Revelation 1:17
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. But He placed His right hand on me and said, "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last,
Sermons
Swooning and Reviving Christ's FeetCharles Hadden Spurgeon Revelation 1:17
The Fear Nots of ChristS. Conway Revelation 1:17
The Vision of the LordS. Conway Revelation 1:9-20
The Vision of the Son of ManR. Green Revelation 1:9-20
Voices and Visions from EternityD. Thomas Revelation 1:10-17
Christ the TruthCanon Knox Little.Revelation 1:13-20
Christ's Countenance Compared to the SunJames Durham.Revelation 1:13-20
Lessons from the Christ of PatmosC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 1:13-20
St. John's VisionW. Cardall, B. A.Revelation 1:13-20
The Administration of ChristJames Stark.Revelation 1:13-20
The Christ of PatmosC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 1:13-20
The Exalted SaviourJames Young.Revelation 1:13-20
The First Scene in the Great RevelationEvan Lewis, B. A.Revelation 1:13-20
The Introductory VisionG. Rogers.Revelation 1:13-20
The Offices of Christ Continued in HeavenJames Durham.Revelation 1:13-20
The Power of an Objective FaithCanon T. T. Carter.Revelation 1:13-20
The Son of Man Amid the CandlesticksJames Young.Revelation 1:13-20
The Voice of ChristW. D. Killen, D. D.Revelation 1:13-20
The White Hair of JesusT. De Witt Talmage.Revelation 1:13-20
The World's Great High PriestJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 1:13-20
Christ's Ministry on Earth, and His Existence in HeavenD. Thomas Revelation 1:17, 18
The Living One: an Easter Sunday SermonS. Conway Revelation 1:17, 18
A Funeral SermonD. Merrill.Revelation 1:17-20
A Living Christ Explains Christian HistoryCanon Liddon.Revelation 1:17-20
An Apocalyptic Vision of ChristA. M. Fairbairn, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
An Easter SermonBp. Phillips Brooks.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ a Living SaviourR. W. Dale, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ Destroys the Believer's FearsG. Philip.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ the King of Death and HadesT. J. Choate.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ Wielding the Keys of Death, and of the World UnseenDean Goulburn.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ with the Keys of Death and HellC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ's Life in HeavenHomilistRevelation 1:17-20
Christ's Sovereignty Over the Invisible WorldW. J. Chapman, M. A.Revelation 1:17-20
Christ's Words of Good CheerG. A. Chadwick, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
Fear NotW. L. Watkinson.Revelation 1:17-20
Fear NotJ. Trapp.Revelation 1:17-20
Hades, or the UnseenG. Gilfillan, M. A.Revelation 1:17-20
Infallible Antidotes Against Unbelieving FearsT. Boston, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
Jesus Christ and the Nineteenth CenturyW. Lloyd, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
Jesus Living for EverE. Brown.Revelation 1:17-20
ReverenceCanon Liddon.Revelation 1:17-20
Sudden RevelationsJ. Parker, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
The Christ of History and EternityC. A. Berry.Revelation 1:17-20
The Fear of GodG. MacDonald.Revelation 1:17-20
The Glorious Master and the Swooning DiscipleC. H. Spurgeon.Revelation 1:17-20
The Kingdom and the KeysA. Raleigh, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
The Life of Christ in HeavenAbp. Magee.Revelation 1:17-20
The Living ChristP. T. Forsyth, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
The Living LordW. Clarkson, B. A.Revelation 1:17-20
The Living OneR. Roberts.Revelation 1:17-20
The Living One Who Became DeadA. Maclaren, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
The Nature and Design of the VisionG. Rogers.Revelation 1:17-20
The Prostrate ApostleJames Young.Revelation 1:17-20
The Royal Prerogatives of the Living RedeemerJ. H. Hill.Revelation 1:17-20
The Soul's Vision of ChristJ. S. Exell, M. A.Revelation 1:17-20
Through Death to LifeW. Brock, D. D.Revelation 1:17-20
Fear not, etc.

1. It is good to say words of good cheer. The cheerful word, the pleasant smile, the encouraging shake of the hand, - all these are good and helpful. As when with ringing cheers we send our troops off to battle.

2. But it is better still to be able, along with such words of good cheer, to show reason for them, and the solid ground you have for bidding your brother be of good cheer, and that he has for being so. If we can do this, how much more helpful our words are! Now, this is what our Saviour does here for St. John, and through him for all Christians always and everywhere. And if, as is possible, from the use of the expression, "the Lord's day," and St. John's naming it in close connection with our Lord's death, the day was not merely the first day of the week, but an Easter Sunday, and so especially "the Lord's day," then all the more may we well consider those reasons wherefore our Lord bade his apostle and all of us "Fear not." Now, our Lord declares in these verses four great facts, every one of which says, "Fear not" to him who believes it.

I. His ETERNAL EXISTENCE. He says:

1. "I am the First - the First Begotten (cf. Psalm 40.; John the Baptist's, He was before me;" also our Lord's words, "Before Abraham was, I am;" and John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word").

2. "The Last." (Cf. "He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet;" "Then cometh the end," 1 Corinthians 15.)

3. "The Living One;" equivalent to "I am he that liveth" - Jehovah. The claim is no less than this. Great, august, but intolerable if not true. But because true, it justifies our adoration and worship, and that to him every knee should bow. But it also says to us, "Fear not;" for it assures us that what he has been to his people he will be to them always (cf. homily on ver. 11). He had been everything to his disciples. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" said Peter in the name of them all: "thou hast the words of eternal life." Hence to lose him was to lose all. But this Divine title which he claims assured them that they should not lack any good thing. What he had been to them, he would be. And so to us.

II. HIS PERFECT BROTHERHOOD He shares in all our sorrows, even the greatest of them. "I became dead;" this is a better rendering of ver. 18, than "I was dead." It does not say merely, "I died," or "I was dead;" that might be said of any saint in heaven, and will be said of all of us one day; but "I became dead" - it was his own voluntary act (cf. St. Paul: "He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross"). Now, our Lord's declaring this fact tells no doubt:

1. Of his sacrifice and atonement. That he was "the Lamb of God, which taketh away," etc. But I think the chief reason for its declaration here is to assert:

2. His perfect brotherhood and sympathy with us. That he was our very Brother-Man, who has been in all points tried as we are. Hence, however low any of us may have to go, he has been lower still. As Baxter sings -

"Christ leads us through no darker room
Than he went through before." It was as if he would say to all to whom this book should come, "I know, my brethren, you have to bear trouble, perhaps to endure cruel death, but I know all about it; I became dead, I have been through it all, I have sounded the lowest depths of sorrow; and go, my beloved ones, where you will, underneath you shall find my everlasting arms. So fear not." And on Easter Day the joy of it is that the Lord comes to us, not merely as triumphant, but as One who has suffered, and to us who are suffering. And the message of the day is -

"As surely as I overcame,
And triumphed once for you,
So surely you who know my Name
Shall through me triumph too."

III. HIS VICTORY. "Behold, I am alive forevermore." Note that word "behold." It means that, in spite of all that death and hell could do, he is nevertheless alive forevermore. They sought to destroy him, but in vain. And the message of all this to those to whom it was sent was, "Fear not them which kill the body, but after that have no more that they can do." Your enemies can do you no real harm. And this is his word to us today. He points to himself, and says, "Behold" me; "I am alive forevermore." Therefore "Fear not.".

IV. HIS LORDSHIP OVER THE UNSEEN. "I have the keys of death and of hell." The "key" means authority, power, possession; "death," him who had the power of death, or the state of death; "hell," the unseen world, the place of departed spirits; also the forces and strength of Satan (cf. "The gates of hell"). Now, Christ declares that he has authority over all this. Therefore, he having the keys:

1. The door of death and the grave can only be opened by him. Therefore their lives were unassailable, invulnerable, unless he gave permission. "Men of the world," their persecutors, were but his "hand."

2. He can enter there when he pleases. If, then, any of them should be put to death, he would not be debarred from them nor they from him (cf. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod," etc., Psalm 23.). Death and the unseen world are his absolute possession.

3. He can shut their gates when he pleases. Therefore death and hell have power only so long as he pleases. If he lets them loose for a season, he can restrain them again. And he will finally shut the door upon them forever. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death;" "He came to destroy the works of the devil." He shall shut the gates of hell, and when he shuts, no man openeth. Therefore "Fear not." Such is the message of Easter Day. - S.C.







I fell at His feet as dead.
I. Every age has its moral as well as its social and political tastes; and REVERENCE IS NOT ONE OF THE MOST POPULAR VIRTUES OF THE PRESENT DAY. Many a man who would be anxious to be considered brave, or truthful, or even patient and benevolent, would not be altogether pleased to hear himself described as a reverent man. Reverence he imagines to be the temper of mind which readily crouches down to the falsehood which it dares not confront; which is easy-going, soft, feeble, passive. Reverence, he thinks, lives in the past, lives in the unreal, lives in sentiment; lives for the sake of existing institutions, good or bad. It is naturally fostered by their advocates, while it is the foe of active virtue in all its forms. This idea of reverence is entertained by many persons who are in no degree responsible for the shape it takes, and who are quite sincere in entertaining it. They do but take in and accept and act on judgments which are floating in the mental atmosphere which they breathe. But, of course, originally, this atmosphere has been made what it is by various contributors and experimentalists. And among these have been some who knew quite well that, if you want to get rid of a doctrine or a virtue, the best way is boldly to caricature it. You ask me, What is reverence? If we must attempt a definition, it is not easy to improve upon the saying that it is the sincere, the practical recognition of greatness. And, when speaking thus, let us take greatness in its widest sense. The Highest Greatness, the Greatness from which all other greatness proceeds, is entitled to the deepest reverence. If the recognition of such greatness is to be not merely adequate but sincere, it will take unwonted forms, and make exacting demands upon us. Certainly, reverence is not the homage which weak minds pay to acceptable fictions. It would not be a virtue if it were. All virtue is based on truth. Reverence is the sense of truth put in practice. Nor is reverence the foe of energy. We can only imitate with a good conscience that which we revere; and reverence stimulates the energy of imitation. Accordingly, on this very account, reverence of a worthy object, the sincere recognition of real greatness is not an excellence which may be dropped or taken up at pleasure. It is a necessary virtue, whether for a man or for a society. The man without reverence is the man who can see in God's universe no greatness which transcends himself. The really pitiable thing is to revere nothing. Thoughtful Americans have said that, amid all the material greatness of their country — and it is sufficiently astonishing — their gravest anxiety for her future is caused by the absence of reverence among all classes of her people; the absence of any sincere recognition of a greatness which may ennoble its reverers.

II. Reverence, then, is by no means only or chiefly an ecclesiastical virtue; it is necessary to the perfection of man as man, and to the well-being of society. But REVERENCE IS PECULIARLY A CREATION OF RELIGION. And if we ask why religion is thus the teacher and the Church the school of reverence, the answer is, Because religion unveils before the soul of man a Greatness compared with which all human greatness is insignificance itself. To the eye of religious faith, over every life, every character, every institution, every ideal, there is inscribed, "God alone is great." If the Christian's eye resin reverently upon an excellence, whether of saint, or office, or institution, beneath His throne, it is not as on something satisfying or final: it is as on an emanation from the Source of greatness. When reverence is in the immediate presence of God, it takes a new form, or it adopts a new expression. It offers that which it offers to none other or less than God. It offers adoration. The least that reverence can do in the presence of boundless Power, Wisdom, and Goodness, is to prostrate before Him every created faculty. For close contact with God produces on the soul of man, first of all, an impression of awe; and this impression is deep in exact proportion to the closeness of the contact. When reverence for God is rooted in the soul, the soul sees God in all that reflects and represents Him on earth, and yields it for His sake appropriate recognition. The father, representing His parental authority; the mother, reflecting His tender love; the powers that be in the State, ordained by God as His ministers; pastors of His Church, to whom He has said, "He that despiseth you despiseth Me"; great and good men, whether in past ages or our contemporaries; the Bible, which embodies for all time His revelation of Himself and His will concerning us; the laws of the natural world, when they are really ascertained, as being His modes of working; the sacraments, as channels of His grace, or veils of His presence; all that belongs to the public worship of Christ in His temples here on earth — these are objects of Christian reverence because they are inseparable from Him Who is the Only Great. Conclusion:

1. Reverence is a test, a measure of faith. We do not see God with our bodily eyes: faith is a second sight which does see Him. If men see God, they will behave accordingly. Apply this to behaviour in a church. But if He is with us, if His presence explains and justifies all that is said and sung, must it not follow that whatever expresses our feeling of lowly awe at the nearness of the Most Holy, before whom His angels veil their faces, is but the common sense of the occasion. No one could for long lounge back in an easy chair if moved by a sense of burning indignation; no one with tender affection in his heart could long maintain an expression of countenance which implied that he was entirely out of temper. He would be conscious that the contrast was ridiculous. In the same way, if a man sees God, he will behave as it is natural to behave in the presence of the Almighty. He will be too absorbed to look about at his fellow-worshippers; too much alive to the greatness and awfulness of God to care what others think about himself: he will yield to those instinctive expressions of reverence which the Creator has implanted in us by nature and refined and heightened by grace; and he will find that the reverence of the soul is best secured when the body, its companion and instrument, is reverent also.

2. Reverence begins from within. It cannot be learned as a code of outward conduct. To act and speak reverently, a man must feel reverently; and if he is to feel reverently, he must see our Lord. If he feels what it is to be in God's presence, to speak to Him, to ask Him to do this or that, to promise Him to attempt this or that; if he has any idea of the meaning of these solemn acts of the soul, the outward proprieties will follow.

3. Lastly, reverence, the deepest, the truest, is perfectly compatible with love. In sober earnest, reverence is the salt which preserves the purity of affection, without impairing its intensity. We are so framed that we can only love for long that which we heartily respect. The passion which is lavished for a few hours upon an object which does not deserve respect is unworthy of the sacred name of love. And God, when He asks the best love of our hearts, would preserve it from corruption by requiring also the safeguard of reverence.

(Canon Liddon.)

It is not alone the first beginnings of religion that are full of fear. So long as love is imperfect, there is room for torment. The thing that is unknown, yet known to be, will always be more or less formidable. When it is known as immeasurably greater than we, and as having claims and making demands upon us, the more vaguely these are apprehended, the more room is there for anxiety; and when the conscience is not clear, this anxiety may well mount to terror. In him who does not know God, and must be anything but satisfied with himself, fear towards God is as reasonable as it is natural, and serves powerfully towards the development of his true humanity. Until love, which is the truth towards God, is able to cast out fear, it is well that fear should hold; it is a bond, however poor, between that which is and that which creates — a bond that must be broken, but a bond that can be broken only by the tightening of an infinitely closer bond. God being what He is, a God who loves righteousness, a God who, that His creature might not die of ignorance, died as much as a God could die, and that is Divinely more than man can die, to give him Himself; such a God, I say, may well look fearful from afar to the creature who recognises in himself no imperative good, who fears only suffering, and has no aspiration, only wretched ambition! But in proportion as such a creature comes nearer, grows towards Him in and for whose likeness he was begun; in proportion, that is, as the eternal right begins to disclose itself to him; in proportion, I do not say as he sees these things, but as he nears the possibility of seeing them, will his terror at the God of his life abate; though far indeed from surmising the bliss that awaits him, he is drawing more nigh to the goal of his nature, the central secret joy of sonship to a God who loves righteousness and hates iniquity, does nothing He would not permit in His creature, demands nothing of His creature He would not do Himself. When John saw the glory of the Son of Man, he fell at His feet as one dead. In what way John saw Him, whether in what we vaguely call a vision, or in as human a way as when ha leaned back on His bosom and looked up in His face, I do not now care to ask: it would take all glorious shapes of humanity to reveal Jesus, and He knew the right way to show Himself to John. Why, then, was John overcome with terror? No glory even of God should breed terror; when a child of God is afraid, it is a sign that the word "Father" is not yet freely fashioned by the child's spiritual mouth. The glory can breed terror only in him who is capable of being terrified by it; while he is such it is well the terror should be bred and maintained, until the man seek refuge from it in the only place where it is not — in the bosom of the glory. Why, then, was John afraid? Why did the servant of the Lord fall at His feet as one dead? Joy to us that he did, for the words that follow — surely no phantasmic outcome of uncertain vision or blinding terror! They bear best sign of their source: however given to his ears, they must be from the heart of our great Brother, the one Man, Christ Jesus, Divinely human! It was still and only the imperfection of the disciple, unfinished in faith, so unfinished in everything a man needs, that was the cause of his terror. Endless must be our terror, until we come heart to heart with the fire. core of the universe, the first and the last and the Living One! But oh, the joy to be told, by Power Himself, the first and the last, the Living One — told what we can indeed then see must be true, but which we are so slow to believe — that the cure for trembling is the presence of Power; that fear cannot stand before Strength; that the visible God is the destruction of death; that the one and only safety in the universe is the perfect nearness of the Living One! God is being; death is nowhere! What a thing to be taught by the very mouth of Him who knows! Had John been as close in spirit to the Son of Man as he had been in bodily presence, he would have indeed fallen at His feet, but not as one dead — as one too full of joy to stand before the life that was feeding his; he would have fallen, but not to lie there senseless with awe the most holy; he would have fallen to embrace and kiss the feet of Him who had now a second time, as With a resurrection from above, arisen before him, in yet heavenlier plenitude of glory.

(G. MacDonald.)

I. THE TIMES WHEN THE SOUL GETS ITS BRIGHTEST VISION OF CHRIST.

1. In times of persecution and loneliness.

2. In the communion of the Lord's day.

3. Upon the threshold of important duty.

II. SOMETIMES THESE VISIONS HAVE AN APPALLING EFFECT UPON THE SOUL.

1. There is in this terror of the soul an element of deep humility and reverence.

2. This terror of the soul is not overcome by the most intimate friendship with Christ.

III. IN THESE VISIONS THE GOOD ARE CONSOLED AND STRENGTHENED BY THE MERCIFUL CONDESCENSION OF CHRIST.

1. There was the strengthening assurance of a kindly action, "And He laid His right hand upon me."

2. There was the encouraging utterance of a compassionate word, "Fear not."Lessons:

1. Soul-visions are Divinely given to the good.

2. Soul-visions are not always at first welcome to the good.

3. That the compassion of Christ renders soul-visions the chief joy of the Christian life.

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

I. THE EFFECT PRODUCED UPON THE APOSTLE: "When I saw Him," he says, "I fell at His feet as dead." This is the natural effect of such a visitation upon the senses and sensibilities of the human frame. If an imaginary apparition has turned many cold and motionless with fear, no wonder that it should have been done by the reality. Our feeble natures cannot bear the lustre of heavenly things. How admirably our sight and all our sensations and powers are adapted to the precise distance of the world of our habitation from the sun l Upon the same principle, He who has adapted the light of nature to our senses has, by a still more elaborate process, and involving far higher dependencies, given us such discoveries of the methods of His grace as are fitted to our precise condition in this life, and will adapt them, with equal wisdom and grace, to our more exalted position hereafter.

II. THE MEANS BY WHICH THE APOSTLE WAS REVIVED: "He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not." It is evident from this circumstance that the vision was now close before him. The same hand which had been seen upon the seven lamps was now laid upon him. Here was a further evidence of the reality of the vision. How easily could that hand have crushed him! How well it knew the weight of a hand which distinguishes mercy from judgment! How familiar with the motions indicative of tenderness and aid! This friendly act is accompanied with the encouraging words, "Fear not!" It dispels at once all painful apprehensions from the mind of John, restores the vigour of his frame, and enables him calmly to survey the unearthly and irradiated image before him, and to receive instructions from His lips. Sudden changes, whether of a beneficial or of a disastrous kind, have their effect, first upon the old, and then upon the renovated part of our natures. The more, indeed, we are habituated to the contemplation and indulgence of spiritual motives, the more promptly will they come to our aid, and the nearer they will approach to the instinct of a new nature; but we can never expect to arrive at such a degree of refinement in the present state, in which the instinct of nature shall be surpassed by the promptitude of grace, for that would be to suppose their characteristic distinction to be destroyed.

III. A MORE FAMILIAR ANNOUNCEMENT OF HIS PERSON IS NOW GIVEN: "I am the first and the last," etc.

IV. THE COMMISSION IS RENEWED: "Write the things," etc.

(G. Rogers.)

I. THE PROSTRATION OF THE APOSTLE: "I fell at His feet as dead."

1. This was the prostration of guilt and unworthiness, arising from the presence of a sin-abhorring God. If anything can humble a sinful creature, it is to stand in the presence of infinite purity, greatness, and majesty.

2. This was the prostration of weakness and mortality.

3. This was the prostration of terror and alarm.

4. This was the prostration of holy worship.

5. This was the prostration of satisfied delight.

6. Here we may see the overwhelming power of the majesty of God.

7. Here we may see the boundless love and compassion of Jesus.He deals with His people in infinite kindness. As their days are, their strength shall be.

II. THE GRACIOUS ACT OF OUR BLESSED LORD: "He laid His right hand upon me."

1. This was a human hand; so it seemed to be. One like the similitude of the sons of men touched the prophet's lips, and one who was the Son of Man laid His right hand on John.

2. This was not an angel's hand, but the right hand of Jesus. Amidst the splendours of the vision, John might forget that the Son of Man was the actor on the scene.

3. This was the act of the Shepherd of Israel, who gathers the lambs with His arm, carries them in His bosom.

4. This was the act of our great High Priest, who is possessed of infinite tenderness, who is touched with the feeling of all our infirmities.

5. This touch was marvellous. The angel of the Lord did wondrously, and Manoah and his wife looked on; everything here was astonishing and wonderful.

6. This touch was mysterious: He looks to the earth, and it trembles; He touches the mountains, and they smoke.

7. This touch was omnipotent: it was the saving strength of His right hand (Psalm 77:10-15).

8. There was majesty in the touch; it was the touch of that hand which He lifts up to heaven and says, I live for ever.

9. There was mercy in the touch. The eye that pities, and the arm that brings salvation, meet together here in marvellous conjunction.

10. There was comfort in the touch (Psalm 16:11).

11. There was Divine blessedness conveyed by the touch.

12. There was infinite love in this mysterious act. It was not a heavy blow, but a kind and gentle touch.

III. THE COMFORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT PRESENTED TO JOHN: "Saying unto me, Fear not." Fear not the wrath of God, for He is your Father. Fear not the law of God, for it has been magnified, honoured, and exalted. Fear not the curse of God, for it has been inflicted, exhausted, and removed. Fear not death, the dark king of terrors, for by My death he has been vanquished, and swallowed up in victory.

IV. THE GROUNDS OF HOLY COMFORT.

1. His essential Deity: "He is the first and the last, and the Living One." The essential Deity of the God of Israel is often assigned as a ground of comfort to the ancient Church (Genesis 15:1; Isaiah 41:10, 14; Isaiah 43:1, 2). The Deity of Christ affords the same ground of comfort to His people still. From His power, under the feeling of frailty and infirmity; from His eternity, under the fear of approaching dissolution (Psalm 90:1, 2); from His covenant mercy, under the conviction of sin and unworthiness (Psalm 103:13-18); from His covenant faithfulness, under the fear that the Lord will cast us off.

2. His person: "I am He that liveth and was dead."

3. His office: "I am He that liveth and was dead." This office consisteth of three great parts — the office of a Prophet, of a Priest, and of a King.

4. His redeeming work.

(James Young.)

Philip said, "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us." He committed the supreme mistake of mankind in supposing that man could endure the sudden and perfect revelation of God. Moses said, "Show me Thy glory," but the Lord answered, "Thou canst not see My face: for there shall no man see Me and live." Isaiah caught a glimpse of the King, and exclaimed, "Woe is me! for I am undone." Job said, "Now mine eye seeth Thee: wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." When in the transfiguration the disciples saw Christ's face shine as the sun, and His raiment became white and glistening, "they fell on their face and were sore afraid." We think ourselves ready for any revelation, whereas the fact is that our capacity for receiving revelation is distinctly limited, and in this matter, as in every other, we are straitened in ourselves and not in God, and partial revelation is explained by the fact that God adapts the light to the vision which has to receive it.

1. This is open to illustration from the common events of human life.

(1)Doctor's report of child's health.

(2)A view of the next seven years' trials, etc.

(3)We value a friend for his discretion in such matters.And yet you, who cannot bear these revelations, ask to be shown the Infinite God! A child who cannot bear the twinkle of a candle demands to look upon the noonday sun!

2. This is gracious on the part of God. Child: all the books he has to learn, at once! See how many different languages he has to learn without ever going beyond English! Every new department has a language of its own. If he could hear them all at once, he would enter Babel at a step! Observe: If we could see the last from the first, it would make us impatient of all that lay between. Mark the unhappy effect of such impatience:

(1)Imperfect knowledge.

(2)Restless temper.

(3)Immature conclusions.A great part of the advantage is in the actual growing. We want breadth as well as height. The day dawns; the year develops; the harvest comes little by little. We are, then, in the line of the Divine movement in receiving revelation by degrees. This is the law. This is God's way.

3. Any unwillingness to submit to this method of revelation is proof of an unsound and presumptuous mind. It would be accounted so in the family, in business, in statesmanship. In all things it is well to serve an apprenticeship. Let us know that life is a continual revelation. We cannot see over the wall that separates to-morrow from to-day. But Christ says, "What is that to thee? follow thou Me." We are revealed to ourselves little by little. Another hint, another gleam, and so let knowledge come to us even as the sun shineth more and more unto the perfect day. John could recline on Christ's breast, yet was dazzled and overpowered by the suddenly revealed glory of his Lord. There is a familiar side of Christ, and a side unfamiliar. Some mountains are accessible on one side only.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not
I. THE DISCIPLE OVERPOWERED.

1. The occasion.

2. The reason.It was partly fear. That fear originated partly in a sense of his own weakness and insignificance in the presence of the Divine strength and greatness. How shall an insect live in the furnace of the sun? We are such infirmity, folly, and nothingness, that, if we have but a glimpse of omnipotence, awe and reverence prostrate us to the earth. The most spiritual and sanctified minds, when they fully perceive the majesty and holiness of God, are so greatly conscious of the great disproportion between themselves and the Lord that they are humbled and filled with holy awe, and even with dread and alarm. The reverence which is commendable is pushed by the infirmity of our nature into a fear which is excessive. There is no doubt, too, that a part of the fear which caused John to swoon arose from a partial ignorance or forgetfulness of his Lord. Shall we charge this upon one who wrote one of the gospels and three choice epistles? Yes, it was doubtless so, because the Master went on to instruct and teach him in order to remove his fear. He needed fresh knowledge or old truths brought home with renewed power in order to cure his dread. As soon as he knew his Lord he recovered his strength. Study, then, your Lord. Make it your life's object to know Him.

3. The extent. "As dead." It is an infinite blessing to us to be utterly emptied, spoiled, and slain before the Lord. Our strength is our weakness, our life is our death, and when both are entirely gone we begin to be strong, and in very deed to live.

4. The place. "At His feet." It matters not what aileth us if we lie at Jesus's feet. Better be dead there than live anywhere else. He is ever gentle and tender, never breaking the bruised reed or quenching the smoking flax. In proportion as He perceives that our weakness is manifest to us, in that degree will He display His tenderness. "He carrieth the lambs in His bosom."

II. THE SAME DISCIPLE RESTORED.

1. By a condescending approach. "He laid His hand upon me." No other hand could have revived the apostle, but the hand which was pierced for him had matchless power.

2. The communication of Divine strength. "His right hand" — the hand of favour and of power. There must be actual strength and energy imparted to a swooning soul, and, glory be to God, by His own Holy Spirit, Jesus can and does communicate energy to His people in time of weakness. He is come that we may have life, and that we may have it more abundantly. The omnipotence of God is made to rest upon us, so that we even glory in infirmities. "My grace is sufficient for thee, My strength is made perfect in weakness," is a blessed promise, which has been fulfilled to the letter to many of us. Our own strength has departed, and then the power of God has flowed in to fill up the vacuum.

3. A word from the Master's own mouth. Truly there are many voices and each has its significance, but the voice of Jesus has a heaven of bliss in its every accent. Let but my Beloved speak to me, and I will forego the angelic symphonies. Though He should only say, "Fear not," and not a word beyond, it were worth worlds to see Him open His mouth unto us. But you say, can we still hear Jesus speak of us? Aye, by His Spirit.

III. THE SAME DISCIPLE STILL FURTHER INSTRUCTED.

1. As to the Lord's person — that He was most truly Divine. Art thou afraid of Him, thy Brother, thy Saviour, thy Friend? Then what dost thou fear? Anything of old? He is the first. Anything to come? He is the last. Anything in all the world? He is all in all, from the first to the last. What dost thou want? If thou hast Him thou hast all.

2. As to His self-existence. Creatures are not living in themselves: they borrow leave to be; to God alone it belongs to exist necessarily. He is the I AM, and such is Christ. Why, then, dost thou fear? If the existence of thy Lord, thy Saviour, were precarious and dependent upon some extraneous circumstances thou wouldst have cause for fear, for thou wouldst be in constant jeopardy.

3. As to His atoning death.

4. As to His endless life.

5. As to His mediatorial office.Conclusion: The glory and exaltation of Christ is —

1. The saint's cordial.

2. The sinner's terror.

3. The penitent's hope.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

How full of consolation is this grand passage! It breathes a most majestic sympathy.

I. The text is most consolatory in the PROSPECT Of death. Keys are symbols of authority and law, and these keys of death remind us that government and order prevail in the realm of mortality. The gate of the grave is not blown about by the winds of chance; it has keys, it is opened and shut by royal authority. The engineer who constructs a locomotive knows what distance it will cover before it is worn out, one engine being calculated to accomplish a greater mileage, another less. Using material of a certain weight and quality, the engineer knows with tolerable accuracy what wear and tear his machine will endure, and, barring accidents, how long it will run. Thus He by whose hand we are fashioned knows the possibilities of our individual constitution, how far the throbbing machinery will go ere the weary wheels stand still; our appointed days are written in our physiological powers, not in some mystical Book of Fate. From this point of view it is not difficult to understand how one organism will endure for long journey, whilst another necessarily breaks down, having accomplished a few stages only. We said, "barring accidents," the locomotive will cover a given distance; but what of the accidents which may put an end to the career of the locomotive long before its possibilities are exhausted? and what of the thousand accidents which put a period to human life in its very prime and power? The answer is, Under the personal sovereign government of heaven no real accident is possible to virtue. The woodman knows how trees of different species require to be felled at various seasons; it is best that some are cut down with the fresh leaves of spring upon them, that the axe smites others whilst they are robed in summer's pomp, whilst a third order must fall when the sap dies down in autumn and the leaves are tinged with the colours of decay. The forester knows when to smite the forest glories; and there is One who knows why some human lives cease in their sweet spring, why others perish in manhood's pride, and why, again, others are spared to patriarchal years. At the right time, at the right place, in the right way, shall we suffer the stroke of mortality. Death to some may be a blind fury cutting short life's thin thread; but the Christian knows that the capital power is in the hands of One whose name is Love, and before His fingers turn the key His eyes of flame see the necessity and dictate the moment.

II. The text is most consolatory in the ARTICLE of death. We have here, not only teaching concerning the law of death, but also precious doctrine touching its Lord. Jesus Christ is the Lord of death. The law of death is the active will of Jesus Christ. It is the glory of Christianity that it consistently exhibits law, not as some metaphysical rule or impersonal force, but as the action of a personal, intelligent, loving Ruler. The law of creation is the will of a wise and gracious Creator, who rejoices in all that His hands have made; the law of evolution is the will of an Evolver, who with wise purpose and unfailing intelligence presses forward all things to some "far-off Divine event"; the law of dissolution is the will of a just and infallible Judge, who determines all crises. When Dr. James Hamilton was dying his brother spoke to him of "death's cold embrace." Said the dying saint, "There is no cold embrace, William; there is no cold embrace." If our dissolution were effected simply by some mysterious abstract law working in the dark, it were indeed a cold embrace; but it is no longer cold when it is the pressure of that breast on which John leaned. In the light of this text death becomes transfigured; the keys are in the pierced hand; the keys are golden, they open the door into heaven. Whilst we think of these things even now strange music steals upon our senses, the rough wilderness smiles with flowers, a light above the brightness of the sun touches pain and sickness and sepulchre into gold, and in the hour and article of death these foretastes shall be fulfilled beyond all imagination; we shall not taste death; we shall not see it.

III. The text inspires deep consolation touching the issues of death. "I am alive for evermore." "I have the keys of the invisible universe."

1. There is a limit to the power of death. It does not destroy the personality; the dead may live again, live in new power and splendour.

2. There is a limit to the range of death. "Alive unto the ages of the ages." In the face of those oriental systems which threatened men with endless deaths, transmigrations, and metamorphoses, systems which modern paganism seeks to revive, Christianity holds that the faithful pass through one eclipse only into personal, conscious, immortal life. The law of death is not the law of all worlds; there are spheres where it has no place, golden ages undimmed by its shadow. Christ alive for evermore declares that immortality is the prerogative of the highest being also. The monad is inaccessible to death by being too low; man in Christ shall be inaccessible to death by being too high. "Fear not." True, we can never be wholly reconciled to death. Darwin used to go into the London Zoological Gardens, and, standing by the glass case containing the cobra di capello, put his forehead against the glass while the cobra struck out at him. The glass was between them: Darwin's mind was perfectly convinced as to the inability of the snake to harm him, yet he would always dodge. Time after time he tried it, his will and reason keeping him there, his instinct making him shrink. The instinct was stronger than both will and reason. And it is much like this with the Christian's attitude toward death: he knows that its sting cannot harm him, but there is an instinct within him that causes him to shrink whenever he comes into contact with the ghastly thing, and this instinct will not be altogether denied whatever the Christian reason and will may say. But in this shrinking is no terror or despair.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

I. WHO IT IS THAT PRESCRIBES THE REMEDY FOR YOUR FEARS. It is Jesus who lays His right hand upon you, saying unto you, "Fear not." It is not by arguments devised by men that you are called on to look up in hope and confidence. It is by an entreaty coming to yourself fresh from the mouth of Him before whom you tremble. And oh, when it is He Himself that bids you not fear, does not the very glory with which He is encircled bring encouragement to your heart? Do you not feel that you may safely lay aside your fears, when all the terrors of His Majesty are arrayed, not against you, but on your behalf?

II. EXAMINE THE REMEDY IN ITS SEVERAL PARTS. Christ not only bids His people fear not, but He urges reasons why they should not. These reasons are contained in the several parts of the remedy.

1. "I am the first and the last, I am He that liveth," or, as it might be rendered, "I am the Living One." Several ideas are comprehended under these expressions: Christ existing from everlasting to everlasting — Christ the author and end of all things — Christ their sum and substance. The epithets are, you perceive, expressive of His Godhead. The others which He assumes in the text have respect to His humanity. How beautifully they all unite to dispel the fears of His people! Some of these fears are to be chased away by His Godhead some by His humanity; to chase away all Christ speaks both as God and as man.

2. "I was dead." In how striking a contrast this part stands to the last! The glory of the Deity is now shaded by the darkness of a human grave. But what an amount of comfort this part is calculated to afford; for, if Christ was dead, why should you fear to approach the throne of grace on which He now sits? But, again. If Christ was dead, why should you, who are one with Him, fear the punishment of your sins? That punishment is all past already. And still farther. If Christ was dead, why should you fear to die? Perhaps you are among those who, through fear of death, are subject to bondage. Then Christ died to deliver you from this fear.

3. "Behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen." This part is another strange contrast to the last, another brilliant evolution of the character of your exalted Lord. The darkness of a human grave is now dispelled by the light of immortality.

4. "And have the keys of hell and of death." At death there is a separation not only from friends and the world, but even from your very self. Christ has the keys of all these doors. He has the key of the door by which the body and soul of His people separate. You cannot die, therefore, till Christ with His own hand open the door; the last breath is the turning of the lock. What serenity this should shed around the death-bed of the believer, and how strong consolation it should impart to those who are left behind! Christ has also the keys of the doors by which the souls and bodies of believers pass to each other for an eternal union. If saints on earth "groan within themselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of their body" — if their souls, even when inhabiting their earthly tabernacle, "do groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with their house which is from heaven" — what must be the longings of these souls as the winter of death advances to its close, and the time of the redemption of their bodies draws nigh!

(G. Philip.)

From this subject we may observe the following: that the death and resurrection of Christ, that eternal life to which He was raised, and His mediatory sovereignty are the great grounds of the saints' consolation and sufficient to dispel all their unbelieving fears.

I. To speak a little to each of the things in the text, to unfold them, so as that the ground of comfort in them may appear.

1. As to His death. On this I offer these few remarks:(1) His death supposeth — His incarnation and living as a man in the world (John 1:14).(2) His death was vicarious: He died in the room and stead of sinners.(3) His sufferings and death were most exquisite: "God spared not His own Son."(4) His sufferings and death were satisfactory, and that fully.

2. As to His resurrection and the life to which He was restored. Here consider —(1) That God raised up Christ.(2) Where He now lives. It is in heaven, which we had forfeited by sin, but where we still would fain be.(3) For what He lives. The apostle tells us that it is to make intercession for us, and He Himself says it is to prepare a place for us in His Father's house, where there are many mansions.

3. The eternity of this life. The man Christ lives for evermore. He will eternally represent His own sacrifice as the foundation of our eternal glory: and as for His kingdom, it is an everlasting kingdom that shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:14). Let us —

4. Attend to His mediatorial sovereignty. Hell and death are terrible to the believer, but Christ holds the keys of both. Now these things, the death, resurrection, life, and power of Jesus, may be considered three ways in order to improve them for consolation to the saints.

(1)As patterns and examples.

(2)As pledges, assuring the saints of what they wish for.

(3)As containing in them sufficient salves for all their sores.

II. To point out THE NATURE OF THAT CONSOLATION WHICH SAINTS MAY DERIVE FROM THESE. For this purpose let us take a view of the fountains of their fears and distrust.

1. There is the super-eminent glory and infinite majesty of the great God. This, when seen and considered by poor worm man, whose habitation is in the dust, is a great source of fear. Can ye not look straight forward to Divine majesty, then fetch a compass and look through the veil of the flesh of Christ? and so ye may see God and not die. "Often and willingly," said Luther, "would I thus look at God."

2. Sin is another fountain for fear: sinfulness considered with the nature of God. But fear not, O Christian Christ was dead and is alive for evermore; therefore the guilt that exposes to hell-fire is done away. Do ye doubt the completeness of the satisfaction? Behold Christ in heaven with the complete discharge in His hand. He is out of prison. He brought the keys with Him and is now on the throne.

3. The sinner sees pollution in himself and holiness in God. When they behold the spotless purity of God, and themselves as an unclean thing, they are ready to say, Oh, will God look on vile me? will these pure eyes cast a favourable glance on such a dunghill-worm? Fear not, Christ was dead and is alive. He is made of God unto you sanctification.

4. Desertions are a cause of fears. The deserted soul is an affrighted soul. Good news to you in your low state Christ died, and in His death He was forsaken of God; and yet He now enjoys the bosom of the Father and the light of His countenance. Who would not be content to follow Christ, even through the valley of the shadow of death?

5. Temptations are a source of fears. Sometimes Satan gets leave to dog saints at their heels. This fills them with fear: but to such I say, Fear not. Christ died and is alive evermore. He that thus lives evermore gave a deadly wound to the tempter. We have no more to do but to cry to our Lord, who, from His own temptations, well knows how to succour His tempted people.

6. Death is the cause of much fear. But fear not: He that was dead is alive; and when ye are carried off you shall be with Him who is infinitely better than all earthly relations.

7. Hell is a fountain of fears. But fear not, for Christ died; and if so, He suffered the torments thou shouldst have suffered in hell as to the essentials of them. God will not require two payments for one debt.

III. IMPROVEMENT.

1. The comfortless state of them that are out of Christ.

2. The duty of Christians to improve these things for their actual comfort.(1) The grieving of the Spirit cuts the throats of our comforts.(2) Good men sometimes build their comforts on outward blessings; hence when these are gone their comfort is gone.(3) On grace within them, not on grace without them; the comfort of some streams from their obedience principally, therefore it is soon dried up; whereas the death and life of Christ are liable to no change, as is our obedience.(4) Upon the coming in of words to their minds. Hence, when a promise comes in they are comforted; when a threatening, all is gone. I do believe that the Spirit comforts His people by the word, and that He makes words come in with an impression on the soul (John 14:26). But then these words lead the soul direct to Christ and to build our comfort on Him; but it is not of God to build it on the bare impression of a comfortable word. The coming in of a word should guide us to Christ; and though the impression, the guide go, yet we may keep our hold of Him.A word to other two sources of the saint's fears.

1. Weakness and spiritual inability for the duties of religion. The soul taking a view of the great work it has to do, what strong lusts are to be mortified, temptations resisted, duties performed; and then, considering how weak and unable it is for any of these things, it is even ready to sink. But fear not: Christ died, etc. (Hebrews 12:12).

2. The danger of an evil time is another source of fear (Psalm 49:5). An evil time is a time of many snares. The soul is afraid that he will never stand out, but one day will fall. Fear not: Christ died, and it was an evil time, a time of many snares, yet He came safe off. This He did as a public person, and so it is a pledge that ye shall also be carried through (Hebrews 4:14-16).

(T. Boston, D. D.)

No wonder that John fell senseless at His feet. There is no sign that he was prostrated by any sudden and appalling sense of sin. It was simply the rush of a magnificence too intolerably splendid. In a very small measure we can understand it, by the effect of a sudden glare of lightning and roll of thunder at midnight, or of being afloat on a fiercely agitated sea. It is not the guiltiest that are most excited, even if they be most alarmed; innocent children are overcome, sensitive and gentle women are profoundly moved; delicate nerves have more to do with the effect than guilty consciences. What has happened is a powerful impression of the contrast between these tremendous scenes and our poor faculties, our slight resources to avert, endure, or overcome. But our most awful impression was as nothing compared with his, upon whose mortal vision blazed the immortal splendours of a manhood taken into God. Now what is the comfort for human self-abasement and dread in the presence of supreme power?

1. It is, first, the nearer approach in love of what was so terrible in grandeur. He laid His right hand upon me saying, "Fear not." So, then, the Highest and Most Awful can be gentle. He whose feet can trample like burning brass has a hand whose touch is soothing; and the great voice, which crashed like a trumpet through the Sabbath stillness, can be so modulated as to reassure the trembling heart.

2. That John may not fear, his Master proceeds to announce who and what He is. The first word needs to be strongly emphasised; "I am the First and the Last," as if the voice had said, "It is I, and not another, who am thus exalted." Can we doubt that with this word the personality of Him who spoke came in full force upon the heater's soul? Well for us, in danger and dread, if our past life has tender and vivid associations with Him with whom we have to do, if we have known Him as the Hearer of our prayer, the Helper of our weakness, the Cleanser of our hearts. "I, then, whom thou knowest, and lovest, and canst trust — I am the First and the Last, and the Living One, and I became dead." It is not only said that Jesus is first and last, He is the First and the Last. No assertion of Deity could be more explicit. But like all such Scripture statements, this is made in the practical form best suited to the hearers' need. To the heart that quails and faints amid new revelations of dazzling majesty and overwhelming force, it is announced that His Loved One is behind and beyond all change, and that all life and power flow out from Him, the Living One. It is added that He "became dead," to remind His creature of expiation for all sin, and of the immutable heart which once broke, rather than be pitiless.

(G. A. Chadwick, D. D.)

Till rid of fear we are not fit to hear.

(J. Trapp.)

I am the First and the Last.
This sublime Apocalypse is the climax of Revelation. It carries us forward from narrative to prophecy, from facts to truths, from present conditions to permanent issues. Without such a revelation the religion of Jesus Christ would have lacked its crowning assurance, and the dispensation of grace its adequate interpretation. What is going on in the invisible above is essential to the understanding of what is going on in the visible around. Only as we get glimpse of the issue can we appreciate the purpose and strength of grace. The vision of Christ in His glory alone completes and justifies the history of Christ in His humiliation. The way-book of our faith could not stop with the record of an ascending Christ. For deep and clear as may be our inward fellowship with Christ, we cannot always escape the tyranny of our eyes. We see too much and too little — too much because too little. With awful precision we see the ravages of sin, the desolating frenzy of passion, the hungry eagerness with which graves close over hopes unrealised and lives whose record is vanity. But with all our seeing we see too little. Sin and strife and death are assuredly here. But with our unaided vision we do not see the large arena on which God is working out His gracious purpose: we do not see how these vast and appalling forces are under the control of a triumphant Redeemer; we do not see where, or how, or to what degree the conquering grace of Christ cleaves its way to the very heart of the conflict and robs the enemy of his spoil. It requires an Apocalypse to show us the wide empire and masterhood of Christ. Only as we see ahead can we see properly around. And in the goodness of His grace God has given us the larger, clearer sight. He has torn aside the veil.

I. OUR TEXT IS CHRIST'S NEW INTRODUCTION OF HIMSELF TO THE CHURCH MILITANT. It is the revelation of Himself in His Lordship, clothed with the authority and resource of spiritual empire. In His hands are the keys of mastery. To His service bend all heaven's powers. But what I want just now to emphasise is, that right in the centre of this vision of glory the old familiar Christ of the gospels is made clearly discernible. Not only is He the Living One with the keys; He is the One who became dead; the One, therefore, who lived and moved within range of historic observation. This is a point of present and pressing importance. It indicates and guards us against two opposite tendencies which threaten the vitality of Christian faith. On one hand there is a too evident readiness to minimise the importance of our evangelic narratives; to pass lightly over the great historical facts on which our gospel is based, and even to acquiesce in an account of those events which rob them of all special, not to say trustworthy, significance. On the ether hand, there is a not less evident and equally disastrous tendency in the opposite direction. Some men never seem to get beyond history. The Christ they know is the Child at Nazareth, the homeless Wanderer in Judaea, the sympathetic Teacher and Worker in town and village, the willing Sufferer on Calvary. All this is good. It is a gain for which we ought to be devoutly thankful to have recovered from superstition and conventionalism the simple grandeur of Christ's actual human life. But this revived interest in the Christ of history is accompanied with some peril to the adequate conception of our Lord and Saviour. The absorbing study of His example, His principles, His revelation of God, His interpretation of man, His work and sacrifice for the redemption of the race, may very effectually obscure the grandeur of His eternal supremacy, and rob us of the strength and comfort derivable from fellowship with the living Lord. Christ is not dead; He is risen. His life to-day is more than the influence of an unquenchable memory and of a love which the world cannot let die. The Christ of history is the living Christ upon the throne. He who was on earth is in heaven. He who is in heaven has come down again and fills the earth. His real presence has entered into every epoch of history. His personality is the most potent contemporary presence in life to-day. Our text sets us in right relation alike to the historic and the risen Christ. It saves us from the indefiniteness of that dreamy faith which declines to seek foothold on the solid earth, which claims self-sufficiency of intuitive knowledge and spiritual certainty. And, on the other hand, it leads us on from that mere back-looking and wingless faith which never escapes from earth and time, which never realises and rejoices in the personal presence of the living Lord.

II. AN INTELLIGENT FAITH IN CHRIST MUST BEGIN WITH THE STUDY OF HIS EARTHLY LIFE. It must look to what He was in order to know what He is. It must understand His work below before it can appreciate the character of His reign above. It must master the facts as a means towards possessing the truths of God's dispensation of grace. The reasons for this are obvious. Our earliest knowledge of Christ must come to us as our knowledge of any other historical person comes, through the portraiture of competent witnesses and biographers. But not only for the outline of Christ's personality and purpose are we dependent upon New Testament history. We must betake ourselves to the same quarter for an explanation of Christ's living power, for an interpretation of the mission He lives to complete, for an understanding of how we are to come into relation with His grace. The evangelical records set forth no mere passing events, no mere transitory phase in the evolution of Divine unfolding, which may be left behind and forgotten as if superseded by clearer and loftier revelations. The Cross of Calvary fills every page of history and overflows into eternity, stretching back and on in perpetual enactment. The Apocalyptic Seer, standing on his high mountain, looked back and saw the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world; he turned his gaze towards the future, and saw the endless ages gathering around the Lamb that had been slain, singing the song of victory through sacrifice. And to the Cross we must go to find God, to know Christ, to learn penitence, to reap forgiveness, to discover life and liberty. Yea, it is by beginning at Jerusalem that faith discovers where and how to find the living Christ, in what way and with what joy to attain fellowship with the risen Lord. But there is yet another reason why faith has need to master and to appropriate the facts of historical revelation. The historic Christ who lived, spake, worked, died, and rose again in our midst, supplies the ultimate ground of verification on which faith rests for its spiritual beliefs and hopes. A religion which is to take adequate grip of man must satisfy the eye and the brain not less than the heart and the spirit. It must approve itself by facts as well as by reasons and sentiments. You tell me, for instance, that God is love. How do you know that? It is not a natural idea. It is, as men phrase it, too good to be true. So says my natural and hesitating heart. Do you refer me to your experience? Do you affirm that the faith has been kindled in you by direct operation of the Divine Spirit? But are there no possibilities of misinterpretation and mistake? Has God ever spoken or wrought in other ways to warrant your belief that He is now speaking and working in you? I cannot believe it until God proves it by an appeal to all the considerations and all the instincts and all the lines of evidence which can reach me down here in the darkness. And that is what God has done. He has come down and embodied His message in a life which appeals to all the faculties, and responds to all the demands, of my nature. The historic Christ proves the trustworthiness of my spiritual conviction, and from the con-temptation of that gracious life I go forward to the confident enjoyment of the elevating and constraining truth. So, too, in reference to the resurrection of the dead, that great gospel of glad tidings to a world filled with the dead and the dying. It is only when I can see and say, "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept," that I regain the balance of hope and faith. The intimations of immortality in me immediately radiate with fresh light. All the arguments grounded in nature, in reason, in justice, in spiritual experience, gather a clearer probative force. The accomplished fact of Christ's resurrection interprets and verifies the instincts and promptings of my spirit within me, and beholding the risen Christ I can ask with exultant confidence, "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" and can sing with grand assurance the apostolic song, "Thanks be unto God," etc. Here, then, must Christian knowledge and spiritual faith find their foundation — in a devout mastery of the life and work of the incarnate Christ.

III. BUT BEGINNINGS ARE ONLY BEGINNINGS, AND MUST NOT BE MISTAKEN FOR COMPLETIONS. To have mastered the alphabet and the grammar of a language is to have come into possession of the key to its wealth of literature and ideas, but not into possession of the literature and ideas themselves. It is possible to know much about Christ and nothing of Him. For Christ is not contained in any or all the facts and doctrines concerning Himself. They interpret and point the way to Him. But He, the living Lord, whom they interpret, who gives significance and animation to them, is a Person, not an idea, and sits upon the throne of life, to be found of all who seek Him, waiting to bestow the blessings which His incarnate life wrought and revealed. Our study, therefore, of the great history, and of the doctrines of grace, is barren and futile unless we are guided thereby to seek and find the personal, living Saviour; to take from His own hands the gift which Christian history and doctrine explain, and to find in Him the actual enjoyment of promises made and truths revealed. There are two senses in the New Testament in which men are said to know Christ. Nicodemus said, "Master, we know that Thou art a teacher come from God, because..." Here we have an instance of close observation, of thoughtful appreciation, of faultless logic leading to an irresistable conclusion. "We know, because..." This was, for the moment, all he knew of Christ: an external understanding — logical, convincing, veracious, but ineffective. How different was Paul's declaration, "I know whom I have believed"! Not, mark you, "I know in whom I have believed"; still less, "I know in what I have believed." "I know," said he, "whom I have believed." The knowledge was personal, inward, constraining — a knowledge arising out of living fellowship with Christ, and which conferred upon him the power of a new and radiant heart. In this same sense Paul had once prayed that he might know Christ. At the time he uttered that prayer he knew all the facts of the great biography, and had expounded in his principal letters the profound significance of the Lord's death and resurrection. Not in that sense, nor in those relations, are we to interpret his prayer for more knowledge of Christ. It was for fuller, deeper, personal possession of the Christ who unfolds Himself within the sacredness of Christian experience, whose gracious personality fills heaven with ceaseless wonder and adoration, whose presence in the heart expands into fresh discoveries of significance and charm.

(C. A. Berry.)

Sixty years ago that old man wandered, glad and radiant, round the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The Word of Christ took possession of him, and he, led by it, followed after it till that blessed moment when, in the upper chamber, he lay upon the Master's breast. All through the life that followed he looked back that he might look before; his eyes turned to what had been, that his hope might reach up unto what was to be; and lo! he found that the issue was greater than his utmost expectation. The old man found a meaning in Christ the young man never discerned. Age is greater than youth. The glory of youth is the promise that is in it; the glory of age is the performance it represents. See how youth now ripened into perfect fruition in age. In that ancient John there lay the apocalyptic visions; visions of the world, the wonders that were to be. Whether would you have God dealing with you in a way that became God, or in a way that became man? Whether would you have God dealing with you in a God-like fashion, by standards that suit the Divine, or entirely in the measure of your own merit, and according to your own poor deserts? Whether would you have Divine pity, Divine grace, Divine long-suffering determine the great law of the Divine action, or would you regulate that action by standards of man's making and man's following? "I am the First and the Last and the Living." He is the great energy that works from first to last. "Indeed," saith our modern wise man, "He the energy! Energy, what is it but force? what is force but the power of doing work? what is force but a form of matter? Matter we know, God we do not know, all things that men discover and interpret they interpret in the terms of matter and motion and force. Matter doth make and matter doth rule; it is the one providence we know." Well, you know, and how do you know? Matter you know, ay, but "you" and "know." Subtract "you" and where is the matter? Take away thought and where is force? Has matter any being save to thought, save for thought? Matter without thought is not handled, discerned, spoken of, described, it is real only as thought is real. But if there can, even to man, be no reality or knowledge of matter without thought, "nor matter, as object, save to intellect, then below all, underneath all, lies thought "which is spirit, lies energy which is intellect, lies the great directive will that is but the abstract name for concrete God. "I am the First and the Last and the Living," and there is no life but the life God is, and makes. "And I became dead." There enters here another and entirely new order of ideas. The great first, last, Living One became dead. To die He had become flesh, to make visible His glory, to veil the glory that He had made visible. There is the great order of thought that speaks of redemption, redemption by Him who became incarnate, who died — died! but "I am alive for ever more" — died to live, yet not as of old, Loges, Word in God; but the great incarnate, the living human heart in the potent Divine breast. It is here now where the matter comes in mainly in need of discussion. Here is this great enthroned Christ alive for ever more. What is the function that He exercises? He has the keys of hell and of death. Well, then, if He has the keys of hell and death, what does hell mean? It does not mean the place of torment or penalty, but the invisible, the home of all the dead, the great unseen land. The heaven above, the hell beneath; these it comprehends; it denotes all the vast, boundless, invisible world. What we know is but a speck, the unseen constitutes the real universe. And this invisible, the great, vast, invisible world in which our minute and hardly-discernible visible world swims, is this Hades, this world unseen, yet most real. Then death, if hell has so great a meaning, death cannot have a shallower. What is death but crossing the ocean, leaving the land that is known and turning one's face to the great unknown to be unknown no more? Several hundred years ago some men and women gathered round a Southern harbour and they saw three small ships weigh anchor and spread sail and stand out to sea. They watched them as the hull disappeared, as the sail dipped, and as all faded from sight, but whether into the blue heaven above or whether still sailing on the sea below, who behind could tell? Months after in distant Western islands, men sat and wondered whether they were missed at home. In Italian and Spanish homes, longing wives and wistful sisters asked: "Where are they? our husbands, our brothers, float they still on the blue sea? faded they into the great blue heaven?" So our fathers, they that have been, have passed from sight and floated into the great blue heaven, but they are a mightier host than their sons. They think of the sons behind, we think of the fathers before; and thought and faith and hope reach o'er that mighty ocean, and grasp the vision of the mighty dead still living because Christ lives. "The keys of death and hell." Keys are symbolical, emblems that speak of judgment, the right to judge and the might to execute. As the throne, the sceptre, the crown speak of regal dignity and regal rights, so the keys speak of judicial function. A great Sovereign sits in judgment, and these keys, Jesus Christ, in His capacity as Mediator, holds. He hath the keys of all the visible and invisible — death and hell. Men die, but they die not by chance. Accidents concern men, they do not concern God. Sudden events surprise us, there is no suddenness and no surprise to Him. Death is in the hands of Christ. The dying in Christ's hands die unto life. In olden days when our fathers roamed the woods that stood where now busy cities are, they hewed from out the fallen oak trunk the frail canoe, they launched it on the ocean, then they skirted along the shore looking fearfully out for the coming storm, seeking safety by hugging the rock that was their very death. Now a mighty steamship which is a floating palace is launched upon the sea, and hundreds of men and women live there, and there, through night and day, in storm and calm, across the ocean the stately ship doth speed. So man without Christ is man facing the great ocean of death, the vast unknown land, in a frail canoe that the waters will surely utterly destroy. Man in Christ is man safe, wrapped in glorious security, resting in perfect peace, making painful yet peaceful and glad voyage out of time into a great eternity. And He who has these keys exercises the great function they give. He judges men. He who saves is He who judges, and who so good a judge as the gracious Saviour?

(A. M. Fairbairn, D. D.)

I. THE DESIGNATION WHICH OUR LORD ASSUMED. "I am the first and the last." Say that these words speak of Jesus Christ as my Lord and my God, and yet as my Friend that sticketh closer than a brother; say that they teach the human and the Divine nature in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and then I can understand how they would comfort the heart of the tremulous apostle.

II. THE TRANSITION THROUGH WHICH OUR LORD PASSED. John would be no stranger to Him by and by. Was that eye, like a flame of fire, to tell of corruption? Do those feet, burning as with fine brass, tell of corruption? Does that Voice, like the sound of many waters, tell of corruption? Nay; He had been dead, but now was alive again, and the promises He hath given were assured by His resurrection. No matter what there should be on the part of John in regard to Hades or to death, no matter what he might dread, let him renounce his dread, let him stand on his feet, let him look his Saviour in the face and recognise the old smile as well as that voice, and lay down upon His breast as he was wont to do before our Lord was a sufferer on the Cross. Death had no more dominion over Him now. "He was alive for evermore." Come what might, there would be no other sacrifice for sin; no other sacrifice wanted. "I am alive for evermore"; and the liabilities of His humanity were exhausted; all the sacrificial responsibilities of His mediatorship were exhausted, there was not a fragment of those responsibilities left. It was finished. He had made an end of sin; He had abolished death, and swallowed it up in victory; He had become the resurrection and the life in perpetuity, throughout all the ages world without end.

III. THE SOVEREIGNTY WHICH HE CLAIMED. All harmonised; all was coherent in the three several great departments of this text. Look at the supremacy of the sovereignty He assumed, and take care to use that connecting particle there, "and I have the keys of hell and of death." Now, the relations of Hades to you and to me are momentous in the extreme. But press questions as we may, to a very great extent they can obtain no satisfactory reply. I may, however, tell you one thing about Hades, and that is it is very effectually controlled. Supposing all the principalities and powers amidst the evil spirits of Hades were to come in all their force and in all their malignity against the Church of Christ which He had purchased with His own blood, what then? It was a foregone conclusion; and the principalities and powers in perdition would just ingloriously succumb. They might boast, as the poet says, "Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven," but they are in servitude after all their vaunting, and He whom they serve is no other than He whom they crucified.

(W. Brock, D. D.)

I. IT IS A GREAT THING TO DIE. The Son of God, the Redeemer of men, presides over death. He has the key of death. And is death a trifle, if He is magnified by presiding over it? A reasonable soul has changed states. A never dying soul has gone to bliss or woe. How important is life! And how careful a guard has God set over it!

II. DEATH NEVER COMES AT RANDOM. The key is in the hand of the Saviour, and it is used with determination and judgment. He employs various means and instruments, but they are all under His control, and work His will.

III. OUR LIFE ON EARTH IS UNDER THE CONSTANT NOTICE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. He takes constant notice of what we do, and of what we neglect. For as His turning the key at last is a judicial act, it supposes a close and accurate inspection, and proceeds upon it. Of Him who had the key it is said, also, that "His eyes were as a flame of fire." With these eyes he sees all that is done — they pierce through every disguise — the darkness and the light are both alike to them. If those who trust in Him are left to suffer, it is not from inadvertency, or indifference, or impotence, but from design for their profit.

IV. HIS POWER IN DEATH CANNOT BE RESISTED.

V. SOULS UPON WHOM THIS KEY IS TURNED, THOUGH SEPARATED FROM THIS WORLD, DO NOT CEASE TO BE. Their mode of existence and sphere of operation are changed, but the vital power remains. They see with these eyes no more, and no more hear with these ears; but still see and hear and under. stand. The key that opens the door for their departure from earth, opens the door of admission to another world.

VI. THE INVISIBLE WORLD IS UNDER THE CONTROL OF THE SAVIOUR.

(D. Merrill.)

I. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS ABSOLUTE LIFE. There is a much closer connection between the words of our text and those of the preceding verse than our Authorized Version gives. We must strike out that intrusive and wholly needless supplement "I am," and read the sentence unbrokenly. "I am the First and the Last and the Living One." Now that close connection of clauses in itself suggests that this expression "the Living One" means something more than the mere declaration that He was alive. It means, as I believe, exactly what Christ meant when, in the hearing of this same apostle, He said upon earth, "As the Father hath life in Himself so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself." A life which, considered in contrast with all the life of creatures is underived, independent, and, considered in contrast with the life of the Father with whom that Son stands in ineffable and unbroken union, is bestowed. It is a paradox, I know, but until we have gone round the boundless boundaries of that Divine nature, we have no business to say that it is impossible.

II. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS SUBMISSION TO DEATH. Such a statement implies our Lord's assumption of flesh. The only possibility of death, for the Living One, lies in His enwrapping Himself with that which can die. As you might put a piece of asbestos into a twist of cotton wool, over which the flame could have power, or as a sun might plunge into thick envelopes of darkness, so this eternal, absolute Life gathered to itself by voluntary accretion the surrounding which was capable of mortality. Let us bow before that mystery of Divine love, the death of the Lord of Life. The motive which impelled Him, the consequences which followed, are not in view here. But there is another consideration that I may suggest. The eternal Life became dead. Then the awful solitude is solitary no longer. As travellers are cheered on a solitary road when they see the footprints that they know belonged to loved and trusted ones who have trodden it before, that desolate loneliness is less lonely when we think that He became dead.

III. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS ETERNAL LIFE IN GLORY. "Behold!" — as if calling attention to a wonder — "I am alive for evermore." Again I say we have here a distinctly Divine prerogative claimed by the exalted Christ. For that eternal life of which He speaks is by no means the communicated immortality which He imparts to them that in His love go down to death, but it is the inherent eternal life of the Divine nature. The "I" of my text is the Divine-human Jesus. The manhood is so intertwined with the Deity that the absolute life of the latter has, as it were, flowed over and glorified the former; and it is a Man who lays His hand upon the Divine prerogative, and says, "I live for evermore." And so, "because I live, ye shall live also." We cannot die as long as Christ is alive. Christ's resurrection is the pledge and the source of eternal life for us.

IV. THE ROYAL CHRIST PROCLAIMS HIS AUTHORITY OVER THE DIM REGIONS OF THE DEAD. The original does not read "hell and death," but "death and" Hades, the dim unseen regions in which all the dead, whatsoever their condition may be, are gathered.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The thoughtful traveller in Europe, visiting the churches and cathedrals which are monuments at once to the munificence, religiousness, and superstition of past centuries, cannot fail to notice the many representations of a dead Christ which these buildings enshrine. There are those who insist that this dead Jesus is the symbol of the Christian faith. From that grave in the garden He did not come forth, and all the declarations of His disciples concerning His resurrection, His appearances to them were but dreams and fancies, or at most only mythical and poetic expressions of a continuity of His influence-an influence emanating from the moral beauty of His life and teaching upon the earth. It is against this denial of the actual resurrection of Jesus and the continuance of His personal life that I would speak. Jesus of Nazareth is not dead, but is alive for evermore. We are not unfamiliar with the substitute for this personal immortality, both of our Lord and of ourselves, which is proffered us to-day, namely, "a continuity of spiritual and mental energy and influence, passing from us unto others, and thus on through succeeding generations." The measure of truth in this we do not deny. It is true that all thought, all emotion, all aspiration of past generations enters into the present. It is true that in this sense Jesus Christ is alive, and lives for evermore. Beyond all others His influence is felt in the throbbing life of our own age. But was this posthumous influence all Christ meant in the predictions He made of His conquest over death and His rising again from the grave? He — not simply the memory of His words, not simply the influence His life has exerted upon His disciples — but He Himself will be with them to the end of the world. True, the visible form vanished from their eyes. That must be so. Limited fellowship must give way to universal communion. But did those followers of the Galilean ever, after that memorable scene on Olivet, doubt that their Master was with them? Never! John may be banished by pagan Rome from all the endearing associations of Christian brotherhood; yet no power could bereave him of the Saviour. Christ living in His followers is the secret of the continued life of the Christian Church. Empires have fallen, philosophies have been exploded. But this body of Christ, animated by His Spirit, has lived and grown, sustained by the life of Him who eighteen hundred years ago died and rose again. But I want to set before you the living Christ in relation to the larger life of our age, its theologies, its sociology, its literature, and its art. Jesus Christ is Himself the centre of all theology, The supreme evidence of Christianity is Christ. Never was there such activity in Christian thought as now. Never was the person or the character of Jesus more scrutinised than in this age. The marked feature of present theological discussion is that it centres around the Christ Himself rather than any of the doctrines or theories men have deduced from His words. Again: This living Christ is felt in the political movements of the present century. The nations of the earth are to-day moving in the direction of democracy. Many see and note this; but all do not perceive the character of the democracy which is thus developing. It is not the democracy of Greece or Rome in the days of their republics, but a new democracy which is coming up the steep of time. They were republic of the few. This is a democracy of the whole. The new democracy will know nothing in race, clime, creed, or colour to bar a man out of citizenship. The seeds of this democracy were sown when Christ proclaimed the brotherhood of man and sent forth His disciples to found a religion which aimed at the enfranchisement of all men. Legislation feels His influence. Law is more and more seeking to embody impartial, universal justice. Government seeks to hold its shield over all alike — the feeble, the poor, the unfortunate, as well as the rich, the strong, and the successful. The element of mercy was never so potent in the administration of law as to-day. The hand of Jesus has wiped hundreds of cruel and unjust penalties from the statute-books. The end now sought by punishment is not revenge, or restraint even, alone, but the reformation of the criminal. Some one has said culture and Christianity walk arm in arm. Jesus Christ said, "Go, teach." To whom are we indebted for the greatest educational institutions of the present time? Men in whom Christ lived and who would have culture lay its crown at His feet. The children of the poor and toiling masses are gathered into schools, and the gates of knowledge flung open to them. The blind are made to see with the sensitive finger-tips, and the deaf seem almost to hear under the teaching of those who thus seek to do in the world the work of Him who is their Master and Lord. Note the influence of the Christ in the literature and art of this century. A few words must suffice. Never had literature so many men and women of commanding genius, whose work vibrates with the spirit of the Saviour. The essayists, poets, novelists, who have most deeply stirred the pulses of the present generation are those who in a greater or lesser degree write along the lines of religious thought, emotion, and human sympathy. Art is every year becoming purer. The most immortal work of the painter, ancient or modern, is that which seeks to bring before men something in the life and work of this Christ. Music rises to its highest development and takes its grandest forms of expression when it weds itself to sacred themes. The life of the world — social, moral, intellectual, artistic — the world's nobler life is fed by the unfailing life of Jesus the Christ. Each passing year His presence will be more vividly recalled, His influence more potently felt. "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth!"

(W. Lloyd, D. D.)

I. SOME EVIDENCES OF THE GLORIOUS TRUTH, THAT CHRIST IS HE WHO LIVES FOR EVERMORE. I cannot refer you to the light of nature for a proof of this point. Reason, indeed, teaches us that as God was the maker of all things, He must be from everlasting to everlasting, but with respect to Christ's eternal continuance as man, or even with respect to His becoming man at first, it affords us no light. This is a mystery of godliness, made known by revelation only.

1. Scriptural representations of Christ show plainly that He liveth for evermore. When we would prove that man is a frail creature, we ask the question, What is flesh? And for an answer, we repeat Isaiah's representation, "All flesh is grass," etc. Now, compare these representations of men in general with the designations of the Man Christ Jesus, and you will see a striking contrast. What creature more durable than the sun? What is more immovable than a rock? And was not this the very metaphor which Christ used when speaking of Himself as God-man?

2. The types of Scripture import that He lives for evermore. I will mention only two, Moses' burning bush, and Melchisedec.

3. The testimony of God, recorded in Scripture, shows that Jesus lives for ever. First, hear the testimony of the Father, "The Lord said unto my Lord," etc. Hear next the testimony of the Son. "Thou wilt show Me the path of life," etc. Hear also the testimony of the Holy Ghost. It was He who dwelt in the prophets, "testifying of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow." And what do these prophets, as directed by Him, say? One, speaking of Christ, expresses himself, "He asked life of Thee, and Thou gavest it Him, even length of days for ever and ever"; and another tells us, that "of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end."

4. Scripture doctrines evince the glorious truth that Christ lives for evermore. There is what is called the analogy of faith; now, the truth of which we speak is not only agreeable to this analogy but essential to it. For instance, according to Scripture, our Lord Jesus is the trustee of the new covenant. Yes, "He hath received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." H so, must He not live that He may distribute these gifts? Another doctrine of Scripture is, that Christ shall be the judge of the world. But how could Christ judge the world if it were not that He shall live to the end of days? And, then, how could He say, "come" to the righteous, and "depart" to the wicked, unless He were to live thereafter, even through a glorious eternity?

II. THE IMPORT OF CHRIST'S LIVING FOR EVERMORE.

1. It denotes that Christ shall eternally exist. This is the lowest sense of the words. What is death but a dissolution of the human frame? but Christ's humanity shall never cease to be. The body which was crucified He still retains, and shall do so for ever.

2. Christ shall be everlastingly happy. In the days of Christ's flesh, His afflictions were singular. If His trials were singular on earth, His pleasures in heaven are surpassing.

3. Jesus shall be eternally honoured.

4. Christ shall be everlastingly active. This seems to be the idea conveyed by the term life. Do you inquire wherein is Christ active? In reply, shall I direct your attention to His constant preservation of millions of beings, for "by Him all things consist?" I choose rather to point you to His deeds of grace. Behold Him in heaven — there "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." But His exertions are not confined to the abodes of bliss. It is Jesus "who executeth judgment for the oppressed," etc. But how long shall Jesus thus live and be active? In His humbled state, not above thirty-three years had elapsed, when He said of His work, "It is finished"; but rejoice, O Christians, His heavenly business shall never cease. "The Lord shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations."

III. IN WHAT DIFFERENT CHARACTERS CHRIST SHALL LIVE FOR EVER.

1. He shall live for ever as the glorious representative of God.

2. He shall live for ever as our gracious intercessor.

3. He shall live for ever as our spiritual King.

IV. THE ENDS OF CHRIST'S LIVING FOR EVERMORE.

1. Hereby glory is brought to God. Ask you for a proof of God's justice in punishing? I point you to the Cross, and say, "Behold, the Surety of sinners died." But do you seek an evidence of retributive justice in rewarding? I direct your attention to the throne, and cry, "Behold, He lives for evermore."

2. Hereby a reward is given to Christ. He still remembers Gethsemane and Calvary, but He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied. Oh, what must that satisfaction be, in the mind of the glorified Jesus!

3. Hereby believers are comforted. Does Christ live for evermore? Our justification must be permanent. Our sanctification is made certain. Does Jesus live for evermore? It secures support in the performance of every duty. Though we are feeble, He is strong; though we are depressed, it is He that raiseth up.

4. Hereby the inhabitants of heaven are transported. A gracious visit from Christ made a desert lightsome to Moses; the valley of the shadow of death comfortable to David; a fiery furnace easy to the three children. Oh, then, what will it be for ever with the Lord in heaven!

(E. Brown.)

Homilist.
I. HIS LIFE IN HEAVEN IS A LIFE THAT SUCCEEDS AN EXTRAORDINARY DEATH.

1. Absolute spontaneity. No being ever died but Christ who had the feeling that he need never die — that death could be for ever escaped.

2. Entire relativeness. He died for others. "He was bruised for our iniquities," etc.

3. Universal influence.

II. HIS LIFE IN HEAVEN IS A LIFE OF ENDLESS DURATION.

1. His endless duration is a necessity of His nature.

2. His endless duration is the glory of the good.

III. HIS LIFE IN HEAVEN IS A LIFE OF ABSOLUTE DOMINION OVER THE DESTINIES OF MEN.

1. There is nothing accidental in human history.

2. Departed men are still in existence.

3. Death is not the introduction to a new moral kingdom. The same Lord is here as there.

4. We may anticipate the day when death shall be swallowed up in victory.

(Homilist.)

I have taken for my Easter text the account which Christ gives of Himself after His resurrection and ascension. See what Christ says of Himself then. First, "I am He that liveth." That word, "liveth," is a word of continuous, perpetual life. It describes the external existence which has no beginning and no end; which, considered in its purity and perfectness, has no present and no past, but one eternal and unbroken present — one eternal now. If anything has come to us to make us feel what a fragmentary thing our human life is, I think there is no greater knowledge for us to win than that the life of one who loves us as Christ loves us is an eternal life, with the continuance and the unchangeableness of eternity. See how we alter; how we make plans and finish them, or give them up; how we slip on from one stage of our career into another; how past, present, and future are for ever confusing our existence; how we die, and others come on in our places. How our heads ache and our hearts ache with it all sometimes. "Is this living?" we exclaim. "This is merely touching upon life. Is it living? Is it not like the touching of an insect on the surface of a river that is hundreds of miles long? His wing just brushes it at one point in its long course, and ruffles it for a second, and then is gone again, and that is all he has to do with it. And that is all we have to do with life. Is this living?" And then there comes this voice from Christ: "I am He that liveth," He declares — continuous, eternal life. See what a wonderful thing comes next. "I am He that liveth, and was dead." We do not begin to know how wonderful that is. Remember the eternally living, the very life of all lives. And yet into that life of lives death has come — as an episode, an incident. That spiritual existence which had been going on for ever, on which the short existences of men had been strung into consistency, now came and submitted itself to that which men had always been submitting to. And lo! instead of being what men had feared it was, what men had hardly dared to hope that it was not, the putting out of life, it was seen to be only the changing of the circumstances of life, without any real power over the real principle of life; any more power than the cloud has over the sun that it obscures. That was the wonder of Christ's death. "It is an experience of life, not an end of life. Life goes on through it and comes out unharmed. Look at Me. I am He that liveth, and was dead!" But this is not all. Still the description goes on and unfolds itself. "He that liveth, and was dead," Christ says, "and behold I am alive for evermore." This existence after death is special, and different. It is not a mere reassertion of what had been already included in His great Word, "I am He that liveth." It is something added. It is an assurance that in the continued life which has once passed through the experience of death there is something new, another sympathy, the only one which before could have been lacking, with his brethren whose lot it is to die, and so a helpfulness to them which could not otherwise have been, even in His perfect love. And now think what that great self-description of the Saviour means, and what it is to us. "He that liveth!" And at once your fragment of life falls into its place in the eternity of life that is bridged by His being. "He that was dead!" And at once death changes from the terrible end of life into a most mysterious but no longer terrible experience of life. "He that is alive for ever-more!" And not merely there is a future beyond the grave, but it is inhabited by One who speaks to us, who went there by the way that we must go, who sees us and can help us as we make our way along, and will receive us when we come there. Is not all changed? The devils of discontent, despair, selfishness, sensuality, how they are scattered before that voice, really heard, of the risen and everlasting Christ. But see how He goes on: "I am He that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore. And I have the keys of hell and of death." It is because He died that He holds the keys of death. Can we not understand that? Do we not know how any soul that has passed through a great experience holds the keys of that experience, so that as he sees another coming up to it just as ignorantly and fearfully as he came, he can run up to this new-comer and open the door for him, show him on what side this experience is best entered, lead him through the dark passages of it where he could not easily find his way alone, and at last bring him out into the splendour of the light beyond? There are no nobler lives on earth than those of men and women who have passed through many experiences of many sorts, and who now go about with calm and happy and sober faces, holding their keys, some golden and some iron, and finding their joy in opening the gates of these experiences to younger souls, and sending them into them full of intelligence and hope and trust. Such lives, I think, we may all pray to grow into as we grow older, and pass through more and more of the experiences of life. And now this is just exactly what Jesus does for us by His resurrection. Having the keys of death and hell, He comes to us as we are drawing near to death, and He opens the door on both sides of it, and lets us look through it, and shows us immortality. Now you see we have passed over from Himself to us. Not merely He lives for ever, but so shall we; for us, too, death shall be not an end, but an experience; and beyond it for us, just as for Him, stretches immortality. Because He lives, we shall live also. And now shall we try to tell to one another what it is to be immortal, and to know it; what it is to have death broken down so that life stretches out beyond it, the same life as this, opening, expanding, but for ever the same essentially; just as to Him that always liveth the life that He liveth evermore is the same after the death on Calvary, though with some entrance of something — some new knowledge, and the sympathy of a new experience — that was not there before? First of all I think of the immense and noble freedom from many of the most trying and vexatious of our temptations which come to a man to whom the curtain has been lifted and the veil rent in twain. Sometimes when one is travelling through a foreign country it happens that he stops a day or two, a week or two, in some small village, where everything is local, which has little communication with the outside world; where the people are born and grow up, and grow old and die without thinking of leaving their little nest among the mountains. The traveller shares for a little while their local life, shuts himself in to their limitations. But all the while he is freer than they are; he is not tyrannised over by the small prescriptions and petty standards that are despots to them. He knows of, and belongs to, a larger world. He is kept free by the sense of the world beyond the mountains, from which he came and to which he is going back again. And so when a man, strong in the conviction of immortality, really counts himself a stranger and a pilgrim among the multitudes who know no home, no world but this, then he is free among them; free from the worldly tyrannies that bind them; free from their temptations to be cowardly and mean. The wall of death, beyond which they never look, is to him only a mountain that can be crossed, from whose top he shall see eternity, where he belongs. This is the freedom of the best childhood and the best old age, these two ends of life in which the sense of immortality is most real and most true. And so, again, the whole position of duty is elevated by the thought, the knowledge of immortality. It seems to me that this day is a day for strong and cheerful resolutions, because it is a day when, with the spiritual world open before us, we can all catch sight of the destiny of duty — of how, some time or other, every good habit is to conquer and every good deed wear its crown. Duty is the one thing on earth that is so vital that it can go through death and come to glory. Duty is the one seed that has such life in it that it can lie as long as God will in the mummy hand of death, and yet be ready any moment to start into new growth in the new soil where He shall set it. So let us all consecrate our Easter Day by resolutely taking up some new duty which we know we ought to do. We bind ourselves so by a new chain to eternity, to the eternity of Him who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at God's right hand.

(Bp. Phillips Brooks.)

A Christ upon paper, though it were the sacred pages of the gospel, would have been as powerless to save Christendom as a Christ in fresco. A living Christ is the key to the phenomenon of Christian history.

(Canon Liddon.)

Christian faith is a mass of contradictions and a glorious tissue of harmony. It is easy to make it seem ridiculous to common sense. But it is fatal for religion to appeal to common sense. Our faith is faith in a Christ who is and who is not, in a dead man who is our living God, in one who was humiliated into eternal exaltation, who in extremest weakness realised and revealed the supreme power of heaven and earth. What is this faith in this Christ? It is faith —

1. In a historic Christ.

2. In a living Christ.

3. In a Christ personal to each of us.

1. In a historic Christ. There was such a man. The story of Him is not an invention. Even if it were conceded that everything told of Him is not literally true, He was a reality. His figure is real and palpable in history. Moreover, this man is prolonged into posterity. He has had a vast influence in history. But no serious mind or conscience either denies or deplores that influence. To deplore Christ is to renounce the right to moral consideration. Even if He is not the Redeemer, He has been a vast blessing. He deserves more attention and gratitude than Plato, Aristotle, Dante, Shakespeare, Newton, or any of the heroes of culture and civilisation. He has done more for the race, for humanity as humanity. None of the most precious boons of civilisation would have been here to-day without Christianity, without Christ. He came in and raised a new civilisation out of the wreck of the old. Especially is this so with the achievements of love and their growth. Nobody has ever exerted such an influence, whether you like it or whether you do not. And it is an effect produced by one who went in the face of human nature. He gave effect, it is true, to certain vast, deep human tendencies, but so far as human prejudices and tastes go, He went in their teeth. What a personality! You cannot get more out than was in. If so much has been got out, how much must there have been in that miraculous soul! And how much remains. All this may be recognised by a dead faith, a poor but honest faith, a faith merely historic and intelligent, as a mere matter of observation. But this is hardly faith. It is not living faith. It is not the kind of response Christ died to evoke. On some who study Christ as a mere figure in history there dawns another kind of influence from Him. They begin as historians, as critics; they end as sympathisers, advocates, enthusiasts. They came to embalm Him with their spices, and they stay to worship and return to confess. They can no more be impartial, as if it were Napoleon, Socrates. The ordinary able man may merely discuss Him. But no human-hearted man, no man of soul, can really be impartial in dealing with Christ. Our sympathies are engaged, captured, preoccupied. The historic Christ stirs in humane minds a faith, a response, which makes mere criticism difficult or impossible. His beauty, terror, dignity, and invincibility tell. His love, mercy, faithfulness master us. His indomitable grace survives death and rises in us. He becomes an imaginative ideal, and then a moral imperative. His principle of Divine Sonship becomes the base of a new religion. But this is a principle which is inseparable from His Person. But many separate the two, and are at a stage at which they answer to His principle more than to His Person. They think more of His present legacy than of His present life. Now these have no dead faith. Yet they have not a living faith. "They are between two worlds: one dead, the other powerless to be born." They are much more than critics and historians. But they are not yet the property of Christ, slaves like Paul, devotees like John. They believe in the Christ that lived and was dead. But they do not believe in the absolute Victor, Redeemer, and King, in the Christ that liveth for evermore, with the keys of hell and death. A living faith is not mere sympathy with a historic Christ.

2. When we speak of the difference between a dead faith and a living, what we really mean is a difference in the object of our faith more than the kind. The object determines the kind. Living faith is faith in a living Christ. It is only a living Christ that calls out a living faith. Do not fret yourself examining your faith, trying its limbs, feeling its pulse, watching its colour, measuring its work. See rather that it is set on a living Christ. Care for that Christ, and He will care for your faith. Realise a living Christ, and He will produce in you a living faith, He acts in many ways. He acts by His historic character, and He acts by His historic Church. But still more He acts by His Eternal Person and Holy Ghost. This living Lord is invisible, invincible, and immortal; and at the last irresistible; He acts not only on the large course of human events, but directly on living souls and wills, whether humble or refractory; and He rejoices alike in the love of His Father and the love of His redeemed, and in the communion of both. To realise this is more than faith in a historic Christ. Because living faith is faith in a living Christ. If He is not living, faith must dwindle and die. Do you think you can feed living faith on a dead Christ? What I could living faith go on in a God who could let such an one as Christ die, who could disappoint the confident faith of Christ Himself that God would raise Him up to glorious life? If He is not the living, reigning Christ, He is a Christ growing weaker as the ages move on, and He recedes into the past. If He be not a living Christ, then every generation makes His influence more indirect. More souls are interposed between our souls and Him, and absorb His limited light. The world moves on and forgets Him, moves on and leaves Him behind, moves on and outgrows Him. He becomes chiefly a scholar's Christ. Well, this is a frame of mind fatal at least to Christ's place as Redeemer. It may esteem Him as a Benefactor, but it displaces Him as Redeemer. It clears the ground for a totally new religion. It is not simply a redemption we need. If Christ had come to perform a certain work of redemption, and then had ceased to be, then we should have had in Him neither the redemption nor salvation that we need. We need a living Redeemer to take each one of us to God, to be for every one to-day all that He could have been upon earth to any one in that great yesterday, and to be for ever what He is to-day. We need Him as the human conscience of God to come to our rescue against our conscience. If we were left alone with our conscience it would do more, on the whole, to overwhelm us than to redeem us or support us. We need some surety more sure and merciful and universal than our conscience. We need something more worthy than our natural moral manhood. That is our need of a Redeemer, of a living, human Redeemer, a moral owner and King, a living Christ, a Lord and Master more immortal than ourselves, and the root of all that makes our immortality other than a burden. Yes, to lose the living Christ is to lose the living God. Whatever enfeebles the hold of Christ on the world relaxes its sense of God. It is faith in Christ that has kept belief in a God from dying out in the world. It is never the arguments of the thinkers or the intuitions of the saints that have done that. If Christ grow distant and dim, the sense of God fades from the soul and the power of God decays from life. And what happens then? We lose faith in man — in each other, and in ourselves. The soul that in its own strength defies God or dismisses Him from life, has taken the greatest step to losing faith in itself. How is that? It is thus. What I say is, lose the living God and you lose your own soul, your very self-confidence. And it is thus. Make your God not a living God, but a force, a blind, heartless power, or even an irresponsive idea, and you make Him something your heart and will can have no intercourse with. Mediator and Redeemer! must we not go farther even than that with an everlasting Christ? Yes, one step farther. Intercessor! Steward and Key-bearer of the spiritual world! "He ever liveth to make intercession for us." It is an everlasting redemption, and therefore it is a ceaseless intercession. The intercession of Christ is simply the prolonged energy of His redeeming work. The soul of atonement is prayer. The standing relation of Christ to God is prayer. The perpetual energy of His spirit is prayer. It is the risen Redeemer that has the keys of the world unseen — the keys which admit it to history as well as open it to a man. The key of the unseen is prayer. That is the energy of the will which opens both the soul to the kingdom and the kingdom to his soul. But never our prayer. It is a prayer for us, not by us. It is Christ the Intercessor that has the key of the unseen — to deliver from death, to deliver into fulness of spiritual life. The Redeemer would be less than Eternal if He were not Intercessor. The living Christ could not live and not redeem, not intercede. Redemption would be a mere act in time if it were not prolonged as the native and congenial energy of the Redeemer's soul in the intercession of eternity. The priestly atonement of Christ was final, but it was final in the sense of working incessantly on, not only in its echoes and results with us, but in the self-sustained energies of His own Almighty and Immortal Spirit. This is the priesthood which is the end of priesthood, and its consummation the satisfaction of the priestly idea.

3. Faith in Christ is faith in Christ personal to us. We must have the historic Christ and more. We must have the living Christ. But a living Christ who only ruled His kingdom in the unseen by general laws would be no sufficient Saviour. He must be personal to us. He must be our Saviour, in our situation, oar needs, loves, shames, sins. He must not only live, but mingle with our lives. He must charge Himself with our souls. We believe in the Holy Ghost. We have in Christ as the Spirit, the Sacrificer of our single lives, the Reader of our hearts, the Helper of our most private straits, the Inspirer of our most deep and sacred confessions. That is the Christ we need, and, thank God for His unspeakable gift, that is the Christ we have.

(P. T. Forsyth, D. D.)

I. HIS DIVINE NATURE. He is "the Living One."

II. HIS MERCIFUL MISSION. He came to earth to die.

III. HIS RELATION TO US NOW AS OUR LIVING LORD.

1. Our present Lord. He is with us always, even to the end of the world. He is "our very present help," compassing our path and our lying down; with us in the church and in the chamber, in the study and in the market, in the broad field of daily labour and in the sacred sphere of holy service.

2. Our observant Lord. Reading our every thought and feeling.

3. Our sympathetic Lord. Who can estimate the extent to which the burdens of this world have been lightened, its sorrows mitigated, its loneliness relieved, its apprehensions calmed, its whole life blessed by the felt presence of that sympathetic Lord who is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities"?

4. Our appreciative Lord. He values every offering, however small, that is made in purity of heart.

5. Our energising and recompensing Lord. We are not sufficient of ourselves to prevail against the strong spiritual forces opposed to us.

6. Our abiding Lord.

(W. Clarkson, B. A.)

I. JESUS CHRIST CLAIMS TO BE THE PROPRIETOR OF LIFE. "I am He that liveth." The language is emphatic and suggestive. It is not "I live." Every animated existence in the universe might with truthfulness say, "I live." It is, however, one thing to possess life, but quite another thing to have it at our disposal. Amid the teeming myriads of existences which people the universe, there is not a creature in the heaven above, or on the earth beneath, or in the far-off districts of immensity, that can say, "I am He that liveth," or "I am the Living One." The title belongs exclusively to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the Lord and sole Proprietor of life. The plenitude of life is in Him, and from Him it emanates to all animate existences. This significant title suggests that Jesus Christ is the Proprietor of His own life as well as ours. It was His love for you and me that fastened Him to that awful cross. Had there been no love, the nails could not have detained Him. Even when entombed in the grave He was still the Proprietor of His life, and had perfect power over it. The grave had no power to detain His body a moment longer than He chose to submit to its detention.

II. The life of which Christ claims to be the Proprietor is A LIFE SUBSEQUENT TO DEATH — a resurrection life: "Was dead." The death of Christ constitutes the foundation of our hope, the ground of our confidence, and the burden of the heavenly song. There could, however, be little or no joy in the hearts of the redeemed in heaven if Jesus Christ had not lived again after having died. To feel, while sharing the bliss of heaven, that the Lord Jesus was away, would shed a dash of bitterness into your cup, otherwise so full of joy, and dim the radiance of your immortality. What pleasure could there be in the feast if He whose beneficence provided it were absent? What joy could there be in your Father's house if the Master of the house were away? If on Calvary the King's Son had been lost, if He had then fallen to rise no more, yet the victory of that day would have been turned into mourning, the loss to God's moral empire would have been greater than the gain — for it would have been greater to lose a Christ than to win a world. But, thanks be to God, costly as was our redemption, it was not at this cost; for He that was dead liveth again; and, behold, He is alive for evermore.

III. The life of which Christ is the Proprietor is ETERNAL. — it is to experience no interruption, no cessation: "I am alive for evermore." His glorified body is beyond the reach of corruption. Immortality flows through every vein, animates every limb, nerves every sinew. The announcement that Christ would live on for ever was peculiarly fitted to encourage the Church in her sorrow and persecution. Her position at this time was most painful and critical. A dark, portentous cloud brooded over her, and threatened to discharge a tempest of endless destruction upon her. But, in the midst of all her gloom and alarm, the Lord Jesus appears as her Hying and life-giving Head, and announces the cheering fact, "I am alive for evermore." Men, by hatred and opposition, may bring the Church low, but they can never destroy; they may scatter, but they can never annihilate.

IV. JESUS CHRIST CLAIMS SUPREMACY OVER DEATH AND HELL — "I have the keys of hell and of death."

1. Jesus Christ is supreme over death. Look at that poor Christian pauper languishing on his pallet of straw in his unfurnished room. His death excites no interest, and is treated as unimportant and insignificant. But there stands One by his bed of death. It is no mortal, no creature whatsoever, it is not Michael or Gabriel; it is the Lord of Life, whose mandate must go forth ere the soul struggles loose from flesh. Disease cannot destroy him, the fever cannot consume him, and want cannot waste away the life, until Jesus gives the word of command for the spirit's departure. A man walking the scaffold trips his foot against a stone, the stone rolls over, and falls upon the casual passer-by, and the result is fatal. The case is brought before a coroner's jury, and as no malice, no intention, can be proved against the man who tripped against the stone, the verdict is given, "Accidental death." In the vocabulary of heaven no such word is found. Men do not die at random. Whether a man dies with the suddenness of a thunderbolt or by lingering consumption, by the hand of the assassin or by an agonising disease, it is by no means fortuitous, for it takes place by the permission and under the immediate presidency of the Lord Jesus.

2. The Living One asserts that Ha has the key of hell, of Hades, the invisible world. This term applies to heaven, hell, and the grave.(1) Jesus Christ has the key of heaven. At the close of this earthly life every human being will undergo the severest scrutiny. It will be for Jesus to decide whether that spirit is fitted for the world of light and blessedness, or whether justice requires it to be doomed to regions of woe and despair for ever.(2) The expression "Hades" applies with equal force to hell literally. Jesus Christ has "the key of hell." What a solemn view does this give of the death of the wicked! They have rejected Christ, banished Him from their thoughts; but it is His hand, the hand that was pierced for them, that held out to them the overtures of pardon and peace, that opens for them the outer gate of death and the inner gate of hell. A few years since, a French scientist discovered that the retina of the eye retains for twenty-four hours after death a faithful image of the last object on which that eye fell during lifetime. He suggested that murderers might be detected by this process. Suppose a man murdered on the high road, if the victim's eye were fastened on the murderer the last lingering moment of his existence, there would be found on the retina a correct image of the murderer. I do not know what amount of truth there may be in this theory, or what practical results may spring from it; but this I believe, that the last object on which the sinner's eye shall fall before he enters the world of retribution will not be the form of weeping friends, or mourning wife, or sorrowing children; it will be something more awful, it will be the form of a rejected and therefore a grieved Saviour.(3) The term "Hades" may signify the grave. Infidelity impiously assigns the key of the grave to Annihilation, who is represented like a goddess presiding over the empire of the dead, and announcing that the opening of the graves of this lower world and the quickening into life of the dust of humanity is a thing incredible and impossible. But Jesus Christ holds the key. If I am doomed to be the prisoner of the graver this I know, that both the prison and the prisoner will be in the custody of the Lord of Life. He will watch my dust. Not an atom shall perish. He will know where to find it all, and how to quicken it all.

(R. Roberts.)

I. The whole strength of this comforting assurance to John lay in THE IDENTITY BETWEEN JESUS THAT HE HAD KNOWN, AND THE CHRIST THAT HE BEHELD. "I am alive for evermore." "I am He that liveth and was dead." It is an appeal to the memory of John, therefore the consolation to us lies in this, that it is the very same Jesus — however glorified and altered externally — that liveth and was dead. It is the transference of the humanity of Christ to heaven — it is the eternity of the Incarnation — that is to be our comfort, and the great truth upon which we are to lean. What is the practical truth the Christian draws from this fact? The Apostle to the Hebrews commences with a description of Christ in His glory. In the first chapter, at the third verse, he says, "Who being the brightness of His (God's) glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Here the Son of God is revealed to us as John saw Him — enthroned in His glory. But after the apostle had so described the enthroned Son of God, he requests us, in the third chapter, because he had so described Him, to consider Him — that is, Christ Jesus — "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession." The Son of God is still in heaven as the Son of Man, acting as our High Priest. In the seventh chapter the apostle proceeds to draw a further inference from this fact. He tells us that He is an eternal Priest — "a priest for ever after the order of the Melchisedec." Christ Jesus is, then, eternally in the heavens a Priest for us.

II. What PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS the apostle draws from it.

1. In the first place, he draws the conclusion that we have a certain and a better covenant.

2. In the next place, we read another practical inference, that Christ Jesus, as our High Priest, ever liveth to make intercession for us.

3. But Christ our High Priest not only pleads for the pardon and forgiveness of our sins; He, as our High Priest, also sanctifies us. For the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ is the "cleansing of the conscience from dead works to serve the living God." It is the dedication of the whole man — body, soul, and spirit — to the service of his Maker, making him fit to appear in His temple.

(Abp. Magee.)

What good would it do to you ii your child were suffering torture from some peculiar accident to a limb, and I came and told you of a surgeon who lived a hundred years ago, and who had been wonderfully clever in re-setting the same bone after that precise kind of fracture? I might explain to you how it was he acquired his skill; I might give you fifty cases in which he was successful; you might be astonished at the proofs of his dexterity; you might feel that he would have been able and willing to relieve your child from pain, and to prevent all subsequent deformity. But if I came and told you of some living man who had shown the same skill; if I explained how it was that he had acquired his special experience; if I told you of one case after another in which he had succeeded when every other surgeon was helpless, you would say, "Now I have heard all this, I will send for him at once, and put my child in his hands." And this is just what men have to be persuaded to do in relation to Christ... to realise that He is living still, and that He is not only willing, but able, to give every man who asks of Him forgiveness of all past evil, and strength to do better in time to come.

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

And have the keys of hell and of death
It is hard to disenchant our minds of the spell which is laid upon them by words — hard to divest ourselves of the associations which words call up. That solemn and awful word "hell," which occurs in my text, how inevitably does its very sound bring up into the thoughts the idea of everlasting torments. And yet, as is well known, by the "hell" of the Apostles' Creed, into which our Lord is said to have descended, is not meant the place of torments, but the place of departed spirits — the very sense attaching to the word in the passage now under examination. "The unseen realm" is, upon the whole, a just representation of its meaning in our language. All that is invisible — all that we cannot see, or the senses (represented by the eye, as the chief or ruling sense) cannot reach — it is a wonderfully comprehensive term. Think how much wider, how infinitely wider, is the range of the unseen than of the seen. This little ball of earth is a very insignificant district of God's domain. Midnight reveals to us, twinkling through all the realms of space, thousands of other suns, each perhaps the centre of its own planetary system, having worlds revolving round them, which from their immense distances coupled with their opaqueness, are to us unseen. Think how many substances, there are, so minute, or of so subtle an organisation, that we cannot see them — substances like the air, or like the life-blood of the tiniest insect which floats as gossamer upon the bosom of the air, and drinks in through imperceptible vessels the genial warmth of the golden summer day. But in addition to the most subtle organisations of matter, there are in the world spiritual essences. God is a spirit. We are taught to conceive of the holy angels as pure spirits, although we are quite unable to say for certain, that there may not be, attaching to the nature of angels, a certain very subtle organisation of matter. But, speculation apart, of this we are quite sure, that there are multitudes of angels. But this Hades has human, no less than heavenly, inhabitants. Think of the countless souls which, from the first formation of man upon the earth, have forsaken the tenement of the human body, and filed forth into the receptacle appointed for their safe keeping, until the day of the resurrection. Endowed, all of them, with an immortal being — where do their spirits, their proper selves, now reside? We do not know, nor can we know. All we know is that we see them not; of their existence our senses take no cognisance; for us they are as if they were not; they are inhabitants of the Hades, the great unseen realm, which the veil of gross matter shrouds from our view. Aye, as I said, a great realm — exceeding vast — and, in some of its districts, exceeding glorious. The unseen bears to the seen world the same relation which the vast universe bears to a house or mansion. Every house, however sumptuous, is more or less dark, more or less confined, limits more or less the view of the surrounding country, defiles more or less, through its enclosures, the purity of the atmosphere. But go abroad from the midnight festival, where lamps shed an artificial glare, and the house reeks with the odours of the banquet — go abroad into the still, solemn starlight, and catch the fresh breeze on thy brow, and look upwards into the vast expanse, lit up with the lamps of heaven. Or go forth from the close and darkened chamber of sleep, into the light and stir of the fair summer morning, when the woods and streams are vocal with melody, and every little insect is on the wing, and all nature teems with life and animation. Such is the passage from the sphere which is seen with the eye of flesh, to that which is not seen; from the false artificial lights of time, to the solemn stillness of eternity; from the noxious vapours of the world, to the pure breath of heaven's atmosphere; from scenes where man's art and man's handicraft have on all sides set up their memorials, to scenes which man has never trodden. The division of God's universe, which has been thus suggested, into a seen and an unseen sphere — a sphere which is, and a sphere which is not, under the cognisance of sense — is probably as satisfactory, and certainly as simple, as any which could be devised. But there is another word in our text which, although common in every mouth, will yet be illustrated by definition. That word is death. Hades is the world unseen, which has its door or portal, by which men enter into it. Death is the departure from the seen world, which seen world has its door of exit, by which men pass out of it. Hence death is called, in two or three passages of Scripture, exodus, or going out. There are many doors or avenues by which men pass out of this life, none of which can be opened except by the key which the risen Son of God holds in His hand. There is the door of disease, sometimes sharp and rapid, sometimes chronic and gradual. And the forms of disease, how various are they. There is the lingering decline, which keeps the patient waiting upon the threshold of the door, and mocks him, on bright days, with the hope (how soon to be blighted) of ultimate recovery. There is the burning fever, which hurries him, all hot, from the earth in a fit of frenzy or delirium. There is apoplexy, with its stroke of insensibility shattering the consciousness — paralysis, which ties up the utterances of the fluent tongue — nay, defects incidental to each vital organ, the due development of which may at any time issue in a departure from the world which is seen. There is the door of violence — the assassin's dagger and the foeman's lance. There is the door of animal decay, when the vital system is worn out, and the heart, wearied as it were with long toil, at first languidly discharges its functions, and then ceases altogether to beat. The only remaining word of the text which requires exposition is that of "keys" — "I have the keys of hell and death." The simple notion of a key is that which gives the power of opening a closed, or closing up an opened, door. But something more than a mere power of opening and shutting is, I believe, expressed by this imagery. General administrative power over a kingdom, or over a household (which is a kingdom in miniature), is expressed by the bearing of the key. Nothing more is necessary here, but that I should just advert to the plural form of the word "keys," which, of course, has reference to the two things specified — hell and death. The key of death is the key which unlocks the passage out of this world. The key of hell is that which unlocks the passage into the unseen and unknown. It is, I think, just worth observing that the notions are kept distinct by the phraseology employed-the notion, I mean, of a passage out of the seen, and an entrance into the unseen world — as if it did not follow that because the spirit has passed out by the door of death it has therefore received its admission into the unseen realm. This remark may throw some light upon the case of those who, after life had seemed to be extinct, have undergone resuscitation, and who can record nothing after the mortal agony beyond their having fallen into a deep swoon, a swoon in which they were perfectly unconscious. It is perhaps possible (at least the phraseology of this passage would incline us to think so) to have the door of death opened to us and closed upon us, and yet (so far as the experience of the soul is concerned) not to have the door of the unseen world opened. And now to pass from the consideration of the words employed in this sublime passage, to that of the statement made in it. The risen Saviour is the speaker — One who, by becoming partaker of flesh and blood for our sakes, subjected Himself to the experience of a cruel and bitter death, and yet One who is now triumphant over death in all the incorruptibility of a glorified body. From which we learn, first, that the Lord Jesus Christ, in His character of God-man — not in that of God — wields at present the administration of the entire universe, comprising both the little puny span of which man's senses and understanding can take cognisance, and also that vast and glorious domain which lies beyond the ken of flesh and blood — and of which it is our wisdom to confess, that we have neither seen it nor known it. We talk freely of God's administration in the realms of Nature and Providence, forgetting that it is the mediatorial kingdom, not the kingdom of mere Deity, under which we live at present. All power is committed unto Jesus in heaven and in earth. Upon His shoulder are laid the keys of all the vast Household, embracing thrones, and principalities, and powers among the heavenly hierarchy — men, with their unruly wills and fluctuating fortunes — together with the inferior creation, animate and inanimate, organised and inorganic, down to the meanest insect, and the plainest stone, and the hyssop that springeth out of the wall. Let the feeble and desponding Christian but duly weigh the truth that One who sympathises from personal experience with all his trials — One who was cradled in the manger, and inured to poverty from His youth — One who knew all the bitterness of persecution, and ridicule and abandonment of friends, and drained at last the dregs of the cup of death — is Vicegerent of the universe, and comfort shall soon dawn in the benighted heart, and light up in it the rainbow of a heavenly hope. But this general administration of Christ over the universe of God includes a particular dispensation towards every human individual, whereby He gives to each one of us, at the time of His appointment, our dismissal from the world which is seen, and our passport of entrance into that which is invisible. It is He who calls for the slow or rapid disease — He whose hand contrives the unforeseen disaster, so often attributed to chance — He who withdraws gradually the vital energy from some essential organ, so that, while the mechanism is complete, the function can no longer be discharged — and who thus opens to each separate individual the door of exodus out of this life. When the spirit has passed through this door, it waits awhile in the dark corridor which separates the seen from the unseen. Then, when life's last spark has really fled beyond the possibility of recall — then, then comes that Great Janitor, and sweeps past it down the dusky avenue, and takes the second key, and throws open to it a world of new experiences, and causes it to be thronged with new images from every district of the realm unseen. Thenceforth the spirit enters into Hades, there either to walk in Paradise and lie in Abraham's bosom, or to be tormented with a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall be consummated upon it at the sound of the resurrection trump.

(Dean Goulburn.)

I. "I AM THE FIRST AND THE LAST." In these words Christ claims one of the incommunicable attributes of Deity — existence which had no beginning and can know no end. He is the first. Are there not before the throne of God beings who beheld the first star gleam out in the ethereal vault — beings who existed before all worlds, and who relate to younger spirits the wonderful history of God's creation? But this foremost of created things trembles before the face of Jesus Christ. His eyes gaze out upon the celestial host — rank behind rank — thrones, dominations, virtues, powers — He surveys all the solemn troops and sweet societies, glowing with eternal love, flaming with immortal beauty, excelling in strength, glorious in holiness, and having surveyed them, He cries, "I am the first." They shine, but with a glory borrowed from Him; they live, but with an immortality derived from the eternal throbbing of His infinite heart. "I am the first, and I am the last." He lives through two eternities — the eternity past, the eternity future — eternities which, like two infinite oceans, are joined together by the narrow strait of time. In the first eternity "He dwelt in the bosom of the Father," and made the world by the word of His power. In time He took upon Himself our nature, was formed in fashion as a man, and "His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." And when time shall be no more, through the eternal future, He shall be the centre of heaven's glory, the object of its ceaseless worship, the fountain of its ineffable happiness. "I am the first and the last." When heaven and earth have passed away He shall still abide.

II. "I AM HE THAT LIVETH, AND WAS DEAD; AND BEHOLD I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE." We do not worship a dead Saviour. In Him is life; with Him is the fountain of life. "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more, death hath no more dominion over Him." With joy He announces, "I am He that was dead." He remembers with satisfaction, with exultation, the shame and the pain, the conflict and the agony, by which He accomplished our redemption. He looks back, and with joy, upon the scenes of Bethlehem, Gethsemane, and Calvary. Never will He forget that day when the quivering flesh and fainting heart staggered beneath the awful burden of human sin and Divine wrath. The Cross and the sepulchre were His way to the throne.

III. "AND HAVE THE KEYS OF HELL AND OF DEATH." The key was part of the regalia in eastern courts. Like the sceptre, diadem, and orb, it was a symbol of power, one of the insignia of high office. Our Lord here claims supreme control, unlimited authority over death and the invisible world. Christ has the keys of death. The grave is part of Emanuel's empire. The king of terrors is the vassal of the Lord Jesus Christ. The doors of death cannot open to receive us until Christ has turned the key. We are a fallen race. Sin, being finished, hath brought forth death. Death hath dominion over us. But there is a consolation for us here — a voice like the sound of many waters cries: "I have the key of death." We do not die by chance or haphazard; the time and circumstance of our death are appointed by Christ our Saviour; everything connected with our departure from this world is under His control. Those doors will not be unlocked till you are ready to pass through them. At the right moment He will turn the key of death, and you will have gone through the most terrible crisis of your history as an immortal being. Through the whole of the time of His waiting He is busy preparing you for that crisis. This life is for you a season of discipline, of education, of culture. Not till the preparation process is completed will you be transplanted from the thorny wilderness to bloom in the paradise of God. But while the true Christian may rejoice in this thought, the heart of the sinner may well meditate with terror. When your measure of iniquity is completed; when by persistent sin and frivolity you have made yourself a vessel of wrath fitted for destruction, then the key will be turned, the doors of death will shut upon you, and in that sad hour shall all your joys perish. The door is shut; the key is turned; you have chosen your lot, and it must be yours for ever. Christ has the keys of death — of the grave. Our dust is in His charge. Over the tomb of every saint He writes, "I will raise him up at the last day." He is the Redeemer of the body. He has set His seal upon it; it is His. Our dust is precious in His sight. His eye follows it through all its changes, and keeps it safely. Our mortal frames contain the germ of an immortal body, and out of the dust of death His power shall raise us up beautiful in His own likeness. As the rough bulb buried underground springs up into green leaf and gorgeous bloom — as the grain, perishing in darkness, unfolds into tender blade and ripened ear; so this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruptible shall put on incorruption when the last trumpet blows. He who has the keys shall loose the bands of death. He turns us now to destruction, but will at last say, "Return, ye children of men." Christ has also the keys of Hades — that is, He is Lord of the invisible world of the dead. Death does not free us from His sceptre, but only brings us more sensibly under His authority. This mouldering frame (exquisitely made though it be) is but the least part of us; in the tombs of the saints we have only the "shells of fledged souls left behind" — the cumbersome garment of the spirit which it has thrown aside, in order to flee away to its rest in the arms of God. The notion that the soul passes the interval between death and the resurrection in a dreamless sleep, has been stoutly defended by many theologians. The most cursory examination will suffice to show that this doctrine has no foundation in the Word of God. It is there plainly taught that disembodied spirits are in a state of conscious enjoyment or misery directly after their exodus from this world. Over the world of disembodied spirits — where the Boule of the good have their perfect consummation and bliss: while the souls of the wicked are reserved in a prison of horror and chains of darkness, until at the last day they shall receive their unavoidable sentence — over this world Christ is King. From His golden girdle hang the keys of both the upper and lower Hades. When He turns the key to let us out of this world, He turns that other key which admits us to our own place in the world beyond the grave. His saints who die in humble and joyful faith, relying on His death, and resting on His promises, are borne by the angels to the gates of the upper Paradise. He who has the key graciously admits them, and bids them welcome from the toils and sorrows of earth to those scenes of quiet rest and calm enjoyment. Christ's enemies, who die rejecting His mercies and blaspheming His name, shall find His dreadful face frowning upon them as they enter the other world. That hand which was so long stretched out to them in mercy shall thrust them into the dolorous prison: house; and, turning the key upon them, He will leave them to anticipate the overwhelming shame and anguish of that dread day. In His Book of Life He inserts the names of His friends. As many as are not written in that book shall be cast into the lake of fire, which is the second death. Agree with thine adversary quickly. Kiss the Son! Accept at His hand deliverance for thy soul.

(T. J. Choate.)

I. A VAST KINGDOM CLAIMED. To have "the keys" is to possess authority. To possess the key of a house, palace, or region, is to have the supreme power therein the disposal of the things and persons located there. Among the Jews, a key borne on the shoulder, hung by a belt, or inwrought in the robe, was the well-known badge of office. Now, in the text, our Lord claims this supreme regal power for Himself. "I have the keys, and the houses, the palaces, the realms, whatever they are, to which these keys give admission, all are Mine. I possess them, I rule them, and from My decisions there is no appeal." Yes, this is the sovereign authority. A protest could be lodged, by the conscience at least, against the abuse of any kingly power on earth, and an appeal carried up to the court of heaven. But who shall dare protest against the decisions of the Son of Man? and to what court shall any cause be taken when solemn judgment has been pronounced at His bar? He has the keys — of what? Of earthly prisons? or of earthly palaces? of kingdoms? or continents? or seas? He does indeed possess even those keys; for all earthly kingdoms, with all their inhabitants and all their affairs, are comprehended within His royalty and realm; but the empire here is a far larger one. He has the keys "of Hades and of death." The keys of Hades and of death, i.e., of the passage which leads from this world into that. All who leave this world, with some rare exceptions, to enter into that, go along the passage of death. Whether they go to glory or to gloom, they go by death, and the Redeemer has the keys of death. His dominion does not begin beyond the last barriers and confines of mortality; it is a power which commands those barriers, which claims death and holds its keys. Death and life, things present and things to come, height and depth, all are His. There is no realm of the universe for which He has not a key; there is no being whom He does not command; no event that He does not control. He has the key of birth, by the turning of which each is ushered into being; the key of childhood, which admits the little pilgrim to the first steps of the journey; the key of youth, which opens the gates into life's greenest and most radiant fields; the key of manhood, which sets the pilgrim on life's hill-top; the key of old age, which lets him gently down among the shadows; and the key of death, which ends all toil and sorrow. And of those great realms too, as we have seen, He has the keys: opens and no man shuts, shuts and no man opens. And of all which chequers life and gives character to it in its progress, He possesses the power. Majestic kingdom! whose lengths and breadths, and depths and heights far surpass our knowledge! over the vastness of which we can only look, but never travel

I. The interests of which we can think of. but never comprehend! The glories of which come only within the scope of one eye — the eye of omniscience. The powers of which rest only in the hands of one Being, and He the everlasting King!

II. A ROYAL TITLE EXHIBITED. As creation supposes creator, and law supposes lawgiver, so kingdom supposes king; and the king of such a kingdom must have a royal title which cannot be impugned. "I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen." This title, observe, does not rest on His Divinity alone; that He had from all eternity: nor on His humanity alone; for no mere man could hold space and time in His grasp; and rule life and death; and be the judge of quick and dead. It is a title wrought out by His incarnation, and inseparably connected with His mediatorial character. The substance of it is the life of the God-man with its sorrows, virtues, obedience. It is written as with the blood of His Cross. The light by which we read it is the light of His resurrection. He was born that mothers might forget their sorrow, and rejoice when a man-child is born into the world. He prayed that He might be the hearer of prayer. He died that we might not fear to die, hoping to find life in Him. And now He has gone to claim His kingdom; He has received it from the Father, and through all its wide realms He exhibits His royal title — a title which all the good accept, and which the very devil dare not impugn. His title to this universal kingdom is our title to the blessings of grace and salvation. And so He tells us not to be afraid, for our enemies are vanquished; not to be ashamed, for our redemption draweth nigh. He teaches us to defy all antagonisms; to claim all needful helps; to put our proprietary seal upon every visible thing; to say, "All things are ours, for we are Christ's"; to open our hearts every day for grace; to hasten on every day to glory; to endow ourselves with His unsearchable riches, and to fill our souls unto all the fulness of God.

III. THE GRACIOUS PROCLAMATION MADE. "Fear not." It is very brief. It is a dissuasion from all fear that "hath torment," from all undue anxiety and apprehension, from all excitement, fore-boding, solicitude, which would bring pain. It affects all personal, all relative, and all religious and public interests. "Fear not" for thyself. I will wash thee thoroughly from thine iniquities, and cleanse thee from thy sins, create in thee a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within thee, give thee the joys of My salvation, and uphold thee with My free spirit. "Fear not" for any among thy kindred and acquaintance of the same family of God. There is a shield over the head of each, a Providence as watchful of every one as if that one alone were a dweller on the earth. "Fear not," amid changes however startling, circumstances however unexpected; for I am not a mere watcher over a broken and lawless world, mending, and checking, and trying to save something from the wreck! I am the perfect ruler of a perfect providence, setting kings on their thrones and watching sparrows in their fall; preserving your mightiest interests, and numbering the hairs of your head! Brethren, it is this "fear not" which often we most need to hear; we do not exercise ourselves in great matters — we can trust these to Him, for we feel they are too high for us; but we do painfully exercise ourselves in lesser things as if we had the sole charge of them. Not now, or not there, or not thus, we are always saying. Not now, we say, when the father is called to leave the family of which he is the sole stay. "Let him live, let a few years elapse, let his family be provided for, let his work be done!" It is done, is the answer. His fatherless children are provided for; I have taught him to leave them with Me. "The Father of the fatherless, the Husband of the widow, is God in His holy habitation." Or, we say, "Not there," oh, not there! Away on the sea — a thousand miles from land — let him not die there, and be dropped into the unfathomed grave. Or not in some distant city or far-off land — strangers around his bed, strangers closing his eyes, and then carrying him to a stranger's grave. Let him come home, and die amid the whisperings and breathings of the old unquenchable love. "He is going home," is the answer, and going by the best and only way. "I can open the gate beautiful in any part of the earth or sea." Or, we say, "Not thus," not through such agonies of body, or faintings of spirit, or tremblings of faith — not in unconsciousness — not without dying testimonies. Oh, shed down the light, the fragrancy of heaven, upon the dying bed! The answer is, "They are there, and you are so dull of sense that you perceive them not. Your friend is filled with the 'peace that passeth understanding,' and safe in the everlasting arms."

(A. Raleigh, D. D.)

I. HE HAS ABSOLUTE POWER.

1. Christ's power is co-extensive with creation. Inorganic as well as organic substances are the Redeemer's servants, and He is "able to subdue all things unto Himself."

2. This power extends over the invisible world.

II. HE POSSESSES THE HIGHEST LIFE.

1. This is life attained subsequently to dying. He poured out that last drop of life-blood to atone for sin, but He rose a Conqueror, and the King of glory.

2. This life is enjoyed in the most glorious destiny. He is above the tumult of sinners, and is the object of angelic rapture.

3. This life is endless. "I am alive for evermore," is the utterance of a Sublime Conqueror. The immortality of Christ's life, is the pledge of ours.

III. HIS PREROGATIVES AS THE LIVING REDEEMER ARE EXERCISED FOR GLORIOUS PURPOSES.

1. They constitute Him a magnificent character. He is the most glorious Representative of power, life, and mercy to the universe.

2. This character He achieved by His work on earth. Enthroned in pomp and power, He does not forget Calvary; He connects His crown of life with His execution — "I am He that liveth, and was dead."

3. This character so achieved is a mighty power for good. As the life of Titian, or Michael Angelo enters the soul of the student, so does the exalted life of Christ enter man's heart, and elevates him from the dust of sin to the fellowship of God; for "truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ, the righteous."

4. The influence of this character is felt in every event that takes place. Our lives are in Christ's hands. There is no chance work about life or death: we are dependent for either upon the will of our exalted Redeemer, who has "the keys of death and Hades."

5. This character attracts to the highest distinctions. The exalted Saviour has not only "opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers," but He attracts them to it by the beauties of His life. "To be with Christ, which is far better" than dwelling on earth for ever, is the experience of all genuine Christians.

(J. H. Hill.)

I. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ANNIHILATION OF BODY AND SOUL HEREAFTER. Then I ask you, are you living in this belief in the immortality of the soul? Are you educating your families for God? Are you founding a family in heaven? Are you working in the fear of Him who "has the keys of hell and of death?"

II. IF CHRIST HOLDS THE KEYS OF HELL, AND OF DEATH, WE KNOW NOT THE DURATION OF OUR LIFE. LET US, THEN, WORK WHILE WE MAY, AND NOT BE SLOTHFUL. Why does Christ hold the keys? In mercy to us, to keep us from agitation and despair. If the time of our death were not a secret, we should have no comfort, and we should be ill fitted for the discharge of our duties. What did God send you into the world for? Not merely to eat, and drink, and sleep and transact worldly business: a beast or bird could live almost as useful, as noble a life. This little span is the threshold of Hades, the prelude of millions of ages in a sphere fitted to your nature, where the soul's aspirations shall not be clogged and fettered, and often brought to nought, by the grossness of this present body; where the thirst for knowledge shall be fully and eternally gratified; where the heart shall drink ever most deeply into the felt love of God; where we shall, with the noble assembly of ransomed saints and preserved angels, find in the presence of God and of the Lamb employment for those vast powers of the soul, of the existence of which powers we are sometimes permitted to get faint ideas. Oh! live for this.

III. CHRIST, THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH, HOLDS DOMINION OVER HADES AND DEATH; THEREFORE THE CHURCH NEED NOT FEAR DEATH. Glorious Captain of our salvation! who could withstand Thee? Thou hast abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel. Death was a curse; Thou has turned it into a blessing. What amazing power! Death was an enemy; Thou hast converted it into a friend. What admirable wisdom! So to baffle and disappoint the plotting spirit of evil.

IV. IF CHRIST HOLDS THE KEYS OF HADES AND OF DEATH, MEN DO NOT DIE BY CHANCE, BUT BY APPOINTMENT; THEREFORE WE SHOULD BE MODERATE IN OUR SORROW FOR DEPARTED FRIENDS.

(W. J. Chapman, M. A.)

Then hell and death, terrible powers as they are, are not left to riot without government. Let us rejoice that nothing in heaven, or earth, or in places under the earth, is left to itself to engender anarchy. Everywhere, serene above the floods, the Lord sitteth King for ever and ever.

I. What is intended by THE POWER OF THESE KEYS here mentioned?

1. A key is first of all used for opening, and hence our Lord can open the gates of death and hell.

2. But a key is also used to shut the door, and even so Jesus will both shut in and shut out, His golden key will shut his people in heaven, as Noah was shut in the ark. Heaven is the place of eternal safety. There the gates shall be fast shut by which their foes could enter, or by which their joys could leave them. But, alas! there is the dark side to this shutting of the gate. It is Christ who with His key shall shut the gates of heaven against unbelievers.

3. By the keys we must further understand here that our Lord rules, for the key is the Oriental metaphor for government. He shall have the key of David: "the government shall be upon His shoulder."

4. One more remark is wanted to complete the explanation of the power of the keys. Our Lord is said to have the keys of death, from which we gather that all the issues of death are at His alone disposal.

II. What is THE KEY OF THIS POWER? Whence did Christ obtain this right to have the keys of hell and death?

1. Doth He not derive it first of all from His Godhead? In the eighteenth verse, He saith, "I am He that liveth," language which only God can use, for while we live, yet it is only with a borrowed life. God saith, "I am, and there is none beside Me," and Jesus being God, claimeth the same self-existence. "I am He that liveth." Now, since Christ is God, He certainly hath power over heaven, and earth, and hell.

2. But the key to this power lies also in our Saviour's conquests. He hath the keys of death and hell because He hath actually conquered both these powers. You know how He met hell in the dreadful onset in the garden; how all the powers of darkness there combined against Him. Grim was the contest, but glorious was the victory, worthy to be sung by angels in eternal chorus.

3. We have one more truth to remember, that Jesus Christ is installed in this high place of power and dignity by the Father Himself, as a reward for what He has done. He was Himself to "divide the spoil with the strong," but the Father had promised to give Him a "portion with the great."

III. THE PRACTICAL BEARING of the whole subject appears to be this — "Fear not."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. I propose TO EXPLAIN WHAT I MEAN BY HADES. The term signifies the place Unseen; or, more properly, the Unseen. And by the Unseen I understand a place or state distinct from the grave, which receives only the bodies, while it, in its awful circle, includes the souls of the departed — different from Gehenna, or the Lake of Fire, which engulfs ultimately both the bodies and the souls of the lost — distinct from heaven, where "summer high in bliss" the angelic spirits, and where, like a mount of diamond, arises the throne of God! As to its character, it is invisible to mortal eye, and inaccessible to human footstep. It is probably divided into two compartments; the one containing, as in a prison, the souls of the wicked; the other, as in a place of safe keeping, preserving the spirits of the just. It has been asked, Shall this Hades be properly a place or a state? Some argue that spirits separated from their bodies cannot be confined to, or connected with, any particular place, but may, nay must, be at large through the vast spaces of the universe. But it would rather appear that (as has been said by the intrepid Bishop of St. Asaph) "to exist without relation to place seems to be one of the incommunicable properties of the Divine nature; and it is hardly to be conceived that any created spirit, of however high an order, can be without locality, or without such determination of its existence, at any given time, to some certain place, that it shall be true to say of it, 'Here it is, and not elsewhere;'" and that, therefore, there is somewhere a particular spot where all separated spirits reside. Another question irresistibly occurs, Where is this place situated? Some maintain that it lies in the bowels of the earth, and ground this opinion upon the fact that the language of Scripture frequently represents the dead as gone down-wards — upon the fact that Christ is said to have descended into the lower parts of the earth; upon the fact that all nations, in all ages, have supposed the abode of the dead to be beneath. But without venturing further into this dark and doubtful field, I remark once more, that this state is not an ultimate or everlasting state.

II. I would DISABUSE YOUR MINDS OF SOME MISCONCEPTIONS OF THIS DOCTRINE. You are not, then, in the first place, to confound Hades with Purgatory, or to suppose that it gives, in the slightest degree, countenance to that wretched fiction of the Roman Catholic Church. The two places are essentially distinct. Hades is a place both of woe and of enjoyment, each unmingled in its kind. In Purgatory there is no joy at all, and the misery inflicted is for the purpose of rendering its victims fit for the enjoyments of heaven, and free from the torments of hell. Again, I beg of you not to suppose that this is a new doctrine. It is as old as the Old Testament.

III. I come now TO ARGUE THE POINT FROM SCRIPTURE. I might, indeed, have found plausible probabilities in support of it. It is probable that for souls separated from their bodies there should be a place set apart. God has provided distinct habitations for every other separate variety of created objects. He has provided the land for terrestrial quadrupeds; it is their world. He has provided the sea for fish; it is their peculiar province and native element. He has provided the air for birds. For angels He has expanded heaven; and for devils laid the dark foundations of hell. Why should He not, then, on the same principle, have prepared a separate abode for a class of beings so essentially distinct from every other in the universe, as separate spirits, which are neither angels nor devils, nor properly speaking, men? Separate spirits, however perfect in nature, are obviously in an imperfect or unfinished state. Wanting their material frames, they are comparatively naked; unsheathed in sense, they cannot hold such free intercourse with material things. It seems fit, therefore, that a kind of hiding-place should be provided for them. But is Scripture quite silent on the theme? No; it utters a distinct, if not a deafening sound.

1. Hades, in Scripture, is quite a different place from hell. The real terms in Holy Writ for hell are, Gehenna or Tophet, or the Lake of Fire. Hades is never, we believe, used to denote hell properly so called. It is sometimes used in connections where it must mean some other place — "Death and Hades were cast into the Lake of Fire." How absurd it were to speak of hell being cast into hell! "Thou wilt not leave my soul in Sheol or Hades." Here, assuredly, the term cannot mean hell, else it will follow that Christ's soul went down alive into that fearful pit, and shared there in the torments of the damned — a horrible supposition. It follows, therefore, inevitably, that the place where Christ went down was not the place of final punishment. But that place was Hades. But neither is it heaven by the same showing, since it were absurd to speak of Christ's soul being not left there. Neither can it be the grave, since into the grave His soul never went, and from it could never have risen.

2. The fact that Christ did go to Hades proves that His people must go too; and that He went there is undeniable. Look, again, at the 2nd chapter of the Acts, 31st verse, where Peter, after having quoted David's language in the 16th Psalm, adds, "He seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell (or Hades), neither did His flesh see corruption." It follows, demonstrably, that if His soul was not left in Hades, in Hades it must have been. Again, in the 4th chapter of the Ephesians, at the 9th verse, we find the following words: "Now that He ascended, what is it but that He also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?" What were these lower parts of the earth? Surely they included Hades. It is vain to tell us that they denote simply the fact that His body descended into the grave. Did His body alone ascend into the heavens? Is not the He who ascended the very He who descended? If He ascended body and spirit, must He not have descended body and spirit too? And if He descended in spirit, where but to Hades could that spirit have gone? If Christ went to Hades, it follows that His people go too. We argue this from His language to the penitent thief, — "To-day shalt thou be with Me in Paradise," which means some place of happiness where the twain were to meet that very day. It could not be heaven, since Christ went not there till His ascension.

IV. But I come TO ANSWER SOME OF THE MORE PROMINENT OBJECTIONS TO THIS VIEW.

1. Some will say: Is not Hades, according to this doctrine, a prison; and how can a prison be, in any sense, or to any parties, a place of happiness? I simply answer: Why should it not? Is not a prison a place of safe-keeping? Are not the innocent kept in prison equally with the guilty till the day of trial? Hades to the good may be a prison; but such a prison as is a house in a day of storm — such a prison as is woven by a mother's arms round her dear babe.

2. Is not this a damping view? I have always, says a Christian, expected that when I died I should go to the highest heaven. But what if you were expecting wrong? Will not the society of thy departed friends be a source of deep gladness to thee in that strange world? It is a mere vulgar error to seek to confine happiness within the compass of even the highest heaven. No; it shall overflow into Hades.

3. It will be said: How do these views agree with the expressions of Paul — "I have a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better; to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord"? And will there not, in Hades, be a revelation of Christ far brighter than the most favoured of His people ever can enjoy upon earth, even though His personal presence be absent? To a disembodied spirit what is personal presence? Can we conceive of it without eyes seeing His comeliness; without ears hearing His voice; without hands handling His sides; without feet standing beside Him, on that firm and lofty ground which borders His great high throne? Is not "seeing Christ as He is" expressly stated to be contemporaneous with His future and final appearance? "We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him, seeing Him as He is." Ought a Christian to have no loftier ambition? Is not a spiritual vision of the moral and spiritual Jesus, of the depth of His wisdom, and the warmth of His love, equally desirable with a sight of His person?

V. BUT HOW DOES THIS CONSORT WITH THE COMMON VIEW WHICH HOLDS THAT WICKED MEN GO IMMEDIATELY AFTER DEATH TO THE EVIL ONE, AND THAT HIS PRESENCE AND AGENCY CONSTITUTE A LARGE PART OF THEIR TORMENT? I am not careful to answer in this matter. I know already that the influences of the Evil Spirit are not confined to hell; they are felt on earth, and they may, for aught I know, be extended to Hades too. Whether the devil in personal subsistence shall be present with his victims there, is a question that cannot be resolved, and which is not worth solution. But what are we to understand by Stephen's vision, taken in connection with his prayer "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." No more, probably, than this, that Christ, through His almighty power and Divine spirit, receives the spirits of His people when they die, saves them from the power of the enemy, acquits them, and bestows them in safe keeping, in the hollow of His hand, till dawns the day of supreme and eternal decision. But has there not been generally thought to be a judgment after death, and does not this imply that every spirit shall, unless chased away by His frown and its own wickedness, find immediate refuge in the "bosom of its Father and its God"? But where shall this judgment take place? Must it be necessarily in the highest heavens? May it not take place in the very room where the man has just gasped his last, or at the gate of Hades? The place of the general judgment is plainly declared, that of the personal and private tribunal is left in awful uncertainty. But again, it may be asked, can it be conceived that the spirits of the just and of the unjust are included in the same place? We ask: Why not? We quote not "Let both grow until the harvest or end of the world," because the reference in that passage is to this world, not to the next. But, we ask: Why, though the place be one, should not the lines of demarcation be numerous, and distinct, and deep? Will not the great laws of moral attraction, which partially operate even here — drawing together similar spirits by a mighty assimilating and converging process — there have their perfect work, and account for the greatness of the gulf which separates the one side of Hades from Abraham's bosom? It remains that we find, in fine, the uses of this doctrine.

1. Is it true? Then it must have its good uses; and then the responsibility of it is shifted back from us upon the everlasting arms of the God of Truth Himself. No seed of truth can produce evil consequences, or fail to produce good.

2. It gives an enlarged view of God's universe. It points out, to those, I mean, who have recently heard of it for the first time, a new province in the Almighty's dominions.

3. This doctrine is cheering to the Christian — cheering both as it confutes the gloomy doctrines of materialism and the sleep of the soul; and as it divides to him the awful ladder of approach to the supreme summit and pinnacle of the heavens. We tremble at the thought of being introduced suddenly, and at once, among the ancients of the heavenly world — into the centre of the circle of eternity — and amid the blaze of those starry splendours, at which "angels tremble as they gaze." This doctrine shows believers an intermediate stage — an arbour on their far pilgrimage — a gentler and a milder light, through which they pass into the "perfect day." Once more, it is full of terrors to the wicked. It holds out to them the prospect of looking forward from Hades to a gulf deeper and darker still, into which they shall yet be plunged. It tells them that their misery shall not be consummated at once, but shall go on by distinct and terrible stages towards its completion.

(G. Gilfillan, M. A.)

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