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THE GIFTS OF CHRIST AS WITNESS, RISEN AND CROWNED
So loftily did John in his old age come to think of his Lord. The former days of blessed nearness had not faded from his memory; rather he understood their meaning better than when he was in the midst of their sweetness. Years and experience, and the teaching of God’s Spirit, had taught Him to understand what the Master meant when He said :-’ It is expedient for you that I go away’; for when He had departed John saw Him a great deal more clearly than ever he had done when he beheld Him with his eyes. He sees Him now invested with these lofty attributes, and, so to speak, involved in the brightness of the Throne of God. For the words of my text are not only remarkable in themselves, and in the order in which they give these three aspects of our Lord’s character, but remarkable also in that they occur in an invocation in which the Apostle is calling down blessings from Heaven on the heads of his brethren. The fact that they do so occur points a question: Is it possible to conceive that the writer of these words thought of Jesus Christ as less than divine? Could he have asked for ‘ grace and peace’ to come down on the Asiatic Christians from the divine Father, and an Abstraction, and a Man? A strange Trinity that would be, most certainly. Rightly or wrongly, the man that said,’ Grace and peace be unto you, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seven Spirits which are before His Throne, and from Jesus Christ,’ believed that the name of the One God was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But it is not so much to this as to the connection of these three clauses with one another, and to the bearing of all three on our Lord’s power of giving grace and peace to men’s hearts, that I want to turn your attention now. I take the words simply as they lie here; asking you to consider, first, how grace and peace come to us ‘from the faithful Witness’; how, secondly, they come ‘from the first begotten from the dead’; and how, lastly, they come ‘from the Prince of the kings of the earth.’
I. Now as to the first of these, ‘the faithful Witness.’
All of you who have any familiarity with the language of Scripture will know that a characteristic of all the writings which are ascribed to the Apostle John, viz., his Gospel, his Epistles, and the book of the Revelation, is their free and remarkable use of that expression, ‘Witness.’ It runs through all of them, and is one of the many threads of connection which tie them all together, and which constitute a very strong argument for the common authorship of the three sets of writings, vehemently as that has of late been denied.
But where did John get this word? According to his own teaching he got it from the lips of the Master, who began His career with these words, ‘We speak that we do know, and bear witness to that we have seen,’ and who all but ended it with these royal words, ‘Thou sayest that I am a King! For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the Truth.’ Christ Himself, then, claimed to be in an eminent and special sense the witness to the world.
The witness of what? What was the substance of His testimony? It was a testimony mainly about God. The words of my text substantially cover the same ground as His own words, ‘I have declared Thy name unto My brethren,’ and as those of the Apostle: ‘The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’ And they involve the same ideas as lie in the great name by which He is called in John’s Gospel,’ the Word of God.’
That is to say, all our highest and purest and best knowledge of God comes from the life and conduct and character of Jesus Christ. His revelation is no mere revelation by words. Plenty of men have talked about God, and said noble and true and blessed things about Him. Scattered through the darkness of heathenism, and embedded in the sinfulness of every man’s heart, there are great and lofty and pure thoughts about Him, which to cleave to and follow out would bring strength and purity. It is one thing to speak about God in words, maxims, precepts; it is another thing to show us God in act and life. The one is theology, the other is gospel. The one is the work of man, the other is the exclusive prerogative of God manifested in the flesh.
It is not Christ’s words only that make Him the ‘Amen,’ the ‘faithful and true Witness,’ but in addition to these, He witnesses by all His deeds of grace, and truth, and gentleness, and pity; by all His yearnings over wickedness, and sorrow, and sinfulness; by all His drawings of the profligate and the outcast and the guilty to Himself, His life of loneliness, His death of shame. In all these, He is showing us not only the sweetness of a perfect human character, but in the sweetness of a perfect human character, the sweeter sweetness of our Father, God. The substance of His testimony is the Name, the revelation of the character of His Father and our Father.
This name of ‘witness’ bears likewise strongly upon the characteristic and remarkable manner of our Lord’s testimony. The task of a witness is to affirm; his business is to tell his story-not to argue about it, simply to state it. And there is nothing more characteristic of our Lord’s words than the way in which, without attempt at proof or argumentation, He makes them stand on their own evidence; or, rather, depend upon His veracity. All His teaching is characterized by what would be insane presumption in any of us, and would at once rule us out of court as unfit to be listened to on any grave subject, most of all on religious truth. For His method is this: ‘Verily, verily, I say to you! Take it on My word. You ask Me for proof of My saying: I am the proof of it; I assert it. That is enough for you! ‘Not so do men speak. So does the faithful Witness speak; and instead of the conscience and common-sense of the world rising up and saying, ‘This is the presumption of a religious madman and dictator,’ they have bowed before Him and said, ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men! Grace is poured into Thy lips.’ He is the ‘faithful Witness, who lays His own character and veracity as the basis of what He has to say, and has no mightier word by which to back His testimony than His own sovereign ‘Verily! verily!’
The name bears, too, on the ground of His testimony.
A faithful witness is an eye-witness. And that is what Christ claims when He witnesses about God. ‘‘We speak that we do know, we testify that we have seen.’ ‘I speak that which I have seen with My Father!’ There is nothing more remarkable about the oral portion of our Lord’s witness than the absence of any appearance, such as marks all the wisest words of great men, of having come to them as the result of patient thought. We never see Him in the act of arriving at a truth, nor detect any traces of the process of forming opinions in Him. He speaks as if He had seen, and His tone is that of one who is not thinking out truth or grasping at it, but simply narrating that which lies plain and clear ever before His eyes. I do not ask you what that involves, but I quote His own statement of what it involves: ‘No man hath ascended up into Heaven save He that came down from Heaven, even the Son of Man which is in Heaven.’
There have been plenty of great and gracious words about God, and there have been plenty of black and blasphemous thoughts of Him. They rise in our own hearts, and they come from our brothers’ tongues. Men have worshipped gods gracious, gods loving, gods angry, gods petulant, gods capricious; but God after the fashion of the God whom Jesus Christ avouches to us, we have nowhere else, a God of absolute love, who ‘so loved the world’-that is, you and me-’that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish.’
And now I ask, is there not grace and peace brought to us all from that faithful Witness, and from His credible testimony? Surely the one thing that the world wants is to have the question answered whether there really is a God in Heaven that cares anything about me, and to whom I can trust myself wholly; believing that He will lift me out of all my meannesses and sins, and make me clean and pure and blessed like Himself. Surely that is the deepest of all human needs, howsoever little men may know it. And sure I am that none of us can find the certitude of such a Father unless we give credence to the message of Jesus Christ our Lord.
This day needs that witness as much as any other; sometimes in our unbelieving moments, we think more than any other. There is a wave-I believe it is only a wave-passing over the cultivated thought of Europe at present which will make short work of all belief in a God that does not grip fast to Jesus Christ. As far as I can read the signs of the times, and the tendency of modern thinking, it is this:-either an absolute Silence, a Heaven stretching above us, blue and clear, and cold, and far away, and dumb; or else a Christ that speaks-He or none! The Theism that has shaken itself loose from Him will be crushed; I am sure, in the encounter with the agnosticism and the materialism of this day. And the one refuge is to lay fast hold of the old truth:-’ The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.’
Oh! you orphan children that have forgotten your Father, and have turned prodigals and rebels; you that have begun to doubt if there is any one above this low earth that cares for you; you that have got bewildered and befogged amidst the manifold denials and controversies of this day; come back to the one voice that speaks to us in tones of confident certainty as from personal knowledge of a Father. ‘He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,’ says Jesus to us all: ‘hearken unto Me, and know God, whom to know in Me is eternal life.’ Listen to Him. Without His testimony you will be the sport of fears, and doubts, and errors. With it in your hearts you will be at rest. Grace and peace come from the faithful Witness.
II. We have grace and peace from the Conqueror of Death.
The ‘ first begotten from the dead’ does not precisely convey the idea of the original, which would be more accurately represented by ‘the first born from the dead’-the resurrection being looked upon as a kind of birth into a higher order of life. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to observe that the accuracy of this designation, ‘the first born from the dead,’ as applied to our Lord, is not made questionable because of the mere fact that there were others who rose from the dead before His resurrection, for all of these died again. What a strange feeling that must have been for Lazarus and the others, to go twice through the gates of death; twice to know the pain and the pang of separation! But these all have been gathered to the dust, and lie now waiting ‘the adoption, that is the resurrection of the body.’ But this Man, being raised, dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him. And how is it that grace and peace come to us from the risen Witness? Two or three words may be said about that.
Think how, first of all, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the confirmation of His testimony. In it the Father, to whom He hath borne witness in His life and death, bears witness to Christ, that His claims were true and His work well-pleasing. He is ‘declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.’ If our Lord did not rise from the dead, as all Christendom to-day  has been declaring its faith that He did, then, as it seems to me, there is an end to His claims to be Son of God, and Son of Man, or anything other than a man like the rest of us. If He be no more and naught else than a man, altogether like the rest of us, then there is an end to any special revelation of the Divine nature, heart, purposes, and will, in His works and character. They may still be beautiful, they may still reveal God in the same sense in which the doings of any good man suggest a fontal source of goodness from which they flow, but beyond that they are nothing. So all the truth, and all the peace, all the grace and hope which flow to us from the witness of Jesus Christ to the Father, are neutralized and destroyed unless we believe in the resurrection from the dead. His words may still remain gracious, and true in a measure, only all dashed with the terrible mistake that He asserted that He would rise again, and rose not. But as for His life, it ceases to be in any real sense, because it ceases to be in any unique sense, the revelation to the world of the character of God.
And therefore, as I take it, it is no exaggeration to say that the whole fabric of Christianity and all Christ’s worth as a witness to God, stand or fall with the fact of His resurrection. If you pull out that keystone, down comes the arch. There may still be fair carving on some of the fallen fragments, but it is no longer an arch that spans the great gulf, and has a firm pier on the other side. Strike away the resurrection and you fatally damage the witness of Jesus. You cannot strike the supernatural out of Christianity, and keep the natural. The two are so inextricably woven together that to wrench away the one lacerates the other, and makes it bleed, even to death. If Christ be not risen we have nothing to preach, and you have nothing to believe. Our preaching and your faith are alike vain: ye are yet in your sins. Grace and peace come from faith in the ‘first begotten from the dead.’
And that is true in another way too. Faith in the resurrection gives us a living Lord to confide in-not a dead Lord, whose work we may look back upon with thankfulness; but a living one, who works now upon us, and by whose true companionship and real affection strength and help are granted to us every day. The cold frost of death has not congealed that stream of love that poured from His heart while He lived on earth; it flows yet for each of us, for all of us, for the whole world.
My brother, we cannot do without a living Christ to stand beside us, to sympathize, to help, to love. We cannot do without a living Christ with whom we may speak, who will speak to us. And that communion which is blessedness, that communication of power and righteousness which is life, are only possible, if it be true that His death was not the end of His relationship to us, or of His work in the world, but was only a transition from one stage of that work to another. We have to look to Christ, the ‘faithful Witness,’ the Witness who witnessed when He died; but we have to look to Him that is risen again and takes His place at the right hand of God. And the grace and peace flow to us not only from the contemplation of the past witness of the Lord, but are showered upon us from the open hands of the risen and living Christ.
In still another way do grace and peace reach us, from the ‘first begotten from the dead,’ inasmuch as in Him and in His resurrection-life we are armed for victory over that foe whom He has conquered. If He be the first born, He will have ‘many brethren.’ The ‘first’ implies a second. He has been raised from the dead; therefore death is not the destruction of conscious life. He has been raised from the dead, therefore any other man may be. Like another Samson, He has come forth from the prison-house, with the bars and gates upon His mighty shoulders, and has carried them away up there to the hill-top where He is. And the prison-house door stands gaping wide, and none so weak but he can pass out through the ever open portals. Christ has risen, and therefore if we will trust Him we have conquered that last and grimmest foe. And so for ourselves, when we are trembling, as we all do with the natural shrinking of flesh from the thought of that certain death; for ourselves, in our hours of lonely sorrow, when the tears come or the heart is numbed with pain; for ourselves when we lay ourselves down in our beds to die, grace and peace, like the dove that fell on His sacred head as it rose from the water of the baptism-will come down from His hands who is not only ‘the faithful Witness,’ but the ‘first begotten from the dead.’
III. Lastly, we have grace and peace from the King of kings.
The series of aspects of Christ’s work here is ranged in order of time, in so far as the second follows the first, and the third flows from both, though we are not to suppose that our Lord has ceased to be the faithful Witness when He has ascended His Sovereign Throne. His own saying, ‘I have declared Thy name, and will declare it,’ shows us that His witness is perpetual, and carried on from His seat at the right hand of God.
He is the ‘Prince of the kings of the earth,’ just because He is ‘ the faithful Witness.’ That is to say: -His dominion is the dominion of the truth; His dominion is a kingdom over men’s wills and spirits. Does He rule by force? No! Does He rule by outward means? No I By terror? No I but because, as He said to the astonished Pilate, He came ‘ to bear witness to the truth’; therefore is He the King not of the Jews only but of the whole world. A kingdom over heart and conscience, will and spirit, is the kingdom which Christ has founded, and His rule rests upon His witness.
And not only so, He is ‘ the Prince of the kings of the earth’ because in that witness He dies, and so becomes a ‘martyr’ to the truth-the word in the original conveying both ideas. That is to say, His dominion rests not only upon truth. That would be a dominion grand as compared with the kingdom of this world, but still cold. His dominion rests upon love and sacrifice. And so His Kingdom is a kingdom of blessing and of gentleness; and He is crowned with the crowns of the universe, because He was first crowned with the crown of thorns. His first regal title was written upon His Cross, and from the Cross His Royalty ever flows. He is the King because He is the sacrifice.
And He is the Prince of the kings of the earth because, witnessing and slain, He has risen again; His resurrection has been the step midway, as it were, between the humiliation of earth and death, and the loftiness of the Throne. By it He has climbed to His place at the right hand of God. He is King and Prince, then, by right of truth, love, sacrifice, death, resurrection.
And King to what end? That He may send grace and peace. Is there no peace for a man’s heart in feeling that the Brother that loves him and died for him rules over all the perplexities of life, the confusions of Providence, the sorrows of a world, and the corruptions of his own nature? Is it not enough to drive away fears, to anodyne cares, to disentangle perplexities, to quiet disturbances, to make the coward brave, and the feeble strong, and the foolish wise, and the querulous patient, to think that my Christ is king; and that the hands which were nailed to the Cross wield the sceptre, and that He who died for me rules the universe and rules me?
Oh, brethren! there is no tranquility for a man anywhere else but in the humble, hearty recognition of that Lord as his Lord. Crown Him with your reverence, with your loyal obedience, with your constant desires; crown Him with your love, the most precious of all the crowns that He wears, and you will find that grace and peace come to you from Him.
Such, then, is the vision that this seer in Patmos had of his Lord. It was to him a momentary opening of the heavens, which showed him his throned Lord; but the fact which was made visible to his inward eye for a moment is an eternal fact. To-day as then, to-morrow as to-day, for Asiatic Greeks and for modern Englishmen, for past centuries, for the present, and for all the future, for the whole world for ever, Jesus Christ is the only witness whose voice breaks the awful silence and tells us of a Father; the only Conqueror of Death who makes the life beyond a firm, certain fact; the King whose dominion it is life to obey. We all need Him. Your hearts have wants which only His grace can supply, your lives have troubles which only His peace can still. Sin and sorrow, change and trial, separation and death, are facts in every man’s experience. They are ranked against us in serried battalions. You can conquer them all if you will seek shelter and strength from Him who has died for you, and lives to succour and to save. Trust Him! Let your faith grasp the past fact of the Cross whose virtue never grows old, and the present fact of the Throne from which He bends down with hands full of grace; and on His lips the tender old words: ‘Peace I leave with you, My peace give I unto you I’
 Easter Sunday.
CHRIST’S PRESENT LOVE AND PAST LOOSING FROM SINS
The Revised Version rightly makes two slight but important changes in this verse, both of which are sustained by preponderating authority. For ‘ loved’ it reads ‘loveth,’ and for ‘ washed’ it reads ‘loosed’; the whole standing ‘Unto Him that loveth us, loosed us from our sins by His blood.’ Now the first of these changes obviously adds much to the force and richness of the representation, for it substitutes for a past a present and timeless love. The second of them, though it seems greater, is really smaller, for it makes no change in the meaning, but only in the figure under which the meaning is represented. If we read ‘washed,’ the metaphor would be of sin as a stain; if we read ‘loosed,’ the metaphor is of sin as a ‘chain.’ Possibly the context may somewhat favour the alteration, inasmuch as there would then be the striking contrast between the condition of captives or bondsmen, and the dignity of ‘kings and priests unto God,’ into which Jesus brings those whom He has freed from the bondage. Taking, then, these changes, and noting the fact that our text is the beginning of a doxology, we have here three points, the present love of Christ, the great past act which is its outcome and proof, and the praise which should answer that great love.
I. We have here that great thought of the present love of Christ.
The words seem to me to become especially beautiful, if we remember that they come from the lips of him whose distinction it was that he was ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ It is as if he had said, ‘I share my privilege with you all. I was no nearer Him than you may be. Every head may rest on the breast where mine rested. Having the sweet remembrance of that early love, these things write I unto you that ye also may have fellowship with me in that which was my great distinction. I, the disciple whom Jesus loved, speak to you as the disciples whom Jesus loves.’
Mark that he is speaking of One who had been dead for half a century, and that he is speaking to people, none of whom had probably ever seen Jesus in His lifetime, and most of whom had’ not been born when He died. Yet to them all he turns with that profound and mighty present tense, and says, ‘He loveth us.’ He was speaking to all generations, and telling all the tribes of men of a love which is in active operation towards each of them, not only at the moment when John spoke to Asiatic Greeks, but at the moment when we Englishmen read his words, ‘Christ that loveth us.’
Now that great thought suggests two things, one as to the permanence, and one as to the sweep of Christ’s love. With regard to the permanence, we have here the revelation of One whose relation to life and death is altogether unique. For though we must believe that the dead do still cherish the love that lighted earth for them, we cannot suppose that their love embraces those whom on earth they did not know, or that for those who are still held in its grasp it can be a potence in active operation to bless them and to do them good. But here is a Man, to the exercise of whose love, to the clearness of whose apprehension and knowledge, to the outgoing of whose warm affection, the active energy of that affection life or death make no difference. The cold which stays the flow of all other human love, like frost laid upon the running streams which it binds in fetters, has no power over the flow of Christ’s love, which rolls on, unfrozen and unaffected by it. But not only docs Christ’s present love require that He should be lifted above death as it affects the rest of us, but it also demands for its explanation that we shall see in Him true Divinity. For this ‘loveth’ is the timeless present of that Divine nature, of which we cannot properly say either that it was or that it will be, but only that it for ever is, and the outgoings of His love are like the outgoings of that Divine energy of which we cannot properly say that it did or that it will do, but only that it ever does. His love, if I might use such a phrase, is lifted above all tenses, and transcends even the bounds of grammar. He did love. He does love. He will love. All three forms of speech must be combined in setting forth the ever present, because timeless and eternal, love of the Incarnate Word.
Then let me remind you too that this present love of Christ is undiminished by the glory to which Ho is exalted. We find clear and great differences between the picture of Jesus Christ in the four gospels and the picture of Him drawn in that magnificent vision of this chapter. But the differences are surface, and the identity is deep-lying. The differences affect position much rather than nature, and as we look upon that revelation which was given to the seer in his rocky Patmos, and with him ‘in the Spirit’ behold ‘the things that are,’ we carry into all the glory the thought ‘He loveth us’; and the breast girded with the golden girdle is as loving as that upon which John’s happy head lay, and the hand that holds the seven stars is as tender as when it was laid on little children in blessing or on lepers in cleansing; or as when it held up the sinking Apostle, or lifted the sick from their couches, or as when it was stretched on the Cross and pierced with the nails; and the face,’ which is as the sun shineth in his strength,’ is as gracious as when it beamed in pity upon wanderers and sorrowful ones, and drew by its beauty and its sweetness the harlots and publicans to His pity. The exalted Christ loves as did the lowly Christ on earth.
How different this prosaic, worried present would be if we could carry with us, as we may if we will, into all its trivialities, into all its monotony, into all its commonplace routine, into all its little annoyances and great sorrows, that one lambent thought as a source of light and strength and blessing, ‘He loveth us.’ Ah! brethren, we lose tremendously of what we might all possess, because we think so of ‘He loved,’ and travel back to the Cross for its proof, and think so comparatively seldom ‘He loveth,’ and feel the touch of His hand on our hearts for its token.
But here we have not only the present and permanent love, but we have the sweep and extent of it. ‘He loveth us.’ And though John was speaking primarily about a little handful of people scattered through some of the seaboard towns of Asia Minor, the principle upon which he could make the assertion in regard to them warrants us in extending the assertion not only to men that respond to the love, and believe in it, but right away over all the generations and all the successive files of the great army of humanity, down to the very ends of time, ‘He loveth us.’
That universality, wonderful as it is, and requiring for its basis the same belief in Christ’s Divine nature which the present energy of His love requires, has to be translated by each of us into an individualizing love which is poured upon each single soul, as if it were the sole recipient of the fullness of the heart of Christ. When we extend our thoughts or our sympathies to a crowd, we lose the individual. We generalize, as logicians say, by neglecting the particular instances. That is to say, when we look at the forest we do not see the trees. But Jesus Christ sees each tree, each stem, each branch, each leaf, just as when the crowd thronged Him and pressed Him, He knew when the tremulous finger, wasted and shrunken to skin and bone, was timidly laid on the hem of His garment; as there was room for all the five thousand on the grass, and no man’s plenty was secured at the expense of another man’s penury, so each of us has a place in that heart; and my abundance will not starve you, nor your feeding full diminish the supplies for me. Christ loves all, not with the vague general philanthropy with which men love the mass, but with the individualizing knowledge and special direction of affection towards the individual which demands for its fullness a Divine nature to exercise it. And so each of us may have our own rainbow, to each of us the sunbeam may come straight from the sun and strike upon our eye in a direct line, to each of us the whole warmth of the orb may be conveyed, and each of us may say, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ Is that your conception of your relation to Jesus Christ and of Christ’s to you?
II. Notice the great proof and outcome of this present love.
Because it is timeless love, and has nothing to do with the distinction of past, present, and future, John lays hold of a past act as the manifestation of a present love. If we would understand what that love is which is offered to each of us in the present, we must understand what is meant and what is involved in that past act to which John points: ‘He loosed us from our sins by His own blood.’ Christ is the Emancipator, and the instrument by which He makes us free is ‘His own blood.’
Now there underlies that thought the sad metaphor that sin is captivity. There may be some kind of allusion in the Apostle’s mind to the deliverance from Egyptian bondage; and that is made the more probable if we observe that the next clause, ‘hath made us kings and priests unto God,’ points back to the great charter of Israel’s national existence which was given immediately after the Exodus. But, be that as it may, the notion of bondage underlies this metaphor of loosing a fetter. If we would be honest with ourselves, in our account of our own inward experiences, that bondage we all know. There is the bondage of sin as guilt, the sense of responsibility, the feeling that we have to answer for what we have done, and to answer -as I believe and as I think men’s consciences for the most part force them to believe-not only here but hereafter, when we appear before the judgment-seat of Christ. Guilt is a chain. And there is the bondage of habit, which ties and holds us with the cords of our sins, so as that, slight as the fetter may seem at first, it has an awful power of thickening and becoming heavier and more pressing, till at last it holds a man in a grip that he cannot get away from. I know of nothing in human life more mystically awful than the possible influence of habit. And you cannot break these fetters yourselves, brethren, any more than a man in a dungeon, shackled to the wall, can file through his handcuffs and anklets with a pin or a broken penknife. You can do a great deal, but you cannot deal with the past fact of guilt, and you can only very partially deal with the present fact of tyranny which the evil habit exercises on you.
‘He loosed us from our sins by His own blood.’ This is not the place to enter upon theological speculations, but I, for my part, believe that, although I may not get to the bottom of the bottomless, nor speak about the Divine nature with full knowledge of all that it is, Scripture is pledged to the fact that the death of Jesus Christ is the Sacrifice for the world’s sin. I admit that a full theory is not within reach, but I do not admit that therefore we are to falter in declaring that Christ’s death is indispensable in order that a man’s sin may be forgiven, and the fetters broken, in so far as guilt and condemnation and Divine disapprobation are concerned.
But that is only one side of the truth. The other, and in some aspects a far more important one, is that that same blood which shed delivers them that trust in Jesus Christ from the guilt of their sin, imparted to men, delivers them from the power of their sin. ‘The blood is the life,’ according to the simple physiology of the Old and of the New Testament. When we read in Scripture that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin, as I believe we are intended to understand that word, the impartation of Christ’s life to us purifies our nature, and makes us, too, in our degree, and on condition of our own activity, and gradually and successively free from all evil. So as regards both aspects of the thralldom of sin, as guilt and as habit: ‘He has loosed us from our sins in His own blood.’
That is the great token and manifestation of His love. If we do not believe that, how else can we have any real conviction and proof of anything worth calling love as being in the heart of Jesus Christ to any of us? To me it seems that unless a man accepts that great thought, ‘He loved me, and gave Himself for me,’ and is daily working in my nature to make it and me more like Himself, he has no real proof that Jesus Christ cares a jot for him, or knows anything about him. But I, for my part, venture to say that looking on Christ and His past as this text does, we can look up to Christ in the present as the seer did, and, behold, enthroned by the side of the glory, the Man, the Incarnate Word, who loves with timeless love every single soul of man.
III. So, lastly, let me point you to the praise which should answer this present love and emancipation.
‘Unto Him,’ says John, ‘be’-or is-’glory and dominion for ever and ever.’ That present love, and that great past act which is its vindication and manifestation, are the true glory of God. For His glory lies, not in attributes, as we call them, that distinguish Him from the limitations of humanity, such as Omniscience and Omnipresence and Eternal Being and the like; all these are great, but they are not the greatest. The divinest thing in God is His love, and the true glory is the glory that rays out from Him whom we behold ‘full of grace and truth,’ full of love, and dying on the Cross. When we look at that weak man there yielding to the last infirmity of humanity, and yet in yielding to it manifesting His dominion over it, there we see God as we do not see Him anywhere besides. To Him is the glory for His love, and His ‘loosing’ manifest the glory, and from His love and His loosing accrue to Him glory beyond all other revenue of praise which comes to Him from creative and sustaining acts.
‘Unto Him be dominion,’ for His rule rests on His sacrifice and on His love. The crown of thorns prepared for the ‘many crowns’ of heaven, the sceptre of reed was the prophecy of the sceptre of the universe. The Cross was the footstool of His Throne. He is King of men because He has loved us perfectly, and given everything for us.
And so, brethren, the question of questions for each of us is, Is Jesus Christ my Emancipator? Do I see in Him He that looses me from my sins, and makes me free indeed, because the Son has made me free and a son? Do I render to Him the love which such a love requires? Do I find in Him my ever-present Lover and Friend, and is His love to me as a stimulus for all service, an amulet against every temptation, a breakwater in all storms, a light in every darkness, the pledge of a future heaven, and the beginning of a heaven even upon earth? I beseech you, recognize your fetters, and do not say ‘ we were never in bondage to any man.’ Recognize your Liberator, put your trust in Him; and then you will be able to join, even here on earth, and more perfectly hereafter, in that great storm and chorus of praise which is in heaven and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, saying, ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth on the Throne and to the Lamb for ever and ever.’
KINGS AND PRIESTS
There is an evident reference in these words to the original charter of the Jewish nation, which ran, ‘If ye will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then shall ye be to Me a kingdom of priests.’ That reference is still more obvious if we follow the reading of our text in the Revised Version, which runs, ‘He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests.’ Now it is unquestionable that, in the original passage, Israel is represented as being God’s kingdom, the nation over which He reigned as King. But in John’s use of the expression there seems to be a slight modification of meaning, as is obvious in the parallel passage to this, which occurs in a subsequent chapter, where we read in addition, ‘They shall reign with Him for ever.’ That is to say, in our text we should rather translate the word ‘kings lip’ than ‘kingdom,’ for it means rather the Royal dominion of the Christian community than its subjection to the reign of God.
So the two dignities, the chief in the ancient world, which as a rule were sedulously kept apart, lest their union should produce a grinding despotism from which there was no appeal, are united in the person of the humblest Christian, and that not merely at some distant future period beyond the grave, but here and now; for my text says, not ‘will make,’ but ‘hath made.’ The coronation and the consecration are both past acts; they are the sequel, certain to follow upon the previous act: ‘He hath loosed us from our sins in His own blood.’ The timeless love of Christ, of which that’ loosing’ was the manifestation and the outcome, is not content with emancipating the slaves; it enthrones and hallows them. ‘He lifts the beggar from the dunghill to set him among princes.’ ‘He hath loosed us from our sins,’ He hath therein made us ‘kings and priests to God.’
I. So, then, we have to consider, first, the Royalty of the Christian life.
Now as I have already observed, that royalty has two aspects, a present and a future, and therein the representation coincides with the whole strain of the New Testament, which never separates the present from the future condition of Christian people, as if they were altogether unlike, but lays far more emphasis upon the point in which they coincide than on the points in which they differ, and represents that future as being but the completion and the heightening to a more lustrous splendor, of that which characterizes Christian life in the present. So there is a present dominion, notwithstanding all the sorrows and limitations and burdens of life; and there is a future one, which is but the expansion and the superlative degree of that which is enjoined in the present. What, then, is the present royalty of the men that have been loosed from their sins?
Well, I think that the true kingship, which comes as the consequence of Christ’s emancipation of us from the guilt and power of sin, is dominion over ourselves. That is the real royalty, to which every man, whatever his position, may aspire, and may exercise. Our very nature shows that we are not, if I might so say, a republic or a democracy, but a monarchy, for there are parts of every one of us that are manifestly intended to be subjected and to obey, and there are parts that are as manifestly intended to be authoritative and to command. On the one side are the passions and the desires that inhere in our fleshly natures, and others, more refined and sublimated forms of the same, and on the other, there is will, reason, conscience. And these, being themselves the authoritative and commanding parts of our nature, observe a subordination also. For the will which impels all the rest is but a blind giant unless it be illumined by reason. And will and reason alike have to bow to the dictates of that conscience which is the vicegerent of God in every man.
But there is rebellion in the monarchy, as we all know, a revolt that spreads widely. And there is no power that will enable my will to dominate my baser part, and no power that will enthrone my reason above my will, and no power that will give to the empty voice of conscience force to enforce its decrees, except the power of Him that ‘has loosed us from our sins in His own blood.’ When we bow to Him, then, and, as I believe in its perfect measure, only then, shall we realize the dominion over the anarchic, rebellious self, which God means every man to exercise. Christ, and Christ alone, makes us fit to control all our nature. And He does it by pouring into us His own Spirit, which will subdue, by strengthening all the motives which should lead men to obedience, by setting before them the perfect pattern in Himself, and by the communication of His own life, which is symbolized by His blood cleansing us from the tyranny under which we have been held. We were slaves, He makes us free, and making us free He enthrones us. He that is king over himself is the true king.
Again, the present royalty of the Christian man is found in his sovereignty over the world. He commands the world who despises it. He is lord of material things who bends them to the highest use, the development of his own nature, and the formation in him of a God-pleasing and Christlike character. He is king of the material who uses it as men use the leaping-bars and other apparatus in a gymnasium, for the strengthening of the frame, and the bringing out of the muscles. He is the king of the world to whom it is all a mirror that shows God, a ladder by which we can climb to Him. And this domination over things visible and material is possible to us in its superlative degree only in the measure in which we are united by faith and obedience to Him who declared, with almost His dying breath, ‘I have overcome the world,’ and bade us therefore ‘ be of good cheer.’ ‘This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith,’ and He is the master of all who has submitted himself to the monarchy of Jesus Christ. And so the royalty which begins with ruling my own nature goes on to be master of all things around me, according to that great saying, the depth of which can be realized only by experience, ‘All things are yours, and ye are Christ’s.’
There is another department in which the same kingship is at present capable of being exercised by us all, and that is that we may become, by faith in Jesus Christ, independent of men, and lords over them, in the sense that we shall take no orders from them, nor hang upon their approbation or disapprobation, nor depend upon their love for our joy, nor be frightened or bewildered by their hate, but shall be able to say, ‘We are the servants of Christ, therefore we are free from men.’ The King’s servant is everybody else’s master. In the measure in which we hold ourselves in close union with that Saviour we are set free from all selfish dependence on, and regard to, the judgments of perishable and fallible creatures like ourselves.
But the passage to which I have already referred as determining the precise meaning of the ambiguous expression in my text goes a little further. It not only speaks of being kings and priests here and now, but it adds they shall ‘reign with Him,’ and so points us onward to a dim future, in which all that is tendency here, and an imperfect kingship, shall be perfectly realized hereafter. I do not dwell upon that, for we see that future but ‘through a glass darkly’; only I remind you of such sayings as ‘have thou authority over ten cities,’ and the other phrase in one of the letters to the seven churches, in which ‘authority over the nations’ and ‘ruling them with a rod of iron’ is promised to Christ’s servants. These are promises as dim as they are certain, but they, at least, teach us that they who here, in lowly dependence on the King of kings, have bowed themselves to Him, and, emancipated by Him, have been made to share in some measure in His royalty here, shall hereafter, according to the depth of His own wonderful promise,’ sit with Him on His Throne, as He also hath sat down with the Father on His Throne.’
For indeed this kingship of all Christ’s children, like the priesthood with which it is associated in my text, is but one case of the general principle that, by faith in Jesus Christ, we are so united with Him as that where He is, and what He is, there and that ‘we shall be also.’ He has become like us that we might become like Him. He has taken part of the flesh and blood of which the children are partakers, that they might take part of the Spirit of which He is the Lord. He, the Son, has become the Son of Man that sons of men might in Him become the sons of God. The branches partake of the ‘fatness’ of the vine; and the King who is Priest makes all to trust Him, not only sons but kings through Himself.
II. We have here the priesthood of the Christian life.
Now that idea is but a symbolical way of putting some very great and wondrous thoughts, for what are the elements that go to make up the idea of a priest.
First, direct access to God and that is the prerogative of every Christian. All of us, each of us, may pass into the secret place of the Most High, and stand there with happy hearts, unabashed and unafraid, beneath the very blaze of the light of the Shekinah. And we can do that, because Jesus Christ has come to us with these words upon His lips, ‘I am the Way; no man cometh to the Father but by Me.’ The path into that Divine Presence is for every sinful soul blocked by an immense black rock, its own transgressions; but He has blasted away the rock, and the path is patent for all our feet. By His death we have the way made open into the holiest of all. And so we can come, come with lowly hearts, come with childlike confidence, come with the whole burden of our weaknesses and wants and woes, and can spread them all before Him, and nestle to the great heart of God the Father Himself. We are priests to God, and our prerogative is to pass within the veil by the new and living Way which Christ is for us.
Again, another idea in the conception of the priest is that he must have somewhat to offer; and we Christian people are in that sense priests. Christ has offered the ‘one Sacrifice for sins for ever,’ and there is no addition to that possible or requisite. But after the offering of the expiatory sacrifice, the ancient Ritual taught us a deep truth when it appointed that following it there should be the sacrifice of thanksgiving. And these are what we are to bring. You remember the words, ‘I beseech you, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present’-and that word is the technical one for the offering of sacrifice-’ your bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable unto God.’ You remember Peter’s use of this same expression, ‘Ye are a royal priesthood,’ and his description of their function to offer up spiritual ‘sacrifices.’ You remember the other words of the great sacerdotal book of the New Testament, the Epistle to the Hebrews, which claims for Christians all that seemed to be disappearing with the dying Jewish economy, and says, ‘By Him, therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise unto God . . . that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name, and to do good, and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well-pleased.’ So the sacrifice of myself, moved by the mercies of God as a great thank offering, and in detail the sacrifice of praise, of good gifts and good deeds, and a life devoted to Him, these are the sacrifices which we have to bring.
I need not remind you of yet another aspect in which the sacrificial idea inheres in the very notion of the Christian life, and that is not only access to God, and the offering of sacrifice, but mediation with man. For the function is laid upon all Christian people by Jesus Christ Himself, that they should represent God and Him in the world, and beseech men, in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled to God. And so the priesthood and the kingship both belong to the ideal of the Christian life.
III. In the last place, just a word or two as to the practical conclusions from this idea.
The first of them is one on which I touch very lightly, but which I cannot well omit, and that is the bearing of this thought on the relations of the members of the Christian community to one another. The New Testament knows of two kinds of priesthood, and no third. It knows of Christ as the High Priest who, by His great sacrifice for the sins of the world, has made all other expiation antiquated and impertinent, and has swept away the whole fabric of ceremonial and sacrificial worship; and it knows of the derived priesthood which belongs to every member of Christ’s Church. But it stops there; and there is not a word in the New Testament which warrants any single member of that universal priesthood monopolizing the title to himself, and so separating himself from the community of his brethren. I do not wish to elaborate that point, or to bring any mere controversial elements into my sermon, but I am bound to say that if that name of priest be given to a class, you elevate the class and you degrade the mass of believers. You take away from the community what you concentrate on the individual. And historically it has always been the case that wherever the name of priest has been allotted to the officials, the ministers of the Church, there the priesthood of the community has tended to be forgotten.
I do not dwell upon the other great error which goes along with that name as applied to an officer in any Christian community. But a priest must have a sacrifice, and you cannot sustain the sacerdotal idea except by the help of the sacramentarian idea which, I venture to say, travesties the simple memorial rite of the Lord’s Supper into what it is called in Roman Catholic phraseology, ‘the tremendous sacrifice.’
Brethren, the hand of the priest paralyses the life of the Church; and politically, intellectually, socially, and above all religiously, it blights whatsoever it touches. You free Churchmen have laid upon you this day the imperative duty of witnessing for the two things, the sole priesthood of Jesus Christ, and the universal priesthood of all His people.
Let me say again, these thoughts bear upon our individual duty. It is idle, as some of us are too apt to do, to use them as a weapon to fight ecclesiastical assumptions with, unless they regulate our own lives. Be what you are is what I would say to all Christian men. You are a king; see that you rule yourself and the world. You are a priest; see that the path into the Temple is worn by your continual feet. See that you offer yourselves sacrifices to God in the daily work and self-surrender of life. See that you mediate between God and man, in such brotherly mediation as is possible to us.
Above all, dear friends, let us all begin where Christ begins, where my text begins, and go to Him to have ourselves ‘loosed from our sins in His own blood.’ Then the king’s diadem and the priest’s mitre will meet on our happy heads. In plain English, if we want to govern ourselves and the world, we must let Christ govern us, and then all things will be our servants. If we would draw near to God-and to be distant from Him is misery; and if we would offer to Him the sacrifices-to refrain from offering which is sin and sorrow-we must begin with going to Jesus Christ, and trusting in Him as our Redeemer from sin. And then, so trusting, He will give us here and now, amid the sorrows and imperfections of life, and more perfectly amid the glories and unknown advances in power and beauty in the heavens, a share in His Royalty and His unchangeable Priesthood.
THE THREEFOLD COMMON HERITAGE
So does the Apostle introduce himself to his readers; with no word of pre-eminence or of apostolic authority, but with the simple claim to share with them in their Christian heritage. And this is the same man who, at an earlier stage of his Christian life, desired that he and his brother might’ sit on Thy right hand and on Thy left in Thy Kingdom.’ What a change had passed over him! What was it that out of such timber made such a polished shaft? I think there is only one answer-the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of God’s good Spirit that came after it.
It almost looks as if John was thinking about his old ambitious wish, and our Lord’s answer to it, when he wrote these words; for the very gist of our Lord’s teaching to him on that memorable occasion is reproduced in compressed form in my text. He had been taught that fellowship in Christ’s sufferings must go before participation in His throne; and so here he puts tribulation before the kingdom. He had been taught, in answer to his foolish request, that pre-eminence was not the first thing to think of, but service; and that the only principle according to which rank was determined in that kingdom was service. So here he says nothing about dignity, but calls himself simply a brother and companion. He humbly suppresses his apostolic authority, and takes his place, not by the side of the throne, apart from others, but down among them.
Now the Revised Version is distinctly an improved version in its rendering of these words. It reads ‘partaker with you,’ instead of ‘companion,’ and so emphasizes the notion of participation. It reads, ‘in the tribulation and kingdom and patience,’ instead of ‘in tribulation and in the kingdom and patience’; and so, as it were, brackets all the three nouns together under one preposition and one definite article, and thus shows more closely their connection. And instead of ‘in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,’ it reads, ‘which are in Jesus Christ,’ and so shows that the predicate, ‘in Jesus Christ,’ extends to all the three-the ‘tribulation,’ the ‘kingdom,’ and the ‘patience,’ and not only to the last of the three, as would be suggested to an ordinary reader of our English version. So that we have here a participation by all Christian men in three things, all of which are, in some sense, ‘ in Christ Jesus.’ Note that participation in ‘the kingdom’ stands in the centre, buttressed, as it were, on the one side by participation ‘in the tribulation,’ and on the other side by participation ‘ in the patience.’ We may, then, best bring out the connection and force of these thoughts by looking at the common royalty, the common road leading to it, and the common temper in which the road is trodden-all which things do inhere in Christ, and may be ours on condition of our union with Him.
I. So then, first, note the common royalty. ‘I John am a partaker with you in the kingdom.’
Now John does not say, ‘ I am going to be a partaker,’ but says, ‘Here and now, in this little rocky island of Patmos, an exile and all but a martyr, I yet, like all the rest of you, who have the same weird to dree, and the same bitter cup to drink, even now am a partaker of the kingdom that is in Christ.’
What is that kingdom? It is the sphere or society, the state or realm, in which His will is obeyed; and, as we may say, His writs run. His kingdom, in the deepest sense of the word, is only there, where loving hearts yield, and where His will is obeyed consciously, because the conscious obedience is rooted in love.
But then, besides that, there is a wider sense of the expression in which Christ’s kingdom stretches all through the universe, and wherever the authority of God is there is the kingdom of the exalted Christ, who is the right hand and active power of God.
So then the ‘kingdom that is in Christ’ it yours if you are ‘in Christ.’ Or, to put it into other words, whoever is ruled by Christ has a share in rule with Christ. Hence the words in the context here, to which a double meaning may be attached, ‘He hath made us to be a kingdom.’ We are His kingdom in so far as our wills joyfully and lovingly submit to His authority; and then, in so far as we are His kingdom, we are kings. So far as our wills bow to and own His sway, they are invested with power to govern ourselves and others. His subjects are the world’s masters. Even now, in the midst of confusions and rebellions, and apparent contradictions, the true rule in the world belongs to the men and women who bow to the authority of Jesus Christ. Whoever worships Him, saying, ‘Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ,’ receives from Him the blessed assurance, ‘and I appoint unto you a kingdom.’ His vassals are altogether princes. He is ‘King of kings,’ not only in the sense that He is higher than the kings of the earth, but also in the sense, though it be no part of the true meaning of the expression, that those whom He rules are, by the very submission to His rule, elevated to royal dignity.
We rule over ourselves, which is the best kingdom to govern, on condition of saying:-’Lord! I cannot rule myself, do Thou rule me.’ When we put the reins into His hands, when we put our consciences into His keeping, when we take our law from His gentle and yet sovereign lips, when we let Him direct our thinking; when His word is absolute truth that ends all controversy, and when His will is the supreme authority that puts an end to every hesitation and reluctance, then we are masters of ourselves. The man that has rule over his own spirit is the true king. He that thus is Christ’s man is his own master. Being lords of ourselves, and having our foot upon our passions, and conscience and will flexible in His hand and yielding to His lightest touch, as a fine-mouthed horse does to the least pressure of the bit, then we are masters of circumstances and the world; and all things are on our side if we are on Christ’s side.
So we do not need to wait for Heaven to be heirs, that is possessors, of the kingdom that God hath prepared for them that love Him. Christ’s dominion is shared even now and here by all who serve Him. It is often hard for us to believe this about ourselves or others, especially when toil weighs upon us, and adverse circumstances, against which we have vainly striven, tyrannize over our lives. We feel more like powerless victims than lords of the world. Our lives seem concerned with such petty trivialities, and so absolutely lorded over by externals, that to talk of a present dominion over a present world seems irony, flatly contradicted by facts. We are tempted to throw forward the realization of our regality to the future. We are heirs, indeed, of a great kingdom, but for the present are set to keep a small huckster’s shop in a back street. So we faithlessly say to ourselves; and we need to open our eyes, as John would have his brethren do, to the fact of the present participation of every Christian in the present kingdom of the enthroned Christ. There can be no more startling anomalies in our lots than were in his, as he sat there in Patmos, a solitary exile, weighed upon with many cares, ringed about with perils not a few. But in them all he knew his share in the kingdom to be real and inalienable, and yielding much for present fruition, however much more remained over for hope and future possession. The kingdom is not only ‘of but ‘in’ Jesus Christ. He is, as it were, the sphere in which it is realized. If we are ‘in Him’ by that faith which engrafts us into Him, we shall ourselves both be and possess that kingdom, and possess it, because we are it.
But while the kingdom is present, its perfect form is future. The crown of righteousness is laid up for God’s people, even though they are already a kingdom, and already according to the true reading of Rev_5:10 ‘reign upon the earth.’ Great hopes, the greater for their dimness, gather round that future when the faithfulness of the steward shall be exchanged for the authority of the ruler, and the toil of the servant for the joy of the Lord. The presumptuous ambition of John in his early request did not sin by setting his hopes too high; for, much as he asked when he sought a place at the right hand of his Master’s throne, his wildest dreams fell far below the reality, reserved for all who overcome, of a share in that very throne itself. There is room there, not for one or two of the aristocracy of heaven, but for all the true servants of Christ.
They used to say that in the days of the first Napoleon every French soldier carried a field-marshal’s baton in his knapsack. That is to say, every one of them had the chance of winning it, and many of them did win it. But every Christian soldier carries a crown in his, and that not because he perhaps may, but because he certainly will, wear it, when the war is over, if he stands by his flag, and because he has it already in actual possession, though for the present the helmet becomes his brow rather than the diadem. On such themes we can say little, only let us remember that the present and the future life of the Christian are distinguished, not by the one possessing the royalty which the other wants, but as the partial and perfect forms of the same kingdom, which, in both forms alike, depends on our true abiding in Him. That kingdom is in Him, and is the common heritage of all who are in Him, and who, on earth and in heaven, possess it in degrees varying accurately with the measure in which they are in Christ, and He in them.
II. Note, secondly, the common road to that common royalty.
As I have remarked, the kingdom is the central thought here, and the other two stand on either side as subsidiary: on the one hand, a common ‘tribulation’; on the other, a common ‘patience.’ The former is the path by which all have to travel who attain the royalty; the latter is the common temper in which all the travelers must face the steepnesses and roughnesses of the road.
‘Tribulation’ has, no doubt, primarily reference to actual persecution, such as had sent John to his exile in Patmos, and hung like a threatening thunder-cloud over the Asiatic churches. But the significance of the word is not exhausted thereby. It is always true that ‘through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.’ All who are bound to the same place, and who start from the same place, must go by the same road. There are no short-cuts nor by-paths for the Christian pilgrim. The only way to the kingdom that is in Christ is the road which He Himself trod. There is ‘tribulation in Christ,’ as surely as in Him there are peace and victory, and if we are in Christ we shall be sure to get our share of it. The Christian course brings now difficulties and trials of its own, and throws those who truly out-and-out adopt it into relations with the world which will surely lead to oppositions and pains. If we are in the world as Christ was, we shall have to make up our minds to share ‘the reproach of Christ’ until Egypt owns Him, and not Pharaoh, for its King. If there be no such experience, it is much more probable that the reason for exemption is the Christian’s worldliness than the world’s growing Christlikeness.
No doubt the grosser forms of persecution are at an end, and no doubt multitudes of nominal Christians live on most amicable terms with the world, and know next to nothing of the tribulation that is in Christ. But that is not because there is any real alteration in the consequences of union with Jesus, but because their union is so very slight and superficial. The world ‘loves its own’ and what can it find to hate in the shoals of people, whose religion is confined to their tongues mostly, and has next to nothing to do with their lives? It has not ceased to be a hard thing to be a real and thorough Christian. A great deal in the world is against us when we try to be so, and a great deal in ourselves is against us. There will be ‘ tribulation’ by reason of self-denial, and the mortification and rigid suppression or regulation of habits, tastes, and passions, which some people may be able to indulge, but which we must cast out, though dear and sensitive as a right eye, if they interfere with our entrance into life. The law is unrepealed-’If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him.’
But this participation in the tribulation that is in Christ has another and gentler aspect. The expression points to the blessed softening of our hardest trials when they are borne in union with the Man of Sorrows. The sunniest lives have their dark times. Sooner or later we all have to lay our account with hours when the heart bleeds and hope dies, and we shall not find strength to bear such times aright unless we bear them in union with Jesus Christ, by which our darkest sorrows are turned into the tribulation that is in Him, and all the bitterness, or, at least, the poison of the bitterness, taken out of them, and they almost changed into a solemn joy. Egypt would be as barren as the desert which bounds it, were it not for the rising of the Nile; so when the cold waters of sorrow rise up and spread over our hearts, if we are Christians, they will leave a precious deposit when they retire, on which will grow rich harvests. Some edible plants are not fit for use till they have had a touch of frost. Christian character wants the same treatment. It is needful for us that the road to the kingdom should often run through the valley of weeping. Our being in the kingdom depends upon the bending of our wills in submission to the King; then surely nothing should be more welcome to us, as nothing can be more needful, than anything which bends them, even if the fire which makes their obstinacy pliable, and softens the iron so that it runs in the appointed mould, should have to be very hot. The soil of the vineyards on the slopes of Vesuvius is disintegrated lava. The richest grapes, from which a precious wine is made, grow on the product of eruptions which tore the mountain-side and darkened all the sky. So our costliest graces of character are grown in a heart enriched by losses and made fertile by convulsions which rent it and covered smiling verdure with what seemed at first a fiery flood of ruin. The kingdom is reached by the road of tribulation. Blessed are they for whom the universal sorrows which flesh is heir to become helps heavenwards because they are borne in union with Jesus, and so hallowed into ‘ tribulation that is in Him.’
III. We note the common temper in which the common road to the common royalty is to be trodden.
‘Tribulation’ refers to circumstances-’patience’ to disposition. We shall certainly meet with tribulation if we are Christians, and if we are, we shall front tribulation with patience. Both are equally, though in different ways, characteristics of all the true travelers to the kingdom. Patience is the link, so to speak, between the kingdom and the tribulation. Sorrow does not of itself lead to the possession of the kingdom. All depends on the disposition which the sorrow evokes, and the way in which it is borne. We may take our sorrows in such a fashion as to be driven by them out of our submission to Christ, and so they may lead us away from and not towards the kingdom. The worst affliction is an affliction wasted, and every affliction is wasted, unless it is met with patience and that in Christ Jesus. Many a man is soured, or paralyzed, or driven from his faith, or drowned in self-absorbed and self-compassionating regret, or otherwise harmed by his sorrows, and the only way to get the real good of them is to keep closely united to our Lord, that in Him we may have patience as well as peace.
Most of us know that the word here translated ‘patience’ means a great deal more than the passive endurance which we usually mean by that word, and distinctly includes the notion of active perseverance. That active element is necessarily implied, for instance, in the exhortation, ‘Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.’ Mere uncomplaining passive endurance is not the temper which leads to running any race. It simply bears and does nothing, but the persistent effort of the runner with tense muscles calls for more than patience. A vivid metaphor underlies the word-that of the fixed attitude of one bearing up a heavy weight or pressure without yielding or being crushed. Such immovable constancy is more than passive. There must be much active exercise of power to prevent collapse. But all the strength is not to be exhausted in the effort to bear without flinching. There should be enough remaining for work that remains over and above the sorrow. The true Christian patience implies continuance in well-doing, besides meek acceptance of tribulation. The first element in it is, no doubt, unmurmuring acquiescence in whatsoever affliction from God or man beats against us on our path. But the second is continual effort after Christian progress, notwithstanding the tribulation. The storm must not blow us out of our course. We must still’ bear up and steer right onward,’ in spite of all its force on our faces, or, as ‘ birds of tempest-loving kind’ do, so spread our pinions as to be helped by it towards our goal.
Do I address any one who has to stagger along the Christian course under some heavy and, perhaps, hopeless load of sorrow? There is a plain lesson for all of us in such circumstances. It is not less my duty to seek to grow in grace and Christlikeness because I am sad. That is my first business at all times and under all changes of fortune and mood. My sorrows are meant to help me to that, and if they so absorb me that I am indifferent to the obligation of Christian progress, then my patience, however stoical and uncomplaining it may be, is not the ‘ perseverance that is in Christ Jesus.’ Nor does tribulation absolve from plain duties. Poor Mary of Bethany sat still in the house, with her hands lying idly in her lap, and her regrets busy with the most unprofitable of all occupations-fancying how different all would have been if one thing had been different. Sorrow is excessive and misdirected and selfish, and therefore hurtful, when for the sake of indulgence in it we fling up plain tasks. The glory of the kingdom shining athwart the gloom of the tribulation should help us to be patient, and the patience, laying hold of the tribulation by the right handle, should convert it into a blessing and an instrument for helping us to a fuller possession of the kingdom.
This temper of brave and active persistence in the teeth of difficulties will only be found where these other two are found-in Christ. The stem from which the three-leaved plant grows must be rooted in Him. He is the King, and in Him abiding we have our share of the common royalty. He is the forerunner and pathfinder, and, abiding in Him, we tread the common path to the common kingdom, which is hallowed at every rough place by the print of His bleeding feet. He is the leader and perfecter of faith, and, abiding in Him, we receive some breath of the spirit which was in Him, who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame. Abiding in Him, we shall possess in our measure all which is in Him, and find ourselves partakers with an innumerable company ‘in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Christ Jesus,’ and may hope to hear at last, ‘Ye are they which have continued with Me in My temptations, and I appoint unto you a Kingdom, as My Father hath appointed unto Me.’
THE KING OF GLORY AND LORD OF THE CHURCHES
In this passage we have the seer and his commission Rev_1:9-11; the vision of the glorified Christ Rev_1:12-16; His words of comfort, self-revelation, and command Rev_1:17-20.
I. The writer does not call himself an apostle, but a brother and sharer in the common good of Christians. He does not speak as an apostle, whose function was to witness to the past earthly history of the Lord, but as a prophet, whose message was as to the future.
The true rendering of verse 9 R.V. brings all three words, ‘tribulation,’ ‘kingdom,’ and ‘patience’ into the same relation to ‘in Jesus.’ Sharing in afflictions which flow from union to Him is the condition of partaking in His kingdom; and tribulation leads to the throne, when it is borne with the brave patience which not only endures, but, in spite of sorrows, goes right onwards, and which is ours if we are in Christ.
Commentators tell us that John was banished to Patmos, an insignificant rock off the Asiatic coast, under Domitian, and returned to Ephesus in the reign of Nerva A.D. 96. No wonder that all through the book we hear the sound of the sea! It was common for the Romans to dispose of criminals in that fashion, and, clearly, John was shut up in Patmos as a criminal. ‘For the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus,’ cannot fairly bear any other meaning than that he was sent there as punishment for bearing witness to Jesus. Observe the use of ‘witness’ or testimony, as connecting the Apocalypse with the Gospel and Epistles of John.
In his rocky solitude the Apostle was ‘in the Spirit,’ -by which is, of course, not meant the condition in which every Christian should ever be, but such a state of elevated consciousness and communion as Paul was in when he was caught up to the heavens. No doubt John had been meditating on the unforgotten events of that long-past day of resurrection, which he was observing in his islet by solitary worship, as he had often observed it with his brethren in Ephesus; and his devout thoughts made him the more capable of supernatural communications. Whether the name of the first day of the week as ‘the Lord’s Day’ originated with this passage, or had already become common, is uncertain. But, at all events, it was plainly regarded as the day for Christian worship. Solitary souls, far away from the gatherings of Christ’s people, may still draw near to Him; and if they turn thought and love towards Him, they will be lifted above this gross earth, and bear that great voice speaking to them, which rose above the dash of waves, and thrilled the inward ear of the lonely exile. That voice, penetrating and clear like a trumpet, gave him his charge, and woke his expectation of visions to follow.
We cannot enter on any consideration of the churches enumerated, or the reasons for their selection. Suffice it to note that their number suggests their representative character, and that what is said to them is meant for all churches in all ages.
II. The fuller consideration of the emblem of the candlesticks will come presently, but we have reverently to gaze upon the glorious figure which flashed on John’s sight as he turned to see who spoke to him there in his loneliness.
His first glimpse told him that it was ‘one like to the Son of man’; for it can scarcely be supposed that the absence of the definite article in the Greek obliges us to think that all that John meant to say was that the form was manlike. Surely it was a more blessed resemblance than that vague one which struck on his heart. It was He Himself ‘ with His human air,’ standing there in the blaze of celestial light. What a rush of memories, what a rapture of awe and surprise would flood his soul, as that truth broke on him! The differences between the form seen and that remembered were startling, indeed, but likeness persisted through them all. Nor is it inexplicable that, when he had taken in all the features of the vision, he should have fallen as one dead; for the truest love would feel awe at the reappearance of the dearest invested with heavenly radiance.
The elements of the description are symbolical, and, in most instances, drawn from the Old Testament. The long robe, girdled high up with a golden girdle, seems to express at once kingly and priestly dignity. Girded loins meant work. This girdled breast meant royal repose and priestly calm. The whiteness of the hair comp. Dan. vii. 9 may indicate, as in Daniel, length of days; but more probably it expresses ‘the transfiguration in light of the glorified person of the Redeemer’ Trench. The flaming eyes are the symbol of His all-seeing wrath against evil, and the feet of burning brass symbolize the exalted Christ’s power to tread down His enemies and consume them. His voice was as the sound of many waters, like the billows that broke on Patmos, whereby is symbolized the majesty of His utterance of power, whether for rebuke or encouragement, but mainly for the former.
Flashing in His hand were seven stars. The seer does not stop to tell us how they were disposed there, nor how one hand could grasp them all; but that right hand can and does. What this point of the vision means we shall see presently.
The terrible power of the exalted Christ’s word to destroy His foes is expressed by that symbol of the two-edged sword from His mouth, which, like so many prophetic symbols, is grotesque if pictured, but sublime when spoken. The face blazed with dazzling brightness unbearable as the splendors of that southern sun which poured its rays on the flashing waters round John’s rocky prison.
Is this tremendous figure like the Christ on whose bosom John had leaned? Yes; for one chief purpose of this book is to make us feel that the exalted Jesus is the same in all essentials as the lowly Jesus. The heart that beats beneath the golden girdle is the same that melted with pity and overflowed with love here. The hands that bear the seven stars are those that were pierced with nails. The eyes that flash fire are those that dropped tears at a grave and over Jerusalem. The lips from which issues the sharp sword are the same which said, ‘I will give you rest.’ He has carried all His love, His gentleness, His sympathy, into the blaze of Deity, and in His glory is still our brother.
III. His gracious words to John tell us this and more. Soothingly He laid the hand with the stars in it on the terrified Apostle, and gentle words, which he had heard Him say many a time on earth, came soothingly from the mouth from which the sword proceeded. How the calming graciousness rises into majesty! ‘I am the first and the last.’ That is a Divine prerogative Isa_44:6. The glorified Christ claims to have been before all creatures, and to be the end to which all tend.
Verse 18 should be more closely connected with the preceding than in Authorized Version. The sentence runs on unbroken, ‘and the Living one,’ which is equivalent to the claim to possess life in Himself John v. 26, on which follows in majestic continuity, ‘and I became dead’-pointing to the mystery of the Lord of life entering into the conditions of humanity, and stooping to taste of death-’and, behold, I am alive for evermore’-the transient eclipse of the grave is followed by glorious life for ever-’ and I have the keys of death and of Hades’-having authority over that dark prison-house, and opening and shutting its gates as I will.
Mark how, in these solemn words, the threefold state of the eternal Word is set forth, in His pre-incarnate fullness of Divine life, in His submission to death, in His resurrection, and in His ascended glory, as Lord of life and death, and of all worlds. Does our faith grasp all these? We shall never understand His life and death on earth, unless we see before them the eternal dwelling of the Word with God, and after them the exaltation of His manhood to the throne of the universe.
The charge to the Apostle, which follows on this transcendent revelation, has two parts-the command to write his visions, and the explanation of the symbols of the stars and the candlesticks. As to the former, we need only note that it extends to the whole book, and that the three divisions of ‘what thou seest,’ ‘the things which are,’ and ‘the things which shall be hereafter,’ may refer, respectively, to the vision in this chapter, the letters to the seven churches, and the subsequent prophetic part of the book.
As to the explanation of the symbols, stars are always, in Scripture, emblems of authority, and here they are clearly so. But there is great difference of opinion as to the meaning of the ‘angels,’ which are variously taken as being guardian angels of each church, or the presiding officers of these, or ideal figures representing each church in its collective aspect. It is impossible to enter on the discussion of these views here, and we can only say that, in our judgment, the opinion that the angels are the bishops of the churches is the most probable. If so, the fact that they are addressed as representing the churches, responsible for and sharing in their spiritual condition, suggests very solemn thoughts as to the weight laid on every one who sustains an analogous position, and the inseparable connection between th« spiritual condition of pastor and people.
The seven candlesticks are the seven churches. The formal unity of the ancient church, represented by the one candlestick with its seven branches, is exchanged for the real unity which arises from the presence of Christ in the midst. The old candlestick is at the bottom of the Mediterranean. The unity of the Church does not depend on compression into one organization, but on all its parts being clustered around Jesus.
The emblem of the candlestick, or lamp-holder, may suggest lessons as to the Church’s function. Each church should be light. That light must be derived. There is only one unkindled and unfed light-that of Jesus Christ. Of the rest of us it has to be said, ‘ He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.’ Each church should be, as it were, a clustered light, like those rings of iron, pierced with many little holes, from each of which a tiny jet of gas comes, which, running all together, make one steady lustre. So we should each be content to blend our little twinkle in the common light.
THE LIVING ONE WHO BECAME DEAD
If we had been in ‘the isle which is called Patmos’ when John saw the glorified Lord, and heard these majestic words from His mouth, we should probably have seen nothing but the sunlight glinting on the water, and heard only the wave breaking on the shore. The Apostle tells us that he ‘was in the Spirit’; that is, in a state in which sense is lulled to sleep and the inner man made aware of supersensual realities. The communication was none the less real because it was not perceived by the outward eye or ear. It was not born in, though it was perceived by, the Apostle’s spirit. We must hold fast by the objective reality of the communication, which is not in the slightest degree affected by the assumption that sense had no part in it.
Further what John once saw always is; the vision was a transient revelation of a permanent reality. The snowy summits are there, behind the cloud-wrack that hides them, as truly as they were when the sunshine gleamed on their peaks. The veil has fallen again, but all behind it is as it was. So this revelation, both in regard of the magnificent symbolic image imprinted on the Apostle’s consciousness, and in regard of the words which he reports to us as impressed upon him by Christ Himself, is meant for us just as it was for him, or for those to whom it was originally transmitted. ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches.’ And as we meditate upon this proclamation by the kingly Christ Himself of His own style and titles, I think we shall best gain its full sublimity and force if we simply take the words, clause by clause, as they stand in the text.
I. First, then, the royal Christ proclaims His absolute life.
Observe that, as the Revised Version will show those who use it, there is a much closer connection between the words of our text and those of the preceding verse than our Authorized Version gives. We must strike out that intrusive and wholly needless supplement,’ I am,’ and read the sentence unbrokenly: ‘I am the first, and the last and the living One.’
Now that close connection of clauses in itself suggests that this expression, ‘the Living One,’ means something more than the mere declaration that He was alive. That follows appropriately, as we shall see, in the last clause of the verse, which cannot be cleared from the charge of tautology, unless we attach a far deeper meaning than the mere declaration of life to this first solemn clause. What can stand worthily by the side of these majestic words, ‘I am the first and the last’? These claim a Divine attribute and are a direct quotation from ancient prophecy, where they are spoken as by the great Jehovah of the old covenant, and appear in a connection which makes any tampering with them the more impossible. For there follow upon them the great words, ‘and beside Me there is no God.’ But this royal Christ from the heavens puts out an unpresumptuous hand, and draws to Himself, as properly belonging to Him, the very style and signature of the Divine nature, ‘I am the first’-before all creatural being, ‘and the last,’ as He to whom it all tends-its goal and aim. And therefore I say that this connection of clauses, apart altogether from other consideration, absolutely forbids our taking this great word, ‘the Living One,’ as meaning less than the similar lofty and profound signification. It means, as I believe, exactly what Jesus Christ meant when, in the hearing of this same Apostle, He said upon earth, ‘As the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given’- strange paradox-’ so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.’ A life which, considered in contrast with all the life of creatures, is underived, independent, self-feeding, and, considered in contrast with the life of the Father with whom that Son stands in ineffable and unbroken union, is bestowed. It is a paradox, I know, but until we assume that we have sounded all the depths and climbed all the heights, and gone round the boundless boundaries of the circumference of that Divine nature, we have no business to say that it is impossible. And this, as I take it, is what the great words that echoed from Heaven in the Apostle’s hearing upon Patmos meant-the claim by the glorified Christ to possess absolute fontal life, and to be the Source of all creation, ‘in whom was life.’ He was not only ‘the Living One,’ but, as Himself has said, He was ‘the Life.’ And so He was the agent of all creation, as Scripture teaches us.
Now I am not going to dwell upon this great thought, but I simply wish, in one sentence, to leave with you my own earnest conviction that it is the teaching of all Scripture, that it is distinctly the teaching of Christ Himself when on earth; that it is repeated in a real revelation from Himself to the recipient seer in this vision before us, that it is fundamental to all true understanding of Christ’s person and work, since none of His acts on earth shine in their full lustre of beauty unless the thought of His pre-incarnate and essential life is held fast to heighten all the marvels of His condescension, and to invest with power all the sweetness of His pity. ‘I am the first, and the last, and the Living One.’
II. Secondly, the royal Christ proclaims His submission to death.
The language of the original is, perhaps, scarcely capable of smooth transference into English, but it is to be held fast notwithstanding, for what is said is not ‘I was dead,’ as describing a past condition, but ‘I became dead,’ as describing a past act. There is all the difference between these two, and avoidance of awkwardness is dearly purchased by obliteration of the solemn teaching of that profound word ‘ became.’
I need not dwell upon this at any length, but I suggest to you one or two plain considerations. Such a statement implies our Lord’s assumption of flesh. The only possibility of death, for ‘ the Living One,’ lies in His enwrapping Himself with that which can die. As you might put a piece of asbestos into a twist of cotton wool, over which the flame could have power, or as a sun might plunge into thick envelopes of darkness, so this eternal, absolute Life gathered to itself by voluntary accretion the surrounding which was capable of mortality. It is very significant that the same word which the seer in Patmos employs to describe the Lord’s submission to death is the word which, in his character of evangelist, he employs to describe the same Lord’s incarnation: ‘The Word became flesh,’ and so the Life ‘became dead.’ And this expression implies, too, another thing, on which I need not dwell, because I was touching on it in a previous sermon, and that is the entirely voluntary character of our Lord’s submission to the great law of mortality. He ‘became ‘ dead, and it was His act that He became so.
Thus we are brought into the presence of the most stupendous fact in the world’s history. Brethren, as I said that the firm grasp of the other truth of Christ’s absolute life was fundamental to all understanding of His earthly career, so I say that this fundamental truth of His voluntarily becoming dead is fundamental to all understanding of His Cross. Without that thought His death becomes mere surplusage, in so far as His power over men is concerned. With it, what adoration can be too lowly, what gratitude can be disproportionate? He arrays Himself in that which can die, as if the sun plunged into the shadow of eclipse. Let us bow before that mystery of Divine love, the death of the Lord of Life. The motive which impelled Him, the consequences which followed, are | not in view here. These are full of blessedness and of wonder, but we are now to concentrate our thoughts on the bare fact, and to find in it food for endless adoration and for perpetual praise.
But there is another consideration that I may suggest. The eternal Life became dead. Then the awful solitude-awful when we think of it for ourselves, awful when we stand by the bed, and feel so near, and yet so infinitely remote from the dear one that may be lying there-the awful solitude is solitary no longer. ‘All alone, so Heaven has willed, we die’; but as travelers are cheered on a solitary road when they see the footprints that they know belonged to loved and trusted ones who have trodden it before, that desolate loneliness is less lonely when we think that He became dead. He will come to the shrinking, single j soul as He joined Himself to the sad travelers on the I road to Emmaus, and ‘our hearts’ may burn within us, even in that last hour of their beating, if we can remember who has become dead and trodden the road before us.
III. The royal Christ proclaims His eternal life in glory.
‘Behold!’-as if calling attention to a wonder-’ I am alive for evermore.’ Again, I say, we have here a distinctly Divine prerogative claimed by the exalted Christ, as properly belonging to Himself. For that eternal life of which He speaks is by no means the communicated immortality which He imparts to them that in His love go down to death, but it is the inherent eternal life of the Divine nature.
But, mark, who is the ‘I’ that speaks? The seer has told us: ‘One like unto the Son of Man’-which title, whether it repeats the name which our Lord habitually used, or whether, as some persons suppose, it should be read ‘ a Son of Man,’ and merely declares that the vision of the glorified One was manlike, is equally relevant for my present purpose. For that is to ask you to mark that the ‘I’ of my text is the Divine human Jesus. The manhood is so intertwined with the Deity that the absolute life of the latter has, as it were, flowed over and glorified the former; and it is a Man who lays His hand upon the Divine prerogative, and says, ‘I live for evermore.’
Now why do I dwell upon thoughts like this? Not for the purpose merely of putting accurately what I believe to be the truth, but for the sake of opening out to you and to myself the infinite treasures of consolation and strength which lie in that thought that He who ‘is alive for evermore’ is not merely Divine in His absolute life, but, as Son of Man, lives for ever. And so,’ because I live, ye shall live also.’ We cannot die as long as Christ is alive. And if we knit our hearts to Him, the Divine glory which flows over His Manhood will trickle down to ours, and we, too, though by derivation, shall possess as immortal - and, in its measure, as glorious-a life as that of the Brother who reigns in Heaven, the Man Christ Jesus.
His resurrection is not only the demonstration of what manhood is capable and so, as I believe, the one irrefragable and all-satisfying proof of immortality, but it is also the actual source of that immortal life to all of us, if we will trust ourselves to Him. For it is only because ‘He both died and rose and revived’ that He, in the truest and properest sense, becomes the gift of life to us men. The alabaster box was broken, and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Christ’s death is the world’s life. Christ’s resurrection is the pledge and the source of eternal life for us.
IV. And so, lastly, the royal Christ proclaims His authority over the dim regions of the dead.
Much to be regretted are two things in our Authorized Version’s rendering of the final words of our text. One is the order in which, following an inferior reading, it has placed the two things specified. And the other is that deplorable mistranslation, as it has come to be, of the word hades by the word ‘hell.’ The true original does not read ‘hell and death,’ but ‘death and hades,’ the dim unseen regions in which all the dead, whatsoever their condition may be, are gathered. The hades of the New Testament includes the paradise into which the penitent thief was promised entrance, as well as the Gehenna which threatened to open for the impenitent.
Here it is figured as being a great gloomy fortress, with bars and gates and locks, of which that’ shadow feared of man’ is the warder, and keeps the portals. But he does not keep the keys. The kingly Christ has these in His own hand. So, brethren, He has authority to open and to shut; and death is not merely a terror nor is it altogether accounted for, when we say either that it is the fruit of sin, or that it is the result of physical laws. For behind the laws is the will-the will of the loving Christ. It is His hand that opens the dark door, and they who listen aright may hear Him say, when He does it,’ Come! My people; enter thou into thy chamber until these calamities be over past.’ ‘He openeth, and no man shutteth; He shutteth, and no man openeth.’ So is not the terror gone; and ‘the raven plumes of that darkness smoothed until it smiles’?
If we believe that He has the keys, how shall we dread when ourselves or our dear ones have to enter into the portal? There are two gates to the prison house, and when the one that looks earthwards opens, the other, that gives on the heavens, opens too, and the prison becomes a thoroughfare, and the light shines through the short tunnel even to the hither side.
Because He has the keys, He will not leave His holy ones in the fetters. And for ourselves, and for our dearest, we have the right to think that the darkness is so short as to be but like an imperceptible wink of the eye; and ere we know that we have passed into it, we shall have passed out.
‘This is the gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter.’ And it may be with us as it was with the Apostle who was awakened out of his sleep by the angel-only we shall be awakened out of ours by the angel’s Master-and who did not come to himself, and know that he had been delivered, until he had passed through the iron gate ‘that opened to him of its own accord’; and then, bewildered, he recovered himself when he found that, with the morning breaking over his head, he stood, delivered, in the city.
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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 1". MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany