Imágenes de páginas

in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches : and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

[ocr errors]

Part 1.-The Vision. We are now come, in the progress of our exposition, to the first of those symbolical visions which were vouchsafed to the Apostle John during his exile on the island of Patmos; whither he had been sent, as is believed, in the time of the Emperor Domitian," for the word of God, and for the witness of Jesus Christ.” In the second verse he doth designate himself as the person who bare record to (witnessed) the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ; and here he asserts, that for this witness he was on the island of Patmos. It seems to me, that, in an age when so many testified and suffered for their testimony, the seer would not have taken this characteristic to himself unless there had been something conspicuous in the place which he occupied amongst the many who witnessed in the same behalf

. Now this was the case with the Apostle John, and with no other disciple in those times : for, besides that he wrote the Gospel of the WORD OF God, and the Epistle of the true witness of Jesus Christ—which, doubtless, contained the sum and substance of his preacbing in the churches—he was at that time the only apostle, and perhaps the only survivor of those whom the Lord had familiarly conversed with. As the great head, therefore, of the witnesses, he would be regarded as the great maintainer of the truth against the numerous errors which were abroad. For his zeal and forwardness in this work he incurred the notice and censure of those in power, and was banished to the island of Patmos, where he had this vision; of which

“ It is not very long ago that it was seen, being but a little before our time, at the latter end of Domitian's' reign.” To this, his persecution and suffering for the cause of Christ, be alludes in these words : “ Who also am your brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.” He was their brother and companion in tribulation, inasmuch as he was enduring, for the sake of the Lord Jesus, exile

Irenæus says,

in a lonely island—for Patmos was one of those islands where the Roman emperors used to confine offenders. He was their brother and companion in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, inasmuch as he endured these afflictions for the hope of that kingdom to come, which he patiently waited for. This expression of their co-fraternity, this badge of their persecuted order, “ the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” speaks to me volumes, as to that which was considered in those times to be the essence of the Gospel. Men speak in these times very much concerning essentials and non-essentials; what then were the essentials of the Apostle's day? They were, to suffer for the testimony of the kingdom of Jesus Christ, and patiently to wait for it. These were the characteristics of a brother and companion in Christ; but in this age of the church it is the common badge to be silent concerning the kingdom, and not to be in waiting for the coming of Jesus Christ. These have changed place; from being the great essentials, to be the non-essentials, of the preaching of a minister and the faith of a believer. But this can never be, that the church of Christ should change their faith and hope. It is only the world, which hath taken the name of the church : but those of the true church will still be found full of the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ; and for the fulness of that faith they will be doomed, as heretofore, to suffer persecution. Blessed is every one who can say, I am a bro. thier and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ.

Having thus given the place and condition in which he received the vision, he next giveth us the time : “ I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.” This expression, the Lord's day, shews us, that by the authority of the Apostles-derived, it is likely, from the higher authority of Christ himself, and perhaps communicated during those forty days after his passion in which he spake to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God one day had been set apart, under the name of the Lord's day: with the peculiar use of which the Christian churches must have been well acquainted, else would it not thus familiarly have been referred to as a note of time. And in confirmation of this, it appears from Acts xx. 7, that it

[ocr errors]

was the custom of the Christians to “ come together upon the first day of the week,” for certain holy observances. Moreover, Pliny, in his letter to the Emperor Trajan, written not many years after the death of the Apostle John, doth declare that it was their custom to meet together on a set day. And Justin Martyr, who wrote within forty years of the same event, declareth, that it was the custom in his time for the churches to assemble on the first day of the week, for the same holy occupations which we still observe. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the appointment of the first day of the week, as the day of our Lord's resurrection, to be observed for holy and pious purposes, hath the sanction and authority of the church from the times of the Apostles: and as the Scripture hath no higher authority than the ivspiration of the same Apostles, and the continual reception of the same church, we may fairly place the Christian institution of the Lord's day upon the same high authority.--If, now, any one inquire, why the observation of the Jewish Sabbath ceased? We answer, it ceased with the other ordinances of the law, when the substance of these shadows was come in Christ. And if it be asked, what the substance of the Sabbath is? I answer, the sabbatism of the Millennial rest, which remaineth for the people of God. This we hold by faith ; into this we are baptized. By our baptism the interval is overleaped; we are supposed to be already risen, and living a super-resurrection or millennial life. A Christian, therefore, inasmuch as he liveth not by sight, but by faith ; inasmuch as his fleshly body is put to death, and his spiritual body raised with Christ; is regarded by God as keeping a sabbath. The distinction in time between holy and unholy, as in meats and every thing else, has been done away, and his work and his rest are equally holy, being done in faith : so that for him to keep the Jewish Sabbath were indeed to dishonour the liberty of Christ, and to introduce a distinction of time, which sanctifieth a part at the expense of desecrating the other part. The same evil effect will be produced if we connect the Jewish idea of consecration with the Lord's day: it will desecrate the other six, as if they were not days of the life of faith as well as the first. It resteth for its authority upon


Being in the Spirit. 197 Apostolical sanction, and the traditionary approbation of the church ; and for its uses, it hath the same high sanction. And believing, as I do, in the holy catholic church, I receive its traditions as authoritative, when they do not contradict any declaration of holy Scripture ; which we know is inspired by the Holy Ghost; and, therefore, whatever is contrary thereto cannot claim for itself the same weight, for the Holy Ghost is nothing contrary to itself.

On the Lord's day, then, when it is to be believed that the Apostle's mind was elevated with the remembrance of the glorious resurrection of the Lord, which sealed the certainty of our resurrection to an inheritance of rest; on this day, which carries the hope of a Christian continually forward to the millennial rest, when every creature of God will enjoy the long expected Sab. batb; the holy seer-dwelling apart, haply, in some solitude of Patmos, or in some dungeon immured was visited with this glorious succession of visions, some on earth, and some in heaven; whose overpowering splendour that he might endure, whose great variety that he might faithfully remember and record, whose various places of representation that he might be transported to, he is first transformed into that condition or mode of human existence which is called being “ in the Spirit.” What this is, I take it, we must feel, in order either to understand or to describe it. It was that state into which Ezekiel was brought (Ezek. ii. 2 ; iii. 24), in order to fit him for his visions and revelations of the Lord. And here, again, I remark the similarity between Ezekiel and John ; for I do not remember any other of the Prophets of whom this is affirmed. It is the state, also, in which Paul seenis to have been when he had visions and revelations of the Lord, and “was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful (or possible) for a man to utter.” And this state he describes to have been such a state of ecstasy, or rapture, as to have deprived him of the incumbrance, and almost of the consciousness, of a body; for twice over doth he say," whether in the body I cannot tell, or whether out of the body I cannot tell, God knoweth.” Whatever it was, it was no doubt necessary for the sustaining of that conmunion to which they were called; not for impression's sake, but for utility's sake, to enable them to know and to record the things wbich Christ wished through them to communicate to the church. If I might venture an idea of my own upon this subject, it would be, that in all these instances, and in that of Philip, who was translated from place to place, and in every other instance in Holy Scriptare recorded, we have no more than properties pourtrayed of that spiritual body which we shall receive in the resurrection; and which shall be capable of bearing us about from place to place, and of sustaining all communion of sight and intelligence which it pleaseth the eternal Godhead through Christ to reveal to mortals. So that, as the things revealed concern the future condi. tion of the raised saints, so the circumstances of receiving them doth foreshew the powers of that resurrection-body, of that living being, which we shall then enjoy. In one word, what the transfiguration was to Christ's future being and glory, a foretaste and an instance of it, such were those spiritual states and conditions to the saints who enjoyed them.

Being thus prepared for receiving and sustaining the Divine communications, John heard behind him “ a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, I ain Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty." And with sublimeannouncement came, in the same trumpet voice, this solemn command, “ What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia, unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.” This announcement and command were made as with the voice of a trumpet; but the voice with which he afterwards spoke is said to

as the sound of many waters." In like manner, when the seer was transported to heaven, he was summoned thither by a voice - which was, as it were, of a trumpet talking with” him. So, also, when the Lord broke silence from the top of Sinai it was with the “ voice of the trumpet, exceeding loud, so that all the people trembled;" and when at length the silence of the tomb shall be broken at the advent of Christ, it shall be with “the voice of the


« AnteriorContinuar »