(Revelation, Chapters ii and iii)
|The glory of love is brightest when the glory of self is dim, And they have the most compelled me who most have pointed to Him. They have held me, stirred me, swayed me, -- I have hung on their every word,
Till I fain would arise and follow, not them, not them, -- but their Lord!|
Patmos Spells Patience.
Patience is strength at its strongest, using all its strength in holding back from doing something. Patience is love at flood pleading with strength to hold steady in holding back.
The love in the strength insists on waiting a bit longer for the sake of the one being waited for. The strength in the love obeys the love passion and takes fresh hold in holding back.
Patmos spells out the patience of our Lord Jesus. It tells the strength and tenderness of His love. Olivet spelled out His plan, His great sweeping plan, through His followers, for a race. Calvary spelled out His passion, passion of love, passion of suffering, in dying for a race.
Calvary, Olivet, and Patmos are inseparably linked, the gentle slope of the Jerusalem hillside, the little mount to its east, and the little rocky isle in the far AEgean. Calvary was the passion of love pouring out a life for a race. Olivet was the plan of love for telling a race, till every one would know the love by the feel. Patmos is the patience of love pleading with the should-be tellers of the story to carry out the plan, and waiting, and then waiting just a little longer.
Olivet had heard the last word. There the Master had told the disciples the plan. All the race was to be told and taught, bit by bit, earnestly, repeatedly, patiently, tirelessly, by word and act and life. He Himself unseen by outer eyes would always be with them, His supernatural power making real and living what they told and taught. This was the plan. Olivet was to be the executive of Calvary, bringing home to men and making vital to them what had been done there.
Then Jesus went up on the Cloud. And they went out everywhere. And His power convincingly went with them just as He had said. Within a generation the news and the power had gone together to the outermost rim of the world they knew.
They were expecting Him to return as a result of this witnessing of theirs. The next time they see His face and hear His voice will be as He comes on the Cloud out of the blue. So they understand and believe. This is their constant expectancy.
Now that generation has moved off the scene of action. Another generation has come in its place, and has almost run its course and moved off the scene. And still they are looking forward to and talking about His return.
But now to this new generation of His followers something quite different comes. Instead of Himself coming in glory there comes another last message to them. It fits perfectly into the Olivet message, but goes further and says something more.
The Olivet message is about taking the light of the Gospel message out everywhere. The Patmos message in its pictured setting of candlesticks and Man of Fire and blazing light recognized this as the one thing to be done, but says there's something the matter with the candlesticks.
The Olivet word is about taking the message. This Patmos word is about the messengers. That one is about the service of His followers; this other about their life. The life underlies the service. Nothing can so hinder and hurt the service as a life not true in itself. Here something in the life of the Church is hindering its service. The Master's plan at this stage is in danger.
His broader plan extends beyond this Church movement. This is one great step to be followed by another. That broader plan had been outlined at the first Church Conference, held in Jerusalem. James, the presiding officer, said that the carrying of the Gospel to all men was to be followed by a national regeneration of the Jews; and then through a regenerated Jewish nation there would be a new era of world-wide evangelization, and with this the Conference was in agreement.
The leaders among these early disciples are eagerly anticipating Jesus' return to carry on the next stage. They understand that what they are doing is preparing the way for this next step.
But now instead of returning to carry forward the broader plan here comes another message. Apparently things are not going satisfactorily. The plan at this stage is in danger, while the Calvary passion back of it still burns. Failure is impending. The Master might sweep aside the men that are failing, and press on Himself into the next step of His plan. For the case is urgent. A race is waiting. The darkness thickens.
But instead He waits. With patience and strength and love beyond our power to grasp He waits. This is the setting of the Patmos message, to which we now turn.
The Unity of the Message.
We must keep our eyes on the Man who is talking. His overawing presence gives tremendous meaning to His words. That gentle touch of the right hand has no doubt strengthened John even as Daniel was strengthened. And he is standing and looking as he listens. But the sight of that wondrous Man walking among the candlesticks floods his face and his whole being indescribably as he listens to the message spoken.
The overpowering sense of awe, of reality and power, and of the tremendous meaning of what is being said never leaves. So he listens. So we must listen. So only can we get into the meaning of these words. The words will mean only as much as the Man means in the intensity of His presence. You must keep your eye on this crowned Christ as you listen.
The seven-fold description given us of Christ is the key to these seven messages. The partial description beginning each message is seen to fit into the particular condition of the Church spoken to. Yet all these bits of description must be put together to get the full description. It is a seven-fold description of one person.
And so all the messages must be taken together to see the Church as He sees it, and to get His message to it. It is one message. A look at the seven promises made to the overcomers makes it clear that all seven are one promise. It is not that one overcomer receives one thing, and another another, but each one gets all of what is mentioned in the seven. A rather careful, swift look at these promises makes this clear enough.
It is spoken to one Church in seven groups in seven different cities. There is one call to repentance, one warning of what will happen to the unpenitent at five successive stages, one plea to hear seven times repeated, and one blessed result to the overcomer, in a seven-fold statement.
And there is just one evil to be recognized and fought. That evil is seen to grow from one degree to another, from bad to worse and worst. Its emphasis changes from one phase to another. It has shown itself differently in different parts of the world, and in different ages since, but it is the one evil power, always the same behind the different manifestations.
There is rare combination and adaptation in this message. It was meant for the Church of that day, and of every day since, and for some future day. For it stands as the one message from Christ to His Church between Olivet and His return. It is meant distinctively for the Church as a whole, and yet it makes an intense personal appeal to each one in the Church.
It is spoken to the little groups of Churches in Asia Minor grouping about the city of Ephesus, which had been founded by Paul and ministered to by John. And without doubt it fitted into the conditions and tendencies of those particular seven Churches.
But these are representative of all. Probably any group of seven would be representative of all in varying degree. The mother Church at Jerusalem is not named, nor the great Gentile missionary Church at Antioch. But these messages with their approval and criticism, their warning and promise, were meant for all the Church in Asia and Europe and Africa at that time.
They are found to fit into the need of the Church scattered throughout the world in every generation since then. Always there have been little groups that were faithful and true, always some suffering because of their faithfulness and remaining faithful in spite of suffering. And always those who have been formal, who have companioned with evil, who have been swamped by the evil with which they companioned, and those practically asleep or dead.
This Patmos message will be found to fit the Church of to-day with remarkable accuracy and faithfulness. And the whole probability is in favor of finding that it will fit peculiarly the future Church, the Church at the end of this present period.
This whole book of the Revelation is peculiarly a Church book. While it is full of instruction and plea for our individual lives, yet it is distinctively the Church book. It stands out among the books of the New Testament as the one book addressed to the Church and to the whole Church.
It gives the great bulk of its space to an awful time of persecution that is coming to the Church at some future time. This is spoken of elsewhere, notably by Jesus in His talk with the disciples on Mount Olivet, but it is the chief subject treated here. And it is treated with great detail. The name commonly applied to this coming persecution is the great tribulation.
It is significant that the book that clearly is distinctively a Church book is taken up chiefly with a description of that future persecution. It leads to the deep conviction that this book of the Revelation so fitted to the need of the Church when spoken, and in every generation since, will be found to be peculiarly fitted to that generation of the Church that is to pass through this great coming persecution; that is, to the Tribulation Church.
It will probably be the mainstay and comfort of those who will insist on being true during those awful days, regardless of the suffering involved. No book has been more slighted and ignored. It has been called by some within the Church of our own generation |the joke of the Bible.| It will likely come to be the book most studied and loved for its light and help in the terribly troublous times ahead. There will be an eager, hungry searching for every scrap of information, and for any fresh ray of light on its meaning.
The Seven-fold Message.
Now this seven-fold message lets us see things through Christ's eyes. He is letting them and us see what He sees. The Scottish poet's thoughtful lines might well be changed to get the yet better look: |Oh! wad some power the giftie gie us, to see oursel's as| God sees us. It would do more than free us from blunders and notions. And we are needing more.
Each one of these seven messages begins by our Lord drawing their eyes to Himself. This is the thing needed most. And this will give meaning and force to the message. They are to be looking at Him as they listen. Then He speaks of all the good things He sees. Then of the faulty, weak, bad things, in a few simple but unmistakably plain words. No one could doubt what He meant.
Then is the pleading call to repent, with the faithful warning of what will surely happen if they don't. Then the earnest plea that His words be listened to and taken to heart, and the wondrously gracious promise held out to those who steadily set themselves against the evil, and who get the victory.
Let us look for a moment at each of these Churches as seen by those searching eyes of flame.
Ephesus is the centre of the group, the natural leader, the largest and most influential, perhaps the mother Church of the group, where Paul and John had put in so much time and strength, and whence they reached out to these others.
Christ reminds them of His presence in their midst and His control of the angel messengers that minister to them. Then he speaks of their good deeds, their tireless activity, steadfast endurance, intense zeal for the true faith, with special emphasis upon their unwearying steadfastness even under sore difficulties, and their hatred of those who made compromise with evil so hateful to Himself.
But there is something lacking, the tender personal love for Himself. There's intense loyalty to Church and to the faith, but a lack of personal love for Himself. And the startling thing is that this is said to quite outweight all these good things. They may have these things without the love, but they cannot have the love without having these things, and at a finer temperature.
And this defect is crucial. If persisted in it is fatal. It will actually mean their rejection as His messenger. This is the critical thing which we seem to have such a hard time getting hold of. The essential qualification for true service is the personal attachment to our Lord Jesus Himself, that warm heart love which the human heart longs for and gives to some one. He longs for this. This is the essential; not Church organization nor creed, not zeal for orthodoxy, but warm love for a person. Service, witnessing, all the rest, are valuable to Him in reaching His world only as they grow out of a tender love for Himself.
And the startling thing is that this privilege and opportunity of service is to be taken away not because displeasing to Him, but because it fails of the end in view. The candlestick is only removed because it is no longer serviceable; it is not giving out the light. This earnest, aggressive, orthodox, patiently-enduring Church is to be rejected as a light-holder, because it is not holding out the light. This is tremendous!
The group in Smyrna is tenderly reminded of the suffering of their Lord, for they are filling up what is left behind of His suffering. This tells at once the depth of their personal love for Him, nothing could tell it more.
They are poor in money and so despised, but rich in faith and so precious to Him. They are suffering at the hands of the Jews, who were the outspoken, intense, fanatical enemy of the Christians. There is no reproach, only earnest encouragement to keep steady even through fiercer fires yet to come.
The description of Himself to the Pergamum group is startling. He is the one with a sharp two-edged sword. There is something here He must fight against. They are frankly told that they have had a hard place to witness in, and earnestly commended for being true even in the midst of persecution.
But there's something wrong, and it is very serious. It is as wrong and bad as it can be. There is actually compromise with evil, partnership with the world in its wickedness. The thing is put in the intensest way possible by characterizing it as adultery. No stronger language could be used to tell how He sees the evil they are guilty of. And they are plainly told that He will fight against them. They have made themselves His enemy by joining His enemies.
The Thyatira group is reminded of the purity of their Lord, who cannot stand impurity but searches it relentlessly out, and pursues it to the death. There's a faithful minority here. Their activity and love and faith and patience and increasing activity in service are all counted carefully over and warmly commended.
But the evil here is much worse. It is put into the gravest language. |Thou sufferest the woman Jezebel.| This is most significant. There is no worse character named in the whole Old Testament. She not only represented the worst adulterous uncleanness in herself, but she was the national leader energetically fostering unclean idolatrous practices among the people. Jezebel pulled God's light-holder nation down to the lowest moral level it ever reached. She brazenly dominated king and people, and remained stubbornly obstinate to the terrible end.
Christ brings her name in here. Again this is tremendous. No more terrific parallel could have been made. Here evil characterized as adulterous has actually come to a place of leadership in the Church. With great longsuffering time has been given that all this might be changed, but with Jezebel-like obstinacy it was determined that there would be no change. And the inevitable result that will surely follow continued obstinacy will be a great tribulation or deadly persecution.
The Sardis group is told that Christ is the centre of all life and help, in the control of the Holy Spirit and of the angel messengers. There is nothing to commend here. There are some who insist on living true lives, but they are a scanty scattered few, not enough to count.
There are some ragged remnants of good, but even these are sickly and nearly dead. The Church is well organized, energetic, standing high among men, but with an utter absence of spiritual life. The personal lives of most are like dirty garments. And the warning is this: He will come as a thief, that is unexpectedly, disagreeably, to take away what they prize most and leave them stripped and naked.
The longest message is to the group in Philadelphia. Christ reminds them that He is holy in character, faithful to His promises, having full control, and giving opportunity of service as the highest reward of faithfulness. This candlestick is giving out light, for it is given yet further opportunity of shining.
The chief characteristic of this group is its steady plodding faithfulness. They are not spoken of as brilliant or talented, but faithful in the midst of opposition. He loves them with the sort of deep love drawn out by love freely given. And a special promise is given, a significant promise. A great persecution is coming, an awful testing time to all the earth. But He will keep them through this unhurt because they have been keeping His word so faithfully.
The common reading here is, |I will keep thee from the hour of trial.| It is quite as accurate to read |through| in place of |from.| And there is good reason for taking this as the sense here. The word underneath here is translated by several different words in other passages.
Where a word in one language may be translated by any one of several words the general sense of the passage must decide which one correctly expresses the meaning. Here the meaning must be gotten from the whole trend of New Testament teaching. Like the Israelites during the plagues that came to Egypt these faithful ones will be kept untouched through this terrible time that is to come.
The Laodicea group is to be talked to plainly by one who is a true, faithful witness in dealing with His people's faults, and who has all the authority of God in doing so. This is the second group that actually has not one good thing to be commended. There is no false teaching, no compromise with evil; they are simply asleep. Rich, influential, self-satisfied, grown fat and sleek, -- so they seem to their neighbours and themselves. Wretched, poor, blind, naked, -- so they are. And the chastening threatened will be of the severe radical sort that strong love insists upon.
A Heart-breaking Sight.
Here then is the picture of the whole Church as seen by the eyes of searching flame. There is a mixture of bad and good, active bad, active good, and sleepy indifference. There is a Church within the Church. But the bad is bad enough and big enough to endanger seriously the usefulness of the whole as a light-bearer.
The glass of the lantern is so smoked and cobwebby that it is more useless than useful to the light inside, and the crowd outside in the dark. The uselessness threatens what usefulness is left. Smokiness is contagious. Cobwebs grow thicker and hold more dust.
Two Churches are true and pure in the midst of sore opposition. Two are corrupt in the very worst way. Three, including the leader, are orthodox in form, but indifferent to Jesus Himself, or asleep, or dead; three degrees of the same thing, -- indifference, sleep, death.
In all of these five there are those who, like Ezekiel's companions, |sigh and cry over the abominations that are going on,| but they are helpless to stay the sweep of the tide. They are the salt that is saving the lump so far. Even Sodom would have been saved by ten righteous.
It is plainly said to the leader Church that it is no longer of use as a candlestick, except a change come. It fails to give out the light. It is being carried along, patiently borne with for its own sake. It is failing at this point in the mission. The smoking flax sending out its irritating smoke in place of clear light is not yet quenched. The Holy Spirit life within is being sorely grieved, but is not yet put entirely out.
And this is only one. Four others are plainly in much worse fix. Five-sevenths are failing. That bit of preservative salt would seem to be working to its full capacity.
This is the picture given us here by our Lord Himself. John would never have dared make such a terrific arraignment of his own accord. It is a picture of the whole Church at the beginning of the First century.
How is it at the beginning of the Twentieth? A thousand million people, two-thirds of the race, pretty freely supplied with the light of western oil and of gunpowder, with the help of the western sewing machine, and with the guidance of western learning and skill, but to whom with minor exceptions no scant ray of this light has yet gotten, these make answer. That smokiness would seem to be rather dense.
The non-Christian crowds in so-called Christian lands, the overwhelming majority, to whom the name of Jesus has no more practical meaning than other foreign names, Shanghai, or Tokyo, or Calcutta, -- these make answer. The light doesn't seem to have been able to get through and out much, even near the candlestick.
The Church itself, when it has sometimes forgotten its statistical tables long enough to look thoughtfully into this old Patmos looking-glass, has now and then made answer, in a few of its thoughtful leaders, while the rank and file push on absorbed in their Ephesian or Sardisian or Thyatiran way.
There's a striking companion bit to this in Ezekiel's vision. That messenger to the exiled colony by the Chebar had first of all the vision of God that completely overwhelmed him. Then he is taken in spirit to Jerusalem, and shown things as they were, through God's eyes. The heathen idols were set up in the very temple of God, so actually stimulating among the people the horribly gross, unnamable impurities connected with their worship. This was done in the open, with no pretence at concealment.
Then in the vision he digs |into the wall| to see the hidden things that are being done. There he sees every sort of creeping, crawling, slimy, repulsive animal pictured on the walls of this secret chamber, and the leaders of the people burning incense and worshipping.
This he is told is a picture of the inner hearts of the men who are the leaders of the nation. For dramatic intensity it would be hard to equal this. The imaginations of their hearts are as the unclean snakes and beasts that are found only in the damp, unwholesome slime and ooze of swamp and stagnant pond.
And this is God's light-bearing nation to all the earth. And these are the leaders! But there's yet worse. The mothers and wives and daughters of the nation, the real moulders of the nation's life and character, are seen pouring out their very hearts over a heathen idol, with all the horrible evil practices included in its worship. And then a group of men are shown in the holy temple standing with their backs to God and His temple and worshipping the sun.
Under these four items are pointed out the impurity and violence, the injustice and oppression, that mark the people. It is the inner heart life of the nation that is being pictured so vividly. But in the midst of all this are those who are broken-hearted over these conditions. And as the time of judgment comes in the vision these are marked and spared, though they see the work of judgment on every hand.
Such is the tremendous scene depicted by Ezekiel. It will be seen at once what a striking parallel it presents to the scene in this Revelation book with the new light-bearer to the nations of the earth. One would never dare make such an arraignment of his own accord. It is humbling and heart-breaking to the last degree simply to repeat what is spoken here by our Lord Himself.
Clearly the Patmos picture is not only of the Church then, but ever since, and now. And the simple law of momentum in sliding down hill will make it an accurate picture of the Church at the end, the future Church.
The colouring changes at different times in different places, the black getting intenser, pot black, and the light shining out more brightly by contrast. But the picture remains essentially as painted on Patmos.
The warnings so faithfully given run a sliding scale outward and downward in five degrees. If the Church continue as it is, it is told here that it will be rejected as a light-holder. Its privilege and opportunity as God's messenger will be taken away.
Then Christ will fight against it as an enemy, it will be given over to a time of terrible tribulation, it will be treated as prey to be robbed and plundered, and it will be rejected, spewed out of the mouth, as personally disgusting.
Yet in all this plain speech there is no bitterness, only grief, only tender pleading. The plain bluntness is the language of love that yearns to save even yet, and that waits with untold patience hoping for a change.
But it is noticeable that, while the warning is to the corporate Church, the plea and promise that persists throughout is to the individual. He that is willing to, let him hear and heed and be controlled by the Spirit's message.
There are two groups that have remained faithful. There are scattered through the other five those who are faithful. And there are no doubt many who feel the pull to be true but are yielding to the strong undertow of the rising tide by which they are being carried.
The coupled promise and plea that call out so pleadingly to these at the close of each message are, |to him that overcometh.| This word |overcometh| is very significant. It is one of the characteristic notes of these messages and indeed of this entire book. It is one of that sort of word that sums up a whole situation in itself.
There is opposition. There is conflict because some won't yield to the opposition. And the result of the conflict varies. Some are overcome by the evil; they go over to the enemy, body and soul. Some wabble. They slip along the line of least resistance, secretly holding on to some few ragged remnants of convictions, but not letting these affect their standing or comfort or particularly their profits.
Some overcome evil. There is struggle tense and continued, quickened breath, moist brow, tightened nerves, the stain of blood, a scar here and there, and heart-breaking experiences. But they fight on, and victory comes. And the evil is less, weakened in its hold on this companion and that neighbour. They get the victory over evil.
There's a wondrous promise to these. It is as though the treasure box is placed at their disposal. It is a seven-fold promise. Every overcomer will receive all that is contained in these seven promises. Note this seven-fold promise: He that overcometh will have everlasting life, and this is emphasized by the reverse statement, |will not be hurt of the second death.|
He will be admitted into the sweets of intimate fellowship with his Lord, hidden from all save those in this inner circle. And will receive a new name, the family name, that is an inheritance in the family of God, joint heir with Jesus Christ. He will have the privilege of serving with the King in the blessed Kingdom time coming.
And with this goes the word, |I will give him the morning star.| Jesus calls Himself |the bright, the morning star.| The morning star rises in the dark of night after midnight and ushers in the new day. He who is in touch of heart with Jesus as the night deepens to the dawn will (probably) have an intimation in his inner spirit of the glad coming of the Morning Star that ushers in earth's new day.
The overcomer will be made perfect in character, and find his name not only in the family book, but mentioned by Christ personally to His Father before the angels. He will be admitted into the innermost circle of the King and be reckoned among the dependables. And he will have closest fellowship with Christ in the administration of the wondrous kingdom.
It will be seen that these promises overlap, the same thing being put now positively, now negatively, and being repeated in differing words to different groups. Each promise touches the characteristic trait of the group spoken of. The Ephesians, who had many things but lacked the vital thing, are wooed with the promise of life itself, which is only through touch with Jesus Himself.
Smyrna in its suffering is cheered with the prospect of suffering no more. The Pergamum overcomer is wooed away from intimacy of friendship with evil to intimacy of friendship with the coming King. They who resist the evil Jezebel rule in Thyatira will have the privilege of ruling with the King. Those in Sardis who hunger and thirst after a pure heart will have the longing fully satisfied.
Those who have proven dependable in the trying days in Philadelphia will have the exquisite pleasure of being depended upon in the inner circle as wholly trustworthy. Those in Laodicea who resist the current and insist on letting the knocking pilgrim in for heart fellowship will find themselves in fellowship with Him on the throne.
It should be noticed that these promises are one promise, and that that is the promise of everlasting life, of a purified perfected character, and of the privilege of closest fellowship with the King Himself in the coming Kingdom time.
These promises do not take up the matter of rewards for faithfulness in service, such as our Lord speaks of in the twin parables of the pounds and talents. The things promised here are the results of being saved by the blood of Christ. The privilege of fellowship with the King during the Kingdom time is included in salvation. All the redeemed will reign over the earth.
This is significant. Overcoming would seem to be the decisive evidence of faith in Jesus Christ, the faith that receives everlasting life. It takes opposition to let you know whether you are willing to accept Christ. A man does not know whether he really believes Christ until he is opposed in his believing, and opposed to the real hurting point. He has just as much faith in Christ as he is willing to declare, and stand by, and insist upon, when he is under fire. Opposition is the fire test. Faith isn't faith unless it can stand the fire test.
The Decisive Trait of Faith.
The plain inference here is that he who doesn't overcome shows that he really doesn't believe in his heart. And the natural result is that he does not receive these things promised. That is, he is not saved because he won't accept the Lord Jesus as his Saviour when it comes to the fire test.
There are without doubt thousands in the Church who will be left behind on the earth when our Lord Jesus catches up His own. This does not mean necessarily that they will be lost. There will be another opportunity of being saved for those living on the earth at that time. The Kingdom will be a wonderful time of salvation. There will be a continuous revival of the realest sort going on everywhere all the time.
But these would not have the blessed privilege of fellowship with the King in the Kingdom, nor the blessedness of fuller resurrection life at this time. That is reserved for those who by grace have believed on the Lord Jesus, during His absence and continued rejection, in spite of the fire of opposition.
It is notable that the Thyatiran message speaks of great tribulation coming to that Church if it continue unchanged. And that the Philadelphia Church is to be kept through |the hour of trial, that which is to come upon the whole earth.| Throughout the Scriptures mention is made of a time of persecution coming at the end. The common term for it is tribulation. It is called the great tribulation. There will be more to be said about this again.
It is possible that it will be found that this Patmos message will have special significance during that trying time at the end. But it should be noted that it fits into the spirit of opposition that is always found where there is true, faithful witnessing.
The tribulation itself will be the time of intensest opposition carried to the extreme of violent persecution. It will be the climax of conditions always present, wherever there is faithful witnessing. Faithfulness to Christ always arouses opposition.
The test of whether we really accept Christ and believe Him is not in anything we say. It is not even in what we are in our lives when all goes smoothly. It is in what we are in our lives when opposed, when it costs criticism, ostracism, petty persecution, or more outright persecution. This is our Lord's test of acceptance of Himself.
We have had many definitions of what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. And these have been helpful in clearing the air and helping us to a simple acceptance of Him. These definitions have touched chiefly the inner part of faith, the part we are conscious of.
Here is another definition. Here is the last word on the subject, the authoritative word, from our Lord Jesus Himself. It tells what faith is in its outward working, the part the crowd sees. The faith that accepts Jesus as Saviour accepts Him also as Lord.
That faith naturally rings true to Him under all circumstances. It rings truest and clearest whenever opposition to Him is aroused, whether the opposition of indifference, of criticism and sneer, or of persecution.
There are certain commonly accepted things that are in themselves only good, but which are not conclusive evidence that we really have saving faith in the Saviour. The act of coming into Church membership whether by confirmation, by an assent to questions regarding one's personal faith, or by being baptized, the fact of membership in the Church, the partaking of the Lord's supper, serving as an official of the Church in pulpit or pew, faithful attendance, liberal support, -- these things are only good.
But they do not furnish conclusive evidence of one's acceptance of Christ. It is quite possible to be carried along on the common current in such things. There is clear evidence that many are. The decisive thing, the test thing is this: how we stand opposition, the polite, sneering sort, the more aggressive sort, or -- if it come to that -- the violent sort. The fire reveals every man's faith if there be any there.
There are two fire tests. One is of our faith in Christ, as revealed in the frictional fires of opposition. Whoever stands that test is caught up into His presence when He comes, or goes at once into His presence if our going precede His coming.
The second is of the love-spirit, how far it has been the very breath of our life as revealed by the fire of His presence. For the love-spirit means personal loyalty to Jesus, purity of heart, holiness of life, steadiness of purpose, and the exquisite gentleness of patience in our conduct toward all others.
These words of our Lord Jesus are very searching. This Patmos message must have been a painful one for Him to give John, and painful for John to repeat. It is painful for any one to repeat when its meaning is understood. It should send one off into some quiet corner alone on his knees with that great |search me| prayer of the Psalmist.
Recently I was told a simple incident of one of the truly great Christian men of our generation. He was at the head of one of the largest concerns of our country employing thousands of men, but never knowing any labor troubles. I remember the impression made on me a few years ago at the time of his death, by the remark made to me by two different men of this man's city, men that I think did not know each other, or maybe very slightly. As I spoke of him each man said in a subdued voice, |Oh, everybody in -- -- loved Mr. -- -- !|
This incident was told by his son. The two were on a train together. The father rose and went forward to another part of the train. As he went out a man sitting opposite came over and spoke to the son. His flashy manner of dress and the fact that he seemed to have been drinking suggested the sort of man he was. He said to the son:
|Wasn't that Mr. So-and-so?|
|Yes,| the son replied.
|Well,| the man said, as though talking half to himself, |if there were more men like him, there'd be fewer like me.|
And he turned to his seat and sat as though absorbed in his thought. The son, in speaking of it after his father's death, said it was one of the tenderest memories he had of his father.
The common crowd on the street and our Lord Jesus are united in one thing: they want more men like Him, Jesus our Saviour. Then there'd be fewer of the other sort.
Ruby T. Weyburn.
Ezekiel viii and ix.
Rev. ii.22, 23.
Rev. iii.20, 21, with Jeremiah xiv.8.