Write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;…
I. A CHURCH'S BUSINESS IS TO HOLD UP THE LIGHT. A church which fails in aggressive evangelistic activity has failed utterly. What is the good of a lamp-post if there is no light in it? It is only a nuisance, for people to knock their heads against in the dark. A large number of the so-called Christian organisations of this day are lampstands without a light. But then, let us remember, too, that whilst thus one must strongly assert that the function of the Church is to lift up a light which is not its own, on the other hand, whosoever partakes of that light — which he cannot lift unless he loves — is changed into its nature. "Ye are the light of the world." They are made light by contact with the Light; as a mirror laid in the sunshine will reflect the beams that fall upon it, and will cast them into some corners which, without its intervention, they would not have reached, and will be capable of being gazed on with undazzled eye by some whose optics were too weak to look upon the light itself. Now the scope of this light-bearing and witnessing for Jesus Christ which is the purpose of the Church, and of each individual in it, is not to be unduly narrowed. The Christian community is bound to bring the principles of Christ's Gospel to bear upon all forms of life, individual, social, moral, and political, and sometimes economical. That is the function of the individual members of the Church because they are Christians. There is one more word I would like to say, and that is, if it is the purpose of a Christian Church to hold forth the light, how utterly irrelevant and puerile becomes the question whether we are to send the Gospel to distant lands, and how ridiculous the attempt to pit home against foreign evangelistic enterprise necessarily becomes. "Light is light, which radiates," and you may as well expect a sunbeam to elect upon which side it shall shine, and how far it shall travel, as try to prescribe to the expansive and outward-rushing instincts of Christian beneficence, the sphere within which they are to confine themselves. Where I can shine I am bound to shine, and England has not got the language that is going to fill the world in a century or two, and the religion which will bless humanity, only in order that with her worldwide empire she may have markets for her produce, or gather as in a net the riches of the nations.
II. THIS OFFICE IS THE CONJOINT BUSINESS OF THE WHOLE CHURCH. You have sometimes seen methods of illumination by which a rough triangle of wood is dotted all over with tin sockets, and tapers stuck in them. That is not the way in which a Church is to do its evangelising work. The symbol of our text gives a better metaphor — one lampstand holding one light. Now that contains two thoughts.
1. One is the universal obligation. It is the whole Church which composes the stand for the lamp. It is the whole of any Church which is bound equally to evangelistic effort. We are all disposed to think that the Church should do a deal. What about A., B., C., the members of it? It is their business. And it only becomes the duty of the community because it is the duty of each individual within it.
2. A second thought is combined action. We must be contented often to be insignificant, to do functional work, to be one of the great crowd whose hand on the rope gives an indivisible but to Him up yonder not imperceptible pull to bring the vessel to shore. There are a myriad little spheres in the raindrops which make the rainbow, and each of them has a little rainbow in its own tiny depths, but they all fuse together into the sevenfold arch of perfect beauty that spans the sky.
III. THIS OFFICE IS DISCHARGED UNDER THE INSPECTION OF JESUS CHRIST. According to the vision of which the text is the interpretation Christ is, and according to the words of one of the letters He walks, in the midst of the seven candlesticks. The presence of the Christ is the condition of the churches discharging their functions. "He walks," says the letter already referred to, "in their midst," which is the emblem of His continual activity. In so far as we are lights, we are lights kindled, and therefore burning away. There must be a continual replenishing of the inward supply from which the power of illumination comes, as is set forth in another instance in the Old Testament in which this symbol appears — viz., in Zechariah's prophecy, where he sees the arrangements by which the oil is fed to the golden candlestick. The oil must be fed to us, in so far as we are not lampstands, but lamps. That is to say, the great High Priest of the Temple moves as His predecessors did in the ancient sanctuary, and trims the lamps, not quenching the smoking flax, but raising it to a clearer flame. That presence stimulates. It is a solemn thought that He walks in the midst. It is made more solemn when we remember how, in these letters that follow my text, there is in each case repeated, "I know thy works." That inspection of our acts is not all that He is here for, thank God! but He is here for that. Oh, if we believed it, what different people we should be, and what a different Church this would be!
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;