صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

he overcomes by being strictly honest, and by making restitution: if malicious, by seeking reconciliation, forgiving, and returning good for evil: if slothful, by becoming industrious. Has he been covet ous, griping, and unmerciful? he overcomes by becoming openhearted and liberal, kind and compassionate. In short, one that overcomes obtains the victory over every kind of sin, however pleasing, profitable, or reputable it might be; and practises every duty, whatever inconvenience, loss, or reproach it may subject him to; and he perseveres therein to the end: in faith and prayer depending on the grace of Christ, and constrained by his love; looking not at the things that are seen, which are temporal; but at those things which are not seen, and are eternal.

3. To him, says Christ, will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. It is his to give; therefore he is the most high God: it is a free gift, and not of human merit; the reward of free and undeserved grace, and received as such by every believer. I give to my sheep eternal life. The gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. The happiness of heaven is eating of the tree of life in the paradise of God; an allusion to the earthly paradise before the fall, in which the bounty of the great Creator placed our first parents, Gen. ii. 8, 9. He planted a garden, &c.; and there was, in the midst of the garden, the tree of life. When they had sinned, they were driven out, that they might not eat of the tree of life, and live :for ever; and remained in a state of death, misery, and condemna⚫tion, By the mediation of Jesus, and union with him through faith, sinners are restored to a better paradise and tree of life, viz. heaven itself, and life eternal. It was promised to the penitent crucified thief, To-day shalt thou be with me

[ocr errors]

in paradise. It is the paradise of God, viz. where he dwells in his essential glory and happiness, which he hath provided for his people; a city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, which he freely bestows on them; where they are with him in his immediate presence, and in the full fruition of his glorious Godhead, and that for ever. It is supposed, that if our first parents had continued upright for a certain time, they would have been permitted to eat of the tree of life as a pledge of their confirmation in holiness and bliss. The saints eating of the tree of life in the celestial paradise, signifies their being fixed unchangeably in a state of perfect felicity; their bliss is complete, and they are ever filled and satisfied therewith; they have the full and unceasing enjoyment of God in Christ, and the satisfying and delightful sense of his fayour and love; they have all that heart can desire, and in complete measure, and can never entertain a wish for any thing more, but will for ever say, It is enough. Rev. xxi. 7. He that overcometh shall inherit all things, and I will be his God. xxii. 2. In the midst of the street of the new Jerusalem, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month implying that the bliss of glorified saints is ever new. Such is the portion obtained by the Lord Jesus, and promised by him to every one that overcometh; to all his be lieving and faithful followers, who cleave to him as all their salvation, and continue to fight under his banner against sin; and it hath not dominion over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace.

[ocr errors]

For application-1. Let every one, old and young, hear what the Lord the Spirit saith to the churches; here, by way of promise, and before, by way of rebuke and exhortation. Let all regard

what is adapted to. their particular states; hear, and give heed thereto, for your good. If ye hear not, nor sincerely regard what the Lord speaks, can ye expect him to attend to your cries, when distress and anguish come upon you? Hear, and turn to him, sinners, with all your hearts, while he waits to be gracious, and will receive you. If fallen into iniquity, hear what the Lord speaks. If ye have lost your first Love, hear him calling, Repent, and do thy first works. -2. Ye must be engaged in the Christian warfare, and overcome, if ye would possess any hope for eternity: must overcome the world, and the love of it, pride, excess, Just, neglect of duty, &c. yea, all kinds of sin; and your most easily besetting, fashionable, profitable sins, and all temptations thereto; and be faithful unto death. Living and abiding under the dominion of sin, ye cannot escape. The unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Ye can only, overcome by faith in Christ, as your wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. But hereby ye shall obtain pardoning mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Come to him, and enlist under his banner, and his grace will be sufficient for you.-3. Some make feeble attempts, but do not overcome, because they engage not in this way, but wrestle in their own strength. And most that are called Christians, make no efforts for victory, but willingly and constantly obey Satan and evil inclinations; the contented slaves of those enemies against whom, in baptism, they have engaged to fight all their days. If such is your character, Satan, whom ye serve, must pay you your wages, viz. eternal death. Only those that overcome, are heirs of the promise. 4. If ye have fled to Christ for righteousness and strength, and have indeed set out in the spiritual warfare, see to it that ye

persist, encouraged by the glorious promise of reward. Watch and pray, and strive against all sin, and let it be in the strength of Christ, and never remit, in the smallest degree, till ye come off more than than conquerors through Him that hath loved you. Yet a little while, and he will give you to eat of the tree of life in the paradise of God; and ye shall be for ever delighted and satisfied. When ye are called to lay down mortality, ye shall triumph, and say, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, &c. &c.

Rev. ii. 8.

And into the angel of the church in

Smyrna write, These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.

We have here the command of Christ, the great head of the church, to St. John, respecting the epistle he was to write to another of the seven churches of Asia. He was to address himself to these churches, in the name of Christ, by way of commendation, rebuke, exhortation, or encouragement, according to their several states. The first epistle was written to the church of Ephesus, in the preceding verses; in which are both commendations and reproofs, exhortations to repentance and promises to the faithful and persevering Christians. The next epistle was to the church of Smyrna; and we have to observe, in the words before us, 1. To whom St. John was to write; 2. A twofold description of the Lord Jesus, the great head of the church, from whom he received the commandment the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.

1. To whom this epistle is addressed to the angel of the church

in Smyrna, write. Of Ephesus, and the church there, we have much information in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Epistle to the Ephesians; but of Smyrna we have no account in Scripture, except in this place. It hence ap. pears, that the light of the Gospel was come thither, and a flourishing church planted and established: but whether by the instrumentality of St. Paul, or some other, we are not informed. Smyrna was at that time a famous city in the Lesser Asia. It remains, as is well known, to the present day; being in the Turkish dominions, and in a flourishing state as a commercial city. There are yet some remains of Christianity, though in a very corrupt state; but the greater part of its inhabitants are under the Mahometan delusion. It is supposed to be the only city of the seven churches which continues to be of any note, and that retains its ori ginal name. This epistle, likewise, is addressed to the angel, i. e. the president, the chief minister, or bishop, of the church of Smyrna (who then, or soon after, was the primitive martyr, Polycarp), on purpose that the contents of it might be imparted to the whole church ministers, and people, for whose benefit they were intended, as they also are for that of all other Christian churches and individuals, to the end of time.

2. A twofold description of the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom St. John had, and all faithful ministers have, their commission. These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive. He thus also spake of himself to St. John, i. 17, when he was overwhelmed with terror at his glorious appearance, He laid his right hand on me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last; I am he that liveth and was dead. As to his divine nature, he is the first and the last; as to his human nature, he was dead and is alive.


1. He is the first and the last. This is one of the titles of the most high God in the Scriptures. Isa. xliv. 6. Thus saith the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Re deemer, the Lord of Hosts, I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God. This title Christ over and over assumes to himself: i. 11. I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. xxii. 13. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. It hence evidently ap pears that our Saviour is the most high God, and describes himself by the same names and attributes which are peculiar to the infinite and glorious Jehovah; as, likewise, the same works are frequently as cribed to him. He is, therefore, more than a man; yea, infinitely superior to the most noble and exalted among creatures; over all, God blessed for ever; the true God and eternal life. He is the eternal Jehovah, who existed from eternity, and will exist to eternity; without beginning of days or end of life; the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. He is before all things, and by him all things consist; he is the first cause of all things, and the last end. It is expressly said, all things were created by him, and for him: by his pow er, and for his glory. It is not a mere speculative point, nor a matter of indifference, whether the essen tial and supreme divinity of Christ is known and believed, or not. It is the grand foundation-truth of the Gospel, and the ground of every saved sinner's faith and hope. If Christ was not truly God, he could not be a Redeemer for fallen man; and if we do not know, and believe from Scripture that he is so, we can have no hope and confidence in him. Without this, faith can be nothing but fancy and enthusiasm, and peace and hope a fond delusion. But-2. He is as truly a partaker of the human, as of the divine nature; and it 1$


equally necessary that he should be so. This is with the same clearness asserted here by himself: I am he that was dead and is alive. This cannot be spoken of his divine nature; in that he is impassible, and incapable of dying. But it necessarily implies that he has another nature: this he assumed in the fulness of time, that he might be qualified to act as man's Surety and Saviour. He took a human body and soul into union with his Godhead, on purpose that he might die, and hereby make atonement and satisfaction for the sins of mankind; that they might all be taken away from those who believe in him, and accept him as all their salvation and hope. Having endured inconceivable torments and agonies in body and soul, for the sins he had taken upon himself, he truly died on the accursed tree; said, It is finished, bowed his head, and yielded up the ghost, his human soul being for a time separated from the body: but, though once dead, he is alive; not only as God, but as man, and lives for evermore, and hath the keys of hell and of death. In the state of death he could not long remain, because he had completed what he undertook --he had satisfied the broken lawmade atonement for the sins of men-and appeased the Father's wrath. The dreadful debt being paid, the Surety could not abide in prison. The Father being well pleased in him, could not retain him under the power of death and the grave. He returned to life the third day, and came forth from the tomb, in triumph over death, sin, and Satan. This was a convincing proof that he had fulfilled all righteousness, and removed the Curse. He was delivered for our offences, and raised again for our justification. Christ being raised from the dead, dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him. He liveth in heaven, glorified

with the Father, with the glory which he had with him before the world began: and his glory is no longer obscured by the likeness of sinful flesh, by ignominy, pain, abasement, or any infirmity. He lives for ever, and to appear in the presence of God for us. He lives as the all-sufficient Mediator and Saviour, able to save to the ̄uttermost them that come to God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them; and because he lives, all his people shall live also-live and reign with him for ever. He lives as the head and ruler, the prophet and teacher of his church, and as the head over all things for it; having all power in heaven and earth; and he lives to be the judge of quick and dead, to absolve his people, and condemn his enemies and all that have dared to neglect his great salvation. God hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that Man whom he hath ordained, whereof he hath given assurance to all men, in that he hath ruised him from the dead.

By way of conclusion, we may observe,

[ocr errors]

1. In general, that the church of Smyrna was in an excellent and flourishing estate; and no evil is laid to their charge: they were Christians in deed, as well as by profession. Let us all make the inquiry-Is it so with ourselves? Are we living members of Christ, as well as baptized into the visible church? When may a congregation be said to be in a flourishing religious state? When open wickedness does not prevail; when many appear in earnest for the salvation of their souls; when there is union, and not a propensity to split and divide, which is the ruin of religion, and the work of the devil; when the house of God is crowded, morning and evening, with attentive and devout worshippers; when multitudes frequent the Lord's table, of the young

[ocr errors]

as well as others, and act according to such a profession; when family religion is common; the morning and evening sacrifice daily offered up, and parents and children regularly attend public worship to. gether; when the Lord's day is generally reverenced regarded as a day to the Lord, &c. &c. But, alas! instead of such a delightful scene, how different is the state of things in most places and parishes in this Christian land, so called, except with a few families and individuals!-2.These characters and descriptions of Christ are encouraging to sinners to look to him that they may be savedfull of consolation to saintsbig with terror to all the impeni tent and ungodly, He is the infinite and sovereign Jehovah, the first and the last; he became incarnate to die and to endure the wrath due to sin, in the sinner's stead; he proclaimed that he had done this by returning to life; and he ever lives to carry on the work he undertook, till the num, ber of the elect are accomplished: he is able and willing to save all that come to him: believers are safe in his hands. Those cannot escape the damnation of hell, who slight his dying love and offered salvation.-3, On this day (viz, Easter Day), and on every Sabbath, we call to remembrance his resurrection; and at his holy table we commemorate him as he that was dead and is alive. Let us, then, draw near, with shame and self-abasement for our sins; with humble and joyful trust in God's mercy through Christ; with thankfulness and love; and make it manifest in our lives that we are dead and risen with him through faith of the operation of God, who raised him from the dead. If ye be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God: set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth; for

ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God: and when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Col. iii. 1, 2, 3, 4.


Oct. 28, 1814,


To the Editor of the Christian Guardian.


SINCE this is a state wherein, by general acknowledgment, afflictions abound, a due discrimination of their various kinds, and of the advantages and disadvantages resulting from each, cannot be to us a topic indifferent or unprofitable.

Indeed, for want of this discrimination, much is said upon this subject which tends to bewilder and mislead; for instance, we hear, not unfrequently, all afflictions, without distinction, resolved into visitations of divine loye and mercy; and though I readily admit such persons do not exclude from their view the exercise of paternal severity; yet, since whatever is strictly penal conveys the idea of just displeasure, something more than love in its characters of complacency and beneficence, must be admitted; and some have been so averse to such admission, that they have contended, no affliction to a real Christian may be considered in the light of punishment, but simply in that of a medicinal application. This representation, I am disposed to think, tends to neu. tralize our notion of evil, reducing it from moral to physical. We apply a painful remedy to a patient labouring under an acute disease; and whilst knowledge directs our hand, pity, without any mixture of indignation, fills our heart. It is certain the afflictions of wilful and obstinate sinners ought to be considered as tokens of God's just displeasure against sin, and we properly infer the divine hatred of

« السابقةمتابعة »