Banknock Village – ‘One Sabbath Evening’
After writing the previous chapter I felt that a few verses
might capture the flavour of what I had just described. The
spirit moved in me in the following way:
Oan Sabbath morns fan we wur bairns,
We goat up ‘hint yaisyal time.
Put oan best claes, walk’d tae kirk,
Heard the preacher, psalms sublime.
Thin back tae hoose we went at canter,
Fur mince an’ tatties, seldom mair,
Fore rinnin’ ow’r tae skil fur gospel
Band o’ Hope proveesion’d there.
Later oan we bussed tae Fa’kirk,
Tae visit Gran in Wolfe Road there.
Fore mair kirkin’ doon The Pleasance,
Whaur Church o’ Christ heeld evenin’ prayer.
Aft oor faither wis the preacher,
Frae his words wis muckle taught,
Fore weary heids late hame wur pillow’d,
Dreamin’ syne fit Sabbaths brocht.
After JNK died in 1989, I found this sermon of his that I
recalled listening to, (more than once!), from services that
he led in The Pleasance in Falkirk or in Coplaw Street, or
in Admiral Street, Glasgow in the late 1940s:
“My text this evening is taken from the Book of Proverbs,
Chapter 20 at verse 27 …. ‘The spirit of man is the candle
of the Lord.’
At Christmas time, most of our thoughts, if not the thoughts
of others, turn to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Jesus arrived in this world in the limelight of a star. His
birth attracted considerable interest. For example, the
Shepherds, the Wise Men and even Herod felt that the
uniqueness of that light in the sky might find powerful
reflection in the new born babe in the manger.
Indeed Jesus was later to say, ‘I am come a light unto the
world’, and we recall too that darkness which fell over
Calvary when He gave up the struggle on the Cross. But we
believe that the light returned with the Resurrection and
remains with us today …. and that it is with us here this
‘The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord.’ – A simple
picture is suggested by this text.
An unlit candle stands in the darkness of a room. Then
someone comes in to light it. Immediately the wick catches
fire and grows to burn with a clear steady flame. All
present can benefit from its light and its radiance. The
candle is glorified by the fire …. and the fire is enabled
to express its power, and its other qualities, through the
candle. The candle and the fire are interdependent. They are
made for each other. But they are greatest only when the
candle ‘obeys’ the fire.
Compare this obedience to the sullen resistance of a piece
of granite. It neither gives the fire a chance to show its
brightness, nor does it gather any splendour to itself.
We are all familiar with the idea expressed when someone
says of another or others, ‘They light candles in people.’
How often do we hear it said, ‘He or she brings the best out
in me’ or, ‘He or she brings the worst out in me.’?
In our homes there MUST be some warm and living nature that
is our fire and which lights and maintains our candle to
such an extent that it will burn on and on where ever we go.
Indeed, just as lightning remains in a tree long after it
has been struck, similarly our candles must burn on and on
and lighten the darkness of others long after the torch
which lit it has passed away.
God is the fire of this world. He possesses all-pervading
warmth. He is the vital spark. All the power, all the
beauty, all the mystery and all the glory of fire belongs to
God. Thus FIRE, this most sweeping, most creative, most
terrible, yet most generous element in the world, can best
bring home to all of us the sheer greatness of God.
It is people who are willing to be lit by that fire that God
depends on for displaying His wondrous personality. So often
that is why darkness, despair, mystery, fear and
superstitions can be swept away by one person or one united
group who react as candles in society … and do not lie
dormant as granite.
God has two main aims – he wants the establishment of the
rule of love in all hearts – and – he wants the
righteousness of duty to prevail.
But people are selfish and disobedient and they do not
always let their candles burn. They on too many occasions
kindle their candles with ungodly and unworthy flames, and
it is then that they are seen in a completely different
How can we then judge when we are truly seeing God
expressing his purpose for life through the personalities of
people? Well, surely we have Jesus Christ as our yardstick.
When we bring acquaintances into his presence we find that
each and all of us fall short. Gradually we come to realise
that in Jesus Christ we have the Spirit of Man in
Of course Jesus Christ is the candle of God. He came as a
light into the world and He said, ‘He that hath seen me hath
seen the father.’
In Christ is life and the life is the light for all.
The light of Jesus Christ was never dimmed by selfishness.
How did He manage to resist the temptation to use all His
great powers just to enjoy himself? How fascinating that
question is, and how it dims the light of so many gifted
people. Only by looking at Christ can we see the feebleness
of our light and how little we reflect the personality of
We are all part of God. We have no other place or meaning in
this world except in relationship to Him. Moreover we will
only shine for Him by perfect obedience. Then we shall be
protected from all other flames of passion belonging to
Above all the pictures of life that I have tried to paint
for you this evening – of what life means and what may be
made of it – there stands the picture of the human spirit
burning with the light of God whom it obeys and shows to
others to inspire them to pray,
‘Dear Lord, help me to glorify Thee on earth.’
‘Heavenly Father, may I then be glorified with Thyself for