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was not that of restoring grace, of the gospel, but of judgment, of man's responsibility, in which there is no change
Even in the churches, which is not the strictly prophetic part of the book, those who hear and are righteous in the churches, are directed and guided in the way, but supposed to be already righteous. Still, here, I doubt not the closing scenes are looked to, and the saints to whom the prophecy is addressed, as already such. The Lord was coming to judge, and quickly. Verse 7 addresses itself in warning to those engaged in the circumstance of the Book itself, and the things are shortly to be done. Here, in verses 10–14, all is closed. The Lord is coming to judge every one according to their works, and their state is viewed as a fixed one. Hence, in verse 13, He closes all with his own nature, as First and Last. Verses 14, 15, need not be confined, I apprehend, to those who form the city itself, but include all those who, having washed their robes (I think Codex Sinaiticus has confirmed this reading), have right to the tree of life, and enter in through the gates of pearl into the city. Redemption, leading to life, and fitting for a state lovely in grace in Christ's eyes, what meets the entering person at once, and for association with divine holiness and righteousness. This, even the blood of Christ and the sanctification of the Spirit, is the foundation of the blessing of all who are blessed. Without are the evil and the violent, the corrupt and the idolatrous. In chapter xxi. 8, it is final judgment; here it is exclusion. This wholly closes the book; and Jesus presents himself as such to the prophet, as revealing all this for the churches. He comes personally forward, still in connection, of course, with the subject of the book, as the Source and Heir of the promises of Israel, and as the One known to the faith of the Church and none elsea heavenly One, not the day for this world, but the Bright and Morning Star for those who watch in the night. Whatever the state of the professing Church might be, this remained true and bright for hope, and the brighter, the darker all seemed to be. It is no announcement of coming or warning now, but Christ's announcing Himself, “I, Jesus”.
-announcing what He is for the Jews and what He is for the Church. When what He is for the Church, her special portion in Him, is named, all the affection of the Church in her own relationship is awakened: indeed, what love produced in her in every respect, as animated by the Spirit which dwells in her. Indeed, He is first named. The position of the Church is this: she has the Spirit, and longs for Christ. “ The Spirit and the Bride say say, Come.” It is not merely affection or a wish, but the mind of the Spirit as down here on the earth. The Church looks for Christ, for Himself and herself, in the consciousness of her own relationship. No doubt, it will be blessing for the world. That, she enters into and delights in; but Christ Himself is before her mind. Thus her heart, or the Spirit speaking in the prophet as associated personally with her in position and testimony, turns round in love, first to him who hears; let him who has received the testimony of Jesus say “Come.” That is the thing to de ire. After Christ Himself, the Spirit first turns to thein that are Ris; then to any one who has an awak, ened desire and need of soul, “Let him that is athirst." Then in the power of that love with which the Church is filled, and with which the Spirit works, “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely." The Church longs for Christ, but she has the full stream of the water of life already. She says to every soul, " Whosoever will, let him come;" not to me, as Jesus alone could, still she possesses the water, and invites to come as freely as she has enjoyed. In a word, we get the full place of the Church and her testimony while waiting for Christ, and for nothing else, and thus for Him directly. This desire the Lord meets then. “ He that saith these things, saith, Surely I come quickly;" and that satisfies the heart of the saint. “ Amen, even so, come, Lord Jesus." A solemn sanction is added to the authority of the book, and to maintain its integrity. The book of life is not life, but the prima facie and apparent possession of it as inscribed among professing Christians.
I have thus attempted a sketch of the Look, in its structure and meaning. To complete this, something might be said of its historical application, at least as warning as to the present time, and perhaps something of a vocabulary of symbolical language.
NOTE, REFERRED TO AT PAGE 285.
A closer examination of the Churches will lead us to see, that in the four first, where there is blame (in the Epistle to Smyrna there is none) and threatened judgment, the threat is to be csecuted not on the Angel but on the Candlestick in Ephesus-or on the guilty parties, as in Pergamos and in Thyatira. But in the three last it is not so. In Philadelphia there is no blame ; and bere, as in Smyrna, the Angel and the Church are not distinguished in the address itself; but in Sardis and in Laodicea the threatenings are continued as a part of the address to the Angel himself
. This, I suppose, connects itself with the distinction already made between these two classes of churches; the four first have a definite church-place, and the Angel, that part which in God's sight really represented the Church, is abidingly owned at all events, and the judgment is on the inconsistent part, or what falsified the public testimony. But, when we come to Sardis, we go back (for Thyatira goes on to the end); when speaking of the mass, the better and witnessing part comes out as witness, witdess against Jezebel ; if they are not a witness they are nothing at all. The corporate constitution is null here. Hence if thero be failure, the whole thing fails and is judged with the world, and any faithful ones become a distinctive blessed remnant; because faithful witness is the whole thing. Hence, when Christ has to become that, the Church so ruined is to be spued out of His mouth,
No. XIX.-2 AND 3 JOHN.
The second Epistle of John warns the faithful against the reception of those who do not teach the truth respecting the person of Christ. The third encourages believers to receive and help those who teach it. Accordingly, they both, and the second especially, lay stress on " the truth."
The Apostle loved this elect lady, “in the truth;" as did also all those who had known the truth, and that for the truth's sake. He wished her blessing in truth and in love. He rejoiced that he had found some who were her children walking in the truth. He desired that there should be mutual love among Christians, but this was love, that they should keep the commandments; for many deceivers were come into the world. Now, whosoever transgressed, and did not abide in the doctrine of Christ, had not God. He ends his epistle, of which we have given an almost complete summary, by exhorting this lady, in case any one should come and not bring this doctrine, not to receive him into her house, nor say to him, “ God bless you, or be with you," or " I salute you." For to do so, would be to make herself a partaker in the evil he was doing.
The false doctrine which was abroad at that moment was the denial of the truth of Christ come in the flesh; but the Apostle says, in a general way, that if any one transgressed and did not abide in the doctrine of Christ, he had not God.
We learn several important things in this little epistle. The mission of a man who went about preaching was never brought into question, but the doctrine which he brought; if he brought sound doctrine, he was welcome.
A woman having the Word-as this epistle, for example - was capable of judging his doctrine, and responsible to do so. Inexorable rigour was to be maintained, if the doctrine as to the person of Christ were touched. The door was to be shut against whoever falsified it. They were not even to say to him “ I salute you;” fór they who did so, became partakers of his evil work. It would be to help on the deceits of Satan.
Moreover, the semblance of love which does not maintain the truth, but accommodates itself to that which is not the truth, is not love according to God. It is the taking advantage of the name of love, in order to help on the seductions of Satan. In the last days, the test of true love is the maintenance of the truth. God would have us love one another, but the Holy Ghost, by whose power we receive this divine nature, and who pours the love of God into our hearts, is the Spirit of truth, and His office is to glorify Christ. Therefore, it is impossible that a love which can put up with a doctrine that falsifies Christ, and which is indifferent to it, can be
of the Holy Ghost-still less so, if such indifference be set up as the proof of that love.
The doctrine of the reward and crown of glory which the labourer possesses in the fruits of his ministry, is presented in a very strong light in the eighth verse. This second epistle puts Christians on their guard against all that is equivocal with respect to the person of Christ; and exhorts to an unwavering firmness on this point.
The third Epistle encourages the believer to the exercise of hospitality whether towards the known brethren or strangers, and to all benevolent care in furthering their journey when departing, provided that they come with the truth and for the truth's sake, without salary or provision. Gaius received them, as it appears, and was helpful to them, both in his own house and on their journey. Diotrephes, on the contrary, did not love these strangers, who went about, as it is said, without a formal mission, and without any visible means of subsistence. They had gone forth for the Lord's sake, and had received nothing from the Gentiles. If in reality they came out of love to that name, one did well to receive them.
Again, the Apostle insists on the truth, as characterising real love; “Whom I love in the truth,” he says to Gaius. He rejoiced when the brethren (those, I imagine, whom Gaius had received into his house and helped on their journey) testified of the truth that was in him, as in effect he walked in the truth. The Apostle had no greater joy than that of hearing that his children walked in the truth. In receiving those who went forth to preach the truth, they helped the truth itself; they were co-workers with it. Diotrephes would have nothing to do with this; he not only refused to receive these itinerant preachers, but excommunicated those who did so. He claimed authority for himself. The Apostle would remember it. It was their duty to do good. He that doeth good is of God.
He goes so far, with regard to the truth, as to say that the truth itself bore witness to Demetrius. I suppose that the latter had propagated it, and that the establishment and confirmation of the truth everywhere—at least, where he had laboured-was a testimony with regard to himself.