A Sermon Delivered by ROBERT BARCLAY, 1872.
Sermons of Robert Barclay, Edited By His Widow, Sarah Matilda Fry Barclay. London: Hodder and Stroughton, 1878, pages 224-231.

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part 3: The 19th Century.

"I am the Light of tho World: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life."--John 8:12.

We read that our Lord came to the temple "early in the morning," and that "all the people," probably those who came to worship, "came unto him, and He sat down and taught them." It would seem as if he was for a short period interrupted; and in all probability, when he commenced again to teach the people, seated on the steps of the Temple, the sun was rising in all the splendor of the unclouded East; and following his usual custom he seizes the passing glories of the natural world as the fitting means of impressing upon them the enduring realities of the spiritual world. "I am the Light of the World: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life." What a clear announcement we have here of our Lord's Divinity! Not a Light, but the Light of the World. It was he who called the Patriarchs, who led Moses the shepherd of His flock, who spake the lively oracles to the Church in the Mount Sinai. It was He who inspired the Sweet Singer of Israel, and the Prophets, to utter the things concerning himself. It was he who was to be a Light to the Gentiles, and to be for salvation to the ends of the earth. "I am the Light of the World." What a claim is this! If the words now demand our complete acceptance or our absolute rejection, how much more must they have done so when He stood before men in his low estate? It is clear that 'hese words were understood by his adversaries as a declaration of his Messiahship. "Thou bearest record of Thyself," they said. To those who are well acquainted with. human life, nothing perhaps more fully manifests our Lord's Divine and perfect character than his manner of dealing with objectors and adversaries. Would not the human character which could make such a claim have met the questioners of it with lofty self-assertions followed by impatience and disdain? On the contrary, the answer of our Lord has an unruffled calmness about it, coupled with an acknowledgment of their perfect right to ask the question. "I do bear witness of myself. My testimony is worthy of belief; for I do always the things which please God; but you know well that my witness does not stand alone: there is another who beareth witness of me--the Father that sent me, He beareth witness of me." It is worthy of notice that our Lord, in working the miracle on the man who was blind from his birth, again used the words, "As long as I am in the world I am the Light of the world." The miracle was wrought, and He attached the proof to the assertion, and thus he manifested forth His glory.

But there is a character which is drawn with Divine power in Holy Scripture: the more clearly the light of truth is manifested to it, the more hatred it shows to him who brings it, and who wings the arrow home. The truth condemns the subtle workings of a mind at enmity with God, though seemingly at peace with Him. "If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say we see," and act against the clearest conviction. Those, on the other hand, whose hearts are open, like the blind man who had received sight, and are ready to receive Christ when they know who he is who talketh with them and can reply to the question, "Dost thou believe in the Son of God?" "Lord, I believe," and to worship him. First, the natural blindness is removed, and then the spiritual blindness.

We are very apt to forget that the tenor of the Gospel history shows that a fuller and fuller revelation of our Lord's Divinity took place towards the close of His mission. It was no sudden thought which took possession of the disciples' minds, but we are shown its working and development from the time when they were convinced that he was a man sent from God, to the time when they put the searching question, "Show ns the Father." How was that question answered? Was it in the words," No man hath seen God at any time: the only begotten Son of God, he hath revealed him." No, this was not the answer, although that was another side of the same glorious truth; but it was thus answered, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Then we come to the confession of the once doubting but now adoring apostle, "My Lord and my God!" an expression which even an angel of Heaven would have been bound to refuse like the angel in the Book of Revelation: "See thou do it not, for I am thy fellow-servant: worship God." It was a conviction deepened into certainty like the morning twilight brightening into day, till the truth of our Lord's proper Divinity burst upon their bewildered sight in a blaze of glory. How different were their conceptions of the person of the Messiah after the words were pronounced, "He is risen, He is not here!" And when they stood around and saw him ascend to his Father and their Father, when they received the promise of the Spirit of the ever-living Saviour in the person of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, then they knew the full meaning of the words, "I am the Light of the World: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life." The Gospel Christ was the fuller revelation to the world of a personal God, a Creator of such intense love and sympathy that he laid aside His divine glory, "took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men;" and not only so, "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." We are not directed to the hidden working of an unseen and impersonal influence, a vital energy working throughout the Universe, in creation, in ourselves, in the Man Christ Jesus--or as it were, to the invisible rays of light, for a moment perchance rendered visible in the intense moral darkness in which a Socrates or a Plato lived and died. We are directed to one burning spot in the Heavens, to the Sun of the spiritual world, to the Light of Life. Like travelers before the dawn we have no longer to examine our steps with the lantern of our own finite conceptions of the things which belong to our souls' peace, but the Sun of Righteousness has risen to us with healing in His wings. The God of the Christian is not the God of the Pantheist. The Christian sees and accepts God in the Person of Christ; he sees in Jesus the "Father who pitieth His children ;" and yet, although he does not attempt to explain the manner of the existence of God, he believes that God is in every place, beholding the evil and the good, as a Spirit and yet a Person, as the subtle and all pervading rays, and yet as the "Sun of the soul, our Saviour dear," in whom "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." "He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the Light of Life." The humble following of Jesus is the condition of our having Him as our Light: "If any man will do his (the Father's) will, he shall know of the doctrine." There is no greater source of spiritual darkness--nay, may we not say that there is no abiding source of spiritual darkness, but the unwillingness to follow Christ. With the highly cultivated and intellectual, as well as the ignorant and uncultivated, it is the testimony of the Spirit of God (which the closest acquaintance with the world is continually confirming) that their condemnation consists in this, "that Light has come into the world" to them, and that they refuse the offers of the Holy Spirit, made at a moment when a ray of light, the bright sunshine from the presence of Jesus, shines upon their spiritual path they refuse the light which would show them the steps they are to take, which will lead them to Heaven and into the favour and presence of God. In a word "they love darkness rather than light;" they desire not to "do truth and come to the light," so that their secret sins may be made manifest and judged now. With the uncultivated the result of "doing despite unto the Spirit of grace" is often a visible plunge into the paths of vice; but with the highly cultivated, although the result is substantially the same, in the case of these it often takes the form of unfairly reasoning away and getting rid of the force of revealed truth, inducing our conscience to accommodate the truth of God to what we could wish it to be rather than accepting it simply and plainly as what it is. Let us be very sure that the change in the heart is the same in the intellectual as in the vulgar. A celebrated skeptical writer of the last century, to explain to a Christian friend the change which his conversion had made in himself, tore out a blank leaf of his Bible and wrote the following lines, which if practical experience is worth anything, vividly describes the change of which we are speaking :--

          "The stoutest heart that ever beat
             Hath been subdued in me;
          The wildest will that ever rose
          To scorn thy cause and aid thy foes,
             Is quelled, my God, by thee.

          "Thy will and not my will be done;
             My heart be ever thine.
          Confessing thee tho Mighty Word,
          I hail thee Christ, my Lord, my God,
             And make Thy Name my sign."

How does an acknowledgment of the Person of our adorable Lord as the Light of Life, the Sun of tho spiritual world, as "our Lord and our God," the crucified Lord of Glory, give a clear view of the great leading doctrines of the Gospel. Light implies darkness. Are we not conscious of depths of depravity in the human heart which our plumbline cannot sound? Shall we cause the young to think lightly of the difference between good and evil? If we are not lost sinners without the sunshine of his presence, how is it that the mission of our Lord is described as "to seek and to save that which was lost?" Unless we see the light of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ, how can we see him as "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world," and as the scapegoat who bears it away into the ;and of forgetfulness? Is not the teaching of the New Testament on every page, "that whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap;" that for every idle word which man shall speak he shall give an account at the day of judgment? Does not the same Apostle who tells us that "God is love," also tell us that the wrath of God abideth on those who refuse to believe and to accept the Saviour? Does he not tell us that those who are in the habit of committing known and wilful sin, are not the children of God--but that they are "the children of the devil?" Is it not the plain teaching of the Gospel that Christ "our Passover is sacrificed for us ;" and can it mean otherwise than this, that since Christ was actually sacrificed for us upon the Passover night, therefore in Him God can justly pass over the sins of His obedient people; and that if they, placing faith or trust in Him, apply the spiritual means of escape which he has plainly offered them in the sacrifice of Christ, they will be safe from the destroying angel of His infinite and eternal justice? Can we see in the Gospel the love of God separate from that of justice? Do we not see the mercy of God in Christ Jesus extended for the sake of the One righteous to a guilty world?

Is not the longing for righteousness, perfect and absolute justice in the face of awful and high-handed violation of justice, mercy, and truth, in tho face of those crimes which might make the angels weep--a feature of the highest and holiest human character? And is not the Christian asked to lay aside and subdue his natural feelings, and tremble and adore God, believing in the assurance, that it is "God who taketh vengeance," and that perfect retribution is in the hands of perfect knowledge and infinite holiness? Is not the doctrine of the Gospel that the justice of God is reconciled with His mercy in Christ? What would be the assurances of our salvation from the inevitable and eternal consequence of past sin, if we did not feel that he, in the power of his Divinity, can justly stay the arm of that justice without which God Himself would not be God, and his moral world would vanish ? "I am the Light of the World: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, hut shall have the Light of Life." Dost thou seek light on the path of duty? Art thou a traveler towards the land of uprightness, one who is hoping to meet the holy, the just, and the good, all that is exalted and worthy of our love? We may be sure that this character will only be possessed by those who have the deepest sense of their own sinfulness and shortcomings, and who know the cleansing power of "the water and the blood,"--"not the water only, but the water and the blood." Art thou bewildered by the teaching of men, and desirest the teaching of God ? Then look to Jesus, the Light of the World, and follow him. "Agonize to enter in at the strait gate, for be sure of this, that it is revealed in the Gospel there are "no pardons in the tomb, and brief is mercy's day." Look to him who is thy sun, and thou shalt not walk in darkness, but shalt have the Light of Life. From the cross of Him who died for thee, a light shall stream forth upon thy path, and thou shalt see in that love which brought the Son of God from Heaven to a world of suffering and woe, a new revelation on thy path of duty--whether thy future life is to be one of doing or suffering. The sacrifice of thyself to Him is the least thou canst offer, and then the sacrifice of thyself for the sake of others will be an easy yoke and a light burden, and thou wilt be able to say-

          I looked to Jesus, and I found
             In him my Light, my Sun;
          And in that Light; of Life I'll walk
             Till traveling days are done.