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awful consideration, and in the prejudice and the wish of their hearts, they seek to wrest the sword of justice from the hands of the Judge of all the earth, and substitute, without the shadow of authority, the olive branch and the laurel. But no! hear it for your abundant consolation, ye who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope of the Gospel, and who, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, are striving to serve the Lord in holiness. Hear it with dismay, ye careless and impenitent; ye who dare to neglect the great salvation, and then still more presumptuously dare to hope for exemption from the righteous judgment of God; hear it both; that he who was once Redeemer, and who when he appears will appear as Judge, holds in his hand the sharp two-edged sword, and that while on the word of his everlasting truth, he will, through the midst of every variety of opposition, and through all the embattled hosts of earth and hell, cut a path
by which his faithful followers, partakers of his triumphs, may reach the eternal blessedness of hea
So on the other hand, on the same word of everlasting truth, that sharp sword with two edges shall be wielded to the destruction of his adversaries; the complete and eternal overthrow of those who reject his authority, and trample so sacrilegiously beneath their feet the offers and the provisions of his mercy. Let them rejoice then that serve the Lord, because he is their defence and the wholesome strength of their right hand; let the ungodly and the sinner tremble, for when he rises in judgment, he will bruise them with a rod of iron, and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel.
This being the description of our Lord, adapted
not only to general consideration, but as it would appear particularly adapted to the case of the Church at Pergamos, let us consider,
II. The commendation which is bestowed on this Church—“I know thy works and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is, and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, , even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.”
You will notice, my friends, that there are two forms of expression by which the fidelity of the members of the Church of Pergamos is placed before us—“thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied
faith.” These terms are so nearly synonymous, that it is by no means necessary to attempt to distinguish between them; for by the name of Christ, as used in Scripture language, Christ himself is intended, and if paraphrased, the sentence would be "thou hast held fast by me, and hast not denied my faith.” The amount of this commendation is, that the members of the Church of Pergamos had not denied the great doctrines of the Gospel, neither had they departed from the Christian faith, either by open apostacy or by the indulgence of a temporizing spirit as to the fundamental principles of their religion.
It appears clear to me from the terms which are employed, that the members of this Church of Pergamos had been tempted to deny the Lord that bought them, by attempts to disparage the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, and the atonement which he made for sin by the shedding of his own most precious
blood. For there is no language which could more appropriately describe these heresies, than that which represents them as not holding to the name of Christ, and consequently as denying his faith. The members of the Church of Pergamos, however, though sorely tried on this point, had been mercifully kept from this most awful perversion of the truth, and they had clung to those doctrines of the cross on which they were aware every thing pertaining to salvation was dependant. Where shipwreck is made of these important principles, there is the situation of a Church truly deplorable ; in the emphatic language of the Scriptures, it is “twice dead, plucked up by the roots,” and it will be found, without one solitary exception, that wherever by a Church the name of Christ is deserted, and his faith denied by disputing his true and essential divinity, and the infinite efficacy of his atonement, there is to be found nothing but coldness and deadness to spiritual concerns; and not one solitary feature of active and zealous Christianity relieves the spiritual waste. But where these principles are maintained; where, even if it be but speculatively, the name and the faith of Christ are not denied, there, though the members may sometimes decline in their love, and their spiritual life may be sensibly decaying, yet the truth will eventually triumph, and there will be some who will show out of a good conversation the efficacy of a living faith.
It would seem that the members of the Church of Pergamos had been under very peculiar circumstances of persecution in reference to the name and the faith of Christ, and our blessed Lord commends their fidelity, and alludes particularly to the
place and time in which they lived. Pergamos is in the text called the place where Satan's seat is; the original is somewhat more emphatic—where Satan has his throne; that is, where he reigns as king, and is universally obeyed. It is here to be particularly remarked, what wonderful confirmation ancient history gives to many of those particulars which are merely mentioned incidentally in the Scriptures. Thus: Pergamos is said, in the strong language of our Lord, to be the place where Satan's throne is, thus marking the more than ordinary condition of depravity which there existed; and by consulting ancient history, I have discovered that the whole of that ancient division of Asia, called Mysia, and of which Pergamos was the capitol, bore a most desperate and degraded character; for, of the people of this district I find this ancient description—they were of a base and servile temper, and contemptible even to a proverb. Yet, among a people of this kind, a Church of the living God had been established. Grace, which can bring the most desperate and stubborn heart to subjection, had been effectual on the minds of some, and had changed their character; but this appears rather to have made the others more completely abandoned. This is generally the case, for the faith and holiness of some makes the infidelity and wickedness of others more palpable and disgusting. It was in this city of Pergamos, marked for the zeal and fury of its idolatrous inhabitants, that those who named the name of Christ were obliged to sustain their character amidst tremendous persecutions; and in the terms of the text, there is an evident allusion to that state of affairs which has obtained for many of
the early Christians the title of confessors, as well as the glories of martyrdom. The suspicion of Christianity drew upon them the malice of their countrymen, still blinded by superstition, and rendered them obnoxious to the wrath of the civil magistrate. In this posture of affairs, the simple question was put to the suspected individual—Art thou a Christian? If he or she answered this question in the affirmative, it was an open, avowed confession of the name of Christ, and this answer stood in the place of accusation, of crime, and of conviction. And then no choice was left to the accused but apostacy from the faith, or the punishment of inprisonment and death. If they chose the former, if moved from their allegiance to Christ, they denied his faith, and no longer held by his name, they saved their lives, at the expense of their present peace and their future salvation. If they chose the latter, they chose it at the peril of every thing which appertains to earth; for if their hearts were truly converted unto God, their choice resembled that of Moses, who “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, preferring rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season ; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he had respect unto the recompense of reward.” It was in this place then, and in a period of most bitter persecution, that the members of the Church of Pergamos had declined to save their lives, by the fatal, because soul-destroying, expedient of apostacy. They had chosen rather to cling to the faith which they had professed, and had borne their testimony to that name, than which none