on Revelation 3 :15
Thou art neither cold nor hot - Ye are neither heathens nor Christians - neither good nor evil - neither led away by false doctrine, nor thoroughly addicted to that which is true. In a word, they were listless and indifferent, and seemed to care little whether heathenism or Christianity prevailed. Though they felt little zeal either for the salvation of their own souls or that of others, yet they had such a general conviction of the truth and importance of Christianity, that they could not readily give it up.
I would thou wert cold or hot - That is, ye should be decided; adopt some part or other, and be in earnest in your attachment to it. If ever the words of Mr. Erskine, in his Gospel Sonnets, were true, they were true of this Church: -
"To good and evil equal bent,
I'm both a devil and a saint."
They were too good to go to hell, too bad to go to heaven. Like Ephraim and Judah, Hosea 6:4 : O Ephraim, what shall I do unto thee? O Judah, what shall I do unto thee? for your goodness is as a morning cloud, and as the early dew it passeth away. They had good dispositions which were captivated by evil ones, and they had evil dispositions which in their turn yielded to those that were good; and the Divine justice and mercy seem puzzled to know what to do to or with them. This was the state of the Laodicean Church; and our Lord expresses here in this apparent wish, the same that is expressed by Epictetus, Ench., chap. 36. Ἑνα σε δει ανθρωπον, η αγαθον, η κακον, ειναι. "Thou oughtest to be one kind of man, either a good man or a bad man."
on Revelation 3 :15
I know thy works - notes on Revelation 2:2.
That thou art neither cold nor hot - The word "cold" here would seem to denote the state where there was no pretension to religion; where everything was utterly lifeless and dead. The language is obviously figurative, but it is such as is often employed, when we speak of one as being cold toward another, as having a cold or icy heart, etc. The word "hot" would denote, of course, the opposite - warm and zealous in their love and service. The very words that we are constrained to use when speaking on this subject - such words as ardent (that is, hot or burning); fervid (that is, very hot, burning, boiling) - show how necessary it is to use such words, and how common it is. The state indicated here, therefore, would be that in which there was a profession of religion, but no warm-hearted piety; in which there was not, on the one hand, open and honest opposition to him, and, on the other, such warm-hearted and honest love as he had a right to look for among his professed friends; in which there was a profession of that religion which ought to warm the heart with love, and fill the soul with zeal in the cause of the Redeemer; but where the only result, in fact, was deadness and indifference to him and his cause. Among those who made no profession he had reason to expect nothing but coldness; among those who made a profession he had a right to expect the glow of a warm affection; but he found nothing but indifference.
I would thou wert cold or hot - That is, I would prefer either of those states to what now exists. Anything better than this condition, where love is professed, but where it does not exist; where vows have been assumed which are not fulfilled. Why he would prefer that they should be "hot" is clear enough; but why would he prefer a state of utter coldness - a state where there was no profession of real love? To this question the following answers may be given:
(1) Such a state of open and professed coldness or indifference is more honest. There is no disguise; no concealment; no pretence. We know where one in this state "may be found"; we know with whom we are dealing; we know what to expect. Sad as the state is, it is at least honest; and we are so made that we all prefer such a character to one where professions are made which are never to be realized - to a state of insincerity and hypocrisy.
(2) such a state is more honorable. It is a more elevated condition of mind, and marks a higher character. Of a man who is false to his engagements, who makes professions and promises never to be realized, we can make nothing. There is essential meanness in such a character, and there is nothing in it which we can respect. But in the character of the man who is openly and avowedly opposed to anything; who takes his stand, and is earnest and zealous in his course, though it be wrong, there are traits which may be, under a better direction, elements of true greatness and magnanimity. In the character of Saul of Tarsus there were always the elements of true greatness; in that of Judas Iscariot there were never. The one was capable of becoming one of the noblest men that has ever lived on the earth; the other, even under the personal teaching of the Redeemer for years, was nothing but a traitor - a man of essential meanness.
(3) there is more hope of conversion and salvation in such a case. There could always have been a ground of hope that Saul would be converted and saved, even when "breathing out threatening and slaughter"; of Judas, when numbered among the professed disciples of the Saviour, there was no hope. The most hopeless of all persons, in regard to salvation, are those who are members of the church without any true religion; who have made a profession without any evidence of personal piety; who are content with a name to live. This is so, because:
(a) the essential character of anyone who will allow himself to do this is eminently unfavorable to true religion. There is a lack of that thorough honesty and sincerity which is so necessary for true conversion to God. He who is content to profess to be what he really is not, is riot a man on whom the truths of Christianity are likely to make an impression.
(b) Such a mall never applies the truth to himself. Truth that is addressed to impenitent sinners he does not apply to himself, of course; for he does not rank himself in that class of persons. Truth addressed to hypocrites he will not apply to himself; for no one, however insincere and hollow he may be, chooses to act on the presumption that he is himself a hypocrite, or so as to leave others to suppose that he regards himself as such. The means of grace adapted to save a sinner, as such, he will not use; for he is in the church, and chooses to regard himself as safe. Efforts made to reclaim him he will resist; for he will regard it as proof of a meddlesome spirit, and an uncharitable judging in others, if they consider him to be anything different from what he professes to be. What right have they to go back of his profession, and assume that he is insincere? As a consequence, there are probably fewer persons by far converted of those who come into the church without any religion, than of any other class of persons of similar number; and the most hopeless of all conditions, in respect to conversion and salvation, is when one enters the church deceived.
(c) It may be presumed that, for these reasons, God himself will make less direct effort to convert and save such persons. As there are fewer appeals that can be brought to bear on them; as there is less in their character that is noble, and that can be depended on in promoting the salvation of a soul; and as there is special guilt in hypocrisy, it may be presumed that God will more frequently leave such persons to their chosen course, than he will those who make no professions of religion. Comp, Psalm 109:17-18; Jeremiah 7:16; Jeremiah 11:14; Jeremiah 14:11; Isaiah 1:15; Hosea 4:17.
on Revelation 3 :15
3:15 I know thy works - Thy disposition and behaviour, though thou knowest it not thyself. That thou art neither cold - An utter stranger to the things of God, having no care or thought about them. Nor hot - As boiling water: so ought we to be penetrated and heated by the fire of love. O that thou wert - This wish of our Lord plainly implies that he does not work on us irresistibly, as the fire does on the water which it heats. Cold or hot - Even if thou wert cold, without any thought or profession of religion, there would be more hope of thy recovery.