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We Make and Carry the Light We See By

This entry is part 6 of 22 in the series Soul-Help Papers (Isaiah Reid)

Public Domain1

Chapter 5 of Soul-Help Papers
Isaiah Reid

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they shall see God.
Matthew 5:8

With the merciful Thou wilt show Thyself merciful…
with the pure Thou wilt show Thyself pure;
and with the perverse Thou wilt show Thyself froward.
Psalm 13:25-26

We must bring to all facts the light in which we see them.
— Coleridge2

I swear the earth shall surely be complete
to him or her who shall be complete;
The earth remains jagged and broken
only to him or her who remains jagged and broken.
— Whitman3

Title image, showing a lantern shining a heart shape on a wall“The inside joy shines out
with attractive power.”4

What does this mean? This: the seeing power is in us, not in that which is to be seen. Like a coal miner, I carry the light I see by. Wanting a book the other evening, I carried a lamp into the dark room and by the lamp found the book. The light I found the book by was not in the book, but with me; though the book had light in it. Our lamp of comprehension gives the admeasurement5 of our view. “In thy light shall we see light.”6 “And cannot see afar off,” says the Word.7 Why? Some did. “If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”8 Christ’s “beam pulling”9 furnishes the answer. The “evil eye” cannot see what other eyes see. Many have eyes, but not all see. There is a man in Southern Iowa who can’t see any good in holiness. But his wife and daughter see in it what they would not give in exchange for a whole world. Why? All have good natural eyes. All have a very good degree of intelligence. All know the rudiments of salvation.

Do we not find here an ordinary law in the natural world in full force in the spiritual world? It is this: our apprehension, appreciation, and use of anything depends upon our knowledge of it and desire for it. As I was going once with my brother10 across a wide prairie in a loaded wagon, the road was long and the day dull. To us, however, who were fond of the botanical world, the day lost its dullness and the road its length, because every mile had its floral treasures. To others they were but “weeds.” All saw the same plants by the roadside. To us they had a real interest and attraction.11 We carried an awakened mind and attention with us. We carried the lamp of interest by which we saw them.

It is thus with us always. We make, for the most part, our own skies. Our spiritual landscape takes the color of the glasses we wear. A denied Christ is an unseen, unloved, unappreciated Christ. An unloved God is a misunderstood and un-worshipped God. Only love can worship, and the denier cannot love. He fails to carry the lamp to see by. He goes into what seems to him a dark chamber to find God, “if there is a God,” and takes neither faith nor love. Since these are the lamps to see by, he returns from the dark room more than ever set in his mind that there is no God. Has not God said, “Without faith it is impossible to please him”?12 Has He not said, “the pure in heart” see Him?13 How then can infidelity14 and impurity see Him?

In every business and calling, interest, desire and love precede all success. “To you who believe He is precious.”15 To the unbeliever He is a “root out of dry ground.”16 To the one he is a hard Master;17 to the other he is the “One altogether lovely.”18 Paul thought Jesus only worth being crucified, until the scales fell from his eyes.19

The soul’s attitude to God determines the relationship, and the point of view. As my attitude to20 the sun determines the angle of reflection, so the attitude of my soul determines the light from the Son of righteousness.21 If you want, therefore, to see God, don’t walk with your back to the sun. Seek the inward relationship, and the external world will be full of light. Look for providences, and you will find them. Fill up with a happy spirit, and things will be happy all around you. The inside joy shines out with attractive power. Set your vinegar jars outside, and stock up with the real honey of Canaan. Live above the clouds, and there will be continual sunshine.

A loving spirit is catching. Some people wear a coat of mail and go armed to make war on people; they are either cowards or like to fight. Some carry swords and mauls, and files, and thumbscrews, and insist on punching and pinching and finding fault with everyone they come across; these are full of self-inflation, and lack in lovingkindness. People avoid them. They disturb, and pierce, and file, because the file and the sword are within. They make the trouble in which they travel. The dust in which they have to make their journey is of their own manufacture. It need not be that way. Let them put by the sword, and find how they that take the sword have been perishing by the sword.22

Your neighbor, Mr. Glum, over there, would find a much better world to live in if he would move over onto Cheerful Avenue. Mrs. Busybody, down there by the corner, would find great rest for her weary soul if she would just let other folks and their troubles alone for a spell and have a good time housecleaning. There is enough there to keep her busy for the next ten years, living as she does, if God in mercy should bear with her interruptions and meddling with other people’s affairs. For years she has made the confusion in which she dwells. She has thought other people enjoyed meddling as she does, simply because she sees others through her colored glasses. When she takes off these glasses and sees through the pure clear crystal, she will be wonderfully surprised.

Mrs. Happyface over there is not troubled as others are, for she has found out how to turn the “all things” around her into good account.23 The adverse things others find, show only to her silver linings to all clouds. Others sit on the thorn branches around; she sits in the feathered nest. They growl that they have so little; she praises God for what she has. They worry; she sings in contentment. They see nothing but lions in the way;24 she sees Jesus only.25 Externally they have abundance of this world’s goods; within, she has the gold of the upper kingdom. She makes the sunshine she lives in; they make their fog and darkness.

A line belongs in here about persecution, so-called. Some persecutions are because you are good; some are because you lack in goodness or wisdom. It is not said that when a Christian lives un-Christlike he shall have no persecutions, though it does say, “They that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”26 As some Christians make their own sunshine, so some make their own persecutions. Because of their crooked ways and hard sayings, they get into trouble, and then try to use the “persecution” as an argument to prove they are godly. Hold on, brother! Persecutions that we bring to ourselves are punishments, not discipline, properly speaking. To maul and hammer people until they are so enraged at you as to use spoiled eggs is not persecution at all. It is God’s rebuke for lack of wisdom. Better change your tactics. Preaching at people “to make them mad” has no Scripture warrant whatever. An audience may be enraged in two ways: either at the outrageous language and manner of the speaker, or at the plain gospel truth. To be mad at the man is one thing; to be mad at the truth is another. When an audience is mad at both the man and the message, it is more often the manner and the language of the man that stirs the mob spirit.27

The world recognizes the lamp we carry. If we carry a sour war-face, and our words are in keeping, we may look out for the rattle of small arms. If, on the other hand, we wear the smile of a redeemed spirit, and speak a voice intoned with the love of God and the sweetness of heaven, the mass of men see that we have been with Jesus28 and learned of Him.29


  1. The text itself is public domain. The original book, Soul-Help Papers, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's Soul-Help Papers.
  2. The editor requests reader help in finding the original source of this quote. A search through the works of various Coleridges (e.g., Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his various sons, daughter, grandsons, and nephews) did not uncover this exact quote. However, the quote does appear in other works, including Augustus Strong, in his Systematic Theology: “Coleridge, in replying to those who argued that all knowledge comes to us from the senses, says: ‘At any rate we must bring to all facts the light in which we see them.’” (Systematic Theology: A Compendium and Commonplace Book Designed for the Use of Theological Students, Vol. I, page 30; Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907).
  3. This is from Walt Whitman’s poem “A Song of the Rolling Earth,” from his book Leaves of Grass.
  4. Underlying photo in the title image is copyright by and used under license from https://www.123rf.com/profile_578foot.
  5. Admeasurement: the dimensions or measure of a thing; also, the process of measuring
  6. Psalm 36:9
  7. 2 Peter 1:9
  8. Matthew 6:23
  9. Matthew 7:1-5
  10. This was probably Reid’s brother Samuel, with whom he was closest in age and temperament.
  11. Reid kept alive this fascination with nature all his life, as can be seen in intriguing essays in Sunnyside Papers: Inspirational Sketches from God’s “Book of Nature”, as well as in certain chapters of Boyhood Memories and Lessons.
  12. Hebrews 11:6
  13. Matthew 5:8
  14. Infidelity: as used here, unfaithfulness, lack of faith, disloyalty
  15. 1 Peter 2:7
  16. Isaiah 53:2
  17. The allusion is to Matthew 25:24.
  18. Song of Solomon 5:16
  19. Acts 9:1-20, especially verse 18
  20. Attitude to: In the instances in this sentence, the phrase is equivalent to the phrase position relative to.
  21. Reid alludes to Malachi 4:2, playing with a single vowel in this Messianic prophecy.
  22. The phrase alludes to Jesus’ words in Matthew 26:52.
  23. Romans 8:28
  24. Reid here draws from Proverbs 26:13.
  25. “Jesus only”—probably an allusion to the same phrase in the King James translation of Matthew 17:8 and Mark 9:8.
  26. 2 Timothy 3:12
  27. The Apostle Peter makes a similar distinction in 1 Peter 4:14-16.
  28. Acts 4:13
  29. Matthew 11:29
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