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EPISTLE TO THE CHURCH OF PHILADELPHIA.
Ver. 7. “And to the Angel of the Church in Philadelphia write.”—Philadelphia, at the foot of mount Tmolus, on the banks of the little river Cogamus, which not far from the city falls into the Hermus (Pliny, H. N. v. 29, 30), was built by Attalus Philadelphus, king of Pergamum (he died B.C. 138), from whom it derives its name. No city of Asia Minor suffered more, or so much, from frequent earthquakes—πόλις σεισμῶν πλήρης Strabo calls it (xiii. 4), and describes it as almost depopulated in consequence of these. In the great earthquake in the reign of Tiberius Philadelphia was nearly destroyed (Tacitus, Ann. ii. 47).
“These things saith He that is Holy.”—Christ claims here to be ὁ Ἅγιος, The Holy One; cf. Acts ii. 27; xiii. 35; Heb. vii. 26. In all these passages, however,ὅσιος, not ἅγιος, stands in the 228original; nor are these words perfectly identical, though we have but the one word “holy” by which to render them both. The ὅσιος, if a man, is one who diligently observes all the sanctities of religion; anterior, many of them, to all law, the “jus et fas,” with a stress on the latter word. If applied to God, as at Rev. xv. 4; xvi. 5, and here, He is One in whom these eternal sanctities reside; who is Himself the root and ground of them. The ἅγιος is the separate from evil, with the perfect hatred of the evil. But holiness in this absolute sense belongs only to God; not to Angels, for He chargeth his Angels with folly (Job iv. 18), and certainly not to men (Jam. iii. 2; Gen. vi. 5; viii. 21). He then that claims to be “The Holy One,”—a name which Jehovah in the Old Testament continually claims for Himself,—implicitly claims to be God; takes to Himself a title which is God’s alone, which it would be blasphemy for any other to appropriate, and, unless we allow the alternative that He is guilty of this, can only be accepted as Himself God.
“He that is true.”—We must not confound ἀληθινός (= “verus”) with ἀληθής (= “verax”). God is ἀληθής (=ἀψευδής, Tit. i. 2), as He cannot lie, the truth-speaking and truth-loving God; with whom every word is Yea and Amen; but He is ἀληθινός, as fulfilling all that is involved in the 229name God, in contrast with those which are called gods, but which, having the name of gods, have nothing of the truth, wicked spirits, or dead idols. That is ἀληθινός which fulfils its own idea to the highest possible point; as Origen (In Joan. tom. ii. § 4) well puts it: ἀληθινός, πρὸς ἀντιδιαστολὴν σκιᾶς καὶ τύπου καὶ εἰκόνος. Nor is ἀληθινός only, as in this case of God, the true as contrasted with the absolutely false; but as contrasted with the subordinately true, with all imperfect and partial realisations of the idea; thus Christ is φῶς ἀληθινόν (John i. 9; 1 John ii. 8), ἄρτος ἀληθινός (John vi. 32), ἄμπελος ἀληθινή (John xv. 1); there is a σκηνὴ ἀληθινή in heaven (Heb. viii. 2). In each of these cases the antithesis is not between the true and the false, but between the perfect and the imperfect, the idea fully, and the idea only partially, realized; for John the Baptist also was a light (John v. 35), and Moses gave bread from heaven (Ps. cv. 40), and Israel was a vine of God’s planting (Ps. lxxx. 8), and the tabernacle pitched in the wilderness, if only a figure of the true, was yet pitched at God’s express command (Exod. xxv.).
“He that hath the key of David.”—Let us note here, but only that we may avoid it, a not uncommon error of interpretation, namely, the, identifying, or confounding, of this “key of David” with “the key of knowledge,” which in the days of his 230earthly ministry Christ accused the Scribes that they had taken away (Luke xi. 52). They who thus identify the two regard Him as here claiming to be the One who unlooses the seals of Scripture, opens the closed door into its inner chambers; who by his advent first made intelligible the dark and obscure prophecies of the Old Testament, and by his Spirit opens and enlightens the eyes of men to see and understand the deep things which are written in his Word. Into this erroneous interpretation Origen not unfrequently falls, bringing Rev. v. 7-9 into relation with these two passages as a third, having the same import; thus In Joan. tom. v. § 4; Sel. in Psalm. Ps. i.; Hilary no less (Prol. in libr. Psalm. §§ 5, 6); and Jerome (Ep. 50, de Stud. Script.).
“The key” is of course here and elsewhere, as Andreas expresses it, ἐξουσίας σύμβολον, the symbol of power (cf. xxii. 1); and “the key of David” is “the key of the house of David,” of that royal household whereof David was chief, and all his servants members. Cocceius: “Clavem Davidis vocat, quia ea regia clavis, et is tempore ministerii sui clausit et aperuit, typum Christi gerens; vide Ps. ci. 4-8.” But David being a type of Christ, nay often his name being actually named for the name of Christ (Ezek. xxxiv. 23, 24), “the house of David” alluded to thus can mean nothing less than the heavenly house, the 231kingdom of heaven; and the Lord is, in fact, declaring, “I have the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Those keys which He committed to Peter and his fellow Apostles (Matt. xvi. 19), He announces to be in the highest sense his own. It depends on Him, the supreme κλῃδοῦχος in the house of God, who shall see the King’s face, and who shall be excluded from it. Men are admitted into, or shut out from, that presence according to the good pleasure of his will; for it is He, and no other, “that openeth, and no man shutteth, that shutteth, and no man openeth.” Christ teaches us here that He has not so committed the keys of the kingdom of heaven, with the power of binding and loosing, to any other, his servants, here, but that He still retains the highest administration of them in his own hands. If at any time there is error in their binding and loosing, if they make sad the heart which He has not made sad, if they speak peace to the heart to which He has not spoken peace, then his judgment shall stand, and not theirs. For the promise that He would ratify and confirm in heaven the judgments of his Church on earth, could only be absolute and unconditional so long as the Church retained a discernment of spirits which was never at fault. When once this had departed from it, when therefore it was liable to mistake and error, from that moment the promise could be only conditional. 232From the highest tribunal upon earth there lies an appeal to a tribunal of yet higher instance in heaven; to his, who opens and none can shut, who shuts and none can open; and when through ignorance, or worse than ignorance, any wrong has been done to any of his servants here, HIe will redress it there, disallowing and reversing in heaven the erring or unrighteous decrees of earth. It was in faith of this that Hus, when the greatest Council which Christendom had seen for a thousand years delivered his soul to Satan, did himself confidently commend it to the Lord Jesus Christ; and many a faithful confessor that, at Rome or Madrid, has walked to the stake, his yellow san-benito all painted over with devils in token of those with whom his portion was to be, has never doubted that his portion should be indeed with Him who retains in his own hands “the key of David;” who thus could open for him, though all who visibly represented here the Church had shut him out with extreme malediction at once from the Church militant on earth and the Church triumphant in heaven.
That the substrate of this language, and, so to say, the suggestion of this thought, is to be sought at Isai. xxii., there can be no reasonable doubt. The Prophet there describes the removal, indeed the shameful rejection, of Shebna, the chief οἰκονόμος of the king, who had occupied for a while the place 233of highest dignity and honour, but whom the Lord beheld as unworthy of this, and from which He puts him down with shame and dishonour, with the substitution in his room of his servant Eliakim, and his inauguration into the honours and dignifies which the other had lost. It needs only to quote the words as they occur in the Septuagint: δώσω αὐτῷ τὴν κλεῖδα οἴκου Δαυὶδ ἐπὶ τῷ ὤμῳ αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἀνοίξει καὶ οὐκ ἔσται ὁ ἀποκλείων, καὶ κλείσει καὶ οὐκ ἔσται ὁ ἀνοίγων. The Prophet describes all this with an emphasis and fulness, which, however highly we may conceive of Eliakim, is surprising and inexplicable, until we look beyond that present, and see in that Scripture not merely the history of a revolution in the royal palace or house of David,—a putting down of one and setting up of another; but, over and above this, the type and real prophecy of something immeasurably greater, the indignant rejection of all those unworthy stewards who in God’s spiritual house had long abused their position, and the exaltation of the true Steward of the mysteries of God, who should be faithful in all his house, in their room. Vitringa (Comm. in Esai. xxii.): “Quæ Eliakimo promittitur prærogativa dignitatis, fore ut claves gerens Domûs Davidis clauderet et aperiret solus, et omnis ab eo suspenderetur sarcina et decus Domûs Davidis (in quam hic cadit emphasis): tam magnifice et ample dictum 234est, ut plus dixisse videretur Propheta quam debebat, si id in aliquo subjecto nobiliore, cujus Eliakimus typum gerere poterat, olim illustrius non consequeretur exemplum. Certe sunt verbi prophetici recessus profundi.”
Ver. 8. “I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can, shut it.”—This “open door” is best explained by a reference to 1 Cor. xvi. 9; 2 Cor. ii. 12; Acts xiv. 27; Col. iv. 3. Vitringa: “Notat commodam Evangelii prædicandi occasionem.” To this Philadelphian Church, weak probably in numbers, weak in worldly advantages, God had opened “a great door and effectual for the declaring of his truth; and, though there were many adversaries, no man could shut it. For was not He who opened, the same who had the key of David? and when He opened none could shut, when He made room for his truth in the heart of one or of many, none could hinder it from having free course and being glorified; even as, if He shut and withheld a blessing, all other might and power would be wholly unavailing to make for it an entrance there.
“For thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”—They were probably but a little flock, poor in worldly goods, of small account in the eyes of men (cf. 1 Cor. i. 26-28), having “little strength”—not “a 235little strength,” which would rather be an acknowledgment of power than of weakness—the fitter therefore that God should be glorified in them and by them; even as He had been; for, put to the proof, they had kept his word, and had not denied his name. The aorists, ἐτήρησας, οὐκ ἡρνήσω, refer to some distinct occasions in the past, when, being thus put to the test, they had approved themselves faithful to Him.
Ver. 9. “Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them? to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that 1 have loved thee.”—Here is the reward of their faithfulness, of the entrance which they had made by that open door which the Lord set before them. The promise to Philadelphia, in respect of Jewish adversaries, is larger and richer than that to Smyrna. The promise there did but amount to this, that these enemies should not prevail against them (ii. 9, 10); but here are better promises, namely, that they shall prevail against their enemies; and that with a victory the most blessed of all, in which conquerors and conquered should be blessed alike, and should rejoice together. In reward of their faithfulness, they should see some of these fierce gainsayers and opposers, some of this “synagogue of Satan” (see ii. 9), falling on 236their faces, and owning that God was with them of a truth. The “worship” before their feet, of course, does not mean more than this; compare Isai. xlix. 23; lx. 14, to which last verse is manifest allusion here. It is only some of them who shall worship thus; for there is no promise during the present dispensation that all Israel, but only that a remnant, shall be saved (Rom. ix. 27). In our Version we have failed to express this, that they are only some of the synagogue of Satan who should thus acknowledge the presence of God in the Church of his dear Son, should look at Him whom they had pierced, and own that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed He of whom Moses and the Prophets did write, the promised Messiah, the King of Israel, who should turn iniquity from Jacob. In connexion with this promise, there is an interesting passage in the Epistle of Ignatius to this same Philadelphian Church (c. 6), implying the actual presence in the midst of it, of converts from Judaism, who now preached the faith which once they persecuted. We may say too that this same promise has been gloriously fulfilled to other Churches in our own days, or almost in our own days, as we call to mind the. many of Germany’s noblest theologians and philosophers, her Neanders and her Stahls; who, being of the stock of Abraham, have yet had the veil taken from their hearts, and owned 237of the Church of Christ that God was with it of a truth.
Ver. 10. “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 does the Lord exactly mean here by “the word of my patience”? There are some who find reference to certain special words and sayings of Christ’s, in which He has exhorted his servants to patience, or declared the need which they would have of it; such words as occur at Luke viii. 15; Matt. x. 22; xxiv. 13; cf. Rev. i. 19. Better, however, to take the whole Gospel as “the word of Christ’s patience,” everywhere teaching, as it does, the need of a patient waiting for Christ, till He, the waited for so long, shall at length appear. Observe, “Because thou hast kept” (ἐτήρησας, therefore “I also will keep” (τηρήσω); the benigna talio of the kingdom of God; “because thou hast kept my word, therefore in return I will keep thee.” The promise does not imply that the Philadelphian Church should be exempted from persecutions which should come on all other portions of the Church; that by any special privilege they should be excused from fiery trials through which others should have to pass. It is a better promise than this; and one which, of course, they share with all 238who are faithful as they are—to be kept in temptation, not to be exempted from temptation (τηρεῖν ἐκ not being here = τηρεῖν ἀπό, Jam. i. 27; Prov. vii. 5; cf. 2 Thess. iii. 3); a bush burning, and yet not consumed (cf. Isai. xliii. 2). They may take courage; the blasts of persecution will blow; but He will not winnow his barn-floor with so rough a wind that chaff and grain shall be borne away together. This “hour of temptation” is characterized as coming “upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth.” These, according to the constant use of the Apocalypse, include all mankind, with the exception of the ἀπαρχή of the Church (vi. 10; xi. 10; xiii. 8, 14); who are already seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus. The great catastrophies which come upon the earth are “temptations” to the world no less than to the Church. God is then putting “them that dwell upon the earth” to proof, whether now at least they will not repent, and, when his judgments are in the world, learn righteousness, however they may have in times past hardened themselves against Him. So too such times of great tribulation are trials or “temptations,” because they bring out the unbelief, hardness of heart, blasphemy against God, which were before latent in these children of this world; hidden from others, hidden from themselves, till that “hour of temptation” 239came and revealed them (Rev. ix. 20, 21; xvi. 9, 11, 21). Thus Moses speaks of the plagues as the “temptations of Egypt” (Deut. iv. 34; vii. 19; xxix. 3). They were such, inasmuch as they brought out the pride and obduracy that were in Pharaoh’s heart and in his servants’, as these would never have been otherwise revealed either to themselves or to others.
Ver. 11. “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”— This announcement of the speedy coming of the Lord, the ever-recurring key-note of this Book (cf. xxii. 7, 12, 20), is sometimes used as a word of fear for those who are abusing the Master’s absence, wasting his goods and ill-treating their fellow-servants; careless and secure as those for whom no day of reckoning should ever arrive (Matt. xxiv. 48-51; 1 Pet. iv. 5; cf. Jam. v. 9; Rev. ii. 5, 16); but sometimes as a word of infinite comfort for those with difficulty and painfulness holding their ground; He that should bring the long contest at once to an end; who should at once. turn the scale, and for ever, in favour of righteousness and truth, is even at the door (Jam. v. 7, 9; Phil. iv. 5). Such a word of comfort is this announcement here: “Yet a little while, and thy patience shall have its full reward; only in the interval, and till I come, hold that fast which thou hast.” That which Philadelphia 240“had” we have just seen—zeal, patience, with little means accomplishing no little work: “Continue as thou hast begun; hold the beginning of thy confidence firm unto the end, that no man take thy crown.”
It may be needful to observe, as some have misunderstood these last words, that they do not signify, “Let no man step into that place of glory which was designed for thee;” for example, after the manner that Jacob stepped into Esau’s place (Gen. xxv. 34; xxvii. 36); Judah into Reuben’s (Gen. xlix. 4, 8); David into Saul’s (1 Sam. xvi. 1, 13); Eliakim into Shebna’s (Isai. xxii. 15-25); Matthias into Judas’s (Acts i. 25, 26); Gentiles into the place of Jews (Rom. xi. 11); men into that of angels; the number of the elect, as Gregory the Great concludes from these words, remaining still the same, only some filling the places which others have left empty (Moral. xxxiv. 20), and thus taking their crown. These received indeed a crown, which others lost; they did not take it (the ‘accipiat’ of the Vulgate is wrong here; it should be rather ‘auferat’); and it is quite inconceivable that any who should ever himself’ wear the crown, should be set forth as taking it from another. This taking, or seeking to take, the crowns from others’ brows is the part, not of the good who would wear them on their own, but of the wicked who would 241have others discrowned like themselves. Instead of ascribing to the words any such meaning, we must regard them as simply equivalent to those of St. Paul: “Let no man beguile you of your reward” (καταβραβευέτω ὑμᾶς, Col. ii. 18); and as giving no least hint that what this Angel lost another would gain; the crown which he forfeited, another would wear. “Thy crown” is not the crown “which thou hast,” but “which thou mayest have” (cf. 2 Tim. iv. 8: ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος). “Let no man,” Christ would say, “deprive thee of the glorious reward laid up for thee in heaven, of which many, my adversaries and thine, would fain rob thee; but which only one, even thyself, can ever cause thee to lose indeed.”
Ver. 12. “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out.”—It need hardly be said, except that some have denied it, that this is a promise, as are all the others, of future blessedness, belonging not to the members of the Church militant here on earth, but of the Church triumphant in heaven. “Pillar” is not to be interpreted here exactly as it is at Gal. ii. 9. There the “pillars” (στῦλοι) are certain eminent Apostles, the main supports, under Christ, of the Church in its militant condition here upon earth; and, as such, towering above the 242rest of the faithful. But there is no such comparative preeminence indicated here; as is evident from the fact that the promise to every one of the faithful, to each that has overcome, is, that he shall be made “a pillar in the temple of God;” Christ so speaks, as Jerome (In Gal. ii. 9) says well, “docens omnes credentes qui adversarium vicerint, posse columnas Ecclesiæ fieri.” To find any allusion here, as Vitringa and others have done, to the two monumental pillars, Jachin and Boaz, which Solomon set up, not in the Temple, but in the open vestibule before the Temple (1 Kings vii. 21; 2 Chron. iii. 15, 17), I must say, appears to me quite beside the mark; and if there were any question on this point, the words which follow, “and he shall go no more out,” would seem perfectly decisive upon this point. The pillars just named were always without the Temple; they would therefore have served very ill to set forth the blessedness of the redeemed, who should be always within it. Other pillars might do this, but certainly not these, which contradicted in their position the central intention of Christ’s words here, which is to declare that he who overcomes shall dwell in the house of God for ever. “He shall go out no more;” for, as the elect angels are fixed in obedience, and have over-lived the possibility of falling, have attained what the Schoolmen call the beata necessitas boni, 243so shall it be one day with the faithful. Gerhard (Locc. Theoll. xxxii. 2): “Erit perpetuus heres æternorumn bonorum, nec ullius ἐκπτώσεως ipsi imminebit periculum, qui columna est, symbolum immobilitatis in statu gloriæ cœ lestis.” Once admitted into the heavenly kingdom, they are admitted for ever; the door is shut (Matt. xxv. 10), not merely to exclude others, but safely to include these. In that heavenly household the son, every son who has once entered, abideth for ever (John viii. 35; cf. Isai. xxii. 23); so that, in the language of Augustine, “Who is there that would not yearn for that City, out of which no friend departs, and into which no enemy enters?”3535 “Quis non desideret illam Civitatem, unde amicus non exit, quo inimicus non intrat?”
“And I will write upon him the name of my God.”—Christ will write this name of his God upon him that overcometh—not upon it, the pillar. It is true indeed that there were sometimes inscriptions on pillars,—which yet would be στῆλαι rather than στῦλοι,—but the image of the pillar is now dismissed, and only the conqueror remains. In confirmation of this, that it is the person, and not the pillar, whom the Lord contemplates now, we find further on the redeemed having the name of God, or the seal of God, on their foreheads (vii. 3; ix. 4; xiv. 1; xxii. 4), with probable allusion to 244the golden plate inscribed with the name of Jehovah, which the High Priest wore upon his (Exod. xxviii. 36-38). In the “kingdom of priests” this dignity shall not be any more the singular prerogative of one, but the common dignity of all. Exactly in the same way, in the hellish caricature of the heavenly kingdom, the votaries of the Beast are stigmatics, with his name upon their foreheads (xiii. 16, 17; xvii. 5; and cf. xx. 4).
“And the name of the City of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God.”—What the name of this City is we are told Ezek. xlviii. 35: “The Lord is there.” Any other name would but faintly express the glory of it; “having the glory of God” (Rev. xxi. 11, 23). He that has the name of this City written upon him is hereby declared free of it. Even while on earth he had his true πολίτευμα ἐν οὐρανοῖς (Phil. iii. 20; see Ellicott thereon), the state, city, or country to which he belonged was a heavenly one; but still his citizenship was latent; he was one of God’s hidden ones; but now he is openly avouched, and has a right to enter in by the gates to the City (xxii. 14). This heavenly City, the City which hath the foundations, and for which Abraham looked (Heb. xi. 10; cf. xiii. 14), is but referred to here; the full and magnificent description of it is reserved as the fitting close of the Book 245(xxi. 10-xxii. 5). It goes by many and glorious names in Scripture. “That great city, the holy Jerusalem,” St. John calls it (xxi. 10); claiming for it this title of “the holy,” which the earthly Jerusalem once possessed (Matt. iv. 5), but which it had forfeited for ever. “Jerusalem which is above,” St. Paul calls it (Gal. iv. 26). It is “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. xii. 22). It is the true Καλλίπολις, ἡ ἄνω Καλλίπολις, as Cyril of Alexandria has strikingly named it; being indeed that Beautiful City, of which Plato did but dream, when he devised this name (Rep. vii. 527 c). It is the Οὐρανόπολις, as Clement of Alexandria (Pæd. ii. 12) has called it, recovering and reclaiming for it this magnificent title; which Greek sycophants in profane flattery had devised for another city (Athenæus, i. 36), one, if we may trust the pictures of it drawn by those who saw it closest and knew it best, far better deserving a name drawn from beneath than from above.
The epithet “new,” which is given here to the heavenly City, “the new Jerusalem,” sets it in contrast with the old, worn-out, sinful city bearing the same name; for καινός expresses this antithesis of the new to the old as the out-worn; thus καινὴ κτίσις, καινὸς ἄνθρωπος, καινὸν ἱμάτιον; while νέα would but express that which had recently come into existence, as contrasted with that which had 246subsisted long; thus Νεάπολις, the city recently founded. There would therefore have been no fitness in this last epithet here, for this New Jerusalem, “whose builder and maker is God,” is at once new, in that sin has never wasted it, and at the same time the oldest of all. Bengel has well observed, that St. John writes always in his Gospel Ἱεροσόλυμα, in the Apocalypse always Ἱερουσαλήμ; and gives, no doubt, the true explanation of this: “Non temere Johannes in Evangelio omnibus locis scribit Ἱεροσόλυμα de urbe veteri: in Apocalypsi semper Ἱερουσαλήμ de Urbe Cœlesti. Ἱερουσαλήμ est appellatio Hebraica, originaria et sanctior; Ἱεροσόλυμα deinceps obvia, Græca, magis politica.”
Strange conclusions have been drawn from the words that follow: “which cometh down out of heaven from my God.” The dream of an actual material city to be let down bodily from heaven to earth, an “aurea atque gemmata in terris Jerusalem,” as Jerome somewhat contemptuously calls it (In Isai. Præf. ad Lib. 18; and compare Origen, De Princ. ii. 11. 2), has been cherished in almost all times of the Church by some, who have been unable to translate the figurative language of Scripture into those far more glorious realities of the heavenly πολιτεία, whereof those figures were the vesture and the outward array. Thus the Montanists believed that the New Jerusalem would 247descend at Pepuza in Phrygia, the head-quarters of their sect; and already, according to Tertullian (Adv. Marc. iii. 24) there were vouchsafed from time to time signs and prophetic outlines in heaven of the city which should come down to earth. For forty days, morning and evening, the splendid vision and sky-pageant of this City had been suspended in the sky. But if only it be a City “in which righteousness dwelleth,” it will little matter whether we go to it, or it come to us; and in this shape assuredly it will not come.3636 Glorious things have been spoken of this City of God, and not in the sacred Scriptures only, but also in the writings of uninspired men, in whose hearts, while they have mused on that Heavenly Jerusalem, the fire has kindled, and they have spoken with their tongues. Thus our own “Jerusalem, my happy home,” is worthy of no mean place among spiritual songs. But the German and the Latin hymnologies are far richer, both indeed are extraordinarily rich, in these hymns celebrating the glories of the New Jerusalem. Thus in German how lovely is Meyfart’s (1590-1642) “Jerusalem, du hochgebaute Stadt” (Bunsen, Gesangbuch, no. 495); but grander still, and not in Bunsen’s collection, Kosegarten’s (1758-1818) “Stadt Gottes, deren diamantnen Ring;” and in the Latin, Hildebert, not to speak of Prudentius (Psychom. 823-887), Bernard of Clugny in his Laus Patriæ Cœlestis, and many others, has set forth the beauty and the blessedness of that City of the living God, and his own longing to be numbered among the citizens of it in verses such as these: “Me receptet Sion illa, Sion, David urbs tranquilla, Cujus faber auctor lucis, Cujus portæ lignum crucis, Cujus muri lapis vivus, Cujus custos Rex festivus. In hâc urbe lux solennis, Ver æternum, pax perennis: In hâc odor implens cœlos, In hâc semper festum melos; Non est ibi corruptela, Non defectus, non querela; Non minuti, non deformes, Omnes Christo sunt conformes. Urbs cœlestis, urbs beata, Super petram collocata, Urbs in portu satis tuto, De longinquo te saluto, Te saluto, te suspiro, Te affecto, te requiro: Quantùm tui gratulantur, Quàm festivè convivantur, Quis affectus eos stringat, Aut quæ gemma muros pingat, Quis chalcedon, quis jacinthus, Norunt illi qui sunt intus. In plateis hujus urbis, Sociatus piis turbis, Cum Moyse et Eliâ, Pium cantem Alleluia.”248
“And I will write upon h)im my new name.”—This “new name” is not “The Word of God” (xix. 13), nor yet “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (xix. 16). It is true that both of these appear in this Book as names of Christ; but at the same time neither of them could be called his “new name;” 249the faithful having been familiar with them from the beginning; but the “new name” is that mysterious, and in the necessity of things uncommunicated, and for the present time incommunicable, name, which in that same sublimest of all visions is referred to: “He had a name written, that no man knew, but He Himself” (xix. 12); for none but God can search out the deep things of God (1 Cor. ii. 12; cf. Matt. xi. 27; Judg. xiii. 18). But the mystery of this new name, which no man by searching could find out, which in this present condition no man is so much as capable of receiving, shall be imparted to the saints and citizens of the New Jerusalem. They shall know, even as they are known (1 Cor. xiii. 12).
Ver. 13. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.”—Compare ii. 7. I cannot leave this Epistle, so full of precious promises to a Church, which, having little strength, had yet held fast the word of Christ’s patience, without giving a remarkable passage about it from Gibbon (Decline and Fall, c. lxiv.), in which he writes like one who almost believed that the threatenings and promises of God did fulfil themselves in history: “In the loss of Ephesus the Christians deplored the fall of the first angel, the extinction of the first candlestick of the Revelations; the desolation is complete; and the temple of Diana 250or the church of Mary will equally elude the search of the curious traveller. The circus and three stately theatres of Laodicea are now peopled with wolves and foxes; Sardis is reduced to a miserable village; the God of Mahomet, without a rival or a son, is invoked in the mosques of Thyatira and Pergamus, and the populousness of Smyrna is supported by the foreign trade of the Franks and Armenians. Philadelphia alone has been saved by prophecy, or courage. At a distance from the sea, forgotten by the emperors, encompassed on all sides by the Turks, her valiant citizens defended their religion and freedom above fourscore years, and at length capitulated with the proudest of Ottomans. Among the Greek colonies and churches of Asia, Philadelphia is still erect—a column in a scene of ruins,—a pleasing example that the paths of honour and safety may sometimes be the same.”
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