Continuing with The Face of the Deep, Christina Georgina Rossetti’s 1892 devotional commentary on the Apocalypse, the first full commentary of any sort on that book written by a woman. Rossetti is one of the best poets in the English language, and her commentary is strewn with poetry throuhgout, which plays an integral role in the commentary, making this one a truly extraordinary commentary on the Book of Revelation.
9. I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the island that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.
“Your brother, and companion . . . in the kingdom . . . of Jesus Christ.”—Thus far St. John addresses all baptized Christians, but not necessarily all, as concerns “tribulation” and “patience.” The first and obvious priveleges are ours by Royal gift; the second and less obvious are likewise ours potentially and in the germ, yet neither effectually nor in maturity unless our own free will co-operate with God’s predisposing grace.
Patience is a great grace; but is it at all a privelege? Yes, surely. The patient soul, lord of itself, sits imperturbably amid the jars of life and serene under its frets. “Let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” Hence we infer that where patience is perfect, nought else will remain imperfect.
Tribulation cannot but be a privelege, inasmuch as it makes us so far like Christ.
O Tender Lord Jesus, Who layest not upon us more than we can bear, give us patience in tribulation; a courageous, sweet patience; a patient, indomitable hope.
“I John . . . was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.”—All for edification, nothing for self-glorification: so much and no more does St. John tell us of his confession and exile.
Christians should resemble fire-flies, not glow-worms; their brightness drawing eyes upward, not downward.
10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
11. Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches with are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
“I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.”—Rome and St. John had come to an issue. Rome had power of life and death, chains and sentence of banishment on its side: St. John on his side had the defence of the Most High and the shadow of the Almighty. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” neither was the Word of God bound. Immovable as Patmos the rock amid buffeting winds and waves, St. John stood fast in the liberty wherewith Christ had made him free.
Earth cannot bar flame from ascending,
Hell cannot bind light from descending,
Death cannot finish life never ending.
Eagle and sun gaze at each other,
Eagle at sun, brother at Brother,
Loving in peace and joy one another.
O St. John, with chains for thy wages,
Strong thy rock where the storm-blast rages,
Rock of refuge, the Rock of Ages.
Rome hath passed with her awful voice,
Earth is passing with all her joys,
Heaven shall pass away with a noise.
So from us all follies that please us,
So from us all falsehoods that ease us,—
Only all saints abide with their Jesus.
Jesus, in love looking down hither,
Jesus, by love draw us up thither,
That we in Thee may abide together.
“A great voice, as of a trumpet, saying . . .”—Now is the trumpet gave an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle? But this trumpet voice uttereth no uncertain sound, but a great alarum, sounding an alarm in God’s holy mountain, and bidding every soul make ready against the sounding of that other trumpet-blast which will compel a response from living and dead, one and all.
If we entertain any uncertainty as to this voice, the uncertainty lurks in ourselves, not elsewhere. So when long ago sundry men appeared “as trees, walking,” any peculiarity observed resided in the vision of him who gazed, not in the appearance of them who walked.
Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth. Grant us ears to hear, eyes to see, wills to obey, hearts to love: then declare what Thou wilt, reveal what Thou wilt, command what Thou wilt, demand what Thou wilt. Amen.
The clause, “I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last,” is here omitted by the Revised Version. Very nearly the same words have already occurred (ver. 8) and will recur (xxi. 6; xxii. 13).
“What thou seest, write in a book, and send it . . .”—”Write,” and forthwith St. John wrote. “Send it,” and when the moment came, means of transmission would be forthcoming. Could St. John forecast those means? Very probably not; but like another blessed saint before him, he did what he could.
Not so we. We make sure that the first step which depends on ourselves can be taken, but we indulge misgivings as to the second step which depends upon God alone. Whereupon we omit that first step divinely put in our own power. God condescends to trust us, and we will not trust Him.
Lord, I am here.—But, child, I look for thee
Elsewhere and nearer Me.—
Lord, that way moans a wide insatiate sea :
How can I come to Thee?—
Set foot upon the water, test and see
If thou canst come to Me.—
Couldst Thou not send a boat to carry me,
Or dolphin swimming free?—
Nay, boat nor fish if thy will faileth thee :
For My Will too is free.—
O Lord, I am afraid.—Take hold on Me :
I am stronger than the sea.—
Save, Lord, I perish.—I have hold of thee,
I made and rule the sea,
I bring thee to the haven where thou wouldst be.
“To the seven Churches which are in Asia.”—What St. John saw and wrote concerns Christendom of to-day, no less directly and urgently than it concerned the seven Churches of the Apostolic day. The great voice as of a trumpet adjures every soul within hearing.
As a matter of history, those seven Churches were in the main swept away long ago, misbelief ravaging and occupying their territory. Their charge has been transferred to us, their burden laid on us: it is we who are called upon to overcome. Amen!