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II. THE UNIVERSAL BISHOP'S INSTRUCTIONS TO THE
ANGEL OF THE CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA. We now come, according to our method, to the second division of the epistle, which containeth Christ's instructions to his faithful servant, and consisteth wholly of approbation and encouragement. The topics are four: First, assurance of prosperity ; Secondly, assurance of triumph over his enemies ; Thirdly, assurance of preservation from a time of universal trouble ; Fourthly, an exhortation to persevere for the crown which was laid
for him against the day of the Lord's appearing. These now let us by the help of God open in order.
1. After making that declaration “I know thy works," which is common to all the epistles, and therefore not characteristic of any, but merely significant of Christ's heedfulness over all, whom he hath placed in trust over his flock, he expresseth his goodness towards his worthy ser. vant, in terms of that mastery over God's house, which he had assumed to himself, in the style or designation prefixed to the epistle : “ I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.” Literally, “Behold, I have given before thy face a door that hath been opened, and no man can shut it.” It is remarkable with respect to the structure of this epistle that the word, behold, occurs in it four times, which in all the others put together occurs but thrice. The occasions on which it occurs before are; once in the epistle to Smyrna, of their trials, which we interpreted of the ten Pagan persecutions ; again in the church of Thyatira, of Jezebel, and those who commit adultery with her, which we interpreted of the ultimate destruction of the apostasy, described in the xviith and xviii th chapters of this book. Now both of these are conspicuous and most notable events in the history of the church ; and we ought therefore to expect the same of those events in his epistle, which are in like manner introduced. If any one should think that two instances are not sufficient warrant for raising such an expectation, we refer him to the other places, where the same interjection occurreth in the Apocalypse, in all of them ushering in something notable to behold. The more wonderful, and the more interesting objects in the vision have attention
drawn to them by this device. We may refer to these :iv. 1, 2; v. 5, 6; vi. 2, 5, 8, 12; vii. 9; ix. 12; xi.
xii. 3 ; xiv. 1, 14 ; xv. 5; vi. 15; xxi. 3, 5. These instances, if any one will examine as we have done, he will find, that they are all amongst the most memorable and conspicuous objects and events of the mystical drama. When, therefore, this opened door is introduced with this note of admiration, we are surely to expect that it is something which would be as notable in the history of the church as the Pagan persecutions, or the final catastrophe of Jezebel the mother of harlots. What then is it?-It is something which belongeth to Christ to do, in virtue of his having David's key; and it is something also which with David's key he openeth, ere yet he sits on David's throne ;-power indeed, but power as yet, not of the sceptre, but of the word. The key of David's harp, rather than the key of David's house ; the key of David the prophet, rather than the key of David the king ; the key of knowledge, rather than the key of power. This idea, which is pressed upon us by the consideration, that these epistles instruct us concerning our duties in the house of Christ, anterior to his coming, of which house as yet the treasury of words and of knowledge alone hath been opened, --is confirmed by the reason assigned for granting this boon to the angel of the Philadelphian church, which reason is given in these words : " Because thou hast small power, and didst keep my words, and didst not deny my name.” The word and the name are the attributes of this dispensation of faith, not of that coming dispensation of sight. To these, this man having proved a faithful and true witness, and preferred feebleness and poverty, and a mean appearance before men, to the purchasing of a good or a great name, by ministering to popular favour at the expense of Christian verity ; Christ rewardeth him with a conspicuous benefit entitled, “ I have given thee an opened door, and none can shut it."-Weighing well these things, I see more than mere prosperity and stability as a church in these words. I see an opening of some dark chambers of the house of David, which before this time had continued shut. The house of David, like every thing else pertaining to David, symbolizeth Christ's attributes as a King. David was a king, and thereby qualified to be the prophet of a king. David's royal sufferings and royal dignities were but the manystringed harp on which he prophesied of David's Lord, Messiah the King. If this opened door be then a door of knowledge, it must be of knowledge concerning the King; and that it is a door of knowledge, I think, for the reasons set forth above. Here, then, we have it declared, that in the days of the church of Philadelphia, there was to be opened a door into the holy things of David; to the possession of which Christ entered by the resurrection according to the application of that passage, “I will give him the sure mercies of David.” David knew well when he took his harp, that he was uttering dark sayings and parables of God; for “it is the glory of God to conceal a matter.” David knew that God had spoken to him of another King than David, of a better kingdom than David's. But then, it lay closed up and hidden under the sevenfold key of mystery, until the time come, when he, who hath the key of David, should set it open unto the angel of the Philadelphian church. Daniel, also, who was the head servant of a king of kings, who had upon his shoulder the key of the house of Nebuchadnezzar and Darius, was another person chosen of God, to give forth mysteries concerning the kingdom, not of the Jews, but of the Gentiles also, which the Son of Man, not the Son of David, but the Son of Man, for that is Daniel's style of Christ, was to inherit. All his visions are concerning the King of the nations, which Christ is, in virtue of his being Son of Adam, not in virtue of being Son of David ; and all these prophecies of Daniel were shut up and sealed, until the time of the end, when it was promised that they should be opened ; and that the wise should understand (Dan. xii. 9). And when the Apostles, upon the resurrection of Christ, would have understood from him concerning that time of the restoring the kingdom unto Israel, Jesus made them answer, That it was not theirs to know the times and the seasons, but to preach the Gospel. Foras. much, then, as David's lyre and Daniel's calendar were closed and shut up until the key of interpretation should be given, and a time was fixed against which the sevenfold mystery should be unveiled, by Him who hath the key of David, that same wonderful numberer who closed the matter up (Dan. viii. 13); and we have here the promise of that key of David being applied to open a door which no one should shut ;-and forasmuch as there is no other mention in these church annals of such an opening; we conclude with no slight conviction, that this promise hath reference to the disclosure of the hidden things of David, which Christ here assureth the angel of the church of Philadelpliia, that in his times he would shew.
While I thus interpret the door opened to the angel of the Philadelphian church, by the key of David, as signifying the disclosure in those days to those persons whom he representeth in the history and progress of the Christian church, until the coming of the Lord, I include also, and especially, the power of uttering to the church that which was revealed unto himself : and, being so understood, it answers exactly to that saying of the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Colossians ; “ Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Coloss. iv. 3, 4): and with that other declaration in the First Epistle to the Corinthians ; “ For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries" (xvi. 9): and that other expression in his Second Epistle ; “Furthermore, when I came to Troas, to preach Christ's Gospel, and a door was opened unto me of the Lord" (ii. 12): and that expression in the Acts of the Apostles ; “ How God opened a door of faith unto the Gentiles (xix. 22). Considering all these and other examples of the same form of words, I am inclined to believe that the mind of the Spirit in the passage before us is, not only that to this minister of Christ would be opened a larger and fuller insight into the things which concern our King as the antitype of David ; but likewise that, through the full and bold utterance of the same, he should be blessed and prospered in his ministry, and receive into the church the Jews whom he findeth in the state of Satan's syna. gogue, but receiveth as devout worshippers at that shrine of Jesus of Nazareth, before which he and his people did offer their sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise : and not only so, but that through this new opening of truth, he
should, some how or other, both preserve himself and his flock from that hour of tribulation which was about to come, to try all them that are upon the earth. Moreover, that by this knowledge of Christ the King, and faithful discovery of the same, he himself had won, and should wear
These the strong and striking features of this epistle, I derive as consequences of that opened door which he, for his faithfulness to the name and word of Christ had received, and entering in did, by his bold, yet reverend foot, obtain all these new honours to himself, and to the church, and to the Master whom he served. Christ, in his parable of the good Shepherd, represents himself, not only as the Shepherd, but likewise as the door of the sheep, saying, “I am the door : by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture" (John x. 9). He, therefore, is not only the opener, but the thing opened. As the opener, he presenteth himself in his designation, having the key of David ; as the thing opened, he presents himself in the epistle as the opened door. I feel, therefore, a strong assurance upon the review of the whole, that the interpretation given is the truth.
Now let us a little more particularly examine the reason for which this singular boon was granted to the angel of the Philadelphian church : “ For thou hast little power, and didst keep my word, and didst not deny my name. Any one studying the original, or, not being acquainted with the original, weighing carefully the parts of the verse, will, I think, see the propriety of the alteration which I have made in the rendering from "a little strength or power," to “ little strength or power." The argument seems to be this : Seeing thou art weakly, yet faithful and true, I have opened the door to thy hand, and shall effectually prevent any one from closing it ; so enter in, and enjoy the rich provision, and expatiate over the beautiful tabernacle of truth and holiness into which I have made thee to enter. The reason why Christ, the Chamberlain of David's house, openeth for his servant the door into its holiness and truth, is not because he had a little, but because he had little, strength: it was not the quantity of strength he had, but it was the littleness of that quantity, which moved the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, to gather out the stones