"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."

Rev. 2, 3.

1874 62 etc. We are told in Romans ii. 16 of a coming "day in which God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ," and that according to the gospel which teaches the complete condemnation and removal in judgment of the first Adam, or man in responsibility before God, and the substitution of the second Man, "the Lord from heaven."

From the beginning and down the course of the history of this world, God has passed man in his responsibility to bear fruit for Him through various trials or testing processes; but, although the result has always been manifest and alas! but too manifest failure, yet it was not until the rejection and death of the Lord Jesus that the ground was laid for the arraignment of the roots or sources of action and thought in man, or for our revealed partaking of the life and nature of the new man in whom alone are God's claims met and honoured.

We should expect as a necessary result of this that in any subsequent dealing of God on the basis of responsibility, the springs and motives of those in any way under test would be made prominent; and we find that it is so in fact. For while the cross undoubtedly proved that man standing before God solely on the ground of his responsibility is lost, yet it did not abolish responsibility, nor has it deterred rash and foolish man from assuming an ability, which he possesses not, to satisfy the requirements of the new position into which believers are brought through it; so that we find since the cross both responsibility established upon new grounds and the failure of men who are ostensibly subject to its claims.

Men have assumed the name and privileges of the Christian and of the church of God without possessing the reality of either; and hence the world has seen, instead of the grace of Christ and the fruits of the Holy Spirit, the sad evidences, in failure amongst those bearing His name, that man has once more undertaken to yield that which he is incapable of yielding. Not that real Christians have always been blameless: no one who truly knows the Lord would say so. But they have known, when the sense of failure and folly and sin has humbled them before Him, what it is to have the spring and source of their ways brought to light, and through grace they have not shrunk from bowing afresh to the judgment passed upon it; while with the others who have profession but no real life in their souls, every solemn appeal or dealing of God has but served to display in detail the absence of every motive which should characterize God's people.

The nominal or professing church has thus been made in a wonderful way the scene of the testing of man's heart, for the church, viewed as the visible assembly of God on the earth, has been responsible as the witness of God to the earth since Pentecost in Acts ii., and the fact that God has been dealing with her on the basis laid by the death of Christ has given terrible fulness and completeness to her trial.

It is in this light that I desire the searching words of these two chapters to reach and exercise our hearts. They are wondrous words — wonderful in their power of searching out the "secrets of men," but this is good for us, beloved, and if they have their proper effect in us they will set the blessed One more distinctly before us as motive and pattern, and everything needful to enable us to stand joyfully and proudly before God as "overcomers."

The Lord has often of late years directed our hearts to these seven Epistles, and has made us happily familiar with them and with the thought of the comprehensive view of the church's history which they embrace, while being primarily words addressed to seven assemblies which existed at the day in which John by the Spirit wrote.

Each one deals with a distinct and different condition, whether we look at them in the larger or lesser character, the Lord, always clothed in divine authority, being seen in suited light for each while the reward to the "overcomer" has reference both to the condition in which he is found and to the character in which the Lord declares Himself.

Following out the thought which presents them as giving a historical picture (though leaving aside for the moment the mere literal interpretation of this in earthly historical events) we find that the order in which the Epistles are arranged, whether we look at the various conditions, or rewards, or characters of the Son of man, points plainly to the various stages in the trial of human responsibility in the world. While however there is this analogy on the surface, on looking deeper we see that the actual details of the trials unfolded in these Epistles stand in contrast to similar details in the history of man, in consequence of the change in the relation of God to man, of which I have spoken, and we are thus shown that the secret springs of all these things are brought to light in God's dealings with the church and the true issues of trial are here declared as there is also laid bare the true, because divine, object of the testing. So that we learn that the church has been passed, in her case in this spiritual way, through the whole of the tests applied to man.*

[*In this we may see additional force in the use of the number seven ("seven churches") as connected with the trial of the church in responsibility.]

Failure, alas, has been invariably the general result and this we know is soon to be closed by final judgment on all that is nominally christian — one reason why it is such final judgment as 2 Thessalonians i., ii., declare being given to us in the character of the trial under which failure has been manifested.

We should notice also that inasmuch as it is responsibility which is in question, the blessings to the overcomers, high though they are, do not reach to the height of those which we have in heavenly places and in union with Christ as members of His body, of which Ephesians i., iii. speak; and this is because these are out of the range of responsibility being "by grace" absolutely. The Lord grant that the sense of possessing these may abide in our hearts.

(1.) Ephesus.

The place from which the Lord speaks the message to Ephesus (ver. 1), as well as His blessed promise to the overcomer (in ver. 7), turns our thoughts at once back to Genesis, and to that which was the first step of man's course in the world.

Of old, the garden of Eden was the scene of human trial, and the Lord God was not far from those in whom His heart was interested and whom He had surrounded with the blessings of His goodness. Their obedience was the only thing under test — for there was no evil practice as yet to overcome or resist — and while His goodness was trusted and His will acknowledged as supreme, they had free access to the tree of life, for" out of the ground" had the Lord God "made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, and the tree of life also in the midst of the garden" (Gen. ii. 8, 9); and also as we read in Genesis iii. 8, "they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the midst of the garden in the cool of the day."

Here the same Lord, whom John saw in all His divinely-given glory (John i. 12–18) again walks in the midst of the scene in which the trial of His responsible witness is taking place (see ver. 1). He is there to encourage and reassure, if there also to measure divinely the work being done for Him: but whether for blessing or testing He lets us know that we have to do with Him "who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks."

As when man was tried in Eden, there is here no present evil practice noted as a thing to be resisted or overcome, and this appears more remarkable in contrast with almost all the other churches wherein such is manifestly denounced.

The state of the church as at first established, as shown us in the early chapters of Acts, is indeed one of wonderful power and beauty, and also one of magnificent privilege.

I go to Acts ii., iii., iv., instead of to Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians, for the antecedent to the Epistle sent by John to the church at Ephesus; because Paul's Epistle unfolds the infinite extent of grace and the height of heavenly blessings which are eternally the portion of every saint and of the church as His body, quite apart from and beyond the reach of any question of responsibility; while Acts shows rather the results of grace in the manifest position of the church, her continuing in which was a matter which her practice would decide, and in fact did.

Nothing can surpass however the completeness of God's work in establishing her in all the integrity of the new order which He thus instituted, and the scene, as we read these chapters in Acts, is filled up with the evidences of divine power which was at the disposal of those brought into this new sphere, and with the manifestations of that "great grace" which "was upon all," enabling them to enter into all the reality of their position.

Although all this took place in this world, into which sin has entered, and though those then forming the church were in themselves sinful men, yet so thoroughly did God do His work that evil was forcibly quelled and practically banished from the scene by the power and energy and fervour of the new life, whose activities are thus the only exercises we see or with which they were then acquainted.

Would to God, we may well say, it had remained so! but we can see how it was so, and bow the church was thus established in all the freedom and purity and energy of divine life; in all the integrity of that life which has nothing to do with evil as founded upon the banishing of sin and breaking the power of Satan in the cross of the blessed Lord. What was left to her was thus just to walk abroad in the activity of this life, and to know nothing but its exercises, the secret of this being, as Revelation ii. 4 shows us, that the heart must be kept subject to God.

The Lord shows us plainly therefore in the message to Ephesus that it was simply love which was under test. "I have against thee," He says to the assembly (and it is the only thing He has against her), "that thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen and repent and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee and will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent."

We can understand this stress laid upon love only in view of Him by whose light all secrets are to be, and to faith are even now, revealed for He has shown us that in His own blessed person and ways; as the spring is deeper than the stream; so love is the source and the only source of all true obedience. (See for instance John xiv. 30, 31.) Indeed we may rightly go much farther and say, source of all excellence, for "love is of God, and every one that love this born of God and knoweth God." Thus it is that there is such a striking contrast presented in the reward promised to him who "overcometh" under such a test as compared with that tree of life to which Adam had access. "To him that overcometh," says the Lord in verse 7, "will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the midst of the paradise of God," and well we know, whose hearts have learned of Him, that what He stamps as thus absolutely "of God" can never be removed. The paradise of earth may be effaced, for even the first heaven and the first earth are to pass away; but that "new" scene which will be at once the tabernacle and the throne and the creation of God and the Lamb will remain for ever. Blessed be His grace which has given us to have our portion in Him there!

(2.) Smyrna.

"Sin entered into the world and death by sin," and "death reigned from Adam to Moses," said the Holy Spirit through Paul, "even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come;" and herein we have the key to the condition and the trial set forth in the epistle to Smyrna. That which is in itself the wages of sin the Lord in grace uses for the good of souls, seeking to awaken hearts and consciences by its means when He takes it up for chastening in order to prevent, if possible, farther falling away. Before His own blessed and wondrous death, when the truth as to sin and death, and God and man, was displayed, and in presence of Him the true light and the captain of salvation death stood forth as the "power of darkness" and the terror of him who had the power of death, that is the devil — before this, the full significance of death and tribulation was not known. Now however in Smyrna that which constitutes the trial is plainly seen to be the power of Satan up to and ending in death (see ver. 10), and this because the declension in the Ephesus trial has given him a hold on those under test.* So that we have here a very manifest step in the unfolding of the sources of the church's failure: for the slipping away from love, and so from His love as motive first of all, leaves the heart exposed to other objects which are not Christ. Satan has power over these other objects and thus over our hearts when desiring them, and he is the very agency which leads in to the world and on to sin; and we well know that "when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." How gracious of the Lord to turn these very things by His word into servants for the good of His own,** to send a word of promise to the overcomer directly to encourage him in such a state of things all around him, and above all to present Himself in the glories which He won in the field of death. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life," He says (ver. 10); and again, "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death" (ver. 11).

[*A wonderful commentary on this, as well as a striking illustration of it is given us in the history of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5]

[**I insert here the following passage from the "Synopsis of the Books of the Bible," by J. N. D., Vol. i. pp. 205, 206, because, although applying primarily to another subject (Num. 5), I have found it very helpful in clearing according to scripture the thought of this use of death.

"If the faithfulness of Israel, the church, or an individual, to God or to Christ be questioned, there must be the trial of it. It seems to me that the dust of the tabernacle was the power of death in God's presence, fatal to the natural man but precious, as the death of sin, for him who has life. The water is the power of the Holy Ghost acting by the word on the conscience.

"The power of the Spirit judging thus (according to the sentence of death against the flesh) the state of unfaithfulness which was thought to be hidden from the true husband of the people, makes the sin manifest and brings down the chastening and the curse upon the unfaithful one, and that evidently by the just judgment of God. Drinking death according to the power of the Spirit is life to the soul. 'By these things,' says Hezekiah, 'men live, and in all these things is the life of the Spirit,' even when they are the effect of chastening, which is not always necessarily the case. But if any of the accursed things be hidden, if there be unfaithfulness towards Jesus, undetected, it may be by man, and God puts it to the test; if we have allowed ourselves to be enticed by him who has the power of death, and the holy power of God is occupied with death, and comes to deal with this power of the enemy; the concealed evil is laid bare, the flesh is reached, its rottenness and its powerlessness are made manifest, however fair its appearances may be. But if we he free from unfaithfulness, the result of the trial is only negative; it shows that the spirit of holiness finds nothing to judge, when He applies death according to the holiness of God.]

All this is in contrast to the trial of man from Adam to Moses when he was really exposed to Satan's power and working, but visibly with the testimony of the presence of death as the only standing public witness on God's part to deter him from sin and turn him to God, and this with little real difference whether after or before the flood, which was itself the most solemn form of this testimony. But just as the lake "which burneth with fire and brimstone" is an infinitely more awful flood than those waters of judgment which once overwhelmed the world, so is the "second death," which that lake typifies (Rev. xxi. 8), infinitely beyond that physical death which is but its faint shadow, although its portal also; and so we see in the solemnity of the issues which are raised what is now the depth and completeness of the trial.

So too, learning what it really is to be tried with Satan's power, can we estimate in some little measure what is His value who appears for our hearts as "the first and the last, which was dead and is alive." He has gone through death; He has gone through the terrible waters of judgment; He has fathomed too the awful depths of exclusion from God's blessed presence, aye and fathomed them as the lost in hell will never be able, but He, the same One, thank God, is alive, the first in resurrection. It is our delight through grace to own Him as first of all in His own personal glory and Jehovah in infinite endurance too, but He loves to make us think of those glories which attach to Him as the consequence of undertaking our cause in death. And thus in view of all that we find death — the death which had a claim on us — to be, we know that He is "the last Adam," in blessed relation to us, the life-giving Spirit (see 1 Cor. xv.); as well as the "first-born from the dead," the "first-born among many brethren!"

(3) Pergamos.

[Some of the copy having been accidentally destroyed here may account for the absence of a few words on the message to the angel of the assembly at Pergamos. Ed. B.T.]

In the course of this world's history we find in scripture that, when it had become wholly corrupt through self-will and idolatry, God in calling out Abram revealed the principle that those who henceforth were to be brought into relationship with Him as His people must necessarily be separated from the world. He, as it were, refused to be longer regarded as the God of this world, sin having made it what it then was, and alas! is still; and so His people must bear a true testimony to His name in their position in it.

This principle was fully established in a visible manner in His dealings with Abraham's children according to His gracious promise, the judgment of death marking them off from the rest of the world, and separating them externally to God according to His word. "He brought them forth," as we read in Deuteronomy viii., "out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage, and led them through that great and terrible wilderness wherein were fiery serpents and scorpions and drought, where there was no water. He brought them forth water out of the rock of flint; he fed them with manna which their fathers knew not that he might humble them and that he might prove them to do them good at their latter end." And when all this gracious dealing was past in which He had sought to teach them what boundless resources they had in Him, He led them into the land of promise casting out the idolatrous nations before them in the same grace. For although in the wilderness they had chosen to put themselves under the claims of law, yet this did not keep the Lord from in grace establishing them in the blessings, although it led Him thereafter to deal with them as to their continuance in these very blessings on the altered ground of their responsibility. It was as He said to them in Deuteronomy viii. 18–20, "Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers as it is this day. And it shall be, that if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God and walk after other gods and serve them and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish. As the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face so shall ye perish because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the Lord your God." No power which was arrayed against them could hinder their taking possession as long as they maintained their separation, but what was indeed their danger was contained in the wiles and seductions of those from whom God's judgment had cut them off.

The Lord refers to all this in verses 13 and 14 (Rev. ii.), leading our thoughts back (in ver. 14) to the time when, through the efforts of the world to deceive and stumble, every obstacle possible was thrown in the way to hinder His people's entrance into their proper blessings and privileges; and He does this to point out to us by these material symbols that again the world is the deadliest foe, being, as it is by His cross declared to be, the "throne" of him who is our Lord's most envenomed enemy, by whom its allurements are now used to keep our hearts from heavenly things. Far better in such a scene to suffer, as His faithful martyr, the full extent of Satan's power over the creation which was made subject to it through sin than in the least degree to compromise the name or the suffering of the blessed One who refused all its glory. When our hearts are truly alive to His honour in this evil world, we know well that nothing so dishonours Him as our yielding in any measure to the voice of worldliness; and therefore we can understand His terribly solemn word in verse 16, when such unfaithfulness has obtained a place. "Repent or else I will come unto thee quickly and will fight against them (those teaching or recommending any worldliness) with the sword of my mouth." He has revealed Himself (in ver. 12) as the true leader of His people, the captain of the host of the Lord (as in Joshua 5:13-15) to lead us into the enjoyment of heavenly blessings in the true Canaan, the fruit of His own death as the true paschal Lamb. How terrible then to find Him turning His "drawn sword" with the two edges (see Heb. iv. 12, 13) against any among those who profess His name!

But to him who "overcomes" in this scene, who preserves, amid all that is fleshly and worldly, the true spirit of the wilderness in its separateness and dependence upon God, the sweetest rewards are promised. He will have "the bidden manna" for his sustenance; and blessed as it is to know Him who is (according to John vi.) "the true bread from heaven," which Moses gave not, yet it is not even the common though blessed portion of Christians in Him as thus the great antitype of Israel's manna which is conveyed by the word, but rather is it participation in that full measure of the preciousness of Christ humbled here which has been reserved in secret for the Father's contemplation and delight, laid up in the golden pot within the ark of the covenant in the holiest of all! (Heb. ix. 4; Ex. xvi. 32-36.) He will receive also "a white stone and in the stone a new name written which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it" (ver. 17); and this too is in contrast with Exodus and is another link in the chain of analogy. For it is not a national testimony like that which was laid up in the ark of the testimony (Ex. xl. 20), but a personal one from God to the soul of him who overcomes; and, better still, it is the witness, not of responsibility and of sin, as Israel's was, but of blessed purity and of the closest intimacy of divine affection. Shall not these things, beloved brethren, win our hearts to faithful separateness while we are left here for conflict?

(4.) Thyatira. In wonderful grace God has from time to time taken up the very things which have been introduced into the world's order as the fruit of man's sin and departure from Him, and has turned them into His means for conveying blessing to man, thus necessarily making them speak of Christ in some of His blessed features or glories, because it is in Him — in what He is and will yet be manifestly — that all blessing for man is continued.

It was thus with royalty, as with other things, for 1 Samuel viii. 5 shows us (to go no further back) that this order was established among the idolatrous nations before it appeared among the Lord's people: and it was no doubt the degeneracy of moral strength in men individually which made them seek a common centre of union who would be a visible symbol of power, while the increase of evil too forced them of necessity to acknowledge some supreme authority. Alas for man! "God is not in all his thoughts," but self is; and so we see when such necessity arose among men, as later it did in Israel, that in this, as, ever, he has shown his incapacity to rise above man in these thoughts; even giving up, as Israel did, the communicated thought of God as supreme over man in order to gratify his own desires by placing man there.

But God has His own purpose to bless man in and by His beloved Son, and He is great enough in His grace to communicate His blessings or the knowledge of them by means of those very things which mark the folly and weakness of men. And so here, for when made to speak of Christ there is no sweeter symbol of His power and glory in millennial days than royalty conveys.

Just because "the king" is introduced in the history of God's dealings with men as the fruit of the weakness into which men have sunk, so will they depend entirely upon Him, and so will every hope henceforth centre in His stability and power. And in this light we see the ruinous result which must follow the destruction of His position or glory; all depending on Him, if He is undermined everything must come down with a crash.

For a brief period in its chequered course has the earth seen, in David and Solomon, those who were the only ones ever counted worthy to foreshadow "the Lord's anointed" (Ps. ii., Ps. lxxii.); in His royalty and in spite of many blemishes, inseparable from the men, it was a bright season amid surrounding darkness. Too soon did it give place to the fruit of man's heart and will, and, before many reigns were over, it was entirely substituted by the foulest corruption and wickedness, all the more appalling because emanating from that throne which had been established for the help and guidance of men.

The life of Jezebel stands out from the black page of the divine history of man as the embodiment of the corruption of royalty, and even if the Lord has to refer to the reign as Ahab's when singling it out by His prophet as an example well describing the evil for which sure destruction would fall upon all Israel (Micah vi. 16), yet He lets us know in 1 Kings xxi. 25, that He is not blind to the source of Ahab's wickedness. "There was none," He says, "like unto Ahab which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up." Those who were faithful to the God of Israel were nothing to her as we know, and she reckoned even the life of Jehovah's prophet of no account if it offered any barrier to the idolatry and lust which she unscrupulously indulged.

To these scenes we are recalled in the epistle to Thyatira (Rev. ii. 18-29), to learn (I doubt not) that the root of these things has come up in the church's history, and that even the position, and power, and glory of Him, on the due acknowledgment of whom as supreme everything for her and for the world depends, have been not only ignored but in effect utterly overturned by her grasping the place of power in the world, and assuming to teach and to rule, but, as He shows, in reality only to indulge the lust and the idolatry which are to be found now as ever springing from the human heart and will. The Lord (I may say) is never called or revealed as King of the church; but He is King as to His claim over the whole world, and therefore the church by usurping (as she undoubtedly has done) the place of power in the world has not only denied that claim but denied every right and glory of the Lord; acting in the spirit of Jezebel, reversing the Lord's order as to the woman (Gen. iii. 16; 1 Tim. ii. 11-13; Eph. 5:22-21: compare Isa. iii. 12), and seeking to identify the rule of Christ (in her boast) with her own wicked ways in a world which is still unpurged from its wickedness. His position and glory have therefore been destroyed by her to the full extent to which they were committed to her responsibility to guard, and who can wonder in view of such ruinous unfaithfulness that the Lord should pronounce, as He does in verse 21-23, His judgment upon all as the moral close of her history in responsibility? "I gave her space to repent of her fornication," He says, "and she will not repent. Behold I will cast her into a bed and those that commit adultery with her into great tribulation except they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with death: and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and the hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works." (Compare Rev. xxi. 13.)

But even in such a condition of things some few faithful to Him are to be found — those who value His glory and a true testimony thereof to the world before any position or power which the world contains. Not deceived by the pomp and glitter of a position of power and honour in the world as it is, nor deterred by the thunders of wrath temporal and spiritual fiercely launched forth with all the determination of assumed authority, they think of what is due to Him who has title to all power in heaven and on earth but is still the rejected One from the earth as to what is His true character. They judge all that through which they pass by this standard, walking in separation of heart and mind from all and caring only to be found in company with Him whom they know. They are "overcomers" — not able to set anything to rights, able only to acknowledge Him truly; and though this exposes them to the full weight of the rage of corrupt power, they are encouraged. For, as of old, when man's kingly power prepared a "burning fiery furnace" for those who remained true to their God, despite forced idolatry, and who refused the claim of authority to power that was corrupt and cast them into the trial, the Lord was by them in His glory to cheer their hearts (Dan. iii. 25); so here the same "Son of God" (see ver. 18) appears and speaks for the encouragement of His people, and in Him they whose eyes are opened see true divine power of discernment and judgment as well as righteousness, which applies the test with an unerring hand, to which the fierce and cruel haughtiness of man's "burning fiery furnace" is but a sorry contrast; and so they can wait for His reward.

"Unto you I say, the rest (or remnant) in Thyatira," are His words, "I will put upon you none other burden; but that which ye have hold fast till I come. And he that overcometh and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star."

The reward is, as ever, characteristic of the trial, for on every side the "overcomer" can see "works" which not only are unlike these of the meek and lowly One or those of the exalted and righteous One, but which also displace those, so that be cannot find a trace of them in the scene; and by that false and corrupt church he sees the name of God's Son fastened to more than all the foulness and violence which apostate kingcraft ever produced on the earth, though it is a terrible stream to stem. None but a soul filled with a true sense of His glory, and patient to abide the day which will put all these things into their due place, can hold fast what is true in spite of opposition. But he that does so and acts in such a scene consistently with the blessed ways of the Son of God will by-and-by share in the victorious power and rule of the true David, when He, whose hands are even now stretched forth in intercession and blessing, shall stretch forth His hands to grasp the "sceptre of righteousness" (Heb. i.), which is no less a symbol of His glory than the reward of His perfection in grace and holiness as man, and shall vindicate God's glory on all His enemies.

Most blessedly does God bear witness in Hebrews i. to the divine glory of His Son, and in the course of that witness the throne and the sceptre are seen to be the accompaniments of that glory. "Unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom, thou hast loved righteousness and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." In Psalm xlv., from which these words are quoted, He is seen wielding the sceptre as a consequence of His faithfulness in grace and holiness as man; as one has said, "It is Messiah in judgment and taking the throne. He had already proved that He loved righteousness and bated iniquity — was fit to govern;" and as we think of Him thus in contrast to all and especially to that most unfaithful of all others--the Jezebel-sheltering world-church, we can devoutly echo the words and the desires put by God's Spirit into the heart of the Psalmist, himself a type of the gracious One of whom he speaks: "Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty. And in thy majesty ride prosperously because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things. Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies, whereby the people fall under thee."

It is thus that the scriptures speak of His glory as the reigning One, but as if to set His glory on earth before the heart of the "overcomer" the words of the reward to him in Revelation ii. 26, 27 are taken from the second Psalm which speaks of the divine and immoveable purpose by which He is made King, notwithstanding rejection by or opposition from men, and of the decree which proclaims the earth-rejected man to be Jehovah's Son and which assures Him of the worldwide dominion which the Father will give Him. It is in this way that the overcomer knows Him as One who has trodden in spirit the same path as he treads; for it is to the One who suffered under the proud and wicked hand of "the kings of the earth and the rulers" that Jehovah is heard saying," Ask of me and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." . . . "Blessed are all they who put their trust in him."

But He has more than His glory to present to the "overcomer," wide though it be in its victorious sweep and fitted to establish his confidence in patient expectation. The Lord delights to bestow a present portion for the affections of His faithful servants; and therefore He, in addition to speaking of glory on earth presents the beauty of His person. "I will give him the morning star." That which shines so brightly and cheerily in the dead and chill darkness before the dawn, refreshing the eye and heart of the lonely watcher whose eye and heart it fixes and occupies until, without setting, it melts into the full blaze of light from the rising sun — this it is which speaks of the Lord Jesus as the heart's portion for His lonely ones in Thyatira's darkness. And it is fitting; for He is calculated thus to draw out the heart's desire and to centre it upon Himself. "I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright and the morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come." "He that testifieth these things saith, Yea I am coming quickly. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus."

The failure of the church in responsibility having become so complete in Thyatira, it is plain that the Lord's judgment on her when in that condition forms the virtual termination of her history as under trial. Of course He is able at any time to establish a measure of restoration; but that only, far from interfering with the fact of such judgment being pronounced, is in fact presumptive evidence of previous failure and judgment on it. What we see here is not only that in her actions "the King" has been virtually dethroned, but also that the Lord applies to her the "judgment of works," which, as we know from Revelation xxi. 13, expresses the close of His dealings with men when these are in question. I turn back therefore to notice how plainly the Lord lays bare the source of action in that which has departed from Him and shown that at once, when He is given up, Satan has obtained a foothold. No sooner has departure been marked in Ephesus than in Smyrna we find the church subject to the efforts of the power of Satan (Rev. ii. 10): and when, heedless of the warning which so solemn a fact should have conveyed to her, she persisted still in a course of declension, we find her under the dominion of Satan, dwelling where he has his throne. (Rev. ii. 13.) Still more awful and solemn, but the inevitable consequence of continued unfaithfulness, we see that in Thyatira she had descended to the depths of Satan (Rev. ii. 24); and it is thus the Lord would warn us of the sure but dreadful result of the heart's departure from Him as its object and from His love as its motive.

(5) Sardis.

We cannot measure the patience of the Lord, nor can we ever predict of Him that He has exhausted the resources of His grace in His dealings with men. When He announces that the day of grace is to have an end, or that it has run to its close and judgment must take its place, then is the occasion for the obedience of faith in us, and we can but bow and own that it is right that it should be so. But He has shown us in His dealings with men that it is His prerogative (while maintaining all the time a perfect balance between right and wrong, good and evil, so that men dare not presume upon His grace with impunity, still when men have completely failed and broken down in faithfulness to Him) to place them anew in circumstances in which it is possible for them to walk in obedience to His revealed will, even though this is done in view of the actual failure which has taken place, and which has to all appearance rendered it impossible for His mind to be carried out.

He has never thoroughly reinstated any established order of His dealing with men precisely and as fully as it was set up at its commencement after it had once gone to ruin in man's hand; but He has wrought in restoration, which does not set aside the results of failure, but which alters these circumstances of His people which are the consequences of failure, in such a degree as that it becomes possible for men to walk in the spirit of His chosen path for them even when surrounded by these. We are slow to estimate aright the value and significance of this gracious dealing of God; but as we think of it, we must admire the perfect wisdom and adore the blessed grace which could open up such a path of divine blessing to those who had, as it were, already sinned against it, even making their sin the occasion and the means (in some sense) of His acting, and yet never weakening the sense of His divine judgment against their sin — wonderfully combining grace and holiness.

And the blessedness flowing from this dealing is great, for it is the means of a much more full and intimate revelation of God Himself to the heart than even the normal condition from which failure had taken place could be. In that condition there is of course the consciousness of being set in the current of God's mind as to the world, and the blessings of the position are naturally before the soul; but here everything is gone, but the soul finds to its intense joy that even in spite of its failure God remains faithful as ever! It is evident that in such a condition the soul who would remain faithful to Him must be cast in very real dependence upon God, seeking to act directly and exclusively under His eye (for all question of testimony to the world is over), and having Him directly before the heart, for the sad evidences of failure are there and if the eye wanders from Him it must see them, and then one readily believes it is useless to seek to be faithful when, in its integrity, the position of His people is ruined.

All this the Lord has shown us in figure in His dealings with His ancient people, and (now that we have the key to it) we can say that we have the lessons of "restoration" taught us very completely in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah with the concurrent prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah. And they are blessed lessons! The goodness and mercy of the Lord ("His mercy endureth for ever!") were brought home afresh to the hearts of His people so that they could trust Him — and well might they trust Him! — fully who had wrought for His people when all had gone from their hands. When they had Him thus before them, as counting wholly on His goodness and mercy, faith saw no difficulties, let adversaries without or within rage or plot as they might. But when faith in God grew faint, then a little was enough to turn them aside and to stop their service to Him, and the enemy quickly used the opportunity given him, and they were forbidden to serve. Even this prohibition was as nothing however when faith revived, but it was during their period of unbelief and therefore of failure that the Lord addressed to them the words of Haggai and Zechariah, in which He sought to recall their hearts to Himself as the object which they had forgotten, and to teach them of His power and grace, both of which He was ready to use for them.

He has indeed to say to them (in Hag. i. 2-11), "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the Lord's house should be built. Then came the word of the Lord by Haggai the prophet saying, Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your ceiled houses and this house lie waste? Now therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Consider your ways." But His object and desire is that they should be perfect before Him and so He encourages them by saying, "Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt so my Spirit remaineth among you; fear ye not." (Hag. ii. 4, 5.)

Now apart from the general moral resemblance between the circumstances of the remnant of Ezra and Nehemiah and those of Sardis given in the word of Revelation (Rev. iii. 3): "remember how thou hast received and heard," in view of the lessons of failure and judgment taught by the epistle to Thyatira, we find the same striking analogy, which we have been tracing in the other Epistles, existing here between the words of the message to the remnant and those of that to the church in its Sardis condition. We find also, as formerly, that it is in what is said to the church that the true spiritual condition is revealed and the root of failure laid bare.

The Lord could point in Haggai to the external conduct of His people, and tell them too "to consider their ways," because the temple was lying unfinished while they were busy building their own houses; but it is in the Epistle to Sardis that we find the spring touched, "I have not found thy works perfect before God" (Rev. iii. 2), and we are shown that the root is the eye off the Lord and the work not being done for Him. So too as to the condition, "thou hast a name that thou livest and art dead" (Rev. iii. 1); which has its figure in that which the Lord allowed to fall upon the Israelites, even though they were in their own land and nominally serving Him. (See Hag. i. 6, 9-11; Hag. ii. 17.) These outward calamities witnessed that Israel was really disowned by God, although the presence of the remnant in Canaan and the work in which they were professedly engaged had another voice; but it cannot be a question of external position merely in the case of the church, — the Lord deals with her spiritual condition, and so for her it is a matter of life or death as before Him.

The character in which the Lord appears to Sardis (Rev. iii. 1) also speaks to the heart of the solemn question which is raised for us (settled as to the church as a professing witness for God) by the Sardis condition. The restored remnant were faithless towards God, it is true, but they knew Him as He had declared Himself to them "according to that word that He covenanted with them when they came out of Egypt" (see Ex. xxiii. 20-26), to which by Haggai He seeks to turn them back, saying, "So my Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not." (Hag. ii. 5.) But the church has to do with no mere angel or representative of God in her path, blessed as it is to have such a pledge of God's faithfulness and power, but with Him who possesses the fulness of divine power and divine supremacy over all rule or subordinate authority — "Him that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars." Has she walked, nay, are we walking, in the faith of present connection with this One? To be in any degree faithless towards Him in the path is so far to drop into the current of the world, the eye getting turned to its arrangements and the heart, unconsciously at first perhaps, ascribing to them the place of importance.

It is not to "keep himself unspotted from the world" (James i. 27) nor to be one of those "few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." (Rev. iii. 4, 5.) In His rewards the Lord turns us back to the picture of His grace given in Zechariah iii. and we learn to see in Joshua the high priest, who stood, clad in filthy garments as the representative of God's people in their sins, before the angel of the Lord, a type of Him who took that place in all the dreadful reality of sin's blackness and Satan's malice which attached to it for us, in order that in blessed grace He might be able to say, "They shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy," and "he that overcometh the same shall be clothed in white raiment."

He has, too, a solemn word to show us by comparison with Ezra ii. 62, 63, the full character of the issue which is decided by the test applied to the church. Of old those who had faithfully kept apart from connection with the world which was disowned by God found their place in "the register of those that were reckoned by genealogy," while those not found there were excluded from the place of honour among men. But an earthly muster roll, high though the privileges be of those whose names are inscribed in it, is but a feeble type of that divine register in which He preserves the name of the overcomer, just as no possible acknowledgment before men on earth can compare with what He puts before our hearts in His word of reward, "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."

Blessed Lord! Thy grace and Thy power are devoted to Thy people, and they are enough. Keep our hearts in true dependence upon Thee!

(6) Philadelphia.

In the wisdom of God, the restoration of the remnant gave occasion to the presentation of Christ according to the promises, and when "the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son." In the Gospels we see how His personal and testimony of His words and works, and the official glories were presented to men, as well as the evidences of His divine power, but in the main without avail; and we learn bow completely in every detail of this blessed presentation He was rejected, by none so thoroughly as by those claiming to be God's chosen race, who showed their enmity to His name and His teaching very plainly by deliberately deciding "that if any man confessed that he was the Christ he should be put out of the synagogue." (John ix.) Looked at in its fullest light, there is no doubt that His rejection, and death, in which it was completed, decided the whole question of the nature of man — of the first Adam — bringing out the full character of sin as enmity against God, but blessedly unfolding the glory of God, both absolute and in relation to sin; but short of this full result it is equally clear that in the first instance He was presented to man in his responsibility to do God's will, refusing evil and choosing the good, and of course it was as good in its highest form, because divine goodness in a world of sinners, that He was thus offered to the hearts of men. Alas! He was rejected, and so the bright day of millennial or kingdom glory which has been predicted by "the word of the Lord" had to be put aside until it will be introduced in a new order; but meantime, to reveal the heights and depths of grace, new blessings and privileges "which from the beginning of the world had been hid in God" are brought to light, unconnected with the world or its course, and known only to faith in association with a rejected but glorified Christ.

In the Epistle to Philadelphia it is manifest that the test is Christ Himself and the question raised in the history of the professing church is that of faithfulness or unfaithfulness to Him personally and in His present character as having already been rejected by the world. As before, when He was in the world, the rejecters have plenty of loud pretension; but their true character spiritually, as well as the day of their future humbling, is here revealed: "Behold I make them of the synagogue of Satan who say they are Jews and are not, but do lie; behold I will cause them to come and worship before thy feet and to know that I have loved thee." (Rev. iii. 9.) And here the Lord shows that His eye rests on and His heart is occupied with those who through grace are faithful to Him, for blessed be God these He finds, though as ever it is a little flock to whom He reveals Himself as the good Shepherd (as in John x. 4, 5, 9, 11) and as their means of access to liberty, and food, and strength. "Behold I have set before thee an open door, and no one can shut it: for thou hast a little strength and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." (Rev. iii. 8.) In verse 7 a wonderful epitome of His personal glory is given — wonderful because in such few words so blessed an array of its features has been marshalled by the Holy Spirit. His nature as man according to Luke i. 35 is declared in "He that is holy;" His ministry, or the testimony of His words and works, in "He that is true" (see John 5 — 9); His Messiah glory in "He that hath the key of David" (see Luke i. 32, 33); and His divine power in "He that openeth and no one shutteth, and shutteth and no one openeth;" and thus the Lord shows us that all is open to the eye of faith and that nothing is needed on our part but that we should acknowledge Him. He does not forget that He asks us to do this during the time of His patient waiting in trying rejection by the world, which is if possible a more testing time than before the world's public refusal of Him, and He has a word to encourage our hearts in view of this. "Because thon hast kept the word of my patience," He says, "I will also keep thee out of the hour of temptation which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no one take thy crown." (Rev. iii. 10, 11.) "Those that dwell on the earth," finding all their interests and occupations in it, may go on in their fancied security thinking they are free to do as they like and that He and His people are of little account, but the Lord shows that He is the key to the future as well as to the present, and if our future is found in Himself, the world's must be in tribulation into which He and His will not enter.

To "him that overcomes," who remains true to Him in what He is, despite the lies of Satan and of men who, even under the guise of religiousness, are His rejecters, He promises the highest character of millennial blessings, to which those prepared for the earthly people serve indeed as figures, although those spoken of here (chap. iii. 12) are as immeasurably higher than these of Israel as heaven is higher than earth. "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God; and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which cometh down out of heaven from my God and my new name." And not the least precious part of this blessed appropriating of us for God, for His worship and service, is that which sets us in association with the glory of the perfectly obedient One, who, as the fit answer to His blessed course of obedient humiliation, has received at the hands of His God and ours a new and glorious "name which is above every name." (Phil. ii. 5-11.)

Has not He given us abundant cause to say and to sing,
"Jesus, thou art enough
"The mind and heart to fill"?

(7) Laodicea.

The chronology of the church properly has to do exclusively with the new creation, and its commencement is unmistakeably fixed by Him who is "the beginning, the firstborn from the dead," also called (as here, Rev. iii. 14) "the beginning of the creation of God." Not yet literally or in fact passed out of this world, she has still done so in spirit; and both faith and external profession plainly avow that death as a past thing has shut out from her the life of man in the world alike with its pride, its projects, and its final doom. She has thus the cross with all that was accomplished by it as the solid foundation on which she stands; and as God has declared there the total end and judgment of man after the flesh, everything for her, in her history within and without, to be according to God, must be after the pattern of Christ, whose life and ways thus become her only guide and example. Not only so, but also on God's part to complete the likeness to Christ and to communicate divine power and intelligence, the Holy Spirit has been sent down to abide in her midst.

Short of the blessed Lord Himself, never was there, in the history of God's dealings, a witness for God in the earth so richly endowed; but we have here, in the Epistle to Laodicea, the sad result of her trial as a responsible witness in this view of the nature of her position and endowments. In Philadelphia we saw that it was a question of the heart's receiving and acknowledging Christ personally; here it is as distinctly one of His Spirit and ways being followed. But there is this striking difference between the two Epistles, that in the one case we learn the object of the Epistle by considering the "works" of those who are faithful to the Lord and only one verse is given to the opposite class, while in the other case (Laodicea) we trace the Lord's mind from His condemnation of universal failure, and this failure is precisely the development of that which was found present in spirit or germ in Paul's day and which he mourns over in pointing out: "All seek their own and not the things that are Jesus Christ's" (Phil. ii. 21).

We get a hint from the Lord saying to the overcomer (in ver. 21) "Even as I also overcame" that the trial under which failure is here manifested, which failure "he that overcometh" is to stem, has its counterpart in the Lord's own life; and the character in which He appears to the church (in ver. 14) confirms the thought.

He is "the Amen" — God's seal upon everything that is of Himself: we cannot go beyond Christ and there is no such thing possible as development in divine things after Him. He is also "the faithful and true witness," the One who stands forth alone in His right to such a title, the only faithful One to God who never failed. And more, He is "the beginning of the creation of God" (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17, 18); so that, as we have seen, everything that is of God must be after the pattern and example of Him.

When tempted, if He had assumed an independent possession of power or intelligence in Himself, He would have done just what the enemy desired and strove for; but we know that as the perfect Man He took the only perfect place before God, the place of complete dependence. Had it been possible for Him to harbour indifference to God or His glory, then would room enough have been found for thoughts of self; but it was not so, and could not be so with Him, whose perfect obedience was the necessary outflow of His blessed condition of perfect dependence on God.

It is as we see Him thus that we are prepared to own that if He, the blessed Son of God who personally had a divine claim to every glory, was found in such a spirit and path of lowly earnestness for God, there is ten-thousand fold, nay infinite reason, why the church should be in it, not only as following Him in His ways as Son of man, as she has indeed been set to follow, but also because without that beauty which grace has bestowed upon her she has nothing that is not really shameful. There is in her case, and we may say in every case in which gifts or privileges involving the possession of power are bestowed on man, the temptation to use these without occupying the place of dependence, thus despising the beauty of grace which when owned would set one there, and thinking more of the powers or gifts which have been bestowed. But this is in fact to assume that we possess inherently the wisdom, or spiritual insight or power; and such boasting is true blindness and folly, for we never can hold anything from God according to His mind except as we are truly owning that we are mere empty earthen vessels "that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us."

Foiled in his attempt to induce the Lord to assume the independent possession of power in Himself with self for the object of the exercise of that power, the enemy endeavoured to sap the foundations of God's glory in Him by another method. The Lord Jesus being present in the world made all its character plain morally, because "He was the true light;" and so we hear that the devil showed Him "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them" and said, "All this power will I give thee and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine." But the temptation failed, for He would rather be avowedly poor in this world as it is than take earthly honour and glory in any but God's way and in His time; and in this He showed His steadfast purpose first of all to walk with God meanwhile. He "overcame" by taking the downward path in this world, all that was of God being contrary to it; and each step and movement of His in it God found fragrant with pure and perfect obedience (Phil. ii.); and He has a present glory as well as a future one as the fitting result. "I am set down," He says (Rev. iii. 21), "with my Father in his throne;" and a similar place of blessed association with Him in His glory is held out as reward to the heart of him who "overcometh" in view of the church's failure, walking in His path, and in presence of the evil tendency of that failure. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in His throne."

There was yet another form in which the blessed Lord had to endure and did successfully meet the temptations of Satan; and, considered in its moral and spiritual bearing, it may be said to have arisen out of the other two. The Lord stood in the unshaken consciousness of relationship with God, and the devil sought to work upon this by getting Him to act in such a way as that, while ostensibly it was to be displayed, yet really a question was to be raised about it, and, more than that, self thus assumed to be the centre of God's actings, instead of the divine glory being their starting-point and end. The Lord met this by simply referring the matter direct to God as His centre, refusing to use the confidence in His care and love which God gave to be sufficient for any and every question about self; so that the heart might be always undistracted to think of Him and His glory — refusing, I say, to use this, as an occasion for making self prominent. "The devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence, for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

Now in all these details — in many others also alas! — but in these, as specially revealing the spirit and ways of the Lord as man in responsibility before God, the church has failed; and this failure is made apparent in the words of the message to Laodicea, which, though few, are amongst the most solemn which the book of God contains. The Lord give us to ponder them deeply in these days of indifference!

The Lord by His word fastens upon the root of all the evil, giving in a sentence the character of the condition which manifests such failure and which is the occasion for His expressed judgment. "I know thy works," He says, "that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would that thou wert cold or hot. So then, because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." Care or concern for God's glory there is none, and anything like faithfulness of heart is entirely wanting; nor is there that entire absence of movement in divine things which is an opportunity for the application of the word in the convicting power of the Spirit to the conscience; all is utter and complete indifference. God's word is known and the truth no doubt assented to, but in all the well-satisfied carelessness of those who are contentedly self-occupied and whom the Apostle describes (2 Tim. iii.) as "traitors, having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." The keen edge of the word is thus turned away from the conscience and so nothing can stop the sickening course of unabashed self-satisfaction and self-occupation, but that rejection by the Lord which will make manifest even to man in the world all its nauseousness.

Instead of having Christ as object and example and resource and covering and all, "I" fills up entirely the range of vision, but it is "I," man, without being a possessor of the eternal blessings which are received from the Lord's hand, although boasting in the fancied possession of the light and knowledge and material blessings flowing from christianity. "Because thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see." Thus the fruit of boasting in the possession of light and knowledge which have come in by christianity is that the church thinks these are her inherent possession without Christ. And in result this boasting leads to such a course as that in very blindness she shows her enlightenment by adding man as he is naturally to Christ, whether by means of ritualism or by the philosophy which exalts his mind and himself to God, heedless of the lesson taught thousands of years ago, that to bring man as he is at all into God's presence is but to make very manifest that he is only a poor naked sinner who never can stand before Him.

The second chapter of Colossians reveals to us that trusting in the teaching of human philosophy, or having confidence in the ordinances of worldly religion, goes hand in hand with (even the slipping away from and certainly with) the absence of vital union to Christ as Head, and with the giving up of the entire truth as to Christ. And we do well to note this in connection with the Epistle to Laodicea for there are evidences in Colossians ii. 1 and Colossians iv. 16 that the apostle had the actual assembly at Laodicea, much before his heart in writing to Colosse, so that we may judge that he discerned a similar condition in both.

There is no doubt that there is — and in one sense it was the Lord's intention that there should be — in christianity light set in the world, which light has wrought (in and by the truth) in enlightenment and civilization among men, even where the reception of eternal life and eternal blessings has not in every case been secured, and thus the wealth of the world has been brought to light. And Satan has not been slow to see and to use this, and to present all this wealth of the world in attractive forms to induce men's hearts to receive it to the exclusion of God. He thus attacked the Lord, as we have seen, but a sad contrast to His blessed faithfulness is displayed by the church's course. He was content to be "the Son of who had not where to lay his blessed head;" but she is found boasting that she is "rich and increased with goods and hath need of nothing" alas! not even of dependence on God now, for she rests on what she is and has. (Compare Acts iii. 1 and 6.)

We learn too in solemn words how her self-assertion has excluded God, for verse 20 tells us that the blessed pattern and example, the only One who can guide because He was the only thorough overcomer in such a trial is outside the door of the church — shut out! It is a dreadful condition and utterly hopeless, too, of amendment, if we look at it; but the watchful and loving One reminds us even in it that we can count upon Him. In His care for those who are His own He will have to send chastening that their hearts may be roused out of their dull lethargy to listen to His voice. "Awake thou that sleepest! and arise from among the dead, and Christ shall give thee light." But there is the blessed intimacy of communion with Him to reward those who do. "Behold," He says, "I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him and he with me." And His heart not satisfied with even this, the blessed overcomer, the faithful and true witness, who passed unconquered through the full trial of Satan's wiles, will share the glory that attaches to Him in this character with any little one who has sought truly, however feebly, to follow His blessed footsteps.
And with Him shall my rest he on high,
When in holiness bright I sit down,
In the joy of His love ever nigh,
In the peace which His presence shall crown.

"To him that overcometh," are His words, "will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down with my Father in His throne."

And now, beloved reader, where are you, and what is your individual share in heart and spirit in the condition of this church that has been so wonderfully dealt with? Be not deceived: that which is around you and bears the name of the church is not what God has developed from the principles given in the New Testament writings. That it is so is man's proud boast, but at the same time is Satan's deceit. It is, I repeat, not so, but really, if God's word is to be trusted, that which has slipped farther and farther from His will and ways. It is that whose history we have seen traced by God's hand in these chapters, whose features you may discern, for God has Himself delineated them for you — that assembly seen on the earth, once made the depositary of His truth about His Son and concerning the work He accomplished and the glory awaiting Him, and once separated from the world to God by this to know the power and reality of a present Holy Spirit and of a coming Lord; but that assembly which has in every detail proved her unfaithfulness to her trust, which has embraced the world and mixed with it and sought to deck it with her name, so that she might without conscience be worldly; yea, which has in result taken sides with that world in all its indifference to and rejection of the Lord. You may be able even now to trace some if not all of those features on her face which God has shown us — you ought to do so — and if so, how are you in heart acting towards them and her? Are you acquiescing or witnessing against, consenting to the present order of things religiously or vindicating God's name and character from it all; are you overcome or overcoming? Which? You must be either.

If you are one of His, He has watched over and cared for His own amidst the disorder right through all its course and does so now. But oh! listen to His word: let it enter your ear, let it command you, let it stir you up to act faithfully for Him, let it rest in your heart and lead you on to bright reward.

Pause, I beseech you, even now, and do not incur the very serious and solemn danger which will most surely threaten you if you again pass by His warning, entreating, seven-fold uttered call — "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches." F. J. R.