I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
The Sleep of the Beloved.
“So he giveth his beloved sleep.” —Psalm cxxvii. 2.
Horatius Bonar (1808–1889)
Sunlight has vanished, and the weary earth
Lies resting from a long day’s toil and pain,
And, looking for a new dawn’s early birth,
Seeks strength in slumber for its toil again.
We too would rest, but ere we close the eye
Upon the consciousness of waking thought,
Would calmly turn it to yon star-bright sky,
And lift the soul to him who slumbers not.
Above us is thy hand with tender care,
Distilling over us the dew of sleep:
Darkness seems loaded with oblivious air,
In deep forgetfulness each sense to steep.
Thou hast provided midnight’s hour of peace,
Thou stretchest over us the wing of rest;
With more than all a parent’s tenderness,
Foldest us sleeping to thy gentle breast.
Grief flies away; care quits our easy couch,
Till wakened by thy hand, when breaks the day—
Like the one prophet by the angel’s touch,—
We rise to tread again our pilgrim-way.
God of our life! God of each day and night!
Oh, keep us till life’s short race is run!
Until there dawns the long, long day of light,
That knows no night, yet needs no star nor sun.
—Horatius Bonar, Hymns of Faith and Hope, First Series (James Nisbet & Co., 1878).
He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” 28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.
35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.
We see in these verses how much wiser the poor sometimes are than the rich. The man whom our Lord healed of his blindness was evidently a person of very humble condition. It is written that he was one who “sat and begged.” (See v. 8.) Yet he saw things which the proud rulers of the Jews could not see, and would not receive. He saw in our Lord’s miracle an unanswerable proof of our Lord’s divine commission. “If this Man were not of God,” he cries, “He could do nothing.” In fact, from the day of his cure his position was completely altered. He had eyes, and the Pharisees were blind.
The same thing may be seen in other places of Scripture. The servants of Pharaoh saw “the finger of God” in the plagues of Egypt, when their master’s heart was hardened. The servants of Naaman saw the wisdom of Elisha’s advice, when their master was turning away in a rage. The high, the great, and the noble are often the last to learn spiritual lessons. Their possessions and their position often blind the eyes of their understanding, and keep them back from the kingdom of God. It is written that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Cor. i. 26.)
The Christian poor man never need be ashamed of his poverty. It is a sin to be proud, and worldly-minded, and unbelieving; but it is no sin to be poor. The very riches which many long to possess are often veils over the eyes of men’s souls, and prevent their seeing Christ. The teaching of the Holy Ghost is more frequently to be seen among men of low degree than among men of rank and education. The words of our Lord are continually proved most true, “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God.”—“Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes.” (Mark x. 23; Matt. xi. 25.)
We see, secondly, in these verses, how cruelly and unjustly unconverted men will sometimes treat those who disagree with them. When the Pharisees could not frighten the blind man who had been cured, they expelled him from the Jewish Church. Because he manfully refused to deny the evidence of his own senses, they excommunicated him, and put him to an open shame. They cast him out “as a heathen man and a publican.”
The temporal injury that such treatment did to a poor Jew was very great indeed. It cut him off from the outward privileges of the Jewish Church. It made him an object of scorn and suspicion among all true Israelites. But it could do no harm to his soul. That which wicked men bind on earth is not bound in heaven. “The curse causeless shall not come.” (Prov. xxvi. 2.)
The children of God in every age have only too frequently met with like treatment. Excommunication, persecution, and imprisonment have generally been favourite weapons with ecclesiastical tyrants. Unable, like the Pharisees, to answer arguments, they have resorted to violence and injustice. Let the child of God console himself with the thought that there is a true Church out of which no man can cast him, and a Church-membership which no earthly power can take away. He only is blessed whom Christ calls blessed; and he only is accursed whom Christ shall pronounce accursed at the last day.
We see, thirdly, in these verses, how great is the kindness and condescension of Christ. No sooner was this poor blind man cast out of the Jewish Church than Jesus finds him and speaks words of comfort. He knew full well how heavy an affliction excommunication was to an Israelite, and at once cheered him with kind words. He now revealed Himself more fully to this man than He did to any one except the Samaritan woman. In reply to the question, “Who is the Son of God?” He says plainly, “Thou hast both seen Him, and it is He that talketh with thee.”
We have here one among many beautiful illustrations of the mind of Christ. He sees all that His people go through for His sake, and feels for all, from the highest to the lowest. He keeps account of all their losses, crosses, and persecutions. “Are they not all written in His book?” (Psal. lvi. 8.) He knows how to come to their hearts with consolation in their time of need, and to speak peace to them when all men seem to hate them. The time when men forsake us is often the very time when Christ draws near, saying, “Fear not, for I am with thee: be not dismayed, for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isai. xli. 10.)
We see, lastly, in these verses, how dangerous it is to possess knowledge, if we do not make a good use of it. The rulers of the Jews were fully persuaded that they knew all religious truth. They were indignant at the very idea of being ignorant and devoid of spiritual eyesight. “Are we blind also?” they cried. And then came the mighty sentence, “If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.”
Knowledge undoubtedly is a very great blessing. The man who cannot read, and is utterly ignorant of Scripture, is in a pitiable condition. He is at the mercy of any false teacher who comes across him, and may be taught to take up any absurd creed, or to follow any vicious practice. Almost any education is better than no education at all.
But when knowledge only sticks in a man’s head, and has no influence over his heart and life, it becomes a most perilous possession. And when, in addition to this, its possessor is self-conceited and self-satisfied, and imagines he knows everything, the result is one of the worst states of soul into which man can fall. There is far more hope about him who says, “I am a poor blind sinner and want God to teach me,” than about him who is ever saying, “I know it, I know it, I am not ignorant,” and yet cleaves to his sins.—The sin of that man “remaineth.”
Let us use diligently whatever religious knowledge we possess, and ask continually that God would give us more. Let us never forget that the devil himself is a creature of vast head-knowledge, and yet none the better for it, because it is not rightly used. Let our constant prayer be that which David so often sent up in the hundred and nineteenth Psalm. “Lord, teach me thy statutes: give me understanding: unite my heart to fear Your name.”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.