<< Revelation 1: Jesus, the First and the Last >>
"Fear not; I am the First and the Last."— Rev. i. 17.
Such were the sublime words said to the trembling and prostrate apostle. Astonished and overwhelmed by the wondrous vision which broke upon his spirit's opened sight, especially by the divine majesty of the Saviour's presence, he fell at His feet as one dead, when the adorable One put His right hand upon him, and said, " Fear not ; I am the First and the Last."
Cheering words are these. John fully trusted them, and stood erect and peaceful. We shall have perfect peace only when we can trust them too. " Fear not, fear not, I am the First and the Last.'' They fall upon the troubled anguished heart like drops of fragrant dew. The soul, unblest by its Saviour, is a complete focus of fears. We fear the loss of fortune, we fear the loss of fame, we fear the loss of friends, we fear the loss of health, we fear the approach of death, and we fear ever- lasting ruin. How blessed is it to be freed from them all, by the divine assurance, which disperses every anxiety, '' Fear not ; I am the First and the Last." write these words upon our hearts, adorable Redeemer!
But let us inquire into the full import of these divine expressions. There must have been a First, and that First must have been the Eternal. The First must be underived, for any being derived from another cannot be the First; that from which it was derived must have existed before it. The First can only be the name of the Eternal Love, from which all things have sprung, the Father. Everything below this is referable to something prior. The outward universe is manifestly the ever-varying product of the universe of causes, laws, and powers within it. These powers, laws, and causes within, are the results of the divine power which impels and sustains them. The divine power flows from the divine love and wisdom, for wisdom without love would be motionless, and love without wisdom, blind. Power, therefore, is an effect of the principles from which it flows, and the divine power is simply the infinite energy of the divine love and wisdom, the love which desires to bless, and the infinite wisdom which prescribes the means. The divine intelligence flows from the divine love, the way comes from the will, the light from the fire. The fire of the Divine Love is the First, the eternal source of all things. God is Love. The Divine Love in the Word is called " The Father," because it is the spring whence all the attributes of God proceed, and from which all divine operations in heaven and earth exist. Hence, those who erroneously suppose the Divine Trinity to consist of three divine persons, say the Father is the first person, and the Son is the second, and the Holy Ghost the last person in the Trinity. But here the Lord Jesus declares Himself to be the First, plainly asserting that He is the Father as well as the Son. "I am the First :" and He is also the Last, and, certainly, the first and the last must include the second. In the very nature of things the First must be the Eternal God. Hence, Jehovah in the Old Testament makes use of the very declaration of our Saviour here. “Thus saith the Lord (Jehovah) the King of Israel, and his Redeemer the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts; I am the First, and I am the Last ; and beside me there is no God." — Isa. xliv. 6. Again : "Hearken unto me, Jacob and Israel, my called: I am He; I am the First, I also am the Last." There cannot be two Firsts. If there were two equal there would be no First. The First can only be one, and must be eternal. If nothing had preceded it, nothing would be the First. If some other being or person had gone before it, that other would be the First. The First, then, means the Eternal One, and therefore it is conjoined in the text quoted above, with the declaration, ''Beside me there is no God." But the Lord Jesus says "He is the First."How then can we hesitate to acknowledge that He and Jehovah are one? If we seek to ascend in thought those links in the chain of being which evidently exist between this outer world and its Creator, we shall come to the same conclusion. The world of nature is, undoubtedly the outside of the universe. It consists, manifestly, of dead matter, everywhere subject to laws which operate in all its changes, all its movements. It is the world of effects; these laws are the immediate causes. But laws, themselves, are only the effects of principles from which they proceed. Human laws which are wise and good, flow from the goodness and wisdom of those who enact them. The laws of the universe are perfect. They accomplish the object intended with the nicest accuracy. They are arranged with unerring wisdom. But not only is the wisdom apparent, so as to display the infinite understanding from which they have originated, but the benevolent purpose of every one is equally apparent. They not only give their innumerable blessings, but give them freely, hoping for nothing again. The end of ends in them is to produce and perfect immortal human beings, who shall be prepared, in this world, to be fully happy in their everlasting home. A countless number of worlds, with a constantly increasing multitude of inhabitants on them, to add for ever to the societies of the blessed, this is, undoubtedly, the great end visible in an enlarged view of the universe. And this end is infinitely benevolent. It implies love unutterable and boundless. Beyond this we cannot go. This is the First. By another way, we have come to the same conclusion, '' God is Love." Beyond the Divine Love we cannot go. Here, we can only say, "It is." Hence, the word Jehovah signifies " He who is." And when He sent Moses to the Israelites, He commanded him to say, " I AM " hath sent me unto you. Time is nothing to His supreme existence. One eternal now is before Him. He ever has been the “I AM" He always will be. The Lord Jesus adopted the same style, when He said to the Jews, '' Before Abraham was I AM." — John viii. 58. Here, again, establishing His identity with Jehovah.
We have analogy to assist us here, as in all other things; Dr. Young wisely styles '' analogy, man's surest guide below." When we see a well-arranged and commodious mansion rise before us, and we inquire how it came there, we shall probably discover that it was erected by the skill of some builder, according to the plan of some architect But we shall not stop here. We feel there must have been something beyond building skill, beyond architectural plan. And this we find in the desire or love of the owner of the house that he might have a comfortable habitation, and thence be of use to mankind. This love is the first principle of operation, the result is the last, but the love pervades and makes itself felt in the whole.
And this prepares us to consider what is involved in the latter part of the announcement in our text, " I am the First and the Last" What is meant by the Last ?
In Isaiah xli. 4, similar terms are used, but with a certain variation. “Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the Lord (Jehovah), the First, and with the Last; I am He.” Here Jehovah is stated to be with the Last; but in our other quotations, in which redemption is plainly treated of, He is called the Last; and in our text the Lord Jesus declares Himself to be "the Last." So that, in redemption He was with the Last, because He Himself became " the Last."
But what is implied in His becoming the Last? We have seen that the Eternal One is, and must ever have been, the First. But we wish to see further, that He must have been an Infinite Man, in first principles. What are the first principles of true manhood? Are they not goodness and intelligence? Do we not consider a person truly a man in proportion as he is truly good and truly wise ? Do we not say of one who has only animal appetites, and no regard for truth, for virtue, and real manly feelings, “He is no man?" The Scriptures speak in this style. "Run ye to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, and see now, and know, and seek in the broad places thereof if ye can find a MAN, if there be any that executeth judgment, that seeketh the truth; and I will pardon it" — Jer. v. 1. A man is one who executeth judgment, who does the truth he already possesses, and seeks for more. He is no man who sluggishly foregoes all inquiry, all examination, and resigns the use of reason, as a slave, at the imperious dictate of others. He is no man who seeks to trample on the rights of the innocent, to disregard the principles of justice, and to gratify only the cravings of passion or lust. He may be a wolf, a tiger, or a serpent, in a moral point of view, but no man.
The flippant being who wastes his whole time on himself and his dress, giving no thought to the nobler aspirations of the soul; the frivolous trifler, who is careless of all human progress, to whom it is matter of no concern whether justice or injustice, vice or virtue, triumphs in the world, who is heedless of everything save himself, his food, and his dress, is a vain creature, whom to call a man would be to desecrate the word. The more wise a person is the more a man he is. The more virtuous, upright, and truly loving he is, the more is he a man. Goodness and wisdom are the first principles of humanity; the human shape is only the last. When the inner principles have worked themselves out through all their ramifications to their extremes, they form the human shape. In that they terminate. It is their last. As men depart from truly human principles, and become more the creatures of appetite and passion, there is a certain coarseness and brutality written upon the features, giving an animal air and likeness to them. The fox-like mind gives an expression of cunning to the visage which painfully impresses the thoughtful observer, especially if not concealed by hypocrisy, and indicates the predominance of the sly brute over the man. A saintly, manly mind, is only fitly expressed by an angel-like human form. Finite goodness and wisdom make a finite man; they are his first principles. Infinite goodness and wisdom make the infinite man; they are His first principles. From them we have seen the universe has originated and is governed. From this cause it is everything in the universe has relation to the human form. Everything in it corresponds to man, and resembles him. The higher it stands in the scale of creation the more is it like humanity. The higher domestic animals have not only an organization like that of the human body, but manifest a near approach to some of the human feelings. The lower we descend the scale of iving beings, and the less complete is the human likeness, but still it exists, until the lowest sentient form of life are seen in the resemblance of the mollusca to a stomach. The world is full of human resemblances, which are often brought out by the poet and the thinker. Man is a little universe. The universe is a grand man. Now, whence is this fulness of humanity ? Whence can it be, except from an infinitely human source ? Say God is a Divine Man, and you have the key to the whole. “The invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even eternal power and Godhead." — Rom. i. 20.
God, then, from eternity, was in first principles a Divine Man. If He should descend into last principles, how else could He appear but as a man? When He became visible in the world, appearing as our Saviour, it was as the Word made flesh. God in last principles. "God was manifest in the flesh." — 1 Tim. iii. 16. He appeared before the eyes of men in a body like their own. To be with the last. He became the Last Himself, so that He could sustain His people directly from Himself. He could be the vine, and they the branches.
This truth, that the Lord would come into the world, and save it as a man, is the clear subject of prophecy. "A man shall be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." — Isa. xxxii. 2. "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (God with us)." — Isa. vii. 14. Of the Lord's Humanity it is said, “I have raised Him up in righteousness, and I will direct all His ways: He shall build my city, and He shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the Lord of hosts. They “shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee: and there is none else, there is no God. Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour. — "Isa. xlv. 13-15. That God would hide Himself in redemption as He hides Himself in creation, is thus foretold. He is ever a God hiding Himself. We see His blessings everywhere, but we see not Him. He moves the whole glorious universe, to pour out of its exhaustless bosom continual bounties and innumerable mercies, but He remains unseen. We receive the gift, but the Giver remains veiled. It is not, then, out of God's ordinary path, but in close harmony with it, that, as a Saviour, He should be a ''God hiding Himself." That the First should become the Last.
If Jehovah ever became a Saviour it must be thus. How could He come into the world except by becoming a man? And that He would come and be a Saviour is the great burden of prophecy. "Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you." — Isa. xxxv. 4. "For the Lord (Jehovah) is our judge, the Lord (Jehovah) is our lawgiver, the Lord (Jehovah) is our king; HE WILL SAVE US." — Isa. xxxiii. 22. "I, even I, am the Lord (Jehovah), AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR." — Isa. xliii. 11. " There is no God else beside Me; a just God and a Saviour; THERE IS NONE BESIDE ME." — Isa. xlv. 21. These passages surely declare that Jehovah would be the Saviour, and for that purpose would come into the world. But how could He come into the world except by clothing Himself with our nature, like a man in the world? And this only from a mother. For if He had had a human father as well as a human mother, He would have been entirely human. For man receives the germ of his inner spiritual organization from his father, and of the outer organization, or clothing of the inner, from his mother. Had the Lord, therefore, had a human father as well as a human mother, it would simply have been another man who was born, not Jehovah, who had become our Saviour, not God, who was manifest in the flesh. Such a Saviour would have been a mere teacher, not a Life-Giver. But Jesus came that we might have life, and that we might have it more abundantly (John x. 10). He came to impart new power to humanity, sunk, degraded, and depraved. He came to bind humanity to Himself, that He might subdue its sins, regenerate, and save it. Hence, He took our nature upon Himself that He might sanctify it there, and through His own sanctified and glorified Humanity, as “by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, His flesh” ---Heb. X. 20. He might poor His Holy Spirit to enlighten, elevate, and bless ours. “For their sakes,” He said, ''I sanctify Myself that they may be sanctified by the truth." — John xvii. 19. This entry of God into the externals of human nature, and thus becoming the Last as well as the First, is the greatest of all spiritual facts. It is the only foundation of the regeneration of the world. In Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and ye are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power (Col. ii. 9, 10).
O that we could embrace this truth in all its breadth, and in all its divine force. For by Jehovah the First becoming also the Last, He conquered hell for us (Luke i. 71 ; x. 18, 19). He brought the Eternal Father fully to view (John i. 18 ; xiv. 9); and by glorifying His Last principles so that His Human became also Divine, He can save to the uttermost. ''All power is given unto Him in heaven and on earth." — Matt, xxviii 18.
Such are some of those weighty truths which are intimated to us in the divine words, '' I am the First and the Last."
It is, however, remarkable, that combining our text with the eighth verse, our Lord says virtually three times over in this chapter, that He is the First and the last.
For there it is written, "I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the Ending, saith the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." The Alpha and Omega, which are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, in which this book of the Revelations was written, imply plainly that He is First and Last in one respect; the Beginning and the Ending import the same thing, while the plain statement of our text declares it again a third time. And we see the reason of this when we reflect that there are three great essentials of Deity, the Divine Love, the Divine Wisdom, and the Divine Power. The threefold declaration therefore is given to assure us that the Lord Jesus is the Alpha and Omega of all Divine Love, and of everything in us derived from the Divine Love. From the first impulse of life which heaves the infantile breast, to the last deep, ardent glow of adoring affection, all is from Him. So with the Divine Truth. There is not a ray of heavenly light, but He is the Beginning of it. He is " the true light, which enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world." — John i. 9. The first gentle counsels which drop from a mother's lips, or sweet caution which gleams from her eye, are from Him, and all the lessons of wisdom which are attained through life, and all of which, if truly learned, point to Him. He is the Beginning and the Ending of them all. And it is the same with the Divine Power. It is all His. From the feeblest effort that forms the tiniest bud, to the sublime laws which sustain heaven and earth, the First and the Last of it is from Him. The whole Trinity of incommunicable attributes is in Him. He is the possessor of them all. He is, and Was, and is to come, the Almighty. He is no new Deity or half Deity. He was with the prophets, the spirit of Christ in them did testify (1 Pet. i. 11). He it is who is to come. He will be with us in death, and in eternity. Be then faithful unto death, he said, and I will give thee the crown of eternal life. We shall find Him in the Sun of heaven, where He reigns. King of kings, and Lord of lords. And in the countless ages of eternity He will still be to all the innumerable multitudes of the happy. HE WHO IS TO COME, for He is the Almighty.
We may now perhaps be enabled to enter into the divine exhortation of our text, — Fear not, and see the admirable character of the reason assigned, " I am the First and the Last"
The natural man, when he views God as he conceives Him out of Christ, paints Him after the fashion of his own revengeful nature, and armed with Omnipotent power. He shudders before a Being nothing can escape, and is conscious of having deserved His condemnation. He has frequently recurring misgivings and terror, which cause heart-sickness and pain when death and judgment loom before him. And so long as God is thought of out of Christ, and not as God in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, such inward trepidation must remain. To such then, these words when truly apprehended, will come like heavenly music, " Fear not, I am the First and the Last."
The Lord Jesus was embodied tenderness and love. Men often tremble before the unknown God, they make for themselves, out of Christ But the Lord Jesus Himself is always felt to be the sinner's Friend, and the universal Friend. His whole life on earth was spent in doing and suffering what the wants of His creatures required. There was no sorrow that was brought before Him, but He felt for and removed it. No sufferers in body or in mind with which He did not sympathize, and did not comfort. When His disciples were toiling in the dark night upon the sea. He came and said. It is I, be not afraid. All who know Him feel that He cares for them, and wills to succour and to save them. Those at the present day who are very unhappy at the supposed inflexibility of the awful Father, always rely on the Son's willingness to plead for them. He died for us, say they, He requires no sacrifice to propitiate Him, but the sacrifice of our sins. We will goto Him, and ask Him to be our Advocate with the First Divine Person that we may be pardoned. Let such trembling, weak ones, hear His divine assurance, Fear not, "I am the First and the Last." There is no other whom you need fear, "I am the First." " Come unto me, all ye who are weary, and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." By the Word in last principles, the Word made flesh, we know really the character of the Word in first principles, the Word which was with God, and which God was. We have learned from Him, and we are persuaded, that if we go to Him in our blindness He will open our eyes: if we go to Him in our sins, but mourning and repentant, He will say, " Neither do I condemn thee; Go and sin no more :" if we go to Him with our hands withered, He will strengthen our hands for all that is good. In our spirit's sicknesses He will heal us ; in our spiritual death even, He will, as He did Lazarus, raise us again. Fear not, His whole life and Gospel say to us, " I am the First and the Last."
The Lord says, "Fear not." He knew we had many fears. We will notice three classes of them which remain frequently lingering with those who admit doctrinally that the " Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works." First, they have fears for their future in this life. Secondly, they have fears that they will not succeed in subduing their evils, and preparing for heaven. And thirdly, they fear death; some the judgment to which it leads, and some the apprehended pain of dying.
Those who fear for their future in this life; who fear lest they should suffer loss of health or comfort; lest they should become poor, and despised, are often harassed with anxieties, when they witness the changing circumstances of all around. A friend is prostrated to-day, who yesterday was in perfect health. A neighbour is to-day a bankrupt by some commercial change, who lately was considered opulent; and felt himself to be rich. Accidents occur which make the most alarming changes. Nor do these vicissitudes seem to be guided by a just regard to moral worth. The wicked prosper, and often attain titles and dignities denied to worthier men. Riches are often possessed by the unworthy, while the virtuous are straitened in their circumstances. All these appearances induce fears, and some are bitterly distressed by anxious cares of this character. They look at the Lord as ruling all things in first principles and on a grand scale, but do not understand how He can attend to the small events of daily life. And they think, if He did. His blessings would not be so unequally dealt out. They admit the Lord to be the First, but they forget His assurance that He is also the Last.
This is however the truth. His exhortation is to all such. Fear not, "I am the First and the Last" Not a hair of your head falls to the ground, but your heavenly Father knoweth it. All these changes of life are under His providential care, and are permitted or provided only as He sees they can be made conducive to the real good of every individual. A Providence which cared for great things, and not for small, would be no Providence at all. No whole can exist which is not composed of parts. Every mountain is made of atoms, every shower of drops. He who provides soil, and rain, and wind, and sunshine for the lily, so that they may grow with vigour, and be clothed with beauty, will much more care for you. You feel you do not know the future, you have it not in possession, but it is in good hands. Trust in Him. Joseph in the pit was forlorn enough, but He was as much the object of divine attention and care as when exalted to rule all Egypt. The pit was the way to the glory which followed. We cannot see the Providence of the Lord in the face, but we may see it in its back parts. Who is there of us on looking back, cannot discern the hand of Providence which has brought us thus far? We have had sorrows no doubt, but the winter's frost is as salutary in preparing the soil, as the summer's sun. The blows which break the clods are rough, but useful. The time I hope has been when we have blessed the divine Mercy for our sorrows, and again will it yet more fully come. Our gratitude for our joys will in eternity be heightened by the remembrance, that through much tribulation have our robes been washed, and made white by the blood of the Lamb (Rev. vii. 14).
We observe the wicked bedecked with titles, and dignities; we see them rolling in wealth, and we cannot but think if they had their deserts, a very different lot would be theirs. But we should remember, that the Divine Providence desires to make the selfish useful. Those who would not labour from disinterested love for the public good, will often toil for a title. A few sounding words are a cheap mode of inducing the inwardly idle to be actively useful, the inwardly malignant to defend a nation, and advance its progress. To gather wealth, even the most selfish must circulate it. The most tenacious lover of money can only hold it for a short time; and he who hoards, is in the long run, found to have been gathering capital by which great undertakings can be brought to a successful issue. In the end it will be found that seeming evil will have been over-ruled to real good. Let us be assured that Infinite Love and Wisdom are presiding over each event with reference to the evil, even to lead them if possible to good, by giving them to see that an abundance of their fancied goods, affords no heartfelt peace or pleasure; and to the sincere seeker of a heavenly state, every circumstance and every event, however small, is under the loving guardianship of the Saviour, who said, '' Fear not, I am First and the Last."
Others have fears of a more interior kind. They find their evils are numerous and active. They once thought they had led many which have again shown themselves. Some against which they have long striven, yet continue to exist and to harass them. They fear sometimes lest they may have been deceiving themselves, with ideas of progress which have not been real. They fear that their nature is so radically corrupt, that it is an exception to the general rule. They are peculiar, they are worse than others, and the Lord though He looks after great features of their spiritual life, does not descend to their individual evils. Or at times, they think He overlooks them altogether; He has seemed to notice them before, but He has gone a far journey.
" I would, but cannot rest
In God's most holy will;
I know what he appoints is best,
Yet murmur at it still.
"But if indeed, I would,
Though nothing I can do;
Yet the desire Is something good,
For which my praise is due.
" Then crown, O Lord, at length
The work thou hast begun ;
And, with a will, afford me strength,
In all Thy ways to ran.
They feel beset before and behind. They are like the Israelites when the Red Sea was before, and Pharaoh's host behind. There was no way of escape. Let them, like the Israelites, cry unto the Lord, and hope and wait. The Sea will open once again, and a sure deliverance will come. Moses said unto the people, “ Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show to you to-day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace." — Ex. xiv. 13, 14. Be assured, my dear hearers, this will also be, your case. You do not see your way. Stand still, then. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace. The distress you feel, the straitness you have, the horror you experience, all betoken a crisis. Be faithful and trustful, now, and "the Egyptians whom ye have seen to-day, ye shall see them again no more for ever." The evils which harass you now, will soon be rejected and subdued. They will speedily trouble you no more. They pain you severely now. That is a good sign. Once you were not troubled upon the subject. The more you loathe them, and dread their evidence, the more you are being separated from them. While pain is felt in a wound, the powers of healing are there. Mortification has no pain, but it is fatal. It is good for a man to hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord. To all such troubled hearts, Divine Mercy says, " Fear not, I am the First and the Last." For this purpose, I became the Last. None are too low for me to reach them : I am '' the Last," as well as the First. You are infested, my child, by many evil spirits and evil influences. But I have conquered all hell, I will fight for you. I say to the wild waves of temptation, Thus far shall ye go and no further, and here shall your proud waves be stayed. "Fear not, I am the First and the Last." My hand shall lead thee, and my right hand shall hold thee up. The Divine Truth filled with the Divine Love shall strengthen and save thee.
Lastly. There are those who fear the coming of death. They are satisfied, Divine Mercy has been with them through life, and is watching over and caring for them now, but death has a mysterious awe about it; and nature shrinks at it, and they fear to think of death. The apostle gives us to understand that two of the ends for which the Lord passed through death Himself, were to put down the fear of hell which had infested the dying, and to deliver us from this fear.
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood. He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. And deliver them who through fear of death, were all their life-time subject to bondage." — Heb. ii. 14, 15.
This Lord who died, and rose again, to show He was the conqueror of death is He who said, " Fear not, I am the First and the Last," He is " the Author and Finisher of our faith." — Heb. xii. 2. He gave us the earliest truth which led us to Himself, and He will be with us when we finish our course. He raised His own Humanity from the dead, in a glorified state, and He is the Resurrection and the Life for us. He provided for our comfortable reception into this world, be assured His angels will have charge to receive us when we enter into the other. In His New Church too, He has given abundant information to show us the other world as a more real, more perfect, and more beautiful world than this: the spiritual body as a more living and substantial one, than this of matter.
Fear to die! fear to rise to a higher life! Oh no, let us live for it, and look to it as the end of our journey. We have to keep watch and ward in the outskirts of our Heavenly Father's domains. To die, is to be brought home to His palace. We have to bow our heads as we enter at the gate, but, soon we shall raise them again at the wondrous beauty of the better land. Sweet angel voices, soft with the music of love, will welcome us. We shall awake from a sweet sleep, into sweet company. All our powers enhanced; our bodily weaknesses and imperfections left behind. "We know that if the earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God; a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."The Lord guards the passage of the dying. His Holy Spirit draws them towards Himself. No power can stay them, or endanger them, unless their own evils repel them from the abodes of peace. To all who love goodness and truth for their own sakes the Lord says, "Fear not, I am the First and the Last." My power is that of Infinite Love and Wisdom, the first principles of all things, and it extends to the last, the lowest, and the least of all things, embosoming, and protecting all.
"Shudder not to pass the stream;
Venture all thy care on Him;
Not one object of His care
Ever suffered shipwreck there.”
Others fear the pain supposed to be felt in the act of dying. They love the Lord. They love His kingdom, and they humbly repose on His mercy, but the pain of death is unpleasant to contemplate. Originally death had no pain. Men passed away without disease, as when they go to sleep. A very large number do so now. Pain arises from our imperfections. But we shall not suffer pain unless Divine Mercy sees we shall be better for it. And if He sees that a permission of pain will do us good, shall we repine or fear? The cup which my Heavenly Father gives, shall I not drink it? He will never permit us to endure more than we can bear. For the rest, let us leave ourselves in His hands. ''Let Him do what seemeth Him good.'' Thus shall we be able to cast our care on Him, who, though He was the First, showed how much He cared for us in becoming the Last for our sakes. " Fear not,'' He says, and we will not fear. He is the First, and presides over all things. He is the Last and encompasses all things. We will abide in Him, and His spirit shall abide in us. And, then, wherever we go, or whatever we do, He will be with us, and where He is, there is peace and there is heaven.
And, finally, let us remark, how grateful we ought to be for this divine assurance, " Fear not" How happy it is to be freed from anxiety, care, and discouragement. How delightful to be freed from fear. The future is not in our hands, but it is in His who is the First and the Last. A child has no concern for the future, and no fear. It is satisfied and happy with the present. If the angels suffered anxious thoughts to intrude with their long future, how could peace reign amongst them ? They are childlike, confiding, and loving. They attend perfectly to their duties, and have joy in the sunshine of divine Love and Wisdom. Let us rejoice in doing the Lord's commandments, and dismiss care. Let us strive to live as they live in heaven, and thus prepare for heaven. "Are not five sparrows sold for a farthing, and yet your Heavenly Father feedeth them ? Fear not, ye are of more value than many sparrows."
And be not anxious as to the exact progress you have made in the regenerate life. That is known only to the Lord. Let us resist evil, and do good in all our operations. Let us not be elated with present joy; one fine day is not a summer; nor depressed by present sorrow; a rainy day in spring is not a winter. And even winters pass away. "Fear not; I am the First and the Last." This is the Saviour's assurance. "Fear not, little flock; it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." No evils are too powerful for Him. He knows the best time when we can bear each trial, and the mode in which it will be most beneficial. Leave it with Him. He will then breathe a sweet peace over the soul. “Fear not ; I am the First and the Last."
In the Saviour's hands we shall find death is not death, but higher life. Let us have no concern when or how the Lord, the Bridegroom, shall call us home; but only strive to be ready. Let our lamps be lighted with the flame of truth, and our vessels filled with the oil of love; and then, when the call is made, the Bridegroom cometh, we shall go forth to meet Him. Let us, in the meantime, rest on these divine words, "Fear not ; I am the First and the Last."
There is something unspeakably sweet comes over the devout soul when we really feel that the Lord Jesus is indeed the First and the Last. He is so good and holy, yet so merciful, so tender and forgiving. We remember it was He who came to seek and to save that which was lost, and a sense of peaceful trust and grateful love fills the mind. A thousand fears fly away at His blest name, and we are happy. A new morning has dawned upon us, and this glorious truth shines as Aurora's lovely star. “I” said the Lord Jesus Himself, " am the root and offspring of David, the bright and morning star." — Rev. xxii. 16.
All our former perplexities as to the Divine Trinity fly away when we have rationally accepted this gracious lesson. We have endeavoured, sincerely, to see how three distinct persons could be one God, and we could not. We have tried to worship all equally, but have feared this was not done when the Father was addressed to do everything only for the sake of the Son, praying thus directly to the Father, but rarely to the Son, and very seldom, indeed, to the Holy Spirit. We have anxiously asked, How can a Son be eternal? must the Father not have existed before Him; and if another existed before Him, how could He be from everlasting? These doubts and difficulties all fly from the mind, like the lingering shades of night, when we clearly see Jesus as the " First and the Last" We adore in Him the Father, who, for our sakes, assumed the Son. His Spirit, flowing from His glorified body, is the Holy Spirit. How clear, how simple, is this grand idea, and omnipotence is with our Saviour. Jesus is All in all (Col. iii. 11).
We see too, in this, the grand circle of all creation. The universe has all proceeded from the Divine Man; it all returns Him. "By Him (the Word) were all things made ; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life and the life was the light of men. He was in the world, and world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not." — John 4, 10. But now, happily, we know Him. We see in Him the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. ii. 9) ; and He it is says to us, " Fear not; I am the First and the Last." No, fears fall away, but how deeply we love! Perfect love casts out fear. The very idea of our Heavenly Father Himself having followed us to earth, and to earth in its worst state, to redeem us from sin and sorrow, draws us to Him with an unspeakable attraction. Shall we not love and follow Him who has done so much for us ? Shall we not accept the safety He has placed in our reach? The help He has brought to us? Can we again stray from the sacred path of His commandments when He has done so much to restore us to life, and health, and happiness? Ah, no, we feel this is the great power to draw mankind from sin, and form them into one blessed family in the coming age. High over all is He who is at once the Father, the Saviour, and the Regenerator, in One Divine Person, the grand centre, towards which all look and love. They learn from Him who stooped to save the lowest, from love, to labour for all, also from love to seek to raise all around them: to become followers of Him in work, in obedience, in gentleness, and in light. And if, at any time, we are weak and weary, to feel His gracious encouragement, "Fear not; I am the First and the Last." Thus will virtue once more go out from the Saviour's garment; and thus will "the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and HE SHALL REIGN FOR EVER AND EVER.”
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)