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power. It is he "who hath the key of David, who openeth and none shutteth, and shutteth and none openeth.” This symbol, having the key of David, is borrowed from a prophecy of Christ, Isaiah xxii. 22.
The key is an ancient and well known symbol of authority. Aeschyllus, in one of his compositions, calls the priestess of Juno her key-bearer. This mark of office was borne by the Greeks upon their shoulder. And, in allusion to the key as the ensign of power, the unlimited extent of that power is expressed with great clearness, by having the sole and exclusive authority to open and shut. The Redeemer's symbol is called the key of David, because he is known in the scriptures as of the house of David. Da. vid was his progenitor according to the flesh; David was exalted to the head of the kingdom of Israel, and there, fore is a well known type of Jesus, the head of all the Israel of God; and it is under this view that Jesus Christ is şaid to inherit the throne of his father David. By the key of David, then, is meant supreme authority in the church of the living God. I, says Jesus to the church of the Philadelphians, I have this power; I open, none can shut, I shut, none can open; I therefore can dispense the privileges of the church and blessings of salvation to your children's children in the worst of times.
It is thus the Redeemer describes himself to them. He was holy; devoted to God's service and pure in person: He therefore knew how to appreciate and reward their purity and devotedness. He was faithful, and therefore would not forget the promise he was about to make them. He had the key of David, all authority and power in his hands, and therefore could perform it in despite of every difficulty and opposition, which he foresaw must be ene countered.
Having thus introduced himself, he proceeds to deliner ate the present state of that church, and thence by way of promise to predict her future fortunes: “I know thy works." Works is a word generally used in this book, when employed in a good sense, to denote christian activity in the Redeemer's cause, and for the comfort and edification of his people. We are not told particularly how Philadelphia had employed herself; but we know very well what was the general tone of the christian spirit in that age; and it is clear that Philadelphia must have stood in the foremost ranks of the active and the devoted, otherwise she could not have obtained this distinguished notice; much less the reward still more distinguished, as having been given to her alone of all the Asiatic churches. We have only to consider, then, what was the general character of the times, and we shall see what Philadelphia, supereminently distinguished, must necessarily have been. In that
the the force of the apostle's words, "no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself," &c. was felt and acknowledge ed by all. Hence there was no want of men to uphold and spread the gospel of Jesus Christ among the nations. Every church was furnished with multitudes disposed to "leave father and mother and houses and lands, to spread the gospel of Christ.” And hence we find that in a very few years it was dispersed through all the civilized and no small portion of the barbarous world. There was no want of means to promote this great design. No want of means to supply the necessities of persecuted christians, despoiled of property and driven from their homes. No want of any thing which could in any measure tend to forward the knowledge of the faith of Christ, or to promote the glory of his name. Every person was at the disposal of the
church, and every heart and every parse was open to furnish the necessary means.
These were the labours of christian love, these the fruits of the faith of Jesus, these the results of that hope of immortality which, drawn from -the gospel of the grace of God, had illumined the gloom. of the grave. And in these sworks” for the promotion of the common cause, Philadelphia, though a place of no. great size, and, comparatively speaking, no great wealth, had acted a conspicuous part. Because thou bast done this, says the Redeemer, because thou hast labored to promote my cause, and to extend to others the benefits of my gospel, this gospel shall not be taken away from thee. This is his meaning when he says, “behold I have set before thee an open door and none can shut it.” We have already heard him describe himself as having "the key of David,” the symbol of supreme authority in the church of God. So that by opening the door with this key, and causing it to stand open by permiting none to shut, he evidently means, that he will continue his church among them, so that they shall always have free access to its ordinances, in despite of all attempts to hinder them. We shall just now see what attempts were afterwards made to unchurch that people, and how, after all the other Asiatic churches had long perished utterly, in Philadelphia he still preserved the ordinances of his grace.
The Redeemer adds some fresh touches to this discription, which tend to produce a much more finished picture. "Thou hast a little strength, thou hast kept my word, thou hast not denied my name.” We have already remarked that Philadelphia was a place of no great size or note. Her ability, therefore, for those labors of love could not be very great. Perhaps also her advances in
knowledge and in grace may have been comparatively small. But she did not faint under the sense of her weakness; she did not refuse to do any thing, because she had not the means of doing much. On the contrary, says her Lord, thou has kept my word. Thou bast kept that first and great commandment, the loving the Lord thy God; and thou hast manifested thy tender and respectful love of him—by persevering and diligent compliance with the duties imposed upon thee. Thou hast done more than using exertions for the promotion of my kingdom; "bog hast not denied my name." Denying the name of Jesus is directly opposed to that which in one of the gospels he calls confessing him before men. In other words, it is the refusal to make open profession of the religion of Jesus, through the fear of persecution, or reproaches, or sueers,
The particular circumstances under which Philadelphia persisted in making her good confession, are more fully adverted to in the following verse, “because thou hast kept the word of my patience;" it is a Hebrew mode of expressing adherence to any cause in the face of such sufferings as require much patience. The allusion is obviously to the persecution of Domitian, which was then raging against the christians throughout the Roman world. It was by this monster that John was banished into Patmos. And from Patmos he wrote this epistle to the church of Philadelphia. Though she then had but little strength, no adequate means of defending herself against the blood-hounds let loose by the emperor of Rome, yet she did not faint--she clave fast to her integrity-she preferred suffering to sinning, and would not deny her Lord. And therefore, says her kind and condescending Saviour, thou sbalt not lose the labour of thy love. "Be
hold I will make them of the synagogue of sátan, that say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie;-behold I will make them to come and worship before thy feet;" &c. &c. This is obviously a promise to Philadelphia, that at some future day she should triumph over some enemies, and that to those enemies, whoever they might be, God would so signally manifest his favor for that church and city, as to extort from them a confession that he loved it. But more particularly, bear in mind that the whole of this prophecy is symbolical; we have not the real names of things given us, but something that will serve as a representative of the thing. These enemies are called a synagogue--a syna. gogue of satan. Persons calling themselves Jews, but falsely, for, says our Lord, they "are not." All these names are of course symbolical-designed to reprëśent something else, to which they bear some kind of analogy. Synagogues were places of worship among the Jews, the only true worshippers of the true God; and therefore furnish a fit emblem of a church professing to worship the true God. Thesè éne. mies,says the Redeemer, shall be such a synagogue, a people opposed to idols, as were the Jews of old; and professing like them to worship none but God. They will not however be a church of God—but a synagogue of satan. A church set up by the devices of the devil for the purpose of promoting his impious designs against God and his Messiah. --. They are further described as persons calling themselves Jews. As a synagogue of Jews is a symbol of a true church of God, so the term Jew is an apt emblem of a true worshipper of God. Of one who not only professes to address the true object of worship, but also to worship him according to the divine appointment; as did the Jews of old, all whose law and temple service were or dained by God. These enemies then shall not only be a