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SERMON II.

SPIRITUAL DECLENSION,

ILLUSTRATED IN THE

HISTORY OF THE CHURCH AT EPHESUS.

REVELATION ii. 4-5.

In the portion of the epistle to the Church at Ephesus which came last under notice, we considered the commendation of our Saviour, who had described himself as “holding the seven stars in his right hand, and walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.” The commendation was this: “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not; and hast found them liars : and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted.” Thus, for works and labours of love, done in the "name" of Christ, or what is an equivalent expression, springing from a vital faith in him—for patient endurance of suffering—for soundness in the faithand for a determination to discover and to discounte

nance error, this Church was unquestionably commended. But it is melancholy to relate that here there was evil mingled with the good—there were tares sown by the enemy among the wheat, and the portion of the epistle which will now occupy our attention, is that in which this melancholy fact is recorded, with its accompanying exhortation. “Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember, therefore, from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works ; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place except thou repent.”

This portion obviously places before you, three prominent topics of discussion

I. THE REBUKE.
II. THE EXHORTATION.
III. THE THREAT.

I. The rebuke. “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."

It is here apparent, even to a superficial observation, that they had not forsaken the object of their love—the Lord Jesus Christ: in other words, they had not apostatized—for this would have made shipwreck of faith and love. This, therefore, was not the difficulty complained of. “Some degree of love to Christ, and zeal for his truth and cause, evidently existed among them still.

them still. Their activity, however, might be partly owing to previous habits, formed after they had first embraced Christianity, when their souls were more alive to God, and their religious affections more ardent and vigorous. That habit, as well in religion as in other things, espe

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cially when seconded by the dictates of conscience, has great influence on a person's course of action, is perfectly reasonable to admit. Hence it appears that many duties may continue to be performed, even after the real spirit of piety has very much declined.” The difficulty with the members of the Church at Ephesus was, that they had lost that fervency of love which had characterised their Church when they were in the youth and vigour of a new profession. They did not retain that strong and ardent affection for God and heavenly things, which had existed when they first knew the truth. The fair plant of early affection had withered away under some unkindly influence, and of course love had given place to coldness and deadness as to spiritual things. They retained, it is true, the faiththey were willing to endure suffering, and they even wrought many good deeds; but the animating principle which had previously governed them, was in less active operation. Perhaps undue attachment to the things of this world, creeping in, had weakened the force of their impressions—perhaps the fear of reproach had caused some to stumble at the word—perhaps some gradual neglect of the means and opportunities of grace had made an effor at the foundation of their faith, and hindered their growth in grace—for like the animal, the spiritual life needs its constant nourishment. The liveliest affections will abate and cool, if pains the most unremitted be not taken to keep them in constant and active exercise; and that love which might have burned with a pure and holy flame, if the oil which should have fed it had not been exhausted, will sink, and will die away till it is totally extinguished, if the

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and virtues of the Christian life, like plants of the rarest description, and requiring the tenderest culture, will inevitably grow languid and fall into decay, if not kept alive by the most strenuous exertion for their cultivation, and the most earnest application for those supplies of grace, which are, to the pious heart, what the rain, the dew, and the sunshine of heaven are to the flowers of the field. That the Church of Ephesus had left its first love—that there was not the warm and animated zeal in the cause of Christ, which there terbalance for all their works and labour and patience, and even steady adherence to sound doctrine, for which they were commended. This was a strong and melancholy-nay, decided evidence of decay in real religion-personal piety—a decay which, if not speedily stopped in its progress, would undermine the very foundation of that noble edifice which had been reared, and bury them in the ruins. To prevent the occurrence of this most dreadful catastrophe; to snatch them, as it were, from the brink of that precipice, on which they were standing; the Spirit of the Lord accompanies the rebuke with the following exhortation, which constitutes our second subject of consideration.

II. “Remember, therefore, whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works."

In this exhortation you will at once observe that there is a striking climax ;

Remember whence thou art fallen:
Repent:
Do thy first works.

Remember whence thou art fallen; call to mind the piety, the zeal, the order which once existed among you, that spiritual religion which had prevailed in holy motives, and Gospel-regulated conduct. Consider that noble elevation once occupied by your Church among the Churches of Asia. Remember the grace in which you stood; the happiness, the love, the joy, which you formerly experienced. Remember your ardent love and lively zeal for the glory of God and the happiness of your fellows. Remember the heavenly-mindedness which had characterized your walk and conversation. Call to mind your weanedness from the world, your fervour in private prayer, and in the various duties of the sanctuary. Consider your precious enjoyment of the various ordinances of religion; your willing obedience to the commands of that God, by the inspiration of whose grace you appear to have been comforted and edified. Contrast these things with your present condition of decay. You have still the form of godliness, but the power thereof, though not destroyed as yet, is most grievously weakened. You contend indeed for the faith, and patiently endure, but you want that ardour, that animation, that holy love, which once pervaded the whole body of your Church at Ephesus. For some things I commend you, but for this I am constrained to administer a severe rebuke. Carry back your thoughts to periods of former spiritual prosperity, and let the remembrance of the situation from which you are fallen be sanctified to your good ; let it lead humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; and I exhort you in that retrospect to understand your condition, and to feel the stern necessity of

you to

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