And I saw. The usual introduction to a new vision (cf. Revelation 20:11, etc.). Having described the origin and progress of evil in the world, the final overthrow of Satan and his adherents, and the judgment when every man is rewarded according to his works, the seer now completes the whole by portraying the eternal bliss of the redeemed in heaven (cf. on Revelation 20:10). The description is based upon Isaiah 60:1-22. and Ezekiel 40:1-49., et seq.; especially the latter, which follows the account of God and Magog, as does this. A new heaven and a new earth. The dispute as to whether a new creation is intended, or a revivified earth, seems to be founded on the false assumption that the dwellers in heaven must be localized in space (cf. Isaiah 65:17, "I create new heavens and a new earth;" also Isaiah 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13). For the first heaven and the first earth were passed away. The Revisers follow B and others in reading ἀπῆλθον, and render it by the English perfect tense. In א, A, is read ἀπῆλθαν, while other manuscripts give ἀπῆλθεν and παρῆλθε. The first heaven and earth; that is, those now existing pass away as described in Revelation 20:11. And there was no more sea; and the sea no longer exists. The threefold division of heaven, earth, and sea represents the whole of this world (cf. Revelation 10:6). Some interpret the sea symbolically of the restless, unstable, wicked nations of the earth, which now exist no longer; others understand the absence of sea to typify the absence of instability and wickedness in the New Jerusalem.
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem. "John" must be omitted, according to all the best manuscripts. "The holy city" is the Church of God (see on Revelation 11:2), now glorified and prepared for perfect communion with her Redeemer (cf. the promise in Revelation 3:12, which is now fulfilled; cf. also Galatians 4:26; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:16). Contrast this figure of the holy city with that of Babylon (see on Revelation 18:1-24.). Coming down from God out of heaven. Connect "out of heaven" with "coming down." The same words occur in Revelation 3:12 (which see). Prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Here is the contrast to the "harlot" (see on Revelation 17:1). Though many of those forming the bride are rewarded according to their works (see Revelation 20:13), yet their own works are insufficient to fit them for their future life; they are prepared by God. This appearance is anticipated in Revelation 19:7 (which see).
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying. Out of the throne is read in א, A, and others; out of heaven is the reading of B, P, etc. As usual, the voice is described as a great voice (cf. Revelation 19:17, etc.). It is not stated from whom the voice proceeds, but comp. Revelation 20:11. Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them; literally, he shall tabernacle with them. Still the seer is influenced by the language of Ezekiel: "And the heathen shall know that I the Lord do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them forevermore" (Ezekiel 37:28). Thus God makes his abode in his glorified Church—the New Jerusalem, among his spiritual Israel (cf. Revelation 7:15, where this vision has been already anticipated). And they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God; and they shall be his peoples, and himself shall be God with them, their God. The balance of authority is in favour of retaining the two last words, though they are omitted in א, B, and others. Evidently the same words as Ezekiel 37:27 (see above), "My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people." Cf. "God with them" with "Emmanuel" (Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 7:14). Now, the promise is redeemed in all its fulness. The plural "peoples" seems to point to the catholic nature of the New Jerusalem, which embraces many nations (cf. Ezekiel 37:24; also Revelation 7:9).
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain; and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain, any more (Revised Version). All tears; just as in Revelation 7:17 (cf. Isaiah 25:8, "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces;" cf. also Isaiah 65:19). There is "no more death" because sin is no mere (cf. Isaiah 51:11, "Sorrow and mourning shall flee away"), For the former things are passed away. ὅτι, "for," should probably be omitted, as in A and P, and א as first written. The former state of things is the state now existing, which will then have passed away as described in Revelation 7:1.
And he that sat upon the throne said; that sitteth (cf. Revelation 20:11 and Matthew 25:31). Behold, I make all things new. As in Revelation 21:1. So in Matthew 19:28, "Ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory," etc. And he said unto me, Write; and he saith, Write. Probably the angel (cf. Revelation 19:9; Revelation 14:13). The change from εἷπεν to λέγει, and the immediate return to εἷπεν, appear to indicate a change of speaker. For these words are true and faithful; faithful and true. So also in Revelation 19:9; Revelation 3:14, etc.
And he said unto me, It is done; and he said unto me, They are come to pass (Revised Version). It is uncertain what is the nominative intended. It may be the "words" just mentioned; or the incidents described in Revelation 21:1-5; or the Divine promises and judgments in general. The analogy of Revelation 16:17 supports the last, but it is not conclusive. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End; the Alpha and the Omega. As the book opens, so it closes, with the solemn assurance of the certainty and unchangeableness of God's eternal promises (cf. Revelation 1:8; Revelation 22:13). The second clause interprets the first; a third form of expressing the same idea occurs in Revelation 22:13, "the First and the Last." I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. The same ideas are repeated in Revelation 22:13-17. Again the symbolism of the prophet (cf. Revelation 22:3). There is also another reminiscence of Revelation 7:17 (cf. also Revelation 7:4 of this chapter). In exactly the same sense the words, "living water," are used in John 4:10 (cf. also Matthew 5:6, "thirst after righteousness").
He that overcometh shall inherit all things. The correct reading makes the sense plain: He that overcometh shall inherit these things, i.e. the promises just enumerated. These words show the reason for the words of Revelation 21:6; and may be called the text on which the Apocalypse is based (cf. Revelation 2:1-29.); for, though the words themselves do not often recur, yet the spirit of them is constantly appearing (cf. Revelation 12:11; see also John 16:33). And I will be his God, and he shall be my son (cf. Le 26:12, "And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people"). Some have thought that these words prove the Speaker to be God the Father; but it is impossible to separate the Persons of the Blessed Trinity in these chapters. This promise, first made to David concerning Solomon (2 Samuel 7:14), received its mystical fulfilment in Christ (Hebrews 1:5), and is now fulfilled in the members of Christ (Alford).
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death; but for the fearful, etc. The construction is changed in the middle of the verse. The fearful are those who, through cowardice, have not overcome (cf. Revelation 21:7). Abominable; those defiled with abominations (cf. Revelation 17:4). And murderers, and fornicators (cf. Revelation 14:4; Revelation 17:1, Revelation 17:2). And sorcerers (cf. Revelation 9:21; Revelation 18:23); those who deceived the heathen. And idolaters; the heathen who were deceived by them. All liars; all who are false in any way. Their part is in the lake, etc. (see on Revelation 20:10). These took no part in the first, spiritual, resurrection (Revelation 20:6); they now, therefore, inherit "the second death."
And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues. Omit "unto me." "Full of" must be connected with "angels." Just as these angels had carried out God's judgments upon the ungodly, and one of them had exhibited the judgment of the harlot (Revelation 17:1), so now one of them shows the picture of the bliss of the faithful—the bride of the Lamb. And talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife; hither (omitting "come"). The wording of this verse (except the last phrase) is almost identical with Revelation 17:1. The last phrase is the great contrast to the former chapter. In Revelation 17:1-18. I was seen a picture of a harlot, the unfaithful part of Christ's Church; here we have a description of those who have been "faithful unto death" (Revelation 2:10), and whose purity and faithfulness are symbolized under the figure of the "wife of the Lamb" (see on Revelation 17:1).
And he carried me away in the Spirit (so also in Revelation 17:3; cf. Revelation 1:10) to a great and high mountain. From which a clear view of "the city" might be obtained (cf. Ezekiel 40:2). The preposition ἐπί implies "on to." And showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God; showed me the holy city Jerusalem; not great, which is the title of Babylon (cf. Revelation 16:19). Just as the harlot, signifying faithless Christians, was identified with Babylon, the world city (see on Revelation 18:1-24.), so the bride, the faithful portion of Christ's flock, is merged in Jerusalem, the heavenly city. Coming down, etc. (cf. Revelation 21:2).
Having the glory of God. That is, the abiding presence of God, as the Shechinah (cf. Exodus 40:34; 1 Kings 8:11. Cf. also 1 Kings 8:3, supra). And her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; as it were a jasper stone (Revised Version). This light is again alluded to in Revelation 21:23. The jasper probably represents the modern diamond (see on Revelation 4:3). The brilliant light which illumines the city is the characteristic of "him that sat on the throne" (Revelation 4:3).
And had a wall great and high; having a wall. Omit each introductory "and." The wall is a type of the absolute security of the heavenly city; not that any further assault is expected. In Ezekiel 38:11 Gog and Magog prey upon the unwalled villages. And had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel (cf. the description in Ezekiel 48:1-35.). Twelve; as signifying completeness (cf. Revelation 4:9; Revelation 7:4-8), and as being the number of the tribes of Israel, which are the type of the spiritual Israel of God. Gates; rather, portals. The picture of the angels placed at the portals, still fulfilling their mission as guardians of men, shows the absolute security of the city. The names are written thereon: as on the stones of the ephod (Exodus 28:9) and breastplate (Exodus 39:14). Contrast the names of blasphemy (Revelation 18:3).
On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates. The following are the dispositions of the tribes in the Old Testament:—
Order in Numbers 2:1-34.
Order in Ezekiel 49:30.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; and on them twelve names, etc. (cf. Ephesians 2:20). The imagery is, of course, symbolical, and there can, therefore, be no question as to individual names of apostles, e.g. whether St. Matthias or St. Paul is the twelfth. Some writers have, without sufficient reason, brought forward this verse as indicating that the writer of the Apocalypse was not an apostle.
And he that talked with me had a golden reed to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof; had for a measure a golden reed to measure, etc. "He that spake" is the angel of Revelation 21:9 (cf. the action of Revelation 11:1; and Ezekiel 40:3, Ezekiel 40:5; Ezekiel 42:15, et seq.). Here the measuring is evidently to indicate the large extent of the city (see on Revelation 11:1). The reed is golden, as being the typical heavenly material.
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth. The shape is doubtless typical of that which is complete and symmetrical, to which nothing is wanting to render the shape perfect. The word τετράγωνος, "foursquare," is thus used by Greek philosophic writers. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. That is, in each direction. (On στάδιον, "furlong," see Revelation 14:20.) The number twelve thousand, which is the number of the sealed in each tribe (Revelation 7:1-17.), is typical of
There seems to be in this description a designed reference to the literal Babylon (see Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' art. "Babylon"). The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. The plain meaning seems to be that the city forms a vast cube, and this is typical of its perfect nature. The account given is that of a vision, and not of a reality, and therefore there is no need to attempt to reduce the enormous dimensions given here, as is done by some writers. The holy of holies was thus cubical in shape (1 Kings 6:20).
And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits. (For the signification of the number, see on Revelation 7:4.) The parallel between the shape of the city as just related and the holy of holies (vide supra) almost seems to have insensibly suggested the transition from stadia to cubits. The discrepancy between the height of the city, which is twelve thousand furlongs (Revelation 21:16), and the height of the wall, which is a hundred and forty-four cubits, has led to the suggestion that in the height of the city is included the hill on which it stands (Alford). Others understand that the wall is purposely described as of small height, because the writer wishes to indicate that "the most inconsiderable wall is sufficient to exclude all that is impure" (Dusterdieck). According to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel; of an angel. That is, the measure here used by the angel is that used by men (cf. "the number of a man," Revelation 13:18).
And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass; pure glass. The exceeding brightness and purity is the idea contained in both expressions—the light of Revelation 21:11, which is there associated with jasper and crystal. (On "jasper," see on Revelation 21:11 and Revelation 4:3.) The whole description is, of course, typical, not literal.
And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. Omit "and" (cf. Isaiah 54:12, "All thy borders of pleasant stones"). Foundations (cf. Revelation 21:14). The first foundation was jasper. Probably the diamond (see on Revelation 4:3). The second, sapphire. Thought to be the modern lapis lazuli. It was of a clear blue colour (Exodus 24:10), and very precious (Job 28:16). The third, a chalcedony. Not the modern stone of that name, but a green carbonate of copper, found in the mines of Chalcedon. It was, therefore, a kind of inferior emerald. The fourth, an emerald. The same as the modern stone (cf. Revelation 4:3).
The fifth, sardonyx. A variety of agate—a kind of onyx, valued for its use in engraving into cameos. The name onyx appears to be owing to the resemblance in colour to the fingernails. The sixth, sardius. Probably the modern carnelian (see on Revelation 4:3). The seventh, chrysolyte. A variety of the gem of which that called topaz (the ninth stone) is another kind. This species contained a considerable amount of yellow colour, whence the name "golden stone." It has been suggested that it is identical with the modern jacinth or amber. The eighth, beryl. A variety of emerald, of less decided green shade than the pure emerald. The ninth, a topaz. Not the modern topaz, but a variety of chrysolite (see the seventh stone, supra), of a yellowish-green colour, the latter predominating. The tenth, a chrysoprasus. The name "golden leek green" appears to point to a species of beryl, and the modern aquamarine. It is thus probably a variety of emerald, being of a yellowish pale green hue. The eleventh, a jacinth. "A red variety of zircon, which is found in square prisms, of a white, grey, red, reddish brown, yellow, or pale green colour" (Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible'). "The sapphire of the moderns" (King). The twelfth, an amethyst. A purple stone, possibly the common amethyst.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl. The pearl was known to the ancients from the earliest times, and was always held in high honour by them (cf. Revelation 17:4). And the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass (cf. Revelation 21:18). The brilliancy was so far beyond ordinary gold as to make it apparently transparent like glass. "The street" is not merely one street, but the whole collective material of which the streets are composed.
And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. No ναός, "inner shrine," or "sanctuary" (cf. Revelation 7:15). The whole city is now the ναός (cf. on Revelation 21:16, Revelation 21:17, where the shape of the city is that of the holy of holies). The presence of God pervades all the city (cf. Revelation 21:11); all the redeemed are within the sanctuary, all are now priests (cf. Revelation 20:6). There is, therefore, no ναός, or "temple," within the city, for the whole city itself is the temple. The Object of all worship and the great Sacrifice are there (Alford).
And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it; hath no need. So Isaiah 60:19, Isaiah 60:20, "The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting Light, and thy God thy Glory." For the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the Light thereof. The glory of God (cf. Isaiah 60:11). No distinction is to be made between God and the Lamb; both are the Light (cf. John 1:5).
And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it; and the nations shall walk by means of her light. Omit "of them which are saved." The description, following that of Isaiah, makes use of earthly symbolism; but it is not, therefore, to be supposed (as Afford) that there will be hereafter a real earth with inhabitants. "The nations" are the redeemed, described in this way on account of their selection from every "kindred, and nation, and tribe, and tongue" (Revelation 7:9): not the wicked nations of Revelation 16:19. Though the Authorized Version is probably incorrect in inserting "of them which are saved," yet these words appear to give the correct sense of the passage. The description is evidently still founded on the prophetical writings, "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isaiah 60:3). And the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. Omit "and honour," according to א, A, P, and others. Not that there are literal kings and earth. The language is intended to convey an idea of God's supreme glory and unquestioned authority. There are now no kings to dispute his sway. Instead, all join in promoting his glory.
And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. The Revised Version correctly places the last clause in parentheses. The meaning is: The gates shall never be shut, either by day or night; but it is superfluous to say, "by night," for there is no night there. Some commentators think the open gates are a sign of perfect security; others, that they are open to admit the nations, as described in the following verse. Both ideas may well be understood.
And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it; that is, the glory and the honour of the nations shall be brought into it. The verb is used impersonally, as in Revelation 10:11 and many other places. A repetition of verse 24 (vide supra).
And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie; anything unclean, or he that doeth an abomination, and a lie. It is thus evident that "the nations" of Revelation 21:24 are among the redeemed (cf. Isaiah 52:1, "O Jerusalem, the holy city: for henceforth there shall no more come into thee the uncircumcised and the unclean"). The lot of such as are here described is the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8); cf. the "abomination" of the harlot (Revelation 17:4, Revelation 17:5). (On "lie," cf. Revelation 2:2; Revelation 3:9. "Unclean, cf. Revelation 3:4; Revelation 14:4.) But they which are written in the Lamb's book of life; but only they, etc. (cf. Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15).
Verse 1-Rev 22:5
The holy city; or, the Church triumphant.
Whether by intuition or otherwise, we know not, but certain it is that Plato seized hold of and expressed a profound truth when, in his 'Phaedo,' he maintains that "things are the passage to their opposites." The seven angels with the seven last plagues having set before the vision of the apostle scenes of awe and terror, he is now carried forward to the vision that lies beyond them all—even to the glory that is yet to be revealed. When the warrior hath done with fighting, it must be pleasant for him to lay aside his armour; when the mariner has been often tempest tossed, he must be glad to reach the desired haven. So it is here. In going through the homiletic exposition of the plan of this book, we have found ourselves, as it were, in incessant conflict; and if one struggle passed, it was but followed by another and another still. But now "the war is over." The harlot is judged. The dragon is defeated. The first and second beasts are cast into the lake of fire. Hades and death are no more. The resurrection is past. The judgment is ended. The award is made. And now a voice is heard from the throne, "Behold, I make all things new." In the twenty-first chapter, and in the first five verses of the twenty-second, we have a glowing picture of the new state of purity and bliss which awaits the redeemed from among men. We will try and indicate in outline—for this is all we can do—the features of the new state and the new place. Let us "look" in by faith now, and, by and by, the Lord grant that we may go in! We have set before us—a new sphere of life, a new abode of life, and new conditions of life. Undoubtedly there is a very large amount of symbolism in the three sketches; but the symbolism is such as to indicate an unspeakable measure of glory.
I. THERE WILL BE FOR THE GLORIFIED CHURCH A NEW SPHERE OF LIFE. "A new heaven and a new earth" is a phrase which certainly conveys the idea of locality; of a place for the righteous, in which and on which their inheritance finds its ground. To the meaning of the phrase, "a new heaven," we have scarcely any clue. Often heaven means the surrounding atmosphere. The rabbis taught that there were three heavens—the first, where the birds fly; the second, where the stars are; the third, where God is. Here it signifies apparently the surrounding atmosphere of the new earth on which the righteous dwell; or, it may mean, that there shall be new spiritual environments to correspond with changed physical conditions. This latter phrase, "the new earth," seems to mean this earth renovated and purified by the fires of the last day; retouched and beautified by the hand that built it first. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the same earth, which was the theatre on which the Saviour suffered, should be also the scene of his final triumph. How far the expression, "the sea shall no longer be," is to be taken literally, we cannot tell. As the definite article is used, the phrase may be equivalent to "that sea," i.e. the tossing, restless sea of former days. Even then it may also be symbolical, and may thus mean that the restless tossing to and fro of this world's surging strife shall be no more. Certainly the more we let the literal and material sink into the background, and the more that which is spiritual comes into fuller prominence, the more power and glory will this vision have for us. For whatever interest—and it is not slight—the question of place has for us in reference to the next life, the question of state is so immeasurably greater, that, compared with it, the other is of no consequence at all. If men are but free from sin, and forever with the Lord, what matters it where God appoints their abode? All space is his; and in any section of it he can prepare a heaven for the glorified.
II. IN THESE REALMS THERE IS A NEW ABODE OF LIFE. Within the new heaven and on the new earth there is "the holy city." Let us gather up one by one the features which mark it.
1. Its name. It is called "New Jerusalem." Before the apostle was prisoner under Domitian, the Jerusalem of olden time had fallen. And many a devout Jew would be almost heartbroken to think that the sacred walls, and the still holier lane enclosed therein, for him existed no more. And, with a wondrous touch of tenderness, the apostle points them far ahead to a new Jerusalem, in which all that was precious in the past shall be reproduced and exceeded—a Jerusalem which should indeed be "holy," which should be free from an alien's tread, and which should endure forever. For whatever the olden city might have of the glory of the Lord, the new Jerusalem shall have the Lord in his glory.
2. Its wall. The city of the saints is safe against all assault.
3. Its entrance gates. Here there are two remarkable features. Where the protection of the walls ceases—at the gates—there is another guard, even "at the gates twelve angels," so that none can enter with hostile aims. And not only so, but on the several gates the name of a tribe of Israel is found. None but Israelites enter there.
4. Its foundations. (Revelation 22:14.)
5. Its citizens. These are from "the nations," but not as of earthly nationality. This is past. They are the nations of the saved (verse 24, Authorized Version). We have brief hints as to their character (Revelation 21:6, Revelation 21:7; Revelation 22:14, Revised Version). Brief as these expressions are, they are enough; specially when we read the list of the excluded ones (Revelation 22:8, 27). Only holy ones are in the holy city. The separation from the unholy is complete and final.
6. Its magnitude. It is measured. The measuring reed was a golden one, and showed its size—12,000 stadia in length. Alexandria, according to Josephus, was 30 stadia by 10; Jerusalem was, in circuit, 33 stadia; Thebes, 43; Nineveh, 400; Babylon, 480; the holy city, 48,000! How puny are the measurements of earth's great cities compared with those of the great city of God! There will be room in the holy city for men from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue. None of the artificial divisions or nomenclatures of ecclesiastical boundaries will count for anything there. Only love and life will enter there.
7. Its glory. Revelation 22:11, "Her light is like unto a stone most precious;" "The glory of God cloth lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof." We could almost say, with Payson, "Lord, withhold thy hand, and show us no more, or we shall be overpowered by the splendour of the vision!"
III. IN THIS HOLY CITY THERE ARE NEW CONDITIONS OF LIFE. Here, too, we can but analyze and arrange the description before us, dropping a hint or two as we advance.
1. There is one comprehensive, all-embracing condition which covers the whole ground. Revelation 22:3, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with [the] men," etc., i.e. with the sanctified men who are in this holy city. The home of God is there. Their spirits are at home in God. The work of redemption is perfected. The communion is entire and complete; never to be interrupted for a moment, nor to be marred by one sin. The revelations of the past secured an approximation to this. The earthly worship was an earnest of it; Ephesians 2:22). These passages are but specimens of many more which show that the whole drift and aim of the gospel redemption has been to bring together God and man in sublimest fellowship. The perfection of this is realized in "the holy city;" and it is the one condition of blessedness which includes all else.
2. There is a double set of detailed conditions of life, which follow on the complete realization of this full redemption.
(a) No more death. When the redemption in Christ has done its work on the body at the resurrection, there can be no more dying. No element of perishableness will exist in the "spiritual body." It is "incorruptible." Death will have been swallowed up in victory.
(b) No mourning nor crying. No physical distress nor spiritual ill shall grieve. Joy shall have no shade. The day of eternity will know no cloud.
(c) No pain; no tension from excessive exertion; no aching from disease; no disappointment at the failure to realize our ideal; no cutting off of work ere it can be completed.
(d) No more curse. No condemnation will press on the conscience, nor will any sin pollute the soul.
(e) No alien. "There shall enter nothing that defileth." There will be no intrusion of aught that is evil within or without.
(f) No night there. No pause in the activities of life, because no weariness will ever be felt. There will be constant work and constant worship.
(g) No temple. Not only will hindrances which existed here be banished there, but helps which were precious here will not be needed there. If, as one has said, the most exquisitely tender text in the Bible is, "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes," surely the most far reaching text given through an inspired pen is, "I saw no temple therein." No forms will be wanted when the ideal of worship is perfect and permanent. No place for worship, when every spot is holy ground. No day for worship, when every moment is sanctified. No external acts of worship, when every act is "holiness to the Lord." Many a thinker is yearning for the pure thing in itself without form. Here it is. Their yearnings were anticipated eighteen hundred years ago. And to it we are pressing on by stages.
(h) No light of the sun. No lamp. No artificial light kindled by man, nor even the present forms of light created by God. "The city hath no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the Lord God giveth them light," etc. What meaneth this? Surely nothing less than that created media will not be needed to intervene between us and God. We shall need no borrowed light when we see face to face the Light! We shall see him as he is! What life is this! No moon, no sun, no night, no temple, no curse, no pain, no tears, no sorrows, no death! All these things will have passed away. Happy state, even if known only by such negatives as these!
(a) The river (Revelation 22:1). In Eden was a fertilizing stream. Israel drank of the river which followed them. "There is a river, the streams of which make glad the city of God." The good Shepherd now leads his flock beside still waters. And in the heavenly world he leads them still by the fountains of the Water of life. The water of life shall no more have its purity marred by coming through earthen channels. There we shall be at the fountainhead.
(b) The tree (or trees) of life. In Eden the tree of life would have counteracted the tendency to decay and death. But from this man was debarred when he fell. Christ has restored it to us. And he will himself give it to the victor. Full supplies of heavenly food ensuring immortality will be given by Christ's own hand.
(c) The throne of God is there. Another symbol to indicate the immediateness of relations to God in the heavenly state. No intervening authority of priest or king; but close and absolute allegiance to the Eternal.
(d) The service (Revelation 22:3). Service in the sense of worship. "They serve him day and night in his temple."
(e) The sight (Revelation 22:4). "They shall see his face" (cf. 1 John 3:1, 1 John 3:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). This sight will have transforming power.
(f) The royalty. "They shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 22:5). This "reigning" is not the preliminary and limited one referred to in Revelation 20:4; but the final, the complete one, to which no ending is assigned (cf. Revelation 3:21). Well may we say with one, "I am content that I have seen the city, and without weariness will I go nearer to it; not all my life long will I suffer its bright golden gates to disappear from my sight" (Hengstenberg).
IV. THE GLORY OF THIS CITY LIGHTS UP WITH ITS BRIGHTNESS THE LIFE THAT NOW IS. At any rate, it ought to have this effect, for most assuredly this is the intent of the disclosures. We shall do our God a wrong, and ourselves too, if we pursue our course here as if it were meant to end in gloom, or as if we were left in uncertainty as to what lies beyond it, or whether there is anything at all. Note:
1. Let us recognize the glory of life's goal, if properly spent, as the working out of Divine grace, love, and faithfulness.
2. If we are indeed the children of God, we have even now the earnest of the Spirit, and are being wrought for that selfsame thing.
3. Let us bless God for the progressiveness of revelation and of redemption. The whole of the sacred Word is threaded by one infallible clue. It opens by showing us "Paradise lost." It closes by showing us "Paradise regained." And the intervening stages, taken chronologically, show us the Divine advance on the first, and the Divine preparation for the last.
4. If even now we have a vision so glorious of the holy city, let us go in the strength of it to work, to toil, to suffer, and to die, pressing forward to the glory yet to be revealed.
5. Seeing that in that future home nothing can enter that defileth, let us ever swear eternal enmity to sin, cultivating all the graces of the Spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God, for only so can we have any reasonable hope of finding our place at last in the inheritance of the saints in light.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The new heavens and earth.
The retribution of God has fallen on the enemies of Christ and his Church. Death and hell, Satan, the beast, and the false prophet, have been cast into the lake of fire. The thunders of God's vengeance are hushed; the manifestations of his love to his redeemed now only remain to be told. And here their ultimate and eternal blessedness is shown to us. Their abode and condition are described as "new heavens and a new earth." Let us inquire—
I. WHEREFORE ARE THEY CALLED "NEW"? The heaven, the earth, the holy city, are each called "new." Now, this may be because, in part, they are:
1. Physically new. We do not think this earth will be "burnt up," nor the elements "melt with fervent heat," nor that there shall be, literally, "a new heaven and a new earth;" all such representations we regard as metaphorical, and as telling only of great moral and spiritual changes that shall take place. But in so far as this earth has been marred and defiled, injured and degraded, by man's sin—as it has been—in that respect and degree will it be made new. The thorns and briars, the poisonous and hurtful herbs, and all else that is significant, and the result of sin, will disappear; the pestilence will no longer walk in darkness, nor destruction waste at noonday. So far will it be new. There will be:
2. A new manner of dealing with us on the part of God. This may be intended by the expression on which we are commenting. For "heaven and earth" is an expression used in Scripture to denote the dispensations of God. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth" (Haggai 2:6). The prophet is telling of the whole Jewish economy, which was to disappear and to give place to another and better. So it had been in the past; the patriarchal gave way to the Mosaic, and that was to give way to the Christian; and that, in its turn, will give way to the new heavens and new earth—a new order of things between God and man.
3. And, assuredly, it will seem new. For "no truth is more clear than this, that the world is to a man according to the state of his mind." To the voluptuary, it is a scene of animal gratification; to the worlding, it is a scene for barter; to the poet, it is beauty; to the philosopher, it is science; to the saint, it is a temple. Change a sinner's mind, and you change the world to him. He feels, and. sometimes says, "The world is a new thing to me"—"a new heaven and anew earth." And may we not, therefore, be sure that, to the new, regenerated, and perfect nature, all things will wear another aspect, the heaven and the earth will be as new?
II. WHEREIN WILL THE NEWNESS APPEAR? There will be, according to these verses:
1. A newness of absence. Much that we have known here we shall not know there, for they will no longer be. See the things of which it is here said they shall be no more.
2. And there will be newness in what is present. Take only these opening verses as proof. They assure us of:
"No more sea."
We must remember that, to the ancient Jews, the sea was an object of almost unmixed terror. Nearly all the allusions to it in the Bible tell of its destructive power and of its peril. The Jews were never a seafaring people. They dreaded the sea. An added element of terror is given to the solemn warning addressed to them (Deuteronomy 28:68), when it is said, in case of their sin, that not only should they be taken back to Egypt to their old bondage, but that they should go there in "ships." They had no seaport worth mentioning, Their histories of the sea were all associated with its terribleness: the Deluge; the Exodus; Jonah. The epithets they apply to the sea are none of them of a pleasing character, but all more or less forbidding and fearful. They tell of its being "troubled," of its "raging," "roaring," breaking ships, filling men with utter terror, making them "reel to and fro," "stagger like a drunken man," and be "at their wits' end" (Psalms 107:1-43). They noticed only its "noise," and they likened its waves to the wild, cruel, fierce "tumults of the people." It was "great and wide," vast and lonely. To be "far off upon the sea" was the summing up of all separateness and isolation. And besides what was the common feeling of the Jew, there was, in St. John's special circumstances, sufficient to account for the peculiar dislike of the sea which our text expresses. He was in exile, at Patmos, a lonely barren island, amid a proverbially tempestuous sea, and cut off by its waves from all he loved best. It is told how he was wont daily to ascend the hills, and wistfully look towards Ephesus and his own beloved land of Palestine. What wonder, then, that, in telling of the final, blessed, condition of the Church, in its new and eternal home, he should say, "And there was no more sea"? But we need not take his words literally. The surrounding Scriptures do not require it. How much of manifest metaphor there is in this chapter! Moreover, such expressions as "the sea," "heaven," "earth," "sun," etc., are figures for great moral and spiritual facts, and their being removed or changed tell only of what shall be done in regard to these facts of which they are the figures (cf. St. Peter's quotation, on the Day of Pentecost, of the prophecy of Joel as to the "sun" being "darkened," and the "moon turned into blood,"—all which, he said, was fulfilled then). But, literally, this did not happen; only great moral changes typified by them. And so here, "the new heavens and the new earth" refer, not to literal facts, to the physical geography of the future world, but to a blessed new order of things in the moral and spiritual world. For this earth is to continue. How else shall the meek inherit it, and shall God dwell here with men? And the sea likewise, though it be typical of moral conditions which shall then cease to be. Moreover, in reality, though not in Jewish conception, the sea is one of God's most blessed gifts to man. Life would he impossible without it. It has been justly called "the lifeblood of the land," as the blood is the life of the body. "It is the vital fluid that animates our earth; and, should it disappear altogether, our fair green planet would become a heap of brown, volcanic rocks and deserts, lifeless and worthless as the slag cast out from a furnace." We remember, too, how God said of the sea that it was "very good;" and no mistaken Jewish ideas must be allowed to reverse that verdict. Think of:
1. Its vapours. The corn harvest is really the harvest of the sea. For the sea yields up her strength in the form of vapour. These create the clouds, which, touched and tinged by the sun, are so exquisite in their loveliness. And these discharge themselves upon the earth in varied form, and so come the rivers which water the earth and make it bring forth abundantly.
2. Its currents, bearing along the sun-heated waters of sub-tropical climes, far away northward and southward, and giving to regions like our own that mildness of climate which we enjoy; whereas, but for the warm waters of the sea, our shores would be bleak, inhospitable, barren, all but uninhabitable, like the shores of Labrador.
3. Its breezes, so health giving, imparting fresh life to the feeble and the sick.
4. Its beauty, ever presenting some fresh form of loveliness in colour, movement, outline, sound, fragrance. Oh, how beautiful is the bright, bounding sea!
5. Its tides, sweeping up the mouths of our great rivers and estuaries, and all along our shores, washing clean what else would be foul, stagnant, poisonous.
6. Its saltness, ministering to the life of its inhabitants; by its weight aiding in the transmission of those warm currents of which we have spoken; preventing corruption; and much more. But what we have said is sufficient to show that the sea is indeed a gift of God, "very good" and precious; and therefore, as the future shall preserve all that is good, we believe, notwithstanding our text, that there shall be still the blessed, beautiful sea. But we are glad and grateful to know that those facts, of which to the Jewish mind it was the emblem, will not be hereafter. Of those facts were—
I. UNREST. The sea tells of that. Cf. "The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest" (Isaiah 57:20). "There is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet" (Jeremiah 49:23).
"Thou troubled sea,
Oh, troubled, fretful sea!
What can the causes be
That thy soft, silvery breast
So rarely is at rest?
"E'en when there wind is none,
And thou art let alone,
Thy heart, self troubled, will
Keep palpitating still.
"Ah, well may thy unrest
Emblem the human breast,
Yea, the great world around,
Where troubles so abound!"
Yes; such is our life now. "Man is born to trouble;" and were it not that there is One who is able to hush the waves and say, "Peace, be still!" our hearts would know no rest. But yonder we shall rest. Quies in coelo.
"There shall I bathe my weary soul
In seas of heavenly rest,
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast."
II. PAINFUL MYSTERY. So was the sea to the Jew, though it be not so to us. Scripture so speaks of it. "Thy way, O Lord, is in the sea; Thy judgments are a great deep; Thy path is in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known." The "depths of the sea" tell of that which can never be discovered; hidden from all knowledge. Now, that there is much of such mystery here, we all know. It is part of our trial and discipline, designed to educate us in the blessed lessons of trust in God. So that, in view and in spite of such mysteries, we may be able to say, "I will trust, and not be afraid." But yonder we shall know even as we are known. Here "we see as through a glass, darkly; but then face to face." Therefore let us "rest in the Lord, and wait," etc.
III. SEPARATION. The sea of old was a complete barrier to intercourse. It was to St. John, and, even now, it so separates that many shrink from emigration to lands where life would be far brighter for them. But of old, to be "far off upon the sea," to "dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea," was indeed to be cut off almost from the land of the living. Only God could make his "way in the sea, and his path in great waters." It was possible only to Christ to walk upon the sea that he might go and succour his disciples. But to men the sea was an impassable barrier, a separating wall. Therefore a fit emblem of separation. How many such barriers there are to our intercourse with Christ and with our fellow men! The power of this present world, the things seen and temporal, this body of flesh,—these, and yet others, separate between us and our Lord. And between man and man. Distance, time, diversity of language, habits of thought, position in life, uncongeniality, ignorance, and many more. But in Christ and with Christ we all shall be one. Drawn to him, we shall be drawn to one another also; and as nothing shall separate us from him, so nothing shall separate us from each other. "There shall be no more sea."
IV. REBELLION AGAINST GOD. "The noise of their waves, the tumult of the people" (Psalms 65:1-13.). The one stands for the other. The same thought lies in the words in Psalms 93:1-5., "The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea." The rebellious heart of man, therefore, is that which under this imagery is set forth. And here in this Book of Revelation: "The waters … are peoples," etc. (Revelation 17:15). The multitude of the ungodly and rebellious—these are likened to the sea. Now, in this sense, there shall be no more sea. No more ungodly people, no more rebellious hearts. And my heart, O my God, shall, then and there, rebel no more.—S. C.
"Neither shall there be any more pain:" a Hospital Sunday sermon.
If the wards of our hospitals could declare what words of Holy Scripture, what gracious promises out of God's book, are, more often than almost any other, spoken, read, or thought of, and most beloved, by the suffering inmates of those wards, it would be found that they are such as our text. For pain is indeed a terrible thing. No language can adequately describe what it is when, in its intenser forms, it fastens upon us. Even from great saints of God it has wrung words which have shown that the burden of it was almost greater than they could bear. The holy Job, under the stress of it, could scarce resist the temptation to "curse the day wherein he was born," and in his anguish he declared, "My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than life." "Why am I thus afflicted more than others?" he passionately asks. "Why hast thou set me as a mark for thy arrows? why dost thou not let loose thy hand and cut me off from the earth?" And not such utterances as these only attest the severity and strain which pain puts upon the soul, but, also, the glad thanksgivings which rise up to God when deliverance from such pain has been given. Take Psalms 116:1-19., for example. And though many of you may scarce know what real pain is, never having experienced it or anything like it, yet you are able, we trust, both to feel very grateful for your happy exemption hitherto, and also to sympathize, deeply and tenderly, with those to whom a harder lot is assigned. You have had some vision of the anguished face, and of the deadly chill and faint, that are associated with extreme pain; and your heart has been touched, as it well may, with compassion. Therefore, though you know not pain by experience yet, along with those who do, you also can rejoice in this promise, as to an eternal home, that there "there shall be no more pain." And meanwhile let us gratefully remember how much our Lord Jesus Christ has done to turn this curse of pain into a blessing. It will not make us less ready to sympathize with or succour those who now are suffering, but will qualify us to do both better than before. For—
I. CHRIST HAS DONE THIS. First of all:
1. By taking it upon himself. "He himself bare our infirmities, and carried our diseases." So was it predicted concerning him; and when he came here he fulfilled Isaiah's word by the intensity of his holy sympathy, whereby the sorrows, pains, and distresses of those whom he healed were felt by him as if they were his own. And yet more, by himself submitting to pain so terrible that he could say to all suffering ones in all ages, "Come, see if there ever was sorrow like unto my sorrow." Then he took the lot of pain upon himself. He has entered into it not only by Divinest sympathy but by actual experience. So that now the sufferers tread no solitary path; One is with them in the roughest; sternest of its ways, and that One is "like unto the Son of man." They may have the fellowship of his sufferings, because he certainly has the fellowship of theirs. Have we not seen or heard oftentimes how, in the paroxysms of agony with which poor pain stricken ones are now and again seized, they love, when the dread dark hour comes upon them, to have by them some one dear to them, the dearest they possess, and to clasp his or her hand and to feel the clasp of theirs; to pour out to them their cries and tears, and to be soothed and strengthened by the loving sympathy on which they lean? Maybe some of us have taken part in scenes like that. But such blessed aid, and more than that, our Lord wills that every sufferer should have by reason of his sympathy, his presence, and his own dear love. The present writer well remembers how a poor young girl, dying in much pain, told him that she loved to look at a picture, which hung by her bedside, of the Saviour bearing his cross; for, she said, "it helps me to bear my pain better." Yes, every sufferer may grasp his hand, and be assured that, though unseen and unfelt by the bodily senses, he grasps theirs. For just as he went down amongst the "multitude of impotent folk" that lay in the porches of Bethesda, so still he comes down amongst our poor suffering humanity, himself a "Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." And now the Marah-like waters—the bitter wells of human life—he has forever made sweet and wholesome by the healing influence of that cross—that tree so accursed for him, so precious for us—upon which, for us all, he suffered and died. Yes, as it has been beautifully said, "he has done all this. It was for this that he came—for this, among many other reasons. His was pre-eminently, as we know, a painful life. He was acquainted with grief, and a Man of sorrows; and this acquaintanceship was sought and formed for our sakes, because no man knew what to do with grief. Our Lord came hither, and, being made man, entered upon a brief pilgrimage in the earth—brief, yet sufficient to find out what was here, and what had need to be done. And scarcely had he commenced his journey before he met with that ancient form of Grief. She had been walking up and down the earth for thousands of years. She first appeared in the garden of Eden. She stood forth from behind the fatal tree, and emerged from those bounds which, before the first offence, she had never dared to cross; and ever since she had been going about and haunting men. When Christ began his pilgrimage, he met her and she met him, and they looked one another in the face; and she never left him. 'He was acquainted with grief.' And through this acquaintanceship it would seem, as happens when a lower nature feels the influence of a higher, that she became changed. She had been hard and cold, she became tender and gentle; she had been tyrannical and imperious, but under the influence of that Divine Companion she lost her old harshness and severity, and seemed to do her work with a half reluctance, and without the old readiness to add torment to the unhappy. We cannot tell how it happened, but Grief, through her acquaintance and familiarity with the Son of man, became like a new creature. In her were seen a certain softness and pensiveness which she never had before; her form became altered and her footsteps light; until she seemed to take the air of a sister of mercy, and to breathe forth a wondrous benediction while she walked with him. Doubtless it was his influence that worked the change. It was he who turned that scourge of small cords, which she had carried from time immemorial, into a cross, and gave to her eyes that tender look which seems to say, 'I do not willingly afflict nor grieve you, O children of men.' Thus they went through the world hand in hand, until he went out of it by the gate of the grave, tasting death for every man. And Grief has been acting ever since as one of his ministers, and representing him, and doing the work of mercy in his kingdom. She has given to men in these latter days more than she ever took away. She is a dispenser, not a spoiler; her hands are full of goodly gifts, and though her discipline be painful, yet it is ever merciful; and, as a gentle almoner, she offers and bestows, wherever faith and love dispose the heart to receive them, new and perfect pledges of eternal blessing and glory." Thus has Christ transformed Grief and Pain, who is one of her chief ministers. Pain is still like the rough ore dug out of the heart of the earth; but it need no longer be used, as it so long has been, to forge harsh chains of bondage, but it may, it shall he, if only we be willing, fashioned into crowns of glory, yea, diadems for the blessed themselves. And:
2. By his acceptance of our pain as an offering we may present to him. We often feel and say that all we do may and should be consecrated to him, and, without doubt, he accepts it. But this is not all that he is willing to accept. All that we have to bear he will also, and as willingly, accept. Was not his own offering unto God one in which he suffered'? His submission rather than his activity constituted the very essence of his sacrifice. Not alone were the gold—symbol of all man's wealth—and the frankincense—symbol of worship—presented to him; but the myrrh—symbol of suffering, of sorrow, of pain, of death. For it was used in the embalming of the dead and for ministering relief to sufferers in their agony, and hence it was offered to our Lord upon the cross. And so, from its constant association with scenes of sadness and distress, it came to represent and symbolize all pain. And this was offered to the Lord, and may be and should be still. In our moments of most terrible pain there is nothing better to do than to offer it all to him, for his glory, and so to lay it at the feet of the King of sorrows.
3. And by the revelations he makes to us concerning it.
II. CHRIST ALONE DOES THIS. "Human wisdom has from the first been helpless before what may be called the problem of pain. It has no explanation of suffering; it cannot give it a satisfactory position in the scheme of life. To philosophy sorrow is an anomaly and an offence. Philosophy hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars, and she hath acquainted her heart with all wisdom; and yet there is a skeleton in her house, a spectre glides through her pillars, and a presage of hollow, final failure is in every effort to keep up appearances. She cannot contrive what to do with that problem of sorrow, suffering, and pain. She has but two things to which to trust, and she can trust in neither. The first is stoicism, the second anodynes. With stoicism she tries to meet the question on the spiritual side; with anodynes, on the physical. In each direction she encounters defeat. She tells the sufferer to harden his heart and set his teeth, and bear it if he can, not in faith and love, not in hope and trust, but in stern, stiff defiance. And when she finds it useless to try and help him that way, and hears his shrieks repeated, and meets his reproachful and despairing eyes, she has but one expedient more, in the anodyne and anaesthetic. She exhibits the drug or the subtle vapour, and thereby stills the pain. In this she admits defeat, and flies before the foe. She has relieved the body indeed, but it is at the expense of the spirit. The sense of pain is gone, but the light of the soul is also extinguished. The dying flesh feels no more its own agony because the heaven born flame of reason is quenched, and the man is drugged and crazed into stupefaction and unconsciousness. Thus does Philosophy deal with the terrible problem of this painful life. She has no spiritual medicine for it; while physical remedies amount at last to the suspension and temporary destruction of conscious existence." But we have seen our Lord's more excellent way—a way so blessed that it is an insult to compare the one with the other. Glory be to his Name forever for that which be hath done!
III. WHAT WE ARE TO DO. See to it:
1. That when suffering comes on you, you have Christ near you to turn your pain into blessing. Come to him now, that he may come to you then.
2. Think of, sympathize with, pray for and succour those who now are suffering. Ask him to be near them, and go you near them yourselves with loving help. So join with him in his merciful work, and there shall come on you the blessing, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto my brethren, ye have done it unto me."—S. C.
"All things new:" a spring sermon.
What a vivid and glorious illustration of these words we witness in the beautiful spring tide season! For in the natural world God is, indeed, making all things new. The bare brown stretches of land have become verdant with the springing corn; the skeleton like branches of the trees, which a few weeks ago tossed their gaunt arms and moaned sadly beneath the pitiless tempest and cold, are now covered with rich foliage, and many are bright with beautiful blossoms, lovely for the eye to look upon. The glades of the wood and the hedgerows which were mute but a while ago, because their feathered songsters were away in warmer climes, are now once more resonant with song; for "the winter is over and gone, and the time of the singing of birds is come." The aspect of universal nature is completely changed—transfigured and transformed from that which it wore in the weary wintry time. God has made "all things new." We never could have believed it possible had we been less familiar with many a previous spring. Were we able to think of ourselves as utterly ignorant of the resurrection and regeneration of spring, did we know nothing of what God is wont to do in this season of the year, we could never have believed such a change possible. As we looked upon all the rich beauty of the earth, we should be ever asking, "Who are these, and whence came they?" We could never have imagined that those bare seeds, which were cast into the ground, would have become the blade and the springing corn as we now see them. We should gaze with admiration, but with wonder, at the glorious garment of forest and of field. Apart from our knowledge, all this new creation which the returning spring presents would have been as incredible to us as the resurrection of the dead was to the Athenians. And that which, but for long experience, we could not have believed of the natural world, we, for want of such experience, are slow to believe in regard to the spiritual world, to which the words of our text do, of course, refer. We read of the new heavens and the new earth, of the freedom from the manifold evils and distresses with which we are so sadly familiar here; but because we know not these things by experience they are not real to us, they do not affect us as they would were we as sure of them as we are of the new creation of spring. For here and now, in this poor present life of ours, we are for the most part in a spiritual winter. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be," any more than it appears in the winter time, to the uninstructed eye, what the earth shall be. Life, looked at in the mass, is so sombre, so drear, so cheerless and cold, notwithstanding a bright gleam here and there, irradiating now this home circle and now that; yet for the most part life is one long winter, and its springtime is not yet. And hence all discourse about the other and better life has, more or less, the semblance of unreality and vagueness about it. We smile sadly as we hear or read what men have thought on the subject, and we say, "How does he know? It is but a perhaps; we cannot really know." The best we can say is, "It may be, and we hope it is so." And none realize so clearly, or grasp so firmly, as they should, the promise of the blessed future spiritual spring which is affirmed in our text. But may we not do something to reanimate and strengthen our faith? May we not listen to the Lord God saying to us in this spring tide, "Behold, I do make all things new; believe, O my children, that even yet, in far fuller and more glorious way, I will, as I have said in my Word, again and perfectly make all things new"? And let us answer back, "Lord, we believe; help thou our unbelief. Lord, increase our faith." Now, help may come to us through letting our thoughts dwell a while on some of the characteristics of the new creation told of here.
I. OUR CONCEPTIONS OF GOD WILL, BE NEW. Frequently does our Lord speak in this book of his "new name"—"a name which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." And from this we gather that none of us here, not even the saintliest and most devout, knows God as he is to be known.
II. AND THERE SHALL BE A NEW BODY. In that great Scripture, 1 Corinthians 15:1-58, St. Paul enlarges on this theme—the spiritual body, the corruptible exchanged for the incorruptible. And if any doubt, he points them to the new body which God is ever fashioning out of the "bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain." In the blade, the ear, the full corn in the ear, he bids us behold the pattern, type, and analogy of our resurrection life.
III. AND A NEW CHARACTER. The impartation of new moral dispositions and habits; or, if not new, so intensified and exalted in their force as to be practically new—in degree, if not in kind.
IV. AND A NEW SOCIAL CONDITION. Probably nothing will be more marked in the kingdom of God than the total reversals of the judgments of the world. That which the world highly esteems will be as naught, that which it despises honoured (cf. Luke 16:15).
V. AND THERE WILL BE A NEW DWELLING PLACE. Not literally do we understand the words about the new heavens and new earth; for there is no need that we should, and much reason why we should not. But we take them as telling of the great moral changes that shall take place, and the physical changes that will result therefrom. For during all the past man's material habitation has been largely dependent upon, and the result of, his moral character. Psalms 107:1-43., "The fruitful field becomes a wilderness because of the wickedness," etc. And then again, "He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and the dry grounds into water springs." So is it for the righteous. So many are the aids to the faith, that, given a new moral character, there will be a new dwelling place. Look at Palestine, the Holy Land. Once her fields flowed with milk and honey; but now, and for long centuries, through, the cursed misrule of Mohammedanism, vast regions of that land are but desert. Again, go over the Campagna of Rome, once thronged with human life and wealth, but now for the most part a deadly plain in which men cannot live. And, on the other hand, where men have obeyed the laws of God, there the reverse has been everywhere seen. In the great missionary ages of the Church companies of God fearing men would go to some desolate district, often wild, bare, and miserable in the extreme. In the heart of forests, in the midst of fens, on rugged cliffs, or in lonely islands; and there they would alternate their prayers and psalms, their sacraments and other sacred services, with hard labour and diligent toil, until they had made the wilderness to rejoice and blossom as the rose. And now, rabid Protestantism sneers at those old monks because, it is said, they always knew how to choose the best and fairest of earth's dwelling places. But it was their fear of God that led to the regeneration of the earth on which they dwelt. And when Psalms 67:1-7, is fulfilled, and "all the people praise thee, O God; then shall the earth yield her increase; God shall bless us, and all the ends of the world shall fear him." Now, of all this, and much more this blessed spring tide tells to those who have ears to hear its prophecies. But, remember, spring tide can do nothing for things that are dead. Have we, then, the seed of the life of God within us? "I am come," said the Lord, "that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."—S. C.
The free salvation.
"I will give freely." "What! free?" says one, "When I have to watch and pray, to struggle and strive, if I am to obtain the crown of life? How can it be free when I have thus to strain every energy in order to make it mine'?" But the very fact that you do thus strive shows that you have already drunk of this water of life. It is the energy of that grace working in you. If you had never drunk at all you would not be thus "striving against sin." It is from life, because of it, that you are thus aroused. If you were dead you would make no effort at all. So that the conflict you endure is no proof against the freeness of the water of life, but rather for it. And the conflict would not be so severe if you obeyed the laws of the conflict. If you come to it but partly equipped, no wonder you are at a disadvantage. Matthew Henry says, "If a beast have to draw a load, a yoke will help him." But if the yoke be only half on, he will find the work much harder. And so with us. Christ says, 'Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.' But if we will only half wear his yoke, if we are seeking to compromise with the world, no wonder that our Christian life is hard." Still, that we struggle at all proves that Christ's grace has been given, and is not withdrawn. Now, our text says that this grace which bringeth salvation, and which is here called "the water of life," is freely given. Now note—
I. MEN ARE SLOW TO BELIEVE THIS. Of course, those who are not "athirst" don't think anything at all about the matter. They don't care for salvation, and, therefore, the conditions of its bestowal are no concern to them. But there are those—many, thank God—who "thirst," but who are slow to believe in this "freeness" of the gift of the water of life. Now, why is this? Perhaps it is:
1. They cannot feel that God is good. They know he has a right to be "hard" with them, and they think he is so. Earthly fathers would be hard with children who have behaved as they have done, and so it is concluded the heavenly Father will be likewise. They are slow to forgive: will not he be?
2. Their pride. They would like to bring something in return—character, conduct, gifts, prayers.
3. The laws of their common life tell against this belief. Nothing for nothing is the law of life. In the sweat of their brow they must eat bread. They must pay the price for whatsoever they want. And they think so is it with this blessing that they desire.
4. The mass of mankind everywhere and always have disbelieved. Certainly there is no religion, and never has been anywhere, whose terms are like those in the text. And the mass of those who profess this one explain these terms away. The opinion of mankind is, and ever has been, against this freeness. Such are some of the reasons why many who "thirst" are yet slow to believe.
II. BUT YET THERE IS GREAT REASON WHY THEY SHOULD BELIEVE. All God's best and greatest gifts are free.
1. Life itself. We certainly paid nothing for that, but is it not precious to us? How we struggle to preserve, adorn, and prolong it!
2. And all the essentials of life. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the light and warmth of the sun, the land which produces our food,—these were all freely given, though, indeed, man, in his selfishness, has hindered that freeness so far as he can, and, doubtless, would far more were it but in his power.
3. And all that makes life blessed. The mind, with all its powers; the affections, which are the solace and sweeteners of life; the sense and love of the beautiful, in art, in nature; conscience, the guide of life;—all these are given freely, and they are God's best earthly gifts, and are free. Therefore this gift—the "water of life," which is more precious than all—may well be free likewise. Furthermore:
4. It is the Lord who giveth. Shall he descend to bargain with man, to let man transact with him his salvation? For him there can be but one relationship in which he stands to us in this matter. He must, because he is what he is, freely give.
5. And the gift itself, how could it be purchased? If it were but of slender worth man might, perhaps, find a price; but being what it is, what can purchase it?
6. And we being what we are, altogether without righteousness, merit, or claim, whence have we that which we could bring as compensation for this gift? Therefore, if there be that which may make us question the freeness of this gift, there is far more to make us believe therein.
III. AND HOW BLESSED THE BELIEF! For:
1. There are none to whom we may not go with the gospel message. Were there limitations, terms, and conditions, we could not invite all.
2. It kills the power of sin. To grieve One who has shown such mercy and grace is felt to be impossible. What he hates we must hate, and what he loves we must love.
3. It inspires us with holy purpose. It is a continual spur to all Christian endeavour. It is ever prompting the question, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?"
4. It imparts a blessed satisfaction. "He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him," said our Lord, "shall never thirst." He will thirst for ore of that water, but never for aught beside.
5. It fosters humility, and frowns upon and forbids all pride. "Where is boasting? It is excluded." So said St. Paul, and reason and experience prove his saying true.
IV. BUT THE QUESTION IS—DO WE BELIEVE? Believing, according to a good theological, if not etymological, definition, is what a man "lives by." Therefore a mere mental assent is not believing. But if we believe, if we live by this faith, then we shall be joyful, holy, strong, beneficent. These will be the natural outcome of a life sustained by this belief. What shall a man say if at the last he be found unsaved when he might have freely partaken of this living water had he chosen so to do? Let us go at once and take thereof. If never before, then now; if before, then again and yet again.—S. C.
The predominant practical purpose of the Apocalypse.
"He that over-cometh," etc. At the beginning of this book—in the epistles to the seven Churches—we had this repeated promise, "to him that overcometh." And its reiteration there as well as here alike proves that the purpose of this book was an intently practical one. It was not given to furnish food for mere mental or sentimental musings, or to be only a treasure house of poetical imagery. Far other and higher than these were the ends contemplated. Think of some of them.
I. THAT ONE HERE NAMED—to encourage the persecuted, much tried Church, into whose hands the book first came, to continue patient, to increase courage, to endure still the trials of their lot. For this were all its awful warnings, its vivid pictures of judgment, its entrancingly beautiful promises—so exceedingly great and precious. They all aimed to deepen in the mind of each member of the Church the conviction of Romans 8:18, "I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy," etc.; and to convince of the truth of the Lord's words (Matthew 19:29), "Every one that hath forsaken," etc. Such was the primary purpose of the book. But there are others.
II. TO VINDICATE THE CHARACTER OF GOD. It has ever been the trial of the thoughtful in all ages how the present condition of the world could be consistent with the conviction of the character of God as holy, just, and good. This Apocalypse of the end and issue of all things does not a little to reassure and re-establish the tottering faith. When we know we are being conducted to a glorious and beautiful city where we would fain be, we do not heed overmuch the discomforts of the way.
III. TO ENNOBLE LIFE. It does this:
1. By revealing a noble destiny. The elevating power of such a revelation cannot but be, for it always is, great.
2. By inspiring scorn for what is inconsistent therewith.
3. By uplifting our desires and aims.
IV. TO IMPART PATIENCE IN SUFFERING. If I believe in the issue of suffering, and know the good it is to "work out," must not this minister patience?
V. TO MAKE US "ALWAYS ABOUNDING IN THE WORK OF THE LORD," because here we have shown to us "that our labour is not in vain in the Lord." No faithful effort is thrown away, or can be.
VI. TO FURNISH US WITH A GOSPEL FOR THE POOR. Because, when here we have done what we can for those who need our help, ministering to them to the best of our power, if we have nothing else to say to them, our all is but little. But this Apocalypse gives us much else—much indeed.
VII. TO MEET AND MINISTER TO THE NATURAL DESIRE FOR BLESSEDNESS. Man is made to be blessed. His constitution demonstrates that, and his incessant desire for happiness is that which lends greatest force to the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Now, in such revelation of the future of God's redeemed as these chapters give, there is the response to that hunger of the soul which others falsely promise, but which this alone can give.
VIII. TO MAKE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST PRECIOUS TO US. For he it is who, having "overcome the sharpness of death," has opened "the kingdom of heaven to all believers." We owe it all to him, and by him alone can we keep in that "patient continuance in well doing," which by his grace lands us at last on that blessed shore. Such are some of the ends contemplated by this book. Are they being fulfilled in us?—S.C.
Verse 9-Rev 22:5
The holy Jerusalem.
Not "the heavenly Jerusalem," the "Jerusalem that is above," of which we read in Hebrews 12:22; Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:16; Hebrews 13:14; Galatians 4:26—the heavenly community of the righteous. Nor the Jerusalem here below, in the present life—the Church in her militant state. But the New Jerusalem on the glorified earth, with the introduction of which the others vanish. Now, in the ample and beautiful description of that which as yet is not, we have not merely what may well uplift and make glad our hearts by way of holy anticipation, but also we have portrayed, in beautiful symbol, the pattern of what the true Church of Christ, even now and here, should ever aspire to be. St. John was blessed with the beatific vision of "the holy Jerusalem;" and to this end—as when we would well see a great mountain we need to be ourselves on a similar elevation—St. John was carried away to a great and high mountain; as Moses on Mount Pisgah, that he might the better see the promised land. But whilst this Word of God tells of the chosen Church in her consummated and perfect, condition before God, it is also a glorious picture, not merely to be looked at and longed for, but, to the uttermost of our power, to be embodied in our own Church life here on earth. Bunyan, in his treatise on the New Jerusalem, has worked out this idea at length; he holding that these chapters tell of not the final condition of mankind, the end of all things—for then there will be no longer heathen to be healed, and living yet outside the city—but of the perfected Church, perfectly redeemed and restored, and "without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing." But what we have here is the description of the true New Testament Church. "As there were three states of Jerusalem, so there are of the Church. The first, for the city, was that under Solomon, and answers to the Church in the days of our Lord and his apostles; the second was Jerusalem's degraded and captured state, and answers to the Church ever since the apostolic age; the third, of which Nehemiah and Isaiah so largely tell, is her recovered state when the exiles returned and rebuilt their city and wails again." The foundation chapter is Isaiah 60:1-22, which was written for the comfort of the captives in Babylon, as is this for the comfort of the Church of today, Rapidly reviewing this glorious promise for Christ's Church, we are told—
I. OF HER GLORY. (Isaiah 60:11, 23.) This is named first in order, as it is first in importance. It means that the grace of God which is ever in his Church shall appear, be manifest, conspicuous. It is likened to the most precious of stones—not the jasper which we know, for that was never most precious nor otherwise such as is here described; but probably the diamond, which does answer to what is here said. Now, this 6, glory" is the all important thing (cf. Isaiah 60:19). In the ideal Church, which comes down from God and is according to his mind, its gracious character, the Christ within her, will be the all conspicuous thing.
II. HER SECURITY. (Isaiah 60:12-14; cf. Isaiah 54:14.) The Church is likened to a city for its strength. Isaiah 26:1, "We have a strong city," etc. The perfect Church shall be impregnable. "No weapon formed against her shall prosper." The Church of today is exposed to all manner of attack, and here and there succumbs. But it is because she lacks this wall. The holy city has many gates, but all are angel guarded. There is freedom of entrance for those who should enter, but none for those who should not. The angel guards keep watch and ward. Believers—the seed of believing Abraham, the true Israel of God—these, whose names are written on the gates, have right of entrance. But they shall come from no one nation. On either side are three gates. They may, they will, come from every quarter of the earth (cf. Luke 13:29). And this Church is the "city which hath foundations" (Hebrews 11:10), and it is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets" (Isaiah 26:14). The blessed doctrine which they taught will be the basis of the Church's security—the Christ they preached, the gospel they proclaimed. (Ephesians 2:20; Matthew 19:28).
III. HER FAULTLESSNESS. As in Revelation 11:1 the measuring meant inspection and test, so here (Revelation 11:15-17). This city will bear Divine scrutiny; in regard to her people, "the city;" her conditions of entrance, "the gates;" her confident security, "the wall." The whole corresponds to the Divine ideal. What contrast to the Church of today! And this city is built in perfect symmetry. The square was regarded as the symbol of completeness and all perfect proportion (cf. Ephesians 3:4, "comprehend … the breadth, and length, and depth, and height," by which St. Paul meant the symmetry and fair proportion of the Christian Church and character). And not perfect only in proportion, but vast in extort. "In my Father's house are many mansions." The heart of Christ shall "be satisfied," not alone with the beautiful form of his Church, but with its greatness. Such seems to be the meaning of the fifteen hundred miles square which, is said to be the measurement of this city. There never was or could be a literal city so vast. It surpasses all human conception—as shall the reality, the Church. The height of it is named only to intensify the ideas of proportion and extent. The wall, compared with the height of the city, is but low. Sufficient for security, but not for obscurity. It would not hide the magnificence of the city as it stood on the sides of the vast eminence on which it was built, but yet the wall would well defend it. "Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth," etc. (Psalms 48:1-14.). Translated out of metaphor, the meaning is that the Church which fulfils the Divine ideal will commend itself by its moral and spiritual symmetry, its correspondence to the plan of the great Architect—its "Maker and Builder," God.
IV. ITS ADORNMENTS. (Revelation 11:18 -21.) The symbolism of these verses is taken from Isaiah 54:11, Isaiah 54:12. The walls and city flashed with light, as the diamond, and like to burnished gold. So that the vision of it would attract, fix, and delight the mind of the beholder (cf. "Let your light so shine before men," etc.). If the jasper or diamond tell of Christ, he being the Cornerstone, elect, "precious," then the Church's glory (Isaiah 54:11), her defence (verse 18), and her adornment (verse 19), are alike Christ. And this is so. And the city is like pure gold, for all spiritual riches and treasure are in her. To bring her to this condition involved much refining work. But now no fire can harm her, for her dross is all gone. But the foundations also have their adornment. The apostles were adorned, as are all true ministers of Christ's Church, with the gifts and graces he bestows upon them—many, varied, and all precious; and with the converts to Christ whom they have won. "Ye are our glory and joy," said St. Paul to the Thessalonians (cf. Daniel 12:3, Revised Version). These converts also are all "living stones," but all precious, though varied in every way in which human souls can be varied. The Church of Christ has her bride like adornments (Isaiah 54:2), in the grace of spiritual character, the goodly gifts, and in the power to bless others, with which he endows her. Nor must we forget the glory of her gates (verse 21). "I am the way," said our Lord. He is the Gate of entrance, and he is as a Pearl of great price. Bunyan notes that whilst we are told the measurements of the city and the wall, we are told nothing of the gates. And, he says, "it is because Christ, the Way, is beyond all measurement." And the "unsearchable riches" of his grace are also set forth by the figure of the gates of "one pearl." Who could compute the price of such a pearl? It will be the glory of the perfect Church that "one pearl," and that "the Pearl of great price," even Christ himself, is presented to every man at every entrance to the Church, so that none can come save by him. And even "the street" was of "pure gold." The street, the places of concourse, the ways in which the people of the city walk, are golden. That is, they are ways of holiness, godly ways, ways good and precious, ways of pleasantness and paths of peace. The spiritual glory, beauty, and riches of this way are what is meant, and what each heart knows to be true.
V. ITS MATURITY OF SPIRITUAL CHARACTER. As the ordinances of the tabernacle and temple gave way to the ordinances of Christ, so these ordinances will themselves give way to the worship "in spirit and in truth," which shall be the most perfect worship of all. "When that which is perfect is come, then that which is imperfect shall be done away" (1 Corinthians 13:10). The temple was to the Jews the means of access to a revelation of, and a place of instruction concerning, God. But in Christ's very presence no medium is needed, for access is direct to God. And in a Church that aspires after this model there will be not a discarding and rejection of all ordinances and forms, but there will be a growing independence of them. Whilst prized and used, they will not be indispensable. Being what we are, we may be thankful that still the ordinances of religion—sacred seasons, sanctuaries, and services—are continued to us still. But there, in the holy Jerusalem, they will not be needed. And like as the shrine, the most holy place in the tabernacle and temple, was lit up with no earthly light, but with the Shechinah cloud, the visible glory of God, so shall it be in the city of God. Translated, this means that in the perfect Church the glory of the grace of Christ in her shall render unnecessary all lesser glory, though in the eyes of men such glory should be as the sun and moon for greatness.
VI. HER ATTRACTIVENESS. Nations outside the city are clearly supposed. "Nations," not "nations of the saved," is the true reading (see Revised Version). The heathen are meant. Then will be the true missionary age. Then shall be fulfilled, as cannot be now, the promises of the universal spread of the knowledge of the Lord (cf. Isaiah 60:11). The heathen shall come and their kings, and they shall consecrate their all to Christ. And this shall continually be going on. For (verse 27) the gates shall never be shut, but kept ever open for this blessed inflow of all to Christ. She is likened to a city, for cities are centres of influence, and affect for good or ill all around. Think of what London and like cities do in this way. And "the holy Jerusalem" shall thus influence and attract "the nations," who shall gladly walk in her "light." The blessing of God, the absence of which is the meaning of "night" in St. John's language, shall be ever present (cf. John 13:30, "And it was night"). Hence the blessed power of this city over the heathen around.
VII. HER HOLINESS. (Verse 27.) Note this frequent form of expression. Denying one thing and asserting its extreme contrast. "There shall not enter any," etc., but there shall enter those in the book of life (cf. Revelation 3:5, "I will not blot out … but I will confess," etc.; Revelation 20:6, "the second death … but they shall be priests," etc.). The darkness of an evil condition is named to be denied, in order to serve as a foil to the glory of the blessed condition which is affirmed. And so it is here. The perfect holiness of the city is rendered more conspicuous by the denial of entrance to all abomination. Let us remember, therefore, "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
VIII. HER PROVISION AND BLESSEDNESS. (Revelation 22:1-5.)
1. As to the first, this consists of the river (verse l) and of the tree of life (verse 2). The provision is plenteous, as is a river for they that would drink, and as are the trees bearing its twelve harvests year by year, and standing on either side the river. Accessible, also; for the river flows through the street of the city, and the trees are on either side. No flaming sword now bars access thereto, but it is in view and in reach of and for the enjoyment of all. By these symbols of the river and the tree are meant—as when we read (Isaiah 33:16) of bread and water being sure—all necessary food. But as all here refers to spiritual things, we take our Lord's own interpretation, and read in the river the fulness of the Holy Spirit's blessing. Here we receive that blessing as a refreshing dew or as drops of rain, but there it shall flow forth as a river from the throne of God and the Lamb. For the Holy Ghost proceedeth from the Father and the Son; and when Christ spoke of the water that he would give, St. John adds, "This spake he of the Spirit." And as to the tree of life, Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;" "I am the Resurrection and the Life;" and repeatedly, "I am the Bread of life." Himself, then, in his sustaining, strengthening grace; and the Holy Spirit in his sanctifying, refreshing, reviving power;—all this in abundance shall be the spiritual portion of the inhabitants of the holy city. And though none there ever have to say, "I am sick," yet there are those outside the city who are, and the leaves of this blessed tree are for their healing. So that it not only blesses those who eat of it, but makes them a blessing to others also.
2. And now, finally, the exceeding blessedness of the people of the holy Jerusalem, God's servants, is set forth in a series of striking statements.
"Come, kingdom of our God,
And raise thy glorious throne,
In worlds by the undying trod,
Where God shall bless his own."
The glory light: a sermon for Midsummer Day.
"And the city had no need of the sun," etc. Today is the longest day of the year—the day in which the light of the sun lasts longer than on any other day. It may be allowed, therefore, to suggest thoughts concerning that place and time when the sun shall no longer be needed, its light being superseded by the light of the glory of God. Now, it may be that our text is to be taken literally. What is here said is clearly not impossible, for there has been the resemblance of it already in the most holy place of the tabernacle. But if the sun be really no longer needed, then we may believe that there will be—
I. BETTER MEANS THAN THE PRESENT OF REVEALING WHAT IS TO BE KNOWN. The sun is our revealer here. Its light is that which makes all things manifest. All light, artificial as well as natural, comes from one central sun. Either from the sun's direct rays, as in daylight, or from those rays stored up in primeval forest products, and now liberated again for our use. But when we see things in the light of God's glory, we shall see far more than we do now. Our judgments of what is seen will, after such vision, be changed not a little.
II. BETTER MEANS OF GROWTH. The sun is such a means. Harvests spring and ripen beneath its beams. And because "growth" will belong to the better world—for we cannot conceive of an everlasting halt and standstill—even more than to this, there must be means of growth. The sun here represents all such means, whether in things material, mental, or moral. But if these means are superseded, then the glory of God must be—and in things spiritual we can well understand this—a better means.
III. AND OF ADORNMENT. It is the sun which, touching, tinges with all loveliest hues even the dullest and dreariest things. Out of the dreary rain it calls forth the gorgeous "bow in the cloud," the seven-hued arch that spans the heavens, so unspeakably lovely that St. John makes it again and again the symbol of the glory that over arches the throne of God. But in the light of Christ and God, told of here, we shall become spiritually beautiful. Here we may see all manner of beauty, and remain foul at heart—
"Where every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile."
But that light likens those on whom it falls to him from whom it comes. What, then, is the adornment of the natural sun compared to that?
IV. AND OF SERVICE. "Work … while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." So, and truly, spoke our Lord. Sunlight and strength alike fail us, though service needs to be rendered and work waits to be done. So is it here. But there the essentials of service will be present in degree and kind such as here we have not known.
1. In order to our possession of all these, we must use the means we have. They that cannot bear a weak light, will yet less bear a strong one.
2. As there are better things provided for us, we may be sure that we shall be made better likewise, so as to be fit for them. Our future home is a prepared place for a prepared people.—S.C.
"No night there."
I. THE NIGHT A COMMON EMBLEM OF THINGS EVIL. The Bible notices of it are, like this of our text, almost always of a disparaging and deprecatory tone. It is represented as undesirable, and as telling of things that are evil. Sorrow (Isaiah 21:1-17., "Watchman, what of the night?"—speaking of Edom's affliction). "Songs in the night" mean songs in sorrowful seasons. Ignorance. "Darkness shall cover the land, and gross darkness the people." And concerning this land it was said that "it sat in darkness," so dense was the ignorance of the people. Sin. "Men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil;" "We are not the children of the darkness, but of the light." Death. "Work … while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work." The power of Satan. "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." And there are many more of a like sort. And yet—
II. THE NIGHT IS ONE OF GOD'S GOOD GIFTS. In plant-life it is essential to their growth. Night—so naturalists tell—is the time that the root of the plant feeds. During the day the light acts as a force upon the lining of the bark of the plant or tree, by which the nutriment is drawn up from the root. Now, at night that action ceases, and the root is able to thrust itself downward, deeper and deeper into the soil, wherever it can gain the nourishment it needs, and which it will have to supply when again the light comes, and yet more when the spring comes. The night is needed for this. And it is the time when the plant rids itself of that which would be hurtful to its life. The sap that the light and warmth of day have drawn up from the roots returns thither at night, but changed because charged with elements that the root will reject. It is these rejections of the root that render necessary the rotation of crops. The soil is poisoned for the same plant, but is ready for others. Now, for this, and much more in vegetable life, the night is needed. And for animal life. Psalms 104:1-35. sings, "Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God." Night is their feeding time, the sleeping time of most of their victims. Thus much suffering is avoided, and yet "the young lions" are fed. And for human life. The body is compelled to rest if its powers are to continue in vigour, and the night time is plainly given for that end. They who turn night into day and defraud the body of its due rest, frustrating the purpose for which night was given, violate the Creator's laws, and must pay the certain and severe penalty which such violation involves. And the mind owes much to the night season, for it gains enlargement and instruction by the spectacle of the starry heavens; they, then, declare the glory of God. And the soul is uplifted by the contemplation of that glory. Thus, and for yet other reasons, is night to be regarded as one of God's good gifts to met. Nevertheless, in the new heavens and the new earth it is said, "There is no night there."
III. HOWEVER UNDERSTOOD, THE TEXT IS A BLESSED PROMISE.
1. Suppose we understand it figuratively. Then the promise is that all those varied ills of the mind and the soul which night has been the symbol of—as in the declaration that there shall be "no more sea"—shall be absent from the saints' eternal home.
2. Or if we take the words literally—and it is possible that this may be meant—then they involve other glorious elements of the future which God's Word leads us to look for; e.g. a new physical nature. For if there be no night, then no need of rest. Indeed, we are told "they cease not" in their high employ "day nor night." But for such unresting and yet untiring occupation a body not limited, frail, and easily fatigued, like our present body, must be given; a physical nature altogether different from the present. And that which we should have inferred is clearly stated in other Scriptures. "There is a natural body," such as we now have, "and there is a spiritual body," which is what we shall have. But if there be a new and a more glorious body, that is the index of a new and more glorious spiritual nature. The external is the fit clothing of the internal. There is congruity between them, so that we argue, and for the most part rightly, from the outward to the inward, and we gather much as to the character of any creature from its external form. If, then, there shall be a new and glorious body, what shall be the spirit within, which is furnished with so glorious an instrument for the carrying out of its purposes? But if a new physical and spiritual nature, then there must be a new mind towards God. For it is plain that the embargo laid upon our present nature, by which it is "made subject to vanity," has been taken off. That limitation was because we were not to be trusted with larger powers. "And now," said God, "lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever" (Genesis 3:22); "so he drove out the man." Man was, because of sin, made as he is, because if more had been given him he could not be trusted to use it aright. That is the teaching of the verse in Genesis. But the possession of the new physical and spiritual nature proves that that restriction has been removed. But that proves that a new mind is in man towards God. No longer a rebellious disobedient mind, but "the mind of Christ," of "a dear child." But if this, then there must be a new social state; no longer discord and strife, because there is one mind towards God, and hence all are one. But this is the Paradise of God, the kingdom of heaven itself. That we may have ever-growing surety that we shall come to that blessed home of God's saints, let us look within the region of our own hearts, and see if there be no night there—no darkness of sin and unbelief. If there be, then at once let us turn to him, who giveth to all who seek, that he may "shine into our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."—S.C.
The heavenly Church book.
"The Lamb's book of life." So has one named this book. Some pastors are very familiar with "Church books," containing, as they do, the roll of the names of those under their pastoral charge. With what gladness have they entered names there, when those who bore those names have avowed themselves the servants of the Lord! With what sorrow have they removed names from that book when death or, far worse, evil conduct, has compelled such removal! How often they have prayed over that book, remembering one by one those whose names are there written, and supplicating God's grace for them! And in the text we read of a like book. Note—
I. THE WRITING—the book itself. "The Lamb's book of life." It is the heart of Christ.
"The names of all his saints he bears
Deep graven on his heart."
As the high priest of Israel bore on his jewelled breastplate the names of the twelve tribes, so the record of Christ's people is Christ's heart. He forgets no name and no "work of faith and labour of love" done for him; not even the "cup of cold water" given for his sake. Is it hard to believe? Why, do we not know how he is remembering us every day?—our wants, our weaknesses, our sorrows? And he supplies all our need. These facts of experience may well make us trust this record more than any book—the heart of Christ, the true book of life.
II. THE WRITER OF THIS BOOK. It is Christ himself. Ministers cannot enter your name there. Sacraments and sacred services, though often observed, have not this power. Birth and parentage, creed and profession, likewise fail.
III. THE WRITTEN THEREIN. We have spoken of the record and the Recorder; we speak now of the recorded ones—those written in the book. And who are these? We reply—All save those whose names have been blotted out of that book. When any child of man is born into this world, at once his name goes into this book; and because it is there, Christ's representative, his Church, through her ministers, lays claim to the child at the very beginning of its life. Children are baptized in the name of the Triune God, because they belong to him, are his by creation, redemption, and the gift of his blessed Spirit. So have we "learned Christ." But will the name stay in the book? We are clearly taught that a process of erasure as well as entry goes on in regard to that book. "Lord, blot not out my name!' should be the prayer of each of us. And what will ensure its permanence in the record? Faith, love, obedience,—these three. And where one is, the others are never far off.—S.C.
HOMILIES BY R. GREEN
The spiritual kingdom.
Now, to the eye of the weary seer—and in him to the eye of the weary, suffering Church—there appear new scenes. The darkness is past. The judgments of the Lord upon the evil powers, and upon all who take part with them as antagonists of the good, the pure, and the true, are passed away. And to the comfort of the waiting, faithful ones, who endure "as seeing him who is invisible," the vision of the blessedness of the righteous in the kingdom of their Father is granted. The judgment which has just been represented, and in which the punishment of the wicked is brought especially into view, needs the supplement of the present vision. It commences an entirely new series; it is set over against that which has just closed. To the end of the book now the brighter scenes of the Church's triumph, sanctity and joy are given. Here seems to be represented the bright and happy condition of the Church—the glory of the kingdom of truth—in its contrast to the power and evil working of the kingdom of evil. These may be contemporaneous. If so, the eye of the seer is lifted from the struggle of evil to the rest of the gospel salvation. This is certainly the brighter side of human history. It is the Divine and heavenly side. But it appears to run on into the great future—the final conditions. To them, however, it must not be confined. It is "the kingdom of heaven" upon earth; which as a seed becomes, in its fruit and harvest, the everlasting kingdom in heaven.
I. THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS REPRESENTED AS HAVING ITS BASIS IN AN ENTIRELY NEW CONDITION OF THINGS. "I saw a new heaven and a new earth;" "the sea"—the wild tumultuous sea of the raging peoples—"is no more" (Revelation 21:1).
II. THIS KINGDOM HAS ITS SPECIALLY DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC OF SANCTITY. It is "the holy city;" it comes "down out of heaven from God." It is "made ready as a Bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).
III. ITS MOST PROMINENT FEATURE IS FOUND IN THE INTIMATE COMMUNION OF GOD WITH MAN. His "tabernacle is with men." He dwells with them; they are his people, and he is with them, and is their God (Revelation 21:3). This is the supreme blessedness.
IV. THE CONSEQUENCE OF THE SWAY OF THE SPIRITUAL KINGDOM IS THE REMOVAL OF HUMAN SORROW. "Every tear" is wiped from the eyes of men. Death, mourning, crying and pain are no more (Revelation 21:4).
V. ALL IS ACCOMPLISHED BY DIVINE AGENCY. "Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
VI. THE WHOLE PROMISE IS SUPPORTED BY SPECIAL PLEDGES relating:
1. To the Divine Name (nature) of the Church's Head. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End."
2. To the promise of eternal life and blessing. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely."
3. To the final inheritance of the utmost possible blessedness in a Divine relationship. "I will be his God, and he shall be my son." Thus "he that overcometh shall inherit all things;" for he shall be the son of the great King.
4. To the inevitable conditions of punishment which fall upon the subjects of the evil kingdom. This stands in contrast to the former, and is a word of warning and admonition.—R. G.
The New Jerusalem.
We must see in this a portrayal of that holy community which is "the bride, the wife of the Lamb." It is the ideal representation of vital Christianity—Christianity as a system, but as a system embodied in the lives of men. The descriptions are of a glorious character. What can exceed the essential glory of the true Christendom, the true Church, the true bride, the veritable "wife of the Lamb"? It must not be separated from the heavenly, the final Jerusalem, the happy home of every weary pilgrim, the final abode of every spiritual citizen, the final resting place whither the feet of all humble, holy souls tend. But the heavenly begins on earth. And in this vision we must see the heavenly or, the earth. The ornate language suits its heavenly character and its heavenly prototype. Babylon was the scat of the beast; this is the city of the great King. It may be practically impossible to decipher the symbolical writing, especially in its details, and it may be as unwise to attempt it as it is impracticable to accomplish it; but the main features of the symbolical teaching, considered in the light of our previous interpretations, may doubtless be traced. Not without fear that our prepossessions may mislead us, we will attempt to find in the words of this section a setting forth of the essential glories of the true and actual Christianity, however ideally considered.
I. ITS FIRST CHARACTERISTIC IS HOLINESS. It is set up in the midst of evil and in opposition to it. It is holy, for it is "from God;" it is holy, for it promotes holiness in its subjects; all who pertain to it are called to be saints. Whatever is not in harmony with true ideas of holiness can have no part in the holy city.
II. ITS ORIGIN IS DIVINE. "It cometh down out of heaven from God." The true Church has its fount in him. He calls the first band out of the surrounding darkness. All is of his grace. He gives the Word which is the seed of the kingdom, he is the Father of all. The Church's grandest idea is that it is of God.
III. IT HAS ITS HIGHEST ADORNMENT IN THE MANIFESTATION OF THE DIVINE GLORY. But "the glory of God" is the symbol of God himself. We approach the true Shechinah. The glory of the Church is the presence of God. How near is that manifested glory brought to us in the Incarnation! how near in the abiding Spirit's presence! This is the true light that shineth over the city.
IV. ITS STABILITY, HARMONY, AND ORGANIC UNITY ARE REPRESENTED IN THE FIGURE OF THE CITY. Here are taught the intercourse, the fellowship, the safety, the mutual interest, of the holy ones. What is here ideally presented may not always be actually found. We deal with the patterns of the heavenly things.
V. THE FREEDOM OF ITS ACCESS TO ALL NATIONS is here declared. The gates of the city, ever open, stand to the east, the west, the north, the south. But one city; but all may enter.
VI. THE CHURCH IS BUILT UPON THE FOUNDATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS. All the living Christianity has its basis here.
VII. THE SPLENDOUR, BEAUTY, PERFECTNESS, STRENGTH, AND GREATNESS OF THE CHURCH OF GOD—the living Christianity of ours and of every day, and the whole idea of the same—are set forth in the utmost wealth of symbolical extravagance.
VIII. THE INTIMATE ALLIANCE OF THE DIVINE SETS ASIDE THE EARTHLY AND IMPERFECT ELEMENTS. There is no visible temple. "The Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb, are the temple of it." The illumination of the whole city is found in the life and grace of Christ.
IX. THE UNIVERSALLY DIFFUSED BENEFICENT INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY is declared. The nations walk in the light of it, and—
X. THEIR RECIPROCAL ACKNOWLEDGMENT is found in that they "bring their glory and honour into it."
XI. ITS IMMUNITY FROM THE CONTAMINATION AND DEFILEMENT OF EVIL is indicated. Nothing unclean, nothing untrue, nothing of evil nature, enters it. It is ideal. True. Yet no evil elements shall ultimately be found in the Church of Christ; and, as at first we stated, the earthly is lost in the heavenly, of which it is at once the beginning, the type, and the pledge.—R.G.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The fifth scene in the history of redeemed humanity: the unending age of blessedness.
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth," etc. The retributive process is over; the characters of all have been tried, and the doom of all pronounced. The wicked are driven away into punishment, but the righteous have entered into life eternal. These words suggest two thoughts in relation to this final state—
I. THAT IT WILL BE IN A SENSE A NEW STATE. "A new heaven and a new earth," and a "new Jerusalem" (Revelation 21:1, Revelation 21:2). In what sense will it be "new"? I can conceive of three senses in which it will be new.
1. It may be physically new. There is reason to believe that a great change will take place in the material creation. Indeed, there are forces which are constantly changing the earth, and the heavens, and the atmosphere in which our clouds swim and stars shine. The inorganic, the vegetable, and the animal worlds are constantly changing. The belief of the ancients, the doctrine of geology, and the testimony of the Scriptures, favour the opinion that the fires which burn in the centre of the globe will one day burst into a universal volcano, mantle the earth in flames, and reduce its fairest forms to ashes. Out of this ruin may rise "a new heaven and a new earth."
2. It may be dispensationally new. Heaven and earth are sometimes used in Scripture to designate the dispensations under which men have lived. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens and the earth." The reference is, undoubtedly, to the Jewish economy. The patriarchal gave way to the Mosaic, the Mosaic to the Christian, and now the Christian will give way to something else. Christ will deliver up the kingdom to God the Father.
3. It may be relatively new. New in the estimation and feeling of the occupants. No truth is more clear than this, that the world is to a man according to the state of his mind. To the voluptuary it is a scene of animal gratification; to the worldling it is a scene for barter; to the poet it is beauty; to the philosopher it is a school; to the saint it is a temple. Change a sinner's mind, and you change the world to him. He feels, and sometimes says, "The world is a new thing to me—a new heaven and a new earth." Let the men who now people this world come back to it in a perfect state, possessing a thorough sympathy with each other, the universe, and God. Will not the heavens and the earth be new to them? Will not all nature appear entirely different to what it was when they lived here, the creatures of imperfection and sin? Give the soul new moral senses, and you will give the material universe new attributes.
II. THAT IT WILL BE A STATE WIDELY DIFFERING FROM ALL PRECEDING ONES.
1. The difference will arise from the absence of some things which were identified with all the preceding states. There are three things mentioned here as being absent from this state.
2. This difference will arise from the presence of some things which have not been in connection with any preceding states. What are they?
I have, with great brevity, endeavoured to portray the epochs which are disclosed in the preceding chapter and verses before us—the epochs through which redeemed humanity has to pass. I believe that this is a correct interpretation of this passage. But were it not so, the sketch is still true. The ages I have mentioned are ages that belong to redeemed humanity. The first we are passing through now; and the others, though the nearest be immeasurably distant, are approaching with the march of time. Indeed, these epochs dawn in every redeemed soul. Our first stage in the Divine life is conflict; then a partial triumph; then, perhaps, a reaction; then the retribution; and then the unending blessedness. May this unending blessedness be thine, my friend!—D.T.
The world without a sea.
"There was no more sea." A world without a physical sea, we confess, does not strike us as attractive. The sea is one of the grandest and most beneficent parts of this world. It is to the earth what the blood is to the body; it circulates through its every part, animates and beautifies the whole. The negation is to be understood in a spiritual sense. Division, mutation, agitation, are ideas we associate with the sea. In heaven these things will not be.
I. THERE IS NO DIVISION THERE. The sea is the great separator. It divides the great family of man into separate sections. The sea forms the boundary of kingdoms, continents, and races. The more fallen the world is the more necessary for such divisions. Let the race advance in intelligence and purity, and a commingling will become more possible and desirable. Indeed, as the world advances, the sea becomes less and less a divider. Ship building and navigation are making old ocean the highway of nations, and the mighty channel of intercourse between the most distant peoples of the earth. Meanwhile, however, it is a separator. "And there was no more sea." To John these words would have a special significance. He was a prisoner in Patmos, a small desolate island in the AEgean. A treacherous and tempestuous sea divided him from the great world of men and from all the objects of his affection. "A touching tradition pictures the aged apostle going day after day to an elevated spot on the ocean rock, to which, Prometheus like, he was chained, and casting a long look over the wide waste of waters, with his face like that of the captive Daniel in Babylon, steadfastly fixed towards Jerusalem; as if, by thus gazing with all his soul in his eyes on the open sea, he could bring nearer to his heart, if not to his sight, the beloved land and the cherished friends for whom he pined." How much there is in this world that divides men! There are:
None of these will exist in heaven.
II. THERE IS NO MUTATION THERE. What so changeable as the sea? A pulse of restlessness throbs through every part. It knows no repose. Sometimes it moves in silence, at other times its march is as the roll of terrible thunders. It is not only ever changing in scene and sound, but it is ever producing change in the world. It levels the mountains, it fills up valleys, it creates new land. It is in all the changes of the face of the sky; all the organic and inorganic departments of the world it transfigures. Human life on this planet is, like the sea, in constant mutation. Not only does one generation come and another go, but the life of the individual man is a continual change—sorrow and joy, friendship and bereavement, prosperity and adversity. In heaven there is no such change. The only change is that of progress. Progress in
No change in the way of loss. The crown, the kingdom, the inheritance, all imperishable.
III. THERE IS NO AGITATION THERE. The sea is a tumultuous world. What human agony has its furious billows created! Human life here has many storms. Most men here are driven up and down like Paul in the Adrian, under starless skies, by contrary winds, and through treacherous and unknown seas. In how many hearts does deep call upon deep, and billows of sorrow roll over the soul! In heaven there are no spiritual storms.—D.T.
The painless world.
"Neither shall there be any more pain." The greatest realities of life need no explanation. Pain in this world is an undoubted reality. It visits all, and though in its advent it bears greater anguish to some than to others, all feel its torturing touch. Pain meets man as he enters the world, follows him through all the stages of life, and leaves him not until his heart grows still in death. It attends us as a dark angel wherever we go, through all seasons of the year, and through every period of our mortal life. Its ghostly form makes our limbs tremble at its touch, and our nerves quiver with anguish before it. Now, the text directs our attention to a world where there is no pain. The negation suggests several things.
I. Pain is not needed there to STIMULATE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH. Who shall tell how much the cause of science is indebted to pain? As a rule, men's love for truth is not strong enough to urge them in the search of it for its own sake. Natural history, botany, anatomy, physiology, chemistry, owe to a great extent their existence and advancement to pain. The proverb says, "Necessity is the mother of invention," and no necessity does man feel more than to deliver himself from pain. Pain is the power that whips all the faculties of the soul into strenuous exercise. Without it would there be any intellectual action? Would there be any development of our mental powers? When we are told, therefore, that there will be no pain in heaven, we infer that men will not require such a strong stimulus to inquire after truth and so search after knowledge. Supreme love for the Creator will give all these such a delightful interest in all his works as will make inquiry the highest delight of their natures.
II. Pain is not needed there to test the REALITY OF MORAL PRINCIPLE. Were there not pain in the world, by what means could we ascertain the reality and the strength of our love, our integrity, our faithfulness? Pain is the fire that tries those metals and removes the dross, the fan that winnows those grains and hears away the chaff. Pain tried Abraham and Moses. Pain tried Job. It came to him in its most torturing character; but his principles stood firm before it, and he said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." Pain tried Paul. Hear his description of his sufferings: "In labours more abundant, in deaths oft; of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one," etc. (2 Corinthians 11:26). Now, in heaven there will be no need for such a trying test of principles; the character will be perfected. The gold will be purified from all alloy.
III. Pain is not needed there to PROMOTE THE DEVELOPMENT OF CHARACTER. Pain is needed here. First, in ourselves, to promote patience, resignation, forgiveness. "Our light affliction." Pain is needed here, secondly, in others, in order to awaken our charities. Were there no suffering about us, generous virtues, which are essential to the Christian character, would have neither scope nor stimulus. The naked, the hungry, the imprisoned, the afflicted,—these famish a field for the exercise of our benevolences. In heaven the character being perfected, no such discipline will be required. We shall be made like Christ, "changed into his image from glory to glory."
IV. Pain is not needed there to aid us in APPRECIATING THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST. Christ proved his love by suffering. He suffered poverty, contumely, persecution, ignominy, crucifixion. He "made himself of no reputation." He took on him the "form of a servant," became "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Now, to estimate suffering, we must know what suffering is, know it experimentally. Every man must bear a cross in order to know what the cross of Christ really was. In heaven we shall not require this. We shall have learnt it in our measure, and be qualified to sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!"
V. Pain is not needed there to IMPRESS US WITH THE ENORMITY OF SIN. The first thing for a sinner to feel in order to renounce sin is a conviction of its terrible consequences. It is the cause of all sorrow, suffering, and death. But in heaven, sin having been done away, the consequences and effects will be done away also; sin being pardoned, it will be unnecessary to impress us with its enormity.
What a blessed place is heaven! A world without pain of any sort—physical, social, intellectual, moral.—D.T.
The new creation.
"And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." Two facts suggested in these words are worthy of notice.
1. Christ is invested with the government of our world. "He that sat [sitteth] upon the throne." "He is exalted far above all principalities," etc. Glorious fact this. It explains the continuation of sinners in such a world as this, and encourages us to take a deep interest in all the operations of Providence.
2. The other fact suggested is, Christ in the exercise of his authority is engaged in the work of moral creation. "He that sitteth upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new." The spiritual renovation of our world is here represented as a creation. Notice two things: the resemblance and the dissimilarity between the spiritual reformation of man and the natural creation.
I. THE RESEMBLANCE. There must be a resemblance, or else the figure would not be employed as it is here and elsewhere (see Isaiah 65:17-19; 2 Corinthians 5:17). What are the points of resemblance?
1. In both there is the production of a new order of things. From chaos of old, God, by his creative fiat, brought life, beauty, light, etc.; and from the corrupt soul of man, by his redemptive power, he evolves high spiritual virtues.
2. In both there is the production of something new by the Divine agency. Who created the heavens and the earth, etc.? God, and he only. Who creates a soul? The same glorious Being.
3. In both there is a production of the new according to a Divine plan. Every part of the universe is created on a plan. Science discovers this. In conversion it is so (Ephesians 2:10).
4. In both there is the production of the new for his own glory. "The heavens declare his glory." The conversion of men reveals the glory of God.
5. In both there is the production of the new in a gradual way. Geology and the Bible show that the work of creation is a very gradual work. It is so with the work of spiritual reformation—very gradual.
II. THE DISSIMILARITY.
1. The one was produced out of nothing; the other from pre-existing materials. In conversion no new power is given to the soul, but the old ones are renovated and wrought into right action.
2. The one was effected without any obstructing force; the other is not. in creation God had only to speak, and it was done. Not so with conversion. There is the principle of free agency and depravity to contend with.
3. The one was produced by mere fiat; the other requires the intervention of moral means. Nothing in the creation came between the work and the Divine will. In spiritual reformation it does; hence God had to bow the heavens and come down and become flesh.
4. The one placed man in a position material and insecure; the other placed him in a spiritual and safe abode. Adam was placed in a material paradise, and from his original position he fell. Conversion places men in a spiritual paradise, from which they will fall no more. They are "kept by the power of God."
5. The one develops and displays God as the absolute Spirit; the other as the Divine Man. In spiritual manifestation he is "God manifest in the flesh," full of condescension, tenderness, love.
CONCLUSION. The subject presents:
1. A solemn question for us all. Are we "new creatures in Christ Jesus"? Have we been brought out of the moral chaos?
2. A bright prospect for the world. Christ is on his throne, and the work of moral creation is carried on, and will one day be completed.—D.T.
The new moral creation.
"And he said unto me, Write, for these words are true and faithful," etc. Some remarks on the new moral creation were offered in our last homily, and were suggested by the last clause of the fifth verse. The subject now is the one matchless Creator. Who is he that brings into existence on our planet a new order of spiritual things, that creates a new moral heavens and earth? The representation here gives us to understand that he is One who is all-truthful, everlasting, infinitely beneficent, surpassingly condescending, and essentially sin resisting.
I. HE IS IMMUTABLY TRUTHFUL. "For these words are true and faithful" (Revelation 21:5). What words? The words that had reference to the things that had already come to pass. What he had promised and what he had threatened had come to pass. What he has spoken not only has been done, but is being done, and must be done. He is the Truth, the unalterable Reality, the one Rock that stands immovable amidst all the fluctuations of creature thought and speculation. Whatever in creature opinion is conformable to him is relatively true and beneficent, and whatever disagrees is false and pernicious.
II. HE IS EVERLASTING. "I am Alpha and Omega [the Alpha and the Omega], the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 21:6). He is without a beginning, without a succession, without an end; the Cause, the Means, the End of all things but sin. All that exist throughout immensity are but evolutions of him; ever multiplying and growing branches from him, the eternal Root. The capability of forming such a thought is the glory of our nature; the power of properly entertaining it is the only means of possessing true mental life and progress.
III. HE IS INFINITELY BENEFICENT. "I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely" (Revelation 21:6). Souls are ever thirsting. Of all animal sensations, none is more agonizing than a burning, unquenched thirst. But soul thirst unquenched is far more agonizing and destructive. And soul thirst seems to be almost the mainspring of all human actions. "Who will show us any good?" This seems to be the cry of all. This thirst there is One and only One who can quench, and for this he is ever working. He pours forth in all directions the refreshing and crystal streams. And all this "freely," without any coercion, limitation, partiality, or pause; freely as he gives the beams of day and the waves of vital air. From the heavens above, and the earth beneath, and the waters under the earth, there goes forth from hint, as from an ever-acting, fathomless, and inexhaustible fountain, that which can quench the thirst of all human souls.
IV. HE IS SURPASSINGLY CONDESCENDING. "He that overcometh shall inherit all [these] things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7). Two things are here stated which suggest this amazing condescension.
1. This recognition of every individual man who does his duty. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." That he should notice man in the mighty aggregate may well impress us with his condescension, but that he should notice individual man, how much more! Here we have the universe won by self conquest. Notice:
2. The affiliation of every individual man that does his duty. "And he shall be my son" (Revelation 21:7). The conquering of sin and the rendering of the external universe into subservience of the higher interests of his nature is the grand duty of every man, and every man that does this God will make his son. Are not all men his children? By no means. They are all his creatures, his offspring, but not his sons. A man may have a dozen or more offspring, but not one son. He only is a son who has the true filial instinct, involving trust, love, obedience, acquiescence. The great mission of Christ into our world was to generate in humanity this true filial disposition, enabling them to address the Infinite as "our Father." This is the true adoption, He, then, who conquers evil becomes a son of God. He does not receive "the spirit of bondage again to fear, but … the Spirit of adoption," etc.
V. HE IS ESSENTIALLY SIN RESISTING. But the [for the] fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part [their part shall be] in the lake which [that] burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). All these hideous characters are but the creatures of sin. Sin is cowardice, sin is faithless, sin is abhorrent, sin is murderous, sin is lascivious, sin is deceptive and idolatrous. All these productions of sin are abhorrent to the Divine nature. "It is the abominable thing" which he hates, and he consigns sin to irretrievable destruction, and it is destined to have its part in "the lake which burneth with fire."
CONCLUSION. Such, then, is that ever blessed One who is engaged in the new moral creation of our world. The creative work has begun; its progress seems to us slow, but its consummation is inevitable.—D.T.
The spiritual commonwealth of the good.
"And there came unto me one of the seven angels," etc. There is a spirit world. This is a fact, established by conclusive reasoning and accordant with the concurrent beliefs of mankind. This spirit world is a commonwealth. It has a social order. The existence of spirits destitute of gregarious instincts and social affinities is conceivable, and may be perhaps somewhere in existence in the great spirit world—the world of which the material universe is the offspring, mirror, and servant. But of such non-social beings we have no proof or information. The great spirit world in which we believe, and of which we read, is a community that has its laws of intercourse, sympathy, and cooperation. Hence in Scripture it is frequently figurated as the Jerusalem from above, the heavenly Jerusalem, etc. Jerusalem is its metropolis, the centre of its authority and influence. Now, the magnificent capital of this great commonwealth of the good is the sand picture in this dream, for a dream or vision it manifestly is. Literally, a city like the one here represented has never existed, and, according to the laws of architecture, proportion, and gravitation, perhaps never could exist; and hence prosaic interpreters, however learned, incapable of distinguishing between fact and figure, have, in their expositions of this and other visions, produced such a jumblement of incongruities which disgraces their own common sense and discredits the Scriptures. Taking the vision before us as a parable, or a pictorial illustration, of the social state or order of the good, we may attach to it the following characteristics.
I. HEAVENLINESS. Heaven reveals it to man. "And there came unto me one of the seven angels which [who] had the seven vials [bowls] full of the [who were laden with] seven last plagues, and talked with me [he spake unto me], saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the Lamb's wife [the wife of the Lamb]" (Revelation 21:9). Ministers from the celestial world are represented not only as talking to the author about it, but as inviting him to look at it. All the ideas of men concerning a perfect social state have come to us, not as the deductions of our own reasoning, but as communications from heaven. Heaven enables man to see it. "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem [showed me the holy city Jerusalem], descending [coming down] out of heaven from God" (Revelation 21:10). It is not until we are elevated into the higher modes of thought and feeling that we have reached a standpoint from which we can command a view of this supernal state. Down in the valley of worldliness, under the shadow of the hills, and amid the exhalations and fogs of sensualities, it would be impossible to catch a glimpse of the King in his beauty, in the land that is afar off. We must climb the mental Pisgah, and reach the Mount of Transfiguration. Heaven brings it down to man. "Descending [coming down] out of heaven from God." This perfect social state must come down to us from heaven, if we are ever to realize and possess it. Men from ages of false religious teaching have come to regard heaven as something at a distance, as something yonder, not here; something in a certain locality in the universe, not something in a certain state of mind and character. Hence the cry, "Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I flee away, and be at rest!" But he who would have heaven in the soul, its perfect state, must bring it down, its sympathies, purposes, down into his own heart. His prayer should be, "Thy kingdom come: thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
"In sacred silence of my mind,
My heaven, and there my God, I find."
II. DIVINITY. "Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like [as it were] a jasper stone, clear as crystal" (Revelation 21:11). As the Shechinah lit up the holy of holies in the temple, God's presence radiates through every part of this spiritual communism of the good. He is its Essence and its Inspiration. He is its [Light, transparent as the crystal and beautiful as the gleaming shot from the precious jasper. A poet has spoken of "looking through nature up to nature's God." He should have said look down on nature through God. God is in his great social system of order what the cloudless midday sun is to our globe. All other lights are buried in the brightness of its rays, and from it all life, and beauty, and motion, and order proceed. Human systems of government, what are they? Black, battling, boundless chaos. But the perfect social order is Divinity itself, all filled with God; he is All in all—the Centre, the Circumference, the Beginning, and the End of all. God is the Light of it.
III. SECURITY. "And had [having] a wall great and high, and had [having] twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels," etc. (Revelation 21:12-14). The metropolis of this spiritual commonwealth is abundantly protected. It had a wall "great and high," impregnable and unscaleable. It had "twelve gates," three for each point of the compass—"north," "south," "east," "west." "Twelve foundations" also it had, and all the twelve gates guarded by "angels," that excel in strength. The systems of government and social order that men construct, how flail and transient they are! They are constantly changing, breaking up in confusion, and themselves sinking into ruin.
"Here a vain man his sceptre breaks,
The next a broken sceptre takes,
And warriors win and lose;
This rolling world can never stand,
Plundered and plucked from hand to hand,
As power decays and grows."
But here is a kingdom that cannot be moved, a "city that hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God."
IV. SYMMETRY. "And he that talked [spake] with me had a golden reed [had for a measure a golden reed] to measure the city, and the gates thereof, and the wall thereof" (Revelation 21:15). The metropolis of this commonwealth is not reared capriciously and without plan. Every material is properly measured and put in its right position. The Architect is of unerring skill. Is there any symmetry in our schemes of government, whether political, social, or ecclesiastic? What one generation has constructed, and admired as just and wise, the next, blessed with a higher education, pronounces both unrighteous and unwise. The Architect of this city measured the whole by "the golden rule." "Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbour as thyself."
V. AMPLITUDE. "The city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large [great] as the breadth" (Revelation 21:16). The city is of vast dimensions. The walls that enclose it stretch ever about fifteen hundred miles. "The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal." There is nothing limited or narrow in the scheme of social order which God has established for the government of communities; it embraces all, of whatsoever tribe or land, secular condition, or grade of intellect or culture. Look at the political schemes that men formulate! As a rule, they are ever in favour of the rich and the powerful—the few, to the disadvantage of the multitudes. Look at the religious schemes! As a rule, how miserably narrow! Officialdom has turned temples into shops, preachers into traders, and the God of infinite love into an object whose approbation is to be obtained by fulsome flattery, whining cajolery, and cringing servility, expressed in prayers and hymns that shock the common sense and conscience of the unsophisticated amongst mankind. Oh that we could "comprehend with all the saints what is the height, the depth, the length, the breadth, of God's love"
VI. COSTLINESS. Things that men regard as the most precious and costly are here mentioned as belonging to this wonderful social edifice. "And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold," etc. (Revelation 21:18-21). In the description we have "jasper," "gold," "precious stones," "sapphire," "chalcedony," "emerald," "pearls," etc. The pearl was regarded by the ancients as of all things the most precious. Elsewhere God's truth, his Word, his moral system, is represented as "more precious than gold, yea, than even fine gold." It is the transcendent good.
1. The greatest thing in the universe is mind. Mind is the maker and manager, the owner and lord, of all material systems.
2. The greatest thing in mind is love. Pure, disinterested, self-sacrificing, Christ-like love, this identifies us with God, makes us one with him. "There abideth," says Paul, "faith, hope, charity;… the greatest of these is charity." This love is the essence of that social order which God has established in his moral creation. All the precious stones, the gold, the pearls, etc., of the creation, are puerilities compared to this.—D.T.
The negative glory of heaven (No. 1).
"And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty," etc. There are three ways of describing to others scenes unlike those with which they are acquainted.
1. A statement of those things which are not there, but which are found elsewhere within their sphere of observation.
2. A statement of those things which are found in them in common with those scenes with which they are familiar.
3. A statement of those things which are peculiar to them, and which are found in no other scene within their knowledge. These three methods are employed by the sacred writers in order to present to us the heavenly Jerusalem—the eternal inheritance of the good. The verses before us are a specimen of the first method. Certain things are here mentioned which belong to our earthly sphere, but which have no existence there, and this very negative description has a power to make on us a deep impression that heaven is a scene of transcendent blessedness. Looking a little closely into the negative record in the text, we may infer—
I. THAT IN THAT STATE THERE IS NO SPECIALITY IN THE FORMS OF RELIGIOUS WORSHIP. "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it" (Revelation 21:22). A city without a temple would strike the common notions of men as atheistic. To the Jewish mind especially it would give the idea of a city to be avoided and denounced. The glory of the metropolis of their country was its temple. When the Prophet Ezekiel would cheer and animate them in their Babylonian bondage, he presents to them a graphic description of the temple that was to be reared in their city, with its ornaments and ordinances, its chambers for the priests, its altars for the sacrifices. Still, whatever might be the popular notions of men about temples, with their methods of worship:
1. Their existence implies spiritual blindness and imperfection; they are remedies for evils.
2. Their history shows that men, in many instances, have turned them to a most injurious account. They have nourished superstition. Men have confined the idea of sacredness and worship and God to these buildings. They have nourished sectarianism, the devilism of Christendom. Different classes have had their different temples and modes of worship, and often regard with sectarian jealousy and loathing those who kneel not at their altar and adopt not their theory of doctrine and ritual of worship. When it is said, therefore, that there is "no temple in heaven," it does not mean that there will be no worship in heaven, but that there will be no temple like that on earth, always implying imperfections and often used to foster the superstitious and sectarian. The reason assigned for the non existence of a temple in heaven is a very wonderful one: "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it." God and his holy Son are not only the Objects of heavenly worship, but the very temple of devotion. All there feel not only that they have to render to God and his Son worship, but they are in them in the worship. All there feel that "in him they live, and move, and have their being;" that he is the very breath of their existence. Where he is—and he is everywhere—there is their temple, there is their worship. The doctrine of worship propounded by Christ to the woman of Samaria is there felt in all its intensity and developed in all its perfection. "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." The "no temple" in heaven really means "all temple"—worship everywhere, under all circumstances, and forever. Brethren, are we learning a worship here to prepare us for the worship yonder? Is our worship a thing of buildings, liturgies, ritualisms, and sects? Such worship will not do for heaven. Our conventional worship, in the light of the worship of eternity, is as contemptible as a rushlight in the beams of the noonday sun.
II. THAT IN THAT WORLD THERE IS NO NECESSITY FOR SECONDHAND KNOWLEDGE. "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (verse 23). Moons and suns are but secondary organs of light. The moon borrows from the sun; the sun, perhaps, from another orb; and that from another. The Fountain of all light is God himself, the is "the Father of lights." The grand central orb in the material universe catches his radiance, and flings it abroad on the million globes of space. When we are told, therefore, that the city will have no need of the moon and the sun, it figuratively expresses the idea that the holy tenants of that blessed state will have no need for any secondary means of knowledge. Here a secondhand knowledge is indispensable to us. Most of the knowledge we have is derived from others—parents, teachers, ministers, books. Knowledge about our own being and relations, about Christ and God and worship, come to us, not directly from God, the great Fountain of light, but through a variety of secondary agencies. Even the higher light of the Bible comes to us in this way. "Holy men of God spake as they were moved." It is moon and sun light; the light of secondary orbs we have here, and we cannot do without it. Not so in the celestial world. That spiritual intelligence in that blessed state will be derived from communion with spirit can scarcely admit a doubt. In that society, as here, there will be the teacher and the learner. But the idea symbolized by the verse is that that secondhand knowledge will not be needed, will not be indispensable as here. Here, like Job, we hear of God by the hearing of the ear; there we shall see him as he is, and be like him. He will be the Light, the clear, direct, unbounded medium, through which we shall see ourselves, and our fellow worshippers, and the universe. "Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face." This light will he enjoyed by all the saved. "And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it, and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it" (verse 24). Observe:
1. The saved will be numerous. "Nations." "The Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising," etc. (Isaiah 60:3-5).
2. The saved will be progressive. "They shall walk in the light," ever onward.
3. The saved are self-surrendering. "The kings of the earth do bring their glory." All the honours, even of kings, shall be laid in reverence at his feet. "The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts. Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: all nations shall serve him."
III. THAT IN THAT WORLD THERE WILL BE NO APPREHENSION OF DANGER FROM ANY PART. "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there" (verse 25). Never shut by day, then never shut at all, for the day there is eternal. Fear, which bath torment, and which often shakes our spirits here, as the wind shakes the leaf in the forest, will find no place in any breast in heaven. An unshaken consciousness of safety will reign universally. No fear of temptation; here we are bound to watch and pray lest we fall into temptation; we are surrounded by tempters on every hand. No seductive serpent will ever find. his way into that Paradise restored by Christ. Why should we say so? Has there not been a fall in heaven? Did not a host of bright angels leave their first estate? And may not such a rebellion again break forth? Never! Why? Because of the great amount of motive that now exists in heaven to bind the virtuous to virtue, the Christian to Christ, the godly to God.
1. There is a motive from a contrast between the present and the past.
2. There is the motive from the appearance of the Lamb in the midst of the throne. The memory of Calvary is a golden chain, linking all to the eternal throne of purity and love. There is no fear of affliction. We are told in the fourth verse that there shall be no sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain. The countless ills to which flesh is heir will never find their way thither. There is no fear of death. Death here is the king of terrors. Through fear of death we are all our lifetime subject to bondage; but death will never enter there. The gates, then, might well be left open, for there is no fear.
IV. THAT IN THAT WORLD THERE WILL BE NONE OF THE INCONVENIENCES OF DARKNESS. "There shall be no night there."
1. Night interrupts our vision. It hides the world from our view, and is the symbol of ignorance. The world is full of existence and beauty, but night hides all.
2. Night interrupts our labour. We "go forth unto our labour until the evening."
V. THAT IN THAT WORLD THERE WILL BE NO ADMISSION OF IMPURITY OF ANY KIND. "And there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life (verse 27). Observe:
1. The excluded. All impurities of all kinds and degrees.
2. The included. All who are "written," etc. All who are registered on the grand roll of redemption. What a roll is this!—D.T.
The negative glory of heaven (No. 2).
"For there shall be no night there." In our observations on the preceding verses we pointed to the spiritual commonwealth of the good and the negative glory of heaven. Of the latter point the text at the head is not the least suggestive. The commonwealth of the good in its perfect state will be nightless, and the vision suggests
I. CONSTANT LUMINOSITY. Night draws her veil over nature, and hides from mortals the world in which they live, and it is therefore the symbol of ignorance. Never, of course, shall we see all things in heaven. There will always be universes lying beyond the ken of the most penetrating eye. The elevation that lies today at the utmost boundary of an angel's horizon he may perhaps reach in the course of time, and one day stand upon its lofty brow. But even from this towering apex he may find other elevations concealing the infinite beyond. The finite intellect will never grasp the Infinite. Nor do I believe that different minds will ever have exactly the same view of things, see things exactly in the same light. This seems to me impossible, from the fact that no two spirits are exactly alike, nor can any two occupy exactly the same points of observation. Our views will necessarily be relative. They will be true to us, but not necessarily true to others. God alone can see the whole of a thing. We only see sections and sides. Not only does it appear impossible, but also undesirable. Diversity of view gives a freshness and charm to society. A city where all the citizens had precisely the same views on the same subjects would be characterized by a drowsy monotony. A loving comparison of views, a generous debate, a magnanimous controversy, are amongst the blessings and charms of social life. Still, our range of vision, though relative, and our views though relative, will be clear and accurate. Here, in a world of nights, our most correct conceptions of things are clouded more or less with error. We see now through a "glass, darkly," says Paul. The glass he refers to was not like our window-glass, offering no obstruction to light, but a semi-transparent horn. How different the landscape looked through such a thick medium, as looked at directly with a clear, strong eye! Notwithstanding this, all will be light enough to make the path of duty clear. The depravities of our nature, the Carnal and selfish inclinations of our hearts, often throw the darkness of night upon that course of life which is true and just. But in that world without a night, eternal sunshine will settle on the path of duty; it will lie straight before us, and we shall move on with the steps of certitude. God's will will radiate on everything without, and will express itself in every impulse within. In that nightless sphere all will be morally pure. Moral impurity reigns in the night. It is the season in which great sins are generally committed. The thief and the assassin go forth with stealthy tread on their mission of wickedness in the night. The gambler, the debauchee, and the serfs of carnal appetites meet and hold their revelries in the night. "They that be drunken are drunken in the night." The prince of darkness and all his ghostly legions win their most terrible victories in the gloom and the silence of nocturnal hours. The day is the emblem and the minister of purity. How pure is the light! In heaven all is pure. There are the holy angels whose natures, through the ages of their being, have never been clouded by one impure thought or touched by the thrill of one unholy passion. The redeemed of all ages are there.
II. UNCLOUDED BEAUTY. The negation implies that it is a realm ever beautiful in aspect. Darkness hides the beauty of the world, but light is the creator and minister of beauty. All the variegated colours of the summer's landscape we owe to the sun; and all the exquisite forms of life owe their existence to his renewing power. The sun is nature's great painter. All the pictures of loveliness that charm us as we walk the galleries of life have been photographed by his smiles and tinged by his hues. What, then, will be the beauty of a world where there is "no night"—a world of perpetual sunshine? All the beauties of nature will be clear. The very distant shores and the seas, the meads and the mountains, the rivers and the ravines—all, in fact, beneath, around, above—will be one grand universe of beauty. All the beauties of artists will be clear. The very instinct of genius is to invent, imitate, and create, and there genius will flourish in perfection. May it not be that numbers will there be employed in copying the forms of loveliness around them with pencils more delicate, lines more life like, hands more skilful, than our Raphaels and Rubenses, our Da Vincis and Correggios? May it not be that we shall see numbers there employed in weaving the sounds of nature into melodies more soul stirring and Divine than ever struck the lyre of our Handels and Mozarts? May it not be that numbers will he there hymning their praises in strains of seraphic poetry, compared with which the epics of Milton and the lyrics of Cowper are but the vapid fancies of childhood? Genius there will undoubtedly be active, and all her productions will be distinguished by the highest perfection of beauty. All the moral beauties will be clear. The beauty of holiness, the beauty of the Lord, will adorn every spirit. All will be endowed with those attributes of moral loveliness that will command the admiration of each and all. Thus all will rejoice in each other, and all rejoice in the Lord, whence all their beauty came.
III. UNINTERRUPTED FAVOURS. Night checks the progress of life. The processes of life, it is true, go on in the night, but they are slow and feeble. Life cannot bear the darkness long; pulse grows feeble under its ebon reign. Its tide ebbs under its cold breath. Take a vigorous, blooming plant, and shut it up in the dark. How soon will it lose its vitality, become delicate, colourless, and die! Were our sun to shine on without setting from year to year on this earth, who could tell how high the tide of life would rise in every living thing? Where there is "no night," there will be no check to the advance of life. The vital energies will always be increasing. Sinew and soul, character and conscience, will be ever growing in force. "From strength to strength" all these proceed. No blight to wither, no shadow to chill, there. But all the influences that play around existence there inspire, invigorate, and uplift. Night checks the progress of labour. We "go forth unto our labour until the evening;" then night shuts us in. We retire to unconsciousness and inaction. "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." "The night cometh, when no man can work." But in a world where there is "no night," there is no checking of labour. Our range of action would be unrestrained. We shall be always abounding in the work of the Lord. Night checks the progress of happiness. Darkness is depressing. Hence it is often used as the emblem of misery; the scene where the wicked one,is is spoken of as "outer darkness." Even the irrational creatures around us feel the depressing influence of a gloomy day. Under the dark clouds and murky sky, the cattle cease to gambol on the hills, and the fowls of heaven cease their music in the groves. All feel the pressure of darkness. Light is the condition and emblem of joy. A bright day sets the world to music. What happiness, then, must there be in a world where there is no night! In what does its happiness consist? The context answers the question—the absence of all evil. No pain, no sorrow, no death, no hunger, no thirst, no temple, no night. The presence of all the good: the river of life, the tree of life, companionship with the holy, fellow ship with God, oneness with Christ. This is heaven.
Such are the ideas suggested by this nightless condition. It is a scene where the vision is ever clear, where the character is ever pure, the aspect is ever beautiful, life is ever advancing, joy is ever rising. The sun never sinks beneath the hills, nor does a cloud ever intercept his rays.—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Revelation 21". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany