Abbildungen der Seite

quarter, troubled also with false brethren within, and yet patiently bearing, and gently forbearing, holding on her steady course of trusting in the name of Jesus, and standing for the word of his testimony ; receiving the reward of her faithfulness, not in death, but in deliverance from those deadly judgments which the rest of the world prove. The question which Christ now putteth to issue before the world, is not, whether the natural man ministered to by all the pleasures of the Aesh, or the spiritual man, deprived of all worldly comfort, and begirt with all the pains of death, be the stronger ; but whether the natural man flattered by all the approbations, and built up in all the securities, of this world, or the spiritual man cast out with contempt, and left devoid of countenance and support, be the stronger and the nearer to safety and honour. And the proof consists, not in the triumphant death of the first martyrs, but in the patient stedfastness of the contemned few, their unbroken confidence of honour; and their glorious deliverance at that very hour when all the rest are overwhelmed with ruin and disgrace. As the faithful witnesses who kept up the testimony for fifteen centuries against the growth of that harlot mother of abominations, were brought forth with a high hand, and with fury poured forth, at . that same hour of reformation at which the harlot church was sealed up in the darkness and helplessness of apostacy, till the judgment of the great day; so in the hour of that judgment shall those faithful witnesses, who have held out against the growing power of the infidel apostasy, and mantained the nearness and the certainty of a coming Lord to judge and make war, be in that day honourably delivered and taken into glory, while the twofold apostasies of the beast and the false prophet, the infidel and the papal, are cast into the lake of fire which burneth for ever and ever. This change in the form of the controversy, and the consequent form of the trial and victory, is very necessary to be borne in mind, being in truth the key to the three latter epistles, of which that to Sardis exhibits the form and pressure of the new evil; this to Philadelphia the only way of resisting it with success, and triumphing over it; and that to Laodicea, the fatal consummation of it, through the heedlessness of the church to the instructions of her Teacher and Lord. These things being so, it may be better conceived than expressed, what responsibility I feel in entering upon the exposition of an epistle which contains the only remedy of that disease which is consuming the church, the only preservative against that awful crisis and consummation which is just at hand. Yet I am not paralyzed, for God will be my strength in testifying to his Son's love for his church.

The key then to this epistle, is the weakness and apparent helplessness to which this church was reduced in the midst of the fair but bypocritical name of the church of Sardis, of the temporal fulness of prosperity, yet poverty of spiritual grace, possessed by the church of Laodicea. Sanctity of character, and sincerity of faith and truth, together with supernatural help and support, were the resources of this true servant of the Lord, the only riches and goods in which he taught his poor church to confide. To this state of simple faith, the Lord addresseth himself by this style, of which every word breathes strength and security to all who will depend upon it. “ These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David : he that openeth, and no man shutteth ; and shutteth, and no man openeth” (ver. 7). This title which Christ here assumeth to himself, being that which God so frequently useth in the former dispensation, “ The Holy. One of Israel," " whose name is Holy," and that with which the heavenly hosts do celebrate His praise, “ Holy, holy, holy” (Isa. vi. 3); which vision was a vision of the glory of Christ (John xii. 41), and is therefore applicable to Him; being, moreover, of such frequent use to designate the Messiah both in the Old and New Testament, “ Thine Holy One” (Psa. xvi. 10; Ixxxix. 10; Acts iii. 14); and even confessed to by devils themselves, “ The Holy One of God” (Mark i. 24); must contain in itself some essential truth of Godhead, and reveal someibing very necessary to be believed and kept in memory by men. When man fell, he came to know the difference between the holy and the unholy; of which till then I think he was incapable. The precept given to him in paradise was not a moral precept ; because, being without the knowledge of evil, morality was for him a science unintelligible. There was no moral evil in eating of, or in refraining from, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was a positive precept indicative of a superior authority under which he was placed, and in rebelling against which consisted the guilt of his transgression; in disbelieving God, or, if he believed, in setting light by his commandment. In the same manner I conclude that the threatening death was not a moral but a natural penalty, because the moral must be unintelligible to a creature ignorant of the difference between good and evil. Man knew what it was to be blessed with life; to be deprived of those blessings was death; to cease to live, perhaps to cease to be. Certainly, to cease to be that living soul which then he was, to forfeit his dominion and his life. But so soon as the knowledge of good and evil came, so soon as “he is become one of us, [the Elohim, the God-persons] knowing good and evil,” the holy and the unholy stood at once revealed to him, and morality became a science, and God the great Master and Teacher of it. In sign of man's unholiness, he putteth him forth from his presence, and requireth to be approached by sacrifice. And in sign of the unholiness of mankind, " death reigned over all men from Adam unto Moses, though they had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression." But it was by the promulgation of the law and the constitution of Israel, as a holy nation, with ordinances all-significant of the difference between the holy and the unholy, by that law whereof the sanction was death, indicated not by words only, but by the sacri. fice of blood; by this it was that God did assert his attribute of holiness against a world lying in the wicked one; and now it is that he so constantly taketh to himself his name “The Holy,” “ The Holy One," “ The Holy One of Israel :" which attribute and name of God, Christ claimeth to himself in the title before us : “ These things saith The Holy One." While Christ thus asserteth for himself to be the contrary and contradiction of all sin and sinfulness, and to be the possessor and originator of all holiness, he doth this, not as Jehovah the Angel of the Covenant, but as Jesus the Word made flesh, who came to present the soul of man ever faithful unto God its Creator, the body of man ever holy; with sin put to death in it, and ever held in death ; present indeed, but impotent; present only that its Conqueror might be known to be present; present in its impotency, that the potency of the Holy One might be known. This, now, is the meaning of Christ's being made under the law. The law is not positive, but moral. It is holy to obey it-it is sinful to disobey it. Christ was made under it, for the end of proving that he was the Holy One; the law is the expression of God's holiness ; and he who keeps the law is holy as God is holy. Christ therefore is the Holy One, though in mortal flesh; and he maketh mortal flesh to fulfil the law of holiness. He is God's holiness in action, demonstrating in a life of sorest temptation, what an almighty power of holiness there is in God to cast off, and to cast out, to resist and to overcome all sin, and sin's ministers, within the bounds of the creation of God. Christ's life in flesh made God's holiness from being a word to be a thing. It is no more spoken of, it is done. And this work of presenting flesh holy, against all the combinations of sin, and sin's ministers, visible and in. visible, Christ having accomplished, became the Head, was exalted to become the Head of a new creation, having the Holy Ghost given to him for the very end of quickening whom, and what, the Father pleaseth, into an everlasting life of holiness which shall prevail forever against upholiness quite to expel it from the realm of life, and evermore to restrain it in the lake that burneth, which is the second death. This office of mortifying and crucifying all the members of sin, and quickening them anew unto holiness, of discharging God's creation of its poisonous load, and in its stead infusing into it the glorious life of holiness, Christ putteth forth at present in his church, and by his church;--in them, and by them alone, as his body, given to him of the Father, for this very end, that through the members thereof Christ the Head might effectually resist, impetuously turn back, and for ever shut out from the creation of God the tide of sin, which had poisoned its life, destroyed its beauty and consistency, and brought it to the foulness of corruption and the dust of the grave. In the church, and by the church, I say, is the work of wrestling against flesh and blood, against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the super-celestial places, carried on through the ministry of the Holy Ghost, through Christ, and the inworking of the Father in us :

4 N

and every action of the church, the body of Christ, thus wrought in of the Father, ministered to by Christ, and supplied with the Holy Ghost, is holy, is most holy, if indeed there be degrees of holiness. I mean to say, that the actions of the saints which are not holy, are not of God, nor of Christ in them, by the Holy Ghost, but are of themselves ; are not of the Spirit, but of the flesh; are in truth, manifestations of that awful power, with which God hath created the human spirit, the power of resisting, and overcoming, and rejecting himself. I speak not blasphemy when I say, that the Almighty permitteth himself to be overcome by the spirit of man. It is not that he cannot, but that he will not, overpower us.

He hath treated us from the beginning, and he will treat us to the end, as beings whom he made in his own image, and to exercise his own lordship. The image of God must not be constrained, because he whose image it is, is not constrained, but free. The being whom God hath made a lord, must remain a lord ; and if he have made himself a bondsman, he must be the actor in making himself a lord again. And so the Son of God, when he came to retrieve man from being a bondsman, became a bondsman in order to do it, and as a bondsman effected man's liberly, and made him to become lord again. Aye, it is a fearful dignity this in which God hath constituted man, a very fearful and awful dignity it is, to have the power of "grieving,” and “ ing” and “quenching," and “blaspheming" the Spirit of the Almighty God, and of Jesus in whom it pleased the Father that the fulness of the Godhead should dwell : but so it is, and let every saint know it, and be aware of it, that though the Spirit of Christ and the Spirit of the Father be in him, he may resist them both, and doth so every time that he sinneth; so that sin in a saint is a thing of most awful heinousness, and would be of most fearful consequence, if we had not such a God and such a Redeemer to do withal. Sinful actions of the saints are very sinful : they all draw on to apostasy, and their consummation is apostasy,—a more direful state of being than that of the devils themselves, whereof a sure sign is given in this, that the beast and the false prophet are cast into the lake of fire one thousand years

before Satan the prince of evil. But while this is true, it is


« ZurückWeiter »