W. J. Hocking.
London Conference, 1st June, 1936.
I desire to draw your attention to the manner in which the Lord presents Himself to these three assemblies, and to the reward which He promises to those who overcome in spite of the general declension around them.
Our Lord's appeals and warnings to all the seven churches are of a special character, suited to the condition of each assembly as His witness. Under the figures of stars and candlesticks, allusion is made to the fact that the Lord has set them to be lights in the world, reflecting His truth and His grace.
This is the manward aspect of the assembly, and should not be confused with the Godward aspect. In the latter view, the church is the edifice which the Lord is building according to His own declaration, "Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it."
In the Acts, there is the historical record of this building process through the preaching of the gospel. Believers were brought together into the new institution, the church of God, formed and inhabited by the Holy Spirit. This church Christ loved, and gave Himself for it, and will present it in glory and perfection to Himself. We may call this view the divine side, and the body and the bride are Scriptural figures used of this aspect.
But the stars and the candlesticks apply to the function given to the church to be a means of light to the world. How urgently this witness is needed! The world, lying in the wicked one, is a sporting-ground for the powers of darkness. How little there is for God in it! And is not this because the assemblies have failed in showing forth light and truth?
God means, however, to purify the whole world. And the fulfilment of this purpose is depicted in the visions of this Book. At the beginning of it the church in its sevenfold diversity is seen mingled with failure and evil, amenable to reproof and judgment.
The Lord is seen walking in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, displaying His judicial attributes as Son of man. He comes, clothed in the white robe of purity, with a sword in His mouth, and with eyes of flame to search the hearts of those in the assemblies. As the Judge, He perceives every secret thought and evil disposition.
What had been the behaviour of the Lord's public witnesses? In these chapters we have a sorrowful portrait of religious declension. The churches slide down a slippery slope from purity and perfection to a loathsome corruption, which the Lord rejects utterly. Most know that these seven epistles present a sketch of ecclesiastical history from Pentecost to the end of church profession.
We have read tonight of Sardis. This assembly represents a state of outward profession, of active works, of diligent behaviour, but of real death. Sardis was spiritually dead at the core, having a name to live but being dead. Historically, Sardis refers to the rise of Protestantism in the days of Luther. Human intellect then awoke from sleep, a benefit for man, a menace to divine testimony. For intellect without faith leads man on to blaspheme the name of God and His Son, to deny the Bible and the truths of revelation. The witness of the church to divine truth is utterly quenched by it.
Significantly, the Lord comes in a different character to each of the seven churches. To Sardis, the Lord introduces Himself as "He that hath the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars." All the stars are in His possession. He is the One Who meets and makes up for the deficiencies of His church. If Sardis with all its lapses only looked at Him walking in the midst, it would find all failure and weakness provided for in Him, and by Him; and its light would shine more and more.
The Lord comes to the assembly bearing His name, but languishing in its care for that name; much is ready to die and more is without a spark of life, already dead. But He addresses Sardis as One having the seven Spirits, and concludes His address with the words, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."
In this description of the Lord having the seven Spirits, we may trace an analogy with Isaiah's prophecy of the Messiah Who will come to judge in righteousness and reprove with equity in the earth (Isa. 11). The Spirit of Jehovah then rests upon Him, giving Him a sevenfold competency in wisdom, understanding, and judgment (vers. 2, 3), for the introduction of righteousness and peace in the earth.
In this character, the Lord reveals Himself to Sardis as having a sevenfold competency to judge the evil and develop the good. "Seven" signifies the fullness of perfection and power for living energy. The Spirit is life, but Sardis is like the unfaithful widow, of whom it is said, "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth" (1 Tim. 5:6). Sardis had a name to live but was counted to be dead.
Even so, the Lord shows the dead assembly that He has the seven Spirits of God. He is able to raise it from among the dead, to revive it, to make it wise, to fill it with faithfulness, fervour and zeal. Let us not forget this resourceful attitude of the Lord. There is no need for despair because of prevailing weakness, dullness and deadness. The Lord is walking in the midst of the assemblies in the fullness of His grace and power to supply all that we lack for faithful living testimony.
But the Lord also has the seven stars. The assemblies are His property. He has bought them, redeemed them, and set them here to shine for Him in the world of darkness before the great day of His own appearing, when He will shine forth upon the earth as the Sun of righteousness. Then, too, the righteous will also shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.
But now, in spite of declension in the church, the Lord possesses governmental authority over the seven stars. They are His, and it is a comfort to the faithful soul to know His interest in the shining of His stars. Ephesus was told they were in His right hand (Rev. 2:1). He directs and overrules to the end the testimony to His name, even in the midst of the corporate failure of His witnesses.
The Lord's solemn word for Sardis was, "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." This was their state in His sight. We must not think we can escape the edge of that word, saying we are not in Sardis. It has an application individually as well as collectively. It may be true of some of us that we have a name to live but are dead.
If so, our works will be but the work of the dead. All religious works apart from the life of Christ are "dead works." Not so many years ago, slumming was regarded as a fashionable pursuit by society folk. With no knowledge of the Saviour for themselves, they counted it a meritorious act to live in the slums, and help the poor as much as possible.
Their works of mercy gave them a name to live, but they were dead. They helped the poor, and gave them useful instruction. But this was only their hobby, and not the fruit of the Spirit unto eternal life. So the Lord judged surely, as He judged the deeds of Sardis.
Whatever work of the Lord you may undertake, let it be in the power of the new life, that is, the life of Christ. The apostle says for us, The life which I live, I live by the faith of the Son of God. Christ lives in me, and this is the life that God accepts, the life that is life indeed. Whatever I say, whatever I do, wherever I go, all should be in the name of Christ, lest it be true of me also that I have a name to live, but am dead.
Remember the Lord is the Judge of our works: "I know thy works." We are not reliable judges of them. A person may be competing for a prize, and, looking at his own work, may regard it as excellent, and that he is certain to win. But it is the judge who decides, and he may even throw it aside as of no real worth. And so, only the Lord, Who knows our heart and motive, can rightly value our works.
The Lord next says, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die." What is it to be watchful? Some say, "It means that I must watch for the Lord's coming; if not, He will come as a thief, and I shall be left behind, since He is coming for those who are watching for Him." This, however, is not the meaning of the Lord's injunction.
Watching may mean looking for the Lord's return, but it may have other meanings. When our Lord said to sleeping Peter, "Watch and pray," He was not calling Peter to watch for His coming from heaven. No, He called him to be vigilant at that moment of agonized wrestling in prayer.
The Lord says to Sardis, "Be watchful." Be observant of the solemnity of the times. Do not sleep as do others. Be active, not drowsy. What you do, do under My eye. Thus the watchful servant will keep in living touch with his Master, Who says, "If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee" (ver. 3).
Now the Lord commends those that were undefiled in Sardis. This assembly was in a terrible condition; it was in the place of spiritual death. Scripture everywhere teaches that contact with death defiles a person before God. This is specially shown in the economy of Moses. The Israelites were enjoined not to touch a dead body, or even the bone of a man, because of the religious defilement incurred (Num. 19). Even their garments would be defiled by such contact.
There was serious risk of defilement in Sardis, seeing the Lord pronounced it "dead." They must be watchful lest their garments came in contact with what was a lifeless copy of the living, and they should partake of its defilement. How easily, and even unconsciously, we may drift into the imitation of the activities of those who seek their own aggrandisement, and not the glory of God and the honour of the name of the Lord Jesus. If we copy the "things without life, giving sound," we shall become infected with their corruption and death — as the Lord views them.
But there were bright spots in Sardis. The Lord said, "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments." These had been walking circumspectly. They noted what was dead, and gathered up their robes lest by any means they should touch the dead and be defiled. They had been watchful, and had kept their garments unspotted. We, too, must beware of our associations, that we may escape contact with the pollutions of death, which abound in Christendom.
In view of their exceptional faithfulness, the Lord says, "They shall walk with Me in white; for they are worthy." When will this be? It is true that at the marriage supper of the Lamb, the saints will be seen clothed in fine linen, clean and white (Rev. 19). All present at that supper will have white robes, not a part only of the company.
But the Lord here speaks of a "few" only, and these are given the special privilege of walking with Him in white, and seems to apply to the present, and not to the future. The reward for overcoming, which is mentioned next, will be at the end of the conflict. When the struggle is past, "he that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment."
But walking with the Lord is surely an experience enjoyed in this world. He does not walk with one wearing defiled garments. The defilement would be visible to every passer-by. And the Lord's presence will not accompany one who is unclean in his ways. He will, however, walk with those who are pure in heart and unblemished in conduct.
What a testimony such a walk would be in dead Sardis! The Lord is known to be with the few undefiled ones. They are clad in white. The world that said of the Master, "I find no fault in this Man" can find no fault in these white-robed disciples of His. Is this the world's verdict of you and me? Are we so free from spots and blemishes that the world and the professing church know that we are walking with Christ, being seen to be like Him.
It is remarkable that the Lord says of those who walk with Him in white that "they are worthy." This term should be considered carefully. Can it be true that I may become worthy to be the companion of my blessed Lord? The Lord declares it to be true of the few in Sardis who had not defiled their garments. They were worthy to walk with Him!
This worthiness arises from a faithful and consistent walk. Those counted worthy are those who "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col, 3:10). Their Christian behaviour in the pathways of life is uniformly in character with the life of Christ, and the two walk together because they are agreed.
With those who have sinned and defiled their garments. the Lord will not walk. Even when sin is confessed and forgiven, the stain, though removed from the conscience, still appears to the eyes of the world, and the Lord does not walk openly with such. Has not His name been compromised and dishonoured? He walks, not with the unworthy, but with the worthy ones. In like manner, those who eat and drink unworthily at the Lord's Supper forfeit His fellowship and incur His judgment.
The overcomer in Sardis will also have his special reward. "He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment." There is to be a correspondence between the character of his testimony and the character of his reward. As he had kept his garments unsoiled, so in the day of manifestation he will be clothed in white raiment. The nature of his testimony in the day of the church's failure will, in the day of Christ's glory, be permanently displayed.
The overcomer had trodden an unpolluted path through the cemetery of the dead in Sardis. He had kept his garments unspotted from the world and from the mass of lifeless religious profession. The Lord, the righteous Judge, does not forget the faithful endurance of the overcomer, but awards him the white robes of victory to wear in the coming day of glory.
But the Lord has reserved something further for the overcomer. He says, "I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels." His name shall be preserved in the divine records, and be publicly owned before the Father and His angels.
The overcomer is thus permanently distinguished from those in Sardis that had a name to live but were dead. These names were written only in the earthly register of those who profess allegiance to the name of the Lord. But their works showed that they lacked the life of the Spirit, and that their names were not written in heaven in the book of life.
This was a negative promise, but the Lord adds a positive one: "I will confess his name before My Father." The Lord with Whom he walked on earth owns him as His in the presence of His Father on high. After the resurrection, He said, "Behold, I and the children God hath given Me." Concerning the overcomer, He will confess to His Father, "Here is one who lived in defiled and defiling Sardis, but who kept himself pure from every stain. He stood true for Me, and I walked with him, Thou, O Father, gavest Me him, and I have kept him in Thy name."
What a day of rejoicing for the overcomers! One by one the Lord will utter their names in that august Presence, and before the angels too, confessing before them those that confessed Him before men (Luke 12:8). And the holy angels will behold with celestial astonishment this company of saved sinners exalted to privileges greater than their own. Does not this prospect move us to take greater heed to our associations lest we touch the unclean thing? Do we not covet to be confessed as overcomers before the Father Himself?
The Lord presents Himself to the angel of the next assembly in the series under quite a different title. He speaks to Philadelphia as the One Who is holy and Who is true.
The name, Philadelphia, signifies "brotherly love." There is no doubt that, historically, this assembly represents that movement which began in Protestantism a little more than a century ago, bearing this character.
At that time, the Scriptural teaching concerning the children of God, their membership of the body of Christ, and the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, was revived. It was vividly realized that those belonging to Christ were brethren in the Lord. Accordingly, the spirit of brotherly love (Philadelphia) became widely spread in all parts of the world.
Externally, the church was in ruins, but internally, the potency of the Philadelphian feeling of love was unaffected. Many saints learned this fact, and have acted upon it. They found that brotherly behaviour is independent of ecclesiastical organization, being founded upon their common life, each being born of the Spirit and indwelt by Him.
Clearly, the non-existence, through departure from the truth, of any assembly fashioned and furnished in full agreement with New Testament doctrine, was the cause of the brethren meeting without any visible framework of liturgy, clergy, or creed, but with entire dependence upon the Lord and upon His Spirit and His word. Externally, therefore, the assembly in Philadelphia was, in man's judgment, a spectacle of utter weakness and inefficiency.
Now the Lord comes to this weak assembly as the Strong One. She is without resources, but what she lacks He is abundantly able to supply. The Lord mentions three features of His relationship to her: — (1) He is holy and He is true; (2) He hath the key of David; and (3) He opens and no one shuts, He shuts and no one opens. There is no word about the seven stars, nothing about the seven Spirits of God, nor the seven golden lampstands. But the Lord presents those of His own qualities especially suitable to individual believers in Philadelphia.
(1) The Lord speaks to them as "He that is holy, He that is true." Holiness and truth each believer must have. This is the inward character given to the new man (Eph. 4:24), and all must put on these qualities. In no other way can a company of believers be holy and true. When holiness and truth are seen in the units, there will be unity in the assembly in this respect.
Now when Philadelphia looks to the Lord, she sees that He is holy and true, and realizes that in Him are the qualities she needs for herself. It is sad to reflect that if we consider the assemblies of brethren in the Lord, we are not always able to discern that they are holy and true. And what shall we find as we look at ourselves personally? Like failure, I am sure. But He is perfect, and His blessed eyes search our spirits, exposing our shortcomings, but encourage us to confide in Himself, Who is waiting to provide what we lack.
(2) "He that hath the key of David." The key is a symbol of authority, of administrative rule. You may inquire, "What has the key of David to do with the assembly?" Prophetically, David, that is, the seed of David, is the appointed executor of justice in the kingdom of Israel, and indeed among the Gentile nations also. By Him, all evil will eventually be subdued in the earth by the exercise of His power and His might.
Christ has that key of David now in connection with the assembly, only He exercises His powers over evil secretly, and not openly before the eyes of all. Now, the assembly is the sphere of His government; by-and-by, the world will be the sphere.
The saints are now the light of the world to shine upon evil and make it manifest, but not to pluck up the tares. Still the Lord by His Spirit restrains the evil and keeps it within bounds. All power is given Him in heaven and in earth, though it is not openly exercised either in the assembly or in the world. The Lord reminded the weak saints in Philadelphia of the authority over evil which is His right.
(3) Further, the Lord encourages those living in a day of weakness by assuring them of His power to open and to shut. He has the key of David upon His shoulder (Isa. 22:22). In assembly affairs and in personal service, it is "He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth."
David had absolute authority in his own palace. There was no door there but was opened or closed at his will. And Philadelphia is told that the Lord has absolute power to open or close every door in the great house of Christendom. The State may claim political and even doctrinal control of the church. But the Lord still walks among the golden lamp-stands, and when His little flock is too weak to withstand the oppression of secular rule, it must remember that the Lord is taking charge of the doors.
There is amazing comfort in this fact for feeble saints and for feeble companies of saints. Think of an infant at a closed door. It has indeed "little strength," but the master of the house unlocks the door, and the child goes forward. Another closed door the master will not open, for in this case it would be dangerous for the child to go through. Wisdom and love are in charge of the doors for Philadelphia. Those opened lead to blessing, those closed screen from danger. This is the Lord's doing.
The Lord opens doors for service. Paul wrote of a "great door and effectual" being opened for him at Ephesus. There were many adversaries, but the apostle desired to go there, and tarry till Pentecost (1 Cor. 16:8, 9). Persecution did not deter him, when he knew that the door was opened unto him by the Lord (2 Cor. 2:12). In such a case, the Lord's name would be magnified, for no one could close that door.
Not so, however, when the Lord's servants are governed by self-will. Some, coming to a closed door, will even force the locks. But no one, save the Lord, can open a closed door for blessing. He prepares the way for His servants, and does not delegate this control to others.
In Philadelphia, the Lord set open a door, and no one could shut it; for, He says, "thou hast little strength." The Lord did not reproach them for their lack of strength., Neither was it a reason for idleness. The Lord opened a door suited to their limited abilities.
The Lord knew exactly the measure of their strength, and He would have them admit that it was little. Their success would depend upon their keeping within their measure. It would be useless for them to pretend to be giants when they were dwarfs, and foolish for them to seek to add to their stature. The Lord knew their feebleness, and He never expects a little child to do the work of a grown man.
But the Lord also says to this feeble one, "Thou hast kept My word." He values this fidelity to Himself and to His love. Before leaving His disciples, He said to them, "If any one love Me, he will keep My word" (John 14:23). Here in Philadelphia some had kept His word, and He had opened a door for them.
The Israelites had to keep the word of Moses, the ten words of the law; the assembly has to keep the word of Christ. In the New Testament we have His word spoken on earth and from heaven. On earth, He said to the Father, referring to His disciples, "I have given them Thy word." From heaven, the Holy Spirit came to take of the things of Christ and to show them unto us. In the Gospels and the Epistles, we have, therefore, His word; do we keep it?
During His absence, the Lord signified what importance He attaches to our obedience to His word. He writes to Philadelphia, "I know thy works . . . thou hast kept My word." The mark of my faithfulness is that I am keeping His word. Whatever ecclesiastical confusion has come upon the assemblies, I myself must keep His word.
Observe how in this assembly personal contact between the saint and his Lord is assumed. He says, "Thou has kept My word." Keeping that word is inseparable from communion with Himself. Here Philadelphia finds her strength. Fellowship with Christ is the special privilege offered to us in our day of utter weakness.
This personal communion is needed by young and old who desire to find and enter the opened door. What clear, distinct guidance by Christ and His word is needed, particularly by the young, lest in the labyrinth of pathways in the religious world they miss the opened door the Lord has set before them.
Young believer, do not take a step without the Lord. A wrong turn may lead you to the dungeon of despair. You know that when seeking a new way in the country, though you go only a little off the direct road, you may have to travel many miles before you recover the right track. So it is easy but disastrous to turn aside from the narrow way of obedience to the will of the Lord. Therefore, be much upon your knees before Him until you have His word of direction for your way and having received that, you need never go astray.
Another commendation comes from the Lord: "Thou hast not denied My name." There is fidelity to the glory of Christ's Person. Though a matter of the highest importance, little can be said about it tonight. There were those in early days who denied the Lord that bought them (2 Peter 2:1). There are such still.
It is sad to reflect that the spirit that denied the Holy One and the Just should be active still after nearly two thousand years of grace. The Father and the Son are denied. Men will not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The name stands in Scripture for what a person is, and to deny the name is to refuse to acknowledge the truth concerning the person. Many professing Christianity deny the name of the Lord, and there is no place for such in Philadelphia before Him Who is holy and Him Who is true.
In verse 10, we have a special promise offered to this assembly. The Lord's promise is bestowed because "thou hast kept the word of My patience." Previously, the Lord had said, "thou . . . hast kept My word," but this is more specific — "the word of My patience."
What does the phrase mean? You may say it means to exhibit the gentle, lowly, submissive disposition seen in our Lord. He was long-suffering, obedient, enduring in silence, the lamb dumb before her shearers, and all, being naturally impatient, should wish to be like him.
But the reference here is not to the mind of Christ. The patience is the patience of hope in the Lord (1 Thess. 1:3), Who is speaking not of our patience, but of His own. He is, waiting in patience on high, and those who wait here for the same moment are keeping the word of His patience. The Lord has directed their hearts into the patience of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5).
Think of the patience of the Son of man on high, Who is waiting for the day of His manifestation. He is already invested with glory and honour. All the glories of the coming kingdom are centred in Him. And He is waiting for the hour when He will assume His great power and reign in glory. We also wait for it, for if we now suffer with Him, we shall then reign with Him. Thus we keep the word of His patience.
Now the Lord's promise to such a one is that He will keep him out of the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the habitable world to try them that dwell upon the earth. This promise the Lord will fulfil by removing, from earth to heaven, His waiting church, which will thus escape the terrors of the predicted hour of trial.
The Lord preserved His own disciples from the sorrows and sufferings which came upon Himself between Gethsemane and the cross. He said to those who came to take Him, Let these go their way. They had continued with Him in His temptations, but when His hour and the hour of the prince of darkness had come, they were kept out of it. The Good Shepherd turned His hand upon those little ones.
This coming trial will fall upon those who dwell upon the earth. The earth-dwellers are those who are earthly-minded. This apocalyptic class abandon the heavenly calling of the church and will be abandoned by the Lord at His coming. Instead of keeping the word of Christ's patience, they choose the pleasures and pursuits of this evil world, and tribulation and wrath will fall upon them. Further; the Lord offers a reward to the overcomer: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of My God." The one overcoming, yet with "little strength" will be made a pillar, which is an emblem of strength. Moreover, it is in the temple of God, a permanent part of its structure. Out of weakness he is made strong in glory.
The temple of God is the place for His worship, where everything is forgotten save His presence, and where the soul is engrossed with His power and His majesty. This is the Lord's award to the overcomer who has kept His word and not denied His name. He gives him a special place in the Father's house, where the continual occupation will be the praise and worship of God and the Lamb.
Further, the Lord says, "I will write upon him . . . My new name." Observe the recurrence of the personal pronoun in the promise: "My God" (four times); "My new name." The Lord meets the heart's desire of the overcomer. What is of Himself is more precious than anything else to those who love Him.
Those faithful ones in Philadelphia had wholly followed the Lord. Their hearts were set upon doing His word and His will. They had left the organizations of Christendom to be occupied only with the Lord, depending entirely upon His faithful love, serving Him, and waiting for His return.
As a reward, the Lord says, the whole universe shall know you are Mine. We write our name upon our property, a book perhaps. The written name is a guarantee of ownership, a mark of identification, to all who see the inscription. In the day of glory, all shall see Christ's new name written upon those in Philadelphia who overcome.
There will not be time to say more than a word upon the unhappy subject of the Laodicean assembly. It is the close of the series, and marks the lowest point of spiritual declension in church history. The final condition of Christendom is so contrary to the mind of the Lord that He must remove it from Himself. It is offensive to Him, and He spews it out of His mouth as a loathsome and disgusting thing.
To this apostate company, the Lord presents Himself as "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the beginning of the creation of God." He is what they are not. Every promise of God is ratified and confirmed in Him. In every moment of His ministry He was the faithful and true Witness; as He said "I am . . . the Truth."
But even in Laodicea there are faithful ones. The Lord addresses the company individually, coming to each heart, and saying, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." In Philadelphia, He has opened a door, but here is a closed door which He does not open Himself. The door is closed and held fast. He knocks and knocks, for He wishes to enter in and sup with him, but He is hindered and forbidden.
How hardened the heart that would shut out the Lord! Let us ask ourselves, Is it possible that I may close the door when my Lord seeks admittance? Could I refuse to open the door to my Beloved? Such is the word of the Lord Who knows our hearts. Oh, the grace of the Lord to seek admittance! Oh, the callousness of the heart that refuses Him entrance!
The overcomer in Laodicea is encouraged: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne." It is a distinction of power. To sit with Christ in His throne as a reward has a grand, glorious, majestic, dignified character. But it lacks the share of Christ's personal affection that is promised to the Philadelphian overcomer.
The Lord knows the works of each overcomer, and the reward is proportionate to the victory gained. In Philadelphia, he is given the name of Christ and of what is Christ's. This satisfies the heart of one who had loved that name, gathered to that name, and had not denied that name. In the blissful regions of eternal glory, He will be seen and known as one bearing the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In each of the seven epistles, the Lord holds out a reward to the overcomer. Victory, not defeat, should be the aim of all. The Lord Himself overcame the world, and so should those born of God (1 John 5:4, 5). The young men in the family of God overcome the wicked one (1 John 2:13). And in the midst of ecclesiastical evil, the victory is, not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good.
Victory is attached by the Lord to the individual: he that overcometh. It is possible, therefore, for us to be defeated and to miss the overcomer's reward. The opposition to the truth, and the powers of evil are today seeking in every possible way to secure your defeat and mine. Though there is no present danger of our exile to a Siberia or of imprisonment for the faith, the enemy is not asleep in the British Isles.
Satan is more active than ever, as the astonishing progress of evil shows. In ten thousand ways, he is setting snares for the people of God, and raising barriers to their faithful testimony. His object is to sap their strength, so that they shall not be overcomers, but shall lose their crown. The Lord says to us all, "Behold, I come quickly, hold that fast which thou hast, that no one take thy crown."
Perhaps you are saying, "Will you not tell us how to be overcomers?" I can only tell you one thing, which perhaps may be sufficient. The Lord overcame, and is set down with His Father on His throne. If we follow Him, we, too, shall overcome. Let us not be concerned about others, but for ourselves, let us set our eyes upon the Lord, and follow to the end Him Who is the Leader and Completer of faith.
What a company of victors there would be, if every one in this hall even should in the day of reward stand before the Lord as those that had overcome by the word of testimony, by the power of Christ, by a pure and faithful discipleship! Let it be our aim to become "more than conquerors through Him that loved us," and to be among those overcomers who shall inherit all things (Rev. 21:7).