I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ…
That is a very remarkable phrase — "the kingdom and patience." It might almost seem to be an arbitrary and fanciful phrase. And more than this, the two ideas would appear, to some minds at least, to be contradictory. Patience does not appeal to such minds as a kingly virtue, but rather as a commonplace quality befitting people of humbler rank. Impatience is somehow conceived as a king's privilege. The Bible puts this whole matter directly the other way. Kinghood, instead of being dissevered from patience, is bound up with it: the kingly virtues are all intertwined with patience and dependent upon it. This truth, when we come to examine it, is not confined to the region of Scripture or of religion. It is, in part at least, an every-day, business truth. It is a familiar enough fact that the great successes of the world have been won by hard and patient work, and not by inspired flashes; and we are beginning to have greater respect for the power of holding on than for the power of brilliant striking out. And, as in so many cases, Christ shows us how, in these familiar views, we have gotten hold of one end of a truth which runs up through the whole spiritual economy; a truth which takes the form of a principle: patience is kinghood. But if that principle is to commend itself practically to mankind it must be incarnated. Men will not believe it on the strength of mere assertion. In Jesus there are these two elements, dominion and patience. Now, I ask you to consider the peculiar trial of patience applied to a cultured mind and a pure character m contact with dense Ignorance, wicked cruelty, intense bigotry, enormous conceit, and personal degradation in every conceivable form. Look at the matter, for instance, on its lowest side. Did you ever do a full day's work in a hospital, surrounded from morning until evening with the sick and wounded and dying? If you have, you know how weary in body you were when the night came. And yet your worst experience of that kind was but a faint shadow of many days in Christ's life, especially those in which He was pressed all day long by that fearful oriental crowd, thrusting their various ailments upon His attention. Wise and good men who devote their lives to the ignorant have nevertheless some compensation. They step out of their own congenial circle, where their character and thoughts are appreciated, and down into the lower circle; but they can step back again at intervals, and refresh themselves with the contact and sympathy of congenial minds. But this compensation was denied Christ. There was, indeed, small band that loved Him, listened to Him, and believed in Him, but even these could sympathise with Him only to a very small extent. Nothing is more beautiful than the patience of Christ as related to His uncompromising fidelity to His standard of duty and of truth: His holding by His principles while He holds on at the same time to those slow, backward pupils in the school of faith and of self-sacrifice. Many a man, by his severe devotion to his moral ideals, cuts himself loose from other men. They admire his courage and consistency, but refuse to follow him; and a reason for this is often found in his impatience with their slowness. It was the patience of Christ which enabled Him to bate not one jot of His high claims and at the same time to lose none of those whom the Father had given Him. He could mourn over slow faith and uneducated conscience and low ideals of duty, yet He could go on teaching, and continue to wait long and patiently while they toiled slowly and painfully up toward His higher level. Once more let me briefly refer you to Christ's patience as shown in His method of securing friends and helpers. Most reformers, in their zeal to secure partisans, are willing to receive them under the influence of momentary enthusiasm. They are willing to have a man commit himself while his reason is unconvinced and only his fancy captivated. You cannot hut observe how Christ guarded against this mistake, though His caution doubtless cost Him many followers. He had patience to wait for followers who should embrace His cause deliberately, from conviction; and in this light the plainness of His statements concerning the terms and consequences of His service are worth noting. Nothing is concealed. And now I should like to dwell upon the patience of Christ as shown in His waiting. Christ's mission, in its very nature, involved long, patient waiting. It was the mission of a sower, sowing seed of slow growth. The harvest of Christ's ideas was not going to be reaped in three years nor in a hundred. He knew perfectly that He should return from earth leaving behind Him almost nothing in the way of visible results. He was content to await the slow growth of the gospel seed; to wait for the consummation of a sovereignty based on the spiritual transformation wrought by the gospel. His course in this stands out as the sublimest illustration of patience in all time, and stamps Him as the true King of the ages. Christ, therefore, by His own example, no less than by His word, commends to us this kingly virtue of patience. So, then, if you and I are expecting to win moral and spiritual dominion, this element must come to the front in our lives. Suppose we want to be good, truthful, pure in heart, single in purpose, Christlike in temper. Are these things wrought in us on the instant? No, you and I know it is not so. We know that each morning we wake to a twofold fight, with the world outside and with the self within. God help us if patience fail. God help us if there be not something within which keeps firm hold of the exceeding great and precious promises; which will not suffer faith to fail, that He that hath begun a good work will perfect it; which is not disheartened at slow progress, and which, spite of the tears and the dust, keeps our faces turned toward the place where we know the crown and the glory are, though we cannot see them. So, too, like Christ, we have a work to do among men. We shall not do it without patience. We must try and get a firmer hold of the great principle of Christ's life: "not to be ministered unto, but to minister"; and when we shall have gotten it clearly into our minds that our main purpose in life is not to be blessed by the world, but to bless the world, then we shall find ourselves on the road where every day and every hour will beget a prayer for the patience of Jesus Christ. Bearing, waiting, enduring — these do not seem to be means to kinghood; but if we aim at spiritual kinghood, dominion over our hearts, dominion over self, dominion over character — the kingdom of Jesus Christ — that and that only is the way to it.
(M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.