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de it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?" (Numb, xxiii.)
Dear one in the Lord, we do wish--do we not? to be of the number of those of whom the Son of God says
"I HAVE LOVED THEE!"
And we do earnestly desire that all believers everywhere may seek to be taught of the Spirit what is the mind of the Lord concerning Philadelphia and conform to it. Do we not? Let us, therefore, read the Epistle to Philadelphia together, and let me tell you, as I have this opportunity, what I think the Spirit has shown me. But, I entreat you, dear one in the Lord, to receive all that we say as the word of man only. Say in your heart-"Lord, is it so?"
I. THE NAME.
1. In the first place, does not the name betoken the special visible characteristic of this church? "Philadelphia" means Brotherly Love. We rejoice to think that this is increasing in our midst. Is it so in yours, beloved? At your prayer-meetings is a lively interest shown and expressed in the circumstances of the members, individually? do you come together to "bear one another's burdens" to the throne of grace, and "to cast those burdens upon the Lord"? Are your meetings really in all simplicity, liberty, and love, as the children of the one family of God? Do you bear with one another, when things are done or said in the assembly which seem to you to show a want of subjection to the Holy Spirit of God? Do you seek to "wash feet," or do you brandish the rod, forgetting that the use of the rod devolves upon the Head of the family?
Then again, are the sick and the aged really cared for among you-visited, comforted, nourished? the unemployed prayed for that their faith may not fail, and are they spoken for to others? the needy ministered to? the wilful, the worldly-minded, and the young watched over, their fleshly tendencies noted and arrested by timely united prayer?
If so, beloved, then, so far, is the name Philadelphia deserved by you, and especially if, in addition, you mourn over and appropriate the failings of believers everywhere as your failings-the failings of the One Body.
"As touching Brotherly Love, ye need not that I write unto you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." (1 Thess. iv.)
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another AS I have loved you." (John xv.)
Thus Philadelphia is the "Church of Brotherly Love," which makes it (with other good features about it), the Church of Christ's love also.
II.-" LITTLE STRENGTH.
In the second place, let us note the three things of which the Lord approves in Philadelphia.
A LITTLE STRENGTH,
Beloved, is your place of meeting a small one, and are your numbers few? Then you are like Philadelphia, possessing "little strength." Don't look upon
"I know thy works; behold, I have set before thee an open and covet what other Christians have; but "wait on door, and no man can shut it; for thou hast
that we lean on them, and in proportion as we lean
Much outward strength--little inward grace:
the Lord; be of good courage; and He shall strengthen your hearts: wait, I say, on the Lord."
"He will withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly."
In this passage is vividly shown that having and trusting generally go together.
It may also be noted that the Lord does not refer in the above passage, to the increased difficulty of a rich man believing unto eternal life (though that may be true.) He speaks of "riches" hindering those who were on the ground of being God's people from "entering into the kingdom"-that is, apprehending and going on with that new and divine order of things at the head of which Christ is. Or, in other words, if we possess riches we shall be in danger of walking by sight, not by faith.
Now, what is dangerous to the individual is also dangerous to the assembly. Hence it is that the dear Lord, "who hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence," (Eph. i.) sees it best to koep us in little companies and with slender (yet sufficient) resources. May we fall in with the will of God concerning us, and be content to have "little strength."
"Be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." (Heb. xiii.)
Now let us ask the Lord to show us what "opening the door" means. Surely it means
A WAY INTO BLESSING.
3. "HE THAT OPENETH, AND NO MAN SHUTTETH."
Blessed it is to wait, and to be kept waiting, till we see the Lord Jesus going before. To follow Him is the path of safety and blessing to His dear sheep.
If a church feel itself rather straitened for room and means, let it wait upon the Lord, who will give all that He sees needful for His own glory and its usefulness. But sometimes we suppose something to be needful (of the nature of temporal means) which the Lord sees to be not so. If, therefore, it is kept from us, it is the very best thing for us. Let us beware lest, in our impatience, we do not press forward before the Lord.
how is Philadelphia to judge that it is a door of the Now, suppose a place in which to meet offers itself, Lord's opening? The first question would be-Has the Lord provided the means — - provided the means the rent were £40 a quarter? Can it be said that BEFOREHAND, in His own gracious way? Suppose the Lord has opened the door unless the rent for the first quarter is provided before the church goes in? Surely not?
It is the special duty of the Head, the Lord, the Husband to provide-to provide for the Body, the Church, the Spouse. Shall we, therefore, take future liabilities upon us for the Lord? we? who " are not our own," and may be called away to-morrow? Oh, this is a grievous failure.
thing in the future? We can only reckon on one Again. How can any of us reckon on any thing in the future-and that is, the coming of the Lord. Suppose, then, the church be caught away just before the end of the quarter-would it not be a
Not content to stand still spiritually-no. But-slur upon our testimony? If the building rented "content with such things as ye have." Spiritually belong to a man of the world, let us desire to be speaking, as assemblies, let us press on; let us desire beforehand, in such a case? It would be a special to see the work of the Lord going on in our midst. opportunity of precious testimony. But let us be careful not to hang grace on bricksand-mortar, money and men. So shall we please the Lord, like the church at Philadelphia, by having"A LITTLE STRENGTH."
Let us not provide by worldly shifts of our own, such as giving "bills," or promises of payment, for materials and work done; engaging to meet rent when it becomes due; borrowing money on interest, and mortgaging the property to secure the principal to the lenders, &c.
"Whatsoever is not of faith is sin."
Suppose, from the increase of numbers, for instance, a larger place of meeting is thought to be desirable. Or, suppose, from the members in fellowship residing somewhat apart, an additional little place of meeting is thought to be needful. Well, what would Philadelphia do? Would it not say"Dear Lord, we look to Thee; give us what we "think we need, if it be to Thy glory. Not our
" will, but Thine be done."
Are not such expedients forcing a door open, instead of looking to the Lord to open "the door"?
Oh, the grief and the shame which would have been spared to many if they had not gone before the Lord in this matter!
Even when we meet our engagements, we have practically dishonoured the Lord, because we have taken into our own hands what we ought to have left in His. But-when we do not meet our engage
ments, and go on in debt! What a failure and a sin! Often does the Lord allow His dear ones to reap the results of their carnal sowing in the form of monetary burdens and bondage, to show them that He is not with them in it !
has "kept His word." It is with much joy that we call to mind the fact that of late years there has been throughout the Church a gathering conviction of the Sufficiency and Supremacy of the Word of God. A passage of Scripture is required for everything. "Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he but the Word of God. Indeed, this is the case with Believers are now to be met with who read nothing saveth them out of their distresses." (Ps. cvii.)
us, with very occasional exceptions. Joyful day, when saints have advanced to this state of real fellowship-dependence on the Holy Ghost, to lead them into all truth by the Word of God.
The consequence is a general gathering back to Scriptural simplicity on such subjects as
The Certainty of Eternal Life to every one that believeth;
Baptism in Water;
Showing forth the Lord's death weekly;
The duty of Individual
The Presence of the Lord Jesus in the midst.
They are helped, indeed, in answer to prayer; "But let them not turn again unto folly." (Ps. lxxxv.) If, therefore, purchase is contemplated, let us pray, and look, and wait till we get ALL the money:
If the rental of a place is contemplated, let us pray, and look, and wait, for the FIRST QUARTER's rent before going in. Then, if it is the Lord's will that we should stop, He will provide, by freewill offerings, during that first quarter the rent for the second. The same course should be taken with places rented by the week, month, or year.
Saints may not have been acting exactly in this way heretofore: nor have we ourselves. But being enlightened, we hope to do so for the future.
This, surely, may be regarded as one meaning of the blessed assurance-" I have set before thee AN OPEN DOOR."
If the rent of each quarter is not thus provided before a fresh quarter is entered upon, who shall say it is a door of the Lord's opening? It may have been, but the means being withheld, it is shown to be a door of His shutting?
IV.-" AND HAST KEPT MY WORD." The second feature which the Lord Jesus notes with approval in the church of His love, is that it
and Collective "Holding
Though these and other great and precious truths are now being "kept," treasured, or held fast, by the singular "word" is used-not words, (as in John xv., Church increasingly, yet it is noticeable that the "Abide in me, and my words abide in you.")
What "word" of His can it be that the dear
Lord alludes to? May it not be that "word," or single commandment, expressed in this Church's name "Philadelphia "-Brotherly Love?
"And shutteth, and no man openeth!"
Thus the Lord Jesus Christ does shut, as well as open! Yes, indeed; it is a solemn fact!
If Satan can succeed in exciting strife in an assembly-this will be a giving "place to the Devil;" and will not the door be shut, if such strife be not soon repented of?
This one law
Christ not only shuts, but He also says-"No man this great, simple, single comopeneth!" We may, by our contrivances, and nip-mandment is reiterated by the Holy Ghostping, and pressing, manage to hold possession of bricks-and-mortar, and the Lord will meet with us therein, according to His assurance (Matt. xviii. 20). But blessing will be comparatively limited. We shall not advance into blessing, as through an open door. Difficulties and depression will be felt, and that in proportion to the light sinned against. The Lord must and will bring us to an end of ourselves our confidences and our devices, that He may be all in all. And then how foolish to struggle to keep possession of a place, when the Lord, by withholding the means before it is due, and by other signs, shows that He has shut the door! Doubtless, 66 an open door" means not only a place or places to meet in, but includes ALL opportunities of serving God and fellowship with one another in worship and work-widening out before a church.
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you." (John xv. 12.)
"These things I command you, that ye love one another." (John xv. 17.)
Thus, the Lord Jesus Christ has laid down this law twice.
"This is his [the Father's] commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one
another, as he [the Lord Jesus] gave us commandment." (1 John iii. 23.)
Alas! how have we all failed in "keeping" this, our Lord's commandment or "word!" Individually, we must all feel our failure. And, as churchesalas! the bitterness we have shown towards those who have failed and fallen among us, and also towards other churches. There has been, in some quarters, a vast deal of "putting away" for matters to deal with which the church has received no power.
The Lord turn us from our evil ways! Let us remember that our Lord, whose we are-body, soul, and spirit-has commanded us to love one anotherand to love one another as He has loved us.
Would we be Philadelphia? Let us love "all the holy brethren with a pure heart fervently." So will the Lord Jesus approvingly regard us as "keeping His word.”
V.-" THOU HAST NOT DENIED MY NAME."
"circumcision." The place where Christians meet is with them the "house of God." The First Day of
What is the Name of Jesus with reference to the the week is to regarded as holy as the Jewish Church? HEAD. Sabbath, and for the same reasons. Then we have yearly feasts and fasts with some; and vestments and imitations of tabernacle glory.
"The husband is the Head [Ruler] of the wife, even as Christ is the Head of the Church." (Eph. v.)
"Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I [as Head or lord] in the midst of them."(Matt.xviii.
6. Such men are called by the Son of God
"THEM OF THE SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN!" "Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan—” "Synagogue" means assembly, and "Satan" means adversary. Those, therefore, who claim and take place and power in the church, (as "heads " leaders of meetings,) acting, as they do, adversely to the power and position of Christ, the Head, arethe synagogue of Satan.
They will be found to be "adversaries" of the Father as well of the Son, for—
Equally true is it that all such are "adversaries" of the Holy Spirit of God, for while the saints are committed to His personal care, these "adversaries" take the " care of souls," and dreadfully hinder and grieve and vex the Holy Ghost. Thus are they convicted"adversaries" of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost!
Oh, what a dreadful charge to lay against mortal
All these errors are, however, secondary to, and result from, their main position-their great assumption: which is this
That they (or such as they) must alone minister in the assemblies of saints.
This is a practical denial of the name (or headship) of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit.
They say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie." "SCRIBES, PHARISEES, HYPOCRITES!"
These "adversaries" speak "great swelling words" of themselves. The Lord says they"SAY THEY ARE JEWS, AND ARE NOT, BUT DO LIE."
The thought of the Jew was that he was specially favoured of God as an earthly one. So these will be found to take earthly ground for the Church; their teachings and practices will be found to be deeply coloured with Judaism; they also practically claim to be God's favourite ones on earth.
and to be called Rabbi, Rabbi. Pretty things! who Your moral progenitors loved Robes, High Places, Your very dress, as most of you walk the streets, would despoil you of them! You glory in your shame! stamps you to be a somebody! a holy one! a favoured of heaven!
Know this, that Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His "word shall never pass away." Says some one
"Such a threat as that can only apply to uncon
"He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father "verted men who claim to be teachers and leaders in which hath sent Him." (John vi.) "the Church. Surely, some believers will not bow "down to others!"
Well, when I get home, I feel I could honour in love all who have greatly honoured Jesus, (especially if I have spoken ill of them,) even as far as to casting myself at their feet and embracing them, and confessing how wrong I was. I shall rejoice that they honoured God in one respect in which I did not.
Now this disparagement of speech is exactly what was done by some of us, and is done by many Christians still, towards those who meet simply in the name of Jesus without any minister! Such believers are, as of old, a "sect everywhere spoken against." Only press the walk of faith upon a stranger-brother you have incidentally met, and forth comes the exclamation-" Oh, I see! you're one of the Brethren!" Well, this state of things must be reversed. The "day" will declare all things. And then, should I not hasten to honour those who have honoured Jesus? Yes: surely.
For instance, some will speak of "clergy and lay If Peter act wrongly, the Lord must needs say— workers as answering to the priests and levites ;""Get thee behind me, Adversary!" Why should we others, that "infant baptism" is the counterpart of feel difficulty, therefore, in admitting that true
But you lie! You are an "adversary" of God and His Christ! And (regarding you as a class) you are "The Synagogue of Satan!"
A PROFESSION OF ADVERSARIES!
Oh, that you would take heed to the words of the "Judge of all the earth "?
"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 I have loved thee."
believers may be associated, while down here, with the " synagogue of Satan"? There is the fact before our eyes-That both true believers and mere professors practically deny the Headship of the Master. There will remain, therefore, but one course with both. They shall admit the wrongness of their conduct at the feet of Philadelphia. Those who are on Philadelphian ground at the Lord's coming will doubtless be filled with a sense of their many shortcomings, but among their failings will not be the sin of "denying the name [headship]" of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not that the former [true believers] will bow down at the feet of Philadelphia in the same manner, time, and place, as the unconverted "adversaries." Let this be marked. In the first case, it will be done with joyfulness; in the latter with dismay. Of this let us be very sure:
SYNAGOGUE OF SATAN. Lording it over." (1 Pet.) "A Green Bay Tree." (Ps. 37.) "Holding tradition of the elders.' (Mark vii. 3.) "Not holding the Head," Col.ii. but taking leadership. "My Lord delayeth His coming." (Matt. xxiv. 48.)
VI. THOU HAST KEPT THE WORD OF MY PATIENCE."
"I have loved Thee!"
May we all, in "patience keep our souls"-the May we all, in "patience keep our souls"-the "patient waiting for Christ," (2 Thess. iii. 5.)
"Who crowneth thee with loving-kindness."
This is the next characteristic of Philadelphia. His love resting upon us as a church.
"I WILL COME AGAIN!"
"I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing." (2 Tim. iv.)
"VII.-LET NO MAN TAKE THY CROWN."
Paul thus refers, in the above passage, to a future crown for those who love the Lord's appearing. But does not the Lord Jesus Christ refer to a present crown when He says to Philadelphia :
passage, warns Philadelphia against man's taking its "crown." Hence the "crown" He refers to, may blessed keeping,-but a present "crown". not so much be a future crown-that is in His own to have His love resting upon us is a crown. Surely, He saysWhen
Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.' ""
"I HAVE LOVED THEE."
the other six churches has the Lord said this. Not Surely this is Philadelphia's crown! Of none of but that He loves ALL, in a general sense. But He The nearest approach to Philadelphia in this respect does not love all when viewed in their earthly course. is poor, persecuted Smyrna, whose crown is
"THOU ART RICH!"
But Philadelphia's crown is-"I have loved thee!" This assurance is given, not because of the one good thing-"loving the appearing" or "keeping the word of Christ's patience." But it is a special word called forth by general correctness
"They which run in a race run ALL, but one receiveth the The Lord says of that church which is treasuring prize. So run that ye may obtain.... Now they do it to obtain "keeping "this word: a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." (1 Cor. ix.)
When we are in the glory, men will not be able to touch our "crowns". But the Lord, in this
"Little strength-kept my word-not denied my name."
all three. Oh, that dear ones may be anxious to "hold fast" At one little gathering of saints we know of, it has been very grieving to hear enquiries continually "Who's coming next Sunday?" Surely such are not "holding fast" the last of the three, that is, Christ's Headship of the Church, which is His Body, and which He delights to nourish and cherish, by the Spirit with the Word.
The Lord's admonition to Philadelphia is
"Hold that fast which thou hast."
So shall we 66 abide in His love"-that is, know His love upon us that is, keep our crown, allowing no man, by science (knowledge) falsely so-called," to cause us to lose this blessed inward assurance of
Of all the churches it may be said-They are running.
The chaplet about Philadelphia's brow, which faith is conscious of, is indeed blessed. Yes, but it is not a mere chaplet, for it fadeth not away. Oh, the joy through eternity of knowing that the special love of Christ was upon us when we were in our timestate!
The final word assuring future blessing (in addition to the present "crown,") is very wonderful; may the Holy Spirit lead us into those amazing assurances ending with-"I will write upon him my new name."
And now let us finally read the whole Epistle, the italics showing the parts on which we have been led
"And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath teth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shirtbefore thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast