Lecture 7 - Christ's Word and His Name

(Rev. iii.

We have much before us to-night, which I shall do poor
justice to in the short time before me. But there are some prominent
characteristics of the state of things to which this epistle addresses itself
which I wish to bring before you. I do not intend to go into many details, but
merely to apply certain prominent points, in this address.

epistle has a different character from any former one. The Lord speaks of
Himself in a very distinct way from that in which He spoke of Himself before.
It is not anything external, but what He is Himself, the Holy and True One. The
way the Lord presents Himself in these epistles is always in accordance with
the state of those to whom He speaks. It is for warning or encouragement, or
perhaps both, as in the address to Smyrna: “He that liveth and was
dead,” enforced by the words, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I
will give thee the crown of life.” Here, “He that is holy, and he
that is true” is a solemn admonition, and yet it surely has its blessed
comfort too.

This personal title, in conjunction with the whole
epistle, seems to show the final break-up of ecclesiasticism, and an individual
walk becoming the whole matter. Holiness and truth have seldom been the
attributes of bodies of men, even where professedly Christian. Not long was it
even in the apostles’ time before one of these could say, “All seek
their own, not the things of Jesus Christ.” Pentecost has never returned.
And now, having followed the development of Christendom at large from Ephesus
to Thyatira, and having seen the truth given again of God dying out in the
national systems of Protestantism, (in Sardis), in Philadelphia we find a
strictly remnant testimony; the Holy and the True speaking of that which has
seldom characterized more than individuals, and which challenges our response
as individuals to it.

It is comparatively easy to point out Smyrna,
Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, but who shall point out Philadelphia? Can you
decide it in your favour by the fact that you belong to this or that company of
people,- in this or that ecclesiastical relationship? Is this all that is
intended by keeping Christ’s word and not denying His name? I am not at
all denying that the question of our associations is one of grave importance,
and rightly finds a place in connection with these things. A place it must
have, and a serious one, for he must purge himself from vessels to dishonour,
who would himself be a vessel unto honor; and Christ’s word defines our
Church-place, as all else. But to take a part for the whole would be a grave
mistake, and even to give an undue place to such a part.

It is more
than doubtful, then, if any body of Christians as a whole can possibly
represent Philadelphia as a whole. It is quite certain that, in order to do so,
it would have to be in a better condition far than was the Church already in
the days when apostles were yet upon the earth. No: the more Philadelphia
represents a condition which has in a remarkable way the Lord’s own
approval, the more does it become us to see well whether that condition is our
own or not.

Let us look a little then at what we have here in its
prominent features.

They have but a little power: no very great works
characterize them. Three things however do, to which the Lord evidently
attaches great importance.

First: “thou hast kept My word.”

Secondly: “and hast not denied My name.”

Thirdly: “thou
hast kept the word of My patience.”

And first, it is “My
word,” in opposition to all other. Everywhere through the epistle, as you
cannot fail to see, this “My” is remarkably emphasized, and the
Person of the Lord exceeding prominent. It may remind us how He has been
bringing out in these latter days the truth as to Himself. Not alone the effect
of His work, the power of His blood to cleanse and reconcile, but what He
personally is who has done all for us. Epecially has He been teaching us to
look into the inner sanctuary into which He is gone, and to recognize Him more
simply and really for what He is, true Man, as true a Man as ever, as well as
God over all, blessed forever. I think none can doubt, who know what God has
been doing for us in His grace for some time past, that the Lord Jesus has been
fixing the eyes of His people more intently upon Himself, and inviting us to
nearer intimacy. For how many the thought of Christ where He is now, was dimmed
by the very glories of the Godhead into which He was thought to have gone back
- scarcely any longer to be thought of as a Man at all! And to how many has the
thought of a Man - true Man, in the very glory of God, and there as
representative of His people, brought Christ into a distinctness and intimacy
which is now the life of all their joy.

This vividly personal mode of
address is no less strikingly appropriate to our day than it is in itself
precious and inspiring. And is it not also a further mark of remnant times? He
whom men cast out of the synagogue because he could not but confess that Divine
power had opened his eyes, and because he would not dishonour - little as he
knew of Him - the One in whom that power had displayed itself, was but cast out
to learn in Jesus’ presence the glory of the Son of God, and to take his
place among the sheep of the true Shepherd. And in proportion as we prove the
breaking up of everything, - the ruin, not merely of the world as such, but the
religious ruin - do we not find (if it be real) the presence of the Lord, all
the more real, meeting all our need? And then, as we prove this, “His
Word” has a place with us correspondingly. His Word, because it is His, -
inherently sweet, no doubt, yet not only because it is sweet His Word, in
opposition to all else.

And, beloved friends, if we look around us at
the present day, which of us can be ignorant that it is the word of God that is
in special question everywhere. The two great parties of this day, the party of
superstition on the one hand, and of infidelity on the other, however they may
seem to be essentially opposed, yet unite in the attempt to lower and take away
the authority of His Word as such. Will Rome allow consciences to be simply
before God, and in subjection to Scripture? So far from that, you are to
receive her infallible interpretation of it and not listen to it for yourself
at all. And all ritualism, however diluted, runs in the same direction. The
voice of the Church is substituted for Christ’s voice, and the Church
herself presses in between you and Him: there is to be distance, not intimacy.
On the other hand, infidelity (which you will find, in a form still more
variously diluted, where you least suspect it) will not allow God’s voice
to speak to you in any real way at all. Religion is an earth-born thing - not
heaven-born; an aspiration perhaps, but not an inspiration; a seeking after
God, not God after you; and a seeking which they are now determining to be a
fond vain thing, for God is the Unknowable, and even the conception of Theism
is "unthinkable."

On the other side, God has been bringing out for us
in the most wonderful way the fulness of His Word. I do not at all speak of
external evidences, although in every self-chosen path by which man is seeking
to escape from God, He has been meeting and confronting him with these. Stones
have been crying out in Egypt, and bricks in Assyria. The disentombed memorials
of the long dead past have proclaimed Him then living, who still and ever
liveth. But I speak of that in which His Word has witnessed for itself, as the
innermost shrine of His presence in which every voice speaks of His glory. That
Word which to unbelief is so poor and common and gives no response, has never
to faith been so revealing God, since apostles and prophets spoke it first.
Christ, mute in the judgment-hall and before His accusers, has never so
manifested Himself before in the midst of His own. Thus a true and faithful God
has been providing for the need of His people in the days which are coming,
which even now are come, when nothing else remains to us; when, if we cannot
take His Word and rest in it, no other rest is possible at all.

may understand then what an immense thing it is to be keepers of Christ’s
Word. Let us remark now also, that it is not merely words of His, but His Word,
His Word as a whole. It has become a common fashion to say that Scripture
contains God’s word, not is it. Thus we are left to pick out, in the best
manner we may, whatever is really His, from that which may be merely the
mistake of the writer. Thus the Word ceases to have authority over us; instead
of its judging us, we become its judges. We obey it when obedience coincides
with our own inclinations and when we do not find it so, our excuse is at hand.

We can easily discern the folly and the sin of this; but we must
remember, beloved friends, how we may really be acting secretly in such a way
as this, without having any formal theory at all about it. Practically we may
be making our Bible a mere collection of favourite texts, and ignoring those we
have no fancy for, as if they were not inspired by the same authority. Are
there none who have a very real disrelish for practical homely precepts, who
get on excellently with the highest doctrines? Let us understand then clearly,
that keeping Christ’s Word means surely, if it means anything, honest
subjection to the whole of it: to that of which even we may not perceive the
importance, as if we did; calling nothing little of what He enjoins, - of what
has equal authority to emphasize it.

We have need to remember, too,
that our own contrary wills are often the most effectual hindrances to
receiving what is really Christ’s Word. How solemn it is to think that of
the mass of things in which we differ from each other as Christians, this
contrariety must needs account for very much the larger part. The Lord’s
words are plain enough, and universally applicable, that "if any one will do
God’s will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God." It is
due to Him, surely, to own that our differences are due to ourselves and not to
Him. But then these differences, found in so many whom we must esteem as really
godly men, what a warning they give us of how much that is not of God may be
even in the godliest. So far as we have indeed whole-heartedly followed Him,
who can doubt that He has led us right? But then how little really unreserved
following there must be!

And it is not hard to see that such is indeed
the case, - that a mass of His own (ignorantly perhaps, but then self-blinded)
are really following "words" of His, rather than as a whole His "Word." Nay,
many seem to have come deliberately to a stand, where to go further would cost
them (they think) too much. They do not realize that it costs them really more
to proffer Him a compromise He cannot accept; that it costs the brightness and
freshness of their lives now, and what hereafter He alone knows. How many are
trying to make up for this by the excitement of work for Him, and almost
persuading themselves that "to obey is" not "better than sacrifice, and to
harken than the fat of rams."

I say again, do not decide it by
ecclesiastical position; do not in fact draw the line anywhere; do not think it
means you are this side of any line. Is your face - are our faces - still ever
onward after Him, who rests not till He has us where His heart can rest with
us? How plainly perceptible it is, when a soul thus stops I Though the working
may go on, and the whole outside be no other than it was, there is something
gone that one in fellowship with God will at once feel hindering fellowship.
Beloved brethren, how sorrowful it is to lose one another’s company in
this way! But if we lose Christ’s, what shall replace it?

here, again, so many in judging themselves take up with what is far below the
Christian standard. Their measure is merely by what is in itself right or wrong
- a legal measure. They occupy themselves with what is good, perhaps the
gospel, and fancy that must be devotedness, when perhaps it is all
self-invented employment and will-worship, not in His plan for them, and meant,
in fact, (so treacherous are our hearts) to buy them off from true obedience.

But I must pass on to the next thing here in the Lord’s
commendation of the Philadelphians. The first thing is, "thou hast kept My
Word": they are exemplifying a spirit of true obedience; and now it is, "thou
hast not denied My name."

Names in Scripture are significant things.
They are not there as in the present day put upon people for their prettiness,
or because they run in the family. God did not think it an unworthy thing often
Himself to interfere and change or give a name, as we can all remember, and so
the Lord with His disciples. There was a reason for the name. It was the
expression of what the person was, most generally, or would be, as in Abraham,
Israel, Peter, and such like; and so especially with the names of God or of

When God took the special name of Jehovah with Israel, it
meant that He was going to approve Himself to them in that character, as the
immutable God, the I AM, upon whom they could rely to keep the covenant. So
Christ is Immanuel, "God with us," and in order that that prophecy may be, or
shown to be fulfilled, He is called "Jesus," His people’s Saviour from
their sins. God could not be with us except our sins were met, and none but a
Divine person could meet them, - salvation must be of God: and this is all
expressed in that name "Jesus."

Again the name "Christ," which every
one knows, is but the Greek form of the Hebrew "Messiah," speaks of Him as the
One anointed of God to be the Deliverer in three necessary ways: a Prophet to
bring out of error; a Priest to open the way to God; a King to govern for God.

Thus Christ’s name is a remarkably explicit declaration of
Himself. And this name of His, with the facts which it implies, is what is
committed to His people to hold fast and maintain as His, in the midst of a
world which has rejected Him. To confess His name involves thus the confession
of His absolute deity; His true humanity; His salvation of His people; His
being their only and sufficient Teacher, Intercessor and Lord. This we have not
to "profess" of Him merely, but to "confess," for the world will not allow that
He is really this. I do not forget that among us the world is even yet what is
called a Christian world, but that does not alter it really. As soon as it sees
that these names mean something for you, that they express truly what Christ is
to you, then they will not suffer it. Their protest may be more or less
polished according to the refinement of the age; it may be the protest of
liberality itself against your narrowness: none the less you will have to
suffer. Christ calls for confession ever. His people need never fear that they
will have to give up the old path of suffering, consecrated by the prayers and
tears of past generations of the long line of His witnesses. The world never
really changes: our path through it, our struggle against it cannot change.

The name of Christ expresses then what He is: the truth of what He is,
is what is committed to us, what we have to confess in the face of the world.
Here is the great controversy between God and man in the present day. As in
Israel the question was between Jehovah, the one true God, and the gods of the
heathen; and Satan’s effort then (alas, his too successful effort) was to
lead the people of Jehovah into the surrounding idolatry, so now the question
is as to the one Christ - for Satan’s power has set up "many Antichrists."

People little realize how pre-eminently false doctrine is the work of
Satan. Christ is the "Truth;" the Spirit of Christ, "the Spirit of truth ;"
Satan is the "liar from the beginning." By a lie of his, man was first seduced
and fell. By the truth he is brought back to God, and sanctified. Satan’s
effort is therefore by counteracting lies to destroy the power of the truth,
and his most successful method is not so much direct denial, as perversion of
the truth. Knowing man’s heart but too well by long experience, he knows
how to combine truth and error so skillfully, that the truth shall give only
the more speciousness to the error, while the error in the guise of truth shall
appeal to the lusts and passion, and enlist them upon its side.

Satan seduces as an angel of light, and Christendom, with its profession of
Christ’s Lordship, can worship many lords under that profession. Not
denying His name, may in this way be given as a signal mark of approbation in
the midst of Christendom, even more than in the midst of heathenism.

If we look further into Scripture for the association in which we find the name
of Christ, we shall soon see that it is connected with the whole standing and
walk of the individual believer, as well as with the practical gathering
together of His people: things which, always of primary importance, have, as
thus connected, come into special prominence in the present day. We are
"justified in the name of the Lord Jesus;" our prayers are to be presented in
His name; our every word and work are all to be done in His name; our gathering
as Christians is to be "to His name." And these things may be otherwise stated,
as our identification with Christ before God, His identification with us before
the world; and the objective power of what He is for us, individually or
collectively. That these are things very specially in question in’ these
days, if we are intelligent observers, we shall surely see.

justification in His name involves the first of these truths. It is our
identification with Him before God that alone permits, and necessitates our
acquittal. We are justified, as Scripture assures us, "by His blood;" He having
stood for us upon the cross and died under our just sentence. But thus also, if
His death is ours, His coming up from the dead is also ours; if "He was
delivered for our offences," He "was raised again for our justification." His
death was ours as sinners before God: we passed away in that character
entirely, "our old man," all that we we were as children of fallen Adam, being
"crucified with Christ." His resurrection declares the fact of His acceptance
in the offering of Himself for us, - declares therefore our acceptance. Our
place is henceforth in Christ before God, identified completely with the One
who as Man is entered into the heavens and set down in the presence of God for
His people.

Hence the Lord could speak to His disciples, in view of
the accomplishment of His work, and of His now imminent return to His Father,
of prayer in His name as a new thing which would be now for the first time
their privilege, when the Spirit of truth having come to lead them into all the
blessed reality of the new position, they should know that He was in the
Father, and He in them, and they in Him (John xiv. 20). Conscious of their
gracious identification with Him on high, they were now for the first time to
approach the Father as thus identified; and the answer to their prayers,
however feeble these prayers, would be the testimony of Divine satisfaction
with Christ and with His work.

But if His people are thus in Christ on
high, He, on the other hand, is in them below; and, while identification is not
the only thought in this, (for He is in us as life also and by His Spirit, and
this is what empowers us for such a place), yet identification is none the less
clear and certain too. If He represents us in heaven, we represent Him on
earth, and this is as wonderful a privilege as it is an immense responsibility.
We represent Him before the world: living His life, treading His path, learning
His sorrows and tasting too His joys. Whatever we do in word or deed, we are to
"do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (Col. iii. 17).

And are not
these truths which God has been graciously restoring to us in these days
afresh, (though from the beginning in Scripture, and which characterize in a
measure the spiritual movement of the time) do not they give fresh meaning to
the confession of His name? No doubt the revival of "justification by faith" is
as old as the Reformation, and was then brought out with simplicity and power.
We have cause to thank God for it abundantly. Yet even that had been again very
much obscured by the substitution of experiences and fruits of the Spirit
instead of Christ, as to be rested in. And this had deprived the doctrine
itself of much of its power and blessedness. But there was one thing to which
the Reformation did not attain, and of which the common evangelical doctrine,
so-called, has fallen entirely short: it is this identification of the believer
with Christ risen and gone in, as Man, to God.

Even the full manhood
of the Lord, as a present thing in heaven, has become misty and indistinct, and
the resurrection side of the gospel is nearly absent from the evangelical
systems. They stop short with Christ’s death for us, and use that to
replace us upon earth as men in the flesh still. They count it mysticism to
talk of not being in the flesh, of being dead with Christ, risen and seated in
Him in the heavenly places. The righteousness they impute is obedience to the
law merely, than which they say there can be nothing higher, and which,
according to the system, Adam should have fulfilled.

The effect of this
is, we are left in the world and of it, though forgiven and justified; we are
to take our place in it and make it better, not walk outside of it. Pilgrims
and strangers we are not, save in the perforce way that all the world is - time
hurrying us on alike to death and an eternity beyond.

A signal proof
of this is just the doctrine everywhere current, that the law is the rule of a
Christian’s life. To this doctrine they attach extreme importance. To deny
it is, as they think, to open the flood-gates of iniquity, and preach license
of the wildest sort. For they have settled it against the apostle’s clear
and emphatic statement, that the law is the strength of holiness, instead of
being, as he affirms it, "the strength of sin" (I Cor. xv. 56). The law, they
say, is the "transcript of the mind of God," and therefore the same as the
gospel, only a good deal more. To speak of being "dead to" it, and "delivered
from" it, they would deem profanity, if it were not that, these expressions
being found in Scripture, they had decreed them to apply merely to the
ceremonial law. But the "ceremonial law" is a theological fiction, not a
Scriptural fact at all. It is not found in Scripture anywhere, but is an
arbitrary invention, to escape from its plain meaning. In the very chapter from
which the expressions just now cited are taken, and in direct connection with
them, that law is represented as saying, "Thou shalt not covet" (Rom. vii. 7).
Was this the ceremonial law? Was the ceremonial law "the strength of sin"? But
my point is simply now, that when they claim the law as the rule of a
Christian’s life, they thereby omit from the Christian standard all that
is not found in the Jewish one. The higher position of the Christian is not
admitted to have any corresponding practical effect. Long life on earth is set
before him as an aim and object. The heavenly position is not contemplated; and
pilgrim and strangership are left out of the "rule;" for in the ten
commandments, manifestly, these are not to be found.

How differently
does the apostle set things before us in the last chapter of his epistle to the
Galatians: "But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ, whereby the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For
in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision,
but a new creature (or creation); and as many as walk according to this rule,
peace be on them, and mercy, and on the Israel of God." The Christian rule is
that he walk as one crucified to the world, in Christ a new creation - not a
mending of the old.

Thus, as I have said, evangelicalism drops the
resurrection side of the gospel, and the characteristic heavenly features of a
Christian’s life. God has however come in to recall them to our attention.
He is lifting our eyes up to the heavens to which He is just ready to call us
home; and oh, may our hearts answer to His appeal. Remember, this must be no
mere theory with us. It will not do to take this place, and spare the flesh and
cultivate worldliness after all. It will not do to talk about resurrection-life
without some consistent endeavour to apprehend and exemplify it. Practical
results will always follow real faith, and this is as true of faith in any
special truth, as it is of faith as a whole. The holy and the true One seeks
for holiness and truth.

There is another thing connected with the name
of Christ, as we have already seen, and you must suffer me to go on to speak of
this. It was Christ’s name that once linked together all His people. No
other name was known amongst them. And when other names did begin to appear,
the apostle’s voice rebuked the dishonour put upon the One to whom alone
they were baptized, who was alone their Master. Now, alas, the name of Christ
is no longer a sufficient bond of union for His people. No doubt they are
ready, one and all, to claim the promise of His personal presence where two or
three are gathered to His name; yet, if, instead of accepting this as a matter
of course, they would try and prove their title, they would find it perhaps
less easy to do so than they think. Would His name gather less than all His
own? Could you plead being gathered to His name, and (apart from the question
of scriptural discipline) exclude His people? If His name be the truth as to
what He is, as we have seen, then this will exclude all falsehood as to Christ.
But for the very same reason, it will unite all true confessors of Him. If what
He is unites us, we shall have to put aside all separate and separating creeds
and articles, and return to simple membership of the one body of Christ.

Alas, does it seem a bold thing now to claim His Church for Him? Well,
if we may scarcely hope that she will answer to the claim, yet Christ has
provided in His grace, from the very beginning, for the faith of two or three,
if there were no more, who would refuse all bonds beside His name. If they have
nought else they have the assurance that that faith shall not be in vain, -
that He at least will be with them, whose presence is all needed sanction, and
all joy.

You may perhaps turn round upon me here and ask, Do I mean to
deny that Christ is with all His people, or that the Spirit of God does not
work in the denominations of Christendom? And many will be ready to urge, nay,
have urged again and again, that the way in which the Spirit of God works
amongst these shows His sanction of them. But that is too large a conclusion.
It would carry us on to the conviction that Romanism itself was sanctioned of
Him. Who can deny that God worked by such an one as Martin Boos? He worked, and
worked largely; and we can surely own it fully, and bless His name for it,
without at all supposing that His love and pity shown to souls in the midst of
popery sanctions the papal system! God is sovereign in His grace, bound and
limited by no restrictions. We rejoice to know that in a world of sinners He
has bought Himself title to come in anywhere and save. Sin is no barrier where
the Lamb of God has suffered for it. Did He want to have things right before He
came in, who would be saved?

If you urge that grace, where it comes
in, will tend to set things right, I answer, Of course: every soul that knows
God would agree to that. But here comes in the mystery (mystery it is, to
believers and to unbelievers alike), the mystery of the human will, - which,
even in God’s people, dares to set limits to obedience to His Word, aye,
and can cover these up with flowers, as necessary fences and safeguards to

I fully allow that everywhere God’s Spirit works, and
works for good; but everywhere, alas, man’s will works too. Let us not
confound these. None can "be as God’s mouth" who do not learn, with
Jeremiah, to "take forth the precious from the vile." The mingling of such
things together is not of God; but much that is of God is yet so mingled.

Yes, the working of God’s Spirit is like that to which the Lord
compares it, "the wind" that "bloweth where it listeth, and thou bearest the
sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth." And
God’s grace is to the chief of sinners unrestricted grace. We must not
take these as putting sanction on the circumstances amid which they work. We
must not judge of the latter but by the Word which God has given us for perfect
guidance. And we must not propose to follow Him in His workings necessarily,
for this is beyond us, to do as He does; and, as has been truly said by others,
"He is the Sovereign, and we are the servants," and the servant must only do
what he is bidden.

Most fully then can we allow that God works among
denominations, without in the least conceding that denominations are of Him, or
that He is with them as such. I have already declared also my conviction, that
in the beginning of many of these He was with - fully with - those whose
consciences forced them into separation from some evil, which He had made them
realize as such. But that proves nothing as to the denomination itself. Who
indeed can read the apostle’s challenge of the first entry of the thing at
Corinth, and honestly maintain that God approves of it? Or that all that he
forbade was their wrangling about it, but that when that wrangling had come to
a division, then it would be all right? That would be to forbid a tree to have
blossoms, whose fruit nevertheless might be acceptable enough.

We can
fully maintain, then, God’s universal grace. We can believe and rejoice in
the unrestrained working of His blessed Spirit. We can do more than this: we
can allow that Christ is with every individual Christian according to His
promise: a promise realized indeed by these in proportion to the simplicity of
their faith in Him, a faith whose fruit is found in the works which surely come
of it. Our Lord’s promise is clear, but in terms it is well to recall
precisely, while we think of it. "He that hath My commandments and keepeth
them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My
Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him." And again: "If
a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and we will
come and make our abode with him" (Jno. xiv. 21-23).

God forbid that
we should deny these blessed words, or attempt in any wise to limit them
arbitrarily, or indeed to limit them at all. The words apply to the individual,
and to the individual alone: that is clear. And it should be clear that the
Lord’s promise to two or three gathered to His name is a promise
additional to this, and outside of it. It is a sanction, not of individual
state, as that in John is, but of a gathering as gathered to Him; a sanction
connected not only with the hearing of prayer, but with binding and loosing by
the assembly - with assembly acts, which no individual merely, or mere set of
individuals, have power for.

For the assembly, if practically but only
two or three of those gathered to His name, is thereby prevented being a mere
clique or private party, met to accomplish merely personal ends. Its door must
be open for all that are Christ’s, confessing truly His blessed name; and
then He can be there to give efficacy and authority to that which is not the
aim of a faction or a self-isolated party, but of His own gathered as His own,
- as far as their will and aim can accomplish it, in unity with all His that
are in practical fellowship with Him.

We may see then the reason of
this promise, and that it is no arbitrary thing. And in order that He may be
able to be with us so, He has put the terms of it as low as He could put them
for a gathering to be a gathering at all, - "two or three" - blessed be His
name! How great the grace we have indeed cause to own, in a day of such
feebleness and disunion as is the present, spite of its pretension. Nor need
there be one bit of pretension on the part of those who thus gather to His
name. They, above all, are called to recognize the ruin in which they
themselves have had but too disastrous part, and to own (what is a continual
warning against pretension) that aught but continuous lowly cleaving to the
strength of Christ can keep in a path where failure from the very beginning has
been found.

Thus much then as to the confession of the name of Christ.
Let us mark here, before we go on to consider the third thing before us, the
meaning of the name Philadelphia, a meaning which connects well with what we
have had just now, both in the way of warning and of encouragement alike.
Philadelphia means "brotherly love." Not association merely, even of brothers,
but brotherly love. So is it to be with us: love, wherever there are
"brothers," love to all the children of the Father as His children, but a love
which consists, and only consists, with heedful maintenance of what is due to
the Father. I am but repeating the apostle’s words: "This commandment have
we from Him, that he who loveth God love his brother also." Then the extent of
this, and the argument for it, are given us: "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is
the Christ is born of God; and every one that loveth Him that begat, loveth Him
also that is begotten of Him." And then the caution: "By this we know that we
love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments: for this
is the love of God that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not
grievous" (I John iv. 21; v. 1,2).

Many are making the mistake of
supposing love to be the track, so to speak, in which we are to run; whereas it
is the motive force by which we run in the track. The word of God lays down the
rails; and these are rightly, and necessarily rigid and narrow too, in a true
sense. The Word itself tells us that the way is a "narrow way" But love takes
that road alone, and never another. The apostle will not allow that anything we
may think love is such. He will not allow feeling to be the test at all. Of
course we shall feel it - that is quite true, - but it is not the test;
man’s heart is too deceitful to allow it to be such, whether it be love to
our brother, or to God our Father. Man is emotional, capable of being worked
upon, and of working himself up to almost any extent. And he is quite capable
of perilous mis-judgment of himself in that very way. I am not at all speaking
of hypocrisy, (although I do not say there is not danger of that too), but of
the way things may affect us powerfully, as it would seem, and yet
superficially. This emotional feeling is no guarantee as to our true condition,
any more than the waves driven by the wind against an ocean current are a sign
of the real obliteration of the current.

But love - most God-like,
when true - is that which has most imitations which are not of God. The giving
all one’s goods to feed the poor, the giving one’s body to be burned,
the apostle supposes might be all without love; therefore not adequate tests of
it. I may love a child of God, and very dearly, and yet love him for many
another reason than because he is a child of God. My love may be merely social;
what is most Christ-like in him may be what I like least. How little indeed, if
we take the apostle’s characteristics of it in that thirteenth of I
Corinthians, shall we find often of what will stand examination: "love that
seeketh not her own, that beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all
things, endureth all things "!

If you will turn to the first chapter
of the second of Peter, you will find that in the order of divine growth,
"brotherly love" comes in a very different place from what we should naturally
imagine. From "faith," the beginning of everything in us, brotherly love is the
sixth stage on towards perfection, and only short of the full maturity of
"love" itself. We are first of all to add to our faith "virtue," in the Roman
sense of it - courage, spiritually applied. For as faith’s walk is against
nature, and through a hostile world, the very first requisite for it, next to
faith itself, is "courage."

At the start you have to make up your
mind. There must be no indecision, no half-heartedness. The obedience, which
the apostle John has given us as the test of love, comes at the very beginning.
Have we all even reached this first point from which alone the Philadelphian
position can be attained? Are we all by God’s grace unreserved in
self-surrender to Him who is indeed our Master and Lord? Only after this, not
before, comes "knowledge " - true knowledge - only to be acquired practically
by the road, and in the field in the face of the enemy; and knowledge which
immediately becomes practice as "temperance," - government of ourselves; and
"patience," in view of adverse circumstances; "endurance," holding on to that
wherewith we began - not only I did "count all things but loss," but still I

Then "godliness" follows. The more positive fruits begin to
appear. The truth is acting upon the one given up to follow it, self-ward,
world-ward, God-ward, and now at last brother-ward. Think of how much it
involves to be a Philadelphian, and you will see at once that no mere right
position ecclesiastically will put you there. You must be devoted; you must be
self-governed; you must be enduring; you must be with God: and then, these
points reached, your love to your brethren will be in orderly development, and
somewhat that we can trust.

We need not marvel, however much we may
deplore it, how little of this spirit is indeed to be found. But there is no
remedy in mere expectancy or in lament, still less in accusation of one another
on this score. The doing of this betrays the doer. It shows that "seeking not
her own" is not the quality of our love, at least. If we mourned it rightly, we
should be more with God about it - intercessors, not accusers. And then also,
remembering that only what we receive we have, we should be seeking for God to
minister and manifest His love to the needy and unsatisfied hearts towards Him,
which this coldness of heart toward each other implies.

On the other
hand, let us notice for our encouragement that from faith as a root all these
fruits develop. The apostle’s words infer as much as this. They are,
really, "in your faith have also virtue, and in virtue, knowledge," and so on.
This is as plants grow, each fresh bud developing out of the product of a
former one. For faith, the root of all, lays hold on Him in whom all spiritual
blessings are ours, and the spiritual growth is only by what we learn of Him.
And so the apostle adds: "If these things be in you and abound, they make you
that ye shall be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord
Jesus Christ." The remedy is not in moody self-occupation, and not in
endeavouring to get out of ourselves what is not found there, but in more real
and earnest laying hold of what is ours in Him who is for us complete
satisfaction and all-sufficient power. It is a great thing to be a
Philadelphian, and you will not wonder that under this title the Lord should
describe a people who, with all their weakness, have His special approbation.

But here, if we look a little around us, we shall find on the one hand
a divine movement stirring the hearts of God’s people towards a real,
practical "brotherly love" springing out of "godliness." On the other it is
easy to see an imitation of this which aims at a getting together of
Christians, even at a sacrifice of that which is of God. In the world too,
confederacy is the order of the day. "Union," they say, "is strength." And
everywhere, societies, associations, companies, amalgamations of every kind,
for all sorts of purposes, are found. They are naturally largely commercial,
and for such selfish ends as the world that knows not Christ is full of. They
are a banding of individuals who remain really in interest individuals, not
seekers of each other’s good, but their own. They are neither the
expression of love nor do they promote it. On the contrary it is well known
that the larger they are as corporations, the less heart there is in them. They
intensify the self-seeking to which they minister, and for which they provide
an ampler harvest field.

The bond here is in no wise brotherhood; yet
who can deny that professing Christendom is largely permeated by the same
spirit, and has adopted worldly means in a worldly spirit, for ends professedly
Christian? Do not mistake; do not run into the thought that these ends being
worthy ones must sanctify the means employed to reach them. These combinations
to produce great results, is there no ensnarement in the very thought? Are not
means apt to be mistaken for ends? Is not the consciousness of strength which
union promotes, and is designed to promote, the very opposite of the weakness
which has need of and brings in God? Does not the publicity of action put those
engaged in it before men’s eyes rather than God’s, and make them
little content with such words as the Lord addresses here to Philadelphia, "I
know thy works?" Lastly, does not the apparent greatness of the result aimed
at, induce a carelessness as to what are considered the smaller details of ways
and means by which it is to be reached?

No one can deny that while the
increase of sects goes on without apparent abatement, yet along with this there
is a marked and decided tendency to union for all kinds of objects dear to the
Christian. Missionary societies, Bible societies, Tract societies,
Sunday-school Unions, Young Men’s Christian Associations, and such like,
ignore on the one hand what they recognize on the other, and aim to unite
Christians as such, to accomplish results which the divisions of Protestantism
have hindered. And in movements of this kind there is much that one can very
heartily rejoice over. Who can doubt that there is working a real desire for
Christian fellowship, a longing for liberty beyond the artificial limits
imposed by ecclesiasticism, and a yearning for greater and better fruitfulness
than the strife of sects would allow? Who can doubt also that in this way the
zeal of many earnest workers has been kindled, and that much has really been,
and is being, accomplished? Intolerance has been softened down; sectarian
rancor mitigated; and a busy activity in evangelistic efforts especially
induced, which the Lord is using for blessing to numbers of souls.

should be sadly wanting in discernment if we did not see, and in Christian
spirit if we did not rejoice over, such things as these. Nor must it be thought
a contradiction to point out on the other hand results which are to be
deprecated, and tendencies which are rapidly developing as the years roll by,
which must be a source of trouble, if not surprise, to every one to whom . .

"Anworth is not heaven,

And preaching is not Christ ;"

to whom
the quality of a thing, as viewed by the "Holy and the True," is of more
importance than its quantity.

Let us judge candidly and seriously of
that which the coming day at least will reveal in its true character. Who that
has that day before him dare rashly blame or carelessly pass over things which
affect the glory and the heart of the Lord our Saviour - that heart upon which
rest (as the engraved jewels on the high priest’s breast-plate), the names
of His beloved people, not one of them forgotten? He who has before him, what
we have here, the Son of Man in the midst of the candlesticks, will be
delivered from the snare of acting before other eyes than His, and will have no
motive to apply other than truthfully, and in love, "what the Spirit saith unto
the churches."

We have glanced at the churches of the Reformation and
scarcely need to have it repeated that nationalism everywhere gives "a name to
live" where there is no real life. The discipline here is of the very loosest
kind. Annihilationism, Universalism, Swedenborgianism, Rationalism of the
extremest kind, are in some of these systems allowed openly to manifest
themselves. "Tares and wheat," they urge, "are to grow together to the
harvest." "Judas was at the table of the Lord." And thus they have scriptural
ground, as they imagine, for not "putting away from among themselves a wicked
person," or "purging themselves from vessels to dishonour."

What must
be, what is, the effect of this and such like laxity? And what the effect of
bringing a large number together where even the feeble bonds of such discipline
are relaxed, and members of the loosest bodies are accepted thus far by those
who in their own bodies are governed by stricter and more scriptural rules?
What can the effect be but the deterioration of the whole, a leavening of
worldly principles and of positive false doctrine also? Are the spiritual
ordinarily in a majority in these large bodies, or in a minority? Do they lead
the rest, or have they to find themselves forced to follow the lead of others,
and to mix themselves up with that which they feel and own to be not as they
would have it, but still tolerate for the sake of the connection with so large
a machinery for good, as they esteem it?

Generally, a compromise as to
the truth has to be made, which would forbid any one in these associations to
do what Paul appealed to the Ephesians as having done amongst them: "I have not
shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." They have to be (so far as
these connections go) servants qualifying by omissions their Master’s
message, bound to refrain from delivering what He has put into their mouth to
deliver. Oh that beloved brethren in the Lord would well consider for
themselves how far this can go, without dishonour to the Lord who has bought
them for His own, or without loss of real power through grieving the Spirit of

And are not means insensibly substituted for the end, - the
registry of so many visits made, so many tracts distributed, so much ground
covered, made to do duty oftentimes for that which these things are only
handmaids to, if they mean anything at all? And if conversions are registered,
the case is often still more sorrowful: conversions being expected as the
result of so much machinery and chronicled - oh how lightly and carelessly - to
man’s successful effort rather than the praise of God!

Upon all
this I do not desire to dwell longer. Examples to demonstrate the truth of it,
will not be wanting to those who care to test what they do, by the one perfect
standard to which we all appeal, and by which all will be exactly measured in a
coming day.

With all this, I gladly own a greater seeking after
communion among those that are the Lord’s. Yet I press that co-operation
apart from the truth is not God’s mind, nor are human and voluntary
associations His method either. God’s Church - not a union of churches,
but a union of members with their living Head - is His association, and in this
He has provided as well for the maintenance of His truth as for the true
liberty of His people. If we will not take this, how can we ask Him, because He
is gracious, to bless the make-shifts substituted for it? Is it "love in the
truth " and "for the truth’s sake," where truth is set aside or
compromised, in order to be together?

Yet if you follow truth, instead
of practically bringing you to unite with the many, it will separate you -
isolate you - reduce practically to nothing much that now may seem great and
valuable - and shut you up into a narrow path from which naturally you shrink.
Does Scripture ever promise aught but a narrow path? Are weakness and
nothingness hindrances or helps to trusting God? Is it any harm for faith to
have exercise? and is not the power of God as competent to work by small means
and individuals as by a multitude, and by machinery of the utmost power? If we
do not think so, what does it show but how sadly a trust in means and machinery
has displaced confidence in the living God?

Let us pass on now to
consider one other thing in the attitude of these Philadelphian saints which
the Lord singles out for special approbation. "Because thou hast kept the word
of My patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall
come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."

what is connected with this?

"Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which
thou hast, that no man take thy crown." Remark, He says for the first time now,
"quickly." We have not had that before. It is a sign here of how the time of
His patience is coming to an end. It is now as the apostle says in the first
chapter, "The kingdom and patience of the Lord Jesus Christ." By-and-by it will
be His "kingdom and glory." Now it is the time in which, though already
possessing "all authority in heaven and earth," He waits, not taking His power
to put down evil, but exercising that long-suffering which is unto salvation,
of which each one here saved by grace is an example and a proof.

it be a strange thing then for us to have to keep the word of His patience; to
remember what holds back the wheels of judgment, and delays the fulfilment of
our hope as Christians? Patience is not indifference as to that hope, but the
very opposite. Were we indifferent we should not be able to speak of or to
realize patience at all: "if we hope for that we see not, then do we with
patience wait for it."

Happy it is to need the exhortation to be
patient thus, - because our desires laying hold of the exceeding great and
precious promises, our souls are carried onwards in the current of them toward
the haven which faith pictures close at hand! Need we wonder at an admonition
to be "patient?" Should we not wonder if our souls could embrace that future
blessedness, and have no such need? But the keeping the word of His patience is
more, a good deal, than being patient ourselves. It separates the thought from
repression of merely selfish longings, and elavates it into communion with Him
whose waiting and whose coming forth alike are the necessary result and the
display of what He is - the divine Lover and Saviour of men’s souls. If He
come, or if He wait, it is righteousness, love, and wisdom in Him that combine
and manifest themselves.

Two things are now promised to those keeping
the word of His patience: first, that He will keep them out of the hour - not
out of the temptation merely, but out of the hour of temptation which shall
come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth; - out of the
judgment of the world ready to involve the lifeless professors of Christianity,
whose hearts remain, spite of their profession, bound to earthly things; out of
the trouble and sifting also which will precede the judgment at the Lord’s
hand when He appears.

But how shall they be kept out of a time of
universal trial? That is intimated in the second promise, "I come quickly." His
coming will gather His saints into safety far from every breath of the tempest
to ensue. They shall be with Him, raised or changed, caught up to His blessed
presence, before the trial comes; and when the world sees Him coming in the
cloulds of heaven with power and great glory, no saint of the present time but
shall be with Him there. "He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and
admired in all them that believe, in that day" (2 Thess. i. 10).

now let me ask: If this intimation of the speedy approach of the Lord marks
Philadelphian times, who can for a moment doubt the coincidence with the cry
which for half a century has been stirring the hearts of Christians everywhere?
Nothing is more certain, be it right or be it wrong, than that there has been a
widespread revival of the hope of the Lord’s coming, together with an
impression of its actually being very near. Even the dates which have time and
again been confidently set for it, if, on the one side, they show the mistakes
of prophetic interpreters, on the other, not less plainly do they show the
prevailing expectation. While there have been all through a large and
increasing number who have never given credit to any of these calculations,
they have yet been as deeply convinced as any that the time is near at hand.

And what is this but itself a token of its actual nearness, according
to the promise in this Philadelphian epistle? Has not the Lord been saying to
them, "I come quickly?" It is easy, no doubt, to fasten upon mistakes made by
warm hearts or excited minds, in order to bring discredit upon the truth; but
Scripture, which disclaims for us the knowledge of times or seasons, assures
the faith of those who would be "exhorting one another so much the more as they
see the day approaching."

Let us hold it fast, and let us hold it
pure: free from the errors with which Satan is seeking to degrade it by
association, - free from the mistakes of ignorance and fanaticism, - but also
from the coldness and indifference of hearts that give little response to our
Lord’s words here.

I must pause here, though there is much, much
more in this epistle. I must leave to your own meditations the sweet
encouragements and promises to the overcomer, which, as often noticed, so link
the believer with the One who addresses him. May we be able to take hold of
them. They are ours, for faith to realize and rejoice in: that faith which not
only "overcometh the world," but now in the professing Church has also to
overcome. "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, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out
of heaven from My God; and I will write upon him My new name." "He that hath an
ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."