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Good Evening! I appreciate this opportunity tonight. I will not take time tonight to comment on the wonderful incongruity which the Lord in His good providence has arranged for this evening that a history teacher who is not a preacher should be preaching in a Free Presbyterian Church in the presence of the founder and international moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church, known and loved and hated the world over!
But I will and I must grasp the opportunity to express my gratitude and profound respect and admiration for your pastor and for Dr. and Mrs. Paisley. It was more than 16 years ago now, that your pastor suggested that I try to present the lives of the reformers in something of a different manner. As a result of that and I expect at his suggestion, on two occasions in two years, Dr. Paisley invited me to Ulster to spend a week on one occasion and almost two weeks on another. On one occasion, my daughter Lisa and I stayed in their home while each night I went to one of the churches around the country. It is possible to go around the country in different cities throughout the nation and be back in the same home at night. And we did that.
But I want to say that for many decades before that time, I have notes I have taken from Dr. Paisley’s messages at Bob Jones University at Bible Conference and other times, beginning back in the early ‘60's. I heard his message on William Tyndale in 1965. He’s been preaching longer than many of you have been living.
Although I say I admired and appreciated him from afar, I came to love and admire him and Mrs. Paisley up close. I lived in their home. I saw their lives together. I came to know Bishop, Dr. Paisley’s dog. I asked Dr. Paisley why he named him Bishop. And he answered, "He was the first bishop I could respect!" A German Shepherd, was it??? You can’t imagine Dr. Paisley having a small, effeminate puppy! I saw how that dog loved his master. I saw how Dr. and Mrs. Paisley loved each other and their children. I saw how he was loved by the people in the town. We walked up to Ulster Parliament and we were stopped as we were walking by a housewife with a baby in her carriage. And she said, "Mr. Paisley would you bless my baby? I want her to remember that she met Dr. Paisley." I saw how he dealt with tenancy and housing issues with both Roman Catholics and Protestants, and the equanimity and the poise with which he treated them all.
I was almost embarrassed to be sitting with him in the little automobile that the state provided with a driver and the guard with a radio connection with headquarters. It was a little Ford Escort back then with steel plates in the side and double windows. I was huddled in the corner of the back seat. Dr. Paisley was beside me. And he could fill it all almost himself! And I heard, almost as an intruder, I could hear him pray like a child for his wife, for each of his children by name, for the church, for the work, for the ministry.
I saw him on a Sunday preach in his pulpit and then come home where Mrs. Paisley had dinner for us. While the rest of the family was eating, he asked for his dessert because he had to go out and preach in the afternoon in some little town some distance before coming back to preach in his own pulpit at night. While he should have been expected to earn his rest in the afternoon, after preaching in the morning, this man with his care of souls was busy in the ministry.
I saw that his political relationships and involvements were not a deterrent from his ministry, but an extension of it, a part of it, indeed a concern to maintain the ability for the gospel to be preached in his nation which was in mortal danger and remains so. Pray for him and for them. I saw his love for a grandchild. I saw his care and concern. Up close I came to admire him and his dear wife even more.
Your pastor has been very kind for three years of Octobers in a row now to invite me to share this reformation month with you. We have reviewed in these recent years then the lives of Luther, Hugh Latimer, and William Tyndale, John Knox, and this year John Bunyan and Charles Spurgeon. Reformers in their respective centuries, in the places of God’s appointment. And on the Sunday prior to Reformation Day, I have been privileged to speak on the issues of the Reformation, the prerequisites of it, the doctrinal foundations of it, the forerunners of it, the principles and products of it, and I have the privilege of doing that again tonight.
Go with me to the city of Geneva, Switzerland. I would be happy to invite you at the end of May 2002 to do that literally. God willing, a Reformation history tour of Europe. God willing, we will walk through the old city of Geneva, Calvin’s city, and we will see where he lived. We will see the church where he preached. We will walk down a steep incline as the old city becomes part of the new city, down to a park-like area of trees and lawns, just opposite the library of the University of Geneva. In this library is a room set aside for the Reformation — effects of the Reformers – icons, books, Bibles and implements of every day that they used.
Just in front of us as we face that incline from which we have just descended is a wall. It is a Reformation wall. It is wall of granite. It is probably 100 feet long and 20 feet high, at least. Along the wall, superimposed from it, are relief statues. In the middle are John Calvin, John Knox, and William Farrell, the forerunner of Calvin in Geneva, the red-haired fiery preacher who was good at tearing down, but not so good at building, and therefore, needed Calvin’s help. Theodore Beza, successor, biographer, helper and successor of Calvin in Geneva. Then along the sides stretched out for several feet in each direction are other men who in their time and in their countries carried on the work that had been begun in Geneva. There is Oliver Cromwell of 17th century England. There is Roger Williams of 17th century colonial America. There is William of Orange, William the Silent of the Netherlands. There is Frederick William I, the German emperor who received refugees from France during the persecutions that followed.
Above all this, engraved in the granite wall above where they stand are these three words, POST, TENEBRAS, LUX. This was the motto of Geneva. This was Calvin’s motto. "After darkness, light." As most of you know, it is because on October 31st of the year 1517, the German monk, Martin Luther, having come to the knowledge of justification by faith by studying the Word of God and with little else to help him, and needing little more to help him but the Spirit of God, came to the understanding that man’s salvation was a free gift because of the finished work of Jesus Christ. Christ had paid not only the guilt of man’s sin, but the penalty as well. He took upon Himself the sins of mankind. Luther became incensed as he saw people anticipating All-Saints Day, November 1, when all the relics of the saints would be on display in the church in the German town of Wittenburg. The viewing of those relics and the adoring of them, promised to them remission of purgatorial suffering, of suffering in purgatory. Martin Luther had come to the understanding that there was no such place and that there was no need, and that absent from the body is present with the Lord for those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of the Savior. He wrote out some questions, some articles for debate. According to tradition, he posted them on the door of a church. He sent them to the bishop, and they became the beginning shock, if you will, that was to be heard round the world, long before that was said of the American revolution. God was to use it mightily. It was to spread, and God was to produce a legacy.
I want you to think of this theme with me tonight – after darkness, light. It is a very difficult thing to define. What is light? It is the opposite of darkness, Yes. And what is darkness? The lack of light. That doesn’t help a great deal. The dictionary doesn’t help a great deal, not even Noah Webster’s 1846 edition. We learn such things there as light is the precondition of vision. Well... thank you very much! Light is the agent or the matter that makes objects perceptible to the sense of seeing. It is itself invisible but composed of rays differently colored in the spectrum with astonishing velocity. We all have learned that light travels186,000 miles per second. That’s over 11 million miles a minute. And I am way out of my element. The dictionary further says that it is often used to mean knowledge, understanding or the illumination of the mind. We use it that way. We speak of a lamp of learning, a lamp of knowledge. I never saw a lamp of ignorance. A lamp produces light. Light dispels ignorance, dispels darkness. It is a mystery. It is like wind– we see its effects, but we do not really see it. The sun is its principal source – the "S U N", Mr. Webster says.
He also made this beautiful observation which to a Christian believer is a beautiful one. Light is reflected from enlightened bodies. That’s good. Light is reflected from enlightened bodies. Those who have received light, those who have taken the light, have the ability, indeed the responsibility of reflecting that light. Spurgeon once said, the sun doesn’t labor to shine. It is the nature of the sun to shine. The sun loses nothing by shining. Its light is not exhausted. It should be the nature of enlightened bodies to reflect light. I learned that light is one of the first things God speaks of after creation itself. Turn with me to the first chapter of the first book of the book of God. The first book of Moses, Genesis 1, and see with me what God says. He introduces this at the beginning.
"In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Light be. Let there be light! And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good." That’s something else we learn about light. It is good. "And God divided the light from the darkness, and God called the light, Day, and the darkness He called, Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day." He introduces light and darkness at the beginning of the book. He introduces separation right then, too, doesn’t He? God divided the light from the darkness. This is not a late discovery, the truth that God divides, and He makes distinctions and He makes a difference. I’m not sure what darkness is, I’m not sure what light is, but we’re learning.
Turn with me to the last book of the Bible, and see with me light at the end as well. One of the first truths in the book of God and one of the last truths of which we are reminded. Revelation chapter 21, near the close of this dear book, we read of this city – this city with foundations of all manner of precious stones, and the temple. We read in verse 23 of chapter 21, "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God did lighten it and the Lamb is the light thereof." And in the final chapter, 22, and verse 5, the same truth. "And there shall be no night there. And they need no candle, neither light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light. They shall reign forever and ever." No need of a candle. No night there. Have you thought of that? There is no night in heaven. And there is no day in hell. There is perpetual light in heaven and only darkness in hell. Wandering souls without rest. The Lord Jesus Himself refers to outer darkness. What must that be? Ever wandering, never at rest. Fire, burning without light. We cannot comprehend that combination.
Throughout the book of God, in between Genesis and Revelation, is the theme of light. Turn again to Exodus10, the second book of Moses. The children of Israel are in Egypt, having experienced the judgements God was bringing on Pharaoh and the Egyptians because of his refusal to let God’s people go. After the plagues of water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, moraine, hail, locusts, and just before the judgement of the firstborn, we have in verse 21 of Exodus 10 the discovery that the Lord said unto Moses, "Stretch out thine hand toward heaven that there may be darkness over the land of Egypt, even darkness which may be felt." What does that mean? What is darkness that may be felt? That must have been darkness indeed. So much so that in verse 22, after Moses stretched forth his hand toward heaven there was a thick darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days. How dark? They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place for three days.
Then comes the conclusion of this verse, "But all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings." Is there light in your dwelling? In the dwelling of your soul, is there light? Or do you stand, sit, and walk in darkness? In the dwelling of your family, is there light? In your home, in your house? In your concourse with your family is there light in your dwelling? What a beautiful truth! Not because of the goodness and the perfection of the Israelites, but because God had covenanted with them and had promised them that there would be deliverance. And God testified to His covenant by giving light in their dwelling. Is there light in your dwelling?
Some of you remember just about a half century ago, a sermon film produced by Unusual Films at Bob Jones University, an illustrated sermon by Dr. Bob Jones Sr., " The Light of the World." I remember his having preached this message, and then I remember his preaching it on the film with the illustration. He says, "Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world.’" In another place, the Lord Jesus Christ said, "Ye are the light of the world." I remember Dr. Bob saying there is no contradiction here. As the moon receives light from the sun and reflects that glory, so the Christian receives light from the Son of heaven, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and reflects His glory on the earth. He was light, He came, and He now calls children -- His blood-washed ones to be the light in the world.
In the beginning of John’s gospel, the prologue to this beautiful fourth gospel of John, we read of that light in the familiar presentation with which John precedes his picture of the gospel. I read, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness. The darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light. That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. And the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not, but as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name, Which were born not of blood, nor of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." We are also told in John’s first epistle to walk in the light.
I talked about the meaning of light. I talked about the first presentation and appearance of light. And this is Reformation Sunday, and we are talking about "after darkness, light." And without overstating the case, there was good reason to speak of the centuries prior to the Reformation as hours of darkness, ignorance of simple biblical truths. Dependence on an ecclesiastical authority that bound men to itself. The Reformation brought light. It is not we who have labeled the 16th century the beginning of the modern world. These last five centuries we call modern history . It was secular historians who saw the nature of the change in every sphere of human culture that was wrought by the effect and consequence of the recovery of Reformation truth. The recovery of Reformation truth. It was there all the time.
It had been clouded over with tradition and the false teachings of men. It was revealed again, it was recovered. It was rediscovered. It had been covered, it was now discovered. The covering was removed. After the darkness of the Middle Ages, after the darkness of medieval superstition, came light. And that light has been the basis of modern civilization in the modern world. Men and women who know nothing about the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century enjoy the consequences in their lives and the nations in which we live. This Reformation truth , the rediscovery of the authority of Scripture alone, of justification by faith alone, of the priesthood of every believer, needing no earthly priest, but with one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus – the only needful mediator between God and men. So now I may come directly to the God of heaven through the finished, full, and faithful work of the blessed Son of God, man’s only Savior.
As a result of this, I say, have come these evidences of light. Spiritual liberty is one of them. Spiritual liberty – liberty from the bondage of priestcraft and the authoritative truth. The monopoly of Rome was broken, and in its place came diversity of denominations resulting from the priesthood of the believers.
There came the freedom to experiment and investigate the universe. Modern science had its beginnings because of the Reformation. The church of Rome had determined what could be the proper sphere of investigation by man. And only that sphere could be entered. And now there was a freedom, an intellectual liberty, if you will, to investigate, to see, and to discover. Natural laws were discovered. They were there all the time. They produced a scientific revolution.
Individual rights. In this country, in a very few days, we will once again experience the responsible privilege of a national presidential and statewide election. And we Christian men and women above all citizens should exercise with care and a sense of obligation the responsibility of participating in that election. But this was not true in the Middle Ages. The idea of the individual participating in government, having a say, with the exception of the Mother of Parliaments and the Confederation of Switzerland, that liberty was hardly known. It began to be extended throughout the Western world and we have this responsibility. We have a responsibility to vote on the matter of the lottery in this state. There are surely, and we have said it many times, there are surely enough members of good churches in this state if they will exercise their responsibility to guarantee on election day the proper handling of that matter. It is not piety, nor biblical obedience to stay home on election day and pray or say a plague on both your houses. No, there is a sovereign God in heaven, and He does as He pleases, but He uses human instruments to carry out His purposes. If that be not true, then we are fatalists, and nothing more. I call upon you as fellow believers, as fellow citizens, to exercise that responsibility . But I say, our ability to do so, in a comparatively free land, is a product of the Reformation in the 16th century.
Nation states, free nations in competition with one another. The medieval focus on one universal empire is a recurring theme, a biblical theme in the enemy of man’s souls, and we are seeing this today. We are seeing internationalism again becoming the new order. And we have reason to fear, and also reason for gratitude that men in certain places are watching this, and having a voice in the midst of this. Nations should be freely established and in competition with one another. Though nationalism has now become a profound political evil, it ought not so to be.
Access to education and learning for the laity is a product of the Reformation . The ability to have the Scriptures in your own language, in your own hands. Think of the wonderful invention of typography – movable type printing. What a revolution was wrought by that technology in the 15th century. What a beautiful tool God had prepared for His servants, for the communication of the Scriptures in the language of the people so that a Luther prepared a German Bible, and a Tyndale prepared an English Bible, and men could read. Having something to read had a reciprocal effect of creating a market for books. Libraries therefore were established, as well as educational institutions and literacy. What a beautiful truth it is that our children can read, that you can read. Think of the fact that somebody taught you to read. Think of the tool, the talent, the gift, the responsibility. What do your read? Do you read the book of God? Are you discerning in your choices?
Separation of church and state came about, eventually from the Reformation. These two institutions which God had established were not in competition with one another, nor should either dominate the other, but each had a responsibility before God and men in its own sphere. If there is a unique American contribution, I think to this maturing understanding of that relationship, it is the gradual discovery, that no amount of ecclesiastical enforcement by government authority could produce law-abiding, genuine Christian believers. Only when there is neither benefit nor impediment, politically, derived from religious affiliation could there be true, genuine, heartfelt association with the church.
The dignity of labor as a divine calling stems from the Reformation. Before the Reformation, the term "religious" was reserved for priests, monks and nuns. The common people, the respectable laboring man was second best in society. The Reformation destroyed that eliteness. Oh, not to the disparagement of the man of God, the pastor, the shepherd of the flock, but to the exalting of the responsible citizen, as a good steward of God’s gifts, equally able to be found faithful to God. A Christian first, a businessman second, a politician second, a laborer second. My dad used to tell me, "Son, I don’t care what you do in life. Sweep streets, if that is what God calls you to do, but you be the best street sweeper there is. And sweep streets for the glory of God." I treasure that advice and counsel. So every man and every woman in the place of God’s appointment is no less called of God to the place of responsibility as God’s servant. The stewardship of God’s gifts -- whatever God has privileged me to enjoy is to be used for His glory and man’s good.
Music was given tremendous impetus by the Reformation. Psalters, chorales, cantatas, hymns and oratorios flowed from saints eager to express praise and thanksgiving to God for His wondrous gifts. Worship became the participation of the people It was not just an observation of what a priest is doing at an altar, but a participation so that we come to worship together. We do not come to watch worship being performed. We come to participate. So we sing together, we pray together, we pass a plate and share the privilege of giving together. No less a part of our worship, we hear the Word of God presented together. We sing, we praise Him. These are worthy institutional legacies of the light that came from the Reformation.
Then there are these personal legacies of the light that came from the Reformation. Your privilege, your personal experience, if you have come to that light and received the blessed Son of God as your only Savior. After darkness there came light. After sin, you came to salvation. After struggle, you found peace. And it is of these truths that I remind you who have known this Christ. I testify to you who know not this Christ, what will be yours if you receive this light of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After ignorance comes understanding. After hatred, love. After bondage, liberty. What a beautiful sound that has. What a wonder it is when one who has been bound by sin knows the release that the Spirit of God gives just as the burden rolled off Pilgrim’s back. After priestcraft came benevolent pastors. After meritorious works, believing faith. After sadness came joy. After sorrow, comfort. After fear, confidence. After despair, hope. After loneliness, fellowship. After law that no man could fill, grace abundant. And after religious duty, spiritual privilege. After the traditions of man’s church, the truth of God’s Word. After falsehood, truth.
I first said something of the meaning of light, of the manifestations of light, of the message and legacy of light. Now what of the mission of light bearers? Matthew tells us to, "let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven." Paul tells the Ephesians to, "walk as children of light." Isaiah says, "Arise, shine, for thy light is come." We us that expression sometimes, "Rise and shine." That’s where it came from. We must rise, however, we don’t always shine. But it is the nature of those who have been enlightened to reflect light. II Peter says, "Take heed as unto a light that shineth in a dark place." Light is only needed where there is darkness. And where in our time and place is there not darkness that needs light?
Light is a test to religious teachers. Isaiah says to the law and to the testimony, "If they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." No light of truth. And we are told to remember our foe, because the god of this world hath blinded the minds of those who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine in their heart. We must be on guard against He who would snatch that light.
I conclude with two imperatives. If you know the Son of God, He who is risen with healing in His wings, and whose birth in this world there was the glory of the Lord shining round about them, as the angels came and announced to shepherds. I say, if you have come to know this blessed Son of God, reflect Him. Reflect Him. It is the nature of the sun in the heavens to shine. I say it a third time. It ought to be the nature of the Christian to reflect Christ’s light. And I say to those who know Him not, seek the Son of heaven, seek the Son of God, for whosoever will come can receive the Son. He shall give light. He shall give himself who is the light of the world. "Come to the light," we sing, "‘tis shining for thee. Sweetly the light has dawned upon me. Once I was blind, but now I can see. The light of the world is Jesus." I point you to Him, and I say to us who know Him, Let there be light in your dwelling. Amen.