A NEW SONG
‘And they sung as it were a new song before the throne.’
This verse occurs in the Epistle for Holy Innocents’ Day, and we may well ask why, when heaven is yet ringing with the bright message of peace, does the wailing of Ramah, of Bethlehem, shriek in upon it with discordant jar?
The Apostle in his vision is contemplating a great company standing with the Lamb on Mount Zion, worshipping before the throne, and from that throne proceeds a voice as of many waters, and the voice of a great thunder.
I. It may be that the teaching of Holy Innocents’ Day is part of the new song of the Church which comes forth from the throne of God. All who came near Christ more or less suffered by approaching Him. Surely this is part of the new song of Holy Innocents’ Day, the true meaning of suffering in the economy of the world.
II. The song that mounts up before the throne to-day is also a song without words.—The honour bestowed on little children—the honour which belongs to innocency—is a distinguishing mark of Christianity, the new song which the Church has tried to learn.
FIRST FRUITS UNTO GOD
‘These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.’
In our Church calendar Christmas Day is followed by three other holy days: St. Stephen, St. John, and the Innocents. Now, why is this? Why are these three holy days put thus close together, and made to follow immediately after Christmas? And why, of all the New Testament saints, should these three be chosen to be, as it were, the train of followers appointed to wait on the Saviour at His birth?
I. They are examples of the fruits of the Incarnation; instances of the work of restoration and cleansing and refining by Christ of that nature which in Adam had been ruined; instances of what His coming in the flesh could do to make men like Himself and fit for His glory.
II. They show us that Christ’s blessing is not confined to one way of serving Him, to one sort of people, but is meant for all sorts and conditions and ages; that He has a place in His kingdom for young and old, for small and great.
III. They remind us that there are many different ways of serving Christ; many different gifts; many different ways of glorifying Him; yet all are of God, all belong to His one great purpose of saving and sanctifying man.
IV. They exemplify those special graces (in human type) of which He came down on earth to show the perfect pattern, and which were all united in His person. They show us reflections—faint, indeed, but real—in human souls like our own, of the glories of the Sun of Righteousness.
THE BLESSED DEAD
‘And I heard a voice from heaven saving unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours.’
The Bible tells us that those who serve God faithfully here, pass into the presence of God, and are clothed in white robes, and rest from their labours.
I. First and foremost among these will be the noble army of martyrs, men who in all ages were willing to suffer for the truth; then there will be the Apostles and Prophets, the Prophets of the Old Testament, who saw the day of Christ afar off, and the Apostles of the New, who went forth to bear God’s message of love to all the world. There will be the learned Doctors of the Church, who spent their lives in teaching or expounding or harmonising the great truths of God.
II. The state of the dead in Christ is invariably spoken of as a blessed state and a state of rest, both of which are impossible if purgatory is true. ‘Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them’; while of those who worship the beast and his image, it is said that ‘The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever, and they have no rest day nor night.’
III. They are in God’s presence, and therefore they are blessed. They are in God’s safe keeping, and therefore they are at rest. If we could think more of these two truths which are so plainly stated in the Bible, it would utterly recast some of the heathen notions that linger round us still.
—Rev. Canon Aubrey Moore.
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Revelation 14". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany