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EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH OF SARDIS.
Ver. 1. “And unto the Angel of the Church in Sardis write.”—Sardis, now Sart, was situated on the side of mount Tmolus, and on the river Pactolus. The ancient capital of Lydia, the kingdom of Crœsus, it maintained a certain portion of its old dignity and splendour in the time of the Persians, and had not wholly lost it in the Roman period. For the things in which the Sardians gloried the most, see Tacitus, Annal. iv. 55.
“These things saith He that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars.”—There has been already occasion to speak of “the seven Spirits of God,” and to claim for these that they in this complex can set forth no other than the one Holy Spirit, the third Person of the ever-blessed Trinity, in his sevenfold operation (i. 4). All that remains tlhen is to consider the relation in which Christ, declaring 205that it is He “that hath the seven Spirits of God,” claims to stand to these seven. How entirely He “hath” them, by how close a right they are his, may best be understood by the comparison of other words, presently occurring in this same Book; “I beheld a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth” (v. 6; cf. Zech. iii. 9; iv. 10). It need hardly be observed how important a witness this verse, when the right interpretation of “the seven Spirits” has been seized, bears to the faith of the Western Church on that great point upon which it is at issue with the Eastern, in respect, namely, of the procession of the Holy Ghost. He is indeed the Spirit of the Father and the Son. The Son “hath the seven Spirits,” or the Spirit; not because He has received; for though it is quite true that in the days of his flesh He did receive (Matt. iii. 16; John iii. 34; Heb. i. 9); yet now it is the Son of God, a giver therefore, and not a receiver, who is speaking; who “hath” the Spirit; “hath” to the end that He may impart it. If, too, the Spirit be admitted to be God, then the Son, who “hath” the Spirit, must be God likewise; as is well argued, though not with reference to this particular verse, by Augustine (De Trin. xv. 26): “Quomodo Deus non est, qui dat Spiritum Sanctum? Immo quantus Dens est, qui dat Deum?” 206There is a special fitness in the assumption of this style by the Lord in his address to the Angel of the Church of Sardis. To him and to his people, sunken in spiritual deadness and torpor, the lamp of faith waning and almost extinguished in their hearts, the Lord presents Himself as one having the fulness of all spiritual gifts; able therefore to revive, able to recover, able to bring back from the very gates of spiritual death, those who would employ the little last remaining strength which they still retained, in calling, even when thus in extremis, upon Him.
“And the seven stars.”—This is the only approach to a repetition in the titles of the Lord throughout all the Epistles. He has already declared Himself “He that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand” (ii. 1), and now “He that hath the seven stars.” But “the seven stars” are brought there and here into entirely different combinations. There “He that holdeth the seven stars” is set forth as the same “who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;” here “He that hath the seven Spirits of God” hath also “the seven stars.” But since “the stars are the Angels of the seven Churches” (i. 20), we must see in this combination a hint of the relation between Christ, as the giver of the Holy Spirit, and as the author of a ministry of living men in his Church; this ministry of theirs resting wholly on these gifts, even as the connexion between 207the two is often brought out in the New Testament. Of course the locus classicus on this matter is Ephes. iv. 7-12; but compare further John xx. 22, 23; Acts i. 8; xx. 28. His are the golden urns from which these “stars” must continually draw their light. They need not fear to be left destitute of his manifold gifts, for his is the Holy Spirit in all his sevenfold operations, with which evermore to furnish them to the full.
“I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.”—A passage which at once suggests itself as parallel to this, is 1 Tim. v. 6, where St. Paul, of a woman living in pleasure, says, ζῶσα τέθνηκε; and compare, in the same sense, Matt. viii. 22; Luke xv. 24; Rom. vi. 13; Ephes. ii. 1, 5; Heb. vi. 1; ix. 14. Bengel suggests, though indeed earlier commentators had anticipated the suggestion, that the name of this Angel may have contained some assertion of life; which stood in miserable contradiction with the realities of death which the Lord beheld in him; a name therefore which in his case was not the utterance of a truth, but a lie; no nomen et omen, but the reverse; the name affirming and implying that he was alive, while in truth he was dead; Ζώσιμος would be such a name in Greek, Vitalis in Latin. Hengstenberg considers the suggestion not improbable; it appears to me exceedingly improbable and far-fetched. The 208use of “name” as equivalent to fame, reputation, character, is as common in Greek as in English. The fact that Sardis should have had this name and fame of life is very startling, and may well summon each and all to an earnest heart-searching. There would have been nothing nearly so startling, if Sardis had been counted by the Churches round about as a Church fallen into lethargy and death. But nothing of the kind. Laodicea, we know, deceived herself (iii. 17), but we do not find that she deceived others; counted herself rich, when she was most poor; but there is nothing to make us think that others counted her so as well; Sardis, on the other hand, had a name to live, was spoken of, we may well believe, as a model Church, can therefore have been by no means wanting in the outer manifestations of spiritual life; while yet all these shows of life did but conceal the realities of death; so He, before whose eyes of fire no falsehood can endure, too surely saw.
Ver. 2. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die.”—Translate rather, “Become” (what thou art not now) “watchful (γίνου γρηγορῶν).” Compare the many passages in which activity or vigilance of spirit is set forth under this same image, often by this same word (Matt. xxiv. 42, 43; xxv. 13; xxvi. 41; Mark xiii. 37; Acts xx. 31; 1 Cor. xiv. 13; 1 Thess. v. 6; 1 Pet. v. 9; Rev. xix. 15). Almost all better commentators are agreed that τὰ λοιπά here should not be rendered “the things which remain,” “quæ huc usque tibi mansere virtutes” (Ewald); but rather, “the persons which remain,” or “the rest,” = τοὺς λοιπούς, as many as are not yet dead, though now at the point of death. We gather from these words that, with few exceptions, the entire Sardian Church shared in this deadness of its chief pastor; while he, in seeking to revive their life, to chafe their dead limbs, would best revive and recover the warmth of his own (Ps. li. 13). Their present abject and fallen condition is excellently expressed by the use of the neuter; cf. 1 Cor. i. 26; Ezek. xxxiv. 4; Zech. xi. 9; nor indeed need the use of it surprise us, even without the sufficient explanation which this supplies. It is not here only that στηρίζειν is employed in this sense of establishing, confirming in the grace of God; thus compare Luke xxii. 32; Rom. i. 11; 2 Thess. iii. 3; 1 Pet. v. 10; βεβαιοῦν often occurs in the same sense (1 Cor. i. 8; 2 Cor. i. 21; Col. ii. 7); and θεμελιοῦν as well (Eph. iii. 17; Col. i. 23; 1 Pet. v. 10). This command to the Sardian Angel implies that the νεκρὸς εἶ of ver. 1 must not be taken absolutely. The dead can bury their dead; but this is all which they can do; they must be themselves alive, who are bidden to impart a savour of life to others. 210The fire of grace may have burned very low in their hearts; but it cannot be quite extinguished; for how in that case could they kindle any flame in others?
“For I have not found thy works perfect before God.”—The word here employed is not that which we commonly render “perfect;” not τέλεια, but πεπληρωμένα; so that the Lord contemplates the works prepared and appointed in the providence of God for the faithful man to do as a definite sphere (Ephes. ii. 10), which it was his duty and his calling to have fulfilled or filled to the full,—the same image habitually underlying the uses of πληροῦν and πληροῦσθαι (Matt. iii. 15; Rom. xiii. 8). This sphere of appointed duties the Sardian Angel had not fulfilled; not, at least, “before God;” for on these last words the emphasis must be laid. Before himself and other men his works may very likely have been “perfect;” indeed, we are expressly told that he had “a name to live” (ver. 1); for we all very easily satisfy ourselves concerning our own works, neither is it very difficult to satisfy the world concerning them. But to have our works “perfect before God,” to fill up the measure of those that He has ordained, so to have them πεπληρωμένα, that is quite a different and a far harder thing. Very striking and very searching words on this matter are those of one whose own devotion to his work gave 211him a right to speak—Juan d’Avila, the apostle of Andalusia: “Tot tantæque sunt pastorum obligationes, ut qui vel tertiam earum partem reipsâ impleret, sanctus ab hominibus haberetur; cum tamen eo solo contentus, gehennam non esset evasurus;” and few, who have read, will forget some words of Cecil very nearly to the same effect,—that a minister of Christ is very often in highest honour with men for the performance of one half of his work, while God is regarding him with displeasure for the neglect of the other half.
It is a very instructive fact, that every where else, in the Epistles to all the Churches save only to this and to Laodicea, there is mention of some burden to be borne, of a conflict either with foes within the Church or without, or with both. Only in these two nothing of the kind occurs. The exceptions are very significant. There is no need to assume that the Church at Sardis had openly coalesced and joined hands with the heathen world; this would in those days have been impossible; nor yet that it had renounced the appearance of opposition to the world. But the two tacitly understood one another. This Church had nothing of the spirit of the Two Witnesses, of whom we read that they “tormented them that dwelt on the earth” (Rev. xi. 10), tormented them, that is, by their witness for a God of truth and holiness and love, whom the dwellers on 212the earth were determined not to know. There was nothing in it to provoke from the heathen, in the midst of whom it sojourned, any such words as those which the author of The Wisdom of Solomon puts into the mouth of the ungodly men (ii. 12-16). The world could endure it, because it too was a world. On the not less significant absence of all heretical opposition in these Churches, there will be something to say when we deal with the Epistle to Laodicea.
Ver. 3. “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and holdfast, and repent.”—This “how” is by some interpreters referred to the manner of their former receiving, and by some to the matter which they formerly received and heard. Now if the character of the charges which the Lord is making against Sardis were that of holding, or even tolerating, any erroneous doctrine contrary to “the faith once delivered to the saints,” I should certainly be on their side who referred this “how” to the matter, to the form of sound words which they had accepted at the first, and to which Christ would recall them now; I should see in these words a parallel to such passages as Col. ii. 6; 1 Tim. vi. 10; 2 Tim. i. 14. But the charge against Sardis is not a perverse holding of untruth, but a heartless holding of the truth; and therefore I cannot but think that the Lord is graciously reminding 213her of the heartiness, the zeal, the love with which she received this truth at the first. There was great joy in that city, no doubt, then; but now all was changed. Compare St. Paul to the Thessalonians, 1 Ep. i. 5-10, where, however, there is no such painful comparison to draw between their present and their past; also the same Apostle to the Galatians (iv. 13-15), a completer parallel to the words before us, St. Paul contrasting there their present disaffection and coldness of heart toward him and the Gospel of the grace of God which he brought, with the zeal and warmth and love wherewith they first received these glad tidings at his lips, the “how” of their present holding with the “how” of their past receiving. At the same time, this their joyful loving acceptance of the truth in times past is only one-half of the “how” of their receiving it. They are bidden, no doubt, in these words to remember as well “how” that truth itself came, that they might receive it; with what demonstration of the Spirit and of power from the lips of those ambassadors of Christ, whoever they may have been, who first brought it to Sardis; how holily, how unblamably these went in and out among them. And remembering all this, let them not guiltily let that go, which came so commended to them, which was so joyfully embraced by them, but rather hold it with a firm grasp. “Prize now”214—this is what Christ would say—“that which thou didst once prize so highly, which came to thee so plainly as a gift from God, accompanied with the Holy Ghost from heaven; and repent thee of all the coldness and heartlessness with which thou hast learned to regard it” (2 Pet. i. 9).
“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.”—Augustine has pointedly said, “Latet ultimus dies, ut observetur omnis dies.” But should this Angel refuse thus to observe and watch, the Lord takes up against him and repeats here his own words, twice spoken, with slight variations, in the days of his ministry on earth (Matt. xxiv. 42, 43; Luke xii. 39, 40); words which must have profoundly impressed themselves on those who heard them, and on the early Church in general, as is evidenced from the frequent references to them in other parts of the New Testament; as by St. Paul (1 Thess. v. 2, 4); by St. Peter (2 Ep. iii. 10); and by St. John (Rev. xvi. 15). It is the stealthiness of Christ’s advent, and thus his coming upon the secure sinner when least He is looked for, which is the point of the comparison. not the violent taking away of the worldling’s goods. In that case, he would be the λῃστής rather than the κλέπτης, the robber, and not the thief which here he is (cf. Matt. xxiv. 36-51; xxv. 13). The grand Greek proverb, which affirmed that the feet of the avenging deities were shod with wool, awfully expressed the sense which the heathen had of this noiseless approach of the divine judgments, of their possible nearness at the moment when they were supposed the furthest off. So too in those sublime lines of Æschylus, the very turn of the phrase in the conclusion reminds one of these words of Christ:
δοκεῖς τὰ θεῶν σὺ ξυνετὰ νικῆσαί ποτε,
καὶ τὴν δίκην που μάκρ᾽ ἀποκεῖσθαι βροτῶν;
ἡ δ᾽ ἐγγύς ἐστιν, οὐχ ὁρωμένη δ᾽ ὁρᾷ,
ὃν χρὴ κολάζειν τ᾽, οἶδεν· ἀλλ᾽ οὐκ οἶσθα σὺ,
ὁπόταν ἄφνω μολοῦσα διολέσῃ κακούς.
Ver. 4. “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.”—“Names” cannot here be slightingly used, any more than at Acts i. 15; cf. Rev. xi. 13; it must be simply equivalent to persons;—or there may be a tacit reference to ver. 1. The Angel of Sardis had a name that he lived, and was dead; but there were some there, however few, whose names were more than names; who had not merely the form of godliness (2 Tim. iii. 5, μόρφωσις there = ὄνομα here), but the power. It is very beautiful to observe the gracious manner in which the Lord recognizes and sets his seal of allowance to the good 216which any where He finds. Abraham said, “to slay the righteous with the wicked, that be far from Thee” (Gen. xviii. 25); but it is far from Him even to seem to include the righteous and the wicked in a common blame. He, the same who delivered Noah, a preacher of righteousness, from the destruction of the old world, who drew just Lot out of Sodom, who could single out from the whole wicked family of Jeroboam, and take from the evil to come, Ahijah, for some good thing toward the Lord his God which was found in him (1 Kings xiv. 13), beholds the few faithful in Sardis that had not defiled their garments, will not suffer them to suppose that they are overlooked by Him, or that his condemnation was intended to include them. The “garments” which these are thus declared not to have “defiled,” are not to be identified with the “white raiment” of the next verse, nor with the “white” in the next clause of this. That “white raiment” there is the garment of glory,—this the garment of grace. That incapable of receiving a stain, being part of an inheritance which in all its parts is ἀμίαντος (1 Pet. i. 4); this something to which σπῖλοι (Ephes. v. 27; James iii. 6), μιάσματα (2 Pet. ii. 20), μολυσμοί (2 Cor. vii. 1), can only too easily adhere. That keeping itself, for nothing that defileth entereth the place where it is worn (Rev. xxi. 27); this needing to be kept, and 217above all keeping (Rev. xvi. 15), if the glory and brightness of it is not quite to disappear. This, itself a wedding garment (Matt. xxii. 11, 12), but not necessarily identical with “the fine linen, clean and white, the righteousness of saints” (Rev. xix. 8), is put on at our entrance by baptism into the kingdom of grace; that at our entrance by the resurrection into the kingdom of glory.
There were those at Sardis, a little remnant, who had thus kept their garments; or, according to the testimony of Christ, had “not defiled” them. Absolutely, and in the highest sense, no one has thus kept his garments, save only He who received more than a garment of grace at baptism; having been sanctified from his conception, and thus a “holy thing” (Luke i. 35) from the very first. But, in a secondary sense, and as compared with too many others, there are those who have not defiled these garments; the phrase is equivalent to St. James’s “keeping oneself unspotted from the world” (i. 27). These are they who, if they do contract any defilement upon these, yet suffer it not to harden or become ingrained there; but go at once to the fountain open for all uncleanness, wash their garments and make them white again in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. vii. 14). Μολύνειν differs from μιαίνειν, as “inquinare” from “maculare,” being not so much to stain as to besmear 218or besmirch with impurity (Cant. v. 3; Gen. xxxviii. 31). It is with reference to this word that Hengstenberg is convinced we are to find a covert allusion here to the name of this city, Sardis or Sardes, which is so near to sordes; Christ saying that, with the few exceptions which He has made, Sardes is become sordes (“Sardes ist sordes geworden “). But a Latin pun in the Apocalypse! A Hebrew, or even a Greek, play on words would be very conceivable in these Epistles; indeed, I am convinced that there is one in the name “Nicolaitans,” given to the libertines of the apostolic period (see ii. 6). A deep sense of the significance of words and names will often find its utterance in such; but a Latin pun, and that without the slightest hint to set any looking for it, is about the unlikeliest thing in the world to encounter there. Not a few expositors, bringing this passage into connexion with Jude 23, find reference in both to those ceremonial uncleannesses spoken of Lev. xv. and elsewhere, which so very easily may be moral uncleannesses as well. I do not think this to lie in the words; but that every defilement (μολυσμός) of the flesh and spirit (2 Cor. vii. 1) is here intended.
“And they shall walk with Me in white.”—Here are many promises in one. The promise of life, for only the living walk, the dead are still; of liberty, for the free walk, and not the fast bound. 219Much more too we may find in these words, “they shall walk in white,” than if it had been merely said, “they shall be clothed in white.” The grace and dignity of long garments only appears, at least only appears to the full, when the person wearing them is in motion; cf. Luke xx. 46: “the scribes desire to walk in long robes.” And all this has its corresponding truth in the kingdom of heaven. God’s saints and servants here in this world of grace, and no doubt also in that world of glory, are best seen and most to be admired when they are engaged in active services of love. And such they shall have. They shall walk (cf. Zech. iii. 7) with their Lord, shall be glorified together with Him (Rom. viii. 17; John xvii. 24); his servants shall serve Him (Rev. xxii. 3).
“For they are worthy,”—God’s Word does not refuse to ascribe a worthiness to men (Matt. x. 10, 11; xxii. 8; Luke xx. 35; xxi. 36; 2 Thess. i. 5, 11); although this worthiness must ever be contemplated as relative, and not absolute; as grounding itself on God’s free acceptance of an obedience which would fain be perfect, even while it actually is most imperfect, and on this his acceptance and allowance of it alone. There are those who “are worthy” according to the rules which free grace has, although there are none according to those which strict justice might have, laid down; and 220God is “faithful” (1 John i. 9), in that having laid these rules down, He will observe and abide by them. Vitringa well: “Dignitas hic notat proportionem, et congruentiam, quæ erat inter statum gratiæ quo fuerant in his terris, et gloriæ quam Dominus ipsis decreverat, æstimandam, ex ipsâ lege gratiæ.” There is another very fearful “They are worthy” in this Book (xvi. 6), where no such observation would need to be made, where no such mitigation of the word’s force would be required; for see the antithesis between death as the wages (ὀψώνια) of sin, and eternal life as the gift (χάρισμα) of God, Rom. vi. 23.
Ver. 5. “He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment.”—A repetition of the promise of the verse preceding. They who have kept their garments here, as a few in Sardis to whom the Lord bears testimony (ver. 4) had done, shall have brighter garments given to them there, “vestes vitæ;,” as in the book of Enoch they are called. Of white as the colour of heaven, and of white garments as shining ones, there has been already occasion to speak; see p. 170. Add the words of Grotius: “λευκὰ ἱμάτια, hoc loco et infra, iii. 18; iv. 4, sunt vestes coruscantes, et sic sume στολὰς λευκάς, infra, vi. 11, vii. 9, 13.” It is not in Scripture merely that white is thus presented as the colour of heaven, and white garments the 221suitable investiture of the blessed inhabitants of heaven. The same, out of a deep inborn symbolism, repeats itself in heathen antiquity as well; thus see Plato, Legg. xii. 956; Cicero, Legg. ii. 18; Virgil, Æn. vi. 665; Ovid, Fast. iii. 363; iv. 419, 420; Metam. x. 432. As we cannot conceive of any room in heaven for raiment in the literal sense of the word, we must understand by this that vesture of light, that clothing with light as with a garment, which shall be theirs who shall then “shine out (ἐκλάμψουσι, Matt. xiii. 43) as the sun in the kingdom of their Father; “their raiment, and yet for all this not something external to them, but the outward utterance of all which now inwardly they are, who have left all sin behind them for ever. The glorified body, defecated of all its dregs and all its impurities, transformed and transfigured into the likeness of Christ’s body (Phil. iii. 21), this, with its robe and atmosphere of light, is itself, I believe, the “white raiment” which Christ here promises to his redeemed.
I have alluded already, see p. 147, to the frequency, as it appears to me, of the scoffing side-glances at Scripture which occur in the writings of Lucian. It would be curious to know whether he intended a mock at this and at the glorious hope of the Christian, when, relating the tales current about Peregrinus, after his fiery passage in the 222spirit of Empedocles to a mock immortality, he makes one of this impostor’s followers assure his hearers that shortly after the disappearance of Peregrinus in his funeral-pile he beheld him walking in a white garment, shining, and crowned with a garland of olive (ἐν λευκῇ ἐσθῆτι περιπατοῦντα, φαιδρόν, κοτίνῳ τε ἐστεμμένον, De Mort. Pereg. 40). One or two such passages we might attribute to accident; but they seem to me to occur too often for any such explanation. See a very good article by Planck, Lucian und das Christenthum, in the Theoll. Stud. und Krit. 1851, pp. 826-902.
“And I will not blot out his name out of the book of life.”—It is much more than a simple negative; οὐ μὴ ἐξαλείψω = “nequaquam delebo.” We read of a “book of life,” Exod. xxxii. 32; Ps. lxix. 29; Dan. xii. 1; Phil. iv. 3; Rev. xiii. 8; xx. 15; xxi. 27; of those “written among the living” (Isai. iv. 3); and resting on the same image, our Lord speaks of some whose names “are written in heaven” (Luke x. 20; cf. Heb. xii. 23). These are the τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωήν of Acts xiii. 48. At the same time the pledge and promise which is here given, implying, as on the face of it it does, that there are names, which, having been once written in that book, might yet be afterwards blotted out of it, has proved not a little perplexing to those followers of Augustine, who will not be 223content in this mystery of predestination with having some Scriptures on their side, and leaving the reconciliation of these and those others which are plainly against them, and apparently contradictory to these, for another and a higher state of knowledge; but who would fain make it appear that all Scripture is on their side (see Turretine’s treatise, De Libro Vitæ, pp. 9-22). If this passage had stood by itself, it would not have been hard for them to answer, as indeed they do answer, that all who are written in the book of life overcome; therefore this promise holds good for them all, and none who are there written have their names blotted out from thence. But, unhappily, beside and behind this passage, there are others not capable of this solution, and principally Exod. xxxii. 32; Ps. lxix. 29; Rev. xxii. 19. To what hard shifts they are put in forcing these statements within the limits of their system may be judged from Augustine’s comment on the second of these passages (Enarr. in Ps. lxix.): “Deleantur de libro viventiumn, et cum justis non scribantur, non sic accipere debemus quod quemquam Deus scribat in libro vitæ;, et deleat illum; si homo dixit, Quod scripsi scripsi, Deus quemquam scribit et delet? . . Isti ergo quomodo inde delentur, ubi nunquam scripti sunt? Hoc dictum est secundum spem ipsorum, quia ibi se scriptos putabunt. Quid sit, deleantur 224de libro vitæ;? Et ipsis constet non illos ibi esse.”
“But I will confess his name before my Father, and before his Angels.”—Christ had spoken when on earth of confessing those who confessed Him, before his Father in heaven (Matt. x. 32, 33), and before the Angels (Luke xii. 8, 9). That “in heaven” is of course omitted now, for there is no longer any contrast between the Father in heaven and the Son on earth; but the two confessions, which were separated before, appear united now; and in general we may observe of this Epistle that in great part it is woven together of sayings which the Lord had already uttered once or oftener in the days during which He pitched his tent among men; He now setting his seal from heaven upon his words uttered on earth. On these costly mosaic-works of Scripture, which in our careless reading of it we so often overlook, there are some beautiful remarks in Delitzsch, Commentar über den Psalter, on Ps. cxxxv.; which is itself, as are also Ps. xcvii. xcviii. striking examples of the skill of a divine Artificer herein.
Nor will it be inopportune to observe further what signal internal evidence this same fact, analysed a little closer, will supply on another point; upon this, namely, that these Epistles are what they profess themselves to be, namely Epistles, directly, 225and in their form no less than their substance, from Christ the Lord. With no unworthy thought about their inspiration, we might very easily come to regard them as having past through the mind of St. John, and having been recast, in their form at least, in the passage. What they would have been, if they had undergone any such modifying process as this, St. John’s own Epistles tell us. But no; it is the Lord Himself who speaks throughout; who not merely suggests the thoughts, but dictates the words. That St. John is here merely his mouthpiece, that the Master is speaking and not the servant, is, I say, remarkably witnessed for in the fact of the numerous points of contact and coincidence between these seven Epistles and the words of Christ as recorded in the Gospels, in the three synoptic Gospels above all. Had such only been found in St. John’s own Gospel, this might have suggested quite a different explanation. But it is mainly the other Gospels which furnish these. Thus in this Sardian Epistle alone, where, it is true, the points of resemblance are more numerous than any where else, spiritual activity is set forth as a watching, ver. 3; with which compare Matt. xxiv. 42; xxv. 13; xxvi. 41; Mark xiii. 37. Christ likens his. unlooked-for coming to that of a thief (ibid.); compare Matt. xxiv. 43; Luke xii. 39. He speaks here of blotting out a name from the book of life (ver. 5), 226there of names written in the book of life (Luke x. 20); here of confessing his servants before his Father (ibid.), with which the parallels from the Gospels have just been given. The remarkable reappearance in this and in all these Epistles of the words so often on our Lord’s lips, according to the three first Gospels, but never noticed in the fourth, “He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear” (Matt. xi. 15; xiii. 9, 45; Mark iv. 9, 23; vii. 16, 33; Luke viii. 8; xiv. 35), has been dwelt on already, p. 120.
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