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Indeed, as if to abase the pride of those who trusted to have equalled God the impious war and battle proud they raised in heaven, the Most High mal his angels ministering spirits to those who are heirs of salvation, gives th charge over them to keep them all in their ways, and acquaints us with this stin lative to perilous duties, that the angel of the Lord encamps round about th that fear him, and delivers them. Milton speaks of Uriel, the regent of 1 sun, and another poet tells of earth’s guardian angel, who loved the earth as 1 child, and for its sins and woes wept herself like a cloud away ; but, though learn not from the Bible that sun, moon, or stars have guardian bands to wat them, “ this honour have all his saints ;" for flaming cherubims and archang strong guard the humblest child of God, and ceasing when all dangers are p to protect them here, will rejoice in becoming his brethren throughout eternit
Kept by the power of God through faith.” This power, which is everywhe and ever ready to act, demands from us the exercise of faith for its benefit co-operation. The believer must cling to God as would a child to his father the hour of danger. What matters it that the oak is the hero of a thousa storms, the ivy must cling to it to withstand the shocks of the gusty win what signifies it that the rock is immovable, the cable must be strong or t ship will scud wildly before the gale ; and what avails it to any one that God almighty, if with heart and hand
we lay not hold of his power! There must the trusting, acting soul. The name of the Lord is a strong haven, the righteo run into it, and find safety. The believer is girt round with salvation itself
, 1 salvation hath the Lord appointed for walls and bulwarks. Within the walls and behind these defences our faith must carry us ; then shall the “ lit faiths" be as safe, in spite of their fears, as the great hearts," who have no fe at all. How great a matter a little fire kindleth, but how much greater a pow a little faith moveth, even the power that raised the sky and rolled the migh worlds along!
IV. Let us conclude by noticing the period of full possession ; " ready to revealed at the last time. The inheritance is not in a state of incompletenes it is the kingdom which has been prepared before the foundation of the wor
] It is ready, though not ready to be revealed. Many of the heirs are not matu: nor wise, nor prepared enough, to enter and possess it; many more are yet unho! Nor is it meet that one by one and privately the heirs
should enter. Here th professed openly, were persecuted publicly, killed shamefully, buried obscure or dismissed carelessly from the mind of the unbelieving world; and God promised a day wherein shall be discerned between the righteous and wick between him that serves God and him that serves him not. As they were laden with shame, they shall
, on that day, when the inheritance is revealed all its wide amplitude and surpassing splendour-when it shall unfold as golden wings of the morning—be clothed with honour, and the lowliest one witnessed faithfully for the truth shall stand forth as the confessed friend of Chri
Though the inheritance is ready, the table is spread, and the supper is bei laid,—though many of the guests have come, and the rich clusters of the vi have put in their purple bloom,--the Lamb will not sit down, nor will the fes begin, nor will the new wine be drank, until every guest has come. But th shall the feast of love begin, and the undying harmony shall gwell; then sh Jesus be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe. Nog shall invade this kingdom ; no cries shall mingle with its songs but the of victory to the Lamb; no spoiler shall ravish and destroy ; no fear shall c tend with love; no grief unstring their harps ; no sorrow seek utterance plaintive wail; for Christ's reign of peace will never end, and while in presence there is fulness of joy, at his right hand
will be pleasures for
evermo In view and hopes of such a kingdom, every Christian, being a king, shou have a kingly spirit, and being a priest, display sanctity of life, and offer
spiritual sacrifices daily unto God. Patience should have her perfect work, and Christian fortitude should be exhibited, that the world may discern the virtues of a faith which enables you, even when the vine gives no fruit, when the labour of the olive fails, when the skies are clad in blackness, and the star of Bethlehem is hid, when the book is sealed and the fountain is dry, to testify that God is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works, and that his words are stable as his throne.
Let not the tribulation through which you must pass hinder so much as help you onwards. The storm that blows in the teeth of your course can be made, when sails and helm are rightly handled, to waft you to your destined haven. He that overcometh, not he that is overcome, wins and wears the crown. You have seen the lark rise from his grassy bed to pour forth his song in the skies ; you have watched him contend with the baffling wind, now beaten back, now rising on still vigorous wing, until he towered into the calm, bright heights of heaven, and, with the storm beneath him, rang out his merry song to his Maker. And thus should the Christian struggle, and rise, and sing,
“ Nearer, my God, to thee,
Nearer to thee;
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer to thee.
Cleaving the sky,
Still all my song shall be,
Nearer to thee."
THE LETTER TO THE CHURCH AT SARDIS.
BY THE REV. W. WALTERS.
Revelation iii. 1-6.
SARDIS was the capital of ancient Lydia. It was a wealthy, powerful, and voluptuous city
. Concerning one of its kings we have the saying, “As rich as Cræsus." After passing through successive changes of government, it fell at last into the hands of the Romans, and then speedily began to decline. Under Tiberius it was destroyed by an earthquake, but was rebuilt. Through the ravages of war, however, it was once more reduced to ruine, in which state it has remained for ages. Among the relics of its former magnificence (which are rather numerous), there are parts of two immense pillars
, supposed to have belonged to the temple of Cybele. If this supposition be correct, these pillars are amongst the oldest existing monuments of the past, that temple having been erected only three hundred years after the grand structure of Solomon. Innumerable hillocks around indicate the sleeping places of the dead. Sheep feed on the herbage which grows
amid the fallen and half-buried ruins. The wretched little village called Sart, with its few poor inhabitants, seems to mock the departed glory of the city.
Nothing is known of the time or manner of the planting of the Christian Church in Sardis. Melito, one of its pastors, in the second century, distinguished himself by writing a kind of Commentary on the Apocalypse, and an Apology for the Christians. For several subsequent centuries there are notices of its history, but it has been long extinct.
The first thing to be marked in the letter before us, as in the other letters, is the manner in which the writer speaks of himself. “These things saith he that hath the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars." The first expression is very peculiar. Do these seven spirits" refer to the Divine perfections, or to God the Father, or to seven angels appointed to stand in God's presence and do his will, or
to the Holy Ghost ? The four views have their advocates. We hold the last. The language is borrowed evidently from the fourth verse of the first chapter. See the connection in which it stands there. “Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and wbich was, and which is to come ; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.” Here “the seven spirits" cannot mean created beings. John would never have classed the highest created intelligences with the uncreated and Divine; he never would have spoken of them as being, with God the Father and the Divine Son, equal sources
and peace. He cannot mean the Godhead, because in the other sentences he mentions the Son, and clearly alludes to the Father, We are, therefore, shut up to the conclusion, that, by the expression,“ the seven spirits which are before the throne,” he intends us to understand the Holy Ghost, with his manifold and perfect gifts. If this be the meaning of the words in the source from which they are borrowed, the same meaning must attach to them in the place where they are now found. Jesus Christ therefore says, “I am he that hath the Holy Ghost, with whom are spiritual blessings without number and in infinite perfection."
By “the seven stars” we understand the pastors of the seven churches; and the fact that Christ had them in his hand teaches that his ministers are appointed, upheld, and entirely governed by his will.
How appropriate this language was to the circumstances of the dying church in Sardis! It is as if Christ had said, “Your condition is indeed languid and deplorable ; your sickness is grievous ; you are nigh unto death ; but look unto me. Remember tbat I have the Spirit of all power and life. I have 'the seven spirits of God, and the seven stars.'
Let us rejoice in this truth. With him is the residue of the Spirit ; and one shower of that Spirit's influence on our souls will be as rain upon mown grass. Whatever we do, or wherever we go, till we seek the quickening power of the Holy Ghost, all will prove unavailing to raise us from our dying state. “ Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”
The following language describes the state of the Church :-"Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watch
ful, and strengthen the things wh remain, that are ready to die ; for I h not found thy works perfect before Go What a sad condition! Scarcely anythi to commend. Only a few individu spoken of in terms of approval. Alm all Christian life extinct. Yet they pasi for living, healthy believers. It does i appear that there was any enormous di trine, or inconsistent conduct, like Pergamos and Thyatira ; but there was absence of vitality. They existed as Church, but they were so inactive, sluggi sickly, that there was little difference tween them and the dead world arou Some things remained. There was a lit love-a little labour-a little faith-a lit following after the Lord. These manifest tions, however, were like the feeble puls tions and breathings which just assure that life has not fed-like the last se leaves on the topmost boughs in autumn like the last darkening embers of expiring fire. A few things remained, where God has breatbed life nothing a totally destroy it; but the few that remain were ready to die. Their works were 11 perfect before God. In their number the motives which prompted them-int spirit with which they were discharged. they were defective. Whatever men thoug] of them, God did not regard them wit favour. He judgeth not as man judget
) He has a standard of his owna standa which is perfect. To him we should ev look for approval and reward.
A similar state to that thus describe may be seen in Churches in our own de How is it with you? You may be a name to live, and yet be dead. You mi be regular in your attendance on public wq ship, and yet it may have lost its charm You may have prayers in your family, a yet they may have degenerated into a fori Even the closet may be a palace of ice. Y may be the last to perceive this. In sor of the last stages of consumption, when thi patient is within a day or two of death, fancies himself better, and smiles at the ide of imminent danger. So, when a soul has so far lost spiritual life as to “ready to die," he often says to himself
, am well.” My brother, try yourself
. you love the counting-house, or the worl shop, more than the closet-if you fe more interest in the newspaper than in ti Bible--if the society of the worldly is mo attractive than that of saints-you ma take to yourself some part of the languag
** Thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead.” How are you walking before the Lord ? Are your works perfect? Is your love to him and his sincere and fervent ?
Are you penetrated with the thought that he sees your inmost heart
that insincerity before him is mockerythat the offering of the lame and the blind in sacrifice is an abomination to him-and that he demands and deserves the best obedience that can be presented by love ? Oh, for greater simplicity and fidelity in pur works before God!
Hearken to the Lord's admonition to this Church! “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shult not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.” Watchfulness was especially needed, as a first step towards
Awake," says Christ, and keep yourselves awake."
We are surrounded by so many enemies, that perpetual vigilance is an imperative duty. The neglect of it has caused many saints to fall, and lose their peace. We ought, therefore, to watch as the man who expects a midnight burglar to enter his house—as the mariner, who, fearing he is approaching a sunken reef or a sand-shoal, every moment casts his lead. Young disciples, watch ! Fear your foe, and you will avoid him. Self-confidence and negligence have ruined the usefulness and peace of many, who once set out on the ocean of Christian profession, as ships in full sail, but who are now driven hither and thither by fierce winds, and threatened with momentary destruction.
" Strengthen the things which remain.” A little life was left; like the sap which lingers in the root though the trunk be dry; or the fire that is in the heart of the embers
. This was to be strengthened. For this purpose they were to look to Him who
hath the seven spirits of God.” The evil is that, sometimes, when we discover our weakness, we apply to the wrong quarter
strength. “When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrians, and sent to king Jareb : yet could not he heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” In connection with prayer for Divine help, we must use the appointed means.
Prayer without effort exposes us to the rebuke God gave to Moses's Why criest thou
unto me ? "Speak
to the children of Israel, that they go forward.” If we have become weak, let us commence, with new vigour, our Christian efforts. As the withered arm of the man found its strength when it was put forth at Christ's command, so we shall find strength in the very act of attempting to work; and every fresh endeavour will fit us for more exteasive service.
“Remember, therefore, how thou hast received, and hold fast and repent." This may refer to the truths they had received, or to the manner in which they had received them. If we embrace the former riew, we understand the Lord to say“ Remember what the doctrines of the Gospel, in which you have been instructed, are, and walk in accordance with them. They teach you to be holy, diligent, earnest, zealous. See that you embody the truth of God in your lives. As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him : rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught.” If we embrace the latter view, we understand the Lord to say—“Recollect and keep in mind the clearness and ardour with which you heard and embraced the truth at first. Think of the early love of discipleship. Remember how the statements which are now stale and uninteresting were then the most cheering intelligence which could fall upon your ears.".
The address in both lights is applicable to ourselves. Let us think of the glorious Gospel we have received. What other revelations are so calculated to inspire the heart of man with joy! What other system of morals demands such purity of life! What other code of laws is so authoritative in its claims! What other motives can so stir the soul! Let us think of the joy with which we first received the word. We never saw such beauty anywhere as we then saw in Christ. We never heard such engaging tones as those in which he addressed us. Our soul thrilled with a holy excitement. May the first love soon return! “ Hold fast and repent.” How often are we impressed with the importance of duty, but something arises to engross our attention, and we let truths go! This is the secret of our stationary piety. It is also the chief reason why many persons, who are often convinced of the necessity of decision for God, never enter his kingdom. Let us repent our past remissness, and hold fast what we have received !
If the church in Sardis neglected to
heed this admonition, they were to expect their Lord to come suddenly, as a thief in the night, to execute judgment upon them! If they did not bestir themselves, they would receive no further warning. As the man who is in deep slumber is aroused to find a pistol at his head, or a knife at his throat, so they would be aroused from their deathlike sleep to find themselves in the presence of their despised and offended Lord. Thus God, at times, visits backsliders with unexpected punishment; and though they die in safety, they die in fear, and are saved so as by fire.
Our Lord does not forget the faithful few in this dying Church. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy." “ Even in Sardis,” refers perhaps both to the city and the church-to the city as voluptuous, to the church fallen. The figure is that of persons clothed in white raiment, and walking in the midst of dirt and filth without soiling it. A few had continued to act con. sistently, though surrounded by evil; only a few ; yet it was a blessing that there were any. A few may be the salvation of the whole. If only ten godly persons had been found in Sodom, that city would not have been destroyed. In a nation a few faithful churches may not only keep alive their own godliness and zeal, but prove a blessing to the whole land. In a church a few con. sistent members may bring down “showers of blessing.” As these few had kept them. selves pure, they should remain pure; as they had preserved their garments free from defilement on earth, they should wear them with Christ in heaven. As kings and priests (white being both a royal and a sacerdotal colour), they should appear for ever in regal splendour and spotless sanctity. Of this honour all faithful Chris. tians shall be "
worthy : " having been worthy” through the imputed righteousness of Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost.
And now comes the closing promise. “ He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life; but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels." We have already seen the import of the " wbite raiment."
As ancient cities had their roll-book in which the names of citizens were written, so the heavenly city is said to have a book
in which the names of all the redeemed habitants are enrolled. When a citi died, or forfeited his citizenship, his na was erased.
When it is said that the name of 1 overcoming believer shall not be blott out of the book of life," it is not to inferred that some names will be blott out. Such reasoning would be very ill gical. If our names are enrolled as ci zens of the New Jerusalem, our citizens! is safe for ever. What a privilege to numbered among the saints! All the d tinctions bestowed by men on one anot! will soon perish ; but_this distinoti will eternally remain. You are, perhap anxious to know whether your name is " the book of life.” You cannot look in it that you may see.
It is well that yo cannot. But if you are really desirous ascertaining how the matter stands, as within. Have you any reason to hope th your heart has been changed by grac Do you hate evil ? Do you love the Lo and delight in his law? Do you yearn times for unbroken communion with him These are among the things which accor panysalvation; and if you wear these badg of citizenship, your name is surely there
“I will confess his name before 1 Father, and before his angels.” In th confession Christ will acknowledge the be liever as his friend. He will say, “To that man I died and rose again. Into h heart I sent my Spirit to renew and san tify him. Over him I watched while ! lived on earth. Since his death his spir has been with me in Paradise, His du in the grave has been more precious in m sight than gold or pearls. I give unto hi eternal life. Come in, thou blessed of t Lord!” O to be owned by such a bein amid such an assembly, at that day! W do not wonder that, with such a prospe in view, saints have borne the heavie afllictions of life joyfully, and met the la enemy without fear. How the Lord's de spised ones, of whom the world was ne worthy, will rejoice to hear this confe sion! How it will pierce many hearts, an arrow, to hear no mention of the names! “Many will say to me in the day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesiód i thy name ? and in thy name have cast of devils ? and in thy name done many wol derful works ? and then will I profe unto them, I never knew you : depar from me, ye that work iniquity,"