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SERMON X V I.
THE KEY OF DAVID IN THE HAND OF
REV. GEORGE ARKLAY,
MINISTER OF INVERKEILLOR.
REVELATION III. 8.
“ I know thy works : behold, I have set before thee an open
door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.”
So spake “ He that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth.” Unto him all judgment had been committed, and knowing the works of every Church, the fruits that manifested the condition and character of every corner of his vineyard, he set before each of the seven Churches of Asia his delineation of its spiritual state. In some of these churches, he saw much to reprehend and reprove ; in others, he found occasion for commendation and encouragement; and while he unsparingly exposed the emptiness of a mere nominal Christianity in some, he failed not to cherish in others the most feeble branch that gave promise of bringing forth fruit unto holiness. In all this, he shewed that, as the King of his Church, he was ever ready “to fight with the sword of his mouth,” against al hypocrisy and impenitence; while “ the bruised reed he would not break, and the smoking flax he would not quench.”
The commendation bestowed on the Church at Philadelphia was not so unqualified and abundant as that which some of the others received; but it was much not to be denounced as dead, or as utterly negligent of the opportunities afforded of improving its own spiritual condition, and glorifying its heavenly King. It was much to receive the encouraging assurance, that its struggles against the enemies of the cross, though feeble, had not been altogether vain ; and that its little strength would find scope for exertion, in a field into which the Lord himself would guide it.
We have not a detail of the particular privileges enjoyed and improved by this Church; of the special trials to which it was subjected, or of the difficulties with which it had been called to contend; but enough is made known to teach us, that any church that would approve itself as faithful, must go in at the door opened
for it by Him “who openeth and no man shutteth"must go forward whithersoever the finger of the Lord pointeth—and in its own weakness, seek to have his strength perfected.
We are not warranted to apply the words of our text directly to ourselves, as a Church of Christ, because the circumstances of the Church at Philadelphia may have been essentially different from ours; and it would be sinful presumption in any church, to take to itself the commendation, which the holy One and True saw meet to bestow on this part of his spiritual doininion. Still there are great and important truths unfolded here, which are of general application, and may, if regarded in the spirit of meekness, tend to the edification of all. Let us, then, in what follows, notice some of these ; and may the God of all grace apply his own truths savingly to our souls, while we consider in the first place, some of the general principles involved in the text, and then apply these principles, and advert to the duties resulting from them.
I. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLES INVOLVED IN THE TEXT ARE
(1.) Christ opens every door by which the influences of his Gospel can enter.
Christ is constituted “ Head over all things to the Church,” and he it is who with the key of David unlocks the fast places of the prince of darkness, that the light may find admittance into his benighted domains. Having all things under his feet, He overrules the events of Providence, and regulates the fluctuations of what is called public opinion, and disposes the operations of his grace, so as to open channels by which the stream of saving knowledge may flow in upon the spiritual wastes of an evil world. When we see prejudices that from long continuance have grown confirmed, giving way under the salutary influences of education—when we see the barrier which fashion and custom have erected to oppose the course of the Gospel, breaking down piecemeal under the destroying hand of time—and when we see the spirit of enquiry as to religious matters gradually awakening; even in such commonplace occurrences as these, we are to trace the agency of Him who maketh all things work for the advancement of that kingdom, which shall ultimately rule over all.
This is perhaps little attended to ; and provided we acknowledge God's sovereignty in the spiritual world, and his influence in turning the hearts of men whithersoever he will, we seldom deem it necessary to ascribe the visible changes in men's outward state and circumstances to any higher agency than human power or policy. But, while we are scrupulously watchful over the orthodoxy of our opinions, as to the necessity of spiritual influence being exerted upon every soul that is beautified with salvation ; we must also remember, that even those events that seem to be cast up fortuitously on the surface of time's rolling stream are directed by the Great Disposer of all. There an Almighty hand guides all, and works the hidden machinery by which effect follows cause, and consequences roll on in strange yet regulated succession. Among other movements directed by this unseen hand, the door which opens to give
free course to Gospel truth is made to turn on its hinges. It is the King in Zion, who by his Spirit gives to the Word its quickening power, but he also guides the preacher's voice to the hearing ear. He by his Spirit prepares the soil of honest and good hearts to receive the precious seed, and he blesses the springing of it in these hearts; but it must also be believed, that it is he who opens the door into the field of this spiritual husbandry where the sower does his office. That hand which divided the waters of the Red Sea, and opened the passage by which Israel went forth to take possession of the promised land, must also turn aside the floods of ungodly men, that through their opposing ranks the truth may pass onward to the occupancy of those hearts where it is destined to rule.
Do we see a Church of Christ in the full enjoyment of true Christian privileges and Christian freedom ? 66 He that openeth, and no man shutteth,” must first have opened a door by which the truth that maketh free came in to shed abroad its heavenly blessings on that Church. Do we see a Church extending itself, and carrying Gospel blessings into every uncultivated field ? Its living Head must have set before it the open door, and given a way of access to the dark places. Do we see the ministers of a Church preaching the glad tidings of salvation freely, faithfully, and profitably? It is their Heavenly Master who opens to them a door of utterance to speak the mystery of Christ. Do we see multitudes waiting on their ministrations, and receiving the word gladly? It is the Master of the vineyard who sets before his servants a door of admis