Revelation 1:13
I am Alpha and ... Last. The vision St. John had just seen showed him indisputably that all the low and inadequate ideas which, during his Lord's life on earth, and during the times of trial, he and others had cherished concerning his Person were altogether wrong. And, though we cannot but believe that in the apostles' mind there must have been a great advance in their thoughts concerning their Lord, even yet it was needful, and now and in the terrible times before them it was more than ever needful, that they should rightly regard him. They would lose much, as we ever do, by wrong thoughts about Christ, and all thoughts that fell short of his true dignity and nature were wrong thoughts. Now, to bring the Church generally to true knowledge and understanding on this great matter, not only was the vision vouchsafed which St. John had then before him, but also the trumpet-like voice of the Lord himself was heard declaring who and what he was. And the importance of this declaration is seen by the prominence that is given to it, and its frequent repetition in more or less full form. We meet with it again and again. Its meaning and teaching are similar to that word in Hebrews 13:8, "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday," etc. It asserts -

I. THE ETERNITY OF THE SON OF GOD. In the eighth verse it is spoken of the Almighty God himself. Here, and continually in other places, it is asserted of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the face of Scriptures like these, and they are very many, how can the honest believer in their authority assent to the popular modern hypothesis which would place and keep our Lord on the level of humanity, even though it be humanity at its highest level? If he were no more than man, how could words such as these be spoken and written concerning him? Now, if it had been desired to show that he was God incarnate, could language more clearly asserting it have been devised? Reject the Scriptures, the testimony of the Church from the beginning, the experience of believers, and the confirmation of the truth which we find in religions outside our own, and then we may reject the Church's faith; but assuredly it cannot else be done. But the text teaches also -

II. THE UNCHANGEABLENESS OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. It was needful that the former truth should be deeply impressed on the minds of the persecuted Church. It was the remembrance of the Eternal One that had steadied the minds and encouraged the hearts of their fathers in the days of old. On the plains of Dura, in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and of Darius, that blest memory and faith had given invincible courage in the face of the fiery furnace and the fangs of fiercest beasts. And therefore it was reasserted here when like perils would have to be met and endured and overcome. But this further truth of the unchangeableness of Christ was no less needed to abide in memory and heart if they were to be found faithful even unto death. For:

1. There would be great temptation to tamper with his commands. Might not their stringency be relaxed? would not many of them admit of compromise, or of delay, or of some other departure from their literal and strict import? Under the pressure of fear, or worldly conformity, or the lurking love of sin, would there not be, is there not now, this temptation perpetually assailing? And therefore was it and is it ever well to remember that such setting aside of the Lord's commands cannot be suffered. They change not any more than himself. They were not lowered or relaxed for the tried and troubled ones of former ages, even when they had far less of sustaining truth to cheer them than had the apostolic Church, and still less than we have now. The Lord has cancelled no command, nor does he claim from us any less than he demanded at the first. He accepts half-hearted service no more now than when he said, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." But there were not a few to whom St. John wrote, and there are as many and more now, who from various motives would try to explain away this command and that which the Lord had laid upon them. For them the reminder of his unchangeableness, which is given in this his Name, was indeed necessary.

2. And their fidelity would be helped by the remembrance that he was the same in his love. What had he done for the most faithful of his servants that he had not done for them? Did he die for the martyrs more than for them? Were they not included when it was said, "He loved us, and gave himself for us"? Were not the unsearchable riches of Christ as open to them as to any believers? Did they owe less to Christ? or were they under less obligation to him than others? He had come from heaven to earth; he had lived, and suffered, and died, and risen again for them as for those whose hearts had most truly responded to all this love. Yes; as unchanged in his love toward them as in what he asked for from them, in what he deserved as in what he demanded. How well for them to remember this!

3. And in the grace he would bestow. They were not and could not be straitened in him. The treasury of his grace was not exhausted. He would supply all their need, as he had supplied that of all his servants. No good thing would he withhold from them more than from the saints and martyrs who by his grace had obtained so good report. "I am the Lord, I change not;" such was one chief meaning of his word, "I am Alpha," etc. And that immutability concerned his nature and his character, and there was no class amongst them in these days of trial but would find help in this sure truth. And let us remember it likewise. - S. C.







In the midst of the seven candlesticks One like unto the Son of Man
I. HIS WONDERFUL POSITION. "In the midst of the seven golden candlesticks."

1. This implies His presence with His people (Exodus 33:14, 15; Psalm 132:13, 14; Isaiah 43:1, 2). He is in the midst of the golden candlesticks as the great High Priest, trimming, preparing, and lighting the lamps.

2. The symbol supposes communion and fellowship; He walks in the midst of the golden candlesticks.

3. The words imply Divine superintendence; His peculiar power and providence; His gracious inspection; His unceasing care.

4. The words are expressive of Divine operation. Jesus works while He walks; He is never idle.

(1)He works by His Spirit.

(2)He works by His providence.

(3)He works by His judgments, as well as by His mercy.

(4)The effects of Christ's working are manifold and gracious.The first effect is holiness. The next effect is happiness, everlasting consolation and good hope through grace. A third effect is glory: Arise, shine, for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.

5. His presence implies the stability of the Church. He is in the Church as the God of nature, providence, and grace; and no weapon formed against her shall prosper.

II. His DIVINE PERSON.

1. The human nature of our Lord Jesus Christ — "I saw one like unto the Son of Man."(1) The likeness. There is the likeness of resemblance: God sent forth His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He was not sinful flesh, but lie bare the likeness. There is the likeness of identity: He that was in the form of God was really God; He that was in the form of a servant was really a servant; and He that was made in the likeness of men, and was found in fashion as a man, was really a man. There is also the likeness of equality: He not only took the nature of man, but his frail, afflicted, mortal state. And there is here also the likeness of representation: in His low and afflicted condition on earth, we have an image of man as a mourner and a mortal; and in His glorified condition at the Father's right hand, we have a representation of what the saints in heaven shall for ever be. As we have borne the image of the earthly, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.(2) The reality of His human nature. Although comparison is here employed, yet the reality is implied in the comparison. The incarnation of the Son was an important part of the counsels of eternity. This great doctrine was taught by types and symbols. All his appearances to the holy patriarchs were preludes and pledges of His coming in the flesh.(3) The necessity of His human nature. As a Prophet, it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren; as a Priest, to be taken from amongst men; as a King, to be made of the house of David. Thus in the glorious description that follows, He appears in the likeness of the Son, and human members are ascribed to His Divine person.

2. The Divine nature of our blessed Lord.(1) The likeness of the Son of God. There is here, as in His human nature, the likeness of resemblance — He resembles God; He resembles Him in everything; He is the perfect image of the invisible God.(2) The reality of His Deity.(3) The necessity of His Deity. It behoved Jesus to be God as well as man, that He might be the Daysman between both parties; that His Deity might impart infinite value to His obedience and suffering and atoning sacrifice; that He might be the object of faith, hope, and confidence; and that His Deity might impart power and dignity to His intercession and His government.

3. The wonderful union between the Divine and human natures in His one Divine person; as Immanuel, God with us. He is both God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever. This union is ineffable, unsearchable, mysterious, and Divine. It is the great mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh.

4. The effects of this union.

(James Young.)

The Lord Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Having neither beginning of days nor end of years, He is a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. But the views which His people have of Him are extremely varied. According to our progress in grace will be the standpoint from which we view the Saviour; and according to the position from which we look at Him, will be what we see of Him.

I. THE VALUE OF THIS VISION TO US.

1. It is a representation of the same Christ who suffered for our sins.

2. It represents to us what Christ is now.

3. It represents what He is to the Churches.

4. The effect it would have upon us if we really felt and understood it.We should fall at His feet as dead. Blessed position! We are never so truly living as when the creature dies away in the presence of the all-glorious reigning King.

II. THE MEANING OF THE VISION.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Ordinarily, if we would enjoy the Divine presence and blessing, we must seek them in the ordinances of Divine appointment. But the case is different when our absence from the public means of grace is unavoidable. God is not, in the bestowment of spiritual good, confined even to the means which He Himself has instituted. The truth of this St. John realised.

I. EXPLAIN THE VISION WHICH ST. JOHN BEHELD, AND NOTICE ITS EFFECT UPON HIM.

1. The personage described as in the midst of the seven candlesticks was a representation of Him who was accustomed, while upon earth, to designate Himself, "The Son of Man."

2. St. John further describes His situation: He was in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.(1) This exhibits the character and duty of the Churches of Christ. They are candlesticks. Having been themselves enlightened from above, it is the duty of Christians to diffuse light.(2) The light which Christians are required to shed on the gloom of a sinful world is not their own, but a borrowed light. The light which they possess has been kindled within them by the Father of lights.(3) The care which Christ manifests towards the Churches.

3. The glorious Person who appeared to John is also described in His habit. He was "clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle." The dress was sacerdotal. He is not only a prophet and a king but also an high priest.

4. In this representation of Christ He is more particularly described by the parts and members of His body.(1) "His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." A hoary head denotes age; and may not our adorable Saviour be thus set forth as the "Ancient of Days"?(2) His eyes are described as "a flame of fire," clearly to denote His piercing knowledge.(3) His feet are described as "like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." This is symbolical of the power of Christ, which nothing can resist. Whatever opposition may be made to the Divine plans and proceedings, it will utterly fail.(4) His voice was "as the sound of many waters." The same simile is employed by the prophet (Ezekiel 43:2). The roar of waters is powerful, and is heard afar. And so Christ will command attention. By the representation before us, He probably intended to signify that, however His words had been disregarded by the fallen Churches, they could not drown His voice.

5. The glorious Personage whom the apostle beheld in the vision is also described as holding in His hand seven stars. Stars appear when the sun has withdrawn himself; so Christian ministers are the ambassadors of Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, praying men, in Christ's stead, to be reconciled to God. Of what service are the stars to the mariner, as he sails over the trackless deep! The Christian is a mariner, voyaging over the sea of life, anxiously tending towards the haven of the skies, yet fearing lest he should make shipwreck of faith. The ministers of Christ are stars. Their peculiar office is to hold forth the light of God's truth, and, by their course in the world, by their life and conversation, to be examples and guides to their flocks. Christian ministers are stars, and have, therefore, orbits assigned them in which to move. The Head of the Church plants each in His proper place within it.

6. The protection which Christ affords to His ministers is also strikingly set forth in this description. He holds them in His right hand. He holds the stars in His right hand, and every one of them is immortal till His work is done.

7. Of the glorious Personage whom St. John saw in the vision, he says that there went out of His mouth a sharp two-edged sword. This sword manifestly denotes the word of truth which Christ has spoken. If it fail to cut the heart of the sinner with conviction, it will pierce and destroy him.

8. In the vision under our notice, we have Christ represented as with a countenance like the run shining in his strength. Oh, how changed from that visage which was so marred more than any man!

II. DEDUCE ONE OR TWO SUITABLE REMARKS FROM THE SUBJECT BEFORE US.

1. The clearer the discoveries which Christ makes of HimseLf, the more humbled shall we be under a sense of our own vileness.

2. God vouchsafes special comfort and support to those who suffer for His sake.

3. What cause will the enemies of Christ have to tremble, when He appears, in the last day, to judge them!

(W. Cardall, B. A.)

I. THE RECIPIENT OF THIS GLORIOUS REVELATION. "I John," etc.

II. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE FIRST SCENE WAS USHERED IN.

1. The fulfilment of the vision is guaranteed. "I am Alpha and Omega." God will ever live to carry on His work.

2. The permanency of the revelation is implied. "What thou seest, write."

3. The universal reference of this revelation is expressed.

III. THE REAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE SCENE ITSELF.

1. The Saviour's relation to His Church.(1) He occupies a central position, "in the midst of the seven candlesticks." This was a position of authority and honour.(2) He assumes a brother's form. This was intended for the comfort of the saints; for while the Saviour wore a brother's nature, He would retain a brother's heart.(3) He performs the office of an intercessor. Long robes were worn by men of lofty station: but the girdle seems to refer to the priest's official robe.

2. The Saviour's relation to the opponents of His cause.(1) His supreme authority. The white hair is intended to remind us of the knowledge, experience, and authority of age.(2) His clearness of vision. Not a tear was ever shed, but the eye of Jesus saw it; not an act of cruelty or of crime was ever perpetrated, but the Saviour marked it in His book.(3) His irresistible force. He can tread to dust His fiercest foes.(4) His terrible majesty. Nothing is more majestic than the crash of the cataract. Those who have seen the Fall of Niagara never can forget the impression it made upon the mind.

3. The Saviour's relation to Christian enterprise.(1) The safety and guidance of His agents. "He had in His right hand seven stars."(2) The power of His word. "And out of His mouth went a sharp, two-edged sword." The two edges show the manifold effects of Christian teaching.(3) The unsullied glory of the Saviour. Whatever happens, the glory of Jesus will never pass behind a cloud. No greater comfort can the Christian find than this.

(Evan Lewis, B. A.)

I. John mentions THE DAY ON WHICH THIS VISION OCCURRED: "the Lord's Day." The loss of the Sabbath was felt by John in Patmos. Our pleasures brighten as they take their flight. This is particularly the case with the experience of Christians in relation to the Sabbath.

II. The apostle alludes to his FRAME OF MIND at the time this vision was given him: "I was in the Spirit." The blessing of God comes in the use of His appointed means; and supernatural communications begin where the highest effort of ordinary grace ends. God honoured His Sabbath, and He honoured the prayerful endeavours of His servant, by His revelations at that time. There is a spirit of the Sabbath which all believers should seek to attain, and which, when cultivated to the utmost, will bring them well nigh to the borders of inspiration, and to the gate of heaven.

III. We come to the FIRST SUPERNATURAL SIGN. "And heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet, saying," or as of a speaking-trumpet, the epithet "saying" agreeing not with the "voice," but with the "trumpet." Such an instrument was much in use amongst the ancients. It was employed by generals to give orders to their armies. The brazen lungs of Stentor, mentioned by Homer, in the wars of Troy, were probably of this kind. Hence the "voice of a trumpet" is used in Scripture for a loud and authoritative word of command.

IV. THE LANGUAGE HE HEARS. How important it is to note clown impressions as they occur! How needful, for correct preservation, to record them at once! Our memories are treacherous. New scenes arise to obscure the deepest impressions in our minds.

V. THE VISION HE BEHOLDS. "And I turned to see the voice that spake with me." The true reason why natural beauty and tasteful proportions are disregarded in the image before us is, that it is solely of a hieroglyphical character. Hieroglyphics have no pretension to beauty. Symmetry is the last quality that is studied in their construction. In conformity with this method of instruction, we have the image assumed by Christ in vision to John, with this difference, that it is given only as a heiroglyphical representation, and not as a delineation of His real form. The value of hieroglyphics lies in their meaning, and their beauty in their design. What beauty could our first parents see in the imagery by which their restoration was promised, apart from the design? What beauty was there in the serpent of brass, in the altar of burnt offering, in the figures of the cherubim, in themselves considered? What glory is there in the Cross, apart from its design? What beauty in a Lamb as it had been slain, even in the midst of the throne? What is there to gratify the eye, the ear, or the taste, in the only relics of a symbolical ritual, in baptism and the Lord's Supper? We have here the utmost simplicity of emblems combined with the highest grandeur of design. Visible signs are employed to lead to the contemplation of invisible realities. Under these impressions, we turn again to the vision before us. We expect now no external loveliness and attractions, and are prepared to look for its whole beauty in the moral sentiments it inspires. His appearance, as when known to John in the flesh, would have been equally incompatible with the purpose and the time. He assumes the very figure the occasion required. It was modelled by the revelations He came to unfold. It was not His natural dress, but His adornment for a particular interview; not His home attire, but His equipment for a special expedition. It is not the beau ideal of the Christian's God, but the symbolical representation of the means by which His kingdom would be established in the whole earth. If the whole aspect had been mild and alluring, it would have given a false impression to John of what it was intended to prefigure and the purpose for which it was assumed. It revealed the combination of those perfections in Christ which would be required; the resources at His command, His unslumbering zeal, His terror in battle, the certainty of His conquest, the serenity of His government, and the glory of His reign. The high priest's breast-plate is associated with the warrior's coat of mail, the snow-white locks of age with the sparkling eye of youth, unconquerable prowess with melting pity, the awfulness of justice with the endearments of love, the thunder of His arm with the radiance of His smiles.

(G. Rogers.)

If we were asked to fix upon the most prominent want in the spiritual life of the present time, we might perhaps not untruly say that it is the want of objective faith. Visions pass before us, and we believe that in them is our life, but where is the entranced consciousness of their reality? Where is the fresh, warm faith which ever sees One like unto the Son of Man moving amid sacraments, and taking the shape of human symbols? Where is the rapturous conviction that pierces at once through the veil of visions, and sees the well-known features by a perpetual inspiration? And yet, this is undeniably the character of the faith which has drawn the soul to God at all times. If we consider the practical bearing of this great truth, we shall see its efficacy to be of the most momentous kind.

1. And first, it is the true sustaining power of the spiritual life.

2. Again, as objective faith is the sustenance of spiritual life, so is it the true antidote of one of the greatest dangers which beset the soul in times of strong religious excitement — that of morbid self-contemplation. Remorse, terror of conscience, growing scrupulousness, deepening awe at the sanctities of religion — all tend to fix the eye of the awakened soul on itself in a minutely introspective, anxious study, which tends to despondency and alarm, and, sadder still, depressing the soul's energies, creates fresh hindrances to restoration and to peace. The remedy is to be found in an objective faith. Combine with the care of the soul a deeper care to realise the presence of Him in whom it lives. This vision of His love is the counteracting stay. The soul looks safely on itself, if it look still more earnestly on its God. The one vision is the true complement of the other.

3. Once more: the same truth holds good as to our progress in any single grace. We gain more by looking on what is perfect than by striving against what is imperfect. One of the strongest laws of our nature is the law of imitation. We grow into what we behold. St. Paul is only expressing this great law of assimilation in its highest reality, when he says that, "beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." Objective faith is therefore the ordained process in the perfecting of the inner life. We subdue our pride not by mourning over it, but by feeding on the lowliness of Jesus. We learn how to give way to others by contemplating His self-sacrifice. Anger has no power over us, while He who was smitten on the cheek is vividly before our mind. We are stronger to bear pain while we look on the Crucifixion. In conclusion: The catholic principle of life is Christ revealed to the soul. His work in us is the impression of the look on which we feed. Our likeness to Him is the reproduction in us of the features of a Countenance towards which we are continually turned. We live by going out of ourselves; we become what we look upon. "We live by faith; not by sight." We are what we believe. As some of the lower creatures change their colour according to the food on which they feed, so are we transformed by that which we have received within as the daily food of our soul's communings. The realities in which we learn to live become our own real life.

(Canon T. T. Carter.)

With a garment down to the foot, and... a golden girdle
I. THAT THE SON OF MAN, WHO WAS ON THE EARTH, IS THE WORLD'S HIGH PRIEST.

1. The apostle saw the ascended Saviour as the High Priest of men.

2. The apostle saw in the High Priest of men the tokens of His human Incarnation.

II. THAT CHRIST IS FROM THE GREAT ETERNITY. "His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow."

1. As from the great Eternity, Christ can give men counsel.

2. As from the great Eternity, Christ should win the reverence of men.

3. As from the great Eternity, Christ is the pattern of men.

III. THAT CHRIST IS MOST PENETRATING IN HIS SCRUTINY. "And His eyes were as a flame of fire."

1. That Christ is most penetrating in His scrutiny of the creed, conduct, and activity of His Church.

2. He scrutinises with terrible wrath the conduct of the enemies of His Church.

IV. THAT CHRIST IS MOST UNWEARIED IS HIS PURPOSES. "And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace."

1. Christ is unwearied in His purpose of love toward His Church and Gospel.

2. Christ is unwearied in His purpose of moral retribution toward the enemies of His Church.

V. THAT CHRIST IS MOST SUBLIME AND EFFECTIVE IN HIS UTTERANCES. "His voice as the sound of many waters." "Out of His mouth went a two-edged sword."

1. The voice of Christ is majestic. It is as the resounding of many waters.

2. The voice of Christ is diffusive. The sound of many waters can be heard at a great distance, in almost any direction.

3. The voice of Christ is piercing. It is like a two-edged sword.

VI. THAT CHRIST IS SUPREME IN HIS BENEFICENT GLORY. "And His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."

1. Because of the glorious majesty that is in Him.

2. Because of the influence He exerts upon growth.

3. Because of the joy He inspires.Lessons:

1. That Christ is the hope of His Church in time of persecution.

2. That soul-visions are given to men at times of holy communion with God.

3. That the world has a Divine High Priest.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

1. The authority and warrantableness of our Lord Jesus Christ's kingly and princely office, as that which followeth, doth of His prophetical office: hereby letting us know, that our Lord Jesus's being in heaven and in glory hath not made Him lay by His offices, or the executing of them; but He remains King and Priest for ever (Psalm 110.): even in heaven He bears His offices to His Churches.

2. That our Lord Jesus Christ, not only bears these offices, but In an excellent and glorious manner. There is no such king, no such priest, no such prophet as He.

3. It holds out that our Lord Jesus's stateliness and glory doth not mar nor hinder Him in the application of His offices, and executing them for the good of His Church. Christ's greatness and glory is so far from unfitting Him for the discharge of His offices, that He hath robes compacted, and Himself so fitted, as He may handsomely go about the discharge of them, being still girded, though the girdle be of gold.

(James Durham.)

His head and His hairs were white
1. "His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow." There is here an allusion to Daniel's vision of the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9-13).(1) His head of snow is the symbol of eternity. It implies the perpetual existence of His Godhead.(2) His hoary head is the symbol of sovereignty.(3) The hoary head is the symbol of wisdom. This is closely connected with His crown.(4) His head, and His hairs of wool and snow were symbols of His essential holiness and immaculate purity. His beauty is the beauty of holiness, His crown is the crown of purity, His sceptre is the sceptre of righteousness. The best and fairest of the sons of men have their spots or stains; but He is pure, perfect, and unsullied.(5) The head of snow is the symbol of glory. The word "white," is shining or resplendent; it is silvery, glistening; shining like lightning, it is radiantly bright, pure, white, effulgent, expressive of the purest splendour.

2. "His eyes were as a flame of fire" (Daniel 10:6). His eyes are the symbol of His Deity or omniscience. His knowledge is absolutely perfect and infinite.(1) The words imply the splendour of His knowledge. He not only beholds all objects, and every object, but His eyes shed a splendour on everything He sees.(2) The words imply the purity of His knowledge. He beholds holiness with infinite delight. He is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and He cannot look upon sin. He is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.(3) The words imply the minuteness of His knowledge.

3. "And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace." This is the symbol of the Deity of Christ, His Divine power, His glory and majesty, His eternity and immutability. It is the symbol of His gracious presence with His people.

4. "And His voice as the sound of many waters." There is a twofold voice attributed to Christ — the voice of His mercy, and the voice of His majesty.

5. "And He had in His right hand seven stars." Stars are symbols of rulers, who are of two classes — civil and sacred. We proceed to consider the next symbol mentioned, the "right hand" of Christ. The right hand is the symbol of wisdom. God's hand and His counsel are synonymous terms: it is the symbol of power — "Thy right hand is become glorious in power." It is the symbol of honour. It is the symbol of favour: The man of God's right hand is the Son of His love. It is the symbol of comfort: "In Thy presence is fulness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." It is the symbol of security: The child was caught up to the throne of God, beyond the reach of every foe. It is the symbol of mercy: "God saves by His right hand, and the arm of His strength."

6. "Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." There is, as we have seen, a twofold view of the voice of Christ: the voice of His majesty, and the voice of His mercy. It is the last of these that is here intended.(1) Why is the Word compared to a sword? The Word is compared to a sword, to express its keen and penetrating power, its blessed properties and mighty operations. It has a moral power to touch the heart, to impress the image of the truth upon the mind, to lead the sinner to look with holy mourning on Him whom he hath pierced.(2) The Word of God is called the sword of the Spirit, because it was indited by the Spirit; because it is employed by the Spirit; because it is blessed by the Spirit, in its sweet and gracious influences; because it is explained by the Spirit — He that inspired it is the best and the only infallible expositor; and, finally, because its gracious effects arise from His powerful operation on the soul.(3) It proceeds out of Christ's mouth, as the only-begotten Son of God came forth from the bosom of the Father to reveal Him.(4) It must be used and improved by every child of God.(5) What are some of its wonderful effects? There is a twofold effect of the Word of God — one of mercy, and one of judgment.

7. "His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength."(1) There is majesty in the symbol.(2) There is might in the symbol.(3) There is mercy in the symbol. What a blessing to creation is the influence of the sun! What a blessing to the universe is the Sun of Righteousness, arising with healing and salvation in His wings!(4) There is beauty in the symbol. The sun is the loveliest object in creation. And who can express the beauty of the Saviour?(5) It is also the symbol of His favour and His love. When the face is mild, placid, and serene, like the sun without a cloud, it is the index or emblem of favour and affection.(6) It is the symbol of anger as well as of love: "The face of God is set against them that do wickedly."(7) It is the symbol, in a word, of knowledge, of holiness, and happiness. Thus the Sun of Righteousness shines upon the saint, and pours the marvellous light of His glory, in incomprehensible sweetness and majesty, upon the weary pilgrim in passing through the wilderness.

(James Young.)

I will tell you of the sorrow, the beauty, and the antiquity of Jesus.

1. There is nothing that so soon changes the colour of the hair as trouble. Well, surely, Jesus, my Lord, had enough suffering to whiten His hair.

2. My text sets forth the beauty of Christ. Whimsical fashion changes its mind very often as to which is the best colour for the hair. The Romans sprinkled theirs with silver and gold. Our ancestors powdered theirs white. Human custom decides this and declares that; but God declares that He likes frost colour best when He says: "The hoary head is a crown of glory if it be found in the way of righteousness."

3. The antiquity of the Jesus. It is no new Christ that has come. He saw the first star beam on the darkness, the first wave swing to its place, and He heard the first rock jar down to its place in the mountain-socket. "His hair is white as the wool, as white as the snow" — an aged Christ. Ah, that gives me so much confidence! It is the same Jesus that heard David's prayer — the same Jesus on whose breast John laid. You cannot bring Him a new ease. He has had ten thousand cases just like it before. He is an aged Christ. There are times when we want chiefly the young and the gay about us; but when I am in deep trouble give me a fatherly old man or a motherly old woman. More than once in the black night of sorrow have I hailed the grey dawn of an old man's hair. When I want courage for life I love to think of Christ as young and ardent; but when I feel the need of sympathy and condolence I bring before me the picture of an old Jesus: "His hairs as white as the wool, as white as the snow." Is there not a balm in this for the aged?

(T. De Witt Talmage.)

His eyes were as a flame of fire
Fire is the element used to consume; and when we think of our Master's character in the light of that fiery vision, what do we see? Well, putting it into the plain language of every-day life, what St. John must have remembered, and what you and I must remember, is not so much the actual authority of the Judge as the innate sincerity of Christ. Christ was true. He never flinched from the entirety of truth. He met philosopher and Pharisee and Sadducee as He met all others, with perfect calmness and decision; but with firmness and without relenting He dragged out their contemptible baseness of thought and purpose, and set it out in the sunshine before the eyes of all, and said to them all, "Oh, ye hypocrites!" And when He met those who talk about the religion of impulsiveness and not the religion of principle — with the men whose religion varied with every breath of public opinion, who held no truth long, who grasped this thing as being very useful to-day, and flung it to the winds this day week — with this sort of people He dealt, to their intense and surprised mortification, in order to wound their consciences and teach them that religion requires permanent self-denial. And when He met the soul which was at least approximately near to Him, the soul that felt and acknowledged its sin, and did not play a part, or put on airs, or have a stately gait or philosophic mind — to that soul He was tenderer than a woman, kinder than the truest friend, bringing to that soul the bright lights of hope and the stars of eternity; no trace of scorn then, no anger. And so He went through the world; dragging out the defects of the unreal, condemning the falsehood of His friends, and this at the risk of all His popularity. Christ never flattered, never bowed down to human opinion; knowing what was in the mind He was ever true and sincere. I want you to meditate upon that example, to meditate upon His force of sincerity as it touches us. Now apply that truth and sincerity to the judgment. Christ is coming, Christ shall judge us. Apply that character to the judgment. The last judgment, so Scripture tells us, will be the unfailing, true, righteous judgment of God. God's judgment — the judgment of the coming Christ — is discriminating with fine accuracy; it deals with facts, and not with professions of heart, as we shall know in that last hour. Christ shall save us because He is true. "His eyes are as a flame of fire." And then remember that it shall be a judgment when He shall show whether our confession was true.

(Canon Knox Little.)

And His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace
By our feet we move from one place to another, that we may execute the purposes which we have formed. The feet of Christ, then, are descriptive of His execution of His designs by the dispensations of His grace and providence — more especially of the signal manifestations of His glory in seasons of difficulty and danger.

1. This symbol exhibits to us the stability of the kingdom of Christ, and the energy of His government. The great cause of the stability of Christ's kingdom amidst all attempts to shake and subvert it, is the invincible energy of His administration. "His feet are like fine brass." He has fixed His plan of government with infinite wisdom, and He carries it into full effect. No circumstances can occur to thwart or disappoint Him.

2. The absolute purity of the administration of Christ. "His feet are like fine," or polished, "brass, burning," purified, "in a furnace." Men, indeed, have attempted to defile His purity and to sully His spotless character. They have clothed Him with the most detestable attributes. They have accused His administration of folly and injustice. They have invoked His sacred name to prosper plans of iniquity, and to sanction the most unhallowed usurpations. No; still "His feet" are pure and bright "like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace."

3. The administration of Christ abounds with splendid and stupendous displays of His glory. His reign suffers no interruption, and with perfect wisdom and righteousness He invariably administers His great kingdom. His enemies, however, sometimes think that He has abandoned the reins of government, and is indifferent how things are conducted. They feel and act as if they were without superintendence and control (Psalm 94:5-7). The ungodly rejoice. The neglected and suffering saints become fearful and despondent. But there are seasons in which the King of Zion gloriously appears, fulfilling promises and executing threatenings, working salvation for His Church, and easing Himself of His adversaries.

4. Christ is continually making progress in accomplishing His wise and holy purposes. He is ever carrying forward His great plan of mercy and of judgment.

5. Let us make the administration of Christ the subject of our devout study. The knowledge which we shall thus acquire of His character, the confirmation which we shall thus receive to our faith, will amply reward all our pains.

(James Stark.)

His voice as the sound of many waters
Many have supposed that there is here an allusion to the sound of cataract. The reference, however, appears to be, not to the roar of a waterfall, but to the motion of the tides. The voice of the Son of God speaking in the gospel may, for various reasons, be compared to the sound of many waters.

I. IT IS NEVER ALTOGETHER SILENT. How many are employed, in almost every quarter of the globe, in proclaiming the message of mercy! As the noise of the seas is created by a multitude of separate waves, so the glad tidings of great joy are announced by a multitude of individual heralds.

II. THE VOICE OF CHRIST IS ADDRESSED TO ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. As we stand upon the beach, we may have something like a community of feeling with the inhabitants of the most distant climes; for the waters of the same great deep wash the shores of all the continents of the globe, and speak in the same tones of mystery and magnificence to all the sons and daughters of Adam. It may be said of the ebbing and flowing tides, as of the other works of creation and of Providence (Psalm 19:3, 4). And the love of Christ is expansive as the broad ocean; for He sends forth His invitations of mercy to every kindred and people and nation. The inhabitants of the various countries of the globe cannot understand each other's speech, as every province has its own tongue or dialect; but the noise of the seas is a universal language, proclaiming to all the power and the majesty of the ever-living Jehovah. And how delightful to anticipate the period when the harmony of the heralds of salvation will be as the sound of many waters, when the same truths will be echoed from shore to shore, and when the uniform reverberation of the tides will be emblematic of the one gospel preached among all nations! (Isaiah 52:8).

III. THE VOICE OF CHRIST IS FITTED TO INSPIRE US WITH AWE AND REVERENCE. There is something in the very aspect of the ocean which expands and elevates the mind. Almost every one is constrained to be serious as he stands solitary on the strand, and looks abroad upon the world of waters before him, and listens to the ceaseless agitation of the far-resounding surge. The shoreless sea is the mirror of infinite duration; and as the floods lift up their voice, we feel as if they were repeating their commission from the High and the Holy One who inhabiteth eternity (Psalm 29:3, 4). It is thus, too, with the gospel (Psalm 119:161). The truth as it is in Jesus has a self-evidencing power — it commends itself to the conscience — it carries with it a conviction that it is a communication from heaven.

IV. THE VOICE OF CHRIST IS BY MANY DISREGARDED. How few, as they pass along the beach, ever think of listening to the dashing of the waves! Some may mark their various murmurs, and their magnificent echoes, and, ascending in thought to Him who formed the seas, and who sendeth the wind out of His treasuries, may contemplate with adoring wonder the glory of Jehovah; but upon the mass of individuals the noise of the many waters makes no impression. And it is thus, too, with the gospel. How many make light of the great salvation! How many listen to the joyful sound as to a matter in which they have no interest — even as to the noise of many waters!

(W. D. Killen, D. D.)

He had in His right hand seven stars
I. THE POSITION OF INSTRUMENTALITY IN REFERENCE TO OUR LORD JESUS. "He had in His right hand seven stars." God has ordained that there shall be men anointed of His Spirit, who shall, beyond others, be the means of conversion and edification, and these are as stars in the sky of the Church.

1. Note well, that instrumentality is of temporary use, and is intended for the time of darkness. The Lord will use instruments till He Himself appears, but even those whom He calls "stars" are only the transient apparatus of a passing night.

2. This should make us think very humbly of ourselves; for this illustrates our weakness. Were we lights of the first magnitude, the darkness would no longer remain.

3. Still, instrumentality is honourably spoken of by Him whose judgment is supremely wise, The Lord Jesus does not despise the agency which He employs.

4. Stars are guides, and so are the Lord's true ministers. Some stars in yonder sky have done measureless service to wanderers over the trackless deep, and to those who have lost themselves in the labyrinths of the forest.

5. A certain star, the morning star, is also the herald of the day. Happy messenger of God, who has the sound of his Master's feet behind him.

6. It is an honourable comparison that the instruments of God's good pleasure have put upon them in being compared to stars; for the stars are the comfort and solace of the night. "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth glad tidings!"

7. Instrumentality is honourably placed; for we see the stars in the right hand of Him who is the First and the Last. They may be despised by those who oppose the Word, but they need not be ashamed; for while the right hand of God is their position, they are more honourable than the princes and kings of the earth.

8. See, also, how true instrumentality is graciously sustained. The chosen servants of the Lord are under special protection; for they shine in Christ's right hand.

II. THE PLACE OF REAL POWER. "Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." Not out of the stars, but out of our Lord's mouth goes the strength which wins the day.

1. The true power of the Church lies in Christ personally. The power of a Church in the presence of her Lord. He has not deposited power in men; He retains it in Himself, and from Himself we must seek it. Behold the infinite resources of the Church; all power is in Jesus, and Jesus is with His people.

2. The power lies in Christ's word: "Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword." The power is not in the stars, but in the word which made the stars.

3. It is not only His word, but it is His word as He Himself speaks it. It is not the letter of the word which Jesus spake eighteen hundred years ago which works wonders; but it is that same word as He now delivers it into our ear and heart by His own living, loving, heart-subduing voice.

4. The word is in itself adapted to the Divine end, for it is sharp and two-edged; and when it is spoken by the Lord, its adaptation is seen. The gospel is very sharp when the Spirit of God lays it home. No doctrine of men has such piercing power.

III. THE SOURCE OF TRUE GLORY.

1. To the saints the glory of Christ lies in Himself: His own countenance is the centre of glory.

2. The favour of Christ, if it be enjoyed by a Church, is effectual for all purposes.

3. The brightness of our Lord cannot be measured, neither could His glory be endured of mortal men if once it were fully revealed. "His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." John therefore could not gaze upon that countenance, but fell at his Lord's feet as dead. And if the Lord Jesus were to manifest Himself to us as He really is, in all His unveiled majesty, we should die with excess of joy.

4. If Christ's face be so bright, then we know where to trace all the light and all the glory that we have ever seen or known. Is there any beauty in the landscape? It is the sun that makes it beautiful. Is there any brightness in any object round about us? It is the sun that makes it bright.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength
1. Because of the glorious majesty that is in it (Song of Solomon 5:15). There is an excellency and beauty in it that dazzles and obscures all the excellency and beauty of the world, even as the light of the sun obscures the stars.

2. Because of the lightsomeness of it; for Christ is to believers as the sun is to the world (John 1:9).

3. His countenance is as the sun shining in his strength, for the refreshingness of it (Psalm 4:6, 7). His countenance maketh the heart more glad than corn and wine and worldly comforts whatsoever.

4. His countenance is so compared from the effectual influence ii hath on believers' growth (Malachi 4.).

(James Durham.)

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