And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.Revelation 3:7Little Strength and his Victory: Children's Sermon.
St. John, in writing to the Churches of Asia, is only able to send two letters of unmixed praise: one to Smyrna and the other to Philadelphia. These letters were addressed to the angel of the Churches—that, no doubt, was to the bishop or the head minister of the Church in each place—so that he might read it to the people.
I. "I have set before thee an open door." This, no doubt, meant to the people of the Church of Philadelphia that God had prepared the way for them to preach the Gospel to others who had not yet heard it. What does it mean to us? Surely it means that God has given us some work to do for Him, that He has opened a door of usefulness for us. There are many people who will gladly do great things, but who will not condescend to think of little ones. It may only be your portion for a little while to do little things for the Master. Do not be above doing little things for Jesus. Remember that nothing is really little if it is done for Him. You would not call a house properly furnished if it only had a few large things in it. You want something more than a bedstead, a dining-table, and a piano. Two or three great acts won't furnish a Christian life, and make it look beautiful. Let us have the large pieces of furniture, but let us have something more. Many say, "I can do nothing, because I have so little strength, and my faith is so very weak." There are too many little-strength and weak-faith Christians, and very many of them have not the least right to be so. Do you want to know how you may become a little-strength and a weak-faith Christian, so that the Lord may get no glory out of your life, and that your face may ever say, "It is not beautiful to be a Christian; the Lord's yoke is not easy: it is very hard; His burden is not light: it is very heavy"? Then I will tell you how to do it; it is so easy. Don't use the little strength God has given you; that is all. The man laid up the talent in a napkin, and of course it gained nothing; but, worst of all, he had that taken from him. So, if you do not use your little strength, even the little you have will all go; it will be taken from you.
II. These people not only used their little strength, but they were also brave. They had not denied Christ's name. Although persecuted for His name's sake, they had not hidden their colours; they had not denied His name. There were those looking on who were of the synagogue of Satan, no doubt some of them their persecutors; but, through the patient endurance of the Christians of Philadelphia, they were won for God. To Smyrna God had promised that the synagogue of Satan should not prevail against them; that means that God would shield and protect His people from the power of their enemies: but we have a fuller promise here—they shall not only be kept from the power of their enemies, but they shall win some of them over to God's side: "I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee." They would show by their lives that God was with them, and that He loved them.
J. Stephens, Light for Little Lanterns, p. 173.
References: Revelation 3:7-13.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 282. Revelation 3:8-10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx., No. 1814.
Revelation 3:11Divine Decrees. .
I. Not long before the fall and treachery of Judas, Christ pronounced a blessing, as it seemed, upon all the twelve Apostles, the traitor included. Who would not have thought from this promise, taken by itself and without reference to the eternal rule of God's government which is always understood, even when not formally enunciated, that Judas was sure of eternal life? It is true our Saviour added, as if with an allusion to him, "Many that are first shall be last"; yet He said nothing to undeceive such as might refuse to consult and apply the fundamental law of His impartial providence. All His twelve Apostles seemed from the letter of His words to be predestined to life. Nevertheless, in a few months Matthias held the throne and crown of one of them. And there is nothing remarkable in the circumstance itself that our Lord should have made up their number to a full twelve after one had fallen; and perhaps there may be contained in it some symbolical allusion to the scope of His decrees which we cannot altogether enter into. He does not look at us as mere individuals, but as a body, as a certain, definite whole, of which the parts may alter in the process of disengaging them from this sinful world, with reference to some glorious and harmonious design upon us who are the immediate objects of His bounty and shall be the fruit of His love if we are faithful.
II. What solemn, overwhelming thoughts must have crowded on St. Matthias when he received the greeting of the eleven Apostles, and took his seat among them as their brother! His very election was a witness against himself if he did not fulfil it. And such surely will be ours in our degree. The Christian of every age is but the successor of the lost and of the dead. We are at present witnesses of the truth, and our very glory is our warning. Let us, then, as a Church and as individuals, one and all look to Him who alone can keep us from falling.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 117.
I. We all have stores of memory. I do not hold these too light a thing to put into my catalogue. It is no trifling possession to have passages of Scripture, of sacred poetry, of holy authors, laid up in the mind. It would be a serious loss if you were to let those memories melt away—as assuredly they will melt away without effort—for memory, and, I think, specially sacred memory, left to itself, is a very treacherous thing. You must bring those passages of the Bible, of poetry, of sacred authors, back frequently to your mind. Increase the power of a sacred memory by always adding something more to the stock; and never forget that it is one of the offices and prerogatives of the Holy Ghost to assist and to empower the memory in Divine things. Remind Him of it. "He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
II. The acquisition of a flew truth or a clearer perception of any truth is a very real and very delightful possession. But, if you would "hold" a truth "fast," you must turn that truth to some practical account, for God is very jealous that His truth be not an idle thing, lying dormant in a man's mind; and if He see any truth lying inactive in your mind, He will suffer it to be robbed. You must realise the truth you have; you must make that truth a centre round which you are always gathering another and another truth.
III. You have enjoyed lately more than you once did the things of God, the means of grace—say, a Christian friendship; say, your private religious duties; say, the ordinances of God's house; say, the Holy Communion. That joy is a precious thing; it is a direct, blessed gift of God. Spiritual joy is not exempt from that general law which binds all joy. In itself it is evanescent. If you would keep your joy, you must study it.
IV. A soft, tender heart, feelings much drawn out in strong love to God or man, is a thing greatly to be prized. But, to maintain that blessed state of mental affection, it is necessary that you live very close to God.
V. An open door of usefulness is an exceeding boon when God gives it to man. Have you any open door of usefulness to benefit any fellow-creature? Occupy it thoroughly.
VI. Spend life in making your calling and election sure. Believe that it needs as much to go on with as ever it did to begin a religious life; and reverence exceedingly the work of God in you. (1) God keeps us, by His grace, in a state of grace by making us always fear lest we should fall from that grace. (2) The more you have of God's grace, the more you will be assaulted on your way. (3) The only way to "hold fast" is to be "held fast."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 4th series, p. 101.
I. The crown of our manhood is not made of that in which we are like to other creations, but of that in which we are superior to them. One of the most instructive and interesting of studies is that which involves a comparison of man's ability with that of the lower creation. He is like the stone in that he is subject to gravitation, unlike it in that he has a temporary power to overcome the law of gravitation; he is like the tree and flower in that he cannot thrive physically without sunlight; he is like the bird in that he has power of song; like the horse in that he has strength and swiftness; like the bee and the ant in that he has architectural skill and power of society and government: and so we might go on with our "likes." But in none of these abilities does his manhood consist. The crown of his nature is not in having these instincts, endowments, not even in his being able to cultivate and develop them. The crown of man's nature is his manhood, and his manhood is not his animalhood. Manliness is something else than that which boys in their teens take it to be.
II. The crown of our manhood is in the region we call religious, in no lower region of our nature. The facts of consciousness are as really facts as the facts of the body, as the facts of a material world beneath our feet and material worlds above our heads. "Hold fast" to these. "Hold fast" also to the results of the experiences of the past. Let the Church of God hold fast to its Sabbaths and its sacraments, to its means of grace, to its Bible records. The experiences of the past are too valuable to let go at the bidding of the frivolous and the trifling. "Hold fast" to them. The treasure-house has things new and old in it, but the new never destroys or contradicts the old; it is developed from it as a new springtime from an old winter. A healthy conservatism is as necessary as a healthy progress, and in every nature there ought to be both.
R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 198.
References: Revelation 3:11.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiv., p. 164; R. Thomas, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 198; H. P. Liddon, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 388; Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 15.
Revelation 3:12The Pillar in God's Temple.
I. "To him that overcometh," reads the promise; and the first thing that we want to understand is what the struggle is in which the victory is to be won. It is the Saviour Christ who speaks. His voice comes out of the mystery and glory of heaven to the Church in Philadelphia; and this book, in which His words are written, stands last in the New Testament. The Gospel story is all told; the work of incarnation and redemption is all done. Jesus has gone back to His Father, and now is speaking down to men and women on the earth who are engaged there in the special struggle for which He has prepared the conditions, and to which it has been the purpose of His life and death to summon them. Let us remember that. It is a special struggle; it is not the mere human fight with pain and difficulty which every living mortal meets; it is not the wrestling for place, for knowledge, for esteem, for any of the prizes which men covet. Nay; it is not absolutely the struggle after righteousness; it is not the pure desire and determination of a man's own will; it is not to those that Christ looks down and sends His promise. He had called to a special struggle on the earth; He had bidden men struggle after goodness out of love, and gratitude, and loyalty to Him. If the motive everywhere and always is the greatest and most important part of every action, then there must always be a difference between men who are striving to do right, and not to do wrong, according to the love which sets them striving. If it is love of themselves, their struggle will be one thing; if it is love of abstract righteousness, it will be another; if it is love of Christ, it will be still another. It is to men and women in this struggle that Christ speaks, and promises them the appropriate reward which belongs to perseverance and success in that obedience of loyalty and love.
II. This, then, is the peculiar struggle in which Christ, out of heaven, gives His promise. And now the promise can be understood if we understand the struggle. The two belong together. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go no more out." The ideas of the pillar in a building, in a temple, are these two: incorporation and permanence. The pillar is part of the structure, and when it is once set in its place, it is to be there as long as the temple stands. How clear the picture stands before us. There is a great, bright, solemn temple, where men come to worship; its doors are ever open; its windows tempt the sky. There are many and many things which have to do with such a temple. The winds come wandering through its high arches. Perhaps the birds stray in and build their nests, and stray away again when the short summer is done. The children roam across its threshold, and play for a few moments on its shining floor. Banners and draperies are hung upon its walls a while, and then carried away. Poor men and women, with their burdens and distress, come in and say a moment's prayer, and hurry out. Stately processions pass from door to door, making a brief disturbance in its quiet air. Generation after generation comes and goes, and is forgotten, each giving its place up to another; while still the temple stands, receiving and dismissing them in turn and outliving them all. All there are transitory; all there come into the temple, and then go out again. But a day comes when the great temple needs enlargement. The plan which it embodies must be made more perfect; it is to grow to a completer self. And then they bring up to the door a column of cut stone, hewn in the quarry for this very place, fitted and fit for this place, and no other; and, bringing it in with toil, they set it solidly down as part of the growing structure, part of the expanding plan. It blends with all the other stores; it loses while it keeps its individuality; it is useless except there where it is; and yet there where it is it has a use which is peculiarly its own, and different from every other stone's. The walls are built around it; it shares the building's charges. The reverence that men do to the sacred place falls upon it; the lights of sacred festivals shine on its face. It glows in the morning sunlight, and grows dim and solemn as the dusk gathers through the great expanse. Generations pass before it in their worship. They come and go, and the new generation follows them; and still the pillar stands. The day when it was hewn and set there is forgotten, as children never think when an old patriarch, whom they see standing among them, was born. It is part of the temple where the men so long dead set it so long ago. From the day that they set it there, "it goes no more out."
III. Can we not see perfectly the meaning of the figure? There are men and women everywhere who have something to do with God. They cannot help touching and being touched by Him, and His vast purposes, and the treatment which He is giving to the world; they cross and recross the pavement of His providence; they come to Him for what they want, and He gives it to them, and they carry it away; they ask Him for bread, and they carry it off into the chambers of their own selfishness and eat it; they ask Him for power, and then go off to the battle-fields or workshops of their own selfishness and use it; they are for ever going in and out of the presence of God; they sweep through His temple like the rushing wind, or they come in like the chance worshipper, and bend a moment's knee before the altar. And then there are the other men who are struggling to escape from sin by the love of Christ. How different they are! The end of everything to them is to get to Christ, and put themselves in Him, and stay there. They do not so much want to get to Christ that they may get away from sin, as they want to get away from sin that they may get to Christ. God is to them not merely a great Helper of their plans: He is the sum of all their plans, the end of all their wishes, the Being to whom their souls say, not, "Lord, help me to do what I will," but "Lord, show me Thy will, that I may make it mine and serve myself in serving Thee." When such a soul as that comes to Christ, it is like the day when the marble column from the quarry was dragged up and set into the temple aisle. Such a soul becomes part of the great purpose of God; it can go no more out; it has no purpose or meaning outside of God; its life is hid there in the sacred aisles of God's life. If God's life grows dark, the dusk gathers around this pillar which is set in it; if God's life brightens, the pillar burns and glows. Men who behold this soul think instantly of God. They cannot picture the pillar outside of the temple; they cannot picture the soul outside of the fear, the love, the communion, the obedience, of God.
Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 60.
References: Revelation 3:12.—J. M. Neale, Sermons in a Religious House, vol. i., p. 312; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 144.
Revelation 3:14Consider the word with which the Lord's prayer closes—the word "Amen." It is the signalem conscientiæ, the seal of our faith; it is the votem desiderii, the fervency of our longing; it is the stamp of our sincerity upon every prayer we use. In the Gospel of St. John, no less than twenty-five times our Lord Jesus Christ ushers in His deepest asseverations with "Amen, amen," translated in our version, "Verily, verily, I say unto you." What, then, is the meaning of this solemn and sacred word? It means truth; it means reality. Every time we use it, we should remember that God can never be the God who delights in fantasies and shams, but that He is the God of reality and of truth. And I want to bring before you the awfulness of truth—that is, of reality, of sincerity, of guileless simplicity, both as regards our conduct in the life that now is, and as regards the eternal life of man's spirit.
I. First, as regards our earthly life. We may each of us spend our lives either in the world or in God. If we live in God, "if that life which we now live in the flesh is lived by faith in the Son of God," then we are living in the world of reality; if we are living for the world, if we are setting our affections on the things of the earth, we are living in the midst of fatal delusions and fading shadows. God is the Amen, the eternal reality. He has set His canon against pride, and lust, and hate, and lies. Obey Him or disobey Him at your pleasure and at your peril; believe in Him or disbelieve in Him at your pleasure and at your peril; but He is, and His law is, the sole truth of your life. He who makes the Church of God depend on mere outward form, he who bases its high claims on some unprovable theory which may be a fiction, he who confounds religion with the shibboleths of Churches or of parties or the idle, usurpatious encroachments of priests, builds upon the baseless and shifting sands of multitudes of views and practices now thrust almost by force on groaning congregations and on alienated people. The very best that can be said is that the earth hath bubbles as the water hath, and these are of them. The Church depends solely on the presence of Christ. Where Christ is, there the Church is; and where love and holiness are, there Christ is. Wherever we find the fruits of the Spirit, which are love and holiness, there the Spirit is; and where the Spirit is, there the Church is.
II. We must be true men, or we cannot be true Christians. Reason and conscience illumined by prayer—these are the torch-bearers of eternal truth. Seek truth, and you will find it, because God is the God of truth. If you desire heaven, you must, by the aid of Christ's Spirit, win it, for heaven is a temper, and not a place: no priest can give it to you, no ritual can give it to you, no human ordinance can open for you by a millionth of an inch its golden doors; no, you must win it by faithful obedience to the eternal laws of God. Reality, sincerity, holiness; the elementary Christian graces, faith, hope, love; the primary Christian duties, soberness, temperance, chastity—these are the things and these are the tests of a true religion; apart from these all else is fringes and phylacteries.
F. W. Farrar, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii., p. 353.
Revelation 3:14The New Creation.
The Son of God is called by the title "the beginning of the creation of God," (1) because He was Himself the Creator of the world; (2) because He is the first cause or principle of its restoration.
I. We have here two great spiritual facts. The first is that the Word, who is by eternal generation of one substance with the Father, by the mystery of the Incarnation became of one substance with us. His union with us is a consubstantial union; His substance as man and our substance are one and the same.
II. The other great fact, issuing from the last, is that as by this substantial union and personal distinctness the Son lives by the Father, so we, distinct in person, but partaking of His substance, live by the Son. As the Son partakes of the Godhead of the Father, so we partake of the manhood of the Son; as He lives by the Father, we live by Him. The miraculous Agent in the Incarnation and in the holy sacraments is the same Third Person of the ever-blessed Three, uniting first the Divine nature to ours in the person of the Son, and now our fallen nature to Him as the beginning of the creation of God.
H. E. Manning, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 176.
References: Revelation 3:14.—J. B. Lightfoot, Church of England Pulpit, vol. v., p. 53; Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 679; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 110. Revelation 3:14-21.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. xx., No. 1185. Revelation 3:14-22.—Expositor, 1st series, vol. iii., p. 433; J. W. Lance, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 172; G. Macdonald, Ibid., vol. xxxvi., p. 72.
I. The first alarming symptom of lukewarmness is a growing inattention to the private duties of religion. And among these are private prayer, the study of the Bible, and self-examination. The lukewarm Christian begins by omitting his private devotions on the mornings of his busiest days, or on the nights when he is wearied and worn out in the service of the world. Next, he contrives to shorten his prayers, and leaves his Bible-readings for Sundays. Thus little by little lukewarmness takes possession of the soul, and brings forth its shrivelled and sickly fruit.
II. Another evidence of the encroachments of lukewarmness is carelessness in attending public worship. The single sin of neglecting public worship, if persisted in, will eat out of the soul every germ of its spiritual life.
III. A third symptom of lukewarmness, about which there can be no possible mistake, is an indifference concerning the benevolent enterprises of the day and scant offerings for their furtherance. The disease of lukewarmness is so very prevalent that its presence has ceased to create alarm, and people are sometimes found who have exalted this sin of lukewarmness to the rank of a virtue. They admire and praise the zealous man of business and zealous patriot, but when they speak of the zealous Christian the word suddenly changes its meaning, and it becomes little better than a sarcasm and a sneer. The philosopher's good man is four-square; and cast him where you will, like a die, he always falls sure and steady. It is only such who can make the world better and happier, for they give it the advantage of precept and practice both.
J. N. Norton, Golden Truths; p. 113.
References: Revelation 3:15.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Sunday Sermonettes for a Year, p. 88; F. O. Morris, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvii., p. 148. Revelation 3:15, Revelation 3:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol, ii., p. 424.
Revelation 3:15, Revelation 3:19I. Look at the loving rebuke of the faithful Witness: "Thou art neither cold nor hot." We are manifestly there in the region of emotion. The metaphor applies to feeling. We talk of warmth of feeling, ardour of affection, fervour of love, and the like; and the opposite, cold, expresses obviously the absence of any glow of a true, living emotion. So, then, the persons thus described are Christian people with very little, though a little, warmth of affection and glow of Christian love and consecration. (1) This defectiveness of Christian feeling is accompanied with a large amount of self-complacency. (2) This deficiency of warmth is worse than absolute zero. If you were cold, at absolute zero, there would be at least a possibility that when you were brought into contact with the warmth you might kindle. But you have been brought into contact with the warmth, and this is the effect.
II. Note some plain causes of this lukewarmness of spiritual life. (1) The cares of this world; the entire absorption of spirit in business. (2) The existence among us or around us of a certain widely diffused doubt as to the truths of Christianity is, illogically enough, a cause for diminished fervour on the part of the men that do not doubt them. That is foolish, and it is strange, but it is true. Beware of unreasonably yielding to the influence of prevailing unbelief. (3) Another cause is the increasing degree in which Christian men are occupied with secular things.
III. Note the loving call to Christian earnestness: "Be zealous therefore." The word "zealous" means literally boiling with heat. We must remember that zeal ought to be a consequence of knowledge, and that, seeing that we are reasonable creatures, intended to be guided by our understandings, it is an upsetting of the whole constitution of a man's nature if his heart works independently of his head; and the only way in which we can safely and wholesomely increase our zeal is by increasing our grasp of the truths which feed it.
IV. Observe the merciful call to a new beginning: "Repent." There must be a lowly consciousness of sin, a clear vision of past shortcomings and abhorrence of these, and joined to these a resolute act of heart and mind beginning a new course, a change of purpose and of the current of our being.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, April 8th, 1886.
Revelation 3:17Two Kinds of Sight.
I. It is the striking contrast in these words to which I would draw your attention, the wonderful difference between the real state and the fancied state, and more especially to one word which is the key to the whole: that sin is blind: blind in a world of beauty and light; blind in a region of pitfalls, and delusions, and death. But mark—for this is what makes it so fearful—it is the blindness of the madman, who feels sure that he sees better than the sane. There are two powers of sight, the one real and the other unreal, and if we judge with sinful eyes, we never see reality. The faculty is wanting, and we do not, cannot, know the want unless we believe humbly. No keenness of the natural, intellectual eye matters at all, as a telescope does not make a man a better judge of colours. We may boast and argue from the piercing powers of sight, which can at the distance of millions of miles discover hidden worlds. A telescope is mere intellectual knowledge, and the eyes of the mere intellectual man are set in this distant focus; and the power of seeing the glory and beauty of the earth on which he lives and things around him is not his, however much he boasts of his sight.
II. Sin is blindness, and this sight is a new power. The truth of God cannot be seen by any unholy eye; and to pass through life trusting to our own judgments is to trust to a telescope to distinguish colours, to a microscope to show us stars, to feet for flying, or any incongruous mixture of wrong powers and functions. Holy Scripture expressly tells us, what all experience confirms, that spiritual things are folly to the natural man, for the simple reason that he does not see them, and so scorns them, just as a clever savage might despise electricity. Sin is blind. The pure see God, and there is no truth which is not of God. No impure spirit ever sees truth.
E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. i., p. 5.
References: Revelation 3:18.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 404. Revelation 3:19.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 164; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 159.
Revelation 3:20Christ at the Door.
Consider, in the first place, the account which Christ gives of His dealings with men: He stands at the door and knocks; in the second place, the promise which He makes to such as yield to His solicitation: "I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with Me."
I. "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Then the heart is by nature closed against God. On no other supposition could it be needful that Christ should knock for admission. When we turn from considering men as members of society to considering them as creatures of God, then it is we may bring them all under one verdict and pronounce the corruption of our nature total and universal. Here it is that there is no difference, for the virtuous and the vicious are equally at enmity with God, equally void of love to God, equally indisposed to the service of God. When we try men by their love of God, by their willingness to submit to Him, by their desire to please Him, there is no difference whatsoever; all must be equally brought under the description, "The carnal mind is enmity against God." This truth it is which we derive from the words of our text; it is a truth that the heart of every one is naturally barred against God, so that although it may readily be opened at the touch of friendship or at the call of distress, yet does it obstinately exclude that Creator and Benefactor who alone can fill its mighty capacities. And if the Church thus shows the natural condition of the heart, it shows with equal accuracy by what kind of means Christ strives to gain the entrance which is wickedly denied. Observe, no sort of violence is used. There is nothing like forcing the door. Christ knocks, but when He has knocked, it still rests with man to determine whether he will obey the summons and let in the Guest.
II. Consider briefly the promise of the text. If men would deal candidly with others and with themselves, many would have to confess that they see little of what is pleasant in the account which Scripture gives of the joys and enjoyments of redeemed men in glory. They have no taste for adoring God and admiring Him in His perfections; and they cannot, therefore, be alive to the happiness of a state in which praising God will form the chief business, and knowing God the great delight. But if you have no relish for such happiness as heaven is to afford, this of itself should make you earnest in obeying Christ's summons and throwing open the door, for I do not know a more startling truth, if we be yet indifferent and impenitent, than that heaven would be no heaven to us, even if we could get within its precincts. But to those who can feel the worth of the promise in the text we need not say that there is a communion of intercourse between Christ and the soul which, if not capable of being described to a stranger, is inestimably precious to those by whom it is experienced. It is no dream of the enthusiast, it is the statement of soberness and truth, that Jesus so manifests Himself to those who believe on His name, and communicates such a sense of His presence, that He may be said to come in to them, to sup with them, and they with Him.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 3249.
The Waiting Saviour.
The Lord Jesus is continually asking for admission into the hearts of all of us. He asks in various ways and at various times.
I. He comes to us sometimes and showers blessings on our heads. He heaps mercy upon mercy and privilege upon privilege; He gives us all that makes life joyous and bright; He gives us the tender love of family and friends; He gives us a bright, happy, peaceful home; He gives us prosperity in our worldly affairs; sometimes He knocks by sending us mercies and deliverances, and seeks thus to awaken our gratitude, and seeks thus to draw forth our love.
II. Or, again, sometimes He knocks by sending us afflictions. He lays His hand upon us; He sends sickness into our family; He sends us trouble and anxiety in our worldly affairs; He sends us disappointment and sorrow; He takes from us those who are nearest and dearest to us on earth; and then, when we are crushed and broken in heart, then, when we are full of sorrowful and desponding thoughts—then it is that Christ knocks.
III. Again, the Lord knocks by means of warnings. We have most of us had certain solemn warnings in the course of our lives. Once more, He knocks at sacred seasons and at sacred services. We never come to church, we never listen to a sermon, we never read a chapter of God's word, but then Christ knocks at our hearts, then He calls to us, then He speaks to us. He bids us give up this and that sin; He bids us clear away those weeds, those rank, foul, hateful weeds, and open the door of our hearts, and give entrance to the Lord who died for us on Calvary.
IV. Lastly, consider why Christ knocks; consider what it is that He offers to do for us; consider why He desires to abide in our hearts. It is because He desires to make those hearts like Himself; it is because He desires to make them pure, and loving, and faithful, and true; it is because He desires to make them so completely one with Him that in all our thoughts, and words, and works we may reflect His glory, His purity, His love.
E. V. Hall, The Waiting Saviour, p. 13.
I. Note Christ's love at the present time: "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." (1) Our first impression of this adorable figure is of wonder that He should be there at all. He, the Son of God, who has suffered such unspeakable wrongs for us, comes again in a form most Divinely fair, and offers Himself as our Guest. He who contains within Himself infinite treasures of love, who comprehends all creatures within His arms, comes down to us and stands at our door, as if we alone out of His whole Church required Him with us. (2) Look on this image of patience. There He stands in the cool evening hour, having waited till the heat and business of the day be past. He chooses the time when the mind is most likely to be at leisure, and to be quick to hear. The cares of the day are over; it is the hour of relaxation. The very solitude of the chamber disposes the mind to serious thought. Silence has its quiet influence. The spirit of the evening scene is peace. His footprints are on the threshold, marking His last visit, and no one has heeded them. No welcome, it is feared, for Him again to-night, waiting patiently till all within be hushed and His voice be heard.
II. "If any man hear My voice, and open the door." This is the condition of His entering, the welcome which He asks of us. Two possible states of life are indicated: a man may be so deaf that he cannot hear, or he may hear and not heed.
III. "I will come in to him," etc. In the whole Bible there is not a touch of Divine love more tender and penetrating than this. (1) The intimacy of Christ's love is here so great that the believer may shrink from it in fear. But this is not God's intention. Wherever Jesus enters He takes men as they are. All He asks is a welcome; that is, their faith. (2) When He sits at meat with you see the perfect interchange and equal communion of your spirit with His: "I will sup with him, and he with Me." Whatever He gives He gives Himself; He is all in all to the faithful soul, and the soul is all in all to Him.
C. W. Furse, Sermons at Richmond, p. 164.
References: Revelation 3:20.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 137; T. J. Crawford, The Preaching of the Cross, p. 57; Homilist, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 91; J. Vaughan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 307; R. Glover, Ibid., vol. xxxii., p. 342; G. Macdonald, Ibid., vol. xxxiv., p. 215; Preacher's Monthly, vol. viii., p. 357.
Revelation 3:21The Close of the Year.
I. "He that overcometh." Then there is light shining in and struggling with the darkness—a conflict year-long and lifelong, which, though it has its defeats, may have its victories also, which, though its outward aspect is gloomy, may issue in glory, and honour, and immortality. Years bring us another lesson than the lesson of discouragement. Though much is taken away, much is also gained—gained by that very loss. The past has become for us full of rich and precious store: lessons of self-distrust; lessons of charitable thought; lessons of reliance on God. If we have lost bloom, we have gathered ripeness. The future has opened and widened before us. It is no longer the book of dark things, closed and put by till our play is over: the page lies open before us on the desk of life's business; though much in it is hidden, much is revealed to our inner sight, which solemnises us, and stirs us to action. It is no longer the great unknown land talked of as a dream and a mystery, but we are plying our voyage thither, standing at watch, and holding the helm. Already we begin to see its tokens float past us, and to scent the gales which come from its fields. And the present—we have learned to distrust it and to question its testimony, have become wiser than to encumber by loading ourselves with its fading flowers; we search for pearls that shall endure.
II. "Who is he that overcometh the world but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?" Here, again, as years pass on we want more of Him, a firmer reliance on His work and His word, to stand among things visible and endure as seeing the invisible. If we would be gaining this victory, we must labour hard for knowledge and obedience, and every way for a greater realising of Christ. Our text is not only an implication of the possibility of victory: it is also a promise to the victor. The Author and Finisher of our faith Himself proclaims it, Himself offers to the conquerors a prize, and pledges for it His own word: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne."
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. v., p. 319.
Revelation 3:21The Christian Conqueror.
This is the last of seven honours set before the Christian conquerors in the epistles to the seven Churches; and the throne of which this blessing speaks is itself described in St. John's next vision. We know what a throne it was which he saw unveil itself before him. We see at once that this throne means the centre of creation; that the glory of it is as of One invisible, and, except by His own will, unknowable; and that in that heart and centre of all things lives One who has suffered, One who has died, One who is and who ever has remained sinless: the Lamb that had been slain and dieth no more is in the midst of the throne. Perfect sympathy with pain, perfect deliverance from evil, are there in absolute life and light; and the Lamb, the Victor-Victim, speaks, and says, "He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame and sat down with My Father in His throne."
I. He that overcometh. When St. John wrote, people, like that faithful martyr Antipas, were overcoming by their own blood, and the whole Apocalypse shows a world about to be red with martyrdoms. Yet even then the word "overcoming" is used in these seven brief letters in connection with trials and difficulties which were not necessarily to end with them. That was only the supreme method of solving such problems of life as were otherwise insoluble. There were final conflicts in those days in which the forces of God and of the world were grappled together in the lives of men; the spirits of light and darkness incarnated themselves in men's daily action in forms so violent that he who meant to give God the victory in his own life could often do it only by giving his own life over to the death. But if the extremity of the struggle is not now commonly suffered to work itself out to the same bitter end—with the knowledge of the onlooking world, it never could be suffered now—yet similar, and sometimes the same, problems have to be solved in men's lives still, and still the Christian is called to overcome, and still he can often be victor only by being first a victim, as the Lamb was; and if he overcomes, his place is still henceforth the centre of all things. He sits with Him on the throne in true sympathy with the pain of this world, and also having himself a share in this world's deliverance from pain and from all evil.
II. What, then, are these problems which once could only be solved by readiness to die for the right solution, and which still present themselves for solutions—for solutions on the rightness or wrongness of which almost all, if not all, about us depends? Such problems when St. John wrote were all the awful wickedness of the age; the conventional false worships which were then the cementing of the State and of all society; slavery; gladiator shows; one vast licentiousness of life. Men and women died freely in combating such things, for there was that within them which was a perpetual war with the spirit of these things. Among the problems outside us are such expenses of civilisation still: licentiousness of life; the classes that are sacrificed to it; the tender age of corruption; again, the miserable, unclean, indecent abodes which are all that civilised towns and villages offer, and grudge, to their myriads or their hundreds; again, our submissiveness to wealth, and our submissiveness to numbers, and our extreme difficulty in the way of simplicity of life or of speech, and now, even now, the ancient difficulty seeming to begin again of how to live, and talk, and think Christianly among unbelievers. One who does his own honest part in healing the world's sorrow and lightening the world's burdens, and is not ashamed to say he does it for Christ—he is the overcoming one who helps to solve the world's greatest problems. That is the part which must be greater in the world to come than it can be now; for we shall not find ourselves able to do these things except in the spirit of Christ.
Archbishop Tait, Family Churchman, May 23rd, 1883.
Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
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.
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.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth;
I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee.
Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.
Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.
And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.