LISTLESSESS.

BY REV. JOH MASO EALE, D.D.
" Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead" REV.
iii. i.
IT is not of this verse by itself that I am so
much going to speak : but of it, as the Antiphon,
so to say, to the whole Epistle ; ay, and to that
also to Laodicea. And nothing can concern
us more nearly. Every Religious House, in
these times at least, must have a name that it
liveth. It must be, and is, so with you. Im
possible that you should carry on the works
you are carrying on, without others concluding
at once that they must be done from the pure
love of GOD, and in simple dependence on the
HOLY GHOST. But I wonder how we should
feel if a direct message came to us from the
LORD as it did to Sardis : with what terrible
anxiety we should listen to it; the exquisite
joy if it were " Because thou hast kept the
* Preached Second Sunday after Epiphany, 1863.
LISTLESSESS. 39
word of My patience, I also will keep thee in
the hour of temptation ;" the misery, if we
heard, " Because thou art lukewarm, and neither
cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My
mouth ;" the rapture of : " Thou hast borne,
and hast patience, and for My ame s sake
hast laboured, and hast not fainted : " even
though it were checked with : " evertheless I
have somewhat against thee ;" and, lastly, the
almost despair of: "Thou hast a name that
thou livest, and art dead."
ow before I go on notice this. Considering
how common in the Apocalypse are plays upon
words, it is very possible that the proper name of
the Angel of the Church of Sardis had something
to do with life : such as Vitalis in Latin ;
Zosimus in Greek. So the terrible irony as
touching himself would be all the more bitter.
ow what strikes me first of all as the great
characteristic in common of these two unhappy
Churches, is the absence of all mention of ex
ternal trouble, or inward temptation. Ephesus
is vexed by icolaitanes ; Smyrna shall have
tribulation ten days ; Pergamum is twice said to
dwell " where Satan s throne is" ; " where Satan
dwelleth." Thyatira is tempted by "that woman
Jezebel " to the lusts of the flesh ; Philadelphia
is harassed " by them of the synagogue of Satan,
40 LISTLESSESS. [Sis.
which say they are Jews, and are not, but do
lie." But dead Sardis, and miserable Laodicea,
have no fears, no trouble, no enemy. Satan
knew too well to harass them. They were,
as the Prophet says, settled upon their lees.
ow, my Sisters, what is true of Churches is
true of individuals. Therefore there may be
comfort, or there may be warning here. Who
would not rather be tempted with Philadelphia
than have the peace of Sardis ? And notice
this. ext to Smyrna and Philadelphia, to
whom not one word of blame is said, perhaps
Thyatira comes highest : she whose last works
and love were more than the first ; that is a
glorious advance. She it is who is attacked by
the most loathsome temptation : that of " that
woman Jezebel." ow, whether this really were
the founder of a sect, or merely a personifica
tion of the Gnostics, still the trial to the Church
was the same. They taught that it was a
small thing for a man to despise the tempta
tions of the flesh, if he fled from them and
avoided them. o, they said : the true, the
glorious victory was to remain superior to
such pleasures while tasting them to the full ;
to give up the senses to all they could desire,
while the spirit remained in a calm, pure
region above them. This, they said, was
v.) LISTLESSESS. 41
defying Satan in his own kingdom and strong
hold.
And a masterpiece of Satan s that was : and
thousands it drew away to hell. And, singu
larly enough, the very name, Jezebel, has an
analogy with the teaching. We know, from
the Old Testament, the kind of life she led ; we
know from other history that she, before her
marriage with Ahab, was the priestess of
Astarte, the Venus of the Zidonians, and yet
her name is said, in the old Phoenician, to mean
pure; just as Agnes in Greek.
And Smyrna again is tempted to open blas
phemy : Smyrna, the spotless Church.
So, my Sisters, try to learn this. Tempta
tions, let them be what they may, if only they
are resisted, are the mark of growth : it is that
terrible stagnation, when nothing has to be
resisted, that all true servants of our dear LORD
ought earnestly (His dearest servants most ear
nestly) to pray against.
Another thing to be observed. I have spoken
so much and so lately about this, that I should
not have entered into it again, had it not been
there so plainly. Our LORD continues, about
Sardis : " I have not found thy works perfect
before GOD." ow perfect is not the right
translation. It means literally, not having been
42 LISTLESSESS. [San.
filled up to the brim; that is, not thorough.
You know how small a thing this appears to us.
I say us, because I am to blame in that sense
as much as any of you. " That will do" I
doubt if that sentence has not done as much
harm in the English language. That will just
prevent open failure, and make the work keep
on ; the rest is useless labour. If I needlessly
put off a Confession, because to-morrow will do
as well ; if I needlessly repeat what I have said
before, instead of writing for you afresh, that is
not thorough. If you, but the rest I leave to
your several consciences.
Well ; and as I said, we might think this,
a fault, certainly, but see the judgment which
He, the Most Merciful, as well as the Most Just,
pronounces on it. This is the whole sum and sub
stance of the sin ; you heard the sentence before :
"Thou hast a name that thoulivest, and artdead."
This is only the declaration of the earthly, trans
figured by the Heavenly Solomon : " Whatsoever
thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.
My Sisters, if any of you feel in your heart of
hearts that you have so offended, (and He that
wrote these Apocalyptic Epistles only knows),
we have not so long entered on the new year
but that it is comparatively unspoiled ground.
Begin again once more.
V.] LISTLESSESS. 43
And, with respect to that, the threatening to
the Laodiceans has much to do. " I know thy
works, that thou art neither cold nor hot : I
would thou wert cold or hot." How are we to
understand that? Better not love GOD at all
than love Him half-heartedly? It is well to
look at that : for there is certainly a difficulty ;
and three ways have been proposed of explain
ing it. The first would make it a mere expres
sion of (as they say) holy impatience, against
half-and-half love. Just as we say, when we
object strongly to any measure, " Anything
rather than that," meaning thereby, certainly
not anything; but under very great limitation,
and in a most confined sense. But, if we
realize how completely these Epistles were the
exact verbal words of our LORD to the Churches,
we could hardly allow that He could so have
spoken. For, of a perfect Being, it would not
be a holy, but an unholy impatience. Then ;
another explanation : as food, if quite hot, or
quite cold, is acceptable ; but neither one nor
the other, is to us disgusting ; so the hot and
the cold are, here, both good ; only the luke
warm evil. But I suppose we all feel that
such a low interpretation is utterly below the
dignity of a common prophecy,- to say nothing
of the especial glory of this book. o : the
44 LISTLESSESS. [Sun.
cold, addressed to a Church, situated in the
midst of a heathen country, signifies those who
have never given ear to the True Faith ; who
have never received the Gospel : better heathen,
unregenerate, than regenerate, lukewarm Chris
tians.
Then, there is so very dear a thing in this
Epistle. Sardis, at this time, was not only one
of the most luxurious, but one of the most
populous of the cities of Asia Minor. otice
then : our LORD will not allow the few names,
insignificant in the eyes of the world though
they might be, to think that they are overlooked
by Him. And only a few names, rather than
a few ? Surely with reference to that Book of
Life in which the names of all who have fought
the fight well, who have run the race well, are
even now enrolled. But see how our LORD takes
care that, even in that general condemnation,
even when He so speaks of the Church as dead,
He is careful that His own dear servants, few
though they be, should feel that they are not
overlooked by Him. It is the old story over
again, " Wilt thou destroy all the city for lack
of five?" And the five, though they were not
to be found, yet had they been found, would
have been precious in the LORD S sight.
And now remember, my Sisters, unless the
V.I LISTLESSESS. 45
matter had been, as it were, so completely
pressed on me, by a text which I took without
the slightest reference to that, I would not have
spoken to you about listlessness and the doing
a thing without putting your whole heart and
soul unto it. I told you just now how, if you
fail in that respect, these Epistles pronounce a
deeper condemnation than we might have ex
pected : now, I remind you, how, if you succeed
in what seems to be a little, trifling, insignificant
thing, you will have your part in the blessing
pronounced on those who have thus con
tended, and those who have thus conquered
(the Church that had little strength) " Hold
that fast which thou hast, that no man take
thy Crown."
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