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seven churches, nor to the church in Ephesus; but to the churches, to the whole bride of the Lamb, the complete number of the Father's election. This is the scope
and range of the Spirit's words, even to the church universal, in all places and in all times subsisting; and is well fitted to guard against the misinterpretation of the vision, by applying it to a portion of the Christian church, whether in respect of name or in respect of place. To teach the church that all, and every one of these epistles are meant for universal instruction and application, though in each, one person only be addressed, an integrant part of each hath the whole width of the Spirit's voice and influence, And how wide this is, may be seen from the Second Epistle of Peter; in the first chapter of which, having given the saints to understand that there was a subject near his heart, which he would take order the churches should remember, not during his life time, but after his decease (ver. 15): he informs them (ver. 16), what it was, The power and coming of our Lord Jesus; and maintains its truth and cer. tainty from having seen the form of it on the holy mount (ver. 17); and from having it continually set forth in the prophetic word, which by the transfiguration was made more firm. Thus, being brought to speak of the prophetic word as a witness to the glorious and majestic appearance of the Lord Christ, he not only commendeth it, as the only light in the darkness of intervening time which had to run, but denies that any part of that prophecy was of private interpretation, so as ever to be worn out and done with, but that it is as precious and full of information to us, as it was to those to whom it was delivered, forasmuch as there is no prophecy of the Scripture which doth not testify of the power, and coming, and kingdom of Jesus Christ. Now mark the reason assigned for this universal application of the prophecy : “it came not of old time by the will of man, but holy men of God, spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Therefore, concludeth Peter, it is not of private interpretation either to men or to ages; but of universal application to all men and ages. Wherefore ? because it is the voice of the Holy Ghost. If the Holy Ghost could speak any word of prophecy of a narrow range and smaller
compass than to all ages, Peter's argument were wholly set aside. But because it is the office of the
Holy Ghost to do nothing else, but to testify of Jesus, it must follow that until Jesus come and testify of himself; or rather, until he come and need no testimony of word, but by sight be apparent, by constituted kingdom be felt all over the world, as the acts and ordinances of a king are seen and felt in those who represent him ; until his second coming, the Spirit will occupy himself with no meaner work than to testify of Him to all the churches, to every man who hath an ear to hear. If any one should think that the Spirit hath any lower, or any other object besides or beyond testifying of Christ, let him hear what the Lord himself declareth in those promises which introduced the Spirit to the church, and defined his office in the Divine economy of the world's redemption.
It is a most pregnant passage, a very anchor of the orthodox faith (John xvi. 13). Howbeit, when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth :" and wherefore may he be relied on as the anointing which abideth, and which is no lie? “ for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak :" he shall testify of me, as I testified of the Father, of me who am the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but truth; a listener to me, as the reporter of me shall he ever shew himself, whose only occupation is to testify of the Father and the Son. All the truth which I have taught you, he shall bring to your remembrance ; he shall water and fructify the seed which I have sown; and what I dimly set forth in parables, he shall make bright as the noon day, “and he shall shew you things to come : before they come to pass, he shall give you timeous admonition by means of the ministry of the word, and in the observance of my holy ordinances. “ He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you ;” adding nothing new of his own, for the fulness of wisdom and knowledge is in me, for the fulness of the Godhead is in
And if any one come in the name of the Spirit, setting aside my ordinances, or superseding any thing which I have commanded, or pretending to further revelations, (as Montanus, Mohammed, and others), they are liars and blasphemers of the Holy Ghost, and shall perish in the unpardonable sin. For “ All things that the Father hath are mine : therefore said I, He shall take of mine
and shall shew it unto you." The Father hath given all power in heaven and earth to me, all wisdom, all knowledge, and the Holy Ghost hath condescended like the Father to exalt me, and to glorify me, and to testify only
Therefore, fear not these false prophets, which will come arrayed unto you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves; even as the same John who recorded this glorious truth, doth declare, 1 John ii. 20, ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye
know all things. I have not written unto you, because
know not the truth ; but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” And again (ver. 26, 27); “ These things have I written unto you, concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him, abideth in you : and ye need not that any man teach you: but, as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie: and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him." These further illustrations of the office of the Holy Ghost will convince every sound-minded, and right hearted believer, of these two fundamental truths, that the Holy Ghost never hath had, and never can have any other object in inspiring men, or revealing unto men, than to testify of Jesus; and that all the Scriptures are for this one and only end, and to this one and only use to be applied : and likewise that the vision of the Spirit is to all generations of men, until the time that Christ shall come and possess the whole world with his presence, and power, and authority: after which the Holy Ghost shall have accomplished his office of ministering to the absent Word; and shall begin to minister to the present King, as the seven Spirits which are before his throne. Concerning which more hereafter in the proper place.
From these premises, I do sce a very pregnant significancy, and great importance to these words, “ He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” which stand between this epistle of the Lord to his angel, and the great promise to every one who overcometh. Observe that in the first three instances they stand between ; in the four last they stand after all, as it were soliciting the heed of all men, and all churches to what hath been spoken in the epistle, and sealing it up with the seal of the Spirit. This diversity of location hath exercised my mind a good deal; for I have gotten such a reverence for the book, as to believe that there is nothing in it accidental, but that it is a perfect device of consummate wisdom. But before giving my judgment upon this matter, and the grounds of it, I must close these general remarks upon the Spirit as the speaker, and the whole church of God as spoken to, with a solemn appeal to every believer, of how much importance these seven epistles must be, which are thus awfully attested, and how necessary to the well-being of the church must they be; how pregnant of matter, how prolific of good! Í cannot enough wonder, nor can I well understand how Christian men and ministers can put these invocations and attestations away from them; I cannot, I dare not. I am sure it is for want of thought, and not for want of reverence of the Holy Ghost : for truly I neither could nor durst call the man brother, be he who he may, my bosom friend, my teacher, my own father, the wife of my bosom, who hearing these solemn citations of the Spirit seven times over, would yet give no heed, and encourage others in the like heedlessness. I say again, I believe it is want of thought, and not a determined purpose of resisting the Holy Ghost. Be entreated then, oh men; be entreated oh ministers ; be entreated, oh churches; be entreated, oh every one that heareth, to give good heed to these seven epistles, which in such most solemn wise the Spirit sealeth. And now with this exhortation to the church which I love, and for which I believe my God would give me strength any day to die, I proceed upon my way.
Wherefore this solemnest of the seals of God, the Holy Spirit's witness, should three times be placed between the Epistle and the promise, and four times after all, I have said is a question which hath exercised my mind much, though to many it may seem of little consequence: and this is what I have come to as the best account of the matter. By being three times interposed in the middle, it hath the effect of separating the promise, and giving it a universal application to all members of the church, and to all people that dwell on the earth, and to every creature, who have the faculty of understanding rational speech; whereas, if it had stood last in all the epistles, we should not have been so clear or decided on this point, but have been puzzled
between the inscription unto one person, called the angel of the church, and the conclusion addressed unto all intelligent creatures. And the likelihood is, that some would have interpreted it as all spoken to the ministers, merely in the audience of the churches, and others would have interpreted it as all spoken to the churches, but merely in the person of their ministers; and so the distinctness of the ministers from the churches would have been lost; which it is the great object of the vision to preserve, and present in its true aspect, and in all its bearings. Now this confusion is prevented by the first three being in the form and order in which they stand. And what is gained by setting this order aside in the four last? This, I think, is gained, that as well what is spoken to the ministry, as what is spoken to all the people, re. ceives the awful seal and sanction of the Holy Ghost; is sent abroad with heaven's sign manual, and proclaimed with heaven's great trumpet through the peopled world.Secondly, As hath been already hinted, the visions do thereby receive that general, that universal application to all the churches in Christendom, in all time, until the Lord's coming with all his saints, which we have been pleading for all along, and have demonstrated from so many quarters. Had there not been these four instances in which the Spirit doth bespeak and summon the attention of mankind to what had been spoken in the previous Epistle, it might have been maintained that there was a portion only of universal application, and a portion of particular application to the angels of the churches, or even only to the angels of the particular church. Of such a theory, and of all theories of the like kind, such as that they symbolize seven successive ages in the church, like the series of the seven seals and trumpets, the very possibility is to my mind set aside by the four instances in which all that hath been said is sealed and signed, and directed to all mankind. Thirdly, While the special application to the ministry of the first, and chief part of each epistle, is not set aside, nor can be frustrated as being specially addressed to us, the ministers, the attention of all the churches, and of all mankind, is directed upon us as occupying this pre-eminent state, and fulfilling these intermediate relations between the Universal Bishop and his flock ; between