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Epistle the fifth.
Revelation 3:1 . Sardis, once a flourishing city, the residence of ancient kings, now a miserable village, having but few christians. This is not the Sardis, capital of Lydia, where Crœsus reigned, the richest king of all the east; the city which Cyrus took by the treachery of an officer, and eased Crœsus of all his gold and silver. Vide Cyroped. lib. 7. The Sardis of John is fifty miles east of Smyrna. Many critics have indeed asserted this to be the capital of Crœsus; yet the moral impossibility of marching his army from Ecbatana to that Sardis, before he turned his army on Babylon, renders it altogether incredible.
Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Thou hast the form of godliness in worship, in moral character, and exterior conduct, but thy faith is destitute of power and love: thy prayers fall short of heaven, and fail in pleading with God. Thou dost not run to save thy neighbours from death.
Revelation 3:4 . Which have not defiled their garments. It is a fact, that in some churches they gave a white cloth to a person on his baptism, that he might keep it unsoiled; a good moral was taught by this, to keep himself unspotted from the world. They shall walk with me in white, in robes of festal joy. David wore a white robe when he brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom.
Epistle the sixth.
Revelation 3:7 . Philadelphia, equivalent to fraternity, or the love of brethren. Four other cities have that name in the east, besides the great city of Philadelphia in the United States. This in Asia is twenty seven miles south-east of Sardis. The Turks call it Alah Shahr, that is, the beautiful city. At this day there are about one thousand christians in it, who speak chiefly the Arabic language. In the midst of wars and successive governments, the Lord has kept the remnant in the hour of temptation, according to his word.
Revelation 3:9 . I will make them come and worship before thy feet, and know that I have loved thee. A luminous prophecy that christians shall rule the world, and that the jews should crouch at their feet, with submission and abasement.
Revelation 3:12 . Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God. He shall be blessed with long life, and stedfastness in the faith. He shall come to his grave full of days, and full of grace. I will write upon him the name of my God, which will make him a free-born citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, and an heir of all its immunities. I will also write upon him my new name, as in Revelation 2:17.
Epistle the seventh.
Revelation 3:14 . Laodicea was a city and port of Caira, not far from the island of Rhode; hence the church shared in the commerce and wealth of the Levant. Over this city we mourn, as over a star that is lost in the spiritual horizon. And if there be any thing figurative in Dr. More’s seven churches, Laodicea represents the last times, of which it is said, “When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? ”
Revelation 3:20 . Behold, I stand at the door and knock. The soul of man is here compared to a house, whose door is barred and bolted against the Lord. Oh what arguments, what means he employs to gain an entrance, and bring with him all the happiness of heaven. Ah, who can resist the sweetness of his words, and the attractions of his grace.
Revelation 3:21 . To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me on my throne. Burning words; promises of superabundant grace to warm and arouse the Laodiceans to fervent piety. All things are yours, for ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
The Lord Christ, who has the seven Spirits of God, of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, who knoweth all things, tells the Sardians that they were dead, while they had the name of life only. All sin worketh death, whether presumptuous sins, or deep roots of riches and pride in the heart. The remedy is to awake, and to strengthen the things which remain; a decayed fire long neglected will surely go out. Yes, and as the name of a culprit or a traitor was erased from the records of his city, so the foul apostate whom longsuffering does not reclaim, shall he erased from the book of life. But the victorious soul shall be clothed in white raiment, the garment of glorified spirits, the high and priestly costume of heaven, of which the blood-washed robes of justification are both a figure and a pledge; and God will not blot out his name, but enroll him among the faithful citizens of Zion for ever. Happy is that saint who keeps his garments unspotted from the world. Christ will reward his fidelity by confessing him before his Father.
Philadelphia exhibits the faithfulness of God. The Lord Christ, the faithful and true witness, who has the key of David to shut and open the Lord’s house, the kingdom of heaven, testifies that he had set the minister of this church an open door for the conversion of the gentiles; and neither Trajan the emperor, nor the malicious jews of the synagogue of Satan could shut it. For though he had but a little host or company, yet he had kept Christ’s word, and therefore the Lord would enlarge his church. More still; he would keep him from the sorer storms of persecution, which should both often and generally fall on the church.
Christ addresses the church of Laodicea, as the faithful and true witness, because they conformed to the world, and were lukewarm. Now, the difference between sin and holiness, between present and eternal things is so great, that a supine indifference and carnal ease is insupportable in the eyes of heaven.
Health, peace, and riches had contributed to this state. A tree planted by a placid stream flourishes the more; but the church, like the bush of Moses, often flourishes most in the fire. The punishment here denounced is awful. They were lukewarm, but God would not be lukewarm: he would cast them out of his mouth. A man whose profession is for Christ, but whose heart is with the world, is nauseous in his sight.
Before God strikes he warns and counsels, to buy the true riches of holiness, patience, and a heavenly heritage; to buy the white raiment before described, and eye-salve to see the corruption of life, and the heavenly hope in the light of the Lord.
If counsel will not do, correction must follow. As many as God loves he rebukes and chastens. Many are the hard strokes on those who are at ease in Zion. The gout, disease, and death; reverse of fortune, and rebellious children, for how can a careless father expect converted children.
Christ knocks at the heart of lukewarm professors, being resolved to conquer either by judgment or by mercy. Coming as a princely guest, he promises to sup with us in poverty and pain, and to return the favour in his Father’s house, and to seat his friends on the throne, making them joint heirs of all his mediatorial glory. And who for a worldly portion would risk the enjoyment of his favour and everlasting love. What man of business to gain a villa would forfeit the house which is in heaven.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent