The Revelation of Jesus Christ!
by Horatius Bonar (1808 1889)
Table of Contents
- Self-Denial Christianity
- First Love Left
- The Love and the Discipline
- The Cross of the Lord Jesus
- Strangership and Pilgrimage
- The Church Dwelling Alone
- The Model of a Holy Life
- Death and the Grave
- The Vision of the Restitution of All Things
- The Coming of the Perfect, and the Departure of the Imperfect
- The Glorious Bride
"I know your works, and your labor, and your patience, and
how you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tried those who say they
are apostles, and are not, and have found them liars. And have borne, and have
patience, and for my name's sake have labored, and have not
fainted." Revelation 2:2,3.
'CHRIST did not please Himself' (Romans 15:3). Yet if any
one were entitled to please Himself, it was the Son of the Blessed, the Son of
the Highest. He was no flesh-pleaser, no man-pleaser, no self-pleaser. He
'pleased the Father' (John 8:29). He was the highest type or specimen of that
which was found so pre-eminently in Enoch, who was commended as one who
pleased God. (Hebrews 11:5).
PAUL did not please himself. 'I have made myself a servant
to all' (1 Corinthians 9:19). 'I keep under my body' (1 Corinthians 9:27;
Greek, 'I buffet or maltreat'). There exists no picture of a self-denied man
like that of 2 Corinthians 6:3-10. Let us study the whole passage, especially
these words 'In much endurance, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
in stripes, in imprisonment, in tumults, in labors, in watching, in fastings.'
What minister of Christ, what Christian man or woman, does not blush and hang
the head as he reads these words?
What do we say to our self-indulgence, our sloth, our love
of ease, our avoidance of hardship, our luxury our pampering of the body, our
costly feasts, our silken couches, our brilliant furniture, our gay clothing,
our braided hair, our jeweled fingers, our idle mirth, our voluptuous music,
our jovial tables, loaded with every variety of wine and rich viands? Are we
Christians? Or are we worldlings? Where is the self-denial of primitive days?
Where is the separation from a self-pleasing luxurious world? Where is the
cross, the true badge of discipleship, to be seen except in useless religious
ornaments for the body, or worse than useless decorations for the sanctuary?
"Woe to those who are at ease in Zion!" Is not this the description of
multitudes who name the name of Christ? They may not always be "living in
debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry." But
even where these are absent, there is 'high living,' luxury of the table or
the wardrobe in conformity to 'this present evil world.'
'At ease in Zion!' Yes! there is the shrinking from hard
service; from 'spending and being spent;' from toil and burden-bearing and
conflict; from self-sacrifice and noble adventure, for the Master's sake.
There is conformity to the world instead of conformity to Christ. There is a
following afar off, instead of a keeping pace with Him whom we profess to
follow. There is a laying down, instead of a taking up of the cross. Or there
is a velvet-lining of the cross, lest it should gall our shoulders as we carry
it. Or there is an adorning of the cross, that it may suite the taste and the
manners of our refined and intellectual age. Anything but the bare, rugged and
We think that we can make the strait gate wider and the
narrow way broader, so as to be able to walk more comfortably to the heavenly
kingdom. We try to prove that modern enlightenment has so elevated the race,
that there is no longer the battle or the burden or the discipline; or has so
refined the world and its pleasures, that we may safely drink the poisoned
cup, and give ourselves up to the inebriation of the Siren song.
'At ease in Zion!' Even when the walls of the city are
besieged, and the citadel on the point of being stormed! Instead of grasping
our weapons, we lie down upon our couches. Instead of the armor, we put on the
silken robe. We are cowards when we should be brave; we are faint-hearted when
we should be bold as Elijah or as Paul. We are lukewarm when we should be
fervent; cold when we should be full of zeal. We compromise and shuffle and
apologize, when we should lift up our voice like a trumpet. We pare down
truth, or palliate error, or extenuate sin, in order to placate the world, or
suit the spirit of the age, or 'unify' the Church.
At Ephesus we find them from the first a self-denying
Christianity; and now, some fifty years after its foundation, we still find,
even amid the decay of first love, the same self-denial, and endurance of toil
and suffering. It still bore noble testimony to a self-denying Lord and a
self-sacrificing religion. It was still a noble and unworldly church, amid
much declension and coldness. What must have been its original nobility and
self-crucifixion, when even in its declension and coldness, it can be spoken
of in the way here done by its gracious Lord!
'The angel' of the Ephesian church is sent to bear from
Patmos the following message, partly of commendation and partly of
rebuke first the former, and then the latter to show the tenderness and
patience of the Lord, who will not reprove us until he has said all He can in
The SPEAKER or writer takes to himself two special titles.
(1) He who holds the seven stars in His right hand; (2) He who walks in the
midst of the seven golden candlesticks. The skies with all its stars is His;
the earth also is His; all above and below is His. He walks among His
churches; constantly moving to and fro with watchful care and love. For
eighteen centuries He has thus been walking and watching trimming His lamps,
and supplying them with oil sometimes also removing them out of their places.
Thus this glorious One spoke to Ephesus; He speaks also to us.
(1) I know your WORKS. He knows what they are exactly.
He knows their value precisely. He will neither under-estimate nor
over-estimate them. The cup of cold water shall be duly valued and rewarded.
(2) I know your LABOR. The word denotes hard toil.
Ephesus had had her days and nights of toil and all this is acknowledged. She
had not pleased herself; she had not lived in ease and luxury. She had set
herself to self-denying work. Of what kind we know not. It is registered
above and we shall one day know it all.
(3) I know your PATIENCE. The word means patient
endurance of suffering or toil the patience of Christ, the patience of men who
knew that they were called to a self-denying life in following a self-denying
Lord. Not impatience, nor fretfulness, nor anger, nor excitement; nor yet
ease, and comfort, and luxury but patience. 'Fret not yourself' (Psalm 37:1)
is the Church's watchword in evil days. It is to this that she is called to
calmness, forbearance, control of spirit unruffled temper in the endurance of
wrong or the bearing of burdens an crosses.
(4) I know how you cannot bear those who are evil. It
is not compromise or tame submission to sin, and evil, and error, and apostasy
that is commended here. It is bold resistance to sin; bold rebuking of error
and departure from truth and holiness and Christian consistency; for the Lord
lays great stress upon the TRUTH, and upon testimony for the truth as well as
upon a HOLY LIFE. All true religion is founded upon truth upon a true creed a
creed that rests upon God's testimony to His own truth.
(5) I know you have tried those who say they are your
apostles, and are not. This church had been zealous for the truth; zealous
against error; zealous against all false pretensions to apostleship. Error
came in very early. Scarcely had Paul left Galatia, when the whole Church went
astray into deadly error; receiving 'another gospel,' and other teachers; and
drawing upon itself the sharpest rebukes the apostle ever gave. It was against
the teachers of this false gospel that he said, 'Let him be accursed.' Such
stress did he lay upon truth, as the foundation of a church in such abhorrence
did he hold all departure from the truth. She must hold up that truth to the
world. She must make known a true and full testimony, otherwise she becomes
unfaithful to Him who is the true and faithful witness to Him of whom it is
said, 'The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy' to Him who said, 'You
are my witnesses.' A true church will 'try' all pretenders to apostleship; and
try them by the unerring touchstone the testimony which her Head has entrusted
to her to maintain until He come.
(6) I know you have found them liars. They were
discovered to be liars, in two senses.(1) As respects their teaching, which
was false; (2) As respects their pretensions to apostleship, which were found
untrue. 'Liars' is the fearful name which the Master gives to all such. In our
day departures from the faith are not accounted evil things, but as "the
excellent development of modern liberty and enlightenment." Heresy is becoming
identical with liberal thought, which refuses to be bound by any restraints.
Truth is made light of. The Church's testimony for God and for His truth is
denied, and she is regarded as a mere literary institution for fostering
speculation and free thought. Such she was not in the Father's purpose. She
was to be the witness for God on earth; and if she failed in her testimony,
she became useless, and was to be branded as a liar one of those of whom it
written, that 'all liars have their portion in the lake that burns with fire
(7) I know you have borne, and have patience, and for my
name's sake have labored, and have not fainted. This is, so far, a
repetition of the previous commendation. Endurance, patience, unfainting toil
for Christ's name these are the features of the Ephesian church. She was not
what she once was; yet she has still a high place and a noble name for
self-denial and self-sacrifice. She still bears her cross and follows her
crucified Master. She is not slothful, nor easy-minded, nor luxurious, nor
self-pleasing; she is still an earnest laborer in the vineyard, bearing the
burden and heat of the day. She had, amid much declension, upheld the truth
which was given to her. She had proved herself a faithful witness or
testifier. She had not let go of sound doctrine. For this the Lord still
honors and blesses her. He is jealous of His truth hates all departure from
it. For what is truth? It is the embodiment of Himself, whose name is the
truth, and who is the witness for the truth sent by the Father.
1. Learn self-denying Christianity. Not the form
or name, but the living thing. 'Christ did not please Himself.' Let us in this
respect be His true followers; bearing burdens for Him; doing work for Him;
submitting to the sorest toil for Him; not grudging effort, or cost, or
sacrifice, or pain; spending and being spent for Him; relinquishing the lazy,
luxurious, self-pleasing, fashionable religion of the present day. A
self-indulgent religion has nothing in common with the cross of the Lord Jesus
Christ; or with that cross of ours which He has commanded us to take up and
carry after Him, renouncing ease and denying self. Our time, our gifts, our
money, our strength, are all to be laid upon the altar. We are to be 'living
sacrifices' (Romans 12:1)
2. Learn faithfulness to His truth.
We hear it often said that what the age needs, and what the Church
needs, is religion not theology. But the whole Bible takes for granted that
there can be no true religion without a true theology. The Bible is God's
testimony to Himself and to His Son the Christ of God. There can be no
acceptable religion or worship or service except that which is founded upon
that testimony. The belief of that testimony is life everlasting the belief of
any other testimony is death eternal. Let us be true witnesses for the
truth let us shun and hate error trying those that propagate it, and finding
them 'liars', as the Ephesian church did. Let the Master's word in reference
to the errors of the early churches sound in our ears 'Which thing I hate.'
A church may, no doubt, have a true testimony, and yet be a
very unfaithful church; she may have the FORM of sound words and the form of
godliness and yet be cold like Sardis, or lukewarm like Laodicea. Yet, on the
other hand, it is not possible that, with a false testimony, or a testimony to
what is untrue, she can represent her Master and Head. A false testimony must
make a false church. The belief of a lie will not save a man; nor will the
belief of a lie win for a church the favor of the Lord. A true creed is of
unspeakable importance, even though at times it has been associated with
inconsistency and death.
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First Love Left
"Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you
have left your first love." Revelation 2:4.
There are some words which smite like a hammer, or cleave
like a thunderbolt words of mere power and terror words like those which broke
forth in fire from Sinai. But the words of our text are words which drop as
the rain, and distill as the dew; words which pierce, yet soften; which rouse,
yet soothe; which wound, yet bind up; which combine the biting north wind and
the healing south wind. Such are these. They are not the earthquake nor the
fire nor the whirlwind, but the still small voice; more resistless than all
these together; mingling the rebuke and the consolation; the severity and the
love; the father's rod and the mother's tears.
There are words which lead you away from the speaker, and
absorb you in themselves. The words of our text are not such. There are others
which carry you wholly past themselves to the speaker. Neither are the words
of our text such. There are yet other words which divide you between
themselves and the speaker, or rather which so engross your whole person with
both, that you feel yourself passing continually from the one to the other, as
if the eye could not be satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing. Such
are the words of our text. You have both the picture and the artist, the poem
and the poet, so interwoven, that each recalls the other; no, each is seen and
heard in the other.
No sooner do we hear these words of the Son of God so
searching, so alarming than we are carried up to Him who uttered them, and our
souls are absorbed in the mingled majesty and grace of the only-begotten of
the Father; and while they send us down into the depths, to learn one of the
most humbling lessons that was ever taught concerning the weakness, the
fickleness, the faithfulness of a Christian's heart, they carry us upward
irresistibly, far above all heavens, to gaze upon the surpassing glory and
meditate on the matchless love of Him who died for us, and who rose again!
The words are those of complaint; some would call it fault
finding; and, as such, might have repelled us from the complainer. But such is
the nature and tone of the complaint, that we feel attracted, not repelled;
humbled, but not hurt nor affronted; made to blush, and yet not chilled nor
estranged no, rather drawn more closely to a friend so affectionate and
faithful. The reproof is keen, yet it casts no shadow on the grace of the
reprover rather does it magnify that grace into sevenfold brightness, by
embodying in the admonition an utterance of the most generous, the most
profound, yet, as we may call it, the most sorrowful affection that the world
has ever seen!
Next in tenderness to the tears shed over Jerusalem by the
Son of God in the days of His flesh, is this outflow of 'disappointed love'
over the estrangement of Ephesus, given vent to upon His throne above. It is
not weeping. No! that cannot be, now when from His face all tears have been
forever wiped away! But it is akin to this it is the nearest thing to it that
we can imagine it is that which would have been tears anywhere else than in
the heaven of heavens.
But the preface to the complaint claims special notice; for
that complaint does not stand alone it is a gem set in fine gold, and the
verse which introduce it are as marvelous as itself. And what strikes us most
in it, is the minute enumeration of services performed by this church, as if
the speaker were most unwilling to come to the matter of complaint, to touch
the jarring string; being desirous of recounting all the good deeds and
faithful services of the church before He speak the words of censure. 'I know
your works and your labor, and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear
those who are evil and you have tried those who say they are apostles, and are
not, and have found them liars and have borne, and have patience, and for my
name's sake have labored, and have not fainted.'
What an introduction to the 'Nevertheless I have somewhat
against you, because you have left your first love!' How fitted to disarm all
risings of anger; to anticipate and smooth down the offence-taking that might
have been stirred; to make Ephesus feel that He who was complaining was
complaining in love, not exaggerating the evil, but much more disposed to
dwell upon the good; that He was no austere man, no hard master, no censorious
fault-finder but loving and generous, possessed to the uttermost of that love
which is "patient and kind; which seeks not her own, is not easily provoked,
thinks no evil; rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all
things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never
But it is not the mere recital of His servant's good deeds
that so strikes us it is His manifest appreciation of these, His delight in
them, His grateful sense of the service rendered. Faults there would be in
these labors but He sees none. Imperfections in the endurances of trial but He
makes mention of none. He speaks as one full of gratitude for favors
conferred. He weighs the works, and finds them not lacking. He names His
servant's name, and is not ashamed to confess him. He points not merely to the
cup of cold water but to the toil and the testimony and the faithful
discipline commending them, rejoicing in them, thanking His servant for them.
And not until He has done all this, and shown how well He
remembers and appreciates each act of happy service, does He come in with the
complaint, 'Nevertheless I have somewhat against you, because you have left
your first love.' What tenderness, what delicacy, what nobleness of love, what
divine courtesy is here! What an honor is put upon our poor doings and
endurings for Him, when they are thus so gratefully recounted and so
generously commended by the Son of God! What an importance, what a dignity,
what a value, is thus affixed to every act, even of the simplest, commonest
service for Him!
But our text goes beyond all this. It teaches us His
desire for our love, and His disappointment at losing it, or any part of
it. It is not so much our labor as our love that He asks; and with nothing
less than love can He be satisfied. As God, He claims it; as man, He desires
it; as the God-man, He presents to us this mingled claim and longing for love,
as that without which He is robbed of His desire and His due. He has not left
His real humanity behind Him here in the tomb. He has carried up into heaven
His true human heart with its yearning affections and cravings for love.
Neither the Godhead to which that humanity is united, nor His high throne at
the Father's right hand, has in the least altered that humanity, or made it
less susceptible to love and fellowship. And it is this unchanged and
unchangeable manhood that is giving vent to itself in the tender admonition of
our test 'You have left they first love.'
It is the language of wounded friendship, complaining of
undeserved estrangement. It is the utterance of unrequited love, mourning over
the loss of an affection which was better than life. He wants not merely to
love but to be loved. He seemed to have found this at Ephesus that noble
church for which the apostle prayed that it might be rooted and grounded in
love, and might know the love that passes knowledge. But the kindness of their
youth, the love of their espousals, had passed away. The star grew dim, the
flower faded, warm love had cooled, and the Ephesus of the second generation
was not the Ephesus of the first. Over this 'lost first love' He mourns, as
the gem which of all others He prized the most. And the voice which we hear,
sounds like that of Rachel in Ramah weeping for her children, and refusing to
be comforted, because they are not.
It is not slothful service, or waning zeal, or failing
liberality, or slackening warfare, that He complains. His remonstrance rather
assumes the existence of much Christian fruitfulness; and even though there
had been some failure in labor or endurance, that might have been more easily
remedied; nor were these such a necessity to Him who fills all in all. But it
is over lost love that He laments; lost love, for which there can be no
compensation and no substitute, even to Him; lost love, which cuts so keenly
even into the callous heart of man, and leaves such lifelong blanks even in
common and inferior souls.
Yet it is not love altogether lost nor love turned into
The failure has not got so far as this, nor descended to
such a depth. It is of ebbing love He speaks, not love wholly dried up; it is
love that has lost the freshness and the edge of other days; love that has
sunk below the temperature at which it once stood. This is the substance of
the complaint, the burden of His disappointment the loss of half a heart! So
that it would almost seem as if the total drying up would have been more
endurable than this ebbing; as if the entire withholding would have been less
painful than the stinted giving; as if complete and downright cessation would
have been, as in the case of Laodicea, so in that of Ephesus, less hateful
than this diminishing, this declining to a lower range of feeling, this
grudging gift of a divided heart where once there was entire love.
Strange that the risen Christ, the ascended King, should
feel so much the loss of creature-love; that He should be, as one may say, so
dependent on our affection; that He should treat this failure not so much as
an affront or a crime, but as a wound and a slight; that He should be touched
with the alienation of 'half a heart', and speak of it as a bereavement and a
sorrow! Oh, what must be His estimate of love; what must be the value of
our love to Him; and what is the honor put on us by a condescension so
amazing as this!
A complaint like this coming from any quarter is deeply
touching. The wife has ceased to love the husband; the husband has ceased to
love the wife; the brother has ceased to love the brother or the sister; the
friend has ceased to love the friend these are complaints which we recognize
as real among ourselves, seeing we are so dependent for happiness upon each
But that a complaint like this should come down from
heaven from Him who has the Father's love and all the love of angels; from Him
to whom they sing, in their everlasting songs, 'Blessing and honor and glory
and power;' to whom they ascribe 'riches and wisdom and strength,' is far more
profoundly affecting, and appeals to every noble and tender feeling of our
nature with irresistible potency. What true hearted man but must be humbled
and melted down beneath it?
Why should He love so much and I so little?
Why should He love so truly, so constantly, so warmly and I return Him nothing
but fickleness and insincerity and coldness? Why should He be so concerned
about my love, and I so careless about His? Is my love so precious and His so
worthless? Where but in His own infinitely loving and loveable nature can I
find a reason for a difference so strange? How marvelous, and how affecting,
to hear Him mourn over the 'changed affection' of one of the least of His
saints on earth, and to hear Him say, 'I have somewhat against you, because
you have left your first love?'
What should move Him to desire my love and to grieve when
it is withheld or when given for a time, and then withdrawn? Has He not love
enough in heaven? That 'one pulse in the universe' should beat more
feebly what should that be to the infinite heart above? He who rules that
empire on which the sun never sets, need not trouble himself though one
worthless subject should renounce allegiance. The ocean does not miss
the exhaled drop, nor the forest the faded leaf, nor the sun one
wandering ray. Why, then, should He who is King of kings and Lord of lords
care so much about the waning love of Ephesus the loss of the one half of a
human heart? Yes! Why should He? Why but because He is love; and because His
thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our ways.
He who could utter a complaint like this, and utter it with
such manifest sincerity and earnestness, yet with such gentleness and delicacy
of tone and word must be one of whom we cannot know too much. 'I have somewhat
against you, because you have left your first love,' are the words which
embody as precious a revelation of the mind of the ascended Christ as the more
explicit announcement 'Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in
His own blood' and do they not wonderfully teach us the deep meaning of the
old words of the Song of Songs "Place me like a seal over your heart, or like
a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, and its jealousy is as
enduring as the grave. Love flashes like fire, the brightest kind of flame.
Many waters cannot quench love; neither can rivers drown it. If a man tried to
buy love with everything he owned, his offer would be utterly despised." (Song
It was as one who knew both his own heart, and the heart of
Him who was claiming it, that old John Berridge wrote these memorable words "Oh
heart, heart, what are you? A mass of fooleries and absurdities! The vainest,
foolishest, craftiest, wickedest thing in nature! And yet the Lord Jesus asks
me for this heart, woos me for it, died to win it. O incredible love! Adorable
condescension! O take it, Lord, and let it be forever closed to all but You!"
But let us follow out a little further this divine
rebuke this touching remonstrance
"You have left your first love!" And for what reason? Did
the coldness begin on my side or on yours? Have I been to you a wilderness or
a land of darkness? What iniquity or unkindness have you found in me, to
justify your change? Can you point to one word or deed of mine as an excuse
for the withdrawal of your heart? Have I become less lovable, less loving?
"You have left your first love!" And what or whom have you
substituted? Has your power of loving ceased, and your heart become
contracted? Or is there some 'second love' that has usurped the place of the
first? Is it the WORLD that has thus come in? Is it pleasure? Is it literature
or science? Is it business? Is it politics? Is it the creature in some of its
various forms, and with the seductive glitter of its many-faceted beauty?
What, oh what, is the equivalent for a lost first love? And is there in this
new, this second love a satisfying substitute, a sufficient compensation to
your soul for a loss so infinite? To one who has looked upon 'Jerusalem', what
is there in Egypt or Babylon, in Rome or in Athens, to admire? To one who has
got a glimpse of the heavenly Jerusalem, what is there in all the splendor of
earth to attract or satisfy? He whose eyes have seen the King in His beauty
(if ever he lowers his love to any baser object) must bear about with him an
aching heart ,and an uneasy dissatisfied eye.
"You have left your first love!" And what have you gained
by the leaving? What has this strange turn of 'capricious affection' done for
you? Has it made you a happier, holier, truer, stronger, more noble, more
earnest man? Has it disarmed the world's enmity? Has it conciliated the devil?
Has it nerved you for the battle with the principalities and powers of hell?
Has this scattering over a hundred objects of affections that were formerly
centered upon me brought with it enlargement and liberty an increase of joy
and peace? Ah! Ask your hearts what your gain has been? A few indulgences
which once you did not dare to venture on. A few mirthful smiles of worldly
companionship. A few pleasures, for which, until your first love had gone you
had no relish. A more unrestrained enjoyment of the things which perish with
the using a keener appetite for trifles and frivolities, for foolish talking
and jesting a contentment with religious forms, and names, and words, and
creeds, and doctrines a wider sympathy with fashion and vanity less decision
and more compromise weaker recoil from the lust of the flesh, and the lust of
the eye, and the pride of life growing desire for reunion with a present evil
world, in its amusements and tastes, its revelings and banquetings, its
self-pleasing, its flesh-pleasing, its love of show and costly attire.
These are some of the things for which you have exchanged
your first love! For these you have sold your Lord! Judge for yourselves if
the bargain has been a good one if the 'thirty pieces of the world's silver'
by which your eye has been attracted and your heart won will prove an
equivalent for a lost first love! One day or other it will cost you dear.
Sooner or later you will repent of your 'bargain' and bewail your folly.
Remember that 'no man having drunk old wine immediately desires new for he
says, the old is better.'
You have not indeed renounced Christ but you have
come down from your noble elevation. You have not perhaps ceased to love Him,
but you love Him less and other objects have now a place side by side with Him
who once filled up your heart so as to leave no room for a 'rival affection'!
You may possess many things (as your gracious Master most kindly allows
you) but you have failed in love. You have a name among the Churches; you have
intelligence, wisdom, wealth, honor, position, influence, political and social
standing but you have left your first love! No, you have a zeal, hatred of
error, patience, courage, perseverance in well-doing but you have left your
Insignificant as a descent like this may be in the eyes of
men, it is great indeed in the estimation of Him who prizes love above all
gifts and offerings, above all gold and frankincense, and myrrh; for is it not
written, 'Now abides faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these
is love?' What, then, though 'you could speak with the tongues of men and of
angels, and have not love? You have become sounding brass and a tinkling
cymbal.' 'If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it
would be utterly scorned' (Song 8:7).
And who are you that think it a right thing to give but
'half a heart' to Him who asks the whole to Him who loved you and gave Himself
for you? Who are you that claim the liberty of giving or withholding affection
at your pleasure? Do you not call to mind the thrice-repeated question of your
risen Lord 'Do you love me?' And what will you answer Him when He comes again
in His glory? Oh, heartless Ephesian is your Lord's love nothing to you? Is
His gracious jealousy, His longing for your love, His grateful remembrance of
all your poor services, His entreaty that you should repent and to your first
works, His promise, 'To him who overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of
life which is in the midst of the paradise of God' are all these light things
in your eyes?
And if all these are trifles, is a warning like this a
trifle, 'Remember whence you are fallen, and repent, and do the first works,
or else I will come unto you quickly, and will remove your candlestick out of
its place, except you repent?' And is it a trifle to be told, from lips which
cannot lie, 'If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be
Oh, heartless Ephesian, retrace your steps at once! You did
run well who has hindered you? Begin once more at the beginning. Go back to
the fountainhead of love I mean your Lord's love to you, the sinner there
refill your empty vessel! Go back to the blessed Sun, whose light is still as
free and brilliant as ever; there rekindle your dying torch; there warm your
cold heart, and learn to love again, as you did at first. So shall the love of
Christ constrain you; you shall love Him who first loved you; you shall feel
the quickening power of the living One; you will rise up again to your former
warmth, by knowing His love which passes knowledge, and finding that, in spite
of all your fickleness and faithlessness, that His love is still the same
We bring to you the glad tidings of that great love of
Christ which was preached at first to Ephesus and by means of which her first
love was kindled the love, not of the Son only, but of Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit the free and infinite love of Godhead. It is this which is the true
remedy for your lost first love. Go to that love again, and learn it in all
its fullness and exceeding riches! Learn that God, who is rich in mercy, for
the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead in sins,
quickens us together with Christ. Learn anew the length and breadth, the depth
and height, of this love! Know the love which passes knowledge that you may be
filled with all the fullness of God.
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The Love and the Discipline
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten be zealous
therefore, and repent." Revelation 3:19.
How quickly a believer may become lukewarm! How quickly
his love and holiness and zeal fade away! His cheek becomes pale, with the
symptoms of deadly decline; or flushed with the passions produced by drinking
the world's cup, and partaking of the world's fellowships.
Spirituality loses ground. Worldliness, either in a gross
or a refined form, steals in. Reality in religion disappears. Enjoyment of
prayer and the Bible ceases. Pleasure, politics, and exciting literature
supply the place which the things of God once held. First love is gone. Joy
and peace become strangers.
Religious formalism, routine, and ritualism are adopted, by
which a man is enabled to quiet his conscience with a few external
performances--while devoting the rest of his time to vanity or business.
The soul withers; the eye that looked upward now looks
downward; and the once 'religious man,' who 'did run well,' takes the downward
path into lukewarmness or death. Yet Jesus leaves him not. He hates divorce.
He pursues His fugitive. He pleads with the backslider 'Return, and I will
I. The love. The 'I' here is emphatic, and by
its prominence Christ presents Himself specially as the lover, the rebuker,
the chastener. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways. He
loves where others would hate. He shows His love by chastening where others
would show theirs by indulging. "He who spares the rod, hates the child!'
'Whom the Lord loves He chastens!' Herein is love love to Laodicea, even in
her lukewarmness. It is not 'Repent, that I may love you.' It is, 'I love you,
therefore repent.' The lukewarm backslider, whether of Ephesus, or Sardis, or
Laodicea as long as he remains self-satisfied and happy in his worldliness,
cares only for the love of the creature. He loves the world, and he would
gladly have the world love him. This world would be his heaven his gods and
goddesses would all be here!
But when trial comes, and sorrow lays hold, and the deep
consciousness of evil burdens, and the prospect of coming wrath rouses him,
then he looks round and asks for love. 'Is there anyone to love me, anyone
that can love one so unlovable?' The answer is, None on earth! But One in
heaven! Jesus loves still. All Laodicea's unloveableness has not quenched
His love! The worst of the seven Churches is that which receives His
fullest words of love 'that love which passes knowledge.
II. The discipline of love. Mark the way in
which this love deals with Laodicea. It deals in tenderness, and yet in solemn
severity. Instead of letting Laodicea escape, it takes hold of her, as a wise
father of his disobedient child, and makes her sensible how much it hates the
sin. Love cannot bear lukewarmness. It expects love for love and will leave no
method untried in order to win back the straying heart, however far it has
gone, either in indifference or hatred.
(1) I REBUKE. He reproves by word and deed. His words
are full of tenderness, yet also conveying solemn and searching rebuke. Such
rebuke may be 'His strange work,' for 'fury is not in Him.' Yet He does
administer the rebuke when it is needed not harshly, yet sometimes
severely for He speaks as one who has authority, and who will not be mocked.
(2) I CHASTEN. What the chastening was we know not it
would be something specially suited to the self-sufficiency and worldliness of
the Laodiceans. Perhaps they were stripped of their riches; perhaps visited by
sickness and death; perhaps laid desolate by grievous sorrow; some heavy blow,
or some long-continued trial stroke upon stroke, crushing and emptying them.
The chastisement, we are sure, would correspond with the cherished sins,
searching the conscience and breaking the heart in pieces. For the Lord leaves
not His own, even in their backsliding; nor indeed any who name His name.
The unbelieving world may be allowed to go on unchecked in its wickedness and
vanity, but those who call themselves Christ's may expect discipline. By
naming His name, they have brought themselves under His special rule, and He
will deal with them as He dealt with Laodicea. They profess to be His, to have
been bought by Him, to follow Him; they must therefore know His rod, and be
treated differently from those who reject His sway and service. Discipline,
because of permitted sin, because of indulged worldliness, because of
defection from truth or holiness discipline, it may be, of great severity they
must be prepared for. In faithfulness as well as love He will chasten.
Whatever it may cost, they must be made to feel the evil of their ways.
III. The exhortation of love. 'Be zealous,
therefore, and repent.' The word zealous contrasts with lukewarmness,
and implies true warmth and fervor. While He says, 'I wish you were either
cold or hot;' He shows by this word 'zealous' that He desires to see zeal
quickened in this Church, and lukewarmness done away. Be zealous! Be fervent
in spirit! Be done with coldness and half-heartedness! Rouse yourself into the
fervor of your early days, before this lukewarmness falls upon you!
Repent also! Repent of your present miserable
estate; of your apostasy, and declension, and worldliness! Repent in dust and
ashes! Retrace your steps! Awake from your lethargy! Your estimate of yourself
is high come down from your loftiness. You say I am rich, and increased in
goods, and have need of nothing. Come down from the self-sufficiency, and
learn that you are not what you think yourself to be. God's estimate of you
and your estimate of yourself are widely different. Know yourself as He knows
you. Take His estimate of your poverty and blindness, and cast yourself down
before Him. You are not the Laodicea of other days. You must go back to your
early zeal, and faith, and love. Be not high-minded, but fear. Abhor
yourself and turn from your lukewarmness!
All this is the language of love; it is the treatment of
love. It is love that is rebuking, and chastening, and exhorting. Hear the
voice of love the unchanging love of Him who yearns over you in your
declension, and longs to see you restored. This was the beginning of your
love, as well as of your confidence. 'We have known and believed the love
which God has to us.' Go back to this, and what you first got there you will
get there again. Know that God is love!
Back to Top
The Cross of the Lord Jesus
"Where also our Lord was crucified." Revelation 11:8.
"The cross of Christ." 1 Corinthians 1:17.
"The preaching of the cross." 1 Corinthians 1:18.
"Where also our Lord was crucified." The first
of these passages strikingly identifies the Master and the servants our Lord
and His witnesses. They were to suffer as He suffered and where He
suffered one with Him in life and death, in shame and glory one with Him on
the cross, in the grave, in resurrection, in ascension, and on the throne. The
words, 'Where also our Lord was crucified,' come with a strangely solemn
power. It is the last reference to the cross of Christ in the Bible, and
corresponds well with that frequent expression in the Revelation, 'the Lamb
slain,' carrying us back to the 'the seed of the woman' and 'the bruised
The second passage is one of the many (nineteen in all) in
which Paul refers to the cross and its meaning, the cross and its connection
with the good news, the cross and the way of preaching it. In his estimation
that cross stood out pre-eminently as the great center around which his faith
revolved. It was the basis of his hope towards God; it was the main article in
his creed, from which all others shot forth like rays from the sun. It stood
alone and unapproachable in the matter of salvation; as the altar of the
burnt-offering as the place outside the gate where the sin-offering was
consumed as the point where all the offerings meet.
It was not to him the mere place of the great
self-surrender, the example or model of self-sacrifice; it was the place of
propitiation, the substitution of life for life the Just One there suffering
for the unjust the Blessed One bearing our curse the Holy One bearing our sin.
In preaching this cross, the apostle dreaded and shunned the wisdom of
words human eloquence lest thus the naked cross should be disguised and
disfigured. It must stand out bare and unadorned, 'majestic in its own
simplicity,' as the brazen serpent on the pole. That serpent and that pole
need no ornament of man. There they stood, with the divine remedy for Israel.
To cover them, to deck them, to paint them, would be to destroy their power to
heal to make them of none effect. So is it the naked cross that does the work
of healing. To deck it with flowers, and rites, and pomp, and eloquence is to
destroy its power to grieve that Spirit whose office is to turn the sinner's
eye to it as the health of the world. Look and be healed! Look and be saved!
The virtue of the cross is drawn out by simply looking. Know and be blessed!
For 'by His knowledge (the knowledge of Himself) shall my righteous Servant
'The cross of Christ!' O world, this is your one hope. That
cross contains all that you need of love, and healing, and peace. Under its
shadow the chief of sinners may sit down and rejoice.
'Where also our Lord was crucified.' O Israel, O
Jerusalem, here is your condemnation. O world, here too will be your
condemnation, if you look not, and believe not! That cross will utterly
condemn all its rejecters and despises. That cross overthrew Jerusalem, city
and temple, for her rejection of the crucified One; it scattered Israel what
will it not do to each person who has slighted it? Round it the world's
history revolves on it the world's destiny hangs.
(1.) It was the place of GUILT and CONDEMNATION.
(Matthew 27:22, 26, 28) The condemned of men were there. The thieves were
there; it was their 'own place.' Connection with the cross inferred crime,
worthy of death.
(2.) It was the place of SHAME. (Hebrews 12:2)
It was shame that was there; and each one who was sent there was treated as a
shameful thing one of whom his fellow men were ashamed, and who might well be
ashamed of himself. It was the type of the shame and everlasting contempt in
reserve for the unbelievers. Hence it was a 'reproach' and 'offence'
(3.) It was the place of WEAKNESS. (2
Corinthians 13:4) Christ was 'crucified through weakness.' It was the
exhibition of man reduced to the extremity of helplessness. In order to save
us who were 'without strength' (Romans 5:6), our Surety took our helplessness
upon Him, and became 'without strength' for us.
(4.) It was the place of PAIN. (Hebrews 13:12)
Anguish of body was there to the uttermost; and thirst was there; wounds and
bruises were there. There is no pain like that of crucifixion. Here is the
fulfillment of the roasted lamb of the Passover here is the passing through
(5.) The place of the CURSE (Galatians 3:13)
'Cursed is every one who hangs on a tree.' The Blessed One was made a curse
for us. He went to the accursed place, and there bore our curse, that we might
receive His blessing.
(6.) The place of REJECTION. (John 19:6) 'Away
with Him!' was the cry; 'not this man, but Barabbas.' Those who were nailed to
the cross were the outcasts of men. Christ was 'despised and rejected of men'
(7.) The place of HATRED. (Matthew 27:25) 'Let
Him be crucified!' 'His blood be on us!' Here was human hatred speaking out.
'His citizens hated Him!' This is the heir; come, let us kill him!' 'They gave
me hatred for my love!'
(8.) The place of DEATH. (Matthew 20:18,19) It
was death that was there; here we read, 'The soul that sins it shall die.'
Death, the death of the cross, was our Surety's doom. The place of death
became the place of life to us. 'By His stripes we are healed.'
Such were the evil things connected with the cross, which
by the work done by the Son of God have all turned into good. All our evils He
took upon Him that He might secure for us all the good belonging to Himself.
For condemnation, He gives us pardon; for shame, honor and glory; for
weakness, strength; for pain, ease and comfort; for the curse, the blessing;
for rejection, acceptance; for hatred, love; for death, life everlasting. He
who believes has all these things! All the evil passes to Jesus, and all the
good to us, on our crediting the testimony of the Holy Spirit to the cross and
the things done there.
This cross, where so many evil things meet, is the place
where all GOOD THINGS are to be found. God
gathered all the evil to that spot, that He might utterly make away with it,
through Him who took all the evil on Himself, that He might bring out of it
only good. At the cross it was consumed by fire it was buried out of sight.
The crucifixion transformed the evil into good!
(1) It is the place of PROPITIATION. (Leviticus
16:15; Romans 3:25).The altar was there for the burnt-offering. The place
outside the gate for the sin-offering was there. 'He His own self bore our
sins in His own body on the tree' (1 Peter 2:24). The sin-bearing work was
completed there, when the cry went up, 'It is finished!' The expiating blood
was shed on the cross. The atoning work the work that justifies was
consummated on Golgotha. Nor can justification be separated from the cross, or
transferred to resurrection. ''The chastisement of our peace was on Him; and
by His stripes we are healed.' 'He was wounded for our transgressions He was
bruised for our iniquities.' The ending of His vicarious course on earth was
the giving life for life. His death, instead of ours, satisfied the law. A
divine death was the substitute for a human death. All the sacrificial virtue
of the transaction, and all the value of the substitute, were transferred to
us. Jesus died that we might not die. He was the propitiation for our sins. He
was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. The cross is the
place of exhausted penalty and magnified law. That which covers the sinner
entirely and shields him from wrath was finished there. That covering, that
propitiatory covering, whose power and virtue are unchangeable throughout all
ages, and underneath which we are secure from wrath, was wrought out there.
The propitiation of the cross is the substance of the glad tidings which we
bring. It originated in the love of God; it contained and embodied the love of
God; it gave effect to and carried out the love of God; it brought home the
love of God to us as sinners.
(2) It is the MEETING-PLACE. (Exodus 29:42) It
is the place where we meet with God, and God meets with us in friendship, and
love, and joy. It is the place where the Father meets the prodigal and
embraces him. On this spot alone, and underneath this tree alone, can God and
the sinner look each other in the face, without fear on the one side or
displeasure on the other. There God speaks with us, and there we speak with
Him. We take the Lamb, lay our hands upon it, present it as ours, confess our
sins over it, that so all the evil in us which stood between us and God may
pass from us to Him, may be carried by it to the altar, and there consumed, so
as no longer to hinder the meeting.
With sin thus transformed from us to the divine victim,
thus carried away and consumed by fire, we are no longer afraid to look up to
God, and no longer stand in doubt of His favor towards us, and His willingness
to bless us. Ten thousand times a day we sin; but as often as we sin,
that sin passes immediately away from us to the sacrifice, which, once offered
and accepted eighteen hundred years ago, is better than ten thousand times ten
thousand sacrifices to keep up the reconciliation, to secure perpetual
forgiveness, and to maintain unchanged the security of the meeting place the
place of communion and fellowship between us and God.
(3) It is the place of LOVE. God's love is
there, shining in its full brightness, unhindered and undimmed. 'God so loved
the world' gets its interpretation at the cross. On the one hand, we see how
much man hated God, and, on the other, how much God loved man. Herein is love!
It is love that has found for itself a channel whereby to flow down to us;
love that has opened a well of blessing gushing forth from the foot of the
(4) It is the place of ACCEPTANCE. Here we
become 'accepted in the Beloved.' Here the exchange takes place between the
perfect and the imperfect. Believing in the perfect One, we become 'complete
in Him.' Conscious only of evil, we take refuge in Him in whom there is no
evil, that we may be represented by him before God, and so treated by God as
being without evil, even in the eye of His holy law. Feeling our utter lack of
goodness, we flee out of ourselves to One in whom there is all goodness who is
absolutely perfect; so perfect, so infinitely perfect, that He has enough and
to spare of His perfection for us. The fullness of evil that is in us is thus
not only covered over by the atonement of the atoning Son of God, so as to
become invisible, as if it were non-existent but is supplanted by the fullness
of all goodness, is exchanged for the perfection of another, even of the
perfect One, so that God, looking at us, sees only our Representative, and
deals with us according to His excellency and preciousness. What we should
have received, in the shape of punishment, He gets for us; what He claims and
deserves in the shape of reward, and glory, and favor, we get, as represented
by Him, and treated by God as entitled to all that to which He is entitled.
Our consent to be treated on the footing of this foreign
merit, this perfection of another is what God asks of us. Such is the proposal
which the gospel makes to us. This is substantially the meaning of our
believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Receiving the divine testimony to the
sin-bearer as true, we give our consent to be represented by Him before God.
Thus we exchange places and persons with Him. He was made sin, we are made
righteousness; He takes the curse, we take the blessing. We hear the cry upon
the cross, "It is finished" and we know that the work which justifies is done.
All that follows resurrection and ascension is the result of the completed
work; not the completing of it, but the fruits of its completion. 'He was
delivered, because we had sinned; He was raised, because we were justified'
(Romans 4:25). As it was 'by the blood of the everlasting covenant' that He
was brought from the dead (Hebrews 13:20), so was it because our justification
was finished on the cross that He rose from the dead. The knowledge of this
brings to him who knows it forgiveness, acceptance, justification we become
'accepted in the Beloved.'
The cross accomplished such things as the following
(1.) The cross removed the wall of partition.
(Colossians 2:14) Between Jew and Gentile it threw down the middle wall of
partition. It rent the veil in twain from top to bottom. It swept away all
that hindered a sinner's access, and said, 'Come boldly to the throne of
grace;' 'come unto me.'
(2.) The cross made peace. (Colossians 1:20) The
great quarrel between heaven and earth, between God and the sinner, it made
up; for it removed the ground of that variance, and provided a righteous basis
for reconciliation and peace. The peace is made. It is paid for. It is
finished. It is a true and righteous peace.
(3.) The cross has secured oneness. (Ephesians
2:15-16) Thus oneness is not simply between Jew and Gentile, but between both
of these and God; between them both, because between both and God. Both are
reconciled in one body by the cross, the enmity being thereby slain. He was
'numbered with the transgressors' (Mark 15:28), that we might be numbered with
(4.) The cross has brought life.
(2 Corinthians 13:4) 'He was crucified through weakness, yet He lives;
we are weak in Him (as He was on the cross) but we shall live.' His weakening
and emptying on the cross gave opportunity for the whole life-giving power of
God to flow in. We, thus weakened and emptied (when, in believing, made one
with Him), are filled with the same life-giving power. The cross, the place of
weakness and of death, thus becomes to us the place and fountain of life. From
a crucified Lord life flows to the dead.
(5.) The cross contains power. (1 Corinthians
1:18, 23) It is 'the power of God unto salvation.' Power for us, for the weak,
for the sinful 'the power of God' is there. Omnipotence has made its dwelling
there. The cross is its storehouse or treasure house. There is the hiding of
divine power. There is the arm of the Lord revealed.
(6.) The cross is the focus or center of all wisdom.
(1 Corinthians 1:24) The wisdom of God is there. It is the fullest and most
glorious exhibition of Jehovah's wisdom. Here is the perfection of wisdom; and
all the wisdom which the sciences exhibit (astronomy, anatomy, or the
like) cannot to be compared with this. The world thinks it foolishness. God
thinks it wisdom; and every soul that has come to know its own needs and sins
thinks the same.
(7.) The cross crucifies the world. (Galatians
6:14) To the believing man the world is a crucified thing. There is now
enmity, not friendship hatred, not love between the woman's seed and the
serpent's seed. The cross has produced the enmity. It has slain the world, and
made it altogether unlovable. One sight of the cross strips the world of
its false beauty and attractiveness!
(8.) The cross furnishes a theme for glorying.
(Galatians 6:14) Paul gloried in it, counting it the only thing worth boasting
of, worth admiring, worth caring for. The cross is the scorn of the world it
is the glory of the saint. It is the theme of the church's song, the theme of
her praise. She glories in the cross.
(9.) The cross is the model and test of service.
(Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23) It calls us to liberty, yet to service also the service
of liberty. Thus it both liberates and binds. It takes off one yoke to give
another (Matthew 11:29). It gives us the perfect example and pattern of
obedience and service, in Him who was obedient unto death the death of the
cross. It tests our service by giving us a cross to carry; not Christ's
cross that no man can carry but a cross of our own. Each man must take up his
own cross and follow the great Cross-bearer. Self-denial, self-surrender,
self-sacrifice, are all exhibited there. There especially 'Christ did not
please Himself' (Romans 15:3). "Not my will, but Yours be done" is to be our
motto, as it was His. Looking unto Jesus and His cross fits and nerves us for
this. 'Follow me' is the voice of the cross.
(10.) The cross is the badge of discipleship.
(Luke 14:27) The disciple is not above his Master. He is a cross-bearer a
'crusader,' in the true sense of the word. No cross no discipleship. He who is
ashamed of the cross is ashamed of Christ. The daily life of a disciple is
to be a carrying of the cross. He who does so will find few admirers and
sympathizers. He will know the loneliness of his Lord and Master.
(11.) The cross is God's way of salvation. (Acts
10:39-43) Pardon is written on the cross; salvation; eternal life. The saved
thief, who went from his cross to paradise, is the great illustration of the
saving power of the cross. For salvation we know nothing, except for Jesus
Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:2). The glad tidings are written on
the cross good news of a free salvation to the unsaved salvation through Him
who came to seek and save the lost who upon the tree of death bore their guilt
in His own body, and now sends out the glorious message the tidings from the
saving cross! The love of God is written on it no, 'God is love,' is the true
inscription for it. 'God is love' beams out from every part of it and to know
this to be saved!
(12.) The cross is the measure of Christ's endurance and
obedience. (Philippians 2:8) He descended from the highest heaven,
that He might take flesh, and in our flesh endure and obey as man. It was a
vicarious endurance and obedience all His life long. He stood in our stead
from Bethlehem to Golgotha. The cross, with its agony, and shame, and death,
was the extremity of His willingness to do the Father's will to bear our
burdens to drink our bitter cup of wrath and woe. Thus the 'perfection of our
substitute' not only covers our imperfection, but is legally and judicially
ascribed to us by God Himself. The law lets go its hold of us and deals with
(13.) The cross is the pledge and standard of divine love.
(Romans 5:8) The Father's love is here for God so loved the world that He gave
His Son. Christ's love is here the love that passes knowledge, the love which
many waters could not quench, nor the floods drown; love to the uttermost;
love grudging no toil, nor pain, nor weariness, nor reproach for us! If you
want to know how much you have been loved, look to the cross of Jesus!
That meets and answers all our doubts.
(14.) The cross is the revelation of God's character.
(1 John 4:10) In the person of the God-man, 'the Word made flesh,' God's
character is contained all that is in God is there. In the life of the
God-man there is the unfolding of that character as the gracious God. In the
death of the God-man upon the cross there is a yet further revelation
of the character of 'the God of all grace.' Here the divine perfections came
out in full harmony all that seemed discordant being here reconciled truth and
mercy meeting righteousness and peace kissing God just and the justifier of
the ungodly infinitely holy, yet pardoning the unholy!
In the cross God has given us His true name, and the true
interpretation of that name. His whole character and actings are here
announced, explained, and harmonized. Let us listen to the testimony which the
cross gives respecting God's gracious nature His loving heart His
compassionate purposes to sinners; and in accepting that testimony all
blessing will flow in. Let us accept God's interpretation of His own character
in the cross! Let us beware of misconstruing Him. Let us acquaint ourselves
(15.) The cross is God's lamp of light. The
world is dark. The cross is light. The cross shines with the very light of
heaven. He who is the God of light hung there! That which the cross makes
known concerning God and His love is the light of a dark world. Only from the
cross can the sinner derive his light. 'They looked and were enlightened;' for
He who hangs there says, 'I am the light of the world.' And never was He more
its light than when He was nailed to the cross in helplessness. From the cross
that light still shines out to a dark world. Let us walk in the light of the
cross. God says to us, 'Arise, shine, for your light has come!' 'The true
light now shines!' 'The day has broken, and the shadows have fled away.' The
ever-burning lamp of the cross is sufficient for the darkest child of a dark
world in his darkest day and hour!
(16.) The cross is the universal magnet. (John
7:32) 'I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.' Here is the true
center of gravitation. Here is the great attraction, or attractive force. The
Christ of Bethlehem attracts; the Christ of Nazareth attracts; the Christ of
Bethany and Nain attracts; the Christ of Sychar and Jericho attracts but most
of all, the Christ of Golgotha! There is that in the cross which wins the
sinner's heart. The cross beckons him; it calls him; it invites him; it
beseeches him; it draws him. A crucified Christ, the uplifted Son of man, is
the one universal magnet! Its magnetic power is irresistible; yet it is the
irresistible of love and not of law. Law compels; love attracts. Law crushes;
love lifts up. And all love is in that cross the fullness of God's forgiving
(17.) The cross is the universal balm and medicine.
The cross is the balm of Gilead and the crucified Christ is the
Physician there. From that tree distills the healing for the sons of men. The
leaves of it are for the healing of nations. Its medicinal properties have
been tested by time and have been found divine. There is no disease which is
able to resist its medicinal powers they flow out on all sides, and flow down
everywhere. He who approaches, he who touches no, he who 'looks', is healed!
Eternal health is yonder. Let it flow in. The world is sick sick unto death.
Here is healing for it. Will you be made whole, O man? Go to the healing
cross go to the divine Healer and become whole!
(18.) The cross is man's estimate of sin. Not
only was the deed of crucifixion a denial of sin and a defiance of God, but it
was the setting up of a new standard of sin. It was man saying, We do not need
a Sin-bearer; we are no such sinners as to need a Substitute; sin is not such
an evil as to require expiation. This was 'the way of Cain;' it was Cain's
rejection of the burnt offering, his refusal to acknowledge the evil of sin,
or to own himself worthy of death. God's intention in the cross was to declare
the evil of sin; man's intention was to make light of it, and to defy its
consequences. For man, in making light of sin, despises God's threatenings
against it, and braves the divine penalties.
(19.) The cross is God's verdict against sin, and His
estimate of it. (Romans 8:3) Here is God's condemnation of sin of
the flesh of the world. Look at that cross! and learn how God hates sin! How
He unveils the flesh with all its lusts how He strips off the world's mask,
and exposes its deformity. When disposed to make light of sin, or to indulge
the flesh, or to admire the world, let us hear God's voice bidding us look to
the cross, and to Him who was nailed to it by that sin, that flesh, that
The cross says Oh, don't do that abominable thing which I
hate! If God thought as slightly of sin as man does, would that cross have
been needed? Would Christ have needed to suffer? Would any expiation have been
needed, beyond a few tears or sights? God points to Christ's cross as the
proof of His hatred of sin! and when man would treat it lightly, He bids him
listen to the expiring agonies of the Sin-bearer! Or when man would excuse
himself, or palliate his guilt, God answers Did your sin crucify my Son? What
do your sin deserve, though other sins might be light?
(20.) The cross is man's estimate of the Son of God.
Already He had been valued at thirty pieces of silver. But here we have a
still lower estimate. Here is the value man sets on His person, His life, His
teaching, His blood. God asks us "What do you think of Christ?" Our answer is
the cross "Crucify Him!" Here is man erecting the cross, the nailing the Son
of God to it! Such is the heart of man! Such is man's rejection of the Christ.
The cross is the standing proof and witness of man's rejection of God's
beloved Son and His salvation. To this day the cross is foolishness and a
stumbling block to man. He both hates and despises it!
(21.) The cross is God's interpretation of law and its
penalties. Not merely grace, but righteousness is unfolded here the
righteousness of law of the law. God here shows us what law is, what law
requires, what law can do, how law can avenge itself, how law can vindicate
God, as well as how God can vindicate law. In this aspect it is truly law that
planned and erected the cross; law that demanded the victim's death; law that
cried "Crucify!"; law that nailed Him to the tree! In the cross we see how
holy, and just, and good is that law, (Galatians 4:4). The cross had
undertaken to answer law's demands for us He was seized by it and led out to
the place of execution as the worst of evildoers. If the law were not holy,
and broad, and pure, why did the Son of God the giver of the law hang on the
cross? Why was He forsaken by God there? Why did He die there?
Thus interpreted by the cross, how perfect does the law
appear! God has given us many interpretations of it, but the cross is the most
explicit, and clear, and complete. In the cross, God protests against all
attempts to undervalue or dilute the law. Man may think it too strict. God
does not; and in proof of this points to the cross and His Son there, bearing
our penalty. Would the Father have laid these burdens and pains upon His
Son unless the law had absolutely required them? Would he who most honored the
law have been punished by the law unless He had been bearing sin? Let those
who speak of the gospel being a modified law, by obedience to which we are
saved, look at the cross. Is there any appearance of a modified law there? No!
we see the law in all its undiluted perfection exhibited in the life,
and in all its unmitigated strength and penalty, in the death of the
Son of God! The gospel is founded on a fulfilled and unmodified law a law
unchangeable and inexorable. Our pardon and salvation are all legal and
righteous, springing from law as truly as from love. Our life comes from the
substituted death of another!
Thus we see in the cross, an epitome of the Bible.
The whole revelation of God is there! From the cross we hear the truth, 'where
sin abounded, grace has super abounded.' All the love of God is there. The
sinner's condemnation and the sinner's pardon are there. God's invitation
issues forth from it, to the chief of sinners. 'Come!' 'Look unto me and be
saved.' God's eternal purpose is here unfolded 'the good pleasure of His
will.' The fountain opened for sin is there. The rest for the weary is there.
The relief for the conscience is here. The refuge for the guilty is there. The
balm of Gilead is there. Peace to the troubled is there. There God meets with
man, and man meets with God heaven and earth embrace each other. Herein is
love! It is love that takes in the worse love that took in the dying
thief love that knows not bounds love that looks for no qualifications in him
who comes, but that he needs it love which is yearning over the lost, and
stretching out its hands to the most rebellious and unholy love which offers
not merely pardon, but the perfection of the Son of God to the sinner with all
which that perfection can claim!
Yet in the cross also is the doom of the unbeliever! He who
takes the cross for what God tells him who it is, is saved, and no amount of
sin can hinder its virtue from flowing out to him perpetually! He who refuses
or neglects the cross must not only bear his own sin, but the sin of rejecting
God's salvation. That cross will be the millstone tied round his neck to send
him to the lowest hell! When He who hung upon the cross ascends the throne,
where will the rejecter of the cross appear, and what will he say for his
Back to Top
Strangership and Pilgrimage
"The woman fled into the wilderness!" Revelation 12:6.
"Stranger and pilgrims." 1 Peter 2:2.
"They took their journey from Elim." Exodus 16:1.
The woman fled into the wilderness! Well would it
have been with her had she continued there. But she came forth into earth's
cities, and dwelt in its palaces, and put on its gay apparel, and said, 'I am
a queen, and am no widow, and shall see no sorrow.' In unbelief and
forgetfulness of her true character, she sought to reign where she should have
remained a stranger, and put on purple robes when she should have worn only
sackcloth (1 Corinthians 4:8).
'The earth helped the woman,' no doubt; and in so doing
saved her from unceasing persecution, giving her some respite. Christianity
became fashionable; and the immense number of mere professors of that faith,
while really a source of internal weakness, was yet a source of external
strength and protection. It was earthly protection, no doubt, and on that
account perilous; yet it was just the protection which God Himself had given
to the Jewish Church in Babylon, in Shushan, and in Egypt. The flood of
persecution was sweeping the Church away, when 'the earth opened her mouth,
and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.' This
cessation of persecution, this earthly help, became a snare. The woman said,
'I am rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing.' She forgot her
heavenly calling, her future kingdom, her incorruptible inheritance, her
unearthly hope, and became part of the world which had helped her.
Civilization, science, literature, intellectual enlightenment, became her
gods. She set them between her and the cross, between her and the glory.
Influence, power, wealth, knowledge apart from God and His Christ, were sought
after and obtained. The Church wooed the world, and the world wooed the
Church; compromises were agreed upon; the world ceased to persecute, and the
Church ceased to 'condemn the world.'
Yet God is ever calling His own out of this mingled mass,
and bidding them walk alone. We are not simply to leave the world, but to 'go
forth outside the camp,' bearing Christ's reproach; and oftentimes that
reproach comes sharper from the lips of so-called Christians, than from a
Abel was a stranger upon earth so are all God's
Abels still. Enoch was a stranger yet he was partaker of the heavenly calling.
Abraham was a stranger yet he was one of the seekers of the better,
even the heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16), looking for the New Jerusalem, the
Church's special home (Hebrews 11:10). David confesses himself a
pilgrim 'We are strangers before You, and sojourners, as were all our fathers'
(1 Chronicles 29:15; Psalm 39:12).
'Leave of your country,' said God to Abraham (Genesis
12:1). 'Arise and depart,' were the prophet's words to Israel (Micah 2:10).
'Let us go forth,' said Paul (Hebrews 13:13). 'Stranger and pilgrim' is
descriptive of a believing man (1 Peter 2:2). 'In journeyings often,' said
Paul of himself (2 Corinthians 11:26). Again and again is it said of Israel,
'They took their journey' from such and such places.
Strangers and pilgrims! Yes! For this world is not our rest
or our home! We are wayfaring men, tarrying but a night. We are sojourners, as
were all our fathers; and we pass the time of our sojourning here in fear; not
looking back, but up and on; with girded loins and staff in hand hastening to
the heavenly city. What have we to do with Egypt's treasures, or Babylon's
glory; with Corinth's lusts, or Rome's magnificence; with Athenian philosophy,
or Ephesian magic with worldly wantonness or luxury? We see what eye
has not seen we hear what ear has not heard and we pass by these
earthly beauties and pleasures! They perish with the using! The fashion of
this world passes away!
These are memorable words of Paul 'In journeyings
often.' Such is a brief but true picture of a Christian man's life. Rooted,
yet unrooted; settled, yet unsettled; at rest, yet ever moving; anchored, yet
hurried along with storms; unburdened, yet burdened; sorrowful, yet always
Such was the life of Abraham and the patriarchs;
such the life of Moses; such the life of Israel in their
desert-wanderings. Here have we no continuing city not even a continuing tent.
No certain dwelling-place; no rest sure of a dwelling somewhere, yet not sure
of it anywhere. Patriarchal life was made up of comings and departings, of
greetings and farewells. Men were then 'strangers and pilgrims on the earth.'
They were like seamen, the greater part of whose time was spent in pulling up
and letting go the anchor, in spreading and taking in their sails. Their life
was the remotest possible from that of the hermit on the one hand, or the
bustling merchant on the other. They seemed hardly to touch the soil over
which they passed, or to have any firm connection with the things seen and
Paul's history was in many respects a repetition of
Israel's, and even more a repetition of the Master's, who was, above
all others, 'in journeyings often;' whose ministry was a continual moving to
and fro, having no place to lay His head; to whom even Bethany was only a
single night's resting-place from which He must depart on the morrow. From the
day that the Lord shone upon Paul on his way to Damascus, his life was that of
Israel in the desert, only with more of conflict, and weariness, and sorrow,
and labor. He had his Ethams, his Succoths, his Marahs, his Elims, his
Rephidims, his Kadeshes with many an intervening resting-place certain of
nothing but that the pillar-cloud was above him, that his bread would be given
him, and his water would be sure that there was no condemnation for him, and
that all things would work together for his good!
Many and pleasant resting-places had Paul, like his Master
at Jacob's well, enjoying shade and provision of which the world knew
nothing but the intervals between were long and wearisome. At Corinth, at
Antioch, at Troas, he rested once and again, enjoying sweet fellowship with
the brethren; but he had scarcely begun to enjoy this, when he was called
away. The pillar-cloud rose, and he was constrained to move. Each movement,
each stage, was the encountering of a new storm of the desert, or the
endurance of more scorching heat. Gladly would he have remained at such
places, in the bosom of churches he had planted; but the Spirit allowed him
not, leading him on from place to place to bonds and imprisonment to labors
and stripes to beating and stoning to shipwreck and peril by sea and land to
weariness and painfulness to hunger and thirst to fastings and cold, and
nakedness. He was a stranger and pilgrim on the earth through much tribulation
entering the kingdom of God (Acts 14:22).
Of Israel we read that 'they came to Elim' (Exodus 15:27),
where were the wells and palms; and then that they 'took their journey
from Elim' (Exodus 16:1), into the wilderness, where there was neither
bread nor water.
They had left Egypt, the land of worldly plenty, where they
walked by sight, not by faith and they had come into a land where sight was
nothing, and where faith must be all. The closing waters of the Read Sea,
while they cut Israel off from their enemies cut them off from the land of
plenty and shut them into one of dearth and desolation. They were now alone
with God! For good or for evil, they had now to deal with Him alone and
that face to face, in a desert land, where earthly supplies were unknown. If
He were against them who could be for them? If He were for them who could be
Their arrival at MARAH tested them. Is their life to be by
faith or by sight? Is earth or heaven to be their recognized
storehouse of blessing their fountainhead of abundance? This was their first
real taste of the true wilderness life and walk. It began with the bitter and
it ended with the sweet. The first taste of the waters was distasteful the
second most pleasant. The bitterness was of earth the sweetness was of heaven.
Yet at Marah the comfort was of a mingled kind. It was not
their faith that had turned the bitterness into sweetness and this was
humbling and sad. God had met their murmurings with His own free love their
distrust of Him with overflowing bounty and, if we may so say, had answered
them according to their unbelief, not their faith. He had, in wondrous grace,
reversed His own rule of action, and had done the miracle because of their
unbelief not their faith! Yet even the outward blessing Marah was not a full
one. It sufficed for the moment, but it was incomplete. There was water, but
no shade; wells, but no palms. The water had issued from their unbelief, not
their faith; and God marked His displeasure by making them drink it on the
unshaded burning sands.
There was little then to bind them to this shadeless spot,
saddened with the recollection of their own unbelief, though in a measure
sweetened by the gracious dealings of Him whose love passes knowledge. Their
journey from Marah would not be an unwilling one, and their arrival at ELIM
would be most grateful for Elim contained all that such sojourners required.
Sweet spot! Close girdled with low hills; the higher peaks of the desert not
far off; covered with desert shrubs, tall or stunted; wells bubbling over, and
losing themselves in the desert sand; a tiny stream finding its way through
the sandy hollow to the Red Sea; and clustering palms (now, in our day quite a
forest) stretching their shades over the smiling valley in all directions!
Israel might say Here let us abide. If we are to have a
home in the desert, let it be here. They would say, 'This is our rest;' but
God said, 'This is not your rest.' So they left the shade and the cool
waters 'they journeyed from Elim.' The journey to Elim was pleasant; the stay
at Elim was still more so. The journey from Elim must have been sad and
dreary behind them the refreshing verdure; before and around the hot wind of
the desert, and with no resting-place in view. But such was the will of Him
who was leading them on such was the silent beckoning of the pillar-cloud.
They must not stay though they would have gladly stayed. It is not to
softness, and luxury, and ease that they are called, but to hardness and
trial and a life of faith on an unseen God and a yet distant 'Canaan'!
So it is with us. We are 'in journeyings often.' Egypt is
left behind forever the blood has been sprinkled, and we have found protection
and deliverance from the destroying angel the march has been begun the Red Sea
is crossed we have sung the song of Moses we have entered on the desert we are
pressing toward 'Jerusalem'! Our desert life is the life of discipline,
and faith, and hope. We come to Elim, and rest for a few pleasant days beneath
its palms. But Elim is not Jerusalem, and we must leave it. Oppressive words
these, 'They journeyed from Elim!' And yet, since Elim is not 'Jerusalem', our
hope still shines in front of us. It is not on Canaan that we turn our backs;
it is not Jerusalem that we are called to leave; for that city once entered,
is entered forever. From it we go out no more.
But here "in the wilderness," we have our changes our
risings and our fallings our rejoicings and our sorrowings our movings and our
restings our sickenings and our healings our partings and our meetings often
coming close together, like Marah and Elim in the same desert, and within a
day of each other. We are 'in journeyings often!' Ours is a continual
tent-life this wilderness world is not our rest! Often we wish it were our
rest, we get so tired of these unceasing movements but it must not be so. We
could not be trusted with ease, and comfort, and painless, prosperous days. We
would forget ourselves and forget our inheritance. Every change or sorrow says
to us "Onward, upward! Elim is pleasant, with its wells and palms, but it is
not Canaan it is not Jerusalem. It is only a brief resting-place; a rest to
recruit and fit you for your further journey. You must leave it on the
Yet the pillar-cloud is here, for shade, for
protection, or guidance. It will not mislead. You shall just have as long at
Elim as is for your good and not a minute longer! Therefore gird up your
loins; be ever in readiness either for resting or journeying for the battle,
or the march, or the triumph. Let patience have her perfect work; let
faith keep her hold of the unseen; let hope burn brighter and
fuller as the journeyings are drawing to their close and as we near the gates
of the glorious city and the banks of the river of life and the palms of the
paradise of God!
Be holy. Be separate from the world. Abstain from fleshly
lusts. Lay aside all filthiness. Walk soberly. Beware of earth's folly and
idle laughter. Set your affection on things above. Be prepared for suffering.
Endure hardness. Take up your cross daily and bear it aloft and be not ashamed
of it. The footsteps of the old pilgrims are still visible on the sands of
time. Follow them! Their voice is still heard, and their hand still waves,
beckoning you to follow. Until you find a nobler faith than Abraham's, a
better book than the Bible, a truer creed than Paul's believe what they
believed. For these things are not yet obsolete. Centuries do not alter truth.
Time and science have not yet leveled the eternal hills. The cross
still stands erect amid the ruins of ages the blood of Jesus still
purges the conscience and the believing man is still a stranger here in this
Back to Top
The Church Dwelling Alone
"Redeemed from the earth." Revelation 14:3.
"Redeemed from among men." Revelation 14:4.
"The people shall dwell alone." Numbers 23:9.
"Therefore come out from them and be separate, says
the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." 2 Cor. 6:17
Let me call attention to these four tests, as making up the
different parts of one great truth concerning the Church's true position in
this present evil world, her 'unearthly' calling and 'unearthly' walk. She is
the 'redeemed one;' redeemed from the earth; redeemed from among men, or
literally 'from men.' She comes out and is separate; she dwells alone;
'separate from sinners' (Psalm 1:1; Hebrews 7:26).
She is 'redeemed from the earth' that she may dwell
alone. She is 'redeemed from men' that she may dwell alone. She comes
out and is 'separate' that she may dwell alone. For she is not of the world,
even as He who redeemed her is not of the world. She is 'sanctified in God the
Father' (Jude 1). She is a stranger in strange land. Her calling is heavenly;
and her affections are set on things above. Her 'citizenship' is in heaven and
she sits loose from all below riches, pleasures, honors, vanities!
'Unspotted from the world' is her designation. (James 1:27)
I wish to bring out all this specially in connection with
the third of the above texts, concerning Israel's dwelling alone.
'Israel shall dwell in safety alone' (Deuteronomy
33:28). 'Lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the
nations' (Numbers 23:9).
These were true sayings, though one of them comes from the
lips of a false prophet. In them we seem to have a contradiction of the divine
word, 'It is not good for man to be alone.' Yet is so only in appearance.
These two 'alones' are very different the 'alone' of Adam and the 'alone' of
Israel; the persons are different, the circumstances are different, the words
are different; that which was not good for the one was good for the other.
It looks also like an exception to the proverb, 'Two are
better than one for if they fall, the one will life up his fellow but woe to
him who is alone when he falls' (Ecclesiastes 4:10). But it is not really so;
for everything in such a case depends on the friendliness of one's companion.
Better to be alone when falling, than to be with an enemy.
Up until Abraham's day the 'godly seed', the 'saints of the
Most High,' had not been alone (except in heart and feeling); but were
scattered everywhere; hidden and mixed. Hence before the flood the sons of God
intermarried with the daughters of men. But when He called Abraham, He
unfolded His purpose of separation from the rest of men. Then He
carried out His condemnation of this present evil world, which in and by Noah
He had already proclaimed. He appeared unto Abraham as the God of glory; and
in that character He called him 'out' of Chaldea and its idolatry. He called
him out to be 'separate' and to 'dwell alone' no, to dwell in
'tents' temporary dwellings. It was not the removal from one nation to
another, or one land to another, that we see in Abraham, but the call to
'dwell alone' the manifestation of God's purpose to this end.
Abraham dwelt alone. So did Isaac. So did
Jacob. So also did Moses at last; though for a time he was drawn
into the world, not out of it. Yet afterwards he refused to be called the son
of Pharaoh's daughter, counting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures of Egypt. First drawn out of the water, then out of Pharaohs house.
Egypt soon cast him out, and he 'dwelt alone' and 'separate' In the land of
Midian as a stranger and a sojourner. All his later life was of the same
separated kind. He was a true Nazarite, set apart from the world to God.
So was it with Israel. Even 'in Egypt' there was
little affinity or sympathy between them and the Egyptians; and the more that
their 'hope' came out and brightened the fellowship became less and the
antagonism the more decided. In 'the desert' they were separate they 'dwelt
alone' with no society but that of God. When they entered Canaan, they did it
to dwell alone. Even there they were not numbered among the nations. They were
in the midst of all that was incongruous and hostile; and all things seemed
meant to keep them separate, to make them feel their separation. Their place,
their character, the calling, their testimony, all corresponded with each
First there was round them a wall or barricade of
enemies the Phoenicians on the north, the Philistines on the west, the
Edomites on the south, the Moabites and Ammonites on the east. Then there was
an outer belt of deserts, and mountains, and seas, accomplishing a double
separation; and beyond these there was an interminable stretch of hostile
territory the vast nations of heathenism spreading wide over the world, all of
them hostile to Israel.
Truly Israel was separate and dwelt alone. They were not
numbered among the nations. The Gentiles never spoke of them but with
contempt. To a Greek or Roman, a Jew was the name for all that was weak,
morose, foolish, and ignorant. The great worldly streams swept by the tribes
and around them, but the Israelites remained alone unaffected by these mighty
motions of earth's kingdoms until at last their sins drew them into the
currents, and they no longer dwelt alone.
But for ages they did dwell alone. They had all things of
their own borrowing from none, dependent on none. With their own
self-sustaining land, their own religion, their own city, their own temple,
their own God, they dwelt alone. Their internal resources were enough. They
needed not to go down to Egypt for help; and what could Babylon and its idols,
or Greece and her gods, do for them? They needed nothing from the world.
Jehovah was their God, their all; and with His fullness for their inheritance,
they could afford to 'dwell alone.'
What was Babylon, or Assyria, or Egypt, to Israel? An
enemy, or it might be a tempter but certainly not an ally or a friend. A
distant peace might be between them; but as for fellowship, or brotherhood, or
sympathy that could not be!
What is the world to the Church, or to any single saint?
Just what Babylon or Egypt was to Israel. No more. She dwells alone. We know
that we are of God and that the whole world lies in wickedness!
Israel was 'separate' and dwelt alone. This was her
position, her portion such as was appointed her by the purpose of God. The
Church is to dwell alone, like Israel. Let us set both these together,
illustrating the one by the other.
1. Israel did not need the world's HELP. The
nations were stronger than she, but she did not require their strength to lean
upon. Their strength was their weakness; her weakness was her strength. They
would have helped her, but she would not be helped; and when at last she did
accept their aid it was her ruin! Her help was in Jehovah. Her security was in
His favor. With Him upon her side, what was the array of the whole world
against her? Her pious kings, such as Asa and Hezekiah, felt this they prayed
and acted accordingly.
Neither does the Church need the help of the world. The
less of the world there is in her projects, her enterprises, her hopes, the
better. Never has she prospered when she departed to an 'arm of flesh', or to
the strength of human greatness, or to the influence of the world's smile. For
the world cannot really help one who is not of this world, who has nothing in
common with her joys, or cares, or ambitions. And never has the world helped
the Church without exacting a favor in return insisting on or tacitly giving
it to be understood that she expects some compromise, some relaxation of her
testimony, less of strictness and spirituality more of congenial fellowship
and participation in her pleasures, if not her lusts and sins!
The Church's help is neither in the world nor in the god of
this world. Her help is in the Lord who made heaven and earth. With this
divine help she is able to undertake any enterprise, to encounter any foe. Let
her lean on His arm alone. It is on this arm that faith leans; it is this arm
that unbelief flings from it to take hold of one more visible, more sensible,
more congenial to flesh and blood.
II. Israel did not need the world's RICHES. The
world was rich rich in its own way, and according to its own standard. Israel
might have had a share in that wealth. But God had said, It is not for you.
You need it not. I have given you a land flowing with milk and honey,
abundance of corn and wine. What more do you need? Be content. Be strangers
with Me and sojourners as all your fathers were. When you need the gold of
earth, you shall have it. You needed it once when you were leaving Egypt, and
you got it without toil. You needed it when you were building a temple for me
in my city, and you got it. But seek it not. When required, it will come to
Israel! the world's gold is not for you! Church of the
living God, your richest are not of earth your treasure is in heaven. Labor
not to be rich! Covet not luxury, and ease, and splendor! Grudge not to be
poor. The cross of 'poverty', which your Master bore you be satisfied to bear
also. In the early Church it was so. 'Not many rich, not many noble,' were
called. God chose the poor to confound the riches and greatness of earth.
Poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Your riches are God's; they are the unsearchable riches of Christ; they are
divine and everlasting. They take not to themselves wings and flee away. You
shall have enough before long when the Lord comes. Meanwhile, be rich in
faith, rich in love, rich in all good works!
III. Israel did not need the world's WISDOM.
Egypt had learning, Babylon had wisdom, Greece had philosophy.
It is easy to see how Israel might covet these; for these have always
been even more than gold objects of highest ambition of man. But with these
Israel was not to meddle. When she tried to do so, she failed. Earth's wisdom
would not suit her. The cup of Chaldean magic was not for her. The cloak of
Anthenian philosophy did not fit a Jew.
Beside, she had wisdom of her own; wisdom of heavenly
origin; not the wisdom of 'conjecture or speculation' but of certainty, of
absolute truth wisdom which could alone fill and satisfy wisdom which could
gladden and illuminate. In a small volume, no doubt, was that wisdom
contained. To the secrets of science it did not extend; of man's goodness or
greatness it spoke little; to earthly glory or fame it did not point the way.
But it was full of God and the things of God; full of infinite and perfect
truth; full of all that could fill, and purify, and ennoble the human soul.
One page of it was worth all that Gentile sages could boast of. Israel surely
did not need to go to Chaldea or Egypt for wisdom and learning. She had all
she needed within herself. She might dwell alone and enjoy it all. Happy
Israel! Saved from a thousand doubts, and uncertainties, and vain reasonings,
which vex, and fret, and shrivel up the soul! Happy Israel! Led at once God
into the green pastures of eternal wisdom, and made to like down beside its
Church of God, all Israel's wisdom more than all Israel's
wisdom is yours! You have now the fullness of Him in whom it pleased the
Father that all fullness should dwell; Him in whom are hidden all the
treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Rest there. If other wisdom crosses your
path, take it, if you are sure that it is truth. But let it be subordinate to
the wisdom of Scripture. Place nothing side by side with the wisdom of Christ.
Above all, beware of entangling yourself in the perplexities and sophistries
of the day, thus rushing into the very thickets from which God, by giving you
such a certain revelation, has sought to keep you back.
What! Do you covet 'doubt', when 'faith' is before you? Do
you covet 'speculation', when revealed 'certainty' is presented to you? Do you
prefer the 'vexed and boiling whirlpool' to the quiet haven or more quiet
lake? Be on your guard against the wiles of the devil in these last days.
Should not a people seek unto their God? Is His wisdom not the surest, safest,
best? Oh, dwell alone! Enter your chamber shut your door behind you! Learn of
God. Fear not the taunt of the world that you are not abreast of the age nor
imbued with its spirit. Retire to God. Let the world's Babel-sounds of boasted
wisdom pass around you, or over you unheeded. In patience possess your souls.
Get your wisdom in communion with God and in the study of His book.
IV. Israel did not need the world's PLEASURES.
And why? Was a Stoic? No! She was happy without the world's pleasures. She had
her God to make her happy! Her Sabbaths were happiness. Her feasts were
happiness. Her ways were ways of pleasantness and all her paths were peace.
Happy were you, O Israel! Who was like unto you a people saved by the Lord?
How goodly were your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel! She was
the specimen of a happy nation, a prosperous nation yet dwelling alone indebted
to no nation round for her gladness; indebted to God alone. All other joy was
poor and transient when compared to hers. What could Phoenicia, or Philistia,
or Syria, or Egypt, give her of true happiness?
So and even more with the Church. The joy unspeakable is
hers; the peace that passes all understanding is hers. She does not need to
borrow joy from the world! She is not so poor as to be indebted to any man.
She has all and abounds. O child of God, is not the joy of God enough for you?
Do you require the pleasures of sin, the gaieties of the ballroom, the
excitement of the theater, the music of the opera, the frivolities of the
world's card-table, the stolen pleasures of the dance, to make up for
deficiencies in what God has given you? If He has not given enough, go tell
Him, and He will give you more. But do not go to His enemies to borrow! Do not
go to Endor, or Ekron, or Egypt to the world's haunts of vanity, where
the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are
cherished! Dwell alone with God, and His Christ, and His Israel. Let these
joys suffice. They have proved enough for prophets and apostles; enough for
angel and archangel they may well be enough for you.
V. Israel did not need the world's SOCIETY.
Israel knew what this meant 'It is not solitude to be alone.' The society of
Gentile idolaters she was commanded not to seek. It would profit her nothing.
It would bring neither joy nor strength. It would only weaken and corrupt.
'Evil communications corrupt good manners.' The twelve tribes were society to
themselves; and, within the circle of Palestine, Israel found all that was
congenial, and elevated, and blessed. For companionship she did not need to go
beyond her own narrow bounds. Within these her fellowships lay.
Christian, be separate dwell alone! Do not seek the society
of the world. Don't you know that the friendship of the world is enmity with
God? If you have any sympathies with that world if it contains attractions for
you if God and the things of God are not enough for you there is something
wrong! Do not love the world! Do not seek its friendship. Seek the things
above. Beware of the fascinations of worldly company, the spells which gaiety
throws over the young. Stand your ground. Be not whirled away into the tossing
current of mirthful society on any pretext whatever!
Church of the living God, be separate dwell alone! That is
your security, your strength, your influence. Let the world see that you
are not of it and that you do not need it! It needs you but you do not
need it. And you will serve it best by dwelling alone. Not by coldness,
sourness, distance; but by love, congeniality, gentleness, patience, by all
acts of benevolence and words of peace. These are things which are only to be
found by 'dwelling alone.'
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The Model of a Holy Life
"These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He
goes." Revelation 14:4.
"Follow me!" John 11:22.
"Leaving us an example, that we should follow His steps." 2
"I Paul myself beseech you, by the meekness and gentleness
of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:1.
These four passages point more or less to our
responsibility for a holy life and to Christ as the true model of that life.
We are redeemed that we may be holy. We are freely pardoned that we may be
holy. We look to Jesus that we may be holy. We are filled with the Spirit that
we may be holy. The true religious life rises out of redemption and is a copy
of Christ's walk on earth. Beholding Him we are changed into His image, from
glory to glory.
The first of these passages refers specially to the future
honor of the saints. Their peculiar privilege is to be attendance on the
Lamb 'forever with the Lord;' forever beholding His face; forever waiting on
Him, sharing His fellowship, doing His will, enjoying His blessedness, when
day has broken, and the shadows fled away. They are to be to the Lamb in His
exaltation, what the twelve disciples were in His
humiliation 'followers' though in a far higher sense than was known in the
days of His flesh. Yet we may use this verse to point out Christ as our
present leader and example. We follow Him here in suffering and service as we
shall follow Him hereafter in glory and in joy!
Christ was our substitute when He was here on earth we are
His representatives now that He is absent. We are to be 'lights in the world,'
as He was. For this end we are to 'follow His steps,' live as He lived, love
as He loved, speak as He spoke. He is our pattern and model. Shine as He
shone! He was the 'Israelite indeed,' the true Nathanael, in whom was no
deceit. He was the true Nazarite. Let us be Nazarites as He was consecrated to
God, and separate from the world. Look up, Christian, look up! Not Babylon;
but Jerusalem, is your hope and your home. Thus Peter points to Christ as our
'example,' remembering perhaps His last words to himself, 'Follow me.'
The third of these passages connects together the suffering
and the example. In it Peter places both before us at once, that we may have
our eye on both, not separating the blood from the holiness, yet keeping both
distinct, the former as the fountainhead of the latter. Jesus by His blood
'washes,' 'sanctifies', 'justifies' (Romans 5:9; 1 Corinthians 6:11). And
while doing so, presents Himself as our model the true doer of the Father's
Let us note Peter's words more at length. Christ for
us, or Christ our substitute that is the first thing. Christ in us, or
Christ our life that is the next. Christ before us, or Christ our
model that is the next. These three great truths make up a large portion of
We look to Christ for salvation, and we obtain it as surely
and simply as Israel obtained healing by looking at the brazen serpent. We
look to Christ for conformity to His likeness and we are changed into His
likeness as we gaze upon Him!
The model or pattern is a COMPLETE one. Others models have
only one feature of beauty, and are imperfect. Christ is perfect. Every
feature is there; every line is there. We are to grow like it; to be imitators
of Christ. We are to copy Him. In copying a man, there is danger of producing
a stiff, second-hand, second-rate resemblance. Not so in copying Christ. He is
the divine model. It is God's purpose and desire that we copy Him. He is gone
to heaven, but has left this pattern as a legacy.
A Christian, then, is a copy of Christ. His inner and outer
man are to be copies of Christ. It is Christ's footsteps he is to walk in. It
is Christ's image that he is to reflect. It is not Paul, nor Peter, nor
Luther, nor Calvin, nor Rutherford that he is to copy but Christ Himself.
Other models may illustrate this, and so help in the imitation of Christ; but
only as doing this are they useful; otherwise they are dangerous.
What then is a Christian man?
I. He is a man of FAITH. It was by giving credit to
God's word that he became a Christian man; for it is by faith that we become
sons of God. And his whole life is to be a life of faith. As Christ lived by
faith on the Father, so does he. Christ is his model as a believing man. The
more that he understands of Christ's life, the more will he see the faith that
marks it, and will learn to copy it, to live, act, speak, and walk by faith.
II. He is a man of PRAYER. In this too he follows
Christ. Christ's life was a life of prayer. In the morning we find Him praying
a great while before day. All night we find Him praying more. No one, we would
say, needed prayer less yet no one prayed more. And the disciple
herein imitates the Master. He prays without ceasing. He is instant in
supplication. His life is a life of prayer constant communion with God.
III. He is a man of HOPE. Christ looked to the joy set
before Him and so endured the cross. He anticipated the glory, and so was a
man of hope. There is the hope, the same glory, the same joy for us. The
things hoped for are the things we live upon and rejoice in. Our prospects are
bright and we keep them ever in view. The kingdom, the crown, the city, the
inheritance these are before our eyes. They cheer, and sustain, and purify us!
Were it not for the hope, what would become of us? What would this world be to
us? Learn to hope as well as to believe.
IV. He is man of HOLINESS. He is the follower of a holy
Master. He hears the voice Be holy, for I am holy. He knows that he is
redeemed to be holy to do good works to follow righteousness to be one of a
peculiar people. He is not content with merely being saved he seeks to put off
sin, lust, evil, vanity and to put on righteousness, holiness, and every
heavenly characteristic. He seeks to rise higher and higher to grow more
unlike this world more like the world to come. He marks Christ's footsteps,
and walks in them. He studies the Master's mind, and seeks to possess it;
mortifying his members and crucifying the flesh. He aims at shining as He
shone, and testifying as He testified.
V. He is a man of LOVE. He has known Christ's love, and
drunk it in, and found his joy in it. So he seeks to be like Him in love to
love the Father, to love the brethren, to love sinners to show love at all
times, in word and deed. His life is to be a life of love, his words the words
of love, his daily doings the outflow of a heart of love. He is to be a living
witness of the gospel of love. Love not hatred, nor coldness, nor malice, nor
revenge, nor selfishness, nor indifference love such as was in Christ that he
endeavors to embody and exhibit.
VI. He is to be a man of ZEAL. 'Zeal for Your house has
eaten me up,' said Christ. His life was one of zeal for God zeal for His
Father's honor and His Father's business. So is the disciple to be 'zealous of
good works.' Zeal steady and fervent not by fits and starts; not according to
convenience, but in season and out of season; prudent, yet warm and loving;
willing to suffer and to sacrifice; no sparing self or the flesh, but ever
burning; zeal for Jehovah's glory, for Christ's name, for the Church's
edification, for the salvation of lost men this is to give complexion and
character to his life.
These things are to mark a Christian man. He is not to be
content with less. He is to grow in all these things not to be barren, not to
stagnate, not to be lukewarm but to increase in resemblance to his Lord to be
transformed daily into His likeness, that there may be no mistake about him as
to who or what he is.
The last of the passages set down at the head of this
mediation takes up something special in Christ which we are to imitate His
'meekness and gentleness.' In the book of the Revelation He is chiefly known
by the name of 'the Lamb.' That is His chief name in heaven. He has other
titles, but this is given as peculiarly His in the place of His glory.
As Peter thus points to Christ as our model, so also does
Paul in the above passage. One feature in His character he specially notes,
which shone out very brightly in this coarse, crude world a world where, all
along, man has trodden down man, the stronger the weaker; where strong deeds,
as well as strong language, have been accounted heroism and manliness the
proper expression of dignity and superiority this feature is the Lord's
submissive and non-resistance, even with the full consciousness of superior
power His 'meekness and gentleness.'
This meekness of Christ Paul takes up and points to. On
this he bases his entreaties to the Corinthians. This is one of the strongest
and most earnest of Paul's 'beseechings.' He has many of these; for he
'entreats' when he might 'command;' he uses love when he might wield the rod.
'I beseech you by the mercies of God' (Romans 12:1). 'I beseech you by the
Lord Jesus Christ, and by the love of the Spirit' (Romans 15:30). 'We beseech
you by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ' (2 Thessalonians 2:1). Here, it is
by the meekness and gentleness of Christ that he beseeches.
And why does he beseech them by this? For two reasons (1)
He reminds them of this meekness and gentleness, as if to say, 'Imitate Him
who you call Lord and Master and do not proudly withstand the authority of me
His servant;' (2) he reminds them of it, as if to say, 'Do not constrain me,
the servant, to make use of anything but the meekness and gentleness of the
Master.' It is the apostle's last argument in dealing with the rebellious
members of the Church. Is it not weighty? Is it not irresistible?
But it is chiefly the 'character of Christ' itself that we
would dwell upon here, yet noticing also the bearing of that character upon
the obedience of saints, and the submission of sinners to His rule.
I. The PERSON. It is 'the Christ of God.' He has
many names, each revealing His person the Word; the Son; the Only-begotten of
the Father; the Light; Immanuel. These express the marvelous constitution of
His person as the Christ; Son of God, and Son of man; very God and very man;
the Word made flesh; having all divine and all human perfections, all created
and all uncreated excellencies exhibited in Him, all fullness deposited in
Him; full of grace and truth; the glory of Godhead; the glory of the King of
II. The CHARACTER. It is that of meekness and
gentleness meekness in bearing and forbearing; gentleness in His tender loving
treatment of us both in word and deed. He is 'meek and lowly;' He did not
strive nor cry, neither did any man hear His voice in the street; the bruised
reed He broke not, the smoking flax He quenched not; He entered Jerusalem on
an donkey's colt, as the prophet had written, 'Behold, your King comes'
(Zechariah 9:9). No doubt there are other declarations which speak of wrath,
and judgment, and vengeance; but these are His 'strange acts' as the great
His character, as exhibited on earth in all His words and
works was that of lowliness and love. Fury was not in Him. He bore the insults
of sinners against Himself; when He was reviled, He reviled not again; when He
suffered, He threatened not. He loved, He pitied, He wept, He invited, He
entreated, He blessed. He frowned on none except the Pharisee. He spoke no
harsh words He displayed no repulsive looks or tones He was ever courteous,
polite, and affable. All in Him was grace grace to the uttermost. He was the
embodiment of that love which the Apostle Paul has described. He was patient ,
kind, not easily provoked, thinking no evil, rejoicing not in iniquity,
bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things, never failing!
Meeker than Moses, gentler than John, more patient than Job, tenderer by far
than His own tender earthly mother He is in the embodiment of all that is
winning and attractive.
All this He was on earth all this He is still unchanged and
unchangeable with nothing in Him or about Him to repel us but everything to
attract us everything to win our confidence. At once the highest of the high,
and the lowliest of the lowly. His is the almightiness of divine royalty, for
all power is given here yet the disposition to use that almightiness only to
save, and comfort, and bless. Almighty meekness, and meek almightiness!
Almighty gentleness, and gentle almightiness! How admirable! How glorious! How
blessed! So holy, yet so meek and gentle to the unholy! So abhorrent of sin,
yet so pitiful and patience toward the sinner! So capable of executing
vengeance and utterly destroying His enemies, yet so patient, so gracious; not
willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance! So
terrible as the Judge, yet so tender as the Savior! His is the iron rod, and
the sword of vengeance, and the purging fan, and the devouring fire yet He
says Come unto me. He weeps over Jerusalem. He prays for His murderers. Ah,
what meekness and gentleness are His! Nothing like it on earth, or in
heaven the meekness and gentleness of the God-man. 'Christ did not please
III. The bearing of all this on us. It is not in
vain that He is thus presented to us. This meekness and gentleness ought to
show both on the believer and the unbeliever.
(1.) On the BELIEVER. The meekness and gentleness of
Jesus is the strongest motive to our obedience and submission. It is the most
impressive rebuke to all pride, or murmuring, or self-will. Having daily to do
with one so meek and gentle, shall we not become like Him? Shall we not love
Him, and shall we not honor His laws? Shall we not fear to offend Him, and
shrink from wounding Him? O believer! Look at this meekness and gentleness,
and put away all stubbornness, and self-will, and self-pleasing. And having to
do with one so meek and gentle, shall we not put away from us all doubting,
all despondency? Shall we allow one hard, one suspicious thought to linger
within us? Shall we not put ourselves implicitly into His hands and trust Him
(2.) On the UNBELIEVER. 'Come unto me' are the His
first words to you. And His second are like unto them, 'Learn of me, for I am
meek and lowly in heart.' Yes, He bids you come; He asks you to learn. He is
the most accessible of all beings. His door is ever open; His heart
is ever open; His arms are ever open. There is nothing in Him or about
Him to repel you, though you are the chief of sinners, and the worst of men.
His words to the sinner are pre-eminently the words of meekness and
gentleness. They are infinitely attractive and encouraging. 'Him who comes to
me I will never cast out.' Look at Him; listen to Him; draw near to Him; speak
to Him; doubt not, despair not, depart not. Go up to Him He will receive you.
Tell Him your case He will bid you welcome. He will not cast you away. He
has patience to bear with all your foolishness, and ignorance, and stupidity,
and unteachableness! He will not get angry with you, as proud men lose
their temper with the unteachable or obstinate. He will bear with you. The
greatness of your sins shall be no hindrance. The desperateness of your
diseases will not make Him repel you. He will receive you graciously, and love
you freely. Yes, He comes to you and says 'Behold, I stand at the door and
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Death and the Grave
"And death and the grave were cast into the lake of
fire. This is the second death." Revelation 20:14.
It is of His two chief enemies that God here speaks 'death
and the grave,' or 'place of the dead' (Hades) for such, and not hell, ought
to be the rendering of the latter of the two words.
This is not the first time, nor the only place, in which
they are thus classed together. There is a striking series of passages,
running through all Scripture, in which they are names as
allies fellow-workers in the perpetration of one great deed of darkness from
the beginning. Often are death and the grave in the lips of Job. David thus
speaks of them 'In death there is no remembrance of You; in the grave who
shall give You thanks?' (Psalm 6:5.) Solomon thus uses them in figure 'Love is
strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave' (Song 8:6). Hezekiah thus
refers to them 'The grave cannot praise You; death cannot celebrate You'
(Isaiah 38:18). Isaiah thus mentions them in their connection with Messiah 'He
made His grave with the wicked, and with the rich in His death' (53:9). Hosea
thus proclaims their awful fellowship in evil 'I will ransom them (His people)
from the owner of the grave; I will redeem them from death; O death, I will be
the plagues; O grave, I will be your destruction repentance shall be hid from
my eyes' (13:14). Paul thus takes up the language of the old prophets 'O
death, where is your sting? O grave, where is the victory?' (1 Corinthians
15:55.) And then, as the summing up of the whole, we have these strange words
of the Apocalypse 'Death and the grave delivered up the dead which were in
them; and death and the grave were cast into the lake of fire.'
These last words accord strikingly with those in Hosea; yet
they are not meant as a mere quotation or reference, but as an intimation of
fulfillment an announcement as to the way in which God is to execute His
threat. 'O death, I will be your plague; O grave, I will be your destruction,'
is the old prediction; and of this John records the awful fulfillment, 'Death
and the grave were cast into the lake of fire.' This is the end of that
death-power which was let loose in Paradise, and which has continued to
exercise dominion upon earth through these two channels. The reign has been
long and sad; it has been one of dissolution, and blight, and terror; but it
ends at last! This dynasty of darkness, this double vice-regency of hell, is
broken in pieces death and the grave are cast into the lake of fire which is
the second death, the death that absorbs all other deaths, the death of
deaths, the deepest death of all, the death after which there is no life,
and no resurrection, and no deliverance forever.
These two enemies of God and man are here personified as
two powers of evil, the one the handmaid of the other twin demons,
coming forth from the blackness of darkness, and returning to the darkness
from which they sprang servants of, or rather co-operators with, the prince of
darkness, with him who has the power of death, even the devil, in carrying out
the inexorable sentence, 'Dust you are, and unto dust shall you return.' They
are treated as two hideous criminals; who, though for a time permitted
to go forth, like the Assyrian and Babylonian ravager, to execute the divine
commission, are at last called to reckoning, for the havoc they have wrought,
and dragged forth, as pre-eminent in crime, to receive their sentence of
doom and to be cast into the lake of fire.
DEATH has been the sword of law for ages; but when it has
done its work on earth, God takes this sword, red with the blood of millions,
snaps it in pieces before the universe, and casts its fragments into the
flame, in the day of the great winding-up, in token that never again shall it
be needed, either on earth or throughout the universe.
The GRAVE has been the chain and the prison-house of
justice; but when its purpose is served, and justice has got all its own in
the heaven of the saved, and the hell of the lost God gathers up each link of
the chain and flings them into the lake of fire upon the head of the great
potentate of evil! He demolishes the dungeon to its foundation, and buries its
ruins in a grave like that of Sodom the lake of the everlasting burnings.
Death and the grave were cast into the lake of fire!
The great truth taught us here is God's abhorrence of
death, and His determination not merely to end it, but to take vengeance on
it. Let us then inquire into this, and into the reasons for it.
I. God abhors death. The fact of its existence
on earth by His permission, is of no proof of His non-abhorrence; else would
the prevalence of sin, side by side with death, be demonstration that He does
not hate it. Accustomed with death, as WE sometimes are by its frequency HE
abhors death more truly than even we do who are the subjects of his ravages.
We cannot but hate death, even when we have ceased to fear it, and know that
for us its sting has been extracted. We hate it, and thrust it from us;
loathing its advances, and waging daily war with it seeking by every
contrivance of skill to overcome it and ward off its stroke. We hate it
because of its darkness and its coldness and its silence. We hate it as the
great "robber of our loves and joys" who gives nothing but takes everything.
It cuts so many ties; it rends so many hearts; it silences so many voices; it
thins so many firesides; it comes with its dark veil, its screen of ice,
between friend and friend, between soul and soul, between parent and child,
between husband and wife, between sister and brother. Of human sympathies it
has none; it concerns not itself about our joys or sorrows; it spares no dear
one, and restores no lost one; it is pitiless and mute; it is as powerful as
it is inexorable, striking down the weak, and wrestling with the strong until
they succumb and fall.
No wonder, then, that death is so unlovable to us no, of
all objects the most unlovable in itself, though occasionally acquiring some
faint attractiveness, or at least losing some little of its hatefulness by its
being made the termination of pain, and conflict, and weariness, and the gate
into the presence of Him who is our life and joy.
After all, however, our estimate either of its
attractiveness or repulsiveness would be of little significance, were it not
that on this point God takes our side. His estimate of death coincides with
ours. It is to Him even more unlovable than it is to us. He has set limits to
its power; He has made it to His saints the very gate of heaven for blessed
are the dead that die in the Lord. He has proclaimed resurrection and
incorruption. But still, with all these abatements, He hates it nor is
reconciled to it in one act or aspect. It is, in His eyes, even more than in
ours, an enemy, a destroyer, a demon, a criminal, a robber. So thoroughly does
He loathe it, that in order to make His displeasure known, He reserves it to
the last for doom; He sets it apart for a great striking condemnation, and
then casts it into the lake of fire.
But besides this final condemnation, He has given us others
equally explicit. He calls it 'the king of terror;' 'the last enemy;' and thus
addresses it 'O death, I will be your plague; O grave, I will be your
destruction repentance shall be hid from my eyes' that is, never will I revoke
my sentence against you (Hosea 13:14). Hardly could words be found to express
more strongly God's estimate of death, and His determination to abolish it
utterly and forever. For six thousand years death has been the fulfiller of
His purposes, His rod for the chastisement of His saints, His scourge for
clearing earth of His enemies yet He hates it; and as soon as His ends with it
are accomplished, He will show His displeasure against it by casting it into
the lake of fire.
There is then abundant consolation for us in this dying
world, from the thought that God sides with us in our abhorrence of death and
the grave. He is the enemy of our enemies; and specially of this, the chief.
When He raised His Son from the dead, He showed us that life and not death,
was His purpose, both for Him and for us. Resurrection is at once our faith
and our hope. In His great love He has revealed to us the coming victory over
death, when He who is our life shall appear to be glorified in His saints, and
to be admired in all those who believe. Because He rose, we shall arise. He
has taught us to say, 'I know that my Redeemer lives;' and to add, 'God shall
redeem my soul from the power of the grave.' He has made us to hear the sure
words 'Your brother shall rise again;' 'I will raise him up at the last day;'
'He shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His own
So that in covering dust with dust at the grave of a saint,
we look beyond the tomb and see the glory; our eye rests not upon corruption,
but upon incorruption; our fellowship is not with death, but with life. We
shall arise. That which is sown in weakness shall be raised in power. The
reign of death is hastening to a close, the reign of life about to commence
its eternal gladness. Our true life is coming; the conqueror is on His way; He
will redeem His own people from the power of the grave, and swallow up death
in victory. Behold, I come quickly, He cries. We respond, Amen. Even so, come,
II. God's reasons for abhorring death. It
contains nothing in itself that is lovable; nor has it done any excellent
works because of which God or man might love it. Its history is one of evil,
not of good; of wrong, and sadness, and terror; of breaking down, not of
building up; of scattering, not of gathering; of darkness, not of light; of
disease, and pain, and tossings to and fro, not of health and brightness. But
God counts it specially unlovable for such reasons as the following
(1) Death is the ally of sin 'Sin entered into the
world, and death by sin' (Romans 5:12). With sin it has gone hand in hand,
passing down the generations, and spreading itself round the earth. Partners
in evil sin and death have held dark fellowship together from the
beginning the one reflecting and augmenting the odiousness of other like night
and storm, each in itself terrible, but more terrible as 'companions in
havoc'. God abhors death as the fellow and the offspring of sin!
(2) Death is Satan's tool One of the most fearful of
Satan's designations is, 'he who has the power of death.' Death is Satan's
most satisfying work his trustiest weapon. To inflict disease but not to heal;
to wound but not to bind up; to kill but not to make alive these are the works
of the devil which God abhors, and which the Son of God came to destroy. The
evil workman and his tool the master and his servant are alike hateful in the
eyes of that God who loves not evil but good; not death but life.
(3) Death is the undoing of His work 'In the beginning
God created the heavens and the earth. And God saw everything that He had
made, and behold it was very good.' Specially did he rejoice in man as
His handiwork and His property, and in man's body as that material form which
His Son was afterwards to assume. God did not intend creation to crumble down
or evaporate. But death has seized it! Death the poison of hell has penetrated
everywhere! Man's body and man's earth are falling to pieces, undermined by
some universal solvent; the beauty, and the order, and the power giving way
before the evil invader! The sculptor does not love the hand that spoils his
statue, nor the mother the fever that preys upon her darling so God has no
pleasure in that enemy that has been ruining the work of His hands.
(4) Death has been the source of earth's greatest pain and
sorrow Pain is the messenger of disease, and disease is the touch of
death's finger and with disease and death what an amount of sorrow has
poured in upon our world! We come into contact with sorrow only in 'fragments'
or 'drops', as it falls upon ourselves and our friends. We cannot estimate the
accumulated grief of a year or a century, or even of one day, all over earth.
There is no 'sorrow-gauge' to measure the quantity that has fallen all over
our earth, since the first drop alighted. If there were such a measurement, we
would be appalled at the amount of sorrow which death has inflicted on our
But God has measured it! He knows what the amount of human
grief has been; and He abhors alike the evil and the doer of it. He does not
love sorrow He has no pleasure in pain He is not indifferent to creation's
groans and He will yet avenge Himself, and avenge man and man's earth for all
the woe which death has wrought in the day when He destroys death, and
banishes pain, and dries up tears, and delivers creation from the bondage of
(5) Death has laid hands on God's people Though He
permitted Herod, and Pilate, and Nero, and the kings of the earth, to
persecute His Church, He was not thereby indifferent to the wrong far less in
sympathy with the wrong-doer. He treasures up wrath against the persecutor He
will judge and avenge the blood of His own. So will He take vengeance on
death, the last enemy. He will yet vindicate His saints, and honor the 'holy
dust' that has been scattered over sea and earth. Death and the grave shall be
cast into the lake of fire, to make known to the universe eternally His sense
of the wrong done. Speaking of the resurrection of His own, and His plucking
the prey from the spoiler, He says, 'I will redeem them from death, I will
ransom them from the power of the grave;' and then, shaking His hand against
the spoiler, He proclaims His purpose of vengeance 'O death, I will be your
plague! O grave, I will be your destruction! Repentance shall be hid from my
eyes.' For in proportion to His love for His own, is His abhorrence of their
injuries 'He who touches them, touches the apple of His eye.'
(6) Death laid hands upon His Son Death smote the
Prince of life and the grave imprisoned Him! This was treason of the darkest
king, the wrong of wrongs, perpetrated against the highest in the
universe God's incarnate Son! And shall not God avenge for this? Shall not His
soul be avenged on such a destroyer for such a crime? If the lowest of His
saints shall be avenged how much more His beloved Son? In the day when God
shall judge the world, this deed of darkness shall come into remembrance; and
God, in casting death into the lake of fire, shall intimate His abhorrence of
death, and His displeasure against this the worst of all his deeds the slaying
of His only-begotten Son!
It is not then resurrection merely, but something more than
this, that our text reveals even God's condemnation of all that death has
done. We see, too, His joy in resurrection, and His determination to
prevent the recurrence, more the possibility of the recurrence of such an evil
as death. To take the sting from death was much to abolish death was more but
it is something more still to cast death and the grave into the lake of fire!
Surely as over Babylon, the prison-house of the saints, so over death and the
grave, when they are thrown into the abyss we may sing this song of triumph,
'Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you holy apostles and prophets, for God has
avenged you of her for in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints,
and of all that were slain upon the earth.'
Then shall resurrection be not merely a prospect and a
hope but an accomplished fact; and not merely an accomplished fact but an
irreversible condition of creaturehood. 'Neither shall they die any more,' is
the consummation to which resurrection brings us. The inhabitant shall not
say, 'I am sick.' The eye shall not be dim, and the ear shall not be dull, and
the brow shall not wrinkle, nor the hair be gray, nor the limbs totter, nor
the memory fail. There shall be no more curse, nor death, nor sorrow, nor
crying, nor pain; for the former things have passed away!
We know that our Redeemer lives, and because He lives, we
shall live also! He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and when He
appears, we shall appear with Him in glory. And He who shall come, will come,
and will not tarry and those who sleep in Jesus God will bring with Him.
We preach Jesus and the resurrection; Jesus the
resurrection and the life; Jesus our life. We bring glad tidings concerning
this risen One, and that finished work of which resurrection is the seal; glad
tidings concerning God's free love in connection with this risen One. The
knowledge of this risen One is forgiveness, and life, and glory. Oh then, what
is there in our dying world like this to impart consolation and gladness? We
shall not die, but live. Eternity is a life, and not a death; a life with
Christ, and a life in Christ. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne
shall lead us to the living fountains of waters, and God Himself shall wipe
away all tears from our eyes!
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The Vision of the Restitution of All Things
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth for the first
heaven and the first earth were passed away and there was no more sea." Revelation
Of these two last glorious chapters, we could say, 'You
have kept the good wine until now!' They take us into the shrine of
shrines into the very heart of the glory into the paradise of God; into the
royal banqueting-house into the very splendor of eternity! What a summing up
of God's purposes is here! What a conclusion of the divine oracles! What a
termination to the long, long desert-journey of the Church of God, calling
forth from us the exulting shout which broke from the lips of the Crusaders,
when first from the neighboring height they caught sight of the holy city,
The first book of Scripture and the last fit well into each
other; the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two of Revelation fit
together like the two halves of a golden clasp set in gems. Enclosed between
the two is the history of six thousand years. And what a history! What a
beginning, and what an ending! It began with the new, and it ended with the
new the strange checkered 'old' lying mysteriously between.
'In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.'
'I saw new heavens and a new earth.'
Of these Revelation visions, some were seen by John on
earth, and some in heaven, according as the point of view suited best the
vision and the prophet. His sight of Jesus in His priestly glory was
from earth, Patmos itself. Jesus had come down to him and showed
Himself face to face. The epistles to the seven Churches are written from
But after this John is called up to heaven, like
Paul, to see and hear unspeakable things, which, however, unlike those which
Paul saw, would be 'lawful for a man to utter;' and most of the subsequent
visions are from this heavenly standing-place. What eyes must his have been to
look upon such terrors and such glories unmoved and undazzled!
Let us notice a few of the many things regarding which he
says, 'I saw' while standing in these heavenly places. We cannot cite even one
half. 'I saw twenty-four elders sitting,' 4:4. 'I saw a strong angel
proclaiming with a loud voice,' 5:2. 'I saw under the altar the souls of those
who were slain,' 6:9. 'I saw, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could
number, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white
robes, and palms in their hands,' 7:9. 'I saw, another mighty angel come down
from heaven, clothed with a cloud,' 10:1. 'I saw as it were a sea of glass
mingled with fire,' 15:2. 'I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet-colored best,'
17:3. 'I saw the woman drunken with the blood of saints,' 17:6. 'I saw an
angel standing in the sun,' 19:17. 'I saw thrones, and those who sat upon
them,' 20:4. 'I saw a great white throne, and Him who sat on it,' 20:2. 'I saw
the dead, small and great, stand before God,' 20:12. 'I saw a new heaven and a
new earth,' 21:1. 'I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from
God out of heaven!' 21:2.
This new heaven and earth which John saw were still future.
He saw the future as if it were the present. Yet this new creation shall not
be shadowy, but real as real as that described in Genesis. The former creation
passes away, and the new creation comes new heavens, new earth, new sea. The
old creation is not annihilated but only purged and renewed. It passes away as
the gold passes into the furnace to come out purified. It passes away as this
'vile body' does into the grave, to come forth glorious and immortal, yet the
same body. The 'restitution of all things' is to do for earth and heaven what
resurrection is to do for the body. What a change! What a perfection! What a
holy blessedness! Oh when shall the day break, and the shadows flee away!
This first verse most significantly brings before us such
things as these all of them blessed.
I. Here is the end of SIN. The world has lain in
wickedness but it shall do so no more! The overflowing flood of evil shall
then be dried up, and sin be known no more upon this earth and under these
heavens. What an ending shall be the ending of sin! For six thousand years it
has triumphed then its triumph ends. Not the 'shadow' of sin or evil in any
form shall pass over this fair globe. It shall, even more than at the first,
be very good!
II. The end of the SERPENT and his seed. How
many ages had run out from the time that the serpent seduced Eve and ruined
our world from the hour when God said, 'You are cursed above all cattle I will
put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed!' The
seducer's triumph is now over he himself is cast out of this earth and
bound the terrible battle of so many ages has been fought, and the battlefield
cleared forever earth is now no longer at Satan's mercy and no trace of his
long dominion over it remains. The creation that he marred, rises from its
ruin and sorrow more glorious than at first. His reign is ended his legions
are in chains his spell is dissolved his work of disfigurement all undone!
III. The end of the CURSE. From this time there
shall be 'no more curse.' He who was made a curse for us, has cancelled
earth's curse forever! No cursed thing in any shape shall again be seen only
that which is blessed and holy. The earth and its fullness shall then be the
Lord's, in a way until now unknown. Blessed kingdom, and blessed King! From
every particle of dust from air and earth and sea shall the curse be expelled
forever! O fair and spotless creation, great paradise of God! The wilderness
and the solitary place shall be glad, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom
as the rose!
IV. The end of CORRUPTION and MORTALITY. These
are the FRUIT of the curse and with the curse they disappear. Death is no
more. The grave is emptied. Disease is abolished. The inhabitant shall no more
say, I am sick. Feebleness and weariness are unknown. The head aches not, nor
the heart. The eye grows not dim, nor the ear dull. All is immortality and
incorruption and beauty and eternal health.
V. The end of SORROW. Into this new creation no
grief shall ever enter. The days of mourning shall be ended. Sorrow and
sighing shall flee away. God Himself shall wipe away all tears. There shall be
no more death, neither sorrow nor crying. There shall be no night there; and
they need no candle, neither light of the sun for it is written, 'The Lord
shall be the everlasting light, and your God your glory!' 'You shall weep no
more.' Everlasting joy shall be upon our heads. The valley of tears, shall
then be the land of song!
And with the end of these things, shall come the beginning
of the glorious and the blessed. The old passes away, and the new comes up
like the sun in its strength. Winter is over and gone. It is sweet spring and
perpetual summer now. It is the kingdom which cannot be moved the undefiled
inheritance the reign of righteousness the reign of the righteous King. Into
this nothing that defiles shall enter nothing unworthy of the presence of the
All this for those who once were sinners the lost and
worthless! Blood has brought it. The cross has done it all. Through death,
life has come. The crucified Christ has opened the gate for us and all may go
in. The same Jesus who has brought the glory for us, bids us come. Far and
wide go out the messages of invitation Come in, Come in! At each gate waves
the blessed hand afar, beckoning us with all urgency to enter. Echoing amid
earth's vales and hills, through every land, the trumpet sounds that summons
the wanderer, and assures him of most loving welcome. Will you hesitate, O
men, or neglect, or scoff, or refuse? All this glory waiting you! These open
gates inviting you! And this poor, dark, death-stricken earth speaking to you
each hour, and saying, This is not your rest; I have nothing for you but
sorrow, and pain, and despair! O men of earth, will you miss the prize thus
placed within your reach? Will you despise the love that yearns and weeps over
you in your folly? Will you not listen and live? Will you not listen, and go
in and become heirs of the glory and the joy?
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The Coming of the Perfect, and the Departure of the Imperfect
"The former things are passed away." Revelation 21:4.
'The things which are seen are temporal,' says the Apostle
Paul; and again he says, 'Old things are passed away;' and again, 'The fashion
of this world is passing away.' These are words that suit us well in our
changeableness, and vanity, and mortality. It would not be well for us, if our
present earthly condition were immoveable and eternal. Fading and dying, and
then entering on the possession of an unchanging life this is surely far
better than a 'prolonged mortality of pain and weakness' like that which we
have here and now.
The words do not teach annihilation of any kind of man or
matter. When one is renewed of the Spirit, there is a new creation old things
pass away, all things become new, yet the man's identity is unchanged. He is
the same individual, and yet a new man. So is it here. Former things pass
away, all things are made new yet all are in the truest sense the same the
same, only without the sin, and the evil, and the pain, and the decay.
These former things are many great and small, material and
spiritual all of them more or less connected with earth and man. Note some of
I. The former things connected with the BODY have passed
away. Our bodies shared the ruin into which sin brought our race.
Mortality and corruption took possession of them. They became subject to pain,
and weariness, and disease in every organ and limb. The one drop of poison
coming from Adam's sin has spread itself out and pervaded every part of us.
The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. We begin with
pain and we end with it. Our flesh, from the cradle to the tomb, is
feeble, broken, ready to faint the cause and the inlet of a thousand sorrows.
It is truly an 'earthly house,' a frail tent, in which we groan, being
burdened; a 'vile body,' needing such perpetual care, and food, and medicine,
and rest yet, after all, incapable of being preserved; the seat of a daily
warfare between life and death; in spite of all our pamperings, hastening on
to the sick-bed and the separation from its guest, the soul.
All this shall yet be reversed. Former things shall pass
away. This head shall ache no more; these hands and feet shall be weary no
more; this flesh shall throb with anguish no more. 'God Himself shall wipe
away all tears from these eyes; and there shall be no more death; neither,
sorrow, nor crying, for the former things are passed away.' 'He will take
these vile bodies of ours and change them into glorious bodies like His own!'
He who once hung upon the cross, but now sits upon the
throne, says, 'Behold, I make all things new.' 'This corruptible shall put on
incorruption, and this mortal immortality, and death be swallowed in victory!
II. The former things connected with the SOUL have passed
away. The beginning of this renovation was our 'being begotten
again into a living hope.' This rebirth displaced the old things and
introduced the new. The sin, and the darkness, and the misery, and the
unbelief, and the distance from God all these shall come to a final end. In
their place shall come holiness, and love, and light, and joy, and everlasting
nearness unchanging and unending fellowship with that Jehovah in whom is life
eternal. Every fragment of evil shall be expelled from our souls and we shall
then know what perfection is perfection according to the mind and after the
image of God perfection without a flaw, or taint, or shadow perfection without
the possibility of reversal or diminishing. From our heart, from our
conscience, our intellect, our feelings, our affections, from every part of
our spiritual being shall all evil depart. 'Former things shall pass away.' We
shall be holy as God is holy; we shall be perfect as He is perfect; we shall
be children of the light and of the day in the fullest sense no trace of
remaining sin in any part of us. We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as
He is! We shall be changed into His image from glory to glory! He who is
righteous shall be righteous still; he who is holy shall be holy still.
III. The former things connected with the EARTH have passed
away. Since man fell, this earth is the seat of evil. The
curse came down on it creation was subjected to the bondage of
corruption Satan took possession of it. It has been overshadowed with sin,
overspread with misery. Its air full of sighs and groans its soil
made up of decomposed bodies its cities the centers of ungodliness and
rebellion its thrones the fountainheads of misrule God disowned Christ
rejected both in State and Church the Bible despised the gospel
mocked blasphemy resounding on all sides evil everywhere!
These are the former things which shall pass away. Satan
shall be bound, and his angels traverse earth no more. The devouring lion
shall be in chains, and 'no lion shall be there.' The curse shall vanish from
creation; the blight disappear. Beauty shall clothe all things. Paradise shall
return. Holiness shall revisit earth. God shall once more delight in it and
set His throne in it. The second Adam shall be its Lord and Ruler. His scepter
shall supersede the oppressive scepter under which the race has groaned from
Nimrod downwards. Righteousness shall flourish, and holiness to the Lord be
inscribed everywhere. The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion
with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. The wilderness and the
solitary place shall be glad. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the
leopard shall lie down with the lamb. The meek shall inherit the earth and the
glory of the Lord shall shine over all its skies. There shall be the new
heavens and the new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.
And all this irreversible! No second fall. No second
overflow of evil. No failure on the part of the righteous King. No waxing old;
no ruin; no decay; no return of disease and death. All is everlasting!
Messiah even He who died for us and who rose again is on the throne, and no
usurper can assail it! He ever lives and ever reigns!
Blessed consummation and hope! It draws nearer and nearer.
Soon shall 'time' no longer be. Soon shall this present evil world give place
to the glorious world to come. Our king is coming! He will not tarry. Our
Bridegroom is at hand! He is not slack concerning His promise. In an hour when
we do not think, He will arrive. Are we ready? Is the oil in our vessels? Have
we put on the garments of beauty? Are we preparing to bid Him welcome? 'Lo,
this is our God, we have waited for Him!'
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The Glorious Bride
"And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had
the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying,
come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." Revelation
These are two names for the church of God, the redeemed
from among men. They are not the same in meaning, though both referring to the
Church's peculiar relationship to Christ. They point out her two successive
states, her present and her future, in the former of which she is the bride,
in the latter the wife. First she is the bride then the wife. The 'bride'
up until the day of the Bridegroom's return after that the 'wife' the 'Lamb's
She is represented here as the new Jerusalem; but this is
in a figure, just as God speaks of the old Jerusalem as His wife meaning
thereby the people, the dwellers in that city, His chosen Israel, whom He had
betrothed to Himself by an everlasting covenant (Isaiah 54:5-10). In the
wilderness, Israel was the bride or betrothed one (Jeremiah 2:2); in
Jerusalem, she was the 'married wife' (Isaiah 54:1, 62:5) so is it with the
Church. In this, her wilderness state, she is the bride; in her coming
city-state, or Jerusalem-state of glory, she shall be the wife the days of
betrothment being ended, and the marriage come. Hence, it is that the bride
addressing the Bridegroom says, 'Come!' and the Spirit, who had been preparing
and adorning her for the marriage day, joins her in desiring its arrival 'The
Spirit and the bride say, Come' (Revelation 22:17).
Regarding this 'bride' or 'wife' for we consider her as
both in what follows. We inquire
I. Who and what she was before she became the bride.
She had no high descent to boast of. Her lineage was not royal, but low
and base. Of the old Jerusalem it was said, 'Your father was an Amorite, and
your mother an Hittite' (Ezekiel 16:2, 3); all this, and much more may be said
of the Church. She was an outcast, utterly poor and unknown no, defiled and
hateful. Without goodness, without beauty; without personal or family
recommendation; unloving and unlovable; an alien, a captive, a rebel. She
lacked everything that could make her lovely in the eyes of one seeking a
bride; she possessed everything that could forbid and repel. Such were you
once, O saint; such are you still, O sinner!
II. How and why she was fixed upon. The Father
chose her; that is all that we can say. 'Even so, Father, for so it seemed
good in Your sight.' In the good pleasure of His goodness, and according to
the exceeding riches of His grace, He fixed on her the unlikeliest of all to
be the bride of His Son. Of the 'how' and the 'why' of this sovereign purpose,
what can we say but this that in one so unlovable and worthless it found
opportunity and scope for the outflow and display of free love, such as could
be found in no other? She is the object of the Father's eternal choice, as
Rebekah was the choice of Abraham for his son. She is also the object of the
Son's choice and love, as Rachel was Jacob's choice, and as Pharaoh's daughter
was Solomon's. It was the Father's free choice, and the Son's free choice,
that made her what she is now the bride, and what she is through eternity to
be 'the Lamb's wife.'
III. How she was obtained. She is a captive, and
must be set free. This the Bridegroom undertakes to do; for her sake becoming
a captive. She is a criminal, under wrath, and must be delivered from
condemnation and death. This also the Bridegroom undertakes; for her sake
submitting to condemnation and death, that so her pardon may be secured, her
fetters broken, and life made hers forever. Thus she is plucked from the
dungeon and the curse and the wrath which were her portion.
IV. How she was betrothed. The Bridegroom
Himself came down in lowly guise to woo and win her for Himself. But now He is
carrying on His suite in absence, through the intervention of others, as
Isaac's proposals to Rebekah were carried on through the faithful Eleazar of
Damascus. It was with this suit that Paul felt himself charged, when he went
about 'preaching Christ'; for, speaking to the Corinthians, he says 'I have
espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to
Christ' (2 Corinthians 11:2). So it is with this suit that ministers are
charged no, all friends of the Bridegroom. We come to sinners as did Eleazar
to Rebekah. We tell of our Isaac's noble lineage, His riches, His honors, His
worth. We tell of all that He has done to win your love, and set before you
the glory of His person, that you may see how worthy He is of all this
love how blessed, how honorable it would be for you to be the bride of such a
bridegroom and we say, 'Will you go with the man?'
V. How she is prepared and adorned. It is
through the Holy Spirit that this is carried out. This Spirit having overcome
her unwillingness, and persuaded her to consent to the glorious
betrothment immediately commences His work of preparation. He strips her of
her rags and puts on royal apparel. He cleanses her from her filthiness and
makes her whiter than the snow. Having taken her out of the horrible pit and
the miry clay having drawn her with the cords of love and the bands of a
man He proceeds to divest her of everything that made her unlovable and to
bestow on her everything that could make her lovely and attractive in the eyes
of the Bridegroom.
Part of the preparation is now in this present world but
much is reserved for the future, and especially for the day of the first
resurrection. White robes are given her not purple, or scarlet, or glittering
jewels, such as the harlot Church is decked with but the fine linen, which is
the righteousness of the saints. For her a throne is prepared; a beautiful
crown set upon her head; a royal banquet is made ready; and all this in the
Bridegroom's own glorious city, the new Jerusalem!
Of this wondrous future we know but little now. It does not
yet appear what we shall be. But we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as
He is. To that day when the marriage shall take place, and the long-waiting
bride shall become the Lamb's wife, Scripture has bidden us look forward as
our hope. And it is a blessed hope. For then shall the long absence cease, and
we shall see Him face to face, whom not having seen we loved. Then shall the
day break and the shadows flee away. Then shall the everlasting festival begin
in the great palace hall of the new Jerusalem. Then shall the Bridegroom
rejoice over the bride. 'He shall rest in His love, He shall joy over her with
singing.' Then shall the Song of Songs be sung and understood, in a way such
as it could not be sung or understood before; and we shall hear the Bridegroom
call his bride the 'fairest among women,' 'His love, His dove, His undefiled;'
and we shall hear her call Him 'the Chief among ten thousand!'.
Such then is the honor in store for the redeemed to be 'the
bride, the Lamb's wife!' As such He writes upon her the name of His God, and
the name of the city of His God, and His own 'new name;' so that after the
marriage is completed, the bride loses her own and takes her Husband's name;
the Lamb and the Lamb's wife becoming more indissolubly one one in name, and
nature, and glory, and honor, and dominion forever! To get the tree of life
and the hidden manna to get the white stone, and white clothing, and the
morning star all that is much. But to be the bride, the Lamb's wife, and as
such to be partaker of His love, and blessedness, and glory this is surely
more how much more only the day of the Bridegroom's coming will reveal!
Such is the love of God. It is the love of Father, Son, and
Holy Spirit. The Father chooses in His own sovereignty; the Son
washes in His own blood; the Spirit purifies and prepares by His mighty
power. Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us! It is free
love! Sovereign love! Eternal love!; Unchanging love! Boundless love! Love
which not merely delivers from wrath but which makes the delivered one an heir
of God, more the bride, the Lamb's wife!
This is the day when the proposals are made to the sons of
men; when, in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we urge the blessed
entreaty upon sinners, that they may be partakers of this infinite honor. We
set before you all the worth, and the glory, and the love of this divine
Bridegroom and ask you to accept the proposal and ally yourself to this
glorious One. Among men, to be offered the prince's hand in marriage is
counted no small honor; what then must be the offered hand of the King of
O men, accept the glory! Listen to the proposals made to
you in the name of the Son of God. We describe His excellency and beauty. We
tell you also of the honor for which the church is destined. We say, 'Come
here, and I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife!' We point you to the
resplendent glory of that city, which is after all but part of her dowry, part
of her adorning; and we invite you to a share in its glory! We make known the
Father's testimony concerning His own free love, and concerning the blood and
righteousness of His Son. We demand your present acceptance of that testimony,
that in the belief of it you may become a sharer of the glory and the kingdom!