Lecture 8 - What Brings the Time of His Patience to an End

(Rev. iii. 14-22).

We now come, beloved friends, the solemn close of all; and
it is very striking that it comes immediately after the epistle to
Philadelphia, in which more than a little gleam of light and blessing shone
out. The two things are very closely connected: the blessing of the church in
Philadelphia really leads us, in a sense, to the judgment of the church in

The great feature in the address to Laodicea is that they
are lukewarm - neither cold nor hot. Surely, we may say, we have had the cold
state in Sardis: death is cold enough. We have had in Philadelphia the Lord
reviving things - something which we may call heat. Now the mixture of these
two things produces this lukewarmness of which He speaks. It is not heat, as in
Philadelphia; it is not cold, as in Sardis; but, so to speak, the effect of the
heat is only sufficient to change the cold into lukewarm - nothing more. There
has been the effect of the truth, - the truth must always have effect, -
God’s word never returns to Him void, without doing something, without
making its mark on souls in some way. But then, it may make its mark in two
ways. It may be in blessing, as God designs. Oh, surely, what He wants is
blessing; but, on the other hand, if it is not received so as to become
blessing, what then? It has effect still, but in increased responsibility and
corresponding judgment. And if Christianity fails (for it is the history of
professing Christianity that we have been looking at) - if Christianity fails,
if, when God brings forth the treasures of divine truth, yet there is no due
reception, no blessing for the mass, no real revival at large is produced by
it, what then? He has nothing else to do - judgment must come. He must wind up
the whole state of things.

You see, if there was law and that failed,
as you know it did fail (that is, of course, when men failed, under it and were
convicted by it, as transgressors) - if the law failed, God had something else
to bring in - the precious grace of Christianity. And this He did, while
neverthelessless judging the apostate state of things in Judaism. Still God
came in, and gave the more "precious faith" of Christianity. If Christianity
fails now, what has He to do? what has He to bring in more? If His truth,
before tried, and now re-tried (His twofold witness), is not sufficient to
revive things, what then? Well, the case is just what you find in the
twenty-sixth of Isaiah: "Let favour be showed to the wicked" (that is, grace -
it is the same word) - " Let grace be shown to the wicked, yet will he not
learn righteousness." And what then? "When Thy judgments are in the earth, the
inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness." That is what we have here -
judgment must come because grace has been refused: because it has accomplished
nothing as to the world at large, He must take the rod of iron: because His
Word and His Spirit have been rejected, He must come with the rod of iron to
beat down opposition.

But notice what is here very striking: it is not
merely that God has been giving His truth afresh and it has been refused; it
has been taken, or there would be no heat in Laodicea; there would be nothing
but the coldness of Sardis. There has been effect. The truth has been taken,
but for what has it been taken? Alas! instead of to judge man, and to bring all
his high thoughts down in the presence of God that he might be lifted up and
blessed, it has been taken by man in order to exalt himself with it. He has
thereby become "rich and increased with goods, and has need for nothing." In
his own thought he is so; whereas he is really "wretched, and miserable, and
poor, and blind, and naked." That is the striking feature we have here. Christ
Himself is not; connected with the truth. The truth has been taken, and people
flatter themselves upon having it; they are rich, and increased with goods.
They have got a much, but have not got Christ. He is outside, though He stands
at the door and knocks, still offering to come in; if anybody will open the
door, He will come in, and sup with him, and he with Him. On the other hand, if
Christ be outside the door, man can do in His absence what in His presence he
could not do: he can dress himself up with the truth God has given him for
another purpose - glorifying himself instead of God.

The Lord
therefore presents Himself as the One, so to speak, who had done all He could,
and all had failed.

He is "the Amen," the faithful and true witness: He has
not failed.

He is the "Amen." You find in the second epistle to the
Corinthians, the first chapter, how the apostle speaks of the word he preached
as having that character, of yea and amen: because in Christ is yea; in Christ
is never yea and nay. No uncertainty or doubtfulness was there in Christ or His
word; He was always simply positive "yea " - always speaking one thing, and
absolutely to be depended upon. If we have only one word, it is a blessed
reality given us in God’s infinite love, which we may hang our souls upon
for eternity, and which will never fail us. The character of Christ should
stamp itself upon the Christian; Christ as seen in His Word should be exhibited
in His people; but if, as here so sadly in Laodicea, they have not been
faithful, nevertheless He abides faithful: He is the Amen, the "faithful and
true Witness." The Church has been anything but that. He is just about to
remove the candlestick, because they are untrue and unfaithful; but the Lord
has not failed, and He therefore presents Himself as one absolutely true and
trustworthy. And that, we can say, is our joy and comfort in the midst of the
failure of everything in the present day. His people’s shortcoming is not
His own. Infidelity may seek to justify itself by the failure of Christians;
and even Christians, alas, are capable, in the general wreck, of almost
charging it upon Himself. But no, He abideth faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
He is the "faithful and true witness."

Again, He is "the beginning of
the creation of God:" that is a most important thing. You see in all these
addresses the Lord brings out that in Himself which bears upon and meets the
state before Him. So here He is not only the faithful and true witness, but He
is the be ginning of the creation of God. The old creation, spoiled by sin, is
passing away; its history is completed in God’s sight, and judgment has
been pronounced in the cross of Christ. Christ risen from the dead is not the
mending of the old creation, but the bringing in of the new creation. In Him,
risen from the dead, is all that God owns as really His, first and always in
His thought, and for which the ruin of the old only prepared the way.

When the psalmist lifted up his eyes to heaven, and, in view of God’s
glorious handiwork there, exclaimed, "What is man, that Thou art mindful of
him? - the son of man, that Thou visitest him?" the answer is, "Thou hast made
him a little lower than the angels." But made whom? He is speaking, not of the
first man, but the second - the One in whom alone his true ideal of man is
realized - the One of whom Adam the first was but the fleeting image, and even
the contrast too.

Now, if that be so, just notice the remarkable words
used here of the state of things in Laodicea; for it is evident that, while
keeping Christ outside, they are taking the truth He gave and dressing
themselves up with it, counting themselves rich and increased with goods; that
is, taking God’s truth in order to build up the old creation, not the new.
It is an exceedingly solemn thing to see that the very truth which God has
brought out in order to judge man by is the very truth he uses for the purpose
of self-gratulation. If you take the law, how has man used the law? God gave it
"that every mouth might be stopped," as the apostle says, "and that all the
world might become guilty before God" (Rom. iii.). How has man used it? You
know he has used it to establish his own righteousness by it: instead of taking
it to condemn, he has used it for the very opposite. And so, exactly, with
Christianity: God has brought in the truth of the new creation, the world
before Him lying under death and judgment. And yet man would take the blessed
truth of Christianity and dress up the old creation with it, and patch up the
world, making it better if he can. That is, alas, what he is doing on every
side; and men are vaunting the success of the effort.

You know what
progress people think they are making - how much better the world is; and they
hope the Millennium is not far off. The gospel is going to have its effect
because the churches are filled, and they have a good deal of money to send
abroad, a good many Bibles for the heathen - all mere external things, which
show nothing. You can buy all kinds of Bibles for so much money, but you cannot
buy the Spirit of God for so much money.

No doubt God’s Spirit is
really and largely working, but His end and man’s end are diverse thus far
that, while He is converting souls to "deliver them out of this present evil
world," man’s thought is an improved world, a Christian world: the effect
of which is only to amalgamate Christians and the world, and spoil the
scriptural character of Christianity altogether.

But in these last
days God has given many to recognize at least the truth in His Word as to this.
Again He has revived the truth of the new creation, and revealed to us the
practical and fruitful consequences which result from a place in Christ, where
He is, in the heavens. Beloved friends, what are we doing with this truth we
recognize? Are we talking of being in Christ, a new creation, old things passed
away and all things become new, and yet clinging with all our might to what has
in it all the moral elements that make up the world - "the lust of the flesh,
the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life?" Rank, station, birth, riches,
worldly position - what are all these to us? Whether we be high or low, or rich
or poor, the question applies alike. Are these things "gain" to us? Do they
count for something in our estimation? Or, the things that were "gain" to us,
are they counted truthfully all "loss for Christ?" Are we "renewed in
knowledge, after the image of Him that created us, where there is neither Greek
nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free,
but Christ is ALL and in all?" Is this theory with us, or is it practical
reality? Has the Lord any need to appeal to us as the One who is "the beginning
of the creation of God?" If so, is not Laodiceanism with us in that proportion?

For, certain it is that, as Philadelphia sets before us that true
"brotherly love" which springs from our apprehension of a relationship which we
have towards one an other in Christ and with God, so this fatal closing word
"Laodicea" speaks of that which is the entire opposite of such apprehension.
Laodicea means "people’s right," not Christ’s glory. It represents a
claim which belongs entirely to the old creation, and not the new - a claim
which sets aside the meaning of the Cross as the judgment and setting aside of
the first Adam and his issue, and, of course, equally ignores the blessed place
which we have of grace, in Christ. But we shall have to look at this again
before we close. Let us go on now with the Lord’s address.

* From
laos (people) and dike (right).

He says: "I know thy works, that thou
art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot."

So then He
does not accept lukewarm Laodicea as an improvement upon the coldness of
Sardis. And why?

Because the heat is not the heat of revival, but of
declension. It is the final product of what He had given to bring about a
totally different one. The failure is after repeated, exhaustive trial. It is
the failure of all the highest, richest, and most wonderful truth - God’s
heart poured out without reserve to man, that we might know Him, enjoy Him, be
at home with Him. It is the turning back of heart in the very presence of an
opened heaven, to take up with the paint and tinsel of the world. Therefore He
says: "So then because thou art luke- warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will
spew thee out of My mouth."

This is the solemn end of professing
Christendom. Of course He will not spew His own beloved people out of His
mouth. He must take these first of all to Himself before He can reject the
whole mass as nauseous to Him. And we have already seen in the address to
Philadelphia that the Lord tells them He is coming quickly, and that He will
keep them out of the hour of temptation coming upon all the world. Not merely
out of the temptation, - He might hide them in the desert so, - but out of the
hour. Thus He must take them to Himself out of the world altogether. That is
what "I come quickly" also intimates.

Here, then, we have the brief
solemn pause before the Lord takes His people to Himself. He must do this
before the professing body is spewed out of His mouth. He cannot so reject even
the poorest, weakest, and most wayward of His own. And it is important to
insist upon this, because there is abroad a view according to which only a
class of better than ordinary Christians will be taken up when the Lord comes,
while the rest will be left on earth to go through the tribulation which
follows this, when the earth is enduring the vials of His wrath. They point to
the promise to Philadelphia as in this way the promise to a special class. And
the ten virgins of our Lord’s parable they speak of as all Christians, (as
they bring the fact of their being "virgins" forward to prove) only foolish
Christians, unwatchful and unready, with the oil of the Spirit in their lamps,
indeed, but no extra supply in their "vessels." Thus their lamps, which had
been burning, cease to burn at last, and the fresh supply of oil they get is
obtained too late for admission to the marriage. The Lord rejects them as His
bride only: they lose their place in that, and are shut out to be purified by
tribulation, and made ready for the Kingdom afterwards.

But how many
precious realities must be denied by those who hold this view! Is it our
faithfulness, then, that gives us a part among those who are dignified with the
title of the Bride of Christ? Is the Lord, when He comes, indeed going to
discriminate in this way between less and more faithfulness? - between ordinary
and extraordinary Christians? What an engine for turning the blessed and
purifying hope into a means of self- occupation and despair! If I am to be one
of these more than ordinary Christians to be acknowledged by Him, where is the
line to be drawn, and on which side of it am I? Is my joyful expectation of
this blessed time to be based upon my belief in my own superiority to the many
of my brethren? What comfortable Pharisaism, or what legal distress, must such
a view involve!

If true, why should such a discrimination be made
between the living saints alone? Why should it not equally affect the dead? And
then, what is to purify these?

As to Scripture, the support it gives
to any such view is only apparent, and results from an interpretation of single
passages which is at issue with its plainest doctrinal teaching. The coming of
the Lord to remove His saints is not, in Scripture, ever connected even with
our responsibilities and their adjustment, but with the fulfilment of the hope
wherewith grace has inspired us. Our responsibilities and the reward of our
works are ever connected with that which is called the appearing, or
manifestation, or revelation of Christ - His coming with His saints, not for
them. At the door of the Father’s house to which He welcomes us when He
comes, no sentry stands. We go into it as purged by the precious blood of
Christ, and in Christ. Already are we not only entitled, but "meet to be
partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light."

When He comes to
the world, and His people take their places with Him as associated with His
government, then dignities, honors, rewards of work, will find their place. It
will be "Have thou authority over ten" - " Be thou also over five cities." We
cannot keep these things too distinct in our minds. Salvation, righteousness,
the child’s place with the Father, membership of the body of Christ, our
relationship to Christ as His bride, - nay, also our being "kings and priests
unto His God and Father," are things which are neither gained nor lost by work
of ours at all. Christ has procured them for us, and grace bestows them -
grace, and grace alone.

When the Lord Himself, therefore, descends
from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump
of God, is there discrimination among those in Christ - of the dead, who shall
be raised - of the living, who shall be changed? Nay, but "the dead in Christ
shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up
together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we
be ever with the Lord." Blessed words, how they pierce through and scatter the
chilling fogs of legalism, and make "the blessed hope," not a means of sorest
perplexity and doubt, but "hope" indeed!

Nor are the passages upon
which these writers build in contradiction at all. The promise to the overcomer
at Philadelphia is one of a class which, as the eye runs over them throughout
these apocalyptic addresses, show plainly that they apply more or less to every
true believer. Take the promise to him at Ephesus, and ask, will any believer
not "eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God?"
Take that to Smyrna, and ask, will any one "be hurt of the second death?" And
so on through the remainder. To the least believer something surely of tile
spirit of the overcomer belongs: and while the promises suit themselves as
encouragements to faith, adapted to the special condition of things pointed
out, yet we know that the fruit of the tree of life, and deliverance from the
second death, are not the result of any performances of ours, or any
faithfulness on our part, but of His work, and of His grace alone.

Again, as to the ten virgins, it is a mistake to suppose that in that character
Christians are represented as espoused to Christ at all. The virgins who go
forth to meet the bridegroom are not the bride, and to put them in that place
disjoints the parable. According to the whole tenor of the prophecy of these
chapters, the Jewish people and the earth are the objects mainly in view, and
the parable of the virgins parenthetically brings in the connection of
Christians with it. The Lord is coming to take a Jewish bride, according to the
common language of the Old Testament prophets. On His way to do this, His
people of the present time are called up to meet Him, and to return with Him.
So much is implied in the expression in the Greek. It is when He is come, then,
to earth that the foolish virgins are rejected; not rejected as His bride, but
are cast out of His Kingdom altogether. The parable is a parable of the
Kingdom; and the Kingdom in the parables embraces the whole field of
profession. "Virgins," "servants," and such-like titles in them, merely
intimate the responsible profession, not necessarily the truth. He was a
servant who had laid up his lord’s money in a napkin, and never really
served at all. He was a servant, but a wicked one; and so with these foolish

As to oil, they are expressly stated to have taken no oil
with them; and the Lord’s words of rejection, "I know you not," are
decisive from One who "knoweth them that are His," and could never disown them.

No, He cannot spew His own out of His mouth; He must take them out of
what He is going to judge, before the first hot drops of the storm of judgment
fall. Even then it will be made publicly manifest, before He rejects the public
professing body, how really they have, on their part, rejected Him. Christendom
ends in open apostasy. The day of the Lord will not come except there be a
falling away first, and the man of sin be revealed. Popery, evil as it is, and
antichristian too, is not the last evil, nor the worst. It is the harlot woman,
not the man. It has been revealed over three hundred years at least, and the
day of the Lord is not yet come. The Antichrist will deny the Father and the
Son alike.

How solemn to contemplate this last end of what began so
differently! How, above all, solemn to consider that, both at the beginning,
and again at the end, the sin and failure of His own people is that which
initiates and completes the ruin! Who can doubt that Christians every where are
taking up this self-complacent utterance - "rich, and increased with goods, and
in need of nothing?" Who cannot see that truth is being taken up as a form of
godliness apart from power, apart from all the practical results that should
flow from it? And who but can see, that has eyes to see at all, that that is
the most terrible and hopeless sign of all, when the salt wherewith the mass
should be salted, is losing its savour and becoming powerless to act for God at

Ah, it is one thing to appreciate the comfort of the gospel, and
the blessings which it procures for man, and it is another to accept honestly
the level to which the gospel reduces all, and the place before God in Christ
which brings poor and rich, and high and low, to a perfect equality, the rich
rejoicing in that he is made low, as the brother of low degree in his

Do we not want, all of us, to be reminded of what passed
between the emulous disciples and their Lord on the solemn journey up to
Jerusalem, when the cross was before the Master’s face, but even its gaunt
shadow could not still the contentious rivalry among His followers for the
places on His right hand and His left, in His Kingdom? "You are making it a
kingdom of the Gentiles!" is what He virtually says to them. "You are thinking
of earthly place such as in these - of what would satisfy ambition and
self-seeking greed! Do you think these are the places that are Mine to give?
No; with Me the highest is the lowest; the greatness is in lowliest service;
the blessedness is in giving, not receiving; the highest there - He (unchanged
in spirit still) who as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to
minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."

And then, as to our
personal relationship to Christ, it is need that brings us to Him first, and
makes us to know Him; and in His presence the sense of need, need met by Him,
is ever maintained. It does not discourage us, for His grace is sufficiency;
but it is only in weakness that His strength is made perfect still. "Rich, and
increased with goods, and in need of nothing," is what no soul in the presence
of Christ can say. Rich He is; and for us those riches are available; but the
richer He is in our eyes, the poorer we are in our own. We can only keep the
Laodicean condition by keeping the Lord outside our door.

And is there
not a creed everywhere, largely professed among those who claim to be in some
sort the very leaders of the Christianity of the day, which comes very near
indeed to Laodicean profession? How could the claim to be rich and increased in
goods, and in need of nothing, be more really made than by those who claim for
themselves "perfection?"

Perfection! What do they mean by it? That
they walk in very deed and truth just "as Christ walked?" That is the Christian
standard; we cannot, with Scripture before us, make it lower than that. But
will anybody say that even for a single day, aye, for a single hour, he has
walked just as Christ walked?

I know there is Scripture for the word.
The devil, in deceiving Christians, will always take Scripture, if he can, to
accomplish his purpose. But the Scripture term does not mean what in the
dialect of the so-called "higher life" it is made to mean. Take one of the
strongest texts used, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is
perfect:" the context shows decisively what is meant. We speak of a thing as
perfect that has all its parts, without at all regarding the finish of the
parts. So the Lord tells us that as children we must resemble our Father, and
for this exhibit the different features of our Father’s character. We must
not only love those who love us, but, as He makes His sun to rise on the evil
and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust, we must exhibit
this feature of His character also: not righteousness alone, but also love.

"Perfection" is also used for the mature Christian condition, as a
glance at the margin of Heb. v. 14. will show. The term there "of full age" is
in the margin rendered "perfect," just as in I Cor. xiv. 20, "be men" is in the
margin "perfect," or "of a ripe age." It is used thus with two applications. In
Hebrews Christianity itself is perfection, or maturity, in contrast with
Judaism, which was a state of childhood. But again, among Christians there are
those perfect, or mature, in contrast with being "babes;" and the apostle Paul,
in the third of Philippians, (in which he disclaims the having already
attained, or being already "perfect" - a consummation which in that sense he
would not reach until with Christ in glory,) classes himself immediately after
among those who had in another sense attained: "Let us therefore, as many as be
perfect, be thus minded."

There are many texts, which I cannot now go
through, but this should be sufficient to prevent the catching at a word, as
people are prone to do. Plenty about perfection there is in Scripture, no
doubt; but, as I said before, if people set up any standard of practical
perfection short of walking as Christ walked, they are really lowering it. If,
on the other hand, they can measure themselves with Christ and feel no rebuke,
they must be more than credibly self-complacent.

Mischief is wrought
two ways by the idea. In the first place, it tends to palliate sin, excuse or
cover it by misleading names. Lust is called temptation, and sometimes even
daring dishonour done to Christ Himself by the insinuation that He too was thus
in like manner "tempted." So people quote "He was in all points tempted like as
we are, yet without sin," as if it meant that He had such inward desires, only
restrained them, so that there was no actual outbreak. This - the actual
blasphemy of Irving and of Thomas - in milder and less positive forms infests
masses in the present day. The text they quote, in the common version, favours
these views too much. There is no word "yet" in the original, as any one may
see by the italics. "He was tempted in all points like as we are, apart from
sin," is the true rendering. You must not imply sin in any way in the Holy One
of God! Sin it is that produces lust, and lust, again, brings forth the
positive outward sin. He had neither, and herein was our total opposite, as
Scripture testifies "in many things we all offend."

But, again, the
character of holiness is sadly spoiled by this perfectionism. It becomes
self-occupation, self assertion. How much of Christ really do you find in the
experiences so largely dealt in by those who advocate this doctrine? Is it,
with the apostle, "not I, but Christ liveth in me," or is it, alas, a
glorified, transfigured, very self-conscious I that lives and reigns throughout
them? They do not see that as the natural life, in a state of health, does not
engross or claim the attention, - as the heart’s pulsation or the
lungs’ work is not furthered but disturbed by thinking of it, - so this
aim at a self-conscious holiness produces but a poor, sickly Christianity at
best. Is it far off from that which says, I am rich, and have need of nothing?

"I counsel thee," says the Lord to Laodicea, - "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 eyesalve, that thou mayest see."

Three things
they are exhorted to "buy." So wealthy are they, the Lord will not talk of
giving to them. And, indeed, it would be a happy thing for them to exchange
their riches for them - false glitter for true gold. This is the first thing,
gold - a frequent symbol in Scripture, as you know; pure gold, as here, "gold
tried in the fire," for what is divine. In the ark of the testimony, and in the
furniture of the holy places generally, gold covered all. The apostle, I
believe, gives us the exact meaning when he speaks of the golden cherubim as
"the cherubim of glory, shadowing the mercy-seat." This "glory" is the display
of what God is. God glorifies Himself when He shines out in the blessed reality
of what He is, and Christ is the true ark in which the two materials are found
together - gold and shittim-wood. The radiance of divine glory is the gold; the
shittim- wood, the precious verity of manhood.

Can we not see why, to
Laodicea, the "gold tried in the fire" is the first requisite? Their riches
were but paper money, manufactured out of the rags of self-righteousness, and
of merely conventional, not intrinsic value. Christ is what they lacked: divine
glory, in the only face in which it shines undimmed. This is the power of
Christianity, its essence and its power alike; and this is what the false,
pretentious Christianity of Laodicea lacked so terribly - occupation with
Christ, discernment of what and where all that is true and valuable is to be
found. To know where this is, is to have it. Faith, it is that finds this
treasure. To be without it is to be poor indeed. Next, "white raiment, that
thou mayest be clothed," is, no doubt, practical righteousness of life and

There is a connection between this and the former, which, when we
have their meaning, becomes evident enough. Unless you have the divine glory
shining in the face of Jesus for your soul, you will find no ability to live or
walk aright. The "white" is the reflection of the full, undivided ray of light;
and God is light. How is our life to be the reflection of this except as "God,
who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, shine in our hearts, to give
out the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus
Christ"? Leviticus must precede Numbers ever. We must go in to see God in the
sanctuary before we can possibly come out and walk with Him in the world.

Finally, "anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see." Thus
there was utter blindness - the condition of the Pharisees over again, for they
surely did not realize it, but said, "We see;" and thus their sin remained. Had
they been consciously blind, Christ was there to heal. But they, alas, needed
not the Physician.

Still He says: "As many as I love, I rebuke and
chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and
knock: if any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and
will sup with him, and he with Me." To the last, He holds out a gracious
invitation. His heart lingers while there is yet possibility of response on
their part. But the day of grace is just about to end. If the words we have
been considering find the parallel I have been drawing, if it be not untruly
drawn, then we are surely near that end! Who can tell how near?

I close, however, I must return to that significant word which describes so
vividly the moral, spiritual, aye, and political character of the latter days -
"the church of the Laodiceans" - the men who claim "people’s rights."
Ominous name! Terrible claim when uttered in the ears of a God strong and holy
if yet so patient, and provoked every day. It is a claim which denies the fall
and its sentence, confirmed by countless individual sins - the claim of a world
which has refused and crucified the Son of God come into it in loving mercy!

Let us look at it politically, for its political aspect is not without
the deepest significance. Are not everywhere the nations quaking at the
prospect of an uprise of the masses with this very watchword? When democracy
meant only the curbing of the despotic power of rulers; when it meant still
respect for wealth and rank, and law and order, they could rejoice over it, and
cite it as the evidence of morally improved times. Arbitrary power only was to
be restrained; there was to be equal justice, and quietness and assurance as
the effect of righteousness. No doubt the abuse of power had been great enough
to provoke reprisals, and to make the downfall of absolutism an apparent real
advancement. But man was and is the same; and the mistake has been ever to
suppose that alterations of this kind could really heal or touch a moral state
which was the essence of the trouble. The leprosy, skinned over here, would
break out elsewhere, for it was deeper than the surface - in the blood - in the
vitals of humanity itself.

Who could say where the movement for
men’s rights should stop? Who could say to the restless surge of the sea,
Come no further! Here shall thy waves be stayed? There were, and there are
still, infinite and gigantic evils, - the power and abuse of wealth, for
instance, - tyrannies which no form of government devised had touched or could
take into account. What does every man’s right to his own imply? What is
his own? Is his right to use it to include a right to the enormous abuse of it
which self-interest with power at its back will always make? Whose rights are
to be respected when they come in conflict?

And from a lower level
than before come murmurs, hoarse and threatening: socialism, communism,
nihilism, anarchism - dread names, not merely for the monarch, but also for the
man of property and the law-abiding citizen. "People’s rights" threaten to
be in terrible conflict with one another, and in their name how many wrongs to
be inflicted! This is the Laodicea of politics, which is destined to be the
rock on which governmental reform will surely split, and end in anarchy and
chaos. "And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars;
and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves
roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those
things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be

But the removal of the things that can be shaken will only
make way for a Kingdom - not such as they anticipate, but absolute, which
admits of no dispute, and righteous altogether. How comforting to turn from the
thoughts that have engaged us, and think of the contrast to all rule the world
has ever seen! "He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with
judgment. The mountains shall bring peace to the people; and the little hills
by righteousness. He shall judge the poor of the people; He shall save the
children of the needy, and break in pieces the oppressor. . . . In His days
shall the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace as long as the moon
endureth. He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river to
the ends of the earth. All kings shall fall down before Him; all nations shall
serve Him."

Politically, the Laodician condition closes also the
present state of things.

In another phase of it we shall find Laodicea
characterizing, the ecclesiastical state. The political aspect, when Church and
state have come so near together, naturally affects the ecclesiastical aspect
too. Democracy is manifesting itself unmistakably in this sphere also. The
people are rising up against the long rule of their spiritual leaders, and are
claiming their rights at the hands of these. But they are not content with what
is their just due here: they must be lords of their former masters. They pay
their ministers; and who is the real master - be who pays, or he who is paid?
Having control of the purse-strings, they see no reason why they should not
choose their pastor as they choose their lawyer or their doctor. But this means
that preachers must preach to please them: their doctrines, their style, must
approve themselves to the criticism of their hearers. And thus, alas, Scripture
is being more and more fulfilled which, prophesying of the last days, says:
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after
their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto

You know that I am advocating no spiritual aristocracy in
saying this. People would accuse me, perhaps, of the opposite extreme. But in
truth both are alike unscriptural. Neither aristocracy nor democracy is
God’s principle, but a true theocracy. Christ is alone master - not
clergy, not people. Ministers are but "servants," as the very name imports; but
not "servants of men " - against which the apostle, as you will remember, so
vehemently contends. "If I yet pleased men," says he, "I should not be the
servant of Christ." Thus are these two things in essential opposition. Christ
needs to be in His true place, which Laodiceanism, here as elsewhere, excludes
Him from. Bring Christ in, and the ministers are His servants. Bring Christ in,
and the people are His people. His service, on the part of all alike, is true
and perfect freedom alike to all.

You will understand me when I say
that I rejoice to see the pernicious distinction between clergy and laity being
in some measure done away. I rejoice in the free evangelizing which is going on
in almost all denominations: I rejoice to see Christ’s people taking their
true place, as a distinctive priesthood in relation to Him, and vested rights
of clerisy being done away. Only let God’s word settle all: let Christ
have His sovereign rights: Laodiceanism will be then impossible.

finally, let us never forget there is a spiritual Laodicea. And this, too, in a
double way. It may be purely spiritual: and here perfectionism, which we have
glanced at, is plainly one form. Another, upon a lower plane, is to be found in
that spirit which contents itself with outward church prosperity; and,
neglecting divine measurement, seeing the Church and the world nearer together,
assumes that the world is coming up to the Christian level, when it is
Christians who are coming down to the level of the world. Christ must be
outside the door for any to think so. The soul supping with Christ, and Christ
with it, surely knows better what are His tastes, and how little the
ostentatious ecclesiasticism or the showy charities so abundant can suit Him.
Let me not speak disparagingly. I do not assign all (God forbid!) to one common
rubbish heap. There are numbers of devoted, sincere labourers whose labours are
with God, and whose fruit will be found with Him. And He, too, who seeth not as
man seeth, neither seduced by fair appearances nor harsh in premature judgment,
- He who teaches us that in taking forth the precious from among the vile we
shall be as His mouth,- He much more will find which is valuable to Him,
doubtless, in that which to us may seem the merest refuse. Still, the general
result is but little affected. The heart that can look complacently upon the
general condition of things religiously can scarcely be with Christ aright. It
is not a question of prophetic knowledge merely, or what views we entertain
about the Lord’s coming, (though our views and our disposition of heart
cannot be altogether disconnected,) but it is a question of obedience to His
Word, and of truth of heart to Him.

But spiritual Laodiceanism has yet
another phase, and - shall I own it to you? To me it is the most hopeless and
distressing. It is where grace is owned and the Christian standpoint is
assumed, the Christian language used, the ecclesiastical position, so to speak,
all right, but where this is all found essentially inoperative upon the soul!
Because here the failure of the Word is most decided; and if the Word fails,
what is there to renew us by? Beloved brethren, let me return then to this, and
insist a little upon it: can we insist too much where this awful brand of
Laodicea rests upon the one with whom God’s truth is only professed, to be
more than ever denied, - Christ’s name assumed to be more than ever dis

The place in new creation, is it ours? Do we profess it
ours, that wondrous place, where, for every one who is in Christ Jesus, "old
things are passed away and all things become new"? If our standing is in Him,
is our "walk according to this rule" of the new creation in Christ Jesus? Are
we, as to all fleshly standing, title, claim, dead with Christ, buried, never
to come up again? Who would think of the old Laodicean contention upon ground
like this? Who would dream of "people’s rights" being here once more the
watchword among the followers of a carpenter’s Son whom the world
crucified, and whose chief spiritual leaders are the fishermen of Galilee?

Brethren, be cold or hot! be one thing or another plainly. When all
are one in Christ, shall there be room for the hateful strife of democrat and
aristocrat, as if the world was not crucified to us, as if we did not glory in
that cross of Christ by which we are crucified to the world? "Members one of
another," "all one in Christ Jesus" - is this not social equality of the very
highest order? Brethren alike in the family of God, is this indeed, or is it
not, nearer, dearer, more powerful than the ties of flesh? Not aristocracy, not
democracy, but theocracy - let that be our watchword!

Is a worldly
position something? Do our brethren feel that in our intercourse with them we
do indeed (in language which Scripture is not responsible for, though our
common version is) "condescend to men of low estate ?" * Do they feel that it
is "condescension," not a recognition of true equality?

* Rom. xii. 16;
translated better in a recent version "Have the same respect one for another,
not minding high things, but going along with the lowly [or what is lowly]."

On the other hand, is a worldly position which we have not, something?
and are we using our Christian place to lift ourselves higher in the world, or
to assert in the face of another the "equal rights" which are ours?

both sides, no study could be more wholesome than that of the brief epistle in
which we find the apostle Paul sending back to his former condition a runaway
slave, now Christian, to his former master, Christian also. "Receive him as
myself," he says to the latter; "no longer as a servant, but above a servant, a
brother beloved." Such was the relationship of Onesimus to his former master;
and such words, in those old days of deeper reality, meant what they said.

Then, also, as to Onesimus, was he to claim the place which grace had
put him in, and insist on "equal rights" with his master? Was he to use his
Christianity to escape from his slavery, and that because his master was a
Christian? No; on either side, no! Grace was that under the supremacy of which
both master and slave were now alike - the slave to the master a "brother
beloved," but himself subject to a grace which, if it had given him the new
relationship, taught him to value it too highly to prostitute it to the claim
of worldly advantage.

To claim grace is not grace. It is not grace in
me to pull down another from an assumed level, nor yet to claim one’s own
from others. It is the prerogative of grace to stoop to serve; and yet it is
grace’s prerogative to lift the lowest up upon a level so high that the
highest of earth’s princes shall esteem it only immeasurable exaltation to
be allowed to share it with him. Oh, to be ever Christians! - to sup with Him
who, if He admits us to His company, must have the door kept open for all that
are His! - His, and to be associated with Him in the fast-coming glory, before
which all earthly glory even now pales and dies!

Philadelphia and
Laodicea! Significant contrasts! With which are we? Surely, surely the closing
days of Christendom are Laodicean. Sorrowfully I feel it, and affirm it. And
what then? Why, then He is near; He will come. Let us brace ourselves to our
duty; let us hold fast the faith; let us be only more fully subject to Him
whose rule is service, whose yoke is easy, whose presence and whose fellowship
begin heaven for us upon earth. Oh, to know it better! As we look around, as we
look within, our exhortation changes into prayer.