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fulfil his last and parting words, which he had said to them when all together, and in the moment of his ascension: "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matt. xxviii. 20.)
And in confirmation of this, it is highly worthy of remark, that in our Lord's farewell discourse with his disciples; when at the institution of that sweet and costly supper, which he appointed as a standing memorial of his death, until his final coming; among other most blessed assurances of his unceasing regard for his church and people, he made this express promise: "I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you ;" intimating thereby, a plain and positive assurance, that he would make such special and personal discoveries of himself, as they should know him by, and which should give them comfort. And in a yet more endearing manner, if it were possible, the Lord added, that those discoveries which he would make of himself, should be so totally different from all the former and outward revelations which had before been made to them, in common with the nation of the Jews, among whom he had exercised his divine ministry; that their knowledge of him should be exclusive; and to themselves only, and not to others. "Yet a little while (said Jesus,) and the world seeth me no more." (John xiv. 19.) And it is a fact, which if the reader knoweth not he will do well to know, and as duly to consider; namely, that as the Lord Jesus said, so it hath proved; never did Christ appear to a single person, after his ascension, among the carnal; but to such only, as were, and are, his own people. And this, as it is a most important point to know, so is it as blessedly assured to all his redeemed ones, by the Lord himself. For while Jesus said, "A little while, and the world seeth me no more ;" he immediately added to them:
"but ye see me; because I live, ye shall live also." (John xiv. 19.)
As I venture to believe the Lord's personal visit to John, at Patmos, was expressly made with this design; that by so palpable an evidence, he might teach his church, to the very end of time, he was, and would be, personally present with them; and that this open display of his love should be considered and received by them, as a token how he would privately, in after ages, make discovery of himself to them, "otherwise than he doeth to the world ;" I would beg to introduce the observations on this most glorious manifestation of Christ, to John, with a remark or two more; which, under divine teaching, may serve to illustrate the subject yet plainer, and confirm the statement on this ground which I have already given, according to my apprehensions of it.
And here, not to make too large a circuit of holy Scripture, by way of explanation of this most interesting record in relation to John; I would call the reader's attention no farther back, in addition to what hath been already said, than merely to remind him, that shortly after Christ's return to glory, and the coming of the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, the Lord Jesus gave early notice of this his most gracious intention, in making visits to his people; and in the instance at the death of Stephen; by the blessed and glorious revelation he then made of himself, to his first martyr; shewed, by that open display, what his private manifestations would be, more or less, upon other occasions. "Stephen, (it is said) being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stepfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God; and Jesus, standing on the right hand of God; and said,Behold! I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." (Acts vii. 55, 56.)
I cannot but consider this as a most blessed and unanswerable testimony in point. And though I do not mean to say, that the instance of Stephen is to be brought into all the circumstances of common life, as an example for similar manifestations to be expected by all that die in the Lord, yet I conceive may well be supposed as affording the highest encouragement to the faithful, in all ages, for expecting some very blessed support from the Lord, in the dying hours of the Lord's people. As Jesus then was seen by his dying martyr, standing to receive him; so may he now be beheld by faith, graciously waiting to receive all his redeemed ones in their departure to himself, "that where he is, there they shall be also." And who, indeed, shall say, or even conceive, what takes place between the Lord and his faithful followers, of grace and support, in their dying moments; of which no looker-on is conscious!
And no less, the special revelation the Lord Jesus made of himself, after this, to Paul, when he called to him from heaven, on his way to Damascus; is a confirmation of the same. For, not only did the Lord Jesus, as in the case of his manifestation to Stephen, appear to him in a glory "above the brightness of the sun;" but also conversed with Paul, and allowed Paul to converse with him. Yea, the Holy Ghost hath recorded the very words which the Son of God spake to him from heaven, when the Lord, called him to the knowledge of himself by sovereign grace: "I have appeared unto thee, (said the Lord) for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in which I will appear unto thee." (Acts xxii. 16.) Here, as in the former case of the Lord's appearing to Stephen, it is not to be supposed, neither do I refer to it as if I would imply, that in all the examples of conversion, such displays of the Lord
are made. On the contrary, the gracious work is, for the most part, carried on secretly and privately, so that the stander by is not conscious what is doing. But both these illustrious manifestations of the Lord Jesus Christ were intended to make known to the church, in all ages, that the Lord, now in heaven, is as attentive to his people, and as near to their persons to bless them, as when he was upon earth. The private spiritual revelations of his grace; and the open bodily manifestations of his favour, are to one and the same end. Doth any one, from those different scriptural representations of the Lord's appearing to his people, ask the question, when is a man to know the day of his saving conversion? Paul, hath already answered it, in the instance of himself: "When it pleased God (saith Paul) who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his son in me." (Gal. i. 16.) The revelation of Christ, as Christ, to the soul, in the glories of his person, and in the fulness, and suitableness, and all-sufficiency of his finished salvation; this is the day, that ever-blessed day, of the true conversion of every soul to God.
An interval took place, of somewhat more than three-score years, from the time of the Lord's calling to Paul, from heaven, and his appearing to John, in the manner here described, in this Scripture of the Book of the Revelation. I must not allow myself to dwell upon the preceding part of the chapter to the portion with which the beloved apostle gives this relation of himself, and where he was, and how engaged, when favoured with this glorious vision and revelation of our most glorious Christ; otherwise, I might shew what a blessed account this divine book of God commenceth with, in confirmation of the glorious doctrine of the Holy Three in One, which bear record in heaven; and more particularly of the person
and GODHEAD, of our Lord Jesus Christ. But as some of the distinguishing perfections which constitute Jehovah, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, will occasionally meet us as we pass on; and glorious views of the person of Christ; I proceed at once to that part of John's history, now before us, looking to the Lord, for an unction and savour, from his divine teaching, to render our attention to it profitable.
John begins with pointing out his relationship to the church in Christ; and calls himself, "a brother and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ." I pause at the very threshold, to observe with what humbleness John speaks of himself. He passeth by all notice of his apostleship, and placeth himself upon a level with all the Lord's family in the tribulated path of the present wilderness state. And this, though I lay no stress upon it, in the great subject I am upon; yet, I cannot but think, was evidently designed, with an eye to the conveying to the church, the fellow-interest the whole family of our most glorious Christ in all ages had, and hath, with John, in his vision. " A brother and companion in tribulation, for God's word, and the testimony of Jesus Christ," seemed to intimate, as though John thought, that this glorious manifestation of his Lord and Master, which was made to him, and which he was about to relate, had equal respect, and was equally designed by the Lord, for the comfort of all the Lord's family. He adds that he was in the isle that is called Patmos; a desolate spot in the Archipelago, where he was banished by the Emperor of Rome, "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." And here, when out of humanity's reach, and no society with men; John found the most blessed manifestations from God. So it hath been in all ages: so it now is, and while the world lasts, so will it always be; when creature re