Upon a Lamp and a Star
(From William Spurstowe’s Spiritual Chymist, 1666
Such is the disparity between a Lamp and a Star, as that happily it may not a little be wondered at, why I should make a joint meditation of them which are so greatly distant in respect of place, and far more in respect of quality: the one being an earthly, and the other a heavenly body?
What is a lamp or a star in regard of influence, duration or beauty? Haw it any quickening rays flowing from it? Or is its light immortal,s o as not become despised by expiring? Can it dazzle the beholder with its serene luster and leave such impressions of itself upon the eye, as may render it for a time blind to any other objects?
Alas! These are too high and noble effects for such a feeble and uncertain light to produce, and property only to those glorious bodies that sine in the firmament.
But yet this great inequality between the one and the other serves to make them both more meet emblems of the offering estate of believes in this and the other life, who is Scripture — while they are on this side of heaven — are compared to wise virgins with lamps burning; and when they come to heaven, to start shining, which endure for ever and ever.
Grace in the best of saints is not perfect, but must, like a lamp, be fed with new supplies that it go not out; and be often trimmed that it be not dim. Ordinances are as necessary to Christians in this life as manna to the Israelites in the wilderness (though in Canaan it ceased). And therefore, God appointed his Word and Sacraments to drop continually upon the hearts of his children, as the two olive trees upon the golden candlestick.
What mean then those fond conceits of perfectists, who dream of living above all subsidiary helps and judge ordinances as useless to them, as oil for a star or snuffing of the sun to make it shine more brightly [treating the stars and sun like oil burning lamps]?
It is true, when we come to heaven such things will be of no more use to our souls, than meat or drink will be to our bodies; but yet while we are earth, the body cannot live without the one, nor the soul without the other.
Do thou therefore, Holy God,
Preserve in me a due sense of my impotency and wants
Whose light is fading,
As well as borrowed;
That so I may daily suck supplies from thee
And acknowledge that I live not only by grace received
But by grace renewed
And while I am in this life
Have light only as a lamp in the Temple
Which must be fed and trimmed
And not as a star in Heaven