Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

Indeed, as if to abase the pride of those who trusted to have equalled God by the impious war and battle proud they raised in heaven, the Most High makes his angels ministering spirits to those who are heirs of salvation, gives them charge over them to keep them all in their ways, and acquaints us with this stimulative to perilous duties, that the angel of the Lord encamps round about them that fear him, and delivers them. Milton speaks of Uriel, the regent of the sun, and another poet tells of earth’s guardian angel, who loved the earth as her child, and for its sins and woes wept herself like a cloud away; but, though we learn not from the Bible that sun, moon, or stars have guardian bands to watch them, " this honour have all his saints ;” for flaming cherubims and archangels strong guard the humblest child of God, and ceasing when all dangers are past to protect them here, will rejoice in becoming his brethren throughout eternity. Kept by the power of God through faith.This power, which is everywhere

, and ever ready to act, demands from us the exercise of faith for its beneficial co-operation. The believer must cling to God as would a child to his father in the hour of danger. What matters it that the oak is the hero of a thousand storms, the ivy must cling to it to withstand the shocks of the gusty wind; what signifies it that the rock is immovable, the cable must be strong or the ship will scud wildly before the gale ; and what avails it to any one that God is almighty, if with heart and hand

we lay not hold of his power! There must be the trusting, acting soul. The name of the Lord is a strong haven, the righteous run into it, and find safety. The believer is girt round with salvation itself, for salvation hath the Lord appointed for walls and bulwarks. Within these walls and behind these defences our faith must carry us; then shall the "little faiths” be as safe, in spite of their fears, as the “ great hearts," who have no fear at all. How great a matter a little fire kindleth, but how much greater a power a little faith moveth, even the power that raised the sky and rolled the mighty worlds along!

IV. Let us conclude by noticing the period of full possession; "ready to be revealed at the last time.” The inheritance not in a state of incompleteness ; it is the kingdom which has been prepared before the foundation of the world. It is ready, though not ready to be revealed. Many of the heirs are not mature, nor wise, nor prepared enough, to enter and possess it; many more are yet unborn. Nor is it meet that one by one and privately the heirs should enter. Here they professed openly, were persecuted publicly, killed shamefully, buried obscurely, or dismissed carelessly from the mind of the unbelieving world; and God has promised a day wherein shall be discerned between the righteous and wicked, between him that serves God and him that serves him not. As they were here laden with shame, they shall, on that day, when the inheritance is revealed in all its wide amplitude and surpassing splendour-when it shall unfold as the golden wings of the morning—be clothed with honour, and the lowliest one that witnessed faithfully for the truth shall stand forth as the confessed friend of Christ.

Though the inheritance is ready, the table is spread, and the supper is being laid, -though many of the guests have come, and the rich clusters of the vine have put in their purple bloom--the Lamb will not sit down, nor will the feast begin, nor will the new wine be drank, until every guest has come. But then shall the feast of love begin, and the undying harmony shall swell; then shall Jesus be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. No sin shall invade this kingdom; no cries shall mingle with its songs but that of victory to the Lamb; no spoiler shall ravish and destroy; no fear shall contend with love; no grief unstring their harps ; no sorrow seek utterance in plaintive wail; for Christ's reign of peace will never end, and while in his presence there is fulness of joy, at his right hand will be pleasures for evermore.

In view and hopes of such a kingdom, every Christian, being a king, should have a kingly spirit, and being a priest, display sanctity of life, and offer up

spiritual sacrifices daily unto God. Patience should have her perfect work, and Christian fortitude should be exhibited, that the world may discern the virtues of a faith which enables you, even when the vine gives no fruit, when the labour of the olive fails, when the skies are clad in blackness, and the star of Bethlehem is hid, when the book is sealed and the fountain is dry, to testify that God is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works, and that his words are stable as his throne.

Let not the tribulation through which you must pass hinder so much as help you onwards. The storm that blows in the teeth of your course can be made, when sails and helm are rightly handled, to waft you to your destined haven. He that overcometh, not he that is overcome, wins and wears the crown. You have seen the lark rise from his grassy bed to pour forth his song in the skies ; you have watched him contend with the baffling wind, now beaten back, now rising on still vigorous wing, until he towered into the calm, bright heights of heaven, and, with the storm beneath him, rang out his merry song to his Maker. And thus should the Christian struggle, and rise, and sing,

“ Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee;
E'en tho' it be a cross that raiseth me,

Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee.
“ Or if in joyful song.

Cleaving the sky,
Sun, moon, and star forgot, upward I fly

Still all my song shall be,
Nearer, my God, to thee,

Nearer to thee."
Warminster.

THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS.

BY THE REV. W. WALTERS.

Revelation iii. 1-6.

SARDIS was the capital of ancient Lydia. It was a wealthy, powerful, and voluptuous city

. Concerning one of its kings we have the saying, “As rich as Cræsus." After passing through successive changes of government, it fell at last into the hands of the Romans, and then speedily began to decline. Under Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt. Through the ravages of war, however, it was once more reduced to ruine, in which state it has remained for ages. Among the relics of its former magnificence (which are rather numerous), there are parts of two immense pillars

, supposed to have belonged to the temple of Cybele. If this supposition be correct, these pillars are amongst the oldest existing monuments of the past, that temple having been erected only three hundred years after the grand structure of Solomon. Innumerable hillocks around indicate the sleeping places of the dead. Sheep feed on the herbage which grows

amid the fallen and half-buried ruins. The wretched little village called Sart, with its few poor inhabitants, seems to mock the departed glory of the city.

Nothing is known of the time or manner of the planting of the Christian Church in Sardis. Melito, one of its pastors, in the second century, distinguished himself by writing a kind of Commentary on the Apocalypse, and an Apology for the Christians. For several subsequent centuries there are notices of its history, but it has been long extinct.

The first thing to be marked in the letter before us, as in the other letters, is the manner in which the writer speaks of himself. “These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars." The first expression is very peculiar. Do these seven spirits" refer to the Divine perfections, or to God the Father, or to seven angels appointed to stand in God's presence and do his will, or

throne;

[ocr errors]

to the Holy Ghost ? The four views have ful, and strengthen the things whic their advocates. We hold the last. The remain, that are ready to die ; for I hav language is borrowed evidently from the not found thy works perfect before God. fourth verse of the first chapter. See the What a sad condition! Scarcely anything connection in which it stands there. “Grace to commend. Only a few individual be unto you, and peace, from him which is, spoken of in terms of approval. Almos and wbich was, and which is to come ; and all Christian life extinct. Yet they passe from the seven spirits which are before his for living, healthy believers. It does no

and from Jesus Christ who is the appear that there was any enormous dot faithful witness, and the first begotten from trine, or inconsistent conduct, like a the dead, and the prince of the kings of the Pergamos and Thyatira ; but there was th earth.” Here “the seven spirits" cannot absence of vitality. They existed as mean created beings. John would never have Church, but they were so inactive, sluggis classed the highest created intelligences with sickly, that there was little difference b the uncreated and Divine; he never would tween them and the dead world aroun have spoken of them as being, with God the Some things remained. There was a litt Father and the Divine Son, equal sources love-a little labour-a little faith-a litt; of grace and peace. He cannot mean the following after the Lord. These inanifesti Godhead, because in the other sentences he tions, however, were like the feeble pulse mentions the Son, and clearly alludes to tions and breathings which just assure the Father, We are, therefore, shut up to that life has not fled-like the last sei the conclusion, that, by the expression," the leaves on the topmost boughs in autumn. seven spirits which are before the throne," like the last darkening embers of t1 he intends us to understand the Holy expiring fire. A few things remained, 1 Ghost, with his manifold and perfect gifts. where God has breatbed life nothing a If this be the meaning of the words in the totally destroy it; but the few that remain source from which they are borrowed, the were ready to die. Their works were 11 same meaning must attach to them in the perfect before God. In their numberplace where they are now found. Jesus the motives which prompted them—in tl Christ therefore says, “I am he that hath spirit with which they were discharged the Holy Ghost, with whom are spiritual they were defective. Whatever men thougl blessings without number and in infinite of them, God did not regard them wit perfection."

favour. He judgeth not as man judget! By “the seven stars” we understand the He has a standard of his own-a standar pastors of the seven churches; and the fact which is perfect. To him we should er that Christ had them in his hand teaches look for approval and reward. that his ministers are appointed, upheld, A similar state to that thus describe and entirely governed by his will.

may be seen in Churches in our own de How appropriate this language was to How is it with you? You may be the circumstances of the dying church in a name to live, and yet be dead. You mi Sardis! It is as if Christ had said, “Your be regular in your attendance on public wo condition is indeed languid and deplorable; ship, and yet it may have lost its charm your sickness is grievous ; you are nigh You may have prayers in your family, unto death ; but look unto me. Remember yet they may have degenerated into a forr tbat I have the Spirit of all power and life. Even the closet may be a palace of ice. Yg I have the seven spirits of God, and the may be the last to perceive this. In son seven stars.'"

of the last stages

consumption, when the Let us rejoice in this truth. With him patient is within a day or two of death, h is the residue of the Spirit; and one shower fancies himself better, and smiles at the ide of that Spirit's influence on our souls will of imminent danger. So, when a graciou be as rain upon mown grass. Whatever we soul has so far lost spiritual life as to do, or wherever we go, till we seek the “ ready to die," he often says to himself

, quickening power of the Holy Ghost, all am well.” My brother, iry yourself

. will prove unavailing to raise us from our

you love the counting-bouse, or the worl dying state. “Lord, to whom shall we shop, more than the closet--if you go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” more interest in the newspaper than in the

The following language describes the Bible—if the society of the worldly is mor state of the Church :-"Thou hast a name attractive than that of saints—you ma that thou livest, and art dead. Be watch- take to yourself some part of the language

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

fe

[ocr errors]

their recovery.

** Thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead.” How are you walking before the Lord ? Are your works perfect? Is your love to him and his sincere and fervent ?

Are you penetrated with the thought that he sees your inmost heart

that insincerity before him is mockerythat the offering of the lame and the blind in sacrifice is an abomination to him-and that he demands and deserves the best obedience that can be presented by love ? Oh, for greater simplicity and fidelity in pur works before God!

Hearken to the Lord's admonition to this Church! “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shult not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” Watchfulness was especially needed, as a first step towards

Awake," says Christ, and keep yourselves awake."

We are surrounded by so many enemies, that perpetual vigilance is an imperative duty. The neglect of it has caused many saints to fall, and lose their peace. We ought, therefore, to watch as the man who expects a midnight burglar to enter his house—as the mariner, who, fearing he is approaching a sunken reef or a sand-shoal, every moment casts his lead. Young disciples, watch ! Fear your foe, and you will avoid him. Self-confidence and negligence have ruined the usefulness and peace of many, who once set out on the ocean of Christian profession, as ships in full sail, but who are now driven hither and thither by fierce winds, and threatened with momentary destruction.

" Strengthen the things which remain.” A little life was left; like the sap which lingers in the root though the trunk be dry; or the fire that is in the heart of the embers

. This was to be strengthened. For this purpose they were to look to Him who

hath the seven spirits of God.” The evil is that, sometimes, when we discover our weakness, we apply to the wrong quarter

strength. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrians, and sent to king Jareb : yet could not he heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” In connection with prayer for Divine help, we must use the appointed means.

Prayer without effort exposes us to the rebuke God gave to Moses's Why criest thou

unto me ? "Speak

to the children of Israel, that they go forward.” If we have become weak, let us commence, with new vigour, our Christian efforts. As the withered arm of the man found its strength when it was put forth at Christ's command, so we shall find strength in the very act of attempting to work; and every fresh endeavour will fit us for more exteasive service.

“Remember, therefore, how thou hast received, and hold fast and repent." This may refer to the truths they had received, or to the manner in which they had received them. If we embrace the former riew, we understand the Lord to say“ Remember what the doctrines of the Gospel, in which you have been instructed, are, and walk in accordance with them. They teach you to be holy, diligent, earnest, zealous. See that you embody the truth of God in your lives. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him : rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught.” If we embrace the latter view, we understand the Lord to say—“Recollect and keep in mind the clearness and ardour with which you heard and embraced the truth at first. Think of the early love of discipleship. Remember how the statements which are now stale and uninteresting were then the most cheering intelligence which could fall upon your ears.".

The address in both lights is applicable to ourselves. Let us think of the glorious Gospel we have received. What other revelations are so calculated to inspire the heart of man with joy! What other system of morals demands such purity of life! What other code of laws is so authoritative in its claims! What other motives can so stir the soul! Let us think of the joy with which we first received the word. We never saw such beauty anywhere as we then saw in Christ. We never heard such engaging tones as those in which he addressed us. Our soul thrilled with a holy excitement. May the first love soon return! “ Hold fast and repent.” How often are we impressed with the importance of duty, but something arises to engross our attention, and we let truths go! This is the secret of our stationary piety. It is also the chief reason why many persons, who are often convinced of the necessity of decision for God, never enter his kingdom. Let us repent our past remissness, and hold fast what we have received !

If the church in Sardis neglected to

for

[ocr errors]

heed this admonition, they were to expect in which the names of all the redeemed in their Lord to come suddenly, as a thief in habitants are enrolled. When a citize the night, to execute judgment upon

them! died, or forfeited his citizenship, his nam If they did not bestir themselves, they

was erased. would receive no further warning. As the When it is said that the name of th man who is in deep slumber is aroused to overcoming believer shall not be blotte find a pistol at his head, or a knife at his out of the “ book of life,” it is not to b throat, so they would be aroused from inferred that some names will be blotte their deathlike sleep to find themselves in out. Such reasoning would be very illo the presence of their despised and offended gical. If our names are enrolled as cit Lord. Thus God, at times, visits back. zens of the New Jerusalem, our citizenshi sliders with unexpected punishment; and is safe for ever. What a privilege to 1 though they die in safety, they die in fear, numbered among the saints! All the di and are saved so as by fire.

tinctions bestowed by men on one anoth Our Lord does not forget the faithful few will soon perish ; but this distinctic in this dying Church. " Thou hast a few will eternally remain. You are, perhap names even in Sardis which have not defiled anxious to know whether your name is : their garments; and they shall walk with " the book of life." You cannot look int me in white, for they are worthy." "Even it that you may see.

It is well that yo in Sardis,” refers perhaps both to the city cannot. But if you are really desirous ! and the church-to the city as voluptuous, ascertaining how the matter stands, as to the church fallen. The figure is that of within. Have you any reason to hope the persons clothed in white raiment, and walk

your heart has been changed by grace ing in the midst of dirt and filth without Do you hate evil? Do you love the Loi soiling it. A few had continued to act con. and delight in his law? Do you yearn sistently, though surrounded by evil; only times for unbroken communion with him a few ; yet it was a blessing that there were These are among the things which accon any. A few may be the salvation of the

pany salvation; and if you wear these badge whole. godly persons

of citizenship, your is surely . been destroyed. In a nation a few faithful Father, and before his angels.” In thi churches may not only keep alive their own confession Christ will acknowledge the be godliness and zeal, but prove a blessing to liever as his friend, He will say, " To the whole land. In a church a few con. that man I died and rose again. Into hi sistent members may bring down "showers heart I sent my Spirit to renew and sans of blessing." As these few had kept them- tify him. Over him I watched while I selves pure, they should remain pure; as lived on earth. Since his death his spir they had preserved their garments free from has been with me in Paradise, His du defilement on earth, they should wear them in the grave has been more precious in m with Christ in heaven. As kings and sight than gold or pearls. I give unto hii priests (white being both a royal and a eternal life. Come in, thou blessed of t! sacerdotal colour), they should appear for Lord!” O to be owned by such a bein ever in regal splendour and spotless sanc- amid such an assembly, at that day! W tity. Of this honour all faithful Chris- do not wonder that, with such a prosper tians shall be “worthy:" having been in view, saints have borne the heavie made “worthy" through the imputed afflictions of life joyfully, and mot the le righteousness of Christ and the sanctifying enemy without fear. How the Lord's de power of the Holy Ghost.

spised ones, of whom the world was no And now comes the closing promise. worthy, will rejoice to hear this confus “ He that overcometh, the same shall be sion! How it will pierce many hearts, 4 clothed in white raiment; and I will not an arrow, to hear no mention of the blot out his name out of the book of life; but names ! * Many will say to me in the I will confess his name before my Father, day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesiðd and before his angels.” We have already thy name ? and in thy name have cast ou seen the import of the "white raiment." devils ? and in thy name done many won

As ancient cities had their roll-book in derful works ? and then will I profes which the names of citizens were written, unto them, I never knew you : deparı so the heavenly city is said to have a book from me, ye that work iniquity,"

Newcastle-on-Tyne.

found in Sodom, that cling would not have will comfort hin name before

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« НазадПродовжити »