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EACH PERSON IN THE HOLY TRINITY TO BE ADDRESSED
Rev. i. 4, 5. John to the seven churches which are in Asia :
Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come ; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. VHE revelations of St. John are doubtless ex
tremely difficult to be understood: but yet a particular blessing is promised to the study of them: and certainly, in proportion as they are understood, they enlarge the heart towards God, who foresees every thing from the beginning, and ordains every thing for the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes. It is not however my design, at this time, to enter into any of those events which are predicted in this book; but only to draw your attention to this introductory passage, which will be found replete with the most important instruction. It may
be viewed, I. As a benedictory salutation
It is customary with the inspired writers to begin almost all their epistles with a salutation similar to that before us. “Grace and peace” comprehend all those blessings which a sinner needs, and which every
Christian supremely desires. These are invoked in behalf of the seven churches of the Lesser Asia; and are implored, with remarkable distinctness, from each Person in the ever-blessed Trinity. 1. From God the Father
[He is described in terms declarative of his essential perfections; and with a peculiarity of language which will perhaps be found in no other writer, nor in the writings of St. John himself, except in this placea. It should seem that the Apostle had in his mind a special reference to the name of the Deity as revealed to Moses, when he was commissioned to declare to his brethren, “ I am hath sent me unto you b.” And intending to convey an idea of Jehovah's self-existence from eternity to eternity, and the absolute unchangeableness of his nature, he expressed himself in the most significant terms that language could afford, yea, and in terms which even violated the proprieties of language, that so he might communicate his idea in a more determined form.
To Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, even the Father, as to the fountain and source of all good, he looked in the first instance, desiring that grace and mercy might descend from him.] 2. From the Holy Spirit
[It is not to be conceived that the Apostle should unite angels with Jehovah as a source of “grace and peace ;” and address himself, as it were, in prayer to them. Nor is there, as far as we know, any more reason for his addressing “ seven of them, than seventy times seven. It must be remembered, that the whole book of Revelation is emblematical and figurative; and therefore the Apostle addresses the Holy Spirit in language suited to the whole character of the book which he was about to write. The number seven, amongst the Hebrews, was considered as expressing perfection: and when the Apostle uses the expression, “ the seven Spirits,” he is not to be understood as speaking of seven different persons, but of the Holy Spirit, in all his diversified gifts and operations. And he represents him as “ before the throne;" because, in the economy of redemption, both he and the Lord Jesus Christ act in subordination to the Father: the Father sends the Son; and both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit; who is therefore represented as “ before the throne," ready to execute any commission that shall be assigned him. He, as
a The nominative case is put instead of the genitive ; ó öv, for ToŨ όντος, κ. τ. λ.
b Exod. jii. 14.
the great Agent to convey all that the Father has ordained, and all that the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for sinful man; he, I say, together with the Father, is also supplicated in behalf of the seven Churches, to impart unto them the blessings which are here implored.] 3. From the Lord Jesus Christ
[He, too, is here described by the various offices which he performs in behalf of our ruined race. As the great Prophet, he is “the faithful Witness," who came on purpose
" that he might bear witness to the truth," and who has declared to men all that he was commissioned to reveal. He has made known the Father to us, and has plainly shewn how we are to obtain acceptance with him. “Verily it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners:" nor is it less true, that, as he is “ the way, the truth, and the life,” so no man cometh unto the Father but by Him."
As our great High-Priest, he has offered himself a sacrifice for our sins; and, having risen from the dead, he has entered into the holy of holies, there to present his blood before the throne, and there to make continual intercession for us. He rose, not as others, to die again, but to an immortal life: and in this respect he was “ The first begotten from the dead," and “ The first-fruits of them that slept d.” In this, as in every thing else," He has the pre-eminence e."
As our King, also, is he here addressed. For he is exalted above all the principalities and powers both of heaven and earth: he is “ the Prince of the kings of the earth,” even “ King of kings, and Lord of lords." And in all these offices he is empowered to act for us, and to communicate to us according to our necessities. He is indeed the living Head, “ in whom is all fulness treasured up for us ;” and “out of whose fulness we all receive grace
for grace.” I dwell not upon the particular description of the Sacred Three; it being my intention only to shew that we are authorized to look to our Triune God, who is ever ready to hear our supplications, whether for ourselves or for each other, and to grant unto us all that our necessities require.
- In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, were we baptized;" and for “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost," we are taught to pray: and if the passage before us be not so obvious in its import at the first sight, I think that, when viewed aright, it teaches us very strongly the same instructive lesson.
I proceed, therefore, to consider the words before
II. As an instructive admonition
We see in it,
1. What should be the supreme object of our desire
[“ Grace and peace," as we have already observed, include all that a sinner needs, or that a saint can desire. In truth, we do need them, no less for our present comfort than for our eternal welfare. That we have all greatly offended God by our innumerable transgressions, can admit of no doubt; and unless his "
grace" and favour be extended to us, we must perish. Nor can we turn to him of ourselves: we must receive from him that “grace" and strength, which alone can qualify us for that arduous task. But, till this is effected, we can have no peace, either with God ur in our own conscience. God has said, that “ there is no peace to the wicked: and I will venture to ask, of all who are here present, whether they know any thing of solid peace in their minds, except as they have sought it in earnest prayer, through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ? Insensibility, indeed, is common enough: but even that can only be maintained in a neglect of all serious thoughts of the eternal world. At the prospect of death and judgment the stoutest stand appalled, unless they have come to God through Christ, and obtained from him that peace which Christ alone can give.
Now then, I say, These are the blessings which we should desire infinitely beyond all earthly good. The godly should affect them as the only means of true happiness. They were necessary for all the seven Churches of Asia, and for the most advanced Christian amongst them. And are they not necessary for the ungodly? They may possibly amuse themselves during this short life, though destitute of grace and peace: but what will they do in a dying hour, and when they shall be summoned to the bar of judgment? How “will they call on the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb," whom they have so long neglected and despised ! I would that the lovers of this present world would bethink themselves what their present vanities will avail them in that awful day; and that now, whilst an opportunity is afforded them, they would flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.] 2. Whence alone they are to be obtained
(Persons have some general idea of the mercy of God, without ever considering in what way that mercy shall be exercised. But, indeed, my brethren, God must be approached in the way that he himself has pointed out. Did any offender, under the law, come to God without a sacrifice ? So neither can ye, without that great Sacrifice which has been offered for the sins of the whole world. Nor did any come but through the mediation of the priest, who was appointed to present his sacrifice to God: so neither can ye, but through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus. Were lustrations and sprinklings appointed by the law ? So must ye also have the Holy Spirit poured out upon you, to sanctify you throughout. Do not imagine that these are mere notions, which may
be disregarded, without any loss to your souls. Indeed it is not so. To what purpose has God revealed these truths, if they are not to be received and acted upon by us? Know ye, then, that if
” vouchsafed unto your souls, you must come to God through Christ, and by his Spirit; (for there is no other way of “access to him;") and then will each person of the ever-blessed Trinity impart unto you these blessings, in the way that God has ordained, and in the measure that he shall see fit.] Two REFLECTIONS, almost of necessity, obtrude them
selves upon us, as arising from this subject1. How ignorant are the generality of the Christian world!
[It is surprising how little the peculiar doctrines of our holy religion are considered. The generality of Christians have scarcely any other views of God than such as a Mahometan entertains. Many actually discard all idea of a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead. But, where the doctrine of the Trinity is professedly received, it is, for the most part, regarded as a merely speculative and unimportant tenet. But, indeed, it is a practical and most important doctrine: practical, because the whole life of faith is affected by it; and important, because it is only by maintaining a due regard to it, in our approaches to God, that we can obtain from God any spiritual benefit. And here I will ask of those who have not realized these truths in their minds, What have been your prayers? and, What blessings have they brought down into your souls? True indeed it is, that a poor contrite sinner shall be heard, even though he may not yet have been fully instructed in this mystery: but let those answer, who, whilst they have professed to acknowledge this great mystery, have been regardless of it in their approaches to God: What have been your prayers ? Have they not been cold, formal, and altogether destitute of any divine energy? And what have you gained by them? Are you not at this hour as far from God as ever, and as