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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Revelation 2

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 1-2

DISCOURSE: 2481

EPISTLE TO EPHESUS

Revelation 2:1-2. Unto the angel of the Church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlestick; I know thy works.

IN the foregoing chapter, the description given of our blessed Lord has been considered in one connected and comprehensive view. But, in the different epistles, a portion of that character is selected, as appropriate to the subject-matter of each: and it is of great importance, therefore, that we consider every portion by itself, in order that we may obtain a more accurate knowledge of him, and have our minds more deeply impressed with a sense of his transcendent excellency and glory. It is with this view that I now confine myself to the words which I have just read: and, if they appear at first sight uninteresting, as not having any practical bearing upon our conduct, we shall soon find that they are indeed most instructive to our minds, and are well calculated to be influential also on our hearts and lives.

The city of Ephesus being the capital of the province of the Lesser Asia, and the nearest also to the Isle of Patmos, where John was now a prisoner for the Lord’s sake, the first epistle was written to the Church in that place. The substance of the epistle will be considered in our next discourse. At present, we notice only the character of our blessed Lord, as stated in the introduction to it. In this is set forth his interest in all the Churches, and his constant care,

I. For the protection of his ministers—

In the close of the last chapter, the mystery contained in the seven stars which John saw in the right hand of Jesus, and of the seven golden candlesticks amidst which he walked, is explained. The seven stars represented the angels or ministers of the seven Churches; and the seven candlesticks represented the seven Churches themselves [Note: Revelation 1:20.].

Now, ministers are not unfitly compared to “stars”—

[They are fixed in their respective orbits by God himself: yet have they no proper lustre of their own: they shine by a borrowed light; and reflect the glory of the Sun of Righteousness, from whom alone all light proceeds: “Christ is that true light, which lighteneth every man that Cometh into the world [Note: John 1:9.]. They are, however, of the greatest service to mankind, in that they shine in the midst of darkness, and are useful to conduct the mariner over the tempestuous and trackless deep, to his desired haven — — —]

But the very light which they reflect exposes them to many and great dangers—

[Those whose light is the brightest, and whose efficiency is most amply displayed, have been always most opposed, both by men and devils. Against whom did men ever combine with such unanimity and malignity as against our Lord Jesus Christ? or whom did all the powers of darkness ever so labour to destroy? After him, his Apostles were the great objects of their combined hostility: nor was there any effort which these enemies did not make for their destruction. Thus also it has been in every age: those who have most resembled Christ and his Apostles have, on account of their superior light, been most exposed to the assaults of those who have “loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” — — —]

Our blessed Saviour, however, “holds them all in his right hand”—

[He protects them against the assault of every enemy. Numberless as were the efforts made to destroy both Peter and Paul, none could prevail against them, till they had completed and fulfilled the work assigned them. “Satan would have sifted Peter as wheat;” and would have winnowed him away as chaff, if “our blessed Lord had not prayed for him, that his faith might not ultimately fail.” And Paul would have sunk under the pressure of “the thorn in his flesh, the messenger of Satan that was sent to buffet him,” if our blessed Lord had not supplied him with “grace sufficient for him.” And who amongst the servants of the Lord would ever have been able to stand, if “He who holdeth the seven stars in his right hand” (the hand of power) had not upheld them? But, as strengthened by him, the very weakest of men is strong, and may set at defiance all his enemies; not all of whom combined “can ever pluck them out of his hand [Note: John 10:28.].” Our blessed Lord, whilst holding them in his hand, bids them shine: and every one of them is immortal, till his work is done [Note: John 7:30; John 8:20.].]

The same incessant care also does our Lord exercise,

II. For the edification of his people—

The Churches are compared to “candlesticks”—

[There was in the tabernacle a candlestick of pure gold, having seven lamps, which burned continually, to give light in that holy place [Note: Exodus 25:31; Exodus 25:37.]. And fitly did this represent the saints, into whom our great High-priest has poured the oil of his grace [Note: Titus 3:5-6.], and whose souls he has kindled by that sacred fire that came down from heaven. “They shine as lights in the dark world, hold forth to all around them the word of life [Note: Philippians 2:15-16.].”]

Amidst these our great High-priest walks, to keep them from extinction or decay—

[It was the office of Aaron and his sons to keep these lamps ever burning [Note: Exodus 27:20-21.]; furnishing them from time to time with fresh oil; and trimming them, as occasion required, with “the golden snuffers.” And thus does our great High-priest inspect his Church and people; supplying their every want, and administering to them such correction as their necessities require. Without his care, where is there in the universe a lamp that would not have been extinguished long ago? Peradventure we may have sometimes been ready to complain of the afflictions which we have been called to sustain. But the truth is, that these have been as the pruning-knife in the hand of the husbandman, or rather as the snuffers in the hand of him who superintends the lamps. Nor is it written in vain, that “the snuffers were of gold [Note: Exodus 25:38.]:” for every visitation, whether in providence or in grace, which subserves our spiritual and eternal interests, is invaluable; and should be so regarded, even whilst we are writhing under its immediate pressure. We should always bear in mind the end for which our pains are inflicted. God is not like an earthly parent, who may chastise us for his own pleasure and caprice: no, he always “chastens us for our profit, that we may, in a more enlarged measure, be partakers of his holiness [Note: Hebrews 12:10.].”]

Do we not then here see,

1. Our indispensable duty?

[Yes; whether ministers or people, our duty is to shine; to shine for the benefit of others, and for the honour of our God. Of the former I forbear to speak, any further than to bear my testimony to this, that the Lord Jesus Christ alone has enabled me to set the true light before you, and has preserved me in my station to this hour. What St. Paul said before Agrippa, I hope I may say before you, that “having obtained help of God, I continue unto this day [Note: Nearly forty-four years.], witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come [Note: Acts 26:22.].” But to you I say, Remember the end for which the Lord Jesus Christ has imparted his Holy Spirit to your souls, and has watched over you with such incessant care: it is, that you should shine, and that “your light should shine brighter and brighter to the perfect day.” The lamps of the candlestick were seen only by those who were within the tabernacle: but your light must shine before the whole world. The command is, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven [Note: Matthew 5:16.].” Deprecate, therefore, nothing that may increase your splendour: but put yourselves unreservedly into the hands of your Great Highpriest, that he may administer to your necessities as his wisdom shall direct, and advance his own glory by whatever means he shall judge most conducive to that end.]

2. Our most exalted privilege—

[Whether it be protection or advancement that we need, we are in the best hands, and under the care of unerring wisdom. Christ has said, “He will be with us even to the end of the world [Note: Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20.],” and we are living witnesses to the truth of his word: for it is owing to his presence with us that “neither the power nor the policy of hell have ever yet been able to prevail against us.” Remember, “He has within himself all fulness treasured up for us:” yes, “He has the residue of the Spirit,” which he will pour out in richer abundance upon you, in proportion as you confide in him, and desire to promote his glory. And for your satisfaction know, that “he neither slumbers nor sleeps,” as did the high-priests of old, but is ever watchful over you for good. Lay aside, then, all care; and leave to him “the perfecting of that which concerns you.” Only be concerned to be “burning and shining lights” in your day and generation [Note: John 5:35.]; and look forward to the time when, through his tender care, your office shall be fulfilled, and, your place of service being changed, you shall “shine above the stars in the firmament for ever and ever [Note: Daniel 12:3.].”]


Verses 2-6

DISCOURSE: 2482

EPISTLE TO EPHESUS

Revelation 2:2-6. I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars; and hast borne, and, hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate.

THE epistles to the seven Churches of Asia are not only instructive in a general view, like other portions of Holy Writ; but have this excellence peculiar to themselves, that they set before us a vast diversity of experience in all its modifications of good and evil, and teach us what judgment our blessed Lord will pass on the complex character at the last day. If we wanted to know how much of good we may possess, and yet be on the whole evil in the sight of God; and how far we may go towards heaven, and yet fall short of it at last; I know not that we could select any portion of the sacred oracles that would give us such definite information as that which I have now read to you. In it our blessed Lord enters into a complete view of the Ephesian Church; to whom he here sends,

I. His commendation—

Three things he notices with approbation; their unwearied labour, their invincible patience, and their discriminating zeal

[Much had the members of the Ephesian Church laboured to fulfil the will of God. In truth, it cannot be fulfilled without great and continued labour. The metaphors by which religion is set forth in Holy Writ clearly declare, that we cannot advance one step towards heaven without great labour. To “enter in at the strait gate” for the beginning of our course, we must “not only seek, but strive.” “Seeking alone will not suffice: we must put forth all our powers, as we should in a race, a wrestling, or a warfare: and then only can we hope to succeed in religion, when we engage in it with all our might.”

Moreover, “if we set ourselves to seek the Lord, we must prepare our souls for temptation.” Both men and devils will exert themselves to defeat our efforts: and we shall need all imaginable patience to sustain their diversified assaults. Now the Church at Ephesus had approved themselves well in these respects, and had “borne without fainting” all the afflictions which had been laid upon them.

In these respects, too, they had been animated by the only motive that could make their service acceptable: they had done all, and suffered all, from a regard to the Lord Jesus Christ, “whose name” they had endeavoured to exalt and glorify.

Our blessed Lord further mentions, with approbation, the care which the Ephesian Church had taken to examine the pretensions of those who assumed to themselves an apostolic authority, and the firmness with which they had withstood every effort that had been made to introduce amongst them either error in principle or corruption in practice.]

In all this we see what the Christian world at large should be, if they would approve themselves to their Lord and Saviour—

[They must, even under the most trying circumstances, persist in obeying his commands; and must resolutely withstand all who would divert them from their purpose, or in any way shake their fidelity to Christ — — —

But here let me call your attention to somewhat which may have escaped your notice, and which deserves particular remark. In mentioning with approbation the things which the Ephesian Church had done for his name, he recurs again and again to the same point; as if he felt peculiar pleasure and delight in recording any thing which was done for him; even though, on the whole, the demerit of the person so preponderated, as to render him unworthy of his final acceptance. This observation extends to what was spoken of their labour and patience, and also in a peculiar manner to what was specified respecting their jealous and discriminating zeal [Note: Examine the text carefully in this view, especially ver. 2, and 6.]. And from hence we learn the marvellous condescension of our blessed Lord; as also the duty incumbent on all his followers, not to dwell more than is absolutely necessary on the faults of others, but to expatiate with delight on their virtues, even though we cannot but condemn them on the whole.]

This commendation had a powerful tendency to prepare them for,

II. His reproof [Note: Every one, in administering reproof, will do well to attend to this.]—

One would have thought that persons so eminent in their outward conduct could not merit any severe reproof: but,

“They had left their first love”—

[Once they were full of love to Christ; and that had for a season been the spring and source of all their obedience. But now “their love was waxed cold;” and their obedience was become rather a dictate of their understanding than the fruit of genuine love. As far as was visible to man, their lives were nearly the same as in their better days: but He who searches the heart saw an immense difference; there being now almost a total want of that principle which once animated and inspired their whole conduct.]

Now this, in whomsoever it is found, is a tremendous evil—

[Some there are who regard a relaxation of their first love as a matter necessarily to be expected, and as a mark of growth rather than decay. But this idea is far from being sanctioned in our text: on the contrary, it is adduced as a ground of deep complaint, and as an evil that outweighed all that had been commended. In truth, so offensive is it to the Lord, that nothing that can either be done or suffered for him, can be accepted of him, whilst he sees a decline in our affections towards him. Even amongst men, this judgment would be passed upon it. If a man found his wife’s regards alienated from him, he would make no account of all her services, however diligent she might be in her attention to her outward duties. And certainly God, when he says, “Give me thine heart,” will be satisfied with nothing less: and to withdraw our affections from him, after having once placed them upon him, will be accounted by him a greater indignity, than if we had never made any profession of love to him at all.

It is true, indeed, that persons may appear to have declined in love towards him, when there has been no real diminution of their regards. A wife may not continue through her whole life to feel precisely towards her husband as she did on the day of her espousals, and yet have grown, rather than declined, in love towards him: what arose from novelty and the animal spirits, may have worn off; and yet there may be in her such an accession of higher and deeper feelings, as infinitely to overbalance any apparent loss: her esteem for him altogether, her oneness of heart with him, and her entire devotion to him, may have greatly increased: in a word, “her love may have increased in knowledge and in all judgment,” whilst to a superficial observer, who judged of it only by some sensible emotions, it might be thought to have decayed. So it may be with a believer towards his God — — — But, if there be real cause to say of him, that “he has left his first love,” I hesitate not to affirm, that, if he repent not, “it were better for him never to have loved his God at all, than, after having loved him, to decline from him,” and to transfer to the creature the regards that are due to him alone [Note: 2 Peter 2:21.].]

To this reproof, our Lord mercifully vouchsafed to add,

III. His counsel—

All such decay as this must be repented of—

[Not only must it not be justified, but it must be mourned over with deeply penitential sorrow. In order to see the evil and bitterness of such a state, it is well to call to mind the love of our espousals, and to compare with it the formal services which we now render to our God. Once, how precious were the public ordinances, in which the soul finds now but little profit! In secret, too, how sweet was the word of God; how deep the penitential sorrow which was stirred by it; and how unspeakably blessed were the promises on which his soul rested, and on which he founded all his hope before God! With what strong crying and tears, also, did he frequently draw nigh to God; whereas, now, his prayers are become little better than a lifeless form! Now this melancholy change should be brought distinctly to our view: we should “remember from whence we are fallen,” and, by a comparison of our former with our fallen state, endeavour to produce in our souls the humiliation which the occasion calls for. In a word, we must, in the review of our past lives, be filled with shame, and sorrow, and contrition.]

Yet will not repentance suffice, if it be not accompanied with a cordial return to all our former habits—

[This is of extreme importance to all who have departed from their God. They are ready to imagine, that, if they be humbled under a sense of their declensions, they shall be accepted of God. And doubtless, if they have no time to shew, by newness of life, the sincerity of their repentance, we may hope that God’s mercy shall be extended to them. But, if we would approve ourselves to God, we must go back to our former habits, and “do our first works,” and “bring forth fruits meet for repentance.” If reformation without contrition will be of no avail, so neither will contrition without an entire change both of heart and life. To every backslidden soul, then, is this counsel given: and if there be one who does not duly follow it, God says to him, “I will come to thee quickly, and remove thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.” From an entire Church will our Lord withdraw the light, if the members of it generally become remiss: and from an individual, even whilst his blessing is continued to the Church at large, he will withhold that supply of oil which he has neglected to implore. My brethren, see to what the Seven Churches of Asia have long since been reduced! or see what is the state of many individuals in the Christian Church, who once professed much love, and appeared to have attained considerable eminence in the divine life! Many a Demas may be found at this day; and many, who, if with the stony-ground hearers they have not renounced all profession of religion, yet with those of the thorny-ground, they “bring forth no fruit to perfection.” To all, then, who have thus declined from God, I would say, “Repent, and do your first works:” for you know not how “quickly” you may be left in utter and everlasting darkness. Repent then, I say; and, whereinsoever you at any time have served your God aright, endeavour to “abound more and more.”]

I cannot conclude without calling the attention of those who have never yet experienced what is here characterized by the expressive designation of “a first love.”

[How many of you, my brethren, have never known “a day of espousals” to the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Jeremiah 2:2.]! Say, my dear brethren, whether you have ever seen in Christ an excellency that far eclipsed all created good, and made you desire him for your friend and your everlasting portion? Say, whether you have ever given up yourselves to him, as his bride, and found all your happiness in him alone? Say, whether fellowship with him has been your chief joy? If not, what must be your state before him? If the Church at Ephesus, who had done so much and suffered so much for him, and felt such a jealousy for his honour, yet needed to repent because they had left their first love, have not you cause for repentance, who have never yet loved and served him at all, but have even chosen for your friends the very persons whose principles and whose practice he utterly abhors? Yes, indeed, you must “repent, and be altogether converted,” and “become new creatures in Christ Jesus;” or you can never hope to be acknowledged by him, as his bride, in the eternal world. If “the light of the righteous rejoiceth, the lamp of the wicked shall assuredly be put out [Note: Proverbs 13:9.].]


Verse 7

DISCOURSE: 2483

EPISTLE TO EPHESUS

Revelation 2:7. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

THOUGH all the seven Churches of Asia Minor are separately addressed in a way suited to their respective states, yet what is spoken to them may fitly be applied to all other Churches, so far as their states agree with those which are here portrayed. And we the rather say this, because at the close of every epistle the same admonition is repeated; “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear”—not what the Spirit saith unto this or that particular Church, but “what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” And here you cannot but perceive, that, though the Lord Jesus is represented as dictating all the epistles, it is by his Holy Spirit that he dictates them: for, in every one of them you are called to receive “what the Holy Spirit saith unto the Churches.” Nor can you fail to notice, that, in every one of the epistles, the promises are made to those only who overcome. It will be proper, therefore, especially in this first epistle, that we distinctly consider,

I. The character to whom the promise is made—

The whole of the Christian life is a state of conflict—

[This appears most strongly marked in this address to the Church of Ephesus. The very terms “labour and patience” clearly shew that they had had much to do, and much to suffer, and much to maintain in continued exercise. And who needs be told how great a labour it is to “mortify the flesh with the affections and lusts,” and to “run with patience the race that is set before us?” or, who needs to be informed, that persecution is hard to bear, even though we be not “called to resist unto blood?” The hatred and contempt of the world, and, above all, of our own friends and relatives, are far from pleasing to flesh and blood: and yet there is no child of God that can escape this minor sacrifice, even though he be not exposed to suffer loss in respect of his life or liberty. A person floating down the stream is unconscious of the rapidity of a current; but if he have to swim against the stream, he finds it no easy matter to proceed. So the persons who are content to move with the world, find little difficulty in their way; but those who will resist the world, and the flesh, and the devil, shall find that they have a continual conflict to maintain; and more especially when they attempt to “keep themselves in the love of God [Note: Jude, ver. 21.].” One would think, that, considering what mercies we experience every day and hour at the Lord’s hands, it would be no difficult matter to preserve upon our souls a becoming sense of his love. But the heart is sadly prone to backslide from God. To avoid any thing grossly evil, and to persevere in the observance of outward duties, is comparatively easy: but to walk with God, to set ourselves as in his immediate presence, to preserve throughout the day habitual fellowship with him, to have our souls so filled with love to him as to regard nothing but his approbation, and to do nothing but for his glory, this is a state of mind which it is extremely difficult to maintain. But]

To those only who overcome in this conflict are the promises made—

[To “run well for a season” only, will avail us nothing: on the contrary, if at any time we cease to press forward, “our latter end will be worse than our beginning.” The same occasion for conflict will exist as long as we continue in the body; and every victory should encourage our efforts for still further conquests. We must “never be weary in welldoing: for then only shall we reap, if,” during the season appointed for our labour, “we faint not.” “We must endure unto the end,” if ever we would be saved.]

Nor will this appear a hard condition, if we duly consider,

II. The promise itself—

From the tree of life in Paradise were our first parents, and all their posterity, shut out—

[Our first parents were permitted to eat of the tree of life: and it was to them a pledge of eternal life, as long as they should retain their innocence, and live obedient to their God. But, when they had sinned, this was no longer a pledge of life to them: and they, in going to it any longer under that character, would only have deceived their own souls. Hence God drove them out of Paradise; and set cherubims, with a flaming sword, at the entrance of the garden, to prevent their return to it, and to keep them especially from the tree of life [Note: Genesis 3:22-24.]. Not that God intended wholly and eternally to cut them off from all hopes of life. On the contrary, he revealed to them, that One should in due time spring from the woman, and effect, both for them and their posterity, a deliverance from the evils in which they were involved. He told them, that “the Seed of the woman should enter the lists with their great adversary, and bruise the serpent’s head.” True, indeed, he should himself die in the conflict; but “through death he should destroy him who had the power of death, and deliver those” whom that powerful adversary had enslaved.]

Through that adorable Saviour is there a way of access once more opened to the tree of life—

[The tree of life now grows in the paradise that is above. It is “a tree that bears twelve manner of fruits [Note: Revelation 22:2.],” suited to every appetite, and sufficient for us under every state and condition of life. Even “the very leaves of it are effectual for the healing of all the nations of the world [Note: Revelation 22:2.].” To that, even in this world, may every valiant soldier have access; and from it shall he derive all that support to his soul which it afforded to our first parents in their state of innocence: and every fruit that he gathers from it shall be to him a pledge that he shall eternally enjoy all the blessings of salvation: yes, even here shall it be to him “an earnest of his everlasting inheritance.” My dear brethren, this privilege is ours, if we fight a good fight; and when we have finally vanquished our spiritual enemies, we shall go and sit under the shadow of this tree to all eternity. O! who can conceive the exquisiteness of the flavour of its fruits, when we shall gather them in the immediate presence of our God? Who shall say what it is to see our God face to face; what, to hear and taste the expressions of his love; what, to behold and participate his glory? And who can conceive what a zest it will give to all our joys, to know that they are secured to us for ever; and that, when once we are in that paradise, we shall go no more out? Well: this, believer, is held forth to thee as the reward of victory: and it shall surely be accorded to thee, if thou hold out unto the end. Only “be faithful unto death, and God will give thee the crown of life.”]

Application—

Let me, however, offer to thee a salutary caution:

1. Learn to have just views of your reward—

[The reward is held forth to those who overcome. But you must not overlook the terms in which the promise is made: “To him that overcometh will I give.” Eternal life is the gift of God, from first to last. “Death is the wages of sin; but eternal life is the gift of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our being called to maintain a conflict does not render it at all the less a free gift: our conflicts can never merit it; they can only prepare us for it, even as a medicinal process may prepare the body for the enjoyment of perfect health. When our Lord said, “Labour for the meat which endureth unto everlasting life,” he added, “which the Son of man shall give unto you.” The gift will not be the less free because we labour for it; but, by the imposing of that condition, a distinction is made which to all eternity will justify God in the bestowment of his gifts. Never, then, imagine that your conflicts, however arduous, will deserve life: they will only “render you meet for” the enjoyment of heaven; and evince, that, in the communication of his blessings, God does put a difference between the evil and the good. If it be said, that “they who do God’s commandments are said to have a right to the tree of life [Note: Revelation 22:14.],” I grant it: but it is a right founded only on the promise of your God. Your merit, in your best estate, is found only in hell: it is the grace of God alone that exalts any soul of man to heaven.]

2. Never relax your efforts for the obtaining of it—

[Unhappily, many are but little aware what enemies they have to contend with. Men are extremely blind to their besetting sins. All of us discover this in others: but few are conscious of it in themselves. This, then, I would say to you: Learn, from the very weaknesses of others, to distrust yourselves: and beg of God to shew you what are those peculiar lusts which you are most concerned to discover and withstand in your own hearts. It is very painful to see how grievously persons, on the whole pious, often fail in some particular disposition or habit. We all take too partial a view of our duty: and not a few remain so much under the power of some unsubdued corruption, that we are constrained to doubt what their state will be in the eternal world. I must, therefore, entreat you all to search out your besetting sin; and to “fight, as it were, neither with small nor great, but with the king of Israel.” If you overcome your enemy on that point, there will be little doubt of your vanquishing him on every other. But remember, the conflict must be maintained even to the end; and then only must you put off your armour, when God calls you from this field of battle, to the full enjoyment of your reward.


Verse 8-9

DISCOURSE: 2484

EPISTLE TO SMYRNA

Revelation 2:8-9. Unto the angel of the Church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; I know thy works.

SMYRNA was at that time, next to Ephesus, the largest city in the Proconsular Asia. As in the former epistle we made the description of our blessed Lord a distinct subject for our consideration, so we shall do also in this epistle to Smyrna; deferring to another opportunity the subject matter of the epistle itself, except so far as the mention of it is necessary to the elucidation of our Lord’s character. The points which we propose to notice are,

I. The description given of our blessed Lord—

There are two things spoken of him; the one denoting his Godhead, the other his manhood.

He is “the first and the last”—

[Now, I would ask, Whom can these words designate, but the eternal and immutable Jehovah? In the Scriptures of the Old Testament he frequently describes himself by these very terms: “Who raised up the righteous man from the east, gave nations before him, and made him rule over kings? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am He [Note: Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:4.].” Again he says of himself, “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am He: I am the first, I also am the last [Note: Isaiah 48:12.].” If it could be supposed that any but Jehovah should be the first source, and the last end of all, let another Scripture determine that point: “Thus saith the Lord (Jehovah), the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God. Is there a God besides me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any [Note: Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 44:8.].”]

He “was dead, and is alive”—

[This can refer to none but the Lord Jesus Christ, “who died for our sins, and rose again for our justification.”

But it may be asked, How can these two agree? I answer, the former title is again and again given him in this book of Revelation [Note: Revelation 1:8; Revelation 1:11; Revelation 22:11.]: and it is also repeatedly given in conjunction with the latter title. In the former chapter, where a full and large description is given of the person who appeared to John, He said of himself to John, “Fear not: I am the first, and the last: I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore.” And, in my text, this is the very part of that description expressly selected to be addressed to the Church at Smyrna: “These things saith the first and the last, who was dead and is alive.” Here the parts cannot possibly be separated: you may as well say, that “he who was dead” is a different person from him “who is alive,” as disjoin, and apply to different persons, what is here said of him as God and as man. He is God and man in one person, “Emmanuel, God with us [Note: Matthew 1:23.].” He is the same person of whom the Prophet Isaiah spake, saying, “To us a Child is born, to us a Son is given: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace [Note: Isaiah 9:6.].”]

Now, to have a just view of him in this complex character, is of infinite importance. And, to bring the subject before you, I will shew,

II. The particular bearing which this description of our Lord has upon the main subject of the epistle—

In this epistle the Church of Smyrna is warned to expect bitter persecution; but the Saviour says to her, “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer.” And in that precise part of his character which he brings before them, he says, in fact, ‘To dispel all fear of your persecutors, bear in mind,

1. ‘My all-controlling power—

[‘ “I am the first and the last:” your persecutors would have had no existence but for me; nor can they do any thing which shall not be over-ruled for my glory. The devil will stir up against you all his vassals; and they will lend themselves to him, as willing instruments to destroy you. But I will limit all their efforts; so that they shall not be able to effect any thing beyond what I will enable you to bear, and over-rule for your good.’ To this precise effect he speaks to all his Church by the Prophet Isaiah: “Behold, they shall gather together, but not by me: whosoever shall gather together against thee shall fall for thy sake. (Thou art afraid of the weapons which they are now forming for thy destruction: but) Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy. (The very strength he is exerting, he derives from me: and I tell thee, that) No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper [Note: Isaiah 54:15-17.].”]

2. ‘The interest I take in thy welfare—

[‘ “For thee I died; and for thee I live.” It was altogether for the purpose of expiating thy guilt, that I assumed thy nature, and expired upon the cross: and it was in order to carry on and perfect thy salvation, that I rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven; where now I live, as thine advocate and intercessor; yea, and live too as the head over all things, that I may accomplish, both in thee and for thee, all that thy necessities require. Reflect on this; and then say, whether, “having myself suffered, being temped, I am not disposed to succour my tempted people [Note: Hebrews 2:18.];” and whether, having “all power committed to me in heaven and in earth,” “I will suffer any to pluck thee out of my hand [Note: John 10:28.]?” Are not my death and resurrection a sufficient pledge to you, that “none shall ever separate you from my love [Note: Romans 8:34-35.]?” Place, then, your confidence in me; and know, that, however your enemies may look upon you as “sheep appointed for the slaughter,” you shall, through me, be “more than conquerors over all [Note: Romans 8:36-37.].”]

3. ‘The honour and happiness that await thee—

[‘Thou art “predestinated by my Father to be conformed to my image [Note: Romans 8:29.].” Behold me, then, “as dying, and as yet alive;” yea, as living for ever at the right hand of God. This is the process that is prepared for thee. Whether thou be carried to death, or only to prison, it shall be equally a step to thine advancement to the very throne which I now occupy. Only “suffer with me, and thou shalt surely reign with me [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.],” and “be glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17.].” And, when thou seest how “I have endured the cross and despised the shame, and am set down at the right hand of God [Note: Hebrews 12:2.],” wilt thou be afraid or ashamed to follow me? Look at the noble army of martyrs, who “loved not their lives unto death:” see them before the throne of God, and inquire how they came there. And my angel shall inform thee, “These all came out of great tribulation, and washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb: therefore are they before the throne of God [Note: Revelation 7:14-15.].” Be thou, then, a follower of them, even of those who through faith and patience now inherit the promises. Thou seest how I have recompensed their fidelity; and to thee I say, “Be thou faithful unto death; and I will give thee a crown of life [Note: ver. 10.].” ’]

As a fit improvement of this subject, learn, my brethren—

1. To contemplate and to estimate the character of Christ—

[In circumstances of trial, we are too apt to contemplate only the power of our adversaries, or our own weakness; whereas we should look chiefly, if not exclusively, to Him who reigns on high, and orders every thing according to his own sovereign will and pleasure. For thus saith the Lord: “Say ye not, ‘A confederacy,’ to all those to whom this people shall say, ‘A confederacy;’ neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid: but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread; and he shall be to you for a sanctuary [Note: Isaiah 8:12-14.].” To act otherwise, is folly in the extreme. “Who art thou, that art afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy Maker [Note: Isaiah 51:12-13.]?” Only have worthy thoughts of thy Lord and Saviour, and thou mayest defy all the efforts that either men or devils can make against thee [Note: Isaiah 50:7-9.].]

2. To avail yourselves of his promised aid and support—

[He tells you, “I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me, because he trusteth in me [Note: Isaiah 26:3.].” See how David was kept [Note: Psalms 11:1-4. Cite this.]; and how Paul [Note: Romans 8:38-39. Cite this also.], and thousands of others who have trusted in him [Note: Hebrews 13:5-6.]: and will not his grace be alike sufficient for you? Be it so, “You are weak. Then his strength shall be the more glorified in your weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” But you are a mere “worm.” Still fear not; for “though a worm, thou shalt thresh the mountains [Note: Isaiah 41:14-16. Cite the whole of this.].” But thou canst do nothing. Then trust in Him; and he will do all things. For this is his word to every believing soul; “Fear not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness [Note: Isaiah 41:10.].”]


Verse 9-10

DISCOURSE: 2485

EPISTLE TO SMYRNA

Revelation 2:9-10. I know thy works and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shall suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

THIS Church stands highly honoured amongst those to which the epistles were written: for no fault was found in them, nor any ground of complaint so much as intimated to them. Our Lord’s address to them is altogether laudatory and encouraging. That we may enter into it more fully, let us consider,

I. His testimony respecting them—

In common with all the other Churches, he says to them, “I know thy works:” and then, in reference to their conduct, he gives his testimony,

1. In a way of direct affirmation—

[“I know thy tribulation, and thy poverty: but thou art rich.” Doubtless their sufferings had been great; for they had been reduced to the most abject “poverty,” and were utterly destitute of all the comforts of life. (To interpret this “poverty” as relating in any respect to poverty of spirit, is quite contrary to the whole scope of the passage: for poverty of spirit, so far from standing in opposition to true riches, is itself the truest riches.) But, in the midst of all their distress, our Lord, whose judgment is altogether according to truth, declared them to be “rich.” For, first, they possessed faith, as the principle of all their obedience, and as the root of all their other graces. And could they, when possessing so inestimable a gift, be called poor? No; they possessed that which was of more worth than the whole world. It was truly a “precious faith,” “more precious than gold,” yea, than much fine gold [Note: 2 Peter 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:7.]. Next, they enjoyed the favour of their God. “As believers in Christ, they could not but have peace with God [Note: Romans 5:1.].” Granting, then, that they had not a place where to lay their head, as far as it respected this world, could they be poor who were privileged to repose their souls in the bosom of their God? They poor, with all their sins forgiven, and their names recorded in the book of life! Abhorred be the thought! If they were even dying with hunger and thirst, they were truly rich. Further, they enjoyed peace in their own souls. Who can estimate to its full amount, the blessedness of having the testimony of our own conscience, that we are serving God aright? St. Paul himself reports it to have been to him a source of the sublimest joy [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.]: and to call a man poor when possessed of that, would be to betray an utter ignorance of “the true riches [Note: Luke 16:11.].” Moreover, in addition to all their present happiness, they were authorized to expect, in the eternal world, “a weight of glory” proportioned to their sufferings. How could their present “afflictions appear any other than light and momentary,” when they were the means of opening to their view such a prospect as this [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.]? What! poor with such “an inheritance—an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading, reserved for them in heaven; and they themselves reserved by God for it [Note: 1 Peter 1:4-5.]!” No: they were “rich,” truly rich, unspeakably rich; rich in possession, and in reversion too.

2. In a way of most striking contrast—

[There were among them “some who said they were Jews, but were not; but rather were the synagogue of Satan.” Whether these were Jews zealous for the law of Moses, or Christians who confounded Judaism with Christianity, we do not certainly know. The unbelieving Jews were bitter persecutors; and were ever ready to accuse even our Lord himself of blasphemy, because he called himself the Son of God, and arrogated to himself a power to forgive sins [Note: Matthew 9:3. John 10:36. Matthew 26:65.]. St. Paul, previous to his conversion, may be taken as a sample of Jewish bigotry, and of the envenomed malice with which they persecuted the Church of God [Note: Acts 9:1-2; Acts 26:10-11.]. He thought indeed, at the time, that he was “doing God service [Note: Acts 26:9. with John 16:2.]:” but when he came to have an insight into his true character, he saw that “He was the blasphemer; and not they, whom he so injuriously persecuted [Note: 1 Timothy 1:13.].” But it is more probable that the persons here spoken of were by profession Christians: for the terms “Jew” and “Israel” are often used as designating the people of God, even under the New-Testament dispensation [Note: Romans 2:29; Romans 9:6.]. If there were lewd idolatrous Balaamites and Nicolaitanes among the churches, we may well suppose that there were also Judaizing Christians, who blended the Law with the Gospel, and utterly subverted the Gospel of Christ. Such persons, even “if they had been angels from heaven, were to be held accursed,” as being, under a pretence of zeal for Moses, the most specious and successful agents of the devil [Note: Galatians 1:7-9. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15.]. Now these persons “said they were Jews,” and valued themselves highly on their zeal; and were quite “rich” in their own estimation; whilst they held in utter contempt their poor suffering fellow-Christians, who endured so much tribulation for their adherence to Christ. But, however different was the outward aspect of these two parties, their real state was the very reverse of that which it appeared to be: these latter, in the midst of all their outward prosperity were poor; but the former, in the midst of all their poverty, were rich.

Thus did our Lord’s testimony exactly accord with what had been before declared by the Apostle Paul; who, “though poor, made many rich; and having nothing, yet possessed all things [Note: 2 Corinthians 6:10.].”]

Suited to this state was,

II. The encouragement he gave them—

They had already suffered much; and were about to suffer more for their Saviour’s sake. And, as we observed in our last discourse, our blessed Lord sought, in this epistle, to arm them against their impending trials, and to strengthen them for their future conflicts. For this end, he assures them,

1. That their trials were all limited—

[Satan is the great adversary of Christ and his Church. Men are his instruments and agents (willing agents, no doubt): and in all they do, they do it as instigated by him: for it is “he who worketh in all the children of disobedience.” But in all that he attempts, he is restrained by our adorable Lord, who suffers him to proceed only to such an extent as shall eventually subserve the welfare of those whom he is seeking to destroy. Satan would have cast, not some of that Church, but all; not into prison only, but into hell; not for ten days only, but for ever; not that they might he tried, but that they might perish. But, as in the case of Job, whom he could not touch, either in his person or his property, till he had obtained leave from God [Note: Job 1:12; Job 2:6.]; so in their case he was under the controul of an almighty power; and, in fact, “could have no power at all against the Church, except it were given him from above.”

Now this was most encouraging: for, whether we suppose the “ten days” to be of a longer or shorter duration, it was most consolatory to know, that the objects, the measure, the duration, and effect of Satan—s malice were all limited by the Saviour himself, who would “not suffer one of his little ones to perish [Note: Matthew 18:14.],” or the weakest of his people to be ever “plucked out of his hands [Note: John 10:28.].” Being assured that they should “have no temptation without a way to escape [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.],” and that “all which they might suffer should work together for their good [Note: Romans 8:28.],” they had no occasion for fear, but might confidently “commit themselves to the hands of an all-powerful and faithful God [Note: 1 Peter 4:19.].”]

2. That their sufferings should be rewarded—

[All he required of them was, “to be faithful unto death.” They must be “ready to meet either imprisonment or death [Note: Acts 20:24; Acts 21:13.],” as the occasion might require; desirous only “that the Lord Jesus should be magnified in them, whether by life or death [Note: Philippians 1:20.].” Nor should they think much of this sacrifice; since he pledged himself to them that “he would give them a crown of life,” a reward far beyond their services; for their bliss should infinitely exceed all that they could suffer, and their honour infinitely surpass all the dishonour which they could by any means be called to endure. Could they survey such a prize as this, and not contend for it? Would they ever repent of their labours, when they should possess this recompence? Would they not even lothe themselves, that they should ever have contemplated, for a moment, the pains of martyrdom with any other thought than that of gratitude to God, who counts them worthy of so high an honour as that of laying down their lives for him [Note: Philippians 1:29.]? Such, then, was the encouragement given to the Church at that time: and such may every believing soul now take to himself; assured that, “if he suffer with Christ, he shall, to all eternity, reign with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.].”]

To bring this whole subject home to your own bosoms, I entreat you, brethren—

1. To form a correct estimate of earthly things—

[A carnal man, who should have seen the condition of the Rich Man in all his splendour, and of Lazarus in all his penury, would have formed a very different estimate of their respective states from that which our Lord has taught us to form in a view of the Church at Smyrna. But I must say, that Lazarus was the rich man, whilst the man rolling in his wealth was poor. But suppose, from being as wealthy as Dives, you are reduced, by persecutors, to the state of Lazarus; shall I then call you “rich?” Yes, in all your poverty, I will say, “Thou art rich.” Let me state a case that shall illustrate this. Suppose that all you possessed in the world was a bag of copper coin; and that an enemy should come and rob you of it by handfuls; but that for every handful of copper that your enemy should take from you, a friend should put into your pocket a handful of gold: would you, when not a single piece of copper money was left you, account yourself much impoverished? or would you wonder at your friend, if he should say, ‘I know thy poverty; but thou art rich?’ Know then, that if, in proportion as you are injured by man, the blessings both of grace and glory are multiplied to you by God, you are not impoverished, but enriched. And therefore I say with confidence, “Fear nothing that can come unto you.” Let Satan do his worst: he is under restraint, as Laban and Esau were, when they meditated the destruction of Jacob [Note: Genesis 31:24; Genesis 31:29; Genesis 32:11-12; Genesis 33:1; Genesis 33:4.]. You well know how a miller acts, when a flood menaces the destruction of his mill. He suffers to come upon his mill only so much of the water as shall subserve his purposes, and he turns off the rest by another sluice. So will God act towards you: “The wrath of man shall praise him; and the remainder of wrath shall he restrain [Note: Psalms 76:10.].”]

2. To have your minds altogether set on things above—

[To be “rich towards God [Note: Luke 12:21.],” “rich in faith [Note: James 2:5.],” and “rich in good works [Note: 1 Timothy 6:18.],” and to be daily “laying up treasure in heaven [Note: Luke 12:33.],” this is the proper object of a Christian. In this way you will obtain durable riches [Note: Proverbs 8:18.], and “a sure reward [Note: Proverbs 11:18.].” In this pursuit no human being shall ever fail. Mark, I pray you, the change of person in the promise which our Lord makes to the Church of Smyrna. In announcing their impending trials, he says to them, “Ye shall have tribulation ten days:” but in the promise he makes, he speaks individually to every soul among them: “Be thou faithful unto death; and I will give thee a crown of life.” Every one may take; to himself this encouraging declaration; and assure himself, that “no weapon formed against him shall ever prosper [Note: Isaiah 54:17.].” Only let a man continue sowing to the Spirit, and he shall assuredly, in due season, “reap everlasting life [Note: Galatians 6:8.].”]


Verse 11

DISCOURSE: 2486

EPISTLE TO SMYRNA

Revelation 2:11. He that hath an. ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.

THIS passage, as an appendix to the epistle to the Church of Smyrna, appears at first sight to be an extraordinary anti-climax: for, in the very words preceding the text, it is said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Now, by “a crown of life” is meant all the glory and blessedness of heaven: it is a small thing, therefore, to a person who has obtained this promise, to tell him that he shall never be cast into hell. But the Scriptures often speak in a way of meiosis, as it is called; that is, under terms which, whilst they express little, convey the most stupendous truths. A remarkable instance of this kind I will mention. Jehovah, speaking to his ancient people, says, “Turn ye now every one from his evil way, and I will do you no hurt [Note: Jeremiah 25:5-6.].” What! is this all the encouragement that God gives to his people to turn unto him? May we not, at least, hope that he will do us some good? But far more was implied in this promise than met either the eye or the ear: and so it is in the promise which our Lord and Saviour gives in the words before us. In truth, if considered in their connexion with the foregoing context, and according to the true import of the words themselves, they will be found to be replete with the richest instruction, and with the most consoling encouragement.

Let us, then, consider,

I. The promise here given to the victorious saint—

In order to see the promise in its true light, we must view it,

1. In connexion with the trials that awaited them—

[They had been told, that “Satan would cast some of them into prison; and that they should have tribulation ten days,” some of them suffering even unto death. Now these were painful tidings to flesh and blood: yet, when it was considered that they would be exempt from “the second death,” to which they might have been justly doomed, the prospect was greatly cheered: for the sufferings from which they were freed were penal, intolerable, everlasting; whereas those to which they were to be subjected were light and momentary, and as beneficial to themselves as they were honourable to God. To a soul contemplating its just desert, these thoughts must have been inconceivably precious. The very contrast between what man would inflict on earth, and what, but for his sovereign love and mercy, God would have inflicted on them in hell, must have made the deliverance appear so much the more wonderful, and the mercy vouchsafed to them so much the more endearing.]

2. In connexion with the sufferings that await the whole world besides—

[It is to the victor only that this promise is made. Who he is, we have before described: and all other persons, of what age or character soever they may be, must be condemned in the day of judgment, and “take their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone.” Not only notorious sinners, who have rushed into all manner of iniquity, but the more decent moralists also, who have glided down the stream of this corrupt world, must perish. It is he only who stems the torrent of corruption which carries the whole world before it, and who urges with incessant labour his course heavenward; it is he alone, I say, that shall escape the wrath to come. Now, then, consider the great mass of mankind, with comparatively few exceptions, “cast into hell, where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched;” consider them, I say, left to “weep and wail, and gnash their teeth,” in that place of torment, and “the smoke of their torment ascending up for ever and ever;” and then say, whether an exemption from this lot be a small matter. What would a soul that had been only a few hundred years in that place of torment think of such a deliverance, if it were possible for him now to be rescued from his misery? Methinks his transports would be such as a mere mortal nature would be unable to sustain. Doubtless, then, the assurance here given to the Christian who overcomes his spiritual enemies must be an occasion of unutterable joy. And, inasmuch as this promise is given by the Holy Spirit to every soldier of Christ, and “all who have ears to hear are especially invited to attend to it,” we cannot but commend it to the most attentive consideration of all who are here present.]

Let me now set before you—

II. The pledge given us for the performance of it—

There is somewhat very remarkable in the term which is translated “hurt.” It does not import what we commonly mean by the word “hurt,” which we should use in reference to any accidental injury we had sustained: it expresses an injury inflicted by a voluntary agent, who might well have forborne to inflict it [Note: ἀδικηθῇ.]. The sense of the passage then is, that the victorious saint shall not be “injured” by the second death; since the subjecting of him to it would be an injustice done to him. In fact,

1. It would be an injury done to the person suffering—

[Every saint of God has fled to Christ for refuge, in a full dependence on that promise, “There is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” And in the strength of Christ he has “fought the good fight, and finished his course, and kept the faith, in an assured expectation that there is laid up for him, according to God’s blessed word, a crown of righteousness, that fadeth not away.” Now, suppose one such person subjected to the second death; would he not say, ‘I am injured? Doubtless if I am to be dealt with according to my deserts, my mouth must be shut, whatever I may suffer: but I laid hold on the Gospel, and, according to the grace given to me, complied with the terms there prescribed: I relied solely on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation; and yet endeavoured, according to my ability, to fulfil his will: and I certainly do think that I have a claim to mercy; not indeed as deserving it at God’s hands, but as washed in the blood of Christ, and clothed in his righteousness, and interested in all that he has done and suffered for me.’ Yes, brethren, God himself authorizes this very idea. In the Scriptures it is said, “God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister [Note: Hebrews 6:10.].” Now, if God would account himself unjust if he neglected to recompense the good works of his people, how much more would he subject himself to that imputation if he were to cast one believing and obedient soul into hell! Then this is a pledge to the victorious Christian, that he “shall never be hurt of the second death.” If a man who had fled to a city of refuge could not, consistently with the Tights of justice and equity, be delivered up into the hands of the pursuer of blood; so neither can a believing and obedient soul be ever given up to the wrath of an avenging God.]

2. It would be an injury done to the Lord Jesus Christ himself—

[God the Father, when he entered into covenant with his Son, engaged, that “if he would make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed who should prolong their days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands [Note: Isaiah 53:10.].” In dependence on this word, the Son of God became incarnate, and fulfilled the whole work assigned him, till he could say, “It is finished:” and he expected, of course, that, in the salvation of all who trusted in him, he should “see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied.” But if he should behold one of his believing and obedient followers cast out, would he not have reason to complain, that the stipulations of the covenant were not fulfilled? When an offer was made to him, that, in the event of his undertaking to die for man, there should be a people given to him from amongst the tribes of Israel, he replied, “Then I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought and in vain:” and then the promise was enlarged to him, “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth [Note: Isaiah 49:4-6.].” How much more, then, might he complain, “I have laboured in vain, and spent my strength for nought,” if one of his faithful followers should be cast into hell! If one should be saved by a righteousness not derived from him, he would complain that he had died in vain [Note: Galatians 2:21.]: and how much more, if one whom he had washed in his blood, and sanctified by his grace, should perish! Here then is another pledge, that no victorious saint shall ever taste of the second death.]

3. It would be an injury done to the whole universe—

[All are taught to look forward to the day of judgment, as “the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God [Note: Romans 2:5.],” that is, the day in which his perfect equity will be displayed. All, therefore, will expect that the rule of God’s procedure, as declared in his word, shall be adhered to. Of course, they will expect that those who have believed in Christ, and by the grace of Christ have subdued all their spiritual enemies, shall be saved. But what if they should see one of these consigned over to the second death, and left to take his portion with hypocrites and unbelievers? will they not say, ‘This greatly disappoints our expectations: we certainly hoped to see “a difference put between the righteous and the wicked, between those who served God and those who served him not.” ’ Methinks, if one such instance were about to occur, one general sentiment would pervade the whole universe; and all the saints would prostrate themselves before Jehovah, as Abraham did in behalf of Sodom: saying, “Lord, wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right [Note: Genesis 18:23-25.]?” But we need not fear: there shall never be occasion for a remonstrance like this: and in this we have a further pledge, that no such injury shall ever be done to one believing and obedient soul.]

But, whilst I maintain this blessed truth,

1. Must I not take up a lamentation over those who are overcome in this warfare?

[I ask not what you have done in times past: I ask only, Have you engaged in warfare with all your spiritual enemies? and are you proceeding daily in a victorious career? If not, nothing awaits you but “the second death.” If you have not been so wicked as others, you will not have so heavy a condemnation as they; there will be fewer or heavier stripes appointed, according to the degree of your guilt: but hell will be terrible to those who sustain its slightest torments; and the duration of their torments will be for ever and ever. Look, I pray you, through the whole Scriptures, and see whether you can find one single word that promises an exemption from those torments to any soul that has not fought and overcome? In every one of these epistles, you will find the promises limited to them that overcome. Think then, I pray you, what an awful prospect is before you. Think how soon your day of grace may be closed, and your day of retribution commence. O dreadful thought! Perhaps before another day you may be, like the Rich Man in the Gospel, “lifting up your eyes in torments, and crying in vain for a drop of water to cool your tongue.” Will ye then delay to enlist under the banners of Christ, or refuse to fight manfully under the Captain of your salvation? Will you be deterred from this by the menaces of men? Will you fear them who can only kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do? Will you not rather fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell? O! I say to you, “Fear him.” If there were a storm of thunder and lightning, you would be filled with awe: and will you not tremble when God says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the people that forget God?” and when he tells you, that “on the wicked he will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup [Note: Psalms 9:17; Psalms 11:6.]?” O! what vivid flashes are here! what peals of thunder are here! Will ye tremble at that which can only separate your soul from your body, and not at that which will separate both body and soul from God for ever?—May God, in his mercy, awaken you ere it be too late! and may all of you make it henceforth the one object of your lives to “flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on eternal life!”]

2. But to the victorious saint I must add a word of cordial congratulation—

[What may intervene between this and your final victory, I am not anxious to inquire. If you are fighting manfully under the banners of Christ, of this I am assured, that there shall “no temptation take you but what is common to men; and that your faithful God will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make for you a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:13.].” You need not then be anxious about the future. Your enemies are all in God’s hands, and can do nothing which he will not overrule for your eternal good. And how blessed will be the termination of your warfare! What shouts of victory will you give, and what plaudits will you receive from the Captain of your salvation! You have nothing to fear from the second death: on the contrary, the very stroke that separates your soul from your body shall transmit your soul to the very bosom of your God; who, in due season, will raise your body also from the grave, to partake with your soul in all the glory and felicity of heaven. Yes; it is no fading and corruptible crown that you fight for, but an incorruptible one, which shall be accorded to you in the presence of the whole assembled universe. “Go on then, from conquering to conquer,” till all enemies be put under your feet: and the recollection of your conflicts shall serve only to enhance your joys to all eternity.]


Verse 12-13

DISCOURSE: 2487

EPISTLE TO PERGAMOS

Revelation 2:12-13. To the angel of the Church in Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works.

IN a former epistle we have noticed, that the particular parts of our Saviour’s character, with which the different epistles are introduced, are suited to the subject matter of each. In this address to the Church in Pergamos, our Lord has occasion both for reproof and menace: and therefore he describes himself as “holding the sharp sword with two edges.” Now, according to the plan we have proposed, of investigating more minutely every distinct description of his person, I will now call your attention to,

I. The character with which our Lord is here invested—

The description here given of our blessed Lord frequently occurs in the Holy Scriptures; and, by comparing the different passages, we shall see that it holds him forth,

1. As a Sovereign—

[The word of a king, especially in despotic governments, goes forth with great authority: as Solomon has said, “Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou [Note: Ecclesiastes 8:4.]?” Now, by comparing our text with the larger description given of our Lord in the preceding chapter, from whence this smaller portion is taken, we shall see that this sword is his word, which proceedeth out of his mouth: “Out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword [Note: Revelation 1:16.].” And “this word is indeed both quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword [Note: Hebrews 4:12.].” It is a law to every child of man: the greatest kings and princes, no less than the poorest of mankind, are bound by it, and must obey it at their peril. In reference to it there must be no demur, no hesitation, no delay. To question its authority, or to doubt its wisdom, is treason. As, in heaven, “the angels do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word [Note: Psalms 103:20.],” so must it be with men on earth. There must be no resistance to him, even in thought: his word must be “mighty, to pull down every strong-hold, and to cast down every high imagination that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.].”]

2. As a Conqueror—

[In this view the holy Psalmist addresses him: “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty: and in thy majesty ride prosperously, because (or in the cause) of truth and meekness and righteousness: and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies; whereby the people fall under thee [Note: Psalms 45:3-5.].” Armed with this sword, he goes forth in the chariot of the everlasting Gospel, conquering and to conquer [Note: Revelation 6:2; Revelation 14:6.]. Hear the description given of him by St. John, towards the close of this prophetic book: “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse; and he that sat upon it was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse; which sword proceedeth out of his mouth [Note: Revelation 19:11; Revelation 19:15-16; Revelation 19:21.].” Yes, verily, with this sword shall “he get himself the victory [Note: Psalms 98:1.];” insomuch that “all kings shall fall down before him, and all nations shall serve him [Note: Psalms 72:11.],” and “all the kingdoms of the earth become his” undivided empire [Note: Revelation 11:15.].]

3. As a Judge—

[“The word that he hath spoken, the same shall judge us in the last day [Note: John 12:48.].” Amongst the books that shall be opened in that day, doubtless the sacred volume shall be one, and “according to what is written therein shall every soul of man be judged [Note: Revelation 20:12.].” And so the Prophet Isaiah distinctly declares: He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears; but with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked: and righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins [Note: Isaiah 11:4-5.].” Then those who have resisted his authority as King, and withstood his power as a Conqueror, shall be constrained to submit themselves to him as their Judge: for “he will then appear in flames of fire, to take vengeance on them [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.],” and “will consume them with the spirit of his mouth, and destroy them with the brightness of his coming [Note: 2 Thessalonians 2:8.].”]

Having marked the character of our Lord, I will endeavour to shew,

II. The deep interest we have in it—

It is obvious, that to the Church in Pergamos it was a consideration of vast importance; for the Lord himself said to them, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth [Note: ver. 16.].” And is it of less importance to us? Methinks every Church under heaven, and every individual in the Church, should take occasion to inquire,

1. What effect has the ministry of the Gospel produced upon us?

[The Gospel, by whomsoever ministered, is “the word of Christ,” which should dwell in us richly in all wisdom [Note: Colossians 3:16.]. And by all who hear it, it should be regarded, not as “the word of man, but really and truly as the word of God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 2:13.].” Our Lord said to his Disciples, “He that receiveth you, receiveth me; and he that receiveth me, receiveth Him that sent me [Note: Matthew 10:40.].” On the contrary, “he who despiseth, despiseth not man, but God [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:8.].” Let me then ask, What reception has the Gospel found amongst you? If it have produced its proper effect amongst you, it has pierced your inmost souls: as it is written, “The word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword; piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart [Note: Hebrews 4:12.].” O brethren, inquire, I pray you, whether it have thus penetrated the inmost recesses of your souls, so as to discover to you the hidden abominations of your hearts, and to make you cry mightily to God for the pardon of them! See the three thousand on the day of Pentecost, when smitten with this two-edged sword: what cries there were for mercy! “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Believe me, brethren, this is the very first effect which it will produce on you; and it must have already produced it, if you have not “received the grace of God in vain.” “This is the fruit which it brings forth in all the world, wherever the grace of God is known in truth [Note: Colossians 1:6.].” But is there not, in too many instances, reason for God to complain, “I have hewed them by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of my mouth [Note: Hosea 6:5.];” I have spoken to them the great things of my law; but they have counted them as a strange thing [Note: Hosea 8:12.]:” yea, “though I called them unto the Most High, none at all would exalt Him [Note: Hosea 11:7.]?” And shall this be accounted a light matter? It was not deemed so in the case of Zedekiah, of whom God complains, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet, speaking from the mouth of the Lord [Note: 2 Chronicles 36:12.].” Beloved brethren, though no prophet, I also have “spoken to you from the mouth of the Lord;” and ye must answer unto God for every word that has been delivered to you in his name. Now, our blessed Lord says to you, “I know thy works.” And he does know them, and record them in the book of his remembrance; and will bring them forth into judgment at the last day. Let not any of you imagine, that it is sufficient to yield an outward conformity, whether in sentiment or action, to the word of God. No, indeed; if you would really profit by it as you ought, you must be as sacrifices offered up to God upon his altar. The sacrifices, you know, were slain, and were so cut down as to expose to view their inward parts; and then were consumed on the altar, together with the meat-offerings and the drinkofferings that were presented on them. So must “you, to whom I minister the Gospel of God, be offered up as an acceptable sacrifice to God; being sanctified by the Holy God [Note: Romans 15:16.].” Judge, I pray you, whether this has ever been truly wrought in you: for if the word be not thus “a savour of life to your souls, it will be unto you a savour of death,” unto your heavier and more aggravated condemnation [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:16.].]

2. What do we expect from it in the time to come?

[The word, my brethren, is “the sword of the Spirit [Note: Ephesians 6:17.];” and is raised, not to slay you, but to defeat and destroy your enemies. And it is a two-edged sword: every truth in it has a double aspect; speaking consolation to the obedient, as well as terror to the disobedient. By means of it, the Lord Jesus Christ carries on his work of grace in the souls of men; subduing all their enemies before them, and making them triumphant over all the powers of darkness. It was by the word that Christ himself repelled all the assaults of Satan in the wilderness [Note: Matthew 4:4; Matthew 4:7; Matthew 4:10.]; and by it he will “sanctify us throughout, in body, soul, and spirit [Note: John 17:17.].” We must therefore make use of it for this end; as it is said, “Having these promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.]. Regard not then our blessed Lord as an object of terror; but as “the Captain of the Lord’s host,” armed for your deliverance [Note: Joshua 5:14.]. In the epistle before us, you will find a promise, as well as a threatening; and he will shew himself as mighty to fulfil the one, as to execute the other. Whilst, therefore, you fear him as an avenger, learn to confide in him as “able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by him.”]


Verses 13-16

DISCOURSE: 2488

EPISTLE TO PERGAMOS

Revelation 2:13-16. I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan’s seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

IN this epistle we have a mixture of commendation and reproof; and, corresponding with each, a mixture of menace and encouragement. The promise, as before, we shall leave for a distinct and separate discourse. At present, the two points for our consideration are,

I. The fidelity commended—

This was doubtless eminent and praiseworthy—

[Great were the snares with which the godly were encompassed in that city: on the one hand were licentious professors, who indulged in and vindicated the vilest excesses; and on the other hand were cruel persecutors, who were ready to drag to prison and to death all who should approve themselves faithful to their God. In truth, to such a degree did both these characters prevail, that Satan might well be said to have placed his throne there. Yet, in the midst of all these temptations, they would not either deny or dishonour their Divine Master. They had even seen Antipas, probably their pastor, sacrificed before their eyes; and knew not but that the same fate awaited them: yet would they not renounce their holy profession, or in any respect prove themselves dissemblers with God. This was a conduct highly pleasing to God; and the Lord Jesus Christ, who knew not their works only, but all the circumstances under which those works were performed, notes them in this epistle with special approbation.]

The same fidelity God expects from us—

[We, through mercy, live in less trying times, and are in no danger of suffering martyrdom for our adherence to Christ. But we have temptations enough to prove us, whether we will serve our God in sincerity and truth. If Satan’s “throne” be not here, his habitation is: for, in truth, where is the place in which “he dwells” not? And to those who are exempt from greater evils, the smaller evils are great. If we be not in danger of imprisonment and death for the faith of Christ, there are lighter kinds. of martyrdom to which we are exposed: hatred, and contempt, and persecution in a variety of ways, are the sure portion of those who will live godly in Christ Jesus: and these are not easy for flesh and blood to bear. But we must be willing to bear whatever cross may be laid upon us. We must even learn to “glory in tribulation,” for the Lord’s sake; and, like St. Paul, to account the most cruel death a matter of congratulation rather than condolence, if endured for righteousness’ sake [Note: Romans 5:3. Philippians 2:17-18.]. Our “faithfulness must extend even unto death, if ever we would enjoy a crown of life.”]

But our admiration of this Church is sadly lowered by,

II. The unfaithfulness reproved—

However they might palliate their conduct, they deserved reproof—

[There were amongst them those who held the doctrine of the Balaamites, and of the Nicolaitanes; both of whom considered it lawful to conform to idolatrous practices, and to indulge themselves in licentious habits. The Balaamites, it should seem, were libertines; (for Balaam knew that his practices were evil, and would bring the wrath of God on those who followed them [Note: Numbers 25:1-3; Numbers 31:16.]:) and the Nicolaitanes probably were Antinomians, who persuaded themselves that idolatrous concessions, and lewd indulgences, would consist with an adherence to the Gospel. But such persons should not have been tolerated: they should have been checked in their career: and, if they had persisted in their sentiments and habits, they should have been excommunicated. If such “leaven were not purged out,” what could be expected, but that the whole Church would in time be penetrated with its malignant influence? They should have felt a zeal for the honour of their God: they should have exercised more holy love towards the different members of their Church, and have laboured to screen them from the temptations to which they were thus exposed. And of this supineness it became them to “repent.” They well knew how Eli had been punished for not expelling his own sons from the priesthood; and they should have exercised the authority that was vested in them by Christ himself [Note: Matthew 18:17.]: and, if they did not repent of this their wickedness, the Lord declared “he would come quickly, and fight against them with the sword of his mouth;” denouncing against them the judgments inflicted on the Israelites whom Balac had ensnared, of whom no less than twenty-four thousand fell in one day [Note: Numbers 25:9.].]

Nor will it suffice for us to avoid sin ourselves, if we labour not also to prevent it in others—

[Persons will extol charity: but what has charity to do with the allowance of known and open sin? It is not charity to “call evil good, or good evil,” or to account sin to be no sin. Men will commend toleration also: but what has toleration to do with sin? Persons are to be tolerated; but not sins; and especially such sins, and more especially in the Church of God. St. Paul, in reference to heresies, as well as to open lusts, gives us the most explicit direction: “An heretic, after the first and second admonition, reject; knowing that he that is such, is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself [Note: Titus 3:10-11. See also Romans 16:17. 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:14 and 2 John, ver. 10.].” Doubtless we must be careful not to brand for heresy that which is not manifestly declared to be so in the word of God: and we must “receive in the spirit of meekness a brother that has been overtaken with a fault [Note: Galatians 6:1.],” even as the incestuous Corinthian was received after his penitence had been duly manifested to the satisfaction of the Church [Note: 2 Corinthians 2:6-8.]. But still our duty is clear: we must not only “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but must rather reprove them [Note: Ephesians 5:11.];” “looking diligently lest any root of bitterness spring up to trouble us, and thereby many be defiled [Note: Hebrews 12:15.]. Nor are we to beguile ourselves with the specious name of candour. Candour has respect to motives, rather than to acts. In relation to open sin, we must act towards the body of Christ as we would towards a diseased member of our own body: we should suffer the amputation of one member, for the purpose of preserving the whole body from disease and death: and on the same principle must the Church inflict its censures, even to excommunication, on any member, which will not be healed, and cannot be retained without danger to the whole body. And if we, through indifference, will sanction such persons, by forbearing to put them out of the Church, we must expect that Christ will manifest his displeasure against us, and inflict on us the judgments threatened in his word. If we will thus “be partakers of other men’s sins, we must expect that God will also make us partakers of their plagues [Note: Revelation 18:4.].”]

Two things, then, from this subject, I would earnestly recommend:

1. Be firm—

[Decision of character well becomes every child of God. In matters of smaller moment we can scarcely be too complying: but when “either sins or errors solicit our indulgence, we cannot be too firm:” we must “hate even the garment spotted by the flesh [Note: Jude, ver. 23.].” Perhaps in the Church you have little power to testify your abhorrence of sin: but you have in your families, and amongst your friends: and whatever influence you have, you should exert it for God. We are expressly told, “Thou shalt in any wise reprove thy brother, and shalt not suffer sin upon him [Note: Leviticus 19:17.].” And if you be threatened by any, on account of your adherence to Christ, your path is plain: “Fear not those who can only kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do: but fear Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear Him [Note: Luke 12:4-5.].” Tell me, I pray you, Does Antipas at this moment regret the sufferings he endured, and the sacrifice he made, even of life itself, for Christ’s sake? The very name here given him, “My faithful martyr,” is a pledge, that neither you, nor any who shall follow his steps, will ever regret their fidelity to such a Master. “Save your life by unfaithfulness, and you will lose it: but lose it for your Lord’s sake, and you shall save it for ever [Note: Matthew 10:39.].”]

2. Be consistent–

[You would surely have thought, that they who had braved death itself for Christ’s sake could not have any thing to deplore. But here are the saints at Pergamos called to “repent” of their inconsistency, lest the heaviest judgments should be inflicted on them. Know, then, your whole heart and your whole soul must be under the regulation of a divine principle, and an entire consistency pervade your whole life. Religion must be carried into every thing. Religion must be in the soul what the soul is in the body. The souls sees in the eye, hears in the ear, speaks in the tongue, and actuates every member of the body: there is not a single motion which is not under its influence. Thus must every action of your life be regulated by a religious principle, and “every thought of your heart be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Then will you have nothing to fear from the two-edged sword of Christ; but be approved by him, in the day that he shall judge the world in righteousness and truth. “He knows your works;” and will be as glad to testify of them to your honour, as ever you can be to receive from him this token of his approbation.]


Verse 17

DISCOURSE: 2489

EPISTLE TO PERGAMOS

Revelation 2:17. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.

IN every one of the epistles, it is the promise that comes last: for our blessed Lord would have a free and willing service, and not a service constrained by fear. Not but that threatenings are good in their place, because they produce a holy fear and caution: but it is by the promises chiefly that God accomplishes the work of his grace within us: and when we truly apprehend them, we shall invariably experience their renewing efficacy; and be led by them to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God [Note: 2 Corinthians 7:1.].”

In discoursing on the words before us, I shall endeavour to set before you,

I. The blessedness that awaits the victorious Christian—

The terms used in my text require much explanation. But, when duly considered, they will be found to intimate, that, in the eternal world, the victorious Christian will have accorded to him,

1. A more intimate connexion with the Lord Jesus—

[“To him will I give to eat of the hidden manna.” On manna the Israelites subsisted forty years in the Wilderness. But from the day that they ate corn in the land of Canaan, the supply of manna was withheld [Note: Joshua 5:10-12.]. There was, however, a vessel full of manna deposited with the ark, as a memorial of God’s goodness to them in the Wilderness [Note: Exodus 16:32-34.]. Any which the Israelites themselves attempted to hoard, even for a day, excepting for their use on the Sabbath-day, “bred worms, and stank;” but that which was laid up by God’s command, continued good for many hundreds of years, even to the time when all the vessels of the sanctuary were seized by Nebuchadnezzar, and carried into Babylon [Note: Hebrews 9:4.].

Now, it must be remembered, that the manna was a type of Christ [Note: John 6:31-35.]. Even to the Jews it was “spiritual meat [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:3.]:” and all who had a spiritual discernment partook of Christ in it [Note: John 6:48-51.]. To us, of course, there is no such food vouchsafed, so far as relates to the body: but in our souls we may feed upon it, even as they: for by faith our souls subsist on Christ, and live by him, even as their bodies did by a daily participation of the manna itself. Yet it is by faith only that we partake of this benefit. Not so when we reach the heavenly Canaan: the life of faith shall then cease, and the life of sense commence. The manna is laid up for us within the sanctuary, by the ark of God. There is the Lord Jesus Christ himself; and there shall we be admitted to the closest possible communion with him. Even here our souls lived by means of him; but there he will be, in a far more intimate manner than he could be in this world, our very life [Note: Compare John 6:37 and Colossians 3:3. with Revelation 21:23; Revelation 22:1.]. Here we had the foretaste of heavenly things: but there we shall have the full enjoyment [Note: 1 Corinthians 13:12.].]

2. A more assured sense of his favour—

[“He will give us a white stone.”—Amongst the Greeks and Romans, when any man was tried for an offence against the State, those who sat in judgment upon him gave their verdict by means of a white stone, if they acquitted him; or by a black stone, if they condemned him: and, on some occasions, the vote they gave was confirmed by an inscription on the stone itself. Thus, when we arrive in the heavenly land, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Judge of quick and dead, will put into our hands a white stone, in token that we are fully and for ever justified in the sight of God. This blessing, also, was vouchsafed to us, in a measure, in this life: for there are many who are enabled to say, “We know that we have passed from death unto life [Note: 1 John 3:14.];” yes, there are many who are privileged to possess a “full assurance of hope [Note: Hebrews 6:11.].” But still we are in the body: and no man can tell what a day may bring forth: nor does it become any man, who is “yet girt with his armour, to boast as one that putteth it off [Note: 1 Kings 20:11.].” Here our faith must be mixed with fear [Note: Romans 11:20.]: but in that day there shall be no occasion either for faith or fear; for faith shall be lost in sight, and hope be consummated in fruition. Yes, the very stone that declares our acquittal shall be put into our own hands; and be, to all eternity, an evidence of our acquittal, and a pledge that it shall never be reversed.]

3. A more exquisite enjoyment of his love—

[On the stone shall be a name written, which no man knoweth, “saving he that receiveth it.” God gave new names to many of his beloved people; to Abram, and Sarai, and Jacob, and Solomon: and a new name will God give to his victorious servants, “a name better than of sons and of daughters [Note: Isaiah 56:4-5.].” Even now are we called by that august title, “The Sons of God: and the world knows us not, because it knows not him [Note: 1 John 3:1-2.].” Even now have we “a joy with which a stranger intermeddleth not [Note: Proverbs 14:10.],” and which language would fail us adequately to express [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]. A Spirit of adoption, and the witness of the Spirit, who can comprehend, except the person that has received them [Note: Romans 8:15-16.]? “This secret of the Lord is with those only who fear him: to whom, also, he shews his covenant [Note: Psalms 25:14.],” with all its unsearchable and inestimable benefits. But “the love of Christ, in all its heights and depths, infinitely surpasses all human knowledge [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.]:” nor, indeed, shall we be fully able to comprehend it, even in heaven. But there, on the white stone that shall be given us, will be engraven such characters as none but the possessor of that stone can comprehend. Conceive of a soul before whom all the glory of the Godhead is displayed, and to whom all the wonders of redeeming love are revealed, and into whose bosom all the fulness of God’s love is poured: and who shall estimate his joy? The sublimest conceptions that any finite being can form of such bliss would fall as far below it, as the glimmering of the glow-worm below the lustre of the noon-day sun. It must be felt, in order to be known.]

Does all this blessedness await the victorious soul? Think, then, what are,

II. The measures which sound wisdom will prescribe, in relation to it—

Surely you have anticipated all that I can have to say under this head. Yet it will be proper, at all events, that I add my testimony to what I am persuaded must be the dictates of all your minds. I say, then,

1. Enlist, without delay, under the banners of your Lord and Saviour—

[You are all, of necessity, called to be soldiers of Jesus Christ. In your very baptism you engaged to “fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to be Christ’s faithful soldiers and servants to your lives’ end. I call upon you, then, to execute the office which has thus devolved upon you. Mark, I pray you, the restrictive clause in my text: “To him that overcometh will I give” all this blessedness. It is not to him that never fights at all, nor to him that “fights only as one that beats the air:” no; it is to him who “wars a good warfare,” and overcomes all his enemies; to him, I say, and to him alone, will all these blessings be vouchsafed. Grieved I am to say, that, according to this view of God’s promises, there are but few that will ever taste the sweetness of them: but I entreat you, my brethren, to engage without delay in this warfare; and so to fight, that you may obtain the crown that fadeth not away — — —]

2. Whatever conflicts you may have to sustain, never cease to fight, until you have obtained the victory–

[You must expect conflicts, and severe ones too, ere you are liberated from your engagements. A man who fights only against his fellow-man shall have much to endure before he gains the victory: and do you think that the world and the flesh and the devil will yield without much resistance? Look at the saints, that have gone before you, and you will find that “they all came out of great tribulation.” Your Saviour himself overcame not, but by the sacrifice of his own life. Be ye then ready to sacrifice your lives in this glorious contest [Note: Hebrews 2:14.]: and as “He, for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross and despised the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of God [Note: Hebrews 12:2.];” so shall ye also, if only ye faint not, in due season “reign with him in glory for evermore [Note: Galatians 6:9.]” — — —]


Verse 18-19

DISCOURSE: 2490

EPISTLE TO THYATIRA

Revelation 2:18-19. Unto the angel of the Church in Thyatira write; These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like unto a flame of fire, and his feet are like fine brass; I know thy works.

THE similarity of method which is observed in all the epistles to the seven Churches of Asia Minor renders it difficult to diversify, in any great degree, our mode of treating the subjects contained in them. But, indeed, we need not be anxious about this matter; for the subjects themselves are greatly diversified; so that, though our mode of treating them may have an appearance of sameness, the sameness will be in appearance only, and not real. We have now to consider the character of our blessed Lord in a different point of view from any in which we have seen it before: and in our investigation of this we cannot be too particular. Let us then notice,

I. The description here given of our blessed Lord—

It is, as all the other descriptions are, suited to the subject of the epistle itself; in which is declared our Lord’s perfect knowledge of the state of every individual in that Church, and his fixed determination to give to every one of them according to his works. In the words which have been read, are set forth,

1. His greatness—

[In the description contained in the first chapter, from whence all the detached parts of our Lord’s character are taken, he is said to be “like unto the Son of Man [Note: Revelation 1:13.]:” but here he is called expressly “The Son of God.” In the former description, his humanity is more particularly referred to; in the latter, his divinity. Not that these are always kept distinct in the inspired volume: for the name, “Son of Man,” was used as equivalent with “the Son of God;” and was actually so understood by the Jews themselves, who took occasion, from his calling himself “the Son of Man,” to accuse him of blasphemy, for representing himself as the Son of God [Note: Matthew 26:63-65.], and of thereby professing himself to be “equal with God [Note: John 5:17-18; John 10:33.].” St. Paul combines the two, and shews us clearly in what sense we are to understand the title here given to our blessed Lord: it declares him to be God, equal with the Father: for “being from all eternity in the form of God, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross [Note: Philippians 2:6-8.].” By this name, “The Son of God,” his advent had been predicted [Note: Psalms 2:7.]: by this name he had been repeatedly saluted by a voice from heaven [Note: Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5.]: by this name had he been acknowledged by his most favoured servants [Note: John 1:49.]: and, even in the very article of death, by the man who superintended his execution [Note: Matthew 27:54.]. And, when his Gospel was preached by his Apostles, this acknowledgment of his divinity was demanded of all who embraced his religion, and was deemed by them a satisfactory proof of a man’s conversion to God [Note: John 8:37-38.]. Let us then understand, by the title here given him, that, though “he was a child born, and a son given, he was indeed the Mighty God [Note: Isaiah 9:6.],” even “God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Romans 9:5.].”]

2. His penetration—

[“He has eyes like unto a flame of fire.” The power of fire, to penetrate the hardest substances, and to identify itself, as it were, with metals, so that not an atom of brass or iron, when subjected to its action, shall escape its all-pervading power, is well-known. The power of flame also, when employed in scientific experiments, is well known, insomuch that it will reduce even diamonds to a cinder. This image, therefore, well illustrates the all-penetrating, all-discerning eye of Jesus, whom not a thought that comes into our hearts [Note: Ezekiel 11:5.], nor “an imagination of a thought,” can ever escape [Note: Genesis 6:5.]. Very striking is the representation which St. Paul gives us of this, in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “There is not any creature which is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do [Note: Hebrews 4:13. Sec the Greek.].” The sacrifices, previously to their being offered upon the altar, were not only examined outwardly, but were flayed, and then cut down the back-bone, so that all the inwards might be exposed to view, and every part be inspected with the greatest care, to see that they were perfectly free from blemish of any kind: and such is the view which the Lord Jesus Christ has of every soul. “The darkness is no darkness with him; but the night is as clear as the day.” We may conceal matters from our fellow-creatures: yea, and much may be hid also from ourselves: but from him is nothing hidden, either as to its existence, or to its real character: the sun itself, at noon-day, is not more clearly visible to us, than are the inmost recesses of our souls to him.]

3. His power—

[“His feet are like fine brass.” By this I understand his unchanging firmness, in every thing that he has decreed; and his irresistible power to execute his designs, whether it be for the salvation of his people, or for the destruction of his enemies. All his determinations, as revealed in his word, shall assuredly be carried into effect. The whole universe shall never move him from his purpose. Let a believer trust in him; and all the powers of darkness “shall never be able to pluck him out of his hands.” Let an enemy persist in his rebellion against him, he shall soon find what” a fearful thing it is to fall into the hands of the living God.” In the first chapter it is said, “His feet are like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace [Note: Revelation 1:14-15.]:” yes, they will not only tread down his enemies, but utterly consume all who dare to contend with him. He tells us, in this epistle, that he will give to his victorious people “power over the nations, to rule them with a rod of iron, and to break them in pieces as a potter’s vessel [Note: ver. 26, 27.]:” and he shews us, in the description here given of him, that he is fully able to confer on them the promised benefit, and to make every one of them as victorious as he himself has been.]

But the character of our Lord is not a subject for speculation only: no; in every particular we should consider,

II. The improvement to be made of it—

1. Let us admire his condescension—

[This epistle, though addressed to Thyatira, is designed for every Church under heaven, and for every individual in the Church, so far as the particular expressions of it are applicable to him. And amazing is that condescension, which has induced Almighty God so to remember us, and so to consult our welfare! If the Psalmist says, “Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that thou visitest him [Note: Psalms 8:4.]?” how justly may we exclaim, “Lord, what are we, that thou shouldest dictate to thy servant John a letter unto us, a letter for our instruction, a letter for our benefit?’ If but an earthly monarch had honoured us in this way, we should have accounted it a marvellous condescension: but, O! what is it to be so honoured and so regarded by the God of heaven and earth! How should we value these epistles! how should we study them! how should we treasure up in our hearts the inestimable truths contained in them! Remember, I pray you, brethren, that it is “the Son of God” himself who has sent you this epistle; and prepare to receive every suggestion contained in it, as bearing the impress of his authority, and an expression of his love: and treasure up every word of it, not in your cabinet, as a curiosity to be admired, but in your inmost souls, as a record to be obeyed.]

2. Let us maintain integrity before him—

[He tells us, that “he requireth truth in our inward parts [Note: Psalms 51:6.]:” and we maybe well assured that the smallest measure of “partiality or hypocrisy” will be discovered by him [Note: James 3:17.]. In this epistle he tells us, that “all the Churches shall know that it is He who searcheth the reins and trieth the hearts [Note: ver. 23.].” At the last day, especially, “he will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:5.].” Yes, “every secret thing shall he bring forth into judgment, whether it be good or evil [Note: Romans 2:16. Ecclesiastes 12:14.].” See, then, that there be in you no undue bias, no secret lust: but let him be able to testify of you, that you are “Israelites indeed, and without guile [Note: John 1:47.].” And if you are not conscious of any allowed evil, be not too confident that you are really blameless in his sight; but say with the holy Apostle, “I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but He that judgeth me is the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 4:3.].”]

3. Let us confide in him for all needful support—

[Whom did he ever deliver up into the hands of their enemies? Are we not told, that “his name is a strong tower; and that the righteous runneth to it, and is safe?” The same idea that is contained in our text, is conveyed also in those words, “He is a wall of fire round about us, and the glory in the midst of us [Note: Zechariah 2:5.].” “A wall of fire” will not only protect those who are enclosed by it, but will destroy also their assailants. So will Christ do, with his feet like fine brass just taken out of the furnace. Fear not, then, the assaults either of men or devils; but confide in him, expecting assuredly, that “his strength shall be perfected in your weakness [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.].” “If he have begun the good work in you, you may be confident that he will carry it on, and perfect it to the end [Note: Philippians 1:6.].” “To whomsoever he has been the Author of their faith, he will also be the Finisher [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].” “Of those whom the Father has given him, he never did, nor ever will, lose so much as one [Note: John 17:12.].”]


Verses 19-23

DISCOURSE: 2491

EPISTLE TO THYATIRA

Revelation 2:19-23. I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication; and she repented not. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death; and all the Churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.

IN reading these different epistles, we cannot but tremble, lest, after all our endeavours to serve the Lord, we come short at last, and, when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, we be found wanting. Truly, to be Christians indeed, is no easy task. But “the grace of Christ is sufficient for us;” and will prove itself sufficient, if only we seek it in spirit and in truth. In dependence on that grace, let us proceed to consider,

I. The characteristic excellence of the Church at Thyatira—

Great were the virtues for which they were commended—

[Our blessed Lord, who with infallible certainty “knew all their works,” said to them, “I know thy charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience.” Under these expressions, I conceive, were contained their principal duties both to God and man. Their “love” both to God and man abounded: and it was operative in every kind of “service” both to the one and to the other, according as opportunity was afforded for the exercise of love. It sprang also from the only true source of all acceptable obedience; that is, from faith in God, as their reconciled God and Saviour. It continued also to operate under all circumstances, however difficult or distressing. No fires of persecution could quench it; no sufferings could abate its ardour: they took up their cross with cheerfulness, and bare it with constancy, and brought forth fruit with “patience;” so that “patience,” as well as love, “had in them its perfect work.” What St. Paul said, in reference to the Thessalonian Church, St. John might well have applied to those at Thyatira: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering, without ceasing, your works of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ [Note: 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3.].”]

But their chief excellence was, that their piety had been progressive—

[Our blessed Lord yet further testified respecting them, that their last works had been more than their first. They had not “left their first love,” as those of the Church at Ephesus had done; but had “grown in grace,” and had made a proficiency in every part of their duty. Now, to this progress in the divine life God has especial regard; insomuch that, however righteous we may have been in times past, “our righteousness, if we turn away from it, shall no more be remembered; but for the sin that we have committed we shall die [Note: Ezekiel 33:12-13; Ezekiel 33:18.].” “It is the character of the truly righteous man, that “he holds on his way, and his hands wax stronger and stronger [Note: Job 17:9.].” His path must be like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day [Note: Proverbs 4:18.].” “The man who, after having put his hand to the plough, looks back, is not fit for the kingdom of God [Note: Luke 9:62.].” To be “weary in well-doing,” however arduous our labour may be, will deprive us of that recompence [Note: Galatians 6:9.], which a persevering “continuance in it would have assured [Note: Romans 2:7.].” Whatever we may have attained, we must “abound more and more [Note: 1 Thessalonians 4:1.]:” our “love” must be more fervent, our “service” more abundant, our “faith” more steadfast, our “patience” more invincible, and our “works” altogether more consonant with our obligations, and more consistent with our professions. Like St. Paul, we should “forget what is behind, and reach forward to what is before; and press on, with ever-increasing ardour, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:13-14.].” When this is our state, we may assuredly expect the approbation of our God [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4.].]

Nevertheless, this was not the character of all in that Church: on which account our Lord proceeded to state,

II. The guilt and danger in which some of their members were involved—

A most fatal imposture was tolerated among them—

[Who it was that is here designated by the name of “Jezebel,” or whether there were more than one, we cannot say: it is not improbable that several were engaged in seducing others: at all events, whether one or many, they were justly called Jezebel, because of their resemblance to that abandoned woman. She, though married to Ahab, retained her zeal for idolatry, and used every device to support and propagate it. Thus, at Thyatira, some who professed themselves Christians were idolaters in heart, and exerted themselves, in the most subtle methods, to disseminate their principles; yea, they even pretended to a divine commission, to draw others to a compliance with their idolatrous practices, which in Scripture language is “fornication” and “adultery.” These persons “had space given them to repent; but they repented not:” and their obstinacy in sin greatly heightened both their own guilt and the guilt of those also who tolerated them in the Church. It is true, the members of the Church were not invested with any civil authority, and therefore could not punish the offenders with the sword: but they should have united in condemning the sentiments and conduct of those impostors, and, by a sentence of excommunication, have purged out this leaven from among them.]

Against those who had thus sanctioned the imposture, our Lord denounced the heaviest judgments—

[In these threatenings there is a striking reference to what had been accomplished towards Jezebel and her family. She had shed the blood of Naboth in Jezreel; and both her husband’s blood and her son’s blood were licked by dogs, in the very same place where dogs had before licked the blood of Naboth; yea, she herself also was devoured by dogs, almost on the same spot [Note: 1 Kings 21:9-10; 1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 21:23; 1 Kings 22:38 and 2 Kings 9:25-26; 2 Kings 9:36-37.]: and soon afterwards, the whole family of Ahab, even seventy sons, were put to death. Thus God threatened, that, for their spiritual fornication, “he would cast them into a bed, and those who committed adultery with them, into great tribulation, and that he would kill the teachers and their followers with death.” He further declared, that, as in the case of Jezebel, their sin should be so visibly marked in their punishment, as to manifest to the whole Church, that the Saviour, whom they thus despised, was indeed the omniscient Jehovah [Note: Mark the force of the words, “I am He that searcheth;” i. e. that I possess that which is the prerogative of God alone.] and the righteous Judge of all. He did indeed still offer to pardon them on their repentance: but if that offer, like those which had preceded it, should be slighted, his vengeance would come upon them to the uttermost.

And is there not, in every age, a remarkable correspondence between the judgments inflicted on false teachers and the sins which they commit? The contemners of vital godliness, whether of the Infidel or Antinomian class, are filled with pride and presumption: and God “gives them over to delusion, till they believe their own lie,” and “perish in their own corruptions.” O that both the deceivers and deceived might “repent them of their deeds!” and that all who have hitherto maintained their steadfastness might so zealously oppose the incursions of sin and error, as to “preserve” themselves, and all with whom they are connected, “blameless unto the day of Christ!” If, however, this warning be slighted, let it be remembered, that “the end of all shall be according to their works.”]

In conclusion, I would say to every one amongst you—

1. Imitate their virtues—

[It is to little purpose to call yourselves Christians, if ye be not “Christians indeed, and without guile.” If the Lord were to testify respecting the great mass of the Christian world, he must say, ‘I know thy works to be the very reverse of all that distinguished the Thyatiran Church: thou hast no love to me; nor dost thou render me the services I require: nor hast thou any of that faith which worketh by love; nor dost thou bear any cross for righteousness’ sake. Thy works, from year to year, are still the same, except so far as age or outward circumstances may cause them to vary: thou art still the same unhumbled, unbelieving, and disobedient sinner as ever thou wast.’ But let it not be so with you, my brethren: let God’s testimony rather be, ‘I know thy works, and thine, and thine, that they are altogether such as I approve; and that thou art advancing so manifestly in holiness, that “thy profiting appears unto all” ’ — — —]

2. Tremble, lest thou be exposed to their judgments—

[You are continually under the eye of the heart-searching God, who sees every defect in your obedience, and will judge you at the last day according to your works. He requires of you, not a personal obedience only, but a constant exertion, according to your power, to promote the same in others. You are responsible to God for your influence; whether it extend to the Church at large, or be limited to the narrower sphere of your more immediate neighbours. You should feel a holy zeal for God; and should labour, according to your ability, to uphold his honour in the world. God, I say, expects this at your hands; and he will call you to an account for the improvement of every talent committed to your charge. May you all approve yourselves faithful to him, that when he shall come to judgment, you may receive that plaudit at his hands, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord!”]


Verse 24-25

DISCOURSE: 2492

THE CHURCH AT THYATIRA

Revelation 2:24-25. But unto you I say, and unto the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none of her burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come.

IN these words we have an injunction addressed to the more consistent members of the Church at Thyatira. If there were some who had been drawn aside from the path of duty by the seductions of Satan, the great mass of that Church had held fast their integrity, and approved themselves faithful to their God. They had been assaulted, and were yet in danger of being still assaulted, by persons professing a deeper insight into divine truth than others: (in fact, all innovators, whether infidels or heretics, arrogate to themselves superior wisdom, and propose their sentiments under the idea of “depths,” which the poor simple-minded believers have not been able to fathom:) but “the depths” of which these deceivers spake, were “depths of Satan” rather than of God; and the faithful members of that Church rejected with abhorrence the impious sentiments contained in them: and for this they were commended of their God; who says, “I will put upon you none other burden but this;” “What ye have already, hold fast till I come [Note: Compare Acts 15:28. The “burden” relates to that which follows: and so we understand it here.]:” that is, ‘Ye have been faithful in your adherence to me; and all that I require of you is, that you steadfastly persevere in the same course, till I come, at the last day, to attest, and to recompense, your fidelity.

Now, the same injunction is given to the Church in all ages: so that, taking it to ourselves, we may notice,

I. The duty inculcated—

It is here taken for granted, that we have made some progress in the divine life. Now, whatever it be that we have attained, we should “hold it fast.” We should “hold fast,”

1. The truth itself—

[Many at this day, as well as in the apostolic age, exert all their ingenuity to invalidate and subvert the truth. Some will call in question even the divine authority of the Bible: others will deny the divinity of our blessed Lord, and the atonement which he has made for sin. Others again, like the Pharisees of old, will blend the law with the Gospel, as a joint ground of hope before God: whilst others, under an idea of magnifying the grace of God, will deny that the law is to be regarded by us as a rule of life. But we must be on our guard against error of every kind, and “hold fast the form of sound words” which the holy Apostles have delivered unto us [Note: 2 Timothy 1:13.]. The Gospel in itself is extremely simple: ‘We are fallen creatures, deserving of God’s wrath and indignation. The Lord Jesus Christ has come to restore us to the favour and the image of God; to his favour, by making satisfaction for our sins; and to his image, by the influences of his Holy Spirit upon our souls.’ This, I say, is the sum and substance of the Gospel: and though, doubtless, there are depths in it which no finite intelligence can fathom, yet is it so plain, that a very child may comprehend it. Hold this fast then; and, “for the knowledge of it, let all other things be accounted by you as dung and dross.”]

2. The open profession of it—

[We may retain in our minds a regard for the truth, without exciting any uneasy feelings in those who are opposed to it. But, if we profess it openly, and stand forth as avowed servants of Christ, we shall be sure to make ourselves, even as Christ himself was, “a butt of contradiction [Note: Luke 2:34. the Greek.].” No means will be left untried to repress our ardour: menaces, entreaties, promises, expostulations, will all be used in their turn, to withdraw us from our purpose of confessing Christ before men, and of becoming his stated followers. But nothing should induce us to deny Christ, or to put our light under a bushel. Not even life itself should be dear to us, in comparison of the approbation of God and of our own conscience. We must “follow Christ without the camp, bearing his reproach,” and “rejoicing that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake.” In a word, we must be steadfast in the faith, and “hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering [Note: Hebrews 10:23.].”]

3. The sweet experience of it in the soul—

[This is soon lost, and Satan will exert himself in all possible ways to rob us of it. Any sin indulged in the heart will “grieve the Spirit” of God, and provoke our God to “hide his face from us.” Nor is it open sin only that will bring darkness upon the soul: habitual negligence will soon produce the very same effects. If we cultivate not our garden with unwearied assiduity, I need not say that weeds will grow up, and choke the seed that has been sown in it. If we would enjoy the light of God’s countenance, we must “walk with God,” as Enoch did; and “keep ourselves in the love of God,” “holding fast our confidence, and the rejoicing of our hope firm unto the end [Note: Hebrews 3:6.].”]

This being our acknowledged duty, let me call your attention to,

II. The consideration with which it is enforced—

Much is spoken in Scripture respecting the future advent of our Lord. He will come at the last day, to judge the world in righteousness: and the prospect of that event may well operate on our minds, to keep us steadfast in every part of our duty. For when that shall take place,

1. All opportunity of recovering the ground we have lost will be at an end—

[With respect to ourselves, it matters not whether we be alive at the coming of our Lord or not; for to every individual of mankind, the day of his death will be, in fact, the day of judgment: “there will be no repentance to him in the grave:” on the contrary, “as the tree falls, so it will lie:” “he that is holy, will be holy still; and he that is filthy, will be filthy still.” We may be slumbering, like the foolish virgins; and dreaming of some future period, when we will arise to trim our lamps: but “when the Bridegroom comes, they only who are watching will enter in with him to the wedding; and the door will then be shut;” and all will be excluded for ever who waited not aright for the coming of their Lord. You all know how vain were the efforts of the foolish virgins to procure oil, when once the proper period for obtaining it was past: and so shall we find it, in the day that our Lord shall come, if we be unprepared to meet him. Let this thought stimulate us to watchfulness and zeal, that, “at whatever hour our Lord shall come, we may be found ready.”]

2. Our real state, whatever it may be, will be made known—

[We may appear, both to ourselves and others, to be in a far more favourable state than we really are. In truth, those very delusions which men embrace are often esteemed by them as evidences of superior piety. But the various books which will then be opened—the book of Scripture, the book of conscience, the book of God’s remembrance, and the book of life, will all bear testimony to our real state, and make us to appear in our true colours. If we have declined from the ways of God, whatever those declensions were, or from whatever cause they arose, they will all be noted, and “the Lord’s judgment respecting us be in all things according to truth.” Should we not, then, be on our guard against every device, whether of men or devils, to draw us from our God? Yes, verily, we should “prove all things” with incessant care; and “hold fast,” with invincible firmness, “the thing which is good [Note: 1 Thessalonians 5:21.].”]

3. Our final sentence will then be irreversibly declared—

[The sheep and the goats will then be separated, each for their proper fold. The hypocrite will then have his portion assigned him, and the apostate his, according to the degree in which they have erred from the faith, and to the light against which they have sinned. Hence St. John not only exhorts the steadfast to “look to themselves, that they lose not the things that they have wrought, but that they receive a full reward [Note: 2 John, ver. 8.];” but further gives to the wavering this solemn warning, “Hold fast that thou hast, that no man take thy crown [Note: Revelation 3:11.].”]

Methinks this subject speaks powerfully,

1. To those in early life—

[Who, that reflects on the temptations to which the young are exposed, must not tremble for their state? The world with all its snares, the flesh with all its lusts, the devil with all his devices; who is able to withstand them all? Truly, if it were not that we have an Almighty Friend to uphold us, not one would ever endure to the end. O, cry mightily to God to “bear you up in his arms,” and to “preserve you blameless unto his heavenly kingdom!”]

2. To the more advanced Christian—

[Even you have need to fear, lest, after all you have experienced, like David and like Solomon, you fall. But, methinks, it is no little comfort to you to reflect, that “the coming of your Lord draweth nigh.” Look for him then daily, having your loins girt and your lamp trimmed: so shall you behold his face with joy; and “your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”]


Verses 26-29

DISCOURSE: 2493

EPISTLE TO THYATIRA

Revelation 2:26-29. He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.

NOW we come to the encouragement which our Lord gives his faithful people to maintain their integrity. To the steadfast and victorious he promises “the glory and honour and immortality which they seek for.” The terms indeed, in which these promises are conveyed, are not easy to be understood; but, when understood, they are very cheering to the soul: I will, therefore,

I. Explain the promises here given—

The saints at Thyatira had been, as in truth they are in all times and places, subjected to persecution from their enemies: and here our Lord promises them,

1. Honour, when all others shall be abased—

[Now the enemies of Christ reign; and “his people are trodden under foot [Note: Jeremiah 12:10.]:” but, ere long, the state of things shall be reversed. Even in this world the time is coming when “the saints shall possess the kingdom [Note: Daniel 7:22.],” and when those who seek to oppress them shall be destroyed with a terrible destruction. Till that period shall arrive, the saints are to bear and suffer all things: but, at the time of the Millennium, when there will be a formidable and almost universal combination against them, God has ordained, that they shall be his instruments to punish his enemies, just as they were when he sent them to extirpate the seven nations of Canaan [Note: Revelation 19:11-21.]. Foreign as war and bloodshed are to the wishes and feelings of a Christian mind, there will be no more reluctance in the saints then to execute the commission given them, than there was in the angel to slay in one night all the Egyptian first-born, or one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army. Of that period the Psalmist speaks: “Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds: let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishment upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; to execute upon them the judgment written. This honour have all his saints [Note: Psalms 149:5-9.].”

But this honour will they possess in a far higher degree in the day of judgment. For then will the Lord Jesus Christ “put all enemies under his feet [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:25.],” and execute vengeance on them; as God has said: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel [Note: Psalms 2:9.].” In the whole of that transaction the saints will bear their part. They will sit with Christ, as his assessors in judgment; and will concur with him in all that he shall do; saying, “True and righteous are his judgments;” and to every one of them we say, “Amen, Amen, Hallelujah, Amen [Note: Revelation 19:1-4.].” This is so unquestionable a truth, that St. Paul takes for granted that every saint must be well acquainted with it: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? yea, know ye not that we shall judge even angels [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:2-3.]?” Yes, brethren, then will be fulfilled that saying of the Psalmist, “Man, being in honour, abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish. Like sheep they are laid in the grave; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning [Note: Psalms 49:12; Psalms 49:14.].”

2. Glory, when all others shall be put to shame—

[Now, the ungodly shine forth with splendour; whilst the godly, if not immured in prisons, are put altogether in the back-ground, in a state of darkness and obscurity. But the time is coming when God will “give to his saints the morning star.” The morning star rises with peculiar brilliancy a little before the sun, when all the other stars of heaven fade away, and vanish from our sight. And so will it be with the saints in the day of judgment. When the fashion of this world shall have passed away as a passing scene or vision, then shall the saints “shine forth as the stars of the firmament for ever and ever [Note: Daniel 12:3.]:” then shall be seen upon them the bright radiance of the Saviour’s beams; and they shall, as it were, be his harbingers to proclaim his advent: yes, thus shall “they be exalted in glory [Note: Psalms 112:8-10.];” whilst “the wicked,” who once treated them with scorn and contempt, shall themselves “be silent in darkness [Note: 1 Samuel 2:8-9.].”]

Having explained the promises, I will now,

II. Commend them to your most attentive consideration—

Let your minds, my brethren, rise to the occasion. See, in these promises,

1. What encouragement they afford to the followers of Christ—

[The Lord’s people hare, in this world, their cross to bear, and are destined to follow their Divine Master through much tribulation: but they are assured, that, “if they suffer with him, they shall also reign with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12.],” and that not the meanest of their services shall be unrewarded [Note: Matthew 10:42.].” And here I would particularly call your attention to the parallel which our Lord himself has drawn in our text: “To him will I give . even as I have received of my Father.” Yes, every thing which God the Father has given to his Son, as the reward of his services, he will give to us, so far as we are capable of receiving and enjoying it. Has the Father given to him a throne and a kingdom? such will Christ confer on us also. He himself says, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me [Note: Luke 22:29.]:” and again; “To him that overcometh, will I grant to set with me on my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne [Note: Revelation 3:21.].” There is no part of “the glory which his Father has given him, which he will not, according to our capacity, give to us [Note: John 17:22.].” And shall not the prospect of it all operate on us, as it wrought on Christ himself, when, for the “joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, and despised the shame, till he sat down at last at the right hand of the throne of God [Note: Hebrews 12:2.]?” I say, then, “consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds [Note: Hebrews 12:3.] — — —]

2. What a recompence they hold forth for our poor services—

[Methinks, if nothing more had been said, than that his faithful people should have all their guilt cancelled, and be delivered from the judgments which they have so richly merited, it would have been an ample recompence for all that we could either do or suffer for him in this life. Suppose that such a proposal were now made to one of the fallen angels, or to the rich man that is now lifting up his eyes in hell torments; would he not gladly embrace the offer, and account all his future labours well repaid, even though nothing but annihilation awaited him when he had performed his task? Let us look at our works, and see what they are: tell me if there be one for which you do not blush, on account of its defects? and whether, if they had been a thousand times more perfect, you would not still have accounted yourselves “unprofitable servants [Note: Luke 17:10.]?” But it is not in this way that God magnifies his grace. No: he giveth not in such scanty measure to his beloved children; nor does he so estimate their poor imperfect services. He accounts not all the glory and felicity of heaven too great for them. He makes them his very heirs, “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; that, having suffered with him, they may also be glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17.].” In truth, at the last day the saints shall all resemble Christ. It is said of him, that “he shall smite the nations, and rule them with a rod of iron; and tread the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God [Note: Revelation 19:15.].” He, too, says of himself, “I am the root and offspring of David, and the bright and morning star [Note: Revelation 22:16.].” And this is the honour, and this is the glory, which he has promised to confer on us. As Joshua commanded the captains of his army to come and put their feet upon the necks of the vanquished kings [Note: Joshua 10:24.], so will the Great Captain of our salvation make those who have fought under his banners to participate the glory and felicity of his triumphs. Tell me, then, whether it does not become us to “keep his works” with all diligence; accounting “no commandment grievous;” nor hesitating, if called to it, to lay down our life for his sake? Let us keep them then, my brethren, yea, and keep them all, and “even to the end.” Let us “never be weary in well-doing; for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not [Note: Galatians 6:9.].” I may further add, that “every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour [Note: 1 Corinthians 3:8.].” No doubt there will be a difference in the rewards, as well as the punishments, of men in a future life: for “one star will differ from another star in glory [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:41.].” And this may well stimulate us to the utmost possible exertion in the service of our God. But to the least and meanest of the saints shall the recompence be inconceivably great: for the very lowest in glory “shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father, for ever and ever [Note: Matthew 13:43.].”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Revelation 2:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/revelation-2.html. 1832.

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