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church into the next, which would be a state of trial, persecution, and poverty.
6th verse, “ But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” What the deeds of the Nicolaitans were, we are not able, from the word of God, to determine ; but from some things hinted at by some ancient authors, we have good reason to be. lieve that Nicolas, one of the seven deacons, departed from the doctrine which the apostles taught, and preached a doctrine which was repugnant to the gospel of Christ, viz., a community or plurality of wives, which led Paul in his instructions to say, “Let the deacons be the husband of one wife,” 1 Tim. iii. 12. 66 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches." Here we have another evidence, that the branch of the church at Ephesus was not the only church addressed in this epistle and prophecy; for, if so, what propriety in using the word churches, in the plural, when only one church in Asia was spoken of? No, it could not be proper, neither would it have been, as it is so used in every epistle through the whole seven, had not Christ designed it for all the churches in a certain age. There is also an admonition contained in these last-quoted words, to read, hear, and observe the prophecy now given by the Spirit to John, the inspired servant of Christ; and for all the churches of the age spoken of, to be careful to apply to themselves the admonitions, designed by the Holy Spirit for their immediate benefit. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” How precious is this promise to the faithful and tried soul, who places all his hope, and strength, and dependence, on one who is mighty to save, and on one who has promised to bring him off conqueror over all the cnemies of grace, and the powers of hell! Yes, and, r.ore than all, he has overcome and entered within the veil, as a forerunner for us who believe. May we all, by faith, have a right to this tree of life, this paradise of God.
I will now examine the prophecy to the second church, which I understand to commence about the close of the first century, and lasted about two hundred years, until the days of Constantine, A. D. 312.
“ And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna, write.” The signification of the word Smyrna, is myrrh; denoting that the church in this age would be a sweet-smelling savor to God, while she was passing through the fiery ordeal of persecution and affliction, which always has served to weed out those obnoxious plants of pride, popularity, self-dependence — the bane and poison of true faith, piety, and devotion. And O, my brethren, could we learn wisdom, by what the church has already suffered in the days of our forefathers, we should be more humble, the more worldly peace and prosperity we enjoyed. For it is only in the midst of persecution and trial, that the church manifest great purity of doctrine or life. How well, then, might this age of the church be compared to myrrh, when she must have been separated from worldly honors, avarice, pride, popularity, and hypocrisy, when the hypocrite and worldling had no motives to unite with and destroy the union of the brotherhood, and when the hireling shepherd could expect no fleece, that would suit his cupidity, to filch from the lambs of Christ! “These things saith the first and the last, which was dead and is alive.” In these words we learn the character speaking to the church. It is no less than the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty.” Now, their works were about to be tried ; although God knew them that were his, yet he designed to manifest to a world who would be faithful even unto death, and to show that pure and undefiled religion would burn with a brighter flame in tribulation and poverty, and the richness of that faith, which would bring off the true Christian conqueror over the powers of the world, the temptations of Satan, and corruptions of the flesh. “But thou art rich.” Yes, brethren, the true and genuine Christian is rich. For charity can suffer long in tribulation, and the spirit of Christ will make us forsake all for his sake, and endure poverty for the name of Jesus. “ And I know,” says Christ, “ the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, (that is, people of God,) and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan.” Although Christ knew the hypocrites and false profes
sors that had rushed into his visible kingdom during a time of prosperity that the church had experienced in its Ephesian state, or apostolic age, yet now the time had come, when that candlestick must be removed, and the next age of the church or candlestick be set up; and the same means used by God to purify the silver would. purge out the dross, so that the kingdom would again be cleansed of its worldly, hypocritical, and false professors.
10, “ Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer." The true child of God need not fear to suffer for Christ's sake, for the sufferings of this present evil world will work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. “ Behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried, and ye shall have tribulation ten days." The devil in this verse means Pagan Rome. See Rev. xii. 9, 17, " And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil.” the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” How exactly was this prophecy fulfilled in the days of Nero, Domitian, and other Roman emperors, and how faithful has history been to record the ten persecutions between the days of John's prophecy and the emperor Constantine! In these ten persecutions of the Roman government, in the text called ten days, we learn by the history of those days the church suffered a great diminution in numbers by apostasy and fear; yet those that remained steadfast made up in graces what they lost in numbers; and it was truly a time of trial, for many were cast into prison, and many suffered torture and death, rather than to offer sacrifices to their Pagan gods. “ Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” Yes, my brethren, if we can believe the history of those days, many of the dear disciples of Christ were faithful unto death, and have long enjoyed the crown of life promised in this prophecy.
11, “ He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.” Here, then, we find some of those characters who will have part in the first resurrec
tion, the blessed martyrs who were slain for the witness of Jesus. See Rev. xx. 4. And in this passage we are again commanded to hear what the Spirit saith to the churches -all, all who have ears; not the branch in Smyrna only, but all who have ears. We have long been in the habit of giving away Scripture to others when it belongs to us and our children; let us therefore apply it home.
12, “ And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write." Very earthy elevated is the signification of the word Pergamos ; and this church represents the age of Constantine, which lasted more than two hundred years, until the rise of anti-Christ, from A. D. 312 until A. D. 538. During this age the church became very earthy, having her worldly policy, and, like the church in the present day, attending more to the outward concerns, and the worldly part of religion, than to inward piety and graces
of the spirit, looking more for forms and ceremonies, than for the life, power, and spirit of the religion of Jesus, spending much of their time in building elegant chapels, gorgeous temples, high places to educate their ministry, and adorning them with pictures and pleasant things, and filling the hearts of their worshippers with high, popular, and haughty notions. Yes, my brethren, the age of trial was gone; the holy and secret aspirations of piety fled away, and, now she had obtained an earthly emperor, her divine Master was forgotten. And here was the falling away mentioned by Paul, 2 Thess. ii. 3, “ Let no man deceive you by any means; for that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition.” This, then, was the age that prepared the church to receive that monster, the man of sin, the son of perdition, into her bosom, which stung the church with the poison of asps, and filled the temple of God with image worship, and the church with idolatry, selfishness, avarice, and pride.
“ These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges.” By the sharp sword with two edges, we must understand the word of God, which denounces heavy judgments on the wicked, and cuts off the corrup
tions and errors from the church. The Psalmist says, cxlix. 5–7, “Let the saints be joyful in glory ; let them sing aloud upon their beds. Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a two-edged sword in their hand, to execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people.” Paul says, Heb. iv. 12, 6 For the word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And John saw, Rev. i. 16, “And he had in his right hand seven stars; and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword.” Then this is the meaning of the passage under consideration, “ These things saith he,” which hath the word of God, and showing us the importance of attending to the subject following, by the importance of the speaker, “He that is Christ.” And now, while we read or hear, let us keep in memory that it is no less a personage speaking, than Him of whom the prophets did write; who holdeth the stars in his right hand, and created and preserves all things by the word of his power. Hear him.
“ I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is. Here, again, we have an evidence that this church is mystical, “ dwelling in Satan's seat," the fourth kingdom, the great red dragon, imperial Rome, whereon the great mystical whore of Babylon sitteth. The church, in this age, became immediately connected with this power called Satan, which is the devil, Pagan Rome. “And thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith.” In this time of popular religion, and when many, from political and worldly motives, united their names to the people of God, still there were some who held to the doctrine of Christ, and did not deny the faith.
“Even in those days, wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you where Satan dwelleth.” It is supposed that Antipas was not an individual, but a class of men who opposed the power of the bishops or Popes in that day, being a combination of two words, Anti, opposed, and Papas, father or Pope,