Sermon 3508. Light at Evening Time
Published on Thursday, April 20th, 1916.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear nor dark: But it shall be one day which shall beknown to the Lord, not day, nor night; but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light."-Zechariah 14:6-7.
AS WE read the Scriptures, we are continually startled by fresh discoveries of the magnificence of God. Our attention is fixedupon a passage, and presently sparklets of fire and glory dart forth. It strikes us; we are struck by it. Hence these brightcoruscations. Our admiration is excited. We could not have thought that so much light could possibly lie concealed withina few words. Our text thus reveals to us in a remarkable manner the penetration, the discernment, theclear-sightedness of God. To our weak vision the current of human affairs is like twilight. It is not altogether dark,for it is broken with some gleams of hope. Nor is it altogether bright, for heavy masses of darkness intervene. It is neitherday nor night. There is a mingle-mangle of good and evil, a strange confused mixture, wherein the powers of darkness con tendwith the powers of light. But it is not so with God. With him, it is one clear day. What we think to be confusion, is orderbefore his eye. Where we see advance and retrogression, he sees perpetual progress. We full often bemoan our circumstancesas altogether disastrous, while God, who seeth the end from the beginning, is working out his ordained purpose. Our God makeththe clouds to be the dust of his feet, and the winds to be his chariot. He sees order in the tempest and the whirlwind. Whenthe bosom of earth heaves with earthquake, he hears music in every throb and when earth and heaven seem mingled in one wilddisorder and storm, his hand is in the midst of all, so marking, that every particle of matter should be obedient to hissettled laws, and that all things should work together to produce one glorious result. "Things are not what they seem." Oh!how good it is for us to know that this world's history is not so black and bad as to our dim senses it would appear. Godis writing it out, sometimes with a heavy pen; but when complete, it will read like one great poem, magnificent in its plan,andperfect in all its details. At the present hour there may be much in the condition of our country to cause anxiety oreven to create alarm. And it is not hard to point certainly to many things that seem to augur no good. But there always wereevil prophets. There always have been times and crises when dark portents favoured unwelcome predictions. But thus far thefury of every tempest has been mitigated; a sweet calm has followed each perilous swell of the ocean, and the good old shiphas keptafloat England's flag-we fondly believe:-
"The flag that's braved a thousand years,
The battle and the breeze,"
will not be run down yet. We thank God that the history of our deliverances supplies us with fair omens of an ever-graciousProvidence. Let us comfort ourselves with the belief that there is a future of peace and prosperity within her borders andof influence for good among the nations of the world for Britain and British Christians. Then let each man brace up his sinewsfor the fight, and struggle for the right Bright days are assuredly in storefor those who lift the standard and unfurl the flag of righteousness and truth. "At evening time it shall be light." Evennow it is "one day" which is known to the Lord.
As our time is brief, I mean to confine your attention to one clause of the text, "At evening time it shall be light." Itseems to be a rule in God's dispensations that his light should break upon men gradually; and when it appears about to sufferan eclipse it will brighten up and shine with extraordinary lustre. "At evening time it shall be light." Of this mode of God'sprocedure we will take five illustrations.
I. LET REVELATION SUPPLY US WITH THE FIRST.
When God first revealed himself to the sons of men, he did not come to them in a blazing chariot of fire, manifesting allhis glorious attributes. The sun in the Tropics, we are told, rises on a sudden. The inhabitants of those regions know noneof our delightful twilight at dawn or evening, but the curtain rises and falls abruptly. This is not the way in which Godhas revealed himself to us by degrees, softly, slowly, he lifts the veil. Thus has God been pleased to makehimself known. He took in his hand a flaming, torch when the world was dark. Without a single ray of comfort, and he litup the first star that ever shone over the wild waste of the world's wilderness. That star was the promise that the seed ofthe woman should bruise the serpent's head. In the light of that promise our first parents and their immediate descendantswere cheered in their daily toil. Seth and Enoch walked with no other light that we know of but that. There is no record ofanypromise beside, which they had received from the Lord. By-and-bye, as years revolved, God lit up another star, and thenanother and another, till at last Holy Scripture became like our sky at midnight-studded all over with greater and lesserluminaries, all brightly manifesting the glory of God.
Still it was night. Though there was a little light, there was a prevalence of darkness. All through the Jewish dispensation,the sun did not shine. There was only cold, but beautous in its season, silver moonlight. Heavenly truths were reflected inshadows; the substance was not visible. It was an economy of cloud and smoke, of type and symbol, but not of light and dayof life, and immortality. For all the light that "o'er the dark her silver mantle threw," the saints ofthose times were glad and grateful; but how much more cause for joy and gratitude have we on whom the golden sun has shone!Star after star had been lit up in the heavens by the inspiration of Moses, and Samuel, and David, and all the prophets, tilldark and deep the night began to fall, till sable clouds gathered dense with direful auguries. and at length a wild tempestwas heard thundering in the sky. Isaiah had completed the long roll of his prophecy; Jeremiah had uttered all hislamentations. The eagle wing of Ezekiel soared no longer. Daniel had recorded his visions and entered into rest. Zechariahand Haggai had fulfilled their mission, and at last Malachi, foreseeing the day that should burn as an oven, and beyond itthe day when the Sun of righteousness should arise with healing in his wings, closed that volume of testimony. That was midnight.The stare seemed to be dying out, like as withered fig-leaves fall from the tree. There was no open vision; the Word of Godwas scarce; there was a famine of the bread of life in those days. And what then? Why, you all know. At evening time itwas light. Be who had long been promised suddenly came into his temple, a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the gloryof his people Israel. The world's darkest hour had come, when there was born in Bethlehem, of the house of David, Jesus, theKin, of the Jews, and the Saviour of men. Then the day dawned, and the day-spring from on high visited us, precisely at thatdarkest hour, when men said, "God has forsaken the world, and left it to pine away in everlasting gloom". Let that servefor a first illustration of light at evening time, notable as a fact, and worthy to be recollected. This, too, is preciselythe way in which God acts:-
II. IN THE CONVERSION OF INDIVIDUALS.
God's laws on a great scale are always the same as his laws on little scale. A pretty little rhyme, that many of you are familiarwith, endorses this statement.
"The very law that moulds a tear,
And bids it trickle from its source
That law preserves the world a sphere,
And guides the planets in their course."
The same law which controls a planet affects a grain of dust. As God caused revelation to arise gradually, and, growing clearerand clearer, to become clearest when it seemed about to expire, so in the experience of each individual, the dawn precedesthe day. When the light of divine grace first visits a man, it shines with feeble beam. Man by nature is, like a house shutup, the windows of which are all boarded over. Grace does not open every window jet once and bid thesun stream in upon weak eyes accustomed to darkness. It rather takes down a part of a shutter at a time, removes someobstruction, and so lets in, through chinks, a little light, that one may be able to bear it by degrees. The window of man'ssoul is so thickly encrusted with dirt, so thoroughly begrimed, that no light at all can penetrate it, till one layer is takenoff, and a little yellow light is seen; and then another is removed, and then another, still admitting more light, and clearer.Was it not so with you who are now walking in the light of God's countenance, Did not your light come to you by littleand little? Your experience, I know, confirms my statement, and as the light came, and you discovered your sin, and beganto see the suitability of Christ to meet your case, you hoped that all was going on well. Then peradventure, on a sudden,the light seemed altogether to depart. You were cast into the thick darkness into the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and yousaid, "Oh!now my lamp is put out for ever! I am cast out from God's presence! I am doomed beyond the hope of mercy! I shall be lostfor ever and ever!" Well now, Christian, ask yourself what came of this? When you were thus broken, sore broken in the placeof dragons, and your soul suffered the wreck of all its carnal confidence , what then? At that evening time the light shoneclearer with you than it had ever before. When darkness veiled your mind, you looked to Christ, and were lightened with thetruelight. Despairing of yourself, you cast yourself into the arms of Christ, and you had that peace of God which passethall understanding, and still keeps your heart and mind through Jesus Christ.
May be I am addressing some who have been for a long while the subjects of such humbling influences, breaking them down. Youhad hoped things were going pretty fairly with you, and you trusted that at the last you would come out into clear sunshine.But oh! how disappointed you feel! You never felt so wicked, never knew that you were so desperately rebellious. Your heartis hard and stubborn; you feel as if there was a mutiny in your breast. "Surely," you say, "such an oneas I am never can be saved; it is a hopeless case." Oh! my brother, very hopeful to our view is that which appears sohopeless to you.
"Tis perfect poverty alone
That sets the soul at large;
While we can call one mite our own,
We have no full discharge."
Are you emptied of all merit, goodness, and hope in yourselves? Then your redemption draweth nigh. When you are cleared outand turned upside down, then eternal mercy greets you. Trust Christ. If you cannot swim, give yourselves up to the stream,and you shall float. If you cannot stand, give yourselves up to him, and he will bear you as on eagles' wings. Give up yourself. There, let it die; it is the worst enemy you ever had. Though you relied upon it, it has beena delusion and a snare to you. Now, therefore, throw the whole weight and burden of your life of sin and folly upon Jesus'Christ, the Sin-bearer, and this shall be the time of your deliverance, so the darkest hour you ever knew shall give placeto the brightest you have ever experienced. You shall go your way rejoicing, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. A thirdillustration may be found in:-
III. THE DELIVERANCES WHICH A COVENANT GOD WORKS FOR AN AFFLICTED PEOPLE
The same rule which we have already observed will hold good here-at evening time it shall be light. No child of God can bevery long without trouble of some kind or other, for sure it is that the road to heaven will always be rough. Some visionarieshave been talking of making a railroad to the city. With this view, they would fill up the Slough of Despond, run a tramwayright through the middle of it, and construct a tunnel through the hill Difficulty. I would not adviseany of you to be shareholders in the company, for it will never answer. It will bring thousands to the river of Death,and swamp them there, but at the gates of the Celestial City not a passenger will ever arrive by that route. There is a pilgrimage,and a weary pilgrimage too, which must be taken before you can obtain entrance into those gates. Still, in all their trials,God's people always find it true that at evening time it shall be light. Are you suffering from temporal troubles. Youcannot expect to be without these. They are hard to bear. This, however, should cheer you, that God is as much engagedto succour and support you in your temporal, as he is in your spiritual interests. Beloved, the very hairs of your head areall numbered. Not a sparrow falls on the ground without your Father knowing it. Well, now, taking quite a material view of the question, you are of more value than many sparrows. You may be very poor, yet be very, very dear to your Father in heaven.Your poverty may reduce you to the utmost pinch, but that will be the time of your sweetest relief. The widow woman atthe gates of Zarepta could hardly have been more wretched than when she had gone out to gather a few sticks-she says two-enough,I suppose, to cook the handful of meal and the few drops of oil, with which to make the last morsel for herself and for herson. Ay, poor soul! At that very moment the prophet of God came in-not while there was much meal or much oil, but just astheywere all spent. He came to tell her that the barrel of meal should not waste, nor the cruse of oil fail, till the Lordsent rain, and famine ceased in the land. God's people in Egypt were not brought out until the rigour of their bondage hadbecome too bitter to bear. When it was intolerable, the Lord redeemed them with a strong arm and a high hand. You may, mydear hearer, be so tried that you think nobody ever had such a trial. Well, then, your faith may look out for such a deliveranceasnobody else ever experienced. If you have an excess of grief, you shall have the more abundant relief. If you have beenalone in sorrow, you shall, by-and-bye, have a joy unspeakable, with which no stranger can intermeddle. You shall lead thesong of praise, as chief musicians, whose wailings were most bitter in the abodes of woe. Do cast your burden on God. Letme beseech those of you who love him, not to be shy of him. Disclose to him your temporal griefs. For you, young people, yourememberI have just prayed that you might early in life learn to cast your burden upon God. Your trials and troubles, while youare at home under your father's roof, are not so heavy as those that will come when you begin to shift for yourselves. Still,you may think them heavier, because your older friends make light of them. Well, while you yet remain at the home of yourchildhood, acquire the habit of carrying your daily troubles and griefs to God. Whisper them into your Heavenly Father's ear,andhe will help you. And why should you men of business try to weather the storm without your God? 'Tis well to have industry, shrewdness, and what is called self-reliance-a disposition to meet difficulties with determination, not with despondency:-
"To take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them."
Still, the only safe, the only happy course for merchant or tradesman is to commit his way unto God, with a simple, child-likefaith, taking counsel at the Scriptures, and seeking guidance in prayer. You will find it to be a blessed way of passing throughthe ordinary routine of daily anxieties, and the extraordinary pressure of occasional alarms and panics, if you can but realiseyour sacred privileges as disciples of Christ in the midst of all your secular duties.
Or are our trials of a spiritual character? Here full often our trials abound, and here, too, we may expect that at evening time it shall be light. Perhaps some of youpursue the road to heaven with very few soul-conflicts. Certainly there are some who do not often get through a week withoutbeing troubled on every side-fighting without, and fears within. Ah! brethren, when some of you tell me of your doubts andfears, I can well sympathise with you, if I cannotsuccour you. Is there anywhere a soul more vexed with doubts, and fears, and soul-conflicts than mine? I know not one.With heights of joy in serving my Master, I am happily familiar, but into very depths of despair-such an inward sinking asI cannot describe-I have likewise sunk. A more frequent, or a more fearful wretchedness of heart than I have suffered it isnot likely any of you ever felt. Yet do I know that my Redeemer liveth, that the battle is sure, that the victory is safe.If mytestimony be worth aught, I have always found that when I am most distressed about circumstances that I cannot control,when my hope seems to flicker where it ought to flare, when the worthlessness and wretchedness of my nature obscure the evidentof any goodness and virtue imparted to me or wrought in me, just then it is that a sweet spring of cool consolation bubblesup to quench my thirst, and a sweet voice greets my ear, "It is I; be not afraid". My witness is for the Master, that, thoughhe may leave us for a little, it is not for long. "For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercy haveI gathered thee; in a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting mercy will I have pity uponthee, saith the Lord, thy Redeemer. "Oh! believer, stay yourself upon God when you have nothing else to stay upon. Do notrely upon appearances; above all, do not listen to the suggestions of a murmuring, hardened spirit; do not credit the insinuationsof theinfernal fiend who, when he finds you downhearted, be it from sickness of body or anxiety of mind, is sure then to whispersome disparaging thoughts of God. What though the suggestion strikes your heart that the Lord has forsaken you, that yoursins cannot be forgiven, that you will fall by the hand of the enemy, hurl it back. You know whence it came. Depend upon it,though heaven and earth go to wreck, God's promise will stand. Should hell break loose, and demons innumerable invade thisearth,they shall not go one inch beyond their tether. The chain that God has cast about them shall restrain them. Not an heirof heaven shall be left to the clutch of the destroyer. Nay, his head shall not lose a hair without divine permission. Youshall come out of the furnace with not a smell of fire upon you. And being so eminently preserved, in such imminent peril,your salvation shall constrain you to bless God on earth, and bless him to all eternity, with the deepest self-humiliationand thehighest strains of gratitude and adoration. So, then, both in our temporal and spiritual concerns, at evening time, whenthe worst has come to the worst, it shall be light. When the tide has ebbed out the farthest, it will begin to flow in. Whenthe winter has advanced to the shortest day, we shall then begin to return to spring. Be assured that it is so, it has beenso, and it shall be so. To the very end of your days you may look for light at evening time. And now may I not appeal forafourth illustration of the same truth to some of our friends who have come to:-
IV. THE EVENING TIME OF HUMAN LIFE?
This is often a delightful time, when the shadows are drawn out, and the air is still, and there is a season of preparationfor the last undressing, and of anticipation for the appearing before the King in his beauty. I envy some of our brethren,the more advanced saints. Although old age brings its infirmities and its sorrows, yet they have found that brings with itthe mellow joys of a matured experience, and a near prospect of the coming glory so near, so very near totheir actual realisation. John Bunyan's picture of the Land Beulah was no dream, though he calls it so. Some of our agedbrethren and sisters have come to a place of very peaceful repose, where they do hear the songs of angels from the other sideof the stream, and the bundles of myrrh from the mountains of Bethen they bear in their bosoms. I know you find, my dear friends,that at evening time it is light to you, very light. You were called by grace when you were young. Bright was yourday-dawn; a precious dew from the Lord fell upon you in the morning. You have borne the burden and heat of the day. Youfeel like a child that has grown tired. You are ready to say, "Let us go to sleep, mother; let us go to sleep." But meanwhile,before you close your eyes you are conscious of such divine refreshment, of such love and such joy shed abroad in your hearts,that you find the last stage of the journey to be blessed indeed, waiting and watching for the trumpet-call that shall bidyou come up higher. Your light is brighter now than ever it was before. When you come at length to depart, though it willbe "evening time" in very truth, it will be "light." You have watched the sun go down sometimes. How glorious he is at hissetting! He looks twice as large as he did when he was high up in the sky, and if the clouds gather round him, how he tintsthem all with glory! Is there anything in all the world so magnificent as the setting sun, when all the colours of heavenseempoured out upon earth's sky? It does not fill you with gloom, for it is so radiant with glory. Such, now, shall your dyingbed be. To those who watch you, you shall be an object of mare sacred interest than ever you were before. If there be somepains that distress you, and some temptations that harass you, they shall be but the clouds which your Master's grace andyour Saviour's presence shall gild with splendour. Oh! how light, how very light, it has been at evening time with some ofourbeloved friends! We have envied them as we have beheld the brightness gleaming from their brows in their last expiringmoments. Oh! their songs! You cannot sing like them. Oh! their notes of ecstasy! You cannot understand the bliss unspeakable,as though the spray of the waves of heaven dashed into their faces, as though the light of the unclouded land had begun tostream upon their visage, and they were transfigured upon their Tabor before they passed into their rest!
Never fear dying, beloved. Dying is the last, but the least, matter that a Christian has to be anxious about. Fear living-thatis a hard battle to fight; a stern discipline to endure; a rough voyage to undergo. You may well invoke God's omnipotenceto your aid. But to die, that is to end the strife, to finish your course, to enter the calm heaven. Your Captain, your Leader,your Pilot is with you. One moment, and it is over: "A gentle wafting to immortal life." It is thelingering pulse of life that makes the pains and groans. Death ends them all. What a light, oh! what a transparent lightit must be when the spirit immediately passes through the veil into the glory-land! In vain the fancy strives to paint thevision of angels and of disembodied spirits, and, above all, the brightness of the glory of Christ the Lamb in the midst ofthe throne! Oh! the joy of that first bowing before the Mercy-seat! Oh! the rapture of that first casting the crown at hisfeet wholoved us and redeemed us! Oh! the transport of that first folding in Immanuel's bosom, that first kiss with the kissesof his mouth, face to face! Do you not long for it? May you not say, "drop rapidly, ye sands of time! Fly round, ye axlesof the running years, and let his chariot come, or let our soul soon pass, and leave her mortal frame behind, to be for everwith the Lord!" Yes, "at evening time is shall be light." Turning now from these personal reflections, we seek our last illustrationin the mysterious unfolding of destiny, for it is our firm belief that:-
V. IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD AT LARGE this saying shall be verified, and it shall come to pass that "at evening time itshall be light."
Darkness has prevailed for a long time, nor does the prospect grow much brighter at present. The noble enterprise of our greatmissionary societies is not altogether unrequited. The prayers and efforts of a long succession of godly men are not to beaccounted vain and fruitless, but we commonly feel more cause to lament than to exult. How little is the world lit up withthe light of God yet! Are there more saved souls in the world now than there were a hundred years afterChrist's death? I do not know that there are. A greater surface is covered with the profession of Christianity now, butat that time the light was bright where it did shine. I am afraid to say what I think of the gloom that is hanging in thickfolds of cloud and scud, over the nations of the earth. Still the oracle cheers my heart, "At evening time it shall be light."Some men prophesy that it will not be so. Long ages of delay make them grow impatient. This impatience provokes questioning.Those questions invariably tend to unbelief. But who shall make void the promises of God? Are not nations to be born ina day? Will the wild Arab never bow before the King of Zion? Shall not Ethiopia stretch out her arms to God? As children ofthe day, doth it not behove us to walk in the light of the Lord? Divine testimony has more weight with us than the conjecturesof benighted men! Christ has bought this world, and he will have it in possession from the river even to the ends of the earth.He has redeemed it, and he will claim it for his own. You may rest assured that whatever is contained in the scroll ofprophecy shall be fulfilled according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God. Notwithstanding any difficultiesyou may have in interpreting the seals or the trumpets of the Apocalypse, You have no room to doubt that Jesus Christ willbe acknowledged King of Kings and Lord of Lords over this whole world, and that in every corner and nook of it his name willbefamous. To him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Donot be troubled by seers or soothsayers. Rest patiently. "Of the times and seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I writeunto you, for ye yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." As for you, your businessis to work for the spreading of his kingdom, to be continually scattering the light you have, and praying for more, to bewaiting upon God for more of the tongue of fire, for more of the baptism of the Eternal Spirit, for more vital quickeningpower. When the whole Church shall be wakened up to a spirit of earnestness and enterprise, the conversion of this world willbe speedily accomplished; the idols will then be cast to the moles and the bats; anti-Christ shall sink like a millstone inthe flood, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord hathspoken it.
Talking but the other day upon missionary affairs with one who understands them well, he said, "Sir, we have enough missionariesin India now, of all sorts, for the evangelisation of India, if no more were sent out, provided that they were the right men."Oh! God, call, qualify, send for the right men; baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire; and make them fit instrumentsto do, to dare, to die, but withal to conquer. Bethink you, brethren, how, when Christ beganwith twelve men, he shook the earth, and now that Christians are numbered by tens of thousands, do ye tell me that theglory of God is not to be revealed, and the conquest of the world is not to be completed? I am afraid the Church is gettingdownhearted. She holds her banner low; she marches to the fight with bated breath and tremulous spirit. She will never winthus with craven heart. Oh! that she had more faith in her God! Then would she be "clear as the moon, fair as the sun, andterribleas an army with banners." If she would expect great things, she would see great things. Nations would be born in a dayif we believed it and myriads would flock, like doves, to their windows if we did but look for it, work for it, and blessGod for such a measure of encouragement as we have. "At evening time it shall be light." Accept this as a prophecy. Believeit on the highest warranty. Hope for it with the liveliest anticipation. So may ye live to see it. And unto God shall be thepraise,world without end. Amen.
*"Reference is made here to a circumstance which caused the English public some passing anxiety; but a few days sufficed todisperse the cloud, and in a few months it was obliterated from people's memory."