Revelation 2:8
To the angel of the church in Smyrna write: These are the words of the First and the Last, who died and returned to life.
Sermons
A Crown for the FaithfulJ. Sherman.Revelation 2:8-11
A Crown of LifeC. E. St. John.Revelation 2:8-11
An Appeal with PromiseCharles A. Berry.Revelation 2:8-11
Christian FaithfulnessHomilistRevelation 2:8-11
Christian FaithfulnessBp. W. S. Smith.Revelation 2:8-11
Christian Faithfulness and its RewardT. Entwistle.Revelation 2:8-11
Christian Fidelity and its RewardJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 2:8-11
Christ's Designation of HimselfH. Crosby.Revelation 2:8-11
Christ's Message to the Tempted and TriedJ. J. Ellis.Revelation 2:8-11
Cross and CrownB. D. Johns.Revelation 2:8-11
Faithful unto DeathJ. Vaughan, M. A.Revelation 2:8-11
Faithful unto DeathA. Raleigh, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
FaithfulnessR. Newton, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
Fidelity to Christ EnforcedA. Harvey.Revelation 2:8-11
Letter to SmyrnaJ. Parker, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
Poor and RichAbp. Trench.Revelation 2:8-11
Poor But PureJ. Trapp.Revelation 2:8-11
Poor Yet RichA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
Sin and SufferingT. Brooks.Revelation 2:8-11
Smyrna -- the Poor Church that was RichA. Mackennal, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
Spiritual AchesJ. Cameron.Revelation 2:8-11
Suffering ChristiansJ. Hyatt.Revelation 2:8-11
The Address to SmyrnaG. Rogers.Revelation 2:8-11
The Church in Great TribulationJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 2:8-11
The Crown of LifeJ. Trapp.Revelation 2:8-11
The Duty and the Reward of Christian FidelityD. Dewar, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
The Epistle to the Church At SmyrnaS. Conway Revelation 2:8-11
The Epistle to the Church in Smyrna : the Church Exposed to SufferingR. Green Revelation 2:8-11
The Law of Fidelity and its Divine RewardWilliam McKay.Revelation 2:8-11
The Letter to the Church At SmyrnaCaleb Morris.Revelation 2:8-11
The Riches of the PoorJohn Erskine, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
The Second Death and How to Escape ItJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 2:8-11
The Victor's Immunity from the Second DeathA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
The Words of Christ to the Congregation At SmyrnaD. Thomas, D. D.Revelation 2:8-11
The Words of Christ to the Congregation At SmyrnaD. Thomas Revelation 2:8-11
TrialW. Birch.Revelation 2:8-11
This city was situated in the same district of Asia Minor, some forty miles to the north of Ephesus, in which all these seven Churches were, at the mouth of a considerable river, in a most beautiful bay. The lands lying round were very fertile, bearing grapes in abundance, as befitted the city where the god Bacchus was the deity most honoured by the people. The city itself was large, beautiful, populous, wealthy. It was called, "The lovely one;" "The crown of Ionia;" "The ornament of Asia." It still exists and retains much of its old prosperity. Many Jews were there then as now and as is ever the case in busy trading seaports, and they would easily supply that contingent of Jewish persecutors by which the Church there was afflicted. We win speak -

I. OF THE SAINTLINESS OF THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA. This is attested in this letter.

1. Negatively. No blame is given; there is not one word of censure, as there certainly would have been had there been occasion for it. He who could say with the authority of omniscience, "I know," and whose eyes were as "a flame of fire," would have at once discerned fault if fault there had been. No; this Church seems to have come nearest of all to that ideal Church which is "without blemish, having neither spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing." But this is attested also:

2. Positively. Direct affirmation of their high and holy character is given by the Lord's declaration, "Thou art rich" (ver. 9). Yes; rich in the favour and love of God; rich in the gifts of the Holy Ghost; rich in the blessed prospect of the crown of life, which assuredly should be theirs; rich in present knowledge, consolation, and hope; rich in the help and blessing they should impart to others. Poverty there might be and was in regard to this world's wealth, but over against it was to be set, and doubtless they did so set it, the wealth of the kingdom of God which they knew was theirs. Let us ask ourselves - Would we have sided with them in their estimate of the relative value of the two riches? Would we have counted the spiritual wealth they chose greater riches than all the glittering, present, and tangible treasures of the world? They made such choice. Pray for grace to do the same.

II. THEIR SORROWS. "Many sorrows shall be to the wicked," saith God; but once and again, and maybe yet again it will be so, many sorrows have befallen God's saints, even the most loving and faithful of them. It was so with the suffering Church at Smyrna. Their sorrows are described as:

1. Tribulation. Already the storm of persecution had burst and was beating fiercely on the despised community that dared defy the pagan population, and the worship that was established in the city. Judging from what we know actually took place there and elsewhere at this period, there would be no lack of persecutors of all sorts in whom the deep hatred of the Christians, which had become all but universal, would urge them on to the infliction of all manner of suffering which might well be, and could only be, described as "tribulation."

2. Poverty. In wealthy cities such as Smyrna, where buying, selling, and getting gain was the all-absorbing occupation, and where success, which meant wealth, was, as elsewhere and as in our own day, all but worshipped, poverty was not merely odious, but even infamous. And in all probability the poverty of not a few of the Christians at Smyrna was directly traceable to the fact of their being Christians. They would be shunned and disliked, and it is easy to see how soon, under such circumstances, men who had been prosperous hitherto would fall into poverty. And the temptation to abandon a faith which involved such results must have been very strong, especially when they could not but know that they would abandon their miserable poverty at the same time, and return to the prosperity which they had lost. Ah! if now Christ could only be served at the cost which the Christians at Smyrna had to bear, how many would come to his service? how many would continue in it? But Christianity has long ago found out a way to make the best of both worlds, though whether to the enhancement of her power and glory may be gravely doubted.

3. Slander. The strong word "blasphemy" is employed, for the revilings of their enemies would, as such ever do, glance off from the Lord's servants to the Lord himself, and would become blasphemies - revilings against the Lord. What form these took, or on what they were based, we do not certainly know; but with the records of the New Testament and of Church history in our hands, we may reasonably infer that they had to do with the relations of the Christians:

(1) To the government of the day; accusing them of sedition and disloyalty, for which their persistent refusal to offer sacrifice to the emperor would afford plausible pretext.

(2) To society. Not a few of the popular games and festivals, as well as more social gatherings, involved sacrifices to idols, and from these the Christians would stand rigidly aloof. Thus they would be regarded as morose, misanthropical, and in other ways odious. They would be, as they were, denounced as haters of the human race.

(3) To morality. It was charged against them that their assemblies, which they were commonly obliged to hold at night, were for the vilest of purposes. There was no vice or crime which was counted too bad to charge them with.

(4) To God. The Jews would say of them, as Christ forewarned his disciples that they would, even as they had said it of him, that they were servants of Beelzebub (cf. Matthew 10.). Hence any who slew them thought they did God service. Such probably were some of the blasphemies which were spoken against them, and which they had to bear as best they might. Foul-mouthed Jews, "synagogues of Satan," and no true children of Abraham, as they said they were, but were not, together with those of "the baser sort amongst the heathen, would be quick to invent and spread these slanders, and to wound with worse than words if but they had the power. And they were to have it (ver. 10); for:

4. Their prospects were ever darkening. Very interesting in the light of this letter is it to read what is told us of Polycarp, St. John's own disciple, and who was, if not the very angel, yet an angel of the Church at Smyrna to whom this letter was sent. We possess a letter of his writing, a description of his character, and a detailed record of his martyrdom. And this last so beautifully illustrates the prophecy, the charge, and the promise of this letter, that it is well worthy of our notice in connection with what is here said of the Church of which he was the beloved, the honoured, and faithful pastor, when he won the martyr's crown. In the year of our Lord 167 a cruel persecution broke out against the Christians of Asia Minor. Polycarp would have awaited at his post the fate which threatened him, but his people compelled him to shelter himself in a quiet retreat, where he might, it was thought, safely hide. And for a while he remained undiscovered, and busied himself, so we are told, in prayers and intercessions for the persecuted Church. At last his enemies seized on a child, and, by torture, compelled him to make known where he was. Satisfied now that his hour was come, he refused further flight, saying, "The will of God be done." He came from the upper story of the house to meet his captors, ordered them as much refreshment as they might desire, and only asked of them this favour, that they would grant him yet one hour of undisturbed prayer. The fulness of his heart carried him on for two hours, and even the heathen, we are told, were touched by the sight of the old man's devotion. He was then conveyed back to the city, to Smyrna. The officer before whom he was brought tried to persuade him to yield to the small demand made upon him. "What harm," he asked, "can it do you to offer sacrifice to the emperor?" This was the test which was commonly applied to those accused of Christianity. But not for one moment would the venerable Polycarp consent. Rougher measures were then tried, and he was flung from the carriage in which he was being conveyed. When he appeared in the amphitheatre, the magistrate said to him, "Swear, curse Christ, and I will set thee free." But the old man answered, "Eighty and six years have I served Christ, and he has never done me wrong: how, then, can I curse him, my King and my Saviour?" In vain was he threatened with being thrown to the wild beasts or burned alive; and at last the fatal proclamation was made, that "Polycarp confessed himself a Christian." This was the death-warrant. He was condemned to be burnt alive. Jews and Gentiles, the whole "synagogue of Satan," here described, alike, hastened in rage and fury to collect wood from the baths and workshops for the funeral pile. The old man laid aside his garments, and took his place in the midst of the fuel. When they would have nailed him to the stake, he said to them, "Leave me thus, I pray, unfastened; he who has enabled me to brave the fire will give me strength also to endure its fierceness." He then uttered this brief prayer: "O Lord, Almighty God, the Father of thy beloved Son Jesus Christ, through whom we have received a knowledge of thee, God of the angels and of t he whole creation, of the whole race of man, and of the saints who live before thy presence; I thank thee that thou hast thought me worthy, this day and this hour, to share the cup of thy Christ among the number of thy witnesses!" The fire was kindled; but a high wind drove the flame to one side, and prolonged his sufferings; at last the executioner despatched him with a sword." So did one of Christ's poor saints at Smyrna die, "faithful unto death," and winner of "the crown of life," and never to "be hurt of the second death." But if these were, and they were, the sorrows and sufferings that they had to endure, what sustained them? Note, therefore -

III. THEIR SUPPORTS. For it is evident such would be needed. The very word of the Lord to them, "Fear not," indicates how great the peril was of their being crushed and heart-broken under the tribulations through which they were called to pass. Despondency and despair threatened them. To meet this their Lord was ready with his aid. It was given in manifold ways. He did not merely say to them, "Fear not," but showed them abundant reason wherefore they should not fear.

1. And first and chief: His own Name. "I am the First and the Last... alive" (ver. 8). Here, as throughout these letters, that aspect of our Lord's character is turned to the Church addressed which it most needed to consider and lay to heart. It was so with the Church at Ephesus. They were reminded of the Lord's nearness to and. knowledge of them and of his power and purpose to dispose of them according as their work should be. And now here, when he would comfort and strengthen the fearful, he tells them that about himself which could not but lift up their hearts, as doubtless it did. "I am the First;" i.e. "I am at the head and beginning of all things; all were ordered and arranged according to the counsel of my will; nothing comes by chance; nothing has been left unprovided for. "And the Last;" i.e. "When men and Satan have done their all, and nothing is left more that they can do, and they shall have gone to their own place, I shall remain, and of my kingdom there shall be no end. Therefore, remember, the eternal God is thy Refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms." "Which was dead;" i.e. "I have entered into all that can by any possibility be before you. I, of my own will, went down into the pain and darkness of death; I know all about it, O my people, and know how you feel, for I was in all points tried like as you are. And I entered into death that I might be the better able to help you. And see, I live! Sin and hell did their worst against me, but, behold, I am 'alive forevermore" When the apostle saw the vision of his Lord, and fell at his feet as dead, it was this same word, this same august Name of the Lord, that lifted him up again. And it was to do the same for the depressed and desponding Church at Smyrna. And next:

2. His knowledge, so perfect and complete, of them and all that concerned them. "I know thy works," he tells them, and then he goes on to give them details which showed the fulness of his knowledge. And that which they could not but believe, for the proof of it was before their eyes, would help them to believe in his knowledge when it affirmed what as yet was very far from being evident to them. He said to them, "Thou art rich." He, then, knew of treasure store of good which they did not; of recompense of reward so vast that their present poverty should be all forgotten. And he knew that all the accusations of their enemies were not true, as, perhaps, sometimes, in their more misgiving moods, they had half feared some of them might be, and were in consequence staggered beneath them. But now he came and declared them to be not true, but "blasphemies." They need trouble themselves, therefore, no more about them. And he knew the future as well as the present; what the devil, through his willing workmen, would do to them. He knew it all; knew why he would do it - "that they might be tempted," not tried, but seduced, and made to deny their Lord. He saw through it all, and now told them of it to brace them more firmly for the struggle before them. And he knew that the struggle, though sharp, should as certainly be short. "Ten days," he says, as we say, "A mere nine days' wonder;" by which we mean a merely passing, temporary, brief thing. So their trial should be so short that it should hardly have begun before it was ended. And should some of them be condemned to die, as they would be, let them be faithful right up to that point, and death should prove to them the goal of the race, where they should find their Lord, the Judge, waiting with the crown of victory in his hand, reaching forth to bestow it upon them. And this is how further the Lord cheers them, by

3. The glorious prize he promises them. That prize was life; the crown was the life; the life eternal, blessed, holy, forever with the Lord. So that the moment the headsman's axe, or the flame of fire, or the fangs of fierce beasts, put an end to the poor troubled life they now had, that moment the Lord should give them, in place of it, this crown of the eternal life. So that even death could only do them good, and as to the second death, most assuredly - such is the force of the Greek - that should do them no harm; that which should be the overwhelming horror of Christ's enemies should not even come nigh unto them, the overcoming ones, but life, eternal life, life with their Lord forever, that should be theirs. Oh, is not all this a "sursum corda" indeed? And it is but the type of what the same ever-blessed Lord will ever do. Hence he says, "He that hath an ear, let him hear." Well, then, my tried and tempted brother, mind that you hear. And you, godly working man in shop or factory, with a multitude of mocking mates, who well nigh wear your life out with their ungodly ways; and you, dear boys or girls at school, who have to run the gauntlet of sneers that stab, and taunts that torment your very soul; and whosoever you may be, child of God, that has to bear tribulation for Christ; - you have ears to hear; then do hear, for Christ meant this word for you. - S.C.







Smyrna.
The story of Smyrna, both spiritual and material, the delineation of its circumstances and of its experience, is simple. Nothing is said of the achievements of the Church; the significant clause, "I know thy works," which meets us elsewhere, is wanting here. No complex ethical state is set before us. The history of Smyrna is compressed into a single word, tribulation; it had one solitary call, to fidelity. Of Smyrna this much is recorded — the Church was persecuted by the Jews. The life of the Church had been one of tribulation, and in its tribulation it was poor. Of the social influence which conciliates authorities and tempers persecutions, of the comforts which lighten trouble and solace the afflicted, it had none. And the conflict was to wax sorer. Reproach will be followed by imprisonment. Out of the very soreness of the trouble there come suggestions that carry consolation with them. The sufferings of this insignificant Church have a dignity all their own; and not only a dignity, they have an importance too. As it had been with Christ, so should it be with His followers in Smyrna. Unrelenting hostility was to be followed by eternal victory. "Fear not the things which thou art going to suffer.... Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." There is something very suggestive in this picture of the Church at Smyrna, in the fact that it lay aside from the various movements — the false doctrines and the worldly confusions — which elsewhere had already begun to perplex the Christian life. To us, also, there have come manifold complexions of social and religious interest; the Christian life of to-day is very full. Yes, life is for us Christians to-day very full of meaning, and piety is very rich. The effort to win all for Christ will be very arduous, we know; but the hope is inspiring, the victory will be worth the winning.

I. THE CHURCH AT SMYRNA WAS RICH BECAUSE IT HAD CHRIST. Observe the sublimity and the tenderness of the titles under which the Lord reveals Himself — "the first and the last," "He who died and lived again." The former of these titles is taken from the most majestic, the most exultant, of Old Testament prophecies, the prophecy of Israel's restoration. One of the most touching, most searching things Henry Ward Beecher wrote was his description in "Norwood" of the poor woman, wife of a lazy, drunken husband, rearing seven children in hunger and weariness, who used to turn to these chapters, and make the mystic promises of her own. "O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, thy Maker is thy husband; the Lord of Hosts is His name." She called her daughter "Agate," because she read, "I will make thy windows of agates." She did not know what an agate was, but she was sure it must be something beautiful, and God's windows were to be of agates. "She seized the happy thought — 'I will call her Agate. Perhaps the Lord will make her like a window to my darkness.' Thus she was named." There is an equal wealth of suggestion in the second of the two titles. "The First and the Last" was persecuted as Smyrna was. It is He who had gone on to death, and was not holden of death, who says — "Be thou faithful... I will give thee the crown of life." They who are in such a fellowship cannot be poor.

II. THEIR VERY POVERTY MAKES THEM RICH, FOR IT GAVE FIRMNESS TO THEIR GRASP AND REALITY TO THEIR POSSESSION OF CHRIST. We have many various tokens of the sufficiency of the Divine grace; but there are some among us who never knew what the power of God was until, absolutely emptied of self-trust, they cast themselves on Him; who, having had their self-complacency shattered, ventured to believe that the true riches was not in anything they had attained or were, but in the living God. The riches of Smyrna may be seen from another aspect. In Christ and their own dependence on Him was enough for their needs. They were not overtaxed; they were called to be faithful, and they were faithful. Their very detachment from the interests in which other Churches were engrossed made them the more able to abide in that fidelity which was their peculiar vocation.

III. IN THEIR NARROW SPHERE THE CHRISTIANS OF SMYRNA HAD ENOUGH DISCIPLINE FOR THE ETERNAL FUTURE. We think sometimes of the vast, immeasurable future and its stupendous possibilities. And we think that the burden is laid on us, in a few short years, to prepare ourselves for it all. No wonder that thus thinking we are appalled, and that we forbode new disasters in our probation, ending, perhaps, in a second death. But we are wrong. It is not what we take with us, in attainments or even experience, which will determine our fitness for that future, but the men we are. And the man may be as truly fitted to start upon "his adventure brave and new" by mastering one lesson, as by acquainting himself with many; by being faithful unto death, and so laying eternal hold on Christ, as by laying up in a wide and varied experience a good foundation for eternal life. Fidelity, in much or in little, has all the promise of fidelity; its reward is to be unmoved. There is one other note of tenderness to be referred to in this message — the Church is to have "ten days of tribulation." Some of the commentators tell us this means a short time, and others that the time is to be long. All depends on our point of view. To Smyrna, in its death agony, any protraction of the trouble would seem long; in the light of eternity, when wearing "the crown of life," the victors would think it short. It was a fixed time, definitely limited by "the First and Last"; and any fixed time will one day seem brief; they who have come out of their travail think of the anguish no more.

(A. Mackennal, D. D.)

I. CHRIST REVEALS HIMSELF TO HIS PEOPLE ACCORDING TO THEIR MORAL CONDITION. In support of this assertion it is only necessary to read the superscriptions of the letters "unto the seven Churches which are in Asia." By the title or representation which the Son of Man assumes, we may anticipate the revelation in which He is about to appear. In this, I am persuaded, we have an explanation of the varying experience of the Christian, and of the diversified and changeful mission of the Church. To one man, or to one Church, Christ presents Himself bearing "the sharp sword with two edges"; to another, with eyes blazing with penetrating light; to another, as holding the key of opportunity; and to another, as grasping infinitude, and girt with the memorials of death and the pledges of ascension. It is possible to have all these, and many more, visions of the selfsame Saviour. Our apprehensions of His identity are regulated by our moral conditions.

1. As our Saviour is the First and the Last, all things must be under His dominion. "The First." Who can reveal the mystery of these words, or number the ages we must re-traverse ere we can behold the first gleam of that horizon which encircles God as an aureole of unwaning light! "The Last." Another mystery! This expression bears us onward until the surging sea of life is for ever hushed, until the Divine government has answered all the purpose of Infinite Wisdom. Over what cemeteries we must pass, I know not; we must advance until the Creator exclaim from His throne, as the Redeemer cried from the Cross, "It is finished!"

2. As our Saviour was dead and is alive again, so we, who are now enduring the fellowship of His sufferings, shall know the power of His resurrection. "I was dead." The counsels of eternity are epitomised in this declaration. The problem over which the ages bent in perplexity is, in reality, solved by this fact. "Alive again." Let me inquire around what centre the Church assembles. Do you hasten to reply, the Cross? I answer, not there only. The Cross first, but afterwards the grave! In the centre of the Church is an empty tomb, and to a doubting world the Church can ever answer, "Come, see the place where the Lord lay." And, "seeing" it, what then? Why, from the sacred rock a living stream breaks, and as the countless multitudes drink, they exclaim, "These are the waters of immortality."

II. CHRIST ASSURES HIS PEOPLE THAT HE IS INTIMATELY ACQUAINTED WITH EVERY FEATURE OF THEIR HISTORY. "I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty." The "I know" of love is the smile of God. Jesus sees our sufferings, is present in the cloud of our sorrow, needs not to be told what the soul has undergone, but breaks in upon the gathering darkness with words which bring with them the brightness and hope of morning, "I know, I know." The fact that Jesus knows all that we suffer for Him should serve three purposes.(1) It should embolden us to seek His help. He is within whisper-reach of all His saints. All the desires of the heart may be expressed in one entreating sigh — one appealing glance.(2) It should inspire us with invincible courage. As the presence of a valorous leader stimulates an army, so should the assured guardianship of the Son of God inspire every soldier of the Cross.(3) It should clothe us with profoundest humility. That we can do anything for Jesus is a fact which should extinguish all fleshly pride. He might have deprived the Church of this luxury of suffering in His stead; but it hath pleased Him, in the infinite fulness of His love, to permit us to be wounded for the sake of His name. Are you a sufferer? To thee Jesus says, "I know." Is not that enough? The tear, indeed, falls downwards, but the sound of its falling flieth upward to the ear of God.

III. CHRIST REVEALS TO HIS SUFFERING SAINTS THE FACT OF THEIR IMPERISHABLE WEALTH. Turn your attention to the ninth verse, and determine which is its brightest gem. Look at the parenthesis, and you have it! How like the effusion of the Infinite mind! A volume in a sentence — heaven in a parenthesis! It flashes upon one so unexpectedly. It is a garden in a wilderness, a song of hope mingling with the night-winds of despair. Slowly we pass over the dismal words, "Thy works, and tribulation, and poverty," and with startling suddenness we overpass the separating parenthesis, and then — then! Outside of it we have cold, shivering, desolate "poverty"; and inside "an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away"! Think of it! The very typography is suggestive; only parenthesis between "poverty" and "rich"! And is it not so even in reality? What is there between thee, O suffering saint, and joys immortal? What between thee and thy soul's Saviour? Only a parenthesis — the poor, frail, perishing parenthesis of the dying body. No more. There is but a step between poverty and wealth. The history of transition is condensed into one sentence, "Absent from the body, present with the Lord." Let the parenthesis fall, and you will see Him as He is. When, therefore, we estimate the wealth of a good man, we must remember that there is a moral as well as a material, an invisible as well as a visible, property. The good man is an heir, and his heirship relates to possessions which no human power of calculation can compute. If you as a Church ask me how you may ascertain whether you are "rich," I should answer —

(1)Is your faith strong?

(2)Are your labours abundant?

(3)Are your spiritual children numerous?

IV. CHRIST COMFORTS HIS SUFFERING ONES BY DISARMING THEIR FEARS. I cannot arbitrate between contending critics as to the precise signification of the expression "ten days." It is enough for me to secure a firm foot on the general principle which underlies the prediction. That general principle is, that there is a limit to the suffering of the Church. Persecution is an affair of "ten days." Diocletian is the tyrant of a vanishing hour. To-day he raves in madness, to-morrow his last yell has for ever expired. "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment." The apostle triumphantly contrasts the brevity of suffering with the duration of glory. In prospect of suffering, Christ says to His people, "Fear not." But why this counsel? Does it not stiffen the heart as a word of chilling mockery? O Son of God, why tell the people not "to fear"? It is because He knows the full interpretation of suffering. Suffering is education. Grief is discipline. Let me further remind you that those sufferings have been overcome. Suffering is a vanquished power. "I have overcome the world." We have fellowship in our suffering, a fellowship that is mastery.

V. CHRIST SOOTHES AND NERVES HIS SUFFERING SAINTS BY THE PROMISE OF INFINITE COMPENSATION. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." Jesus Christ will not only deliver His saints from the sphere of suffering; He will introduce them into the sphere of eternal rest and joy.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. ITS TEMPORAL CONDITION. The letter indicates that it was a condition of great trial. It refers to "tribulation," "poverty," "prison."

1. Its present trial. There was "tribulation." This is a term which represents trials of all kinds. But the special trial mentioned is "poverty." "I know thy poverty." Christ notices the secular condition of Churches.(1) Though their city was rich, they were poor.(2) Though they were distinguished by great spiritual excellence — for Christ Himself said, "Thou art rich," that is, spiritually rich — they were secularly poor. In this world man's secular condition is not always determined by his moral character. Character, and not condition, is everything to man. As compared to this, poverty is nothing. It is the man that gives worth to the condition, not the condition to the man. The gospel is for man as man, and the less man is artificialised the more open is he to its influence.

2. Its prospective trial. The letter indicates that great persecution awaited them. Several things are referred to as to the coming persecution.(1) Its instruments. Jews by birth but not by character, not circumcised in the heart. The old religion has ever hated the new. How can it be otherwise? for the new examines the character, history, and pretensions of the old, and refuses submission to its authority and influence.(2) Its instigator. "The devil." He worketh in the children of disobedience — inspires them, raises their antagonism to the cause of purity, freedom, and happiness.(3) Its form. "Cast into prison." Incarceration in some respects is worse than martyrdom. Better die than to live without light, freedom, fellowship.(4) Its duration. "Ye shall have tribulation ten days."

II. ITS SPIRITUAL OBLIGATION. The letter inculcates two duties.

1. Courage. "Fear none of these things." Why fear? "Thou art rich" in faith and hope; in Divine promise, succour, and fellowship; therefore, fear not!

2. Fidelity. "Be thou faithful unto death." When Christ left the world, He put His disciples in possession not of money, or land, or titles, or honours. These He had not to bestow. But He gave them His ideas, His purposes, His character, incomparably the most precious things. He did not write these things in books, and leave them in libraries. He trusted them to living souls, and said, take care of them. What a rare thing it is, alas! to find a man worthy of truth — worthy of the quantity and quality of truth which has been put into his possession. Notice here two things —(1) The extent of this faithfulness. "Unto death." Fidelity must not give way at any future point of life. No event can justify its suspension for a moment. It must stand even the fiery test of martyrdom.(2) The reward of faithfulness. "I will give thee a crown of life." Let thy faithfulness be strong enough to die for Me.

(Caleb Morris.)

I. THE PRELIMINARIES.

1. The party addressed, "The angel of the Church in Smyrna." Of the time and manner in which a Church was planted in this city no authentic information remains. It is probable, from its contiguity and commercial relations with Ephesus, that the gospel first reached it through that channel. We do not find it visited by any of the apostles, or mentioned in their epistles. Some private Christians, who were merchants, or who had been led to settle in that city, after receiving the light of the gospel elsewhere, may have formed the nucleus of a Church, which, toward the close of the first century, had become eminent for its purity and extent.

2. The title which the Saviour assumes to this Church. "The First and the Last, which was dead and is alive." Though equally belonging to the whole, one part of Christ's character and office is revealed more to one Church than another. He is more to some Christians than others, though He is all things to all. The Church at Ephesus needed to be reminded that His watchful eye was upon them, to stimulate them to recall their first love, and to do their first works; but the Church at Smyrna, which was more pure, and yet had to pass through fiery trials, needed most of all to dwell upon the unchangeableness of His power and love.

II. THE ADDRESS to the Church in Smyrna.

1. The recognition of its present state: "I know thy works," etc. There were genuine Christians amongst them, and there were Jewish pretenders. These were viewed differently by Him whose "eyes were as a flame of fire." He knows who are right-hearted, and He knows who are insincere. He observes particularly those who rely by faith upon His merits alone for the hope of eternal life, and those who confide in their own observance of moral duties, and ceremonial institutions. Let us attend, now, to the allusion made to the party by which the Church at Smyrna was principally opposed. The address is not to them, but to the Church respecting them; to sanction its views, and to guide its proceedings in future. "And I know the blasphemy," etc. They were Jews, who magnified the ceremonies of the law above the grace of the gospel; and looked upon Christianity as heretical, except as far as it could be amalgamated with their institutions, and made subservient to their interests. The synagogue was far above the conventicle in their esteem. They boasted of their privileges, as Jews, and cherished the old conceit of being the favourites of heaven, and heirs of the promises, on account of their natural descent from Abraham. How dangerous are all systems and forms of religion which cherish and confirm the self-righteousness of human nature! How much worse than none at all! The weapons of religion are transferred, by these means, into the hands of its adversaries. There might have been a few in the Church at Smyrna who, finding these Jews had some truth on their side, were inclined to think more favourably of them than they deserved. The boldness with which they averred the superiority of their station, and their long prescriptive rights, would naturally have its influence upon a certain class of minds; and those especially who had counted all they could have gained by Judaism as loss for Christ might still have looked with some hesitation upon the safety and propriety of the step they had taken. For some such reason the Redeemer sees fit to express His opinion concerning them. This He does in most decisive terms. He accuses them of blasphemy, a crime which the Jews were taught to hold in the greatest detestation, and to punish with the most summary and humiliating death. He denies that in any sense in which they could boast they are Jews. Then what are they? They are, he says, "the synagogue of Satan." In the sense in which they are not Jews, that is, in a religious and spiritual point of view, they were the synagogue of Satan. Strong terms are employed to inspire His people with horror at hypocrisy and formality.

2. An intimation of approaching trials. "Behold the devil is about to cast some of you into prison." Human agents were employed to seize upon some of the Christians in Smyrna, and to cast them into prison, but it was at the instigation of the devil. If this rendered their guilt less, in reference to that particular transaction, it rendered it greater in having sold themselves into the hands of such a master. It is one great proof that Christianity is the true religion, that against this alone the demon of persecution has been excited. It is the only religion that Satan cannot turn to his own interests, the only kingdom that is opposed to his own, and consequently against this his whole rage and energies are employed.

3. Exhortations to unwavering fidelity, in reference to this approaching season of persecution. One relates to its anticipation, and another to its endurance. First, "Fear not." When such an exhortation is given by God to man, who has reason to fear everything from Him, it implies the entire work of reconciliation. It is a promise also of all the support and consolation which the approaching trial may demand. The other admonition is, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." This intimates, that for the profession of the truth they would be exposed to death. They are not to temporise or prevaricate through fear, but continue stedfast and inflexible unto death.

III. THE GENERAL APPLICATION of the address to this particular Church. "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." The original word for "hurt" assists the interpretation of the whole sentence. It is a judicial term, signifying that he shall not be wrongfully adjudged to the second death, as he has been to temporal death. He has been unjustly treated and injured in the first death, but no injury or injustice shall be done him with respect to the second death. Natural death is overcome by submission, not by resistance. When by faith in Christ we overcome the fear of it, we overcome the reality. If our faith conquers the first death, it will conquer the second.

(G. Rogers.)

I. WEALTH IN POVERTY.

1. Secular wealth is of contingent value; spiritual is of absolute worth.

2. Spiritual wealth is essentially virtuous; not so secular.

3. Spiritual wealth is essentially a blessing; secular often a bane.

4. Spiritual wealth is inalienable; secular is not.

5. Spiritual wealth commands moral respect; not so secular.

II. FRIENDS IN RELIGION. Satan has ever had much to do with religion. Religion — not godliness — is at once his shrine and his instrument. It was religion that put to death the Son of God Himself.

III. SAINTS IN PERSECUTION.

1. It was religious.

2. Severe.

3. Testing.

4. Short.

IV. DUTY IN TRIAL.

1. Courage.

2. Faithfulness.

3. Perseverance.

4. Reflectiveness.

V. VICTORY IN DEATH.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

I. THE TRIAL TO WHICH THIS CHURCH WAS SUBJECTED.

1. The persecution of inveterate enemies.

2. Temporal poverty.

3. The bigotry and reproach of embittered co-religionists.

4. The anticipation of future afflictions and imprisonment.

(1)The nature of this future suffering. In the hands of enemies.

(2)The instigator. Satan is the primary agent of all persecution.

(3)The duration. Determined by God. Brief at the longest.

(4)The design. The moral elevation of the pure.

II. THE WEALTH BY WHICH THIS CHURCH WAS CHARACTERISED.

1. The worth of a Church cannot always be estimated by its temporal circumstances.

2. The worth of a Church cannot always be estimated by the opinions of men regarding it.

3. Moral considerations alone determine the true value of the Church.

III. THE FIDELITY TO WHICH THIS CHURCH WAS EXHORTED.

1. This exhortation indicates danger.

2. This exhortation requires steadfastness.Lessons:

1. That the Church of Christ is often exposed to many trials and fierce persecutions.

2. That the Church of Christ is often persecuted by men who ought to know better.

3. That sectarian strife is the occasion of much persecution.

4. That the consolations of heaven are richly given to a tried Church.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

"You have a passion for people who are pelted, Dan," said Sir Hugo Mallinger. "I'm sorry for them too; but so far as company goes, it is a bad ground of selection." Our Saviour has a specially tender word to say to the pelted, and He speaks it here.

I. SURRENDERS THAT ENRICH; OR THE GAIN OF LOSS FOR CHRIST. We mean that which felt, when he said in speaking of his conversion, "How sweet did it at once become to me to want the sweetness of these toys! And what I feared to be parted from was now a joy to part with!" What constitutes the true wealth of Churches? The number of moneyed men who are in the congregation? Nay, not so; but they become wealthy by accounting all that they possess as a solemn trust, and by employing every talent which they possess for the purpose which the Saviour had in view when He gave it to them. These Christians had not only endured the loss of all things, but they had been called upon to undergo even further ignominy, for they had been compelled to endure reviling and slander. To comfort them, calumny is noted in its relation to God. Perhaps the very virtues of these patient inoffensive people had been misrepresented. What had Christ to say about this form of iniquity? He styles it blasphemy; for Christ always calls things by their right names. Calumny against the saints is really blasphemy against God, for He has taken the comfort and good name of His people under His especial care, quite as much as He has assumed the responsibility of their eternal salvation. "It is our maxim," said , "that we can suffer harm from none, unless we be convicted as doers of evil, or proved to be wicked; you may indeed slay us, but hurt us you cannot." Sublime words truly, from a man who expressed his own reasonable conviction of the consequences of his faith when he said, "I also expect to be entrapped... and to be affixed to the stake." We are invulnerable if we are true to our Saviour, for no weapon which is formed against us can really prosper. Our battle is chiefly won by resistance; let us but wait, and we shall wear out the energies of our enemy and of his helpers.

II. STOUT HEARTS FOR STORMY TIMES: THE COURAGE THAT CONQUERS CIRCUMSTANCES. "Fear not," saith Christ, and still continue to fear not. The "unto death" is first and mainly intensive. It marks the sublime quality, and not the continuance of our faith. Although you are robbed, suffer injustice, and are cruelly, slandered, yet fear not. Continue steadfastly in your duty, and be prepared to die rather than yield up what is committed unto you. Poverty, sickness, the loss of good name, bereavement, even death itself: Christ knows them all, for He has Himself endured them, and so He says from experience, "Fear them not!" Let us say about all the hard facts and enemies of our lives what Andrew Fuller said during a crisis in the history of the Baptist Missionary Society, "We do not fear them. We will play the man and fight for the cause of our God, and Jehovah do that which pleases Him."

1. The omniscience of Christ is a ground of courage, for the author of the mischief is known. If God's enemy be the prime mover in our sorrows, we may safely anticipate especial grace to interfere upon our behalf. It is also no small comfort for us to know that the author of our misery is known to God, who will one day tread Satan under our feet.

2. And another source of holy courage is the Divine control of evil, which is seen in the fact that the suffering is limited by Divine wisdom. It is true that ten days are a dreary time while the tribulation endures, but they form, after all, a very insignificant portion of our lives. Is it not a comfort to know that there are no contingencies in our lives that Christ has not provided for, that if, for reasons which will be made clear some day, He determines that ten days' suffering is needful for us, or for others, not more than ten days will be allotted to us. We must endure all that period, but not an hour longer than He deems requisite, for Christ is the judge of our sorrows and the giver of our affliction.

3. Another motive to courage is the fact that God does always actually triumph, and that, however unwillingly, the worst does the best for those who love Him. These Christians were to be tried, and some of them would be killed. It is hard to part with life, even with all the alleviations of the gospel. But these men were likely to die amidst cruel mocking, and with none of the consolations which minister to our loved ones when they pass away from us. Christ may require even this sacrifice of our inclinations of us; at any rate, He expects that if He should demand it, that we should be ready to yield at once to, His requirement. Nor should it be hard for us to do so, for death will only accomplish Christ's bidding. Let us then say to each other, as Annie Bronte said to her sister, "Take courage; take courage." And the more so because courage is no virtue in those who are blessed by the love of Christ; it is only natural.

III. And He who exhorts us to be brave furnishes us with STRONG ANTIDOTES FOR SORE EVILS; THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT WE SHOULD NEVER FORGET.

1. In the first place, we should ever keep in mind the fact that Christ has the last word in every conversation, and the completing touch in every work. "I am the First and the Last," He says. "I was the first in raising you, and I will be the last in preserving you. I began the conflict, and I will terminate the fight." A declaration also of our Lord's dignity, and a proof that He judges persons and events.

2. Another antidote to fear will be found in Christ's person and offices, which are a source of unfailing strength. Death has not made an end of Christ; even such agony as He endured has not changed Him. He knows therefore from His own experience what the pangs of death are. "Died He, or in Him did death die?" asks. "What a death that gave death its deathblow!" And to the victor who will seek to conquer his own timidity, and will persevere to the end, the Saviour promises a crown of life. Kingly life, the dignities and happiness of heaven, are here promised to those who will be faithful. As against the loss of a life which is burdened with care at the best, and is often embittered by failure and sin, our Saviour promises a better life, which is to come. Over the entrance of Thornbury Castle there is a scroll upon which is inscribed "Doresenevant." This is an old French word which signifies "Hence-forward," or "Hereafter." The builder was a Duke of Buckingham, who thus expressed his sanguine hopes with regard to the English crown. We may truly say "Hereafter," and the watchword should nerve us to endure the period of waiting for our kingdom, because one day we too shall be crowned.

(J. J. Ellis.)

The First and the Last, which was dead, and is alive
What is meant by Christ being "the First and the Last"? The words are quoted from Isaiah 44:6, 7, where God supports His claim as the declarer of truth on the fact that He was before all, and continues through all, standing alone as acquainted with all. When our Lord uses this phrase for Himself, He makes Himself the Eternal Jehovah. He uses a title which belongs only to the Most High God. And yet in close connection with the title which best marks His Deity is the title which best marks His humanity — "which was dead, and lived again." The Cross is seen on the background of the Divine. The suffering Man is one with the saving God. The two titles together form a compendium of the great salvation, and lift the mind to the contemplation of the grand scheme of the Divine mercy and love, as against any earthly trial of whatever kind.

(H. Crosby.)

But thou art rich
It often happens that people do not know how rich they are. So it appears to have been with the Smyrnian Church. Let us consider some of the elements of these spiritual riches possessed by this Church with which Jesus has no fault to find.

I. It was RICH IN FAITH (James 2:5). Do you know why faith enriches its possessor? It is because he is justified by faith. There is not a more impoverishing thing than a consciousness of sin.

II. This Church was RICH TOWARD GOD (Luke 12:21). This phrase is used by our Saviour in contrast with laying up treasure for one's self. Wealth, when well gotten, is a trust from God, and ought to be administered for Him. But this Church was not rich, and had no opportunities to speak of laying the treasures of earth upon God's altar; and yet it was rich toward God; for the principle of complete consecration was well honoured in the observance of the brethren.

III. This Church was "RICH IN GOOD WORKS" (1 Timothy 6:18). Good works are the current coin of the heavenly kingdom; happy he who has his spiritual coffers full of them. And as all the coin of the realm must have its origin in the royal mint, so all good works to be genuine must spring from faith in God, and bear the image and superscription of King Jesus.

IV. THE POWER OF MAKING OTHERS RICH was another source of spiritual wealth to this Church. He is truly wealthy who can describe himself, like Paul, "as poor, yet making many rich."

(J. Cameron.)

I. THE POOR ARE RICH; FOR THEY HAVE THE MOST VALUABLE POSSESSIONS AND ENJOYMENTS OF THE RICH, AND WANT ONLY THOSE WHICH ARE OF LESS VALUE. Gaiety and cheerfulness, in infancy and childhood, gladden the offspring of the peasant as well as the offspring of the prince. The sleep of the labouring man is as sweet as his who has acquired or inherited the largest fortune. The mind of the servant may be more contented and serene than that of the master.

II. MANY OF THE POOR, YEA, ALL OF THEM WHO HAVE OBTAINED PRECIOUS FAITH, EVEN IN THIS LIFE POSSESS AND ENJOY THE BEST RICHES.

1. They possess a title and claim to all things. To Jesus, the heir of all things, they are united by faith and love.

2. They possess an interest in Him who is the fountain of all blessedness and the possessor of heaven and earth. Be it so that they cannot say this house or these lands are ours, they have ground to say, this God is our God for ever and ever.

3. They have a charter which cannot be revoked; and which secures their possession of all that is good for them (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Timothy 4:8; Psalm 34:10; Psalm 84:11; Psalm 132:15; Isaiah 54:17; Zechariah 9:8; 1 Corinthians 10:14).

4. True Christians, through the operations of the Spirit of Christ and the influence of faith purifying the heart, are enriched with a temper of mind, and with dispositions which are the seeds of true happiness. Religion consecrates the understanding, the will, and the affections, to the best and noblest purposes; and opens the purest sources of transporting delight.

5. True Christians are rich in the well-grounded prospect of a state beyond the grave, where every source of sorrow shall be dried up and every spring of joy opened.

III. THE POOR ARE RICH, FOR THEY HAVE THE MEANS OF ACQUIRING AND SECURING THE MOST SUBSTANTIAL AND DURABLE RICHES. They have large, free, and generous offers of all that is needful to make them happy. To the pool the gospel is preached; and thus a price is put into their hands to get wisdom

(John Erskine, D. D.)

Sweet-smelling Smyrna, the poorest but purest of the seven.

(J. Trapp.)

There are both poor rich. men and rich poor-men in God's sight.

(Abp. Trench.)

There is no proportion between wealth and happiness nor between wealth and nobleness. The fairest life that ever lived on earth was that of a poor man, and with all its beauty it moved within the limit of narrow resources. The loveliest blossoms do not grow on plants that plunge their greedy roots into the fattest soil. A little light earth in the crack of a hard rock will do. We need enough for the physical being to root itself in; we need no more.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer
I. SUFFERING IS THE LOT OF CHRISTIANS IN THIS WORLD. No situation in life, however desirable — no circumstances, however auspicious — no degree of consistency and utility of moral character, can exempt any individual from trouble and sorrow. Perfect freedom from trouble and sorrow will never be experienced on this side the kingdom of glory.

II. OF THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRISTIANS ARE PRODUCED BY THE AGENCY OF SATAN. Persecutors of the Lord's people are agents of the devil, and if left under his power, they will eternally share with him in punishment. That which the devil effects in malice, with a view to their ruin, the Saviour permits in mercy, with a view to their advantage. The faith and the patience of suffering saints confound Satan, encourage the Church, and glorify Christ. The time when Christians are to be tried, and also the nature, and the degree, and the duration of their trials, are wisely and mercifully determined by the Redeemer.

III. CHRISTIANS HAVE NO CAUSE TO FEAR IN THE PROSPECT OF SUFFERINGS.

IV. CHRISTIANS ARE ENCOURAGED TO FIDELITY BY THE PROMISE OF FINAL VICTORY AND ETERNAL FELICITY.

(J. Hyatt.)

Take more pains to keep yourselves from sin than from suffering.

(T. Brooks.)

and strength proportionate: — God sees fit to try us all. When you are going through some large works, you will see a crane or teagle on which are such words as these, "To lift five tons," and so on. Now, nobody would expect to weigh ten tons on a teagle which is capable of sustaining only five. Neither will God permit you to be tried beyond your capacity.

(W. Birch.)

Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.
I. There is recognition in this message of MAN'S UNIQUE PLACE AND POWER IN GOD'S CREATION. That the crowned Christ should speak to man at all from His throne above suggests human dignity. But the inference is enlarged and certified when we consider the character of the speech. Not to the grandest of His countless worlds does God say, "Be thou faithful." He speaks, and it is done. Everything yields to His touch, takes fashion from His will, obeys with precision His impulse. But not as to His works does God relate Himself to men. With them He reasons and pleads, for them He sacrifices and waits. The difference is neither accidental nor arbitrary. We are God's children, not His creatures, nor merely His subjects. Hence in His dealings with men the Creator becomes the Father, the Sovereign the Saviour, the Supreme Authority the most impassioned Reasoner. Higher than the angels, and centred in the thought of eternity, man is God's child, God's care, God's desire. If this account of us adds value and dignity to human life, it confers a more solemn responsibility and calls for a worthier and more constant recognition. The redemption of life, whether among rich or poor, can find its impetus in no lower motive than a recognition of man's sacredness as a son of God and a child of eternity. Only as we see each other in the light of God can we live together in relations of perfect justice and peace. When the divinity of every man has been realised through the humanity of the God-Man, life will reach its true grandeur and simplicity. Alike upon individual character and upon the social organism the effect will be as of a new creation. The vices which have flourished upon a degraded conception of human nature, the wrongs which have grown up on the basis of mere political and economic relations, will wither away in the atmosphere of diviner thought — old things shall pass away, behold, all things will become new! And it is religion — the religion of Jesus the Christ — which alone is adequate, alike by its revelation of God and its consequent doctrine of man, to elevate thought, to humanise motive, to deify life.

II. The form into which our text is east is not without significance. It is a SIMPLE EXHORTATION COUPLED WITH AN ATTRACTIVE PROMISE. "Be thou faithful" is not a lecture, but an appeal, and it is addressed to the latent energies of our emotional nature. The Scriptures are full of similar exhortations, and the implication clearly is that knowledge is not a self-acting motor, that man is not a self-impelling power. He requires to be aroused from slumber, to be stirred into activity, to be moved as well as taught. Religion takes note of that necessity. It is more than truth: it is impulse. Bringing to man's aid a new world of motives, it completes its teaching by persuasion and appeal. To our gospel man appears not as a poor ignoramus groping his way to more knowledge in order to nobler life, but as a wayward sinner needing to be aroused, forgiven, assisted. He is wrongheaded because wronghearted. It is in view of this condition that the gospel makes its appeal to each one of us. Bringing into our impoverished life a new and glorious world of knowledge, and offering for our acceptance resources of power not derivable from ourselves, it directs its penetrative appeals to the arousing of holy desire and purpose in our hearts. It is a reiterated and urgent invitation to men who know they are wrong, but who are slow to seek and strive after the right. Its characteristic words are "come," "look," "believe," "take," "follow," "hold fast," "be faithful." And until we make personal response to these calls we stand in a false relation to the Christ and His Gospel.

III. In the spiritual order of life SOMETHING COMES BEFORE FAITHFULNESS. "Be thou faithful" suggests an antecedent vow or covenant to which allegiance is urged. Conversion goes before consecration, and both before faithfulness. The text has no message for a man until he has taken the first of these steps. Have you yet taken it? One point, touching the matter, requires to be re-emphasised. The new life does not grow, as plants grow, by mere unconscious absorption of vital elements. And the reason is because men are not plants, but free intelligences, who are here for the very purpose of exercising their freedom and determining their own destiny. An act of decision is therefore of the very essence of the problem involved in human liberty and Divine grace. But it must be there in every life. Free men, who are here for the purpose of using their liberty, must and do make choice. Life's issues are not determined by hap or accident. Every man's destiny awaits his own decision. All that God can do He has done. The issues depend now upon us. We are surrounded with helps to the fulfilment of life's true issues. Have we made our decision? Are we intelligently and heartily on the Lord's side? That is the supreme question. Until it is answered we have done our duty neither to Christ nor to ourselves. We cannot be Christ's men without knowing it. May God give us grace to face that question — and that question only — till we have reached a definite decision and made a personal surrender!

IV. But while the text recalls the antecedent necessity of decision, it throws an equal emphasis upon THE DUTY OF CONTINUANCE. Here it speaks to men and women who have taken a stand in respect of Christian faith and service. It is a call to that loftiest and most difficult duty of daily constancy in effort and devotion. Constancy is a finer discipline than ecstasy. Faithfulness is more and better than originality. "Go on," Christ seems to say; "do not fret as though you were forgotten, but endure as those who will be surely rewarded: look not down and around at the difficulties of your lot, but look on and up to the powers arid issues of your disciple. ship: be not dismayed at the variations of feeling, but stand loyal to the resolutions of obedience: Heaven is around you, God is above and within — be not deceived by the scepticism of the eye, but informed by the vision of faith, and your victory will be your reward." The quiet and faithful worker, who undertakes a task and keeps at it with noble pertinacity, may not be so prominent, but is incomparably more fruitful in the Christian Church. Restless activity may only be busy idleness. Emotion is not obedience. "Be thou faithful," and thou shalt be peaceful and strong.

V. The text, so full of wise counsel, closes with A PROMISE: "I will give thee a crown of life." The promise points far forward to that blessed day when we shall stand among the victors on the other side of death. Life, life full and strong and perfect, shall then be ours. We can only dimly anticipate the glory of such a crown. Now and again we seem to get glimpses of it, but the glory is swiftly hidden lest it should blind us to earth and time and duty. But behind the cloud of years and beyond the horizon of discipline this promise clearly points to a full and perfect life. Faithfulness is ever winning and ever wearing the crown. Life is every day putting on a new crown. The judgment seat of God is set every morning, and His rewards are bestowed upon the faithful soul. What life, what love, what joy, does God give day by day to men who live simple, sincere, unselfish, pious byes! The best is kept in store, but brief foretastes are granted while we suffer and strive.

(Charles A. Berry.)

I. THE LAW OF FIDELITY.

1. Fidelity is a virtue of universally acknowledged importance and worth.

2. Fidelity is a social virtue based upon the universal law of love.

3. Fidelity is a duty man, as man, owes to his Creator.

4. The degree of love is the measure of fidelity.

5. Fidelity to Christ involves fidelity to the great truths of the Cross.

6. Fidelity to the Gross involves fealty to every true friend of the Cross.

7. Faithfulness to Christ involves continued and life-long fidelity.

II. THE DIVINE REWARD OF THIS LIFELONG FIDELITY. Those who are faithful unto death will be crowned with life — that is to say, life in its sublime and subliming form. Our life here is more death than life. Here we have the minimum of bliss, there the maximum of happiness; here the minimum of power, there the maximum of might.

(William McKay.)

Homilist.
I. The NATURE of the appeal: "Be faithful." Faithfulness is

(1)Due to Christ;

(2)Possible to all;

(3)All-pervasive.

II. The RANGE of the appeal: Be thou faithful unto death. Faith should be —

(1)Superior to circumstances — Tribulation; Death.

(2)Independent of others:

"thou."

(3)Of life-long duration: unto death.

III. The ENFORCEMENT of the appeal: I will give thee," etc. There is another sphere of life, with reality and splendour of reward, and the reward itself will be —

(1)Appropriate, in character; Faithfulness crowned; "death" — "life."

(2)Personal, in enjoyment: "I will give thee."

(3)Certain, in attainment; because

(a)gratuitous in its vouchsafement: "give;" and

(b)definite in its promise: "I will."

(Homilist.)

I. A SOLEMN EXHORTATION

1. Christians are urged to fidelity in their professions of personal attachment to the Saviour.

2. The exhortation calls on Christians to be faithful in their adherence to all the doctrines of Revelation.

3. To be faithful in maintaining the royal authority of the Saviour, and His Headship over His Church.

4. To be faithful in paying your solemn vows.

II. THE GRACIOUS ASSURANCE

1. The gift — "A crown of life." A crown is the highest object of earthly ambition and the possession of it the loftiest pinnacle of worldly glory — to obtain it, no toils, struggles, or sacrifices are deemed too great. But between this crown of life and all the glory and honour of this earth there is no comparison. It is a crown of life, and this is indicative of the pure, lofty, and endless enjoyments to which it introduces.

2. The glorious giver. It is Christ who is to bestow the crown of life. Those who are to wear it have not won it by their own prowess, obtained it by their own merit, or inherited it by their natural birth. It is given freely by Him by whose blood it was secured, and by whose munificence it is bestowed.

3. The solemn period at which this crown shall be bestowed. The text directs forward our expectations to the solemn period of dissolution when this reward shall be obtained. This advantage is peculiar to Christianity. At death the conquering hero lays down his crown, and leaves all his worldly glory behind him. But at death the Christian triumphs. Then he puts off his armour and receives his crown. His conflicts terminate, his enemies are for ever defeated, and death is swallowed up in victory.

(A. Harvey.)

The original means not simply, "Be thou," but rather, "Become thou"; as showing that it is a thing which we are not; but which continually we must, from time to time, make ourselves, by a holy effort. "Become thou faithful unto death." To be "faithful" is to be "full of faith," i.e., full of the realisation of things unseen. For the only way to secure "faithfulness" in anything is to carry with us a constant presence and a deep sense of the invisible. And you must be careful that you have caught the exact sense of "unto death." It relates not so much to the measure of the duration of the time as to the degree of the power of the endurance — "to the death-point." You will set about your endeavour to be "faithful," with the greater pleasantness and the more assurance of success if you carry with you the recollection that it was the characterising grace of our Master. St. Paul has drawn for us the striking comparison that Moses indeed was "faithful in all His house," but that the glory of the faithfulness of Christ exceeded the glory of the faithfulness of Moses as much as the builder of a house is better than the building. Of the many voices with which your motto will speak to you, let me now anticipate only a very few. And, first, your "faithfulness" to God. For remember that no other relation can ever be quite right while that is wrong. The upward will rule all the rest. First, as an act of justice, take honouring views of the Father. Never question that you are His child-though the unworthiest; and believe God's love, even when you have grieved Him to the very quick, and when He is chastening you the most sorely, Secondly, keep short accounts with God. Never leave more than a day's debt to God unsettled. Thirdly, be "faithful" to God in telling Him everything. Be "faithful" in your confidences, have no secrets, open to God the whole heart. The mortification will be severe, but ye cannot be "faithful" in prayer unless the prayer be "unto death," to the death of your dearest sin. These voices let your motto speak to you in your own room. Next, be faithful to yourself. First, to your pledges in baptism, in confirmation, in the Lord's Supper, in many a sorrow. Deal honourably with your own pledges, acknowledging the responsibility and facing the duty. And, secondly, to your conscience. A man will never go very far wrong who really listens to and follows his conscience. Thirdly, be "faithful" to your Church. Faults, no doubt, our Church has. There has been too much admixture with the world since that day when she came pure out of her Master's hand that she should not have contracted some earthly alloy. But she is the fairest Church upon earth and the freest from blemish, the purest thing out of heaven. And she is the Church of your fathers, of your baptism, of the holiest associations of your life, and of your best hours. Be "faithful" to her. Follow her teaching. Obey her laws. Love her services. Reverence her simplicity. Bow to her judgments. Strive for her increase. Pray for her unity. It would be far too large a field if I were to attempt to enter now, in any detail, upon the "faithfulness" of daily duties. Whatever you have to do, do not he so anxious to do it well, cleverly, effectually, as to do it "faithfully." The rest may not be in your power — this is. Every man can be "faithful." Your chief danger will be, not that you be unfaithful one day or two, but that you will become weary and grow slack. Therefore read the precept with emphasis, day after day, week after week, all the year round — "faithful unto death."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

I. CHRISTIAN FAITHFULNESS implies —

1. Sincerity, in opposition to hypocrisy.

2. Fidelity, in opposition to fraud or peculation.

3. Diligence, in opposition to indolence.

4. Courage in the time of danger or suffering.

5. Perseverance.

II. THE REWARD OF CHRISTIAN FAITHFULNESS.

1. The firstfruits of that glorious harvest, which is included in the future reward, are enjoyed upon earth.(1) There is a present reward in the enjoyment of the testimony of a good conscience.(2) The consciousness of the approbation of God is worth a thousand worlds to a man in the present life.(3) And there is, then, the great luxury of doing good, relieving misery.

2. The Lord not only gives us grace and strength and support and comfort in our work, but He has reserved for us "a crown of life."

(T. Entwistle.)

I. A GREAT TRUST.

II. A SOLEMN INJUNCTION CONCERNING THIS TRUST.

1. Be serious that you may be faithful. From the Christian standpoint what a thing is life! What solemn mystery broods over it! What passionate interests it holds! If we consider all this we cannot be frivolous.

2. Be firm that you may be faithful. A great part of practical faithfulness consists in resistance.

3. Be ready that you may be faithful. Say "Yes" before your fears have time to shape "No." Say "No" before your inclinations have time to whisper "Yes." Stand out declared, before friends or enemies have cause to think you are yielding to the point where the assault is made.

4. Be tender, gracious, and loving, that you may be faithful The Master whom we serve is the Saviour, whose pity never sleeps. Thus in the Christian faithfulness there is a combination of things which seem opposite — hardness like that of the adamant, and softness like that of the air.

5. Be patient, that you may be faithful.

III. A DECISIVE DAY. It is the day of death. "Be thou faithful unto death." Better is this end of life than the beginning.

IV. A GREAT REWARD. "I will give thee a crown of life."

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

I. THE COMMAND.

1. Christian faithfulness relates to the testimony God has given in His Word. Other knowledge may be useful, but this is the direct communication from God, acquainting us with His rich compassion towards us in not sparing His own Son. This system of revealed truth we are to make the subject of habitual study and the source of our chief consolation — it is to be the director of our conduct. Fidelity to the truth of God requires that we make an open, though an humble, confession of it. To this, its intrinsic excellence, its vital importance, its adaptation to all the wants and miseries of men, entitle it.

2. Christian fidelity relates to the claims of the Saviour to our obedience. His benignity and excellence render Him worthy of the love and homage of all created beings; but He has won to Himself a title to the gratitude and obedience of mankind, by assuming the character of Redeemer, by suffering as their Surety. When the enemy would persuade us to turn away from Him, when temptation would lure us away from the Captain of our salvation; when the indolence and remissness to spiritual exercises, natural to man, would often be a hindrance to our fidelity, let us hear His animating voice, saying, "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."

3. We are to be faithful in the exercise and in the improvement of the talents entrusted to our charge.

4. We are to be faithful in exercising the courage which the Christian warfare requires. The allusion in the text is to military life, and to the obedience due from a soldier to his general, leader, and commander. He must never, through treachery or cowardice, desert the banner he has sworn to defend, nor refuse to follow the order of his general.

5. Christian fidelity is to be continued unto death.

II. THE PROMISE OF GRACIOUS REWARD EXPRESSED IN THE TEXT — "I will give thee a crown of life."

(D. Dewar, D. D.)

I. A PERSONAL FAITHFULNESS. "Thou."

1. Individual attention to, and steadfastness in, our own particular work. The mode and circumstances of the testimony different. Philip's part different from Sephen's, Paul's from Peter's, and so forth. But individual faithfulness the common characteristic of all true witnesses.

2. Personal also in respect of the one object of faith. He served not merely "a cause," but the Lord, his own loved and adored Master in heaven.

II. A PERMANENT FAITHFULNESS. The faith is persistent unto the end, through all sufferings, opposition, temptation, death itself. Not "fits and starts," but a steady, onward course (2 Timothy 4:7; 1 Corinthians 15:58).

III. A PERFECTED FAITHFULNESS. The faithfulness is perfected at last, and this perfection is "the crown of life."

(Bp. W. S. Smith.)

I. CHRISTIAN FIDELITY.

1. The Christian must be faithful to the claim of the Supreme Being upon the devotion of his soul and the service of his life.

2. The Christian must be faithful to the requirements of truth and to the inner experiences and convictions of the soul.

3. The Christian must be faithful to the needs of men around him, and their relation to the redemptive mission of Christ.

4. The Christian must be faithful notwithstanding the dangers of the Christian life.

II. ITS REWARD.

1. The reward of Christian fidelity will be ennobling in its character.

2. The reward of Christian fidelity will be given by Christ.Lessons:

1. Are we faithful to the claims of God?

2. The solemn motive to fidelity.

3. The glorious reward of fidelity.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

I. CHRISTIAN CONSECRATION.

1. It must be thorough — "Faithful." This implies —

(1)Adverse circumstances.

(2)Strong conviction.

(3)Resolute will.

(4)Persevering effort.

(5)Dauntless courage.

2. It must be personal — "Thou." Each one has his own power, sphere, and responsibility for service.

3. It must be life-long. Necessary for —

(1)Thorough discipline of character.

(2)Required usefulness to society.

(3)Complete devotedness to God.

II. CHRISTIAN COMPENSATION.

1. Glorious "Crown."

2. Enduring — "Life." Eternal — real "life" to enjoy it.

3. Certain — "Will."

4. Personal — "Thee."

5. Unmeritorious — "Give."

6. Divinely bestowed — "I."Conclusion:

1. Effort, not enjoyment, is the object in life.

2. Be true to Christ above all others.

3. Jesus rewards effort, not prosperity.

4. Death the great transformation scene. Cross to crown.

5. Heaven a world of conquerors. All crowned.

6. Draw upon future glories to encourage in present trials.

(B. D. Johns.)

The finest heroism is that of ordinary life. Steadfastness in hard times is a far nobler manifestation of moral strength than the most dashing valour which souls display under the joyous impulse of great success. For instance, the greatness of General Washington is shown by the magnificent hopefulness and steadiness with which he held his poor little army together through long months of retreat and suffering, far more than by his consummate ability in the guidance of actual battle. Many persons after they have done well in an enterprise think they have received no reward unless they have obtained fame or riches. Yet comparatively few do receive such rewards as these, and we hear a continual outcry that justice does not rule between God and man. Is it just that the world's multitude of sufferers includes not merely the idle, inefficient, and vicious, but in large numbers those to whom poverty clings in spite of their devoted labours, and those who are kept down by constant illness or other unavoidable weakness? Why has God denied to all the multitudes of the unfortunate all adequate reward to their efforts? The sufficient answer to these doubting questions is the pointing out of the fact that those who ask them have set up a wrong standard of rewards, and so have overlooked the most important things God is doing in human souls. Who told you, my doubting friend, that the only just reward for writing a noble book is immediate fame, or that wealth ought always to be showered upon the most diligent workers? God is not a magnified committee of award, who examines the records of earth, and metes out to men as rewards for good conduct the things they most desire to possess. Abundant resources, delightful pleasures, gratifying honours, enrich some lives and fail to reach others by causes that are not intended, in my belief, to make of them arbitrary rewards. They fall to the share of evil men and good alike, and are missed by myriads of the most virtuous persons. Divine rewards must therefore be a different sort of thing; and, inasmuch as God can do no wrong, we ought to be able to discover His marks of approval in every life we know to be a noble one. This search inevitably becomes a religious one. Our trust in God is our chief guide; and by this we are led to see that the deepening of life itself is the Divine reward to all excellent deeds or hopes. Jesus gave the noblest utterance to His mission when He said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." They who are faithful, pure in heart, noble, do receive at once more abundant life; and life is but one thing before or after death. There is something which no evil heart can enjoy, but which no righteous soul ever for an instant fails to receive as the immediate reward of his good qualities. That gracious reward is life with its uncounted possibilities, to be your deepest joy at the present time and your eternal field for high surprise. The ancient Greeks gave a crown of wild olive to the victors in their athletic or poetic contests, and the modern world gives crowns of wealth and conspicuous leadership to those who win in its competitions. But there is a lovelier crown than these. The many souls that seem to lose in their competitions with others are in reality gaining much of permanent value while they strive with noble aims. To all who work thus, whether they seem to win or not, there is given life as a crown. Be faithful unto death; and you receive that crown — simply life. The hero makes his greatest sacrifice at the place of perilous duty, loses all his joys and treasures because honour bids him die, only to awake and find that life is still his, but brighter, dearer, than ever, because now ennobled by his faithful heroism. Once a mere existence full of mingled joy and sorrow, life has now been by his own act transformed into a crown, a reward sufficient for all goodness. It may well be that heaven is simply the discovery by an it, mortal soul of the Divine joy it is to be alive. If so, then, surely, life can be transformed into a crown, a measureless joy, at any moment by any sterling act of worthiness in the midst of the trials that make goodness difficult. To be faithful unto death is required but once of any man; but to be faithful up to the full requirement of every situation is demanded of us all at every moment, so that we can at any instant discover the real sublimity of this life of ours. Life may seem nothing rare to one who idly, selfishly, squanders its precious hours; but to every diligent man life is a treasure beyond estimation, and such natures find in the opportunities of each new day the ample reward for faithfulness in the day before. The true scholar's reward does not lie in the fame he may or may not receive for his book, nor in the financial returns it secures. His joy is in the doing of the work itself, in the eager search for truth, in the knowledge he is acquiring, in the actual labour of his literary art. The artist Turner cared so little for public praise and for the selling of his famous works, that when he died there were in his possession hundreds of his paintings, which by a little worldly wisdom he might have turned into gold. His joy was in the art itself, in the painting of pictures; that is, in life rather than in common rewards. Life was his crown, as is that of every worker who honours his occupation. The Divineness of this crown of life is made evident by its universality. Every good deed, every pure thought, broadens into finer life. If any man of an earnest mind understands what earnestness is worth, he has already the one Divine reward of earnestness, and need not care to be popularly known as an example of zeal. See life in this light, and, so far as you are concerned, the sting is taken away from all your failures and difficulties. The deepening, broadening, enriching, of your nature is your reward for your faithfulness through your long years of toil, hardship, loss, and grief. We know that restricted resources call out a man's own mental resources, and that a Robinson Crusoe with only a jack-knife to depend upon accomplishes more with it than another can with a whole kit of tools. We know that the gravest anxieties of business or private life give rise to our firmest courage, our grandest moral strength. We know how the trials and bitter, searching things of life take hold of careless youths and silly girls, and change their mood from vanity to beauty and strength, as the flames that burn out the iron's impurities and give forth the royal steel. In all such moral developments we see the gift of larger life coming to those that have earned it by desert; and, what is of most immediate interest to us, we see it coming without weary delay while yet the fierce struggle goes on. The most significant thing in the matter is that the crown of life — that is, life in its aspect of moral success and self-reliance — does not come to any one class of men more than to others. It comes in the very midst of anxiety, poverty, and physical weakness; and it blossoms forth also in souls that have easier careers. The only places where it does not appear are the wastes of vice and selfishness. No wicked person can know the depths of life until he changes his course, and begins by moral struggle to develop his soul.

(C. E. St. John.)

A crown without cares, co-rivals, envy, end.

(J. Trapp.)

I. CHRIST'S CHARGE TO ALL HIS FOLLOWERS.

1. "Be faithful" to your soul, in seeking its prosperity.

2. "Be faithful" to Christ, in Four profession of His name.

3. "Be faithful" to the gospel, in attachment to its doctrines. The gospel is the legacy of Christ to all His followers; dearer to us ought it to be than liberty or life.

4. "Be faithful" to the world, in your interest for its conversion. You are "the salt," to preserve the world from putrefaction; you are the cities which, for unity, beauty, and security, are to be admired as patterns; you are lights, to "shine before men, that they may glorify your Father which is in heaven."

5. "Be thou faithful unto death." This faithfulness is to continue, then, during life; there is to be no cessation.

II. THE GLORIOUS REWARD HE GIVES TO ALL WHO OBEY IT.

1. Its nature. This "crown" is to set forth the unspeakable glories of the upper world by objects that are familiar to our senses. Is a crown, for instance, emblematic of royalty? This happiness, then, is to be a residence with the King of kings. He shall rule, and you shall reign. Is a crown symbolic of victory? There we shall be conquerors — "more than conquerors through Him that loved us." Many, like Nelson, conquer, but die in the conflict — do not live to enjoy their conquest; but you are led in triumph to the obtaining of She conquest by your great Master.

2. Its superiority. It is "a crown of life." Four things constitute life — that is, happiness — on earth: health, plenty, friendship, knowledge. These are reserved in perfection for paradise.

3. Its bestowal. It is a gift of grace. Man's merit did not buy this glory. Grace first brings the mind into the way, grace strengthens the soul to persevere, and grace puts the crown of glory upon the head.

4. Its certainty. Every one that cleaves to Him, every one that serves Him, every one that loves Him, shall have this crown. There is no venture here, no speculation here; the virtue of the atonement, the oath of God, the experience of all His children, the dying testimony of those who have passed away to that far better world, all confirm the truth — "Where I am, there shall also My servant be."Conclusion:

1. Since so much depends on faithfulness to Christ, diligently use those means which are sanctified to preserve it. One of the first means to obtain these blessings is, crave Divine keeping. He is well kept whom God keeps, and he only.

2. Preserve intimacy with Jesus Christ. Unfaithfulness commences in absence.

3. And shall I say, avoid the company of Christ's enemies?

4. And choose decided friends of Christ as your companions: not half-hearted persons, that you cannot tell whether there is any religion in or no.

(J. Sherman.)

A faithful person you can always trust; he is ever the same, behind your back as before your face. There are three things about faithfulness which show how important it is, and how earnestly we should learn and practise it.

I. IT IS SO USEFUL. Look at the mariner's compass. It is a small, flat piece of steel, called a needle. This is placed on the fine point of a piece of iron, which is fastened in an upright position inside of a little box. It is free to turn in any direction; but God has given that little needle the power of always turning to the north. We do not know what this power in the needle is which makes it turn to the north. People call it magnetism. No one can tell what this magnetism is, but we believe in it. The wonderful power of this little needle makes it one of the most useful things in the world. When sailors go to sea, and lose sight of land, this needle is all they have to depend upon to guide them across the trackless ocean. There are hundreds of vessels out at sea now that could never find their way back to port if it were not for the strange power of this needle. And faithfulness is to us just what the magnetism of that needle is to the compass. It guides us to usefulness. Faithfulness will make us honest and true; it will lead us to do what we know to be right. And then we can always be trusted.

II. IT IS SO BEAUTIFUL. God has given us the power to delight in beautiful things; and in His great goodness God has filled the world about us with beautiful things in order that we may find pleasure in looking at them. How beautiful the sun is as it rises and sets in floods of golden glories! How beautiful is the moon as it moves through the heavens so calmly bright! How beautiful the stars are as they shine in the dark sky! And how beautiful the flowers are in all the loveliness of their varied forms and colours! We thank God for all these beautiful things because of the pleasure they give and the good they do us; and when painters make beautiful pictures, and sculptors chisel out beautiful figures in marble, we thank them too, because we love to look upon the beautiful things they make. It gives us pleasure, and does us good, to see things that are beautiful. It is a pleasing thing to see a boy or girl, a man or woman, who is trying to be faithful and do what is right.

III. IT IS SO HONOURABLE. The highest honour we can gain is to do that which God and good people approve, and which will lead them to love us and think well of us. "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." And so, when we are doing the things that faithfulness requires of us, we may be sure that we are doing honourable things.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death
I. THIS LANGUAGE IMPLIES THAT THERE IS A DEATH PRIOR TO THE SECOND HERE NAMED. The first death is severe, is penal, but is often rendered glorious by the power of the grace of God.

II. THAT THE SECOND DEATH IS MORE DREADFUL THAN THE FIRST. The first death is but the taking away of the man from the scene of this world, from the activities of time; whereas the second death removes the soul eternally from the presence of God, from the joy of heaven, and casts it into the dark regions of the lost.

III. THE SECOND DEATH MAY BE ESCAPED BY CONTINUED AND TRIUMPHANT MORAL GOODNESS. A pure soul will never be banished from the presence of God, His presence is immortality and spiritual delight. Lessons:

1. Let us endeavour so to live that we may escape the second death.

2. Let us remember that physical death is not the end of being; there is yet a death beyond — a death in life.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

Two of the seven Churches — viz., Smyrna, to which our text is addressed, and Philadelphia — offered nothing, to the pure eyes of Christ, that needed rebuke. The same two, and these only, were warned to expect persecution. The higher the tone of Christian life in the Church the more likely it is to attract dislike, and, if circumstances permit, hostility. Hence the whole gist of this letter is to encourage to steadfastness. That purpose determined at once the aspect of Christ which is presented in the beginning, and the aspect of future blessedness which is held forth at the close. The aspect of Christ is — "these things saith the first and last, which was dead and is alive." A fitting thought to encourage the men who were to be called upon to die for Him.

I. THE CHRISTIAN MOTIVE CONTAINED IN THE VICTOR'S IMMUNITY FROM A GREAT EVIL. Now, that solemn and thrilling expression, "the second death," is peculiar to this book of the Apocalypse. The name is peculiar; the thing is common to all the New Testament writers. Here it comes with especial appropriateness, in contrast with the physical death which threatened to be inflicted upon some members of the Smyrnean Church. There is something at the back of physical death which can lay its grip upon the soul that is already separated from the body; something running on the same lines somehow, and worthy to bear that name of terror and disintegration. "The second death." What can it be? Not the cessation of conscious existence; that is never the meaning of death. The deepest meaning of death is separation from Him who is the fountain of life, and in a very deep sense is the only life of the universe. Separation from God; that is death, that touches the surface, is but a faint shadow and parable. And the second death, like a second tier of mountains, rises behind and above it, sterner and colder than the lower hills of the foreground. Like some sea-creatures, cast high and dry on the beach, and gasping out its pained being, the men that are separated from God die whilst they live, and live a living death. The second is the comparative degree of which the first is the positive. "To eat of the Tree of Life"; to have power over the nations; to rule them with a rod of iron; to blaze with the brightness of the morning star; to eat of the hidden manna: to bear the new name known only to those who receive it; to have that name confessed before the Father and His angels; to be a pillar in the Temple of the Lord; to go no more out; and to sit with Christ in His throne. These are the positive promises, along with which this barely negative one is linked, and is worthy to be linked: "He shall not be hurt of the second death." If this immunity from that fate is fit to stand in line with these glimpses of an inconceivable glory, how solemn must be the fate, and how real the danger of our falling into it! Further, note that such immunity is regarded here as the direct outcome of the victor's conduct and character. Transient deeds consolidate into permanent character. Beds of sandstone rock thousands of feet thick are the sediments dropped from vanished seas or borne down by long dried-up rivers. The actions which we often so unthinkingly perform, whatever may be the width and the permanency of their affects external to us, react upon ourselves, and tend to make our permanent bent or twist or character. The chalk cliffs of Dover are skeletons of millions upon millions of tiny organisms, and our little lives are built up by the recurrence of transient deeds which leave their permanent marks upon us. They make character, and character yonder determines position. The little life here determines the sweep of the great ones that lie yonder. The victor wears his past conduct and character, if I may so say, as a fireproof garment, and if he entered the very furnace heated seven times hotter than before there would be no smell of the fire upon him. " He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death."

II. Now, note, THE CHRISTIAN MOTIVE CONTAINED IN THE VICTOR'S RECEPTION OF A GREAT GOOD. "I will give him a crown of life." I need not remind you, I suppose, that this metaphor of "the crown" is found in other instructively various places in the New Testament. It is life considered from a special point of view that is set forth here. It is kingly life. Of course, that notion of regality and dominion as the prerogative of the redeemed and glorified servants of Jesus Christ is for ever cropping up in this book of the Revelation. And you remember how our Lord has set an example of setting it forth when He said, "I will give thee authority over ten cities." The rule over ourselves, over circumstances, the deliverance from the tyranny of the external, the deliverance from the slavery of the body and its lusts and passions, these are all included. The man that can will rightly, and can do completely as he rightly wills, that man is a king. But there is more than that. There is the participation in wondrous, and for us inconceivable, ways, in the majesty and regality of the King of kings and Lord of lords. But remember that this conception of a kingly life is to be interpreted according to Christ's own teaching of that wherein loyalty in His kingdom consists. For heaven, as for earth, the token of dominion is service, and the use of power is beneficial. That life is a triumphant life. The crown was laid on the head of the victor in the games. If we do our work, and fight our fight down here as we ought, we shall enter into the great city not unnoticed, not unwelcomed, but with the praise of the King and the paeans of His attendants. "I will confess his name before My Father and the holy angels." That life is a festal life. Royalty, triumph, festal goodness, all fused together, are incomplete, but they are not useless symbols; may we experience their fulfilment! Hope is surely a perfectly legitimate motive to appeal to.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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