Scales Taken From The Eyes
“And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales.”
THIS means that the film upon Saul’s eyes was comparable to the scales of a fish, or else that it fell off as scales might fall. When the blinding film was gone, light broke into the darkness of Saul. In different men, sin manifests its chief power in different parts of their nature. In the case of many, sin is most apparent in their eyes. That is to say, ignorance, error and prejudice have injured their mental sight. Some have the withered hand of conscious inability, others have the deaf ear of mental obtuseness, but there are far more who hear the joyful sound and display much energy, but they hear without understanding and are zealous without knowledge, for they are blind. This was Saul’s condition. He was thoroughly honest–we might say of his heart, when it was at its worst, that it was always true to its convictions. He was no deceiver and no timeserver. He went in for what he believed to be right with all his might–lukewarmness and selfish policy were alien to his nature. He dashed with all his might against the Doctrine of the Cross because he thought it to be an imposition. His fault lay in his eyes and so, when the eyes were set right, Saul was right. When he perceived that Jesus was, after all, the Messiah, the man became just as earnest a follower of Christ as before he had been a persecutor!
We will talk about scales falling from men’s eyes. I want to address those who would be right if they knew how. Those who are earnest, but in the wrong direction, for they do not see the truth. If the Lord, in His Infinite Mercy, will but touch those sightless eyeballs and remove the film, so that they discern the right way, they will follow it at once. May the Lord remove many scales while we are proceeding!
First, we will speak of scales which men fail to perceive because they are insideshow what makesthese scales come to the outside so that men do perceive them. what instrumentality the Lord uses to take these outside scales away. ?
- First, then, THERE ARE SCALES WHICH MEN DO NOT PERCEIVE. Saul had scales upon his eyes when he was on the road to Damascus, but if you had looked at his face, he would have appeared to have as bright an eye as any man. Scales on his eyes? Why, he was a sharp-sighted philosopher, a Pharisee and a teacher of others. He would not have believed you for a minute if you had said to him, “Saul, you are blind.” Yet blind he was, for his eyes were shut up with inside scales–the worst sort of scales that can possibly cloud the sight.
Saul had the scale of self to darken his eyes. He had a great idea of Saul of Tarsus. If he had written down his owncharacter, he would have begun it, “A Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the Law of God, a Pharisee.” And then he would have gone on to tell of countless good works, fasts, prayers and have finished with, “concerning zeal, persecuting the church.” He was far too great in his own estimation to become a disciple of Jesus Christ! How could the Rabbi who sat at the feet of Gamaliel become a follower of the despised Galilean? Poor peasants might follow the Man of Nazareth, but Doctor Saul of Tarsus–a man so educated both in the knowledge of the Hebrew literature and of the Greek philosophy–it was not likely that he would mingle with fishermen and peasants in adoring the Nazarene! This is the reason why a great many people cannot see the beauties of Christ and cannot come to Him that they might have life, namely, because they are so great in their own esteem! Ah, my lord, it might have been a good thing for you if you had been a pauper! Ah, good Moralist, it might not be amiss for you if you would sit by the side of those who have lost character among men and discover that after all, there are not many shades of difference between you and them! Great “I” must fall before the great Savior will be seen! When a man becomes nothing in his own estimation, then Jesus Christ becomes everything to him, but not till then. Self is an effectual darkener of the windows of the soul. How can men see the Gospel while they see so much of themselves? With such a noble righteousness of their own to deck themselves with, is it likely that they will buy of Christ the fine white linen which is the righteousness of saints?
Another scale on Saul’s inner eye was ignorance, and learned ignorance, too, which is by far the worst kind of ignorance! Saul knew everything but what he ought to have known. He was instructed in all other sorts of learning, but he did not know Christ. He had never studied the Lord’s claim and Character–he had picked up the popular rumors and he had thought them to be sterling truth. Ah, had he known, poor Soul, that Jesus of Nazareth really was the Christ, he would never have hauled men and women to prison! But the scale of ignorance was over his eyes. And how many there are in this city of London, in what we call this “enlightened” 19 th Century, who know a great deal about a thousand things,but nothing about the one thing necessary! They have never troubled to study Christ and so, for lack of knowledge, they grope about as the blind!
With ignorance generally goes another scale, namely, prejudice. The man who knows nothing about truth is usuallythe man who despises it most. He does not know and does not want to know. “Don’t tell me,” he says, “don’t tell me.” He has nothing but a sneer for you when you have told him the Truth of God to the best of your ability. The man has no candor. He has made up his mind,
he has! Besides, his father before him was not of your religion and do you think he is
going to be a turncoat and leave the old family faith? “Don’t tell me,” he says, “I don’t want to know anything of your canting Methodism,” or, “Presbyterianism,” or whatever it is that he likes to call it. He is so wise! He is wiser than sevenmen that can render a reason! O Prejudice, Prejudice, Prejudice, how many have you destroyed! Men who might have been wise have remained fools because they thought they were wise. Many judge what the Gospel ought to be, but do not actually enquire as to what it is. They do not come to the Bible to obtain their views of religion, but they open that Book to find texts to suit the opinions which they bring to it. They are not open to the honest force of the Truth of God and, therefore, are not saved by it! Oh, that this scale would fall from every eye which it now closes!
Saul’s soul was also darkened by the scale of unbelief. Saul had seen Stephen die. If he saw the martyr’s heavenly face,he must have noticed the wondrous peace which sat upon his countenance when he fell asleep amid a shower of stones. But Saul did not believe. Though no sermon is like the sight of a martyrdom, yet Saul was not convinced. Perhaps he had heard about the Savior more than he cared to remember, but he did not believe it. He counted the things rumored concerning Him to be idle tales and cast them under his feet. O Brothers and Sisters, what multitudes are being ruined by this cruel unbelief towards Christ! Some of you, too, whom I have been addressing for years, are Believers in the head, but unbelievers in the heart, not really putting your trust in Jesus! Who can see if he refuses the Light of God? Who shall find salvation if he will not trust the Savior for it? Unbelief is as sure to destroy those who are guilty of it as faith is sure to save Believers!
Then the scale of habit, too, had formed over Saul’s inner eyes, for he had been for a long time what he then was.“Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” If so, then he that is accustomed to do evil may learn to do well. They say that use is second nature and when the first nature is bad, the second nature is like the first, only it goes further in wrong. Ah, dear Friends, some of you have been so accustomed to refuse the Gospel, so accustomed to follow after the pleasures and the vices of the world, that it does not seem possible that you should follow after Christ! Habits of secret sin are peculiarly blinding to the soul. May this scale be speedily made to fall!
Another scale is worldliness, and Saul had that upon his inner eyes, for he loved the praise of men. He had his reputation to maintain, for he had profited beyond most of his brothers and was reckoned to be a most hopeful and rising teacher of Israel. It was not likely that Saul would believe in Jesus Christ, for then he would have to lose the esteem of his countrymen. The fear of man and the love of man’s applause–how they prevent men from seeing the Truth about Jesus and recognizing Him as the Son of God! “How can you believe, which receive honor, one of another?” How can men bow themselves before Jesus Christ when, all the while, they are bidding high for the homage of their fellow sinners? The love of adulation, which is a form of worldliness, blinds the eyes and so will any other love of things beneath the moon! Let but the heart be set upon this blinding world and there will be little sight for things Divine.
II. These scales were upon the inside of Saul’s eyes when he was on the way to Damascus, but now we have to notice them BROUGHT TO THE OUTSIDE. Those outside scales revealed in type and figure what had always been the matter with Saul–they were the material index of the spiritual mischief under which he had long labored! Only now they were brought outside so that he knew they were there, and others could perceive that they were there. Now there was hope that they would be removed from the eyes! Now that he was conscious of them, the evil was half cured! What brought those scales to the outside and made Saul know that he was blind?
Well, first, it was the exceeding Glory of Christ. He says, “About noon, suddenly there shone from Heaven a greatlight round about me,” and he adds, “I could not see for the Glory of that light.” Let my Lord Jesus Christ only manifest Himself to any of you and you will be well enough aware of your blindness and you will say to yourselves, “What a strangely blind being I must have been not to have loved such beauty as this–not to have yielded myself to such Grace as this–not to have trusted myself to so complete a Savior as this!” Oh, the Glory of Christ! It has even laid the saints prostrate when they have seen it! Those who dwell nearest to their Lord are frequently overcome with the exceeding brightness of His Glory and have to confess with those favored three–
“When in ecstasy sublime,
Tabor’s glorious steep we climb,
At the too-transporting light,
Darkness rushes over our sight.”
So it is with the sinner when he gets his first view of a glorious Christ–the inrush of the Glory makes him mourn his native blindness–he perceives that he has had no perception and knows that he has known nothing!
Another thing which made the scales pass to the outside of Saul’s eyes was that unanswerable question, “Why do youpersecute Me?” That brought home to him a sense of his sin. “Why?” That was a “why” for which Saul of Tarsus could not find a, “because.” When he discovered that the Man of Nazareth was the glorious Christ of God, then, indeed, he was “confounded.” He could make no reply to the demand, “Why do you persecute Me?” Oh, that the Lord would fix such a “why” in some of your hearts! Why should you live in sin? Why are you choosing the wages of unrighteousness? Why are you hardening your hearts against the Gospel? Why are you ridiculing it? Why do you sneer at the servants of God? If the Holy Spirit drives that “why” home to your heart, you will begin to say, “What a blind fool I am to have acted as I have done, to go kicking against the pricks, fighting against my best Friend and pouring scorn on those whom I ought most of all to admire!” The why from the lips of Christ will show you your blindness!
The scales were on the outside of Saul’s eyes, now, because his soul had been cast into a terrible bewilderment. Weread of him that when his eyes were opened, he saw no man, but trembling and astonished, he asked the Lord what he must do. Some of us know what that experience means. We have been brought under the hand of God till we have been utterly astonished–astonished at our Savior, astonished at our sin, astonished that there should be a hope remaining for us, astonished that we should have rejected that hope so long! With this amazement, there was mixed trembling lest, after all, the mercy should be too great for us and the next word from the Lord would be, “You have kicked against the pricks so long that, henceforth, the gates of mercy are shut against you.” May the Lord fill some of you with trembling and astonishment! And if He does, then you will perceive the blindness of your soul–and cry for light!
I have no doubt the scales became all the more perceptible to poor Saul when he came to those three days and nightsof prayer, for when you get a man on his knees and he begins crying for mercy, he is in the way of being more fully taught his need of it! If relief does not come at once, then the penitent cries more and more intensely–his heart all the while is aching more and more and he perceives how blind he must have been to bring himself into such a condition. It is a good thing, sometimes, when the Lord keeps a man in prayer, pleading for the mercy and pleading, and pleading, and pleading on and on, until he perceives how great his need of that mercy is! When he has bitterly felt the darkness of his soul, he will be exceedingly bold in bearing light to his fellow men. May God bring many of you to agonizing prayer! And if that prayer should last days and nights and you should neither eat nor drink for anguish of spirit, I guarantee you that you will thoroughly learn your blindness and the scales upon your eyes will be painfully evident to you!
III. Now thirdly, and here I should like to stir up the people of God to a little practical business–we have seen Saul with the scales outside his eyes. He now knows that he is blind, though he did not know it before when he was a proud Pharisee. He can see a great deal better, now, than he could when he thought he could see. But still, there he is, in darkness–and we long for the scales to be removed! WHAT INSTRUMENTALITY DID THE LORD USE TO TAKE THE SCALES AWAY?
It was not an angel, nor was it an Apostle, but it was a plain man named Ananias, who was the means of bringingsight to blind Saul! We do not know much about this useful Brother. We know his name and that is enough. But Ananias was the only person whom the Lord used in taking off the scales from this Apostle’s eyes. Dear Brothers and Sisters, there are some of you, if you are but alive to it, whom God will bless in like work! Perhaps this very night, though you are unknown and obscure Christian people, He may make you to be the means of taking the scales from the eyes of somebody who will be eminently useful in future years. The Holy Spirit blessed the great Apostle to the Gentiles by Ananias and He may lead another of His mighties to Himself by some obscure disciple!
Ananias was a plain man, but he was a good man–you can see that Ananias was a thorough man of God. He wasone who knew his Lord and recognized His voice when He said to him, in a vision, “Ananias.” And he was a man whom the Lord knew, for He called him by his name. “I have called you by your name: you are Mine.” The Lord will not send you on His errands unless you are sound, sincere and living near to Him. But if you are that, no matter how feeble you may be, I beseech you to be looking, even tonight, for some blind soul to whom you may be as eyes!
Notice that this Ananias was a ready man, for when the Lord spoke to him, he said, “Behold, I am here, Lord.” Iknow many professors who would have to answer, “Behold, I am somewhere else, Lord, but certainly not here.” They are not “all there” when they are in Christ’s work! The heart is away after something else. But, “Behold, I am here, Lord,” is a grand thing for a Believer to say when his Lord bids him seek the wanderer. It is well to say, “Behold, I am here, Lord, ready for the poor awakened one. If he needs a word of comfort, I am ready to say it to him. If he needs a word of direction, here am I, as You shall help me to speak it to him.” My Brother, be you like Ananias was, a ready man!
And he was an understanding man, for when the Lord said to him concerning Saul, “Behold; he prays,” he knewwhat that meant. He well understood the first indication of Grace in the soul! Beloved, you must have a personal experience of the things of God, or you cannot help newborn souls! If you do not know what it is to pass from death to life, and do not know the marks of regeneration, you are useless.
At the same time, he was a discerning man–an enquiring, discriminating man, for he began to say, “Lord, I haveheard by many of this man.” He wanted to know a little about Saul, so he enquired of the great Master as to his character, and whether it was a genuine work of Grace in his soul. It will not do to pat all people on the back and give them comfort without examining into their state. Some of you must know by this time that indiscriminate consolation does more hurt than good. Certain classes need no consolation, but rather require reproof. They need wounding before they can be healed! And it is a good thing to know your man, and especially to wait upon the Lord and ask Him to tell you about your man, so that you may know how to deal with him when you do come to him. As Ananias did, use all diligence to know the case.
But when once he had made his enquiry, he was an obedient man. He was told to go into a house where I do not suppose he had ever left his card in his life, but he did not stop for an introduction–he went off at once to the house of Judas, and enquired for one called Saul, of Tarsus. He had Divine authority–the Lord had given him a search-warrant, and so he entered the house–
“Thus the eternal mandate ran,
Almighty Grace, arrest that man!”
Ananias must be the sheriff’s officer to go and arrest Saul in the name of the Lord! And so away he went.
And you will notice what a personal-dealing man he was, for he did not stand at a distance, but, putting his hands onhim, he said, “ Brother Saul.” Ah, that is the way to talk to people who are seeking the Lord–not to stand five miles off,and speak distantly, or preach condescendingly, as from the supreme Heaven of a sanctified Believer, down to the poor sinner mourning below! No, go and talk to him! Call him, “Brother.” Go and speak to him with a true, loving, brotherly accent, as Ananias did, for he was a brotherly man.
Ananias was also a man whose subject was Christ. As soon as ever you do speak to the sinner, let the first thing youhave to say be, “The Lord, even Jesus.” Whatever you say next, begin with that, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus."Have something to say about Jesus, but say it personally and pointedly, not as though you were alluding to persons living in Australia seven hundred years ago, but as referring to Brother Saul, and intending the word for him!
Among Christian people there are mighty hunters before the Lord who strive after souls, but I wish that a hundred times as many really cared for the souls of their fellow men. Some church members never speak to anybody about spiritual things. You come into your pews and you like two seats if you can get them–like gentlemen in a first-class carriage, you want a compartment to yourselves! And then, after service, no matter who is impressed, many of you have not a word to say. Should it be so, Brothers and Sisters? We should always be on the lookout to seat strangers comfortably and afterwards to drive home, by personal remark, any Truth of God which may have been advanced. “Ah, says one, but I may speak to the wrong person.” Suppose you did? Is it such a mighty misfortune to miss your mark once? Ah, Brothers and Sisters, if you were to address the wrong person 50 times and ultimately meet the right one once in a year, it would well reward you! If you were to receive rebuffs, and rebuffs, and rebuffs, and yet at last you should find out the Brother Saul who is to have the scales removed by you–and by none but you–you would be well rewarded! A plain common-sense word from a common-sense Christian has often been the very thing to set some able critic at liberty! Some man of profound mind–a Thomas of abundant doubts and questions–has only just needed a simple-hearted Christian to say the right words and he has entered into peace and liberty. You must not think that learned persons, when the Lord touches them in the heart, need to be talked to by Doctors of Divinity. Not they! They become as simple-hearted as others and, like dying kings and dying bishops, they ask to hear a shepherd pray because they find more savor, more plainness, more earnestness, more faith and more familiarity with God in the humble expressions of the lowly than in the language of courtly preachers. Do not, therefore, Brother Ananias, say, “I cannot go and talk to anybody. I have never been to college.” Do not, Sister in Christ, stay back because you are a woman, for oftentimes the Lord makes the sweet and gentle voice of women to sound out the music of Grace! God grant that many of us may be the instruments of taking the scales from men’s eyes!
IV. LASTLY, WHAT DID SAUL SEE WHEN THE SCALES WERE GONE?
The first person he saw was Brother Ananias. It was a fine sight for Saul to see Brother Ananias' Christian countenance beaming with love and joy! I fancy he was like one of our elders, a fine old Christian man with love to souls written on his face. When Saul opened his eyes, it must have done him good to see just such a face as that–a plain, simple man full of holy zeal and intense anxiety for his good. Dear Friend, if the Lord opens your eyes, you will see the brotherhood of Christians. Perhaps you will enjoy that among the first delights of your Christian experience and, for a little while, your faith, it may be, will hang upon the testimony of an instructed Christian woman and your confidence will need confirmation by the witness of a more advanced Brother in the Lord. But, my fellow worker, the saved one will never see Brother Ananias unless Ananias goes to him and becomes the means of opening his eyes! And if you will go and do that, you will win a friend who will love you as long as life lasts. There are some of you between whom and myself there are ties which death cannot snap. I will find you in Heaven if I can and I know you will desire to meet me. The Lord gave you to me as my spiritual children and if it should come to pass that earthly fathers should not see their children in Heaven, yet the spiritual father will see his children there praising and blessing the Lord! One of the next joys to knowing Christ, yourself, must surely be that of leading others to know Him. Seek after this bliss!
The next thing that Saul would see would be a Savior in Christ, for Ananias said to him, “The Lord, even Jesus, thatappeared unto you in the way as you came, has sent me, that you might receive your sight.” Now he would see what an opener of the eyes Jesus is, what a mighty Savior for sinners! And, oh, this is a blessed sight–to see Christ as a Savior, as my eyes, so that I can say, “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see.” This is a heavenly sight. May you help many to gaze upon it!
Right speedily he saw the Spirit of God waiting to fill him–“that you might receive your sight and be filled withthe Holy Spirit.” Ah, dear Soul, when you have come to see Christ, then the blessed Spirit will become dear to you and you will rejoice to think that He will dwell in you to sanctify you, to enlighten you, to strengthen you, and to make you a vessel of mercy unto others!
One more thing that Saul saw, when his eyes were opened, was what some do not see, although their eyes are opened in other aspects. “He received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” He saw the duty of Believers' Baptism andhe attended to it directly. You who believe in Jesus should confess Jesus. And you who have confessed Jesus should gently stir the memories of those very retiring young converts who are afraid to put on Christ in Baptism. You know right well that salvation lies in the believing, but still, how amazingly the two things are put together, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” The two things are joined together by Christ, so let no man put them asunder! Surely, dear Friends,wherever there is a genuine faith in Christ, there ought to be a speedy obedience to the other matter! I once met a man who had been a Christian 40 years and believed it to be his duty to be baptized. But when I spoke to him about it, he said, “He that believes shall not make haste.” After 40 years delay, he talked about not making haste! I quoted to him another passage–“I made haste, and delayed not to keep Your commandment,” and showed him what the meaning of his misapplied passage was. Now, Soul, do not delay! As soon as Saul’s eyes were opened, straightway he took upon himself the outward badge of the Christian faith and arose, and was baptized! Now I call upon you who love the Lord Jesus Christ not to play the coward, but come out and acknowledge your Lord and Master! You that are truly His disciples, confess it! I like to see a soldier wearing his red coat–it is the right thing for him to wear his uniform. It is the same with the soldiers of Christ. What are you ashamed of? Be ashamed of being ashamed, if you are ashamed of Christ! “Oh, but, I am afraid I might not hold on my way!” Whose business is it to make you hold on your way? Is it not His business who has bid you to take up your cross and follow Him, and who has said, “Whoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father which is in Heaven; but whoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in Heaven”?
I pray the Lord to bless these feeble words of mine. O Souls, O Souls, it does seem to me so dreadful that so many of you should come here continually and yet be blind! I try to talk plainly about your souls' needs and about Christ Jesus as able to meet those needs–how long must I repeat the old story? Once again I beseech you, think upon my Lord and Master and see what a Savior He is, and how suitable He is for you! I would entreat you to delay no longer, but to close in with the invitations of His mercy. I think, sometimes, that my Master deserves that we should do more than invite you. We
command you, in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, to bow before His scepter, for He is the King! Acknowledge His dominion and let Him be your Savior, for know this–His Gospel comes with Divine Authority as well as with gentle persuasion–and neither can men reject it except at the peril of their souls! He whom I preach to you tonight will shortly come to be your Judge. And if you will not trust Him on His Cross, you must tremble before Him on His Throne! Oh, come to Him! Simple trust is the way to come to Him. Believe in Him and He is yours and His salvation is yours!