« FöregåendeFortsätt »
There is the character of a last, and one would say a desperate, effort about this epistle to the church of Laodicea ; wherein the good Shepherd doth as it were cast himself with loving carnestness upon his church, now. welt nigh unto destruction, as he did weep in the times of old over Jerusalem, saying, “ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not !” (Matt. xxiii. 37.) He beholdeth all things tottering to their fall, and he presents himself to their faith as the most sure and stedfast still ; “ The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God.” As if he had said, Though the last great earthquake that is to shake both carth and the hea. vens be now mustering its thunders, look to me, the Amen, the Maker, stedfast; hear me, the faithful and true Witness of the new heavens and the new earth about to be revealed; take hold on me, the Beginning of the creation, and the Upholder of its pillars. Then he perceiveth their sealed darkness, their ignorance and infatuation, their self-suffi. ciency and self-applause, yet utter unprovidedness for the fearful account which is just about to be taken of their stewardship; and he counselleth them to come and be supplied out of his inexhaustible fulness with those stores which will stand them in good stead against that day of consuming fire about to be revealed upon all hay, and wood, and stubble which have been builded into the fireproof building of God: and finally, discovering their luke. warmness and indifference, he presenteth himself in the cold night at the door, his locks full of the dew, and his limbs benumbed with the cold, entreating and entreating to be admitted into the house, that he might sup with them, and in return bring them into his Father's banqueting house, whose banner over them should be love. From thenceforth blessed are they who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. Such is the urgency, such the instancy of salvation with which the Son of God presents himself in a last effort to the church of the Laodiceans. This epistle I now proceed to examine and enlarge upon. It is the last. I am grieved that it is the last; and I still linger over it with a fond affection, and endeavour to draw out of it excellent instructions for that evangelical or religious world, whose case it contains, and whose remedy it reveals. So, O my God! be my helper, for in thee I do put my trust.
1. THE CHIEF SHEPHERD'S LAST AND FULLEST STYLE.
The words by which our good Shepherd is pleased to address his last epistle to the church, is the fullest and most weighty of them all ; containing three designations of the most wonderful kind: 1. The Amen; 2. The faithful and true Witness ; 3. The Beginning of the creation of God: which we shall now examine in order.
1. The Amen. The exact power of the sublime title is, I think, expressed by our great poet in these words, “ The be all, and the end all.” Christ is the Be all, and the End all of the whole purpose of God; the Amen, which, for its meaning, is, So let it be, and for its place in any prayer or discourse, is the final ending. The Amen is likewise the certainty of things according to that which is written, 2 Cor. i. 20, “ All the promises of God are in him yea, and in him amen.” This remarkable expression is used by the Apostle, in a connection which casteth light upon the title before us. There had been false teachers amongst the Corinthians, shuffling men, worldly men, whose purposes were according to the flesh, and therefore changeable ; in contradistinction from whom he averreth of him. self thus, “ The things that I purpose, do I purpose according to the flesh ? that with me, there should be yea yea, and nay nay ; but as God is true, that our word to you was not yea and nay. For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.
For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him amen, unto the glory of God by us. Now he which stablisheth us with you, in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Froin this passage, so explanatory of the title before us, it appeareth that the amen is put in opposition to the nay; yea and amen being a style opposed to another style, yea
nay. The style yea and nay, bespeaks instability of purpose in him who useth it; signifying that he hath changed his mind, and altered his purpose, and therefore is not altogether to be relied upon. The contrary style therefore, yea and amen, must signify stability of purpose, an unalterable, unchangeable stability; yea being the purpose, amen being its stability; yea being the promise, amen being its confirmation. And this style is not unusual, in the Scripture. In the first chapter, at the 7th verse, where the great object of the prophecy of this book is mentioned : “ Behold he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him, yea amen.” And in the xxiid chapter, at the 20th verse, the same style occurreth concerning the same event : “ He which testifieth these things, saith, I come quickly : Amen ; yea, come Lord Jesus." My idea, therefore, of the title Amen, is, that it expresseth the stedfastness of all the purposes and promises of God, as if Christ had said, I am the maker fast; in me all is secured. I am the nail fastened in a sure place, which shall never be cut down, and upon which hangeth all the glory of my
Father's house. This leads to an aspect of Christ, as the covenant confirmer, as the promise certifier, which we shall a little open out.
Christ hath this glorious distinction, from the nature of the Divine revelation; which hath this peculiarity, that it consisteth of promises abiding theirfulfilment against a future time, and upon certain conditions. Of these conditions, Christ is the fulfiller, and so becomes the Amen, of the promise. The promise itself displayeth the goodness, and grace, and love of the Father. The condition attached to it of perfect holiness and obedience, displayeth the sinfulness of the creature, sheweth that the creature is not the Amen; that he is not the confirmer; and that, had it rested with him, God's purpose of grace and mercy must for ever have failed. And accordingly the history of God's dealings with mankind is only a succession of failures, through the impotency of man, to present the full obedience which God requireth. There wanted an Amen to every promise of God : that Amen came in the person of his own Son. He, as a creature, did present the condition of perfect obedience, necessary to the lordship, and headship, and perpetual governance of all his creatures. For to this end of supreme majesty, man was created at the first, and in this dignity would have stood till now and for ever, had he not broken the commandment of God; after which, promise succeeded promise, in token of unwearied grace towards the fallen; but evermore was the promise defeated by the disobedience of man, until He came, who is the Amen, and fulfilled every condition, kept the law, and made it honourable. The word of God was stablished; the great, the long delayed Amen, was sounded; and God's word being finished and confirmed, the Holy Spirit might come forth to execute, to realize, and to substantiate all. This is the true reason why the Holy Ghost was not yet, because the great Amen to God's promise had not yet been pronounced, which was pronounced when he said, “ It is finished.” From this time forth, Christ who had been hitherto the Revealer, the Word, revealing the Father's will, through the intercommuning Spirit, was honoured to become the communicator of the same Spirit, for the completion of the same will into work. So that the whole of revelation to and by the human race, is but as it were the manifestation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in their several offices. The Father's office to originate, Christ holdeth in supreme estimation, and teacheth with continual pre-eminence. From the beginning, until he said, It is finished, what is it all, whether by Prophet, or by Patriarch, or by Priest, or by Forerunner, or by Messiah himself spoken; what is it all but the testimony of the Father, as the great originating will, and the declaration of that will, of what kind it is? And this succession of utterances giveth the glory to one Utterer: while they are utterances from the Father, they are uttered in the name, and on the behalf of one, who is the only Utterer. Loose words they were, like the sybil's leaves, floating on the winds and tides, till He came, who should gather them all together, bind and clasp them up, and stamp them for ever stedfast with his own Amen. Thus, revelation is the testimony of the Father, who is uttered, and of the Son who uttereth, until the work of utterance being complete, from that time forth the Spirit proceedeth to execute the things which had been uttered. And since the day of Pentecost we have been living in the age of things, and not of words. The thing which hath been accomplished by the Spirit as yet is the church, the regeneration of the sons of God. All the rest which hath been written remaineth to be done and effected by the same Spirit. The church therefore, not the word, is now the mighty work of God; the church is so much of the word effected by the Spirit; the church is a complete work of God. But into this we enter not further at present, because it belongeth not to our present subject, and we have sufficiently explained how Christ is the Amen. Observe now how appropriate to our great Bishop is this Divine title of the Amen, which makes every promise sealed and confirmed, stedfast and sure. There are no longer any conditions to the accomplishment of any promise. It is offered to our faith in Christ, without an if, without a may be, or a might be: and without any exception, freely promulgated unto all; and he who heareth it by preaching promulgated, doth, if he receive it not, take upon him to reject it. He rejects the confirmed Word of God, the only ground of being; and, if he taste the bitterness of the second death, he hath no reason to complain, having rejected him who is the Amen.
2. T'he Faithful and True Witness. We come next to his title, the faithful and true Witness, which is the same that he taketh in the inscription of the book, “Jesus Christ the faithful Witness." With this name also cometh he forth to judgment :
" He that sat upon it was called Faithful and True.” (ch. xix.) A witness is one who beareth testimony to that which he hath seen. As it is written (Acts i. 21), “ Wherefore of these men which have companied with us, all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out from us, beginning from the baptism of John unto that same day that he was taken up
from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection." And again (John xv. 27); “ And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." Of a witness, therefore, according to the Scriptures this is the special character, that he should have seen the things which he testifieth; and this Christ expressly claimeth for himself (John iii. 11): “Verily, we speak that we do know, and we testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our witness. If I have