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declares of himself. It is placing implicit confidence in him; as a traveller about to cross a stream will not trust himself upon a bridge, unless he believe in its sufficiency. We may imagine a system of faith, in which there is much appearance of Christian profession, or of adherence to Christ as a teacher or example, but in which there is an entire deficiency of this confidence or trust in him for salvation.
That thou livest and art dead.'-"I am the resurrection and the life," said Jesus; "he that believeth on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live ; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die," (John xi. 26.) Here we are told what it is to live. On the other hand, it is said by an apostle, Rom. vii. 9, "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." Here, again, we learn what it is to be dead. To be under the law, is to be in a state of death; not to be under the law, is to live, or to be in a position, or state, of life. To believe in Christ, therefore, in the proper sense of the term, is equivalent to being delivered from this state, or position, of legal death. This kind of faith we may presume to be that in which the angel of the church of Sardis is wanting; or rather, the system, personified as an angel, is wanting in this work, or tendency, of placing the disciple in such a position in Christ—not under the law, but under grace, (Rom. vi. 14.) The principles of this system, for the most part, have a tendency, probably, to bring the disciple back to his position under the law-dependent upon his own merits, and consequently obnoxious to the sentence of condemnation, (Rob. Lex. 63;) while, according to man's judgment, we may suppose it to have the name or reputation of being the true way of life, or of salvation.
Vs. 2, 3. Be watchful, and strengthen
the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast and repent. If therefore thou shall not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
Γίνου γρηγορῶν, καὶ στήρισον τὰ λοιπὰ ἃ ἔμελλον ἀποθανεῖν. οὐ γὰρ εὕρηκά σου τὰ ἔργα πεπληρωμένα ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ μου. Μνημόνευε οὖν πὼς εἴληφας καὶ ἤκουσας, καὶ τήσει καὶ μετανόησον. ἐὰν οὖν μὴ γρηγορήσῃς, ἥξω ἐπὶ σὲ ὡς κλέπτης, καὶ οὐ μὴ γνῶς ποίαν ὥραν ἥξω ἐπὶ σέ.
85. Be watchful.'-Rouse from this state of deadness. The verb rendered watchful, signifies the opposite of lying down, or sleeping. As it is said, Eph. v. 14, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." Watchfulness, and rising from the dead, being here equivalent terms.
'Strengthen' the remaining things which are about to die, or perish.Alluding, we suppose, to certain principles, or parts of the system, in danger of perversion, and which need strengthening by farther knowledge of the truth; corresponding with the desire expressed by the apostle, Rom. i.
11, "For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift to the end ye may be established."
The things that remain,' &c.-The word things is not in the original, but the words za hotná, (the rest,) in the neuter plural, imply things, not persons; not the disciples that remain and are ready to die, but principles tending to that position in matters of faith, already described as a position of death, (71.)
‘For I have not found thy works perfect'—completed, complete, or fulfilled, as the original purports; in allusion, perhaps, to a full, or just measure the matter under consideration being, not a moral perfection of character, but a correctness of doctrine, according to the measure, or standard, of Christ—“ the perfect man, the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ," Eph. iv. 13; with which standard every system of doctrine is to be compared.
Remember, therefore,' &c.-This is an admonition to go back to first principles; equivalent to that remarked upon in the address to the angel of the Church of Ephesus, (§ 43:)—the holding fast the truth, and the repentance, or change of mind, as to that which is false, being particularly with reference to the erroneous views of the system, constituting its dead
If, therefore, thou shalt not watch, I will come upon thee as a thief,' &c.-If thou dost not change in respect to this tendency towards the position of being dead, I will come as a thief, that is, suddenly, unexpectedly.
The Lord will come to all; to the disciple fully prepared he comes as expected and desired, but to those unprepared he comes as a thief, that is, at a moment when least expected. The distinction arises from the nature of the case. The disciple in Christ is in a position at all times prepared for his Master's coming; out of Christ he is never prepared. So to those who are alive in Christ, he cannot come as a thief—they cannot be taken by surprise; while to those who are in the position opposite to this, that is, to those who are dead, (dead in the law,) to such, when he does come, he must come as a thief. This angel, or system, is thus personified as a disciple; its watching, or waking state, being equivalent to that of an enlightened faith, enabling the believer, trusting in the merits of his Saviour, to be at all times ready for his coming: as it is said, 1 Thess. v. 4, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief." It may overtake you; it will overtake you; but will not do so as a thief.
Vs. 4, 5. 6. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with
me in white; for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, &c.
Αλλ ̓ ἔχεις ὀλίγα ὀνόματα ἐν Σάρδεσιν, ἃ οὐκ ἐμόλυναν τὰ ἱμάτια αὑτῶν· καὶ περιπατήσουσι μετ ̓ ἐμοῦ ἐν λευκοῖς, ὅτι ἀξιοί εἰσιν. ̔Ο νικῶν, οὗτος περιβαλεῖται ἐν ἵματίοις λευκοῖς· καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ ἐνώπιον τοῦ πατρός μου καὶ ἐνώπιον τῶν ἀγγέλων αὐτοῦ· ̔Ο ἔχων οὖς ἀκουσάτω τί τὸ πνεῦμα, κ.τ.λ.
§ 86. 'But thou hast a few names,' &c.-Notwithstanding the general deadness of the Sardisean system, there are a few principles in it which have not been affected by the perversion calling for this strong animadversion:-the term names being put for principles possessing a certain power; as a thing done in the name of a prince, or ruler, is something done by his authority. There is but one name or power whereby we can be saved, but there may be subordinate names, or powers, or principles, entering into the composition of the plan of salvation; as there are opposite names, pretended powers, or false principles, typically spoken of, Zech. xiii. 2, as the names of the idols to be cut off out of the land, in the day when the fountain is opened for sin and uncleanness; that is, in the day when the true means of salvation shall be fully manifested.
Which have not defiled their garments,'-Garments of salvationrighteousness, or merits, or means of propitiation. The only unspotted garments of this kind are those of the merits of Christ. Principles holding forth means of salvation, partly of Christ's merits, and partly of man's, are represented as disciples wearing spotted or defiled garments, (§ 63 ;) whereas doctrinal principles, exhibiting the imputed righteousness of Christ, as the only robe or garment of salvation, are personified as disciples depending upon no merits but those of their Saviour. Principles of this character and tendency are said to walk with the speaker; that is, they are to be manifested, in accordance with him; for, as it is implied, Amos iii. 3, Two cannot walk together except they be agreed. They shall walk, too, with him in white. Their character and tendency being in conformity with the truth, they shall wear its livery; they shall be manifested as belonging to the system of salvation, by imputed righteousness; this imputed righteousness being that which is pre-eminently distinguished for its whiteness.
For they are worthy.'-This it is evident could not be said literally of any disciple; there is not one that is worthy of the least of the mercies of God. Still less can there be a human being worthy, in himself, of walking in a splendid array by the side of him who is the first and the last-the Almighty; but a true principle, or true element of doctrine, is worthy of the system of truth to which it belongs. These principles are worthy, because they are compatible with the leading, predominating truth; and they are thus compatible
because, in the garments of salvation proffered by them, there is no amalgamation of human merit with divine.
'He that overcometh shall be clothed,' &c.-Here the overcoming, and those not having defiled their garments, appear to have the same promise; one to walk with Jesus in white, the other to be clothed, or wrapped about in white;-the word translated garment in the first instance, and raiment in the last, being the same in the original. The intimation seems to be that the doctrinal principles containing, or inculcating, nothing inconsistent with the truth of salvation by Christ's righteousness alone, shall overcome; and thus overcoming, they shall be manifested to belong to this great system of truth; clothed or wrapped about with his imputed righteousness—a robe white as the light.
§ 87. And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.'--Not, we may presume, that the name of a disciple, once in the book of life, as an object of divine favour, elect, according to the fore-knowledge of God, (1 Pet. i. 2,) can be afterwards blotted out. Paul speaks of those "whose names are in the book of life," Phil. iv. 3, apparently as having evidence of their true discipleship, and ultimate salvation; but Paul's language is not like that of the Apocalypse, professedly the language of vision. He may be speaking of disciples, while the Spirit, in this revelation, employs the same figure in speaking of principles. The Apocalyptic book of life we suppose to be the divine plan of redemption, with all the elements of truth belonging to it. Certain doctrinal principles have the name, or reputation, in human estimation, of belonging to this book or plan. Like the angel addressed, they have the name of living; eventually, however, they will be manifested as not belonging to this plan, which manifestation is spoken of as an erasure of their names. So, although the angel, or system, is generally so perverted as to be in a manner dead, yet it is not so dead as to be past recovery, otherwise, the admonition would be useless. It has some true principles, "things which remain," &c.-unperverted truths, really belonging to God's plan or book of life-elements of truth destined. to be the means of resuscitating the whole system. The manifestation of the correctness of these uncontaminated principles, and the means of strengthening the others, we may suppose to be part of the design of the subsequent revelation, although not expressly so stated.
'But I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.' -Corresponding with this is the declaration of Jesus, recorded Luke xii. 8, 9, "Also I say unto you, whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God. But he that denieth me before men, shall be denied before the angels." Whatever construction we may put upon these words, the same distinction is to be observed here as just now noticed. The language in Luke is not, like that
of the Apocalypse, professedly the language of vision. In this revelation accordingly, principles personified are spoken of in the same terms as those employed in reference to disciples in the gospels: this confession on the part of the divine speaker being a figurative term for ultimate manifestation; as if we should say, When the truths of salvation are fully and perfectly developed, then will be manifest what principles belong to God's plan or economy of grace, as well as what disciples are the peculiar subjects of his favour;-this final exhibition constituting a virtual, not an oral confession of the fact.
Epistle to the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia.
V. 7. And to the angel of the church
in Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth,
and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.
Καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν] Φιλαδελφείᾳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον· τάδε λέγει ὁ ἅγιος, ὁ ἀληθινός, ὁ ἔχων τὴν κλεῖν τοῦ Δαυΐδ, ὁ ἀνοίγων καὶ οὐδεὶς κλείει, καὶ κλείει καὶ οὐδεὶς ἀνοί
§ 88. He that is holy'—ó pos—The set apart, as the Greek term strictly signifies. An appellation of office, or position, rather than of quality. The Greek word 60s, also rendered holy in our common version, seems to be expressive of quality only; as, Rev. xv. 4, where God is spoken of as the only holy being. The word ärios, on the contrary, with its derivatives, is applied to a great variety of objects—as in the appellation saints, or holy ones, given to those who are in themselves sinners, and who are only clean, or holy, or saints, as being set apart in Christ. So the verb άyάo, rendered sometimes sanctify, and sometimes hallow, is applied (Matt. xxiii. 19) to the gift, or offering, upon the altar, sanctified or made holy by its position, and not by any change in its nature. The noun ayaouós, holiness, or sanctification, in like manner must express a character of position, not of intrinsic quality the sanctification of the disciple consisting in his being set apart by adoption in Christ; when otherwise, out of Christ, he would be unholy. Jesus Christ was especially set apart to the work of redemption, in reference to which we may suppose he here styles himself ó йyros, the holy. He is the holy in quality also, as God manifest in Christ; but this is not what is under contemplation in this place. In like manner, when the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost is spoken of, zò avevμa τò ärios, we are not to suppose the existence or action of two spirits of God-one holy in quality, and the other not holy; but the Holy Spirit seems to be the appellation of that peculiar agency of Almighty power, which is set apart to the work of redemption— that exercise of the power of God, by which all things are made to redound to his glory. The holiness of this Spirit is an appellation of office. The Spirit of God in the beginning moved upon the face of the waters, Gen. i. 2,-He divideth the sea by his power, and by his Spirit he hath garnished