And the One seated on the throne said, "Behold, I make all things new." Then He said, "Write this down, for these words are faithful and true."
Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 11:10, 16; Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26 - the heavenly community of the righteous. Nor the Jerusalem here below, in the present life - the Church in her militant state. But the New Jerusalem on the glorified earth, with the introduction of which the others vanish. Now, in the ample and beautiful description of that which as yet is not, we have not merely what may well uplift and make glad our hearts by way of holy anticipation, but also we have portrayed, in beautiful symbol, the pattern of what the true Church of Christ, even now and here, should ever aspire to be. St. John was blessed with the beatific vision of "the holy Jerusalem;" and to this end - as when we would well see a great mountain we need to be ourselves on a similar elevation - St. John was carried away to a great and high mountain; as Moses on Mount Pisgah, that he might the better see the promised land. But whilst this Word of God tells of the chosen Church in her consummated and perfect, condition before God, it is also a glorious picture, not merely to be looked at and longed for, but, to the uttermost of our power, to be embodied in our own Church life here on earth. Bunyan, in his treatise on the New Jerusalem, has worked out this idea at length; he holding that these chapters tell of not the final condition of mankind, the end of all things - for then there will be no longer heathen to be healed, and living yet outside the city - but of the perfected Church, perfectly redeemed and restored, and "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." But what we have here is the description of the true New Testament Church. "As there were three states of Jerusalem, so there are of the Church. The first, for the city, was that under Solomon, and answers to the Church in the days of our Lord and his apostles; the second was Jerusalem's degraded and captured state, and answers to the Church ever since the apostolic age; the third, of which Nehemiah and Isaiah so largely tell, is her recovered state when the exiles returned and rebuilt their city and wails again." The foundation chapter is Isaiah 60, which was written for the comfort of the captives in Babylon, as is this for the comfort of the Church of today, Rapidly reviewing this glorious promise for Christ's Church, we are told -
I. OF HER GLORY. (Vers. 11, 23.) This is named first in order, as it is first in importance. It means that the grace of God which is ever in his Church shall appear, be manifest, conspicuous. It is likened to the most precious of stones - not the jasper which we know, for that was never most precious nor otherwise such as is here described; but probably the diamond, which does answer to what is here said. Now, this 6, glory" is the all important thing (cf. Isaiah 60:19). In the ideal Church, which comes down from God and is according to his mind, its gracious character, the Christ within her, will be the all conspicuous thing.
II. HER SECURITY. (Vers. 12-14; cf. Isaiah 54:14.) The Church is likened to a city for its strength. Isaiah 26:1, "We have a strong city," etc. The perfect Church shall be impregnable. "No weapon formed against her shall prosper." The Church of today is exposed to all manner of attack, and here and there succumbs. But it is because she lacks this wall. The holy city has many gates, but all are angel guarded. There is freedom of entrance for those who should enter, but none for those who should not. The angel guards keep watch and ward. Believers - the seed of believing Abraham, the true Israel of God - these, whose names are written on the gates, have right of entrance. But they shall come from no one nation. On either side are three gates. They may, they will, come from every quarter of the earth (cf. Luke 13:29). And this Church is the "city which hath foundations" (Hebrews 11:10), and it is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (ver. 14). The blessed doctrine which they taught will be the basis of the Church's security - the Christ they preached, the gospel they proclaimed. (Ephesians 2:20; Matthew 19:28).
III. HER FAULTLESSNESS. As in Revelation 11:1 the measuring meant inspection and test, so here (vers. 15-17). This city will bear Divine scrutiny; in regard to her people, "the city;" her conditions of entrance, "the gates;" her confident security, "the wall." The whole corresponds to the Divine ideal. What contrast to the Church of today! And this city is built in perfect symmetry. The square was regarded as the symbol of completeness and all perfect proportion (cf. Ephesians 3:4, "comprehend... the breadth, and length, and depth, and height," by which St. Paul meant the symmetry and fair proportion of the Christian Church and character). And not perfect only in proportion, but vast in extort. "In my Father's house are many mansions." The heart of Christ shall "be satisfied," not alone with the beautiful form of his Church, but with its greatness. Such seems to be the meaning of the fifteen hundred miles square which, is said to be the measurement of this city. There never was or could be a literal city so vast. It surpasses all human conception - as shall the reality, the Church. The height of it is named only to intensify the ideas of proportion and extent. The wall, compared with the height of the city, is but low. Sufficient for security, but not for obscurity. It would not hide the magnificence of the city as it stood on the sides of the vast eminence on which it was built, but yet the wall would well defend it. "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth," etc. (Psalm 48.). Translated out of metaphor, the meaning is that the Church which fulfils the Divine ideal will commend itself by its moral and spiritual symmetry, its correspondence to the plan of the great Architect - its "Maker and Builder," God.
IV. ITS ADORNMENTS. (Vers. 18-21.) The symbolism of these verses is taken from Isaiah 54:11, 12. The walls and city flashed with light, as the diamond, and like to burnished gold. So that the vision of it would attract, fix, and delight the mind of the beholder (cf. "Let your light so shine before men," etc.). If the jasper or diamond tell of Christ, he being the Cornerstone, elect, "precious," then the Church's glory (ver. 11), her defence (ver. 18), and her adornment (ver. 19), are alike Christ. And this is so. And the city is like pure gold, for all spiritual riches and treasure are in her. To bring her to this condition involved much refining work. But now no fire can harm her, for her dross is all gone. But the foundations also have their adornment. The apostles were adorned, as are all true ministers of Christ's Church, with the gifts and graces he bestows upon them - many, varied, and all precious; and with the converts to Christ whom they have won. "Ye are our glory and joy," said St. Paul to the Thessalonians (cf. Daniel 12:3, Revised Version). These converts also are all "living stones," but all precious, though varied in every way in which human souls can be varied. The Church of Christ has her bride like adornments (ver. 2), in the grace of spiritual character, the goodly gifts, and in the power to bless others, with which he endows her. Nor must we forget the glory of her gates (ver. 21). "I am the way," said our Lord. He is the Gate of entrance, and he is as a Pearl of great price. Bunyan notes that whilst we are told the measurements of the city and the wall, we are told nothing of the gates. And, he says, "it is because Christ, the Way, is beyond all measurement." And the "unsearchable riches" of his grace are also set forth by the figure of the gates of "one pearl." Who could compute the price of such a pearl? It will be the glory of the perfect Church that "one pearl," and that "the Pearl of great price," even Christ himself, is presented to every man at every entrance to the Church, so that none can come save by him. And even "the street" was of "pure gold." The street, the places of concourse, the ways in which the people of the city walk, are golden. That is, they are ways of holiness, godly ways, ways good and precious, ways of pleasantness and paths of peace. The spiritual glory, beauty, and riches of this way are what is meant, and what each heart knows to be true.
V. ITS MATURITY OF SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. As the ordinances of the tabernacle and temple gave way to the ordinances of Christ, so these ordinances will themselves give way to the worship "in spirit and in truth," which shall be the most perfect worship of all. "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is imperfect shall be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:10). The temple was to the Jews the means of access to a revelation of, and a place of instruction concerning, God. But in Christ's very presence no medium is needed, for access is direct to God. And in a Church that aspires after this model there will be not a discarding and rejection of all ordinances and forms, but there will be a growing independence of them. Whilst prized and used, they will not be indispensable. Being what we are, we may be thankful that still the ordinances of religion - sacred seasons, sanctuaries, and services - are continued to us still. But there, in the holy Jerusalem, they will not be needed. And like as the shrine, the most holy place in the tabernacle and temple, was lit up with no earthly light, but with the Shechinah cloud, the visible glory of God, so shall it be in the city of God. Translated, this means that in the perfect Church the glory of the grace of Christ in her shall render unnecessary all lesser glory, though in the eyes of men such glory should be as the sun and moon for greatness.
VI. HER ATTRACTIVENESS. Nations outside the city are clearly supposed. "Nations," not "nations of the saved," is the true reading (see Revised Version). The heathen are meant. Then will be the true missionary age. Then shall be fulfilled, as cannot be now, the promises of the universal spread of the knowledge of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 60:11). The heathen shall come and their kings, and they shall consecrate their all to Christ. And this shall continually be going on. For (ver. 27) the gates shall never be shut, but kept ever open for this blessed inflow of all to Christ. She is likened to a city, for cities are centres of influence, and affect for good or ill all around. Think of what London and like cities do in this way. And "the holy Jerusalem" shall thus influence and attract "the nations," who shall gladly walk in her "light." The blessing of God, the absence of which is the meaning of "night" in St. John's language, shall be ever present (cf. John 13:30, "And it was night"). Hence the blessed power of this city over the heathen around.
VII. HER HOLINESS. (Ver. 27.) Note this frequent form of expression. Denying one thing and asserting its extreme contrast. "There shall not enter any," etc., but there shall enter those in the book of life (cf. Revelation 3:5, "I will not blot out... but I will confess," etc.; Revelation 20:6, "the second death... but they shall be priests," etc.). The darkness of an evil condition is named to be denied, in order to serve as a foil to the glory of the blessed condition which is affirmed. And so it is here. The perfect holiness of the city is rendered more conspicuous by the denial of entrance to all abomination. Let us remember, therefore, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
VIII. HER PROVISION AND BLESSEDNESS. (Revelation 22:1-5.)
1. As to the first, this consists of the river (ver. l) and of the tree of life (ver. 2). The provision is plenteous, as is a river for they that would drink, and as are the trees bearing its twelve harvests year by year, and standing on either side the river. Accessible, also; for the river flows through the street of the city, and the trees are on either side. No flaming sword now bars access thereto, but it is in view and in reach of and for the enjoyment of all. By these symbols of the river and the tree are meant - as when we read (Isaiah 33:16) of bread and water being sure - all necessary food. But as all here refers to spiritual things, we take our Lord's own interpretation, and read in the river the fulness of the Holy Spirit's blessing. Here we receive that blessing as a refreshing dew or as drops of rain, but there it shall flow forth as a river from the throne of God and the Lamb. For the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son; and when Christ spoke of the water that he would give, St. John adds, "This spake he of the Spirit." And as to the tree of life, Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" "I am the Resurrection and the Life;" and repeatedly, "I am the Bread of life." Himself, then, in his sustaining, strengthening grace; and the Holy Spirit in his sanctifying, refreshing, reviving power; - all this in abundance shall be the spiritual portion of the inhabitants of the holy city. And though none there ever have to say, "I am sick," yet there are those outside the city who are, and the leaves of this blessed tree are for their healing. So that it not only blesses those who eat of it, but makes them a blessing to others also.
2. And now, finally, the exceeding blessedness of the people of the holy Jerusalem, God's servants, is set forth in a series of striking statements.
(1) "There shall be no more curse." Here, again, note the form of expression - naming the evil, whilst denying it, to set off more vividly the exceeding good which is affirmed. The "curse" is everywhere here - on man, and on the earth, his dwelling place, alike. Death, the most awful form of the curse, "reigns." "But there," etc.
(2) "The throne of God and the Lamb shall be in it." The will of God, his holy Law, his righteous authority, shall be confessed and rejoiced in.
(3) "His servants shall serve him" - with ease, alacrity, delight, and effect. Not, as here, with a poor, maimed, marred service, and even that too often rendered reluctantly, or from impure motive.
(4) "And they shall see his face." The joy of intimate fellowship shall be theirs.
(5) "And his name... foreheads." They shall be confessed before all, sealed and owned, manifested, as the sons of God.
(6) "And there shall be no night." When the Lord was betrayed, St. John tells that "it was night." Here, in the city and scene of his triumph;he tells us repeatedly that "there is no night." The light of God's love shall never be lacking.
(7) "And they shall reign forever and ever." What sentences these are! how full, how inexhaustible in their meaning! "Reign" - so also our Lord said. Yes, the chosen Church shall be the aristocracy, the ruling class, exercising wise, holy, and beneficent rule over the masses of mankind in the kingdom of God. Such rule is ever the greatest blessing to men - their real need and right. Wise rule - that is what is wanted, and that shall be. It shall be no selfish blessedness which the elect of God shall enjoy, but one that shall flow forth in beneficence for which they will have both the wilt and the power.
"Come, kingdom of our God,
He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.
Homilist.Who is He that brings into existence on our planet a new order of spiritual things, that creates a new moral heavens and earth?
I. HE IS IMMUTABLE TRUTHFUL. What He has spoken not only has been done, but is being done, and must be done.
II. HE IS EVERLASTING.
III. HE IS INFINITELY BENEFICENT. He pours forth in all directions the refreshing and crystal streams. And all this freely, without any coercion, limitation, partiality, or pause; freely as He gives the beams of day and the waves of vital air.
IV. HE IS SURPASSINGLY CONDESCENDING. Two things are here stated which suggest this amazing condescension:
1. This recognition of every individual who does his duty. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." That He should notice a man in the mighty aggregate may well impress us with His condescension, but that He should notice individual man, how much more! Here we have the universe won by self-conquest. Notice:(1) Self-conquest as the grand work of man. The soul should be ruled by sympathy with God, sympathy with His character, His operation, His plans. In these two things self-conquest consists, and such conquests require battling — resolute, brave, persistent, invincible battling.(2) Self-conquest as winning the universe. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." He gets the whole of it, he penetrates its meaning, appropriates its truth, admires its beauties, drinks in its poetry, revels in its spirit, exults in its God, and says, "The Lord is my portion." He gets the whole of it to enjoy for ever.
2. The amazing condescension is seen in the affiliation of every individual man that does his duty. "And he shall be My son." He only is a son who has the true filial instinct, involving trust, love, obedience, acquiescence. The great mission of Christ into our world was to generate in humanity this true filial disposition, enabling them to address the Infinite as "our Father."
V. HE IS ESSENTIALLY SIN-RESISTING. Sin is cowardice, sin is faithless, sin is abhorrent, sin is murderous, sin is lascivious, sin is deceptive and idolatrous. All these productions of sin are abhorrent to the Divine nature. "It is the abominable thing" which He hates, and He consigns sin to irretrievable destruction, for it is destined to have its part in "the lake which burneth with fire."
I. THE SOURCE OF THE NEW CREATION IS THE NEW HUMANITY, CHRIST THE SECOND ADAM. The Incarnation is the creation by God the Holy Ghost of a new member of the human family to be the head of "a people that shall be born." It was not merely the most consummate possible evolution of pre-existing moral and historical elements. The gardener sees a stem which his experience tells him is endowed with peculiar capacities. He enriches it by grafting into it a new scion, not of or from the tree, but from another which is of a higher and nobler kind. Nothing less than this is in the mystery of the Incarnation. This, I believe, was foretold by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:22).
II. THE RESULT OF THIS IS THE CREATION IN CHRIST AND BY CHRIST OF A NEW HUMANITY. I say, by Christ. Christianity has a history, but is not a history. Christianity has a book, but is not a book. An idea may be great, a history may be great, but a person is greater. Luther's work, or Napoleon's work, is now linked to Luther's and Napoleon's ideas or history, and to nothing else. We have the ideas and the history of Christ in the Gospels and Epistles, the most efficacious of all ideas, the most true and living of all history. But Christ's work continues linked to Christ's life. Christ is not merely the central figure of the Galilean idyll, or a form nailed to a crucifix, or a pathetic memory. Our relation to Him is not merely one of idea, or of recollection, or of literary sympathy. It is a present union of life with life. He does not say — "because My words shall be gathered up and written down with absolute truth, My religion shall live." He does say — "because I live, ye shall live also." This new creation by Christ begins in the depths of the human heart and life. One of the world's greatest writers has illustrated the difference between true and false schemes of virtue by the difference between the work of the statuary and that of nature. The statuary deals with his marble piecemeal; he is occupied with the curve of a finger-nail, or the position of a lock of hair, and while so occupied can do no more. But nature is at work with a simultaneous omnipresence in root and leaf and flower. Christ's renovation is unexhausted and inexhaustible. He says Himself, "Behold, I make all things new."
III. We naturally — perhaps in these days uneasily — proceed to ask WHETHER THE WORDS OF THE TEXT ADMIT OF APPLICATION TO THE INTELLECTUAL AS WELL AS SOCIAL PROGRESS OF CHRISTENDOM. Those of US who have seriously tried to reconcile that in us which thinks with that which feels and prays may entertain some misgiving. As we look back to the point from which we. started many years ago we recognise the fact that, slowly it may be, but surely, we have advanced from our old position.
1. As we turn to nature, all of us at least who are over fifty will remember our youthful view of Genesis, with its rash anathemas and unhesitating dogmatism, with its crude schemes of premature conciliation. All things were flashed out of nothing, moment by moment, in six consecutive days of twenty-four hours. Reflection and knowledge have convinced us that the anticipation of exact science was not one of the purposes of the Bible. But there is a higher life than that of which science knows. There is a light in which it lives. The light for that life which is beyond science comes to us through the revelation of Moses. What, then, do we learn from the first pages of the Bible? We say, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth," not less truly than of old, but with a deeper and larger meaning. Christ says to us even as we repeat the beginning of our creed, "Behold, I make all things new."
2. As we turn to Scripture we meet with a similar renovation of our earlier view. Consider, for instance, the question of the origin of the Gospels. It may be looked upon as ascertained that the Gospels were all written within the first century, none earlier than about A.D. 60, none much later than about A.D. 80. This historical fact in itself seems strange to certain primary notions from which most of us started. Yet a little reflection dissipates our uneasiness. In the bridal days which succeeded Pentecost the young Church was filled with a heavenly enthusiasm. At first, then, there was not — and there needed not to be — any official memorial of the life of Jesus. The apostle's sermons were sometimes, perhaps generally, summaries of the characteristics of that life. In portions of the apostolic epistles particular incidents are touched upon briefly — e.g., the birth, the circumcision, the transfiguration, His poverty, the fact that He came of the tribe of Judah, His going without the camp bearing His Cross, the "Abba, Father," the "strong crying and tears" of Gethsemane. It seems to be certain that an unwritten life of Jesus, graven upon the living heart of the Church, preceded the written life. In this, indeed, there is no derogation from the real glory of the written word. No ark of the new covenant, overlaid round about with gold, kept in its side the book of the new law. Yet the Holy Spirit — without a separate miracle working in each syllable and letter — freely used the memory and intelligence of apostles and their disciples, that Christ's people in all ages might know the certainty of those things wherein they had been instructed; and that across the gulf of ages, through the mists of history, our eyes might see the authentic lineaments of the King in His beauty. Further, in the three first evangelists there is a certain common basis of similar, or identical, sentences and words. Critics may show that Matthew copied from Luke, or Luke from Matthew; may discuss whether Matthew is the "primitive" of Mark, or Mark of Matthew. Even without taking into account the promise of the Spirit to "bring all things to their remembrance whatsoever." He had said unto them, "such words from such a teacher could never perish from the earth. Thus, any change which criticism may make in our view of the origin and character of the Gospels tends to elevate our conception of their subject. We see in them a Saviour more exalted, if that were possible. We hear words yet deeper and more tender. Here, too, Christ saith, "Behold, I make all things new."
3. As we contemplate the process of religious thought, we may be sometimes tempted to fear that a period is approaching when religion will be so spiritualised as to dissolve away. The answer is afforded by simply considering the abiding, irreducible elements in man's nature — his intellect, his conscience, his affections.
(Abp. Wm. Alexander.)Savonarola, Latimer, and John Huss; like many another in Church and State, He was killed by the people. Your true Reformer is no demagogue; he does not flatter the people: he tells them the truth.(2) Notice Christ's aims and His methods. His aim was not that of most reformers. He did not seek in the first place to make men happy, but to make them holy. As to His methods. In the first place, Christ began from the centre and worked towards the circumference. He did not come into the world with any elaborate scheme for the regeneration of society: He had no scheme for making men wake up some fine morning and find themselves all happy and good. Our Lord took people as He met them, singly, and got hold of their wills, and changed and converted them. This is the reform which alone can make other reforms beneficial.(2) A second part of Christ's method was that the reform was thorough and complete, extending to the body, soul, and spirit.(3) The methods of reform adopted by Jesus Christ were gradual. He Himself compares His influence to the leaven, etc. So it has ever been with the influence and teaching of Christ.(4) The stimulus or motive which Christ used is something very different from what many reformers have used, Fear, self-interest, jealousy have, alas! often been prominent motives. With Christ you have two motives put forward — "The love of God and the love of man."
(C. L. Ivens, M. A.)I. THE DIVINE METHOD OF EFFECTING THE GREAT CHANGE.
1. It is spiritual. The evils which exist here are either the direct fruits of sin, or the necessary means of moral discipline for its removal. A remedy for them must be found, not in miraculous interference with the established order of nature, but in the gospel of salvation.
2. The gospel begins by regenerating man himself. The Spirit of God touches his heart, quickens his intellectual nature, kindles the imagination, develops the reasoning faculties, and imparts a desire for knowledge.
3. Herein is found the principle which is to regenerate society, which is to be the basis of a true civilisation. Even the science, so called, which scoffs at both God and revelation, owes to Christian schools its culture, to a Bible-taught people the ability to understand and use it, and to the generous protection of Christian laws the liberty to assert itself in defiance of the most sacred convictions of mankind with impunity.
4. Other millennial blessings are the abolition of the great social evils which have hitherto cursed the world — war, and slavery, and intemperance, and lust. The only effective way to reach these and similar evils is to make men themselves better.
5. But it is not alone the moral and social renovation of the world that is to be effected; it is the physical as well. The same power that makes man's heart new will ultimately make his body new, and so abolish disease and premature death.
II. THE PROGRESS WHICH HAS BEEN MADE IN THE PAST TOWARDS THIS PROMISED RESULT. It was a hard soil in which Christianity, the Divine mustard-seed, was dropped eighteen hundred years ago. What was the reception He met with? Not frigid indifference, but violent opposition. At last the world was startled to hear that even Caesar himself had bowed at the feet of the Nazarene, and, by imperial decree, placed the hated religion on the throne of the empire.
II. WHAT IS YET TO BE DONE, AND WHAT IS THE PROSPECT AS TO ITS COMPLETION?
1. The whole world is to become known and accessible to Christian nations.
2. Christianity is soon to become the sole religion of mankind. All others are on the wane.
3. Christianity is rapidly increasing in power.
4. Christianity, as never before, is inspiring the powers of the world, and directing them to the improvement of mankind. Science, art, commerce, wealth, are her handmaids. She is using them all to make the world better, and man happier.
5. Only one thing is wanting more, and that is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church and the nations.
6. The grand hope and expectation of the Church as to the future becomes thus more than an object of faith.
(J. P. Warren, D. D.)I. THE NEED OF A COMPLETE MORAL RENEWAL. All visions of a political or economic millennium wreck themselves upon the obstinate fact of human depravity. With this, legislators, philosophers, and moralists have been found powerless to deal.
II. AN ADEQUATE POWER. "He that sitteth on the throne." He who created the human soul can renew it. Omnipotence rises up to work.
III. THE WONDER OF REGENERATION.
IV. THE SECRET OF "HOLDING OUT."
V. THE GREAT NEED OF THE CHURCH — a regenerate membership.
VI. THE ULTIMATE RENEWAL OF ALL OUTWARD THINGS — nations, nature.
(James C. Fernald.)
I. THE NEW TESTAMENT OR COVENANT (Matthew 26:28). That which was old has vanished away. It was insufficient; it Could not help the sinner; it said nothing of forgiveness. But the new covenant is all a sinner needs: it comes at once with a free pardon; it presents a work done for the sinner, not a work for the sinner to do.
II. THE NEW MAN (Ephesians 4:24). This seems to correspond with the " new creature" (2 Corinthians 5:17); with the "new heart" (Ezekiel 18:31); with the "new spirit" (Ezekiel 11:19); with the "heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26); with the new birth (John 3:3); and the being begotten again (1 Peter 1:3). Newness of nature, of heart, of life, of words, of the entire being, is the basis of all religion and true worship.
III. THE NEW WAY (Hebrews 10:19). All God's dealings with the sinner are on a new footing, that of free love, simple grace. It is a free way, a sufficient way, an open way, a perfect way.
IV. THE NEW SONG (Psalm 23:3; Revelation 5:9). Every new day brings with it a new song; or rather it brings materials for many new songs, which we should be always singing. Our whole life should be full of new songs. Yet the old songs are not thereby made obsolete; they do not grow tame or unmeaning. As the old songs of a land are always fresh and sweet, so is it with the old songs of faith. These new songs have to do with the past — for often, in looking into the past, we get materials for a new song — with the present, and with the future. They are connected with ourselves, our families, with the Church, with our nation, with the work of God just now, with resurrection, with the restitution of all things, with the glory, the New Jerusalem, and the new creation.
VI. THE NEW WINE (Matthew 26:29). He is Himself the giver and the gift. His blood is drink indeed here; much more hereafter. It is "new" here; it will be much more new hereafter.
IX. THE NEW NAME (Revelation 2:17).
1. Of love. The Father's love will be in it.
2. Of honour. It will be no mean nor common name, but glorious and celestial.
3. Of blessing. It will proclaim blessing; it will be a name of blessing.
4. Of wonder. It will astonish the possessor, and every one who hears it; no one shall know it or guess it.
5. Given by Christ. "I will give." As He gave names to Abram, Jacob, Peter, John, so will He give this new name, superseding our old earthly appellation.
6. Most suitable and characteristic. It will in itself summarise our past history and character.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
(James Freeman Clarke.)Ezekiel 36:26; 2 Corinthians 5:17): —
I. Human hearts unappeasably cry out after change. Something new we all need; and because we need, we crave for it; and what we crave after, we hope for. The old we have tried, and it is not enough. We are still not right; we are not full; we are not at rest. In the future there may be what we need, and so long as there is a future, there is hope; but the past is dead. Now, the best lesson which the years can teach is, perhaps, this one: that the new thing we need is, not a new world, but a new self. Not change in any outward surroundings of our lives; not an easier income, not a cheerfuller home, not stronger health, not a higher post, not relief from any thorn in our flesh against which we pray; but a change within — another self. We have done evil, and the evil which we have done cleaves to us. We are the children of our own deeds. Conduct has created character; acts have grown to habits; the lives we have led have left us such men as we are to-day. And forward into the "new year" we must go, unaltered with this old, evil, dissatisfied self confirmed and stiffened and burdened only the more as the past behind us grows longer and longer.
II. At this point the gospel meets us. It is the singular pretension of the Christian gospel that it does make men new. It professes to alter character, not as all other religious and ethical systems in the world have done, by mere influence of reason or of motives, or by a, discipline of the flesh; it professes to alter human character by altering human nature. It brings truth, indeed, to satisfy the reason and powerful motives of every sort to tell upon the will, as well as law to stimulate the conscience; but in the very act of doing so, it pronounces all these external appliances to be utterly insufficient without a concurrent action of God from within the man. The real change it proclaims to be a change of "heart" or spiritual being; and that is the work of God. Born of a man who is flesh, and therefore flesh ourselves; we have to be born of another Man who is Spirit, that we too may become spiritual. And this other Man, of whom we have to be spiritually begotten, can beget, for He is our original Maker-the Lord from heaven. A race which includes God need not despair of Divine life; it can be divinely re-created from within itself. Think; to be a new creature! Men have fabled fancies of a fountain in which whoever bathed grew young again, his limbs restored to elasticity and his skin to clearness. To the old world it was as good a thing as priests could promise to the good, that when they died, the crossing of that dark and fateful river should be the blotting out for ever from the soul of all memorials of the past. But God gives us a better mercy than the blessing of forgetfulness. The Lethe which obliterates from recollection a sinful past is a poor hope compared to the blood of cleansing, which permits us to remember sin without distress, and confess it without alarm. With a new self, cut off from this dreadful moral continuity with the past, eased of one's inheritance of self-reproach, and made quick within with the seed of a new future, all things seem possible to a man. Old things pass away; all things become new.
III. Here I turn to some in whose bosoms these warm words find cold response. It is very beautiful to think of — this transformation of a man and of his life by the breath of God. Once you were as enthusiastic and hopeful about it as anybody. You desired it, you sought it; you believed and were converted. You found, certainly, a new peace, and for a while-your world did seem a changed world and yourself a changed man. You walked lightly, like one grown young; you could praise, and love, and rejoice. But that is long ago. The novel pleasure of being religious faded out of your days, like evening red out of the sky; somehow the old world resumed its place about you, and you returned by degrees to the old life. To-day God has given us a new year, and with it He has sent us a new message — "To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your heart"; "to-day is the day of salvation." Dead again or never truly alive; what matters it? You surely do need now, at all events, the new heart and the new spirit. And the offer of it in Jesus Christ is as genuine and sincere as ever — to you as free as ever. The way to it lies through desire and petition and expectation.
IV. In proposing that we should all inaugurate the year by seeking, before everything else, that breath of life, that inward renewing of the soul through the inbreathed Holy Spirit of Jesus, which makes us new, I propose what will ensure to all of us a real "new year." The new self will make all around it as good as new, though no actual change should pass on it; for, to a very wonderful extent, a man creates his own world. We project the hue of our own spirits on things outside. A bright and cheerful temper sees all things on their sunny side. A weary, uneasy mind drapes the very earth in gloom. Any great enthusiasm, which lifts a man above his average self for the time, makes him like a new man, and transfigures the universe in his eyes. Now, this power of human nature, when exalted through high and noble emotion, to make its own world, will be realised in its profoundest form when the soul is re-created by the free Spirit of God. Let God lift us above our old selves, and inspire us with no earthly, but with the pure flame of a celestial, devotion; let Him breathe into our hearts the noblest, freest of all enthusiasms, the enthusiasm for Himself; and to us all things will become new.
(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)
Homilist.I. THE RESEMBLANCE.
1. In both there is the production of a new order of things. From chaos of old, God, by His creative fiat, brought life, beauty, light, etc., and from the corrupt soul of man, by His redemptive power, He evolves high spiritual virtues.
2. In both there is the production of something new by the Divine agency. Who created the heavens and the earth? etc. God, and He only. Who creates a soul? The same glorious Being.
3. In both there is a production of the new according to a Divine plan. Every part of the universe is created on a plan. Science discovers this. In conversion it is so (Ephesians 2:10).
4. In both there is the production of the new for His own glory. "The heavens declare His glory." The conversion of men reveals the glory of God.
5. In both there is the production of the new in a gradual way. Geology and the Bible show that the work of creation is a very gradual work. It is so with the work of spiritual reformation — very gradual.
II. THE DISSIMILARITY.
1. The one was produced out of nothing, the other from pre-existing materials. In conversion no new power is given to the soul, but the old ones are renovated and wrought into right action.
2. The one was effected without any obstructing force, the other is not.
3. The one was produced by mere fiat, the other requires the intervention of moral means. Nothing in the creation came between the work and the Divine will. In spiritual reformation it does; hence God had to bow the heavens and come down and become flesh.
4. The one placed man in a position material and insecure; the other placed him in a spiritual and safe abode.
5. The one develops and displays God as the absolute Spirit, the other as the Divine Man.
(Homilist.)1. The Church in heaven will be new in respect of the number of its members.
2. We now dwell in earthly bodies. These vile bodies will be changed, and fashioned like to Christ's glorious body.
3. It will be a new thing, and as happy as it will be new, to find ourselves freed from sin, and mingling with those, who, like us, are made perfect in holiness.
4. It will be a new thing to see all united in love. There will be no interfering passions, separate interests and party designs — no evil surmises and unfriendly insinuations. There will be one common interest, and one universal spirit of love to unite the whole. Jews and Gentiles, yea, angels and men will all meet in one assembly.
5. The saints, while on earth, experience a sensible delight in communion with God, and in the stated and occasional exercises of piety and devotion. But this delight is often interrupted by the infirmities of the flesh and the avocations of the world. In heaven the saints will be continually before God's throne, and will serve Him day and night.
6. Here we need the Word of God to instruct and quicken us. We need threatenings to awaken us, promises to allure us, and precepts to guide us. We need sensible representations to affect the mind through the eye, and living sounds to reach the heart through the ear. But in heaven things will be new. There we shall be all eye, all ear, all intellect, all devotion and love.
7. Here we need the vicissitudes of day and night for labour and rest. But in heaven there is no need of a candle, for there is no night there; and no need of the sun, for the glory of the Lord doth lighten it, and Jesus is the light thereof.
8. Here we have our seasons of sorrow and affliction. Our joys are transient. In heaven things will be new. All friendship there will be the union of pure and immortal minds in disinterested benevolence to one another, and in supreme love to God.
(J. Lathrop, D. D.)
Family Churchman.I. IT IS A SAYING WHICH INDICATES CONSCIOUSNESS OF DIVINE POWER.
II. IT IS A SAYING WHICH INDICATES A SUBLIME PLAN.
III. IT IS A SAYING WHICH INDICATES TRANSCENDENT LOVE. MAN IS NOT TO REMAIN IN A FALLEN CONDITION.
IV. IT IS A SAYING WHICH INDICATES THE MOST BLESSED AND TRIUMPHANT ANTICIPATIONS.
(W. R. Huntington, D. D.)
(W. R. Huntington, D. D.)
(T. G. Selby.)
(T. T. Munger, D. D.)
"O yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill."
(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)
(H. Wace, D. D.)
It is done
Literary Churchman.It is very solemn to think that we shall one day look back to our own lives, and all on earth will be past and done. "It is done." How the word brings us to a standstill, taking us to the end of all things! And surely here is the only true way to look at life. We do not value what looks fair to the eye, but what is real and enduring. We do not praise a promising plan, but a successful result. Wisdom is that which gains its end. In a burning house, men's first impulse is to save what is most precious. What shall we save from the ruin of the burning world? Not the pleasures of the body, act lands and houses, not earthly wealth, or health, or beauty, none of those things which are now much valued and sought after. Surely, then, if we are wise, we will ponder these things now. We shall say to ourselves, what will come of my present life? If men have to think and toil, and reckon carefully and patiently for the mere fruits of that earth, year by year, is it not reasonable for us to think and reckon what sort of harvest we are likely to have in eternity, off the broad field of life? If our religion does not run through our whole life, if the thought of God and judgment is banished from our conscience, it is not real religion, It must colour, our whole life, of course, when we bring ourselves to the Light of Eternity. And having once been moved to choose the better part, let not Satan dismay us by telling us we cannot persevere, If we only have the faith and resolution heartily, to throw ourselves into, Christ's service, land yield up our hearts and lives to Him, He will never leave us.
(E. B. Pusey, D. D.)
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end
1. Now there is a habit of mind common in our day with regard to religious truth, the habit of dwelling with a morbid particularity upon minute objections, and forgetting the broad evidence upon which the general structure of the faith is built. The description of our Lord in the text, as the Alpha and Omega, suggests one of these broader lines of evidence. If it be true that Christ Jesus is in His Person and in His doctrine the central figure in the world's history, that His life and ministry is the key which unlocks the mysteries of God's providence, then we have surely here a solid argument that we have not followed cunningly devised fables. We may begin by reminding you of the manifest preparation for Christ's appearance through the previous ages of the world. We will take up the Old Testament, not now as inspired, but simply as a most ancient history, and it is surely unparalleled how in the multiplicity of books which make up the Bible, through all the varied maze of narrative, poetry, philosophy, runs ever in deep undertone the idea of One who should be in His day the author of a new era of holiness and truth. The world's history, so marvellously is the thread of Jewish life woven into the web of the old world's life, the world's history before Christ points unto Christ. And not less remarkable is that which follows. There are two great facts, it has been said, which are standing witnesses to the truth of the Christian revelation, the Israelitish race and the Catholic Church. The former in their earlier career, in their disruption and dispersion within our Lord's generation, exhibits a destiny unmistakably mixed up with Him. The latter, notwithstanding the sullying of its first purity, the dissolution of its first unity, notwithstanding the slowness of its progress in some ages, Rs withdrawal from certain districts in others, is still the section of the human family in which all that is noble and great in man is developed. And when we contemplate the life of Christ, still more markedly does He vindicate to Himself the title of "the Alpha and Omega," with all the claims therein involved. The character of Christ is the fulfilment and embodiment of the conscience of humanity. A marvellous testimony it is, that unbelief ventures not to touch the ark of that immaculate purity; on the contrary, with but the single exception of a single infidel's after-thought (Vide Notes to Shelley's Poems), it recognises Him frankly as the pattern man. In Him, it is granted, and in Him alone, gentleness never degenerates into weakness, nor wisdom into craft, nor severity into harshness. And it adds to the force of these thoughts, that although, when the life of Christ in all the ineffable beauty of its Divine lineaments is presented to it, the heart of humanity throbs at once in sympathy; yet human philosophy never imagined beforehand the character. And not less observable is it that no man has ever reproduced that image. The saints have copied it in their measure since it was unveiled to mortal vision; but just as it was said of the heathen, that being unable to comprehend God as a whole, they broke up the Deity into fragments, and worshipped one or other of His attributes apart from the rest; so has it been with the followers of Christ. They have seized upon portions of His character, and imitated Him, some in meekness, some in boldness, some in patience, but not one of all the mighty assembly of the saints has individually presented again to the world the complete likeness of his Lord. Anal in this, the very imperfection of their discipleship, have they been witnesses to His divinity. "I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last." Is it indeed so that in Him is at once the source and limit of all our conceptions of the holy and the good, the measure of truth, and purity, and love? Then what an argument is here for rendering unto Him our worship, and building on Him our hopes.
2. And when we pass from the person of Christ to the system of Christianity, we find yet another illustration of the text. The sublime title there claimed belongs to Him upon this ground also, that is the Christian faith is to be found the alone instrument for purifying and consolidating society. There are two characteristics of our blessed Lord's teaching and example, which are well worthy of note under this head. The first is, that those precepts which are most startling, such as the unconditional forgiveness of injuries, non-resistance of evil, benefiting those from whom no return is possible, whilst like Christ's own character they were never anticipated by man, are yet the only precepts which we can conceive the Lord God to give His creatures. We recognise their Divinity by the light of what they have wrought. The second speciality of the character as proposed in the preaching and pattern of Christ, is its universal adaptability. It stands equally detached from, yet equally blended with, poverty and wealth, youth and age, learning and ignorance. The more you compare Christ as a teacher with any other teacher, the more conspicuously does He stand forth as the Alpha and Omega of all practical righteousness. And this view of our Lord's teaching, we may observe in passing, throws a fresh light upon His miracles. Those miracles were not marvels designed simply to arrest attention, they were indications of the character in which He came. That He is the Renewer of all that is broken and worn and corrupt in humanity; that alike for the moral diseases of the soul, as for the miseries of this earthly life, He is the one everliving Physician; that in His religion lies the only cure for our individual and social ills, the only sure principle of union and benevolence; this is the truth which underlies all those wonders of omnipotence — the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead. If of all truth He is the "Beginning and the End," superseding or concluding in His religion all other methods of educating man, then if miracles upon men's bodies are to be shadows of His work upon the heart, the stamp on the visible of His office towards the invisible, I should expect, that whilst in former ages miraculous cures might be worked occasionally by great renovators of society, herein types of Him, yet that in His life this miraculous agency would culminate, and that after Him (not perhaps suddenly and sharply, for God's providences ever shade off gradually into each other) miracles would cease. And this is just the Scripture account. The Bible recognises a miraculous gift in prophets and apostles, but in strict subordination, both in number and authority, to His wonder-working; leaving Him still distinctly witnessed unto as the Alpha and Omega of all moral healing. "I have seen the end of all perfection, but Thy commandment is exceeding broad." Who then will mot bow down his head and worship before Him — the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last? There is a double moral cowardice amongst us from which the cause of truth equally suffers, first, the moral cowardice of those who, not daring to proclaim their entire unbelief in Revelation, profess to receive the cardinal doctrines of Christ, and question and cavil at those which are offshoots therefrom; hiding the broader scepticism under the veil of a loss. The second exhibition of moral cowardice is that of the men who do believe firmly, but shrink from confessing their faith, and so love to speak of Christian doctrines and facts under a sort of vague philosophical terminology, thus undermining their own steadfastness and withholding their testimony from the truth. Against these two forms of evil let my last words warn, urging you to a manly confession, in your speech, and in your lives, of Christ Jesus before men, as the Alpha and the Omega of all that has been, and shall be.
(Bp. Woodford.)I. THE DESCRIPTION, which contains the speaker's character.
1. It regards His personal nature, and shows the duration and immutability of His being.
2. It regards agency, and is intended to express not only its continuance, but its peculiarity and exclusiveness; that He is the commencer, and that He is the completer; that in all influences He is all and in all. First, let us look at creation. Here, it is true, He is the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." "Without Him was not anything made that was made." Secondly, let us look at salvation; and here it is equally true that He is "the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." Thirdly, in providence. Fourthly, in the Church He is Alpha and Omega.
II. Let us proceed to consider THE PROMISE, in which we shall find the sinner's hope, and therefore cur hope. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely."
1. The excellence of the blessing itself. Observe the representation; it is water — it is water from the fountain. He is a fountain; always full, always flowing, always fresh.
2. The manner in which it is to be imparted — "freely." Worthiness has no recommendation here, and unworthiness has no barrier.
3. The distinction by which the recipients are, characterised. "I will give to him that is athirst of the water of life freely. Enjoyment does not arise only from the excellency of the object, but from its adaptation to our state, to our wants, to our wishes, and to our hopes. Then the gratification it affords is satisfaction; and this is the case here. Without this thirst, what is even the water of life itself?
The beginning and the end
I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freelyI. THE BLESSINGS HERE OFFERED — "the fountain of the water of life." The figure is descriptive of the inestimable worth and efficacy of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is a living stream, flowing from the throne of God, through the waste howling wilderness of this world.
II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM THE OFFER IS MADE. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the water of life." He who is athirst is just the individual who is destitute of, and ardently longing for, happiness.
III. THE FREENESS BY WHICH THE GOSPEL OFFER IS CHARACTERISED. "I Will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Such is the munificence of our gracious Benefactor, that He will not sell His benefits.
(P. Grant.)I. THE CHARACTER UNDER WHICH THE LORD JESUS REPRESENTS HIMSELF. The Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief is "the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end." Ascended up on high, far above all principalities and powers, He is constituted Head over all things to the Church; and from Him, as an inexhaustible fountain, all spiritual and eternal blessings flow.
II. THE PERSONS TO WHOM A BLESSING IS HERE PROMISED by the Alpha and Omega are those who are athirst. They alone will receive with gratitude the boon which He so graciously offers.
III. THE BLESSING TO RE BESTOWED IS WATER — the water of life. This expression denotes the various benefits procured for man by the adorable Redeemer, and which are distinctly set forth in the Gospel; more especially the influences of the Holy Spirit, by which alone that mighty transformation is produced on the human soul.
IV. THE MANNER IN WHICH THIS BLESSING WILL BE BESTOWED next demands our consideration — "freely." The precious benefits here referred to are a free, unmerited boon, wholly undeserved on the part of man, and graciously of His free favour bestowed by God. It is when, as a helpless debtor, he has not one farthing to pay, that he is frankly forgiven all.
(T. Bissland, M. A.)I. EXPLANATION.
1. All souls by nature are in great and dire want. Our Lord here speaks of those who are "athirst," and thirst is the index of one of our most pressing necessities. It this thirst be not quenched you are in a desperate plight indeed.
2. Some persons begin to be conscious of their soul's great need, and these are they of whom the Saviour speaks as "athirst": they have a dreadful want, and they know it. I would have you know that frequently those are the most thirsty who thirst to thirst.
3. Thirst is a desire arising out of a need. Now, so long as you have that desire, you need not stop to question your right to take Christ. A man is thirsty, even if he cannot explain what thirst is and how it comes.
4. The text promiseth water from the fountain of life to the man that is athirst; but thirst cannot quench thirst. Some seekers act as if they thought it would. "Oh," say they, "I am not thirsty enough; I wish I felt my need more": but your thirst will not be quenched by being increased. "I should have some hope," says one, "if I were more sensible of my danger." Yet that is not a gospel hope. Why should a man's despairing because of his danger operate to deliver him from danger? As long as you stop where you are you may get more and more sensible of danger until you reach the sensitiveness of morbid despondency; but you will be no nearer salvation. It is not your sense of need, it is Christ's power to bless you, and your yielding yourself up to Christ, that will bring you salvation.
1. Our Lord Jesus Christ keeps open house for all thirsty ones. "Let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
2. Now, as if it were not enough to keep open house, our Lord Jesus goes further; for He issues many invitations of the freest kind (Isaiah 55:1).
3. Does any one say, "Well, I know that the ever-blessed Saviour keeps open house, and that He invites men freely; but still I am afraid to come"? Peradventure, we may overcome your diffidence if we remind you that our Lord makes a proclamation, which has the weight of His personal dignity about it, and comes as from a king (John 7:87).
4. Peradventure a trembler replies, "Ay! here is a proclamation; but I should be more comforted if I could read promises." Our text is one of the freest promises possible, "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely." Come and test the promise now, and see if it be not true. But if you require another, turn to Isaiah 12:17.
5. Our gracious Lord, still further to encourage souls to come to Him, has been pleased to give many gracious explanations of what He meant. You will find one in the fourth chapter of John. How sweetly He explained to the woman at the well what living water is, and what drinking of it is.
6. Furthermore, our Lord, in order to make this very plain, has set before us lively emblems. Rock in wilderness. Also see Psalm 107:5.
8. Our Lord has been pleased to give His own special blessing to the thirsty ones; for, when He opened His mouth upon the mountain and gave out the benedictions which commence His memorable sermon, He said, "Blessed are they that do hunger and thirst," etc.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homilist.I. THE PROMISED is also the Giver.
II. THE GIFT is Himself.
III. THE EFFECTS. Water softens, fertilises, satisfies.
IV. THE RECEIVER.
1. There is one qualification needful in order that we may share the gift, and only one — desire.
2. There is great wisdom in God's mentioning this qualification.(1) Those who have nothing but this desire would be likely, in very humility, to abstain from asking unless they had special encouragement. But this very cause of despondency is made a ground of hope.(2) None others could value the gift.
He that overcometh shall inherit all things
(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)
The Scottish Pulpit.What, then, are the qualifications of him who would fight successfully?
1. The first is faith; such is the express and repeated declaration of Scripture. "This is the victory that overcometh the world," etc.
2. Secondly, he who overcometh must exercise constant and unremitting watchfulness. In the spiritual, as in mortal warfare, the hour of fancied security is that of most evident danger. When you blindly indulge the wishes which arise in your hearts, or follow unguardedly the maxims and example of the world, you wilfully expose yourselves to the most imminent hazard of being betrayed into sudden misery and danger.
3. A third, and the most important weapon in the hand of him who overcometh, is prayer. Weak, indeed, are the children of men, wavering in their opinion, inconstant in their affections, inconsistent in their conduct. To vessels, thus weak, thus insufficient, thus destitute of power in themselves, there is strength from on high.
4. Another of the requisites in him that overcometh is self-denial. We are seldom just judges of what is truly for our own benefit. Even in the plainest cases of duty we are often miserably misled by passions, prejudices, or evil inclinations. The ruling passion, the favourite inclination, of every man is, in fact, his weak side, through which he is most apt to be betrayed into the sin that doth most easily beset him. Here, therefore, the prudent man is particularly on his guard, lest he should be betrayed by it, and brought to experience the truth, that for all things God will bring him to judgment.
5. Lastly, it is essential to him that overcometh, that he persevere. There are many who set out in life with a fair outward appearance of success. They contend for truth with energy and zeal, but, by degrees, their zeal waxes cold, their energies abate, lassitude and indifference creep upon them, religion wearies and disgusts. They begin by entertaining doubts as to some of its doctrines, and by throwing of all respect for its precepts.
(The Scottish Pulpit.)
I. WHY DOES OUR SONSHIP DEMAND A CONFLICT? We must begin by laying down two facts, which prepare the way for the answer, and avoid two errors into which we are prone to fall.
1. The struggle is not to become sons of God; it results from our being so already. The grace by which God makes us feel that we are His sons — that we could not have made ourselves such — gives rise to a conflict in the soul. The power of the Holy Spirit acting on our nature creates at once s spiritual war. The faith that closes the weary effort to make ourselves God's children, in the belief that we are such, creates at once a deep life-long struggle. The love that flows into our hearts from God witnessing to our adoption, transforms our hearts into fields of battle.
2. The conflict rising from sonship is not created by any outward circumstances, but by the state of the soul itself, in all conditions of life and ages of time. Take the first moment in which a man hears God's voice, and becomes conscious of the Divine summons, and you will see how the battle begins. Aroused, perhaps, by trial, sorrow, the sense of life's vanity, he sets out as a pilgrim of the eternal. In the first dim twilight of spiritual life there comes to him the voice of God. At once it seems to isolate him; he feels alone with God and his sin; he discovers the awfulness of individuality. Then commence the first clashings of the spiritual war of which his soul is the battle-field. The earthly and the heavenly, the human and the Divine, the selfish and the holy, conflict in one loud storm of emotion.
II. WHY MUST THE CONFLICT BE PEPETUAL? Is there no earthly state in which it will cease? Can we achieve the victory only on the heavenly side of the grave? I answer, it must be long as life, because the old war between the two natures manifests itself in three forms, from which there is no escape.
1. The spirit pants for the invisible — the flesh or the visible world. Is it not manifest that there can be no pause, no safety no repose, till God crowns us as victors in His heaven?
3. The spirit lives in God — the flesh creates temptation to oppose Him. If it be true that all life's circumstances — solitude or companionship, wealth or poverty, joy or sorrow, ease or labour, are filled with temptations, through the shadowy power of the carnal, where can there be a pause in the battle but on the deathless side of the grave?
3. The tendency of the flesh is to be a creature of circumstances: that of the spirit is to be their king. Carnal men move in masses, are swayed by every influence, lose their individuality, and become slaves to the spirit of the world. All spiritual men have found that this loneliness, this separation with God, formed part of their life-struggle. And this, too, is an undying form of our battle as sons of God. "Worship success, gold, power," is the cry of the carnal. "Worship God and measure life by heavenly laws," is the voice of the spiritual. Translate your commonplace toils into this meaning, and they become transfigured. You, in your obscure sphere of work, if you are true to heavenly laws, are in spirit a great warrior. You are taking a part in the spiritual battle of the ages, and if faithful unto death, the full glory of perfected sonship will be yours. "He that overcometh shall be My son."
III. THE INHERITANCE OF THE CONQUEROR. "He shall inherit all things." The very conquest of the carnal nature brings us so near to God that all things become our own.
1. Our struggles become our possessions.
2. Inheriting God, we inherit all things.
(E. L. Hull, B. A.)I. THE FOUNTAIN FOR THE SONS OF MEN.
II. THE CONQUEROR AND HIS REWARD. As believers we are saved, as conquerors we get the recompense.
1. The inheritance of all things. We are heirs of God; joint-heirs with Christ.
3. The Divine adoption. The conqueror becomes a son, and all that is contained in sonship is his, all the paternal love, all the Divine patrimony, all the endless glory.
III. THE COWARD'S DOOM (ver. 8). Though the "fearful" or coward is specially singled out here, yet there are others associated with him in his awful doom. They are all of earth, sons of Adam, men — not devils.
1. The fearful. This means the cowards who refused to come out from the world and join Christ, though their consciences urged them; who shrunk from confessing Christ; who, through fear of men, of the world, of their good name, of earthly honour and gain, either kept their religion to themselves or threw it away.
2. The unbelieving. These are the rejecters of Christ. Oh the hatefulness of unbelief! What must it be to refuse God's testimony to His Son! to refuse that Son Himself!
3. The abominable. Those who were partakers of the abominations and filthiness mentioned before (Revelation 17:4) — revellings, banquetings, riots, blasphemies.
4. Murderers. Whose hands are red with blood; whose heart is full of angry passions, envy, malice, revenge, grudging; whose lips give vent to irritating and angry words.
5. Whoremongers. All who give way to their lusts, who live in uncleanness; those whose eyes are full of adultery, and who cannot cease from this sin.
6. Sorcerers. They who have taken part in Babylon's sorceries and witchcrafts; all allies of the evil one, and workers of the lying wonders of the last days.
7. Idolaters. Not only the heathen worshippers of graven images, but all who have chosen another god; who love the creature more than the Creator; who worship mammon, pleasure, art, splendour, or gold, for "covetousness is idolatry."
8. All liars. All who speak falsely in any way; who practise dishonesty; who care not for truth.
(H. Bonar, D. D.)
(T. T. Munger.)
I will be his God, and he shall be My sonI. Let us think of what is conveyed to us here, when God promises that HE WILL BE OUR GOD. He is the God of all the world now, for He rules it, and is calling men out of it; and whether they honour Him or not, He presides over them, and directs their destinies after the counsel of His own almighty will. Still, God is not the same to man now as He was to him before he fell from his first estate in paradise. Whosoever has a hard thought of God, disowns His Deity; and it is thus with many a sinner now. But we shall have no hard thoughts of Him when we "shall see Him as He is." He shall be our God, our very own; and it shall be in this respect, as it is with men on earth, we shall low what belongs to ourselves. Let it be, therefore, that God is not in one sense the God of the sinner. He is, and shall be, of His people; the place which He does not occupy in the hearts of the one, He shall in the hearts of the other. Every thought which the saints have shall confirm Him in the high position which He holds. And how could it be otherwise? When we have inherited "all things," shall we not see the fruits of His beneficence all around? "God" shall be, as it were, written upon all; and because "God" is written upon all, therefore all shall be for man; for man shall then be in the possession of all things which belong to God. And shall not this supremacy of the Deity be delightful for us to own? Then also shall we understand the dispensations which perplex us now so much; we shall no longer wonder at the short triumph which the ungodly had for a season, at the momentary gloom which for a while seemed to eclipse the Christian's sun; all these shall appear well connected parts of one great plan, which was to issue, as now indeed it shall be seen to have done, in the glory of God, and the happiness of the saints. But to see and to understand are not enough to satisfy. Far more than these is conveyed in the promise that the Most High will be our God — the saints shall possess and enjoy the liberality of His heart: there shall be positive ownership exercised by the redeemed; they shall make all these things their own. And keeping in mind the point on which we are now immediately engaged — namely, that God on His part will restore man to his high original, and indeed to something more, we might remind you again that such as "overcome" shall dwell in His very presence for ever. But what more, it might be asked, is contained in the promise, that "the Lord will be our God"? We answer, all those especial developments of the Deity which God has withdrawn from us because of our sin, He will then openly make; and amongst these we might notice this, that He will display His omnipotence in us. Let us think what that power can do. Can it not make us noble, and rich, and perfect, and exalt us beyond the ordinary advancement of man? Undoubtedly it can. And as God will not have any around Him who are not fitted for His court, we may reasonably expect that all this shall be done for us. The Master is noble, and the servant shall be as his Master; he shall be free from the taint of everything that defaces or defiles. Then there shall be no more predisposition to sin, no more contraction of heart, no more sordidness of thought, nothing that is unworthy of God Himself. And our attainment of this will be a display of Divine omnipotence; nothing less than that could accomplish anything with such intractable hearts as ours. But nothing shall be impossible with God.
II. WE TURN NOW TO THAT WHICH IS SAID CONCERNING OURSELVES. One blessing, then, to which we may look forward in the promise that "we shall be His sons," is this, that the unfilial feeling of terror shall be done away. Let the peace of sonship here be an earnest of how sweet the communion of sonship shall be hereafter. And let us not forget, that not only shall all un-son like feelings of terror pass from the bosom of the saints, but that filial delight shall return, delight keener, sweeter, than that which Adam had in paradise. "He shall be my son!" Does not this speak volumes? What we shall feel in heaven? With whom were we so happy when we were in the state which approaches the nearest to innocence? To whom did we cling the most? In whose smile did we bask with the greatest joy? Is not a parent's figure almost the only one which we can see in the long perspective of the past? From this we can learn what Adam felt in Eden, what we shall feel in heaven. This long lost feeling shall return, our sonship shall act, we shall see that there is none equal to our Father, that from Him everything flows, in Him all blessing centres, that He is All in All. And one great element of our blessing shall be this; the consciousness of connection with Him shall come back to us again.
(P. B. Power, M. A.)
But the fearful and unbelieving... shall have their part
(W. H. Simcox, M. A.)
Proctor's Gems of Thought.We learn from the context where they failed.
1. The irreligious or unbelieving found that a religious life required hardness, restraint, restrictions; whereas it was easier for them to float with the tide of inclination than against it.
2. The dishonest man found it easier to be dishonest than honest: his gains were quicker; he had not to wait and struggle with poverty as the honest man had.
3. The liar had not the courage to tell the truth and face the consequences; but shirked it.
4. The sensualist found it easier and pleasanter to live a life of unrestrained self-indulgence, than to keep his body under, and bring it into subjection, by reining in his unruly appetites. These are the lost, moral wrecks, the cowards in life's hard battle, who had not the courage to do right. For these there is no promise — they had no thirst after God — their lot, or portion, is the second death. Whatever this may mean more, it is here placed in direct contrast, and as the opposite to the promise made to the conquerors. They are within, these are without. They are the sons of God, these are dogs. They inherit heaven, these drop into the abyss. They are fit company for God and the holy inhabitants of the heavenly city, these for that of devils.
(Proctor's Gems of Thought.)I. THE PERSONS. They are, in short, all kinds of sinners, unless they timely repent and instantly forsake their sins.
1. Of these we have a long catalogue in the text, beginning with the "fearful," who place their fear on a wrong object, and dare not venture to run any hazard for the sake of religion and a good conscience. These lead the van in this long list of sinners, as being the largest in number, and of all others the most egregious and insolent offenders. For no manner of good can be done by persons of so mean a character, who are left destitute of manly courage and rational conduct, and have quite perverted the order of things by estimating the loss of wealth and grandeur to be the only formidable accidents, and the loss of innocence and integrity readily to be dispensed with in hopes of gaining them. Religion, but above all our strict and pure religion, requires that we undergo cheerfully the greatest temporal losses in the service of our Lord and Master, to whom we have vowed dutiful allegiance and persevering obedience. Now, this criminous fear we are speaking of makes us desert and prove traitors upon the least intimation of approaching ill. The most valiant and courageous men are those who, fearing God above all, dare run any hazards in order to serve Him.
2. The "unbelieving" come next to be considered. By these undoubtedly are meant —(1) Such as did not yield a full assent to the truths revealed in the gospel.(2) Such as neglected to live according to that belief.
3. The "abominable." By the abominable we are to understand those polluted wretches who have given up their bodies to the commission of the foulest and most unnatural lusts.
4. "Murderers." He is one that has no regard to the image of God stamped upon our nature, no concern for the welfare of his neighbour and brother.
5. "Whoremongers." Their guilt, I suppose, is legible enough in that most awful threatening (Hebrews 13:4). Temperance, soberness, and chastity are the most sweetly-becoming ornaments of the Christian life; intemperance, sensuality, and incontinence, the lasting blemishes and utmost scandal of it (Jude, ver. 13).
6. The "sorcerers." They are such as deal by magic and unlawful arts with the devil.
8. "All liars" it seems must come in for their share among the rest. All that upon any pretence or occasion willingly and deliberately offend against the truth, or, in other words, such as speak not the truth from their hearts.
II. THEIR PUNISHMENT. "Fire and brimstone."
1. It contains our being deprived of the beatific vision, and of all that is good.
2. Our being tortured with the miseries of hell, and all that is evil.
(R. Warren, D. D.)I. The first prejudice which we intend to attack is this: A life spent in ease and idleness is not incompatible with salvation, if it be free from great crimes. Against this we oppose this part of our text, "He that overcometh shall inherit." In order to inherit, we must overcome. Here vigilance, action, and motion are supposed.
II. The second prejudice is this: A just God will not impute to His creatures sins of infirmity and .constitution, though His creatures shall be subject to them during the whole course of their lives. Against this we oppose these words of the apostle, "The fearful and whoremongers shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone."
III. The third prejudice is this: Speculative errors cannot be attended with any fatal consequences, provided we live uprightly, as it is called, and discharge our social duties. Against this we oppose this word, the "unbelieving." The unbelieving are put into the class of the miserable.
IV. The fourth prejudice is this: Religions are indifferent. The mercy of God extends to those who live in the most erroneous communions. Against this we oppose the word "idolaters." Idolaters are considered among the most criminal of mankind.
V. The last prejudice in this: None but the vulgar ought to be afraid of committing certain crimes. Kings will be judged by a particular law: the greatness of the motive that inclined them to manage some affairs of state will plead their excuse, and secure them from Divine vengeance. Against this we oppose these words, "abominable," "sorcerers," and "all liars," which three words include almost all those abominations which are called illustrious crimes.
(J. Saurin.)I. THE CHARACTER OF THE LOST. There is but one way to heaven, but there are many ways to hell. It is true that "all, like sheep, have gone astray," but "every one has turned to his own way." There are "the fearful" who have followed the way of cowardice. There are "the unbelieving" or "the faithless" who could not take God at His word. There are "the abominable" or "the abominated," who through association with wickedness and sin are defiled in mind and conscience. Unbelief and wrong-doing are more nearly connected together than many people think. There are "murderers" also, not merely those who have imbrued their hands in the blood of their fellow-men, but those also whose hearts have been dead to the voice of pity and love, who have shut up their bowels of compassion from the poor and needy. The "fornicators" are there also, those sinners against the laws of moral purity which teach us to keep our bodies in temperance, soberness, and chastity. "Sorcerers" are there likewise, who have used curious arts and familiar spirits, intruding into those things which they have not seen, vainly puffed up by their fleshly mind. Following Satan's deceit, they find at last their lot with him, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched." "Idolaters," too, are there, who have followed the example of King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:24). There are idols of the heart as well as idols of the hand. "All liars," also, are there. The word literally is "lies," and it includes all forms of deceit, hypocrisy, fraud, "whatsoever loveth and maketh a lie," counterfeits and shams, self-deceit, tongue-craft, the lying life. The phrase, indeed, may be intended not so much to indicate a distinct class of sins and sinners as to stamp the falseness of the seven kinds of iniquity already enumerated. The catalogue is like that of the works of the flesh named in Galatians 5:19-21, and it sets forth the tale of man's disobedience to the whole law of God. Moreover, we may trace in this succession of sins a gradation of wickedness. Men shrink from the trouble and effort of a godly life, and take refuge in unbelief. This brings them into willing association with sin, and those who sin against their brethren become sinners against their own souls, and intruders into the secret counsels of the Most High. They have practically denied the God that is above, and the result is the idolatry of the creature; and thus (Romans 1:25).
II. THE CONDITION OF THE LOST. A similar description of the lot of the wicked is that given by St. Paul (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
1. First, the loss which the finally impenitent will undergo will be the loss of God indicated in that awful phrase, "the second death." This language is evidently intended to distinguish this state from another which may be called "the first death." But what is the first death? Not, it would seem, the separation of body and spirit in natural death. The context tells us that there shall be no more death in this sense (ver. 4); and the period to which our text refers is subsequent to the resurrection of the body. Rather does the term, "the second death," lead us to think of the first death as the present spiritual state of those who are not renewed by the Holy Spirit. Such are, to use St. Paul's language, "dead in trespasses and sins," etc. (Ephesians 2:1, 2, and Ephesians 4:18). Separation from God, which sinners chose on earth, they find in hell, and what they thought so desirous here they find, with their quickened sensibilities, to be their sorrow there. Cut off from their former opportunities of sin and facilities for ignoring spiritual things, they are face to face with their real position, and they find in it the bitterness of death. The dream of vanity and folly and sin, from which no word or judgment could rouse them here, has vanished, and they wake up now to shame and everlasting contempt.
2. For this second death is an actual judgment as well as a woeful loss. The golden sceptre of grace shall be exchanged there for the iron rod of discipline.
(James Silvester, M. A.)
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