Nothing but the apprehension of Christ Himself - Christ in glory - can detach us from this present scene, or blind us to its beauty and fascination. This is strikingly illustrated in the apostle's account of his conversion. On his way to Damascus, armed with worldly authority against the saints of God, and filled with bitter enmity against the name of Jesus, "suddenly," he says, "there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And He said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of Him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus." (Acts 22:6-11.) A complete revolution has been effected. The one who had been animated by the most deadly hatred, both against Christ and His people, is now transformed into a willing slave. "What shall I do, Lord?" expresses his changed condition, as well as the after attitude of his whole life. Besides this, we learn that he could not see for the glory of the light that had flashed upon him;. and while this is to be understood as a matter of fact physically, it yet symbolises the spiritual effect upon the apostle of the revelation to him of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Trace out his pathway from this moment, and it will be seen that thenceforward he has no eye for anything but Christ; that the vision of his soul is filled with this one blessed, glorious object. Every thing that had hitherto engaged and occupied him, every thing to which he had clung, and every thing which he had cherished, now lost their attractions, faded into dimness and nothingness before the surpassing beauty and glory of the One who appeared to him when on his way to Damascus. All his precious things were seen to be but wretched tinsel by the side of the fine gold - divine righteousness - which he beheld in a glorified Christ. As he himself tells us, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things; and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ" [have Christ as my gain]. (Phil. 3:7, 8.) The estimate he formed at first was the abiding estimate of his life. Christ was all to him, and he wanted nothing beside.
The history of the apostle therefore teaches most important lessons. First, as has been said, that nothing but Christ Himself can emancipate us from the power of present things. Many a soul is held in helpless bondage from ignorance of this truth. They desire to be freed from the influence and power of this scene, and they groan and struggle in their captivity, sighing for a deliverance that never comes. The reason is, that they begin the wrong way. Instead of looking to Christ, and being occupied with Him, they look to themselves, and are occupied with their circumstances. The consequence is, they become more enfeebled and powerless every day; whereas, if they but accepted the truth of their own utter helplessness, and directed their gaze to Christ, instead of crying, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" they would soon shout, in the joyous notes of victory, "I thank God that I am delivered through Jesus Christ our Lord." It is said of the Thessalonians, for example, that they turned to God from idols. (1 Thess. 1:9.) If they had sought to turn themselves from idols to God, they would have remained idolaters until the day of their death. But looking first to God, who was presented to them in the gospel of His grace in Christ, they were drawn by His mighty power out from under the thraldom of Satan in the worship of false gods. Levi is another example of the same thing. Sitting at the receipt of custom, the Lord Jesus presents Himself to him, with the word, "Follow me. And he left all, rose up, and followed Him." (Luke 5:27, 28.) The attractions of Christ drew him away from all his associations, from all that might naturally have detained him, and constrained him to be, from that day forward, His devoted disciple. This is the secret of all deliverance for the soul. If the eye be but directed to, and fastened upon Christ, nothing can keep us. There is power in Him to emancipate the most abject and help less; but the condition of its reception is to be occupied with Him. Whoever would therefore be lifted above his circumstances, and follow Christ in the joyous sense of liberty, must ever maintain the attitude of beholding the glory that is displayed in His unveiled face.
Together with deliverance from the power of this scene, in the way described, there will come another thing; viz., insensibility to its attraction. Saul could not see for the glory of that light. He was blind to all but the beauty of Christ. The light of day extinguishes all lesser lights; and the light of the glory, by the very outshining of its splendours, eclipses and extinguishes the brightest glories of earth. And just as when we have been gazing at the sun, we cannot for a time see clearly the objects of earth, so when we have been beholding the glory of the Lord, our eyes are dimmed for the things of this world. If therefore we are sensible of its fascinations, it is a sure sign that Christ has not been the constant object of our souls; and, at the same time, it is a warning to us of the danger of allowing any thing to come into competition with Himself. When Peter, in his forgetfulness on the mount of transfiguration, said to the Lord, "Let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias," "a bright cloud overshadowed them and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This, is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." God will have no competitors with His beloved Son; and thus "when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only." (Matt. 17:5-9.) Christ therefore is our only object, and in gazing at Him we not only have fellowship with the Father, but we also find deliverance from the scene, and the attractions of the scene, through which we are passing.
"Oh, fix our earnest gaze,
So wholly, Lord, on Thee,
That with Thy beauty occupied
We elsewhere none may see!"