« AnteriorContinuar »
doth not behave itself unseemly [and this love teaches us our place, Ephesians v.21]: seeketh not her own [and, therefore, of all things most of Christ, Philippians ii. 21]: is not easily provoked: thinketh no evil.” It is remarkable that the quieter fruits of the Spirit indicate more of his power. Galatians v.,“ love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Love is holy in its tastes and feelings, “It rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth,” in kindredness of spirit; “ beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” How fully, then, does he let us into the real and noble nature of Love. It is the highest of all; those things which we are so apt to glory in, as setting us forth, tongues and prophecy, are only arguments of our imperfection. They are only to supply our mutual need, and are in us imperfect; “we know in part, and prophesy in part,
," until we obtain the perfect state of things. But when all need is satisfied, all imperfection is done away: love will still find its full element, as it will for ever have to do with the God of love.
I have dwelt upon this, because it may be particularly suitable to us in present circumstances. Contention against evil has been, I believe, the great thing to which God has called us latterly. This has broken through, in some ineasure, that false love or charity, which is, perhaps, the great sin of this professing age, and which is just a counterfeit of the true. That false charity lets anything become of God's truth, rather than speak out faithfully, and disturb the robber in his prey. But it is required of stewards that they be found faithful: a man may dispose as he will of his own property, but if he dispose, in the same ready way, of another's, we remind him, that he must be just before he is generous.
And so the truth is God's property, of which we cannot dispose, save as He guides us by His spirit; and He would have us careful of the trust. We are all in this sense stewards of the mysteries of God.
Paul, we find in Galatians ii., approached his elder Jewish brethren with something of trembling, lést, through his own weakness, he, by any means, should
run, or had run, in vain. But when God's truth was really in question, he gave place by subjection not for an hour, but “ withstood Peter to the face, because he was to be blamed.”
As I have said, thus it has been, and very very much there is all around that will call to contend. Yet, meanwhile, let us seek to be careful, that, whilst contending against evil, we love fervently and cherish all that is, and all that are, of the truth. The Apostle John, after telling them in the fourth chapter of his first Epistle, not to believe every spirit, “but try the spirits, etc., then returns to his more pleasing, and still most incumbent, occupation; ver. 7. "Beloved, let us love one another: or love is of God." It is the “bond of perfe ctness," Paul tells us, in Colossians iii. 14, which throws its golden charm around all. We are so apt in securing one truth, to let go another kindred one.
6. Him that is weak in the faith receive ye,” etc., does not conflict with “Beloved, follow not that which is evil" (3 John 11).
I add no further. To see these two things combined, steady faithfulness against evil, on the one hand, and yet frank, confiding, upright, and hearty love, where it is fairly warranted, surely this were happy for us. It would lead one to say, “ The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended.” Our Lord himself is coming; happy indeed to be found of him in peace, without spot and blameless!
1 CORINTHIANS, XIII.
THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Aud though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil ; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail ; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly ; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
THE SEVEN CHURCHES. The moral history of the Seven Churches appears to me to be simple. It is another and most solemn testimony to man's failure under all circumstances. That which was called as the bride of Christ, * has become Babylon, mystery, not only a harlot herself, but the mother of harlots, and abominations of the earth. In the Seven Churches we get, I think, the rise of this awful "mystery."
Ephesus is the first and most solemn witness. Ephesus had been, if I may so speak, the metropolis of the Spirit; at Ephesus Paul" continued by the space of two years:
. so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks.” Paul wrought special miracles. Satan was mightily confounded. "So mightily grew the Word of God, and prevailed.” The Ephesian Church, too, we find was highest in its character. Paul in addressing them, puts the Church at once in its true position, "Blest with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” In everything, then, it is presented to us as highest. And so it is looked upon, I think, here. It is taken up, I judge, as a preeminently fair specimen of the whole Church; and it is found failing when tested by the Son of Man. He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks with the long foot-robe, which, therefore, would meet with any defilement, if the place be unclean. He holds the seven stars. The seven stars teach them, I think, that they have a responsibility to maintain before God in heaven, even as the seven golden candlesticks owe a light to earth. The Lord knows their works, their labour:
they cannot bear them which are evil:" they had not yet come to that. A high tone of spiritual understanding was yet preserved: and oh! let saints mark this, how
a It must be understood that I speak here dispensationally, meanirg that the Church, which is the Bride of Christ, has not maintained that character before the world, but rather from its apostasy has arisen what the Spirit designates as Babylon, in the Revelation. The peculiarity of the Church's responsibility is, that it has to maintain on earth the character which it really has before God in heaven (See 1 Cor. v. 7).
consistent these things may be with apostasy begun, in principle, before God. They had tried even them which said they were apostles, and had found them liars. They had been told (Eph. iv.) of true apostles given by Christ to the Church, and they had spiritual understanding to detect these false ones. But then comes out the principle of all apostasy," they had left their first love' The germ
of the dead Šardis, the lukewarm and nauseous Laodicea, and the judged harlot, Babylon, was in this:they had left their first love. That was all. But what is that to Christ? Everything. “Jealousy is cruel as the grave: if
a man would give all the substance of his house for love (Cant. vii. 8), it would be utterly contemned." Blessed Lord! That our love could ever be of so much consequence to Him. Again we find evidence that practical evil as yet could find no lodgement: they hated the deeds of the Nicolaitanes. The Lord, therefore, counsels them to do their first works, in other words, to renew their first love, which was just what He wanted. Otherwise their candlestick is threatened. It is required of stewards, that they be found faithful. At Smyrna we get another, and an interesting scene.
We get no condemnation there. Their circumstances, I judge, would be favourable to their spiritual health; their poverty (which I take to be literal) and their tribulation. These were quickening them, and preserving them from the general decay. Yet I would not take this as necessarily an exception from the general rule of the decay of the Church. These things were quickening them. And even if there were anything of failure, that was not the time for the blessed Jesus to plead with them, but rather to support them in present faithful suffering for His
We remark, accordingly, that He does not present Himself in His Church, or official character, but in His personal one: the great First-last, that was dead, and is alive again, who overcame death for himself, and
b I may note again, that, in speaking of apostasy here, I do not speak of final apostasy as to salvation, from which saints are preserved; but rather that dispensational apostasy from truth committed to him, which has always marked man's history in every trial God has made of him. The saint is equally in danger, too, of departing from that full communion with Christ and His truth, to which God has called him.
will do so for them: the same character which revived the fainting John, and which we should remember too. It is remarkable that, in the case of this lowly one, as of Philadelphia, the only other commended church, they are suffering under false church pretensions from without (Gal. iv. 17).
At Pergamos we get sad evidence that the tide of corruption has gone on. The practical evil which could not be tolerated at Ephesus, "the deeds of the Nicolaitanes," can be tolerated here. The Lord's address shows, I think, clearly, that He held all responsible.
6 I will come to thee quickly, and fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” He addresses Pergamos consequently, not as trying their spiritual state, as at Ephesus, but as judging their moral evil,“ having the sharp twoedged sword.”
We come now to Thyatira. There seems to have been in her personal state something even better than the preceding “ the last works were more than the first.” But nothing can palliate evil in the eyes of the Son of God. He is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. And the evil appears now to have been deeper in its character. There were not only those who held the doctrine, but there was an actual prophetess, an emissary of Satan, seducing his servants with a professed commission from God. This was a deeper phase of the evil—a greater depth of Satan. [I may observe, that allowing for the different standard of morality now and then, the combining of the love and pleasures of the world with the profession of Christ, is the same doctrine, in principle, as the one spoken of in these Churches].
The Lord, then, denounces His judgment against the guilty. And then He seems to “rest from His fury." He sees, perhaps, that it is vain to expect anything else from man: the torrent is set in so strong: His people are back-slidden from him with a perpetual back-sliding: and so as in the history of Israel in Kings, mercy comes in (2 Kings xiv. 26, Cen. viii. 21); and so in grace He says to the rest, “ I will put upon you no other burden. But that which ye have, hold until I come." And then He proposes a high reward.