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must come to fervent and loving desire and prayer for Christ to fulfil all his plan and purposes of grace.
And from this emphatic and all-pervading looking and yearning of everything Christian for the Apocalypse of Christ, the call for it widens and deepens into an invitation and incentive to all who desire eternal blessedness, and to all who have any mind or appetite for the waters of life. "And let him who is athirst come. He who willeth let him take the water of life freely." The meaning is, that the waters of life, as they flow in the New Jerusalem, which comes not until Christ comes, are to be had without money and without price; but that those who thirst for those waters are to join with the company and call of those who thus yearn for the blessed consummation. If anyone is athirst for these waters, or has a mind and appetite for them, the word is, "Let him come." Come whither, come to what? Come into fellowship with the Spirit, the Bride, and every believing hearer of their testimony, in yearning, and looking, and praying for the coming of the Lord to fulfil what he has promised, and this Book describes. Everything in grace is moving and looking to that; and if any are athirst for God's living waters, or if any have a will to partake of them, this is the way to get them. No price is set upon them. They are free as the air to every one who would have them. But the free partaking of them is by faith in Christ, by seizing hold upon his promises to his Church, and by joining the cry of the Spirit, the yearning of the Bride, and the soul of all right hope, in "looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God" (2 Peter 3:12), even the glorious Apocalypse of the blessed Christ.
IV. Accordingly, there is presented still another point with reference to the preservation of what is set forth in this Book. It is the Book of the outcomes of all the operations of God in our world. It is the great Redeemer's own foreshowing to his people how and wherein all their faith in him and all their expectations as true believers are to reach their final goal. There is therefore no more important sacred Book, none more necessary to regulate the beliefs and anticipations of Christian people with regard to the future. To tamper with it, is to tamper with the divinely given chart of the most momentous things in the destiny of Christ and his Church and people. And hence, with a solemnity that we nowhere else encounter, and with a stringency the most intense in all the Word of God, the Saviour himself, from his throne in heaven, says: "I testify to every one who heareth the words of the prophecy of this Book, If anyone add or shall have added to or upon them, God shall add to or upon him the plagues which are written in this Book,' and if anyone shall take away from the words of the Book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life and the Holy City which are written in this Book."
As if this Book were itself the Tree of Life which it describes, here are the Cherubim with flaming sword turning every way to guard and protect it. To Israel, in the days of Moses, God said, "Ye shall not add unto the word that I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it" (Deuteronomy 4:2). At a later period the wise man said, "Every word of God is pure. Add thou not unto his words lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (Proverbs 30:5-6.) But here the warning and prohibitions are far more intense, and the penalties terrible in the extreme. To mutilate this Book, to take from or to add to what it describes as the course and outcome of the divine purposes, is simply to forfeit salvation itself. Could this be if we did not here have the very kernel and consummation of all that prophets have written, and in which grace and salvation have their chief significance and crown? Would God affix the proroundest sanctions of eternity to a dim outline of a little mixed history of this world, which three-fourths of its readers never knew or could understand, and which might never have been revealed at all without any appreciable damage to the piety or to the hopes of God's people in any age?
The very absurdity of the thought is demonstration that this Book is something infinitely higher, more solemn, and more essential than the vast mass of modern exposition makes it. No man can be lost or saved simply on account of his receiving or rejecting what the historical interpreters set forth as the chief meaning of the Apocalypse. On their theory, the whole Book might be sunk in eternal oblivion, and still no serious damage result to the faith of the Church, or men's calculations for the future. But in the estimate of God, he who adds to or takes from what it presents, disables all right conception of the system of redemption, and inflicts an injury so great that he who does it need never hope for salvation. How important, therefore, how precious in the eye of heaven, how necessary to the right instruction of God's people, how vital to the proper Christian faith and hope are the unmutilated and unchanged foreshowings which this Book was given to set forth!
The penalty upon every corrupter of these records also helps to fix and establish the right interpretation of them. "Plagues" constitute one of the prominent subjects; and those "plagues" are to be laid upon each hearer who involves himself in the guilt of adding to or diminishing the contents of this Book. They must therefore be literal "plagues," such as can be laid upon separate individuals, and not mere symbols of disturbances of nations, shakings of empires, calamities to systems, and revolutions in governments. Such "plagues" are incapable of being imposed upon individual men, and individual persons are contemplated in this anathema. Except, therefore, where otherwise indicated, "the plagues which are written in this Book" are contemplated by Christ himself as literal "plagues;" and we have simply followed his mind in so explaining them. Just what particular plagues are covered by the threat, we may not be able to determine; but what the wicked suffer, the same is to be the portion of him who dares to abridge or augment the contents of these records. And when we consider how unbelief despises this Book and its philosophy of things-how a self-wise and rationalistic latitudinarianism neglects it, ridicules all serious attention to it, and empties it of all respectable meaning and worth-how a presumptuous criticism disables it with wild and stilted theories of poetry and symbolization-and how even Christian men fight against the admission of its clear teachings when allowed to speak for themselves-what are we to conclude, but that in these very things we have the sowing for the whole harvest of plagues written in this Book?
O, my friends, it is a fearful thing to suppress or stultify the Word of God, and above all "the words of the prophecy of this Book." To put forth for truth what is not the truth-to denounce as error, condemn, repudiate, or emasculate what God himself hath set his seal to as his mind and purpose, is one of those high crimes, not only against God, but against the souls of people, which cannot go unpunished. With an honest and ever-prayerful heart, and with these solemn and awful warnings ever before my eyes, I have endeavored to ascertain and indicate in these Lectures what our gracious Lord and Master has been so particular to make known and defend. If I have read into this Book anything which he has not put there, or read out of it anything which he has put there, with the profoundest sorrow would I recant, and willingly burn up the books in which such mischievous wickedness is contained. If I have in anything gone beyond the limits of due subiection to what is written, or curtailed in any way the depth and measure of what Jesus by his angel has signified for the learning of the churches, I need not the condemnation of people to heap upon me the burden of censure which I deserve. If feebleness, or rashness, or overweening confidence in my own understanding has distorted anything, I can only deplore the fault, and pray God to send a man more competent to unfold to us the mighty truths which here stand written. According to the grace and light given me, have I spoken. And before God, angels, and human beings, I am compelled to protest, especially, against all that modern interpretation which dwarfs this Book into an overwrought and indeterminate showing of a few meager chapters of the Church's history this side the day of judgment. If I err, God forgive me! If I am right, God bless my feeble testimony! In either case, God speed his everlasting truth!
V. Yet one other point remains to be noticed. It is Christ's own final summation of the contents of this Book. From the beginning we were told that it was given to show the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. The whole series of visions fit together as so many successive acts and administrations in the closing up of this present world, and the introduction of the eternal order, according to God's eternal purpose. And so here, in the last words of the Book, the Saviour himself sums up the all-comprehending substance of the whole in this one brief sentence: "He who testifieth these things saith, YEA, I COME QUICKLY."
Who that has ever looked carefully into the subject, but has been struck with the towering prominence which the Scriptures everywhere assign to the coming again of the Lord Jesus? The New Testament has more references to this particular topic than it has pages. Of all the seven or eight thousand verses of which it is composed, one out of every twenty-five points forward with eager gesture to the appearing again of the Lord Jesus. Again and again it is set forth as the great hope of the Church. There is not a Christian grace or virtue for the enforcement of which appeal is not made to it. Nor is there another subiect upon which more stress is laid in all the Word of God. To many, indeed, it is anything but welcome. There be even professing Christians who would rather not hear about it, and who, if they could have their way, would erase it from the creed, and silence all preaching concerning. it. But the religion of such is much aside from the Scriptures, and occasion is urgent for them to bestir themselves to re-examine and relay their foundations. Christian faith and hope have no outcome but in the glorious Apocalypse of Jesus. And only when we come to understand that the coming again of Christ is the fulfillment of the things described in this Book, can we appreciate why so much is referred to that coming, and why the venerable Apostle should here, at the end of his Book, bow his hoary head, and say, and write, his solemn "Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus."
The truth is, my friends, that there is no greater or gladder promise in all the Book of God, than this last word of Jesus to his people, "Yea, I come quickly." It is the promise of promises-the crown and consummation of all promise-the coronation of all evangelic hopes-the sum of all prophecy and prayer. Nature and grace alike proclaim a glorified Messiah, come again from heaven in his almightiness, as indispensable to complete their appointed course. Nature calls for him thus to come, to rectify her unwilling disorders, to repair her shattered structures, to restore her oppressed energies, to vindicate her voice of conscience long despised, her sublime testimony to the Creator so long questioned and overlooked. But grace sends forth a still mightier call. If the whole creation groans and travails together in pain for the manifestation of the sons of God, how much more those sons of God themselves!
And why should not this be our spirit? Compare the sordidness of this world with the crystal purity and splendor of the New Jerusalem. Think of the dust, and dearth, and soil and toil of earth, in comparison with that River and Tree of Life which refresh, and adorn, and satisfy the dwellers in those eternal mansions. Consider the ill mixtures, defects, wearinesses, vexations, darkness, and disabilities of life here, alongside of the perfections and sublimities which mark the society and estate of those who walk those streets of gold. Why should we wish to suffer, and toil, and sigh amid the miseries of a scene like this, when such a city of unchanging blessedness throws open its gates of pearl for our admission? Are we so in love with aches, and ills, and wrongs, and disappointments, and treacheries, and diseases, and death-beds, and graves, and torments and temptations of Satan, as not to be willing to be done with them forever?
With what ardor, then, and delight, and enthusiastic joy, should we embrace this word of our Saviour, "Yea, I come quickly!" Have we no mind for the realization of that precious "liberty of the children of God" (Romans 8:21)-no wish to behold our lowliness glorified in the glory of the Man of Nazareth-no longing to have our humble labors recognized and approved by our enthroned Redeemer-no appreciation of the vindication of our persevering faith, of the consummation of our hopes and prayers, of the brightening of our love and charity into rewards eternal and infinite? Ah, yes; everything in and about us, in the weakness of man and in the working of God, yearns and calls and prophesies for the coming again of Jesus-everything but the cold, unfeeling, unsanctified heart of man! But there, alas, no voice is heard going forth to bid the Lord of salvation welcome! People's hearts are inured to the world's corruptions, and how can they hail an immortality of meekness, simplicity, and love?
People's spirits are habituated to seek unholy ends by means still more unholy, and how can they endure the bringing in of everlasting righteousness? Their calculations, hopes, and aims are bounded to things of time and sense, and how can they regard otherwise than with terror so complete a change as that when he who now rules behind a mass of permitted evils visibly assumes the reins of universal dominion? Of course all such are ill at ease with our doctrines, and well may tremble, and call to rocks and mountains to cover and hide them from the defeat and sorrow which Christ's Apocalypse must bring to souls so earthy. But let all God's saints hold fast the blessed hope, and lift up their heads as they see the time approaching. What is there to command our fondest joy, our gladdest anticipation, if not this coming day of our completed happiness and finished redemption?
Fiction has painted the picture of a maiden whose lover left her for a voyage to the Holy Land, promising on his return to make her his beloved bride. Many told her that she would never see him again. But she believed his word, and evening by evening she went down to the lonely shore, and kindled there a beacon-light in sight of the roaring waves, to hail and welcome the returning ship which was to bring again her betrothed. And by that watchfire she took her stand each night, praying to the winds to hasten on the sluggish sails, that he who was everything to her might come. Even so that blessed Lord, who has loved us unto death, has gone away to the mysterious Holy Land of heaven, promising on his return to make us his happy and eternal Bride. Some say that he has gone forever, and that here we shall never see him more. But his last word was," Yea, I come quickly." And on the dark and misty beach sloping out into the eternal sea, each true believer stands by the love-lit fire, looking, and waiting, and praying and hoping for the fulfillment of his word, in nothing gladder than in his pledge and promise, and calling ever from the soul of sacred love," EVEN SO COME, LORD JESUS." And some of these nights, while the world is busy with its gay frivolities, and laughing at the maiden on the shore, a form shall rise over the surging waves, as once on Galilee, to vindicate forever all this watching and devotion, and bring to the faithful and constant heart a joy, and glory, and triumph which never more shall end.
To bring listless and uninstructed souls believingly and intelligently to the position and attitude of that maiden, is the intent of this Book, and of these Lectures upon it. And if by these long studies any hearers are brought to such love-waiting and watching on these dark shores of time, with thanks and praises to Him from whom has come the grace, and with heart and soul set in confident expectation of the speedy fulfillment of the wonders we have been contemplating, I am content to take my leave of these labors.