LET US THEN SHINE!
Horatius Bonar (1808-1889)
(Edited by DCB)
Horatius Bonar had a passion for revival and was therefore a friend and supporter of several revivalists. One of those Bonar defended was D. L. Moody and his evangelistic ministry in Scotland. Horatius Bonar was a truly a lover and winner of souls and it was this passion that led him to write the classic WORDS TO WINNERS OF SOULS.
In his aspiration to see souls saved Bonar also desired for them to live a holy life for the Lord and before the world. That is what this sermon LET US THEN SHINE is all about. I present to you the words of Horatius Bonar “and by it he being dead yet speaketh” Hebrews 11: 4.
“That which among men so frequently takes the name of holiness is very unlike the biblical reality. Whether used in connection with the hardness of a lifeless orthodoxy, or the genialities of a fond idealism, or the smooth regularities of a mechanical devotion, or the religiousness of pictorial superstition, or the austerities of self-righteous mortification, or the sentimentalisms of liberalized theology, or the warm dreams of an earnest pantheism, the words holy and holiness and spirituality have become misnomers or ciphers, as ambiguous in meaning and profane in use as would have been Aaron’s ephod upon the shoulders of a priest of Baal. This retention of Bible formulas and a Bible terminology after the expulsion or perversion of Bible meaning is one of the sacrilegious dishonesties of the age, which are so uncomfortably offensive to a straightforward student of the Word…
[Christ] is the representation, the illustration, the model: likeness to Him is holiness. He that is holy is conformed to His image. Every other ideal is vanity. We must learn from the four Gospels what living holiness is; for a doctrinal exposition of it, we must turn to the Epistles. Thus, we shall understand both what it is not and what it is.
“Abide in me” (Joh 15:4), “learn of me” (Mat 11:29), “follow me” (Mat 4:19; 16:24; Joh 12:26) are the contents and summing-up of the Christian statute book, constituting our true directory and guide in the pursuit of holiness. Here we have:
1. The life: “Abide in me.” From the Prince of life the new life comes to us, even out of His death and tomb; for “we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, [that we may be also in that] of his resurrection” (Rom 6:5). We “are dead, and [our] life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Thus, we are “alive unto righteousness”—we live, and yet not we, but Christ in us (Gal 2:20). We come to Him for life, or rather, first of all, He comes to us with life. We “apprehend him,” or rather, first of all, “We are apprehended of him” (Phi 3:12); and the “abiding in him” is but a continuance of the first act of “coming,” a doing the same thing all our life that we did at first. Thus we live…Because He liveth, we live and shall live forever. His life is ours, and our Christianity must be (like its fountainhead) a thing of vitality, power, and joy—our life the most genial, earnest, and useful of all lives, out of us flowing “rivers of living water” (Joh 7:38).
2. The scholarship: “Learn of me.” His is the school of heaven, the school of light. Here there is all truth and no error. The Tutor is as perfect as He is “meek and lowly” (Mat 11:29). He is at once the teacher and the lesson. With Him is the perfection of training and discipline and wisdom. There is no flaw, no failure, no incompleteness in the education that He imparts. He teaches to know, to love, to act, to endure, to rejoice, to be sorrowful, to be full, and to suffer want (Phi 4:12). The range of scholarship enjoyed by His disciples is only to be measured by His divine stores, His “treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:3). The end of His instruction and discipline is to make us holy men, conformed to His likeness, and imitators of His heavenly perfection.
3. The walk: “Follow me.” It is not merely a life to which we are called, but a walk—a “walking about,” as the Greek implies. [It is] not a sitting alone; not a private enjoying of religion, but a walk—a walk in which we are visible on all sides, a walk that fixes many eyes upon us, a walk in which we are “made a spectacle” to heaven, earth, and hell (1Co 4:9). It is no motionless resting or retirement from our fellows, but a moving about in the midst of them, a coming into contact with friends and foes, a going to-and-fro upon the highways and byways of earth.
As was the Master, so must the servant be. On His way to the Cross, He looked round and said, “Follow me” (Joh 12:26). On His way to the throne, after He had passed the Cross, He said the same (Joh 21:22). To the Cross and to the crown alike, then, we are to follow Him. It is one way to both.
He then that would be holy must be like Christ, and he that would be like Christ must be “filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). He that would have in him the mind of Christ must have the same “anointing” as He had—the same indwelling and inworking Spirit, the Spirit of “adoption,” of life, faith, truth, liberty, strength, and holy joy. It is through this mighty Quickener that we are quickened. It is through “sanctification of the Spirit” that we are sanctified (2Th 2:13; 1Pe 1:2). It is as our Guest that He does His work: not working without dwelling nor dwelling without working (2Ti 1:14), not exerting a mere influence, like that of music on the ruffled soul, but coming into us and abiding with us; so that being “filled with His company,” as well as pervaded by His power, we are thoroughly “transformed.” He does not merely ply us with arguments nor affect us with “moral suasion,” but impresses us with the irresistible touch of His divine hand and penetrates us with His own vital energy. Nay, He impregnates us with His own purity and life in spite of desperate resistance, unteachableness, and unbelief on our part all the days of our life.
He that would be like Christ, moreover, must study Him. We cannot make ourselves holy by merely trying to be so, any more than we can make ourselves believe and love by simple energy of endeavor. No force can affect this. Men try to be holy, and they fail. They cannot work themselves into holiness by direct effort. They must gaze upon a holy object and so be changed into its likeness “from glory to glory” (2Co 3:18). They must have a holy Being for their bosom friend. Companionship with Jesus, like that of John, can alone make us to resemble either the disciple or the Master.
He that would be holy must steep himself in the Word, must bask in the sunshine that radiates from each page of revelation. It is through the truth that we are sanctified (Joh 17:17). Exposing our souls constantly to this light, we become more thoroughly “children of the light”…For, against evil, divine truth is quick and powerful…It is “the sword of the Spirit,” with whose keen edge we cut our way through hostile thousands. It is the rod of Moses, by which we divide the Red Sea, defeat Amalek, and bring water from the desert rock. What evil, what enemy within or without is there that can withstand this unconquered and unconquerable Word? Satan’s object at present is to undermine that Word and to disparage its perfection. Let us the more magnify it and the more make constant use of it. It is indeed only a fragment of man’s language, made up of human letters and syllables, but it is furnished with superhuman virtue. That rod in the hand of Moses, what was it? A piece of common wood. Yet it cut the Red Sea in twain. That serpent on the pole, what was it? A bit of brass. Yet it healed thousands. Why all this? Because that wood and that brass were connected with omnipotence, conductors of the heavenly electricity. So let the Bible be to us the book of all books for wounding, healing, quickening, strengthening, comforting, and purifying.
Yet, he that would be holy must fight. He must war a good warfare (1Ti 1:18); fight the good fight of faith (1Ti 6:12), though not with carnal weapons (2Co 10:4). He must fight upon his knees, being sober, and watching unto prayer (1Pe 4:7). He must wrestle with principalities and powers, being strong in the Lord and the power of His might, having put on the whole armor of God: girdle, breastplate, shield, helmet, and sword (Eph 6:13-17). This battle is not to the strong (Ecc 9:11), but to the weak: it is fought in weakness, and the victory is to them that have no might. For in this conflict, time and chance do not happen to all; but we count upon victory from the first onset, being made more than conquerors through Him that loved us and are cheered with the anticipation of the sevenfold reward “to him that overcometh” (Rev 2:7, etc.). Though we have the hostility of devils in this our earthly course and combat, we have the ministry of angels in aid (Heb 1:14), as well as the power of the Holy Ghost (Eph 1:13). He that would be holy must watch. “Watch thou in all things” (2Ti 4:5). “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1Co 16:13). Let the sons of night sleep or stumble in the darkness; but let us, who are of the day, be sober, lest temptation overtake us, and we be ensnared in the wiles of the devil or the seductions of this wanton world.
“Blessed is he that watcheth” (Rev 16:15). In watching, let us witness a good confession (1Ti 6:13), not ashamed of Him Whose badge we bear. Let us run a swift and patient race. “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb 12:1) and “follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness” (1Ti 6:11), having our eye upon the coming and the kingdom of our Lord Jesus (Ti 2:13).
He that would be holy must [understand] his responsibility for being so, both as a member of Christ’s body and a partaker of the Holy Ghost. The thought that perfection is not to be reached here ought not to weaken that sense of responsibility nor lead us to give way to aught that would grieve “the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30)…Nay, for the personal possession of that fullness, as far as vessels such as ours can contain it, each saint is responsible. We are sanctified by the blood (Heb 13:12) that we may be sanctified by the Holy Ghost (1Co 6:11), be led by the Spirit (Gal 5:18), be temples of the Holy Ghost, even in our bodies (1Co 6:19), walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16), speaking by the Spirit (1Co 12:3), living in the Spirit (Gal 5:25), and having the communion of the Holy Ghost (2Co 13:14)…
The Christian man must not trifle with sin under any pretense, least of all on the plea that he is not “under the Law.” The apostolic precepts and warnings are quite as explicit as the Mosaic and much more numerous…As possessors of the Spirit of love, we must be loving, laying aside all malice, guile, hypocrisies, and evil-speaking, discharging daily the one debt that is never to be paid (Rom 13:8). For the indwelling Spirit is not idle nor barren, but produces fruit, divine fruit in human hearts, heavenly fruit on earthly soil, fruit that indicates its inner source and tells of the glorious Guest within: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23)…As those who have been delivered from “this present evil world” (Gal 1:4), let us like the saints of old be separate from it, standing aloof from its gaieties, as men who have no time for such things, even were they harmless, keeping our raiment undefiled. Let us be suspicious of its foolish talking and jesting, jealous of its light literature, which “eats as doth a canker” (2Ti 2:17), vitiating the taste and enervating the soul. Let us maintain unblunted the edge of our relish for prayer and fellowship with God as the great preservative against the seductions of the age: for only intimacy with God can keep us from intimacy with the world. Let us not try to combine the novel and the Bible, the closet and the ballroom—nor attempt to serve two masters, to drink two cups (1Co 10:21), to worship two gods, to enjoy two religions, to kneel at two altars.
Let us be on our guard against old self in every form, whether it be indolence, or temper, or coldness, or rudeness, or disobligingness, or slovenliness, or shabbiness, or covetousness, or flippancy, or self-conceit, or pride, or cunning, or obstinacy, or sourness, or levity, or foolishness, or love of preeminence. Let us cultivate a tender conscience, avoiding old notions and conceits, yet watching against the commission of little sins and the omission of little duties; redeeming the time, yet never in a hurry; calm, cheerful, frank, happy, genial, generous, disinterested, thoughtful of others. Seeing we must protest against the world on so many important points, let us try to differ from it as little as possible on things indifferent, always showing love to those we meet with, however irreligious and unlovable, especially avoiding a contemptuous spirit or an air of superiority.
As disciples of Christ, let our discipleship be complete and consistent, our connection with Him exhibiting itself in conformity to His likeness. [Let] our life [be] a comprehensive creed, our walk the embodiment of all that is honest, lovely, and of good report. Christ’s truth sanctifies as well as liberates; His wisdom purifies as well as quickens. Let us beware of accepting the liberty without the holiness, the wisdom without the purity, the peace without the zeal and love.
Let us be true men, in the best sense of the word: true to ourselves, true to our new birth and our new name, true to the church of God, true to the indwelling Spirit, true to Christ and to the doctrine concerning Him, true to that book of which He is the sum and the burden. Let us be true to truth, loving it, not because it is pleasant, picturesque, or ancient, but because it is true and divine. On it let us feed, with appetite new whetted every day; so shall we add, not one, but many cubits to our stature, growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ…
Our spiritual constitution must be braced, not only that we may be strong for work or fight, but that we may be proof against the infection of the times, against the poison with which the god of this world, “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2) has impregnated our atmosphere. For this we need not only the “strong meat” recommended by the apostle (Heb 5:12-14), but the keen, fresh mountain air of trial, vicissitude, and hardship, by means of which we shall be made hardy in constitution and robust in frame, impervious to the contagion around (whether that come from ecclesiastical pictorialism or religious liberalism), impregnable against the assaults of Satan the Pharisee or Satan the Sadducee. They who have slid into a creed (they know not how), dreamed themselves into it, or been swept into it by the crowd; they to whom the finding of a creed has been a matter of reading, education, or emotion; they to whom faith has been but the result of an intellectual conflict, not a life and death struggle of conscience—these possess not the true power of resistance. They carry no disinfecting virtue, no error-repelling power about with them. The epidemics of the age tell sorely upon them; even though they may have taken hold of the truth, it becomes evident that the truth has not taken hold of them. In a time of uncertainty, skepticism, speculation, false progress, we need to recognize the full meaning of the apostolic “we know” (1Jo 5:13-20), “we believe” (2Co 4:13), “we are confident” (2Co 5:6), “we are persuaded” (2Ti 1:12).
For that which is divine must be true, that which is revealed must be certain, and that which is thus divinely true and certain must be immortal. Like the results of the exact sciences, it is fixed, not varying with men and ages. That which was true, is true, and shall be true forever…Let us place ourselves simply in the hands of the quickening Spirit. He will pour into us the fullness of a diversified, fruitful, healthful life. The evil in us is too strong for any power save omnipotence.
The resistance of a human will is too powerful for philosophy, logic, poetry, or eloquence. The Holy One alone can make us holy! Life is not one battle but many. It is made up, too, of defeats as well as victories. Let us not be unduly troubled or grow moody when a battle is lost. There is always time to win another, and such a thing as flight or demoralization should be unknown in the army of the living God…“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31). “Thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle” (Psa 18:39).
The Christian life is a great thing, one of the greatest things on earth. Made up of daily “littles,” it is yet in itself not a little thing. But in so far as it is truly lived, whether by poor or rich, by child or full-grown man, [it] is noble throughout—a part of that great whole in which and by which is to be made known to the principalities and powers in heavenly places…the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10). It does not need to be a long life; a short one may be as true and holy as a long one. A short one is not a failure. John the Baptist had perhaps the shortest ministry in the church, yet it was no failure: it was one of the greatest successes. “He was a burning and a shining light” (Joh 5:35)…We may say that it does not need the threescore years and ten to unfold the beauties of holiness.
If the new life were the mere rubbing off the rust of the old; if the sweetening of the Marah well of our corrupt nature were but a common, non-miraculous process; if all goodness be within the easy reach of any earnest man; if a refined literature and a liberalized theology, and the cultivation of the beautiful, and social science, and a wider range of genial recreation be the cure for all the evil that is in us and in our age—then there has been much ado about trifles, the Bible is an exaggeration, and the gift of the Holy Spirit a superfluous exhibition of power. If sin be but a common scar or wrinkle to be erased from the soul’s surface by a few simple touches, if pardon be a mere figure of speech—meaning God’s wide benevolence or good-natured indifference to evil—why tell of wrath, fire, judgment, the never-dying worm, and the ever-rising smoke? Does God love to torment His creatures by harsh words or fill their imaginations with images of woe that He does not intend to realize? Or why did the Son of God suffer, weep, and grieve? If error be but a trifle, a foible, a freak at worst, or if it be a display of honest purpose and the inevitable result of free thought, why is the “strong delusion” (literally, “the energy of error”) spoken of so awfully, “that they all might be damned who believed not the truth” (2Th 2:12)? Why did the Lord Himself say once and again in reference to false doctrine, “Which thing I hate” (Rev 2:15)?
As the strongest yet calmest thing in the world is light, so should a Christian life be the strongest and greatest, as well as the calmest and brightest. As the only perfectly straight line is a ray of light, and as the only pure substance is sunshine, so ought our course to be, and so should we seek to shine as lights in the world—reflections of Him Who is its light—the one straight, pure thing of earth. Let us then shine! Stars indeed, not suns; but still stars, not tapers nor meteors. Let us shine! Giving perhaps slender light, but that light certain and pure—enough to say to men, “It is night,” lest they mistake, but not enough to bring day; enough to guide the seeking or the erring in the true direction, but not enough to illuminate the world. The sun alone can do that. The sun shows us the landscape; stars show but themselves. Let us then show ourselves beyond mistake.
The day when all things shall be seen in full, warm light is the day of the great sun rising. “The night is far spent; the day is at hand” (Rom 13:12). We shall not set nor be clouded: we shall simply lose ourselves in light. And we need not grudge thus losing ourselves, when we call to mind that the splendor in which our light is to be absorbed is that of the everlasting Sun. It is His increasing that is to be our decreasing, and shall we not say, “This my joy therefore is fulfilled” (Joh 3:29)?”