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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles

Chapter 36 - Acts 22:2 - The Blinding Glory Light & Truth: Acts and the Larger Epistles by Bonar, Horatius


There are many things which hinder our seeing an object. There is darkness; night hides all objects far and near. There is distance; distance may, if not too great, lend enchantment to the view, but too great a distance prevents vision. There is some intervening obstacle; as Hermon would be visible from Jerusalem, were it not for the intercepting table land of Benjamin. There is defective eyesight; dimness of vision, or scales growing over the eye.

But none of these causes exist here. It is brightness, the splendor of the glory, that prevents the eye from seeing. Saul is blinded with excess of light. It is here as on the transfiguration-hill. The greatness of the radiance overwhelms. The brightness is more blinding than the darkness. Let us note (1) the light; (2) its effects.

I. The light. It is not common light, nor does it operate in a common way. Let us see what it is, and learn its history as given in Scripture, for much is said of it throughout the Word.

(1.) It is light. A. light; the light. The word carries us back to Genesis, where first light is named; or rather to John (1:4), where we read, "the life was the light of men." It is that which God calls light.

(2.) It is a great light. It possesses no common splendor. It is brightness intensified tenfold beyond all human brightness. It is contrasted not with darkness, but with the light of noon. It was beyond the brightness of the sun. Noon was to it as midnight.

(3.) It was a sudden light. It did not slowly dawn, but burst at once into splendor, shewing its unlikeness to all common light, which comes slowly and goes slowly. Yet in its suddenness it was not as the lightning, for it did not depart in a moment. It blazed suddenly, but it remained till God's purpose was served.

(4.) It was a spacious light. Not like a star or sun, but a body or globe of light compassing them round about, as on the transfiguration-hill (Acts 9:3, 22:6, 26:13). They were all of a sudden enveloped in a sphere of glory which shut out the sun. They were shut in by a glory more effulgent than the sun; shut out from the radiance of the sun by a radiance more glorious and divine. It was a tent of light which descended upon them, and surrounded them.

(5.) It was a light from heaven. It was from above, not from beneath. It was divine, not human; like the New Jerusalem itself "coming down from God out of heaven." It was not the light of sun, or moon, or stars, but a light from the very heaven of heavens; God's own light; an off-shining from the very glory of God.

Such are the different expressions used to describe this light. Each of them is full of meaning, and recalls some scriptural scene or allusion.

The light was, no doubt, that which the Jews called the Shekinah, or glorious presence of Jehovah, dwelling in the tabernacle,—the divine indwelling majesty. It was the very light, the sacred light, which their fathers knew so well, and of which Saul, as a Jew, had so often heard. It appeared at sundry times, and in diverse forms, for various purposes; now of mercy, now of judgment.

It was this light that blazed out in the flaming sword; that appeared to Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees; that was seen by Moses in the burning bush; that shone out in the pillar of fire, and compassed the top of Sinai; that dwelt in the tabernacle and in the temple; that shewed itself to Gideon's father; that kindled the fire on Solomon's altar; that was seen by Ezekiel departing, and by Daniel in his visions; that for four hundred years left the earth, but re-appeared at Bethlehem to the shepherds and to the wise men; at Christ's baptism; at the transfiguration; at Pentecost; at Stephen's martyrdom; and now at Saul's conversion: and afterwards at Patmos. Such is the history of this wondrous light,—the representation of Him who is light, and in whom is no darkness at all; of Him who is the light of the world; of Him who is the brightness of Jehovah's glory. The history of that light is the Christology of Scripture.

No doubt this visible, physical light is connected with a higher and more spiritual light. The light which patriarchs saw, and Paul saw, was but a symbol of something more glorious,—the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. In every sense these words are true, "God is light"; "He covereth Himself with light as with a garment." Here is the light of love, the light of life.

It was this light that descended from heaven, and met Saul by the way. It was this light that was used by God to produce such mighty results. Of all things, light is the most powerful. Here we see its power.

II. Its effects. The narrative presents several different results in the case of Saul.

(1.) It blinds. Paul is struck blind. Scales cover His eyes. The light has destroyed them. It is the excess, of light that has produced the blindness. Blinded by light! The light of heaven!

(2.) It illuminates. It does not blind in order to destroy the vision. It blinds in order to give clearer eyesight. The light which blinds also recalls the sight.

(3.) It prostrates. Saul is stricken to the ground. The vision is overwhelming. Man cannot stand before it. He breaks down like Daniel and like John. There remains no more strength. The law was in that light that appeared to Saul;—"the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."

(4.) It bewilders. It was here in the case of Saul worse than darkness, in the bewilderment produced. He needs now a guide. He thought he knew the way; now he must trust to another hand.

(5.) It guides. We do not see this here, but in Saul's after-history. This is his lamp.

Such are the results of the surpassing glory! From this outward operation on men we learn the inward. For, doubtless, there were both these co-operating in the case of Paul. The first effect of the light of the gospel is often to blind and to strike down. The second is to enlighten, and to lift up, and to heal.

It is with divine light that our dark souls must come into contact. Till this takes place we are still unrenewed; still Sauls, not Pauls. This light must enter; the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. It must not be heard of merely, or play round us; it must enter in; it must "shine in our hearts." God is light, and God is love. We must know both of these. The cross is the great exhibition of these. It is the true interpreter of the mind of God, and the revealer of His character.

In the New Jerusalem this divine light, both material and spiritual, shines forth. The "Lamb" is the light thereof.