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WHAT LIGHT MUST SHINE IN OUR
MATTHEW v. 16.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your
good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
The work designed for this time is to resolve this practical case, 'What is that light which must shine before men in the works of Christ's disciples for the glorifying of God?'
But the explication of the text is therein included.
The Son of Righteousness, Jesus Christ, who “giveth light to every one that cometh into the world," or, coming into the world, giveth light to all, from his fulness hath bespangled the inferior heavens, his church, with many refulgent stars, appointed freely to communicate the heavenly light which they had freely received. In his corporeal presence he prepared them; and his Spirit having moved on the darkened world, he irresistibly said, at the descent of the Holy Ghost, “Let there be light, and there was light, beginning at Jerusalem, but not fixed to any determinate place; but what he gave them necessarily and antecedently they were to exercise as free agents, by a command more resistible, which he here gives them. Having told them their office, and given them their names, ver. 14., “Ye are the lights of the world,” he next tells them how they must be useful. They must be conspicuous, 1. Because the church where they are placed “is like a city on a hill which cannot be hid.” 2. Because it is the end of him that lighteth them, and sets them up, not to put them under a bushel, but on a candlestick, to give light to all his house. And therefore no men's silencing or prohibitions, no difficulties or sufferings, will excuse them from their duty: lights they are, and shine they must; but lest they should think that it is preaching only which he meaneth, he here, commanding them their duty, lets them know that the splendour of Christianity is in works as well as words; and thereby giveth ús cause to think that it is all his disciples, or Christians, that he speaketh to, though first and eminently to the apostles and teachers of the world.
1. By “light” he meaneth both the illuminating knowledge, which must be uttered by words, and the splendour or glory of holiness which must be refulgent in their lives.
2. He calls it “your” light, as being their own in his graces, as the subjects, and their own in exercise, as the actors, though both under him.
3. It must “ shine,” that is, appear in its splendour, for the illumination and conviction of the world.
4. It must “ soo shine as is fittest to attain these ends : it is not every twinkling that will answer their great obligations.
5. It must be “ before men;" that is, both those within, and especially those without the church, that are but men.
6. It must be a light shining in “good works," and their own works : for that is the grand difference between the disciples of Christ and others. He teacheth them not only to know and talk well, but to do well, and he maketh men such as he teacheth them to be: “Non magna loquimur, sed vivimus," said Tertullian.
7. “ That men may see," doth signify both the necessary refulgent quality of their works, and also the end of God and them.
8. But it is not hypocritical ostentation of what they are not, nor of what they are and have, as for their own glory, to be honoured and praised of men, but for the glorifying of God.
Who is called “their Father," to show their obligation to him, and to encourage them by the honour and comfort of their relation, and to show why their works will tend to the glorifying of God, even because they are so nearly related to him.
And he is said to be in heaven," because there he appeareth operatively in his glory to the beautifying [beatifying] of holy spirits. As the soul is said to be in the head, and we look a man in the face when we talk to him, as if there principally we saw the man; because it is in the head that it operateth by reason. So much of the meaning of the words.
Many 'doctrines the text affordeth us : as,
1. Christ's disciples are the lights of the world, both in the splendour of wisdom and holiness.
2. Their most eminent and convincing splendour is in their good works.
3. Their light and good works are their own, though by the grace of Christ; and it is no injury to Christ, or his righteousness, or grace, to say, that they are their own.
4. The splendour of Christians in their good works must be such as may be seen of men.
5. The glorifying of God must be the end of our good works, and of their appearance unto men.
6. As bad as corrupted nature is, there is yet something in mankind which tendeth to the approving of the good works of Christians, and to their glorifying God thereupon.
7. God is glorified even by common men, when they approve of the glory of holiness in believers ; it is not only by saints that God is glorified.
8. As contrary as holiness is to corrupted nature, there is such resplendent goodness in true Christians' works, which common men may glorify God for : and so somewhat in them, and in Christianity, which hath such agreeableness as may tend to further good.
9. The excellency and splendour of the good works of Christians, especially teachers, is a grand means, ordained by God himself for the conviction of the world, and the glorifying of God.
But the resolving the question, What the splendour of these works must be, is my present undertaken task.
God is not glorified by our adding to him, but by our receiving from him; not by our making him greater, or better, or happier than he is, but by owning him, loving him, and declaring him as he is, that we and.others may thereby be wise, and good, and happy.
He is his own glory, and ours; and by his own light only we must know both him and all things. We are not called to bring our candle to show the world that there is a sun, but to persuade them into its light, to open the windows and curtains, to disperse the clouds, and to open the eyes of blinded sinners.
I. The way of doing this, and glorifying God, is in the order fo Howing.
1. The first thing that our works must show is their own goodness; they can never prove the cause good until it is clear that they are good themselves; therefore, doubtless, Christ here intendeth that we must abound especially in those good works which the world is capable of knowing to be good, and not only in those, which none but Christians themselves approve. If