioned in the text–“Them that are in darkness.” Some of them are here tonight–let me see if I can, with my Lord’s gracious guidance, put my finger on them.
I observe, first, that they were not always in darkness. She was a bright young spirit once, after a fashion–up to all manner of fun and levity. And he–I know him very well–he seemed to be everything that mirth could make youth to be, sporting like a butterfly in summertime among the flowers. It was remarked of him that he seemed to enjoy life perfectly and, certainly, it was his intention to do so, even if he shortened his days in the process–he dashed at the flame, even though he singed his wings! But, all of a sudden, there came a cloud in the sky, both to her and to him–I mean, to you. It may be that some time ago a death happened in the family, or sickness came, or if it was neither of these things, at any rate, the mind suddenly grew strangely quiet and a stillness came down upon the spirit. And with that stillness there fell a gloom over the whole being. The fun and levity which had been enjoyed before were like the bubbles and froth upon the cup–there was nothing substantial or real in them at all–so, when the man or woman began to think, the bubbles and froth disappeared and then life grew flat, stale, dull and unprofitable.
What, do you think, were those thoughts that brought such a sobering influence into your life? They were somewhat like this–I can tell you about them from my own experience, for they happened to me while I was yet a boy. I thought, “I have not lived as I ought to have lived. God made me, yet I have never truly served Him. He is my mother’s God, but I have forgotten Him. He is my father’s God, yet I have never sought Him. Ah, me! What shall I do? God must punish me. He must punish me! If He does not do so, He ought to–He cannot be God if He does not act justly and I cannot, in my heart of hearts, reverence Him if He winks at my wrongdoing, for much wrongdoing has been mine. What is to become of me?” So I cried out in my agony and I struggled to be right. I thought it would be easy work to do that which would please God. I went to the helm of my ship and hoped to reverse its course. But I soon drifted into the old courses, again, and what I thought to be very easy I found to be extremely difficult–no more–absolutely impossible! I seemed soft as wax towards evil, yet hard as cast-iron or steel towards anything that was good! I could not be molded, or fashioned aright. Then I grew sad in soul and heavy of spirit–I forsook the ways of the mirthful and stole away from my companions that I might get alone. I read my Bible a great deal and the more I read it, the more the darkness thickened about me. Then I tried to pray and, ah, me, I know now that they were true prayers, but then it seemed as if my prayers were no better than the barking of a dog! I could not hope that God would accept such prayers as those–and so the darkness increased around me.
I think I hear someone say, “Yes, that is my experience.” So you are here, though your spirit is in the dark! I am right glad to meet you and while you are there in the dark, I give you my hand, for I sympathize with you–I know what this darkness means! You were not always in that condition, but I thank God you are now where you are. Perhaps you think me cruel to thank God for your misery, but I do, for this is the gateway into a joy that will be worth your having! This loss of the sham will be the finding of the real thing! This nailing of the counterfeit upon the counter will be giving you the minted gold that shall be current in the markets of Heaven!
Beside this, a sense of sin has settled upon you. I know it did upon me. I ate my bread at the table, but I sometimes wondered it did not choke me. I walked the earth and sometimes I was under such a sense of sin that I marveled it should continue to bear me up. I thought of the wrath of God and it did, indeed, seem to me to be “the wrath to come.” I thank God that I did not, in those days, hear any of those fine preachers who tell you there is no wrath to come and you need not want to meet with such servants of the devil, for his emissaries they really are. When my conscience convinced me of sin, I verily believe that if I had heard any of these men, I would have loathed them from my very soul! The arrows of God stuck fast within my heart and I knew there must be a wrath of God against sin, for I was angry, even, with myself on account of my guilt! If God had taken me to Heaven with unforgiving sin still within my spirit, I would not have been happy! I was utterly miserable and I felt that I must continue so unless, by a Divine miracle of Grace, some great change could be worked upon me. The conscience of man, when he is really quickened and awakened by the Holy Spirit, speaks the Truth of God–it rings the great alarm bell and if he turns over in his bed and says, “A little more sleep, and a little more slumber”–that great alarm bell rings out again and again, “The wrath to come! The wrath to come! The wrath to come!”
The soul I am describing is in the dark and the darkness settles down in conviction of sin and, dear Friend–for I am speaking to you (though I do not know you, I am speaking straight at somebody–God knows who–who is in the dark), you have no hope. You go to hear sermons, longing that some Light of God may break in upon you. Some of you have been hearing the Gospel for a very long time, yet no Light has come to you. Why is it? One reason is because you shut out the Light of God. There are some of you who refuse to be converted–you are like sick men who, when meat is brought to them, refuse it. They turn against it, as the Psalm says, “Their soul abhors all manner of meat.” I am not going to blame you, dear Heart, but I do deeply pity you, for I know that now you are hardly in your right senses, like the men at sea, of whom the Psalm says, “They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.”
You hear and yet you do not hear! You have had the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached to you, and very plainly, too, but you know that it is one thing to hold a lantern to a man’s eyes and it is another thing to take the scales off those eyes and make him see. So is it with you–your eyes are covered with scales and you do your utmost to keep them there! You will not come to Christ that you might have life and, therefore, there is no star visible to you! There is not even the faintest rim of the new moon, much less is there any light of the sun shining upon you. You are in the dark and, at present, there is nothing to break through that darkness or to drive it away.
Worse still, you fear future and eternal night. I think I hear you say, “I am afraid, Sir, that I shall die in the dark.” I trust not, I trust not, for I have something to say to you which, I hope, may be God’s voice to pierce that darkness and disperse it! It would be an awful thing, certainly, to pass out of this world without a hope, and to take the last dread plunge into the unutterable blackness without so much as a single spark of light to guide you on your way. And, since you may die at any moment–(remember how our friend was taken away, two Sabbaths ago, just as he entered this House of Prayer)–since you may die at any moment, see to it that you do not die in the dark! You have but one little candle–do not waste even a fragment of it, but use every beam of light it gives you–
“While the lamp holds out to burn,
The vilest sinner may return,”
but if that lamp is once quenched, then will you be forever beyond the reach of hope, for the Gospel is not preached in Hell–where your soul will be found if you die unforgiven! Here, mercy is offered to you, but pass away rejecting it and you have sealed your doom forever!
I am not going to dwell any longer upon the seamy side of my subject, because that might only increase your darkness. Yet I know that you would feel a kind of mournful satisfaction if I were to do so. Do I not remember how I read through the Book of Job and its blackest pages seemed suitable to me? How did I take to heart the language of Jeremiah in his Lamentations and how did I roll those unsavory morsels under my tongue again and again! But I rejoice to believe that it is to people in such a state as this that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is sent. Christ did not die to save the righteous, but to save the unrighteous! Salvation is not meant for men who are not lost, but for men who are lost! It is not because of your riches that Christ came, but because of your poverty–not because of your worthiness–but because of your unworthiness! He has not come because you do not need Him, but because you do need Him! And the more terrible your necessity, on account of the thick darkness in which your spirit is enshrouded, the more am I encouraged to believe that Jesus Christ has come to save YOU–yes, even you, for the text says–“To them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.”
II. Now, secondly, I am going to REPEAT THE EXHORTATION of the text–“Show yourselves.” What does that mean?
First, it means that you are running away from Divine Justice and that your wisest course will be to go and deliver yourself up. I have been thinking, several times this week, of that unhappy man who is believed to have committed a murder and who has been going from place to place to escape detection. What a miserable week he must have spent! How he must have trembled every time anyone looked at him! The sight of a policeman must be terrifying, indeed, to him. I know not where he has been, nor apparently does anybody else, but he is seeking to hide himself from the officers of justice. There was a murderer, some time ago, who escaped for a time from those who were searching for him, but what a wretched life he lived while he was hiding! Now to any of you who are trying to hide away, thus, God says, “Show yourselves; come out of your hiding place.”
“But what am I to do?” asks one. Give yourself up. “What? Give myself up to justice?” Yes, to Almighty Justice. Come and surrender yourself. Do you not know that you are not really hidden? God sees you wherever you are! There is no hiding away from Him! I might not ask you to give yourself up to your fellow man, but I do pray you guilty sinners, who do not like to think of sin and are trying to hide yourselves, to abandon that folly and come out and give yourselves up. “Give myself up to God?” you ask. Yes, that is the first thing for you to do–to submit yourself to God, to lie at His feet pleading for mercy! I have heard of one who found that his life was sought for on account of a frightful crime that he had committed. When it was announced that whoever would bring that man’s head, even though he, himself, had been a traitor, he would be pardoned, he did a very sensible thing–he obtained admittance to the king and said, “I have brought this man’s head and I demand to be pardoned, for I have complied with the condition mentioned in the proclamation.” So he had, though it was his own head that he had brought and, somehow, the grim humor of the action seemed to touch the heart of the king, and he said, “Well, you must live.”
I want you to do the same thing as that criminal did–come to God, and say, “Lord, I am a wicked sinner. If there is a man upon the earth who deserves to be cast away from Your Presence, forever, on account of sin, I am that guilty one.” Deliver yourself up to God, surrender at discretion! Say, “You must do with me as You will, Lord, but I cannot run away from You, nor do I wish to do so. I know that all the earth is but one great prison when You are seeking me, for You can see me anywhere. You can spy me out in the darkest night and find me in my most secret hiding place–therefore I will deliver myself up into Your hands. Do with me as You will.” Now then, you that are in the dark, come and deliver yourselves up! Say, as Esther did, when she resolved to go into the presence of Ahasuerus, “So will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.” I wish I might be privileged to bring you to that point! May the Lord, Himself, bring you there! In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom God anointed to save sinners, I command you who are in darkness to show yourselves, by surrendering yourselves now to your God, submitting yourselves unreservedly to Him! “Kiss the Son lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.”
The next way of showing yourselves is somewhat different–“Say to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves,” that is, you are very lonely and you have been avoiding your best friends. You like to get away into a secluded corner and you do not care to be spoken to about religion–yet all the while you have the heartache and know not how to get it cured. To you who wish to be always alone, you who are so retiring, so nervous and so sensitive that you never speak to anybody about the sorrow you so keenly feel, thus says the Lord to you, “To them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” Come out of your retirement! If you cannot speak to any mortal man, yet speak to the Immortal Man, the Christ of God! Go and tell all your sorrows to the best of friends! You remember that we sang just now–
“Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to Your bosom fly.”
O you lonely one, I want you to speak thus to Jesus and to fly to His bosom and tell Him all that ails you! You cannot speak to mother, you say, dear girl? Then speak to the Lord Jesus Christ! “Oh, I cannot speak to my father!” says the boy. No, I have often found that children cannot talk to their earthly father, but you can go and speak to the Lord Jesus Christ! He will meet you in your little room. He will be by your bedside tonight! Get somewhere, alone, and say to Him, “Lord Jesus, I have not a friend to whom I can go for relief. Perhaps there are many who would be my friends, but I am so frightened and so timid that I dare not go and speak to them. Even when I go to the Tabernacle, I am afraid lest someone should talk to me about my soul.” Speak thus to the Lord Jesus, first, and it may be that He will give you courage to allow some Christian person to converse with you and help you “out of darkness into light.” Even if you have not courage enough for that, it shall be an all-sufficient help to you to show yourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ. Seek His acquaintance and if only like one groping in the dark you do but touch Him and lay hold of Him by faith, you will be saved! And in due time you will come forth into the light of His Countenance.
Thus I have given you two meanings of the text, but I want, now, to tell you another–“Say to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” This passage may be applied to you who are sick, who are concealing your disease. I want every man here who is troubled about the state of his heart, and every woman, too, to come and show themselves to Christ, just as they are, in all their sin. I remember a friend of mine who was, for years, suffering from an ailment that I need not name. And after a while his malady reached a very sad condition and he was most seriously ill. A physician was called in and when he had examined my friend, he said, “This ought to have been seen to years ago! Why was it not properly attended to before? Have you no doctor?” “Oh, yes! The doctor has been in and out of the house many times. He has been here almost every month.” “Well, what did he do for you?” “Oh, he prescribed, different things.”
Then the physician asked, “But did he never examine you to find out what was the matter?” And my friend replied, “Oh, I always shrank from a medical examination!” “But,” rejoined the physician, “you will soon be dead unless God deals very graciously with you–and if you had been examined and rightly treated, a few years ago, probably this mischief was then such a very small affair that your life might have been saved.”
Do you not think that such a thing as that often happens–that we are afraid of a thorough examination and do not want to know our real condition–and, therefore, it continues to get worse? Well now, I want you who are in darkness to come to God and to say to Him, “Lord, examine me thoroughly.” Go and exhibit to the Lord your sins and your sores, yes, though they are putrefying sores! He is accustomed to seeing such things, therefore hide nothing from Him. Go and tell Him the tale of all your sins and your sorrows. In your prayers to Him, make a full confession of your sin. I remember one who used to pray, “Lord, pardon my sin,” and he went over a list of a number of sins that he had not committed–but he used to say very little about those that he had committed! “I am afraid I take a little drop too much,” he would sometimes confess, but he never obtained peace until he said straight out, “Lord, I am a hard drinker, I am a drunk–but by Your Grace I will take no more strong drink.” Then he was delivered from the evil!
If I were a priest and you were fools enough to come and confess your sins to me, I would not ask you to call a spade a spade, for some spades are better called by another name–but when you go to God, pour out all that is in your heart, confess all your wrong-doing! Acknowledge that you are proud and conceited! Admit that you are murmuring and rebellious! Confess that you do not want to be converted! Acknowledge that you have companions you would not like to give up! Confess that you are living in the practice of a secret sin! Admit it all! Show yourselves, exhibit yourselves to God just as you are! It will be a dreadful sight, but the Great Physician will then operate upon you with His wonderful power which cures and cleanses, too! Remember this text, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” You who are in darkness, show yourselves to God by a full and wholehearted confession of your sin–and a humble acknowledgment that you deserve to suffer His righteous wrath!
Thus I hope I have, in another sense, put this matter plainly enough–
“Say to them that are in darkness,
The next thing you have to do is to show yourselves as healed ones bound to confess Him who has cured them. If youbelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ, then you are healed of the leprosy of sin! If you trust Christ, your sins are forgiven–but remember that this is the full Gospel message–“He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” “If you shall confess with Your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” When the 10 lepers were cleansed, our Lord Jesus Christ said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priest,” in order that he might examine and see whether it was a real cure that had been worked, and so might bear testimony that Christ had healed the leprosy.
Now, if Christ has saved you, you are required to come out and show yourself! Come to the Church of God, and ask to be admitted to its fellowship. “Oh but I mean to go to Heaven in the dark!” Do you? Do you expect to find a dark Heaven when you get there? “But,” says one, “there are a great many secret Christians!” How do you know that there are? Did you ever know one? “Yes,” says somebody, “I remember one.” But, if you knew him, how could he be a secret Christian? I do not know whether there ever was a secret Christian! I will not say anything about that matter because I am out of the secret in such a case as that, but this I know, nobody has a right to be a secret Christian. Our Lord Jesus said, “Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” “Lord,” says one, “I am Your disciple, but I am going to take it easy on the sofa.” “No,” says Christ, “that kind of life will not do for one of My disciples, for he that takes not his cross and follow after Me, is not worthy of Me.” You who were in darkness, if Christ has brought you into light, show yourselves! Stand forward and say, “Here is a proof of what the Grace of God has done–
‘I am the chief of sinners,
Yet Jesus died for me’"
and I desire to come out boldly and publicly to acknowledge what He has done for me! It is the very least that I can do to show my gratitude to Him."
I have sometimes called some of you, who say you love Christ, but do not confess Him before men, “rats behind the wainscot.” You just come out, as it were, to nibble a bit of cheese, and then go back, again, into the darkness. But is that the way that a Christian man or woman ought to act?–
“Jesus! And shall it be?
A mortal man ashamed of Thee!”
No! Let it not be so! You who have been brought out of the darkness, show yourselves and confess your Savior and your Lord!
But I am going to carry the text a little farther. There are some young men here, perhaps some young women, also, who have been saved. They are no longer in the dark and God has given them Grace and talents–yet still they are hiding themselves away! They are chosen ones loath to take their place of service. Remember when Saul was elected king, thepeople could not find him. He was a fine tall fellow, who stood head and shoulders above the rest of his countrymen, and though they ought to have spied him out even if he had been sitting down, they could not find him. Where was he? Hidden away among the stuff. He did not appear to like that idea of being king, so he hid himself away, and the people cried, “Come out, Saul! Come out!” And they brought him forth and proclaimed him king.
There are certain Brothers and Sisters whom God means to place where they do not want to be placed. There is one who ought to be a Sunday school teacher, but he is not willing. Where is he? Come out, Sir, come out! I must fetch you out from among the stuff. “Say to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” There is a young fellow who ought to be preaching the Gospel–he made a very pretty speech, the other night, at the Mutual Improvement Society. He can speak well enough as a politician and if there were an election, we would find him talking fast enough. But he is dumb so far as the Church of Christ is concerned! Come out, Brother! If the Lord has saved you and if He is pleading for you in Heaven, it is time you began to plead for Him on earth! Perhaps it is for the mission-field that the Master wants you and, my Brother, my Sister, if it is so, the message of the Lord comes to you tonight, “You that are in darkness, hiding yourselves away, Show yourselves.”
And, mark you, our text also applies to persecuted ones who shall be acknowledged and honored of God. There will come a day when God’s people, who have long been in the dark through persecution, slander and misrepresentation, shall hear the Lord speaking to them out of Heaven, and saying, “Gather My saints together unto Me; those that have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice.” “Say to them that are in darkness, Show yourselves.” What a change will come for God’s poor despised people in that day! “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.” And, “They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars forever and ever.” Oh, I know that they sneer at you and call you names–“a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a cant, a hypocrite.” Stand fast for Christ and the day will come when He shall say, “You that are in darkness, Show yourselves.”
Lastly, these words also relate to dead ones called to resurrection. It may be that most of us shall go down to the grave before Christ comes and we shall lie–
“In beds of dust and silent clay,”
and leave these poor bodies of ours in some cemetery or other. Perhaps in the depths of the sea, or far away in New Zealand, or in the United States or Canada, we shall leave our bones far from the spot where our fathers sleep. But there shall come a day when the silver trumpet of the Resurrection Morning shall sound and this shall be its note, “You that are in darkness, Show yourselves!” And out from the dark we shall come, the redeemed of the Lord, in Resurrection Glory! In the prospect of that day, I feel that I must show myself for my Lord now–I must come to the front and bear the brunt of the battle for the Truth of God! I must be bold for Christ, for He has brought me out of darkness into His marvelous Light and He deserves that I should not shrink away and hide myself!
He who has prepared a crown of life for every faithful one, expects that you and I will be faithful even unto death, in the hope of obtaining that crown of life which fades not! Up, up, you who are hiding yourselves! Come out of the bushes in which you are skulking away! If Jehovah is God, serve Him! If Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God, acknowledge Him! If the Gospel is worth preaching, proclaim it with trumpet tongue! If the Church of God is for Him, be numbered with it and take your part in its service and in its suffering! God help you, and God bless you by this message which seems to me to come direct from Himself to you! You that are in sorrow, show yourselves! And all you that are cowardly, show yourselves! And God bless you, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.