And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.Revelation 22:3The Service of God.
I. If we call Christ Saviour, we must also call Him King; we must not pick and choose among the elements of the Gospel, and cast aside such parts of it as may press too hardly on our own craving to have our own way. Even when, in some most comfortable words, He bids us to come unto Him, and promises rest and relief from a heavy load, it is on the condition of taking upon us instead His easy yoke and light burden. The relation between a bondservant, or slave, and a master whose rights over him were absolute, a relation which Christianity was to undermine, but which for the time was suffered to exist, is utilised, so to speak, for the purpose of enforcing this great lesson. Four times does St. Paul, himself the Apostle, as he is called, of spiritual freedom, adopt the title of "a slave of God," or of Christ, a title used also by St. Peter, by St. John, by St. James, and by St. Jude. It is remarkable, too, that in the text the expressions are combined, "His servants shall do Him service for wages."
II. This thought will brighten and elevate the homeliest forms of every-day duty by bringing them under the obligation of personal service to a most equitable and Divinely generous Lord. We can do anything that is good and innocent, and everything that is part of our daily duty, as unto Him. Yes, and all helpful service of men will find fresh motive-power in the service of their and our Saviour. We shall be in a true sense serving Him when we are serving our fellow-men in Him and for His sake.
W. Bright, Morality in Doctrine, p. 130.
Revelation 22:3Thus, we see, the book closes where it begins. This text embodies all that is contained between its two covers. We have got back to Eden at last; we have got back to the tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, and to the river of the water of life, and to the land of gold. Very long has been the wandering of the sad human family, the poor, unhappy, cursed, afflicted human race, but the end is reached, and although the curse was pronounced at the beginning, the winding up of all, the close of the matter, is that there is no curse. Consider, then, the curse, its origin, its nature, its penalty, the method of its repeal, and the prospects which its repeal opens to the eyes of believers.
I. The curse is visible. There is a pestilence that walks in darkness; there is a destruction that wastes at noonday; there is the law of sin and death, in which the curse of God is. Remark, again, how it reigns. The region of the curse is the region of the law; it is the region of tribulation and anguish. If we are in the region of the law, we are where the fire burns, and the storm tosses, and the steel pierces, and the poison kills, and the lightning cleaves, and time frightens by its limitations, and space by its contradictions and contractions. On some Mount Carmel God is always answering by fire, and the red curse of the wrath is manifested.
II. "There shall be no more curse." What is implied in this removal? Why, in fact, all experience here tends to teach it concisely. Now, you are to understand that Christ is the great power of God. You perhaps say, "That is nothing new." No, it is not, but it needs to be affirmed and asserted again and again with power. The whole nature of our redemption has no other end but to remove and extinguish the wrath that is between God and man. When that is removed, man is reconciled to God. Where the wrath is, there is that which must be atoned for; there is the cause of the separation between God and man; there is that which Christ came into the world to extinguish.
III. "There shall be no more curse." The sailor longing to set sail passes to and fro upon the shore, waiting the return of the tide, for when the tide returns the ship shall clear the harbour, and fly before the wind, and hasten home, and man can calculate the return of the tide; the astronomer, curious in speculation, waits upon his watch-tower, and notes in the heavenly places beyond the return of a planet or a comet, and by signs he can forecast the return of a luminary to its place in these skies; the feet of affection pace the stones of the station, waiting the return of the train, that the weary heart may be refreshed by the old face, and man can calculate the return of a train. But what of the return of a soul, nay, the return of a race of souls to their home and their allegiance, like weary birds returning to their rest? Then the strain of a glad universe shall be, "No more curse, no more pain, no more separation of lovers and friends, no more sickness, no more sighing, and no more death!" "They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away."
E. Paxton Hood, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 375.
Revelation 22:3The Services of Heaven.
This promise, or prophecy (to a child of God, all promises are prophecies, and prophecies are promises), this prophetical promise, is the last and the best in the Bible. It seems purposely reserved to be the crowning point, for to be with God, to be near God, to see God, to know God, to enjoy God, to be like God, are all subordinate to serving God! But we must unlearn our common ideas, if we would understand this. For "service" has been so abused, by the unfaithfulness of the servants and the inconsideration and severity of the service, that the very name of "service" is degraded.
I. When this promise is to take effect, and that perfect "service" is to begin, it would be presumptuous to attempt to define too accurately. We must be careful in lifting the veil which screens the sanctuary. Yet it is no forbidden curiosity which follows longingly and lovingly those who are gone, and which yearns to ask, "Where are they? What are they doing? Are they cognisant of us? Though we cannot see them, is there any actual communion with us now? In their quiet resting-places, are they engaged, and how? Or is all action suspended a while, and do they wait for us?" This paradise—where the disembodied souls of the saints are till the Second Advent, as we gather from the intimations which are given to us—is characteristically a state of rest—of rest as in some measure contrasted with, and preparatory to, that state of active enjoyment which we shall have when we have regained our bodies, and of which these bodies are the necessary instruments. The images, which are used to describe the condition immediately after death, all point to rest. Seven times we have the expression, "enter into rest." And even sleep is used as the metaphor of death. And we have the analogy of the Sabbath-day and of the entrance into the land of Canaan; and it seems a gracious and fit arrangement, and according to God's tender mercy, and it commends itself to our feelings and experiences, that, after the toils and conflicts of life, there should be a season of special repose and refreshment. It is not to be believed for a moment that this interval is a time of unconsciousness or dull nonentity. St. Paul would not have hesitated, as he did, in his letter to the Philippians, whether it was better to live or die, if the state after death till the resurrection were a state of inaction. It would be better, certainly, to a mind such as his to remain here and work, than to be nothing and do nothing for a great many years. But the rest of paradise, as I believe, will be such a rest as the Christian needs and loves, passed with Christ, contemplating Christ, delighting in Christ, learning from Christ, properly learning, especially such things as shall be needed for future service. Nor can I conceive that even this quiet period shall be altogether without activity, for we are so constituted that we can hardly think of a sphere of positive enjoyment not combined with action. But rather will it be such employment as is most restful. We have the two beautifully blended in that description of the souls in paradise, which is perhaps given us for this very end, to show the union, "They rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness."
II. During that "resting" period, it is pleasant to us to know that they and we are in perfect sympathy in the longing which the whole Church has for the Advent. We are looking to the same point on the horizon, for they too expect, in the perfection of their being, to rise. "How long? How long?" "Even we"—as St. Paul says of us—"who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body." But when He shall come in whose presence when He lived upon earth all death awoke to life, on that great Easter morning, the souls of saints which sleep shall rise in the springtide of their beauty, and each soul shall mate itself again to its body, no longer, as now, a clog, to drag it down to the dust, but to be wings to its joy, to do all its will; then shall our perfected and glorified being begin to fulfil the far end of its existence: "His servants shall serve Him."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 13th series, p. 69.
Reference: Revelation 22:3.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1576.
Revelation 22:3, Revelation 22:5Servitude and Royalty.
I. "His servants shall serve Him." Such is the title of the glorified. In heaven itself there is no emancipation from the bonds of God. The holy nations are eternally bound in absolute obligation to the will of God and of the Lamb. It is no part of the Creator's promise to raise, to educate, the creature to independence, to self-dependence. That could not be without a profound and fatal contradiction. The created soul could not be the basis of its own being, nor could it be the source of its own joy and power or the law of its own eternity. We read what is but likely when we read that the nearer and the clearer is the sight of the Creator granted to the creature, the better the creature recognises the blessedness of self-surrender. The nearer the approach, the more entire the service. Even within the most living circles of the Christian Church just now the sense of duty surely is not at its strongest. The will to do our Divine Master's will, not our liking, but His bidding; the sober strength of Christian character; the weight and fixity of principle; the jealousy that conscience is kept void of offence in the plain duties of the common day—these are not things so often to be found. Nevertheless these things are essentials in the seed sown here which is to issue in the life of heaven. For it is written that His servants there shall serve Him still.
II. "They shall reign for ever and ever." Such is the twin promise of the better life. The bondmen of the Eternal, in that existence of endless duty, shall for ever reign. Even in the present world the true servant of God, in proportion to the reality and simplicity of his servitude, receives some foretastes of his royalty. There is no independence upon earth so strong, and so nobly strong, as that of a Christian who wills wholly to be Christ's servant.
H. C. G. Moule, Christ is All, p. 203.
References: Revelation 22:4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv., No. 824; J. B. Lightfoot, Church of England Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 369; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. v., p. 308. Revelation 22:4, Revelation 22:5.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 282. Revelation 22:5.—W. C. E. Newbolt, Counsels of Faith and Practice, p. 57; Homilist, 3rd series, vol. iii., p. 200; G. W. Conder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 44; Preachers Monthly, vol. v., p. 52. Revelation 22:7.—R. S. Candlish, The Gospel of Forgiveness, p. 437.
Revelation 22:10The Love of Goodness the Safeguard of Faith.
I. Observe, our Lord says, the "time is at hand," and "I come quickly," although in the preceding prophecy the course of trials to which the Church would be exposed is described as running through a long succession of ages. Undoubtedly to every reader of these words in every age the time is at hand, and his Lord is coming quickly: his own time of watching, of trial, of temptation, is passing away with every hour; and the longer we live, the shorter seems the period which we have lived through, and the space between our life and our death seems continually a more insignificant point in the midst of eternity. But the more literal sense of the words of the text seems to imply that the end of the world was near at hand when compared with the period that had elapsed since its first creation. Whether this be so or not is far beyond the reach of human foresight; but the exceeding rapidity with which society has been moving forward in the last three centuries seems to show that man's work of replenishing the earth must, in the common course of things, be accomplished before much more than two thousand years from the time of Christ's coming shall have passed away.
II. It cannot be too often repeated that it is nothing but a thorough love of righteousness and goodness that can, with the blessing of God, keep our faith alive. To a good man the evidence of the Gospel is abundantly satisfactory; to a bad man it seems to have no force at all. Unless our principles support our faith, our faith will not long support our principles. "He that is holy, let him be holy still." He will grow steadier and steadier in his faith in proportion, as he dreads sin more and is more watchful over his life, and heart, and temper, and learns to deny himself and to love his neighbour, and thus become more and more conformed to the Spirit of God.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 118.
Revelation 22:11The End of our Probation.
The very pole on which all Christian morality turns is just this: we must be judged "according to our works," the "things done in the body," by which we must understand comprehensively all the realities of conduct, not things done only in contrast with words spoken or thoughts harboured. The whole sum of inward and outward realities goes to make up the man as judgment will find him. They all tend alike to strike the balance of character, of which human justice takes, as it needs must, but an imperfect account, but which Divine justice will sum, and weigh, and measure perfectly.
I. From all these elements of thought, word, and deed, the text seems to teach that there results a character fixed and determined, and which, by the laws of God's moral universe, must abide for evermore. Nothing can: change the unjust and filthy into the righteous and holy character; nothing can vitiate or blemish perfect righteousness and holiness when completed in its course of development and ratified by God's judgment. This truth stands on an even broader basis than that which Christianity itself has reached. Those under the law of habit outnumber those under the law of Christ.
II. But further Holy Scripture teaches that that judgment not only pronounces and decides, but actually separates between the righteous and the wicked. The mixed state, good and evil, so full of hopeful and yet of fearful elements, cannot last for ever. If it be prolonged indefinitely in other moral spheres of creation, yet for us it must cease, and that soon. Look, while you may, on the lovely side of God's eternal promise. There fix heart and hope, till you become persuaded of it and embrace it.
H. Hayman, Rugby Sermons, p. 77.
References: Revelation 22:11.—A. Dawe, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 234; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 319.
Revelation 22:13Christ the Alpha and Omega.
I. Christ is the Alpha and Omega in relation to Christianity and providence. Christianity is at this day the great upholder of Theism in the world. It has unspeakably distanced Judaism, whose testimony against idolatry it has taken up, and also Mahometanism, whose witness for the unity of God is nowhere going forth with visible conquering power. But Christianity is more than simple Theism. There is a Trinity in its unity, and this gives it a richness, a grandeur, an adaptability to the fallen state of man, of which mere Theism is incapable. Hence the Son shines in the Christian firmament as the true God along with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and thus the Divine works of creation and providence are connected with His name. Over the wide universe everything shall at last be found to be under Christ's feet, not necessarily in the way of loyal subjection, but in the way of bearing witness to one ascendant will, which orders all things, even evil, for the best.
II. Christ is the Alpha and Omega in relation to redemption. He is the Alpha and Omega in regard to redemption—(1) as a Divine saving plan. We cannot ascend to the origin of this plan, for it is from eternity. But, as far as we can rise, Christ is seen to be its fountain-head, and with His purpose of devotement it is bound up. (2) As a personal Christian experience. When is it that any One of us becomes a Christian? Is it not when Christ draws near and talks to us, as to the disciples on their way? We have no experimental Christianity apart from Him. (3) As a collective spiritual history. Christianity was never intended to be a solitary experience or a multitude of single experiences. It was to be a society, a Church. And He who bears up the Church so long in such a world must be nothing less than Divine. It was the saying of Voltaire that Christianity would not survive the nineteenth century; but what has the nineteenth century not done for Christianity? It has sent the Gospel anew into all the world. It has gathered in the islands of the South, and shaken the mighty pagan faiths of India, China, and Japan. It has stirred up its missionaries from the far West to preach the old faith in Egypt and in Palestine, and where the disciples first received the Christian name. It has devoted its noblest children to face death for Christ in depths of Africa which Voltaire never heard of; and it has even employed the press at Ferney that printed his own works, and, it may be, this very prophecy against the Gospel, to publish in new tongues the true oracles of God. (4) Considered as an endless development. When we speak of eternity, we feel that we are dealing with a quantity which, whether as applied to man's natural endowments or destiny in Christ, overtasks all our powers alike of conception and description. Christ "openeth, and no man shutteth," holding in His hands "the golden key that opes the palace of eternity."
J. Cairns, Christ the Morning Star, and Other Sermons, p. 18.
Reference: Revelation 22:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 546.
Revelation 22:14The Last Beatitude of the Ascended Christ.
I. If we are clean, it is because we have been made so. The first beatitude that Jesus Christ spoke from the mountain was, "Blessed are the poor in spirit"; the last beatitude that He speaks from heaven is, "Blessed are they that wash their robes." And the act commended in the last is but the outcome of the spirit extolled in the first. For they who are poor in spirit are such as know themselves to be sinful men; and those who know themselves to be sinful men are they who will cleanse their robes in the blood of Jesus Christ. (1) This mysterious robe, which answers nearly to what we mean by character, is made by the wearer. (2) All the robes are foul. (3) The foul robes can be cleansed; character may be sanctified and elevated.
II. The second thought that I would suggest is that these cleansed ones, and by implication these only, have unrestrained access to the source of light: "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have right to the tree of life." That of course carries us back to the old mysterious narrative at the beginning of the book of Genesis. The tree of life stands as the symbol here of an external source of life. I take "life" to be used here in what I believe to be its predominant New Testament meaning, not bare continuance in existence, but a full, blessed perfection and activity of all the faculties and possibilities of the man, which this very Apostle himself identifies with the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ. And that life, says John, has an external source in heaven, as on earth.
III. Those who are cleansed, and they only, have entrance into the society of the city. The city is the emblem of security and of permanence. No more shall life be as a desert march, with changes which only bring sorrow, and yet a dreary monotony amidst them all. We shall dwell with abiding realities, ourselves fixed in unchanging, but ever-growing, completeness and peace. The tents shall be done with; we shall inhabit the solid mansions of the city which hath foundations, and shall wonderingly exclaim, as our unaccustomed eyes gaze on their indestructible strength, "What manner of stones and what buildings are here?" And not one stone of these shall be thrown down.
A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry, 1st series, p. 43.
Reference: Revelation 22:14.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 369.
Revelation 22:16Two important lessons may be learned from this subject:—
I. All Christians should seek to be sons of the morning. As lamps do not talk, but shine, so should religion shine forth in beneficent and useful lives.
II. We should be striving to make others share in the blessed privileges which we ourselves enjoy. Christians may be saying, both by word and by example, to all with whom they come in contact, "We are travelling eastward to the land of the morning." A new glory is thrown round the Christian character while seeking to make known to others the perfections of God's love and mercy. In order that we may each shine in our measure, we must learn to turn ourselves often towards Him from whom our light is derived.
J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 59.
Revelation 22:16When Christ rose from the grave, it was not, properly speaking, the Church's sunrise: that has not yet taken place; that will be when He comes again, in the blaze of His glory—one universal glow, like the morning spread upon the mountains. But what rose was that beautiful "star" which harbingers the sunrise, making the early dawn and telling us that the day is coming: its pledge and earnest. Mark the differences. When Christ came out of His grave, it was "not with observation." It was silent and unnoticed. When He shall come again in His kingdom, it will be with the archangel's trump, visible and refulgent, even "as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven," even as "the morning star" steals upon the night, but the sun rises in his full-orbed splendour. And when Christ walked this earth after His resurrection, it was light, sweet light; but it was partial light, light to a few, light shrouded, light mingled with the darkness. But when He returns it will be a radiant world: "The Lamb will be the Light thereof;" just as "the morning star" shines in twilight, but when the sun comes it is all a sea of brightness. And the risen Christ was to set again; He appeared for a little while, and then He passed away with the light of the Spirit, which shone—we have His own authority for saying it—which shone more brightly than His own. But when He comes back again the light of His presence will never go out; like as "the morning star" sheds its ray for a little space, but the orb of day rolls on in his might, and "rejoices as a giant to run his course." And Christ's mission after He rose was chiefly to speak of the things of the kingdom, to tell of another breaking of love and joy upon this earth, the pioneer to a happier day, again true to the parable of nature, for the "morning star" seems made for little else but to proclaim that the day is coming to us.
I. Now, see it thus in your heart, if "the Lord is risen upon you." The light is there. And there is a distinct, clear beam. But as yet the chief effect of that is twofold: it makes the darkness of your heart more perceptible and more felt, and your desires are being sent on by it more longingly for a day which it testifies to you to be very near. Therefore avoid two mistakes. Do not think that you are not risen, or rather that Christ is not risen in you, because there is much surrounding darkness in your soul, and you feel that darkness deeper and drearier than you ever felt it before. That sense of darkness is an index of "the morning star." Without "the star" you would scarcely know that it was dark. Only, it shows that it is not yet day, not that "perfect day" for which we look. On the other hand, do not expect to live a resurrection-day as if it were an ascension-day. We are now living a resurrection-life, as many of us as are indeed baptised into the Lord Jesus Christ; and every Easter comes to remind us of our resurrection-life, and every Easter we should get a little higher than before. A believer's life is full of resurrections. But persons sometimes speak of resurrection-life as if it were to be a life of confidence and no fear, all praise and no prayer; but it is just because it is resurrection-life that you are to walk humbly, watchfully, expectingly. Resurrection-life is spiritual, but it is not glorified, just as our Lord in "the forty days" was spiritual, but not glorified till He ascended into the heavens. You are under "the bright and morning star," but you have not yet the sun.
II. And here is the solution of the secret of our earth in its present state. There is the light of the truth in this world, light just enough to show that more light is wanted, and what light can be, and what light will be. But the light of truth is straggling in the best; sometimes it seems nothing to cope with the thickness of the error and the wickedness which are about on every side. It can scarcely penetrate it. Nevertheless the light shows God's presence and God's faithfulness; and it keeps faith and hope alive, for it is the interval of the reign of the "morning star" before the sun comes. "But," you say, "is this all that Christ is to His Church now: only a star?" Yes, by comparison with what He will be. But, remember, "the morning star" makes the daybreak sure; and "the morning star" is lovely and brilliant compared to the midnight that would be without it: and nobody can tell what the state of this world would be without the direct and indirect rays of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. But let me reduce the image to one or two practical instructions. Christ gradually develops. The believer's light gradually but certainly increases. It was not a sun, but a "star," that shone on Bethlehem; and the sun itself pales and loses itself in the new Jerusalem, before that brightness where "the Lamb is the Light thereof." It is "the morning star." Every lesson of Easter Day is a lesson of earliness. The women were early; the angels were early; Christ was early. "The morning star" is early. To a Christian view every new morning, as it springs out of night, is a little resurrection. Let it find you early, since it is the characteristic of the things that are high that they are early. Resurrection and earliness go together. They say that in nature all vegetation springs the fastest and makes its largest shoots in the very early mornings. And it is a fact as certain in grace as it is in nature that in due time the "morning star" becomes the "evening star," and he who in his youth has had the "morning star" will find it his "evening star" in his age and death. And life ought to be a joyous thing. True, it is in the midst of things that are within and without still steeped in sorrow; but the path of religion is a line of light, which falls true athwart the darkness; and every Christian walking there, catching something of the brightness of "the morning star," is to be himself in this world a reflection to break the gloom and speak for God. He stands in the track of the promises; and he should be a man radiant in his spirit. Nevertheless, however many your joys may be, the best of this world is, after all, twilight. Some of us know it too well. The clouds that wrap us in are still so black, the sin within, the trials and perplexities around us, our own and others' griefs. But if Jesus has risen in your soul, I tell you, by that faint streak of light, however faint, it is morning, real morning, a morning that will never quite darken over again. There are, and there will be, shadows till He comes; but, by the token of that faint light, "the night is far spent, and the day is at hand."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 9th series, p. 165.
Revelation 22:16The book of Revelation has a peculiar charm which all readers of Scripture more or less feel. It attracts the child by its shifting scenes, its bright pictures, its grand, mysterious glimpses of the future. It satisfies the man of more mature understanding and taste with the lofty truth and harmony that reigns all through its mighty world of symbols and visions—a world which exhausts the stores of the Old Testament, and then imagines new. In more senses than one this book is the "revelation of Jesus Christ." No part of the Bible so fully unfolds the glories of His reign, adorns Him with such a profusion of titles, or pours out such a tide of love and adoration on His person. The style is transfigured, like the person, adding to the depth and tenderness of the Gospel the lofty sweep and rich colouring of the prophets. The whole book is, as it were, linked together by the one grand figure of the first of our texts, taken from the close: "I am the bright and morning star," as it returns upon its beginning: "And I will give him the bright and morning star."
I. Christ is to His people the morning star of time, and will be to them the morning star of eternity, because His light shines after darkness. Every sinner to whom Christ has not appeared walks in darkness. All Christians alike have come out of darkness, and come out of it at the signal of Christ's rising. All trace the grand transition to His appearing in their day, and with a full and swelling heart take up the same words of thanksgiving: "Through the tender mercy of our God, the dayspring from on high hath visited us."
II. Christ is to His people the morning star of time, and will be to them the morning star of eternity, because His light transcends all comparison. "In all things He hath the preeminence." Christ is pre-eminent—(1) in His titles; (2) in His offices; (3) in His history. (4) What He is to His people, He is alone.
III. Christ is the morning star of time, and will be the morning star of eternity, because His light ushers in perpetual day. Christ is not compared to the evening star, though it be in itself as bright as that of the morning, and indeed the same, because in that case the associations would be too gloomy, and the victory would seem to remain for a time on the side of darkness. With Christ as the morning star, the victory is decided from the first, and Night can never resume her ancient empire. The dawn may be overcast, but the day still proceeds.
J. Cairns, Christ the Morning Star, and Other Sermons, p. 1.
Revelation 22:16-17I. Man is so constituted by his Maker as to have the power, when any course of action is proposed to him, to determine and decide whether he will accept the advice and act on it or not. He may say, "I will" or "I will not," when the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." At the same time, man is not to forget that, although he has the control of his will, his volitions are nevertheless influenced by motives; and therefore to our motives much attention is due. Some strong counteracting motive must exist if a man shall refuse to attempt what it is obviously his interest to do. Hence it is that it becomes important for us to consider not only what a man is invited to, but also what he is called from. When he refuses an invitation to draw near to the King of kings, we must seek to understand what motive exists to prevent his coming.
II. When the Spirit and the bride say, "Come," you are not of necessity called from the business of the world or from those worldly advantages and enjoyments which business is undertaken to procure. If business be allowable, it is allowable also, within the prescribed boundaries, to enjoy the fruits of your industry. The Spirit and the bride call you from that absorption in worldly business which leaves you no time, no mind, for high and holy thoughts on high and heavenly subjects, no time, no mind, to reflect upon life and death, upon time and eternity, upon heaven and hell, upon salvation and a Saviour, upon damnation and Satan.
III. To whom are we called? We are called to Him who in our text describes Himself as the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star. We are launched on a troublous ocean. Many conflicting duties must occupy our attention and thoughts. Therefore our eyes must be fixed upon the Lord Jesus Christ, the star which shines in all the brightness of the Deity; we must look to His guidance by studying the sacred Scriptures, so that we may steer our course according to the principles which for our direction and guidance are there revealed. To this we are called by the Spirit and the bride.
W. F. Hook, Parish Sermons, p. 352.
Revelation 22:17The Will.
I. We must believe in the absolute sovereignty of God. We see it in nature. With whom took He counsel in creation? It was at His sovereign will the Himalayas raised their heads; it was at His sovereign will the depths of the ocean were dug deep. We see it in providence. He gives or withholds the rain; causes one child to be born in a palace and another in a hovel. Nor has He abdicated His sovereignty in the sphere of grace. His purposes stand fast; His will must be done. But I believe also that man is a moral agent, endowed with the instinct of will, not a mere puppet in the hand of fate. We are not Mahometans, and we do not believe in a Kismet from which there is no escape. We acknowledge the harmony that must exist between the sovereignty of God and the will of man in nature, as, for example, in the case of the farmer. We know he may plough in vain and sow in vain unless God grants the rain and the sunshine, that the harvest is absolutely in God's hands; but we also know that if the farmer therefore folds his hands and neither ploughs nor sows, his barns will be empty in the harvest-time. These two things are quite compatible: the Divine sovereignty and the free agency of man; and herein consists the glory of God. He performs His purposes not by mere machines, but by living moral agents, who have this power of will. We all acknowledge that the power of the statesman, who moulds the will of the people, is of a higher order than the power of the blacksmith, who moulds a dead, resistless piece of iron to his purpose. So God carries out His own will, though liable to be crossed at every turn by the will of man.
II. (1) The will of man is conditioned by his creation. God's will as Creator is absolute. Man's individuality, the basis of his character and of his faculties, is given to him by his Creator; and no human being can attain a higher degree of perfection than has been planned for him in the possibilities of existence. (2) His will is conditioned, not only by creation, but by heredity. It was by this law of heredity that Adam's sin was transmitted to the generations yet unborn, and rendered it harder for every son of man to refuse the evil and choose the good. (3) The will of man is conditioned also by his surroundings.
III. Two things were put before man between which he was to choose: a life in God and a life in the world independent of God. And there were implanted within him two impulses: one towards the world, which sought only for happiness, to appropriate as much as possible to one's self; the other towards God, which sought rather for blessedness, and which found its centre not in self or in the world, but in God. Man chose the worldly impulse, which led to a life centred either in the world or in self, and now the things which should have been for our wealth have become to us an occasion of falling. It is the Spirit of God who strengthens the impulses towards holiness, towards God. Yield to them, and they will become stronger and stronger; resist them, and you will become stronger towards evil, until you become Gospel-hardened, and the grieved, rejected Spirit of God leaves you to the doom which your own will has chosen.
E. A. Stuart, Children of God, p. 159.
Man Unwilling to be Saved.
The free, unlimited offer of the Gospel necessarily involves a provision for all human wants, a removal of all external obstacles, a provision of unlimited value and unrestricted sufficiency, a provision within the reach of every one to whom it is presented, and who is charged with its acceptance upon the peril of eternal death. For ourselves, we cannot see how we can separate such an offer from man's responsibility as to the result. The two doctrines must stand or fall together. If it is true that whosoever will may take of the water of life freely, it must be true that if man partakes not, it is because he will not.
I. The difficulties of religion are not found in its obscurities; the insuperable obstacles to obedience are not found in any outward circumstances. A child has understood the Gospel so as to embrace it, and men have walked with God in the midst of abounding sensuality and crime. But those difficulties are found in the spirituality of the Gospel, in the holiness of its principles, and the self-denying nature of its duties; the child of sense will not govern himself by faith, the being of earthliness will not submit to spiritual influences, and the slave of appetite will not put a curb upon his passions. Did men but love the truth as they love error, love holiness as they love sin, regard the glory of God as they do their selfish gratifications, the obstacles to religion would vanish, and the path of life would be as plain and easy to travel as is now the path into which their desires lead them.
II. This doctrine of man's responsibility for his own salvation is not only uncontradicted by, but is in perfect keeping with, the entire strain of the inspired record. Men take refuge in God's election only that they may garnish and persevere in their own election, and every man ought to know better, and does know better, than to say, "If I am not elected, I cannot be saved."
E. Mason, A Pastor's Legacy, p. 294.
Revelation 22:17Two voices are distinguished by St. John in his trance as going forth into the world with invitation and appeal, not one, but two, an outward and an inward: those of the Spirit and the bride. There are two things, the within and the without; even when an idea is communicated from one to another, there are the idea of the communicator and the idea of the recipient.
I. So it is always that the Spirit becomes audible and impressive and receives power, namely, through a form. A bride has to be found for it to make it vocal and to enable it to speak movingly. One cannot help thinking at times of the amount of latent power that sleeps around us in sensations and emotions as well as in visions and ideas which are never expressed, of the possible effects if that which some silent or stuttering souls are seeing and feeling could be adequately articulated, of the untold life stories, of the untold heart experiences, as well as brain dreams, the true and perfect telling of which would thrill us deeply. We are constantly missing much that would rouse, or pierce, or melt, because, forsooth, the Spirit lacks the bride.
II. But consider again. Here are certain beautiful ideas, such as ideas of truth, fidelity, generosity, heroism, love, self-sacrifice and devotion. We can revolve and brood on these, but what is it that makes them flash and burn, and causes us to be penetrated with them? Is it not their embodiment in some witnessed or reported deed, in some human life and character? The cross, at all events, has been of great importance in lifting the transcendent Jesus into view, in aiding His transcendent spirit to attract and captivate. His tragic and pathetic end has been the bride through which the voice of His incomparable work and sweetness has been heard and has prevailed. What the Spirit wants always, in order that it may be present among us, is just a Man; the power of Christianity is the Man Jesus Christ.
S. A. Tipple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxii., p. 328.
What is required of those who come to the Lord's Supper?
When a man considers with himself whether he ought to present himself at the Lord's Table, frequently he is beset with a host of difficulties and questions as to what is required of him and as to his own fitness. Where shall he go for safe guidance? I reply that he need go no further than the catechism which he learnt as a child.
I. It is required of those who come to the Lord's Supper "to examine themselves whether they repent them truly of their former sins, steadfastly purposing to lead a new life." Beyond all doubt this must be required, and it is a most reasonable requirement, for, to take no higher view of the Sacrament than this, we may regard it as a mutual pledge given by Christians to each other that they will keep the commands of Christ. The requisites for coming to the Lord's Table are identically the same with the requisites for being a Christian in life and reality, and not only in name.
II. It is required that those who come to the Lord's Supper should "have a lively faith in God's mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of His death." This is clearly only that duty which is required of every one who desires to call himself without profanity and without hypocrisy by the holy name of Christ.
III. Those who come to the Lord's Supper must "be in charity with all men." Quite a reasonable requirement this, if we remember that the Lord's Supper was regarded from the earliest times as a feast of love or charity. In confessing that he is unfit for the Lord's Supper, a man is really confessing that he is unworthy to be called a Christian at all.
Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, vol. ii., p. 132.
The Drawings of the Spirit.
I. At the time when St. John wrote, the Church had just passed into the dispensation of the Spirit. The Old Testament was evidently the dispensation of the Father, looking on to the Son. Then came the revelation—I do not call it the dispensation—the revelation of the Son, short, eloquent, beautiful, preparing the way for the dispensation of the Spirit. That dispensation commenced at the ascension of Christ, when, according to His promise, He poured out the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. From that date it has been emphatically the era of the Spirit, the era of the dispensation under which we are now placed. How much longer it will last we do not know. But then will come in all its fulness the dispensation of Jesus Christ, that glorious and wonderful period to which all prophecy points its finger, and to which the dispensation of the Spirit now is preparatory. "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." And you must remember that the dispensation of the Spirit is higher, more powerful, more responsible, than the dispensation of the Gospel during the life of Christ upon earth. Therefore Christ said to His disciples, "The works that I do shall ye do also, and greater works than these shall ye do, because I go unto My Father." Even so it came to pass; for whereas Christ did not certainly in His own person convert more than five hundred, the Spirit scarcely arrived but in one single day He converted three thousand. And for the same reason Christ also added those otherwise strange and almost incomprehensible words, "It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send Him unto you," showing again that the dispensation of the Spirit was greater than Christ's own personal ministry in His humiliation. So once more, and still stronger, He said, "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Therefore we may reverently say that up to this moment what the Spirit says and what the Spirit does, whatever it be, is the best of anything that has ever yet been upon the face of this earth. Hence it is matter of the deepest joy, and worthy to stand where it does, at the very close and summit of the revelation, that what the Holy Ghost says is "Come."
II. The Father sends many a gracious providence, some sad, some happy; but it is the Spirit who gives the providence its voice. The Son exhibits the marvellous spectacle of the cross, and Himself hanging thereon; but it is the Spirit which makes that cross to speak to the poor sinner's heart: "Come." For the Spirit is that which first makes an unseen thing a substance to the mind, and then changes the substance from a thing without to a reality which lives in a man's soul and mingles with his being. It is quite certain that very generally it is the bride which is the organ of the Spirit's voice. I suppose that there have been instances in which a man has been converted to God by the Bible and the Spirit within him without the operation of any human agency whatever. Doubtless God may do so, and I think I have read or heard of some such proofs of God's sovereignty and sufficiency; but they are to the last degree rare. It is the bride who is essentially the Spirit's organ, that gives effect to the Spirit's will: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come."
III. And who is "the bride"? A beautiful body, knit together in one holy fellowship, pure and spotless, spotless in God's eyes for His sake who loves her, "arrayed in the fine linen which is the righteousness of the saints," and decked with the ornaments of grace. She has accepted Christ for her Beloved, and is bound to Him in a perpetual covenant, never to be forgotten. In Him she has merged her name, her nature, her property, her being; while He pays all her debts, pledges Himself for all her wants, sustains her with His arm, satisfies her with His love. It is the Church, elected by grace, united by faith, sealed by baptism, kept by mercy, prepared for glory. And it is the Church, holding the Spirit, representing the Spirit, used by the Spirit, whose high part and privilege it is to be for ever crying, "Come, come." It is very difficult to determine whether when Christ said, as He stood on the margin of His glory, leaving it as His last injunction to His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," the command was limited to the ordained. The sequel, "baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," would lead us to say that it was confined to the ordained; but, on the other hand, the whole tone and spirit, as well as many express injunctions of the Gospel, make it certain that every one who is called is to be a caller, that we are all propagators of the truth, and that as "every man would receive the gift, so must he minister the same, as a good steward of the manifold grace of God." Therefore in some sense it is certain that the direction holds to the whole Church, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." Sad were it for that person, whoever he might be, who was excluded from that highest and holiest title that is ever worn upon this earth, a missionary. But there appears to me to be a great truth in this fact: that it is the whole Church which is represented as saying that word "Come," the Church in its collective capacity, not as broken up into individuals. It is not this or that person, but the whole bride, that says, "Come." See two consequences. (1) The Church is meant to act, and ought to act, in missionary work, as a Church in its integrity, as one complete body. Would that there were such union, the whole Church going forth as a Church to the work of missions, and doing it as a distinct part of her system! There is not; there is none. If ever there is a pure Church, and if missions are needed then, doubtless we shall then work together as one in our completeness. As the bride is one, so will the Spirit be one, and the machinery one, and the voice one. And it will be a sweet and heavenly concord of sound, like music upon water: "The Spirit and the bride say, Come." (2) But there is another and pleasant thought in the words. Is not the act or the word, the prayer or the appeal, every effort to do good, of one member of the Church, the exponent and the representative, and therefore the embodiment, of the whole Church? Is it not the Church's way of putting itself forth to you? And therefore is not that action of one individual as if it were the action of the whole Church? Has not it in it the strength of the whole Church? It may be a comfort to some one who is labouring for God, in much-felt weakness and in barren solitude, to recollect, "I am part of the whole Church catholic; it is the Church that speaks and moves even in me, poor, miserable sinner that I am. There is all the power of the Church, the Head and the members, with me. It is not I, but it. The limb may well take strength from its union with the body, and the wave that breaks upon the shore has behind it the strength of the mighty ocean. And so it shall be the Church's voice by me: 'The Spirit and the bride say, Come.'"
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 212.
References: Revelation 22:17.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 279; vol. viii., No. 442; vol. xxiii., No. 1331; vol. xxvii., No. 1608; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 165; Talmage, Old Wells Dug Out, p. 332; Ibid., Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 270; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 329. Revelation 22:20.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 79. Revelation 22:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1618.
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:
And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.
And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.
And he said unto me, These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done.
Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book.
And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.
And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.
He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.
And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.
And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.