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SERMON XVIII.

FAITHFULNESS UNTO DEATH.*

REV. II. 10.

Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.

The entire passage of Holy Scripture from which I have chosen these few words forms the very sanctuary of revelation. The Elder Brother, claiming for Himself the unlimited power of the Spirit, and all the attributes of Deity, having finished His mediatorial work and brought in an everlasting righteousness, being hidden in the light of God and having returned to the bosom of the Eternal Father, with all the woes of the world and all the aspirations of the Church throbbing in His heart, chose, ere His beloved Apostle had passed away from earth and was once more sheltered in His love, to address him in words which should never cease to console, instruct, and warn His Church. The language of the Apostle, like an over-smitten harp-string, shivers, if it does not snap with his effort to describe the impression that was

* This Sermon was preached at the dedication of a friend to foreign missionary service at Shanghae.

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made upon his mind by the appearance and message of the glorified humanity of Jesus. The vision he beheld of the majesty and might, the holiness and grace of “the Prince of the kings of the earth-the beginning of the creation of God," whose “ face was as the sun shineth in his strength,” and whose voice

as the sound of many waters,” was so dazzling and wonderful, that St. John, who had once leaned in loving trust on the bosom of Jesus, now “ fell at His feet as dead.” It was only when the right hand of the Great Physician touched him that he awoke from his swoon of fear and great amaze. The message given him to utter is explicit and direct, yet his words suggest in an almost strained hyperbole the priestly functions and the royal honours of his Lord. In his raptured imagination, at one moment he sees Him stand at the gate of Paradise to guard “ the way of the tree of life;" the next, He fills the holy place of the celestial temple with His glory, and dispenses “the hidden manna” to His priest-like followers. First, He is the victor over death, and the great foe of sin; and then all that was ever meant by the key of David' is entrusted to him,' and the door' into the invisible world, and “the door' into the spiritual kingdom—the New Jerusalem—and the way into man's heart, are alike put at His disposal. “He opens, and no man shuts; He shuts, and no man opens." His knowledge is infinite, and His power eternal. But over and above all other characteristics, binding them indeed into

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a glorious unity, making them all more full of meaning, is His brotherly love, and His profound and awful interest in all the successes, the trials, and the imperfections of His people. He searches every secret thing, every dishonest feeling, every treacherous wish; He counts the names of those that were “ready to die," and loathes the lukewarmness that

worse than death. His largest sympathy is reserved for suffering faithfulness. He discovers the “ few in Sardis who have not defiled their garments." He discerns the bitterness of the cup

handed to His faithful servant in Smyrna. The boisterous zeal of the Church at Ephesus cannot cover from His eye the forgetfulness of its first love; nor can the fearful perils and sore temptations of the Church at Pergamos furnish an excuse for sinful compromise. Thus amid the gorgeous imagery of Oriental vision we see the Eye that is as a flame of fire, the Judge of every secret thought, the Master who is profoundly acquainted with every detail of our work, our temptation, or our fear.

Ministers of the Gospel and missionaries of the Cross are often tempted to accept the judgment of their fellow-Christians upon themselves, to appropriate the praises sometimes lavished upon their office, or the method of its discharge; to dwell on the peculiar pledges that have been offered for their own sincerity and earnestness, as though they accurately set forth the state of the case. There is much in their office which is calculated to flatter the secret Pride of their hearts. The greatness of the work, the associations of excellence and honour that have been connected with it, the rays of glory that hover round the brow of the missionary, the esteem in which his enterprise is justly held by the Christian Church, and the distinction conferred on the successful missionary more than on those who are pursuing silent, unobserved Christian work at home; all these are circumstances which, inasmuch as they create temptations from which the only shield is the love and righteousness, the sympathy and spirit of the Master, make it peculiarly desirable that we should turn away from human opinions to the judgment of Christ and the tribunal of heaven. To what portion of Holy Scripture may we revert with deeper reverence than to that which reveals the certainty of His inspection, the solemnity of His judgments, the awfulness of His threatenings, and the glory of His promises ? It is not necessary to determine the precise ecclesiastical rank of the Angels' of the Seven Churches ; whether they were presbyters or bishops in the modern acceptation of the terms, it is clear that Christ regards them as His servants, messengers, and representatives. Our Lord even makes the happiness of the Church to be dependent on the integrity and faithfulness of the man who bears that office, and He ranks His earthly servants with His heavenly messengers. He includes the humble pastor and the glorious seraph under the same title, and submits them to the same government. The duties

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of the Christian pastor and missionary may be more circumscribed, their worship less ardent and pure than that which circles the eternal throne, but “ the innumerable company of angels” does not despise the humble fellowship of service rendered by those whom their Lord is not ashamed to call His brethren.

Angels He calls them; be their strife to lead on earth an angel's life.” The responsibilities of bearing the commission of the Master are very onerous and solemn. The unfaithfulness of the angel is visited not only on himself, but on the Church. His indifference, or insincerity, or hardness of heart, or compromise with idolatry and sin, proves infectious and disastrous to all around him; and the Redeemer accumulates epithets to shew how wide-spread will be the ruin, how terrible the consequences, if the star in His right hand should fall, like Lucifer, from that heaven.

It is impossible to exaggerate the responsibilities of one who essays to become a messenger and apostle of Christ. In fact, whatever the office be which a man seeks to fill, he must be prepared to encounter the anxieties which are involved in the discharge of its duties. It is impossible to gain the soldier's reputation and avoid his hairbreadth escapes and constant dangers. No man anticipates the statesman's laurels and expects at the same time domestic peace, and the charms of quiet, rural repose. If a man aspires to the honour of representing some great sovereign in a congress of nations, he knows that the

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