Reply - To J. Montgomery: With consciousness of our inability to explain this text to our own satisfaction, we still feel disposed, so far as we may be enabled, to comply with the request of our friend, and give such views as we have upon the subject. While a sensible darkness shrouds some important parts of what seems to us to be contained in the subject, there are some things embraced in it which appear more clear and beautiful to our understanding of it. If our readers will bear with us in giving what light we have, and look to the Lord to lead our minds more fully into the subject, and to such brethren as have clearer and more extensive views, for a more perfect elucidation, we will venture a few remarks, as our mind may be led.
First. We notice the source of the communications, embracing all that John was commanded to write to the angels of the seven churches. It is what the Spirit saith. When Christ was about to suffer, and to go to his Father, he assured his disciples that he would not leave them comfortless. He said he would pray unto the Father, and he should send them another Comforter, that should abide with them forever. Even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him. And he told them further, that this Spirit should take the things of his and show them unto them, and finally that he should lead them into all truth. This Spirit of truth, this Comforter of the saints, we understand to be the Holy Ghost; the same Spirit of the Lord God which was upon and in Christ while he was present with his disciples in the flesh. God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. It is the eternal Spirit through which Christ, in his Mediatorial character, offered himself without spot unto God. It is therefore the same Spirit by which God spake unto the patriarchs through the prophets, who testified as the Holy Ghost moved them or spake by them. And Peter calls this Spirit “The Spirit of Christ which was in them,” the prophets, “When it testified beforehand of his sufferings and of the glory that should follow.” A knowledge of the Spirit addressing the churches of Asia, account to us for the sovereign, supreme and unbounded power and authority with which he speaks.
Secondly. All these communications are addressed exclusively to the churches; not to the world, nor to the carnal and unregenerated man; for the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Although this Spirit speaketh unto the churches of ungodly characters, such as the Nicolaitanes, Jezebel, her children, and their destiny, he does not speak to them. What he saith, he saith to the churches, or to the branches of the church, which is the body of Christ, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.
Thirdly. None can hear what the Spirit says to the churches without divine preparation. The natural or uncircumcised ears of natural men, with all their fancied advantages of religious education, with the Bible in their hand, and living where the gospel is preached in its purity, cannot hear what the Spirit says to the churches, for God, the Father, has hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes; because so it seemed good in his sight. And the discriminating characteristic of this Spirit of truth, is “Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him.” The apostle John says to those who are of God, “We are of God; he that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” - 1 John iv. 6. “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God, the world by wisdom knew not God; it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men,” &c. - 1 Cor. i. 20-25. See also the whole connection. As no natural man, whatever may be his mental powers, or his amount of the wisdom of this world, can know the things or the Spirit of God, or receive the Spirit of truth, he that hath an ear to hear what the Spirit saith, must be one who is called, one that is quickened, made alive, and born of the Spirit. Blessed are the ears of all such, for they hear, and blessed are their eyes, for they see. Blessed is the people who know the joyful sound. (Psalm lxxxix. 15.) “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” - John v. 24. This settles the matter, and cuts off all controversy on the subject. He that hath an ear to hear, is a quickened, regenerated child. He has passed from death unto life, and shall never come into condemnation.
Fourthly. It is the privilege of all such to hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. All the comforts of the Comforter, all the instructions of the Spirit of truth, all the reproofs, corrections in righteousness, as also all the assurances, promises, encouragements and blessings of the Holy Spirit, belong to such. Blessed state then to be in, having an ear to hear the instructions of the Holy Spirit, a relish for the truth as it is in Jesus, a reverence for the word of the Lord, a thirsting for divine instructions by the Spirit.
How many bleating lambs about the fold of Christ, while listening to the communications of the Spirit to the churches, have felt to say, O that it were my privilege to apply these consolations to myself; how sweet, how lovely, and how blessed they must be for those unto whom they belong. But as for me -
“I read, the promise greets my eyes,
But will not reach my case.”
For I feel myself too utterly unworthy to be fed even on the crumbs which fall from the well stored table of the Lord. My hungry soul would gladly eat; my thirsting spirit would with joy draw water from the wells of salvation, if I had but the evidence that these provisions were for me; that these streams of living waters flowed from the throne of God and the Lamb for such as I. Poor tempest-tossed child, dry up thy tears. The eternal Spirit of truth, in our text, makes you a welcome guest. The feast was spread for you. It is totally impossible that you should have a relish for this food if it were not provided for you. You could not hear, and know, and love the Shepherd’s voice if it were not addressed to you. Every gracious promise which gleams with such heavenly beauty to your view, is made to you. The Spirit speaks it to the churches, and bids all who have an ear to hear it. The Spirit speaks to the churches to come out and be separated from those who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; it commands the churches to cast out the Nicolaitanes, the Jezebels, and the children of Jezebel, to adhere strictly to their first love, to war against ungodliness in all its forms and shapes, and these admonitions are extended to you, even to you, who only have an ear to hear.
“To him that overcometh.” Overcometh what? The context tells us that there were those in the church of Pergamos, to whom this message was sent, who held the doctrine of Balaam, and some also who held the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes; these doctrines are not to be tolerated or suffered to be held by any in the church of God; nor by those who have an ear to hear what is said by the Spirit to the churches. But to war against these with all other abominations, requires that we put on the whole armor of God; that we fight the good fight, and that we be valiant for the truth. Nor are the saints engaged in a doubtful contest. The Captain of our salvation will lead you to victory; and though the war be sanguine, and attended with confusion, and garments rolled in blood, with burning and fuel of fire, the flames shall not kindle upon them, neither shall the floods overflow them, for they shall be more than conquerors through him that hath loved them. All his saints shall ultimately triumph, but those even now who overcome, and keep their garments pure, have privileges of a most blessed importance to enjoy. The Spirit speaks the precious promise for the encouragement of the saints. “I will give him to eat of the hidden manna.” Their bread shall be given them, and their water shall be sure. There was a golden pot filled with manna, which was hidden in the ark, under the mercy-seat, for a memorial, and while it perpetuated the remembrance of God’s mercy in showering down bread from heaven, to sustain the carnal Israelites in the wilderness, it also was typical of the bread of heaven, which is provided within the veil, for all who are born of God. This manna is not supplied as our earthly bread, to be obtained as the result of our own toil and labor, and eaten in the sweat of the face, for it cometh not out of the earth; but it is the true bread which cometh down from heaven, as did the manna in the wilderness. But not like that manna, perishable; as the fathers did eat manna in the wilderness and are dead; but Jesus says he that eateth of the bread that I shall give him shall never die. This manna is hidden; no eye could look within the veil and examine the consecrated things within the ark, as they prefigured the sacred things of the spiritual kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. This spiritual food for the comfort, support and nourishment of the saints, is given only by the Spirit that speaks to the churches. If therefore, trembling reader, you have ever had a taste of it, that Holy Spirit has recognized and sealed you, as a subject of sovereign and saving grace.
“And will give him a white stone.” Whether the figure of a white stone is taken from the ancient custom of balloting with stones, in which white stones signified approval, and black stones disapproval; or from the stones in the breastplate of the Jewish high priests, in which were engraved the names of the twelve tribes of Israel which were represented by the priests, we will not attempt to say; but it is clearly in this case, to signify divine approbation, and to serve as a witness of the acceptance of the receiver of the white stones, and approving smiles of the Holy Spirit which he shall enjoy. Our Lord Jesus Christ is frequently set forth as a Stone, as a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, &c.; and as white is emblematical of spotless purity, he may well be regarded as a White Stone. But that he should be given to those who overcome, by the Spirit, or Comforter, we think can only be understood as being so revealed to the children of God by the Spirit in their experience. The original gift of Christ to the church was before the world began; but the application of that unspeakable gift to the saints in their personal experience is the Spirit’s work; and it is certain that whenever they are permitted to eat of the hidden manna from the golden pot which is in the ark of the covenant, and under cover of the mercy-seat, the Spirit does invariably reveal Christ to them as their Savior.
“And in the Stone a new name written.” Nowhere else but in Jesus Christ have we a name, in which we can stand approved and justified before the throne of God. “Of him the whole family in heaven is named.” And as in our earthly nature, we all had a name given us in the earthly Adam; when the Lord God called the name of the generations of the first man, Adam, in the day when they were created, so in our spiritual relation to the second Adam, which is the Lord from heaven; God has given his people a name which is better than that of sons or daughters. As the bride receives a new name in the reception of her wedded husband, so the saints are called by a new name which the Lord our God shall name. “Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed, Desolate; but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah; for the Lord delighteth in thee.” “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” - Isa. lxii. 2, 4.
In this White Stone - in Jesus Christ our Lord - we have a new name, a new character, a new life and experience brought to light, of all of which we were ignorant. But in the revelation of Jesus Christ to us, by the Spirit, old things are passed away, and behold all things are become new. And all things are of God. In this new name and standing we have access unto the Father, by the Spirit through Jesus Christ our Lord. But this new name which is written is a name “Which no man knoweth, saving him that receiveth it.” This white stone, and this new name written, are things of the Spirit of God. The natural man cannot receive them; they are foolish unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are vainly striving to teach theology as a science, are themselves in ignorance of the true God and eternal life, while those who are laboring to understand the things of the kingdom, independently of regeneration and of the new birth, may be ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Man, without the revelation of the Spirit, may speculate, philosophize and reason to the extent of his ability on the subject of a gracious state, but all to no profit - the White Stone, and the new name written in it are, and must forever be unknown to all who have not received it. The boundless wealth, the untold riches of those who receive the White Stone, and the new Name, cannot be estimated nor appreciated, until experienced. Those to whom the treasure is given may seem to be poor, despised, obscure, afflicted and persecuted; but in reality they are immensely rich. All things are theirs, whether Paul, or Apollos, the world and its fullness, and Christ is theirs, heaven and immortality; and all things are working together for their best good, in connection with God’s declarative glory.
Middletown, N. Y.
May 1, 1860.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 4
Pages 335 - 341