Blessed are they that do his commandments. The Revised Version adopts the reading, οἱ πλύνοντες τὰς στολὰς αὐτῶν , "they that wash their robes," which is found in א , A, 1, 33, Vulgate, AE thiopic, Armenian, Primasius, and which is probably correct. The reading of the Textus Receptus, ποιοῦντες τὰς ἐντολὰς αὐτοῦ , "they that do his commandments," is found in B, Syriac, Coptic, etc. The Vulgate adds, "in the blood of the Lamb," as in Revelation 7:14 , which is, of course, the full meaning. The free will of man is implied in the active form of the participle. That they may have right to the tree of life; in order that they may have authority over the tree of life; i.e. the right to partake of it. Ebrard makes this clause dependent (as a consequence) upon "do:" "They do them in order that they may have," etc. Others attach this clause to "blessed: They are blessed because they may have the right," etc. Both significations may well be implied. "The tree of life" is that described in Revelation 7:2 , and promised "to him that overcometh" in Revelation 2:7 . And may enter in through the gates into the city; by the portals; that is, in the natural way of people who have a right to enter.
(See homily on Revelation 1:1-3 .)
(Revised Version).—(See homily on Revelation 7:1 l—17.)
The blessed ones.
In the Revised Version and the Authorized Version there is a notable difference of reading. In the former the text reads, "Blessed are they that wash their robes;" in the latter it is, "Blessed are they that do his commandments." But there is no real contradiction; for they that wash are they that will therefore obey, and they that obey are those who by their obedience show that they "wash their robes." For note—
I. WHAT IS IT TO THUS " WASH "? What does the expression mean? Some copies add on what is found in Revelation 7:1-17 ., "in the blood of the Lamb," and no doubt such washing is meant. But what does it all mean? Let it be remembered that by "Christ's blood is meant the spirit of his whole life—his love poured forth in sacrifice for men, his self devotion unto death for truth and righteousness' sake, all concentrated, fulfilled, and brought to the point when, on the cross, he bowed his head and died. Drink in that spirit, and you possess, not only hereafter, but now, eternal life. It is life, and it alone. Bathe your heart and intelligence, imagination and spirit, in the spirit of that life and death, till all it was and means flows through your whole nature and life as blood through your veins; wash all your outward life, your habits, your manners, your doings at home and abroad, all the robes of your life, in the spirit which made Jesus pour forth his blood upon the cross, and make them white and pure thereby. Then you will understand—no, not understand, but know—forever, and live forever by the truth that 'the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.'" In short, the possession of, and yet more the being possessed by, the mind and spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ when he shed his blood for us, is to be washed in his blood, and to have our robes made white therein. This, surely, is the meaning of this much misunderstood but precious word. Then note—
II. WHO THEY ARE THAT THUS WASH .
1 . They were such as needed cleansing. The blessed were not always holy, but sin defiled as are we all.
2 . They sought this cleansing. It does not come unsought. If we have no love for the cleansing it brings, we shall Bet have it. It cannot be hurried up in a moment at the last extremity of life, as too many think it can, and so leave seeking it till then.
3 . And have obtained it. For it is said "they wash," that is, they come to him whose it is to impart this cleansing, and they gain it.
4 . And this they continue to do. It is not an act done once for all. It is not true that "there is life for a look at the Crucified One;" there is the beginning of life in such look if it be genuine and real, but if the life is to continue and grow and develop, and become eternal life, we must be ever "looking unto Jesus;" it must be the habitual posture of the soul. Such are the blessed.
III. WHEREIN THEIR BLESSEDNESS CONSISTS .
1 . " They have right to the tree of life."
2 . Their entry "through the gates into the city." As in triumphal procession, not in any concealed or forbidden way. But through the gates of pearl—the new and living way, which is Christ. Theirs is the greater salvation—salvation in fulness; an entrance "administered abundantly" into the kingdom of the Lord. For others there may be, there seems to be, a lesser salvation, a place without the city; a walking in its light, though not admitted within as its citizens. Thus is the living God in Christ the "Saviour of all men, but especially of them that believe." In other parts of this book, and of this and the foregoing chapter, many of the elements of the joy that belongs to the citizens of the holy Jerusalem are set forth; the ills that are here, but are not there; the blessings that are not here, but are there. Shall we be of these blessed ones? Have we come to Christ, and do we keep coming? That is to wash our robes, as is here said. God help us so to do!—S.C.
Three facts in the moral empire of God.
"Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is," etc. These words suggest to our notice three supreme facts in the moral condition of mankind—the requital, the beatified, and the execrable.
I. THE REQUITAL . "Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is." "When the light of the world shines fully forth, then will each man be found to have the thing for which he has toiled. 'The wages of sin,' 'the gift of God'—each will be received in its fulness. We are continually fancying there will be some reversal of that law—that somehow we shall not reap what we have sown" (Maurice). But the fact is, the law of a requital goes on inviolably from the dawn of our moral life through all the years and ages of our existence; the sowing and the reaping are settled facts in our biographies. "With what measure we mete, it is measured to us again." Every voluntary action vibrates and reverberates through all the hills and valleys of our conscious life. Three remarks are here suggested concerning this law of requital.
1 . Its action is prompt. "I come quickly." No sooner do you discharge the act than the retribution is at hand. There is not a moment's delay. "Sin lieth at the door." No sooner is the blow struck than its vibration is felt.
2 . Its action, is first. "Each man according as his work is." It is with every man individually; not man in the mass, but man in the unit.
3 . Its action is immutable. "Alpha and Omega." He who originated and who every instant administered this law, is the "same yesterday, today, and forever." The Beginning, the Means, and End of all things but sin. Thus, brothers, none of us can extricate ourselves from our deeds, or break our shackles of responsibilities. Nemesis is always at our heels. Though it walks with woollen feet unheard, it approaches "quickly," without a pause.
II. THE BEATIFIED . "Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right to come to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city." Wherein does the true blessedness of man consist? Not in his professions, or theories, or ceremonies, but in his "deeds." "Show me thy faith by thy works." Who are the men that are going constantly into eternal life? Those that do the works of the Father. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these," etc. The "deeds" of a man are not formal or occasional accidents, but the fruit of his life—the exudation and fruition of his whole life. Herein, then, is the beatification of our whole nature—keeping the commandments. Mark this beatifying—keeping the commandments. Working out the will of God involves our moral cleansing ("was their robes"); the high, moral right to the highest life as a right to come to the tree of life and to enter into the gates. "Blessed are they who do his commandments"—the commandments of Christ—that the authority may hereafter be continuously over the "tree of life, that they may have the right given them to eat forever the tree of life, and that they who have entered in may, once for all, enter in by means of the gate towers; that is, openly and without challenge, not surreptitiously or by climbing up some other way into the city. Not all shall possess this knowledge" (Vaughan).
III. THE EXECRABLE . "Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loveth and maketh a lie." All souls who are outside this truly beatified state—this state of practical obedience to the Divine will—are truly execrable. For outside that blessed realm of experience are "dogs"—the unclean and ravenous appendages of Eastern cities, types of all that is rapacious in human nature. And "sorcerers"—those who practise imposture in arts and religions, and trade on the credulity of ignorant men. And "fornicators"—the dissolute and immoral. And "murderers"—private assassins, hireling soldiers, and malignant spirits. And "idolaters"—those who bow down before the empty fashions of vanity, the parade of wealth, and all the pomp and glitter of titled fools. Whatsoever in the human mind rules the soul is idolatry. There is but one true God and one true worship. The true God is the one supreme Object of worship. Oh, the awful world that lies outside the realm of the good!—D.T.