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well known by the Jews, Matt. chapter v. verse 34. unto you, swear not at all, neither by heaven; for it is God's throne.
The meaning is, the invisible world. The worshippers of the true God worship nothing that is visible; therefore, while the idolatrous heathen had their visible idols enthroned on earth, as the guardians of trees, and fruits, and fountains, or as the patrons of wise, or eloquent, or rich, or drunken men, the Jews were taught to worship Him who is invisible, whose throne is the heavens, and who ruleth over all. If they looked upon
sun, or moon, or stars, they were taught that He, the great Invisible One, ordained them, “Binding the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and loosing the bands of Orion, bringing forth Mazzaroth in his season, and guiding Arcturus with his sons.” On whatever visible thing their eyes fell, they were taught to ascribe its creation and preservation to Him (who fastened the foundations of the earth, and stretched the line upon it, and laid the corner-stone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."*
When Jesus, therefore, after his resurrection, said to his disciples, All power is given to me in heaven, and in earth, the invisible and the visible worlds; he spoke, in fact, words of the same meaning in Jewish ears, as these words of our text. It was given to him to sit in the Father's throne, in absolute universal sway over creation and providence.
Into the glory, the glory which he had with the Father before the world was, our risen Lord is entered, according to his own prayer, John, 17th chapter, 5th verse. And now, 0 Father, glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. As the Eternal Word, who was with God, and was God, this glory was his, essentially and eternally his own. But as the Mediator between God and man, having taken the manhood into God, in the unity of one person, this glory is given to him, as the reward of his humiliation and obedience. He humbled himself unto death; therefore God hath highly exalted him, as we read, Phil. chap. ii
. 8-11. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every nanie.
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” In the exercise of this universal dominion, he has especial
* Job xxxviii.
regard to this world of ours. No other world has the same kind of claim
him. Man is his brother, and this world, which was made for man, is near and dear to him. His dominion is over all worlds, but his peculiar family is here.
His goodness is over all, but his personal sympathies are here. All things are in his hand of power, but this world leans upon his bosom of tenderness. This is the planet which Jesus loves. It is the Martha, the Mary, the Lazarus, the St. John, of creation. It is in affliction, and Jesus feels with it, and comforts it. It is in the bondage of corruption, and Jesus will restore it to liberty, and purity, and loveliness.
It is in reference to this peculiar love, and its blessed consequence to this world at his coming again, that Jesus speaks of himself as about to have a peculiar throne. He who departed into the invisible world, will appear on our earth, in like manner as he disappeared from it.* He will come, and rest in his love. He will make his abode here, and make this earth fit to be his abode for ever. And although as the Eternal Word in the unity of the Godhead, he will not cease to exercise universal rule; yet as GOD-MAN, the head of the redeemed creation, he will make this earth the scene of the manifestation of God, the metropolis in this sense of the universe: and angels, principalities, and powers, in heavenly places, who already desire to look into these things, shall behold in the perfected church, the kingdom of Christ, the manifold wisdom of God.
This, his manifested glory on his return to the earth, is what we understand by his own throne, as contradistinguished from the Father's throne, on which he now sits. When he shall return, and sit upon his own throne, we read that thrones shall be set, and they who have overcome shall sit on them, and reign with Jesus on his own throne. They are thus described in two companies: 1. Those who were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God; and 2. those who have not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither have received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands. I The first seems to specify, with much distinctness, the literal martyrs, who sealed, and those who may perhaps yet seal, their faithful testimony in a violent death. The second includes all true believers, who, in the integrity of sound principle, resist and reject all plausible compromises with evil, whether it be false doctrine or corrupt practice. This leads to the next clause of the words before us. III. We who bear the name of Jesus are called to over
The promise is made to him that overcometh. Victory achieved, implies a foregoing conflict endured. Now,
* Acts 1. 9-11. + Ephes. iii. 10, 11. # Rev. xx. 4.
beloved brethren, now is the time of our conflict. The world, the flesh, and the devil, are still our inveterate enemies, if we be truly on the Lord's side. They never cease from fighting against us, though the modes of their warfare may exceedingly vary, from the bold attack of a storming party, to the insidious underhand approaches of sappers and miners. It is not the beheading axe, or the racking wheel, or the flaming fagot of the beast, that we have at present so much to dread, as the reception of his mark, in faithless unholy alliance, in our foreheads, or secret corrupt connivance in our hands. Our present risk is not to be burned for refusing to subscribe false doctrines; but to yield to the infidel fashion of the age in esteeming all doctrines alike. Our risk is, that in order to avoid the odium of what is bigoted in the eyes of men, we shall sacrifice, or at least compromise, what is faithful and true in the sight of God. We have deceitful hearts, evermore betraying us into pride, and self-dependance, and self-righteousness, and hypocrisy. We are in an evil world, abounding with temptations, varying with our varying weaknesses. Here are blandishments and allurements to flatter us into forgetfulness of God and eternity. Here are sneers and mockings, to deter us from holy boldness. Here also are disappointments, falsehoods, treacheries, to damp our confidence, and wither up our affections. We are exposed to the malice of the devil and his angels, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual wickedness in high places. It is no easy matter to hold fast in the Lord, and overcome; neither worshipping the image of the beast, nor receiving his mark.
Who can sustain us in the battle? Who can give us the victory? Only the Lord Jesus. He is our strength, he teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight, he subdueth our enemies under us, and makes us conquerors, yea, and more than conquerors in him that loved us. Only he can open our understanding to perceive the iniquity of the system around us: to detect its compromising hollowness: to see how it carries on its deceitful work, without proclaiming its true character; and so to be upon our guard against enticements into an alliance with a false world, in opposition to the truth, and holiness, and glory of God.
But how does the Lord accomplish this gracious preservation? By what instrumentality does he thus give us the victory? The true and comprehensive answer is, by faith! by the evidence of things not seen, the substance of things hoped for. * By nature, the things that are seen, have prevailing power over the character of every man. They occupy his thoughts,
* Heb. xi. 1.
engage his affections, and influence his conduct. He walks by sense. He minds earthly things.* By the grace of faith, invisible things become influential things. The unseen realities of eternity acquire a power, a growing, a commanding power over the believer's character. They occupy his thoughts, engage his affections, and sweetly constrain his conduct. He walks by faith, faith working by love. He minds heavenly things. This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. We are kept by the power of God, through faith. I The power of God, in the secret operation of his grace, sustaining faith; and faith, thus graciously sustained, keeping alive the power of invisible things, and so preserving us from the mark of the beast, in our foreheads, or in our hands.
True faith, duly instructed, exercises itself in every part of the work of God, which he has revealed to us in Jesus Christ. First, in what he has actually done for us, especially in Gethsemane and Calvary: and then, faith works by gratitude. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”'S “What shall we render unto the Lord, for all his benefits towards us?" || Secondly, in what he is now doing for us on the Father's throne, ever living to make intercession for us: and then, faith works by confidence, seeing that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession,”—“let us come boldly unto the throne of grace.” And thirdly, in what he will do for us on his own throne, he will give us a crown of life: and then faith works by HOPE
IV. This is the operation of faith which is addressed in our text.
The food of this faith is every unfulfilled promise (i. e. prophecy) of God. Hope looks forward as gratitude looks back. Gratitude gives an impulse—hope supplies an attraction. This attraction is of prevailing power in our conflict.
When Moses was in conflict, doubtless his gratitude was lively in the remembrance of the past mercies of God to Israel; and to himself, personally, from earliest infancy. Doubtless his confidence was strong and well-founded, in the consciousness of God's present love to him, and watchful protection around his daily path. Nevertheless, the prevailing power by which he was actuated, and by which he overcame, is plainly recorded to have been that faith which worketh by hope. He overcame the attractions of worldly ambition, refusing the proffered honour of adoption by the king's daughter. He overcame the love of sin, and the reluctance to suffer, which are * Phil. iii. 19.
+ 1 John v. 4. #1 Pet. i. 5. § 2 Cor. v. 14. 11 Psalm cxvi. 12: 1 Heb. iv. 14–17.
natural to men, and chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season. He overcame the love of money, and the shrinking from reproach, which are natural to men, and esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; and all this, because he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.* By faith he overcame. He believed the promise: and his faith wrought, and triumphed by hope.
When Jesus himself was in conflict, the liveliness and genuineness of his gratitude cannot be questioned; neither can the strength of his holy confidence: yet here again it is plainly recorded, that the victorious operation of the mind was hope. He was, indeed, in conflict; his tender nature shrank in holy agony from the pain and ignominy of the accursed tree, and he cried, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. But he overcame, saying, nevertheless, not as 1 will, but as thou wilt. He endured the cross, he despised the shame. For the joy that was set before him;t the attraction of hope. Now we are in conflict, as we have seen, and called to over
And as an inducement to quit ourselves like men, be strong, and steadfast, to hold on, and hold out to the end; the joy that is set before us, the recompense of the reward, is held forth to him that overcometh. We say nothing in disparagement of either gratitude or confidence, when we say, that the Lord Jesus has addressed himself also to our hope. To him that overcometh will I give! This is our Captain's watch-word in the battle to all his faithful and enduring soldiers. Mark, in his addresses to the seven churches, the reiteration, and the diversified form of the glorious promise, the recompense of the reward, to every one that overcometh. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. He that overcomth shall not be hurt of the second death. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. He that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out; and I will write upon him the * Heb, xi. 24-26.
+ Heb. xii. 2.