Great Texts of the Bible
Victory and Intimacy
To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.—Revelation 2:17.
The Church at Pergamum, to which this promise is addressed, had a sharper struggle than fell to the lot of the two Churches whose epistles precede this. It was set “where Satan’s seat is.” Pergamum was a special centre of heathen worship, and already the blood of a faithful martyr had been shed in it.
There were two houses in the city which represented the two forces that made life a battle for the Christian. One was the Church of Christ, and the other was the temple of idolatry. Heathen vice and heathen pleasure had such a sway in Pergamum that it seemed to be Satan’s capital. In the palace of the idol the Adversary’s throne was set and his court gathered. All that was grand and popular and pleasant was on the side of evil. When a man left that gorgeous temple in the great square he left everything that appealed to ease and pride and ambition. When he entered the poor little church in the back lane he entered into conflict with his heart and with the world. That single renunciation of the sweets and successes of life was but the beginning of the strife. In the church itself were some who taught that the Christian need not break with his former life in choosing Christ. Let us say to ourselves that the idol is nothing, and so let us go to the temple feasts, and take part in the foul and wild joys of the heathen. Let us be friendly with the people, and bring no unnecessary hardships on ourselves.
At once we see that the dingy, hidden church is, indeed, the portal of the one true temple, all glorious and eternal. Let these worshippers of the Christ be faithful to Him, and soon they shall pass in and be at home there. Let them keep from the meats of the idol shrine, and they shall feast on the best in the house of God. Let them refuse to be votaries of the foul altar, and they shall be very priests of the Holy of Holies. Let them forgo the society of the heathen, and they shall be the close and particular friends of Him who is the visible Divinity of the heavenly sanctuary. They shall be fed with “hidden manna”; they shall receive “a white stone, and upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.”
The Hidden Manna
“To him that overcometh, to him will I give of the hidden manna.”
1. The reference is to the golden pot of manna which was preserved in the ark, under the mercy-seat, along with Aaron’s rod and the tables of the covenant. The manna was taken from off the sand of the desert, put into an urn, and placed, for all ages, in the Holy of Holies, in remembrance of the desert food, and as a type of something better yet to be revealed.
This hidden manna was both like and unlike the manna of the wilderness; it was connected with it, yet also separate. It was of heaven originally (John 6:31); it came down to earth; it was taken into the holiest of all, the emblem of the heaven of heavens; thus it was both of earth and of heaven. It was of the wilderness, yet not in it. It was originally corruptible, yet made incorruptible; once a daily gift, spread over all the sand of the desert, now gathered into one small vessel, and laid up there once for all. It was in the ark, covered with the blood, beneath the cherubim and the glory; food that could be reached only through blood, and could be only for those whom blood had redeemed. Man had eaten “angels’ food”; but now this had become the food of men—not only of men here, in weakness and wandering, but also of the glorified in the New Jerusalem.
2. Those who remember with what fulness St. John, and he alone, records the teaching in which his Master claimed to be the Bread of God, the living bread that came down from heaven, of which, if a man ate, he should live for ever, as contrasted with the manna in the wilderness, which had no power to save from death, will be ready to admit that the words now before us must have recalled that teaching, and that the manna which was to be the reward of the conqueror was the fruition of the ineffable sweetness of that Divine presence. Those who resisted the temptation to join the idol’s feast in the idol’s temple should be admitted to that heavenly feast in the eternal temple, which was also the palace of the great King.
The food of God is thus set over against forbidden food. The Christians here first addressed had eaten food offered to idols. In opposition to this is the promise of the “hidden manna.” “Not as the world giveth give I unto you.” Christ contrasts the world’s food, as that which never satisfies, with His love and sympathy, which alone satisfy the cravings of the soul.
In course of one of his Sunday evening addresses to the students of Edinburgh University, Professor Drummond remarked: “I was talking last Sunday to a man who said that though he could live for Christ at the close of the meetings, or could even for a month or so keep straight, yet after that his new life went down and was lost. Now, this proves two things. It proves the possibility of a man living for Christ and keeping straight under suitable conditions, and it proves also that if a man tries living without the Bread of Life he will flag and die. You can’t live on air. You can’t live on one another. You can’t live on what I say; but you can live on the Bread of Life, which is Jesus Christ. The problem of Nutrition is the fundamental problem of physiology, the fundamental problem of living beings. So exactly is it the fundamental problem of the Christian life.”
He then drew a long analogy between physical and spiritual nutrition in the terms of physiology. “But the closest parallel I can draw is that which we see in life and read of in tales, where one man is the sustenance and life of another, or more often where a woman is the sustenance and help of a man. Something which is very pure, which is fresh, which is high and lofty—why, it throws an influence around the base life which elevates and ennobles that miserable life to the level of its own. Not in a day. Not in a year. But in a long continuous process which works unseen. How is it done? By abiding in the presence of that which is pure and noble. One life affects the other, and the weak becomes stimulated and roused; there are the elements of growth. So a man who abides in the presence of Jesus Christ in some mystical way appropriates, unconsciously and unavoidably, the life and character of Christ, so that he is built up like Him. That is the whole process. It is perfectly simple and perfectly natural. The point of importance is this, that it is quite impossible to go on at all in the spiritual life without living in the immediate presence and fellowship of Christ. This is to reach the Supreme. This is to be nourished and strengthened for life.”1 [Note: G. A. Smith, The Life of Henry Drummond, 493.]
How richly in the desert Israel fared,
By God’s own hand with food angelic fed,
Which with the dew around the camp was shed.
That other dew, brow-drenching, they were spared
In tilling thorn-cursed ground—sad burden shared
By all for Adam’s sin; but ate their “bread,”
As from a table in the desert spread,
“Without their labour,” or their thought, “prepared.”
So God’s salvation, the true bread from heaven,
In rich completeness is before us set,
Fresh with the Spirit’s dew, and freely given:
But not without the labour of Another,
Toils, tears, and thorny crown, and bloody sweat,
Of Him who is God’s Fellow and man’s Brother.2 [Note: Richard Wilton.]
3. The sustenance promised to the conqueror is hidden food. When the manna was given to the Israelites a golden vessel full of it was stored in or near the ark. When the first Temple perished, the rumour ran that the ark of the covenant, and the objects associated with it, had not really perished. No one knows what became of the ark. It is mentioned in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 8:21), and after that not at all in the historical part of the Old Testament. But the Jewish tale ran, and still runs, that when the first Temple perished under Nebuchadnezzar the ark had escaped the fate of the other vessels of the house of God, which were carried to Babylon, and had been successfully hidden in one of the thousand caves with which the limestone rock of Palestine is honey-combed, where still, if the tradition be true, it may await a chance discovery. St. John’s readers would be perfectly familiar with the tale, for it stood in their Bibles though it does not stand in ours. The Book of the Maccabees tells that “Jeremiah came and found a chamber in the rocks, and there he brought in the tabernacle, and the ark, and the altar of incense, and he made fast the door. And some of those that followed with him came there that they might mark the way and could not find it. But when Jeremiah perceived it he blamed them, saying, ‘Yea, and the place shall be unknown until God shall gather the people together again and mercy come; and then shall the Lord disclose these things, and the glory of the Lord shall be seen, and the cloud.’ ”
We can see, then, what the promise of the hidden manna would mean to these Jewish Christians—for most of St. John’s readers, no doubt, were Jews—God’s secret known, the ark revealed, the scattered people of Israel gathered together again, the Bread of Life restored to them, but restored in truer fashion, for their “fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead,” but Christ had promised that “My Father shall give you the bread of heaven.… I am the bread of life … he that cometh unto me shall not hunger.”
(1) The manna was in its very nature and origin something hidden, something unknown and wonderful. The name is supposed to be derived from the wondering question of the Israelites as they saw the strange thing lie on the ground: “Manna?” or “What now? What is it?” It was like coriander seed, sweet as honey; but what it actually was Israel never learned to know. It fell for nearly forty years with the dew from the womb of the morning, a gift direct from the hand of God. It came from the storehouse of heaven, where it lay hid with God, and this was all that the people knew of its origin; and in this very ignorance was certified to them this glorious fact that it was inexhaustible, a supply measured by no breadth or fertility of corn-fields.
Silently it fell,
Whence, no man might tell,
Like good dreams from heaven
Unto mortals given,
Like a snowy flock
Of strange sea-birds alighting on a shore of rock;
Silent thus and bright
Fell the manna in the night.
Silently thus and bright,
In our starless night,
God’s sweet mercy comes
All about our homes;
Whence, no man can see,
In a soft shower drifting, drifting ceaselessly.
Till the morning light
Falls the manna in the night.
Thus His mercy’s crown,
Bread of life, came down;
At our doors it fell,
Whence, no man might tell,
Silent to the ground;
Softly shining thus through the darkness all around,
Snowy, pure, and white,
Fell the manna in the night.
(2) Jesus, whom the manna typifies, is now hidden from view. The manna was there in the golden pot, and kept in the Holy of Holies, and miraculously preserved from year to year, so that it saw no corruption. The people had never seen it, neither had the priests, neither are we told that the high priest ever did, on that one day in the year when he entered that inner sanctuary. What a thrilling figure of Him who said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.” He is our “hidden Manna” which saw no corruption. He has entered, not the Holy of Holies that was here on earth, but heaven itself. He is laid up for us in heaven. He is hidden from us now, even Him whom having not seen we love. But presently we who are made by Him priests unto God and His Father shall have boldness through His blood to enter into the Holiest. Then we shall see the now “hidden Manna,” then feast our eyes and hearts on the sight of our glorified Saviour. Then the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed us, and lead us to the living fountains, i.e., the very springs and source of life. So that then we “shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.” The “hidden Manna” shall then be revealed; the Lamb shall be our light, and our God our glory.
The suggestion of mystery in this “hidden manna” was calculated to arouse the immediate interest of the Christians of Pergamum. For this was known as the City of Mystery. Its tutelary divinity, Aesculapius, was worshipped under the symbol of a serpent. It is said that the porches of his temple were crowded in the night-time with worshippers tarrying there in the hope of having dreams and visions. Pergamum was the centre of the Oriental occultism of those days. Its merchants carried on a profitable business in charms, amulets and cabalistic letters. Its smooth sheep-skins were famous the world over as Pergamenae chartae, which we have shortened into “parchment.”1 [Note: D. J. Burrell, The Cloister Book, 46.]
The White Stone
“And I will give him a white stone.”
Commentators differ as to the meaning of the “white stone,” and Dr. Maclaren came at length to regard it as the mere vehicle for the name, with possibly some subsidiary thought of innocence and purity. Perhaps the language is vague and indefinite just because it means and hides so much.
1. The giving of the stone is evidently a mark of the highest distinction, and there is much to be said for the view that the reference is to splendid gems, called Urim and Thummim (that is, lights and perfectnesses), enclosed within the folds of the high priest’s breastplate which none but the high priest ever beheld.
The white stone which Jesus bestows excels the Old Testament gems. The Urim and Thummim were but dead stones, and lay but on the breast. They were but outward symbols of God. This white stone is lustrous with the very light which is God, and it is hidden within the breast itself. The upshining of faith, the fardarting beams of hope, and the outspreading glow of love are glories born of God’s own glory. A Divine nature begins at the centre of the human nature. And as the Christian obeys it, it grows. As he wars against his evil loves and ambitions, a strange, sweet light dawns in the secret of his heart. To his gladdened eyes there is revealed a purity and a beauty not there of old, and not given by any hand but God’s. However tiny and dim that gem may be, as his eye lights on it he knows it to be the diamond of a Godlike goodness. He knows by that token that he is now a priest. However unfit, and however slackly he uses his grand privileges, he has the loftiest dignity open to mortal. He wears the veil through which the inner splendour glimmers, and the eternal voices are faintly heard. Soon with wondering awe, but no fear, he shall pass within and be for ever with the Lord.
The hidden manna and the white stone are not merely united in time, belonging both to the wilderness period of the history of God’s people; they are united as both representing high-priestly prerogatives, which the Lord should at length impart to all His people, kings and priests to God, as He will then have made them all. If any should be privileged to eat of the hidden manna, who but the High Priest, who alone had entrance into the Holy Place where it was laid up? If any should have knowledge of what was graven on the Urim, who but the same High Priest, in whose keeping it was, and who was bound by his very office to consult it? The mystery of what was written there, shut to every other, would be open to him.1 [Note: R. C. Trench.]
2. But there is another suggestion. In ancient times the white stone was often the symbol of acquittal. In the symbolism of colours, which, as having its ultimate root in the impression of pain or pleasure made upon the senses, might almost be called natural, and is, as a matter of fact, all but universal, white, in its brightness and purity, had been associated with joy and gladness, with victory and triumph. So, in a practice which, though originating, it was said, with the half-civilized tribes of Thrace or Scythia, had become general, days of festivity were noted with a white, those of calamity with a black, stone. Thus, when the vote of an assembly as to the guilt of an accused person was by ballot, white stones were the symbol of acquittal, black of condemnation. It has, accordingly, been contended, with at least much plausibility, that this is the significance of the “white stone” in the promise now before us. The conqueror in the great strife with evil, whatever opprobrium he might incur in the sight of men, whatever sentence he might receive at the hands of an earthly judge, would be received as justified and acquitted by the Eternal Judge. Yet, on the other hand, it can scarcely be said that the symbol of a mere acquittal would be an adequate expression of the reward promised to him that overcometh. A verdict of “not guilty,” which, on this interpretation, would exhaust the meaning of the promise, could hardly take its place as co-ordinate with the “crown of life,” or with “the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God.”
The Greek commentator Andreas sees allusion in the words white stone to the white pebble, by placing which in the ballot-box the Greek judges pronounced the sentence of acquittal (ψη̃φοι σώζουσαι, they were therefore called), as by the black of condemnation; a custom expressed in the well-known lines of Ovid (Metam. xv. 41, 42):
Mos erat antiquus, niveis atrisque lapillis,
His damnare reos, illis absolvere culpae.
But, not to speak of a grave fault common to this and almost every other explanation of these words which is offered, this one is manifestly inadequate; the absolving pebble was not given to the acquitted, as this is to the victor, nor was there any name written upon it.1 [Note: R. C. Trench.]
3. Once more the reference may be to the tessera hospitalis, the tally or token of hospitality employed by the ancients. At a time when houses of public entertainment were less common, private hospitality was the more necessary. When one person was received kindly by another, or a contract of friendship was entered into, the tessera was given. It was so named from its shape, being four-sided; it was sometimes of wood, sometimes of stone; it was divided into two by the contracting parties; each wrote his own name on half of the tessera; then they exchanged pieces, and therefore the name or device on the piece of tessera which each received was the name the other person had written upon it, and which no one else knew but he who received it. It was carefully prized, and entitled the bearer to protection and hospitality.
Some such tessera, or ticket—a stone with the name of the guest written on it—was given to those who were invited to partake, within the precincts of the temple, of the feast that consisted wholly, or in part, of the meat that had been offered as a sacrifice. On this view the second part of the promise is brought into harmony with the first, and is made more directly appropriate: he who had the courage to refuse that tessera to the feast which defiled should receive another that would admit him to the supper of the Great King.
Plantus, in one of his plays, refers to this custom. Hanno inquires of a stranger where he may find Agorastocles, and discovers to his surprise that he is addressing the object of his search.
“If so,” he says, “compare, if you please, this hospitable tessera; here it is: I have it with me.”
Agorastocles replies, “It is the exact counterpart; I have the other part at home.”
Hanno responds, “O my friend! I rejoice to meet thee; thy father was my friend, my guest; I divided with him this hospitable tessera.”
“Therefore,” said Agorastocles, “thou shalt have a home with me, for I reverence hospitality.”
4. Closely associated with the stone of hospitality was the stone of friendship. It was a tender custom in classic times which has not quite died out of a prosaic modern world. Two friends would sometimes plight friendship in a beautiful way by dividing between them a small tablet, oftenest in the form of a small piece of white marble or ivory. It is done sometimes to-day, at all events in country districts, with a ring. Each portion of the broken tablet bore upon it a symbol known only to the friends. When once this token had been given or received, the friends were bound to one another for ever, and not for life only, for the broken fragments could be handed from father to son, and no matter how many generations had passed, if the holder of one half of the tablet presented it to the holder of the other half, he could claim from him shelter, protection, defence in the courts of law against all adversaries, and every privilege that the first holder could have claimed. So Christ seems to say, He that conquers shall plight troth with Me. He and I will break the tablet of friendship together. We will bind ourselves together for time and for eternity, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” If he claims My help he shall have it, freely, ungrudgingly. I will be his Friend in everything. He shall live with Me. We will sup together. I will divide all I have with him. All the treasures of God shall be his. All that is Mine shall be his.
There is a lovely German poem of the Middle Ages, by one Weruher, which has not yet found a translator. It is something like this—
Thou art mine and I am Thine,
I will make Thee sure of that,
I will lock Thee in my heart,
I will close its outer door,
I will lose its little key,
Thou canst then no more depart.1 [Note: W. P. Workman, in A Book of Lay Sermons, 156.]
In his notes of 1854 Ruskin says: “This holding the name in the white stone is very suggestive as well as mysterious. In one sense the White Stone may be the Heart—always a stone, compared to what it ought to be; yet a white one when it holds Christ (‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’).”2 [Note: Ruskin, Fors Clavigera, vii. § 23 (Works, xxix. 302).]
5. Above all else the white stone is a sign of public honour. It is given to “him that overcometh.” And so it has been suggested that the reference is to the gladiatorial combats which were so marked a feature of classic times. They took place in those huge amphitheatres which are to-day more wonderful in their ruins than most modern buildings in their completeness. In them, as in all shows, there were honoured seats, and among these were places for old gladiators, heroes of the arena, who in many a fight had won the title to rest. The diploma of these heroes was a white stone, and on it was engraved the number of the victories its possessor had won and the names of the victims he had slain. So, it has been suggested, when life’s long battle is won, Christ will give His heroes (gladiators in a far nobler warfare, gladiators in the struggle with sin) a white stone of victory, a title of admission to a place, and a place of special honour, in the “cloud of witnesses.”
He who held this stone was entitled to be supported at the public expense, had free access to all the festivities of the nation, and was regarded as illustrious in all great gatherings. Thus he who wins the moral battle of life will be publicly honoured. A crown of glory is prepared for him, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give unto him at that day. He will have free admission into all the honours of eternity.
The Saxon name of the family was originally spelt Livingstone, but the Doctor’s father had shortened it by the omission of the final “e.” David wrote it for many years in the abbreviated form, but about 1857, at his father’s request, he restored the original spelling. The significance of the original form of the name was not without its influence on him. He used to refer with great pleasure to a note from an old friend and fellow-student, the late Professor George Wilson of Edinburgh, acknowledging a copy of his book in 1857:—“Meanwhile, may your name be propitious; in all your long and weary journeys may the Living half of your title outweigh the other; till after long and blessed labours, the white stone is given you in the happy land.”1 [Note: W. G. Blaikie, The Personal Life of David Livingstone (ed. 1880), 2.]
In The Book of the Sparkling Stone the subject is the mysterious stone of which the Spirit says in the Apocalypse: Et dabo illi (vincenti) calculum candidum, et in calculo nomen novum scriptum, quod nemo scit nisi qui accepit (Revelation 2:17). This stone, according to the monk of the forest of Soignes, is the symbol of Christ, given to His loved ones only, and like a flame which images the love of the eternal Word. And then again we have glimpses of those dark shadows of love, from which break forth uninterrupted sobs of light, seen in awful flowers through the gradual expansions of contemplation and above the strange verdure of an unequalled gladness.2 [Note: M. Maeterlinck, Ruysbroeck and the Mystics, 78.]
Have you not heard
Of the fair white stone,
With its written word
By one soul known,
And the Lord alone?3 [Note: Emily Hickey.]
The New Name
“And upon the stone a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth it.”
1. The ideal function of a name is to give an accurate and complete description of the thing that it denotes. Of course names are, practically, very far from performing this function, and the names applied to individuals very often express anything but the truth. But the metaphor of the text is based on the ideal name, and not the actual. It is in this way that we are to interpret such phrases as “the name of Jesus” and “the name of God.” It means the essential life of Jesus, of God, and all the relations that this life assumes. But we must not fall into the mistake of thinking that the “name” denotes a bundle of abstract qualities, which you may separate from the actual living person. It is rather the person in the totality of his life and its manifestations. The life that manifests the qualities is essential to the name.
The readers of this letter, who possessed the key to its comprehension, hidden from the common world, could not fail to be struck with the analogy between this New Name and the Imperial title Augustus. That also had been a new name, deliberately devised by the Senate to designate the founder, and to mark the foundation of the new Empire: it was an old sacred word, used previously only in the language of the priests, and never applied to any human being: hence Ovid says: “Sancta vocant augusta patres” (Fast., 1:609). That old word was appropriated in 27 b.c. to the man who had been the saviour of Rome, and whom already the popular belief had begun to regard as an incarnation of the Divine nature in human form, sent down to earth to end the period of war and introduce the age of peace. This sacred, Divine name marked out the man to whom it was applied as one apart from the world, standing on a higher level, possessor of superhuman power in virtue of this new name and transmitting that power through the name to his descendants.
The analogy was striking; and the points of difference were only to the advantage of the Christian. His new name was secret, but all the more efficacious on that account. The readers for whom this letter was written—the Christians of Pergamum, of all Asia, of the whole world—would catch with certainty the hidden meaning. All those Christians, when they were victorious, were to be placed in the same position as, or rather higher than, Augustus, having a New Name, the Name of God, their own secret possession, which no man would know and therefore no man could tamper with by acquiring control through knowledge. As Augustus had been set above the Roman world by his new name, so they would be set above the world by theirs.1 [Note: W. M. Ramsay, The Letters to the Seven Churches of Asia, 310.]
2. The name, then, expresses the character, the nature, the being, the meaning of the person who bears it. It is the man’s own symbol,—his soul’s picture, in a word,—the sign which belongs to him and to no one else. Who can give a man this, his own, name? God alone. For no one but God sees what the man is, or even, seeing what he is, could express in a name-word the sum and harmony of what He sees. To whom is this name given? To him that overcometh. When is it given? When he has overcome. Does God then not know what a man is going to become? As surely as He sees the oak which He put there lying in the heart of the acorn. Why then does He wait till the man has become by overcoming ere He settles what his name shall be? He does not wait; He knows his name from the first. But—although repentance comes because God pardoned—as the man becomes aware of the pardon only in the repentance, so it is only when the man has become his name that God gives him the stone with the name upon it, for then first can he understand what his name signifies. It is the blossom, the perfection, the completion, that determines the name; and God foresees that from the first, because He made it so; but the tree of the soul, before its blossom comes, cannot understand what blossom it is to bear, and could not know what the word meant, which, in representing its own unattained completeness, named itself. Such a name cannot be given until the man is the name.
My heart was tender and often contrite, and universal love to my fellow-creatures increased in me. This will be understood by such as have trodden in the same path. Some glances of real beauty may be seen in their faces who dwell in true meekness. There is a harmony in the sound of that voice to which Divine love gives utterance, and some appearance of right order in their temper and conduct whose passions are regulated; yet these do not fully show forth that inward life to those who have not felt it; this white stone and new name is only known rightly by such as receive it.1 [Note: The Journal of John Woolman (ed. 1903), 48.]
3. The “new name” had been used by Isaiah and Jeremiah for expressing the new life of blessedness in store for those to whom it was applied. The land that had been forsaken and abandoned to destruction should be called “Hephzibah,” as once more delight of her Lord. The daughter of Zion, that had sat desolate as a widow, should be “Beulah,” as a bride over whom the bridegroom once more rejoiced. Jerusalem herself was to be known by the mystic name of “The Lord our Righteousness.” In his own case and that of his brother, as in that of Simon Barjona—in Peter, the “Rock,” and Boanerges, the “Sons of Thunder”—the Apostle had known a new name given which was the symbol of a higher life and a character idealized in its gifts. And so in this case the inner truth that lies below the outward imagery would seem to be that the conqueror, when received at the heavenly feast, should find upon the stone, or tessera, that gave him the right of entrance a “new name,” the token of a character transformed and perfected, a name the full significance of which should be known only to him who was conscious of the transformation, just as in the experiences of our human life, “the heart knoweth its own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy.”
When little children are baptized they receive a name, inalienable. Its possession means “given to God.” Our surname is our old name. Our baptismal name, the name suggestive of our new nature is our new name for earth. When admitted into heaven, we shall receive a new name, Christ’s name and ours. “I will write upon him mine own new name.”
When the angels that await me,
Meet me at my entering in,
With what name of love and music
Will their welcoming begin?
Not the name so dimmed with earth stains,
Linked with thoughts of grief and pain,
No, the name which mortals give me
Will not be my angel name.1 [Note: A. W. Lewis.]
4. The new name becomes ours by communication from Christ “I will give him a new name”—a deeper, a more inward, a fresh knowledge and revelation of My own character—as eternal love, eternal wisdom, all-sufficient, absolute power, the home and treasure and joy and righteousness of the whole heart and spirit. That is the representation uniformly given in Scripture with regard to all the change and glorifying of human nature which follows upon the entrance into the life beyond. It is ever set forth as being the consequence of a fuller knowledge and general possession of the name—the manifested character of Jesus Christ our Lord. The words of the Apostle John, who wrote the Apocalypse, mean the same thing without metaphor, as his words here in their metaphor: “We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
The name is inscribed upon the beholder as the sun makes an image of itself on the photographic plate. If thou wouldest see Christ, thou must be as Christ; if thou wouldest be as Christ, thou must see Christ. “We all, with unveiled faces mirroring,” as a glass does, “the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image.”1 [Note: A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, 230.]
5. This new name is known only to its possessor. That, of course, is true in all regions of human experience. Did ever anybody describe a taste so that a man that had not tasted the thing could tell what it was like? Did ever anybody describe an odour so as to do more than awaken the memory of someone who had once had the scent lingering in his nostrils? Have all the poets who have been singing from the beginning of the world described love and sorrow, joy and hope and fear, so as to do more than kindle the reminiscences of men as to their own sorrows and joys? If he has not known the love of a child, no talking will ever make a man understand what a father’s heart is. Religious experiences are not unlike ordinary human experiences in this matter. It is not possible to communicate them, partly because of the imperfection of human language, partly because we need in all departments sympathy and prior knowledge in order to make the descriptions significant at all.
We have our own heart, with its own love and its own aspirations. We have our own tasks and responsibilities and failings. Hence our need of God is not the need of any other soul; it is just our own need that He meets, and so we have our own special view and experience of Him. The harder, the stranger, our lot may be, the more distinct are our dealings with Him to whom we pray, on whose Spirit we depend, in whose goodness we are being exercised. We cling to Him, not as the great God of all, but as our own Father, in whose heart we have our own place, and into whose character we have our own insight.
Thus comes it that my own sense of God is a name for God known only to Him and to me. You would need my heart, my history, to be indeed myself, before you could understand all that I mean and feel when I say, “God, my Father.”
Nowhere do we find on earth that picture of society reconstructed by the idea of Jesus, society around the throne of God, which shines out upon us from the mysterious promises of the Apocalypse; the glory of which society is to be this—that while the souls stand in their vast choruses of hundreds of thousands, and all chant the same anthems and all work together in the same transcendent duties, yet each bears the sacred name written on the flesh of his own forehead, and carries in his hand a white stone, on which is written a new name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it. It is individuality emphasized by company, and not lost in it, because the atmosphere in which the company is met is the idea of Jesus, which is the fatherhood of God.1 [Note: Phillips Brooks, The Influence of Jesus, 99.]
You would be ashamed not to know the name and use of every piece of furniture in the house, and we ought to be as familiar with every object in the world—which is only a larger kind of house. You recollect the pretty story of Pizarro and the Peruvian Inca: how the Inca asked one of the Spaniards to write the word Dio (God) upon his thumb-nail, and then, showing it to the rest, found only Pizarro unable to read it! Well, you will find as you grow older that this same name of God is written all over the world in little phenomena that occur under our eyes every moment, and I confess that I feel very much inclined to hang my head with Pizarro when I cannot translate these hieroglyphics into my own vernacular.2 [Note: Letters of James Russell Lowell, i. 182.]
O Name, all other names above,
What art Thou not to me,
Now I have learned to trust Thy love
And cast my care on Thee!
What is our being but a cry,
A restless longing still,
Which Thou alone canst satisfy,
Alone Thy fulness fill!
Thrice blessèd be the holy souls
That lead the way to Thee,
That burn upon the martyr-rolls
And lists of prophecy.
And sweet it is to tread the ground
O’er which their faith hath trod;
But sweeter far, when Thou art found,
The soul’s own sense of God!
The thought of Thee all sorrow calms;
Our anxious burdens fall;
His crosses turn to triumph-palms,
Who finds in God his all.1 [Note: Frederick Lucian Hosmer.]
Victory and Intimacy
Alexander (S. A.), The Saint’s Appeal, 67.
Banks (L. A.), John and his Friends, 206.
Belfrage (H.), Sacramental Addresses and Meditations, 403.
Bonar (H.), Light and Truth: The Revelation, 107.
Brown (C.), The Letters of Christ, 47.
Burns (D.), Sayings in Symbol, 72.
Burrell (D. J.), The Cloister Book, 45.
Foster (J. M.), The White Stone, 1.
Fraser (D.), Seven Promises Expounded, 20.
Hall (N.), in The World’s Great Sermons, vi. 87.
Hamilton (J.), Faith in God, 352.
Huntington (F. D.), Christian Believing and Living, 185.
Jones (T.), The Divine Order, 151.
Laird (J.), Memorials, 231.
MacDonald (G.), Unspoken Sermons, i. 100.
Mackay (W. M.), Bible Types of Modern Men, 299.
Maclaren (A.), Expositions: Epistles of John to Revelation, 205.
Maclaren (A.), Sermons Preached in Manchester, iii. 75.
Maclaren (A.), The Unchanging Christ, 223.
Macmillan (H.), The Daisies of Nazareth, 125.
Macpherson (D.), Last Words, 51.
Matheson (G.), Moments on the Mount, 195.
Neale (J. M.), Sermons on the Apocalypse, 18.
Temple (W.), Repton School Sermons, 223.
Thomas (J.), Myrtle Street Pulpit, iii. 268.
Trench (R. C.), Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia, 137.
Workman (W. P.), in A Book of Lay Sermons, 145.
Christian World Pulpit, xiv. 293 (M. Lucas); liii. 117 (W. T. Davison).
Examiner, Jan. 5, 1905 (J. H. Jowett).
Expositor, 1st Ser., ii. 433 (E. H. Plumptre).
Expositor and Current Anecdotes, xv. (1914) 307 (A. W. Lewis).