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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Revelation

Chapter 23 - Revelation 3:19 - The Love and the Discipline Light & Truth: The Revelation by Bonar, Horatius


How soon a Church goes down! How quickly its love and holiness and zeal fade away! One generation often sees its rise, decline, and fall. Its gold becomes dim; its blossoms wither; its cheek becomes pale, with the symptoms of deadly decline, or flushed with the passions produced by drinking the world's cup, and partaking of the world's fellowships. Spirituality loses ground; worldliness, either in a gross or a refined form, steals in; reality in religion disappears; enjoyment of prayer and the Bible ceases; pleasure, politics, and exciting literature supply the place which the things of God once held. First love is gone. Joy and peace become strangers. Religious formalism, routine, ritualism, by which a man is enabled to quiet his conscience with a few external performances, while devoting the rest of his time to vanity or business, are adopted. The soul withers; the eye that looked upward now looks downward; and the once 'religious man,' who 'did run well,' takes the downward path into lukewarmness or death. Yet Jesus leaves him not. He hateth putting away. He pursues His fugitive. He pleads with the backslider,—'Return, and I will heal.'


I. The love.—The 'I' here is emphatic, and by its prominence Christ presents Himself specially as the lover, the rebuker, the chastener. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways. He loves where others would hate. He shows His love by chastening where others would show theirs by indulging. "He that spareth the rod, hateth the child;' 'Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.' Herein is love, love to Laodicea, even in her lukewarmness. It is not 'Repent, that I may love thee;' it is, 'I love thee, therefore repent.' The sinner, whether of Ephesus, or Sardis, or Laodicea, as long as he remains self-satisfied and happy in his worldliness, cares nothing for any love higher than the creature's. He loves the world, and he would fain have the world to love him. This would be his heaven; his gods and goddesses would all be here. But when trial comes, and sorrow lays hold, and the deep consciousness of evil burdens, and the prospect of coming wrath rouses him, then he looks round and asks for love. 'Is there any one to love me, any one that can love one so unlovable?' The answer is, None on earth; but One in heaven. Jesus loveth still. All Laodicea's unloveableness has not quenched His love. The worst of the seven Churches is that which receives His fullest words of love,—'the love that passeth knowledge.


II. The discipline of love.—Mark the way in which this love deals with Laodicea. It deals in tenderness, and yet in solemn severity. Instead of letting Laodicea escape, it takes hold of her, as a wise father of his disobedient child, and makes her sensible how much it hates the sin. Love cannot bear lukewarmness. It expects love for love; and will leave no method untried in order to win back the straying heart, however far it has gone, either in indifference or hatred.


(1) I rebuke.—He reproves by word and deed. His words are full of tenderness, yet also conveying solemn and searching rebuke. Such rebuke may be 'His strange work,' for 'fury is not in Him.' Yet He does administer the rebuke when it is needed,—not harshly, yet sometimes severely; for He speaks as one who has authority, and who will not be mocked.


(2) I chasten.—What the chastening was we know not: it would be something specially suited to the self-sufficiency and worldliness of the Laodiceans. Perhaps they were stripped of their riches; perhaps visited by sickness and death; laid desolate by grievous sorrow; some heavy blow, or some long-continued trial stroke upon stroke, crushing and emptying them. The chastisement, we are sure, would correspond with the cherished sins, searching the conscience and breaking the heart in pieces. For the Lord leaves not His own, even in their backsliding; nor indeed any who name His name. The unbelieving world may be allowed to go on unchecked in its wickedness and vanity, but they who call themselves Christ's may expect discipline. By naming His name, they have brought themselves under His special rule, and He will deal with them as He dealt with Laodicea. They profess to be His, to have been bought by Him, to follow Him; they must therefore know His rod, and be treated differently form those who reject His sway and service. Discipline, because of permitted sin, because of indulged worldliness, because of defection from truth or holiness,—discipline, it may be, of no ordinary severity,—they must be prepared for. In faithfulness as well as love He will chasten. Whatever it may cost, they must be made to feel the evil of their ways.[10]


III. The exhortation of love.—Be zealous, therefore, and repent. The word zealous contrasts with lukewarmness, and implies true warmth and fervor. Whilst He says, 'I would thou wert cold or hot;' He shows by this word 'zealous' that He desires to see zeal quickened in this Church, and lukewarmness done away. Be zealous! Be fervent in spirit! Have done with coldness and half-heartedness! Rouse thee into the fervor of thy early days, ere this lukewarmness fall upon thee! Repent also! Repent of thy present miserable estate; of thy apostasy, and declension, and worldliness! Repent in dust and ashes! Retrace thy steps! Awake thou that sleepest! Thy estimate of thyself is high; come down from thy loftiness. Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing. Come down from the self-sufficiency, and learn that thou art not what thou thinkest thyself to be. God's estimate of thee and thy estimate of thyself are widely different. Know thyself as He knows thee. Take His estimate of thy poverty and blindness, and cast thyself down before Him. Thou art not the Laodicea of other days. Thou must go back to thy early zeal, and faith, and love. Be not high-minded, but fear. Abhor thyself, and turn from thy lukewarmness.


All this is the language of love; it is the treatment of love. It is love that is rebuking, and chastening, and exhorting. Hear the voice of love,—the unchanging love of Him who yearns over thee in thy declension, and longs to see thee restored. This was the beginning of thy love, as well as of thy confidence. 'We have known and believed the love which God hath to us.' Go back to this, and what thou didst get there at first thou wilt get there again. Know that God is love.