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POWER OVER THE INVISIBLE WORLD.
Rev. i. 17, 18. Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he
that liveth, and was dead; and behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen ; and have the keys of hell and of death.
MAN, while he continued in a state of innocence, communed freely with his Maker face to face: but from the time that sin entered into the world, he has dreaded the presence of the most High, and fled from it with fear and trembling. Whenever God has been pleased to appear to any of his people, the sight has uniformly filled them with terror; and in some instances, almost deprived them even of life. This was the effect produced by a vision vouchsafed to John. Our blessed Lord, in a habit somewhat resembling that of the high priest, revealed himself to his beloved disciple: and so august was his appearance, that John, unable to endure the sight, fell at his feet as dead. But our Lord, in condescension to his weakness, dispelled his fears by making known to him the perfections of his nature, and the offices which in his mediatorial capacity he sustained.
In discoursing on his words we shall consider I. Our Lord's record concerning himself
A more glorious description of Jesus is not to be found in all the sacred writings: he declares himself to be l. The eternal God
[The terms, “ the first and the last,” are intended to express eternity:a and, in this view, it is an incommunicable attribute of Jehovah. It is often used to describe God in places where he contrasts himself with the gods of the heathen :b and it always characterizes him as infinitely superior to all creatures. But Jesus here arrogates it to himself. Eternity had been ascribed to him both by prophets and apostles:C but he here claims it himself as his own prerogative; for, notwithstanding he was in the form of a servant, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God. Hence then it is evident that Jesus is one with the Father, “in glory equal, in majesty co-eternal,” God over all, blessed for evermore.]
. 2. The living Saviour
a Ver. 8, 11. and Rev. xxii. 13.
b Isai. xliv. 6. c Prov. viii. 22-30. Mic. v. 2. John i. l. Heb. xiji. 8. d Phil. ii. 6.
se Rom. ix. 5.
[He, whose brightness now exceeded that of the meridian sun, once hung upon the cross. But, says he, “ thought I was dead, yet I am the living One, possessed of life in myself, and the source of life to others; and immutably living, to carry on the work which I began on earth.” “ Behold" this with wonder, yet with a full assurance of its truth; for, I, the “ Amen,” “ the true and faithful witness, declare it unto thee.” Now as the former assertion shews us what he was in his divine nature, this informs us what he is in his mediatorial office. “He died for our offences, and rose again for our justification;" and is, not only our advocate with the Father, i but the head of vital influence to all that believe.k] 3. The universal Sovereign
By “hell” we are to understand, not the habitation of the damned only, but the whole invisible world : and “ death" is the door of introduction to it. Now to “have the kers” of these, is to have the power over them, together with the entire appointment of men's states in reference to them. And this power does Jesus exercise. Whomsoever he will, and in whatever time or manner he sees fit, he consigns to death, and fixes instantly in heaven or hell: “ He openeth and no man shutteth; he shutteth, and no man openeth.”ın Hence it appears that every event in this world also must be under his control; and consequently, that he is the universal sovereign.]
From the encouraging address which accompanied this record, we are led to consider II. Its tendency to comfort and support the soul
When a similar vision was vouchsafed to Daniel, its effects, which were also similar, were counteracted in the same manner." Now this record of our Lord was well calculated to dissipate the fears of John; and may well also be a comfort to us
1. Under apprehensions of temporal calamities
[Impending dangers and distresses will often excite terror, and overwhelm the soul with anxious dread. But what ground of fear can he have, who has the eternal God for his refuge? What injury can arise to him, whose soul is in the Redeemer's hands, and for whose benefit all things are ordered both in heaven and earth? “ Not a hair of his head can perish” but by special commission from his best friend. “ Thousands may
f Koi. ' g'o (av.
h John v. 26.
Isai. xxii. 22
i Rom. viii. 34. m Rev. iii. 7.
fall beside him, and ten thousand at his right hand ;” but “ no weapon that is formed against him, can prosper.” If his eyes were opened to behold his real situation, he might see himself encompassed with horses of fire, and chariots of fire :o and, standing as an impregnable fortress, he might defy the assaults of men or devils. If his God and Saviour be for him, none can be against him.'] 2. Under fears of eternal condemnation
[No man can reflect upon his own character without feeling that he deserves the wrath of God: and every one that is sensible of his own demerits, must treinble lest the judgments he has deserved should be inflicted on him. Yet a just view of the Saviour may dispel his fears, and cause him to rejoice with joy unspeakable.” Does, his guilt appear too great to be forgiven? He that offered an atonement for it, is the eternal God. Do doubts arise respecting his acceptance with the Father? Behold, that yery Jesus who made atonement for him, ever liveth to plead it as his advocate, and to present it before the mercy seat." Do death and hell appal him with their terrors? they are altogether subject to the control of Jesus, whose power and faithfulness are pledged for the salvation of all his ransomed people. To the weakest then we say in the name of this adorable Saviour, “ Fear not:” though thou art “ a worm, thou shalt thresh the mountains ;'t and though thou art the smallest grain that has been gathered from the field, thou shalt be treasured safely in the granary of thy heavenly Father."] APPLICATION
[We cannot conclude the subject without applying it to those who are ignorant of Christ. Surely we must not say to you, “ Fear not;" but rather, “ Fear and tremble,” for he whom ye have despised, is the eternal God; and ever liveth to put down his enemies, and to make them his footstool. He has only, as it were, to turn the key of the invisible world, and your souls will be locked up in the prison, from whence there is no redemption. O consider this, ye that live unmindful of this adorable Saviour; and prostrate yourselves at his feet, while his offers of mercy are yet extended to you.]
CCCXIX. THE USE AND INTENT OF OUR LORD's
John XX. 30, 31. And many other signs truly did Jesus in the
presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name.
THOUGH the miracles which are recorded in the gospel are very numerous, yet are they few in comparison of those which were wrought by our blessed Lord. If all that he performed were distinctly related with all their attendant circumstances, St. John tells us, in the hyperbolical language of the east, that the whole world would scarcely be able to contain the books that would be written_Some however are transmitted to posterity as a specimen of the rest, in order that we may be assured of Christ's divine mission, and be led to believe in him to the salvation of our souls.
The Evangelist, stating both the immediate and the ultimate end for which his gospel was written, declares, that the assuring us of Christ's divine mission was I. The immediate end
Our blessed Lord declared himself to be “the Christ, the Son of God”
[It was not in the character of a common prophet that our Lord appeared; he assumed to himself titles to which no human being had aspired, and declared himself to be the Son of God, the incarnate Deity, the Saviour of the world"---]
For the conviction of the people he wrought unnumbered miracles.
[Miracles are works contrary to the common course of nature, works which God alone is able to perform. Hence, when wrought in confirmation of any point, they are justly considered as authenticating that which they are intended to support; because they prove a divine concurrence; a John xxi. 25.
His enemies themselves accused him of affecting equality with God; and finding from the very defence that he made, that they were right in their conjecture, they again sought to put him to death as a blasphemer. John v. 18. and x. 33, 38, 39.
and we cannot suppose that God should enable any man to work miracles merely to establish falsehood, and to deceive his people.
There have indeed been sorceries and enchantments practised, perhaps also miracles, in support of error. But, in the case alluded to, God suffered Satan to exercise extraordinary powers in order to harden him who obstinately opposed his will, and to confirm him in the delusions which he had chosen for himself. Yet in those instances did he give abundant proof of his own superiority, and leave the confounded monarch without excuse.e
That the miracles, which Jesiis did, were intended to convince the Jews of his divine mission, and that they were sufficient for that end, is manifest from the appeal which he himself repeatedly made to them in this very view. The completion of prophecy was indeed a decisive proof of his messiahship to those who could compare the prophecies with the events; but the working of miracles afforded a short, compendious, and incontestible evidence to the eyes of all who beheld them.]
For the conviction of future ages these miracles were recorded
If there had been no written documents of the things that were transacted, we could not have been sure that our inforination respecting them was correct; seeing that many variations must inevitably happen in traditions handed down through so inany succeeding ages. But when the miracles of our Lord were recorded by persons who were eye-witnesses of the same, and these records were speedily circulated amongst myriads who also had been spectators of them; and when in these very writings an appeal was made to the bitterest enemies of our Lord, who would have been glad enough to contradict the assertions of the Evangelists on a supposition they had been false ; these records come down to us with an evidence not at all inferior to ocular demonstration : and if any man reject the testimony which is thus sanctioned both by friends and enemies, he is wilfully blind, and would reject any other evidence that could be given him.5]
e Exod. vii. 10, 11. d Isai. Ixvi. 4. Ps. ix. 16. Exod. vii. 3, 13, 14.
e Aaron's rod swallowed up all the rods of the sorcerers, ib. ver. 12. The sorcerers were permitted to bring calamities on the land, but not to remove them, ib. ver. 21, 22. and viii. 6, 7. And they themselves were constrained to acknowledge a divine power working by Moses and Aaron, when they could no longer imitate the miracles wrought by them, Exod. viii. 18, 19. f John v. 36. and xiv. 11.
& Luke xvi. 31.